Monday, June 17, 2013

Pavlova hails from New Zealand, the Aussies just copied it!

Last weekend I baked my very first Pavlova. I have always greatly enjoyed this fabulous and very elegant dessert, but somehow never made one from scratch. Until I found this foolproof recipe. It takes time and should be prepared the night before so you can leave it in the oven until totally cooled down and out it comes prefect: crunchy on the outside, but deliciously chewy at the center. I used golden caster sugar for the meringue so there is a nice contrast between the white wipped cream and the light brown meringe. I topped my Pavlova with freshly picked strawberries from my kitchen garden. Can't wait for the raspberries to ripen now, the perfect excuse to have another Pavlova.
By the way: Pavlovas don't hail from Australia as the recipe states, but from New Zealand. A New Zealand chef in a hotel in Wellington, New Zealand, created the dish when Anna Pavlova visited there in 1926 to honor the great Russian ballerina.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Star in my Kitchen

Guess who came to cook at Cuisine de Provence yesterday? Let's put it that way: a real nice guy and his wife and three of his friends. I should have had a clue when his wife Joannie asked for a wooden spoon when her husband was chopping some onions. She claims it helps against the crying. Crying he didn't and even let himself be photographed like this  - not many men would have. So we were happily cooking away and at some point I asked "So what do you guys do in real life?" Two were doctors and this Monsieur just said - "I'm retired, but I used to be an actor". Well, I have to admit, I still didn't have a clue (shame, shame, shame...)
And then one of his friends said "and he is a real famous actor." OMG! Turns out he is Dennis Franz, the TV Icon of "Hill Street Blues", aka the famous Detective Andy Sipowicz in "NYPD Blue".  For Heaven's sake, the guy  played with Bruce Willis in "Die Hard 2" and I didn't recognize him....
Sorry again, Dennis but it sure was a great honor to have you and your very, very nice friends in my kitchen! And Joannie, thank you so much for sharing your kitchen tips with me! I think spraying your baking forms with baking grease by placing them onto the open door of the dishwasher and so having any spills there where they will be washed away instead of on the kitchen counter is an especially good one!
Dennis Franz

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Exploring yet another Cookbook

Not using my cookbooks as often as I should a while ago I set myself a little challenge of just randomly picking out a book of my collection browsing the recipes and trying out a new one. Patricia Wells "The Provence Cookbook" was published in 2004 and I like it because Wells, the doyenne of Provence cooking schools, included pictures of stallholders from Vaison's famous Tuesday market, tells you where to find the best cheeseshop and fishmonger, to pair which wine to which dish and generally is one of the very best ambassadors of Provençal cooking and lifestyle.
I had before tried out her recipe for a Tomato Clafoutis (truly divine), so this time and since I had a few zucchini left and was looking for a quick side dish I tried the "Chunky Zucchini Gratin".

 The Book
The recipe couldn't be simpler: you cut 3 or 4 zucchini into chunks (the skinnier the zucchini the better they taste), peel and finely slice 3 garlic cloves ** and heat some good olive oil in which you fry the zucchini and garlic until the zucchini are lightly browned. Cover the frying pan, lower the heat and let cook until the zucchini are soft. Transfer into a gratin dish, drizzle with about 1/4 cup of cream and a generous handful of freshly grated Gruyère cheese. Place the dish under your preheated broiler and broil until the cheese has melted. Yum!
** Patricia Wells recipe tells you to just halve the garliccloves and leave them out of the finished dish. I finley sliced the garlic and left it in.

The Dish

Monday, June 3, 2013

"Herbes de Provence" my way

Lots of Provençal recipes ask for a good pinch or two of "Herbes de Provence". And Herbes de Provence are one of the most popular souvenirs tourists like to take home. Which makes me kind of sad. Because unless you live in the northern part of Finland or Alaska nothing is easier than producing your very own Herbes de Provence. As far as I am concerned, all you need is a chopping board, a good sharp chef's knife and a handful of thyme and rosemary. Now I do know that the "official" mixture often contains tarragon, sage, fennel, marjoram, oregano and even lavender. But when I look around my garden , the neighboring fields, or when I take a walk in the nearby forest - what grows wild and all over the place? Thyme and rosemary! And do you really think our grandmas went out of their way to search for herbs that didn't grow on their doorstep? I don't think so!
So whenever I need some "Herbes de Provence" I step out of my kitchen door to the "wild" part of the garden, kitchen scissors in hand and cut a branch or two of the wild rosemary and thyme. I strip off the rosemary needles and the tiny little thyme leaves, chop them furiously until powder fine et voilà - deliciously perfumed "Herbes de Provence". And if you have smelled my mixture and then go and smell what is being sold in those pretty little sachets - well I know which mixture I prefer. And if you then also know that most of those herbs originate in Albania, China or North Africa I really don't know what is so "Provençal" about them.....

 Herbes de Provence -  all you need is

Thym, Rosemary and a good chopping knife