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Cuisine Nicoise: Sun-kissed Cooking from the French Riviera Hardcover – August 1, 2013
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Some books can win a reader over by simply looking “right.” Cuisine Niçoise does just that: This lovely book design perfectly fits its theme of French Riviera cooking and the sweet, slightly mysterious stories that go with the recipes.
Without getting precious, author Hillary Davis takes readers in to a life that sounds sun-kissed year round.
Better yet, the recipes meet the expectations the design sets up. Some of the recipes will feel familiar to experienced and well-read (or well-traveled) cooks, but readers will forgive those for their evocative headnotes. And many others provide startling twists. You may have made a cold cantaloupe soup before, but did you top it with a raw beet salad? And was it as simple as this recipe, with just seven ingredients and eight sentences of instructions? (Readers weary of many of today’s cookbooks that call for components pulled from multiple other recipes will appreciate the self-contained nature of even the longer recipes in this book.)
Ms. Davis, who lived in the village of Bar-sur-Loup for 11 years, notes that even after traveling extensively, living in Paris for two years, and spending years cooking from books on the cuisines of Normandy, Alsace, Provence, and other regions, she had never encountered the term “cuisine Nicoise.”
Seeing Niçoise style as “the most ideal culinary match of Italian and French traditions,” Ms. Davis decided it needed larger exposure in a cookbook of its own. Unlike the cooking of other French regions, which can be found elsewhere in the country, cuisine Niçoise remains hard to find outside of the area around Nice, she says.
Have you, for example, ever had Swiss chard “sandwiches” of fried stalks wrapped around a tuna filling? As above, this has just eight ingredients (one of which is salt) and quick instructions, perfect for a casual appetizer with friends congregating in the kitchen.
How about naked meatballs spiked with orange marmalade? Garlic and sage soup with pasta? Candied olive polenta? Chard with pears, raisins, and candied garlic?
Or return to the familiar; the headnote about trees “pregnant” with figs will pull readers in to a recipe for lightly roasted figs with a fig dressing. Often in these it’s the little details that matter anyway―chilled mussels with tarragon mayonnaise may not be overly exotic, but the detail of pulling off the top shells, leaving them resting in the bottom shells to serve, sells the recipe―like the bare touch of anise extract in that fig salad.
Vegetables and fish take up much of the space in this book, and deservedly so, nearly all with very simple preparations. As well as chapters on appetizers, soups, salads, pastas, and vegetables, Ms. Davis offers “easy weeknight” and “Sunday suppers” chapters, filled with more vegetables and fish, as well as some pork and chicken dishes.
Ms. Davis also includes appreciated variations on traditional recipes; for small fried turnovers known as “Uncle Johns,” she substitutes puff pastry for fresh egg pasta, baking instead of frying (though with instructions for using pasta as well). And not all the recipes come from generations of Niçoise grandmothers; Ms. Davis includes some from up-and-coming chefs as well, and includes contact information for restaurants and vendors she favors.
By the end of the desserts chapter, with its frozen fresh fig mousse with white wine caramel sauce dancing or giant mocha meringues, this golden-tinted book with its perfect illustrations and photos offers a fantasy of French village life that likely can’t possibly be as sweet and sunny as it seems―but readers will happily buy into the dream and dig into the food.
Reviewer Sharon Kebschull Barrett is a food writer and the author of two cookbooks, Desserts from an Herb Garden and Morning Glories (St. Martin’s Press). She is also the owner of Dessert First, a custom bakehouse.(Sharon Kebschull Barrett New York Journal of Books 2013-08-13)
From the Inside Flap
Niçoise cooking―from the region of Nice and surrounding countryside―is vibrant and healthy, with an emphasis on vegetables and fish. It is honest, simple and frugal, based on what is available from the nearby land and the sea. It is designed with olive oil rather than butter and cream; is light rather than bathed in rich sauces. There is less beef and more lamb, pork, rabbit, wild game, duck and chicken. And it depends on fresh, locally sourced produce. You can’t speak about cuisine Niçoise without mentioning the local farmer or fisherman.
Davis lived on the French Riviera/Côte d'Azur for more than eleven years, learning how to cook cuisine Niçoise from neighbors in her village, friends, cutting-edge chefs, and a host of characters she met. She brings the Niçoise culture and style of cooking to vivid life with her stories of learning how to forage, harvesting olives from the trees in her backyard, buying fresh every day from local farmers and open-air markets, and spending Sundays cooking and eating with friends. Her cast of characters include her cooking mentor, Madame up the hill; Dave, the wild Australian superyacht captain with a penchant for cooking; the village priest; Lady Sarah and her hens; and Pamela, with the ruby-studded stone house.
More than a cookbook, Cuisine Niçoise is a tale, a story, a dream. It is a delight for armchair travelers and cooks, as Davis engagingly describes the villages around her, her favorite markets, where to find locally made pottery, village festivals, museums, and a way of life that many would love to experience.
Exquisite photography from Steven Rothfeld, a worldclass photographer, sensuously evokes the colors and aromas found in this sunny corner of France.
Hillary Davis, food journalist, cooking instructor, and writer and creator of the popular food blog Marché Dimanche, is a longtime food columnist and restaurant critic for New Hampshire Magazine and her work has been featured in Connecticut Home Living, Hartford Magazine, Tastes of New England, ParisLuxe.com, eGuideTravel.com, and other regional, national, and international publications. She has appeared on numerous television and radio programs in London and the United States. She is the author of the critically acclaimed book A Million A Minute and has been a food and travel lecturer on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruise lines. As a food authority, she is a frequent judge of cooking competitions and a speaker at food and blogging events. Davis has lived in France for over thirteen years, including two years in Paris and more than eleven years in the village of Bar-sur-Loup. She holds degrees from Columbia University and Cambridge University in England. www.Hillary-Davis.com
Steven Rothfeld is a world-class photographer specializing in luxury imagery. His book credits include The Tuscan Sun Cookbook, Bringing Tuscany Home, Simply French, In the Shade of the Vines, Entrez, The French Cook―Sauces, and Hungry for France. He divides his time between destinations throughout the world and his home in Napa Valley. Please visit www.stevenrothfeld.com.
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Cuisine Nicoise did not disappoint! There is a brief story with every recipe which I find so endearing, like Hillary herself is sitting and going over the recipes with me. The pictures are beautiful and the recipes are for the most part, no fuss and very inviting.
First up for me will be a batch of the Swiss Chard Gnocchi with Gogonzola Sauce on pages 106/107, as my CSA is keeping me well stocked in Chard at the moment.
Gnocchi you say, in a French Cookbook? The coast of Italy being its close neighbor, it makes perfect sense.
We spent the 2012/13 holidays in Paris and came home saying that The South of France might be a possibility in the coming year. After reading through Cusine Nicoise and 'seeing it' described by Hillary -- it's time to book our airfare & line up a house rental for our holidays!
Niçoise cuisine and offers recipes for all the traditional foods, including socca and panisse, personal favorites of mine. At the same time, she has mined her friends and neighbors for their specialties so the book has variations on some well-known themes.
Even if you own other books on this cuisine, you will want this one too.
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