Friday, February 27, 2009

Market Day 2 in Saint-Remy-de-Provence in the south of France

Market Day two. Join us as we discover more of the Wednesday market in Saint-Remy-de-Provence in the south of France.

Nuts – Les Noix vendor

French frommage vendor displaying his cheeses made of cows, goats and sheep’s milk.

Country breads in the market are typically much larger than those sold in the Boulangerie (bakery). Fresh loaves of bread disappear in a few hours.

Poulet roti (roasted chicken) et Canard (duck) avec les pommes de terre (with potatoes) basting in the drippings ready for you to take home.

French markets have many more attractions other than food.

If you need a scarf, hat, jewelry, skirt or blouse, browse the markets.

The south of France was chilly in the early mornings of April during the beginning of our visit in 2007. The French women believe in protecting ones neck so naturally I purchased many scarves.

Join us next time at the market when we purchase special baby clams only found in Provence and the lovely Madame gives us her own recipe for preparing them – only one problem - she only spoke French.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wednesday is market day in Saint-Remy-de-Provence in the south of France. Part 1

Bonjour (hello). Wednesday is market day in Saint-Remy-de-Provence, a beautiful old Roman walled village 19 km (12 miles) south of Avignon, France. Saint-Remy is on the western side of the limestone Alpilles Mountains. It’s most famous resident was the French Impressionist artist Vincent van Gogh, who spent the last year of his life in an asylum here.

The markets of Provence have existed for centuries and are almost untouched by modern times. Scenes such as these are repeated throughout Provence day in, day out, year after year, in sun, rain, snow and even on holidays. It's a traveling carnival that goes from village to village, attracting locals and tourists alike.

Join us as we stroll through the Wednesday market in the Place de la Republique in Saint-Remy on our culinary trip of a lifetime in the spring of 2007.

Olive vendor displaying a few of the many varieties of olives available, such as Nyons, Pimentee and Provencale. Try a handful of several different kinds to find your favorite.

Garlic in white and purple, enough to feed an entire village.

Colorful ground spices from north Africa and the Mediterranean.

Shaded by umbrellas, shoppers carefully pick the freshest produce. Piled high in the morning, it may be gone by noon.

Fresh fish, brought up from Marseilles this morning.

Enjoying un petite biere (small beer) with my husband after a morning of shopping.

A bientot (see you soon) et bonne journee (have a good day). Join us again next time as we return to the markets of Provence.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Laissez les Bon Temps Roulez - Let the Good Times Roll - It's Mardi Gras Day

Today is Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wedneday. Also known as Mardi Gras Day or Shrove Day, it's the day when people eat all they want of everything and anything before Lent begins tomorrow. So whether you are enjoying jambalaya or pancakes, let the good times roll. My computer is in the hospital but I'll be back posting soon. Please stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

February is Mardi Gras Month and a great time to serve Red Beans & Rice

Louisiana Red Beans & Rice make a perfect dish to serve as a celebration of Mardi Gras. This year Mardi Gras Day is February 24, also called Fat Tuesday. It is the last day of the Mardi Gras Carnival season, is always forty six days before Easter and therefore falls on a different day each year. More information on Mardi Gras, its customs, the parades and Louisiana cuisine can be found on the Mardi Gras Day website.

Red Beans & Rice is believed to have originated with African-American cooks on plantations in Louisiana. Today it is a New Orleans favorite that you will find from fine restaurants to home kitchens and everyone has a different recipe. Here’s our favorite version.

New Orleans Red Beans & Rice

2 quarts water
1 lb. red kidney beans (soaked overnight in water to cover)
3 slices thick bacon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb. kielbasa sausage, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 lb. thick ham, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 yellow onion and 1 red onion (about one pound), diced
½ of a red bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley plus more for garnish
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Louisiana hot sauce, such as Tabasco
Cooked brown rice tossed with fresh flat leaf parsley

Drain soaked beans and put back in soup pot with fresh water to cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn down and simmer, slowly, covered.

In a saute pan over medium heat, cook bacon until done, crumble and set aside. Discard most of the pan drippings and add the olive oil. Add the sausage and ham and cook over medium high flame until browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage and ham to a plate.

Add the onion and red bell pepper to the drippings in the pan, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add thyme and tomato paste. Cook for a few minutes until the mixture comes together and the paste starts to turn a light brown, being careful not to burn. Transfer the onion mixture to the bean mixture, stirring to scrape up the browned bits from the pan. Add the bay leaf and parsley. Cook until beans are soft and almost ready to eat, approximately one hour. You may need to add more water if the beans get dry. Season with salt, pepper, and add bacon, sausage and ham to the pot and stir to combine. Add hot sauce to taste.

Remove the bay leaf and discard. If it is not thick enough, use the back of a spoon to mash some of the beans against the side of the pot and stir to thicken the broth. Serve in individual bowls over parslied brown rice. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and a hot sauce to taste. Serves 8 to 10.

Note: This is a rich dish, but so is much of southern Louisiana cuisine. We use this for special occasion. You could leave out the bacon and ham to lighten it up. We have also made it vegetarian with good results.

Laisser les bons temps rouler - let the good times roll as they say in Louisiana.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Cassoulet, a hearty French bean stew is perfect for cold winter nights

Cassoulet, a hearty, slow-cooked French stew with beans and a variety of meats, is perfect for a cold winter night. It is probably the granddaddy of Boston baked beans and pork. Originating in the south of France, it typically contains duck confit, goose, pork and white beans.  Toulouse and Carcassone are thought to be the capital of Cassoulet. We bought Cassoulet containing sausage, goose, duck confit and lamb in a glass jar in our favorite Boucherie shop in France and found it to be of excellent quality.

In our kitchen we are fond of black-eyed peas as opposed to white beans because they give it a deep, rich flavor that instantly transports us to the tiny smoky cafes of France. In the recipe below, I’ve substituted chicken to give it a modern and lighter touch. 

Green beans with slivered almonds sautéed in butter make a pretty side dish and can be prepared while the Cassoulet cooks for the last fifteen minutes. 


1 lb black eyed peas or Great Northern beans
3 bay leaves
2 large chicken breasts with bones & skin
4 oz thick bacon, cut in 1-inch pieces, cooked but not crisp (reserve 1 tablespoon fat)
8 oz little link sausages, such as Little Sizzlers, cooked & cut into 1” pieces
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 cups canned whole tomatoes, chopped with juices
1 cup dry white whine
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup (or more) dried fresh home-made bread crumbs
2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter

Soak beans overnight in water. Drain and put into a pot with fresh water to cover by four inches. Add bay leaves, bring to a boil over high heat, lower heat and simmer until tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Drain beans, discard bay leaf and add salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste. Put into an attractive oven-proof casserole you can use for serving as well as cooking. 

Preheat oven to 350. Rub chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake about 35-45 minutes or until internal temperature is 160 degrees. Remove from oven, discard skin and bones and cut into one inch pieces. Add to beans along with cooked bacon and cut up sausages.

Sauté the garlic in a skillet in about 1 tablespoon reserved bacon fat. Add the tomatoes and their juices and simmer 5 minutes. Add wine and chicken broth and cook over medium high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour over the bean mixture and blend well. Mix bread crumbs with softened butter and spread over beans to make a crust. 

Place beans in a 325 degree oven and bake, covered, for 45 – 60 minutes. If beans get dry, carefully add more broth while not disturbing crumb crust. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until crumb topping is browned. Serves 4 to 6.