Chef of Provence

Our culinary visit of Provence led us to exceptional chefs. Please enjoy photos of creations from Xavier Matthieu, chef of Le Phebus.

20130921-192048.jpg Tempura snails with licorice and fennel emulsion. A perfect ‘mise en bouche’.

Pistou soup. The flavors were out of this world. A masterpiece.

20130922-065428.jpg Crayfish Jambalaya. Spicy and yet so delicate.

20130922-153826.jpgSaint Pierre with autumn squash and mushroom. Exquisite!

20130922-153948.jpg Purée de pommes de terre with black truffles. The best and smoothest texture ever coupled with amazing truffles.

20130922-154248.jpg Vanilla and anchovy ice cream with basil and lemon sherbet. Unexpectedly perfect combination.

20130922-154647.jpg Cherry macaroon, apple mousse and pâte de fruit. Sublime!
If your eyes and tastebuds can already anticipate how extraordinarily delicious these dishes are, just imagine how much fun it would be to learn how to prepare them!


Kale with Black Olive and Pine Nuts

Since living in Chicago, I have discovered and enjoyed a wide variety of cabbages. My influence from the south of France infuses ingredients commonly used in provençal cuisine, so here I have paired kale with black olives and pine nuts. This recipe is quick, simple and only requires a few ingredients one typically has in the kitchen, and….delicious! I hope you savor the results.

20130908-063304.jpgKale is an excellent vegetable with great health benefits. It is rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Choose kale that is deep in color and firm. I prefer to use it either raw or briefly sautéed, as in this recipe, to preserve the maximum benefits.

1/2 lb organic kale
1/2 organic white onion
1/4 cup pine nuts
8-10 olive oil cured black olives from Provence
1 Tbsp grape seed oil
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper

20130908-063456.jpgPeel, slice and chop the onion finely.

20130908-063629.jpgHeat the oil in a large pot and add the onion. Cook until translucent.

20130908-063708.jpgMeanwhile, mince the kale finely.

20130908-065845.jpgAdd the to the pot and simmer a few minutes. Add salt and pepper.

20130908-065935.jpgChop the black olives. Peel, crush and chop the garlic.

20130908-070137.jpgAdd olives and garlic to the kale. Stir and simmer a few minutes longer.

20130908-071124.jpgDry roast the pine nuts in a pan.

20130908-071156.jpgAdd them to the kale, mix well, serve as an accompaniment, and enjoy!

Eggplant Mousse

We obviously grow a lot of eggplants in Provence in the summer time, and we have a myriad different ways to prepare them. My mother used to make “Mousse d’Aubergine” for us fairly frequently. This recipe was one of my brothers’ and my favorites. So making it is always reminiscent of the summer lunches we would share out on the patio. Here in Chicago, it is wonderful served as a brunch as well as an accompaniment to a dinner.

20130817-165847.jpgWhen I spoke to my mother about the fact I was going to share this recipe on my blog, she admitted that lately she hadn’t been making it, because it contains cream and she no longer tolerates lactose well. So I made this recipe with almond milk instead, and it turned out delicious. You can enjoy it either way, depending on your dietary preferences.

2 large organic eggplants
3 eggs
1/4 cup almond milk
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 large organic tomato
1 large shallot or small onion
1 garlic clove
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
3-4Tbsp olive oil
Fresh chives for decoration
Preheat oven to 400F

20130818-073920.jpgCut the eggplants in half and brush olive oil on the the inside.

20130818-074009.jpgPlace on a baking sheet face down and bake for about 40-45 minutes.

20130818-074040.jpgMeanwhile prepare the tomato sauce by peeling and chopping the onion and garlic. To save time, my mother did to always peel and seed the tomatoes, so here I simply removed the hard green core from the stem and chopped the tomatoes country-style. The texture will be a bit more grainy than if you peel and seed them, so if you prefer a smoother texture, please refer to my Mussels with in Orange, Tomato and Saffron sauce recipe to see the technique on how to peel and seed tomatoes.

20130818-074116.jpgHeat the olive oil and add the chopped onion. Reduce the heat to simmer until the onion melt and become translucent.

20130818-074212.jpgAdd the chopped tomatoes and garlic. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes until soft and cooked. Season with freshly ground sea salt and black pepper.

20130818-075254.jpgUsing a spoon, scoop the eggplant away from the skin. It should detach very easily when cooked.

20130818-074533.jpg Drain the eggplant in a colander for a few minutes to remove excess water.

20130818-074734.jpg Place in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.

20130818-074822.jpg Process till smooth.

20130818-074857.jpg Transfer the eggplant to a bowl and add the almond milk. Mix well.

20130818-074946.jpg Separate the egg yolks and reserve the whites for whisking. When the eggplant is cool enough so it won’t cook the egg yolks, add them one at a time mixing energetically and well. Season with nutmeg and freshly ground sea salt and black pepper.

20130818-075329.jpg Whisk the egg whites until stiff with a pinch of salt.

20130818-075407.jpgAdd about 1/4 to 1/3 of the whisked egg whites to the eggplant mixture and mix well.

20130818-075445.jpgFold in the remaining egg whites until fully incorporated.

20130818-075620.jpgPour the mixture into individual soufflé dishes, or one large one depending on how you intend to serve it. Place the dish(es) in a water bath and bake for about 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the soufflé dish you are using.

20130818-075727.jpgThe mousse is ready when the top is golden brown.

20130818-075805.jpg Top with a thin layer of tomato sauce, decorate with some fresh chives, and enjoy!

My Grandmother’s Bohemienne Eggplant

Another Provençal classic we used to enjoy spending summer vacation at my grandmother’s. This dish is similar to the more widely known ratatouille, but simpler in its combination of ingredients, neither using zucchini nor bell peppers. Sometimes also known as ‘poor man’s ratatouille’, simple in its preparation, it is best prepared in an enameled cast iron pot with a cover, which evenly conducts the heat and is well suited for slow cooking.

We used to serve this accompanied by long grain Camargue rice. Here I served it using the other vegetables I received in our weekly share from the local farm in Chicago, which included delicious fresh greens and small red potatoes. When my boyfriend had his first taste, he exclaimed: “such a delicate flavor!”
Try it out!

2 small to medium eggplants
2 large or 6 small tomatoes
1 small long onion or large shallot
1garlic clove
3 tbsp Olive oil
Freshly ground sea salt
Enameled cast iron pot with cover
Preheat oven to 350F

Peel and chop the onion finely.

Place the olive oil in the bottom of an enameled cast iron pot. Place on the stove over medium heat.

Add the onions and turn the heat down to low to slowly melt them till translucent.

Chop the tomatoes in small cubes.

Add the tomatoes, a little salt and continue cooking slowly.

Cut the eggplants in small stripes and cubes.

Add the eggplant to the melted onion and tomatoes.

Peel and crush the garlic to chop it finely.

Add garlic to the cooking mixture, and a little more generous salt.

Add about 1/4 cup of water and cover the pot.

Place in the preheated oven and bake for about one hour.

Once the Bohemienne is cooked, spoon out immediately on plates accompanied by rice or potatoes if serving hot. This is also delicious cold.

Here, served with the beautiful farm greens and sautéed cubed potatoes. Enjoy!

My Grandmother’s Summer Eggplant

My grandmother used to make this dish almost daily during eggplant season. She would prepare it early in the morning when the temperature outside was still pleasant and then serve it cold, as an appetizer for lunch in the shade of our hot and dry summer days.

20130714-215916.jpg Both refreshing and fragrant, it is infused with garlic and profusely sprinkled with parsley to balance the strength of the garlic.

20130714-220005.jpg Ingredients:
1 large eggplant
6 medium tomatoes
3 garlic cloves
A small bunch parsley
3/4 cup olive oil
4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Cracked sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400 F.

20130714-220713.jpg Wash and cut the eggplant in 1cm thick slices lengthwise. Remove stems.

20130714-220805.jpg Brush olive oil on one side. The oil will be quickly absorbed as the eggplant acts as a sponge.

20130714-220856.jpgPlace the olive oil side down on a baking sheet, brush the other side (now on top) with olive oil, generously sprinkle cracked sea salt. Bake for about 20 minutes.

20130714-221150.jpgMeanwhile, prepare the tomatoes in the same way we prepared them for the Mussels in orange, tomato an saffron sauce, by peeling them and seeding them. Then, chop them.

20130714-221253.jpg Heat about one Tbsp of olive oil in a a pan and add the chopped tomatoes. Here I am using a cast iron pan as I like the way it evenly spreads the heat when simmering the tomatoes.

20130714-221422.jpg Peel, crush and chop the garlic cloves. chop parsley and set aside.

20130714-221512.jpgAdd the garlic to the tomatoes, a little cracked sea salt and simmer together for about 30-40 minutes.

20130714-221638.jpgWhile the tomatoes are cooking, removed the cooked eggplant from the oven. It should be golden brown.

20130714-221723.jpgImmediately sprinkle vinegar on top of the eggplant while still hot. Set aside and let cool in the baking sheet so the heat emanating from sheet fully infuses the flavors.

20130714-221823.jpg Arrange the eggplant slices in a serving dish where they can be spread out.

20130715-054036.jpgOnce the tomato sauce has finished cooking, it should have a unified consistency.

20130715-054146.jpgSpread the tomato sauce on top of the eggplant.

20130715-054247.jpgSprinkle chopped parsley, refrigerate and enjoy as a cold summer appetizer.

Spicy Chickpea Herb Salad

The simplest and fastest to way to make a last minute picnic to go, quick meal for impromptu lunch guests, or side dish/salad to accompany a main dish.

20130705-212427.jpg This recipe includes a variety of herbs as we would use in the south of France for a flavorful meal and also some jalapeño in addition to the garlic for an additional kick the American way.

2lbs cooked chickpeas (if dried, soak them the day before and cook them in salted boiling water)
1 orange pepper (I typically like using red but the red peppers at the market were not organic so I picked an organic one over the color)
1/4 jalapeño pepper
2 garlic cloves
A handful of each herbs: parsley, basil, chives, thyme
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
4 Tbsp grape seed oil
Freshly ground salt and pepper, about 1/4 tsp each
4-5 oz arugula

20130705-213407.jpgStart by mixing the salt, pepper and mustard.

20130705-215259.jpgAdd vinegar and mix well to dissolve mustard.

20130705-215341.jpgPrepare two garlic cloves and 1/4 jjalapeño pepper.

20130705-215428.jpgRemove the white lining and seeds from the jalapeño.

20130706-065736.jpgPeel garlic, slice in half and remove the inner part.

20130707-151744.jpgCrush the garlic and cut the jalapeño in thin stripes.

20130707-151835.jpgChop both finely.

20130707-151937.jpgAdd to the mustard and vinegar.

20130707-152034.jpgMix well and seaside.

20130707-152111.jpgGently remove the thyme leaves from the stems. set aside.

20130707-152153.jpgPrepare parsley leaves and basil leaves by removing the stems and clustering them together, stacking the basil leaves on top of one another.

20130707-152239.jpgChop all the herbs finely, including the chives, parsley and julienne the basil leaves. Set aside

20130707-152320.jpgPrepare the orange pepper by cutting it in half, remove the stem, further cut into quarters and remove the inner white skin and seeds.

20130707-152541.jpgSlice each quarter into strips and dice.

20130707-152647.jpgAdd the grape seed oil to the vinaigrette.

20130707-152741.jpgMix in the orange pepper and let marinate a few minutes.

20130707-152823.jpgAdd the chickpeas and herbs.

20130707-152907.jpgMix thoroughly. The salad can be prepared ahead at this time and refrigerated.

20130707-153007.jpgBefore serving, add arugula. If taking on a picnic pack arugula separately and add at last minute.

20130707-153156.jpgMix the arugula with the other ingredients to ensure it is well coated with the vinaigrette.

20130707-153245.jpgTo serve as a lunch meal, you might add some avocado

20130707-153345.jpgor heirloom tomatoes. Enjoy!

Curried Zucchini en Cocotte

Individual ‘en cocotte’ zucchini dishes, offer a feast for the senses with a singular presentation, and a light and flavorful combination of zucchini, pine nuts and almond milk, highlighted with the fragrance of curry, fresh basil and garlic.

I have always liked the combination of zucchini and curry and decided to update it by adding pine nuts and basil. If you are not specifically looking for a lactose free dish, feel free to add some goat cheese. Otherwise, using the almond milk here renders a delightfully light dish, full of flavors. The individual servings of ‘en cocotte’ add a nice personal touch for each guest.

4 small zucchini
3 garlic cloves
2 tsp curry powder
3 eggs
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 oz basil
Olive oil, salt and pepper to taste

4 mini Le Creuset cocotte (or similar) with lids.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Wash and cut the zucchini in 1/4 inch slices. Chop garlic finely.

Place zucchini, garlic and curry in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Toss the bowl to completely coat all the zucchini slices with the combination of garlic and curry mixture.

Place an extra large sauté pan (with very wide diameter at the bottom) on medium-high heat. Add some olive oil to generously coat the bottom of the pan.

When the olive oil is hot, add the zucchini mixture, spreading the slices across the entire bottom of the pan.

Cook, tossing occasionally for about 15-20 minutes, until the zucchini is mostly cooked. Some slices will have become softer, but the majority should still be firm.

Place pine nuts in a separate dry pan over medium-low heat and toss frequently to ensure even roasting.

Slice the basil in a ‘chiffonade’, by placing all the basil leaves together and then slicing thinly.

Place a row of zucchini, topped with roasted pine nuts and basil in the bottom of each ‘mini cocotte’, this layer should fill about one third of the cocotte. Continue alternating zucchini, roasted pine nuts and basil until filled almost to the top. Be sure to reserve about 20 zucchini slices for topping the cocottes decoratively prior to baking. Also reserve some of the basil chiffonade and a few pine nuts for the last touch prior to serving.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs together in a bowl. Add a little salt and pepper to taste.

Add the almond milk and mix thoroughly.

Pour the egg and almond milk mixture over the top of each cocotte filled with the zucchini using a small ladle.

The mini cocottes should be almost filled to top but not quite, leaving enough room for one last row of zucchini slices and moderate rising during baking.

Top with overlapping zucchini slices.

Cover the mini cocottes with their lids.

Place them on a baking sheet and bake for about 50-60 minutes in a 350F oven. If you use the convection option of your oven, then diminish time appropriately by checking after about 25-30 minutes.

Fully cooked mini zucchini cocotte out of the oven. Let sit for at least 10 minutes before serving as they are burning hot when coming out of the oven.

Decorate with extra basil ‘chiffonade’ and a few roasted pine nuts. Serve and enjoy!