The first time I actually ate and fell in love with Niçoise Salad was in Israel. I was 15 and we were staying at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. After trying the salad in the hotel lobby for lunch I continued to order it almost every day followed by a Cafe Haphuch (“upside-down” coffee, Israel's answer to cappuccino) for the term of our 2 week trip.
Now more than 2 decades later (how in the world is it that I have a memory from 20 years ago that doesn’t include me in diapers?!) it’s still a favorite.
Niçoise is a beautiful springtime salad that eats like a meal. Traditionally composed of tuna, tomatoes, green beans, potatoes and Niçoise olives (hence the name) it can be served with or without greens on a platter, plate or in a bowl topped with vinaigrette. Variations include artichoke hearts, red peppers, beans, a cameo from the onion family (red, green, leeks, shallots or the like), a poached egg (in place of the hard cooked) and more. Also note that the tuna can be cooked (seared being preferable) or flakes from a can.
My version features tuna steak, string beans, small red skinned potatoes, marinated artichoke hearts, romaine, red onion, hard-cooked eggs, tomato on the vine, white beans and of course olives.
Niçoise olives are cured in brine and packed in olive oil. These French variety, small, purplish-black, olives have a distinctive smooth, nutty flavor with some bitterness (read: sour). They really pack a flavor punch considering their smaller size. Kalamata olives are a good substitute or any black-ish kosher oil cured olives you have access to will work well. Note I much, much, much prefer serving this salad with pitted olives. If you decide (against your better judgment and my warning) to serve the olives with the pits you must, must, must warn your diners so they don’t crack a tooth or worse. (Ideally I prefer not to have to take the Heimlich maneuver refresher course before serving this salad – know what I mean?).
Find my Niçoise Salad recipe here. Do you love Niçoise Salad like I love Niçoise Salad? How do you like to make it?