Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Foods of Provence: Beef Daube and a winter French orange salad for dessert

I remember the first time I smelled Beef Daube or Daube de boeuf a la Provencale as it is called in France. It was in the home of friends in Seillons, France, a beautiful hillside village in the Var region north of Cannes. We’d just arrived at their home after a long car ride from the airport in Marseilles on the coast. Our friends were supposed to meet us at the airport in nearby Nice when we arrived from the Bahamas via Miami and Heathrow airport, but the French Air traffic Controllers had another plan in mind. They went on strike just before we landed in London with a plane transfer for Nice and that brought all air flights in France to a complete standstill until it was settled. With the trains and busses going south sold out and no available cars for rent, we were faced with spending the night in London and finding a new flight the next day – not an easy thing to do when you’re exhausted and not happy about the idea of a vacation delay. Somehow we got the last two seats going south on a flight the next day to Marseilles, which is west of Nice and a much longer drive for our friends. Being the good friends that they are, they drove over to Marseilles and picked us up and we all headed to Seillons for dinner at their home and a good nights sleep.

As I entered their kitchen, I smelled rich garlic and onions. Curious, I lifted the lid of the pot of meat that was simmering slowly on the stove. “Beef Bourguignon?” I asked. “Oh no, that’s beef daube,” they replied, just like it was an ordinary everyday pot roast. Well, beef daube is a far cry in my mind from Beef Bourguignon or French pot roast because it has its own secret weapon – dried orange peel – which sets it apart and gives it that special touch, or je ne sais quoi, that only the French seem to know how to do.  

Today I’ll be cooking Beef Daube from Chef Gui Gedda’s charming cookbook – Cooking School Provence – shop, cook, and eat like a local. The book is laid out in a week long course that takes you to the markets and visits the producers to seek out the best local ingredients, then to the Chef’s kitchen to prepare 100 authentic recipes. It’s broken down by the day of the week to create the spirit of Provence in your own home. He shows step-by-step how to illustrations and you’ll feel as if you’re standing beside him in his kitchen in France. I will also prepare a marinated orange salad or Salade d’oranges, that he suggested for dessert. The chef says you want to serve the lightest and freshest of winter desserts to round off a very hearty meal, such as the daube. This menu is perfect for a dinner party because everything but the side dish is prepared in advance. This book is currently out of print, but copies can be found. It is a real treasure and if you love the foods of Provence, this book is for you.

I’ve sprinkled photos throughout from our trip to Saint-Remy-de-Provence, the village nearest Vicki Archer’s beautifully restored mas and olive groves that I wrote about in my last post here.

If I had known about Chef Gedda’s cookbook I would have taken it along when we went to Provence for our two month trip in 2007. We packed two of Patricia Well’s cookbooks in our suitcase – Bistro Cooking and Patricia Well’s At Home in Provence, which were invaluable and we used almost daily as we brought back goodies from the market to prepare in our kitchen.

Daube de Boeuf a la Provencale - in three easy steps 
Adapted from Cooking School Provence –by Guide Gedda
Printable Recipe

Step one - the marinade or La marinade
This makes enough for 4 – 5 lbs of meat. This marinade is traditional for a beef daube but it also can be used for lamb.

After you prepare the meat as instructed below, put it in a large dish or bowl. Add 5 sliced garlic cloves, 3 peeled and sliced carrots (if small, use 5), 2 ribs of chopped celery, and 2 large mild onions, peeled and chopped. Add a 24” strip of orange peel (see below), 3 sprigs of fresh parsley, 2 sprigs of fresh thyme, 2 bay leaves, ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg, 4 whole cloves and 12 crushed black peppercorns. (Chef Gedda also used 1 tsp. of fresh savory leaves and 4 juniper berries, neither of which I could find in our market.) Then pour in 2 T of good red vinegar and one bottle (750ml) of robust dry wine, preferable French. Season with fine salt and freshly ground pepper and gently stir so the pieces of meat are mixed with the liquid and flavorings. Cover and let marinade in a cool room for up to 2 hours, or refrigerate overnight (preferred method). After the meat finishes marinating, carefully lift it out and strain the marinade through a large sieve placed over a bowl. Reserve both the solid ingredients and the liquid.

Step two – drying the orange peel

There are beautiful photos in the book showing Chef Gedda holding an orange firmly in one hand and taking a small knife or vegetable peeler (whichever you prefer) and, starting at the stem end, cutting about an inch wide strip of the peel into long ribbons. Be careful that you don’t cut into the flesh or get any pith. He worked in circles around the orange until he had long ribbon of peel. He suspended the ribbons of orange peel in a dry warm place overnight, such as on a hook near the oven. The strips will be dry enough in 2 or 3 days and you can keep them for up to 3 weeks stored in an airtight container. He suggest using un-waxed or organic fruit, but they aren’t available, you can gently scrub oranges in warm soapy water, rinse thoroughly, drain and pat dry before peeling. Dried orange peel is used in flavoring daubes and fish stews in France.

Step three – preparing the Daube de bouef a la provencale

4 to 5 pounds of boneless bottom round, cut into 1 ½” chunks
La Marinade
Olive oil
½ pound thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into ½ inch strips (lardons)
1 large mild onion, chopped
2 tablespoons flour
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley for garnish

Put the beef chunks in a large bowl and cover with the marinade. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

Remove the beef from the bowl and blot dry with paper towels. Set aside. Strain the marinade through a sieve, reserving both the liquid and the solid ingredients, separately.

Place a large, non-stick sauté pan over medium to medium-high heat. Add a little olive oil, then the bacon and onion and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes until bacon is done and onions are soft. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add some of the beef, sprinkle with a little of the flour, salt and pepper and cook until they are brown on all sides. Take care not to crowd the pan or the meat will stew and not brown. Brown the meat in batches until all have been cooked.

Transfer the browned meat, bacon and onion to a large ovenproof Dutch oven. Add the reserved marinade and vegetables to the beef. If necessary add boiling water so you cover the ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover tightly and cook over very low heat for at least 3 hours. Towards the end of cooking, taste and adjust the seasonings to taste. Remove from the heat, let cool, then refrigerate overnight covered.

The next day spoon any fat off of the top of the daube. To serve, reheat very gently in a covered pot over low heat or in a 375 F oven until heated through. Remove the bay leaves, herb sprigs and orange slices. Garnish with chopped parsley. Serves 6.

Notes: If your sauce is not thick enough (ours wasn’t), make a beurre manie by blending 3 T flour with 2 T softened butter to make a paste. Off heat, whisk in the beurre manie, then simmer the sauce for 2 minutes as it thickens. If you find your sauce is too tart (ours was), you can add some finely chopped good chocolate or a bit of honey and let it heat through the dish. I used both as I only had dark chocolate and after I added it, I thought it still needed some honey. Honey is a staple in any kitchen in Provence.

For a side dish, the Chef says that once you’ve spent hours preparing the perfect daube, you don’t want to serve it with anything fussy. Macaronade, (buttered macaroni with parsley) is the preferred authentic Provencale accompaniment, but it is equally good with Pommes de Terre a l’ail et a l’huile d’olive (mashed potatoes with garlic and olive oil).  

Salade d’oranges
Adapted from Cooking School Provence –by Guide Gedda
Printable Recipe

4 oranges
4 T. brandy
6 heaping T sugar
1 T grated orange zest
2 T orange flower water

Peel the oranges, removing the white pith. Cut into thin slices and put in a shallow bowl. Sprinkle with the brandy and let sit to macerate in a cool place for about an hour. In the meantime, put the sugar in a saucepan with 1 ¾ cups water and the orange zest. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then let bubble for 10 minutes without stirring. Remove the syrup from the heat and stir in the orange flower water. Let set until cool, then cover and refrigerate. Spoon the cold syrup over the marinated oranges and stir gently. Serve chilled. Serves 4 – 5. As you can see I sprinkled the salad with a few dried cranberries for color. I don’t know if the Chef would approve or not. I could not find orange flower water so I left it out. By all means, if you can find it, use it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Book review of French Essence - Ambiance, Beauty & Style in the South of France by Vicki Archer

Ten years ago Australian Vicki Archer, along with her husband and three children, bought and restored an olive farm and mas (French farmhouse) outside of Saint-Remy-de-Provence, an ancient, romantic walled village in the heart of Provence. The south of France is undoubtedly one of the most gorgeous places in the world. Vincent van Gogh also thought so because it was the setting for many of his famous masterpieces, including Starry Nights. There’s something very special about the light there that I’ve never seen anywhere else. With her captivating prose, Vicki paints an intimate portrait of life in Provence as only an insider could know. You will be captivated by the numerous photographs in the book by celebrated and talented photographer Carla Coulson as she captures the beauty of Vicki’s private Provence through the lens of her camera. All of the photographs shown below from the book are by Carla.

Sitting room in winter Mas de Berard

Vicki’s first book, My French Life, tells the story of the beautiful restoration of the Mas de Berard, her property in Saint Remy and French Essence takes over where it left off. For a fascinating interview with Vicki about My French Life, please visit the charming blog Annechovie, which I know you will love.

Vicki has a very popular blog of her own, French Essence, that if you haven’t visited, you must. Pop over there now if you wish, but hurry back. I was lucky enough to receive a signed copy of French Essence from Vicki and I’m dying to tell you all about it.

Vicki Archer’s inspiration wall

In the introduction Vicki describes French Essence as a continuation of her love affair with France and in particular Provence. I can fully understand that love because my husband and I have had the privilege of visiting Provence and Vicki’s charming village Saint-Remy-de-Provence twice and we, like Vicki, fell instantly in love.

Morning light on the terrace Mas de Berard

Through French Essence Vicki shows you her private Provence, the inside of her gorgeous home, and takes you on a tour of her beautiful lush gardens that are so typical of the south of France. Vicki says she “views the gardens as a series of exterior rooms and moving between the areas provide an element of surprise and a changing palette for outdoor living.”

Lazy days on the lawn at Mas de Berard

You feel as if you’ve been with her during the olive harvest in the fall of the 3000 olives trees on the property that help make the farm self-supporting. After the harvest, the olives are taken to the CastelaS mill in Les Baux for processing. As a matter of coincidence - my husband and I visited the CastelaS mill when we were there and bought a bottle of cold-pressed A.O.C. olive oil in their shop. Perhaps it’s possible we’ve tasted the rich olive oil from Vicki’s Mas de Berard.

Olive harvest with nets draped under the trees

In the walled city of Avignon where thousands of visitors flock to see the Palace of the Popes, Vicki takes you on a private tour of some of her favorite spots - the Opera Theatre and the Place de La Mirande.

Interior of the Opera Theatre in Avignon

Along the narrow cobbled streets of Avignon after the Opera, she goes to the Place de La Mirande, a splendid family-run hotel that dates back to the 14th century.

Salon of La Mirande, Avignon

She visits French Impressionist Cezanne’s Aix-en-Provence, where she introduces you to her favorite family-owned chocolate shop, Le Chocolaterie du Puyricard. And for pure whimsy and the child in all of us, there’s a chapter devoted to the colorful French circus to transport the reader to a world of make believe.

Streetscape of Aix-en-Provence

French Essence is a delight to read and makes a great gift for Francophiles such as myself, lovers of all things beautiful, and la bonne vie, or the good life as the French say. The book’s cover is elegantly plush and makes a spectacular addition to your collection of coffee table delights as does her first book, My French Life.

I’ve searched on line for the best place to buy French Essence and I’ve found two sources – and The But you may find others based on where you live. Vicki’s first book, My French Life, is available at Amazon. Both books will leave you wanting to buy a ticket for the next flight to Marseilles so you can capture the French essence of the south of France for yourself.

Guest room at Mas de Berard

When I received my signed copy of French Essence, my husband and I were flooded with wonderful memories of our visit to Vicki’s charming village, Saint-Remy-de-Provence in 2007. (See the side bar for links to those posts under France.) We rented a house there for two months and shopped with the locals, cooked and ate their wonderfully fresh foods until our hearts and stomachs were content.

In future posts I’ll be featuring some of the foods typically found in Provence and other of our French food favorites. The first will be a Daube de boeuf a la Provencale, a slow-cooked beef dish that is a specialty of the region. For dessert there are oranges marinated in brandy, a light fresh winter salad that’s perfect to round off the very hearty meal.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A drive through Florida’s southern Heartland – the Florida you won’t find in the tourist guide books including orange groves & sugarcane fields

We’re currently at our little “home away from home” in Ft. Myers, Florida. Our plans were to escape the cold weather at home and enjoy some of Florida’s typical balmy days. So far that hasn’t happened but the weather seems to be improving today. As you’ve seen in the news, it’s been very cold in Florida with temperatures dropping into the low thirties for several nights, which caused great alarm to the citrus growers and farmers of the area and upset my husband because it killed his freshly planted basil and some of the shrubbery.

Yesterday we were suffering from cabin fever so we drove from Ft. Myers, which is in southwest Florida on the Gulf of Mexico to Stuart on the east coast on the Atlantic Ocean just north of Palm Beach – about a three hour drive. Our route on Highway 27 and 80 east took us along the orange groves and sugarcane fields in Florida’s Heartland, a place likely you haven’t been and you won’t find it in the tourist guide books. Above is an orange tree in a grove along the way. Notice the ice under the trees. We’ve seen on the nightly news that growers have sprayed their trees with water to help prevent damage to the fruit.

Ice at base of orange tree

We drove through the small towns of Clewiston, South Bay, Belle Glade and Pahokee, through the sugarcane fields along the southern tip of Lake Okeechobee. Even though Belle Glade and Pahokee are in western Palm Beach County, it’s not the ritzy Palm Beach of Donald Trump, famous stars and Carmine’s Gourmet Deli that we visited last week. This part of Palm Beach County is referred to as “Muck City,” according to Wikipedia, due to the large quantity of muck in which sugarcane grows. About half of the sugarcane in the nation is grown in the plains around Belle Glade and Clewiston. This area is more associated with the Florida Heartland than south Florida. According to the Florida Plants website, the sugarcane area is so compact that most Florida visitors never see a sugarcane field so we took some pictures of the various stages of the sugarcane’s growth.

We took pictures along the way of the various stages of sugarcane fields. The fields are replanted every two to four years. Notice the little plants coming up in the coal black earth known as muck.

Sugarcane is a tropical grass native to Asia and the plumes you see here blowing in the wind are the flowers and seed heads of the cane plant. Each plume contains several thousand tiny flowers and each flower is capable of producing one seed. The cool winter weather in Florida ordinarily prevents the development of the seeds. Sugarcane is harvested from late October through mid-April. Florida is the largest producer of sugarcane and there are two sugar refineries here, one in South Bay and the other in Clewiston, which their Chamber of Commerce calls “America’s sweetest town.”

The Florida Plant website attributes the fertile organic soil and warming influence of Lake Okeechobee as the primary reasons the sugar industry is located here. The cane fields run along the south side of the lake and the built-up dikes.

Locals call Lake Okeechobee “The Lake” or “The Big O.” According to Wikipedia, it’s the second largest freshwater lake in the continental US after Lake Michigan. It’s about half the size of the state of Rhode Island and is shallow with an average depth of only nine feet.

Locks before entrance to the lake

Boats use the Okeechobee waterway to cut cross the state of Florida to avoid going around the southern tip by the Florida Keys. From the East Coast boaters take the Inter-coastal waterway to Stuart and the St. Lucie River or they can enter from the Gulf of Mexico from the Caloosahatchee River in Ft. Myers. The boats go through a series of locks from Stuart into the actual Lake itself.

Here’s a gorgeous cabin cruiser, probably fifty feet long, with beautiful bright work traveling along the waterway. As you can see, the waterway is narrow and reminiscent of the Everglades. We didn’t see any alligators, but it sure looks like a place you would find them.

We picked up some fresh oranges and tangerines and made a simple Orange Salad when we returned home to go with grilled chicken breasts for dinner. It’s a hastily made, colorful salad of thinly sliced oranges and black Kalamata olives dressed in vinaigrette and sprinkled with fresh Italian parsley and fresh rosemary and slivered red onions. You can also use blood oranges, which make it even more beautiful. I found this recipe in one of Pierre Franey’s 60-Minute Gourmet cookbooks many years ago.

I toss thinly sliced oranges in a bowl with vinaigrette of one part red wine vinegar to three parts extra virgin olive oil seasoned with minced garlic, some Hungarian paprika and salt and pepper to taste and dress as above. You can leave out the black olives or the rosemary if you wish. I’m a big fan of rosemary, as you know, so I use it whenever I can.

For better viewing of photos, click to enlarge.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Carmine’s Gourmet Market, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

Carmines Gourmet Market started in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida in 1972 as a prime meat market. It's one of our favorite places to have lunch on the marina patio overlooking the gorgeous yachts and we highly recommend it if you are in the greater Palm Beaches.

Over the years Carmine has expanded and now features full service meat, seafood, produce, deli, bakery, wines and imported cheeses, custom gift boxes, a floral shop, and a complete catering service including yacht provisioning. They offer a spectacular assortment of exotic and prepared foods on their catering menu including cold hors d’oeuvres such as ceviche served in an Asian style cocktail spoons, filet mignon crostini with horseradish sauce, seared ahi tuna with wasabi and ginger and carpaccio with shaved Parmesan cheese. Hot hors d’oeuvres include mini crab cakes, lamb lollipops, mini beef wellingtons, grilled shrimp skewers any way you like them, Mediterranean artichoke tarts and, one of my favorites, conch fritters with an orange wasabi dipping sauce.

Carmine’s Catering and Event planning department can handle any special event needs including party captains, servers, bartenders, chefs and sous chefs to make a party great. They can provide rental of tents, tables, chairs, linens, flatware and glasses as well as provide flowers, wine, beer and liquor that compliment your menu. As you can see, they also have a lovely assortment of prepared foods to take home for dinner.

Carmines La Trattoria restaurant is a fine dining establishment where you’re likely to run into Palm Beach regulars such as Alan Jackson, Celine Dion or Joe Torres.

We like to go for lunch and our favorite spot to dine is on Carmine’s Marina Front patio outside where we can enjoy a cool breeze while admiring the gorgeous yachts in the marina. We normally order one of their specialty sandwiches from the deli while Dean Martin croons Italian love songs over the speakers.

Our favorite sandwich is the Carmine, an Italian hoagie on a fresh baguette.

We make our version of a Carmine Sandwich at home and, like Carmine, include ham, Genoa salami, capricola, pepperoni, provolone cheese, romaine lettuce, sliced tomatos and red onions and dress it with our homemade balsamic vinaigrette on a crusty Italian or French mini baguette. I make my vinaigrette by taking one part good aged balsamic vinegar with two parts extra-virgin olive oil and shaking well to make an emulsion.

Carmines Gourmet Market is located in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida at 2104 PGA Boulevard on the corner of Prosperity Farms Road. Open everyday Monday through Saturday 9 – 8 and Sunday 9 – 7. Phone 561-775-0105. It's one of our favorite spots in all of Palm Beach for a delightful lunch overlooking the yacht filled marina.

This post is being linked to Oh the Place's I've Been at the Tablescaper.