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The Tour de France, the most important cycling race in the world, takes place July 5th through July 27th. One of the most interesting aspects is that, this year, for the first time in history, women’s cycling will join the final stage of the race, when the elite from women’s cycling will race on streets in the heart of Paris for the La Course by Le Tour de France, finishing on the Champs Elysees.
One day, the Tour de France passed through my village of Bar-sur-Loup. I had been following the tour for the coverage of culinary delights found along the route in the villages and towns they whizzed through, so when it was announced that it was arriving in my village I was filled with anticipation. So was everyone in my village.
Like dancers stretching at a ballet barre, the men from my village could be seen limbering their limbs over the stone ramparts in the weeks leading up to the Tour de France. One day they would be dressed normally, the next day suddenly appearing in the skin-tight black bicycle shorts and close-fitting colorful tops broadcasting the name of their favorite team.
A bicycling enthusiast, my husband joined the teams from neighboring towns every Sunday to pedal up and down dizzyingly steep hills for weekly exercise. The day the Tour de France was to visit our village, my husband disappeared with his peloton up the hill, while my neighbor, Madame, walked down the hill with a picnic for us to take along.
We carried low canvas chairs and sat by the dusty side of the road for more than an hour, waiting for the great bicycle race to pass by. We heard clapping and shouts of encouragement down the road, so we knew they were approaching.
Whooooooosh. Fifteen seconds and they were gone.
Our reward, we agreed, was more from the delectable pie Madame prepared for us to eat than from the wind and whir of the bicycle wheels.
Madame’s pie had a bottom and top crust, and the slices she brought stood at least a couple of inches high with filling. Inside it was moist and savory, while the pie crust was one of the best I ever tasted.
This is her recipe. It easily serves 8.
Tour de France Zucchini Pie
For the filling:
2 cups cooked rice
3 cups coarsely grated zucchini (about 2 zucchinis)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium white onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced, tightly packed ham, diced
1 cup grated Emmental cheese
3 large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon honey
freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
For the piecrusts:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cubed
4-5 tablespoons cold water, plus more if needed
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water for an egg wash
Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Have a 10-inch oiled springform pan ready to use.
To make the filling, begin by adding the cooked rice to a large mixing bowl.
Squeeze the grated zucchini in paper towels to eliminate any moisture, and add to the bowl with the rice.
Heat 3 tablespoons oil, add the onion and garlic, and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes. Add to the bowl. Add the ham and cheese to the bowl, and mix everything with a fork.
Whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, mustard, honey, nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Add to the bowl and mix well.
To make the piecrusts, add the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder to the bowl of a food processor; pulse 4 times. Add the cubed butter and pulse 15 times, until the mixture begins to look mealy; then pour in 4 tablespoons water and process. Pinch the dough to see if it comes together. If not, add 1 more tablespoon water and process.
Scoop out the dough onto a large piece of parchment paper and bring it together with your hands into a ball. Slice the ball in half, wrap each half in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
When you are ready to roll out the piecrusts, take one piece of dough from the refrigerator. Roll it out on a lightly floured work surface into a circle large enough to fit the bottom of the springform pan and reach at least halfway up the sides. Fit it into the pan. Pour in the filling and pat down with a spatula.
Roll out the second piece of dough to fit over the top of the pie with a little to spare. Lay it over the top of the filling and gently press down around the edges and against the wall s of the pan to seal the two piecrusts together. Gently crimp the edges around the perimeter to create a stand-up crust. With a pastry brush, paint the top of the crust with the egg wash, and make 2 small knife slits in the center. Place the springform pan on a baking sheet in the oven and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until golden brown.
Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before releasing the spring, moving the pie to a serving plate, and slicing.
Hillary Davis is the author of Cuisine Niçoise: Sun-Kissed Cooking From The French Riviera (August 2013), where this recipe came from, and of the upcoming cookbook, French Comfort Food (August 2014). She is a food blogger at Marchedimanche.com, food journalist, and cooking instructor.