by Kate Heyhoe
Georgeanne Brennan, acclaimed author of Potager and The Glass Pantry, takes readers on an evocative journey to the rustic, earthy, and romantic region of her beloved Haute Provence in The Food and Flavors of Haute Provence. Brennan's Provence is not the land of sunny beaches and trendy cafes but the "hidden" Provence—the remote, arid, mountainous land beyond the Mediterranean. Here Brennan offers a loving homage to this special region, a rich tapestry of personal stories, delicious recipes, and lessons in centuries-old techniques for preparing herbs, mushrooms, and olives; raising and preparing snails; making blood sausage; and preparing nuts, honey, and fruits.
In 1970, Georgeanne Brennan, her husband, and their two-year-old daughter moved to a small farmhouse without electricity in Haute Provence to get away from the turmoil of life in the United States during the Vietnam War. Just over an hour's drive from the glamour and sophistication of the Cote d'Azur and Avignon, "Haute Provence," writes Brennan "remains a wild and mysterious place where the inhabitants still live within the rhythm of the seasons and nature has yet to be conquered." It is a small world of skilled farmers, peasants, shepherds. beekeepers, poachers, cheese makers, hunters, housewives, and retirees-a poor area whose hilly mountains are dotted with oak and pine forests.
In The Food and Flavors of Haute Provence, Brennan remembers this time and of how her family supported themselves by raising pigs, keeping a herd of goats and making goat cheese that she sold in the markets. The Brennans immersed themselves in their arduous but intensely rewarding life in a land that was still ruled by the seasons and by learning the techniques necessary to Fill their pantry and earn a simple living.
Brennan shares dozens of authentic recipes that can be easily made at home. The recipes are organized according to the defining ingredients of the terroir of Haute Provence namely, wild herbs and lavender, sheep, goats and pigs; wild game and fish; nuts, and honey and fruits. Each chapter features instructions on making indispensable Proven┴al pantry items. Some of the techniques include drying herbs and making herbes de Provence, curing, brining, and seasoning olives; seasoning fresh cheeses; drying and pickling mushrooms; desalting and poaching salt cod; and preserving fruits in alcohol.
Brennan provides recipes for easy-to-prepare and mouthwatering dishes including starters such as Dandelion Salad with Lardons and Hard-Cooked Eggs, Fennel-Flavored Cream of Squash Soup; savory dishes like Leg of Lamb in a Crust of Herbes de Provence; Thyme-Stuffed Roast Chicken: Poor Man's Foie Gras: Fava Beans and Salt Cod in Green Garlic Cream: Fireplace-Grilled Trout with Olive Oil and Rosemary: and satisfying desserts such as Tarte Tatin of Brandied Pears and Fresh Apricot Clafouti.
Readers are invited to join her as she raises goats, makes her own fresh goat's milk cheese, lovingly tends to her vegetable garden, tentatively sautes her first blood sausage, and wanders through the woods in search of elusive wild mushrooms. Not only does Brennan successfully capture the sights, smells and sounds of this little-known region, the recipes in The Food and Flavors of Haute Provence "convey the sense and the ease of cooking seasonally with local and regional ingredients that is the essence of life in Haute Provence."
Georgeanne Brennan's books include Aperitif, Potager, The Glass Pantry, and The Vegetarian Table: France (all from Chronicle Books). Recently featured in Fine Cooking and Food & Wine, she divides her time between Northern California and Provence. Jeffrey Fisher's illustrations have appeared in many books and magazines. He lives in France. Patricia Wells is the author of Bistro Cooking and Simply French. She divides her time between Paris and Provence.
A delicate soft, caille doux cheese is called for here. The almonds form a slight crust on the cheese, and, were it not for the bed of thinly sliced tomatoes and butter lettuce, the cheese and its topping could be considered for dessert. This is my version of this dish, which I had at the Grand Hotel in Valensole.
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced shallot
3 firm, slightly green, not too juicy tomatoes
1 head butter lettuce
1/2 cup thinly sliced almonds
4 soft goat cheeses, each 3 to 4 inches in diameter and about 1/2 inch thick
In a small bowl, stir together the olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper to form a vinaigrette. Stir in the shallot.
Cut the tomatoes into very thin slices. If possible, they should be no more than 1/16 inch thick. Separate the lettuce leaves from the head and select the pale, innermost leaves; reserve the others for another use. Tear these tender leaves into large pieces and place in a bowl. Add the vinaigrette and, using two spoons, turn to coat the leaves. Divide the lettuce among individual plates and drizzle with the dressing. Make a bed of several tomato slices in the middle of each bed of lettuce leaves.
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. When it is hot, put the sliced almonds into it and shake the pan as they toast. The almonds will turn golden in 2 or 3 minutes.
The Food and Flavors of Haute Provence
Publication Date: November 6, 1997
$24.95 hardcover, 319 pages
7x9-1/4. Line drawings throughout
Reprinted by permission.
For an additional recipe from the book, see:
Cherry Tomato Pasta with Fresh Goat Cheese
This page originally published as a Global Gourmet Today column in 1998.
Copyright © 2007, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page modified January 2007
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