Pissaladiere is a classic savory pizza-like tart native to the Provencal region of France consisting of a topping of onions, anchovies, olives and herbs on a bread dough base.
Not much is known about the origin of the dish but it is supposed to have been invented by the Roman cooks. During the 1300’s, seven popes resided in the city of Avignon in modern day France. Pope Clement who was a Frenchman refused to move to Rome and as a result, the entire roman court was moved to the new papal palace in Avignon. Roman cooks were forced to deal with an entirely new set of local French ingredients which they had to adapt to their Italian repertoire of cooking styles. This adaptation gave rise to the Pissaladière or the pissaladina. Another legend states that the term Pissaladière is derived from the French word pissalat, which means salted fish which is one of the ingredients used in the dish.
Ingredients and Preparation
Traditionally, the pissaladina consists of a bread dough base which is topped with olives, anchovies and caramelized onions. The base is made from chewy bread dough which can be bought readymade or homemade. Onions are sliced and slow sautéed and sprinkled on top of the bread dough base. Nicoise olives grown near Nice, Provence are preferred for this dish as they have a dark purplish-brown color. They are also less salty as compared to other types of olives. These olives are sliced and layered on top of the onions. This is covered with sautéed garlic, anchovies, sun-dried tomatoes, and assorted herbs and spices and baked till done.
Traditionally, the pissaladina is served as an appetizer or a snack
Pissaladiere is a classic dish but modern day chefs have added their own contemporary twist to the classic recipe. For example, popular BBC chef and presenter Trish Deseine has a variation where she uses only onions, olives and anchovies on her bread dough base. French chef Emeril Lagasse has another variation which uses sautéed onions, garlic, pepper, thyme, olives, anchovy fillets and herbs on a puff pastry base. A few chefs prefer to use sliced tomatoes on the bread dough base while others will skip tomatoes completely. In France, traditionally, cheese is not used on the base but in the adjoining Italian city of San Remo, cheese is sprinkled on top of the bread dough base before preparing the pissaladiere. To make healthier versions, chefs may also use a chickpea-dough base rather than white bread.
In the French Riviera, street vendors bake huge trays of the pissaladiere and sell them to strollers as a snack.