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!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Parisian Priorities

We would say "Eat & Drink", wouldn't we? But it seems the Parisians have different priorities. "Drink & Eat" this clever poster says. Found in a brasserie on Rue des Abesses in Montmartre.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Rustic Goat Cheese Lasagne

If you would just look at the view from my study into the garden and over the vineyard next door you'd be jealous: brilliant sunshine, blue sky, the first daffodil is blooming - it looks just like Provence is supposed to look this time of the year. What you don't see however is that our "beloved" Mistral, the icy wind from the north is slapping nature and us around. Our fireplace is working overtime, no one feels like going outside unless we absolutely have to. Which for me meant getting fresh vegetables to try out some new winter warming recipes.


For the filling of this melt in your mouth delicious Rustic Goat Cheese Lasagne (serves 6) you need:
1big red onion, sliced
2 zucchini, diced,
1 red and 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
4 herby, spicy sausages (think chipolata, salsiccia)
1 can chooped tomatoes
1 soft, mild goat cheese
2 cups bechamel sauce
8 lasagne sheets - I use ready made Barilla sheets that don't need precooking
Put to the side 1 cup of the halved cherry tomaotes. Mix all the other sliced and diced veg with a bit of olive oil and some freshly ground black pepper and let roast in the oven (180 C/ 350 F) for 30 minutes. Meanwhile skin the sausages and break up the filling, then fry over medium heat until cooked through. Degrease over some layers of paper towels. Mix the sausage meat into the roasted vegetables and add the can of chopped tomatoes. Either prepare or use a ready made bechamel sauce.
In an ovenproof dish start with one layer of the vegetable/sausage filling, cover with lasagne sheets, evenly distribute one layer of bechamel sauce and crumble some goat cheese on top. Repeat this layering process once more, ending with pasta sheets generously covered with bechamel sauce onto which you now crumble all the rest of the goat cheese and decorate with the halved cherry tomatoes.
Bake at 180C/ 350 F for 30 minutes.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Almost Wordless Wednesday

As found in "Azucar" the very best ice cream parlor in Little Havanna, Miami

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

My Top Three Provence Cookbooks

Guests at my Cuisine de Provence cooking classes often ask me to tell them about my favorite Provençal cookbooks. Although I am a self confessed cookbook junkie, the books I turn to again and again when checking out Provençal specialities have stayed the same throughout the years.
My alltime favorite is Gui Gedda's "Cooking School of Provence"

Written by a true Provençal chef and beautifully illustrated, this book covers all the Provence classics from Aïoli, Bouillabaisse and its Rouille, Ratatouille, Pan Bagna, Tapenade and Anchoiade but also includes some French Classics such as the Poule au Pot, Lapin Chasseur or a Tarte Tatin.
Very useful: the glossary where you find explanations for what I call "kitchen latin" such as "écumoire" - a flat perforated spoon used for skimming foam from cooking liquids. Or did you know that a "beurre composé" is a butter mixed with herbs, anchovies or other aromatics? And if ever the urge strikes you to prepare "ketchup à la provençale" - this is where to find the recipe!

Patricia Well's "Provence Cookbook"

I bought after I had seen it displayed at my local cheesemonger's. Patricia Wells, the famous doyenne of cooking class instructors, had of course included Josianne Déal in her book, just as Vaison la Romaine's butcher, the fishmonger and truffle king, the honey vendor and best restaurant chef are featured. Although this book came out 10 years ago and needs some updating as far as the people featured or adresses go the recipes stand the test of time. Very often authentic homecooking recipes of friends of Patricia Wells these are simple and delicious true Provençal dishes prepared with love and the sundrenched produce of Provence. You also get stories of everyday life and the histroy of Provence and I bet your copy with soon look as dogeared and well thumped as mine!

Alex Mackay's Cooking in Provence

After having cooked at Britain's most famous French restaurant, the "Manoir aux Quat'Saisons", Alex Mackay ran a Provence cooking school - sadly now closed, because the chef went on to even greater things and now teaches in Britain. This book, where he tells the story of his school is dotted with the most succulent recipes. Zucchini flowers stuffed with tomatoes, roasted pigeons with ceps or orange and chocolate tart, anyone? Mackay teaches you how to stock a Provençal pantry, tells you about the hunt, the harvest and the winter in Provence and tempts you to recreate your very own little Provence with beautiful photos of our little corner of the world. This is probably the most beautiful book of my favorite Provençal cookbooks - it makes me want to try each and every recipe and a lot I already have!