Back home in Provence ( part 2 )
Pascal and I grew up in Provence in the middle of the Cote du Rhone wineries . My little home town of 2000 people , Sainte Cecile les Vignes ...is obviously all about vineyards. I don't know what went "wrong" but both of us do not drink wine or any kind of alcohol as the matter fact !! This is a serious social issue when you live there ... How can you not like wine or not drink pastis when you were born and raised in Provence!?!?! AND to make matters even worse ...we do not smoke or drink coffee...everybody there is puzzled by this "anomaly" ....here in California we are considered healthy !
Saturday morning is Farmer's market day and the village is buzzing . A basket in one hand and my mum on the other ...off we go !
Everything looked delicious and fresh but there are very few organic produce stands . We do have really good produce in California but one huge difference was in the apricots ...so juicy and bursting in flavors . I must have eat a whole case during that trip ....
The raspberries and strawberries were amazing as well ...still warm from just being picked up
Dried linden blossom and lemon verbena my favorites to make herbal tea
And all the spices to make a Moroccan couscous or tajine...
Lemon confits are also a big part of north African cuisine....love them with fish or chicken. Here in San Diego ,I make my own since we have fresh lemons everywhere
All kinds of nougats , with candied fruits ....I have to try this next time!
This sign is pretty funny : eggs are not large and extra large but " medium and very big "
Hiro and I cannot resist the espadrilles . Cute and comfy !
Paella ready to go !
Morue sechee ( baccala for the Italians ) is a true specialty of Provence ...and a lot of work to desalt and prepare but you can buy some already ready to eat at the same fish stand . It is mixed with olive oil and turned into a creamy paste delicious with steamed potatoes ...ad a few truffles and it is really heaven !
This is my catch of the day ! A stingray fin ...just steam it for 10-15 minutes. It is mild , moist and just comes off the large bone like shredded meat .
This is also one of my favorite : scallops with their roe . I have never been able to find some here in the US but in France it is the only way they come ...so tasty and delicious . You just sear them the same way in a little butter ...yum !
Big raw prawns with head and shell ready to grill ...best part is to suck the skin and head where all the flavors are !
Goat or sheep cheeses ...they are all good !
But the ones I am taking home with me are these fresh fresh goat cheeses...made locally in the near by town of Valreas. Only a day old ; they are still in their liquid. Strain the cheese and eat with good "fleur de sel" and bread ...this is the most mild of all goat cheeses ...and can only be found where they are made since they are not yet aged ...this is all my childhood and the taste of home !
I make one last stop chez Thierry the very talented florist to pick up some fresh flowers .
My mum own hydrangeas and wisteria
Getting ready of a "cooking class" ...today we'll make an other recipe Pascal's grand mother taught me : " blanquette de chevreau"
A blanquette is a typical french dish made with veal in a white sauce but I much prefer this "chevreau" version. We can only find young goats in spring around Easter . It makes this dish much more moist and tender with a very mild taste .
This is what you'll need: Olive oil , butter, veal with some bone if possible so it is not dry , a shallot, 1 garlic clove crushed, corn starch, white wine, chicken or veal broth , bouquet garni ( bay leaves, thyme and parsley ), 1/2 onion studded with cloves, some whipping cream and 1 egg yolk .
Traditionally you would start the meat in cold water and bring it to a simmer before to clean the foam that comes up ....but we like to bring some more flavors so we sautee the meat in a mix of olive oil and butter , let it brown before to ad the chopped shallot and garlic. Ad a tbs of cornstarch to make a "roux" that will help thicken the sauce in the end . Ad a glass of white wine , let evaporate before to ad water to almost cover the meat . Put 1 cube of chicken or veal stock , 2 branches of celery , 2 carrots, the bouquet garni and the onion with the cloves . Salt no pepper .
Cover and let simmer for about an hour until the meat is tender .
My best student taking notes !
When the meat is cooked , remove the herbs and vegetables (except for the carrots) and ad some whipping cream. If the sauce is still too liquid ad an egg yolk being very careful not to boil the sauce at any point anymore .Mix gently not to mush the delicate meat.
I am sorry if my plate doesn't look restaurant pretty but we are so ready to eat this ...we can hardly wait !!
I am taking my friend Hiro for a stroll in Vaison la Romaine but on the way I have to stop in Pascal's home town of Tulette at the local chocolate shop to buy some chocolate/crunchy hazelnut spread ...a much more delicious and totally addictive version of "Nutella" I specially love their old truck : "tube" made by Citroen in the 50's
It would be really cool to have one for Maison En Provence !!!
Vaison la Romaine is a very pretty little town with Roman ruins , bridge and amphitheater . The best thing is to actually enjoy the theater during summer months when they have concerts, local choirs performing and watch the fireworks for Bastille Day ! The farmer's market is also the best one in the region . As a tourist , you should wander in the old part of town...nice little restaurants, B&B and hike up to the "castle"
Grignan is a hillside fortified village clustered tightly around a large Renaissance castle that dominate the top of the hill. Grignan was made famous in France by the Aristocratic Madame de Sévigné, remembered for the many letters she wrote in the 17th century. It is surrounded by lavender fields and host a very famous " festival de la correspondance" ( a book and writing event with lectures, exhibitions, vintage books market...) they also have plays and concerts in front of the castle all summer. Worth the visit if you have already been many times to Provence and want to explore an other little artist town .
Last part of the trip ...coming very soon !