A Taste of Nice: Farmers’ Market Petits Farcis

Last Christmas, I spent a few days in the South of France with my family. We started in Marseille, where my mother was born and where she grew up, then made our way to Gould to spend the holidays with my uncle Philippe who lives there with his family. Afterwards, we made our way to Nice, on the French Riveria.
Le vieux port de NiceNice

France’s fifth largest city gets a pretty bad rep. It’s like the Florida of France, where grandparents retire (my grandmother herself considered moving there for a while) and older Brits winter. It’s no Cannes and it’s no Monaco. But it’s got a lot to offer: stunning Art Deco architecture, great museums (Chagall and Matisse both used to call Nice their home), the promenade des Anglais on the Mediterranean sea and, of course, great food! 

Marche de Nice 
Nice is a dream destination for hungry travelers and we certainly ate our way through all of city’s specialties: gelatto, socca, salade Niçoise, tarte aux blettes, Daube… we ate it all in the short amount of time that we had.

Nice SoccaIMG_2462Gelato nice

Well, almost. The one dish we simply couldn’t get our hands on – because it wasn’t the right season – was farcis niçois, and array of small stuffed (summer) vegetables, typically zucchinis, tomatoes and onions. So when I spotted some miniature patty pan squash at the Bloomingdale farmers’ market the other day, I decided I would just make my own petits farcis at home! I picked up most of the ingredients I needed at vendors throughout the market: bread at Panorama, pork sausage, tomatoes, zucchinis, parsley, patty pan squash and an onion. I grabbed parmesan and garlic at safeway and used olive oil and herbes de provence from my pantry.

Ingredients petits farcis

Here are the steps to make petits farcis:

  • First, scoop out the inside of the veggies. Start by cutting off the top and save it for presentation, using a spoon, remove the flesh of the vegetable so you can fill it with the stuffing. Reserve that flesh though, don’t toss it out. You may need to flatten up the bottom of the vegetables too so that they can stand in the cooking dish and the plates.
  • Next, make the stuffing: dice the onion and sauté in a few teaspoon of olive oil. Add about 1 tablespoon of chopped garlic. Once both the onions and garlic have softened, add the sausage meat and brown for 5 minutes. Add the flesh from the courgette, tomato, squash and any other vegetables that you are using and cook for an additional 2-3 minute before removing from the heat. Season with salt, pepper, and herbes de provence then mix in a little bit of chopped parsley (to taste), a quarter of a cup of grated parmesan, and half a cup of breadcrumbs (preferably homemade.)
  • Finally, put it all together: place the hollowed out vegetables in a baking dish (grease it with a little olive oil first) and spoon the sausage stuffing carefully inside them. Drizzle with a little bit more olive oil and bake at 400F for 30-45 minutes, or until brown. Make sure you don’t overcook them, the vegetables should still be holding their shape.
  • Last but not least: serve with the little hats from the vegetables and a glass of your favourite rosé!

Petits farcisPetits farcis

Travel Highlights from 2014

2014 was a great year for me travel-wise. I made it home to France not once, but twice. I made the most out of a few work trips in New York, Chicago, Raleigh, Boca Raton and Austin, Texas. I even tested out Icelandair’s “the best part of a trip to Paris is Iceland” advertisement by doing a stop-over in Reyjkavik on my way back from Paris. The highlight of last year, though, was traveling to Brazil to cheer on my beloved Bleus during the World Cup, a trip I had been planning for and looking forward to for the past 3 years.

MAKING THE MOST OUT OF WORK TRIPS 

Chicago (and New York before that) happened in the dead of winter. For Chicago, I think I got to go because none of my colleagues were crazy enough to go there for a frozen 36-hour trip. But I really like Chicago and I can’t wait to go back. In the summer.

Chicago

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I couldn’t justify renting a car in Austin since the event I was there for was at the hotel where I was staying, and unfortunately that hotel was not in the center of the city. As a result I didn’t get to see much of Austin as I would have to, but I did get to have some great BBQ and some fun food like Texas shaped waffles and Texas wine, at the Vino Volo at the airport of course.

Texas shape waffle

Texas wine flight

For Raleigh, it was really a combination fun and work since we have quite a few DC friends that somehow ended up there and we actually ended up going on 2 separate occasions. Since I’ve never owned a car (and didn’t have a car growing up in Paris either) I’m absolutely OBSESSED with road trips. It’s weird, I know. But my favourite part of the trips to Raleigh was driving down, through Richmond, VA, with my husband. I really would like to do more road trips in 2015. You know, with my imaginary car 😉

Welcome to North Carolina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had been to Charlotte, of course, in 2014 for the Democratic National Convention, but Raleigh is quite different. I loved touring Duke University, especially the Sarah P. Duke gardens and fell in love with the North Carolina Art Museum. Also with LaFarm’s white chocolate chip baguette. SO good!

Rodin Gardens

Duke University

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I didn’t love Boca Raton as much, but it was still nice to spend a whole week in Florida. Even if I spent most of it indoor for our annual conference (helped that it was at the gorgeous Boca Raton Resort), I did spend a few hours on a beach before my flight, and checked out Whale’s Ribs of Drives-and-Dives-In fame. The oysters were cheap… but also tasteless. The bloody marys on the other end…

BRAZIL 2014 

Raleigh, Austin, Boca… those were nice trips. But of course, the one trip I was really (really really really) looking forward to was heading to Brazil for the World Cup. That trip was expensive, it required a lot of advance planning, entering of lotteries etc. Was it worth it? YES! Absolutely. For me. My husband probably thinks differently (maybe I should have tried to squeeze in one US game in there…) It certainly wasn’t an easy trip for us as a couple and we learned a lot about traveling together. We both disliked our stay in Belo Horizonte, though we adored the smaller town of Ouro Preto. We loved Rio, though I wish we’d stayed closer to Ipanema or Copacabana, instead of downtown.

IMG_3956 IMG_2869 Lapa

IMG_3352

One of the highlights of the trip, for me, (I mean, not that watching France NOT score a single goal for 180 minutes wasn’t thrilling) was Iguazu Falls and crossing the border into Argentina for a quick day trip to see the falls on the other side. There’s a triple-border spot formed naturally by the convergence of the Parana River and the Iguazu River. Right there, you can literally stand between Brazil and Argentina, with Paraguay in the backdrop. I absolutely loved that spot!

IMG_4014IMG_4016IMG_4017

And while the whole idea behind going to Brazil was that we wouldn’t be making it to Russia or Qatar, I learned so much in my first World Cup experience that I think the next one can only be better. Privyet Russia 2018?

HOME SWEET HOME 

IMG_9442

PAR_8924

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I feel very lucky that I got to go to Paris not once but twice last year. I caught up with family, and my ever changing hometown. I went to the ballet at the stunning Opera Garnier with my dad and showed my husband some of my old haunts. I fell in love with Paris’ newest monument, la Fondation Louis Vuitton, and discovered the new offspring of its most famous museum (that would be the Louvre Lens, you can read more about it here). I had some great coffee at adorable new spots in the Marais and the Canal Saint Martin area and ate WAY too many pastries 😉

IMG_1018IMG_1002IMG_1021

IMG_1371

I even got to show my husband a little bit of the country outside of France when we traveled to the South of France to spend Christmas at my uncle’s house in Goult and visited many cute small villages along the way (as well as the not-so-small “villages” of Avignon, Marseille and Nice.)

IMG_2014 IMG_2492 IMG_2071IMG_2066

THE BEST PART OF A TRIP TO PARIS IS ICELAND?

Finally, I took my husband on a bit of his dream trip, which meant meeting up in Reyjkavik for Thanksgiving. I have a feeling we’ll be back and explore more of Iceland in the future (I mean, I’m going to keep visiting Paris… so as long as Icelandair keeps offering that awesome stop-over deal… Iceland trips are going to be in our future.).

IMG_9555

IMG_9852IMG_9805

IMG_0117

Unlike Brazil, that trip was just easy. We booked some guided excursions, which I never do and despite some of my friends advising me to just rent a car and do it ourself. If there’s anything I learned in Brazil, it’s that it’s ok, occasionally, and it did prove to be the right travel choice for us at that particular time. I’m not saying we’ll always go with organized tours, but that it can be worth it to save yourself the hassle of doing it all yourself sometimes…

When I first started writing this post, I didn’t have a lot to look forward to travel-wise for 2015. I had such an amazing travel year in 2014 that it seems greedy to expect even half of that for 2015. And yet, I want more! So far, outside of a quick work trip to New York in early February (I already have reservations for Meow Parlor!) and another to Vegas for our national conference, I don’t really have anything concrete.  But here are some of my travel thoughts. I used to live in Montreal and I haven’t been back in ages. And Canada happens to be hosting the Women Football World Cup next summer so I’d love to make that happen (bonus: NO lottery to get tickets to games!!) I also have friends getting married in France and Finland in August and September, and while the 2 weddings are too close together to make both happen, I’d like to make at least one happen (if it’s Finland, I’m making it to Saint Petersburg this time!) Also, last week I won a 4 nights stay at a brand new hotel in Cancun through Expedia’s #TravelChat, so it looks like as soon as we can figure out flights, we’ll be headed to the dream relaxing beach vacation my husband has always wanted… and maybe we’ll rent a car and take a road trip to a new US destination as well…

What were your 2014 travel highlights? Any exciting plans already for 2015?

A Taste of South of France: Pissaladière

I’ve been looking to the food of South of France lately in my attempt to prolong summer as much as possible. In particular, I’ve recently rediscovered a dish I used to love: the pissaladière.

Pissaladière is a classic dish from Nice. It’s basically Southern France’s answer to pizza. One of the key ingredients in pissaladière, anchovies, are unfortunately not the most popular in the United States. But I personally love the intense flavours and saltiness of the pissaladière and it’s actually very easy to make at home.

pissaladiere, french food, french pizza, southern France food

Only a few ingredients are needed to make a pissaladière:

  • Caramelized onions (use 2-3 sliced yellow onions)
  • Niçoise olives (use other black, preferably oil-cured olives if you can’t find niçoises)
  • Anchovies (consider rinsing them under cold water if using canned ones)
  • Olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper
  • Pizza dough (store bought, or make your own using this recipe)

Warning: all of these ingredients combined make for a rather NSFW dish 😉

Step one for pissaladière is making the pizza dough, or rolling it out if you’re using a store bought dough. Place on an oiled baking sheet and pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees F.

To caramelize the onions, heat 2-3 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan and cook the onions over low heat for 40 minutes, until they are gold, soft and tender. Be very careful not to burn them. Before taking the onions off the heat add 2 teaspoons of thyme and some salt and pepper. Then, spoon the caramelized onions on top of the rolled out pizza dough and artfully arrange the anchovies and olives on top. Brush the edge of the pizza dough with a little olive oil and place in the oven for 15 minutes or until crisp. Simple as that.

I like to keep my pissaladière but Martha Stewart adds strips of tomatoes to her recipe and Kai Chun, senior editor at Food & Wine magazine, makes an interesting version with avocado, though there can definitely variations on the traditional recipe. All should be paired with a clean, refreshing, provence rosé, like  (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s) Château Miraval 2013, to pretend fall is still far away!