Welcome to Menu Monday! Woo! I’ve always wanted this site to be not just about individual kick-ass recipes, but also about how to put them together into a coherent whole that can be enjoyed by cook and guest alike. And now, a year and a half and nearly 250 posts later, there’s enough of those kick-ass recipes up for me to be able to knit them together into menus for you. I’ll also be hitting up some of my favorite bloggers to round out these posts to give you a taste of what other people are writing about and to help me fill in some gaps in my own archives.
And this week, it made sense to head down to Provence. The cuisine of Nice and the surrounding region has always been one of my favorites, with its reliance on olive oil, fresh seafood, and simple vegetable preparations amped up with powerful flavors like anchovy, garlic, and saffron.

My affinity for the cuisine was cemented during a VERY entertaining week and half spent trailing around Aix-en-Provence with the inimitable Grandma Neecie and her favorite opera tour group: listening to Verdi’s Requiem at the Roman amphitheatre in Orange, lunching on mysterious terrines and champagne cocktails at Michelin-starred restaurants nestled high in the Luberon valley, tackling boulliabaise on the corniche in Marseilles, and otherwise having a grand old time.

In ANY event, though, we can tackle terrines and boulliabaise some other day (I’ve drunk all the Pernod, anyway). For the inaugural Menu Monday, we keep it simple, no? Some really tasty, unique nibbles; a fabulous entree salad; and a simple, fresh dessert. Let’s get to it!

Menu Monday 1: Springy Salad a la Niçoise

Olive Tapenade & Chevre
The mighty olive and anchovy–ur-foods of Provence–tamed with herbs, lemon, and paired with a light, creamy goat cheese. An impeccable, and pretty, way to whet the appetite.

Salade Niçoise with Tarragon Vinaigrette
My favorite salad with my favorite dressing. This composed salad is a real workhorse, getting me through the hot summer months with ease and grace–particularly when I am planful enough to cook the eggs, potatoes, and green beans the night before. Then all I’ve got to do is cut up some vegetables, whip up the dressing, crack a can of tuna, and boom we have entree–all with out hotting up the kitchen. Love it.

Socca (below)
A divinely simple and tasty savory crepe made with chick pea flour, socca is a popular street food in the markets of Provence. I pilot tested several recipes, and the one below from my standby The Cuisine of the Sun easily takes the biscuit. Super quick and easy, it’s also quite novel AND gluten-free. (As is this whole meal, should you use the socca as an accompaniment to the tapenade as well as the salad–or just get some rice crackers for the former.)

Sorbet with Fresh Fruit
This really shouldn’t need much discussion, but I’m quite partial to individual bowls of blackberries and hulled, quartered strawberries topped with a nice scoop of Dolci Gelati’s Blackberry Cabernet sorbet. It’s deliciously tart and dusky and makes for a light, sophisticated sundae.

Socca
Adapted from Mireille Johnston, The Cuisine of the Sun;
and Dorie Greenspan, Around My French Table
Yield: 2 8″ rounds

1 1/3 c chick pea flour
6 tbs olive oil, plus more for the pans
1 tsp salt
1 3/4 c water, at room temperature
1 tbs minced fresh rosemary (optional)
Fleur de sel & freshly ground black pepper

In a medium bowl, whisk together the chick pea flour, oil, salt, water, and optional rosemary. When thoroughly mixed–no lumps–set aside to sit for 1 hour, lightly covered.

Position one oven rack as high as possible and preheat the oven to 400. Once the oven’s come to temperature, lightly oil two 8″ round cake pans and put in the oven for 2 minutes to heat up. Whisk the batter well to redistribute the rosemary, remove the pans from the oven, and divide the batter evenly between the preheated pans. Return to the oven and bake 5 minutes. Turn the oven off, and turn the broiler on medium. Sprinkle the tops with a little bit of olive oil and continue to cook for 5-8 minutes more till crisped and golden with small darker spots. Watch carefully after the first few minutes under the broiler.

Remove from oven and with a spatula ease the socca onto a cutting board. Sprinkle with fleur de sel and freshly ground black pepper, cut into pieces, and serve hot or warm.

Johnston, Mireille. The Cuisine of the Sun. (Boston, Biscuit). 1996.

Greenspan, Dorie. Around My French Table. (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). 2010.