“La 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.
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Ingredients for 4 people:
For the stuffing :
- 2 1/4 pounds veal
- 5 large onions
- 1 head of garlic
- 1 bouquet garni (bay leaf, thyme, rosemary)
- 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
- 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon of herbes de Provence
- Tomato puree, salt, pepper
For the vegetables :
- 8 small green peppers
- 8 round zucchini
- 4 small eggplants
- 8 small tomatoes
- 1/2 bread stick
- Dice the meat in cubes. Peel and finely chop the onions. Peel and slice the garlic. In a casserole dish, brown the cubes of veal in olive oil with the onions and garlic. Add the bouquet garni and leave to simmer 2 hours.
- Wash the vegetables. Cut the tomatoes in half, remove the seeds, turn them over and dry them for 5 minutes in the oven. Cut the peppers in half, remove the seeds, brush with olive oil, and cook them for 5 minutes in the oven. Cook the whole zucchini in salted boiling water, and then cut them in half. Cut the eggplants in half, cover them in olive oil, and cook them in the oven for around 5 minutes.
Hollow out the cooked zucchini and eggplant, and put aside the flesh. Fifteen minutes before the veal finishes cooking, add the diced bread, the Herbes de Provence, and the vegetable flesh. Season. When the veal is cooked, put everything through the mincer (fine setting). Place the vegetables on a baking tray, stuff them with the mince, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and drizzle with olive oil. Brown them in the oven at 400°F.
- Serve the stuffed vegetables with tomato puree.
La salade niçoise
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
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.
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.
Les beignets de courgettes fleurs
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 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.
Les poivrons grillés en salade
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.
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.
Le jambon cru à la figue fraîche
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.