Intense sunshine combined with all-important irrigation make Provence one of the great food regions of France. Just everything flourishes here but pride of place must go the olive tree, introduced to the region by the ancient Greeks two and half thousand years ago and perfectly suited to the warm, dry climate. Olives accompany the very traditional Provencal aperitif of Pastis, they also appear in sauces and salads, on tarts and pizzas, and mixed with capers in tapenade paste spread on bread & biscuits. Olive oil has always been the starting point for almost all the Provencal dishes. Spiced with chillies or Provencal herbs ( wild thyme,basil,rosemary & tarragon). Olive oil is also poured over pizzas, sandwiches,and used to make vinaigrette and mayonnaise for all the varieties of salad, including the bitter leaves of the Nicois mesclum.
The ingredient used most of the time is garlic, another classic of Provencal cuisine.In Provence, all markets are dedicated to strings of white and purple garlic. Also two of the most famous concoctions of Provence are Le Pistou Provencal, a paste of olive oil, Parmesan cheese, garlic and basil, and the aioli, a garlic mayonnaise and the traditional Friday dish in which it is often served with cod and vegetables.
Vegetables and fruits can have double or triple season in Provence often beginning while northern France is still in the depth of winter. The Ratatouille ingredients are eggplants, tomatoes, zucchinis and onions – are the favorites along with the purple- tipped asparagus and baby potatoes. Zucchini flower fritters stuffed with pistou, is definitely one of the most exquisite Provencal delicacies. As for the fruit, the melons, white peaches, apricots, figs, cherries and muscat grapes are amazing and unbeatable. Almond trees grow on the plateaux of central Provence ( the nuts are eaten while still green in summer), along with lavender, which gives Provencal honey the wonderful & distinctive flavor.
Sheep, taken up to the mountains in the summer months, provide the staple meat , of which the best is Agneau de Sisteron. You will find that fish is featured on most traditional menus. The fish soup, Bouillabaise, very famous in Marseille , and Bourride, served with a chili-flavored mayonnaise known as Rouille are served all along the coast as are call sea bream , monkfish, seabass or John Dori, covered with provencal herbs and grilled over an open flame. Seafood, from spider crabs to clams, sea urchins or cray fish, crabs , lobsters, mussels & oysters, is piled onto huge plateaux de fruits de mer, representing the luxury associated with the coast. October through April is prime for seafood season.
The other source of food in Provence is cattle which is unsuited to the dry heat, which is why olive oil rather than butter and cream dominate Provencal cuisine and why the cheeses are made from goat or ewes milk. very famous chevres ( goats cheeses) are Banon, wrapped in chestnut leaves and marinated in Brandy, the aromatic Picadon from the foothills of the Alps, Poivre D’Ain is pressed with wild savory, and Lou Pevre with a pepper coating.
Provencal cuisine is extremely healthy. A traditional meal should left you feeling light and not be concerned about a heart attack.
Enjoy Provence and the cuisine!
Join us for Thanksgiving 2014. Gather 9 friends and win a free week in Provence!