Composed salads can be elegant or simply a mish-mash. For this classic Salade Niçoise, a salad typical of the city of Nice in southern France, I didn’t worry so much about the placement of the vegetables on the plate as I did the preparation of individual ingredients. If I had been making this for a crowd, I would have made it picture perfect and I probably would have used those cute quail eggs. For this late summer supper, I used local and very fresh ingredients: Atlantic tuna from the Jersey shore, eggs from a nearby organic farm, and potatoes, tomatoes, green beans and herbs from our organic CSA.
Cooking and dressing each ingredient separately made a tremendous difference, in part because some vegetables received oil and others vinegar. The combination worked and it was not as soggy as most of these salads are. Some of the success of course was due to using fresh versus canned tuna. I cooked the tuna slowly in a little olive oil, removing it while still very pink and slicing it right away to keep it from drying out. I steamed peeled and sliced potatoes, dressing them when warm with white wine vinegar and salt. The beans were plunged into boiling water and, when fork tender, were sprinkled with olive oil and salt. The tomatoes too received olive oil and salt. When this was all put together with quartered hard-boiled eggs, briny black olives and parsley, it made a delicious light supper.