Review of Cuisine Nicoise by NH Writer Hillary Davis

Food writer Hillary Davis writes New Hampshire Magazine's monthly "Slice."

Peterborough food writer, author and cooking teacher Hillary Davis had the good fortune to live near Nice, France, for seven years while she was learning to cook. Taking cues from trips to the local march, or market, village women, friends and chefs, she experienced the cuisine of the region from the inside.

Her cookbook “Cuisine Nicoise” was recently released and contains easy and authentic recipes with her own personal twist. From appetizers to soups to Sunday suppers, Davis offers an interesting take on healthy French cooking without the gobs of butter or heavy sauces. It’s a joy to peruse, with lovely photography of the region included. She adds her own personal reflections on each dish and offers tips for readers to make preparation easier. Consider it required reading before a trip to the region.

Davis lives in the Monadnock Region and writes daily about food both local and beyond.

Hillary Davis
Cuisine Nicoise: Sun-Kissed Cooking From The French Riviera,” Gibbs Smith, $40

Pistou Tomato Tart in a Basil Crust

By Hillary Davis from "Cuisine Nicoise"

For the crust and tart:

¼  cup fresh basil leaves, plus 6 to slice into ribbons

1large egg yolk, room temperature

1 stick unsalted butter, cold, sliced

¼ teaspoon fresh lemon juice

4 ½ tablespoons ice cold water, plus more to bring dough together if needed

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup hazelnut flour, hazelnut meal, or almond meal

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

4 tablespoons pistou (recipe follows)

2 pounds tomatoes, different sizes and colors, including cherry

10 pitted black or oil-cured black olives, sliced, for garnish

For the pistou:

 3 cloves of garlic, peeled

 2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves

¼ teaspoon sea salt

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Oil a 10- to 11-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom, or a 10-inch springform pan. Into the work bowl of a food processor that is running, drop the 1⁄4 cup basil leaves and mince them. Add the egg yolk, butter, lemon juice and water and pulse eight times. Add the flour, hazelnut flour, salt and sugar; pulse until just mixed and the dough looks like coarse meal. Do not process until it forms a ball. Scoop out the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, gently bring it together with your hands, wrap it in the wrap and press down with the heel of your hand to make a flat, round disc. Refrigerate the dough for 45 minutes or longer.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface between two pieces of parchment paper, and then place it into your tart or springform pan. I like to cut the dough a little bigger than the pan and fold it back over itself all the way around to make a crust that sits up a bit higher than the edge of the pan; this gives leeway for shrinkage when baking. Pinch it in a decorative way all the way around. Prick the bottom of the tart with a fork, then refrigerate another 25 minutes while you heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place a piece of parchment paper or foil in the pastry shell and weigh it down with uncooked rice or beans, and bake the shell for about 10 minutes. Remove the weights and paper, and bake for another eight minutes, or until golden. Take out of the oven, leaving the oven on, and cool the crust to room temperature.

To make the pistou, pulse the garlic, basil and salt in a food processor until it reaches pasty consistency.

With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil drop by drop, then in a thin steady stream until you achieve a thick paste. Scoop the paste out into a bowl and mix in the cheese with a fork until well blended.

Spread the bottom of the crust with pistou and shower the fresh basil ribbons over the top. Slice the tomatoes and arrange decoratively on top, then scatter the olives over the tomatoes.

Bake the tomato tart in the oven for 30 minutes, until cooked through. Allow to come to room temperature before slicing.

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