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A Year in Provence
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On My Way to the Market
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La Belle Cuisine
Dinner in Provence
New Orleans, May 23, 2002
by Marcelle Bienvenu
You don't have to cross the Atlantic to dine à la Provençale
not been to Provence in southern France. I have not been to France
that matter, I've not yet been to Europe. But I have friends who go
so I hear great tales of their jaunts across the big pond. When
to Provence return, they go on and on about the lovely
cooking on garlic, olive oil and tomatoes.
I hear them rave about the lavender fields, the aroma of rosemary, thyme,
host of other herbs that are used in the cooking there. They firmly
believe that the cuisine has more flavor than that of northern France.
A few years ago I read Peter Mayle's book about spending a year in
with his wife. Through his irresistible prose, I was able to travel
enjoy the landscape, comfortable climate, brilliant sun and
The people are a breed apart, shaped by invasions of every race around
Mediterranean: short, dark, fiery, with their own language and
traditions. Probably not much different from the Acadians
Along the coastline of Provence, the fishermen work often by night and
their catch home for soups like
bourride and other
Tomatoes and garlic, justly synonymous with most dishes à la Provençale,
herbs grow profusely. And, of course, good wines come from the rolling
along the Rhóne River.
I understand that the people of Provence eat and drink everything that
in their seaside province with unflagging interest and enjoyment.
is not always easy, but it is simple and good. Sounds
are my kind of people and theirs is certainly my kind of food.
So in late spring I often plan a meal à la Provençale, using local
like tomatoes, lots and lots of garlic and fashioning a bouquet
of fresh herbs
from my tiny garden to set on the table on my covered patio.
My cousin, who
lives nearby, raises goats and often presents me with
fresh-made goat cheese
from her dairy
house. The cheese makes a great
appetizer, but it also can be
added to the tomato
soup for a delightful
It certainly isn't Provence, but then again, it's not too bad. A dry wind
from the south, and after a few sips of wine from the Rhóne and a
Hope you enjoy my version of a Provençal meal."
Aromatic Tomato Soup
Makes about 6
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large leeks, rinsed well,
trimmed and chopped
1 large fennel bulb, trimmed,
cored and chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
10 medium-size ripe tomatoes, preferably
seeded and chopped
3/4 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
plus extra for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Creamed goat cheese (recipe follows)
Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-high
heat. Add the
leeks, fennel and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables
are soft and golden, about 15 minutes. Add the tomatoes, wine, stock and
Season with salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil and then
the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for about 45 minutes,
Transfer half of the soup mixture to a blender or food processor and
two to three times to lightly puree. Return this mixture to the
soup in the pot. Heat over low heat again to warm tho-
Ladle the soup into bowls, and drizzle each serving with
the goat cheese
cream. Garnish with thyme and serve warm.
4 ounces white goat cheese
1/3 cup heavy cream
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
Combine the goat cheese, cream and pepper in a food processor
and process until smooth.
Roasted Chicken with Lots of Garlic
"There is no such thing as a little garlic.”
~ Arthur Baer
2 chickens, each about 3 pounds, quartered
1/4 cup olive oil
3 sprigs of fresh rosemary (or tarragon)
1 teaspoon salt (more or less to taste)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
3 heads of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
2 cups Vouvray wine
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees [F]. Put the chicken and
olive oil in a
large bowl or shallow platter. Turn to coat evenly. Arrange
a single layer in a large roasting pan. Pinch off the
the sprigs of rosemary and sprinkle evenly over the chicken.
with the salt, black pepper and cayenne. Scatter and tuck the
cloves over and in between the chicken pieces. Pour in the wine.
the pan tightly with a cover or foil. Bake for one hour and 45
minutes. Uncover the pan and baste the chicken with the pan juices. Continue
baking until the skin of the chicken becomes lightly browned, about
minutes. Serve immediately with the
garlic cloves and pan juices.
This is good served with new potatoes, boiled and tossed with a little
butter and chopped fresh parsley.
Peach and Blueberry Clafouti
Makes 6 to 8
2 large firm peaches, pitted, peeled and
1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed
and picked over
1 cup Riesling wine
5 tablespoons butter
4 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Powdered sugar (optional)
Vanilla ice cream (optional)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees [F]. Butter a two-quart
dish. Put the peaches (or nectarines), blueberries and wine
in a bowl and
allow to stand for 15 minutes.
Melt the butter and cool slightly. Whisk the eggs, granulated sugar, salt
and cinnamon in a large bowl. Whisk in the flour until blended. Whisk in
milk, cooled butter, vanilla and one-fourth cup from the fruit mixture
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the soaked fruit to the baking dish,
it evenly on the bottom. Pour the batter over the fruit (some
the fruit may rise to the top), and bake until puffed and set in the
about one hour.
Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
The clafouti can be served warm or at room temperature. You can dust
powdered sugar or serve it with scoops of ice cream.
Note: Two large nectarines can be substituted for peaches.
© The Times-Picayune. Used with permission.
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