25 April 2009

Salade Niçoise

“Some combinations become famous just because the mixture was such a happy one that it has lived on and on, pleasing successive generations of palates,” wrote Julia Child in The Way to Cook. “Salade Niçoise is certainly one of these...” Julia says her recipe is based on Escoffier’s — “he was a Niçois, after all” — using cooked potatoes, green beans, and eggs along with lettuce, tomatoes, olives, and tuna.

(November 2018 — There is some controversy about this recipe for the Salade Niçoise nowadays. People who claim to know the traditional recipe for the salad say it should contain no cooked vegetables — and no lettuce or vinegar! — and that either tuna or anchovies can be included, but not both! The recipe with cooked green beans and potatoes is what I've always known as Salade Niçoise, mostly in Paris where I lived for 6 or 7 years in the 1970s and early '80s. I've never spent much time in Nice.)

Salade Niçoise — which supposedly originated in the city of Nice, down on the French Mediterranean coast — is one of our favorite summertime foods. It's so easy to make, and after you've cooked potatoes, green beans, and eggs, you can have all the ingredients on hand in your refrigerator, where they will keep for a few days.

Salade Niçoise for lunch yesterday

I remember a trip we took to Provence in June 1993. It was the first time we rented a house — a gîte rural — and the first time I had been back to Provence since the 1970s. We ate lunch out nearly every day, because we were going to see all the sights in the area. The way I remember it, we always ordered Salade Niçoise, because I wanted to see how different restaurants and cafés served it. Walt, of course, remembers eating pizza nearly every day! I think we had a lot of both.

Boil some potatoes and eggs.
I like to put salt, black peppercorns, and bayleaves in the pot.

Some of the restaurants in Provence made their Salade Niçoise with rice instead of potatoes. Most used canned tuna, and the fancier places served you a freshly seared tuna steak. All included tomatoes, green beans, eggs, and olives. But that's Provence, not Nice.

For a lot of people, a Salade Niçoise wouldn't be complete without a few anchovy fillets on the plate. For me, the indispensable ingredient is freshly made vinaigrette. That's what brings the salad together.

Some of the ingredients for Salade Niçoise,
including olives and vinaigrette

Here is Monique Maine's recipe (Cuisine pour toute l'année, 1969). She might not be a Niçoise like Escoffier, but I always like her recipes, at least as a starting point:
Salade niçoise

3 tomatoes
3 potatoes cooked in their skins
a bowl of cooked green beans
1 bell pepper
4 lettuce leaves
3 oz. of black olives
3 stalks of celery
1 onion
1 small can of tuna in oil
6 oz. of salt-cured anchovies
2 hard-boiled eggs
vinaigrette, salt, and pepper

Soak the anchovies in cold water for an hour to de-salt them. Dry them with a paper towel and remove the bones.

Cut the tomatoes into quarters. Dice the green beans, celery, and bell pepper. Slice the eggs, potatoes, and onion into rounds. Cut the lettuce into strips.

Combine all the ingredients, including the olives and tuna, in a salad bowl, adding salt and pepper as you go. Lay the anchovy fillets over the top. Season with 5 Tbsp. of vinaigrette made with olive oil.
What we usually do is get all the ingredients ready and bring them to the table in their own bowls. (I don't do onion or celery.) Then you can make your own salad on your plate, using as much of each ingredient as you want, and finally spoon vinaigrette over all.

Roasted red peppers, thanks to the 2008 vegetable garden
(and the freezer

It's not summer yet and this is a classic hot-weather dish. But we had eggs, olives, potatoes, and tuna in the house. We also had some roasted red peppers in the freezer. Walt bought tomatoes at the market in Montrichard. It was a great meal for the last day of our 2009 April mini-summer, and not the last Salade Niçoise we will eat this year.

The temperature this morning makes it feel like early March out there again. And skies are gray.


  1. I like your idea of bringing the ingredients to the table in separate dishes. Especially when it's just for the two of us.

    I had the worst Salade Niçoise ever in a restaurant a few weeks ago. They used to do it well, but this time all the ingredients were chopped in small pieces and tossed together. It completely ruined it for me.

  2. Chris, I agree with you (despite the recipe I posted). I like having the ingredients separate so I can enjoy each one. Back in '93, we had quite a variety of Salades Niçoises in Provence. Some were much better than others.

  3. When traveling in Provence have you ever had Pan Bagnat?

    I used to have that for lunch when vacationing in Cannes. Bought it at a street vendor so I could take it to the beach and enjoy the sun.

    For the franncophones [and 'philes] here are three links:

    And one in English for involuntarily French impaired francophiles:

    The last recipe, being American, is "improved." Can I suggest you stick to the original recipes?

    I've seen both spellings: Pan Bagnat and Pan Bagna.

  4. I've just had Salade Nicoise for lunch at our local creperie, it always feels like the herald of summer to me.

    Yours looks delicious,


  5. Yes, I remember eating Pan Bagnat back in 1970. Pan means bread, and Bagnat means "bathed" -- bread bathed in olive oil (or vinaigrette). The bread isn't soggy but is tasty, as are all the ingredients. They're the same ingredients as for Salade Niçoise, basically. Thanks, CHM, for that memory. We'll have to make Pan Bagnat in June. Maybe Susan and Simon would like to share.

  6. involuntarily French impaired francophiles

    chm, that's a great line :)

    Yummmm for the salade niçoise. And, I remember having something in Barcelona that was called (I'm giving a phonetic spelling), as I remember: pan am tomaket. It was nice crusty bread, thoroughly rubbed with a (really flavorful) tomatoe, then drizzled with olive oil. The family I was visiting said this was a common side with their meals during the summer. It was delish!

    Here it reached 90 (32C) yesterday (!!) and is going to be in the upper 70s and 80s (around 25-30C?) today-- bright sun, too! It definitely feels like summer, and the school year is in its last phase.... yipppeeee! Hang on, Ken, your weather will soon improve!


  7. Bonjour Cousin,

    I had pain bagnat at the Cours Saleya market

  8. From the Escoffier Cook Book and Guide to the Fine Art of Cookery ("Complete with 2973 Recipes"), 1969, here is Escoffier's recipe for Salade Niçoise:

    "Take equal quantities of string beans, potato dice, and quartered tomatoes. Decorate with capers, small, pitted olives, and anchovy fillets.

    Season with oil and vinegar."

  9. Would we like to share !! Yes please !!


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