Thursday, July 9, 2015

Summer Market Bounty - Heirloom Tomatoes


Who could resist? Every Tuesday I get one of these crates full of the most beautiful assortment of heirloom tomatoes at Vaison's Provençal market. We are suffering a real heat wave here in Provence right now so this is the perfect summer food - cut up into a colorful summer salad, served with mozzarella or burrata, black basil cut into a chiffonnade, our own, very best olive oil, some sea salt and pepper fresh from the mill. Summer bliss!
Perfect Summer Lunch



Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Bold and Adventurous: Marrow Bone Appetizer

Even when we were still real young our parents took me and my sister and brother travelling. One of our first foreign trips was to a farm in Denmark, where we played with little piglets and the lady of the house treated us to wonderful thick hot chocolate. I remember fabulous sauerkraut stuffed and brined red peppers in Austria, huge piles of then to us very foreign watermelons in Yugoslavia,where we also got our first taste of Slivovitz simply because the fruit salad was generously perfumed with it.
Later we graduated to the real good things in life: the first lobster which we went to pick out in the market and boiled ourselves. And then oysters. I still admire how our parents taught us to eat all these things by making it a great adventure. So all three of us are the probably most unfussy eaters there are. There are things we like better or less, but nothing we won't at least try once. Saying that I do draw the line at snakes and dogs - a very firm line that is.

Deliciously roasted Marrow Bone at L'Epicurien restaurant in Crestet

So when the other day I found something on the menu at our friend's Eric and Nana's restaurant L'Epicurien that I had never eaten before I just had to try it. Now I have encountered marrow bones before - Osso Bucco is only worthy if served on the bone, but I never had it "raw" so to speak. Raw in the sense of it being served no frills style. Just the bone, beautifully roasted with good bread on the side and some sea salt. What can I say? It is wonderful.
And, unfortunately, very rich - I rather not tell you about its fat content as otherwise you will never try it. Which would be a shame because half the fun of of finding new culinary adventures is throwing yourself into them wholeheartedly. And what can be wrong about something so delicious that is even said to cure inflammatory conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease and gluten intolerance? So be bold and adventurous and bon appétit!
Restaurant L'Epicurien, Quartier Glacière, 84110 Crestet, Tel: 0490419982, www.epicurienvaison.fr

Monday, May 25, 2015

Culinary Snapshots from Provence

What a busy month of May this has been! In May the tourist season starts to really pick up in Vaison la Romaine. This is the month when friends who know when Provence is at its best start to appear on your doorstep. There are birthdays to be celebrated, tomatoes to be planted, it is the month of asparagus which we now eat about every other day and I even cooked the first twelve jars of cherry jam yesterday! My cooking classes had to be prepared, new recipes were tested and cooked by my lovely guests. So in between our private lunches or dinners tend to be fast and improvised. Have a look at what we ate lately:

 Beef capaccio with lemon vinaigrette, shaved parmesan and a little side salad


Tomato-Mozzarella revisited - I let the cherry tomatoes wilt with a little lug of olive oil over moderate heat, deglazed them with a splash of balsamico. Served lukewarm with baguette on the side.

Round zucchini stuffed with onion, garlic, sausage meat and some grated cheese, served in a very light tomato sauce

A wonderful dinner at my blogger friend Michel and Shirley Augsburger's beautiful Sablet house who served us

the best ever leek Risotto with steamed cod on a delicious fava bean puree

These two cuties visited Cuisine de Provence

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Spring Leeks with a Fishy Twist


Even in deepest winter it is a pleasure to visit Provence's beautiful farmer's markets but now that nature empties its horn of plenty full of fresh spring produce on all those stalls I can hardly contain my excitement. Today's bounty was white asparagus, skinny sweet leeks, the first fat, juicy bulbs of pink garlic, some basil and a huge bunch flat leaf parsley.
So tonight's dinner will be the asparagus. Steamed and served with a little Sauce Hollandaise, new potatoes and a slice of cooked ham. This is the traditional way white asparagus is served in Germany where they know a thing or two about this noble vegetable what with all those acres and acres of asparagus fields that you find all over the country.
After peeling the asparagus (that is the downside if you eat the white instead of the green) I tackled the leeks - just topped and tailed them, washed them thoroughly (they love to hide lots of sand) and very gently poached them for about 5 minutes in some vegetable stock.
Now you have to dry them real well - paper towels are good for this. Then I just melted about 50 g butter and three anchovy fillets, finely chopped up a handful of basil and parsley leaves, added a few generous turns of the peppermill and the juice of half a lemon. Stir all ingredients together and pour over the still warm leeks. Eat toute de suite with a slice of baguette or, if left for later, warm up for about 15 seconds in the microwave or a few minutes in a hot oven. Très, très bon!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Freezer Soup - Sunshine in the Kitchen

Somehow I always buy too many vegetables. So there is the odd zucchini left, two carrots, half a red or yellow pepper, a celery stalk - you know how it is. But since I think it is kind of sinful to just discard these leftovers, I am forever chopping and freezing them. And then one day the freezer is so stuffed with little bags I don't find anything else in there anymore.
That is the day of what has become known as the "Freezer Soup" in our house, to which, I am happy to report, my OH is always very much looking forward to.
I just empty all those little bags into a big pot, add water and vegetable stock and bring everything to the boil, then let simmer for about 10 or 15 minutes. If there is a sausage lying around (think Saucisse de Morteau or Kielbasa) I cut it into chunks and add it to the soup. Even better,  if there is still some Pistou left over in the freezer from last summer, it is added just before serving the soup. Pistou is the Provençal version of Pesto, but without the pine nuts and even the addition of cheese is optional here.
But the smell! Pistou is the quintessential perfume of summer in Provence, so no matter when I serve this soup there is sunshine in the kitchen!

Friday, April 10, 2015

The first Sign of Summer in Provence

It has been real sunny for last last two weeks here in our corner of Provence but since the Mistral has been very busy too, we still have the central heating on and cannot plant all those beautiful little tomato, eggplant or zucchini plants you find in the markets now.
But today I spotted the very first sign of summer to come! What from afar looks like just another tree still dreaming the last dreams of its wintery sleep -


sprouts, if you look closely, the tiniest, very first baby figs!

It is the sign that summer lurks around the corner. I can't wait for these little beauties to grown into juicy, fat and fragrant fruits that we eat fresh from the tree, cook jam from or transform into sweet or savoury tarts. Maybe I will be courageous and plant my tomatoes this weekend....

Friday, April 3, 2015

Rachel Khoo's Little Paris Kitchen

When in Paris we always make it a point to visit all the English language bookshops. Until recently this used to be WH Smith on Rue Rivoli and the wonderful and rightly famous "Shakespeare & Company" on the Left Bank. But during our last visit while strolling along Rue Rivoli we discovered Galignani, which is not only the oldest English language bookshop in Paris but also on the continent. And the most beautiful and elegant bookstore you can imagine with maybe not the most comprehensive choice of books but certainly the most select - any bibliophile's dream.
 Lentil Salad with red beets, Goat Cheese and Dill Vinaigrette

Which is not where I bought Rachel Khoo's "The Little Paris Kitchen" a book that has been sitting on my kitchen bookshelf for a while until I now finally started "cooking it". My nephew and his wife along with my darling OH aka guinea pig No.1 tried "Puy lentils with goat cheese and red beets with dill vinaigrette" and guess what? They liked it! And so did I. All of it, but totally and especially the dill vinaigrette. Dill is hard to come by in Provence so now we planted it in our kitchen garden as this is a vinaigrette you will want to serve with steamed fish, chicken breast or just lick off a spoon, so good it is. So look up the recipe which I am not supposed to give you here because of copyright reasons. And if you only make the vinaigrette (which involves a bunch of dill, some sunflower oil, white wine vinegar, some sugar and salt)  you will be one happy bunny. Talking of bunnies:

Happy Easter!