Nicoise salad (pronounced [ni’swaz]) originated in the French city of Nice. It is traditionally made with tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, Nicoise olives, anchovies and dressed with olive oil. However, there are many variations on the classic, including the simple recipe below. Nicoise salad has been popular worldwide since the early 20th century and is believed by many chefs and diners to be the best summer salad of all.
• 1 egg yolk
• 1 Tbsp. finely diced shallot
• 2 fl. oz. sherry vinegar
• 6 fl. oz. olive oil, plus extra for garnish
• 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
• 4 salmon filets
• 1 Tbsp. butter
• 4 hardboiled eggs, cut in half
• 1 head butter lettuce, cut into 4 wedges
• Lemon juice
• 6 cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
• 8 caper berries
• 8 green beans, steamed slightly and cut into 1/2 in pieces
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
To make the dressing:
Whisk the egg yolk and Dijon mustard together. Mix in the shallot and combine. While whisking the Dijon mixture, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. If you mix the oil in too quickly, the dressing will not emulsify and will separate.
Once you have added the oil, slowly mix in the sherry vinegar. Season with a pinch of salt and a pinch of black pepper. Keep on the side while you prepare the rest of the salad ingredients.
To cook the salmon:
Season each side of the salmon filets with a little salt and pepper. Heat a skillet over high heat. Place the butter in the skillet and let it melt. Place each salmon filet in the pan top side down and sear for about one minute to get nice color on the top side (this will be the side that you serve up so you want it to look pretty.)
Once you have a nice sear on each filet, place the salmon (seared side up) on a baking tray and place in the oven for 8 minutes. To test if the salmon is fully cooked, poke a skewer or thermometer through the fat part of a filet. The skewer or thermometer should be able to glide through the salmon with no resistance.
Let the salmon sit at room temperature for about 5-10 minutes so it has a chance to cool slightly before service.
Place a wedge of lettuce on each plate. Arrange two hardboiled egg halves, six tomato quarters, a few green bean pieces and two caper berries around the wedge of lettuce. Place a salmon filet by the bottom of each wedge of lettuce. Drizzle the lettuce and vegetables with some of the dressing (amount may vary depending on how much dressing each person prefers).
Sprinkle a little more salt on each salmon and drizzle a little lemon juice and olive oil on each filet. Serve immediately.
Michaella Irlbeck is the executive sous chef at the Culinary Institute of Montana at Flathead Valley Community College. For more information about the program, visit www.culinaryinstituteofmt.com.
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