While our class of six sipped coffee on the sunny terrace of a café overlooking the city’s Cours Saleya market, Rosa Jackson explained why the food in the south of France is so different from that of the rest of the country. “Nice was ruled by the Kingdom of Savoy, now part of Italy, until 1860,” Rosa said. “That’s why the Niçois still love pasta, especially pasta with pistou, a variation on pesto, and ravioli stuffed with daube de boeuf [braised beef].” After coffee, she led us around the market, stopping by her favorite vendors to pick up plump Menton lemons (their lower acidity makes them perfect for desserts), salad greens (a mesclun mix grown within the city limits), and a generous scoop of small black Niçoise olives. We lingered at a socca stand, and Rosa, who worked as a food writer in Canada before moving to France to study at the Cordon Bleu, talked about this classic Niçois market snack made from chickpea flour, olive oil, water, and salt and pepper. Then it was back to Les Petits Farcis, the school she runs out of her apartment in a 17th-century building in the heart of Vieux Nice, the city’s oldest quarter. Her amiable French husband, Philippe, had just returned from picking up some fresh cod near the Old Port. It was time to get to work. Pissaladière, one of the most emblematic Niçois recipes, was first up, and everyone was surprised by how easy it was to make the yeast dough that is the base of this sweet-onion tart garnished with olives and anchovies. Working together, we cooked three other recipes to go with the pissaladière—semi-salted cod with garlic confit and mashed potatoes, fiadone (Corsican cheesecake with fruit salad), and a Menton lemon tart with olive oil—before sitting down to a superb lunch. “I had always wanted to run a small cooking school.” Rosa said. “Once I finished the apartment, I hung out my shingle.” We’re glad she did. (petitsfarcis.com; $297 per day, including lunch)
What I Learned
Using just a little water to cook mashed potatoes helps preserve the taste and improve the texture. (Add butter while cooking, and olive oil and parsley at the end, for extra richness.)
Pissaladière makes great fast food. I serve it now with a salad for a simple Sunday brunch or Saturday supper.
Before You Go
Read Colman Andrews’s Flavors of the Riviera.
Where to Stay
Hotel Le Grimaldi (011-33-4-93-16-00-24; www.le-grimaldi.com; from $150). This cheerful, comfortable, and reasonably priced place is only a ten-minute walk from the Cours Saleya market.