I have to eat a salad of fresh greens at least once a day. I find that when I have to go for more than one or two days without it, I get these tremendous withdrawal symptoms and I can feel myself becoming restless, lost, and downright cranky!
It’s one of those activities where pleasure and healthy sensible living come together. I like my salads robust, unapologetic, crisp, cold, and fresh. I like the variety of greens, with the leafies, the babies, and the bitters all blended in.
Other accoutrements serve to enhance but not upstage the lush foliage on my plate. Depending on what’s in season, I sometimes add grilled veggies like eggplant, zucchini, asparagus, or Portobello mushrooms. When I have time, I roast some red bell peppers, or cook a variety of mushrooms in a little olive oil. I also use some left overs such as grilled chicken breast, hard-boiled eggs, deep-water fished tuna, left over crisp bacon, or even old adobo.
For even more variety, I sprinkle (not all at the same time!) dried cranberries, spiced pecans, shaved almonds, crumbled goat cheese, shaved parmesan, or leftover chunks of Parano. Sometimes, I like to just go pure arugula with some shaved parmesan, a few sweet cherry tomatoes for contrast, and a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Ah, heaven!
Whenever we travel, I take great pains to seek out places where salads are served. In most of France, Italy, and Spain, salads abound. During our recent trip, I had my fill of the variations on the classic French Salade Nicoise, or Salada Nizzarda in Italian. The dish originated from the Southern parts of France, bordering the Mediterranean. And although the name alludes to the city of Nice, it is neither unique to nor characteristic of Nice, most of them will tell you.
It’s easy to see that each region, town, or municipality has their own version. And, the accoutrements also depend on the season. If there’s one thing I appreciate in these parts, they are mindful of what’s in season and don’t seem to feel they have to bend over backwards to put food that’s not in season on their plates or their mouths, unlike us here in North America, where we fly, ship, truck in produce from various parts of the continent or the world just to ensure its availability all year round. That’s another discussion altogether so, let’s just leave it at that for now.
The mainstays of the Salade Nicoise are the salad greens, usually made with mesclun, arugula, and the like, ripe tomatoes, haricot vert, hard-boiled eggs, tuna either brined or in olive oil, desalted anchovy fillets, a handful of black olives, sliced cucumbers, and some sliced red and/or green bell peppers. Other foods that can be added, depending on the season are artichokes, broad beans, fresh basil leaves, celery heart, fava beans, even boiled potatoes. This salad is mostly raw, save for the hard-boiled eggs, the boiled potatoes, or the sometimes blanched haricot vert.
The dressing is made usually simply with Dijon mustard, a wine vinegar, and olive oil. Where we were traveling, it was not unusual for the server to hand us some balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper mills. They let us mix our own!
(I will not bother you with exact proportions of the above components. It’s clear from having tasted so many versions of it that everyone tailors their salad to however they are so inclined.)
I can see too that they make the effort to make this salad colorful and attractive. After all, if it pleases almost all the senses, it would surely be an enduring winner. And deliver, it has, consistently, time and time again.
- 10 Reasons Why I Always Have a Bag of Arugula in the Refrigerator – Ingredient Spotlight (thekitchn.com)
- Salad Niçoise (domesticdivaeileen.wordpress.com)
- Not a Niçoise Salad (roswensian.wordpress.com)
- Nicoise Salad (my way) (condofire.com)
- One of America’s Favorites – the Salad (beatcancer2010.wordpress.com)
- Gorgeous Greens Power Salad (freetobloom.wordpress.com)
- Fresh tuna salad nicoise (solosuppers.wordpress.com)