There is a French proverb I like: Qui se ressemble, s’assemble. (Birds of a feather flock together)
All of the French friends I have in the US are from the South, in particular the city of Nice.
I guess we have much in common.
The mediterranean, for one, the cuisine, the landscape, the outlook on life and people in general.
My very dear friend, a Niçoise, Marcelle Dupuy Orlic, gave me a present the other day, saying ” I know this is a book you will like“
It is a cookbook on authentic, traditional cuisine from Nice, France; the recipes are in both French and Niçois, the dialect from Nice. The cookbook was written by none other than the famous (former) mayor of that city, Jacques Médecin.
I felt like I had just been given a beautiful bracelet from Tiffani’s.
Reading this book, which also contains historical anecdotes on each Niçois dish, made me realize the huge influence that Niçoise cuisine has had, not only throughout France and Europe, but in North America and the rest of the world as well. (Especially in California, where the climate is similar).
Think: tapénade, the black olive and anchovy pesto from Nice, or ratatouille, or tian or salade niçoise, or all the basil-flavored or artichoke or eggplant or swiss chard dishes.
Did you know mesclun salad came from Nice? (mescla is a niçoisverb meaning to mix).
Take Pan Bagnat, Nice‘s most famous sandwich; with its fresh fava beans, tiny fresh artichokes, green peppers and onions, basil, black olives, tomatoes and cucumbers, anchovies (or tuna) and hard-boiled eggs. Serve in a round 8-inch bread with a garlic and olive oil dressing.
This could easily be from Beirut, judging by the ingredients. It is served in Beirut at a lot of cafés, in different interpretations, as well as the salade niçoise, from which pan bagnat originated.
Pan Bagnat is not French, it is Niçois; (It means “wetted bread” in that dialect).
INGREDIENTS: 2 to 4 sandwiches
4 eggs, hard-boiled, peeled and cut in slices
1/2 cup of Niçoise olives or any small black olives
2 large tomatoes, cut in slices
2 cloves of garlic to rub the bread with
olive oil, as needed
6 baby artichokes, steamed and hearts cut in slices (or use a can)
6 small baby onions (or scallions)
1 small box of anchovies or a can of tuna, drained (or use anchovy paste)
6 Basil leaves
2 green pepper, sliced in rings
1 cup of small fresh fava beans, steamed till tender
2 or more small cucumbers, sliced
salt, pepper, as needed
a touch of lemon juice or vinegar
a touch of sumac (optional)
Rub a cut garlic clove on the bread.
Cut all the vegetables in slices and layer on the bread with the basil and the anchovies or the tuna.
Dress the sandwich with some olive oil and a tiny bit of vinegar. Sprinkle some sumac (optional). Serve.
NOTE: Adding the sumac is my own Lebanese twist on it; a good way to incorporate it into the salad is to douse it on the sliced onions, or to mix it with the dressing.
Jacques Médecin is adamant that one should use either anchovies or tuna, never both!
Also, if you are wondering why it is called “wetted bread”, it is because originally bite-size bread croutons were doused in tomato juice and olive oil and added to the salade niçoise; this tradition evolved into a sandwich the pan bagnat, which was composed of all the ingredients of the salade niçoise.
Recipe for Pan Bagnat from La Cuisine du Comté de Nice de Jacques Médecin