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The tapestry of Provencal colors and textures is very varied ; in a cultivated landscape in the Vaucluse, preceding overleaf fruit trees , lavender, grapevines, and olive trees thrive in the sunny fields. The produce of Provence includes herbs and spices rosemary, wild mint, thyme, marjoram, juniper berries, sage , cherry tomatoes, green or black olives, called cachado in Provence , almonds, bitter aperitif made essentially from gentian root, olive oil , and herb- flavored vinegar.

The sizes and shapes and colors of olives in Provencal markets are truly astonishing. Dorade , a Mediterranean sea Bass with a very delicate flavor and exceptionally tender flesh is on sale at the markets. You will also find sacks of chickpea flour, kidney beans, lentils and split peas in the Provencal markets.

Provencal eating habits loyally respect the seasons; people shop daily and the freezer is held in suspicion. In mid-summer , when the abundant tomatoes are at their sweetest and have their greatest depth of flavor, when fresh basil abound and the market is flooded with tiny , freshly picked green beans , a sort of truly abandon takes over. The taste of all fresh things is so pure and so intense that the less one does to them , the better they are. With a bouillabaisse the Marseillais  opts for a glass of white wine from Cassis  and the Toulonnais (  who god forbids adds potatoes and mussels to their Bouillabaisse), The Marseillais  are totally horrified. The Toulonnais will accompany their Bouillabaisse with a Rose or a cool young red from neighboring Bandol.

In the fall during the grape harvest, everyone who makes wine draws off a portion of unfermented juice and boils it down  to concentrate the natural grape sugars before seeding  it with yeasts by adding some of the fermented wine. The result is a sweet desert wine called vin cuit. ( cooked wine), which is kept by all Provencal families for special traditional meals – It always accompanies the thirteen desserts of the Christmas eve supper.

Provence is less celebrated than the Perigord for its truffles, but Valreas, a small village in the north of Vaucluse, is an important truffles center so are other small towns all over Provence. These very magical parasites growing beneath the earth near oak trees and hazelnut trees  begin to appear in mid- November and find their greatest  use in the region at Christmas time but they are the ripest , richest at least in January and February. They are thrown into omelettes and fresh pasta, sauteed with potatoes or savored by themselves. People eat them in season only and often cook up a pound of them in a bottle of Chateauneuf for their Sunday meal.

The Famous Soupe au pistou is a minestrone invigorated  with a heady paste made of garlic, fresh basil and parmesan cheese and olive oil stirred into it at the moment of serving. The chef and owner of Les Bories prepares it with fresh vegetables.  Pistou is the Provencal word for “Pestle”. The result will be much better if newly shelled white beans are used. Onions are often added and , and in some parts of Provence, a large chunk of diced pumpkin is considered essential for the smooth, voluptuous texture it lends to the soup as it cooks into a puree.

The following recipe is a Nicoise version. The French beans and diced courgettes ( zucchini) should be added at the same time as the pasta to retain their flavor.

2 pounds fresh white beans

1 pound potatoes, peeled and diced

1 pound very ripe tomatoes, peeled , seeded and diced.

1/2 pound leeks ( white and tender green parts cut into rounds

Salt

1 pound zucchini diced

3/4 pound very thin small green beans, trimmed

1/4 pound short macaroni or spaghetti, broken up

For the pistou.

Coarse salt, fresh ground pepper

6 cloves garlic

25 or more basil leaves

1 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup olive oil

 

Start the fresh white beans cooking in a pan with 4 quarts of water. bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add potatoes, carrots, tomatoes and leeks to the haricots beans and simmer for about 45 minutes or more, until all veggies are melting. Add zucchini, green beans and pasta and cook for 20 minutes.

While the soup is cooking, make the pistou . In a mortar or a cuisinart, grind together a good pinch of coarse salt, pepper, garlic and basil. Pound carefully at first but then more roughly, until the basil and the garlic are reduced to a coarse puree. Add some of the cheese and pound to a paste, loosen with a bit of olive oil, stirring and pounding.

Serve the hot soup from its pot and present the mortar of pistou or a bowl at the same time so each guest may season the soup to taste.

Anne Suire

http://www.luxurytravelconsultant2.com

Join us in May 2015.

Departure dates:

May 2, 2015 – May 9, 2015.

10 guests are invited , $ 3,990 pp.

Villa Accommodation ( double occupancy)

Drivers / Tour guides

Transfers & touring the region.

Private chef ( Breakfast, lunch & dinner included as well as 3 bottles of wine per dinner only)

TGV train ride ( Round trip)

Activities include : Truffle farm, cooking class at the villa, wine tasting, a Bouillabaisse lunch in Marseille and more

* Book your trip today*

If you have any questions, please email us at anne@luxurytravelconsultant2.comProvencal Soupe imgres