Bistrot du Paradou is simply not a restaurant for everyone. In fact, let me discourage you entirely from eating here – you will hate it. It is an unpretentious, no-frills eatery with no colored gel dots festooning plates or even bizarre culinary fusions poetically listed on a whimsical menu. Actually, there isn’t even a menu; all you get is whatever the chef decides to cook for that day and that’s it. There are no fancy linens, no Riedel stemware, nor imposing sommeliers; there really isn’t even a wine list, just a single open bottle lay waiting on every table. And you had better make reservations or risk not getting a table. …
Secrecy is Everything
We met Johann Pepin at ‘Les Pastras‘, his sprawling organic farm located on a desolate mountain top near the Provencal village of Cadenet under the cloak of secrecy. He cautioned us that “thieves were everywhere”, before instructing us to lock our car doors and gather down below. I must admit I felt a bit uneasy as he slipped a black hood loosely over my head, gently guiding me into the back of an unmarked black van.
Moments later we arrived at the edge of an unnamed field in an unnamed town in an unnamed country for what was surely going to be an epic truffle hunt. Such is the way with truffle hunters where secrecy is everything. …
A Curious Market Tour in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
We met Ashley, the Queen of Curious Provence, for a quick espresso at Café de la Place, located on the edge of the bustling St. Rémy market. Any possibility of feeling awkward or weird by meeting someone you don’t know was quickly obliterated by Ashley. She was perfectly outgoing and talkative enough to make us feel like we were meeting a long lost friend rather than an unknown tour guide. Within moments of downing our coffee, we were in the thick of the bustling market, weaving through the busy stalls like regular market habitués….
I have been noticing a trend developing in the South of France: Pick a commonly used ingredient like chickpeas, roasted peppers, sun-dried tomatoes or even basil; make it spreadable, then add the suffix ade and voila, you have a fabulous finger food to serve at your next apéro. …
I recently reread Robert Carrier’s ‘Feasts of Provence’, and was reminded of Le Grand Aïoli, a Provencal dish I don’t make often enough. In it, he states “If bouillabaisse vies with bourride and its lesser-known cousin le revesset along the southern coast from Sète to Menton, aïoli is the undisputed star of the arrière-pays, the herb-scented backlands that separate the famed ports of the Riviera from the austere mountain villages behind.” The arrière-pays, or hinterlands, are where farms reign supreme so it is not a total surprise that a primarily vegetable dish with salt cod and snails is king.
This Spring I have employed a new strategy in my endless battle of garden warfare against the evil weeds: If you can’t beat them, eat them. Henceforth I shall season the offenders with oil and vinegar rather than spray another deadly concoction of chemicals onto my lawn.
The opposing forces are led by none other than my very own son Beaumont, who unwittingly has unleashed an endless supply of dandelions in my yard. My son is an aficionado of blowing dead dandelions sending millions of dandelion seeds parachuting into my yard, ready to strike.
‘Plus elle est demeuree sur le feu, meilleure elle est!
(The longer it stays on the fire, the better the daube is)
Daubes are very slow-cooked stews that are found all over rural France, though the best known are from southern France. Traditionally daubes are made with lamb or beef, though one does not need to travel too far to find pork daubes, bull daubes, rabbit daubes, and even octopus daubes. Classically they are cooked in the lingering embers of a wood fire in special potbellied pots called ‘daubieres’ which are mostly made from copper or clay.
The lengthy cooking time combined with the bulbous shape of the cooking vessel creates a convection action where heat from the bottom rises to the top in the form of steam, hits the cooler top, then rains back down over the simmering meat. This action allows the collagen found in braising meats to turn into gelatin and provide a silky mouthfeel to the finished dish.
Many cooks claim it is damn near impossible to make a proper daube without a daubiere, though begrudgingly some will admit it is possible. I was one of those cooks.…
This recipe is a slight variation of Christopher Kimball’s insanely delicious orange – anise bundt cake recipe that appeared recently in his magazine ‘Milk Street’. I was so blown away by the flavor, texture, and lightness I began experimenting to suit my tastes. My seven-year-old Beau suggested adding chocolate chips so I did. This cake has now become a family favorite….
Are you tired of cooking your pork chop the same exact way every time? Here is a quick and easy recipe popular in the South of France made with ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen. All you need is good mustard, olive oil, sage, ground fennel seeds, and obviously some tasty pork chops. I used Tamworth – Hereford mixed pork that was pastured in the Wallowa Valley by Carman Ranch and luckily now you can buy the same pork online.
Socca is the ubiquitous street food found all over southeastern France, most notably in Nice and more specifically around the Cours Saleya market. When cooked perfectly, it is best straight from the pan and served very hot, replete with addictively crispy edges and lightly seasoned with flake sea salt, a touch of cumin, and perhaps a drizzle of olive oil. It makes the perfect merenda, or midday snack, with a bottle of rosé (who drinks just one glass?) to keep you active while searching for treasures in the narrow streets of Vieux Nice.
It is hard to pinpoint the exact origins of socca, or soca as it is spelled in the Niçard dialect, though the modern version is likely to have crossed borders from Italy where it is known as farinata. Wikipedia mentions a possible origin story of a group of Roman soldiers cooking chickpea flour on a shield. Chez Pipo, a Nice legend since 1923, mentions that the inhabitants of Nice used to stash large quantities of chickpea flour and olive oil to weather long sieges both by invading Italian and French forces. It is also is very popular in various forms and guises all around the Mediterranean.
Have you ever looked at a favorite cookbook for years, perhaps even decades, and never noticed a recipe in it? Yesterday I was leafing through a Gui Gedda cookbook (Cooking School Provence) and came across his recipe for ‘Tatin de Poires’, or as I renamed it ‘Pear Tarte Tatin Coffee Cake’. I can’t believe I never noticed it, it’s a beautiful cake that is extremely simple to prepare.
The palate of colors change at my nearby farmers market, bringing out old favorites and a host of new dishes to explore; for this very reason, I offer two variations on a fall menu. One celebrates Indian summer with a grilled calamari and radicchio salad, and lavender honey brushed lamb chops served with a Moroccan couscous and chickpea salad. While the other, a soupe au pistou and daube of pork cheeks gently reminds us of the heartier fare that will soon provide comfort and solace during the darker nights….
Lately, I have become fascinated with the different Fall squashes that have started appearing at the farmers market. I grabbed seven or eight without thinking about what I would make with them, I just knew I needed them in my life. The forecast for the weekend called for cool, rainy Pacific Northwest weather. So I decided to make a comforting Southern French beef short rib stew known as daube. Daube is one of those harbinger dishes that signals the changing of summer to fall. I couldn’t think of anything better than a bowl of Fall squash gnocchi and a rustic bottle of Chateau de Pibarnon Bandol rouge to accompany our lunch. …
One of the most endearing and favorite of all Provencal dishes is Petits Farcis or stuffed vegetables, also known as lu farçum in the Niçard (Nice) dialect. They are the perfect and easy family meal that can be served hot, cold or warm and everyone loves to eat them. Petits Farcis are best made in the summertime when so many great vegetables, like sun-ripened tomatoes, round zucchini, and thin eggplants start to appear in the farmers’ markets but really can be made any time of year….
Perfect for making a weeknight meal feel like a feast, try this one-pan recipe for pork chops with artichokes, ready in under 45 minutes!
Are you getting tired of the same old pork dish and looking for something new? Try my one pan pork chops with artichokes and have your palate revived. I was nosing around an old book on Nicoise cooking and came across this interesting title ‘Poor Man’s Pork Chop with Artichokes’. I was intrigued, what one country defines as poor man’s food, another calls a gourmet delicacy.
Upon deeper inspection, I noticed something else peculiar in the recipe, the addition of cornichon, or small French pickles. I had a hard time visualizing the combination; pork with cornichon is classic, pork with artichokes sounds feasible, but the two mixed together almost sounds like when Reese’s peanut butter cups were invented. It reminded me of my recent pork and pastis post when I combined two different things you would never see in the same pan together to spectacular results.
Trouchia or Omelet?
My garden is now producing more zucchini than I can possibly consume. Each day I walk out to tend to my plants and notice that five more zucchini grew overnight. I have tried disguising them on the dinner table to avoid the inevitable incredulous look of horror from my seven-year-old son Beau who long passed zucchini saturation a few weeks back. Thankfully I remembered Trouchia, this old Nice favorite usually made with Swiss chard.
Zucchini Blossom Beignet: the perfect answer to a garden overrun with zucchini
There always seems to that one definable moment in the summer when your springtime fantasies of planting too much zucchini meets the harsh reality that you now have more zucchini than you could possibly ever eat. In terror, you start rummaging through hundreds of cookbooks and online sources, looking for any word that slightly resembles zucchini to cook recipes from. Friends stop answering your calls for fear that you may try to unload another shopping bag on them and neighbors cautiously keep an eye on you as you near their front porches.
Well fear no more, I have the perfect solution: Zucchini Blossom Beignet, an easy to make celebration of your harvest, that culls your crop in the tastiest of ways….
Every Friday, we celebrate the beginning of the weekend by sitting on our back deck, armed with a strong glass of pastis, nibbling on small bites. It’s the perfect way for us to unwind and quickly settle into weekend relaxation mode. By the end of our first pastis, I usually don’t feel like getting up and making anything too complicated for dinner. This week, I sauteed pork chop with garlic and pastis, a simple dish I wanted to share with you. …
Ramp Pasta made like Pate Nicoise
One of my favorite springtime dishes is a classic daube of lamb, a Provencal lamb stew made from onctuous lamb cheeks slowly simmered in rose with lavender honey till impossibly tender. Traditionally daubes are served with something starchy, like pasta or gnocchi, to help stretch the meat out and serve as a vehicle to soak up the wonderful juices.
In Nice, they often make a green gnocchi (Pate Nicoise) that simmers in the broth for the last 30 minutes. This year I tried something new, I made a classic Pate Nicoise, using wild ramps in place of the more traditional Swiss chard, and the results were stunning.
Slowing down to a Provencal Rhythm
Last August we spent a transformative week in the historic hill town of Cagnes sur Mer, widely considered the ‘Montmartre’ of the South and long favored by impressionist painters for its alluring beauty. Within five days we went from our hurried, busy lives to a more relaxed, slowed down Provencal pace, hopelessly seduced by incredibly fresh seafood, perfect vegetables, and daily rounds of pastis and rosé.
I originally wrote this post for Curious Provence, but wanted to add the recipe for rouget I roasted in a wood burning oven in Cagnes Sur Mer. To read the entire article, please visit Curious Provence – Truly one of the great Provencal blogs; written by expat Ashley….