Each time I return from a long trip I vow not to even consider going anywhere else for a while. There’s something about sleeping in your own bed and settling once again into your own routine that is always welcome and comforting. Inevitably, however, wanderlust strikes and I start to dream of new places once again.
The last few days of spring-like weather we’ve had here in northern California have had me yearning for the warmth of the South of France. It’s been almost four months since our visit but I remember this tiny fishing village which we called our “home” for two weeks as if it were yesterday. What was not to love? The golden sun, the blue water, the gracious French locals, the food…in Villefranche-Sur-Mer another Francophile was born. If I ever decide to live anywhere else, this would be at the top of my list (second only to Italy).
But what I’ve been craving most of all is this salad. It was my first meal in this lovely village. My husband and I had just flown in to Nice from Paris, an uneventful flight but tiresome just the same. After dropping off our luggage in our hotel, we walked to the brasserie next door. By all accounts, this place had all the makings of being a tourist trap but we were hungry, the place was packed, it had a great view of the harbor and the patrons seemed happy to be there. Sold.
And sold I was with this salad at Le Cosmo. It had a delightful mix of fresh veggies with treviso, Belgian endive, haricot verts, cucumbers and tomatoes but it was also rich with roast potatoes and liver. The salad was rounded out with a refreshing vinaigrette but what struck me most was the garnish that was added to finish the dish. See those tiny cubed pieces on the plate? They tasted like pickled onions or garlic. Honestly, I couldn’t tell at the time what they were but they brightened the salad in a way I’ve never forgotten. I had this salad three times in two weeks just to give you an idea how much I enjoyed it. Of course, I was determined to recreate it once I returned home.
I decided that the key ingredient was pickled garlic so last week I went in search of a recipe and Google didn’t disappoint. I found a recipe that brought back the lively, crunchy, tart flavors of that French Riviera salad. I had no idea that pickling was this easy. In four short days, I was able to relive one of my memories of that fun summer. And guess what, the pickling process seems to eliminate the dreaded garlic effect–you know, the unpleasantness coming out of your mouth and pores. What you get is a great “Vlasic crunch” (as in the sound you hear from in their dill pickle commercials) and the French Riviera in a jar.
French Pickled Garlic
* Recipe from Epicurious
* Note: I doubled this recipe to make what you see in the picture. The liquid looks short because I had slightly more than 2 cups garlic.
* Note: The recipe did call this “French”, not I. The main difference I noted is that compared to other “regular” pickled garlic recipes, this called for wine and a shorter wait period. FYI.
- 1/2 cup white wine vinegar (I used regular distilled vinegar)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 small dried chile pepper (I used two Indian dried red chiles but I didn’t puncture them so the garlic cloves were not hot at all)
- 1 small thyme sprig
- 1 small rosemary sprig
- 1 small bay leaf
- 10 black peppercorns
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon pickling salt (I used kosher salt)
- 1 cup peeled fresh garlic cloves
Except for the garlic, bring all ingredients to a boil in a nonreactive saucepan. Gently boil for five minutes then add the garlic. Bring back to a boil, cover the pan and remove from heat. Let rest at room temperature for 24 hours.
Bring the contents of the saucepan back to a boil, then transfer to a half-pint jar. Let the jar cool, and cover it tightly with a nonreactive cap.
Store the jar in the refrigerator (I missed this part and let the jar sit on my counter for four days; they were fine). The garlic will be ready to eat in about 5 days, and will keep well for about 1 year.