Papiers Provence: 27 Mai NICE

The Coast of Nice

I was eager to get to Nice from a culinary point of view. Though I have been to the South of France before, I have never been here, and I have always considered it something of a New Orleans: surrounded by traditional Southern fare, but with a cuisine all its own. As you will see, I was not disappointed. What struck me most besides the individuality of Nicoise cuisine was the way it integrated Provencal flavors with Italian and North African influences that were prevalent in everything from kebabs and couscous to gnocci and polenta pistou.

The Salts of Nice

Whether I am the salt of the Earth is not for me to decide; but if I could decide, I would be a salt of Nice. I came across this little salt and spice shop in the old city, selling salt flavored with everything from Moroccan rose and Provencal lavender to luxurious truffle East Asian wasabi and bamboo.

Truffle Salt, Pink Peppercorn Salt
Wasabi Salt, Bamboo Salt, Salt from the Camargue
Garlic Salt, Lavender Salt, Moroccan Rose Salt, Salt for Vegetables, Spiced Salt, Crazy Salt
Australian Salt, Salt for Vegetables, Lavender Salt, Spiced Salt, Garlic Salt, Crazy Salt

More Navettes

Yesterday, I told you about those enchanting orange flower navette cookies that I found in La Cadiere d’Azur. Here in Nice, I came across a cookie haven, piled high with all sorts of Navettes, from orange flower to cinnamon to chocolate, and their Provencal cousins, from calissons to pine nut crescents.

Chocolate Navettes
Vanilla and Orange Flower Navettes
Cinnamon Navettes
La Plage, Nice

Fenocchio Ice Cream

Fenocchio was the best ice cream I have ever had, for two reasons. First, the texture is like gelatto: it has that creamy elasticity that moves with your mouth when you eat it. Second, they are like alchemists with their flavors, spinning sweet gold from the most basic provencal ingredients. I was able to taste black olive ice cream, lemon verbena ice cream, lavender ice cream, thyme ice cream, fig sorbet, and poppy ice cream. And I walked away with a cone of my very favorite: fleur d’oranger. Orange flower. You won’t believe the other flavors they offer. Everything is inspired by the culinary traditions of Provence, and made from ingredients farmed on the surrounding land.
Fenocchio Glacier

Fenocchio’s 96 Flavors

Vanilla & Pink Peppercorn, Tomato-Basil, Black Olive, Thyme, and Rosemary Ice Creams
Cactus, Melon, Lemon Meringue, Pear, Lemon, Grapefruit, Lime, and Mandarin Sorbets
Black Currant, Blackberry, Fig, Strawberry, Raspberry, Sour Cherry, and Apricot Sorbets
Rose, Lavender, Beer, Calisson (Provencal Almond Cookie), Cranberry, and Candy-Embellished Ice Creams

Jasmine, Poppy, Violet, Rose, Rosemary, Thyme, Tutti Frutti, Pina Colada, and Beer Ice Creams
Avocado, Orange Flower, Lemon Verbena, Jasmin, Cabbage Tart,
Vanilla & Pink Peppercorn, Tomato-Basil, and Rosemary Ice Creams

Orange Flower Ice Cream

Oliviera, Olive Oil Dealer

There is a restaurant in New York called Fig and Olive. When you sit down, they bring you bread and a tray of four different olive oils. I am always surprised, after using the same olive oil day in and day out in all my salads and breads and meals at how extraordinarily different they taste. The phenomenally well-versed owner of the shop allowed me to try four oils: Arlesienne, which had the salty, olivey finish of black olives, Baux de Provence, which was grassy, Picholine, which was bitter, and Bouteillan, which had an almost tropical fruitiness. He insisted that his menu was equally imaginative, and if I ever get the chance, I will go back to try the zucchini flowers stuffed with vegetables and the pasta with picholine pistou.

Olive Oils, kept in dark bottles to prevent oxidation

A Large, Quaint Selection of French First Cold Press Extra Virgin Olive Oils



Olive Oil Tasting
Nicois Street Food at Lou Pilha Leva

My guide book ordaned all sorts of gourmet places to stop and try the specialties of Nice. As per Provencal tradition, they all closed at one o’clock. Oops. A local sent me to this corner-window joint on the Place Centrale, and while nothing was freshly made to order or indeed quite perfect, it gave me the perfect late afternoon glimpse into some of Nice’s most traditional foods. Pissaladiere is pizza dough topped with sweet, soft onions, Nicoise olives, and anchovies. Socca is a chickpea flour and olive oil pancake, thin as a crepe. And zucchini and zucchini flowers beignets are little fried fritters of dough surrounding one of Provence’s most iconic vegetables. I’ll be back for those beignets.

A Corner Outdoor Fast Food Joint with Nicoise Specialties
Nicois Street Food

Zucchini Flowers

Zucchini & Zucchini Flower Beignets with Lemon
Socca

Socca’s Crisp Edges
Pissaladiere
Me, and the Coast of Nice
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Papiers Provence: 26 Mai, La Cadiere d’Azur

I don’t know what other people do on vacation. I just feel the heart and soul of a place is in the food. I travel to markets, sit in restaurants, take notes on the preparations. To me, that’s how to relax. And now, I am in my personal cuisine capital, Provence and the Cote d’Azur, South of France. Last night, I ordered traditional spaghetti pistou. Provencal pistou is nothing like pesto; it lacks nuts, and is tarnished rust red with sundried tomatoes. I walked away breathing garlic like a highly seasoned dragon, and could think of nothing to quench it but oreillettes, little bits of flat fried dough covered in powdered sugar. And then I thought: in case anyone else loves the food of the South of France as much as I do, I will log it all in a little eat-along. Here is my first
entry in my Papiers Provence:

The Farm Stand


The sweet man that we rented our apartment from commanded us only to buy fruits and vegetables off the side of the road. Unorthodox, perhaps, but brilliant, as it turns out. On our way out of town today, we stumbled upon a little stand. Wine for 2.50, three artichokes for 1.50. Cheap, and very cheerful. I was ecstatic to find fresh fava beans and the Provencal signature zucchini flowers–and, of course, my currants, which I hoard when I am in France like a squirrel keeping a stash of little rubied nuts.

Zucchini Flowers

Cherry Tomatoes on the Vine

Tiny, Tart Groseilles (Red Currants)

Tiny Melons de Pays
(orange like cantaloupe, sweet like honeydew
)

Local Lavender Honey

Heirloom Tomatoes, Jolie-Laide (pretty ugly)

Long Radishes (for dipping in salt)

Prepared Bouquets Garnis

Fresh Beans

Endives (finally on the cheap!)

A hot and spicy Provencal Olive Blend

Signature Black Cured Olives

Green Olives with Herbes de Provence

Le Moulin de Saint Come

After spending yesterday on the coast amidst rail-thin sailing masts and tubby tourists, we were ready to get away from it all. I read in the guide book about a town called La Cadiere d’Azur. On our way there, along a highway of poppies, we found this little shop that sells its own olive oil, but also all sorts of Provencal delicacies. I was entrances by their selection of liqueurs–you could have a Mimosa or Poppy Kir if you like. My mother was spotted with a 1 Kilo tin of tapenade. Here were some gorgeous finds:

Liqueurs of Indigenous Mimosa and Poppy

Verbena Liqueur

Liqueurs of Raspberry, Black Currant, and Bitter Orange
Liqueurs of Violet, Rose, and Blackberry

Syrups of Thyme, Fig, and Poppy

Sacks of Lavender

Dejeuner in La Cadiere d’Azur

City Hall in La Cadiere d’Azur

When we drove up the clif to La Cadiere d’Azur, we were stupified. This, we exclaimed, is what we had been looking for all along: something tiny, authentic, and impossible to find. A little secret tucked away, a jewel in box. We arrived just as everything was closing for lunch, so we perched in a little outdoor, imaginative restaurant called La Chaise Bleue. It was the best meal we’ve had so far. Alain had filets of monkfish blanketed in a creamy sauce spiked with Marsala. Maman had fresh from the sea Dorade, simply grilled, head and all, punctuated by bites of charred zucchini. And as for me, it was calamari, tossed with olive oil, parsley, and chili, and grilled, served with grilled slices of golden potato. And we all shared a goat cheese salad done three ways: it was melted onto baguette, stuffed and baked into tomatoes, and chilled with herbs and rolled into eggplant. My mother, in her ecstasy, swore it was a “symphony.” It’s not my word, but it will do. All this we ate on a tiny, stone-house lined mainstreet that hung off the side of a cliff, overlooking a valley of vineyards, where it really seemed to be a world on its own. The man at the next table put it most eloquently, “Le temps s’arrete.”

Our Lunch Spot, La Chaise Bleue


A lovely, modern table in a chic, old town

Baked Tomato Stuffed with Goat Cheese

Melting Goat Cheese Croutes

Three-Ways Goat Cheese Sald with Honey, Eggplant, and Pine Nuts
Grilled Dorade with Root Vegetable Quenelles and Seared Zucchini (Maman)
Monkfish in a Marsala Cream Sauce with Mushrooms, Carrots, and Root Vegetable Quenelles (Alain)
Grilled Calamari with Parsley and Mild Red Chilis, with Grilled Potatoes and Salad (Moi)

A Cool Glass of Rose

Au Vieux Four

How can you argue with a baker who puts a sign reading “the best bread in my street is here”? Still in La Cadiere, we found a bakery that actually closed for three hours for lunch. Ah, la vie Provencale. We took home Pain au Levain, Pain d’Epice, and an Olive Loaf. But my favorite things were little tiny, crumbly navette cookies, flavored with orange flower water. I ate them overlooking the valley below, under a fig tree. It was perfect!

Varieties of Pissaladiere

Pine Nut Tart
Used for the Famous Nicoise Sandwich, Pan Bagnat

Olive Loaf

Pain d’Epice, a spiced bread that tastes of orange and honey
Orange Flower Butter Cookies

Floral, Hardly Sweet, and Perfect in Every Way

A Farmstand Dinner

After that kind of an afternoon, you can scarcely imagine ever eating again. We opted to doll up some of our farmstand finds, and I got to work in the kitchen. The vegetables were cheap, but cheerfully vibrant, assertive in their colors and flavors that unfortunately my American supermarket finds rare are at twice the price.

Cherry Tomato Salad
Asparagus with Brebis
Artichokes Vinaigrette

Mache and Fennel Salade with Tapenade Vinaigrette

Melon de Pays

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The Secret Ingredient: Rosewater

 

Rosewater

Rosewater

I am in Provence, and it’s rose season here in the South of France. After all the April showers in New York and Oxford, the May flowers finally ring true. For this month’s The Secret Ingredient on Serious Eats, I showcase one of my favorite (and coincidentally very French) ingredients: rosewater.

 

Rosewater and Melon Salad

Rosewater and Melon Salad with Mozzarella and Crispy Prosciutto

I begin with a salad of matching boules of cantaloupe, watermelon, and mozzarella, tossed with a rosewater vinaigrette, and topped with crisp Jambon de Bayonne. Next, jewel-ripe raspberries and blackberries spooned over with a lacy rosewater sabayon. And finally, to drink, a rosy rose–rose wine spiked with rosewater, in a glass rimmed with rose petal sugar.

Berries with Rose Sabayon

Berries with Rose Sabayon

Spring is here; and finally, it is time to stop and smell the roses.

Rose Kir

Rose Kir

Bon app!

Provence Rose

Provence Rose

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The Secret Ingredient (Rosewater) Part III: Rosy Rosé

RECIPE: Rosy Rosé
Rosy Rosé

Rosy Rosé

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

This simple but unique cocktail pairs good rosé wine with a splash of rose water. The pair obviously plays on the color pink, but the rose water also accents the often fruity-floral notes of a good rosé. As an optional crown, I whirl sugar and dried rose petals together for the prettiest in pink wineglass rim.

Rosy Rosé
serves 4 to 6
Rosy RoséIngredients
  • 1/2 cup sugar (optional)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried roses (optional)
  • 1 bottle rosé wine, lightly chilled
  • About 6 splashes of rosewater

Procedure

Make the optional rose-sugar rim by combining the sugar and dried rose petals in a small food processor, and whirling it around until the bits of rose are the same size as the sugar grains. Place on a saucer.

Dip your clean finger in water, and run it around the rim of 6 wine glasses. Dip the wet rim into the rose sugar, so that the sugar sticks to the rim.

Divide the wine between the glasses, pouring to avoid disturbing the rose-sugar rims. Pour a splash of rosewater into each glass thereafter.

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Categories: Cocktails, Drinks, Easy, Eat, Recipes, Series, The Secret Ingredient
 

The Secret Ingredient (Rosewater) Part II: Melon and Mozzarella Salad with Rosewater Vinaigrette and Crisp Prosciutto

RECIPE: Melon and Mozzarella Salad with Rosewater Vinaigrette and Crisp Prosciutto
Melon, Mozzarella, and Rose Salad

Melon, Mozzarella, and Rose Salad

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

This is an unusual dish that takes its cue from the traditional Italian cantaloupe and prosciutto. Bite-size balls of madras watermelon and cantaloupe are matched by tiny round bocconcini mozzarella. These three are tossed with a bright, heady rosewater vinaigrette, punctuated with chopped baby arugula, and topped with optional crispy slabs of prosciutto. Ham and melon will never be the same!

Melon and Mozzarella Salad with Rosewater Vinaigrette and Crisp Prosciutto
serves 4
Melon, Mozzarella, and Rose SaladIngredients
  • 4 thin slices prosciutto
  • 1/8 watermelon
  • 1/2 cantaloupe
  • 1 3/4 ounces bocconcini mozzarella
  • 1/3 cup arugula, lightly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons light olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon rose water
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup sugar (optional)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried roses (optional)
  • 1 bottle rosé wine, lightly chilled
  • About 6 splashes of rosewater

Procedure

Begin by crisping the prosciutto. While the oven preheats to 350 degrees F, lay the prosciutto, keeping it as whole as possible, on a baking sheet. Bake for about 16 minutes, until the ham is thoroughly crisp. It may take less or more time, depending on your oven and on the thinness of the meat, so check it every now and again. Once done, set aside to cool.

Then prepare the melons. Use a melon baller to carve out balls of melon the same size as the bite-size bocconcini balls.

Toss the balls of watermelon and cantaloupe, along with the balls of mozzarella, in a large bowl with the arugula.

Make the dressing by simply combining the olive oil, champagne vinegar, rosewater, salt, and pepper in a jar. Screw on the lid, and give the dressing a good shake. Dress the salad lightly; you may not use all the dressing. Toss everything together.

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The Secret Ingredient (Rosewater) Part I: Blackberries And Raspberries With Rose Sabayon

RECIPE: Blackberries and Raspberries with Rose Sabayon
Berries with Rose Sabayon

Berries with Rose Sabayon

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

The perfect topping for sweet-tart blackberries and raspberries is sweet sabayon. Raspberries and rose are like Tweedledee and Tweedledum—once you’ve seen them together, it’s hard to imagine one without the other. Sabayon is a frothy sweet foam made from egg yolks and sugar that looks straight out of the Cordon Bleu, but is probably the easiest impressive thing you’ll ever make. This is easy elegance.

Blackberries and Raspberries with Rose Sabayon
Berries with Rose SabayonIngredients
  • 24 ounces mixed raspberries and blackberries
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons rosewater
  • Pinch salt

Procedure

Begin by setting a sauce pot with a little bit of water in it to simmer.



Making sabayon is almost too easy. Simply place the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl, and use a hand mixer on a medium to high speed to beat the yolks together for a couple of minutes, until the sugar is incorporated, and the yolks begin to turn pale.

Set the bowl over the simmering water. The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water; the steam will provide the heat. Add the rosewater and salt to the yolk and sugar mixture.

Using the electric mixer, continue to beat the egg-sugar-rosewater combination until it becomes frothy and has doubled in volume, about 5 minutes. Take off the heat, and set aside.

Meanwhile, divide the berries into glasses or bowls. Pour the rose sabayon on top and enjoy.

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Categories: Desserts, Eat, Fruit, Recipes, Series, The Secret Ingredient, Vegetarian
 

French Revolution for Kindle!

French Revolution on Kindle

French Revolution on Kindle

It seems to me that knowledge and cooking have a lot in common.

Take Prometheus for example. In Greek mythology, the rascal gave fire to humanity, thus allowing us to cook (invaluable!), but also, symbolically, to think (also somewhat valuable).

So, it is quite apropos, I feel, that French Revolution is now available for monthly subscription on Kindle, Amazon‘s wireless electronic reading device. Whether this blog kindles your stove, or stokes the flame of your ever-expanding mind: I hope you’ll try it!

Click here to be taken to Amazon’s page for French Revolution to subscribe.

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