Piperade

One summer, our parents took us to Les Landes for a month, in the southwestern part of France, by the Atlantic Ocean. It was a summer of smelling the tall and dense pine forests, admiring the grounds covered with ferns, climbing the huge dunes of fine white sand and playing with the forceful rolling waves, most famous for surfing. All unfamiliar topography and vegetation compared to our Provençal surroundings. Our eyes were wide-open with curiosity and our taste buds were delighting in exciting new dishes.  In the evening we would wander by the colorful and fragrant freshly picked peppers and tomatoes at the outdoor markets and prepare the local specialty of Piperade. It was such a delicious combination of flavors as the vegetables were in their prime, we wanted to savor it every night!

 Yesterday morning, as I discovered what our weekly CSA delivery held from Tomato Mountain, these memories instantly permeated at the sight of onions, peppers, garlic and tomatoes. I couldn’t wait to recreate those scents and tastes reminiscent of a joyful childhood discovery. 

  The variety of vegetables grown in the Midwest is different from my original introduction to Piperade in Les Landes, nevertheless just as delectable. So feel free to adjust ingredients based on what’s available from your local market.

Ingredients:

  • 3 yellow Aura peppers 
  • 2 Carmen sweet peppers 
  • 5 Capperino mildly hot peppers 
  • 5 medium size tomatoes
  • 1 extra large white onion (about 500 g/ 1 lb)
  • 1 extra large garlic clove
  • 5 Tbps extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh thyme and bay leaves
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  Wash the yellow Aura peppers, cut in half, remove the core, seeds and white flesh, and thinly slice each half. Reserve. 
  Wash the Carmen sweet peppers, cut in half, remove the core, seeds and white flesh, and thinly slice each half. Reserve.   Wash the Capperino peppers, cut in half, remove the core, seeds and white flesh, and thinly slice each half. Reserve. 
  Wash the herbs and garlic clove without peeling it.   Peel the large white onion and cut in half. Thinly slice each half by hold down the root end. Discard the roots. 
  Heat the olive oil in a cast iron French oven. Add the onions and reduce the heat.   Place the herbs and garlic on top. 
  Arrange the sliced peppers as the top layer and cover with a lid. Cook on low heat for about 10-15 minutes.   Meanwhile wash and cut the tomatoes in quarters. Remove the hard green part attached to the stem and discard. Slice each quarter into smaller pieces. 
  After the onion and peppers have cooked for about 15 minutes, add the tomatoes as the last layer. Seasson with salt and pepper and cover with a lid. Cook over low heat for another 20-25 minutes.   Then remove the lid, and the vegetables will have shrunk. 
  Take the herbs and garlic out with a fork. Discard the herbs. You may keep the garlic for spreading on bread or crackers with a little butter as it will have become creamy inside.   Mix the vegetables with a wooden spoon to combine the flavors. 
  Serve hot or cold, either immediately or let sit to further infuse the flavors. Delicious on its own or with some eggs scrambled with red pepper flakes. 

Enjoy!

Advertisements

Butternut Squash, Hazelnut and Sage Mousse

A savory dessert or appetizer.

After a series of acorn squashes, we started receiving butternut squashes from our CSA. Having a great deal of fresh sage on hand and some hazelnuts, I decided to make a butternut squash mousse combining these ingredients.  The result turned out to be delicious and complimentary flavors and just as perfect for a savory dessert or an appetizer.

For those of you who are not keen on sweet desserts, try making this in small molds, even muffin molds, and serve warm at the end of a meal.

20131201-093852.jpgAs a mousse, and not a soufflé, this dish does not rise much.  So it is easy to unmold and serve on a platter or individual plates for smaller versions.

20131201-093959.jpgIngredients:
1 butternut squash (about 2.2 oz)
1 large shallot (about 3 oz)
3 oz hazelnuts
1/4 oz fresh sage
3 organic brown eggs
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter to brush the baking mold(s)
Freshly ground sea salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F.
Bake butternut squash in the same way as for the acorn squash in the Acorn Squash and Kale salad recipe, for about 45 minutes. Once soft to the touch, take out the squash of the oven, and set aside until cool enough to handle. Then, turn the oven temperature down to 350 F.

Set the butter out at room temperature so that it softens.

20131201-094429.jpgChop the shallot finely by slicing it horizontally, then vertically in perpendicular directions, while holding on to the roots.

20131201-094519.jpgHeat the olive oil in a skillet on medium high, add the shallots once the oil is hot and immediately turn down the heat to low. Let cook slowly till translucent.

20131201-094903.jpgMeanwhile, prepare the sage.  Remove the leafs from the stems.

20131201-095011.jpgChop the leaves finely and reserve a few whole leaves for decoration.

20131201-095217.jpgPlace the hazelnuts in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process by pulsing.

20131201-095312.jpgKeep pulsing until roughly ground.

20131201-095621.jpgOnce the butter is softened, brush it on the bottom and sides of the baking dish.  It is important to use softened butter and not hasten the process by melting it because it will not adhere as well to the sides of the dish.

20131201-095724.jpgPlace about 2 Tbsps. of ground hazelnuts on the bottom of the dish and swirl it around so that the hazelnuts coat up to one third of the dish.

20131201-095822.jpgReserve another tablespoon of ground hazelnuts for decoration.

20131201-100045.jpgPour the remaining hazelnuts from the food processor bowl into the skillet where the shallots have become translucent. Mix well.

20131201-100136.jpgKeep cooking on low heat, turning occasionally, until the hazelnuts brown slightly to develop their nutty flavor. Season with salt and pepper.

20131201-100322.jpgMeanwhile, the butternut squash should be cool enough to handle.

20131201-100445.jpgPress it through a ricer into a bowl, or you might also purée it in a food processor if you prefer.

20131201-100555.jpgYou should obtain a smooth purée, with no lump.

20131201-100708.jpgAdd the sage and hazelnut/shallot mixture. Mix well.

20131201-101013.jpgSeparate the egg whites from the yolks.  Place the egg whites in a large bowl to whisk them.

20131201-101109.jpgIncorporate the egg yolks, one at a time, by mixing rapidly into the squash mixture (make sure it is cool so as to not cook the eggs).  Season with salt and pepper.

20131201-101331.jpgWhisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until firm.

20131201-101426.jpgAdd one third of the egg whites to the squash mixture and mix thoroughly.  Then add the remaining egg whites and fold them in.

20131201-101532.jpgKeep folding the egg whites until you obtain a uniform airy mixture.

20131201-101652.jpgPour into the baking dish (or separate smaller dishes) and bake in the 350 F. oven for about 30-40 minutes depending on the size of the dishes you are using.

20131201-101741.jpgWhen the sides of the mousse come away from the dish, the mousse is ready.

20131201-101845.jpgUnmold it, decorate with ground hazelnuts and sage and enjoy immediately!

Roasted Root Vegetables with Caramelized Onions

The fall season brings so many root vegetables from the farm to our table, that I relish in selecting which ones to combine and simply roasting them.  Their flesh becomes tender and they exude a very sweet, subtle, roasted scent.  Oh! The house smells so good while they cook!  A delicious welcome when guests arrive. Here, I prepared them with caramelized onions and my inherited Provençal tradition of enhancing dishes with garlic and oil cured black olives.

20131108-214726.jpgVery simple to prepare and easy to present with a bit of chopped fresh parsley.  In this preparation, the most essential ingredient is: TIME! You just can’t skip a step or hasten the process. You need time to slowly let the onions cook down and caramelize, and time to soften the root vegetables without burning them.

20131108-214824.jpgIngredients for 4 servings:
For the root vegetables
3 large carrots (or 6-8 smaller ones)
2-3 large parsnips
1 large rutabaga
1 large yam
4 dozens oil cured black olives
6 garlic cloves
2-3 Tbsps. olive oil
A few springs of parsley, chopped
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper

For the caramelized onions
2-3 red onions
2 Tbps. olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground salt

Preheat oven to 375F.

20131108-214906.jpgStart with the caramelized onions. Cut the onions in half. Trim the tips (not the roots) and peel them. Slice them thinly from the tip to the root. Discard the root.

20131108-214953.jpgHeat the olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions and stir to coat them with the olive oil. Reduce the heat to low-simmer and cook for about one hour until the onions caramelized, checking periodically (see below check points).

20131108-215141.jpg20 minute check. The onions have softened.

20131108-215301.jpg40 minute check. The onions started to shrink and scarcely caramelize.

20131108-215356.jpg60 minute check. The onions have shrunken further and caramelized more.

20131108-215450.jpgWhen the onions are caramelized, pour the balsamic vinegar at once to deglaze the pan. Season with a bit of sea salt. Set aside.

20131108-215557.jpgMeanwhile, peel and cut the carrots and parsnips evenly.

20131108-215646.jpgToss in a bowl with1 Tbsp. of olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread in a baking dish and place in the oven for about 20 minutes.

20131108-215740.jpgPeel and cut the rutabaga and yam evenly. Place in a bowl. Peel and cut the garlic in half. Remove the center of the garlic. Add to the bowl with the yam and rutabaga.  Add the black olives and toss with 1 Tbsp. of olive oil, sea salt and pepper.

20131108-215905.jpgAdd to the other root vegetables in the oven and continue baking for about 30-35 minutes. Check and toss the vegetables, then keep baking for another 15 minutes.

20131108-221220.jpgWhen the root vegetables are finished cooking, transfer the caramelized onions into the baking dish and toss to mix.

20131108-220120.jpgServe immediately, topped with some chopped parsley. Enjoy!

One last Chef of Provence

Wrapping up our visit, in the Papal city of Avignon, adjacent to the Palace, the restaurant of Master Chef Christian Etienne is a must if you are in the area. Please enjoy below a tomato menu…

20131005-121131.jpg Tomato juice as a palate opener.

20131005-121321.jpgTomato on a bed of tomato goat cheese.

20131005-125055.jpgGaspacho of green and yellow tomatoes.

20131005-121418.jpgTomato mousse in a rail of tomato cracker with tempura snail on tomato coulis.

20131005-125406.jpgMediterranean fish with tomato confit and eggplant caviar.

20131005-125528.jpgMediterranean fish with tomato risotto.

20131005-125630.jpgConversations with wine pairing from the sommelier.

20131005-125749.jpgChocolate cake, mousse, fondant.
20131005-132413.jpgRaspberry cake with fig.

20131005-130139.jpgTomato sherbet.

20131005-130240.jpg After dessert “Mignardises”: Macaroons, Caneles, Pates de Fruits.

Hoping you enjoyed this Provence Chefs series.  Next week we start autumn vegetables back in Chicago 🙂

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.

20130908-063352.jpgIngredients:
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!

Green Peppers and Summer Tomatoes Salad

In our bright and sunny Ardèche summer days, my grandfather would come back from ‘le potager’ (vegetable garden) with the deliciously ripe tomatoes and green peppers he had just picked.
When I received the beautiful long and light colored green peppers and varieties of tomatoes from the farm this week, they reminded me of those Ardèche days and my memory was instantly bringing their flavors back to my taste buds. This is one of the simplest and easiest salads to prepare and most delicious so long as you have fresh farm ingredients.

20130825-073212.jpg
Some days we would add a few filets of anchovies to complete the plate. With or without the anchovies, the salad is full of flavors, with the crunchy freshness from the green pepper and the juicy sunshine bursting out of the ripe tomatoes.

20130825-073251.jpg
Ingredients:
4 slicer tomatoes
12 Juliet tomatoes
2 cups Sun Gold tomatoes
4 green peppers
A few springs fresh rosemary
12 anchovy filets (optional)
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 Tbsp olive oil
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper

20130825-073328.jpg
Slice the tomatoes thickly and evenly to form a bed on each plate.

20130825-073358.jpg
Core the green peppers, rinse them under running water to remove seeds.

20130825-073428.jpg
With a long and thin slicing knife, cut the inner white membranes being sure the leave the outer skin intact.

20130825-073456.jpg
Thinly slice the green pepper to create rings showing their outer shapes.

20130825-074259.jpg
Start to display sliced tomatoes and green peppers on plates.

20130825-074345.jpg
Quarter the Juliet tomatoes. Remove the stems of the Sun Gold tomatoes.

20130825-074431.jpg
Artfully arrange all the tomatoes on the plates.

20130825-074523.jpg
Remove the fresh and tender rosemary leaves from the stems.

20130825-074600.jpg
Chop them finely. Also chop the garlic.

20130825-074736.jpg
Place mustard, chopped rosemary, garlic, salt and black pepper in a small bowl. Mix well together.

20130825-074816.jpg
Add vinegar and olive oil. Mix vigorously to fully incorporate all ingredients.

20130825-074911.jpg
Drizzle rosemary vinaigrette over the plates. Sprinkle with extra chopped rosemary.

20130825-075022.jpg
Add anchovies if using 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.

20130818-073846.jpgIngredients:
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!