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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Lunch on the Terrace in Provence

They take eating outside seriously in the South of France. The house we rented in Provence, like most in the region, included a terrace. Right off the living room and the bedrooms was a beautifully stoned area covered by an overhead arbor of trailing wisteria. It was an irresistibly inviting spot to read, snooze, or enjoy a meal. Our family loved snacking and lunching at the round metal table surrounded by those quintessential French folding chairs. Many afternoons we spread tapenade on crusty baguette slices, tried different cheeses, and sipped rosé, and midday we often savored lunch outdoors. 

One of the easiest déjeuners I prepared included Goat Cheese and Radish Panini. I spread slices of good peasant bread with creamy chèvre scented with lemon, and then added a layer of paper-thin radish slices, and a mound of arugula. There was no panini machine in our kitchen so I simply cooked the sandwiches in a heavy skillet coated with olive oil until the cheese melted and the bread was lightly browned and crisp.  Olives, French pickles, and chips made simple garnishes.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Provence -Ten Reasons Why Food Lovers Love it!

1. Olives
Picholine, Niçoise, and countless other varieties abound in Provence’s markets. Black and green tapenades are produced from the local crops, and make great appetizers to spread on crusty baguette slices. Of course, olive oil is sublime in Provence, and replaces butter in most recipes.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Cooking in Julia Child’s Former Kitchen in Provence

My good friend and colleague, Kathie Alex, lives in Provence in a small town just above Cannes, and not far from the picturesque village of Valbonne. Her home, a charming bungalow that overlooks the hills and valleys of the area, is the setting for a cooking school that she runs there.

Her house is truly special because it was built by Julia Child and her husband, Paul, back in the 1960s; they named it La Pitchoune (which means “the little thing”). When Julia lived here, she organized the kitchen so she could easily find all her utensils. A cornucopia of equipment hung from hooks on pegboard-covered walls. The items were outlined in black by Paul so that each piece of her “batterie de cuisine” could be efficiently returned to its proper place.

Kathie knew Julia and even assisted her in this kitchen on earlier occasions, so she has carefully preserved this room close to its original state. Those early outlines still remain and the pegboard is still covered with an amazing variety of cooking equipment.

I’ve been lucky enough to come several times to La Pitchoune, and to cook in this kitchen never fails to raise goose bumps. Chopping, dicing, roasting, and sautéing in this space where Julia spent so much time—what could pair the earthly and the celestial better for the dedicated chef!

On my most recent visit, I took advantage of the marvelous seasonal produce so abundant in this region. I roasted eggplant slices, topped them with diced tomatoes, and seasoned both with that glorious mélange known as “herbes de Provence.”