I’m a huge fan of traditional niçoise salad, a French salad made with tomatoes, green beans, boiled eggs, potatoes, pitted black olives, and tuna or anchovies, with a simple dressing of olive oil and salt. It’s healthy, beautiful on the plate, hits lots of satisfying savory notes, and is easy to throw together, with lots of make-ahead components.
My version is heartier and Alaska inspired. It serves as a filling main course, using grilled salmon and vegetables with a ranch-like dressing (a nod to the fact ranch was invented in Alaska). Feel free to riff. If you don’t have a grill, you could use leftover baked salmon or smoked salmon and steamed vegetables. If carrots are in season, you could thinly slice, roast, and include them as well. I don’t use potatoes, but it’s easy to include them, throwing them in with the eggs as they boil.
All the fresh flavors are marvelous, but I will say the real standout is the dressing. It’s a grown-up version of that fave salad bar staple, brightened with lemon and made more complex with a big handful of fresh herbs. That, too, is adaptable. If you don’t have access to herbs, you can use ½ teaspoon each of dried chives, dill, parsley, and basil. You can use milk instead of buttermilk. I like to cook the eggs so they are still a little jam-like in the center, but you could cook them longer, depending on your preference. The recipe makes extra dressing. It’s so good, you’ll want to put it on everything.
Alaska-Style Nicoise Salad with Grilled Salmon and Fresh Herb Ranch Dressing
SERVINGS: 4 GENEROUSLY SERVING(S)
- 1½ pounds fresh salmon fillet
- One softball-sized head butter lettuce, leaves removed
- Roughly ½ pound green beans, stems removed
- Roughly ½ pound asparagus, tough ends removed
- One bunch radishes, greens removed, washed, quartered
- ½ cup olives, niçoise, kalamata, green, in any combination
- ½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 4 eggs
- 1½ cups fingerling potatoes, boiled (optional)
- Olive oil
- Sea salt
- Juice of half a lemon
FOR THE DRESSING
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ½ cup buttermilk
- ½ cup sour cream
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- 1–2 teaspoons fresh chives, chopped
- ¼ cup dill, Italian parsley, basil, tarragon, and/or mint, in any combination, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Juice of half a lemon
Submerge eggs in a pan of cold water on the stove over medium-high heat. When the water comes to a boil, set a timer for 7 minutes. (If you are using fingerling potatoes, toss them in with the eggs.) When the timer rings, remove the pan to the sink and run cold water into it until the eggs have cooled enough to handle. Peel them and set them aside until ready to compose the salad.
Start the grill and heat to about 350–375° F. Ready a grill basket or a piece of heavy-duty foil for the vegetables. Lay salmon, green beans, and asparagus on a sheet pan. Drizzle with a generous coat of olive oil and a generous sprinkle of sea salt.
When the grill is ready, place the fillet, skin down, over the heat. Put the vegetables in a grill basket or on a piece of foil over the heat and close the top. After 3 minutes and 30 seconds, open the grill and toss the vegetables with a set of tongs and then close the top again. After another 3 minutes and 30 seconds, remove the vegetables to a large plate. The fish should be just about done after 7–8 minutes on the grill. To test for doneness, slide a knife into the thickest part of the fillet, it should be a little translucent in the very center. Remove salmon to the plate. Squeeze half a lemon over salmon and vegetables.
To make the dressing, whisk mayonnaise, buttermilk, sour cream, garlic powder, onion powder, chives, herbs, salt, and lemon juice together until smooth.
To compose salad, arrange a quarter of the lettuce leaves, radishes, olives, green beans, tomatoes, asparagus, olives, and if using, potatoes on each plate. Portion the salmon, and put a quarter of the fillet on each plate. Slice eggs in half and put one on each plate. Portion the dressing into small individual cups (you will likely have some left over) and place on each plate. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, if desired. Serve immediately.
This recipe was originally published in Edible Alaska magazine.