Monday, July 26, 2010

Villedieu - A City of God and Culinary Pleasures

Villedieu's Village Square

Before we found, bought, ripped apart and renovated our house in Vaison la Romaine we rented a house in Villedieu. Ever since we have been firm friends of this little "City of God", participating in their village fêtes that somehow always tend to circle around wine or culinary themes. There is the big fête of the "Soupe au Pistou" (a vegetable soup made fragrant and delicious by adding a basil, garlic and olive oil pesto), the annual Church fête around a huge Paëlla, on Bastille Day the "Méchoui" a spit roasted lamb and of course "La Fête des Vignerons" right after the wine harvest when you get to taste the new wines. In Villedieu they know how to live!
The most popular food festival  in Villedieu however takes place every Sunday night between March and October in the shade under the plane trees of Villedieu's beautiful village square around a simple pizza van.

Mumu's Pizza Van

In order to take part you have to come well prepared. First step: get hold of Mumu's phone number. Second step: Phone him well in advance (best: already on Saturday) to place your order. Third: take a roll of kitchen paper and make your way to Villedieu by 6.30 pm latest if you want to find a place to park. If you want to come later, take your bike. Take a seat on one of the long benches opposite the "Café du Centre", order a bottle of wine, talk to the people around you and when Mumu is ready (he will have given you a time to collect your order) go and get the best pizza ever. This being a no frills extravaganza, everybody eats their pizza right out of the box, washes it down with the local red or rosé wine, wipes their hands on kitchen roll and a great time is had by all.

Pizza and wine - all you need to be happy

Funnily enough, there is another pizzeria on the other side of the square, but Mumu is where people go - even when, like last night, the Mistral blows full force we all prefer to sit outside to share Mumu's pizza. Mumu is where the action is, Mumu is summer in Provence.

Mumu's youngest fan (18 months)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A recipe for you, Benoît!

What a nice surprise - I just found out that even some of my friends read this blog! How did I find out? I got a complaint! The complaint being that when I posted a summer menu (July 1st) I didn't give the recipe of the gazpacho. Okay Benoît, here it is!

1 cucumber, peeled, deseeded and chopped
2 red peppers, cleaned and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 white or red onion, peeled and chopped
3 to 4 real ripe tomatoes, cored and chopped
a good slug of finest olive oil
a good slug of real nice vinegar (I use white balsamic vinegar, but pretty much any good quality vinegar will do).

Put all ingredients into a mixer and mix into a soup, add salt and pepper fresh from the mill to taste. Store in the fridge until thoroughly chilled.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Eat Art

Just a quick one – I went to the vernissage of an open air exhibition. Unfortunately the art shown was not all that great, but then I found this - the (very edible) centerpiece of the drinks buffet. There used to be a movement called Eat Art - but those artists never managed to get things this pretty.

I however like pretty and will definitely copy this for my next garden party – the cherry tomatoes are already busily ripening in my kitchen garden.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Easy, fast and so delicious - Cherry Clafoutis

These were probably the last cherries of the season. I found them at Vaison's wonderful Provençal market yesterday morning - dark and juicy and full of flavor. And, having the perfect excuse of friends dropping by I fixed yet another Cherry Clafoutis.
Clafoutis is a very traditional French dessert that can be prepared with different fruits - blueberries, apricots or pears come to mind, but Cherry Clafoutis is the most traditional version.
Except that I don't take tradition quite as far as the French do. I pit my cherries whereas a French housewife will always tell you that unpitted cherries give a much more refined taste to the Clafoutis. I value my teeth too much and as for the taste - just judge for yourself.

You need 1 pound of cherries, 2 large eggs, 5 tbsp flour, 2 tbsp sugar, 3/4 cup cream, the finley grated zest of one - preferably organic - lemon and the juice of half a lemon.

Start by generously buttering a baking dish which you then sprinkle with coarse sugar so that all buttered surfaces are covered in sugar. Distribute the pitted cherries in one even layer on the bottom of the dish. Mix all other ingredients together, then carefully pour the (rather runny) batter over the cherries and bake for 35 to 40 minutes at 180° C/400° F. Best served lukewarm.

Non traditional Cherry Clafoutis - the pits are missing!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Too Hot to Cook? Summer in Provence

Summer has finally arrived and baby, is it ever hot outside! 31°C in the shade today (88°F) and the Cigales (cicadas) are singing their hearts out! And instead of working on my tan I have guests coming and need to cook something nice, light and heat compatible.
So here is my summer menu for tonight:
Starter - Gazpacho
Hardly any work, delicious and healthy and cold!


Main course - Chicken with semi dried Tomatoes, Basil and Pine Nuts
You need 4 chicken breasts cut into bite-size pieces (about 3 cups)
1 cup semi dried tomatoes
½ cup toasted pine nuts
a handful of fresh basil leaves
balsamic vinegar, olive oil, butter
pepper and kosher salt

Fry the chicken pieces over very gentle heat in a mixture of butter and olive oil. Stir every so often – the chicken pieces are not supposed to turn brown and crisp but stay nicely pale, tender and juicy.
Once the chicken is done, lift out of the pan and into a big bowl. Cut the semi dried tomatoes into strips and mix with the chicken pieces. Season with pepper fresh from the mill, kosher salt, a generous slug of balsamic vinegar and some good olive oil.
Roast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan (don't add fat!) stir-frying them all the time. Careful – they burn very easily, so don't leave the stove! Once roasted, sprinkle the nuts over the chicken.
Roll the basil leaves into a fat cigar which you then cut into very fine strips which you sprinkle over the dish.
Can be eaten warm or lukewarm - but not straight out of the fridge, cold kills taste.
I'll serve this tonight with baguette - and a glass (or two) of very cold Provence rosé wine.

Chicken with semi dried Tomatoes, Basil and Pine Nuts

And for Dessert? Cherry Clafoutis
Cherries won't be around much longer and right now they are lovely, juicy, sweet and delicious, so I cook as much of this easy to do French classic as I can. (Photo and recipe to follow)
I guess I'll have time to work on my tan after all....