Salade Nicoise (niˈswaz), is a hifalootin name for a viniagrette-based tuna salad. It's also the filling for Pan Bagnat, (pan ban-YAH, giving you a guide because I always have to ask how to say it when I order one, myself - darn those French and their silent Ts!) which is just this salad stuffed into a baguette. It basically started out as an empty-the-pantry salad in the French countryside but now is often served as a carefully composed work of food art.
My casual version is a frequent quick lunch in our home.. It's light, easy to make from things you have in your pantry - and most importantly, it's incredibly healthy. One way I make mine even better - I use lowly canned sardines instead of tuna.
Why sardines? Well, first of all, I think the flavor is better. More importantly, though, sardines are low on the food chain and therefore have none of the health risks of tuna: they are lowest in the mercury and other pollutants that collect in the fats of big old predators, and best of all, they're aboundant and sustainable...and thus, cheap and readily available - the ideal Food Desert food!
The other reason is that these fish are canned whole, bones included, vastly improving their nutrition. In an oft-quoted Town & Country magazine article entitled "The Unsung Sardine" author James Villas wrote "ounce for ounce, sardines provide more calcium and phosphorus than milk, more protein than steak, more potassium than bananas, and more iron than cooked spinach."
1 tin of sardines, drained
1 half a hardboiled egg
2 tbsp or so of canned olives
2 tbsp drained canned capers
2 tbsp canned pimientos, drained, rinsed and chopped
1 small can or half-can green beans, drained and rinsed (if your food desert has frozen, by all means use them, blanch them in boiling water for a minute first)
2 tbsp Olive Oil (extra-virgin if available)
1 tbsp wine or cider vinegar
1/4 tsp minced dried onion
1 tsp prepared mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix vinegar and minced onion and set aside overnight, or heat for 15 seconds in the microwave to rehydrate the onion. Add olive oil, mustard, and a dash of salt and pepper; set aside. Carefully fold together remaining ingredients, keeping fish in large chunks. Top with hardboiled egg halves. Dress with oil and vinegar mixture. Enjoy!