There's something about Nice. Usually, it seems, food varies by region, but Nice is an inimitable city. To me, it is the Venice of France, with food that is both indigenously iconic, and yet effusively exotic. Afternoon foraging becomes a trip to a bazaar. One corner houses great chickpea crepes called socca. A stall up the cobbled hill proffers battered, fried zucchini flowers, marigold hued, and drenched with lemons squeezed to stubs. Zucchinis are nests stuffed with meat and Provençal vegetables. And instead of pizza, pissaladiere crowned with tangles of sweet onions, olive studs, and anchovy latticework travels in the hands of passersby. It is a place to be hungry.
I am, as I was in Nice, an afternoon snacker. You won't find these crispy, salty, citrusy chickpeas to squirrel into your mouth in the hungry hours between lunch and dinner anywhere in Nice, but the olive oil, the crispy fry, the salt, the lemon, and mostly the chickpeas, evoke the flavor and the fulfillment of Niçoise street food.
- Olive oil for frying
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 15.5-ounce can chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and very well dried
- 1 teaspoon fleur de sel
- Zest 1/2 lemon
Fill a small saucepot half full with olive oil, and heat over medium heat until it reaches 350°F. Drop the garlic clove into the oil when it is cold, and remove it as it comes to temperature—just to infuse the flavor into the oil.
Fry the chickpeas in batches for about 5 minutes, carefully, as they may splatter. They will go from looking like cooked chickpeas to toasted hazelnuts—smaller, and golden, and crunchy. Drain on a paper towel, and toss with the fleur de sel and lemon zest.