Went for some last minute vegetable shopping this morning and not only got a wonderful recipe for a true "Farmer's Salad" (post to follow) but this lovely lady, which you might remember from a post about the Tour de France had a very special Christmas wish to share:
May the Magic of Christmas transform your home into a peaceful haven where Joy and Happiness reign! I wish you a wonderful Christmas, filled with Love and Friendship.
It is Countdown to Christmas time! We started ours by visiting Marseille's Old Town just as the Christmas Market opened and beautiful festive illuminations brightened the Old Harbor. Now back home our annual Ghoulash Party needs to be prepared and between cookie baking, shopping for ingredients, and tree decorating I tried out two recipes: David Lebovitz' "Candied Almonds" which turned out absolutely fabulos although halfway through I thought it to be the perfect recipe to ruin my very best skillet. Which it didn't - but it was hard to keep faith....
Recipe No. 2 was very graciously shared by my friend Nana who had just returned from Marrakech where she had charmed it from her hotel's patisserie chef. If you want a chocolatey, not very sweet but oh so good festive treat that takes about 10 minutes to prepare (plus cooling time) let me know and I will post the recipe.
We had the first frost - quite a few nights below 0°C actually - and in Provence that means go and harvest your olives. Three days and 40 kilograms of handpicked olives later we do nurse aching limbs and smother lots cream on our hands (it is totally impossible to pick olives with gloves on) but are mighty proud: our very own olive oil is now waiting in the wine cellar.
This is the old oil mill in Puymeras were we had our olives pressed the traditional way, the only difference being that nowadays a motor turns the squashing stones whereas in former times it used to be a donkey making the rounds all days long.
The olives are squashed into a paste between huge and fast turning stones
the paste is then evenly distributed onto straw mats
No use pretending any more - although the sun shines brightly autumn has arrived. It is distinctly chilly outside and visitors to Vaison's market this morning were bundled up in their winter coats. But there are rewards: Porcini season has started - just look how beautifully one of the vendors presented his ceps.
He even cut them apart to show me their premium quality - no blemishes, no worms, nothing but mushroom goodness that doesn't need much to be turned into a very simple but très gourmet cep omelette.
Mise en place: eggs, ceps, a small handfull of bacon bits, 1 finely minced clove of garlic, one half of a finely chopped mild onion, pepper and salt.
Sauté all ingredients in butter - I added a few leftover potatoes -
until nicely browned
add the lightly beaten eggs, let cook on low then decorate with a few chopped chives.
Remember the recipe ofherbed roasted red peppersI posted about some time ago? I am still not prepared to let the summer go (and temperatures hovering around 23C/73F during the day make it easy to pretend that summer is still going strong - never mind that I hve to sweep fallen leaves every morning and that we light the fireplace every evening...
So for an evening with friends I prepared those peppers again and paired them with "caviar d'aubergine" - roasted eggplant mixed together with some very fresh goat cheese, a clove or two of minced garlic, pepper, salt and a squirt of lemon juice. And decorated like the gnarled trunk of an old olive tree and its cloud of silvery leaves. A little hommage to the celebrated Provence olive trees that give us "the gold of Provence" - our wonderful olive oil.
As much as I like to cook I somehow don't much care about baking. But sometimes, very rarely, I find a recipe that just looks so pretty and easy I give it a try. This one I found in one of the little cooking magazines you find at all the French supermarket tills. "Mini cakes Coco-Framboises" - little coconut and raspberry cakes which for want of powdered coconut in my pantry turned into little hazelnut and raspberry bite sized muffins (I didn't have little cakes forms either....)
We have a stall at Vaison's Tuesday market that sells the very best fresh raspberries, so as long as they are still available I will definitely do these again. And I will stick to powdered hazelnut because I think that coconut and raspberries are not all that great a combination.
Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Mix 150gr soft, non salted butter with 100 gr powdered sugar and 15 gr vanille sugar. Add 3 eggs (mix in one by one) and 100 gr flour, 15 gr baking powder and 100 gr powdered hazelnuts. Mix well and spoon into little paper cups. Push one raspberry into each cup then bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
No more mellons, no more peaches - instead I found butternut squash and chanterelles at the market in Malaucène this morning. The wine harvest has started and I have just plucked the last figs off my tree. It's official: summer is over even though the temperatures suggest otherwise.
So I wanted to have one last fig tart and found a recipe for a savory one. To put it in a nutshell: this is a triple YUM!! A keeper!!
Recipe found in "Tartes de grand-mère salées et sucrées", editions ESI, Paris 2010
All you need is a roll of puff pastry, 130 gr fresh goat cheese, about half a kilo of figs, two hefty pinches of Herbes de Provence, some freshly ground black pepper, a generous handful of pine nuts, a sprinkle if olive oil and some serioulsy good parma or serrano ham.
Unroll the pastry and fit into a tart dish. Spread the fresh goat cheese on the bottom of the tart, place the halved figs on top, sprinkle with Herbes de Provence, a few rounds of the pepper mill and the pine nuts. Dribble a few drops of olive oil onto the figs and bake at 200C/400F for 30 minutes. Let cool down a bit and arrange very finely sliced ham on top. Even better with a nice cool glass of Rosé.
The Mistral, our dreaded Provençal wind from the North is howling today and the kitchen garden is being cleaned up by the Monsieur the Head Gardener but still we are not quite ready yet to let the summer go. Also the weather report promises sunshine and rising temperatures for the weekend. Never mind that they hardly ever get their forecasts right - this time they have to!
Reason enough to have one more summery dish on the table. These are not just roasted, then peeled peppers, these come with a little twist that make them even more delicious. I always used to dress them with a clove or two of minced garlic, some olive oil, sea salt, pepper and that little bit of intensely flavored juice that is produced when you let them cool down before taking the skin off.
But recently I saw this version in a French magazine (I think it was Côté Sud), tried it and was instantly hooked. All you add are a few leaves of basil and quite a handful of cilantro leaves (coriander to all non Americans) which you chop very very finely, mix in and then let the dish marinate preferably overnight. To be served at room temperature with baguette or other crusty bread and a nice glass of wine bien sûr!
Marseille being Europe's Capital of Culture this year there are ever more interesting activities, exhibitons and shows to see. So when I read about a big maritime parade being announced off we went. Marseille is battling a rather mixed reputation - there are gang related killings that keep the city in the news and there is petty crime like in most big cities, but if you keep normal precautions you will be fine and find a pulsating and mostly very beautiful maritime city to explore.
MUCEM - the new museum of the Civilisations of Europe and the Mediterranean
Palais Longchamp - exhibiting until Ocotber 13 an impressive show of
Classic Modern Paintings
La Bourse - its renovation work cleverly disguised by a trompe d'oeil
The Maritime Parade took off from Marseille's Old Harbor -
then sailed past the MUCEM
We cannot visit Marseille without going to see the fishermen with their catch of the day in the Old Harbor and then cross over to the central boulevard La Cannebière and take the second street to the right and go over into the bustling Arab Quarter. We love its markets, the fishmongers, butchers, fruit and vegetable vendors and Saladin, the fantastic spice market. Ever since they ruined our best loved seafood restaurant just around the corner by renovating it and turning it into some kind of burger chain food place that happens to sell fish and seafood we are kind of culinarily homeless in Marseille but made up for it by buying loads of exotic fare that is otherwise hard to find in the South of France. And visiting "La Maison Empereur" the probably best kitchen shop outside of Paris. A must to see if you are in Marseille!
Saladin - the fabulos spice market in the Arab Quarter
Nothing you won't find here - the probably best kitchen shop outside of Paris
And then we saw the beginning of a - to France - totally new phenomenon: Food Trucks! Having heard so much about Food Trucks in the US and seen some of them in New York we were intrigued to see what was on offer here. Fish and Chips interpreted à la Marseilleise, Fruit Juices and Smoothies, African Delicacies and Pizza of course - it is a startand we can't wait to see more of it!