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….
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.
A quieter, more contemplative life, one punctuated only by the scraping of chairs after a leisurely lunch and the wind rustling through the lavender fields… Sara Clemence
We have a lot of fun changes coming to our blog in the next few weeks, and we sincerely hope all of you will join us at the table for great conversations, recipes and more. Some of the more astute may have already noticed that our name has evolved from ‘Eat Till You Bleed’ to ‘Pistou and Pastis’. Pistou and Pastis perfectly captures our life at the moment, and reflects the impossible to fight gravitational pull of all things southern France for us. As I grow older, my desire to slow life down, enjoy the simpler moments and sip pastis in the golden sunshine, nibbling on tapenades with good friends is what truly sparks me.
Why Pistou and Pastis?
To paraphrase the introduction of disgraced former Nice mayor Jacques Medecin’s intro to his wonderful cookbook ‘Cuisine Nicoise’: If I were asked why I write this blog, I would reply: Because it seems to me that I belong to the last generation which has had traditional recipes handed down to it. Because I love Provence and it’s countryside. Because genuine Provencal food cannot be found anywhere except in Provencal homes and a handful of restaurants in the south of France. Because I love cooking for friends and family and watching them discover with great delight the subtlety of my Mediterranean traditions. Because in Provence, and in my family, both men and women do the cooking, passing along their skills from father to daughter from mother to son. But mostly because I want to preserve, add, and possibly share to the history of Provence and its glorious culinary traditions.
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….