Every Friday, we celebrate the beginning of the weekend by sitting on our back deck, armed with a strong glass of pastis, nibbling on a small bite of some kind. It’s our perfect way to unwind and quickly settle into relaxation mode. By the end of the pastis, I usually don’t feel like getting up and making anything too complicated or labor intensive 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….
This dish is the result of an unexpected collaboration between two chefs who never met, David Everitt-Matthias and my sous chef Keith Schneider. The flavors and scents spoke of Provence; freshly salted cod, wisps of the citrus, chickpeas and roasted red peppers. Each dish a reflection of a single moment, an edible photograph capturing a mere twinkling of time, locked forever.
I bought Chef Everitt-Matthias’s book ‘Essence’ years before, and had fawned and drooled over the lush photography and original inspiring recipes within. I couldn’t afford a trip to England to eat at his restaurant, so I started reproducing some of the dishes in my own restaurant. I cooked a verbatim copy of one of my favorites, home-salted cod with roasted tomatoes, chickpeas and anchovy dressing, for so long, I began thinking it was my own creation.
Keith Schneider was my last Sous Chef in the professional world who looked remarkably like a young Michael Douglas. He learned to make the best liquid center croquettes on the planet after spending five years sweating in Iron Chef Jose Garces’ kitchens. The first dish he ever cooked for me was a croqueta served with a saffron aioli, I loved it so much I immediately put it on the menu, eventually adding it to the cured cod set.
Gui Gedda had become a mythical character in my unrelenting search for pure, unadulterated Provence cooking. I heard his name mentioned in several publications, always spoken with absolute reverence, but could never really find out a lot of details about him. Chefs referred to him as both the Pope and the Marcel Pagnol of Provencal cuisine. Finding Gui Gedda’s book ‘Cooking School Provence’ was a major find; it felt a bit like finding the holy grail.
I cannot think of a better way to whet my appetite than to nibble on some olives and saucisson with a glass
of wine. I started life as an olive purist, demanding they were only served simply brined and nothing else. Then I tried these, the marriage of flavors combined with the warmed aromatics make these olives irresistible. The flavors will literally jump out of the pan and seduce your palate. …
It is absolutely no secret to anyone that knows me well that I am in head over heels in love with Provence, land of my predecessors. It’s heaven on earth; land of the golden sunshine, peopled by a population that are joyous, defiant, independent with a playful spirit, and best of all, they really love to eat. The cuisine is simple and rustic, yet diversely reflects the seasons on every plate. Limiting my favorites to a select, top 10 list was hard, but this is what I came up with.
As a small child, I believed in two things; Santa Claus and the virtues of a simple grilled Loup de mer, or branzino as it is more commonly called in the US. Loup de mer is a Mediterranean sea bass with a delicate flesh and addictively delicious crunchy skin when grilled. Get your coals white hot, put dried fennel branches on top then the fish and let the licorice smoky flavors pleasantly permeate your fish, lending a feeling of being in Provence. There is no greater act of love than sharing a wonderful meal you cook with the people dear to you. Remember, good food can happen anywhere, this one is especially good cooked over an outdoor fire, preferably deep in woods, with loved ones and a few bottles of great wine….
Chickpea Fries, also known as panisses, are a staple food from the south of France and parts of Italy. Panisses are made by slowly cooking chickpea flour and water into a thick porridge, pouring it onto an oiled pan and cooling overnight, then cutting into finger sized shapes and deep frying.
Panisses are the perfect snack food, especially when flavored with spicy peppers and cumin, and served with a dipping sauce like rouille or a harissa spiked aioli. They make a great accompaniment for roast chicken, lamb, beef and seafood.
Fall had started in earnest; a cool, light mist was falling and we decided to take our dog Lucy for a long walk foraging wild cèpes. I built a roaring fire in our wood stove, placed a daube of beef on top to slowly braise, and decanted a heady bottle of red wine, then walked out into the dank Mendocino forest.
Maybe I am like one of Pavlov’s dogs, but I start to crave beef daube (Provencal beef stew) as soon as the first cool Fall weather begins. Long ago Lisa and I lived in a small, off the grid hippie cabin deep within the woods, on the edge of Van Damme State Park in Mendocino, California. Our cabin often reminded me of Daudet’s windmill in Provence, though beaten and forlorn, it provided a quiet refuge from the bustle of modern life.
Fall had started in earnest; a cool, light mist was falling on an otherwise drab day when we decided to take our dog Lucy for a long walk foraging wild cèpes. I built a roaring fire in our wood stove and placed a daube of beef perfumed with cinnamon stick and dried orange peel on top to slowly braise. We decanted a heady bottle of red wine and walked out into the dank Mendocino forest. …
A tian is an earthenware vessel of Provence used both for cooking and serving. It is also the name of the dish prepared in it and baked in an oven. – Wikipedia
A lot of friends had asked for this recipe shortly after posting a picture of it on Facebook two weeks ago. The dish was born of the moment, inspired partly by too much pastis and perhaps a memory not quite my own. We had just gotten back from France, and my garden was overgrown with weeds competing for the same limited resources that nourished my vegetables. I was doing everything to avoid tackling the tangled mess, so I started reading Roger Verge’s classic tome, ‘Cuisine of the Sun’ under the guise of research. I got to the pages where he delectably described in vivid detail a lunch with local fishermen in Cannes. They had just caught two beautiful John Dorys, and were preparing a large, festive tian for everyone to enjoy. Verge waxed on poetically about “potatoes gilded with saffron, ruddy tomatoes, pale onions, bluish thyme, green bayleaf and steel-grey fish” cooked in the local baker’s oven and served in the golden May sunlight. I was hooked.
The eyes are the mirror of the soul and reflect everything that seems to be hidden; and like a mirror, they also reflect the person looking into them. – Paulo Coelho
No other dish in the world better captures the soul and spirit of a single region than bouillabaisse. The rich, often colorful history of Marseille floats sublimely with rascasse in its spicy golden hued broth. Some believe bouillabaisse got its start from the Greek mariners who founded Marseille as Massalia in 600 BC, while others claim its origins are strictly Italian because of a few shared ingredients. The absolute truth may be that no one can precisely pinpoint the exact single moment in time, whether on that fabled riverbed encampment of fishermen and their wives or not, that bouillabaisse was born. What really would be the point of trying to figure that out anyway? It won’t make it taste any better, and it certainly won’t change the fact that bouillabaisse is the mirror reflection of the cultural melting pot Marseille has become. And the deeper I look into it, the more I see my own story reflected in it.
To eat figs off the tree in the very early morning, when they have been barely touched by the sun, is one of the exquisite pleasures of the Mediterranean. Elizabeth David
A few days ago, Lisa and I returned from an all too short vacation in France. We started up north in Puligny Montrachet then worked our way south to the golden sunshine of my family’s beloved Provence. When we arrived at our home in Cagnes sur Mer, near Nice (France), I only wanted to drink roses, pastis and red Bandols and eat Provencal food. The idea was solidified after I returned from the local farmer’s market armed with a beautiful wild sea bass caught that very morning and a basket of perfectly ripe figs….
Today, the musts and must nots of preparing bouillabaisse are so numerous and so contradictory that one should be prepared to break rules at will. — Richard Olney
Bouillabaisse is perhaps the most bastardized dish that was ever created and as a classicist, that truly bothers me. In its strictest form, bouillabaisse is an assertive flavored, richly textured saffron seafood stew made from a specific list of Mediterranean fish that is always served in two courses. The worst case gives us a barely flavored, thin broth speckled with too many vegetables that some old seafood has been laid to rest in. Somewhere in between lies bouillabaisse’s true soul, and sadly that has been forgotten, or worse yet, lost.
Sharing good food and wine with someone you love is perfection. – Jean-Andre Charial
The foundation for today’s lunch was simple; it was cold out and I longed for comfort food. Everyone has their own mental picture of what that entails, for me, it is anything Provencal. What I love about southern French cooking is that it is very approachable, unpretentious and rustic yet at the same time diverse and alluring. A food deeply rooted in a regionality carved out by conquest, invasion and geography. Yet at the same moment, it is an artist’s palette of beautiful colors, textures and sensuous flavors. …
A recipe is rather like a piece of music. Although the notes may be read and reproduced faithfully the result can still be crude, mechanical or just uninteresting. Roger Verge
Notes from My Fictitious Mazet
Recently I bought a home in Vancouver, Washington and found myself with the unenviable task of having to move yet again. Hopefully for the last time but who really knows. If I did my calculations correctly, at best I shall be carted off to the nursing home drooling uncontrollably in a snug pair of Depends by the time the last house payment is paid. At worst, I will be found by bill collectors thoroughly mummified with a glass of pastis in one hand and a tartine of tapenade in the other….
Ah soupe au pistou, I love you, thanks for making every single bite a golden taste of Summer! No other soup more clearly defines Provence than soupe au pistou. It is the edible history of the ‘arrière-pays’, or hinterlands of Provence where farmers have long tended their fields growing some of the most amazing vegetables and fruits. There are several versions of Pistou ranging from ham and bean based ones to purely vegetable ones. This one is based on what my maman taught me, though she would roll her eyes at the very thought of canned beans and San Marzano tomatoes. I find them to be suitable substitutes with little loss of quality and/or flavor. By all means substitute freshly cooked beans and just picked tomatoes. Pistou can be confusing for us Americans as it refers both to the soup and pesto-like basil sauce. The pistou sauce I make is not traditional but has an amazing flavor and stays green forever. Do not buy pre-made pesto as a substitute. They are vastly inferior and will ruin the final outcome….