The cuisine of Provence and Johnston's native Nice owes more to North Africa, Portugal, and Italy than it does to Paris. Based on olive oil rather than butter and cream, it is thrifty, versatile fare. Fish and vegetables cooked al dente take pride of place and are usually permeated by sharp sauces; anchovies, black olives, garlic, capers, and gherkins are recurring ingredients. (The sauces double as dips and salad dressings.) Unlike a great many cooks reared in rustic France, Johnston doesn't mope over the inferiority of American tomatoes, mushrooms, and fish. She advises using a Greek or Italian market for specialities, and recommends locating a fishmonger who stocks the little-known bellyfish (""It is about a quarter of the price of any other fish"") which substitutes nicely for many Mediterranean varieties. She also urges recalcitrant Americans to discover squid, octopus, and salt cod. The cooking techniques much resemble those of the voguish cuisine minceur (no rich, heavy sauces; vegetables used as thickening agents)--only Johnston spares you all the folderol about a culinary ""revolution."" Desserts are mostly fruit-based and a brief chapter on homemade beverages--wines and brandies infused with orange, lemon, coriander, and so on--rounds things off. Clear, non-mystical directions; inexpensive and low-cholesterol ingredients. What more could you ask for?