Saturday, July 16, 2011

Seafood from the Mediterranean: Cassis and Villefrache-sur-Mer

Cassis is a low-key beach resort on the Mediterranean, and Villefranche-sur-Mer is down the coast a couple of hours, just East of the large seaport of Nice. All the foods of this region are dominated by seafood, and there is significant Italian influence as well, as much of this area was once under the control of Italy, so pastas and pizzas can also feature heavily.

One night for dinner, we had moules Provencal, mussels cooked in a butter, garlic and herb sauce, as well as sea bass in a rich red bell pepper cream sauce, and prawns in an Herbes de Provence (generally chervil, marjoram, tarragon, basil, thyme, and sometimes lavender) butter rub. 

Salade Nicoise is another popular standby, and can take many forms, though generally includes a bed of greens topped with green beans, tomatoes, olives, hard boiled egg, and lots of tuna. Every bistro makes it’s own twist to this classic tuna salad from Nice, and we also saw these primary ingredients take many other forms than just salad, such as sandwiches, pastas, and my new favorite, pizza Nicoise!

Salade Nicoise, with lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, hard boiled egg, olives, anchovies, and lots of
delicious fresh tuna. I am used to seeing Nicoise salade with potatoes and green beans, and that did
not seem to be a feature for the ones I ordered, but I think those ingredients were not seasonal,
and the salades probably vary with what is fresh.
My new favorite version of "Nicoise" - on a pizza! This one was heavy with
tuna, olives, red bell peppers, red onion, parsley, and anchovies.
The pizza above came from a very enjoyable restaurant in Villefranche-sur-Mer, La Grignotiere where we were also stuffed with this amazing spaghetti below. We could have shared either one of these two dishes and still both been too full for dessert, but they were so good that we were glad to have ordered two items to try. The spaghetti was topped with boatloads of just-caught prawns and mussels.


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