Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Day in my Provence Kitchen

Some weeks ago blackcurrants or cassis as they are called in French were ripe in our kitchen garden. I didn't have time at all to do something with those little vitamin C bombs so I just picked and froze them. And although we are not exactly having kitchen friendly temperatures in Provence right now,  the thermometer hovering around the 100F/ 39 C mark -  and I am talking shade here - needing to make space in my freezer somehow led to an extraordinary productive day in my Provençal kitchen.
 Blackcurrants ready to pick
 What a harvest!
 The same blackcurrants fresh from the freezer dusted with sugar
 Confiture de Cassis - Blackcurrant Jam

Once the jam was done I harvested three basil plants. Having just read a report that quite a lot of commercial pestos were found to be contaminated (this being a German and Swiss consumer warning) I found myself (kind of perverse, I know) yearning for some pasta al pesto which, once you know how easy it is to make yourself there is no need to buy the ready made stuff. Plus when you prepare it yourself you can be pretty sure there won't be nasty surprises.
 Basil leaves (lots), pine nuts, freshly grated parmesan, 2 garlic cloves, olive oil
 Blitz et voilà:
 Best ever pesto!

 Lunch today: pasta al pesto decorated with a few cherry tomatoes

Picking the cherry tomatoes for the pasta al pesto I found this: If you don' keep a beady eye on your zucchini I swear just overnight they evolve into these weird overgrown monsters that are extremely adept at hiding under the plant's leaves. This one weighed in at 2.4 kilogram (5.4 pounds) - its little sister weighs 160 gr (5.8 oz). Since I wanted to try out a new recipe for a "Clafoutis Provençal" I cut the monster up, threw out the soft core and, with a vegetable peeler shaved about one third into zucchini tagliatelle. The rest went into the freezer (there goes my hard won space...)  to be turned into zucchini soup when the days will get cooler.
 Zucchini Tagliatelle
 Clafoutis Provençal - with zucchini, olives, cherry tomatoes, garlic

Friday, July 19, 2013

Drowning in Zucchini

This summer our kitchen garden has not exactly been spoiling us - the cold and far too wet month of May and then nothing but fierce Mistral winds in June have seen to it that most of our lovingly planted beans just drowned, tomatoes are trying to turn red just now and the garlic  doesn't look too promising either. So we are real happy that at least our zucchini plants are not letting us down - actually we are kind of drowning in zucchini right now. So I have to figure out how to make the most of them. I wish I'd still remember and could give credit where I saw how to turn zucchini into pasta like strips but I don't (sorry!) because this has become my new favorite new trick of  of turning them into a très, très tasty zucchini side dish - perfect for BBQ's or with steamed fish.
Top and tail the zucchini,then finely slice them with a vegetable peeler. Peel and very finely chop a garlic clove or two. Finely chop five sundried tomatoes (the ones that come in oil). Add a generous handful of cherry tomatoes and toss all into a frying pan with a good slug of olive oil. Gently sweat over moderate heat until the cherry tomatoes begin to collapse, then add the zucchini and cook gently until just tender but still al dente. Season with a good pinch of  Herbes de Provence and a few rounds of pepper fresh from the mill.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Tour de France is coming to Town

The Tour de France is coming to town: Tomorrow the cyclists of the Tour de France will be going up Mont Ventoux and then arrive in Vaison from where they will depart again this coming Tuesday. The whole town is cordoned off and the Vaisonnais are busily preparing for the big event - when I dashed to the famer's market this morning for some last minute shopping I saw these two lovely ladies really getting into the spirit!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sober Wine, The Capital of Liars, The Crazy Ones - A Festival of funny Village Names. Who says the French don't do humor?

Not far from us there is a wine village called Vinsobres. Tell you the truth, I never even thought about the double sense of the name - sober wines - until I got an invitation to their "Funny Village Name Festival". And fun it was. Not only because villages from as far as Bretagne - Corps-Nuds (Naked Bodies) or Vatan - Go Away! from the Center of France came all the way to Provence, they all did their names proud. Not that they were all "Folles" (crazy) or trying to rip us off (Arnac), but since good humor and good wines are said to lead to "Vieillevie" (old life) there was a lot done for longlevity this Sunday morning.

Festival of Funny Names

 Great Glasses

 The Crazy Ones

 These two came from the "Rip-Off" Village of Arnac

 Long Life

The Capital of Liars

They might be from Arnac but they sure don't look like conmen to me....

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Tour de France is coming to Vaison

We will have massive traffic restrictions and are already stocking up the fridge, freezer and wine cellar because we probably won't be able to get to the shops, but we are also massively excited: The Tour de France is coming to Vaison! On France's National Day, July 14th they are biking up Mont Ventoux, at around 3.30 pm they are riding through Vaison on their way down. July 15th they are taking a break somewhere secret around Vaison and on the 16th at1.15 pm the start of the day is right in the middle of our town! I can't wait!