Yes, I know. Salads are not the quintessential winter comfort food. But isn’t it about this time that we all start realizing that swimsuit season is only 2 1/2 months away and maybe it’s time to switch out the comfort food that has kept us warm for the last few months. This Winter Salade Niçoise is just the ticket. It’s full of color to remind us of the warm months coming and has tons of nutrients to help stave off the continued threats of colds and flu.
What is Salade Niçoise?
I first heard of Salade Niçoise when I was in middle school and was reading some food magazine. It sounded so exotic and since I was already totally into cooking at that time, I made it for my family. Fast Forward 14 years and I was sitting on the Mediterranean at a beachside restaurant just below the Cours Saleya in Nice enjoying a Salade Niçoise at its source. The original includes tuna (from can or jar, not fresh,) green beans, tomatoes, boiled egg, potatoes and olives. Sometimes other veggies make an appearance and whether or not it is served on greens is one of many great debates in French cuisine. Regardless a tangy olive oil vinaigrette brings it all together.
How is Winter Salade Niçoise Different Than the Original?
The idea of Salade Niçoise is translatable to almost any season. (Don’t tell a French person this…Sacre Bleu!) It’s really just a matter of switching out a couple of veggies for those in season. At this point, if you’re keeping with seasonal eating, it’s the end of Winter which means that root vegetables are about the only thing still around along with possibly some hothouse grown greens with green beans and tomatoes still 3 or more months out. I happened to have some golden beets that I had roasted and I had marinated some steamed tiny potatoes earlier in the week so I just used those along with the beautiful, tiny microgreens from my local farmer. I am still approaching eggs in my diet with caution so they are absent from the photo, but certainly add some for the additional protein. Tuna is always in my pantry and I had some delicious dried and oil-cured Kalamata olives from Trader Joe’s so Operation Winter Salade Niçoise was a go. The dressing is fairly close to what you will find in the South of France – a Dijon Vinaigrette but you could just use lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil for a super simple vinaigrette.
What Winter Produce is Available?
How many times when it’s cold outside have you taken stock of your diet and realized that vegetables have not grazed your mouth for days. When it’s cold all I want is potatoes. While there are far worse things to want, when I haven’t had anything green for days, I will feel it, especially when I go to button my jeans!
The antidote is to find a bunch of different veggies that make your mouth and your eyes happy. This salad is full of color and the vitamins those colors represent. The microgreens are powerbombs of antioxidants and the beets, known for their gentle detoxing also have many other benefits. If you aren’t a fan of red beets, try the golden ones; they are less earthy and won’t dye everything they touch red. Radish of any kind is related to the cruciferous vegetable family and full of phytonutrients, but you have to try my favorite – Watermelon Radish, see the photo below. Look for different veggies at farmers’ markets where there will likely be more variety than at a typical grocery store. This was a winter veggie box from our local farm when we lived in California. How’s that for color?
Salade Niçoise for a Crowd
This salad, no matter the vegetables you use, is the perfect platter meal. Make a bed of mixed salad greens on a platter (I’m Team Greens in the debate) then arrange the ingredients artfully on top in either rows or piles sort of like a cobb salad. While you will want to dress each individual component lightly just before arranging it, you can then pass the dressing at the table. Arrange cheeses, fruit and nuts on a wooden board and let it sit out while you enjoy the main course then serve instead of a heavy dessert. You will be able to enjoy your guests the entire time while offering them a special French-inspired evening without breaking a sweat.
Winter Salade Niçoise
All ingredients are per person. Feel free to just use lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil to taste instead of vinaigrette.
1 Recipe Dijon Vinaigrette
2 cups mixed greens
1/2 cup steamed potatoes
3 oz canned tuna
1/2 cup chopped assorted vegetables, optional
4 wedges roasted or steamed beet
1 boiled egg, quartered, optional
5 or more olives of your choice
2 tsp capers, optional
2 big pinches microgreens, optional
- Make vinaigrette if it’s not already made and pour about 1/4 cup into a medium bowl. (If you are opting for lemon juice and olive oil, just whisk together 1 tbsp lemon juice and 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil in a medium bowl then season with sea salt and pepper.)
- Make a bed of greens on a plate.
- Add the potatoes to the bowl with dressing and toss to coat. Arrange on the greens. Continue doing this with the tuna, any additional vegetables and lastly beets (if they are red they will turn the rest of the ingredients red, too, if you toss them first.)
- Tuck the eggs and olives in around the other ingredients or give them their own little space in the arrangement.
- Sprinkle with capers and drizzle with additional dressing.
- Top with microgreens if using.