Like a lot of classic dishes, the ingredients that make up a Salad Nicoise can be debatable…especially at Sterling College. With the many dietary preferences and ecological values of the students here, classic preparations sometimes veer toward plant based.
The salad originated in Nice, in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of France and has been replicated and adapted in American restaurants for decades. Some will say that if potatoes are involved it is NOT a Salade Nicoise. Some say that if you use fresh tuna instead of the traditional canned tuna, it is NOT a Salade Nicoise. And at Sterling, maybe it doesn’t really matter. Maybe what matters here is that the potatoes are sourced right here in the NEK and that the tuna is sustainably caught or nixed altogether for coming from so far away (lots of earthly resources used just to get it into our land-locked kitchen).
In any case, we served the salad for lunch over the summer and took it to even more controversial lengths than potatoes. As students went down the line selecting among the standard ingredients of locally grown hard boiled eggs, Sterling garden green beans, Pete’s Greens tomatoes, and olives from Cali, there sat Sterling grown chicken salad as an alternative option for those who did not like tuna. And it didn’t end there. Other options included marinated zucchinis, thinly sliced apples, and strawberries, without an anchovy in sight. Needless to say, we like to mix things up here at Sterling, using what’s available from the land, sometimes diverging from tradition.
Today, with increasing numbers of vegetarians, vegans, pesco-vegetarians, ova-vegetarians, and many other preferences, composed salads are useful options as they allow people to choose what they do or do not want in their meal. So maybe we didn’t have Salade Nicoise and maybe it was more of a “nicoisey” salad. But it was delicious and sourced from close by (except the tuna and the olives).
** Refer to this Greenpeace website for a list of sustainable canned tuna options and the ones to avoid.
Here are some recipes we used to make our Nicoisey Spread. Enjoy, and Happy Summer!
- 4 eggs, hard boiled and quartered
- 2 cups green beans, trimmed
- 1 pound fingerling or new potatoes
- 4 small tomatoes, or 2 larger ones sliced into wedges
- 1 cup olives – Nicoise, Nyon, or Kalamata
- 8 small radishes, halved
- mesclun greens (about 4 cups) or one head of Boston lettuce, red leaf, radicchio, or romaine
- 1 can tuna **see note at bottom
- 1 cup chicken salad. Pan fried tempeh is a good vegan protein alternative to tuna or chicken.
- Place potatoes in a medium pot and fill with cold water until potatoes are covered by an inch or so of water.
- Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are tender. Drain and set aside.
- Fill a medium pot with water, add a few dashes of salt and place on stove and bring to a boil.
- Fill a large bowl with cold water and set aside.
- Place the green beans in the boiling water and cook until slightly tender about 3 minutes.
- Drain the beans and immediately place them in the bowl of cold water to stop the cooking and preserve their green color. Remove from the water and set aside.
- Place ingredients – lettuce, eggs, green beans, potatoes, tomatoes, olives, radishes, tuna, chicken or tempeh, vinaigrette and any other favorite or leftover ingredient you wish to add to the mix, in individual serving dishes and set out for everyone to help themselves and enjoy.
- 1 pound cooked chicken, shredded or cubed
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 3 tbsp tarragon or dill or whatever you have in the garden right now, chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
Whisk mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, pepper and tarragon in a large bowl. Add chicken and stir to combine. Check seasoning and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Yield: about 1 cup
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 4 tbs red or white-wine vinegar
- 4 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 8 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, or locally made vegetable oil of any type
In a small bowl whisk shallot, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper together until combined. Slowly add olive oil in a thin stream while whisking continuously to emulsify. Check and adjust seasoning if needed. Set aside. *Leftover dressing can be refrigerated in a jar or container.