Fleurs de Courgettes Farcie

Such a pleasure to see courgette flowers in your garden or at the greengrocers. The young courgette is firm and tasty; the flowers a beautiful yellow. Simply stuff the flowers, fry in a pan or cook in the oven and you have a great side dish or starter. And then you start wondering: ‘Stuff with what? Cheese? Salmon? Mushrooms? Tomatoes? Ricotta? Vegetable Mousse?’
Earlier we described a simple, tasty vegetarian version. This recipe requires a bit more work, but the result is delicious and beautiful. Crab and courgette go together very well; it’s a well balanced combination with surprisingly delicate flavors.

Wine Pairing

Obviously a nice glass of Côtes de Provence Rosé is an excellent choice. But you could also go for a white wine, for instance a Macon-Villages as produced by Bouchard Père & Fils. In general a subtle wine that goes well with the gentle flavors of both the crab and the courgette.

What You Need

  • One Courgette (small and firm)
  • One Garlic Clove
  • Olive Oil
  • Six Small Courgettes with their flower
  • Crab
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Wash the courgette, dry and grate coarsely. Warm a small cooking pan, add olive oil and the grated courgette. Fineley grate the garlic and mix with the courgette. Leave for 20 minutes minimum on low heat. When ready, set aside and let cool.
Best is to use a leg of a fresh (littoral) crab, but you could also buy a can of most excellent crab. If using fresh crab, heat a pan with water, bay leaf and crushed black pepper corns; cook the crab for 10 minutes, remove from the water, set aside until cooler and then remove the meat from the shell. Be sure to remove all shards of shell. Set aside and let cool.
Remove the stamens from the flowers. Remove the end of the small courgette. Use a very sharp knife to slice the courgettes lengthwise in 3, making it look like a fan. Heat water in a pan and poach the small courgettes (not the flowers!) for 60-90 seconds depending on the size. Add some crab meat to the courgette mixture and taste. Keep adding crab until you’ve reached the perfect combination (or the end of the crab). Add some black pepper. Stuff the flowers, close them by slightly twisting the leaves of the flower, sprinkle with olive oil, making sure they are completely coated with oil. Heat your oven to 200° C or 390° F. Using the grill is a good idea. Transfer to the oven and cook for 10 minutes. The flowers should be crisp and perhaps a touch golden. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.

  • Fleurs de Courgettes Farcie ©cadwu
  • Macon Villages and Cotes de Provence ©cadwu

Daube Provençale

On a warm summer’s evening, sitting on your terrace, relaxing and sipping rosé, you wonder what to eat. Perhaps something that will make you think of the beautiful Cote d’Azur, with the chirping of cicadas and aromas of pine trees? A Salade Niçoise or something more substantial?
That’s the moment to dive into your freezer and look for that last portion of Daube Provençale. Excellent beef, stewed in red wine and packed with flavours, olives and mushrooms.

Fortunately preparing Daube Provençale is not too much work (and it keeps well in the freezer). You can also be fairly flexible with the recipe. Well known chef Hélène Barale (La Cuisine Niçoise, Mes 106 Recettes) uses beef, veal and pork with tomatoes and dried mushrooms, Hilaire Walden (French Provincial Cooking) suggests marinating the beef in red wine and also adds orange peel and olives whereas the classic La Cuisinière Provençale published in 1897 and written by Jean-Baptiste Reboul suggests adding vinegar to the marinade but doesn’t use tomatoes, mushrooms or olives.

Wine Pairing

We prepared our daube with red wine from France, made from Cabernet Franc grapes and produced by La Tour Beaumont. In general you need a full bodied, fruity red wine, with a good structure. You could of course enjoy the daube with the same red wine, but the daube is flexible. Just remember that the flavours and aromas are intense. 

What You Need (2 portions for 2)

  • 750 grams of Excellent Marbled Beef (Blade Steak for instance)
  • ½ Carrot
  • Shallot
  • 3 Garlic Gloves
  • 250 grams of Mushrooms
  • 50 grams of Black Olives (Kalamata or Taggiasca)
  • Olive Oil
  • Bouquet Garni (Bay Leaf, Thyme, Oregano, Rosemary, Parsley, Chives and/or Sage)
  • 500 ml Red Wine

What You Do

Start by slicing the meat into nice, big cubes. Heat a heavy large pot through and through, add olive oil and fry the meat until brown. Probably you need to do this in two batches. Set the meat aside and fry the chopped shallot, the carrot and the garlic until smooth. Transfer the meat to the pot, stir well, add the red wine, the (halved) olives and the bouquet garni. Keep on low heat for 2 hours. Clean the mushrooms and add these to the pan. Keep on low heat for another two hours. Check if the meat is soft and tender. Quickly cool the pot and transfer the content to the refrigerator.

The next day label off some of the fat (we prefer not to do this, but feel free to do so). Divide the daube in two portions. One for the freezer, the other one to enjoy today. Warm the (halved) daube and remove some of the bigger mushrooms and four tablespoons of cooking liquid. Blender the liquid and mushrooms very fine and transfer back to the pan. This mixture will thicken the cooking liquid. Leave the daube to gently simmer for an hour. If the sauce has not yet reached the right consistency, then transfer cooking liquid to a separate pan and reduce on medium to high heat. Transfer back to the main pan and combine.

Serve with red bell pepper salad, pasta, polenta or boiled potatoes.

  • Daube Provençale ©cadwu
  • Ingredients of Daube Provençale ©cadwu
  • Daube Provençale ready to be stewed ©cadwu

Tourte de Blette

A Forgotten Vegetable

For many years Chard was a popular and cheap vegetable. It has many names, including Bietola (Italy), Blette, Bléa (France), Acelga (Spain), Krautstiel, Stielmangold, Mangold (Germany, Switzerland), Snijbiet (the Netherlands) and also Swiss Chard, Leaf Beet, Silver Beet, Spinach Beet and Seakale Beet.
Many names equals many recipes and easy to buy? Not at all. Nowadays it’s hard to find chard and the number of recipes is limited. According to Dutch Food Critic and Culinary Legend Johannes van Dam the chard leaves wither quickly, making it a difficult product for supermarkets. The image of chard is not positive: ‘Poor Man’s Asparagus’ for the stems for instance. Another reason is probably the fact that the leaves require a different preparation than the stems.
Johannes van Dam gives a number of recipes, including what he refers to as the primal recipe from Italy for Tourte de Blette and the recipe for Bledes amb panses I pinyons from Menorca.

Tourte de Blette

When in Nice we very much enjoyed our Tourte de Blette, locally known as Tourta de Bléa. It comes in two varieties: sweet and savoury. If you want to prepare the sweet one, please visit the inspiring Variations Gourmandes.

The crust of the Tourte de Blette is not straightforward. In most cases it’s a combination of flour, water, butter (or olive oil) and eggs. We were inspired by a dear friend who bases her Tourte on the Italian Torta Verde del Ponente Ligure. This is a very similar dish with zucchini, chard, basil, sage, rise, onion, Grana Padano or Parmesan and eggs. The dough of the Torta Verde is easy to work with and the result is both tasty and crunchy.

Back to the main ingredient of the Tourte de Blette: the chard. We found it on the Amsterdam Albert Cuyp market but were shocked by the price, so we had to look for an alternative. We decided not to use normal spinach because it doesn’t have the right structure. We choose water spinach (also know as Kang Koen or Ong Choy): a very popular vegetable in Asia. The leaves have lots of structure and the (hollow) stems are tasty and crunchy.

Wine Pairing

Obviously a wine from the region, for instance a Côtes de Provence (preferably rosé) or a more expensive Bellet Blanc.

What You Need

  • For the Dough
    • 200 gram of Flour
    • 100 gram of Water
    • 20 gram of Olive Oil
    • 2,5 gram of Salt
  • For the Mixture
    • 500 gram of Water Spinach
    • One Shallot
    • Olive Oil
    • 50 grams of Rice
    • 2 Eggs
    • Fresh Nutmeg
    • 75 gram Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

What You Do

Cook the rice and leave to rest.  Combine flour, salt, water and olive oil. Make the dough, kneed for a minute or so and store in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Remove the leaves from the stem and chop half of the stems. Best is to have the stem slices the size of cooked rice. Same for the shallot. Warm a large heavy skillet, gently fry the shallot. After 10 minutes add the chopped stems. Leave for 5 minutes and then add the leaves. Cook for a few minutes until done. Transfer to a plate and let cool.
Slice the leaves using a kitchen knife. Whisk the two eggs. Combine the vegetables, the egg, the rice and the freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Generously add freshly grated nutmeg.
Cut the dough in two, one part slightly bigger than the other. The bigger part will be the bottom, the smaller part the top. Roll out the bigger one with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface. Coat a 22 cm or 9 inch round baking form with oil (or use a sheet of baking paper). Place the first disk in the baking form, add filling and close with the second disk of dough. Fold the edge of the top piece of dough over and under the edge of the bottom piece of dough, pressing together. Make holes in the top, allowing for the steam to escape. Transfer to the oven for 40 – 50 minutes on 180˚ – 200˚ Celsius or 355˚ – 390˚ Fahrenheit. Immediately after having removed the tourte from the oven, brush the top with olive oil. This will intensify the colour of the crust. Let cool and enjoy luke warm.

Salade Niçoise

Pan Bagnat

The origin of the Salade Niçoise goes back to the days that life on the French Côte d’Azur was harsh. It was a remote and poor region and people tried making a living trough fishing, harvesting flowers for the perfume manufacturers and growing olives. Not a tourist in sight and no fancy lunches. Bread would be baked once every fortnight and people would soak the stale, day-old bread with water, olive oil or ripe tomatoes. Over the years this developed into what is known today as Pan Bagnat: bathed bread. Interestingly enough the stuffing became a dish in its own right: the Salade Niçoise.

Today’s Salade Niçoise is of course much more than water, olive oil and tomatoes. According to the founders of the label Nissarde Cuisine the Salade Niçoise is a combination of tomatoes, boiled eggs, salted anchovy, tuna in oil, spring onion, small black Niçoise olives, basil and olive oil. Optional ingredients are artichoke, broad beans, green pepper, garlic and radish.
And now I can hear you think: but how about the haricots verts and the potatoes? And haven’t you forgotten the vinegar?

Let’s start with the vinegar: a few drops are allowed but the idea goes back to the Pan Bagnat. So little or no vinegar and certainly no balsamic vinegar, mustard or mayonnaise. 

It was Auguste Escoffier who introduced the haricots verts and the potatoes as ingredients of the Salade Niçoise. For the guardians of the Nissarde Cuisine this is clearly a ‘no go’ (also because Escoffier was not from Nice). We were brave and did a small experiment by preparing both variations.

We expected the Escoffier version to be the winner of our small competition, but the stars clearly go to the Nissarde version: elegant, light, full of flavours and a tribute to the ingredients. Forget about haricots verts, potatoes, vinegar and grilled fresh tuna!

What You Need

  • Tomatoes
  • Salted Anchovy
  • Tuna in Oil
  • Spring Onion
  • 2 Boiled Eggs
  • Small Black (Niçoise) Olives
  • Basil
  • Olive oil
  • Optional
    • Artichoke
    • Broad Beans
    • Green Pepper
    • Garlic
    • Radish
  • Version Escoffier
    • Haricots Verts
    • Potatoes
    • Mesclun
    • Vinegar
    • Black Pepper

What You Do

For the Nissarde Cuisine version: cook the eggs until nearly set, clean the vegetables, wash and slice the anchovy. Then combine quartered tomatoes, sliced spring onion, tuna, anchovy, olives and basil. Drizzle with excellent olive oil and garnish with eggs. Toss briefly to make sure all ingredients are coated with oil.
For the Escoffier version: briefly cook the haricots verts and cool in cold water. Cook the potatoes until done. Cook the eggs until nearly set. Wash and slice the anchovy. Clean the vegetables. Combine quartered tomatoes, sliced spring onion, tuna, anchovy, olives, cubed potatoes, haricots verts and basil. Mix olive oil and vinegar. Drizzle with the dressing and garnish with eggs. Toss briefly to make sure all ingredients are coated with the dressing.
For a more luxurious version replace the canned tuna with grilled tuna.

Pissaladière

Pissaladière is a very tasty combination of onions, local French herbs, anchovies and black olives. It originates from the South of France (Côte d’Azur) and many a local boulangerie will offer their home-made, original pissaladière. We compared many recipes, enjoyed lots of slices of Pissaladière when in France and are pleased to present our version. It does not include tomatoes, milk, almonds, sugar, coconut oil and is not made with puff pastry.

Best is to make your own pastry (especially because it’s very simple) and use fresh yeast. Since it’s more and more difficult to buy, we use dried yeast. Key to making pissaladière is time. The onions need an hour, they need to cool and the dough needs to proof twice. But we’re not in a hurry!

We combined our pissaladière with French charcuterie; think Paté en Croûte (recipe to follow), Rossette (from Lyon), Rillettes d´Oie, Jambon persillé and cornichons. You could also combine pissaladière with a nice simple green salad.

We enjoyed our Pissaladière with a glass of Cô­tes de Pro­ven­ce ro­sé made of Cinsault, Grenache and Shiraz grapes. Dry, with a touch of grapefruit and wonderfully pale pink.

Here is what you need

  • 600 grams of White Onions (or a combination of White Onions and Shallots)
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • Bay Leaf
  • Anchovies
  • Halved Black Olives
  • Pastry
    • 125 grams of Flour
    • 2 grams of Yeast (depending on the yeast you use)
    • 75 ml of Water
    • Dash of Salt
    • Some Olive Oil
    • Herbes de Provences (or thyme)

Start by caramelizing the onions. Peel the onions, cut in 4 and slice. Not too thin, the onions will shrink. Fry gently in olive oil and butter. When starting to color reduce the heat, add the bay leaf and allow to simmer for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so. Check the taste, the bay leaf can be overpowering. Let cool and set aside (for instance until the next day).
Mix flour, yeast, salt and herbes de Provences. Add water and olive oil and knead for 10 minutes. Let proof for 2 hours. Transfer to kitchen top and create a thin rectangular pastry. Coat a baking plate with oil and transfer the pastry to the plate. With a fork make small holes in the pastry (not in the edge). This is important given the fact that the onions are cold and moist. Now add the onions and make a nice pattern with the anchovies and the halved olives. Bake in a hot oven (top half, 220˚ Celsius or 430˚ Fahrenheit) for 15 minutes. Serve warm (or cold) but not hot.