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~ French Riviera-Style Tomato Sauce "a la Nicoise" ~

PICT2740"A la Nicoise" (nee-swahz) is the French phrase meaning "as prepared in Nice", typifying the food found in and around the French Riviera city of Nice.  Be it hot or cold seasonal cuisine, their cooking style is identified with a few integral ingredients which include:  tomatoes, garlic, olives and olive oil.  Anchovies and/or tuna, fresh or canned, are also common additions.  The famous "salade nicoise" contains these basic ingredients, plus: haricot vert (French green beans), onions, tuna, hard cooked eggs and herbs!

Summer1Back in 1997, I took a series of rather intensive French cooking classes which were taught by Chef Eric Sarnow, formerly of Le Bec-Fin in Philadelphia.  He and his wife Claudia had moved to Central Pennsylvania (Spring Mills to be specific), to open their own restaurant which they named The Hummingbird Room. LogoThe restaurant was an instant success, and, a few years later, when Eric decided to open up his restaurant kitchen and teach a series of classes, I was one of the first ones to sign up. As a respectable foodie from Pennsylvania, I was not going to miss the opportunity to learn from this classically-trained French chef... plus, Spring Mills was only 10 miles from my front door! (Eric has since retired and closed his restaurant.)

Nicoise Sauce a la "The Hummingbird Room"

PICT2734This wonderful, versatile, easy-to-make sauce was one of the items we learned to make.  We served it over another dish we prepared that night, which was considerably more difficult: "Supreme de Poulet Farcie" (boned and butterflied, young, tender spring chickens that were stuffed with sauteed spinach, wild mushrooms and tomato concasse, browned in butter then roasted). Nicoise sauce is refreshing change-of-pace from Italian-style tomato sauces.  It is marvelous served over chicken, fish, rice, pasta and/or vegetables.   My recipe for ~ Baked Haddock w/Nicoise Sauce & Saffron Rice + (Tips & Techniques for Handling Frozen Fish Fillets) ~, can be found in Categories 3, 14, 15, 19 or 20!

PICT2731A bit about Nicoise olives: Specifically from the regions around Nice, France, they are a purple-brown to brownish-black species of black olive which are eaten when fully ripe.  They have an assertive, bright flavor, without being strong or overpowering.  Their size is rather small, and, their pit is rather large, which means each olive has very little flesh.  Pitting Nicoise olives is labor intensive, but worth the effort. Luckily, I can purchase high-quality pitted ones locally (pictured here)! 
















PICT27322  35-ounce cans imported, whole, peeled tomatoes, undrained, chopped into large, bite-sized pieces (Note: The brand of tomatoes I purchase is just lovely.  They are packed in a thick tomato puree.  If your canned tomatoes are watery, drain them prior to chopping them.)

8  ounces diced yellow or sweet onion

1 1/2  ounces minced garlic cloves

8  ounces stemmed, cleaned and chopped white mushroom caps 

2  cups pitted and coarsely chopped Nicoise olives

1/2  cup dry red wine

2  tablespoons olive oil

2  ounces butter (1/2 stick)

1 teaspoon herbes de Provence (a French spice blend, see Cook's Note below)

1 1/2  teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

PICT2734~ Step 1.  Place the tomatoes in a large mixing bowl.  The easiest way to "chop" whole tomatoes into bite-sized pieces is to squish them with your hands.  Tip:  If you keep them underneath the liquid as you squish, the juices won't squirt all over your kitchen!

~ Step 2. Prep the onion, garlic, optional mushrooms and olives as directed.  Separately, set each aside.

PICT2740~ Step 3.  In a 12" skillet, melt the butter into the olive oil over low heat.  Add the onion, garlic and optional mushrooms.  Add the herbes de Provence, salt, pepper and optional red pepper flakes. Adjust heat to saute, until the vegetables are tender and the mushrooms have lost their moisture, about 8-10 minutes.



~ Step 4.  Add the olives and wine to the pan and cook another 1-2 minutes.  

PICT2758~ Step 5. Add and stir in the tomatoes. Adjust heat to a gentle, steady simmer and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Serve immediately, refrigerate 3-5 days or freeze.  Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave:

PICT2772 IMG_6440French Riviera-Style Tomato Sauce "a la Nicoise":  Recipe yields 3 quarts (which is enough for 3 of the above-mentioned baked haddock meals).  I freeze it in 1-quart containers, and, each container is enough to sauce 1-pound of cooked pasta too!  You can find my recipe for ~ Simple Pasta "al Tonno e Pomodoro" "a la Nicioise" (Pasta w/Tuna & Tomatoes" "French Riviera-Style" ~ in Categories 3, 14 or 20!

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; mesh strainer (optional); 12" skillet

PICT2777Cook's Note:  Herbes de Provence is a mixture of dried herbs typical of the regions around Provence, France.  The classic mixture contains basil, fennel, marjoram, rosemary, savory, thyme and sometimes lavender flowers.  It is usually used to flavor fish, meat and vegetable stews, meaning:  it is added before or during the cooking process or mixed with cooking oil prior to cooking in order to infuse the herbal flavors into the food (never after the cooking is complete).

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)


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Miriam! The fish (Icelandic haddock, thawed) is TOTALLY easy to make in less than 30 minutes. It is not cooked in the sauce, just baked, covered in foil, in the oven. You will be pleased to know this is scheduled for tomorrow's Kitchen Encounters blog post! Thank you for your wonderful comment!!! ~ Mel.

Hi. Your recipe for French Riviera-Style Tomato Sauce "a la Nicoise" sounds fabulous. Can you explain please what type of fish is in the sauce? Also, after making the sauce do you bake the fish in it?

Thanks for replying. I can't wait to make it!

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