Summer is a tough time for cookery, especially in a hot city of small kitchens. Although there’s great produce to be had, the idea of spending much time in front of the stove is unappealing to say the least.
Which is why summer cooking takes some adjustments: Nothing in the oven unless you’re able to leave the room while it’s in there, nothing that requires constant attention on the stove top, etc. This is why hearty salads – like Salade Nicoise -are such a good summer option.
Salade Nicoise is a classic French composed salad – “composed” is just a fancy work for a salad that has all the ingredients piled on top rather than tossed in – and although it does have cooked ingredients, they can be prepared in under 30 minutes. And it’s a Julia Child favorite, so – in honor of the upcoming movie that I can’t decide whether or not I want to see – here it is:
Although you’re probably better off not incorporating “composed salad” into your daily vocabulary, I definitely advise against tossing this salad. It’s nice to be able to get a forkful of whatever you want while you’re eating this, and when everything in this salad gets mixed together, it can actually be a little overwhelming.
My method for hard-boiling eggs: Place eggs in pot of cold water. Bring water to a rolling boil, then immediately turn off heat. Leave eggs alone for 8-10 minutes, then run under cold water to stop cooking. You can also boil eggs this way in an electric kettle, which is very handy as they shuit themselves off. Experiment with different times to get the level of hardness you want. Overcooking hard-boiled eggs is far from the end of the world, but the yolks do start to get chalky and dry and the whites a bit rubbery.
The exact ingredients in a Salade Nicoise are a popular topic of debate in France, where that sort of thing is socially acceptable. Common ingredients other than what I’ve used here include anchovies, sardines, capers, and tomatoes. The vinaigrette I used below included fresh basil because we had it, but whatever vinaigrette you like will work. I would recommend including mustard, though, as it goes extremely well with the potatoes and the eggs.
Components: Lettuce, tuna, eggs, green beans, potatoes, olives (Nicoise if you’ve got ’em).
Here’s how I would do prep to keep stress to a minimum
Depending on whether you are methodical or not, this salad can take you twenty minutes to put together or an hour and a half. Here is how I would order things:
- Place two pots of water on the stove. Put eggs in one. Bring both to a boil.
- Rinse green beans and remove ends. Chop in half if desired.
- Scrub and cube potatoes.
- Right about now, the pots should be boiling. Turn the heat off on the egg pot and toss the green beans in the other. Make note of the time or set a timer for the eggs.
- Wash the salad greens.
- The green beans should be ready about now. I like them still relatively crisp if I’m using them in a salad. Keep in mind that they will continue to cook unless you dunk them in cold water. Remove them from water using a slotted spoon and leave the water boiling.
- Add cubed potatoes into the boiling green bean water. Depending on the size of your cubes, they should cook in around 15 minutes.
- Now the eggs should be ready. Take them out and run them under cold water or dunk them in ice water. Peel and slice.
- Now you can start assembling while the potatoes cook. Jut pile all of the above onto the salad greens along with canned tuna – or fesh cooked tuna if you’ve got it – and the olives.
- If the potatoes are done, remove them to drain before making the vinaigrette. If not, remove them after.
- Vinaigrette: Shallot, olive oil, lemon juice or a light vinegar, chopped fresh basil, salt and pepper. Or whatever you like.
- “It’s fun to get together and have something good to eat at least once a day. That’s what human life is all about – enjoying things.” – Julia Child