A few weeks ago I published a YouTube video on How To Make Zucchini Blossom Beignet, a simple fried zucchini blossom recipe that anyone can make at home. Since then I have received many requests for stuffed zucchini blossoms. I am sharing three favorite recipes: stuffed with mozzarella and prosciutto; stuffed with goat cheese, oven-dried tomatoes, and tapenade; and finally stuffed with ricotta, lemon, and basil. The possibilities are limitless. Other favorites include stuffing with various mousses and ratatouille. Pour yourself a glass of rose and let’s get cooking.
Sometimes the best dishes are those that you do not really have to think too much about. In fact, I would argue the simplest dishes are always the best dishes. A few days ago I was out in my overgrown, weed-infested garden picking tomatoes wondering what to make with them. I remembered a half-finished jar of olivade and a semi-thawed sheet of all-butter puff pastry sitting in my fridge. And viola, the tomato tart was born.
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 adore the scene in Anthony Bourdain’s program ‘Parts Unknown’ where he ends up at Daniel Boulud’s father’s house in Lyon preparing a whole roasted squash stuffed with toasted bread, cheese, lardon, and mushrooms that is baked in an old wood-burning oven. The light tension between Daniel and his father as they cook together made me laugh out loud, mostly because it reminded me of basically every single time I have cooked with my own French mother. The episode offers a glimpse into the real side of French home cooking that often gets hidden behind the glamorous image of French gastronomy.
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….
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….
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.
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….
Every trip to France always becomes a holy pilgrimage looking for the perfect croissant and pain au chocolat to start the day. I often hear people stateside whine on about how there are no good ones left, or that the croissant were fabricated elsewhere and only baked on premises. I say hogwash, I find them every trip and completely relish in the ancient alchemy of decadently crispy, buttery croissant still warm from the morning bake off. You know the kind, the ones that make a definite crunch when you break a piece off, sending golden shards of flaky pastry flying into the air.
Lucky France subsidizes boulangeries so every village has at least one, but I will concede, not every one is great. We accidently stumbled into Thierry and Elisabeth Cochard’s boulangerie while searching for the rumored vegetable market in Nolay early one morning. After circling the town several times in vain, we ran into the boulangerie to ask for directions. Elisabeth laughed and said the town’s farmers were lazy and they would never be there on time or ever for that matter. While she talked, I became transfixed by the sweet smell of baking baguettes, chaussons aux pomme and pain au chocolat. Rows and rows of perfectly cooked breads stared at me as I tried in vain to concentrate on her answers. We succumbed to a shameless amount of pastries before returning to Puligny Montrachet empty handed….
Fava Beans: The oldest and most loved harbinger of spring.
Since time immortal, favas have been appreciated for their buttery texture and nutty flavor. They have appeared on tables across the globe from Egypt to Mexico, and all point between. The tendency may be to complicate with elaborate recipes, but true lovers know they are best appreciated eaten simply.
Here are three simple recipes for you to savor favas this spring.
General Tso’s chicken did not preexist in Hunanese cuisine,but originally the flavors of the dish were typically Hunanese — heavy, sour, hot and salty.
– Chef Peng Chang-kuei
Lisa and I just finished watching the fascinating documentary “In Search of General Tso’s Chicken”. I found it so interesting not so much for the study into the origins of one of America’s most iconic ‘Chinese’ dishes, but because it confirmed my long held belief of why American Chinese food is so damned sweet. Chinese immigrants realized we Americans have a cultural sweet tooth and add copious quantities of sugar to our food to make it loved. The issue and reasonings are far more in depth and complex, but will also shed a lot of light on the story of Chinese immigration in America. The persecution Chinese immigrants were subjected to relates a recurring storyline in America that has happened with many different ethnic group. In some ways, it could be the story of Muslims today.
The side effect of watching was I went on an all out Chinese food marathon shortly after. One dish I ‘created’ was a take on General Tso’s chicken. Perhaps Chef Peng Chang-kuei, the man credited with creating General Tso’s Chicken, would be rolling in his grave if he knew of my spin on his classic Hunanese dish. I couldn’t help it, all the ingredients were just sitting around at my house waiting to be part of something epic.
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….
Many people in the Chicago area will remember my father Réal well. He was the longtime director of the Alliance Française. A wonderful gregarious man, very gifted at public speaking who absolutely loved food. There are two things I did not inherit from his set of genes. The first is the gift of public speaking. To speak publicly at my father’s level is an art form. He was brilliant. He could say one thing and literally mean another. I can remember one speech he gave while mad at me. He wove in some fatherly advice and a healthy dose of discipline. Not a single person in the crowd realized it. People were clapping and cheering. I was getting scolded publicly. The second was his cooking gene. Very sad about the first one. Positively giddy about the second. Quite frankly, the man could not cook at all. Or for those who knew my father well, his cooking was ‘god awful’ as he was fond of saying. I think my sister Anne inherited that gene. Thankfully my cooking gene came directly from Provence via my mother….
Provenance (from the French provenir, “to come from”), is the chronology of the ownership, custody or location of an object. – Wiki
We live in a time where being a great cook is simply not enough. Our clientele has become more knowledgeable and is always thirsting for more. We demand to know the provenance of our food. Its origin story. We crave the connection to the land and water from where we came. My favorite author, Antoine de Saint Exupery once wrote: “The joy of living, I say, was summed up for me in the remembered sensation of that burning and aromatic swallow, that mixture of milk and coffee and bread by which men hold communion with tranquil pastures, exotic plantations, and golden harvests, communion with earth.” These stories breathe life into our existence and onto our plates. They nourish our wild souls. Edward Abbey said “We need wilderness whether or not we ever set foot in it.” It is a bridge to our wild ancestral past. The more advanced we get, the further from our origins we walk. Having this provenance, this golden communion, provides meaning and soul to our citified life. We may never walk in the woods picking wild boletes (cepes, porcinis) but we can enjoy them and reconnect to ourselves.
Time just passes by too quickly. Maybe I am getting too old. One season is gone and another arrives before I am fully ready for it. It seemed like only yesterday I was sauteing spring’s flowering kales and broccoli rabes with chili flakes, garlic slivers and olive oil. Now summer is here. For many parts of the country, the first perfect tomato eaten warm with salt in your your or that impossibly juicy peach signifies summer’s presence. In the Pacific Northwest it is July’s arrival of wild huckleberries. Extremely juicy and reminiscent of a blueberry except with a more intense sweet, tart flavor. They are hand picked high in the Cascade mountains and can range from a deep bluish black to purple to a bright firetruck red. A very versatile fruit used both in savory dishes and a wide range of desserts like clafoutis, cobbler, milkshakes and pancakes. You can eat them raw, pickled or cooked. Of all the ways, I like them baked in a traditional clafoutis which is somewhere between a pudding and a custard. They are quick and simple to make. Baking them in France is like making cobbler….
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.
Last minute Ramp ideas to make the season last longer. What are your favorite ramp dishes? Here are three easy dishes you can make at home.
Suddenly Summer suddenly appeared at the Farmer’s Market. It felt vaguely familiar, but yet at the same time strangely different. A sudden heat wave abruptly ended Spring’s explosion, and now the farmer’s stands were brimming with sweet cherries, real tomatoes, vibrant eggplants, emerald zucchini and fragrant basil….