Its nearing mid June, yet here on the Westcoast carefree warm summer days seem very far away. The garden is sluggish and I've only just worn my sandals for the first time. My yearning for extended warmth and blue skies has recently has me thinking about the French Riviera and magical days spent in that oh so cliched (for a reason!) part of the world. When I yearn for such memorable days, I usually aim to recreate them with the best way I know how - food! And so with a handful of lemons I whipped up this light, lemony Lemon Tart or Tarte Au Citron, and remembered fondly a day in Nice 3 years ago.
Nice, France is a city I can't wait to return to. Its a beautiful, vibrant city with an Italian feel due to the colourful painted buildings , Italiate architecture and an attitude all its own. The people there certainly will identify themselves as being proud Nicoise before French, a place worthy of such pride.
Nicoise cuisine is full of bright vegetables and interesting flavours derived from an up and down history of foreign domination. Socca, the chick pea flour pancake seen above is the famous street food of the city. To be eaten quickly, its cheap, and readily available throughout town and in simple cafes or on outdoor picnic tables. Commonly washed down with a tumbler of cheap local rose wine, I crave it regularly and have wished a stove top version made at home might suffice. Another thing to draw me back there of course is the Rose. We drink copius amounts of it we drink when in this parts of the world and no wine brings back memories of place more than this. Rose is abundant in the French Riviera, and cheaper, and as you can see by this photo I took of the rose section in the Monoprix, there's much more of it there than in my local liquor store. I weep for such selection.
I once took a cooking class in Nice from food fellow blogger, Rosa Jackson - cookbook author, teacher, blogger, guide book editor and fellow foodie extraordinaire. This proved to be one of my favourite travel memories and a day I hold dear. After wandering the vibrant Marche Cours Saleya ogling huge local Menton lemons, shiny Provencal strawberries, and baskets of wild thyme, we made our way through the narrow lanes of the Old Town stopping in quaint family run shops full of the best of everything. We gathered my favourite Cote de Provence wine, the best goat cheese and the freshest hen. Over the course of the next few hours a grand lunch would be prepared where we roasted, chopped, sauteed and baked everything needed for a proper French lunch. Of course ratatouille was enjoyed, in fact it was stuffed into squash blossoms and zucchinis and served with deeply flavoured Guinea fowl and braised white asparagus of the season.
The meal continued with a goat cheese that I count as 1 of the single greatest cheeses I have ever eaten, only available to her and a chef at the grand Louis XV in Monte Carlo and Rosa herself. Talk about connections! But what ended that lovely lunch eaten slowly with rose in hand and lovely company from Canada, Boston and Nice was a lemon tart that had me moaning inappropriately.
Lemon Tarts are my specialty and indeed close to my heart. I'm rarely impressed by many, as they are often too sweet, have bad pastry or worse yet not even made with real lemons. Yet even with this sort of malaise, I still keep my eyes and nose tuned to the possibility of a good one. This tart remains one of my favourites and I loved that I took home this technique and recipe from such a memorable experience. Each time I make it I think of that afternoon, that week, that beautiful place.