Switch Up The Classic Niçoise Salad With Another Fresh Flaky Fish

Salad Niçoise is always there for you. You'll find it waiting like the friendly beacon that it is when you're strapped for cash; when you have more dinner guests than you accounted for and not enough food to go around; when you're trying to clean out your crisper; when you're craving something that's simultaneously rich, fresh, crunchy, creamy, and packed with protein. 

The dish, named after the French coastal city of Nice, is a meal unto itself. It's often composed of new potatoes, green beans, olives, tomatoes, lettuce, boiled eggs, and canned tuna packed in olive oil, bound together by a mustardy vinaigrette dressing. If one or more of those ingredients isn't up your alley, that's okay — salad Niçoise is super adaptable. You can add any vegetable you want (radishes and cucumbers would be excellent), sub potatoes for lentils, farro, or another hearty grain, and swap out the vinaigrette for your other favorite dressing. You can even swap out the tuna for another kind of flaky fish: salmon and trout are both great options.

Other flaky fish for your salad Niçoise

In the U.S. tuna is the most common protein found in salad Niçoise, but it doesn't have to be. Any fatty, flaky fish — either tinned fish or cooked at home — will do, including salmon, trout, and even lump crab meat. If you opt to pick up a fresh fillet, you can simply bake it, broil it, or pan-sear it to your liking.

With salmon, you can season it with Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper and bake it at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 12-15 minutes, or to your preferred doneness. As for trout, try seasoning it with olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon slices then baking for about 15 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. If you'd rather use tinned fish, we recommend springing for the oil-packed variety, which provides more flavor than water-packed fish.

Talk about adaptable! If you want even more fishy flavor, you might consider adding anchovies or sardines on top — anchovies are traditional too.

The humble origins of salad Niçoise

We're all for personalizing our salad Niçoise, but purists of the Niçoise (that is, people from Nice) aren't so keen on seeing adaptations that divert from the dish's 19th-century origins. In fact, even the way to assemble salad Niçoise is rooted in tradition.

Renée Graglia, who shares Niçoise salad's birthplace, is the President of the Cercle de la Capelina d'Or, whose mission is to "[teach, defend, and promote] traditional cuisine from the region around Nice," according to Times of Malta. "When we come back from holidays, we talk about our experiences around France, like the time I was served Niçoise salad with mayonnaise," she told the paper.  "I was horrified!"

Graglia added that Niçoise was originally composed of just three ingredients: anchovies, tomatoes, and olive oil. Over time, however, the dish has transformed from a staple for the working class to something that can be as simple or as decadent as its diner pleases.