Vegan Asparagus Salad à la Salade Niçoise
Well, that was a great task that Julia and Isa have given me: a vegan recipe for Salade Niçoise. I have to admit that I've never eaten this salad before and haven't even heard of it. So the first thing I did was doing some research to find out what goes into it at all. I found the following: the salad originated in France and is also called a Nice Salad, although the first written-down recipe isn't even from Nice, but from Paris. There has probably never been a standard recipe, but a few components apparently can't be missing: tomatoes, olives, anchovies, tuna, potatoes, eggs, and onions. However, since anchovies, tuna, and eggs definitely don't end up on our shopping list, we simply substituted them.
Our vegan egg alternative: For the eggs, I didn't have to think twice as we already have a great recipe for vegan eggs on the blog. Be sure to check the miso paste to make sure it's vegan. Also, there are light and dark miso pastes – both would work, but to recreate the color of an egg white, the light miso paste is better. To get a perfect egg shape in the end, we used round silicone ice cube molds. A little tip for those who don't have one: there are small compartments for the eggs in almost all refrigerators. If these can be easily removed from yours, they are the perfect silicone mold replacement! The eggs can also be easily prepared the day before and stored overnight in the fridge.
All the other ingredients: In addition to the eggs, we left out the anchovies and tuna. There isn't a 1:1 substitute for them in this recipe – and there is actually no need for it. Instead, just choose any alternative (seasonal) salad ingredients of your desire. I opted for lentils, radishes, and strawberries. You can prepare the asparagus in different ways: either boil it in water or bake it in the oven. For the latter, you need to drizzle the asparagus with olive oil, and season it with salt and pepper. Strawberries and asparagus can be easily substituted depending on the season, e.g. with princess beans and red peppers.
If you add a freshly baked baguette to the salad, a Salade Niçoise is a classic filling salad for two people (as a main course), that is definitely offering something for everyone!
Vegan Asparagus Salad à la Salade Niçoise
For the vegan boiled eggs:
- 150 g (5.5 oz) silken tofu
- 3 tbsp plant-based heavy cream
- 2 tbsp chickpea flour
- 1 tsp light miso paste
- 4 tsp agar agar
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tbsp melted vegan butter
- kala namak
For the salad:
- 200 g (7 oz or approx. six) potatoes (e.g. baby potatoes)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 400 g (14 oz) green asparagus
- 100 g (3.5 oz) Beluga lentils
- 80 g (3 oz) olives
- 1 romaine lettuce
- 100 g (3.5 oz) cocktail tomatoes
- 1 red onion
- 100 g (3.5 oz) radishes
- 100 g (3.5 oz) strawberries
- 0.5 lemon
For the dressing:
- 60 ml (0.25 cup) lemon juice
- 60 ml (0.25 cup) olive oil
- 1 tsp mustard
- 1 tsp agave syrup
- 1 baguette
For the vegan eggs, drain silken tofu and add it to a liquid measuring cup along with plant-based cream, chickpea flour, miso paste, and agar agar. Season generously with salt, pepper, and kala namak. Then let the mixture sit for approx. 5 minutes.
Afterward, take 2 tbsp of the mixture and set it aside. Add the remaining mixture to a small pot over medium-low heat and warm for approx. 5 minutes, or until you get a really thickened texture that is bubbly in the pot. Remove from heat and fill the mixture into silicone molds. Let the mixture cool down to room temperature first before refrigerating it for approx. 1 hour. In our case, the mixture was enough to fill 6 half-round molds.
Preheat oven to 220°C/430°F (top and bottom heat). Wash and halve potatoes. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, then arrange them in a baking dish. Clean green asparagus and add it to a second baking dish. Cover with water and season with a pinch of salt and sugar. Bake potatoes and asparagus for approx. 20-25 minutes. The potatoes are done once they are crispy and browned. The asparagus is done if you can easily prick it with a knife.
In the meantime, wash beluga lentils. Add to a pot with salted water that should cover the lentils and let them simmer for approx. 15-20 minutes. Stir regularly to avoid any burning.
Drain and halve olives. Roughly chop lettuce, halve cherry tomatoes and finely slice the red onion. Hull and quarter strawberries. Cut half of a lemon into wedges.
For the dressing, mix lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, and agave syrup in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Do you still remember the 2 tbsp of the ‚egg white mixture’ that we set aside? It’s time to use it now! Take a little spoon to form a tiny hollow fort he vegan egg yolks into each silken tofu egg white. You can add the bits of removed ‚egg white’ to the ones that were set aside before. Now add the ground turmeric and melted vegan butter to the remaining silken tofu egg white mixture and quickly mix with an immersion blender to get it smooth again. Season with salt, pepper, and kala namak to taste. Add the vegan egg yolk mixture into the hollows.
Arrange potatoes, asparagus, lentils, vegan eggs, and the remaining vegetables and fruits in a bowl and drizzle the dressing on top. Serve salad with baguette and sprinkle crushed pepper on top, if desired.