Last Christmas, I spent a few days in the South of France with my family. We started in Marseille, where my mother was born and where she grew up, then made our way to Gould to spend the holidays with my uncle Philippe who lives there with his family. Afterwards, we made our way to Nice, on the French Riveria.
France’s fifth largest city gets a pretty bad rep. It’s like the Florida of France, where grandparents retire (my grandmother herself considered moving there for a while) and older Brits winter. It’s no Cannes and it’s no Monaco. But it’s got a lot to offer: stunning Art Deco architecture, great museums (Chagall and Matisse both used to call Nice their home), the promenade des Anglais on the Mediterranean sea and, of course, great food!
Nice is a dream destination for hungry travelers and we certainly ate our way through all of city’s specialties: gelatto, socca, salade Niçoise, tarte aux blettes, Daube… we ate it all in the short amount of time that we had.
Well, almost. The one dish we simply couldn’t get our hands on – because it wasn’t the right season – was farcis niçois, and array of small stuffed (summer) vegetables, typically zucchinis, tomatoes and onions. So when I spotted some miniature patty pan squash at the Bloomingdale farmers’ market the other day, I decided I would just make my own petits farcis at home! I picked up most of the ingredients I needed at vendors throughout the market: bread at Panorama, pork sausage, tomatoes, zucchinis, parsley, patty pan squash and an onion. I grabbed parmesan and garlic at safeway and used olive oil and herbes de provence from my pantry.
Here are the steps to make petits farcis:
- First, scoop out the inside of the veggies. Start by cutting off the top and save it for presentation, using a spoon, remove the flesh of the vegetable so you can fill it with the stuffing. Reserve that flesh though, don’t toss it out. You may need to flatten up the bottom of the vegetables too so that they can stand in the cooking dish and the plates.
- Next, make the stuffing: dice the onion and sauté in a few teaspoon of olive oil. Add about 1 tablespoon of chopped garlic. Once both the onions and garlic have softened, add the sausage meat and brown for 5 minutes. Add the flesh from the courgette, tomato, squash and any other vegetables that you are using and cook for an additional 2-3 minute before removing from the heat. Season with salt, pepper, and herbes de provence then mix in a little bit of chopped parsley (to taste), a quarter of a cup of grated parmesan, and half a cup of breadcrumbs (preferably homemade.)
- Finally, put it all together: place the hollowed out vegetables in a baking dish (grease it with a little olive oil first) and spoon the sausage stuffing carefully inside them. Drizzle with a little bit more olive oil and bake at 400F for 30-45 minutes, or until brown. Make sure you don’t overcook them, the vegetables should still be holding their shape.
- Last but not least: serve with the little hats from the vegetables and a glass of your favourite rosé!