La Cuisine Niçoise

File:Food shop at Nice.jpgLa Cuisine Niçoise” is the food of the French Riviera.  Mediterranean cuisine is not only a delight to the palate, but has also been shown to have health benefits.

First secret: The MENU
Choose the recipes according to the season.  Using in-season fruits, vegetables, and fish is one of the secrets to the exquisite tastes of the French Riviera.

Second secret:  SHOPPING
French markets feature fresh vegetables, first class meat and fish. To get the same ingredients in the U.S., venture beyond the traditional chain grocery stores and shop at local farm stands, farmer’s markets,  butcher shops featuring local grass-feed meat and free range poultry, and fish markets carrying fresh, wild fish.

Stock your pantry with high quality extra virgin olive olive, sea salt, and fresh garlic cloves.  If you have room on your window sill, a few fresh Mediterranean aromatic herb plants, like rosemary, thyme, and basil, will ensure you always have a convenient source of fresh herbs to snip.

Third secret: COOKING
Recipes are guides; unless you are baking, you have flexibility with ingredients and seasonings.  Taste often as you cook, and make sure you leave enough time so that you are not rushed and can let the flavors develop.

Fourth secret: DINING
Set a beautiful table as a backdrop for the experience of enjoying a leisurely meal. While not everyone will be able to dine alfresco under an olive tree, the way they do in Nice, placing fresh flowers on a table set with crisp linens and floral stoneware will help make your experience more authentic.

Sage soup

La soupe de sauge 

File:Sage.jpg5 minutes
Cooking time : 15 minutes

Ingredients for 8 people :

8 cups of salted water
A large sprig of sage
A dozen peeled cloves of garlic
Some slices of stale bread
Olive oil

Sage soup is a miracle which cures all excesses of the table. It perfectly combines three sacred elements from our region : water, whose importance one has the tendency to forget these days; sage, whose name in Niçois saùvi, means “I save”; and garlic, that universal remedy which “heals the body, kills worms, repels scorpions and spiders, and frightens away witches and devils “!!

Boil the sage and the garlic in the salted water. Pour it onto the stale bread and add a small splash of olive oil.
Variation : the bread can be replaced by a handful of vermicelli dropped into the soup 10 minutes before the end of cooking time. It can also be served with a little grated gruyère.

Vegetable soup with garlic and basil)

La soupe au pistou 

File:Veg-bean_soup_cook.jpg45 minutes
Cooking time : 1 hour

Ingredients for 6 people :
2 carrots
1 turnip
1/2 a head of green cabbage
2 potatoes
2 tomatoes
3/4 cup coco or cannelini beans
3 small zucchini
2 leeks
7 ounces salt pork
1/2 cup dry elbow macaroni
20 nice leaves
3 cloves of garlic
1 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup olive oil
Ssalt and pepper

Carefully wash your vegetables. Peel the carrots, potatoes and turnip but leave the skin on the zucchini.

Cut into little cubes the carrots, turnip, courgettes, potatoes, and cabbage. Place the tomatoes in boiling water for one minute so as to easily remove their skins, drain them and cut them into large pieces.. Cut the leeks and onions into slices.
Cut the salt pork into 6 large cubes and boil these for 5 minutes.
In a large pot place the leeks the onions and a clove of garlic crushed by hand in a tea towel and gently simmer this with the olive oil on low heat. Add the salt pork. As soon as the onions and the leeks become transparent add all the other vegetables except the coco beans.

Allow to cook for 5 minutes on low heat, stirring if necessary with a wooden spoon. Add 8 cups of salted water, the cocos, and bring to the boil.

Simmer until tender, about 30 minutes.  Fifteen minutes before the end of cooking, add  the macaroni.
Before cooking is finished, start to prepare the pistou.
The pistou is added to the soup once it has been removed from the heat. Mix and eat straight away.

The Pistou:
Crush 3 cloves of garlic in the mortar. Add the basil leaves and continue to grind the mixture. When the garlic and basil are completely mixed together, add the olive oil and the powdered parmesan and keep mixing until a thick paste is achieved.

Rouille

Rouille

File:Rouillesauce1.jpgRouille (rouïo in Provençal) is a spicy garlic sauce used for fish dishes, fish soup, and bouillabaisse. After the rouille is prepared, keep it chilled in the refrigerator until it is served. Before serving, if the rouille is stiff, thin it with a few drops of boiling water. Rouille can be prepared one day in advance.

Ingredients :

3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon saffron

 

In a mortar, crush the garlic until it is a paste.

Add the egg yolks, whisk beat into a mayonnaise while adding about a half-cup of olive oil.

When the sauce is thick and smooth, stir in the pepper and saffron.

Mussel soup with saffron and spaghetti

 La Soupe aux moules at au safran 

File:?????????????????.JPG15 minutes
Cooking time : 15 minutes

Ingredients for 4 people :

2 1.4 pounds of mussels
1 onion
2 leeks (white sections only)
2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
1 clove of garlic
1 bouquet garni
1 rib of celery
2 ounces spaghetti
2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt, pepper
1 pinch of saffron

 

Heat oil in a large heavy-bottom saucepan.  Into the hot oil drop the onion cut into small cubes and the leaks cut into 1/2 slices. Add the bouquet garni and the celery as well as the tomatoes.  Simmer for about 5 minutes and add 4 cups of slightly salted water.

Bring to a boil and add the spaghetti, broken into half lengths, and the saffron.
While this is cooking, open the mussels which have been previously cleaned into a large pot and add a glass of white wine.  Leave about 20 in the half shell, and totally shell the rest. As soon as the pasta is cooked remove the pot from the stove, and discard the bouquet garni and celery. Add the mussels and their liquid, carefully mixed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Note : do not boil the mussels as they will become tough.
Serve this meal directly from the cooking pot, topped with a splash of olive oil accompanied by grated gruyère cheese, some garlic croutons, and some rouille.

Salade niçoise

 La salade niçoise 

File:Salade Niçoise jenny downing.jpg15 minutes
No cooking necessary

Ingredients for 6 people:
5 ripe tomatoes
1/2 fresh onion or 3 green onions.
1 cup fresh fava beans
3 violet artichokes
6 ounce can of tuna
1 small green pepper
A handful of black olives of Nice
3 desalted anchovies (6 filets)
3 hard-boiled eggs
A sprig of basil
1 cucumber
Salt
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil

This recipe is not found very often in old cooking books because it was so natural to eat fresh vegetables with olive oil. A real salade niçoise is a great treat both for the eyes and for the taste. It never includes cooked vegetables (e.g. green beans or potatoes), nor rice.
It is inconceivable without sun-ripened tomatoes (the Saint-Pierre variety) and the use of virgin olive oil of absolute top quality. One can make it without necessarily including all the vegetables cited below, depending upon the season. It is better to use good quality vegetables in lesser quantities, than vegetables that are out of season.
Cut the tomatoes into 1/4 inch slices. Salt them and leave them in a colander so that they may release a little of their liquid.
Peel the cucumber and cut it into paper thin slices.
Cut the fresh onions into thin rings.
Peel the fava beans.
Trim the artichokes: remove the outer leaves and the tip; remove the “beard” which surrounds the heart.
Cut the pepper into thin slices.
In a large flat serving bowl, layer the tomatoes and all the other vegetables, ending with the broad beans, the olives and the hard-boiled eggs cut into quarters.
Lightly salt.
Cover the lot with finely cut basil.
Prepare the vinaigrette immediately before serving. Note that, just as a good musician can be recognized by his own style of playing scales, a successful vinaigrette is the sign of a competent cook! Start by dissolving 3 pinches of fine salt in 2 tablespoons of good wine vinegar in a bowl. Beat the vinegar and salt with a fork, as for an omelette. Add the olive oil slowly while continuing to beat the mixture until the oil is fully incorporated.

Zucchini blossom fritters

Les beignets de courgettes fleurs

File:Zucchini and blossoms at market on Fondamenta Sant Anna, Castello (6293030821).jpg
15 minutes
Cooking time : 15 minutes
Ingredients for 4 people :

A dozen zucchini blossoms
1 1/4 cups of flour
2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup milk
1/2 water
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for frying
Pepper and salt

Build the flour into a small mountain inside a salad bowl and pour the egg yolks and a tablespoon of olive oil over it. Mix together and slowly add the water and the milk. Add pepper and salt. Leave to rest for a half hour.

Do not wash the zucchini blossoms, just shake off any dirt by hand. Cut the stems to leave about 4 inches and remove the yellowy/orange pistil from inside as this may be a little bitter.

Beat the egg whites until stiff.

Gently fold the egg-whites into the fritter mixture

In a large frying pan heat a generous amount of olive oil.

Dip each flower one after the other first into the fritter mixture then place into the hot oil. With a little experience you will be able to cook several flowers at the same time. After cooking each side for between one and two minutes, take each flower out by its stalk and let them drain off the excess oil on paper towels.

Serve on a dish which you have previously warmed in the oven.

As there is always a little batter left over, the housewives of Nice (who do not like waste), have the habit of blending it with coarsely grated zucchini, and dropping the batter by the tablespoon in to the oil to make zucchini fritters.

Salad of grilled mixed peppers

Les poivrons grillés en salade 

1File:Bell peppers on grill.png/2 hour
Cooking time : 3/4 hour

Ingredients for 4 people :
Four really nice red peppers (or a mixture of red and yellow peppers)
One or two cloves of garlic
Pepper and salt
Olive oil and vinegar

 

Wash the peppers under the tap and dry them.

Place them for 3/4 hour in an oven at 350°, or better still, on a wood fire where they will absorb the flavor from the wood. They will then be nicely cooked and easy to peel.

Let them cool down a little before attempting to peel them. Remove the stem and all the little seeds inside.
Cut them into strips 1 to 2 inches wide and place them in a slightly hollow dish. Add pepper and salt and season with oil and vinegar and sprinkle them with coarsely chopped garlic.
This dish is delicious particularly when served with a small side-dish of anchovies in oil.

Onion tart

 
La pissaladière 

3File:Pissaladiera.jpg/4 hour
Cooking time : 1/2 hr

Ingredients for 4 people :

2 cups of flour
2 1/4 pounds of onions
1 olive oil, divided
A bouquet garni of several sprigs of thyme and rosemary, and a clove
1-2 tablespoons of pissalat (or anchovy paste) to taste
Salt and pepper
18 Black olives

To prepare the dough, mix the flour, 7/8 of a cups of oil and 1 teaspoon salt, with 3 to 6 tablespoons of warm water.  The amount of water you’ll need to make a smooth dough will vary with the flour and the ambient humidity.

Knead the dough until it is firm and smooth. Allow it to rest at least half an hour wrapped in a tea towel at room temperature.

While the dough is resting, prepare the onion topping.

Slice the onions in half, then slice the halves thinly.

In a thick-bottomed saucepan on a low heat, add 2 tablespoons cup olive oil, and the onions, and  the thyme, the rosemary, clove, some pepper and a very small amount of salt.  Cook until softened and golden.
Before the onions start to brown add two cups of warm water and leave on the heat for about half an hour. When the water has become entirely absorbed and the oil starts to sizzle the onions are ready.
Turn off the heat and mix in the pissalat, after having removed the thyme, the rosemary and the clove.
The pastry should be rolled and spread out into a pastry dish, reaching slightly above the edge. Distribute the onions over it in an even layer twice the thickness of the pastry. Then turn the edge of the pastry over and make a double layer about 1/2 inch thick by squeezing between the forefinger and thumb.
Decorate with black olives and place in a 375 oven for about 35 minutes. Your pissaladière is cooked to perfection when the pastry becomes white and the onions on the top start to become colored. Add a little pepper on taking it out of the oven and eat it warm or cold with a good salad and a glass of cool red wine.

 

Raw ham and fresh figs

 Le jambon cru à la figue fraîche 

File:Figs.jpg15 minutes
Cooking time : If required, 5 minutes

Ingredients for 4 people :

4 slices of raw ham
8 good quality figs
Pepper, sage to taste

Here are two versions of this delicious appetizer, one cold and the other hot.

In this region where rain can be scarce, figs have replaced melons as an accompaniment to dried ham which came either from the mountains or from our Italian neighbors.
Place the figs in the refrigerator at least one hour in advance.

For the cold version, simply serve them with a slice of ham. The presentation will be perfect if you can find a nice fig leaf to accompany each plate.
For the hot version, abundantly cover the slice of ham with pepper and roll the very cold fig inside it with a sage leaf. Close it with a tooth-pick and place it in a hot oven for 5 minutes.

Grilled Swiss chard stems with anchovy vinaigrette

Des grillades de bettes tiges avec une vinaigrette anchois

30 minutes, not including the prep time for the anchovies
Cooking time : 15 minutes

Anchovy Vinaigrette

2 ounces anchovies (preferably salt-packed, cleaned, rinsed, and soaked in a few changes of milk )
1/2 ounce minced garlic, about 3 small cloves
3/4 cup + 4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes, or more to taste
Cover anchovy fillets in milk by about an inch for 12-24 hours, changing the milk once or twice. Taste them periodically until the saltiness decreases to your taste.  Do not over-soak, as you will have tasteless anchovies.
Drain anchovies, rinse, and pat dry.
Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor until well combined but still a little chunky. This makes more than you will need for the grilled chard recipe.

Grilled Swiss Chard Stems

Stems from 1 large bunch Swiss chard. Reserve greens for another use
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup anchovy vinaigrette
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar

Wash the chard stems, cut off any dark edges, and cut into 5 to 6-inch lengths.
Blanch stems in salted boiling water in batches till just tender, about 2 minutes per batch, then transfer to an ice bath.
Dry the blanched stems, toss them lightly with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and place them on the grill in a single layer. Grill slowly until they become dark and charred but not burned.
Toss with the anchovy vinaigrette and a splash of sherry vinegar. Serve warm

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