Harissa is a spicy, rich-flavored North African chili paste and it is one of my favorite condiments to use in the kitchen. It is traditionally made with roasted red pepper, chiles, garlic, and a mixture of spices, depending on the family and exact origin. You can easily find several varieties in the supermarket (usually in the ethnic foods aisle) but I prefer making my own, in part so I can control the level of spice.
A traditional Niçoise salad features baby potatoes, haricot verts, European-style tuna, olives, and hard boiled egg. In this amped-up version, many of the traditional elements remain but the tuna is swapped for a harissa-smothered salmon and preserved lemon is added for some North African authenticity, which makes it brighter and punchier.
Niçoise purists might balk at this recipe, but I promise: This spiced salmon salad is delicious, filling, and perfect to enjoy all summer.
- You can simplify this recipe by buying harissa already made.
- Don’t stress about making your own dressing — you can also dress it simply with olive oil and lemon juice or white wine vinegar.
- You can prepare the salmon, potatoes, haricot verts, and hard boiled eggs ahead of time, and when ready to serve, simply assemble. It makes it a great dish for entertaining or Shabbat lunch.
For the salad:
- 4 oz. small red and purple potatoes
- Kosher salt
- 4 oz. haricots verts (string beans), trimmed
- 4 oz. heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved crosswise
- 1 or 2 hard boiled eggs, halved crosswise
- 4 cups lettuce and/or mixed greens, washed, dried and chopped
- 1/4 cup black or niçoise olives, pitted
- Flaky salt and fresh black pepper, for serving
For the salmon:
- 6 oz fresh salmon, skin removed
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- Prepared harissa (around 1/2 cup – 1 cup depending on size of salmon and your preference)
For the harissa:
- 1 large red pepper
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 dried red chiles
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- ¼ cup fresh parsley
- 1/2 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon ras el hanout
- 1 ½ tsp smoked paprika
For the dressing:
- 4 oil packed anchovy fillets, finely minced
- 1 Tbsp whole grain Dijon mustard
- 1 small shallot, finely minced
- 1 small clove garlic, finely minced
- 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
- 2 tsp finely chopped preserved lemon peel
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- To make the harissa: broil the red pepper on high for about 25 minutes, turning occasionally, until blackened on the outside. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let cool. This is called sweating, and it allows you to easily peel the skin off the pepper. Peel the pepper and discard its skin and seeds.
- Rehydrate the chiles by placing them in a bowl of hot water for 10 minutes.
- Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat, and fry the onion, garlic, and rehydrated chiles for 10 to 12 minutes, until dark and smoky. Now use a blender or a food processor to combine all the harissa ingredients until smooth, adding a little more oil if needed. NOTE: You can also use store-bought harissa.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Place salmon on a baking paper lined baking dish and rub with olive oil. Spread harissa thickly on top, reserving the rest for something else. Bake for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile prepare the rest of the ingredients. Place potatoes in a medium saucepan and add cold water to cover by 1″.
- Bring to a boil, season with kosher salt, and cook until fork-tender, 15−20 minutes. Transfer potatoes to a plate with a slotted spoon.
- Return water to a boil and cook haricots verts in same saucepan until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl of ice water. Chill until cold, about 3 minutes. Transfer to paper towels and pat dry.
- To make the dressing: mash the anchovies and mustard in a small bowl to form a coarse paste. Add the minced shallot, garlic, and preserved lemon to the bowl and whisk in the white wine vinegar. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Season vinaigrette with salt and pepper as needed.
- Using a fork, flake the harissa salmon into large pieces; halve reserved potatoes crosswise.
- Arrange lettuce on a platter; season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with half of dressing.
- Top with separate piles of potatoes, haricots verts, tomatoes, the hard boiled eggs, olives, and salmon. Drizzle salad with remaining dressing. Sprinkle with flaky salt and pepper.