Gallic Garlic

“France produces 18,500 tons of garlic per year, in areas scattered throughout the country. Several varieties have what is called an IGP (Indication Géographique Protégée), a European label that guarantees the region of production, and specific growing and preparation standards.

Among the primary garlic varieties in France are l’ail rose de Lautrec (Midi-Pyrénées), l’ail blanc de Lomagne (Midi-Pyrénées), l’ail d’Auvergne, l’ail de la Drôme, l’ail de Provence, l’ail fumé d’Arleux (Nord-Pas-de-Calais), l’ail de Cherrueix (Bretagne) and l’ail violet de Cadours (Midi-Pyrénées), the only garlic with an Appellation d’Origine Controlée, a hard-won pedigree that underscores the quality as well as the cultivation and preparation of the garlic.

There are two major categories of garlic in France—that planted in spring and that planted in the autumn. Both are harvested in July. One of the more distinctive varieties is the mild ail rose de Lautrec, with a rigid central stem that makes it impossible to braid. Instead, growers first peel the heads down to the first skin, so the pink shows through, then tie it into fat, heavy bouquets.

Another variety that stands out is the golden smoked garlic of northern France. Its production is concentrated around the town of Arleux in the Pas-de-Calais region, and it represents ten percent of French garlic production. The cloves are pink, but smoking over a peat fire obscures their color and turns the outer skins deep golden and slightly sticky. The reason for the smoking is the climate. The north is damp, without enough sun to dry the garlic; the smoke preserves it, preventing it from getting moist and spoiling.

Garlic generally lasts well until Christmas, though certain varieties are given a mild heat treatment that extends their shelf life until May. Contrary to popular wisdom, garlic is best kept in a dark spot at room temperature. If there is a green germ inside a garlic clove, it should be removed. There is nothing wrong with it other than its texture, which is somewhat tough.”


This sauce evokes Provence at its productive best, in summer, when farms and family gardens are at their peak, yielding vegetables with an incomparable depth of flavor.

Note: When making aioli—or any mayonnaise-style sauce—think slow, slow, slow as  you add the oil. If you do, then you’re guaranteed success. But if the aioli does separate, put an egg yolk in another bowl and slowly whisk the separated aioli into it.

6 garlic cloves, green germ removed

1 tsp sea salt

2 tsp Dijon mustard

3 large egg yolks

2 cups (500 ml) grape seed or other neutral oil

1/2 cup (120 ml) fine quality, extra-virgin olive oil

2 to 3 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. Make a paste of the garlic and salt in a mortar and pestle, by working the pestle around slowly, always in the same direction, in the mortar. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, either finely mince the garlic with the salt, transfer it to a medium-sized bowl and press on it with a wooden spoon until it makes a rough paste; or simply mince the garlic and salt together in a food processor and transfer the mixture to a medium-sized bowl.

2. Whisk in the mustard and egg yolks until they are blended with the garlic and salt. Then, using either the pestle or a whisk, add 1/4 cup (60 ml) of the neutral oil very slowly in a fine, fine stream, until the mixture becomes thick. Don’t add the oil too quickly or  the mixture will not emulsify.

3. Add 1 teaspoon of the lemon juice to the oil and garlic mixture, then add the remaining oil very, very slowly, whisking or turning the pestle constantly. The aioli will gradually thicken to the consistency of a light mayonnaise. Adjust the seasoning, and add more lemon juice if it needs more tang. If it becomes very, very thick you might add 1 tablespoon of warm water to loosen it.

4. Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary. Aioli will keep for several days in the refrigerator, in an airtight container, but is best served within 24 hours of being made.

About 6 servings

Susan Herrmann Loomis teaches cooking classes in Normandy and Paris.

by Susan Herrmann Loomis for France Today

French Riviera Icon

Personally, I always order Salade Niçoise “sans the Niçoise”, as I don’t like anchovies or tuna – this can elicit a smile or frown from the most discriminating of serveurs!

Sip a glass of crisp, cool Rosé, too, for a true French Riviera dining experience!

“You’ll find many different versions and ingredients in this one-plate, all-inclusive meal. Julia Child would have you boiling potatoes to slice and throw in, while Jacques Médecin, the former mayor of Nice and a gourmand, would never dare include the starchy tuber in his salad because it needs to be cooked, and he believes that everything in the salad should be raw except for the hard-boiled eggs.”


Salade Niçoise

Serves 4.

1 medium shallot, minced
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from approximately 2 lemons)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
optional: fresh herbs like basil, oregano, thyme, tarragon, parsley

2 heads Boston or Bibb lettuce
1 pound green beans, French if possible
8 anchovies packed in olive oil
8 ounces canned albacore tuna in olive oil
12 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
½ cup black Niçoise olives
4 hard-boiled eggs, halved

1. Place minced shallot, lemon juice and Dijon mustard in a bowl and whisk.
2. Slowly add the olive oil to the mixture until combined.
3. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
5. Trim the ends of the green beans.
6. Add the beans to the boiling water and cook for approximately 3 minutes, until tender but still crisp. Drain the beans and place them in a bowl filled with ice water to stop the cooking and keep them crisp.
7. Arrange the washed greens in a large bowl and dress with the vinaigrette.
8. Place each additional ingredient on top and drizzle the remainder of the vinaigrette. Salt and pepper as needed.

(Credit: Girls Guide to Paris)

Paëlla Specialist in Nice

I was invited by friends to go to a restaurant that specializes in Paëlla – not really my favorite dish, but since it is the restaurant’s specialty, I figured why not – On y va!

Oui, it was wonderful – decorated with sausage, chicken, and shrimp – loaded with flavors and a very hearty meal, of course, accompanied by a delicious, and equally hearty, red wine!  (I was too busy tasting it to take a photo – oups!)

(19, Bd. Raimbaldi, Nice)



Olive Oil Tasting near Perpignan

On my way from Perpignan to Thuir in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, I stopped at “Moulin Saint Pierre,” (link in English) an olive oil production mill, with 30,000 trees in their grove, and a beautiful reception area and shop. The young lady there was very welcoming and explained the entire process, as the owner stood in the glass-enclosed, modern factory area (not open to visitors for security reasons). He had just been to New York City to introduce his line of olive oils to restaurants and their chefs and to importers and waved to us through the large, glass window!

After tasting some of the delicious olive oil, I purchased some and browsed the shop area full of soaps and other regional goodies containing olive oil!

Huile d’olive vierge extra, douce et fruitée. Non filtrée. Caractéristiques : Estagnon métal doré, excellente protection à la lumière. Capacité : 200ml
Bouchon : Bouchon verseur à tirette rétractable.

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Below is a video in French showing how to make ice cream with olive oil and figs – Bon Appetit!
Mercredi 22 : Glace à l’huile d’olive, figues au vin et aux épices.
Pour voir la vidéo, cliquez ICI then scroll down on page

La Vie en Rose…Petals

The French Riviera is well known for its Mediterranean-style cuisine, featuring tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil, and its beautiful, azur blue sea: ingredients, indeed, for “la vie en rose”!  But, there is an additional specialty, specific to this area, included in MY “vie en rose” — jam made with real rose petals – it actually smells and tastes like roses.  This jam, made and sold by Florian is one of many flavored-jams, made from flowers, at their main candy factory, “Confiserie Florian” founded in 1921, located just outside of Nice; they also have a smaller facility at the port in Nice. They provide free, guided tours followed by a free tasting of their specialties.

Here’s a silky, piano bar/jazzy version of this iconic song, to listen to while looking at the below photos:

I did a guided tour of their main factory years ago, which was very interesting, and their candies and jams make lovely gifts — special souvenirs to savor from this area!

Rose jam

Rose jam

florian jamOrange, Lemon, & Grapefruit jam