Stéphane, I’m sure that the tomatoes you find at these beautiful Mountain View or Los Altos farmer’s markets, that you are so lucky to have nearby all year long, must still be superb, sweet and juicy in early September. And I also guess that the time that you will be able to spend in your kitchen or outside at the barbecue to prepare meals will be limited for next few months. You even can forget about those olives and the anchovies that somebody close to you does not like and rename it the "deconstructed the summer vegetable and tuna salad"
A few things to know about the original and perhaps authentic way to prepare Salade Niçoise:
They are several dozens of recipes for making a salade niçoise, and I am not even sure that a single one can qualify as authentically ‘’niçoise’’. I checked in several books of recipes from both Provence and the Côte d’Azur, the area between St. Tropez and the Italian Border, and the only thing I can say for sure is that originally in NICE this salad consisted of only RAW vegetables. You would never find potatoes, or vinegar in it. And the old Niçois NEVER MIXED tuna and anchovies; it was either one or the other. The only cooked ingredient was the hard-boiled eggs. The raw vegetables used were: Twice salted seeded, drained, and then quartered tomatoes, thinly sliced red and green peppers, small purple baby artichoke hearts, some hearts of celery, tiny fresh fava beans, young spring green onions, small black olives, and that’s it. Later they added some slice of cucumbers and a mesclun of lettuce and green herbs like parsley, chervil, and chives. Some chopped fresh basil could sometimes be added at the end. Now, another point of contention is the type of beans that you use. In most French restaurant nowadays a salade niçoise include cooked small green beans. That is what I use. But in the ‘’authentic salade niçoise ‘’ only raw fresh small green fava beans, called ‘’fevettes’’ there, or ‘’coco’’ (fresh white) beans coming from pale green pods, were used. As far as onions are concerned, most people use very finely sliced small red or white onions as a garnish. But in the real niçoise you should use ‘’cébettes’’, very young spring green onions whose white bulbs are very small. They look a bit like very small leeks, and over here their counterparts would be scallions. I personally use thin slices of red or torpedo onions in the summer. Now as far as choosing the kind of flaked tuna you will put in the middle of the serving dish, it should always be CANNED TUNA, and if possible Italian canned tuna packed in olive oil. Never seared fresh tuna like too many American restaurants have taken the habit to do since the early 80`s under the influence of the new Californian Cuisine. If you use anchovies, instead of tuna or in addition to tuna like most French restaurant do, use flat canned unsalted Italian or Portuguese anchovies packed in olive oil. Not the Danish or Norwegian type. Now, as far as the dressing is concerned: In the original Salade Niçoise, they seasoned the various raw vegetables with salt and pepper, and doused the sliced boiled eggs and the vegetables with a good quality extra-virgin French olive oil. No vinegar was used. But nowadays most restaurants, as well as me, pour some vinaigrette on it before serving. See my own way of preparing a vinaigrette down below. Lastly, never mix your Nicoise Salad in a salad bowl, like you would do with another lettuce-based salad. Serve it on an oval porcelain or ceramic platter where it is much easier and prettier to assemble the various components. The platter should be rubbed with one clove of freshly peeled garlic. Also use only black olives and not green olives to garnish the salad.
My own recipe for an easy to make Salade Niçoise:
For 2 people: Ingredients: 6 small red potatoes 4 ripe medium size field-grown tomatoes (no Roma or beefsteak type) ¼ Lb fresh small French green beans, left whole but trimmed at both ends. One medium size red onion, or two small red torpedo onions, thinly sliced 2 fresh large eggs, hard boiled or semi-hard boiled, quartered when cold About 12 leaves of l Boston or Red leaf lettuce, washed and dried 1 clove of garlic Some fresh parsley, chives, or chervil, minced I can of Italian tuna packed in olive oil, drained and flaked with a fork About 6 flat fillets of canned anchovies, drained and patted with a paper towel 10 black olives with the pits: Niçoises or oil cured Moroccans, or Kalamatas (I use these) Optional: chopped fresh basil (5 leaves) instead of herbs For the vinaigrette: About 2 Tbsp of Red wine vinegar, 2Tbsp of Dijon mustard, 1/3 cup of extra-virgin olive oil Salt & Pepper
Preparing the ingredients: Steam the red potatoes for 20/25 minutes with skin on. Set aside on a plate to cool. Remove skin and slice them 1/4 inch thick Wash, dry and cut the tomatoes in 6 segments. Salt them and let them drain for 20 minutes. Remove seeds delicately. Cook trimmed green beans in salted gently boiling water for 12 minutes. They should remain firm. Drain rinse under cold water and let them cool down, Before using gently pat them dry with paper towel Thin slice one medium size red onion Boil 2 eggs in salted water for 10 minutes. Cool then down in cold water, then peel and quarter them. Rinse the olives under cold water for 2 minutes (except if oil cured) Chop fresh parsley and chives (or chervil)
Preparing the vinaigrette: In a large bowl put 2 Tbsp of Dijon mustard at room temperature, Add some salt and black pepper to taste. Wisk 2Tbsp of red wine vinegar in the mustard until you obtain a smooth mix Slowly incorporate, while whisking all the time, 1/3 of a cup of Extra-Virgin olive oil. Continue to whisk until all the ingredients are emulsified into a smooth sauce without letting the vinegar separate from the oil.
Assembling the dish: Rub a medium-size porcelain platter with fresh garlic. Arrange leaves of lettuce to cover the platter entirely Alternate slices of potatoes and quartered eggs on the upper side of the platter Arrange the segments of tomatoes on a lower rank Alternate hem with fillets of anchovies Place a mound of flaked tuna in the center of the dish Intersperse with olives Dispose sliced red onions over the vegetables Sprinkle chopped herbs all over Just before serving drizzle the vinaigrette on each component Bon Appétit