A great salad for a weekend lunch or a light supper one night next week.
Asparagus is at its peak and radishes are almost gone from the farm stands here. So this week I was on the hunt for recipes that would make the most of them both. I came across this Salad recipe. It’s a take on Salade Nicoise – (as we know it). It swaps out the Haricots Verts for Asparagus and it makes the most of crisp, peppery radishes that are bed for the familiar hard-cooked eggs, tuna, and tiny little red potatoes and crisp capers. It swathes them all in a phenomenal Chive Dressing rich in honey and Dijon mustard. The dressing alone is a reason to make this dish—and to make a little extra dressing for your next green salad. But is it a “vrai Salade Nicoise”?
Who knew a Salad would come with a sizeable helping of controversy?
After a visit to Nice a few years ago, I became intrigued by the controversy over their famous namesake Salade. I must admit I walked into a hornet’s nest without any idea that there was an argument about the dish. I was wrong. Writing for The Daily Meal, I reported: “Unless you want to get your head taken off by your server, never ask where the cooked potatoes and green beans are when you order the famed Salade Niçoise in its home on France’s Cote D’Azur. Heaven forbid you miss the tuna you may have gotten used to back home too.” Even the sunniest locals frown upon variations of the real thing. And what is the real thing? Salade niçoise doesn’t even appear in the bible of French cuisine, “Larousse Gastronomique.” Instead, it is pictured as “Mediterranean salad.”
Seeking help with the original recipe for this Classic French Salad.
I found a local French woman who was most happy to talk: “I am French”, she said. “I live in Nice, so I can assure you Salade Niçoise does not contain green beans, potatoes, or any other ‘cooked’ vegetables. If you want a real Salade Niçoise, you must use these (and only these) ingredients: tomatoes, cucumbers, artichokes, green peppers, onions, basil, garlic, hard-cooked eggs, anchovies, black olives, olive oil, salt, and pepper, of course!” After some cajoling, she parted with her recipe for the salad, insisting that if it is to be true to itself, all of its ingredients must come directly from the market. The link to the recipe and all relevant “Nicoise” posts follow.
Breaking the Rules and Making the Salad Non-Traditional.
Today’s recipe was developed by Bon Appetit’s Molly Stevens back in 2009. The first thing I noticed was that there were any number of suggestions for making its components separately and on your own timetable. You can make the dressing a day ahead. You can cook the asparagus in just minutes and cool it down for up to 8 hours in advance. I sliced my radishes and set them aside a couple of hours before the final assembly. The result is that when you put the ingredients all together just before serving, you end up with a salad that’s is as fresh and inviting as a summer breeze. Here is the recipe.
Tuna, Asparagus, and New Potato Salad with Chive Vinaigrette and Fried Capers
An Untraditional take on a Classic recipe from the South of France, this is a perfect way to entertain in the warmer months.
- For the Vinaigrette:
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
- 1/4 cup Champagne vinegar
- 1 small shallot, coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- For the Salad:
- 1 1/2 pounds thick asparagus, stems peeled
- 1 1/4 pounds baby red potatoes, halved or quartered
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup capers, drained, patted dry
- 8 ounces mixed spring greens
- 16 large radishes, trimmed, very thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
- 3 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled, quartered
- 12 ounces imported tuna packed in oil, drained
- Step 1 Make the vinaigrette:
- Step 2 Puree the first 5 ingredients in a blender until smooth. With machine running, gradually add vegetable oil, then olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
- Step 3 Make the salad:
- Step 4 Cook asparagus in a large skillet of boiling salted water until just tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer asparagus to a 13x9x2-inch pan of ice water to cool. Drain asparagus and pat dry. DO AHEAD: Can be made 8 hours ahead. Wrap in paper towels, then plastic, and chill.
- Step 5 Place potatoes in a large saucepan. Add enough water to cover potatoes by 1 inch. Sprinkle with salt. Bring to boil and cook until potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of potatoes. Drain. Let cool 5 minutes. Place in a medium bowl. Add 1/4 cup vinaigrette. Toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Step 6 Heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add capers and fry until capers are crisp and open like flowers, stirring often 45 to 60 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer capers to paper towels to drain. DO AHEAD: Potatoes and capers can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.
- Step 7 Place asparagus in a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons vinaigrette and toss to coat. Toss potatoes again to coat, adding 1 more tablespoon vinaigrette if dry.
- Step 8 Place greens and radishes in another large bowl. Toss with enough vinaigrette to coat. Spread greens and radishes over a large platter. Arrange potatoes, asparagus, eggs, and tuna atop greens. Drizzle some vinaigrette over tuna. Sprinkle with fried capers.
- Step 9