While usually included, cooked green beans would be a seasonal variation in Nice – the city from which the salad originates – as would new potatoes.
The absolutes are that this is a first course which must include lettuce, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, black olives and anchovies, the last two being ubiquitous in Provence. Little Gem lettuces are also not authentic, but the original recipes call for the crisp hearts of lettuce, something Little Gem duplicates nicely all year round.
You can really give the salad an upscale twist by substituting briefly grilled slices of fresh tuna loin for the canned.
In common with many other famous dishes, the quality of the ingredients used and a sense of balance in its execution will determine whether you create something memorable or a dish about which people will ask ‘why all the fuss?’
If you are using beans, cut off the stems and blanch the beans in rapidly boiling water for 3–4 minutes, or until done to your liking. Refresh briefly in cold water.
Boil the eggs for 6 minutes and then refresh them in cold water for 3–4 minutes. Shell them and cut them into quarters.
Trim the lettuces and cut them in halves lengthwise.
Reserving the tuna, eggs and tomatoes, put all the other main ingredients except the parsley into a large bowl.
Make the vinaigrette by mixing all the ingredients, pour it over the salad and toss.
Heap the salad in equal amounts on 4 plates, then divide the tuna on top. Quarter the tomatoes and then arrange around the outside with the quartered eggs.
A decent, dry rosé is the appropriate accompaniment.
© 1998 Alastair Little and Richard Whittington estate. All rights reserved.