It’s 90 degrees around here so fuck an oven, babe. Summer is the absolute pits. We’re a fancy-salad-only house from now until October.
Lately, I’ve been eating this amended (read: dumbed-down) Serious Eats Niçoise because it’s tasty as hell and requires very little prep work. Imagine, like, braising in this weather. Or roasting. I only want to think about things that are full of cold slime or juice, which is also why I love tinned fish (seriously, I am your dad). So this salad is my jam and somehow tastes good while also feeling like health!
For the delicious vinaigrette, i.e. the best part of the salad, you will need:
- 1 small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
- 1 small clove garlic, minced (about a teaspoon)
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 4 cured anchovy fillets, oil-packed, minced (about ½ teaspoon)
- 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon water
- ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
To make it the dressing, which you should try not to lap up straight from the mixing bowl but I understand if you can’t help yourself: Combine the shallot, garlic, mustard, anchovies, vinegar, and water in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in olive oil, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
Look at that! One (extremely long) easy step!
I only want to think about things that are full of cold slime or juice, which is also why I love tinned fish (seriously, I am your dad).
For the salad, you gotta get:
- ¾ pound of those fingerling potatoes
- ½ medium onion
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 4 cloves garlic
- ½ cup kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- 1 pound string beans, preferably French haricots verts, trimmed
- 4 large eggs
- ½ pound ripe cherry tomatoes, halved (I omit these; I hate a gloopy tomato in my already wet salad, ugh)
- 10 anchovy fillets, oil-packed, cut into 1-inch lengths
- 1 can oil-packed bonito tuna, drained
- ¾ cup pitted small black olives, such as Niçoise or Taggiasca, drained (I hate olives, so I omit them, but if you like them you should add as many as you want)
- 2 tablespoons drained brined capers (I know that it’s stupid and weird to claim to hate olives while ravenously enjoying capers, but what can I say? I enjoy capers! So I add a lot of them!)
- 20 fresh basil leaves, torn (Let’s talk about this later)
- 3 ounces (about 4 cups???) lettuce greens (whatever kind you like, truly)
- Freshly ground black pepper
Construct your fancy-sounding salad
In a large saucepan, cover potatoes with at least 2 inches of water then add onion, thyme, and garlic. Stir in ½ cup salt until dissolved. Set over medium-high heat and bring just to a simmer. OK, so this is what the original recipe says to do. Here’s the thing, though: It’s just a handful of little boiled potatoes and this feels like a lot of cleanup and work, so most of the time I don’t do the onion and thyme part. I know I don’t have anything else important to do, but what about all of my unimportant things?? Save yourself a few minutes and just sprinkle a little loose chicken bouillon in the pot for flavor and keep it moving. Lower heat to just barely below a simmer and cook until potatoes are easily pierced by a fork, about 10-ish minutes? Drain the potatoes and set them aside.
Their recipe says to cook the beans in batches then transfer them to an ice bath, but who the hell are you making this for, your bad-ass kids? Your ungrateful man? You better blanch those beans for 4 minutes then drain them and keep it pushing. An ice bath? In this economy????
Hard boil your eggs! OK maybe this should’ve been step one? But we always have hard-boiled eggs in the fridge so I didn’t think about it until now and I’m not moving this shit around. If we’re being completely honest I don’t even put eggs on mine, because I don’t want anything to clash with my cold, slimy fishy fish fish. But everything looks fancier with an egg on top, so hard boil your eggs (there are many tutorials on YouTube if you need one), cool them, peel them, then slice them lengthwise into quarters like they do in France.
In a large bowl combine: the potatoes, green beans, tomatoes (no, none for me, thanks!), anchovy fillets, tuna, olives (double no), capers, basil, and lettuce greens. Regarding the basil and lettuce: I just got an herb stripper, which is maybe the greatest little tool that ever existed? No more wasting time plucking individual rosemary needles off the stem, you just pull it through the little ripper hole (I’m not googling what it’s called; I’m so sorry) and voila, a pile of [whatever herb you’re attempting to strip]! Truly revolutionary, especially for a person who cannot tell her chives from her dill. Also, I know that suggested lettuces serve a purpose, that there is a food scientist out there somewhere who has done extensive research to pair X kind of lettuce leaf with Y kind of dressing, but I cannot be bothered to expend any amount of energy sorting through arugula versus red leaf for this recipe. Make this with grass; literally, who cares!
Shake or whisk the vinaigrette, then drizzle a small amount over ingredients in bowl, tossing gently by hand and adding more vinaigrette as needed until everything is lightly coated. Or you can compose your plate then pour dressing over it without transferring your germs and tiny shed skin cells all over a salad other people might want to eat, then season with salt and pepper. If you do the “toss with dressing beforehand” method (why not let people choose their preferred bean-to-dressing ratio???) you can then transfer the salad to serving bowls and garnish with eggs if you’re into that. Ta-da, now you’re French!