I consider the salade Nicoise to be one of the great, classic salads along with the Caesar salad. This is my take on it.
As I said with the balsamic chicken salad, the haricots verts are so much better than ordinary green beans. It’s worth the effort to find them.
With the Greek salad, I encouraged you to try the yellowfin tuna in olive oil. That is a good choice for this salad as well. But you can certainly get fancier. Specialty grocery stores (and Amazon) sell tuna filets in jars. Much more expensive than even the premium canned tuna, but awfully good. Or go all the way and sear a piece of Ahi tuna, nicely rare, for a special salad. This makes a salad that you can definitely serve to company.
Some other ideas for making the salad special for guests. Get several different kinds of small potatoes. When I did this for company, I combined small red potatoes with tiny fingerling potatoes. And include a mix of various types of olives–easy to do if you have a market with an olive bar. The variety just makes the salad even a little more special.
You will notice that I am making a little more of the vinaigrette than I usually make for a salad. This is because I like to toss the potatoes, haricots verts, and tomatoes in the vinaigrette before putting them on the salad. I want to be sure I have enough to do this after having put dressing on the salad itself.
3 to 4 small potatoes
1 helping fresh haricots verts
1–2 hard-cooked eggs
Nicoise or Kalamata olives
cherry or other small tomatoes, cut in half
tuna (see discussion above)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon basil
fresh ground pepper
Put potatoes in a pan. Cover with water. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat and cook until just tender, so a fork can be inserted easily. This will take something around 15 minutes, but use the fork test and start checking earlier. Drain the potatoes. Before finishing the salad, cut them in half or whatever seems appropriate for eating, given their size.
For the haricots verts, bring a pot with plenty of water to the boil. Add the beans and cook until they are just starting to get tender, 2 to 3 minutes, 2 for very crisp to 3 for tender crisp. You can take one out and check, but they will become a little more tender after you strain and rinse them, so stop on the crisp side. When cooked, strain and run cold water over them. This not only cools them down and helps to stop the cooking but also helps keep the nice green color.
Start the egg cooking in cold water. This heats the egg gradually, allowing air to escape from the shell slowly, without cracking it. Bring the water to the simmer, turn down the heat, and simmer for 12 minutes. Drain and cool the egg. Peel and cut the egg into quarters lengthwise for the salad.
Whisk together or shake in a jar the oil, vinegar, and the other ingredients for the vinaigrette. Place lettuce on the plate. Spoon some of the vinaigrette over the lettuce. Toss the potatoes, haricots verts, and tomatoes with the remaining vinaigrette. Arrange the ingredients on the lettuce, with tuna in the center.