Salade Nicoise is one of the great tastes of high summer, when french beans, maincrop potatoes, tomatoes, and lettuce are all ready in the garden. Of course you can buy these things all year round, but the taste of all these things freshly picked is quite another thing, especially if you take care to grow the right varieties, which for these ingredients is critical, though for some other garden vegetables the varieties you grow have much less influence. All the ingredients in this salad came from the garden except for the olives, anchovies and the ingredients for the salad dressing.
Lettuce. This is the first Batavian endive of the season, Rouge de Montpelier, sown about a five weeks ago and which should keep us in salad now into the winter. It’s a famous and delicious salad leaf, crisp, sweet and with plenty of flavour, and not a hint of the bitterness you get in many other endive varieties.
French beans. These are Blue Lake, the only variety of green french bean I have found worth growing, with a very distinctive flavour and a soft pod. They can also be grown on until the pods yellow and the beans transform into flageolets, green haricot beans that can be shucked and stewed or made into probably my all-time favourite risotto. I also included some Italian style french beans with yellow soft waxy pods that I have grown a few of for the first time this year, also very good.
Tomatoes. These are Gardener’s Delight, a sweet, mellow and fruity tomato ideal for salads. I skin them as the skins are quite thick. There are also some smaller Juanita tomatoes in their skins from the greenhouse in the centre of the salad, also good and with a deep red colour, but not as mellow or sweet as the Gardener’s Delight. Soon we will have St Pierre, perhaps the ultimate tomato, a Provencal beefsteak type with intense sweetness and a tremendous depth of flavour. You almost never see it in commerce even in Provence as it tends to split at the stem end which may be unsightly but has no effect at all on its excellent flavour Like everything in the Garden, tomatoes only have a short season which runs from the earliest you can get them, mid-August in this very late season, but July in year with a better spring, until the autumn weather does for them, so maybe six weeks this year. I don’t buy fresh tomatoes out of season, they aren’t worth it and if I need tomatoes for cooking tinned Italian ones are better. With luck I’ll have enough St Pierre this season to preserve some myself.
Potatoes. These are Pink Fir Apple, full flavoured, waxy verging on buttery, and dense, and straight out of the ground, though I will have to lift them soon as they are starting to look diseased.
Eggs. These are hard boiled pullets eggs from my recently acquired new batch of hens.
That’s it, nothing fancy but each of these simple ingredients will shine on it’s own and together it’s as good a Sunday lunch as you will get anywhere, with a nice homemeade sourdough baguette. To finish the salad off you just need some salted anchovies and olives (to make it Nicoise) and a dressing with mustard, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and lots of olive oil. Tuna is often added as well. I avoid it because of the high mercury level, but if you like it you can add tinned or fresh, both are good.