Salade nicoise isn’t exciting, but when done right, it’s a really satisfying meal — and never more so than when paired with iced tea on a sweltering late summer day. It’s not that we’d forgotten this classic, but in tracking down the latest trends we had sort of forgotten it. The loss was entirely ours. Over a recent lunch at the French Meadow Bakery & Cafe in Minneapolis, we rediscovered the French bistro classic (“in the style of Nice”) and its many pleasures.
At $15, Fresh Meadow’s nicoise isn’t cheap. But it’s hearty and includes impeccable ingredients. A good-sized portion of expertly seared ahi tuna goes a long way toward justifying the price, as do the juicy, super flavorful roasted tomatoes (far better than the desiccated, sun-dried tomatoes so popular in the 1990s). A lemon-herb vinaigrette and a mixture of olives brighten the dish and add briny zip. Rounded out with purple fingerling potatoes and a whole, hard-boiled egg, the salad avoids the perennial problem of its genre by being substantial enough to make for a satisfying and filling entree. Oh, and we can’t forget the crisp-yet-tender French green beans that provide great texture and subtle sweetness.
French Meadow could make this delicious salad even better by adding or offering anchovies — a key element of traditional salade nicoise — for a touch of funkiness. But even though we missed the funky fish, we’ll be back for this straightforward, healthy, and delicious summer treat.