There’s a special place in my heart for couples who cater their own weddings and communities whose members join together to make a wedding meal. I’ve thrown plenty of dinner parties of various sizes in my life, and I’m a serious student of the buffet. I’ve read books, I study photos, and I’m always on the lookout for delicious, practical, and beautiful foods worthy of a celebration table. Today at a Bat Mitzvah lunch I came across a buffet dish worth sharing with those of you out there who find themselves responsible for feeding a celebratory crowd. The dish: a salade nicoise platter. It’s delicious and easy to make, and sitting on a buffet it’s alive with color.
Salade Niçoise is a great dish, because it’s a hardy main-dish salad with a variety of nutritious foods: fresh salad greens, tuna, hard-boiled eggs, green beans, tomatoes, and black olives. Traditional salade Niçoise also has anchovies, capers, and shallots, but this version leaves them out in order to appeal to a wide crowd (and eliminate the most expensive ingredients).
When you’re making enough food to feed a crowd, a platter is a great way to present the salad because guests can build their salad as they like, and unlike salads served in large bowls, the tastiest ingredients won’t get lost in all the greens.
The platter also looks beautiful on a buffet with all the colorful ingredients set out in different sections of the platter. If it hadn’t been Shabbat, I would have taken a photo for you, but let me describe it for you: the bright greens of the lettuce and green beans, the red of the tomatoes, the white and yellow of the eggs, and the black olives, along with the flaked tuna.
I’ll also admit that I like salade Niçoise because it’s fun to say: Having spent a year in former-French-colony Tunisia, I can pass on the pronunciation with some confidence: salad nee-SWAHS. For the times when a written menu is called for, it’s also fun to write (or to take the time to track down the required website design HTML tag for) the letter “c” with the cedilla mark in the middle of niçoise. There it is. Did you see it there in the middle of the word? Lovely. Too much fun for a Saturday night.
Enough about my love affair with salade niçoise; it’s time to begin yours. The instructions are for a platter of 24 servings. To feed more people than that, prepare more platters.
I need to give credit to the folks who put together today’s lunch, which was at Tifereth Israel Synagogue in Washington, DC. It’s an exceptionally friendly community, and their special occasion kiddush lunches are always wonderful.
Recipe: Salade Niçoise for a Crowd (Parve)
4 heads Boston-lettuce leaves; washed, dried, and shredded into small pieces
4 pounds green beans, steamed
12 ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges
16 small boiling potatoes, cooked and cut in half
12 ounces canned chunk tuna, oil packed, flaked with a fork
18 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered
1 cup good-quality small pitted black olives
2 Tbsp Dijon-type mustard
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp kosher red wine vinegar
3 cups good quality olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
Instructions for Salade Niçoise
- Whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together. Adjust the seasonings as necessary.
- Toss the green beens with a quarter cup of the the vinaigrette.
- Arrange the shredded lettuce in a heap running down the middle of a large platter. Arrange the other ingredients around the lettuce, keeping all of each component together.
- Serve the remaining vinaigrette on the side of the platter.
Make Ahead Option
You can prepare the components a day before. Cover and refridgerate each component separately. Combine them on the platter just before serving so that the salad looks fresh when you serve it.