Niçoise Salad

Traditional Niçoise Salad with basil & garlic olive oil

At the start of every year we are most likely deciding what our New Year’s resolutions will be. Amid the pocketful of them is most likely “eat healthier.” While salads come to mind in the healthier eating category, not all salads can be considered healthy, mostly because of the dressing we choose. 

Olive oil based or low-fat dressings are best but be careful to choose a low-fat dressing that doesn’t have a lot of ingredients you can’t even pronounce. Better yet, research recipes and make your own dressing. Always use fresh vegetables and be sure to leave off ingredients that are high in carbs or that have a lot of sugar. 

Niçoise (pronounced nee swaz) salad is a great way to get fresh vegetables, protein and heart healthy dressing. Niçoise salad originated in Nice, France and is traditionally made with tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, anchovies or tuna, Niçoise olives and olive oil. 

Niçoise salad has been popular worldwide since the early 1900’s and there has been a long debate between traditionalists and innovators on ingredients that should be used. 

Traditionalists are adamant that only fresh vegetables be used for a conventional Niçoise salad, with tomatoes being the base of the salad. Lettuce and vinegar are not acceptable in the traditional version. In addition to tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, olives and anchovies or tuna, other fresh market vegetables can be included. Try cucumbers, green, red or yellow peppers, spring onions and baby green beans for added color in the salad. The traditional olive oil dressing is seasoned with basil and garlic.

French innovators such as Georges Auguste Escoffier, chef and cookbook author, added boiled potatoes and green beans to the traditional version. In the 1920’s Americans were introduced to Niçoise salad through a cookbook for hotel chefs. Since then many cookbooks, publications, articles and famous chefs, including Julia Child and Jacques Pepin, have created their own versions of Niçoise salad.  

While the traditional ingredients are still at the heart of Niçoise salad innovations, many of the “new” salads include the boiled potatoes and green beans as well as substitutes for the tuna or anchovies such as shrimp, halibut, mackerel, cod and canned sardines. Avocados, capers, mushrooms, potato salad and green olives have also been added along the way. The dressing recipes have evolved as well, with vinaigrettes and mayonnaise based dressings replacing the herbed olive oil. 

So start 2021 off right with your own version of a healthy Niçoise salad because honoring your New Year’s resolutions doesn’t have to be unsavory!

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Susan Vander Maas is a graduate of Ohio State University/ATI Wooster. She is co-owner of Doc’s Deli, established in 2007.