Salade niçoise has gone through many variations since it moved north from Nice many years ago. In bistros throughout France, it almost always contains tuna, along with cooked ingredients like green beans, rice or even corn. This version is closer to the original, using just raw vegetables along with anchovies and olives. Only the eggs are cooked.
If you are not in Provence, it can be hard to find the small, black, brine-cured olives from the Nice region that are used in a traditional salade niçoise. Not to worry. It is fine to substitute a different kind. Go for the wrinkly salt-cured black olives shown in the photo — known in French as olives à la grecque — or for any dark, brine-cured Greek olives.
Two more ingredients deserve mention. ‘Spring onions’, found readily across Europe, are similar to scallions but have a large white bulb at the bottom. If they are not available where you live, use small red onions, the younger the better. And as for the artichokes, in France there is a variety known as poivrade which is a small, purplish, elongated artichoke. Elsewhere, choose small artichokes — again, the younger the better.
The proportions below are for two people as a main dish or four as a starter.
2 large tomatoes or 4 medium tomatoes
1 green pepper
2 spring onions or small red onions
2 baby artichokes (optional)
1 garlic clove
4 anchovy filets
12 black olives
4 tbsp. olive oil
6 fresh basil leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the eggs in a saucepan of cold water. Bring to a boil. Cook exactly 5 minutes. Gently tip out the hot water and refill with cold running water, immersing the eggs. Wait a moment and repeat. Leave the eggs sitting in the cold water until ready to shell them (this will make shelling easier).
Rinse the tomatoes and cut into wedges, removing the hard flesh around the stem.
Rinse the pepper. Slice the bottom half finely into rounds. Remove the core. Slice the top half finely into rounds or strips.
Rinse the cucumber and slice very finely on the bias.
Peel the onions and slice into thin strips or rounds.
If using baby artichokes, begin by preparing a small dish of cold water. Add the juice of half a lemon. Remove and discard the leaves and stem of the artichokes retaining only the heart. Remove and discard the choke. Plunge the hearts into the lemon water — this will prevent discoloration. Remove one heart and slice very thinly. Return the slices to the water. Repeat. Leave the slices immersed until ready to assemble the salad.
Peel the garlic clove, cut in half. Rub the inside of your salad bowl with the garlic.
Now assemble the salad. Arrange the tomatoes, pepper, cucumber, onions and artichoke slices if using. Peel the eggs, cut into quarters and place them on top of the other ingredients.
Cut the anchovy filets in half lengthwise and lay them on top of the other ingredients. Scatter the olives over the salad.
For the dressing, pour the olive oil into a small bowl or cup. Snip the basil leaves into the cup. Add some salt (go easy, as the anchovies and olives are already very salty) and grind in some black pepper.
Pour the sauce over the salad just before serving. Serve with crusty bread and a chilled bottle of dry rosé. Serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a starter.
This recipe is adapted from ‘Cuisine de France’ by Paul Bocuse.