Niçoise Salad

A Niçoise salad is the ultimate composed salad - where all the ingredients are kept in separate components rather than tossed together. I can't help but feel sophisticated and spoiled when I take the time to make this salad for myself.

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A white oval platter of Niçoise salad with a gravy boat of dressing, salt and pepper shakers and serving utensils next to it.

What is a Composed Salad?

There are two kinds of salads in the world – tossed salads and composed salads. Tossed salads are the ones we make all the time, tossing all the ingredients together with a dressing. Composed salads are not tossed – all the ingredients are kept as separate components on the plate, dressed individually or drizzled over with vinaigrette at the last minute. A Niçoise salad is the classic example of a composed salad. It is such a beautiful salad to look at and is so full of delicious ingredients. I find a composed salad interesting because you can make every bite you have different from the last. A Niçoise salad is a main meal salad that can be served for lunch or dinner. It’s for those times when you slow down for a minute and make something special for yourself or others.

Ingredients on a wooden cutting board - red potatoes, black olives, cans of tuna, cherry tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, lemon, red onion, fresh herbs, green beans - and a citrus zester.

Components of Niçoise Salad

A Niçoise salad always includes a few standard ingredients: cooked tuna, hardboiled eggs, potatoes, green beans and olives. The tuna should be your very best quality tuna packed in olive oil. The potatoes could be red or white baby potatoes, blanched until just tender to a knife point. The haricots verts (or green beans if you can’t find haricots verts) are blanched similarly and then shocked in an ice bath to keep their bright green color. Traditionally (and not surprisingly) the olives are usually the small black Niçoise olives, but if you can’t locate those olives, you can try Kalamata or another black olive. 

A chopper with vinaigrette in front of a board of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Lemon Shallot Vinaigrette

You could dress a Niçoise salad with any number of vinaigrettes. This lemon shallot vinaigrette which incorporates olive oil with a little Dijon mustard, honey, white balsamic vinegar along with lemon zest and juice, shallots and fresh herbs is a perfect compliment to all the ingredients on the plate. You don’t need to use a mini chopper to make the dressing, but it does make it quick and easy. 

Looking down on a white oval platter of Niçoise salad with a gravy boat of dressing, salt and pepper shakers and serving utensils next to it.

How to Build a Niçoise Salad

When you have all your salad components ready, you can build one large platter from which everyone will serve themselves, or compose individual dinner plates of salad. Either way, start by lining your plate with some butter lettuce. Dressing the potatoes and green beans separately with a little dressing when they are still warm really enhances their flavor.  Then place small mounds of ingredients on top of the lettuce. Place the tuna in the center and then drizzle more dressing over everything just before serving. 

Hands dressing a Niçoise salad with salad dressing from a gravy boat.

Making Ahead

If you are preparing this salad ahead of time, don’t dress the green beans ahead of time. Compose your platter and cover with plastic or damp paper towel to keep everything fresh and moist. Then, dress with the dressing just before serving. Refrigerate only if you are holding this salad for longer than an hour or so. Otherwise, let the salad sit at room temperature. 

A white dinner plate of Niçoise salad with utensils, a wine glass, a bottle of white wine and a platter of more salad in the background.

Niçoise Salad

  • Prep Time: 30 m
  • Total Time: 30 m
  • Servings:
    4

Ingredients

  • ¼ red onion thinly sliced
  • 1 pound new red baby potatoes halved
  • ½ pound fresh haricots verts or green beans
  • 10- ounces canned tuna packed in olive oil
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
  • 4 hardboiled eggs
  • cup black olives
  • Green leaf or butter lettuce leaves
  • Fresh oregano
Lemon Shallot Vinaigrette:
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots
  • 1 lemon zest and juice
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme chopped
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • cup olive oil
  • salt
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives

Instructions

  1. Place the sliced red onion in a small bowl and cover with cold water. Let it soak for 10 minutes to make it less pungent.
  2. Make the lemon-shallot vinaigrette. Combing the vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey, minced shallots, lemon juice and zest, thyme and black pepper in a small bowl. Drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly. Whisk until the vinaigrette comes together and has thickened. Season to taste with salt and stir in the chives.
  3. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Season the water with salt and boil the potatoes for about 10 to 12 minutes until they are tender to a knife point. Remove the potatoes from the pot with a slotted spoon and rinse the potatoes with cold water. Toss them with a few tablespoons of the vinaigrette and set aside to cool.
  4. Set up an ice water bath. Drop the haricot verts into the boiling water and blanch them for 5 minutes. Drain the beans and drop them into the ice water bath to stop them from over cooking. Drain the beans and pat them dry. Drizzle with some of the vinaigrette.
  5. Arrange the lettuce leaves on a large platter. Build your composed salad by keeping each ingredient together in groups. Arrange the potatoes, haricot verts, cherry tomatoes and black olives on top of the lettuce leaves. Flake the tuna apart gently with a fork and add it to the center of the platter, spreading it out a little between the vegetables. Slice the hardboiled eggs in half and add them along with the red onions to the platter.
  6. Generously drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over everything on the platter making sure you lightly cover all the ingredients. Season the salad with some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Tear off some fresh oregano leaves and sprinkle them on top of the salad. Serve immediately with salad tongs and let everyone help themselves. If desired, you can also divide up the ingredients and build individual servings on separate plates.
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Comments (3)Post a Reply

  1. 5 stars
    An absolutely beautiful, elegant and delicious summer salad. Each of the ingredients complement each other and the aroma of the fresh vegetables and other components so earthy and inviting. A lovely chilled white one and presentation as Meredith displayed on a warm summer night and you’ll feel like you’re in France. Thanks Meredith, a real 5 star meal🎇

  2. 5 stars
    An extraordinary example of simple ingredients at their best. It all blended so well on the palate, very melodious and the vinaigrette was superb, I did add some garlic to the dressing, hope that was not a faux pas! Wonderful and quite filling dinner for a very warm summer eve, will definitely make this one again. Thank you Meredith, my 3 furry girls send their love to Hazel and Loulou!!

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