Thursday, April 26, 2012

All the Veg you need

Once in a while I go through all those ripped out recipes I store in one of my kitchen drawers. Partly to declutter, partly to get new ideas on what to cook. This recipe - and for once I even know where I ripped it out of (the June 2011 issue of Delicious Magazine, one of my best loved cooking mags) ticked all the boxes of what I was looking for: fresh and crunchy vegetable, easy to prepare in advance and real pretty, too.

To serve this as a starter for six you need medium sized red peppers, halved and deseeded (one half pepper per person), one zucchini, sliced very finely, about ten cherry tomatoes cut into halves, a bunch of fresh green asparagus (just the tips, reserve the rest of the stems to make an asparagus soup),  4 to 6 finely sliced spring onios, 2 garlic cloves, also very finely sliced, olive oil and about 100 g fresh goat cheese.
Wash and halve the peppers, deseed and place in a lightly oiled baking dish. Finley slice the zucchini, garlic and spring onions, halve the cherry tomatoes and mix everything in a bowl. Season with pepper fresh from the mill, kosher salt (fleur de sel), drizzle with olive oil and distribute this mixture into the halved red (or yellow) peppers. Add the asparagus tips and crumble the goat cheese on top and bake for about 30 to 40 minutes at 180°C/350°F. To be served with a nice crunchy baguette or, as a more substantial main course on a bed of couscous.

I very stupidly forgot to take pictures after baking and when I remembered there was nothing left....

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Carpentras - Strawberries top, Fête a Flop

Promises, promises....

They are delicious and grace the tables of the most famous Parisian five star restaurants  - the strawberries of Carpentras are not only beautiful to look at they are juicy and sweet and smell heavenly - just as strawberries are supposed to smell and taste! So we are real lucky to be so close to Carpentras which in fact is where we have to go to to see (if we have to) our tax inspector or go for various other, equally important official ventures.
So when we heard there would be a "Festival de la Fraise" this weekend we were so excited we couldn't wait to go there. Because usually food festivals in Provence are lovingly prepared, joyous and convivial affairs.

Beautiful and delicious - Carpentras' strawberries

Not so here. First of all you didn't even find the festival. No sign, no nothing. Since we were parked right next to the Tourist Office I went to inquire. "In front of the Lord Mayor's house. " Yes,  and where please might that be?  To cut a long story short - we had to fight our way through a massive fleamarket selling children's toys and clothes occupying the town center to finally arrive at about five or six stalls selling strawberries, more stalls selling wine and - worst of all - stalls of chefs trying to selling interesting concoctions involving strawberries.
Bulgur, red cabbage, strawberries and shredded radishes

The above being one of the at least aesthetically pleasing offers (don't get me started on a turkey goulash with strawberries...) all we did was buy our strawberries at this adorable young vendor's stall

had a coffee and a strawberry tart at the next café and admired this display by the one and only boutique that had tried to add to the strawberry theme:

So whoever is in charge of this festival:  how about deciding what you really want - a big fleamarket or a celebration of  your most famous fruit?
Worth a real festival: The famous Carpentras strawberry

Monday, April 16, 2012

Pears and Roquefort - A Match made in Culinary Heaven

Until fairly recently I did not like blue cheese. Just couldn't stand the stuff. Until on our way home from a trip to the Vendée we passed by a sign "Roquefort 3 km". On the spur of the moment we decided to visit the village that produces the world famous blue cheese and ever since tasting the real, the perfectly ripened and not too strong Roquefort I am maybe not a 100 per cent convert but willing to experiment.  

 One of the famous Caves de Roquefort

So when I found a recipe marrying pears and Roquefort I just had to give it a try. All you need to prepare "Pear and Roquefort Tarts" for four is a roll of puff pastry, 2 firm pears, a bit of paprika powder, a tbsp of butter, 100 g (1/2 cup) of Roquefort cheese and 1 tbsp of thick cream. I use crème fraîche. 
Start by preheating the oven to 180°C/360°F, unroll the puff pastry and line 4 small tart tins with baking paper and the pastry. Prick the pastry base (not the sides) with a fork, line with some more baking paper and and weigh down with baking beans. Prebake the shells for 15 minutes, discard paper and the baking beans and let the shells cool down in their tins.
Meanwhile peel and cut the pears into not too fine chunks. Season with a good sprinkling of paprika powder. In a pan, melt the butter and over medium heat slowly fry the pear slices until slighltly softened. Let the chunks cool down.

Frying the pear chunks

With a fork mix the Roquefort and the crème fraîche. Fill each pastry shell with 2 or 3 pear chunks and top with the blue cheese/cream mixture. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the tarts are nicely browned. Serve hot or lukewarm with a little salad on the side.
Not only does this make a perfect lunch but I bet a few more Blue Cheese converts, too.

Oozing deliciousness: Roquefort and Pear Tarts

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Kreativ Blogger Award

What a lovely surprise - Özlem of the beautiful blog Ozlem's Turkish Table that I have been following for quite a while awarded Cuisine de Provence this very flattering

Thank you Özlem! When Özlem is not guiding her very lucky clients on her "Fascinating Istanbul and Grand Turkey Tour" - she holds Turkish Cooking Classes  in London which I am definitely planning to attend next time I am there - the dishes Özlem is teaching there look just too tempting!
In order to be able to accept the award I am asked to do as follows:
  1. Thank the blogger who gave me the award and provide a link (as above).
  2. List 7 interesting things about myself that my readers might find interesting.
  3. Nominate 7 other bloggers, provide links, and let them know.
I love to read - my mother always jokes "if there is nothing else she reads the back of the shampoo bottle" - sad, but true!
I am a cookbook addict - it has been a while that I have counted them and I won't admit the number but I cannot resist buying yet more cookbooks and read them like novels.
If I would win the lottery - I would not buy a flashy car or house, I would go travelling for at least a year or so. My dream is spending about a month or more in one city to really get to know it and then move on to the next destination. Top of my dream list: Hongkong.
I do not really like drawing up lists like this one. Four points done, three to go - may I please, please, pretty please be excused?

And now for the nominees - and yes, as far as I am concerned, you are excused from drawing up this list, too ....

My Italian Kitchen



The Travelling Food Lady

The Café Sucrine et Farine

A Spoonful of Thyme


And Özlem, to apologize for my lack of diligence and because it is true - here is your award:

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Easter Bunny has arrived

After very heavy rainfall during the last few days I just checked the garden this morning and although the sun is not yet out full force (but we are promised beautiful weather this Easter weekend) I found this little bunny happily hiding its Easter eggs in our garden. So now I am doing my part: coloring eggs for the traditional Easter breakfast and hunting down the freshest asparagus to be served steamed with sauce hollandaise, tiny potatoes and cured ham as a light and seasonal Easter dinner. And then next week it will be back to blogging more regularly -  there are recipes to be shared and Cuisine de Provence has been given another lovely blogger award that I will let you know about. Until then: Happy Easter everybody - enjoy your chocolate!