The drive up the Cote d’Azur, the French Riviera, to Nice has got to be one of the world’s most beautiful of waterfront drives. That and the North Shore Drive up the coast of Lake Superior in Minnesota- that happens to be one of my favorite of coastal drives (yes, I am a native Minnesotan. But it is beautiful!).
The blues of the Mediterranean Sea are striking. Blue-greens turn to turquoise and turquoise to deep royal blue hues that blend with the crisp blues in the skies. The beaches are full of people sunbathing in partial birthday suits. Beach umbrellas are scattered throughout the pebble beaches that stretch into Nice. Modest fishing boats mix with palatial yachts and the occasional cruise ship can be seen off in the distance.
The expansive waterfront walkway in Nice, the Promenade des Anglais, walkway of the English, allows for a leisurely stroll along the beachfront on one side with beautiful turn of the century buildings and art deco designed luxury hotels on the other side. The “Prom” was built in the late 18th century for the wealthy British who would come spend their winters in the beautiful climate and pristine beaches of Nice. This day in September is just about perfect with its breezes and warm sunshine.
The city center is bustling with a cosmopolitan population shopping in designer boutiques and eating at outdoor bistros. The town center of Nice is a mixture of Belle-Epoque architecture with new city amenities. A light rail system and stunning black and white walkways help make this town square lively and inviting.
Old Town (Vieux Nice) is located just off the center square and situated slightly lower than the newer built city. Meandering through the narrow 16th century streets, we find little shops, brasseries, apartments and churches. As we climb Castle Hill, the city starts to come into full view. This once ancient city has grown into a thriving metropolis. Castle Hill was the original Nice which was a fortified city built by the Celtic Ligurians. I just love history!
Our tour of this splendid and magical city was nearing its end. The only thing that was left for me to do was to eat a Salade Nicoise in its birthplace. We traveled back to the city center where we enjoyed a scrumptious Nicoise salad, a very large bowl of les frites (French fries) and a carafe of house rose at a lovely restaurant, Le Quebec. Full of anchovies, tuna, eggs, onions, and even cucumbers, I was reminded of the controversy and debate over exactly which ingredients are in a traditional Nicoise salad. I was suddenly anxious to return to the apartment and commence my research into the history and true ingredients of the delicious salad I just consumed.
So what exactly is a Nicoise salad and what goes into making one?
A Nicoise salad is simply a salad that is made with the freshest ingredients that are naturally found in the Provence region of France. Most chefs and people agree on a few “mandatory” ingredients and those are usually eggs, tuna and/or anchovies, onions, lettuce, bell peppers, green beans and, of course, tiny black Nicoise olives and olive oil. Some chefs say to never use tuna AND anchovies; some say potatoes should never be used and even the type of lettuce is debated-Boston, mixed greens or arugula. I got so overwhelmed with my “research” of this lovely salad that I decided to settle on sharing a recipe from one of my favorite French cooks- my husband.
Hugues’ Salade Nicoise
1 head of butter lettuce, rinsed and torn
2 large tomatoes, boiled and peeled and sliced
1 large handful of fresh green beans, blanched
5 small white baby potatoes, boiled-do not peel
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 small white onion, very thinly sliced
3-4 radishes, sliced
1 handful of fresh chives, chopped
½ cup of black olives
1 can of tuna in oil, rinsed
1 can of anchovies, rinsed
2 eggs, boiled and cut into wedges
Assemble all of your ingredients in a delightful and eye pleasing manner (your creative choice!)
3 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon of red wine vinegar
1 large shallot, minced
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
Pinches of salt and pepper
Mix well and pour over salad. Serve and enjoy.
I almost forgot…make sure to serve with a glass of nicely chilled rose from Provence!
- 1 head of butter lettuce, rinsed and torn
- 2 large tomatoes, boiled and peeled and sliced
- 1 large handful of fresh green beans, blanched
- 5 small white baby potatoes, steamed-do not peel
- 1 red bell pepper, julienned
- 1 small white onion, very thinly sliced
- 3-4 radishes, sliced
- 1 handful of fresh chives, chopped
- ½ cup of black olives
- 1 can of tuna in oil, rinsed
- 1 can of anchovies, rinsed
- 2 eggs, boiled and cut into wedges
- 3 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon of red wine vinegar
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
- Pinches of salt and pepper
- Assemble all of your ingredients in a delightful and eye pleasing manner (your creative choice!)
- Mix dressing ingredients well and pour over salad. Serve and enjoy.