Some of the joys of summer are fresh produce, new foods at your local farmer’s market and long evening twilight hours. Even supermarket tomatoes taste good during these warmer months! This means that main course salads and cold summer soups can be on the menu for your family, perhaps enjoyed on a deck or at a picnic.
This recipe is from Nice, a French port town on the Mediterranean Sea, which explains the name: Salade Nicoise. It’s a classic main course salad, and its combination of flavors hits the sweet spot of salty, creamy, crunchy and tart. It’s a beautiful creation, and it includes both vegetables and protein for a healthful meal.
It does take a little bit of time to prepare, but that’s where your family members come in. Let different family members take one component of this meal, then assemble it together as a work of art and present it to cheers and applause. Each colorful part can be artistically arranged on the plate to create a harmonious whole. (Of course, you can also just mix it all together, but where is the fun in that?)
My guide for all things classically French is Julia Child, so if you want a superb, clear and detailed explanation of how to make this, please check out her cookbooks. Here is the short version of how to make this delicious summer salad.
- 1 large head of lettuce, washed and dried
- 1 pound green beans
- 3 or 4 ripe red tomatoes, cut into wedges (or 10 to 12 cherry tomatoes, halved)
- 1 lb small red potatoes, peeled, sliced, and cooked
- Two 3-ounce cans chunk tuna, preferably oil-packed, completely drained
- 6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved
- 1 freshly opened can of flat anchovy fillets, completely drained
- 1/3 cup small black olives
- 2 to 3 tablespoons capers, rinsed
- 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
- Salt and pepper
Use your favorite bottled variety, or mix together some good oil and vinegar to your taste! You can also use balsamic glaze and a good olive oil, if you prefer.
Kitchen Tasks For Your Family
- A child can wash the lettuce, and either spin dry it or wrap it in clean dish towel.
- Someone can make the potatoes.
- Someone can be in charge of the beans.
- The eggs need boiling and peeling.
- Some can mix the salad dressing.
- Everyone can discuss the artistic vision!
Put eggs in pan of cold water. Turn heat to high. Bring to boil, put on lid, turn off gas and leave alone for fifteen minutes. Then place eggs in ice bath so that the shells will come off easily. Peel eggs and cut into halves.
Cut or pull off ends of green beans. (Little ones can easily break off the bean ends.) Put beans in to a big pot of salted boiling water. Cook until just barely tender—4 or 6 minutes. Taste one to tell if done! Remove from water and put immediately into ice bath. (Use a really big bowl with ice and water—fun job for little ones.) Drain from ice bath in a minute or so and dry on a dish towel. Before serving, put 1 tablespoons of vinaigrette and the minced shallots on beans.
Wash and dry the tomatoes. Cut whole tomatoes in quarters or cherry tomatoes in half. Before serving, dress very lightly with 1 tablespoon of vinaigrette.
Wash the potatoes with a veggie brush. (Another good job for little ones!) Put into big pot of salted boiling water. Cook till fork tender. Drain. Cut in half. In about five minutes, while still very warm from cooking, put 2 tablespoons of vinaigrette onto the potatoes so that they will absorb the dressing.
Choose your biggest platter or cookie sheet (or let each family member assemble their own plate). Put the lettuce on the plate, evenly spread out. Now add the red, green, white, and yellow ingredients. Don’t forget to add the tuna, either in the center of the plate, or in scattered chunks.
Add the olives, capers, fresh chopped parsley. Voila! If you wish to start speaking French at this point, that would be fun too. A loaf of good bread, and perhaps some wine for the grownups, then share a smile around the table and dig in.
Once you make this salad one or two times, you won’t need the recipe anymore. Just cook the veggies, wash the lettuce, and throw it together. The exact amounts are not that important. What matters is that the tomatoes are ripe, someone in your family loves anchovies, you make time to relax and savor summer, and one day a child will decide to try a bite of olive and like it.
REMEMBER: Having dinner together takes practice. LET GO OF PERFECT!
Robin is a certified professional chef and 2011 graduate of the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. Prior to that, she enjoyed a career as mom, director of adult education for her town and director of religious education for her church. She can make puff pastry, classic French food, Italian peasant food, ice cream and really good PB&J. A devout believer in lifelong learning, she loves to try new foods, recipes, and techniques, and invite her friends and family to come over for a bite.