grilled salmon niçoise salad

Springtime in the Southwest is a woefully short season. Usually my meals transition from hearty soups and pot pies, directly to popsicles and cooling fruit sodas with nothing much in between. Thankfully, this year we’ve had a gorgeous springtime, so I’ve been in the mood to whip up a seasonally appropriate meal.

This salad is something I’ve had in my mind for a ridiculously long time, and I finally found the impetus to make it a reality! Niçoise salads are beautifully perfect for springtime, full of the fresh spring-y veggies that you long for all winter, and a light vinaigrette dressing to top it all off. Niçoise salads are commonly made with tuna, but a grilled salmon filet is even better, in my humble opinion. Give yourself a while during a lazy morning to assemble all the components of this salad, and you can have a late lunch that will make you glad that summer is still a little while away.

grilled salmon niçoise salad

(makes 2 entree-sized salads)

salad fixings

1 small head butter/Boston lettuce, washed and chopped small
12 oz fingerling potatoes
6 oz trimmed thin fresh asparagus
1/2 – 1 c tiny grape tomatoes
1/4 c dry cured olives
2 large radishes, sliced thin
3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chilled
2 Tbs fresh minced chives

grilled salmon

8 oz salmon filet, cut in half
olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

shallot-dijon vinaigrette
(makes 1/2 cup dressing)

3 Tbs white wine vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp honey
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 of a medium shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
2 tsp dijon mustard
3 Tbs olive oil

For the potatoes: Place the uncooked potatoes in a small pot and cover with water to about 1 inch over the tops of the potatoes; throw in a large pinch of salt. Set over high heat and allow the water to boil, then cook the potatoes for an additional 15 to 18 minutes, until the potatoes are fork-tender. Drain and chill until cold.

For the asparagus: Snap off a short bit of the tougher ends of each asparagus stalk, and place the stalks in boiling salted water for 3-5 minutes. The asparagus should be tender but not too limp. Drain, and immediately place into a large bowl of water and ice cubes until fully cold. Drain and chill until ready to use.

For the hard-boiled eggs: Place the eggs into a pot of cold water, just so the water comes over the tops of the eggs by about 1 inch. Set over high heat until boiling vigorously, then remove the pot from the heat and cover; let sit 10 minutes. Drain, place the eggs under cold running water until they’re easier to handle. Peel under cool running water while still warm; chill until ready to use.

For the salmon: If your salmon has skin, gently peel it off before cooking. Heat a grill pan or heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Drizzle the salmon on both sides with a bit of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place in the hot pan and cook for 3 minutes. Flip over and cook for an additional 3 minutes on the second side, until golden brown and the fish is no longer translucent in the center. Let chill until ready to use.

For the vinaigrette dressing: In a tall, narrow container (or in a blender jar), place all ingredients except the olive oil. Using an immersion blender (or a standard blender), process the ingredients on high until totally smooth. Add the olive oil, and continue blending until the dressing is emulsified and creamy-looking. Chill until ready to use.

To assemble the salad: Wash and chop the butter lettuce and place in a large bowl. Drizzle with a few tablespoons of the dressing and toss by hand to coat. Divide the lettuce between two large plates, and place one piece of chilled salmon in the center of each bed of lettuce. On one side of the lettuce, pile half of the cooked potatoes, followed by half of the blanched asparagus, and half of the grape tomatoes. On the other side of the lettuce, arrange half of the olives, 1 sliced radish, and three halves of hard-boiled egg. Drizzle the top of each salad with a bit more of the dressing, and sprinkle with the minced chives. Serve with a few slices of grilled bread if desired.

Nothing says springtime like a salad full of perfectly cooked asparagus, peppery radish, some tiny tomatoes, tender potatoes, and a beautifully grilled piece of salmon. I think my favorite part is actually the dressing, it’s very flavorful and quite a bit acidic, but the rest of the ingredients temper it just perfectly. Enjoy springtime in all its glory, one salad at a time!

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