The Gift of French Cuisine

The French peasant cuisine is at the basis of the culinary art. By this I mean it is composed of honest elements that la grande cuisine only embellishes. -Alexandre Dumaine I don’t remember exactly when it happened. One day I resisted even opening my then-pristine copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking…

Unquenchable: Natalie MacLean’s Terrific New Book on Wine

If, like me – overwhelmed by the hundreds of possible choices in front of you at the grocery store or local wine shop – you’ve ever stood in front of the endless shelves of stunning wine bottles and felt like just closing your eyes and grabbing a bottle, any bottle (preferably one on the lower…

Monkfish: A Little Love, French-Style

I first gazed on his ugly mug in French-influenced Morocco, more precisely at the fish market in Rabat. And like Beauty with the Beast, I fell in love. Sea devil. Crapaud. Baudroie. Lotte. Goosefish. Anglerfish. Poor Man’s Lobster. … It seems his name is Legion (Nomen mihi Legio est, quia multi sumus) … . Monkfish (Lophius…

The Provençal Pantry in Poetry and Photos

Readers of Gherkins & Tomatoes / Cornichons & Tomates will see something new in the coming weeks — tiny photo essays. A weekly showcasing of some of the basic components of the Provençal (and frankly French) pantry, enlivened with a blessedly small pinch of poetry, these meditative snippets incarnate my intense desire for fresh, nay…

Oreillettes, A Part of Provence’s Thirteen Desserts

Fried dough, a universal love. Grease, sugar, what more could you dream of? In the south of France,  when you want fried dough, you’ll get oreillettes. As with any traditional holiday dish, each cook has his or her version. The signature taste with these oreillettes is the orange flower water. In New Orleans, oreillettes come…

The Provençal Thirteen: Fennel- and Cumin-Scented Sablés

In France, you’ll find sablés,  buttery cookies that originated in Normandy. (You know they had all that butter to get rid of there.) Most sablés are sweet. But in Provence, for the famous Thirteen Desserts of Christmas Eve, cooks prefer savory little disks perfumed with fennel and cumin. Cumin? How did cumin get into mix?…

Nougat Noir, or Black Nougat, Another of the Thirteen Desserts

A Provençal gros souper (Christmas Eve dinner) would not be correct without some nougat noir to challenge the skill of your dentist and possibly lay waste to your dental work. In other words, nougat noir can be a bête [bite!] noire*, if you’re not careful. For nougat noir is a hard candy, not the pillowy stuff…