While several French salads have reached iconic status, a definitive list would be impossible; there are thousands of variations on the theme of a cold dish bound together with an acidic or creamy dressing in the French repertoire. Several of the better-known salads such as Salade Nicoise and Salade Lyonnaise are regional specialties. Others are less well-known but equally tasty. In France, the salad course is usually served after the main course.
Salade verte simply means "green salad" in French. It is always a simple salad of greens -- mesclun, lettuce, watercress, even fresh and tender young dandelion greens can be used here. Snipped fresh herbs and croutons can be added, and perhaps a grated carrot, but the focus is on the green leaves. It's almost always dressed with a simple mustard vinaigrette.
Salade Nicoise is the specialty of the Mediterranean port city of Nice. Salad Nicoise is a composed salad -- that is, instead of tossing the ingredients together in a jumble, each has a reserved spot on the plate. This salad traditionally consists of steamed green beans, wedges of hard-cooked egg, tomato wedges, chunks of oil-canned tuna, black olives and anchovies. Lettuce, boiled potatoes, chunks of beet or bell pepper, slices of cucumber and sliced radish can also be added; the salad is then dressed with a mustard vinaigrette. Nowadays fresh seared tuna is often substituted for the canned.
Salade Lyonnaise is a hearty bistro salad from Lyon. It consists of leaves of frisee and cubes or batons of unsmoked French bacon known as lardons dressed with a mustard vinaigrette and topped with a poached egg. The egg yolk, once broken, helps dress the salad. Sometimes other bitter greens such as arugula, escarole or dandelion are added to or substituted for the frisee.
Remoulade is a creamy sauce spiked with mustard and often incorporating capers or other pickles and herbs. In France, this is often used to dress fresh grated celery root to make a simple side salad known as celeri remoulade.
Salade de Carottes Rapee
Cookbook author David Lebovitz has declared that grated carrot salad, or salade de carottes rapee, should be considered one of the top five national dishes of France, so ubiquitous is it. This salad consists of grated raw carrot and chopped parsley dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. Thanks to the influence of North African immigrants, variants of this carrot salad incorporate a pinch of cumin, cinnamon and/or other warm spices. For another French colonial fusion, use lime juice in place of lemon to take it in the direction of a Vietnamese-flavored dish.
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