30 June 2015

Zen and the Art of Provencal Cookery, Part 4

My third cooking lesson with Chef Gina Trevier was a fun one. Originally the recipe planned for this lesson was stuffed peppers, but between an issue with an ingredient and a tight schedule (I had plans that afternoon to visit lavender fields in nearby Luberon--more on that in a future post), we switched to ratatouille. Although I was disappointed to miss out on the peppers, I do love ratatouille--and who could resist a chance to learn how to make it the authentic way in the land where it was invented?

Diced eggplant

Lightly cooked eggplant and zucchini are placed in a casserole dish

Who knew garlic could be so pretty?

Tomatoes, garlic and onion. You can use fresh tomatoes or thick tomato sauce (or a combination).

Basil fresh from Gina's garden

Gina loves cooking with basil flowers. You can use them with or instead of basil leaves. Pick them before too many seeds have formed.

Veggies, basil, and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. The pepper Gina used smelled like bergamot (the characteristic scent and flavour of Earl Grey tea)
Meat (in this case, veal) is browned and added to the veggies before the whole thing is placed in the oven on low heat.

We had salad with every meal. This one featured finely chopped tomatoes and pumpkin seeds

Gina made a "risotto" using the local variety of spelt wheat

Wheat "Risotto"

spelt wheat (AKA hulled wheat)

Mince onion; cook over low heat until translucent. Add wheat grains and stir, 1 to 2 minutes. Add water (use twice as much water as spelt). Cook, covered, until wheat is tender and has absorbed water.

Ready to serve
Ratatouille is one of the few dishes Gina has a recipe for. You don't experiment with perfection :)

Serves 6

3 aubergines (eggplants)
3 zucchini (courgettes)
1 onion
3 cloves of garlic
2 tomatoes very ripe
1 Tbs of natural grey salt [or use a good quality sea salt]
1 Tbs of Provencal herbs
1 Tbs of ground black pepper
 0,5 Cup of olive oil

1-    Rinse the aubergines, remove the green part, cut vertically in slices of 1cm (1/2‘’) and then in squares of 1cm (1/2‘’). Put the aubergine cubes in a colander, add a little salt and let the liquid drain. If you use small organic aubergines there is little water.  
2-    Put olive oil in a pan, enough to cover the bottom, heat gently, no more than 200°F (95°C).
3-     Rinse the zucchini and cut into small cubes as you did with the aubergine. Put the zucchini cubes in the pan, saute gently till they turn light brown. Increase the heat if it is necessary but not more than 250°F (120°C). 
4-    When zucchini are browned put them in a casserole, add olive oil in the pan and cook the aubergines in the same way.
5-    Meanwhile, peel and cut the tomatoes, the onion and the garlic in small cubes.
6-    When the aubergines become light brown, put them in the casserole with the zucchini.
7-    Add a little olive oil to the pan and cook the onion. When the onion becomes translucent, add the garlic, decrease the temperature to 175°F (80°C) and add tomato cubes. Turn gently in order to cook off the juices from the pan and then add to the casserole.
8-    Mix all the vegetables in the casserole, add salt, pepper and herbs, make a kind of nest in the vegetables and put a piece of roasted meat in it.
9-    Put a lid on the casserole, and put it in the oven at 200°F (95°C) for 45 minutes.
10-  When the meat is tender, decrease temperature to 140°F (60°C) till you are ready to serve.
11-     Serve in the casserole dish.

Bon appétit.

For dessert we enjoyed strawberries macerated in a bit of sugar, red wine, fresh mint, and black pepper...

Dessert was excellent but I felt terrible because when Gina told me we'd be making a strawberry dish, I misunderstood and thought we'd be cooking them. I have a mild strawberry allergy that isn't an issue if the berries are cooked. But when strawberries are raw, I can only have a couple before the allergy acts up. So I ended up only eating a little dessert because by then it was too late to say anything. Sorry, Gina.

This was one of my favourite meals in Provence and I highly recommend giving it a try. 

Lesson 4 coming soon....

Missed a post? 

Photos ©Whimsy Bower

28 June 2015

Zen and the Art of Provencal Cookery, Part 3

In my first Provencal cooking lesson with Chef Gina Trevier, I learned all about olives. In Lesson Two we focused on an ingredient that features heavily in the cuisine of Provence, but is sadly overlooked in North America...

LESSON TWO: Anchovies

I'm not sure why we don't use anchovies more here in North America. It's a pretty innocuous little fish that adds a lot of umami flavour, but for some reason many of us seem to be afraid of it, never mind that it's already added to all kinds of foods (Caesar salad dressing, Worcestershire sauce...) After using it in several dishes in Provence, I'll be buying a jar to have on hand. There's a reason Dawn Summers loves them more than all the other fishes.


Anchoiade is a classic Provencal dish, usually made of just anchovies and garlic pureed with olive oil, and served with raw vegges or toasted bread. Gina adds a small avocado to her anchoiade to lighten it.

small ripe avocado
4 or 5 oil-packed anchovy fillets, rinsed
3 or 4 cloves garlic
olive oil

Scoop flesh from avocado (discard pit and skin). Cut garlic into smaller pieces. Place all ingredients in small food processor or blender. Puree until smooth.

Some of the veggies we served with our anchoiade

Jarred anchovies
Just a little fishy



Another classic Provencal dish, this is basically a flatbread topped with onions and anchovy fillets (you could also add olives if you like). Gina made her bread base with a flour ground from a local type of spelt wheat. If you want to try making this, you could use whatever pizza dough or flatbread recipe you prefer, or even use a pre-made one. Chop sweet onions, add some freshly ground pepper and saute over low heat with a bit of olive oil until lightly golden. Cover flatbread base with onions. Arrange several anchovy fillets on onions. Bake until crust is baked through.

Mixing the yeast and water
The dough after rising
Saute the onions over low heat until golden

Ready to go in the oven
Veggies ready to serve with the anchoiade: tomato, fennel, carrots, radishes & raw beet

The pissaladiere was deliciously sweet and salty with a crispy base.
Dessert was goat cheese with dried fruit. Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures. If you want to try it sometime, just serve spreadable goat cheese (or whatever cheese you like) with slices of toasted bread and a variety of dried fruit on the side. Raisins, dried cranberries, and dried apricots are all good options, as are, I was surprised to discover, goji berries.

Lesson 3 coming soon.
Missed a post?
Zen and the Art of Provencal Cookery, Part 1
Zen and the Art of Provencal Cookery, Part 2

Photos ©Whimsy Bower