Sunday, July 8, 2012

Salmon Salad Niçoise – IS the Big Salad

Salmon Salad Niçoise embodies summer.

Salmon Niçoise Salad is a graceful and elegant
main course salad.
Ah yes, the “big salad” of Seinfeld fame. I can’t help but think of Elaine every time I build a salad – which is daily.

I have at least one “big salad” per day. I admit it. They take different flavors and I would rival any of my big salads against the ones featured at the Seinfeld diner.

I play favorites, too. My current favorite big salads are a chopped salad, which I make almost every evening as part of our supper, and the more artfully arranged, Queen of Composed Salads – the Niçoise Salad, that’s a meal in and of itself.

I call the Salad Niçoise a “destination salad” because you don’t just “happen” or back into this salad. You plan and take measures to arrive at the Salad Niçoise as your main course. And oh my, the scenery in the making is outstanding. It is a deliberate and proud salad.

Salmon Niçoise Salad riffs on its famous
tuna cousin. It's low carb, paleo friendly
deliciousness on a platter.
Salmon Niçoise Salad is a riff on the basic Tuna Niçoise Salad popularized by housewives in Nice for years and years.

Every housewife has her own version and there are battles over what constitutes the “real” Salad Niçoise – did the original include potatoes or were potatoes an inauthentic addition?

Oil packed tuna is the most usual protein used in the Niçoise. But I have a problem with eating tuna these days, fresh, canned, and especially sushi grade. You see, I don’t trust the Ocean’s Alive people who swear to us that certain kinds of tuna are safe from heavy metal contamination.

According to The Examiner, canned tuna accounts for 37.4% of methyl mercury exposure. The Examiner cautions women of child-bearing age to avoid tuna.

And heavy metals may not even be the most egregious risk of eating tuna. Fukushima Cesium-134 is showing up in bluefish tuna caught off the coast of California. That's right, as of August 2011, radioactive tuna could be making their way to your plate. A reason to avoid eating it in my opinion.

3 Year Old SusieT loved mercury-laden tuna.
I spent the first 3-4 years of my life eating canned tuna three meals a day, because it was one of the few foods to which I wasn’t allergic. After the first few years, I had tuna almost daily as part of one meal until I was in my teens. I figure I consumed quite a big load of mercury and heavy metals which accumulate in fat tissues – and we all know despite the weight loss, I still have an abundance of fat tissue. So I figure I’m about done with my lifetime consumption of tuna.

But the first time I ate Niçoise Salad I fell in love. I didn’t know it was possible to fall in love with a salad. But I truly do love this salad. And yes, there were boiled new potatoes involved. And tangy mustard-lemon vinaigrette. Oh drool.

Composed salads like Salmon Niçoise Salad brink elegance to
the world of salad.
I came home and immediately figured out how to create my own version of Salad Niçoise. And substitutions were made. Like the French women of Nice, I created my own version of the famous composed salad.

A composed salad, if you will indulge a little cooking nerdery, is a formally arranged salad. Every item in the salad has a specific place. Color and placement is important. It’s meant to create a visual Eden on a plate.

A tossed salad on the other hand is the complete opposite end of the spectrum as you can imagine. You chunk everybody into the bowl, shake a little dressing over all, then toss it with tongs or salad hands and call it a party. There is no composition and the only thing the tossed salad takes into account is how well each ingredient plays against the other ingredient. If it turns out looking pretty, then cool. But if not, that wouldn’t be a deal breaker as long as they taste good together.

Mustard Glazed Salmon make great
leftovers to use in Salad Niçoise.
The Fluffy Chix Cook version of Salad Niçoise involves Mustard Glazed Salmon. Generally I will prepare the Mustard Glazed Salmon as dinner the night before, and then serve the Salmon Niçoise the next day for lunch, or dinner the following night. I purposely make enough salmon to have leftovers. That’s a time-saving tip for all you wonderful cooks. I actively plan for leftovers.

One of the primary substitutions that Fluffy Chix Cook made was to kick tuna to the curb in favor of Alaskan wild-caught salmon. I shop sales and when salmon is on sale, I buy it and take advantage! According to one of the largest purveyors of Alaskan salmon, due to migratory patterns, salmon have a smaller risk of radioactive contamination from the Fukishima nuclear accident.

Sometimes I hanker for my Salad Niçoise and don’t have fresh salmon on hand, or maybe I have a tight budget that week and need to economize. In that case, I will actually use canned salmon. It's one of my pantry staples, or else I will use a can of sardines. Canned salmon is actually processed from wild-caught Alaskan salmon. 

Roasted Cauliflower replaces boiled new potatoes
and is a great low-carb alternative.
I would love to try fresh sardines or fresh mackerel but so far, I’m still a little too chicken to try those fish, which aren’t native to Texas and they have a much smaller demand. How fresh will they taste? Will they taste fishy? I have used canned sardines packed in olive oil in the salad and it tastes fresh and exciting.

The potatoes are not low carb. Newsflash. Sometimes, I just include them, but keep the serving very small – about the size of ½ of a golf-ball sized potato. Mostly, I tow the row and keep low carb, subbing the potatoes in favor or blanched or roasted cauliflower. Delicious! And low carb legal.

Sometimes – as with the salad shown in this post – I simply omit the potatoes and never miss their absence!

Zucchini Ribbon Salad with Feta and Mint gets dressed
with Lemon Mustard Vinaigrette.
It’s an easy salad to make. The biggest part in all of this is that you coat each veggie separately. The garlicky, mustardy, lemon vinaigrette first seen on the Zucchini Ribbon Salad is really what makes this salad special.

Arrange it on a platter in harmonic unity. It looks like a lot of work, but it comes together quickly and if you eat it once, you too will begin hankerin’ for Salmon Salad Niçoise.

Salmon Salad Niçoise
Serves - 4
Prep Time – 20 Minutes
Cooking Time – None – Use leftovers!
Difficulty – Don’t run with sharp knives and you’ll be okay.

Salmon Niçoise Salad makes a filling
main course.
Salad Ingredients
8oz Mustard Glazed Salmon
2 Eggs, hardboiled
4 oz Blue Cheese
8c Mixed Spring Lettuce
4c Baby Spinach
2c Green Beans, fresh
½ medium Red Bell Pepper
1 small Cucumber
¼ medium Red Onion
8 Grape Tomatoes
1/4c Capers
12-16 Black Olives in brine, with pits (Niçoise preferred or Kalamata)
1c Cauliflower Florets, roasted or steamed (Optional)

Mustard Lemon Vinaigrette works well on Zucchini
Ribbon Salad and Salmon Niçoise Salad
Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette
1 large clove Garlic
1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard, heaping tablespoon (Country-style preferred)
1 dash Worcestershire Sauce
1Tbsp Zest of Lemon
1 large Lemon, juiced
6 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Filtered Water
1 pinch Sea Salt
2 pinch Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 Egg Yolk, raw (Optional)

Prepare Dressing
Press garlic of finely mince with a knife. Zest lemon. Juice and seed lemon. Combine all ingredients, including egg yolk if using, and shake well. You can also wish the ingredients together in order to emulsify or bring dressing together. Set aside.

Dress Salad Elements
Combine lettuces and spinach and toss with a light coating of dressing – about 4-5 tablespoons. Lay dressed salad leaves on the platter as the foundation.

Toss about 1 tablespoon of dressing with each salad element. As you dress each element, divide the ingredients into 4 servings and place them neatly into an area of the platter. Pay attention to how one color looks next to another color! Split the grape tomatoes and place them in a line down each quadrant. You are trying for symmetry on the platter. You want 4 quadrants that are mirror images of the other.

Continue to place all veggie elements around the lettuce spinach foundation. Lightly toss chunks of salmon in mustard dressing and place down the center of the salad. Finish with large crumbles of blue cheese on top of the salmon. I use the Danish Blue Cheese ½ wheels from Sam’s. They taste great and are very economical.

Add 4 piles of capers and 4 piles of black olives. Serve the olives with the pits, but be sure to warn your guests about the pits. Should you decide to pit them, simply press each olive gently with the flat of your chef knife. Pressing on the olive will release the pit and allow you to easily remove it.

Peel and quarter hard boiled eggs. Lightly drizzle dressing over egg quarters and place 2 quarters per quadrant around salad.

Serve with a festive glass of iced tea with a fresh lemon wedge and a sprig of mint or a glass of sparkling water dressed with lemon and mint.

Nutritional Information
Salmon Salad Nicoise – Full Recipe Including Dressing

Salmon Salad Nicoise – Single Serving Including Dressing

SusieT Notes –
I would gladly eat this salad every day, but I suspect I would become jaded. But this is salmon season right now, and the gorgeous filets available fresh out of Alaska are pretty affordable right now. If they still aren’t in your budget, then please feel free to use canned salmon that you’ve picked through to remove bones and skin. Or, feel free to use tuna or sardines. Both will taste simply gorgeous with these flavor combinations.

This is a serious salad for serious foodies. It will stretch you and broaden your definition of gourmet. It’s a simple, rustic, peasant food that eats like it’s made for a Queen. And the mustard vinaigrette with its garlic and lemon notes adds a bright acidity that leaves you licking your lips.

I serve this salad with low carb, gluten free walnut crackers. I’d give you that recipe, but I’d have to kill ya after…and that can’t be good.



  1. Replies
    1. Hi Becky! Great to see you. It's so yummy and versatile too!

  2. nice posting.. thanks for sharing.


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