In theory, I love the nicoise salad — I like green beans, potatoes, hard-boiled eggs and olives, and I definitely like the idea of a big salad as a meal. However, I am a little weird when it comes to tuna (I really only eat it in tuna salad sandwiches, which I only eat when I make them myself) and I’m a little iffy in general on anchovies. So, considering my fish issues, it’s a little surprising that I even considered making a Nicoise salad for dinner last week.
The classic salad (made even more famous by Julia Child) is no stranger to change — give it a Google and you’ll see what I mean — tons of recipes will pop up. So given the multitude of variations, I didn’t feel bad at all taking liberties with it to create this version.
It started with some roasted potatoes and onions, a pound of blanched green beans and a cup or so of leftover homemade aioli. As I gazed at the ingredients laid out on my counter, I kept seeing flashes of a big bountiful salad. After some fridge diving, I added a couple of chicken breasts fillets, fresh cherry tomatoes and olives to the mix. It was, by then, pretty clear how dinner was going to turn out.
I got some water boiling and made a batch of hard-cooked eggs (I usually like the yolks a bit runnier, but they were still nice and bright yellow). Then I seasoned the chicken breasts and got them cooking in a sauté pan. Once those things were taken care of, I turned my attention to the rest of the dish.
I split the green beans and added them to the potatoes and onions.
I added a hefty squeeze of lemon juice plus a minced shallot to the aioli. I also had some tarragon hanging out in my fridge — for the life of me I can’t remember why I bought it, but I was really happy to find it. I chopped up about 2-3 tablespoons and added that to the dressing. The consistency was a little thick, so I carefully drizzled in a bit of warm water just to loosen it up.
I really wanted this salad to look impressive so once all of my components were ready, I laid out a base of butter lettuce. Next I tossed the green bean/potato mixture with some of the dressing to season it and heaped that on one side of the platter.
Next came the sliced chicken breast, with an extra drizzle of dressing. The eggs, halved cherry tomatoes and olives were scattered throughout. Sadly, mine were not the Nicoise variety, but their briney flavor was still appreciated!