Provencal Cooking Lesson
Provencal Cooking Lesson – Domaine Des Peyre in the Luberon
The evening of September 13th was the 4th cooking lesson in 9 days! However, in Provence, it didn’t feel like work and it was inspiring us all to get back in the kitchen to create. It isn’t until you venture into one of the best culinary worlds on the planet, France, that you realize cooking isn’t that hard. The real problem is that we get into a rut and then get burned out. Wouldn’t you say? Well, travel, women’s travel in Provence to be precise, is a remedy for those routine blues. And yes, men can participate too.
We were hosted in a recently renovated 18th century Provencal farmstead turned into winery, wine cellar and cottage apartments for rent. Our menu was titled “Apéro sous la tonelle” – translation; aperitif under the arbor. I’m not sure “arbor” will speak to everyone, as what we eat “under” depends where we live. Some may say gazebo, others may say under the willow tree and it could even be under the RV awning. In Provence, it’s that place just outside the house door that is often protected with a wrought-iron frame supporting cane rods (or common reed in the Camargue region).
So here comes the good stuff: what we ate! It was a bit like a smorgasbord but of course with a French touch which makes all the difference between eating just to eat and eating to enjoy art…et voila:
- Tapenade noire aux olives de Provence (Black olive tapenade – homemade is always a special treat!)
- Caviar d’aubergines (Made from cooked eggplant – cut the eggplant in two, and paste olive oil on both sides, place in oven for 45 min on moderate temperature. When the eggplant is done the pulp will easily scrape out of its skin. Combine eggplant with sautéed onions and garlic and basil, lemon and a little balsamic vinegar. You can choose to have it puréed or just coarsely combine the ingredients. This a great spread on crackers or slices of baguette.)
- Beignets de courgettes à l’ail et persil (Fried zucchini with garlic and parsely – the secret here is to separate your egg whites from the egg yolks. Add the egg yolk to your grated zucchini and beat the egg whites until somewhat firm. Slowly work in the zucchini mixture into the stiffen egg whites and then drop a spoonful into the frying pan.)
- Amandes grillées maison croutons provençal (Grilled almonds – beat an egg white until frothy and use to coat your almonds. Then add any spices you’d like. Cook at moderate temperature for 10 minutes.)
- Chorizo miel fenouil vinaigre (Chorizo is a spicy dried Spanish sausage. Cut it in slices and put in pan to heat. When the fats are released, coat the sliced sausage with honey and fennel seeds – that’s it!)
- Melon jambon (dried Italian ham and melon slices go well together)
- Soupe au pistou (if you are looking for a great soupe recipe try this one: Soupe au Pistou Recipe by David Lebovitz. You can always simplify this recipe to your energy level. For example, instead of hassling with the soaking of beans, just use canned beans – adding at the end. What really makes this a special soup is the pistou. Simply by adding a pistou sauce to your vegetable soup you have, in an essence, a taste of Soup au Pistou – even if you don’t use the traditional vegetables.)
- Clafoutis aux figues (Clafoutis is a French dessert that is somewhere between a custard and a cake…with fruit in it. It’s often made with Cherries but very good with figues, apricots or even raspberries. The best Clafoutis recipes have Grand Marnier in it – in my opinion. Here’s a recipe with conversions that is simple to follow and even marks the extra spoonful of Grand Marnier as an option 🙂 Fig Clafoutis with Grand Marnier
I hope your tastebuds are revved up and you are headed to the kitchen now. Turn your meal into a cultural escape to Provence! Bon Appetite!!