Not a day goes by that I do not have a discussion about food… An in-depth discussion about food. I have been doing this my entire life and you can safely say that my life revolves around food. I grew up surrounded by food conversations. My mother is an amazing cook, had a cookware store and even taught cooking classes out of our house. Her mother was an amazing cook and her recipe box is more coveted that her pearls. My aunt is an amazing cook and was the Chief Culinary Officer for the Food Channel. Then, I married a Frenchman whose mother is such an amazing cook that even when we are at lunch we are talking about what she’s going to make for dinner. I said the word “amazing” in this paragraph four times and meant it each time.
The first year that I had ALS, I remember reading an article about a gentleman who also had ALS but he could no longer eat. He listed three pages of all the foods that he missed...Beef Bourguignon, Caesar salad, grilled cheese, sushi, cheeseburgers, cereal, Eggplant Parmesan, Eggs Benedict etc. I remember thinking to myself, “That might possibly be the saddest thing I’ve ever heard.” I made a vow to myself right then and there that I would savor and cherish every moment that I had left “to eat.” Don’t laugh or judge… Imagine for one second that you could never eat again. Hell on earth.
My friend Romy Grace, as I call her, whom we visited, as you know, in Provence recently shares my same enthusiasm towards food. I can’t even tell you how many conversations we’ve had over the years regarding pizza crust, sea urchin, pasta and our favorite hotel buffets. We also share the same aesthetics when it comes to setting the table… The dishes, napkins, the flowers, the candles… even down to the little honey and jam pots. We actually derive true pleasure in the whole presentation.
So, without further ado, I bring you our weekend of food in Provence.
We arrived to my friend’s house rather late after our train ride from Paris but as we pulled up into the courtyard of their house the outdoor dining table was all set and the twinkly lights in the canopy trees could not have begged a more beautiful setting. A midnight snack of Provençal cheeses sent us off to bed for a dreamy sleep for our first evening. The entire weekend we ate every single meal outdoors… As God intended. Our host’s wonderful house staff of Christina and Joaquim lovingly cooked every meal with regional produce fresh picked at the Provence farmers market.
I woke up to a beautiful breakfast served on the breakfast terrace with plenty of sunshine and the most beautiful blue sky that you’ve ever seen with an ancient stone fountain providing the music. This might be as close to paradise on earth as anyone’s ever going to get.
The goat cheese was like butta!
Organic eggs from the house chickens, of course. The dishes are from the La Mamounia Hotel in Marrakech, Morocco.
Breakfast slid into lunch and we found ourselves on another terrace having another glorious meal. Saturday’s lunch was served under a shaded canopy of chestnut trees overlooking a vast view of Provence with only the sound of a peaceful fountain nearby and the chirping of birds. Living in a bustling city like Paris you come to cherish the fact that silence is golden. I could visually see David, Grace and I actually start to relax. Phones were set aside, shoulders started to drop and we were nearly one yawn away from a nap every second.
Homemade Pesto Pasta
Spinach salade with homemade vinaigrette and herbed foie gras.
Farmers market tomatoes with fresh burrata.
Saturday called for a day at the pool but not without plenty of fruit.
After a little downtime, we reconvened on yet another terrace for a little pre-dinner aperitif. This particular terrace hosted a sunset view surrounded by the parterres of an herb garden and yet another ancient fountain.
We were spoiled by Joaquim's famous mojitos and Christina’s hors d’oeuvres. Olive tapenade, bruschetta, smoked salmon with crème fraîche and fresh dill from the garden…
Saturday evening’s dinner brought us back to our Santa Barbara roots and a barbecue by the pool was served!
Chicken shish kebabs, North African merguez sausages, grilled steaks, potatoes with herbs, grilled zucchini, grilled eggplant, and Christina’s famous Tomate Provençal and raspberry cheesecake.
Romy Grace and the Apricot on a chilly evening in Provence.
Sunday’s lunch was a very special event but I will save that story for later this week.
Before we boarded our Sunday evening train back to Paris, we were treated to one more fabulous little snack. Afternoon tea with Christina’s homemade cake and Madeleines.
And now for a little treat! Christina and Joaquim have been so kind as to lend two of their recipes to us! First we have Joaquim's famous mojitos and then we have Christina’s famous tomate Provençal!
Joaquim and Cristina in the kitchen.
JOAQUIM’S FAMOUS MOJITOS (For one portion of cocktail)
5 cl of white rum
7 leaves of fresh peppermint
juice of 1/2 a lime
1 spoon of powder sugar
In one glass crush the peppermint leaves and the lime together with the sugar. Then add the ice and the rum. Serve with a slice of lime and a fresh leaf of peppermint.
CRISTINA’S FAMOUS TOMATE PROVENÇALE (serves 6 people)
6 ripe tomatoes, for instance coeur de boeuf
2 gloves of garlic
1 big spoon of fresh cut basil
1 big spoon of freshly cut persil
1 big spoon of freshly cut thyme
a couple of big spoons of breadcrumbs for the crust
salt and pepper
Cut the tomatoes in thick slices and take off the seeds. Then put a bit of olive oil into a baking dish, add the tomatoes slices, top with the chopped garlic and the herbes, season with salt and pepper and add a bit of water.
Let simmer for about 30 minutes, then cover with the breadcrumbs and toast in the oven at a temperature of 180°C for about 10 to 15 minutes.
Merci beaucoup Christina and Joaquim.
Thank you for sharing my weekend in Provence and I am so happy you came along for the ride. Remember, life is too short not to enjoy the beautiful things.
Stay tuned for the next installment of our Provence series. This next one involves four-legged friends and finned friends. I think you will just love it!
*Something you don’t know about me? I love learning all about you. Thank you for sending in all of your comments about yourselves. Seems like birds of a feather flock together, non? Don’t forget to go check out Stephen’s recipe for horseradish croutons in the comments! Thank you Stephen, you are my favorite human being on earth.