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Recently I’ve been inspired to make my own salad dressings. I still love a creamy store-bought dressing, but homemade dressing with a quality olive oil is fresh and fruity and enhances veggies rather than covering them up.

This classic Nicoise Salad and its lemon-thyme vinaigrette just might change your mind about homemade dressing.

You’re right. Homemade dressing can be bland. It’s either too oily or too acidic, or it lacks in the most important part of a salad dressing — the salt. The right amount of salt? A simple vinaigrette has way better flavor than the ones from the store.

Word Origin Alert! I’ve been reading a book recently called The Language of Food by Dan Jurafsky. Apparently, the word “salad” itself comes from the word “salt.” “Salad” comes from “herba salata,” Latin for salted vegetables. I guess this is why we need to properly salt our salads!


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Since my first time making homemade dressing, I’ve gotten better at it. I realized you have to add salt first and then add salt to taste. Pepper, too. And don’t forget the aromatics (shallots, garlic) and of course the oil and vinegar/citrus juice. There’s a perfect vinaigrette ratio I rely on and always a substitution for each ingredient.

Which brings me to the Nicoise Salad. If a salad is really just salted vegetables, then the Nicoise Salad (or Salad Nicoise, if we’re going to be practicing for le déjeuner), takes the cake. The salted cake, that is.

With briny olives, oily canned tuna, capers and anchovies, the Nicoise Salad is a filling, protein-rich salad.

Whether sitting under an umbrella in Nice, France (hilly Mediterranean home of the Nicoise Salad), or on your own patio, this salad is hearty, fresh and varied in flavor.

The One-Pot Way To Cook All The Goodies for Your Nicoise Salad

I like to make the dressing first, so it can sit and meld into a good herby coating for the rest of the salad. All it takes to make your own homemade dressing for Nicoise Salad is lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, a shallot, mustard and some herbs.


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I use whatever fresh herbs I have on hand – the standards are thyme, parsley and tarragon. I have some German thyme growing in my yard, so it it’s in the recipe today.



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Then add salt and pepper to your dressing to taste. Let that sit while you prepare the rest of the salad.

There are a few cooked elements of the salad. One is hard-boiled eggs (just barely hard-boiled in 8 minutes or so, for yellow yolks and no chalkiness). Afraid of undercooked or messy looking sliced eggs? My King Cook has a quintessential guide on how to make hard-boiled eggs, including tips for slicing and different cooking methods.

The second cooked part of the Nicoise Salad is potatoes. Quarter some small new potatoes and boil in water for 10 minutes or so until fork-tender. It’s easy enough to use the same water for the eggs, the potatoes, and the last cooked element, the green beans.

The green beans should be blanched for 3 minutes — boiled in hot water and cooled in an ice bath — to keep them green but remove the raw taste.

While the vegetables are boiling, arrange the lettuce, tuna, tomatoes and olives on a platter. When the potatoes are ready, take a few tablespoons of your dressing and coat them separately.


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Arrange the rest of the salad and top with anchovies (optional!) and capers.

This Nicoise Salad isn’t a proper French lunch without a few glasses of white wine out on the patio. P.S. And bread!


   

Nicoise Salad

A protein-rich, hearty salad and a Mediterranean classic.

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side

Ingredients

Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced (approx. 3 tbsp.)
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp. thyme leaves, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • For The Salad
  • 4 eggs
  • 12 small new potatoes, quartered
  • 1 head butter lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cans oil-packed tuna
  • 6 oz. green beans, hard ends trimmed
  • 1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives (Or Nicoise olives, See Recipe Notes)
  • 2 tbsp. capers, rinsed
  • 3 anchovy fillets (optional)
  • Instructions

    1. Make the dressing: Whisk together lemon juice and olive oil until blended. Add in shallot, mustard, thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
    2. Hard-boil eggs for 8-9 minutes. To avoid cracking, set eggs in the pot only when the water is still cold and then slowly heat to a boil. Remove to an ice bath. To the still boiling water, add quartered potatoes. Cook for 10 minutes or until fork-tender.
    3. Meanwhile, wash and dry the lettuce and tear into bite-size pieces. Lay on a platter and top with tomatoes, tuna and olives.
    4. When potatoes are done, remove from pot and mix with a few tablespoons of dressing in a small bowl. This will ensure they absorb the flavor of the dressing while still hot.
    5. In still boiling water, blanch the green beans. Boil them for a few minutes then remove to an ice bath to shock and cool. Remove once they are cool. Add green beans, potatoes and sliced eggs to salad.
    6. Sprinkle capers over salad and top with anchovies if using. Drizzle dressing over salad on platter or plate and dress individually.

    Notes

    Nicoise Olives Substitute: A traditional Nicoise salad calls for Nicoise olives, a tiny, slightly bitter varietal. They’re not readily available outside of France, so we used the Kalamata instead. If you want to go all out, there are these Nicoise Olives you can get online.
    Recipe adapted from Carnegie Mellon University, Building a Better Nicoise Salad.