Pronounced “knee-SWAHZ”, the Nicoise Salad is one of the great classic salads. It originated in the city of Nice, France’s second-largest city and queen of the Cote d’Azur – the “blue coast” along the Mediterranean Sea in the beautiful south of France. Smoked Salmon Nicoise Salad is a twist on the more traditional tuna, topped with a delicious vinaigrette dressing. All of the ingredients can be prepared ahead, making this fabulous entree salad and snap to pull together when you’re ready to eat.
Smoked Salmon Nicoise Salad
A Nicoise is a hearty main course salad. It incorporates fresh salad greens, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, boiled potatoes, haricot vert (French baby green beans), and tiny black Nicoise olives. The salad is dressed with Dijon vinaigrette with capers, another fabulous Mediterranean ingredient.
I’ve made crowd-pleasing Nicoise Salads for picnicking and tailgating before summer concerts. The perfect picnic entrée, all of the elements are easy to prepare, package and transport. All you have to do is assemble at the site on a big platter and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Offer extra dressing on the side and a little dessert and you have one fantastic picnic.
But don’t save this just for picnics, try it tonight or the next time you have friends over for dinner. Like it’s said, we eat with our eyes first, and this salad is filled with lots of color and texture not to mention fabulous flavors.
Smoked Salmon and Other Options
I’ve made Nicoise with seared Ahi tuna, but use other proteins like smoked salmon, cooked and chilled salmon filet, smoked trout, even shrimp. Salmon is a terrific twist on the classic recipe and even easier to prepare as you can purchase smoked salmon everywhere. If you are not a fish fan, make a Nicoise with chilled and sliced grilled boneless, skinless chicken breast marinated in olive oil, lemon and herbs.
For my Nicoise salad I use French baby green beans. Asparagus as an excellent alternative. For the green beans, cook them in boiling salted water for about 4 minutes, then chill in an ice bath to stop the cooking process and keep the green beans a nice bright green. Drain and chill. If you prefer to use asparagus, steam or roast in the oven. Depending on the thickness of the stems, roast at 425°F on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet for about 4 minutes, then test for tenderness.
For potatoes I like Dutch Baby Golds. You can use baby red potatoes or small fingerling potatoes. For the olives, pitted Greek Kalamata olives work very well if you can’t find Nicoise olives. Nicoise are traditional but they are very small and do have the pit. For easy to peel eggs, see my post for how to make perfect hard-boiled eggs.
The vinaigrette is absolutely terrific and works with any salad. It also works well with grilled or roast chicken and as a dressing for a cold potato-style salad. Vinaigrettes are not just for salads. Use them as you would many other dressings and sauces.
Smoked Salmon Nicoise Salad
Vinaigrette (makes extra)
- 1 tablespoon minced shallot approximately 1?2 of one medium shallot
- 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
- 1/4 cup good quality champagne or white balsamic vinegar
- 3/4 cup good quality lemon or mild olive oil
- 2 tablespoons capers drained and rinsed
- 3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
- 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh thyme or lemon thyme
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- Chopped chives and/ or basil chiffonade or leaves to garnish
- 8 ounces spring mix salad greens
- 8 ounces baby green beans
- 12 ounces small baby gold potatoes
- 4 hardboiled eggs
- 7 ounces Kalamata or Nicoise olives
- 16-20 red cherry or grape tomatoes halved
- 12-16 ounces Smoked Salmon or your favorite protein
- Start be making the vinaigrette. In a medium bowl blend shallot, mustard and vinegar. Slowly drizzle oil into mixture and whisk until emulsified. Add capers, parsley, thyme and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Set aside to dress the salad.
- Fill a large 5 quart) pt full of water. Bring to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil. Drop green beans into boiling water and cook 5 minutes. Meanwhile prepare an ice bath: fill a large bowl half full of ice and add cold water to cover the ice. When beans are done cooking, scoop green beans from pot and into the ice bath.
- Next in the same boiling, cook potatoes. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 10-12 minutes until they can be pierced through with a paring knife. Remove potatoes with a strainer spoon when they are done. Cool and cut in half if they are small.
- In a large bowl, lightly toss greens with just enough of the vinaigrette to evenly coat the leaves. Arrange the beans and potatoes in groups on a large platter or on individual plates. Mound greens in the center of plates or platter. Lightly toss the tomatoes with a small amount of vinaigrette. Arrange tomatoes and olives in groups around the greens on the plates. Add egg halves to each plate. Season eggs and potatoes with salt and pepper. Finish the salad with large chunks of smoked salmon. Drizzle a little dressing over the salmon, beans and potatoes. Top with chives and/or chopped basil leaves.