Nicoise is one of my all-time favorite salads. It’s a reliable standby for a filling, nutrient-rich, bacon-free meal that I have never regretted ordering when I’ve been out to eat. A few years ago, I saw the delightful episode where Julia Child makes a nicoise salad. She visits the farmers market in Nice to buy her anchovies and capers, and talks potatoes with her vegetable vendor.
I’ve made nicoise at home before (where some of the magic is lost when you see the heap of dishes in the sink afterwards that need to be cleaned). When I saw that the beautiful sockeye salmon was going to be on sale at Coastal Seafoods this weekend, I remembered the April Bon Appetit had a recipe for a salmon nicoise that could also make use of the green beans and new potatoes that are currently in season.
This is a delicious meal, where many of the components can be made ahead (like the hardboiled eggs, potatoes, and dressing, maybe even the green beans if you don’t mind them cold). The dressing is worth it by itself—it would taste great on a variety of vegetables. Thought it is a bit finicky, and the lemon bit was difficult to understand, it came together wonderfully. The recipe author was kind enough to use a single saucepan for all of the boiling that takes place—I used two. The salad itself packs wonderfully for lunch the next day.
I used some of Julia’s tips to make the salad, namely adding garlic to my dressing in lieu of shallots (I never have them at home and forget to buy them always), and mixing the dressing with the warm potatoes so they take on the dressing’s flavor. I couldn’t find mache or frisee and forgot to pick up lettuce from the farmers market, and had to settle for a box of baby lettuce from the grocery store. You can probably up the potatoes and green beans and olives by a few ounces. I wasn’t able to get my capers to crisp up in the oil, and will probably skip this step next time as I didn’t feel it made much of a difference using caper oil to coat the fish. Will also skip the sugar next time, as I’m not sure it’s necessary.
8 oz small potatoes, scrubbed (I used little brown ones from the farmers market)
4 oz green beans, ends trimmed
6 large eggs
2 tbsps plus ¼ c olive oil
1/4c drained capers, patted dry
1 lb skin-on salmon
4 anchovy fillets packed in oil
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp sugar
2 bitty cloves of garlic, finely chopped
4 c mixed baby lettuce, or the amount of lettuce you’d like dressed
¼ c pitted kalamata olives
freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 425F to roast salmon.
Boil potatoes: place potatoes in a saucepan and cover with one inch of cold water. Bring to a boil, season with salt, and cook until easily pierced with a knife, 15-20 minutes. Transfer potatoes to a bowl, reserving water in pan. Let the potatoes cool slightly. Keep water simmering and bring back to a boil.
Make hard-boiled eggs: place the eggs in a saucepan and cover with cool water by one inch. Bring the water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, turn off the heat and place a lid on the saucepan and set a timer for 10 minutes. Remove the eggs from the saucepan at this time and place in a cold-water bath. Let cool and peel and half, placing on a plate.
WHILE THE POTATOES AND EGGS ARE BOILING:
Make the dressing: mash the anchovies, mustard, garlic, sugar, and salt in a bowl to form a paste. I found my pestle (from my mortar+pestle set) the best tool for the job, a la Julia. Slice both ends from the lemon, and remove the peel and pith. Cut out the segmented flesh from the lemon and leave on your board. Remove the seeds from the lemon segments and add the segments to the bowl. Squeeze any remaining juice from the membranes into the bowl and discard the spent membrane. (I believe this is known as supreming the citrus.) Whisk in ¼ c olive oil and a generous grinding of pepper to taste. This will gently break up the lemon segment, so there are bits of lemon suspended throughout the dressing. Mix capers into the dressing.
Once the potatoes have slightly cooled, but are still warm, half them and add enough dressing to your taste.
WHEN THE OVEN IS HOT:
Roast salmon: Place salmon on a rimmed baking sheet (I covered mine in parchment first), and coat with 2 tbsp of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and generous grind of pepper and roast in oven for 13-15 minutes until fully cooked (feel free to cook to your liking). Remove fish from oven and flake fish.
Blanch the green beans: Somewhere in between when the potatoes are done and making the dressing, add the green beans to the boiling water (used to boil the potatoes) and cook briefly, about 2 minutes. They should still have some snap. Place in cold-water bath with eggs to cool, then remove them to a plate and dry with a towel.
To assemble: dress the amount of lettuce you would like and arrange on a plate alongside olives, eggs, dressed potatoes, green beans, and flaked salmon. Sprinkle salt and pepper on eggs and drizzle dressing over everything.