Cuisine Nicoise: Sun-kissed Cooking from the French Riviera


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 ...

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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,,, 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.

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

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Editorial Reviews

New York Journal of Books - Sharon Kebschull Barrett

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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781423632948
  • Publisher: Smith, Gibbs Publisher
  • Publication date: 8/1/2013
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 462,641
  • Product dimensions: 11.28 (w) x 8.68 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Meet the Author

When Hillary Davis first saw the hilltop village of Bar-sur-Loup in the south of France, she knew it was going to be her home. Her love for the area and its style of cooking grew into a mission to accumulate and document what she believed was an "unsung" regional cuisine that deserved to be brought to light. She lovingly gathered recipes from neighbors and friends, took cooking classes with them, dined in restaurants and visited open-air markets and farmers for over eleven years. This cookbook, Cuisine Niçoise, is the result of her passion. Hillary Davis is a food writer, cooking instructor, and creator of the popular food blog, Marché Dimanche.

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Read an Excerpt

Usually made very small, as if they were to be the filling for ravioli but without the dough, tout nus are often presented with a drizzle of olive oil and some grated cheese. They are always made with spinach, rice, and ground meat. This is what I was told by the best-looking waiter I have ever seen, so I listened very carefully!

Why were we on the topic of naked meatballs? I was ordering lunch in a small bistro after shopping in Antibes when I saw a dish go by and smelled an aroma worth following. Gazing up at the waiter, I asked what it was. He smiled and announced in French and English, “Tout nus! Naked meatballs!” He told me it was a traditional Niçoise dish that the owner’s mother made for the restaurant on special days, and this was my lucky day. Would I like some?
Mais oui!

What I loved about them was that they had a slight sweetness, a hint of orange, and they were topped not with olive oil and cheese but with a rich tomato sauce spiked with red wine.

I said my farewell, waived my thanks to the owner’s mother peering around the kitchen door, and when I was a few steps away took out a piece of paper and a pen and wrote down my immediate impressions of what I thought the recipe might be.

I have arrived at a happy place. My naked meatballs taste pretty close to the restaurant’s, helped along by the addition of a little orange marmalade. I like to make mine larger, serving four per person in a row on a rectangular plate, with some tomato sauce ladled down the side to drag them through before eating. The only thing missing is a handsome waiter.

Makes 24 medium-size meatballs

Naked Meat Balls Les Tout Nus

3/4 cup water

1/4 cup rice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

4 cloves garlic, minced, divided

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

3 teaspoons fine sea salt, divided

1/2 pound ground beef

1/2 pound ground pork

1 (9-ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed very dry

2 eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons orange marmalade

1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

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Table of Contents

11 Introduction

17 Niçoise Ingredients

Beginnings Les Entrées

26 Swiss Chard Stems Stuffed with Tuna

29 House Olives

32 Torn Socca with Sea Salt and Black Pepper

34 Fresh Herb Cheese with Honey and Toast

35 Fried Salt Cod Balls

36 Chilled Mussels with Tarragon Shallot Mayonnaise

38 Nicolas Rondelli’s Frivolities

43 Asparagus with Soft-Boiled Egg Dip

44 Naked Meat Balls

46 Pistachio Parmesan Chickpea Fries

48 Stephan’s Fish Toasts

50 Uncle Johns

52 Mini Pan Bagnat


Les Soupes

56 Cantaloupe Soup with Raw Beet Salad

58 Cloudlike Chicken Basil Lemon Soup

59 Creamless Creamy Chickpea and Sage Purée

60 Madame’s Spinach, Pea, and Pecorino Romano Soup

61 Shrimp and Fish Soup with Toast and Rouille

64 Celery Root Rémoulade Soup with Celery Leaf Salad

66 Sébastien Broda’s Cream of Pumpkin Soup with Lemon

67 Chilled Red Pepper, Orange, and Yogurt Soup with Parsley Salad

68 Vegetable Pistou Soup

71 Lentil Swiss Chard Soup with Orange Zest

72 Rustic Garlic and Sage Soup

75 Vegetable Soup over Toast with Poached Egg

Pastas, Risotto, Pizzas

Les Pâtes, Les Risottos, Les Pizzas

100 Food Processor Fresh Pasta

102 Pasta Party with Three Sauces

104 Egg Noodles

105 Angel Hair Pasta with Friday Sauce

106 Swiss Chard Gnocchi

108 Risotto with Parmesan, Ricotta and Lemon

109 Niçoise Macaroni

110 Goat Cheese Ravioli with Wild Mushrooms

113 Savory Rice Pudding with Spinach and Parmesan

114 Pissaladière

116 Menton Tomato and Onion Pizza

118 Vegetable Garden Pizza

120 Pizza From the Sea


Les Légumes

124 Broccoli Polenta with Tomato Sauce

126 Niçoise Zucchini Tian

128 Little Stuffed Vegetables

131 Chickpea, Eggplant and Zucchini Fritters

133 Swiss Chard with Pears, Raisins, and Candied Garlic

134 Braised Fennel

136 Baked Stuffed Zucchini Flowers with Tomato Sauce

138 Chickpea Crêpes Stuffed with Niçoise Ratatouille

140 Vegetables with Anchovy Dip

142 Deep-Fried Vegetables with Sage

144 Roasted Winter Vegetables with Polenta Parmesan Croutons

Easy Weeknights

Les Dîners en Semaine

148 Tuna in Rosé Wine over Tagliatelle

150 Honey and Vermouth-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Fig Vinaigrette Salad

152 Vegetables and Hard-Boiled Eggs with Hot Anchovy and Garlic Dip

154 Grilled Swordfish over Rice in Vierge Sauce

156 One-Pan Chicken Dinner

158 Mussels in Creamy Pernod Sauce

160 Niçoise Stuffed Fresh Sardines

162 Lamb Sauté with Ratatouille Sauce and Potatoes

164 Shrimp with Lemony Aïoli

165 Niçoise Cod

166 Egg Noodles with Chicken, Anchovies, Olives and Mushrooms

169 Mountain Trout in Wine Sauce with Mushrooms

170 Swiss Chard Omelette

Sunday Suppers

Les Dîners de Dimanche

174 Caramelized Pork Roast with Olive Jam

176 Tour de France Zucchini Pie

178 Chicken with Boiled Vegetables and Aïoli

180 Duck with Bigarade Orange Sauce and Duck Fat–Roasted Potatoes

182 Pistou Tomato Tart in a Basil Crust

184 Pavé of Salmon with Summer Vegetables, White Wine Sabayon

186 Niçoise Beef Stew

188 Pascal Bardet’s Fish Fillets in Saffron-Scented Broth

190 Stuffed Sea Bass

192 Walnut-Crusted Croustades with Wild Mushrooms and Scrambled Eggs

194 Bone-In Rib Steaks with Roasted Marrowbones

196 Lamb Stew with Artichokes, String Beans, and Lime

198 “To Catch a Thief” Braised Pork

200 Salt Cod Stew

Sweet Endings

Les Desserts

205 The Cheese Plate

206 Peach and Raspberry Salad with Dark Chocolate Sorbet

208 Frozen Fresh Fig Mousse with White Wine Caramel Sauce

210 Giant Mocha Meringues

212 Anise Cookies

214 Honey Spice Loaf from Gourdon

217 Madame’s Peaches and Cream Tart

218 Nutella Orange and Rum Mousse

219 Almond-Orange Polenta Squares

220 Sweet Carnival Fritters

222 Limoncello Cake with Towering Meringue

224 Fruit Cake with Pistachios

226 Absinthe Mousse with Fennel Frond Brittle

229 Sweet Swiss Chard Tart

230 Tasting Plate: Candied Orange Peel, Chocolate Marzipan Rocks, Fresh Chestnut Candies

233 Acknowledgments

234 Index

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