It’s been a weird year for growing edibles in my part of the world. Between the hailstorms we had at the beginning of the season, midsummer cold snaps and atypical rain, and dicey air quality thanks to the many ranging fires, this may be the strangest growing season I’ve ever seen. Obviously a psychic fairy or something whispered in my ear back in April, because this is also the first year in a decade that I did not plant a vegetable garden. 😉
Still, I’ve witnessed some crazy oddities at friends’ gardens and the farmers markets. I’ve seen apples prematurely dropping from their trees and grapes ripening weeks before their time. And I’ve barely seen a good, ripe tomato that was not grown in a greenhouse. By contrast, at this time last year, I was inundated with bushels of tomatoes, scrambling to harvest them amid my hectic schedule. (On the bright side, I’m still amply stocked with last year’s tomato sauce!)
While some stuff has come on incredibly early, much of the harvest has been very late. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as I still get to enjoy some of it, but it does explain the timing of today’s post.
Salmon Nicoise Salad is a perfect way to enjoy all of late summer’s—or in this case early autumn’s—bounty. It showcases the best flavors of the season and is a complete meal in itself. Chock-full of healthy proteins, fats, and fresh, flavorful vegetables and served with a briny herbed dressing, it satisfies the hungriest of diners. It’s simple and rustic yet presents beautifully, a colorful, casual work of art. And much of it can be prepared in advance, which makes it easier to fit into a busy schedule or to prepare for a dinner party.
The Nicoise salad originated, sensibly enough, in the city of Nice, France. This world-famous dish has been revered and adored by chefs and diners alike since the early twentieth century, and there are countless variations of it—as well as significant disagreement between purists and innovators as to what ingredients are acceptable.
Though a classic salade Niçoise is prepared with tuna, I’ve chosen to break with tradition here and use fresh sockeye salmon instead. I’ve also opted for purple potatoes and multicolored heirloom tomatoes, both which add visual appeal but are not mandatory. Red-skinned potatoes, Yukon Golds, or an assortment of baby potatoes or fingerlings will all also work. Likewise, you can use Roma tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes, or an assortment of cherry tomatoes in place of the heirlooms.
Honestly, just use whatever you can get your hands on that has the deepest summer flavor. As with all art, there are no rules for a Nicoise salad outside the limits of your imagination. J
Salmon Nicoise Salad with Herbed Dijon Dressing
Tip: Each of the salad’s components can be prepared up to a day in advance and chilled until you’re ready to serve.
Prep time: 30–45 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour, plus chilling time
1–2 pounds small potatoes, scrubbed
24 ounces green beans, trimmed
4 large eggs
24 ounces salmon filets or steaks
Herbed Dijon Dressing (see ingredient list below)
1–2 pounds tomatoes
16–24 (about ½ cup) olives (such as Nicoise, kalamata, black, or oil-cured )
For Herbed Dijon Dressing:
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar, white wine vinegar, or red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons minced shallot
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped capers
1 anchovy filet, minced, optional
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, salt the water liberally, and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer the potatoes until tender (test one with a knife; the knife should slide in and out easily). Drain potatoes and chill under running cold water. Drain well and set aside.
- Meanwhile, cook the green beans. Fill a large bowl with ice water and set it aside. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt water generously. Place beans in water, reduce heat, and simmer until beans are tender. Drain beans and then plunge them into the ice water to stop the cooking process. When beans are cooled, drain and set aside.
- Fill a medium bowl with ice and water; set aside. Place eggs in a small pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Turn off heat, leaving pot on stovetop. Set timer for 11 minutes. When timers goes off, drain eggs and plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking process. Leave eggs in water to chill.
- Prepare a grill or preheat the oven to 425°F. Drizzle salmon filets or steaks with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill salmon over high heat, or roast it in the oven, until the flesh flakes easily when tested with a fork. (This will take 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the cut and thickness of your salmon.) Transfer cooked salmon to a plate and let cool.
- Combine all the ingredients for Herbed Dijon Dressing (extra-virgin olive oil through salt and freshly cracked black pepper) in a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.
- Arrange salad: t them into halves or wedges. Drain eggs, peel them, and cut them into halves or quarters. Break salmon up into large chunks. Cut tomatoes into halves if very small or into large bite-sized pieces if larger. On a large platter or large shallow bowl, arrange the salmon, green beans, potatoes, and tomatoes in their own sections. Scatter the olives over all the components. Drizzle everything with dressing (or, alternatively, pass the dressing on the side). Serve salad as individual portions or set the platter in the center of the table and have guests serve themselves.
Image from Briana Goodall.