Following the model of a classic French salade composée, this satisfying salad, packed with cooked and raw vegetables, as well as canned best-quality tuna and hard-boiled eggs, presents beautifully and eats like a meal. It builds upon a traditional salade niçoise, but a true niçoise uses no lettuce, often has anchovies, would want cracked black niçoise olives and would not have artichoke hearts and basil. So let’s call this a sous-chef salad — and dodge the whole argument while picking up another: It is definitely the best meal salad you will eat all summer. Take care to arrange it so there’s some of each component wherever your eye lands. Try to nestle and fluff the ingredients to allow them all to be seen, rather than piling layer atop layer and thus obscuring the beauty of everything below. This makes the salad very attractive and, most important, ensures that everyone gets some of everything in each bite.
- Serves: 2 persons
- Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 5ounces marble potatoes
- 6ounces green beans, stems removed, tails intact
- 4large eggs (refrigerator cold)
- 1small head soft lettuce, such as butter or red-leaf lettuce
- 1bunch radishes
- 4ounces artichoke hearts in brine
- 3to 4 ounces ripe cherry tomatoes (red, yellow or mixed)
- 1(6.7-ounce) jar high-quality tuna packed in oil
- ½small red onion (about 2 ounces), halved and thinly sliced
- 1ounce pitted Kalamata olives, halved (about 1/4 cup)
- 3garlic cloves, freshly peeled
- 1to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Extra-virgin olive oil (about 1/4 cup)
- 2large, leafy basil sprigs (2 to 3 ounces)
Step 1Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Add plenty of salt to taste of the sea.
Step 2Add potatoes, and boil until the thin tip of a knife can pierce a potato as if going into soft wax, 8 to 9 minutes. Retrieve potatoes with a spider, and let cool and drain on a baker’s rack set into a sheet pan nearby.
Step 3Add green beans to still-boiling water, and boil until the color transforms from raw and dusty to saturated deep green, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove with a spider, and set out to drain and cool on the baker’s rack.
Step 4Add the eggs directly from the refrigerator into the boiling water, and boil for 8 minutes. Dump eggs and boiling water into the sink, letting the shells crackle as they land hard. Peel eggs while submerged under cold running water, which helps to stop the cooking and release the shells easily. Set peeled eggs to rest on the rack.
Step 5While eggs boil, wash and spin-dry lettuce.
Step 6Remove green leafy tops from radishes, and save for another use, if desired. Wash and carefully rinse radishes, taking care to remove any grit or sand.
Step 7On a large rimmed platter, begin to assemble the salad by tearing the clean, dry lettuce and arranging it as the bed.
Step 8Use a sharp paring knife to split the green beans in half crosswise. Scatter them artfully around the bed of lettuce.
Step 9Split the potatoes in half and arrange artfully.
Step 10Split artichokes, if whole, into quarters and arrange artfully.
Step 11Repeat with cherry tomatoes, followed by radishes, split into quarters, then eggs, quartered into wedges.
Step 12Remove tuna from the jar with a fork. Break it into chunks, and nestle it into the mound of salad. Drizzle the tuna oil over the salad.
Step 13Finish with scattered red onion and split olives.
Step 14Microplane the garlic into a small bowl. Add red-wine vinegar and 3 to 4 long glugs of olive oil (about 1/4 cup), and stir together briskly. Season with salt and a lot of freshly ground pepper.
Step 15Just before dressing the salad, tear the basil leaves to release their fragrance. Scatter them around the whole salad.
Step 16When ready to serve, drizzle dressing evenly and thoroughly over salad. When ready to eat, toss to dress, and don’t worry about messing up the beauty.