Provence (Provence et Midi)

summer caponata

July 17th, 2014

DSC01702

a successful vacation (by Oscar Wilde)

summer caponata

Vacation. Actually, it is more like this VACATION ! 

This year I thought I would try something new: take a vacation and NOT work. You know get out of the kitchen, enjoy the cooking of others (often), step out of my routine, and detach from my computer. So far so good. Oscar Wilde said that “moderation is a fatal thing [and] nothing succeeds like excess.” By Mr. Wilde’s standard, I have been highly successful in my vacation thus far. Read the rest of this entry »

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Salade Niçoise (à ma façon)

May 18th, 2014

nicoise 3
a dream kitchen, a village in Provence, and a favorite salad  

Salade Niçoise (à ma façon)
(salad Niçoise my may)

There was a photograph of a kitchen on Instagram which gathered several “likes” and one person commented, “my dream kitchen.” It made me think. What is my “dream” kitchen?” Do I have one? What would be in it?  The topic is hardly unique. Elizabeth David wrote an article about the same thing but I believe the discussion was prompted by magazine competitions, not an Instagram photo. Times are different but the question is still fun.

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venez avec moi à Banon

July 18th, 2012

Chef Morgan banonChef Morgan Banonchef morgan village in Provence: Banon

venez avec moi à Banon:
a carefully wrapped chèvre, fennel confit, 
and fleshy balsamic-drenched fig jam 

You may have heard of a French cheese wrapped in chestnut leaves and that this cheese is typically served with fig jam. The rumors are true and the cheese is from an actual village in Provence: Banon.

Running in Provence, I was thinking about both the cheese and the jam (which I had enjoyed the night before); however, there was a problem which my grandfather would have referred as “skinny.” No, he did not use the word to describe a person but an undesirable thin consistency of a gravy or jam. Grandpa would have said that the fig jam is skinny and he would have been right. Figs are lush. It is a shame to reduce them to a seedy consistency, losing all of that fleshy texture. It is akin to a peck on the check when you could get a full kiss on the lips. I do not think anyone would choose the former if you could have the latter. My Millay fleshy fig/lip thought was only interrupted by the fennel growing wild on the side of the road and the thought of  Apt’s candied fruit. It was the culmination of these thoughts — fleshy figs, creamy cheese, candied fruit, wild fennel, and that Millay sonnet — which inspired this week’s (regional) simple pleasure: Banon de Banon A.O.C. with fleshy fig jam and fennel confit. However, before you go there, venez avec moi  à Banon (come with me to Banon)Read the rest of this entry »

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venez avec moi à Gordes

July 10th, 2012

 

Chef Morgan Gordes

 picking cherries in the valley of the Gods: venez avec moi à Gordes 

 It is 9:30 p.m. and the sun is setting, but not so quickly. The sun is taking its time; everyone is. It is difficult to put an end to a day filled with Provençal sun, the calming smell of lavender, and the song of the complacent cicadas. As I write, I see expansive green valleys filled with cherry trees below me. The sound of pea-gravel crunching under the waiter’s feet (as he brings me a Châteauneuf-du-Pape and something warm for my shoulders) is only a momentary distraction from the twenty birds swirling above my head trying to get in their last flight before heading to bed. I am in Luberon. I have eaten and explored my way through the day: jambon with truffles; cherries I picked off the trees;  fougasse lush with salty olives and olive oil; wild boar sausage; fresh chèvre bathed in crushed lavender and honey, aïoli with perfectly steamed vegetables; rosés from nearby vineyards; hearty and robust reds from nearby Châteauneuf-du-Pape. I think I found the land of the Gods and perhaps that is why the Romans had once claimed it as their own centuries ago. It am in Gordes and it is Gordes which inspired this week’s simple pleasure, cherries poached in fresh lavender and thyme. However, before you go there, come with me to one of the Luberon’s most beautiful villages: venez avec moi à Gordes. 

Chef Morgan Gordes Sunset

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hungry no more: The Hunger Games menu

April 1st, 2012

 hungry no more: The Hunger Games Menu 

Peeta’s nut and raisin bread with Prim goat cheese

Rue dandelion salad with tracker jacker dressing

Katniss’s rabbit (or chicken) chasseur

 Roasted blackberries on a vanilla pod bow with vanilla seed ice cream
and fresh violets for Gale

Impossible for me to resist. I love food. I love books. The title is The Hunger Games. Coincidentally the book (part of a trilogy by Suzanne Collins) is a fad among tweens and teens and it was race with my eldest daughter to see who could finish the book first. She won. We both loved the book and the food references throughout sent my creativity into orbit. However, the power of this book goes beyond the ability to encourage a child’s love of literature, it can also encourage them to eat good food (unbeknownst to them), and as I quickly turned the pages, this week’s simple pleasure, a Hunger Games menu, was born.  

Happy Hunger Games and may the odds be ever in your favor.” 

Hunger Games Loaf of Bread with and arrow stuck in it

“Gale holds up a loaf of bread with an arrow stuck in it, and I laugh. It’s real bakery bread, not the flat dense loaves we make from our grain rations.” (page 7)

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venez avec moi en Provence: Peille

March 4th, 2012

Lavender and Wheat

venez avec moi en Provence: Peille

D’où que l’on vienne et pour survive ensemble,
la culture est le lien indispensable.”

([Peille is] where one comes to survive together,
culture is the indispensable link)

Notre Village, Juillet 2010
by Roger Perruquetti
taken from Peille
festival poster

One of the reasons I am drawn to France is that it is a place where tradition, manners, and history are respected and honored. Throughout France, down to the tiniest of villages, its inhabitants come together (usually annually) to celebrate the bounty of their region. These fêtes or manifestations” range from apple picking and lobster trapping in the north to the harvest of jasmine, lemons, and lavender in the south. You will not find sponsored banners or advertisers promoting the events. These are local affairs. If there are 8” by 12” posters, they are designed and hung by the locals themselves.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Venez avec moi en Provence: Contes

February 21st, 2011

venez avec moi en Provence:  Contes

You have never heard of Contes ? Ne vous en faites pas (don’t worry) most travelers to France have not.  It is not a typical vacation destination point unless you are as obsessed with food markets and the people that grow the food (as I am). Contes is a small country village in the south of France, approximately a twenty minutes drive north of Nice. The tiny town is home to the usual quaint French village charm found throughout the south of France: the small country homes surrounded by olive trees and fields of lavender; the town center with the father and son butcher shop and the family-owned pâtisseries with neighbors chatting over a cup of coffee; the little town school, and  les fêtes throughout the summer.  One thing that makes Contes particularly  special is its food cooperative.  I learned of the cooperative from my close friend and her mother who themselves make the weekly pilgrimage to Contes.


Every Saturday morning in a one room building that looks like a barn there is the Contes cooperative .  Contes residents and those living in surrounding areas bring their finest fruits, vegetables, herbs, cheeses, meats, preserves, and oils to sell.  The cooperative is something everyone plans their week and day around because if you want a good selection, you have to go early.


The selection changes weekly depending upon what is grown. The array of fruits and vegetables displayed transform the barn-like room into one of color and aroma. The herbs are so fresh and plentiful that you can smell them outside the large cooperative door.  The cheese is made by local farmers from the raw milk of their goats and cows.  If you ask, they can tell you the name of the animal from which the milk came.  Meat from animals that were recently slaughtered (but aged enough that the meat is no longer green), raised in the hills of Provence by local farmers who can tell you exactly what the animals ate when when they were butchered.  Locals also proudly display their homemade items presented with French simplistic style: bottles of olive oil pressed from local trees; jars of tomato sauce made with the Provençales tomatoes; and confiture to slather on your morning baguette.


However, the cooperative is not merely a place to buy your vegetables but it is a way of life. This is a community event and there is a lot of pride and enthusiasm behind this “share day” because people are eager to show their treasures and see what others are growing or making. There is no English spoken and the room is abuzz with hushed les potins du marché (the market gossip) that centers more on the food, than the people: Les saucisses ont été faites avec un aqneau qu’on vient juste d’abattre” (the sausages were made form a lamb that was just slaughtered) . . . “Marie a les meilleures pêches !” (Marie has the best peaches).  I took advantage of the tips of which I was the unintended beneficiary ..the lamb was delicious and Marie’s peaches were the best I think I have ever tasted.


When we left, the aroma of the market goodies filled the car.  No sooner had we left did my children buzz through the fresh berries which they found in the bag, changing my plans for our dessert that night.  What was on our dinner menu that evening?  With our friends that night we enjoyed gently braised summer zucchini with blossoms, grilled sausages, fresh chèvre with our salad, and apricot tart for dessert. Simple food, simply prepared. The aromas drew the children in from their game of hide and seek in the lavender fields to which they quickly returned as fast as they had materialized to take advantage of last of the country’s daylight (which thankfully lasts until 9 p.m.).  We watched their heads bob above the walls of lavender and their happy screamed filled the air competing only with the horses and chickens also settling in for the night.  Just another day in Provence…

Visitez Contes et mangez bien.

Je vous souhaite un bon appetit !

LM



For information about Contes, you can visit their official site at
www.ville-contes.fr

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