As a small child, I believed in two things; Santa Claus and the virtues of a simple grilled Loup de mer, or branzino as it is more commonly called in the US. Loup de mer is a Mediterranean sea bass with a delicate flesh and addictively delicious crunchy skin when grilled. Get your coals white hot, put dried fennel branches on top then the fish and let the licorice smoky flavors pleasantly permeate your fish, lending a feeling of being in Provence. There is no greater act of love than sharing a wonderful meal you cook with the people dear to you. Remember, good food can happen anywhere, this one is especially good cooked over an outdoor fire, preferably deep in woods, with loved ones and a few bottles of great wine….
Chickpea Frites (fries), known as panisses in the south of France, are made by slow cooking chickpea flour and water till it makes a thick porridge. When pressed and cooled, they are cut into finger sized shapes and deep fried. They are simple to make, and keep unfried for up to a week in your refrigerator. They are perfect as a stand alone snack, and go great with roast chicken, lamb, beef and seafood.
Try making a batch this weekend!…
I love the simplicity of grilled sardines; if they are super fresh nothing more is needed than simply tossing them on a hot grill and maybe a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of fruity olive oil. If you don’t live far away from the ocean where freshly netted sardines are readily available, then I suggest IQF, or individually quick frozen. People may scoff and say frozen is never as good; I know I used to be that opinionated too. I recently cooked a few pounds caught by a small fisherman near Monterey, California, where they were immediately flash frozen at 40 below zero just after he caught them. I thawed the fish slowly in my refrigerator till they were ready for the grill. Many people have a decided opinion on whether or not they will eat a strong flavored fish. For those, I suggest a simple sauce with assertive, sharp briny or spicy flavors like capers, preserved lemon or harissa. These grilled sardines are fabulous served over arugula or even simply steamed couscous.
A tian is an earthenware vessel of Provence used both for cooking and serving. It is also the name of the dish prepared in it and baked in an oven. – Wikipedia
A lot of friends had asked for this recipe shortly after posting a picture of it on Facebook two weeks ago. The dish was born of the moment, inspired partly by too much pastis and perhaps a memory not quite my own. We had just gotten back from France, and my garden was overgrown with weeds competing for the same limited resources that nourished my vegetables. I was doing everything to avoid tackling the tangled mess, so I started reading Roger Verge’s classic tome, ‘Cuisine of the Sun’ under the guise of research. I got to the pages where he delectably described in vivid detail a lunch with local fishermen in Cannes. They had just caught two beautiful John Dorys, and were preparing a large, festive tian for everyone to enjoy. Verge waxed on poetically about “potatoes gilded with saffron, ruddy tomatoes, pale onions, bluish thyme, green bayleaf and steel-grey fish” cooked in the local baker’s oven and served in the golden May sunlight. I was hooked.
The eyes are the mirror of the soul and reflect everything that seems to be hidden; and like a mirror, they also reflect the person looking into them. – Paulo Coelho
No other dish in the world better captures the soul and spirit of a single region than bouillabaisse. The rich, often colorful history of Marseille floats sublimely with rascasse in its spicy golden hued broth. Some believe bouillabaisse got its start from the Greek mariners who founded Marseille as Massalia in 600 BC, while others claim its origins are strictly Italian because of a few shared ingredients. The absolute truth may be that no one can precisely pinpoint the exact single moment in time, whether on that fabled riverbed encampment of fishermen and their wives or not, that bouillabaisse was born. What really would be the point of trying to figure that out anyway? It won’t make it taste any better, and it certainly won’t change the fact that bouillabaisse is the mirror reflection of the cultural melting pot Marseille has become. And the deeper I look into it, the more I see my own story reflected in it.
To eat figs off the tree in the very early morning, when they have been barely touched by the sun, is one of the exquisite pleasures of the Mediterranean. Elizabeth David
A few days ago, Lisa and I returned from an all too short vacation in France. We started up north in Puligny Montrachet then worked our way south to the golden sunshine of my family’s beloved Provence. When we arrived at our home in Cagnes sur Mer, near Nice (France), I only wanted to drink roses, pastis and red Bandols and eat Provencal food. The idea was solidified when I returned from the local farmer’s market armed with a beautiful wild sea bass caught that very morning and a basket of perfectly ripe figs….
On July 29th, I am hosting a pop-up dinner promising an exciting evening of Spanish Tapas, Wines and old-world Conviviality. The genesis for the event came during a lunch with friends several weeks back; I was hungry for the tapas I used to make when I was Chef of the award winning Pili Pili in Chicago and wanted some people to share in the fun. I actually forgot how much I loved canalons; there is something incredibly satisfying about eating them. Not sure if it is the textural aspect of soft pasta baked in a creamy sauce that harkens back to the emotions of my childhood or maybe the utter simplicity of it. Canalons are truly an everyman’s dish that crosses several cultural lines. Try making canalons this weekend!
Today, the musts and must nots of preparing bouillabaisse are so numerous and so contradictory that one should be prepared to break rules at will. — Richard Olney
Bouillabaisse is perhaps the most bastardized dish that was ever created and as a classicist, that truly bothers me. In its strictest form, bouillabaisse is an assertive flavored, richly textured saffron seafood stew made from a specific list of Mediterranean fish that is always served in two courses. The worst case gives us a barely flavored, thin broth speckled with too many vegetables that some old seafood has been laid to rest in. Somewhere in between lies bouillabaisse’s true soul, and sadly that has been forgotten, or worse yet, lost.
Spring has slowly been coming to the Pacific Northwest. Sure, we’ve gotten our miner’s lettuce, fiddleheads and wood sorrel. Yes, the halibuts have come and spring king salmon are making their legendary runs up the Columbia River. Even morels have started poking their curious honey combed heads through the forest floors. But what has been noticeably missing has been one of the oldest and most loved harbingers of spring; the fava bean. Since time immortal, favas have been appreciated for their buttery texture and nutty flavor. They have appeared on tables across the globe from Egypt to Mexico and all point between. The tendency may be to complicate with elaborate recipes but true lovers know they are best appreciated eaten simply.
Here are three recipes for you to savor this spring.
A recipe is rather like a piece of music. Although the notes may be read and reproduced faithfully the result can still be crude, mechanical or just uninteresting.
Notes from My Fictitious Mazet
Recently I bought a home in Vancouver, Washington and found myself with the unenviable task of having to move yet again. Hopefully for the last time but who really knows. If I did my calculations correctly, at best I shall be carted off to the nursing home drooling uncontrollably in a snug pair of Depends by the time the last house payment is paid. At worst, I will be found by bill collectors thoroughly mummified with a glass of pastis in one hand and a tartine of tapenade in the other….
Where is my place in the food universe? I have struggled with this question for quite some time. The search for our treasure in life often begins and ends in the same exact space. Though a journey from adolescence to manhood is usually necessary to fully comprehend what we search for. The exploration allows us to naively abandon our roots, experiment and possibly forget what we were looking for in the first place. In the end, we find it hiding in plain sight. What we had in the beginning was probably all we ever needed and craved for only we usually are too stupid to understand life….
Brilliant light straw-yellow. Medium viscosity. Elegant, crispy, zippy, lemon juice aromas, Fine minerality mingles wonderfully with zesty citrus flavors, seamless harmony of rich fruit and acidity. Great, nervy flavor makes mouthfeel outstanding and persistent. Superb quality for pleasant price.
PDO Santorini, 92 points.
Erroneously I never gave Greek wines their proper due. I always thought of them as scarily named budget wines not worthy of my time. Maybe it was the deep seated fear of enunciating a name so hard to pronounce for a snooty sommelier and feeling embarrassed. I mean there are so many easier to verbalize alternatives not to have to go through that level of shame, why do it? Then I met this absolutely seductive wine from Domaine Sigalas and now want to scream opa! move to Greece and discover what I have stupidly been avoiding all my life….
Good full red. Captivating aromas of ripe red cherry, mocha and violet complicated by an herbal nuance. Sweet, dense and juicy in the mouth, displaying bright flavors of dark cherry, flowers and spices. Finishes very smooth, savory and spicy, with outstanding energy and focus and plenty of early appeal. This complex, multilayered wine strikes me as the best I have ever tasted from Feudi del Pisciotto.
93 points Ian D’Agata, Vinous Media
Cerasuolo. If I had to use one word to fully describe Paolo Panerai’s excellent wine ‘Giambattista Valli’ that would be it. Cerasuolo means cherry like. This wine is so chock full with bright cherry, pomegranate and strawberry flavors I had to wonder if my wife didn’t swap the wine with fresh cherry juice to fool me….
Fall had started in earnest and we decided to go for a long walk foraging for wild cèpes. I built a huge fire in our wood burning stove and placed a daube of beef to slow cook on top. We opened a bottle of wine to decant and walked out into the cool, misty day heady with pine scents. ~ from my upcoming cookbook, Cuisine of the Sun.
I just returned from a long walk with my wife Lisa and son Beau enjoying Oregon’s fall colors in the rain. I started making a daube of bison in honor of my maman who loves her bee-sohn like no other. Soon my house filled with the warming smells of slow cooked beef. It reminded me of when we first lived in Mendocino, California in small, off the grid hippie cabin. The following excerpt is edited from my forthcoming book which is available on this site….
I am in the middle of multiple intense moments finishing my first cookbook entitled ‘Cuisine of the Sun’ and editing my kickstarter campaign starting next week. It has been an amazing and wild ride that never could have been accomplished without the love, support and hard work of my wife Lisa. The downside to looking at food, thinking of food, photographing food is that I get super hungry and start to drool. My mind wanders and I begin to crave things. I saw some amazing Zucchini Blossoms at the Farmer’s Market and made these Zucchini Blossoms stuffed with Ricotta in a Tomato Sauce for a petite goutte. A small nibble to carry me through the end of the day proofing. I need a break so I wrote down how I make these yummy treats.
When the weather starts to heat up, my taste buds board a plane and venture to the South of France. Grab a pastis and join me for a taste of Summer. Coastal Provence is an area long renowned for it’s golden sunlight and soul satisfying fare. A cuisine largely rooted in seafood and vegetables with flavorful condiments like rouille and tapenado that enhance everything they touch. The dish tapenade is derived from tapeno, the Provencal word for capers. Charles Meynier, chef of the bygone Marseille restaurant La Maison Doree, invented tapenade in 1880. …
“Concerning the spices of Arabia let no more be said. The whole country is scented with them, and exhales an odor marvellously sweet.” – Herodotus
I vividly remember the first cook book I read with the ability to transport me somewhere else. My mother had just bought Paula Wolfert’s seminal classic ‘Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco’. She always had a wonderful collection of cookbooks, some of which I borrowed permanently. From the opening stanzas, I imagined myself on the same 1959 voyage aboard the Yugoslavian freighter as Paula. I could sense the nervous excitement of travelling somewhere undiscovered and exotic. I crawled under my sheets with a flashlight, creating a Bedouin tent in the sub sahara, leaving the cold Midwestern night far behind. Soon the perfumed smells of exotic spices and mechoui spit roasting co-mingled in my imagined world of my youth.
Every dish is a reflection of the moment; an edible photograph of a Chef’s mind captured in that particular moment.
This dish is the unwilling collaboration between chefs David Everitt-Matthias and my former sous Keith Schneider. A dish born out of the circumstances of the moment. I bought Chef Everitt-Matthias’s book ‘Essence’ years ago and oodled over the gorgeous photography and even better recipes. I couldn’t afford to get to his restaurant in England so I started mimicking some of his dishes. I had been doing a straight copy of David’s ‘home-salted cod with roasted tomatoes, chickpeas and anchovy dressing’ for long enough that I started thinking it was mine. The flavors and scents transported me to my mother’s Provence. Wisps of the citrusy cure reminding me of standing in Menton, the pearl of France, located on the Italian border long known for it’s superior lemons, oranges and tangerines. Anchovies have played an important part of the Mediterranean diet since garum flavored the Roman tables in the early days of Provincia. Garum evolved into anchoiade, bagna cauda, Pissaladière, and Pissalat….
French Soul Food?
I pondered what soul food meant to me. My initial thoughts conjured savory images of collard green and cornbread filled adventures at Chicago soul food stalwarts like Gladys Luncheonette, Army & Lou’s and Soul Queen eaten to a soundtrack of Don Cornelius’s Soul Train. Even now, decades later, as I sit typing behind my computer keyboard I still can’t just casually say Soul Train (the hippest trip in America) without mimicking the high pitched intro of the program and licking my lips….
I applied to be on season two of Guy’s Grocery Games, Food Networks’ blockbuster hit game show hosted by the affable Guy Fieri, without ever expecting to really get on. I did it almost as a prank sending in the above picture with some extreme answers to questions they had asked in the preliminary interview. Previously I had applied to several shows and never received nary a response or even a computer generated rejection letter. When it came to filling out this application I tried a different tact, I went big, bold and let my kitchen persona shine through with all it’s adolescent charm and grace. …