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Salade Nicoise is a classic French composed salad that can be made year round but is extra special each summer when green beans and tomatoes brim from gardens. This version can be made with the traditional tuna, or I like to use baby sardines, which are high in calcium and delicious. My version is also nightshade-free, with a beautiful roasted root veggie salad you’ll love. Or certainly, potatoes can be used for ease. Enjoy all the aspects of this composed salad: marinated dilled onions, a creamy tarragon dressing, beautiful lettuces, olives and hard boiled eggs. Salade Nicoise has everything beautiful for a satisfying, easy Paleo, Whole30 or GAPS meal.
I am blessed to have great memories of a childhood filled with gourmet meals. Today I share with you Salade Nicoise~ A French Composed Salad. One of the places my mom would take me for special lunches was Cafe LauTrec in La Jolla, California (in operation from 1973-2007). The walls were covered with giant, bright paintings by Toulouse LauTrec and we would always order the Salade Nicoise. I share it with you today, very similar to the version they served: with marinated dilled onions, blanched green beans, vine-ripened tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs and fresh tarragon, the perfect French herb. I have used home-cured olives, sardines in place of tuna and made a very special Creamy Tarragon-Hemp Salad Dressing.
Sardines, Tuna and Seafood Options
I am actually a fan of all seafood: tuna, sardines, salmon. Here are my views about seafood, why I believe it to be a safe and recommended protein source.
I chose sardines for this salad because they’re perhaps under-used and appreciated, yet super healthy and delicious. Sardines are high in calcium, having all their little bones canned with them. Brisling sardines are baby sardines. Their texture and overall appeal are superior to full size sardines. Anchovies work great too, and fresh canned anchovies are small and mild like sardines, not salty; so they make a nice alternative. Vacuum packed albacore tuna is another good choice, although it won’t have the same calcium benefits as fish packed with their bones. More nutrients are preserved with this method of packaging, including fragile omega-3s. There are a few companies now processing their tuna in this way. I also like canned salmon, with the skin and bones included. Or gourmet albacore tuna packed in jars.
If you’re not a fan of canned fish or have it in your budget to go hardcore gourmet, fresh salmon, baked or sauteed, or seared ahi tuna make a beautiful Salade Nicoise. You won’t get the calcium benefits of the little bones. But the feast will be more guest-worthy.
This salad also uses pasture-raised eggs, full of good cholesterol and omega-3s.
If green beans and tomatoes are not yet in season, and good asparagus is often available, consider making the salad seasonally with slight variations based on what’s growing locally.
The lettuce used in Salade Nicoise goes by three names: Boston, Butter or Bibb. It’s the loveliest lettuce, in my opinion, truly deserving of a name like Butter.
Lastly, all Salades Nicoise feature potato salad, dressed simply in olive oil and sea salt, sometimes with shallots and fresh herbs. This is a great option and offers resistant starch for those who can have potatoes. If your diet is starch-free, I have made my recipe (GAPS-friendly) with three roasted root vegetables that definitely have the same appeal and a similar flavor profile to roasted potato salad. The creamy roots add a bit of glory to the salad, so delicious: rutabaga, black radish and celery root.
If you want this salad extra easy, just prep a few things ahead of time, like the Dilled Onions, Root Veggies or potatoes and the Creamy Tarragon Dressing.
- 1 large head, or 2 small heads Butter lettuce, washed and dried
- 3 cans sustainably-sourced canned sardines, fresh anchovies or vacuum packed albacore tuna
- 4-5 grass-fed hard-boiled eggs halved, see "how-to" note below*
- 1 recipe Blanched Green Beans see recipe below
- 1 recipe Marinated Dilled Onions see recipe below
- 1 recipe Roasted Root Veggie "Potato" Salad see recipe below
- 1 vine-ripened tomato, cut into 8 wedges
- 3/4 cup oil-cured olives
- 1 recipe Creamy Tarragon-Hemp Dressing see link
- leftover fresh tarragon, after making the dressing
- freshly ground black pepper
- Remove outer leaves from head of lettuce. Chop 1/2 of them. Arrange the remaining outer leaves on the bottom of the serving platter, or place 1-2 on each individual plate. Place the chopped lettuce in the center of the platter or individual plates.
- Place Marinated Dilled Onions in the center of the platter/plates.
- Arrange all the other components decoratively around the onions: greens beans, hard-boiled eggs, sardines, tomatoes, olives, the center heart of the head of lettuce, and the roasted root veggies.
- Garnish with the fresh tarragon and black pepper. Drizzle decoratively with the dressing and serve the remaining dressing on the side.
*To perfectly hard boil eggs~ Place them in a saucepan of lightly salted room temperature or cold water. Bring the water to a boil. Once it's boiling, cook over medium heat for 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and cover for 6 minutes. Plunge them or rinse them in cold water. Peel and serve. (Eggs that are less fresh will peel more easily.)
- 1 pound green beans washed and stems removed
- 8 cups water
- 2 tsp. sea salt
- Bring water and salt to a boil.
- Add the green beans and simmer 10 minutes.
- Drain and rinse under cold water.
- Chill until ready to serve.
- Combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl and chill until ready to serve, ideally 20 minutes or longer.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Toss the veggie cubes with the oil and sea salt, to coat.
- Spread them evenly on a large cookie sheet and bake for 40 minutes.
- Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.