The reward of surviving a Minnesota winter, for me, is dining alfresco during the summer months. It means Salade Nicoise with my garden's haricot verts, roasted beets, French tomato tarts, and Insalata Caprese, just to name a few; and all served with a chilled French Rosé.
That type of dining has come to an end, for the most part. But there is always hope that one more day of Indian Summer will come along, and allow us one more relaxed meal on the patio before the fountain is drained and the outdoor furniture relegated to storage.
This Tuna Pissaladiére will make a perfect alfresco luncheon, along with a green salad, and that glass of rosé. A 70 degree day is predicted for early this coming week. I'll caramelize the onions and roast the red peppers this weekend, allowing a quick assembly of the pissaladiére, to enjoy on that upcoming (and hopefully not last) day of Indian Summer.
recipe Sunset Magazine | August 2012
• 2 pounds onions, thinly sliced lengthwise
• 1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
• 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (14-ounce package), preferably all-butter Dufour
• 12 ounces roasted red peppers, cut into strips
• about 1/2 cup Nicoise olives, pitted
• 2 tablespoons drained capers
• 4 ounces good quality canned tuna in olive oil, drained
1. Cook onions in oil in a large skillet over medium heat until soft, stirring often for about 8 to 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are a deep golden brown. This should take about 45 minutes. Stir in the thyme, salt, and pepper; set aside to cool.
2. Preheat oven to 400˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the sheet of puff pastry on top. Bake on the middle rack of the oven until puffed and golden brown, about 18 to 20 minutes.
3. Spread the caramelized onions over the pastry, leaving a 1/2-inch border.
4. Make a grid pattern over the onions with the roasted red peppers. Place 2 Nicoise olives in the center of each grid, then sprinkle the entire pissaladiére with the drained capers.
5. Flake the tuna and scatter inside the grids, and return to the oven for an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Garnish with additional fresh thyme leaves and serve either warm, or at room temperature.
TAKE a LOOK:
This could go on forever... the posting of the French inspired treats I served at my daughter's recent graduation party in our back yard. The majority of offerings, actually all of the offerings, were sweet treats except for this one savory sablés that was offered alongside wine we were serving to the adults. I made this recipe for Olive and Rosemary Shortbread five years ago for the first time, after a trip to Provence with my daughter and sister. I purchased a small tin of Sablés salés aux olives noires in the town of Saint Rémy de Provence. I decided on my return home that this was one savory cookie I needed to have on hand for friends who stop by for the occasional glass of wine. I haven't made them in quite a while but after nibbling on many this past week, I was again reminded of how good these are! And really... when you add a large amount of butter and fleur de sel to anything, it has to be good!
inspired by a visit to Le Petit Duc | Saint Rémy de Provence
• 2 1/4 cups flour
• 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
• 1 teaspoon Fleur de Sel
• 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
• 13 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
• 2 large egg yolks
• 3-4 Tablespoons chopped Nicoise olives
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Pulse flour, sugar, salt and rosemary in a food processor until combined. Add butter and pulse just until mixture resembles coarse meal, then add yolks and process until dough just starts to clump together. Add chopped Nicoise olives and process briefly. Turn onto a work surface and gather dough together. Divide dough into 4 pieces and smear each portion to help distribute the butter. Divide dough in half. Lay each half on plastic wrap and form into a log about 1 1/4-inch in diameter. Chill at least one hour. Slice log into 1/4-inch thick pieces and place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake in the middle of the oven, for about 25 minutes, until light-golden brown. Cool on a rack and store in an air-tight container. Dream that you're in Provence.
TAKE a LOOK:
I had been looking forward to July 25th for days. It was the day the bikers riding in La Tour de France would be ascending Mont Ventoux.
We watch the Tour de France almost religiously each summer. I think I like cycling, but honestly, the reason I'm glued to the television screen during La Tour is because of the scenery. I'm a sucker for the cobblestones and tiled roofs of France. When the cyclists are on secluded stretches of road, I'll find little jobs to do around the house. But as soon as my husband yells, "Hey, look at this!", I run back to the t.v. and images of another village I now want to visit.
Seeing the 20th leg of La Tour was especially important to me because we always stay near Mont Ventoux in the Vaucluse region when visiting Provence. Last summer we based ourselves in Carpentras and wherever we ventured during the day, Mont Ventoux was most likely in our sight.
My husband, who has become more interested in cycling over the years and participates in Ragbrai (the bike race across Iowa) with our youngest daughter, has never joined me on my visits to Provence. But he seemed intrigued, seeing the shots of lavender fields and vineyards during La Tour yesterday. I'm hoping he'll consider a trip with me. He could ride his bike from village to village and I could meet up with him for lunch, taking a break from the markets and brocantes -- my favorite pasttimes in Provence.
Since we would be getting up at 6 a.m. (on a Saturday!) to watch the ascent of Mont Ventoux, I decided to assemble a strata the night before, to have as breakfast Saturday morning. The great thing about a strata is that you can work with what you've got. I had 2 cooked hot Italian sausages in my freezer along with a baguette. I sliced the baguette and covered the bottom of a buttered gratin with half. Over that I layered the sliced sausages and mushrooms from a jar in my pantry. I sprinkled about a cup of shredded Gruyére over the top, along with leaves of fresh basil from my garden. I covered this with another layer of baguette slices and more shredded cheese. I whisked together 4 large eggs and about a cup of half & half, seasoned with salt and pepper, and poured this evenly over the bread. (Feel free to add more cream or milk if the strata seems too dry). Covered with plastic wrap, the strata was placed in the refrigerator until the next morning when I popped it into a preheated 350˚F oven for 30 minutes. I wish the red peppers in my refrigerator had been roasted when I assembled this late Friday night. They would have been a great addition.
It was our turn to host "gourmet", the term we've all been using for the dinner that six of us partake in several times a year. Too chilly to be outdoors for more than our appetizers, we ate three courses in our dining room. I served the main course in my favorite bowls, made in Spain, that I hauled back from Aix-en-Provence last summer.
The shrimp almost seemed camouflaged within the marbleized red and yellow glazed swirls. Prepared in a spicy herb butter, we ate the unpeeled shrimp with our hands and soaked up the sauce with French breads.
This is a fantastic dish that does not involve much time and the results are hugely delicious! The shrimp were excellent... large and meaty. I figured 1/2-pound per person and that was really pushing our limit. From a Sunday New York Times magazine, "This Southern recipe, altho' called "barbecue", is actually prepared in a hot cast-iron skillet".
• 16 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1 tablespoon minced garlic
• 1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves, crushed
• 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
• 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 1 bay leaf
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 3 to 5 thyme sprigs, chopped, or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
• Salt to taste, if desired
• 2 pounds unshelled large shrimp, approximately 20 to 24, rinsed briefly in
• 1/2 cup bottled clam juice
• 1/4 cup dry white wine
1. In a large cast-iron skillet or frying pan, melt eight tablespoons of the butter over high heat. Add all the remaining ingredients except the remaining eight tablespoons of butter, the shrimp, clam juice and wine. Stir well and add the shrimp. Cook about three minutes, stirring and shaking the pan.
2. Add the remaining eight tablespoons of butter, clam juice and wine. Cook, stirring and shaking the pan, until the shrimp are cooked through. Remove from heat and serve immediately with the hot butter sauce from the pan and French bread or rice. YIELD: Four servings.
Another bread from the Provencal bakery Chez Auzet in Cavaillon, France.
ONION and WHITE WINE BREAD
adapted from Confessions of a French Baker by Peter Mayle and
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1 1/2 cups diced onions
• 1/4 cup white wine
• 1 3/4 cups (8 ounces) unbleached King Arthur all-purpose flour
• 1 3/4 cups (8 ounces) unbleached King Arthur bread flour
• 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
• 5/8 cup water (90 - 100˚F)
• up to 5/8 cup additional white wine
• 4 1/2 teaspoons (1/2 ounce) instant yeast
1. Melt the 2 tablespoons butter over medium-low heat. Add the diced onions and sauté, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and slightly golden. Deglaze the pan with the white wine. Drain the onions, reserving any accumulated liquid. Set both aside to cool.
2. Sift the flour and salt together into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. Sprinkle the yeast over the mixture and mix on medium to low speed, gradually adding the 5/8 cup water and the deglazing liquid plus additional white wine to equal 5/8 cup, and mix until the dough comes away from the bowl, between 5 and 10 minutes.
3. Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and set it on the counter to rest for 10 minutes. Return it to the mixing bowl and place it so the dough hook plunges into the middle of the dough. Mix on medium speed until the dough is soft and pliable, about 15-20 minutes. (I needed to add additional water, little by little to achieve the soft dough). At this point add the onions. I found I had the best results incorporating the onions if I took the dough out of the bowl and kneaded the onions in by hand.
4. When the onions are incorporated into the dough, gather it up in your hands in a rough ball. Bring the full length of your thumbs into the center of the ball so that they meet, and stretch the dough from the center out. Turn the dough a quarter turn and stretch the dough again the same way, creating a smooth ball. Transfer the dough to a large mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel, and set aside until the dough doubles in size, at least one hour.
5. Gently remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a clean surface. Cut the dough into 2 pieces and shape into 2 smooth balls again, as you did before the first rise. On a surface, free from drafts, lay a kitchen towel and dust with flour. Place the balls on the towel and cover with plastic wrap or damp towel. Leave the loaves to proof at room temp until they double in size, at least 20-25 minutes.
6. Shape the loaves by first patting down the balls to allow the gasses to disperse. Gather up each piece of dough and again, shape into 2 smooth balls.
7. Place the loaves on the kitchen towel dusted with flour and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let the loaves rise at room temperature for the final time until they have doubled in size.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450˚F. Carefully place the loaves on a baking sheet. Brush them with water using a pastry brush. With a sharp razor blade, cut the surface of each loaf by scoring it from end to end in 2 swift motions.
9. Just before you are ready to slide the baking sheet into the oven, spray the inside of the oven with water and close the door immediately. Put the bread in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until it makes a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom. Let cool on a rack. MAKES 2 LOAVES
I was planning to post a decadent dessert in observance of Valentine's Day later this week, but I spent yesterday making this French Olive Bread. I found the recipe in the sweet little book, Confessions of a French Baker, by Peter Mayle. Recipes for sixteen different breads from Chez Auzet in the Provencal city of Cavaillon, are adapted for the home baker by boulanger/owner Gérard Auzet.
I parted with a French olive oil I purchased last summer at the market in Malaucene France. I'm usually extremely selective in how I use an oil such as this, but I knew that divine-tasting oil could only enhance a bread filled with French olives. I placed the boules onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, and after spraying the inside of the oven with water I slid the parchment onto my pre-heated baking stone. I ended up with beautiful rounds that, once sliced, even the non-olive eater in my family devoured.
GREEN and BLACK OLIVE BREAD
from the book Confessions of a French Baker by Peter Mayle and Gérard Auzet
Makes 2 Loaves
• 1 3/4 cups (8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose King Arthur flour
• 1 3/4 cups (8 ounces) unbleached King Arthur bread flour
• 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
• 4 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
• 3/4 cup (6 ounces) water (90 - 100˚F)
• 1/2 cup (4 ounces) olive oil
• 3/4 cup pitted black olives
• 3/4 cup pitted green oilive
• 2 tablespoons herbes de Provence
1. Sift the flour and salt together into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. Sprinkle the yeast over the contents and mix on medium to low speed, gradually adding the water the olive oil, until the dough comes away from the bowl, about 5 - 10 minutes. Scatter the olives and the herbs over the dough and continue mixing until they are incorporated.
2. Remove the dough from the bowl, and set it on the counter to rest for 10 minutes. Return it to the mixing bowl and place on the mixer so the dough hook plunges into the middle of the dough. Mix on medium speed until the dough is soft and pliable, about 15 - 20 minutes.
3. Remove the dough from the mixing bowl to the counter and gather it up in a rough ball. Bring the full length of your thumbs into the center of the ball so that they meet, and stretch the dough from the center out, as if opening a book, into an oblong shape. Turn the dough a quarter turn and stretch the dough again the same way, creating a smooth ball. Transfer the dough to a large mixing bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and set it aside in a draft-free place at room temp until the dough doubles in size, about 45 minutes.
4. Gently remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a clean surface. Cut the dough into 2 pieces and shape them into 2 smooth balls again, as you did before the first rise. On a surface free from drafts, lay a kitchen towel dusted with flour on it. Place the balls on the towel and cover with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming on the surface. Leave the loaves to proof at room temp until double in size, 20 - 25 minutes.
5. Shape the loaves by first patting down the balls to allow the gasses that have developed to disperse. Gather up the dough as in step 3.
6. Place the loaves, seam side down, on the towel dusted with flour and cover with plastic wrap. Let the loaves rise at room temp for the final time, 35 - 45 minutes, or doubled in size.
7. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450˚F. Carefully place the loaves onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Brush them with water using a pastry brush. Using a sharp razor blade, made a lozenge-shaped cut across the surface of each loaf.
8. Just before placing the baking sheet in the oven, or sliding the parchment onto a baking stone, spray the inside of the oven with water using a spray bottle and close the door immediately. Put the bread into the oven and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until the bread makes a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom with your knuckles. Transfer to a rack to cool.
When I was in the south of France this summer I became fascinated by the cast-bronze doorknockers in the shape of hands. The first hand I came across was in Maussanes, altho' it was mounted next to the door and was stationary. Perhaps a symbol of welcoming?
When we arrived in Arles and strolled through the Centre Ville, I began to notice them frequently. I don't know if the hands are unique to this area in France, or if they were just so abundant they became more obvious to me.
They all bore an age-old patina.
No mass production here. Each hand was one-of-a-kind.
Each cuff was unique and several of the hands wore rings.
I may need to log onto French eBay and see if any bronze hands are available in antiquities.
This post is for my husband. I've been trying to get him to sit down and look at the photos I took of this golf course in France, but it hasn't happened.
It wouldn't be truthful if I said we entered the grounds of this golf club to take photos for him, altho' I have been trying to lure him to the south of France on the premise that he could play golf while I'm exploring cafes, markets, patisseries, and antique shops. Susan and I stopped when we saw "restaurant" on the sign. We were getting hungry.
I'm not sure what the buildings of this golf club were originally. Maybe part of a farm?
A simple, but elegant interior. Very French.
I thought it was interesting that each table had opened bottles of red wine, ready to go. Also very French.
Was the chilled champagne for a golfer celebrating a hole-in-one?
I've always said, "You'll never get me to live on a golf course!", but I wouldn't mind living next to this place.
I am always in search of olive oil when I am in France and usually haul home several. This past trip was no different. Two of the oils I bought were purchased at an outdoor market. One was purchased in Malaucene and the other in Carpentras. Our friends Maria and Dieter have spoken often of their favorite olive oil that is produced in France near the charming Provencal village of Maussanes Les Alpilles. Since Maussanes was on our way to Arles, where we spent our last night in France before returning to Germany, we naturally planned a stop to visit the mill and salesroom where the oil is produced and sold.
Once you reach Moulin Mas Des Barres, you drive through the grove of olive trees...
until you reach the buildings that house the mill, salesroom, commercial kitchen and dining room. I peeked into the kitchen where they were assembling desserts. We were told that Mas Des Barres prepares lunch for tours of 30 or more people.
I would have been very happy sitting at this table with a French baguette and a glass of wine.
The cafe table and chairs were covered by a canopy of fig trees.
How I wish figs would grow in Minnesota!
There was a charming salesroom (I could find a place for that cupboard somewhere in my house!)...
that sold regional food items...
soaps in the shape of olives...
and of course, Moulin Mas Des Barres Olive Oil.
Owner/manager Rene Ouenin spoke with us (or I should say my daughter, since he spoke no English) about this area of Provence. His home is right next door. I tried to imagine what it would be like waking up every morning on this incredible property. He seemed very proud and rightly so. If you're driving through the Alpilles between St. Remy de Provence and Marseilles, I urge you to take the small backroads through the mountains and explore this special area of France.
Susan and I have just returned from our visits to France and Germany. It was an incredible trip, first staying with our friends Maria and Dieter in Germany, and then flying to Marseilles for a week in the south of France. It is hard for me to say what my favorite part of the trip was....waking up each morning in Maria and Dieter's beautiful home, full of light, amazing collections, Provencal furniture and good food was definitely a highlight. Jumping into our car each morning in Provence and heading out to markets in breathtakingly beautiful hilltop villages was a dream (plus, Susan did a superb job of driving our rental car each day, many times under stressful conditions and on the edge of perilous drops to nowhere!). The weather was perfect with extremely cool nights and warm, sunny days. I took hundreds of photos, as I had planned, and am torn between which ones to use for my first post on my return.
Right before we left on our trip, my friend Maureen sent me an article from the May 18th issue of the New York Times Magazine, titled PROVENCE PROFOUND, and it mentioned CHEZ SERGE, located in Carpentras, the town we made our home-base. It did not disappoint!
We were the first ones waiting that noon at the iron-gated entrance, and were able to be seated on the picturesque outdoor patio.
In a matter of minutes, every table was taken, forcing later arrivals to be seated indoors.
My entree consisted of guinea fowl in a morel mushroom sauce, potatoes and a molded carrot puree.
My daughter dined on French pizza.
I chose the lemon tart for my dessert (I always choose lemon if it's on the menu), but the winner was my daughter's choice; panna cotta with fresh strawberries that Serge had purchased that morning at the Carpentras market. We all agree that our meal at Chez Serge was our favorite meal that week in France.