This almost ubiquitous salad has been upgraded in recent years by the addition of fresh tuna in place of the traditional canned. Either tuna is actually fine; each creates a different effect. You don’t even need to use tuna. Other firm-fleshed fish are also good. Aficionados of salade niçoise are dogmatic about such things as green beans, potatoes, tomatoes, and eggs—some pro, some con. This version contains all of them, but if you leave out one or two, the salad will still be good. Slender French green beans, known as haricots verts, are lovely in this salad, but if you can’t find them, you can quarter regular green beans lengthwise to achieve a similar profile.
– 4 large handfuls of assorted lettuces such as Boston, Bibb, arugula, or frisée, washed and spun dry, or 10 ounces prewashed assorted greens such as mesclun mix.
– 1 waxy potato, about ½ pound.
– 1 clove garlic, minced and then crushed with the flat side of the knife.
– 2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar.
– Pinch of salt.
– ⅔ cup extra virgin olive oil.
– ½ pound green beans, preferably haricots verts, ends trimmed.
– 2 tomatoes.
– Two 6-ounce cans imported Italian tuna packed in olive oil, drained, or one ¾-pound fresh tuna steak, grilled or sautéed rare, sliced.
– 1 red or yellow bell pepper, charred, peeled, and seeded and then cut lengthwise into ¼-inch-wide strips.
– 3 eggs, hard-boiled, peeled, and each cut into 4 wedges.
– 8 anchovy fillets, or more to taste, well drained and cut in half crosswise.
– ½ cup Niçoise olives or other Mediterranean-style brine-cured black olives, drained.
Step 1:Reserve the greens in the refrigerator until you are ready to assemble the salad. Put the potato in a pot with cold water to cover and bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer for about 25 minutes, or until easily pierced with a paring knife. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, vinegar, and salt until the salt dissolves. Pour in the olive oil.
Step 2:When the potato is ready, drain and then peel away the skin in strips with a paring knife while still warm. Slice the potato thickly and place in a small bowl. Whisk the vinaigrette, add 3 tablespoons of it to the warm potato slices, and toss gently. (Each time before you use the vinaigrette, whisk it so the vinegar and oil are evenly distributed.) Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the beans, and boil for 5 to 8 minutes, or until you feel only the slightest crunch when you bite into one. Drain in a colander and immediately rinse with cold water. Pat dry or spin dry in a lettuce spinner. If you are serving the salad right away, toss the beans with 3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette. If not, toss them with the vinaigrette just before serving.
Step 3:If you have perfect summer tomatoes, don’t bother to peel them. If you don’t, plunge them into boiling water for about 30 seconds, rinse them immediately with cold water, and pull away the skin in strips with a paring knife. Cut out the stem end, and cut each tomato into 8 wedges. Push the seeds out of each wedge with a fingertip. If using fresh grilled tuna, slice the tuna into rectangles.
Step 4:You can serve the salad in a large bowl or on individual plates. If you are using a bowl, arrange the lettuces around the inside. If you are using salad plates, first toss the lettuces, tomatoes, bell pepper, and tuna separately with the remaining vinaigrette. Then arrange the lettuces on the salad plates. Arrange all the remaining ingredients—potato slices, beans, tomatoes, bell pepper, eggs, tuna, anchovies, and olives—decoratively on top of the lettuces in the bowl or on each plate. If serving at the table from the bowl, just before serving, pour the remaining vinaigrette over the salad and toss gently, then serve on plates.