La Marmite - Sur le menu en Provence
April 26, 2012
This month's issue of La Marmite features Provencal specialties with recipes for tapenade, aioli and more.
I imagine a few of you might be planning a trip to France in the near future and if you are, heading down to sunny Provence in the south is probably high on your list of things to do. Here is a brief introduction to some of the tasty food that awaits you in this land known for the generosity of its cuisine.
And don't worry if France is not yet in view for you, I have included easy recipes for most of these tasty morsels, so you can try them at home and enjoy a taste of la vie Provencal wherever you are in the world.
Tapenade - Black or green olives are mashed and blended with olive oil, capers, and garlic to make this full flavored paste. Spread it on rounds of thinly sliced, toasted French bread and enjoy with a crisp white wine or something a little sweeter, like a muscat. You can make this with any number of different olives, or just buy it already made. (Look for a simple ingredient list with maybe the addition of a touch of Cognac.) Here is my tapenade recipe.
Pissaladiere - To make this tasty Provencal specialty, pizza dough is slathered with a generous layer of caramelized onions and anchovy paste then decorated with a few black olives and more anchovies (ye who tremble at the sight of a wee salty fish are better off abstaining from this one). This could serve you either as an appetizer by cutting it in small pieces, or even try it as a main course with a generous green salad. Totally yummy pissaladiere.
Aioli - You might think of this as garlic mayonnaise, but real aioli is not just mayonnaise mixed with garlic. It is made with olive oil (at least in part) which gives the aioli quite a strong, but completely addictive taste. It is rare that a sauce can be the centerpiece of a meal, but aioli pulls it off. Le grand aioli is served with any of a variety of raw and simply steamed vegetables, fish, shrimp, boiled eggs, and anything else you might enjoy. Everyone gets to dip their way through the meal. - just make the sauce and everything else falls in place: aioli recipe.
Pan Bagnat - If you put a salade nicoise inside a loaf of French bread basted with olive oil, you get a pan bagnat. The ingredients may vary a bit from one sandwicherie to the next, but expect a lot of vegetables, olive oil, and some fish. This makes a great eat at home lunch, but it will also travel well for a picnic. Pan bagnat recipe.
Bouillabaisse - The most famous of Provencal fish stews, bouillabaisse is a specialty of the city of Marseille. Ingredients typically include several different varieties of fish and possibly seafood, tomatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil and seasonings. I am sorry that I do not have a bouillabaisse recipe to share with you - preparing all of that fish just seems like too much work for me, the lazy cook. So let's just use it as another excuse to visit the south of France.
Pastis - This sweet, anise flavored liquor is the drink in the south of France. On a warm, sunny day at four in the afternoon the outdoor cafes fill with pastis drinkers. A shot of amber colored liquor is served in a glass along with a pitcher of cold water and perhaps a few ice cubes. The drink, which turns to a pale green color, can be mixed to the strength you wish. Watch out for this stuff folks - do like the French and sip ever so slowly. Learn more about pastis here.
Ratatouille - Just about everyone knows what this is after the animated blockbuster film. Tomatoes, onions, eggplant, zucchini, and garlic are sauteed in olive oil along with a few fresh herbs to create a celebration of the bounty of a summer vegetable garden. Ratatouille can be eaten either hot or cold and served with many different things. Easy ratatouille recipe.
Daube Provencale - A daube is a stew that typically calls for marinating the meat for several hours and then slowly cooking it in wine. The result is a lusciously layered stew, fit for serving company (but no strain on the host or hostess). A typical beef daube in Provence might include black olives and a little orange peel. If you are only going to ever try one of my recipes, make it this one. Truly delicious beef daube provencale.
Navettes Saint Victoire - These boat shaped tea cakes are a specialty of Marseille. Flavored with orange flower water, les navettes Saint Victoire are traditionally enjoyed on Chandeleur (Candlemas), February 2nd of each year. Look for them in boulangeries in the south of France or try them at home with this tea cake recipe.
Calissons - A small, yellow jelly candy, calissons are made from melon, oranges and finely ground almonds and topped with a thin layer of white icing. Aix-en-Provence in the heart of Provence is the center of production for these lovely little candies. Warning: These are expensive so be prepared to savor them slowly. Which come to think of it, is how all things Provencal should be enjoyed. Learn more about French candy.
Well, I've barely touched the tip of the iceberg, but hopefully you are ready to hop on a plane or at least head to the kitchen. The cooking of Provence is a vast subject and oh so much fun to explore.
In the next issue of La Marmite I will bring you some great French Strawberry Recipes.
Your friend in France,