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Niçoise Salad

The versions of this renowned French salad are infinite, but nearly all include lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, eggs, anchovies and niçoise olives. Tuna is another typical addition, and this recipe offers the option of using fresh tuna, if it is available, or canned tuna in olive oil, a preference in many traditional salads. 

Ingredients:

  • 6 small waxy potatoes 
  • 20 to 24 baby green beans, trimmed 
  • 1/2 lemon 
  • 6 baby artichokes (optional) 
  • 15 to 18 young fava beans (optional) 
  • 1/2 lb. fresh tuna, or 1 can (7 oz.) olive oil-packed tuna  
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil for cooking fresh tuna, if needed
  • 1 head butter lettuce, leaves separated 
  • 9 small tomatoes, cut into wedges 
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips 
  • 1 small English cucumber, sliced 
  • 12 olive oil-packed anchovy fillets, drained and halved lengthwise 
  • 2/3 cup niçoise olives 
  • 12 fresh basil leaves, torn 
  •   

For the vinaigrette: 

  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 3 to 4 Tbs. fresh lemon juice or red wine vinegar 
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed 
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 
  •   
  • 6 hard-cooked eggs, quartered 

Directions:

Bring a saucepan three-fourths full of water to a boil over high heat. Add the potatoes and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain, place under cold running water until cool and drain again. Cut into slices 1/4 inch thick. Set aside.

Refill the saucepan three-fourths full of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the green beans to the boiling water and cook until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain, place under cold running water until cool and drain again. Set aside.

Squeeze the juice from the lemon half into a bowl of cold water. Working with 1 artichoke at a time, using a sharp knife, slice off the top half or so of the leaves. Starting at the base, pull off and discard the tough outer leaves. Then pull off the outside leaves until you reach the pale green inner leaves. Cut off the stem and trim the base, then cut the artichoke in half lengthwise. Using a small spoon, scrape out the prickly fibers, or choke, from the center, then drop the halves into the lemon water.

Bring a saucepan three-fourths full of water to a boil over high heat. Drain the artichokes and add them to the boiling water. Reduce the heat so the water is at a gentle boil, cover and cook until the artichokes are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 10 to 15 minutes, depending on their size. Drain, place under cold running water until cool and drain again. Set aside.

Bring a saucepan three-fourths full of water to a boil over high heat. Add the fava beans and blanch for 1 minute. Drain, place under cold running water until cool and drain again. Using a small knife or your fingertips, slit the skin of each bean and squeeze to remove the bean from the skin. Set aside.

If using fresh tuna, cut into slices 1 inch wide. In a large fry pan over high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the tuna and cook, turning once, until seared lightly, about 2 minutes total. Let cool and cut into 2-inch pieces.

If using canned tuna, drain and separate into large flakes.

Line a large, wide bowl or platter with the lettuce. Arrange the potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumber, anchovies and tuna on the lettuce. Add the artichokes and fava beans. Garnish with the olives and basil.

To make the vinaigrette, in a bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice and garlic. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour the vinaigrette over the salad. Top with the eggs and serve immediately. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Breakfast and Brunch, by Georgeanne Brennan, Elinor Klivans, Jordan Mackay and Charles Pierce (Oxmoor House, 2007).