Not Sad Desk Lunch

The Lowest Key Niçoise Salad (No Salad Leaf in Sight)

March 15, 2018

At 5 p.m. on a Sunday, life can feel grim. There are several ways to deal with the problem: going to bed immediately, re-reading old emails from your exes, a brisk walk, or making food. Some people are type-A Sunday cookers, meal-prepping, freezing batches of soup for later, baking cookies. I’m a little less focused, a little more freeform; when I realize that cooking might be what gets me out of a bad mood, I tend to just turn on the stove or the oven and go. That’s how I ended up hard-boiling a carton of eggs one night with no specific plan for them.

Luckily, the end result has become one of my favorite salads ever, a protein-heavy bowl that feels both indulgent and healthy. I took a couple eggs from my batch of 12, cut them into chunks, and combined them with the ingredients I always have on hand: rich avocado, oil-packed tuna, bright dill, and salty olives. They’re items I use a lot, though rarely together. But since I love them each so dearly, why not all at once?

No prescriptivism here: Embellish with what you have. Photo by Bobbi Lin

This salad has something in common with salade Niçoise, though not in its strictest sense: In his 1972 cookbook La Cuisine du Comté de Nice, the city’s mayor Jacques Medécin lamented the bastardization of the dish, complaining that “all over the world, horrified, I have seen the remains of other people’s meals being served under the name salade Nicoise.”

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So perhaps it is more accurate to compare it to the sandwich pan bagnat, also often found in Nice, which comprises tuna or anchovies, raw vegetables, tomatoes, olives, garlic, and olive oil (a part of my salad, too), but can include any number of other additions, including gherkins, goat cheese, and red wine vinegar. It’s all assembled on crusty bread or ciabatta, which would function well on the side of my recipe, if you’d like. No prescriptivism here: Whichever olives, dressings, or herbs strike your fancy are likely to fit in well.

What go-to dish have you created out of nowhere? Let us know in the comments!

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Copy editor at Eater. Writing and cooking in Brooklyn.


ktr March 15, 2018
I tossed something together that was almost identical to this for my lunch tomorrow. If you dice the avocado into small pieces and kind of mash it all together, it makes a great tuna salad to eat out of a cucumber “boat” or in a lettuce wrap. I often add diced sun dried tomatoes as well.
Cory B. March 15, 2018
Emma this looks great!!! Yum.
Julie March 15, 2018
This sounds lovely and so easy! I think I might add some cheese and make it for all my lunches.
AntoniaJames March 15, 2018
Yes, please! Would also be an excellent way to use the leftover poached tuna I always make sure we have when serving that for dinner . . . with perhaps a few leftover roast potatoes, cubed and well dressed. And lots of parsley! ;o)
[email protected] March 15, 2018
That looks delicious, but sorry that is not what we call a "niçoise". Give it another name.