This Build-Your-Own Nicoise Salad comes together in under 20 minutes and is surprisingly family friendly since everyone can pick and choose ingredients to create their own perfect meal.
A couple of summers ago, Jon and I spent one August week in the French countryside. We stayed in a lovingly restored chateau with our own kitchenette overlooking the rolling hills and vineyards. Though we visited many incredible restaurants, one of my favorite meals was a simple nicoise salad we made one evening after shopping at the market in the nearest village. The combination of crisp green beans, paper thin onions, juicy tomatoes, briny olives and oil cured tuna fish paired beautifully with fresh baked baguette and cold white wine. Its been one of my favorite summer meals ever since.
Every summer, when the weather really starts to heat up, I turn to this salad as a simple, no-hassle dinner that our whole family loves. At first blush, Nicoise Salad doesn’t seem particularly kid-friendly but when you serve it Build-Your-Own style, its almost certain to be a hit. Admittedly, the adults may be only ones who eat everything on that platter, but with kid-friendly fare like green beans and potatoes in the mix, the kids will surely manage to create a meal that they love too.
Simply lay out all the ingredients on a big platter, hand everyone a bowl of romaine lettuce and encourage them to pick and choose as they please. Offer a baguette of warm bread on the side and everyone is happy. In our experience, letting everyone pick what they want cuts down on arguments. Instead of battling through mealtime, last night we enjoyed a lively game of dinner table charades.
This idea is endlessly customizable too. True Nicoise Salad connoisseurs may notice that our platter from last night didn’t include hard boiled eggs. Instead I included chickpeas, which are a favorite with both kiddos. Do you have a child who won’t touch lettuce? Skip it and encourage them to load up on green beans and other veggies. Someone can’t stand tuna fish? Swap in supermarket rotisserie chicken instead.
When it comes to dressing, we’re a divided household. Jon and I absolutely love, love love the simple dijon vinaigrette recipe I’ve shared below. This couldn’t be easier to make and takes great on everything. The kids have their own ideas though: Max feels strongly that all salads should be topped with a hearty dose of diced avocado and a drizzle of Hidden Valley Ranch. Lilly eats hers with nothing more than a squirt of lemon juice and a pinch of salt. To each their own.
Build-Your-Own Nicoise Salad
8 oz. petite yellow potatoes, quartered
1/2 lb. fresh green beans, stems removed
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 large tomato, diced
3 oz. assorted Mediterranean olives, pitted
1/2 small red onion, sliced thin
4 small radishes, diced
1/2 small seedless cucumber, thinly sliced
6 oz. canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 can albacore or chunk light tuna (preferably cured in olive oil), drained
1 large head of romaine lettuce, washed, dried and chopped
1 small shallot or garlic clove, minced fine
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
3 tablespoons sherry or rice vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
- Bring a large pot of boiling, salted water to a boil over high heat. Add potatoes and cook for 10 minutes or until potatoes are soft enough to eat but still hold their shape. Remove potatoes from boiling water and rinse under cold water. Do not drain pot.
- Add baking soda to reserved water and return to a boil. Add green beans and cook until crisp-tender, about 8-10 minutes. Drain green beans and rinse under cold water or shock in a bowl of ice water.
- While potatoes and green beans are cooking arrange all other salad ingredients except for romaine on a large platter. Add potatoes and green beans to platter.
- In a small bowl or vinaigrette shaker combine shallot or garlic, mustard, vinegar and oil. Whisk or shake until emulsified. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- To serve, divide romaine among 4 serving bowls and encourage each diner to top their salad with remaining ingredients as desired. Serve vinaigrette alongside.