Sometimes, you just get tired of lettuce and yearn for something a bit “more.” The deconstructed Salade Nicoise meets that need. It is one of my favorite salads for that reason, and because all parts of it can be prepared in advance. Plus, salad makers with an artistic flair can have a lot of fun deciding how to present the ingredients to maximum effect. To earn the name “nicoise,” a dish must contain a few specific items: olives, garlic, French green beans, tomatoes, and anchovies (or tuna in oil). Artichokes and hard-boiled eggs are also characteristic of a salade nicoise, but just as I was assembling this one in front of a hungry audience I realized I had forgotten to boil the eggs…. So, no eggs this time around. However, the beauty of this salad is that you can improvise and make it with whatever you have on hand. I had a craving for broiled salmon, so substituted that for the tuna, and added corn off the cob and chick peas, just because. Three hungry people polished off this platter–but with some crusty bread on the side, it could feed four less ravenous eaters. The recipe below is a free-form one–the quantities of all the ingredients (and the ingredients themselves) can be adjusted as desired.
1 filet of salmon, about 1 lb.
salt and pepper
fresh lemon juice
2-3 ears of corn, husked, with silky threads removed
a couple handfuls of thin, French-style green beans, rinsed
6-8 small red potatoes, rinsed and scrubbed but not peeled, and cut into quarters
3 eggs (which I forgot)
1-2 ripe tomatoes, diced
nice black olives, about 1/3 c. (I had Kalamata on hand, but Nicoise or other French olives would be more traditional)
cooked chickpeas, about 1/2 c.
8-10 canned/tinned artichoke hearts
your favorite garlicky vinaigrette
1. Set oven to broil. Pat the salmon dry and place on a rimmed cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Rub the salmon with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle lightly with lemon juice, and broil a couple minutes on each side, or until cooked through. Remove from oven and let cool, then cut into chunks.
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop the corn cobs and green beans into the pot, and cook 5-8 minutes or just until tender. Using a slotted spoon, remove the vegetables from the pot and place them in a colander set on a dinner plate. Take the colander to the sink, rinse the vegetables in cold water, and set them aside. Keep the water in the pot boiling.
3. Drop the quartered red potatoes into the boiling water and cook until tender; remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool. Finally, gently lower the eggs into the boiling water, turn off the heat, cover the pan, and let the eggs cook for 10-12 minutes. Remove the eggs and place them in cold water to cool, then peel and quarter them.
4. Take a cooked corn cob and stand it on its end on a stable cutting board. Carefully cut the corn off the cob in vertical strips with a sharp knife. If the green beans remain wet, pat them dry.
5. Assemble the salade nicoise by placing all the ingredients (including the tomatoes, olives, chickpeas, and artichokes) in an alternating pattern on a large platter. Drizzle lightly with the vinaigrette, and serve with additional vinaigrette on the side.