This is the ultimate salad—a feast of feasts—eaten only in the spring or summer when tender fresh vegetables are ripe and abundant. There are many adulterations of this salad—some of which use meat, leftovers, and potatoes—but there is only one classic salade niçoise, and its ingredients are listed below. Use the freshest raw vegetables, never frozen or canned.
Wash and quarter the tomatoes (do not peel them), salt lightly and let them drain upside down on a board for 10 minutes. Peel and slice the cucumber, drain on a paper towel for 10 minutes. Prepare the other vegetables and the eggs, anchovy fillets, and olives. Prepare the chapons.
To make the vinaigrette, mix the oil and vinegar, season to taste with salt and pepper, and add the garlic and basil or mint.
Arrange the vegetables, eggs, anchovy fillets, and olives attractively on a shallow dish and surround with lettuce leaves and chapons. Pour the vinaigrette over everything and bring the dish to the table without stirring it. Just before serving individual portions, toss delicately but thoroughly.
© 1990 Mireille Johnston estate. All rights reserved.