Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Provençal Dinner in Paris

It is a short trip from Paris to Provence on the TGV, France's high-speed train. The images are fleeting, but there is much to see: castles, fortified towns and peaceful farms nestled in fertile valleys. Even the careful observer, however, would find it difficult to say exactly where the fertile farm fields of the north give way to the more luxurious vegetation of the south or when the stone of the houses turns from off-white to golden ochre.

In three short hours, you leave the big city behind and step into a land of luminous blue skies, fields of lavender, poppies and sunflowers, and the intoxicating scent of wild rosemary and thyme. Here the sun shines 300 days a year and nourishes the luscious red tomatoes, shiny green and red peppers, and deep purple eggplants that are staples of the region. The abundant olive trees, first planted in the region 25 centuries ago by the Greeks, provide the pungent oil favored by provençal cooks. The nearby Mediterranean Sea supplies fresh tasty fish.

There was no time to make this magical journey this year, but I got the next best thing -- an invitation from my friend Marcelle to a provençal dinner. She lives in Paris, but her roots and her family home are in Brignoles in the Var region of Provence. A market town, Brignoles is known for its peaches, honey, olives and olive oil. There are plenty of shops and a Medieval old town a short walk up the hill from the center.

A great intuitive cook, Marcelle is an accomplished Ikebana artist so her dishes not only taste wonderful, but are beautiful to behold.

Now that summer is here and vegetables are plentiful, it's a good time to enjoy the flavors of Provence in your own home. So below, thanks to Marcelle, are three recipes.

My wine expert recommends a white Burgundy to cook the fish. With the meal, to balance the acidity of the tomato, he suggests a Macon, St. Veran or St. Aubin. Or if you want to continue the Provençal theme, a Marsanne, Viognier or Rose would also be good. Bon Appetit!

A la prochaine,

with Marcelle in Provence

To see more photos, click here.


Dorade Provençal

(If you can't find dorade, red snapper also works well)

l fish per person
White wine
Olive oil
Herbes de Provence
Salt (optional) and pepper.

1. Preheat oven to 375-400 degrees (200C).
2. Slice tomatoes and onions medium thick (see photo)
3. Place slices on top of fish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Drizzle olive oil - 1/4 cup or more to taste.
5. Pour about one-half cup of white wine over fish
6. Sprinkle liberally with herbes de Provence.

Bake for 30-40 minutes (depending on size of fish) or until fish flakes.

Vegetables Provençal

Zucchini, onions, peppers, eggplant
(potatoes are also very good especially with a bit of cheese melted on top at the end of the cooking process)
Olive Oil
Herbes de Provence
Salt (optional) and pepepr.

Preheat over to 375-400 degrees (200C)

1. Slice vegetable in very thin slices (see photo)
2. Sprinkle generously with herbes de Provence.
3. Pour a generous amount of oil olive over the vegetables.
4. Sprinkle with salt (optional) and pepper.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until tender.

Apple Tart

Butter Crust
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 cup butter
1/2 to 3/4 cold water.

Preheat oven to 375-400 degrees (200C)

1. Mix salt into flour
2. Work butter into flour with your fingers
3. Dribble in water and work it in until soft dough forms
4. Knead slightly and form into a ball
5. Stretch out dough with fingers (not rolling pin) to fit a 8-9 inch pan

Bitter orange marmalade
Butter (about 2 tablespoons)
Castor sugar (fine sugar)

1. Spread orange marmalade carefully on bottom of pie crust
2. Cut apples and arrange as in photo above
3. Dot apples with butter
4. Sprinkle a generous amount of fine Castor sugar on top.

Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until apples are soft.

Photos by Geraldine Calisti Kaylor and Marcelle Mourou

1 comment:

  1. OMG, recipes, too!!? These all look absolutely fabulous. I was drooling already from your train ride descriptions, but now the piece de resistance is these meals. YUM! I would love to try these. Thanks!


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