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.
Summertime is finally here. The rainy weather has been replaced by brilliant sunlight, longer evenings, and heat. I do not know about your family but our diet takes a huge detour south to the Mediterranean. Lunches become far simpler affairs. Olive oil replaces animal fats. Vegetables from our vegetable gardens and fish take center stage. And our dinners whips away into green salads and delicious soups. One of our absolute favorite soups is Avgolemono, the silky smooth and lemony-bright chicken and rice soup from Greece.…
Sometimes, finding fish in the Pacific Northwest is surprisingly (and frustratingly) difficult. Undoubtedly our oceans and rivers are well stocked with some of the world’s best (and most sustainably harvested) wild salmon, crabs, steelhead trout, and rockfish. But try going to most grocery stores. You will be confronted by the same farmed salmon, shrimp, and an old-looking piece of cod. I was recently surprised when I stopped into my local store and found a pack of flash-frozen ahi tuna steaks. I wanted something different and remembered a Provencal preparation called ‘Thon a ‘l’Oseille’, or tuna with sorrel.
Creamy Provencal chickpea soup, also known as Fourmade, is at its very core a hearty soup made by an impoverished people to provide an inexpensive and healthy yet filling meal. It’s surprisingly rich and luxurious tasting. So much so that even my 9-year-old son is convinced it has cream in it. Once you make the basic recipe try embellishing with leeks, chickpeas, grated Parmesan, cooked rice or even croutons fried in olive oil. …
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.
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.
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.
Provencal Artichokes Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Tapenade
When the first artichokes rose from my semi-dormant thistle bed, like Lazarus from the dead, I found excuse enough to search for any leftover rose bottles that may have escaped last summer’s debauchery to celebrate with. I walk out to my garden with nothing more than a simple lunch and a bottle of rosé on my mind. I blankly stared at my artichokes as if somehow they might reveal how they’d like to be prepared. Would it be slow cooked in a barigoule or perhaps just simply steamed with a hollandaise? I stood in my garden for a long time, surrounded by an audience of fava beans, peas, lettuce, and mint who decided to join the debate. My basil, feeling left out and secluded, angrily voiced their opinion….
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. …
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.
I love the simplicity of grilled sardines. If they are super fresh, nothing more is needed than simply tossing them on a hot grill and perhaps a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of fruity olive oil. If you don’t live near the ocean where freshly netted sardines are readily available, then I suggest IQF or individually quick frozen. People may scoff and say frozen is never as good. I know I used to be that opinionated too. Then I cooked a few pounds caught by a small fisherman near Monterey, California After catching, he immediately flash-froze them at 40 below zero, locking in the freshness. The best practice is to thaw slowly in your refrigerator over two days. This way you have the least amount of cell damage that is usually caused by thawing too quickly.
Many people have a decided opinion on whether or not they will eat a strongly flavored fish. For those willing to try or already love them, I suggest a simple sauce with assertive, sharp briny or spicy flavors like capers, preserved lemon or harissa. These grilled sardines are fabulous served over arugula or even simply steamed couscous.
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….
On July 29th, I am hosting a pop-up dinner promising an exciting evening of Spanish Tapas, Wines and old-world Conviviality. The genesis for the event came during a lunch with friends several weeks back; I was hungry for the tapas I used to make when I was Chef of the award winning Pili Pili in Chicago and wanted some people to share in the fun. I actually forgot how much I loved canalons; there is something incredibly satisfying about eating them. Not sure if it is the textural aspect of soft pasta baked in a creamy sauce that harkens back to the emotions of my childhood or maybe the utter simplicity of it. Canalons are truly an everyman’s dish that crosses several cultural lines. Try making canalons this weekend!
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
The Musts and Must-Nots
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.