Legumes Farcis : An Aller-Retour Niçois

© Jessie Kanelos for BonjourParis.com

Although being bilingual has theoretically done wonders for my brain, I can’t help but notice that it has slowed down my English.  When three second pauses pepper my conversation, in search of the words I once said, I overcompensate using coolcrazy, and nice.  And door has permanently become porte.  Am I turning into one of those pretentious Americans who lives in FrAHHHnce?

For a lack of better words, please check out my new cool, crazy, and nice contribution to Bonjour Paris.  


Legumes Farcis : An Aller-Retour Niçoise  by Jessie Kanelos. Published by BonjourParis.com.

Routine completely flips itself on the head when starting over in France. Peanut butter, the humblest of American pastimes, gets an upgrade from domestic to imported.  And a sandwich eaten on-the-go can get anything from a sincere “bon appetit” from a stranger to a snarl of disapproval on the street.  But discovering new, French comfort food is like an expatriate embrace.  And it is a welcome addition to the dinner table of anyone looking for a little mealtime inspiration.  Legumes farcis, or stuffed vegetables, are a specialty of the sun-baked Cote D’Azur. And as the summer harvest abundantly overloads the farmer’s market, why not put a Niçoise spin on the season’s best?
Instead of a proper honeymoon, my cash-strapped husband and I took a roadtrip down South to visit my new in-laws in Nice. I am still trying to justify the reasoning behind this one.  Nevertheless, we managed to sneek out of the house during the day to walk on the beach, dream big at the impeccible Cours Saleya flea market, and test out all the Niçoise specialties. Along with the hearty chickpea crepe socca and pissaladière, the caramelized onion and anchovy pizza gone French, I was instantly enamored by legumes farcis.  Essentially the makings of a meatball, a fine mixture of ground meat, breadcrumbs, and aromatics is baked in local, sun-ripened Provençal vegetables until impossibly juicy. Charmingly coined legumes de soleil, or sun vegetables, these can include anything from tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, red peppers, and onions. Served hot out of the oven or direct from the refrigerator, they are deliciously easy and satisfying post-beach, post-swimming pool, or post-in-laws.

Although legumes farcis are rarely found on restaurant menus outside of the Cote D’azur, French butchers always have chair à saucisse on display.  Basically a sausage without its casing, it is a porky mystery meat destined for legumes farcis.  However, one part ground beef to one part ground pork or one part ground veal to one part chopped ham are suitable alternatives, minus the mystery.  Be creative!  With fruits et legumes at their height of diversity, why not experiement with a couple of round zucchini, Japanese eggplants, or a rainbow of heirloom tomatoes ?  Served with white rice, another local staple of the South, that 7 euro jar of Skippy will become completely unjustifiable.


Legumes Farcis Niçois, Serves 6

Note: Choose vegetables of a similar size so they bake evenly.

6 small, round  tomatoes

6 small onions

6 small zucchinis

6 small eggplants

¼ lb. ground beef

¼ lb ground pork

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

2 cloves of garlic, chopped


½ teaspoon herbes de provence

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or basil

Olive oil

Salt & pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350° f/180° c

2. Slice the vegetables ¾ of the way lengthwise to create a reservoir for the filling and its hat. Scoop out the flesh of the zucchini and eggplant, chop and reserve. Scoop out the seeds and the ribs of the pepper.  Use a paring knife to carve out the center of the onions and tomatoes.

3.  In a bowl, mix the beef, pork, reserved zucchini and eggplant, chopped garlic, parmesan cheese, and herbs.

4. Drizzle a baking dish with olive oil.  Stuff the vegetables with the meat mixture and place in the baking dish.  Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and olive oil.

5.  Bake for 45 minutes.  Add a hat to each vegetable and bake for another 45 minutes.  Serve with white rice.

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Mon Chou Tchouchouka!

Tchouchouka we will be!

Long before my mother-in-law was my mother-in-law and before I knew the proper name of tchouchouka, I wrote about this star recipe, which always makes an appearance at my in-law’s.  Traditionally, tchouchouka is a cooked Berber salad of red peppers and tomatoes.  Although not traditionally French, it has become one of my fondest food memories of France.

When I moved to France, I quickly learned that Sunday was the ultimate day of relaxation.  I mean a ‘watching 3 movies, not moving the couch’ type of Sunday.  And thanks to France, I was finally able to train myself to do this without feeling a drop of guilt.  When I started seeing mon mari qui fume, I learned Sunday was the ultimate day of family, too.  Whenever we weren’t glued to the couch or scavenging for food after everything closed in the afternoon, we were more than likely on our way to his parents’ place in the tony 16th arrondisement.  Although they have recently relocated to Nice, making this salad reminds me of our times together.  It brings me back to mortifyingly breaking the wicker chair I was assigned at our first dinner together.   And piecing together what little charm I could in my limited French at the time.   All embarrassment aside, I instantly appreciated these warm, patient, curious people who would soon become my family.  And I remember tasting this deceptively simple salad for the first time.  Made from 1 part red peppers to 1.5 parts tomatoes, the vegetables are charred and pealed, then cooked down with a bit of olive oil and garlic until they form a smoky and sweet confiture.  Served as a first course with good bread, there is no better, healthier, or cheaper way to kick off an excellent meal among friends or family.


1 kilo red peppers

1.5 kilos ripe tomatoes

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 clove garlic

salt & pepper

1.)  Place peppers and tomatoes on a sheet tray.  Cook under broiler until blackened.  Turn and repeat until all sides are charred.

2.)  Let cool.  Peel and de-seed peppers and chop into small pieces. Peel and chop tomatoes.  In a saucepan, heat oil over a low heat.  Add the peppers, tomatoes, and garlic.  Simmer over a very low heat until thick and caramelized.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Zucchini & Mozzarella

I’m back in Paris!  Much to my dismay, the city is a ghost town in August.  I’m on a perpetual search for an open boulangerie!
Fortunately, C welcomed me with open arms and full refrigerator.  I needed to crank out a light, simple dinner one evening.  I found inspiration in two staples: zucchini and fresh mozzarella.  I picked up a trick by using a vegetable peeler to slice the zucchini into transparent ribbons which develop charming cross-hatching when hit on a grill pan.  Tossed with a healthy dose of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice, salt & paper, and a chiffonade of fresh mint from the garden, the zucchini ribbons are sensuously silky while showcasing the nutty quality of zucchini I often forget.  The ribbons are elegantly presented piled high topped with a crown of sliced fresh mozzarella.

The first time I made this dish, I was a little quick to over-season with too much lemon juice and the half-hearted addition of shaved cornichons.  C, my taste tester, had no words for the dish; something was off.  Surely he thought it was too acidic.  I’m realizing I have a taste for strong flavors.  However, at the same time, anything can taste like lemon juice!  But when food is prepared well, it should taste like a celebration of whatever it is.  I have challenged myself by living out this French food philosophy.  Furthermore, with respect for good ingredients, even a meal inspired by the remnants of a fridge can be wildly satisfying.  Now if only I could find that baguette…


2 medium zucchini, sliced thinly with a vegetable peeler

1 ball fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4 inch slices

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for grill pan

1 teaspoon fresh mint, sliced finely to a chiffonade (roll up leaves like a cigar and chop finely)

salt & pepper to taste

1.) Heat a grill pan over high heat.  Add 1 tablespoon oil and twirl pan until it is well-covered with oil.  Add zucchini to the grill pan, being careful not to overlap the slices.  Flip slices after 10-15 seconds when light grill marks appear.  When both sides have nice hatching, place in a bowl.  Proceed by grilling the rest of the slices, adding more oil to pan as needed.

2.) When all the slices have been grilled, toss with lemon juice, the tablespoon of olive oil, mint, salt, and pepper.  Pile zucchini high onto serving plates and top with several slices of fresh mozzarella.  Serve as a first course or with baguette for a light lunch.


When I moved back to the States, I was awfully thankful to have moved back to a food-centric city like New York.  It certainly helps having a distraction from all I left behind in France.  But these days, I’ve been eating on dime.  Fortunately, I recently started working in a sleek little tapas restaurant, which gives me enough culinary thrills to make it through with my weekly pot of beans at home.  (Pickled ramps do wonders for my morale!)  Nevertheless, I had a bag of dried beans lying around (gulp) and had the ambition to recreate a rustic French dish by the name of cassoulet.  It is a slow-cooked stew of white beans with the hearty addition of various meat parts, which can include duck legs, sausages, and pork pieces.  I have never actually made this dish for myself.  But like most time-starved French home cooks, a delightful version can be found in the prepared food isle at the local Monoprix in Paris.  But this time around, I was nostalgic for some French comfort food this rainy week in New York.  Although I had aimed for a traditional meat-centric version, I was discouraged my local Greek bodega does not carry any of the duck fragments traditionally used in the recipe.  So I took the challenge to make it sans meat, which turned into a tasty abomination of the classic.  Since I had the luxury of an afternoon off, I was hoping to cook it slowly until it attained the same silky hearth of my fond food memory of the dish.  And I was quite pleased with what I came up with!  As soon as the thyme hit the sautéing carrots, celery, and onions, France was all up in my face.  It made me nostalgic for the sunshine in the South of France and the lazy nights C would reheat a jar of this French favorite.  I’d recommend to serve with baguette, but that’s one bit of nostalgia still to be satisfied…

1 16oz. bag of white beans, soaked in water overnight and drained

1 medium red onion, chopped

12 oz. chopped carrots

1 cup chopped celery

2 tomatoes chopped finely

5 stalks of thyme tied together with string (bouquet garnis)

1 handful chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

zest of 1 lemon, minced

1.)  Sautee onions, carrots, celery, salt, and pepper for 8 minutes until caramelized and tender.  Add chopped garlic, thyme, and tomatoes.  Stir until fragrant.

2.)  Add the soaked beans and 5 cups of water to the mixture.  Let come to a simmer.

3.)  Cook over a low heat for 60-90 minutes until the beans are soft and the broth thickens.  Add more water if needed.

4.)  Pull out thyme bouquet.  Stir in lemon zest and parsley.  Season to taste!  And enjoy!