Papiers Provence: 2-4 Juin JUAN-LES-PINS, CAP D’ANTIBES, CANNES, ST. TROPEZ


Some people go to the French Riveria for fun. I went for a pilgrammage. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that I recently finished my Master’s in English at Oxford, and that my dissertation was written on F. Scott Fitzgerald. Over the years, I think I have read everything written by him, everything written by everyone who knew him, and everything written about him. And I still adore him the same way as I did when I finished reading The Great Gatsby for junior year English when I was seventeen nine years ago.

Being here in Provence, I couldn’t bear to be so near to Cap d’Antibes and Juan-Les-Pins, where he and Zelda lived while he was writing Tender Is the Night, and where friends Sara and Gerald Murphy had their estate, without going to see it. I was planning for going on a little drive-by photo trip to their villa, but on further investigation, I discovered that it had been made into a hotel knowns as Belles Rives. Mr. English and I passed the day there while my mom and Alain went to Biot to see the glass blowers. Along the two-day sojourn, we traveled to some of the most famous places on the Riviera: Cannes, St. Tropez, Grasse. But we all agreed at the end, that Cap d’Antibes had something special, and we all loved it best.

Cap d’Antibes

LE COQLICOT

We discovered a little bistro called Le COQlicot off the beach that was swarmed with locals, though the other bistros around stayed empty. We knew this was the place. I had a simple mixed salad and some perfect French French fries. Mom and Alain had Provencal salads, an interpretation of the Caprese. And Mr. English had sticks of beef with bernaise, salad, and fries. We felt very proud of being so local, what with the three-hour lunch service, and the calf testicles on the menu.

Salade Provencale, with Mozzarella, Tomatoes, Basil, Olives, and Garlic Toasts

Salade Mixte, with lettuce, onions, peppers, and olives
Frites, perfect and twice-fried
Aigolettes de Boeuf with Sauce Bernaise, Frites, Salade
LE JARDIN

The proprietor of our little hotel recommended that we try this plein air restaurant called Le Jardin, or the garden. We sat out back and ordered yet another fish-based prix fixe menu. Just when I expected to be bored, I realized that Picasso had retired from painting and gone to work in this kitchen. The food is what would be called tame avant-garde. The Greek salad was deconstructed, and the yogurt-cucumber sauce was piped through a whipped cream canister, as was the savory whipped cream on my wine-glass gazpacho. We all ordered Truite Escabeche, or trout with a raw marinated vegetable salad. It was gorgeous–reeking of smoke, jeweled with sabayon, and crowned with, seriously, a tomato skin cracklin’. It was by far the most inveterate but imaginative dish I have had since I arrived, and was also coincidentally the most delicious. We all wanted to eat it all over again, and I will be doing some testing to resurrect it chez nous. Lastly, we all had the trio of creme brulees: chocolate, vanilla, and mint, which not only had different flavors and colors, but curiously and invitingly different textures. This restaurant is not to miss, reasonable, local, and imaginative, in the old city amidst small stone streets–charming and modern all at once.

Deconstructed Greek Salad
Gazpacho with Whipped Cream
Trout Escabeche, with fennel, peppers, onions, snow peas,
and tomatoes, with sabayon and a tomato cracklin’
Trio of Creme Brulee: Chocolate, Vanilla, Mint

HOTEL LA JABOTTE

We stayed at a little hotel just off the beach in Cap d’Antibes, and they offered a copious continental breakfast and a nightly new cocktail for cocktail hour. Breakfast was set for all the guests in the terraced courtyard, and we had a full basket of croissants, walnut wheat loaf, and baguette to spread with the housemade fig preserves, Nutella, butter, and BonBel cheese. My favorite were the madeleines baked in mini-muffin tins and fairydusted with colorful sparkling sugar. We also received interested French flavors of Dannon yogurt (Granny Smith, Sour Cherry, Apricot, Strawberry), freshly squeezed orange juice, French press coffee, and ripe melon. What a way to start any day.

At cocktail time, I ordered the drink du jour: Champagne Violette, champagne with violet liquor and a crucified blackberry and white-sugar rim. It came with a little tray of darling bites: a mushroom cap stuffed with caviar of peppers, salted long radished, and dried fruits. Perfect, and a pleasure, to sip under the lazy afternoon trees.


Breakfast

Mini-Muffin-Shaped Madeleines with Colored Sparkling Sugar
The Breakfast Bread Basket: Croissants, Baguette, Walnut Wheat Loaf
Housemade Fig Preserves

Cocktail Hour

Dried Fruits, a Pepper Caviar-Stuffed Mushrooms, and Sea Salted Radishes
Champagne Violette: Champagne, with Violet Liqueur, and a Blackberry

Juan-Les-Pins

Here, I spent the afternoon at Scott and Zelda’s house, now the hotel Belles Rives. Though Scott’s picture hung in the foyer, I was more taken by the sheer beauty of the location, rather than the history that I thought would overwhelm me. The water is warmer here, and shallow, and it has something like mica that sparkles in it like diamonds. Water skiing was invented here, and under the globe-lit sit Belles Rives still lurks a collection of top-end ski equipement. The sky and the sea stretched out all around the jutting jetee to the mountains in the distance. The house was draped in violet bourganvilla, and the honeycomb stones that built the villa patched into the palmed landscape with grandeur and insouciance. At few places have I ever been so happy, perhaps thanks to the cocktail I ordered there: La Piscine, champagne on the rocks. When in Juan-Les-Pins…

BELLES RIVES
La Piscine: Champagne on the Rocks
Cannes

I had been to Cannes eleven years ago, and like I found Aix, it seems changed, overrun. But of course, still stately as ever. We passed through for lunch and found a little pizza place in Le Suquet. I highlight it here not because it was the greatest pizza of all time, but because they did fantastic cheeseless pizzas, a local interpretation of the Italian version so common to us, but far better for the Riviera heat.

LA PIAZZA

Fettuccine with Roquefort and Walnuts
Fettuccine Forestier
Pizza Siciliani
Pizza Authentica


St. Tropez

We drove through St. Tropez at evening, and I found it charming. We found a high-end dealer of all fabric Provencal, and my mom bought a lovely blue and yellow medieval rooster pattern tableclotch to replace her blue and yellow olive version from a decade ago. Mr. English and I sat in Place de Lices watching the games of Petanque, and plotting our strategy to decimate each other at the game on our return to England. For dinner we went to La Table du Marche for yet another fish-based prix fixe. Everything was gorgeous and strangely large, but I have to tell you the dessert was an abomination. The fresh chilled tomato soup had that light sweetness to it that I’ve only ever seen executed in France. The frisees in the Paysanne salad were elephantine. And the mustard herb butter on the cod was perfect. But my favorite bit? The macaroni gratin that I substituted for my potatoes: gruyere, gruyere, gruyere. It was decadent, but oh so good.

LA TABLE DU MARCHE

Chilled Fresh Tomato Soup with Tapenade Toasts
Salade Paysanne: Frisee, Endive, Poached Egg, Lardons
Cabillaud (Cod) with Herb Butter and Potatoes Autrement (Smashed with Tomatoes and Olives)
Macaroni Gratin
Tarte Tatin
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French in a Flash: Whole Wheat Pissaladière Pizza with Tapenade, Pine Nuts, and Goat Cheese

RECIPE: Whole Wheat Pissaladière Pizza With Tapenade, Pine Nuts, Goat Cheese
Whole Wheat Pissaladière

Whole Wheat Pissaladière

As we are in Provence, I thought this week’s French in a Flash on Serious Eats should be reflective of the times. I have had some mediocre Nicoise pissaladiere over the last few days, but as far as street foods go, it is such a brilliant, local concoction, and I love it so much even at its lowliest form, that I wanted to try my hand at renovating it. Pissaladiere is a rectangular tart from the south of France, with a “sauce” of sweet sauted onions, laced with anchovy filets and studded with black olives. My version begins with a bought whole wheat pizza dough. I top it with the requisite onions, then decorate it with toasted, buttery pine nuts, melting pockets of fresh goat cheese, black olive studs, tapenade quenelles, anchovy filets, caper berries, and stems of fresh thyme. It can be eaten hot or cold, and is fragrant, satisfying, and beautiful. As always, the whole story and recipe can be found here. Bon app!

Whole Wheat Pissaladière Pizza With Tapenade, Pine Nuts, Goat Cheese
serves 4

Whole Wheat PissaladièreIngredients

  • 3 onions, sliced thinly into half moons
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 12-ounce ball of pizza dough, preferably half white, half whole wheat flour
  • Corn meal
  • Flour
  • 2 tablespoons tapenade
  • 8 anchovy filets in olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts
  • 15 Niçoise olives
  • 2 ounces chèvre, or fresh goat cheese
  • 3 caper berries
  • 3 stems fresh thyme, plus more for garnish

A Note on some Ingredients

As for the pizza dough, please feel free to use all-white or all-wheat. I think the wheat works especially well, but for French in a Flash, it really is all about what is easy and accessible for you.

Procedure

  1. In a large sauté pan, add the onions to 2 tablespoons of olive oil, sitting over medium-low heat. Season with salt and pepper, and sauté slowly for 45 minutes, until the onions are soft and jammy. Be sure to stir them often, and lower the heat if they burn too quickly.
  2. Meanwhile, dust the bottom of the pizza dough with just a touch of corn meal, to keep it from sticking. Dust the top of the dough and your rolling pin with a bit of flour for the same reason. You could just use flour for both purposes to keep it simple. Roll the dough out into a 15-inch round, and sit it on a nonstick cookie sheet or pizza pan. Brush the dough with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
  4. When the onions have finished cooking, spread them out over the pizza dough as you would if you were using tomato sauce. Spoon 8 little quenelles (or mounds) of the tapenade around the middle of the pizza in a wide circle. Alternate the tapenade hills with anchovy valleys, laying an anchovy like a sunray between each mound of olive paste. Scatter the pine nuts all over the pissaladière, then olives. Divide the chèvre into little bits and scatter those all over as well. Place the 3 caper berries in the center of the pissaladière, and scatter fresh thyme leaves over the entire pizza.
  5. Bake the pissaladière for 15 minutes. Then garnish with extra sprigs of fresh thyme, and maybe a slight drizzle of fresh extra virgin olive oil. Serve warm, or at room temperature.
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Categories: 60 Minutes, Bread & Butter, Eat, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, Tarts, Quiches, Pizzas
 

Papiers Provence: 1 Juin CASSIS

Le Petit Dejeuner, Chez Nous

Breakfast at our house is always the same, whether it is in America, England, or here in France. It is always simply baguette, croissants, and sweet cream butter and good raspberry jam.

Baguettes, Ficelles, Croissants, Confiture, Beurre

La Ferme Blanche, Vineyard

Cassis has a handful of hundreds-year-old vineyards. Today we went to La Ferme Blanche, or the white farm, and tasted their whites and roses. The white was floral; the rose was fruity. We left with a bottle of white Excellence, which tastes of the smokey wood barrel in which it is aged. While at the vineyard, we also pulled berries of the nearby Platane trees, and picked apricots. It was idyllic in a Bacchanalian sort of way.

The Vineyard

The Grapes

Wine Vines, Close Up

Aging Barrel
Apricot Tree

Apricots

Berries on the Platane Tree

Wines On Offer
A Glass of Excellence, which we took home for dinner

Dejeuner in Town

Before we took a boat ride throught the Calanques, we stopped at a boulangerie for lunch, where I picked up something I often reinvent at home, but have actually never had in its original version: Pan Bagnat. Pan Bagnat is Provencal for bathing bread, a tuna sandwich soaked in vinaigrette, and basically Salade Nicoise on a roll. There are different versions–the was simple, with olives and lettuce, tomatoes and tuna. For my dolled up version, click here.

Pan Bagnat

Les Calanques

The shores around Cassis are carved into Calanques, enormous and individualistic fjords that offer idyllic respite from the busy ports and beaches. We took a boat tour for an hour through five of them, and while no food was involved (other than sea air working up an appetite), they were stunning. Here’s a glimpse of sparkling waters and jagged cliffs.





Le Diner, Chez Nous

After our heavy daube last night, I wanted to cook at home, but try new things in the style of all the Provencal dishes I’ve been observing around me. I served green olives brined with Provencal herbs, a carrot salad with spicy Dijon, a red pistou tagliatelle with the ubiquitous zucchini, head-on prawns with masses of garlic and lemon, and for dessert, a simple arrangement of ripe pears, Grenoble walnuts, and Petit Ecolier chocolate biscuits. Et voila. Moi, Provencal.

Green Olives, with Provencal Herbs
Carrot Salad with Dijon Mustard
Shell-On Prawns with a Head of Garlic and Sliced Lemons
Tagliatelle with Red Pistou and Zucchini
For Dessert: Sliced Ripe Pears, Smashed Grenoble Walnuts, and Petit Ecolier Cookies
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Papiers Provence: 30-31 Mai AIGUES-MORTES, LA CAMARGUE, CASSIS

On the Road Again

And we were back on the autoroute encore. This time not headed deep into lavender-country Provence, but into La Camargue. But what did we find? The elusive bloomed purple lavender. And where else, but on the side of the highway…

We picked a few stems and scattered them around the car.

Purple Bloomed Lavender
Me, along the blooming highway
Picnic en Voiture

We drove through Arles, but missed everything about the market but its seedy flea side. On our way to Aigues-Mortes, we stopped at the Intermarche, starving. All we needed was some cheese, some fruit, some bread, and some pastries. I sat in the back and passed around sandwiches of Brillat-Savarin and Tomme Noire des Pyrenees. When I was fifteen, I went to Brest in Bretagne, and stayed with a French family and went to school to become fluent in French. Everyday, the mother of the house set out a wedge of Tomme Noire des Pyrenees, a semi-hard cheese wrapped in an iconic black wax, that looks hard in the cold refrigerator shelf, but immediately starts to soften. You have to eat it at room temperature–it is so hard to find and so expensive in America, that I usually gorge a bit when I’m here. But you have to try it–so mild but so expressive and distinctive, with a paradoxical creamy solidity. I adore it.

What I’ve also noticed about French supermarkets are the pears. I love pears, but every time I buy one, I have to leave it for four days to soften on the counter. And then, the morning I know it will be ripe, I wake up, eyes bright with anticipation, only to find that at some secluded moment in the night, it turned black. The disappointment! But here! They are all ripe on the shelves–perfect, sweet, juicy. I was in the back seat covered in sticky pear juice, as if I had been to Goblin’s Market.

Tomme Noire des Pyrenees, Brillat-Savarin, Baguette
Not too sweet raspberry donuts
Mmm…confiture!
Giant Chocolate Croissants
Aigues-Mortes

We wanted to go to Aigues-Mortes to see the salt harvest, but what we found was a stately medieval fortress. Throughout Oxford, you can see the old city walls, proudly crumbling after a thousand years, pocketed away between the walls of the homes of more recent centuries. The most incredible thing about Aigues-Mortes is that the city has still not expanded without the fortress walls, as if maurauders might still come pillaging across the salt marshes at any moment. We thought it looked like an armory from outside, but Alain told us that inside was a whole city. We walked up to the gates, and lo and behold, crooked streets, burgeoning cafes, dogs trotting hither and thither. Tourist shops sold everything from garlic graters to plastic Templar swords. And down the main avenue, a reigning statue of good King Louis of the crusades, known to us now as Saint Louis.

The Aigues-Mortes Citadel
The Chocolate Olives
The Praline Pit
Provencal Garlic Graters
Good King Louis
La Camargue

We Americans think we have a culture! Did you know that cowboys orginated from the gardiens of La Camargue, and that Levi Strauss invented jeans in Nimes? As in cloth de Nimes, which became denim? This is certainly a departure as far as what I’ve seen of France. In fact, it reminded me a good deal of the pampas in Argentina–tall, wind-worn grasses, sparkling waters, and horses. In fact, bull fighting is as popular here as it is in Spain. The planes were dotted with black bulls and the iconic Camargue white horses. We took a boat ride through a wildlife reserve, where the flamingos normally stand guard, but not today. And we saw some real French cowboys in blue deNimes wrang some black bulls on their white horses.

A sparkling camargue waterway
Black Bulls in the Background
White Horses in the Background
The Windy Camargue
The Camargue, and the ancient watch tower for Aigues-Mortes
The White Horeses of Les Gardiens
Les Gardiens at work

I always use La Baleine sea salt. My mom always bought it; so I buy it now. I had no idea where it came from. But right outside the walls of Aigues-Mortes is where they harvest this salt, from the pink waters of the marshes. Yes, the speeches there were informative, but I think the photographs tell more–of the colors, the size, the spectacle that is the salt harvest. It was a windy day, and some of it flew into my mouth. I loved it!

The Entrance to the La Baleine Museum
A Lake of Salt and Pink Water
Pink Waters, and a Mountain of Salt

A Slope of Salt
A Sea of Salt

Pink Waters
The Fortress of Aigues-Mortes on the shores of salt
A Giant Salt Crystal
Fleur de Sel Caramel
Sacks of Salt

Me, Le Saunier!
Dinner at Place St. Louis

In the heart of Aigues-Mortes in a square of touristy cafes that serve the local bulls up for dinner surrounding the presiding statue of Saint Louis. I was a bit bulled out and shared some iconic Soupe de Poisson with my mom, and then had Sole Meuniere, with a medly of vibrant vegetables, and a vegetable flan. To top it all of, some sorbet a la framboise. Alain had white asaparagus, and then Brandade, which is a kind of white fish puree, blanketed in roasted peppers, followed by Tarte Tatin with caramel and cream. It was light, lively, and lovely. The restaurant is Le Minos, if you’re ever there.

White Asparagus Salad
Brandade with Roasted Peppers
Tarte Tatin
A Terrine of Soupe de Poisson
The traditional garnishes for Soupe de Poisson: baguette toasts, shredded cheese, and rouille
How I prepare my soupe de poisson, but everyone has his own way
Sole Meuniere, with lemon brown butter

A medley of vegetables with vegetable flan

Raspberry Sorbet

Le Clos des Aromes

Driving to beach yesterday in Cassis, I spotted a cute little courtyard with tables and hanging lanterns. The restaurant, Le Clos des Aromes, proved just as enchanting as a nighttime restaurant. Each table had a lovely bouquet of white flowers. Mr. English and I both had the menu, starting with Rasclasse, a local fish, marinated like ceviche in lemon juice. Then the Daube a l’Ancien, an old fashioned wine and beef stew. And then Lemon Sorbet with Limoncello, which I was so excited about that I only realized I’d forgotten to photograph it after I had finished eating it. Oops!

Freesia, Roses, and Lilies

Rasclasse Ceviche
La Daube a l’Ancien
Greedily eating dessert…
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Papiers Provence: 29 Mai CASSIS

Margherita Pizza

Today, it was the seaside. I am torn here, whether to pursue cuisine night and day or actually do what I’m supposed to do and relax on vacation. When one of my aunts came to meet us at Cassis from Marseille for the day, the decision was made for me. We had a happy beach lunch, which may seem unremarkable, but I thought it was worth note. The pizzas in the South of France have always remained in my mind as the very best–thin, with sweet tomatoes, and olives. Sometimes just whole black olives, and sometimes with tapenade smeared all over the top like I had the other day in Aix.

Penne with Ratatouille
And then there is one without cheese called l’anchois: tomatoes and anchovies and olive oil. Most people don’t realize, but pizza dough is as much in French cuisine as in Italian, and fougasse, breads usually shaped like wheat or braided with flavors like olives or herbs, is nearly the same as Italian focaccia. It is a symbiotic border-straddling strategy, as I know the Northern Italian add creme fraiche to a lot of their pastas. But as for pastas, yesterday Alain ordered Penne with Ratatouille instead of our pizzas. It was just such an obvious marriage, and a delicious one–like a chunky vegetable tomatoe sauce with the herbs and flavors of Provence. Whenever I make ratatouille, somehow I come out with a ton of it, and I eat it cold on bread for days. Now, I’m just going to freeze some, and toss it with pasta whenever I need it. Brilliant!
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Papiers Provence: 28 Mai AIX-EN-PROVENCE, LOURMARIN

Yesterday was one of those days that you plan to do what God did in six, with no rest on the seventh. Since I’m only human, all I managed was about a third of it. I wanted to go on the lavender trail. I told myself that no matter what the guidebook says, lavender must bloom somewhere in May. And we figured we’d throw in Aix-en-Provence on the way up and back for good measure.

Turns out, lavender really does bloom in July. And as for Aix, which my mother first took me too when I was fifteen, eleven years ago, and has remained in my mind as a sleepy Provence city, my ideal, it has changed. In fact it has boomed. But while it’s wobbly streets are teeming, it has a unique ability to marry Old World Provencal markets brimming with barrels of olives and the Princesse Tam Tam high end lingerie shop on the same square. It’s probably more me now than it ever has been.

Citron Presse for Breakfast

We arrived in Aix around ten o’clock. And for breakfast, there’s nothing like an enamel-endangering French citron presse. You get a tall glass about half full with fresh lemon juice, tart enough to strip the paint off your house, a carafe of water, and some sugar. Mix and mingle as you wish, and voila, your perfect citron presse.

Citron Presse

Aix Market’s the Spot

What I remember most about Aix from eleven years ago were these traditional Provencal textile shops that sell those gorgeous olive-and-floral table cloths in impossible bright pastels, and the markets that had barrels of every-flavor olive in the Mediterranean. Just in front of city hall, I found what I remembered; a true Provencal market where all the vendors talk with an accent that must to the French be like talking to Scarlett O’Hara. My favorite finds were bulot, tiny sealife escargot, gorgeous olives bathed in Provencal pistou, the requisite bouquets of sunshine zucchini flowers, and proof that even though Provence is not swathed in lavender, it is still swathed in purple: purple garlic, purple asparagus, and purple artichokes. We also bought sacks of dried lavender, herbes de Provence, and fines herbes, and came across dried rouille, the spice mix that bring to life rouille itself, that condiment of aioli and peppers and saffron served with bouillabaisse.

Black and Green Olives with Pistou
Green Olives with Pistou
Dry Rouille, which contained dried peppers and coriander, among other things
Bulots, Escargots of the Sea

Purple Garlic

Purple Asparagus

Purple Artichokes

An Edible Bouquet of Zucchini Flowers

Calissons and Macarons at the Aix Market

The guidebook listed an arsenal of bakeries in which to try the famed Calisson d’Aix, a cookie created centuries ago by a king who wanted to win the heart and trust of his young wife. These cookies, suggestively shaped like petals, are made from almonds and flavored with melons and oranges, although I bought some flavored with lavender. Rumor has it she eventually capitulated.

We also found and bought some macarons the likes of which I’ve never seen. In Paris, the macarons of Laduree and Pierre Herme are bright like easter eggs, and filled with cremes and confitures and ganaches. Here, they were unpretentiously undied, and unfilled. Rustic, rural, and some of the best macarons I have ever tasted. Bravo. I bought both from Calissoun.

Piles of Unpretentious Provence Macarons
I bought the almond flavor, since macarons are made from almonds.

The unfilled interior of a rustic macaron.

Lavender Calissons
Calissons d’Aix, in Traditional, Fig, and Lavender Varieties

The View from the Top (of the Mountain)

We planned to drive to Sault, where great purple paths of lavender blossom every July. Halfway there, we realized we never had the time, but the journey, it seems, was the destination in itself. Far up in the mountains of Provence, the view was spectacular, and reminiscent of the plates my mother had when I was a child: rural French farmers, smiling as they tended perfect rows of lavender. Provence, the legend.

Some views from out the car window…




La Ferme Gerbaud in Lourmarin

I read about a farm in Lourmarin, just about half an hour from Aix. Here, they grow herbes de Provence, naturally, without irrigation or pesticides. The owner gave us a personal tour of the property, and share old Provencal knowledge. The most important thing to remember about Provencal cuisine, the cuisine that gives us ratatouille and pissaladiere and pistou, she says, is that nothing was done originally for flavor, but rather for health. How does she mean? Savory is often added to soupe au pistou because the soup contains beans, and savory reduces flatulence. It also apparently is sexually stimulating. Rosemary was used in roasting meats because its antiseptic properties were a safeguard against stomach upset. Sage was used with pork because it natually kills worms, which have a tendency to inhabit pork. And the Provencal bouquet garni, which contains rosemary, thyme, and bay, actually is like old-fashioned Pepto Bismol. Thyme stimulates the stomach; rosemary the gallbladder; bay the intestines.

Most importantly and most interestingly, she told me that traditionally the people of Provence never ate Lavender. Now it is trendy to include it in herbes de Provence, but the true Provencal people abhor that idea as untraditional. Lavender was used and farmed solely for its essential oil, which was used in soaps and laundry and other such uses. But I stuck to my guns; lavender is delicious. And she even admitted to selling lavender navettes in the store.

Monsieur le Goat, Guardian of the Herbes de Provence
Rocky Soil, as they have in Provence, is required for these moisture-hating plants. The less moisture, the more essential oil they produce, and the more fragrant and flavorful they become.
Marguerites, which are natural insect repellent

Lavandin, a lavender hybrid, and what we generally know today when we cook with lavender

Rosemary
Sage

Thyme

Savory

Wild Almond grows in the region. Sauce Mistral is like an almond pistou.

Fields of Lavender, getting ready to bloom

Dinner at Le Passage in Aix

For dinner, we drove back to Aix, to a restaurant called Le Passage, so called because of its adorable table-lined entrance walkway. While it wasn’t the greatest meal of my life, I was impressed by the imaginative reincarnation of Provencal ingredients. I ordered the Menu Cezanne. And here are some modern renditions of old Provence:

A Napoleon of Eggplant, Tomato Sauce, and Chevre
A Tarte Fine in the style of Pissaladiere
Daube Provencal, a traditional beef stew cooking until soft in light wine
White Chocolate and Olive Oil Mousse, with Green Fennel Cookies
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French in a Flash: Tisane Shortbread Cookies with Lemon Verbena

RECIPE: Tisane Shortbread Cookies with Lemon Verbena
Lemon Verbena Shortbread

Verveine Shortbread

I don’t really like my nose–it’s a bit big. It is a Saretsky landmark, that’s for sure. But when I was growing up, all I wanted was one of those sweet little ski jumps that all my classmates had. I have a feeling it was all my fault. Call me Pinocchio.

When I was little, I told one little lie–the only lie I can remember telling to date. I was eating my favorite Chessmen cookies, and I told my dad that I had only had one, when I actually had three. Actually, come to think of it, this is probably the first my dad has heard of this!

I love cookies–they are one of the few things I would lie for. In this week’s French in a Flash on Serious Eats, I get inspired but all the buttery cookies I’m devouring here in Provence. I flavor crumbly, salty-sweet shortbread with South-of-France tisane staples lemon and lemon verbena. The result is unusual, clean, comforting, and irresistible. Definitely worth a bigger nose. As always, click here for the full story and recipe!

Tisane Shortbread Cookies with Lemon Verbena

Lemon Verbena ShortbreadIngredients

  • 2 sticks butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 heaping tablespoon finely ground verbena (3 tea bags)

Procedure

  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, sugar, and lemon zest until just combined.
  2. Separate the dough into two parts, and place each half on a large sheet of plastic wrap. Roll the dough into two logs about 2 inches in diameter and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until cold throughout, about an hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Take the dough out of the fridge.
  4. After the dough has sat out for about 10 minutes, carefully cut the dough into 1/2-inch thick discs, trying not to crumble the dough. Lay the discs onto a baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with a dusting of sugar to form a sparkling, firm crust on the top of each cookie. Bake for about 20 minutes, until golden and firm. Allow to stand for a few minutes, until they are firm enough to move. Remove to a wire rack to cool, and serve with tea.
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Categories: Desserts, Eat, French in a Flash, Pastry, Recipes, Series, Vegetarian