A Meal in Provence

I have just returned from a fantastic trip to France. After accepting a generous invitation to join some friends at their home in Provence, I was unprepared for the staggering beauty that the countryside offers; lavender fields, vineyards, truffle trees and medieval villages set on green hills. The abundance of ingredients offered at the local open air markets made planning dinner a delight.

Provence

I would like to share one such dinner with you. The most simple ingredients were transformed by fire, a gratin dish and a beautiful view. I will let the photos speak for themselves.

Lamb Chops with Rosemary

An open fire made with gathered firewood was all this lamb needed.

Preparing to Grill

Two beautiful potatoes, sliced thinly, and arranged in a gratin dish with chopped tomato, olive oil and herbes de Provence. Okay – I put a little butter on them – it is France! Bake at 375 degrees until golden and cooked through. (Test with a fork).

Potatoes Ready to Bake

A cucumber salad with fresh tarragon added a bright and cooling component to the meal – sprinkle with olive oil and white wine vinegar.

Cucumber Salad with Fresh Tarragon

And the meal is ready! Bon Appetit!

A Meal in Provence

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Spring Chicken

I am revisiting artichokes today because I have just harvested some from the large clay pots in my vegetable garden. We planted these a few years ago and have had only a few artichokes produced, but this year they are plentiful. I also noticed that the sage we planted last year made it through the winter and is starting to grow again.

I gathered some of the smaller artichokes and a handful of sage leaves. After rinsing the artichokes, I sliced them in half and tossed them in a little olive oil. I love to roast chicken for an easy dinner so I arranged the sage and artichokes in a baking dish with some organic chicken legs, thighs and wings.

Salt and pepper the arrangement and I also put a little water in the pan. Roast at 375 degrees.

The crispy sage leaves and artichoke are a nice garnish and fun to nibble on.

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Roasted Wild Mushroom Risotto

When autumn arrives I start using my well worn, cracked, blue, Le Creuset Dutch oven almost every night. Soups, vegetable stews and risotto are wonderful choices for colder evenings and so easy when the pot is brought straight to the table. I have been making this mushroom risotto recipe for decades, but only recently started roasting the wild mushrooms to add at the end as a garnish.

 

Roasting brings out the deep woodsy flavor of the mushrooms, and when I sprinkle them with olive oil, fresh thyme, rosemary and sage it is quite beautiful. I have never been brave enough to forage for my own mushrooms and am quite happy buying the “variety pack” at my local Whole Foods.  I use crimini (also known as Baby Bella) mushrooms for the base in the risotto along with a yellow onion.

Start by cooking the chopped onion with olive oil, salt and pepper until it is translucent. Add the sliced crimini mushrooms and turn up the heat a little bit to evaporate off some of the moisture they release while cooking:

I then pour into the pan about a half cup of white wine and crank up the heat to reduce. After the wine has reduced and the mushrooms and onions start to brown slightly I add one cup of Carnaroli rice along with a handful of chopped fresh thyme, rosemary and sage.

Then slowly add – cupful by cupful – turkey broth that has been warmed either in a Pyrex cup measure in the microwave or in a pan on the stove. I use turkey broth this time of year, and specifically for this recipe, because it has such a rich flavor. I either make my own by simmering the carcass of the Thanksgiving turkey for hours or buy the Trader Joe’s brand – which is a seasonal product – so STOCK UP! After about 15 minutes of stirring and adding broth until it reduces and stirring and adding broth until it reduces and stirring…you get the picture…I start testing the rice for doneness. I prefer my risotto less on the “al dente” side and more on the cooked fully-through side. Be your own judge.

Finally, I stir in about a 1/2 cup of heavy cream and a handful of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano until well incorporated. I like to use a ramekin or cup measure to plate the risotto. I then arrange the roasted wild mushrooms, some fresh chopped herbs and a grating of cheese.

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