Salade d’Antibes

July 18, 2009

Salad freshens without enfeebling and fortifies without irritating.
~Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Nestled between Nice and Cannes, Antibes was an ancient Greek fortified town named Antipolis (possibly meaning “opposite the point of Nice”) which later blossomed into a Roman town…always an active port for trading along the Mediterranean. The Greeks had a tenuous grip on the coast, with threatening Ligurian tribes crowded around the outskirts, and galleons and galleys moored in the sheltered waters.

In the late 5th century, when the Roman empire fell, barbarians invaded the region with Vandals, Visigoths, Burgundians, Ostrogoths and Franks all having their turn at pillage and plunder. In medieval times, Antibes was ruled by the Lords of Grasse, and later by the Bishops of Antibes. By the end of the 14th century, Antibes was on the Franco-Savoyard frontier, and in 1383, the Pope of Avignon bequeathed Antibes to the Grimaldi family of Cagnes.

Home to the inspiring Picasso Museum, the natural beauty of Antibes has been retained in the vieille ville (old town), with ramparts along the sea and the long, arched protective wall traversing the port.

On the west end of Antibes is Cap d’Antibes and the enchanted La Baie de La Garoupe with quaint restaurants rimming golden beaches overlooking the tranquil and ever shimmering Meditteranean—replete with the sheen of oleaginous semi clad bodies. Several years ago, on a warm sunny day there, I shared a cold salad at a pastel umbrella’d restaurant which has always captured my memory. Below is a humble attempt to replicate.

SALADE D’ANTIBES—CANTALOUPE, CORN, ET AL.

1 ripe cantaloupe, seeded, peeled and diced
2-3 ears fresh corn, shucked and cleaned
1 C serrano ham, diced
1 red pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced
2 poblano peppers, stemmed, seeded and diced
1 medium red onion, peeled, and diced
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced

1/3 C fresh mint leaves, chopped
1/3 C fresh cilantro, chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

The cantaloupe, serrano ham, peppers, onion and tomatoes should be diced in fairly small cubes of fairly uniform size and in somewhat similar quantities.

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the corn for 1 minute. Briefly drain and immerse corn in ice water to stop the cooking and to set the color. Promptly remove and dry well. When the corn is cool, cut the kernels off the cob.

Combine corn kernels with cantaloupe, ham, peppers, onion, tomatoes mint and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper lightly.

3 garlic cloves
1 1/2 T dijon mustard
1 t sea salt
1 t freshly ground pepper
1/4 C apple cider vinegar
1 C olive oil

Pound the garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt with a mortar and pestle or smash with the side of a large chef knife with salt. In a bowl, combine the garlic, mustard, vinegar, a pinch of salt and a grinding of black pepper. Vigorously whisk in the olive oil in a narrow stream until it emulsifies, remove garlic, and adjust seasoning to your liking.

Toss vegetable mixture well with vinaigrette, let it rest for several hours in the refrigerator, and then serve.

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Soupe Au Pistou

June 13, 2009

So, how do you grant shrift to spellbinding Provence? Note to Will: brevity is not always the soul of wit (whit).

Simply identify it as Provençal: Provença in classical norm or Prouvènço in Mistralian norm, a region of southeastern France? In a droning museum voice name it as a host to Paleolithic sites dating to 900,000 B.C? Call it home to a permanent Greek settlement called Massalia, established at modern day Marseilles in about 600 B.C. by colonists coming from Phocaea (now Foça, on the Aegean coast in modern Turkey)? Christen it the first Roman province outside of Italy? Baptize it as the “annex” of the formerly Italian Roman Catholic papacy which moved to Avignon in the 14th Century? Title it an abode to the souls of Cézanne, van Gogh, Renoir, Matisse, Chagall, and Picasso? Or just not so blandly classify it as a region that comprises the départements of Var, Vaucluse, and Bouches-du-Rhône and parts of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and Alpes-Maritimes?

So many missteps, so much left out. Such is the construct of a blog. But, beyond cavil or retort, Provence and Italy are viscerally intermingled. Consider something as simple as pizzas or the subtle difference between pesto vs. pistou. Sans pine nuts, they are still divinely intertwined.

Soupe au pistou is a more than memorable Provençal soup that is brimming with summer garden bounty…gifts from friends at the market. Thanks, John, et al.

Footnote:
see I am Sam, Sam I am, infra for pesto.

SOUPE AU PISTOU

1/2 C dried lima or white beans
Bouquet garni I: bay leaves, fresh sprigs of parsley, thyme, and basil twined together
3 T extra virgin olive oil
3 plump, fresh garlics, peeled and minced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Pistou:
6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
Pinch of sea salt
3 C fresh basil leaves, washed
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil

1/3 C extra virgin olive oil
3 medium leeks, white part only, cut lengthwise, then into thin half rings
2 medium onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
8 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and very thinly sliced (almost shaven)

2 medium carrots, trimmed, peeled and cut into half discs
1/2 fennel bulb, finely chopped
4 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
Bouquet garni II: bay leaves, fresh sprigs of parsley, thyme, and basil twined together

2 medium zucchini, trimmed and chopped
2 tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 C diminutive pasta such as ditalini, conchigliette or acini di pepe

1 C freshly grated parmiggiano reggiano
1 C freshly grated gruyère

Rinse beans and remove any imperfections. Place the beans in a large bowl and add boiling water to cover. Set aside for 1 hour. Drain the beans.

In a large, heavy saucepan, stir together the olive oil, garlic and bouquet garni. Cook over medium heat until garlic is soft, about 2 minutes. Add the beans and stir to coat with oil and garlic. Cook an additional minute, then add 1 quart of water. Stir, then cover, bring to a simmer and cook approximately 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove and discard bouquet garni I. Set beans aside.

Meanwhile, combine garlic, salt and basil in a food processor or blender or a mortar and process in bursts to a paste. Drizzle in olive oil in a thin, continuous stream while processing. Stir to blend well. Set the pistou aside.

In a large heavy stockpot or Dutch oven, combine the leeks, onions, and garlic over low heat and cook until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally. Do not brown or burn. Add the carrots, fennel, potatoes, and bouquet garni II to the pot, and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Remove and discard bouquet garni II. Now, add the beans and their cooking liquid, the zucchini and tomatoes, along with 2 quarts of water to the pot. Simmer gently, uncovered, about 20 minutes.

Add the pasta and simmer, uncovered, until the pasta is cooked, about 10 minutes. Remove and discard bouquet garni II. Stir in half of the pistou and half of the cheese.

Serve soup, passing remaining pistou and cheeses at the table.