I try to understand how the simple plate of season crudités (crudité means "raw veggies") could become the "salad nicoise" full of boiled veggies and exotic additions, that run all over the net and the cheap -or overrated- eateries of the world. I am totally in favor of inventing new dishes. And I don't mind what people eat, my question is why calling it "nicoise" as so many other names are available for the totally different versions ?
I don't think there is ONE recipe, but there is a concept. Jacques Medecin (that was a controversial politician, Mayor of Nice for many years, and a foodie very knowledgeable in his local cuisine) and a few others say only the eggs are cooked and all the rest is raw. Well, that's what is expected of "salade" or "crudités".
It seems that, many years ago, Escoffier, the famous chef made a mistake in his book (adding potatoes and beans unusual in Nice). He made few mistakes. The lazy cooks followed without trying to check or understand the dish. It’s great that people take interest in cuisine from another place. But I’m not sure I like it so much when the botched TV versions become more famous than the original.
There are chefs and people that try to respect the historic, traditional and local specialties. And the “classic cuisine” can be checked.
Except for that salad, Escoffier’s books (don’t confuse with recent “Ritz-Escoffier” books) are a reference for classic dishes. For traditional food culture, a collection, called “Inventaire du Patrimoine Culinaire Francais” is excellent. There is one book per region of France, it’s a collective research by serious chefs, local producers and historians.
Here an article about the way the recipe shifted away from origines.
« On est dans une région pauvre. A la base, la salade niçoise était simplement une salade de tomates arrosées d’huile d’olive, avec peut-être un peu d’oignons et quelques anchois. Au fil du temps on a amélioré la chose. »
Translation : “We are in a poor area. At the start, the salad of Nice was a simple tomato salad with olive oil. There could be a few onions and anchovies. Over the years, it was improved.”
La vraie recette ?
Prenez un plat, frottez-le d’ail. Découpez des tomates fermes en quartiers. Ajoutez de la cébette coupée en morceaux, des radis (en rondelles ou entiers), un peu de céleri, du basilic haché, des petits poivrons verts, des œufs durs coupés en quartiers, des anchois préalablement dessalés, du thon.
Selon la saison, on peut rajouter des févettes et des petits artichauts frais. Saler et poivrer, ajouter un filet d’huile d’olive, un peu de vinaigre… et des concombres… servis à part.
Translation (+ translation notes, as it’s obvious for the French reader) :
“The authentic recipe ?
Take a dish, rub the inside with garlic. Cut the tomatoes in quarters. Add cebette (small onion of Nice) cut in chunks, (small red) radish that are sliced or whole, a little celery (root), shredded basil leaves, small green bell peppers, boiled eggs cut in quarters, rinsed anchovies (anchovies preserved in brine), tuna (can with oil).
Depending on season, you can add fevettes (raw young fava beans) or fresh small artichokes (a special species that is eaten raw). Add salt, pepper, a drizzle of oil , a little vinegar… and bring the cucumbers aside.”
So when I was a kid, I remember they’d simply serve the local crudités with egg, olives and anchovy. That made it local as the veggies in Nice were not like those in my place. And well, that didn’t change. Today I had not those ingredients fresh from there. That was “not the same”.
So go to your market and prepare the ingredients…
Natural tomatoes (these are from Hokkaido, it’s the season now, they are not very red but they have a good old style tomato fragrance), mesclun baby leaves (local version) and onion (the white ones I saw today were too huge).
Boiled egg, favas, basil.
Those fava beans are very lightly cooked. It’s nice to eat raw ones at the beginning of the season. The season is… nearly over (that was Spring).
Cucumbers, bell pepper and olives are all… of different species than those of South France. Anchovies don’t change so much.
If your stomach is sensitive, you may peel the bell peppers (use a veggie peeling gadget, that works… and for me that works better than the *tricks* of plunging them in boiling water, in the plastic bag, etc). I don’t peel them.
In the article, they talk about avoiding cucumbers or serving them aside, otherwise they release too much juice. I think that happens in case you prepare the salad in advance.
That said, for taste and digestibility, you can salt the cucumbers, onions and tomatoes when you cut them, to get out the juice. Cukes and onions can be rinsed. As the anchovies are so salty, I didn’t, but I cut them 1/2 hour before, so they were drained naturally.
Often in France, the salad is prepared and let that way with the dressing in the bottom, to be mixed just when it’s time to serve it…
The dressing was only good cold pressed virgin olive oil and freshly ground black pepper. (I cut a little the basil and anchovy after the photo).
… so you blend it on the table. For the folklore, use olive wood salad spoon and fork… and do it in a giant olive wood salad bowl like that :
Yeah… I mean that style, 30 times bigger. Mine is in bamboo.
The whole salad (2 eggs included) :
Cal 371.4 F18.3g C33.3g P27.1g
Add bread to make it a meal (I had cake at tea time LOL).