Asparagus with Basil and Olives

End of June means end-of-season for asparagus, morels and ramson (wild garlic). But let’s not be sad! It’s also the beginning of Summer; time to dine al fresco and serve vibrant, light flavours. We combine the very last white asparagus with green asparagus, black olives and basil. Feel free to use green asparagus only. The dish will lose some of its bitterness and complexity but it’s still a great combination of flavours and aromas.

Wine Pairing

Best to enjoy with a full bodied and elegant red wine. Flavour-wise you’re looking for lots of fruit, mild tannins and a touch of wood. We enjoyed our asparagus with a glass of Cantine Due Palme Salento Il Passo Nero 2019. This wine from Puglia (Italy) is made from late harvested negroamaro grapes. Dark berry fruit, medium full tannins and a beautiful deep colour.

What You Need

  • Asparagus
    • Equal Amount of White and Green Asparagus
    • Basil
    • Black Olives (preferably Cailletier or Taggiasca)
    • Olive oil
  • Lamb Chops
    • Olive Oil
    • Thyme
    • Garlic
    • Black Pepper

What You Do

Peel the white asparagus and cut of the end. Wash the green asparagus and cut of the end. Slice the asparagus in nice chunks (4 centimetres or so). Combine the asparagus with olive oil and a nice amount of black olives. Transfer to the refrigerator.
When ready for your al fresco dinner, heat your oven to 190˚- 200˚ Celsius (or 375˚- 390˚ Fahrenheit). Mix after 10 minutes and again after 20 minutes. The asparagus should now be ready (if not, another 10 minutes should do the trick). Add half of the basil leaves.

If you serve the asparagus with lamb chops: leave the chops to marinate in olive oil, crushed garlic and thyme for 24 hours in the refrigerator. Remove thyme. Heat a heavy iron skillet and fry the chops in olive oil (4 minutes depending on the size). When ready keep the chops warm in aluminium foil. Fry the thyme in the remaining oil. In parallel add more basil leaves to the asparagus and mix.

  • Asparagus with Basil and Olives ©cadwu
  • Ingredients of Asparagus with Basil and Olives © cadwu
  • Asparagus with Basil and Olives Ready to go into the Oven© 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

Asparagus with Basil and Olives

Al Fresco

Finally, summer is here (more or less) and the time is right for outdoor dining. You want to enjoy the evening so you’re looking for something you can prepare in advance. Given you’re eating al fresco you want something with powerful flavours and present aromas. A salad is nice, easy and too obvious. Tasty vegetables and ingredients that will make you think of summer. Of course! Olives, basil and asparagus.  Time to begin working on the mise en place.

Wine Pairing

Best to combine with a full bodied and elegant red wine. Flavour-wise you’re looking for red fruit and a touch of spiciness. We enjoyed our asparagus with a glass of La Tour Beaumont Cabernet Franc. This wine is from the Loire region and it is made by Pierre Morgeau, who was awarded the title of Wine Maker of the year 2019 by the renowned Guide Hachette. His focus is on the vineyards, the terroir and the environment in combination with a vinification as natural as possible.

What You Need

  • Asparagus
    • Equal Amount of White and Green Asparagus
    • Basil
    • Black Olives (preferably Cailletier or Taggiasca)
    • Olive oil
  • Meat Balls
    • 250 gram minced meat of Lamb
    • Cilantro
    • Mustard
    • 1 Egg
    • 1 Slice of Old Bread
    • Cumin
    • Pinch of Salt
    • Black Pepper

What You Do

Peel the white asparagus and cut of the end. Wash the green asparagus and cut of the end. Slice the asparagus in nice chunks (4 centimetres or so). Combine the asparagus with olive oil and a nice amount of black olives. Transfer to the refrigerator.
Toast the old slice of bread and let cool. Chop and transfer to the blender. You’ll now have home made chapelure. Beat the egg. Chop the cilantro. Combine all ingredients and create small meatballs. Store in the refrigerator. Mise en place done.
When ready for your al fresco dinner, heat your oven to 190˚ – 200˚ Celsius (or 375˚ – 390˚  Fahrenheit). Add a few basil leaves to the asparagus mixture and transfer to the oven. After 10 minutes mix and add more basil leaves. After again 10 minutes heat a heavy iron skillet and start frying the meatballs in olive oil. In parallel add more basil leaves to the asparagus and mix. After 10 minutes transfer the meatballs to a plate covered with kitchen paper. Add some basil leaves to the asparagus, mix and serve a generous amount of vegetables on a hot plate. Top with 5 meatballs.
PS Feel free to use green asparagus only. The dish will lose some of its bitterness and complexity but it’s still a great combination of flavours and aromas.

Quail with Pruneaux d’Agen, Sage and Olives

Quail

We love our quails! They have a delicate taste, but they also allow you to add strong flavours like sage, bay leaf or black olives. We prefer small and tasty black olives (in oil) for instance Taggia olives from Italy. Prune-wise Pruneaux d’Agen are ideal, but in general the prune should be moist, sweet and full of flavours.

Wine Pairing

A medium bodied red wine, not too complex, will work very well; for instance a Shiraz. We enjoyed our quail with a glass of Puech d’Hortes from La Colombette made from syrah and grenache grapes. The wine should balance with the sweetness (sage, Pruneaux d’Agen), the nutty character of the pancetta and the bitterness of the olives and the sage.

What You Need

  • 2 Quails
  • 50 grams of Pancetta
  • Sage (fresh, 6 leaves or so)
  • 6 Pruneaux d’Agen
  • 10 or more Black Olives
  • Olive oil
  • Butter

What You Do

Make sure the quail is sufficiently fat, not damaged and not frozen. Clean the inside of the quails with kitchen paper and remove anything that’s left. We prefer it if the head is still attached to the body. This allows you to use the skin of the neck, after having removed the head and the spine. Cut 4 prunes, the pancetta, the sage and the olives in smaller bits and mix together. Now stuff the quail with the mixture and finish with a prune. Use kitchen string to close the quail. Pre-heat your oven to 220° Celsius or 430°  Fahrenheit. Put the quails in a skillet with olive oil. Put some butter on top of the quail. Make sure the breast is downward facing. This way the fat will go towards the breast, making sure these are nice and moist. Put in upper half of oven. After 10 minutes turn the quails and label fat over the breast. After another 10 minutes your quails should be ready and golden. This of course depends on your oven. You may want to give the quails a few extra minutes. Remove from the oven, cover the quails with aluminium foil and let them rest for 10 minutes. Remove the kitchen string before serving.

 

Monkfish with Tomato Olive Sauce

Not the kind of fish you want to meet when swimming in the sea, but definitely one you want to meet when shopping at the fishmonger. Make sure you bring some money because monkfish tends to be expensive. Great meat, delicate yet distinctive taste and not difficult to prepare as long as you’re not in a hurry.
The sauce has to be made a day in advance. It needs time to cook and time to integrate.
You will need to remove the skin of the monkfish. There seem to be several layers of skin and one is (when cooked) really rubbery and inedible. So take you knife, start at the tail end and move forwards, thus removing the membrane. You will find useful videos on the Internet. Unfortunately these videos suggest removing the main bone of the fish, which is a mistake for three reasons. You lose taste and meat plus you lose a natural indicator of the cuisson of the fish.
Pitted black olives. Sounds simple but isn’t simple at all. Buy quality, for instance Niçoise or Kalamate and stay away from cheap and canned. Dry-cured black olives (the wrinkly ones like Nyon) can be overpowering.
Monkfish is an essential ingredient of Zarzuela because of its texture and taste. In this recipe we combine the obvious: monkfish and tomato. We add a bouquet garni consisting of rosemary, thyme and bay leaf. The black olives give the required twist to the sauce and the dish as a whole.

We suggest a glass of Chardonnay to accompany the monkfish, provided the wine is not too woody; a light touch of oak will be best. Soave could also be a good combination.

Here is what you need

  • one Shallot
  • one Garlic Glove
  • Olive Oil
  • two Tomatoes
  • Pitted Black Olives
  • Bay Leaf
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Monkfish (200 gram per person, bone included)
  • Black Pepper

Start by making the sauce. Gently fry the chopped shallot in a splash of olive oil. After a few minutes add the chopped garlic. Now add the chopped tomatoes and the pitted black olives (depending on their taste we suggest between 10 and 15). Add the bouquet garni and allow to cook on low heat for a number of hours. Make sure to check on a regular basis. When ready, remove the bouquet garni and transfer to a blender. Pass the mixture through a sieve. The sauce should be as smooth as possible. Transfer to the refrigerator and use the next day.
Use a heavy iron skillet to fry the monkfish in olive oil. When nicely coloured, reduce the heat and start adding the sauce. Since the sauce is cold, you need to do it spoon by spoon. Coat the fish with warm sauce, again, and again. Use your knife to try separating the meat from the bone. When this is possible without applying too much pressure, the fish is nearly perfect. Remove the bone, turn the fish on the side that was connected to the bone and cook for one or two minutes. Taste the sauce; maybe you want to add some fresh black pepper.
Serve on a warm plate with some crusted bread.

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.