Cooking: Food markets of Provence

Recipes for kosher French cooking from Provence.

Apricot pie, served with ice cream. (photo credit: AYA MASSIAS)
Apricot pie, served with ice cream.
(photo credit: AYA MASSIAS)
Provence most suits those who like walking, cooking and eating as well as good wines. One can visit food markets in various towns in Provence and then enjoy preparing authentic Provençal cuisine with the fresh products.
For kosher wines you could visit the Vignobles David winery in the Rhone Valley. In our last visit there we tasted his Châteauneuf-du- Pape made from grapes from the higher elevations of the vineyard – very good wine but extremely difficult to get hold of. The proprietor of the winery is Frederick, a great friend of mine, and in my opinion he makes two of the best kosher wines available.
If you visit Provence, I recommend the food markets in Saint-Rémy on Wednesdays, and Carpentras on Fridays, but my favorite is in the Luberon on Sundays in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, where you find everything from pastries to fruits and vegetables and even antique furniture.
When in Provence, we usually stay at the InterContinental Marseille – Hotel Dieu or at Le Vallon de Valrugues & Spa in Saint-Rémy, both five-star hotels. We also have our own kosher kitchens there.
As usual, my three recipes today will be from Provence: ratatouille (it even lent its name to a famous Walt Disney film), bouillabaisse and a nice apricot pie served with ice cream.
The writer is a trained chef, former owner of restaurants in New York and Jerusalem, and runs Yaya Food & Travel Ltd. (gourmet kosher Jewish heritage and culinary tours in Spain, Portugal, Provence, Gibraltar, Sicily and Morocco)
Serves 5
■ 1 red onion, roughly chopped
■ 1 green onion, roughly chopped
■ 5 garlic cloves, chopped
■ 2 medium-size eggplants, roughly chopped
■ 2 zucchini, roughly chopped
■ 1 green pepper, chopped
■ 1 red pepper, chopped
■ 5 ripe tomatoes, chopped (you can also use a 500-gr. tin of fried peeled tomatoes)
■ 1 bay leaf
■ ½ cup chopped mixed fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme and basil)
■ ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
■ ½ cup dry white wine
■ ½ l. vegetable stock
■ Sea salt and pepper, to taste.
Prepare the ingredients and heat the olive oil in a medium-size pot. When hot, start sautéing the onions, garlic and peppers. When nice and brown, add the eggplants, zucchini and mix well. Cook for 5 minutes and add the tomatoes, bay leaf and fresh herbs. Mix well.
Cook for 7 minutes and then add the wine and stock.
Leave for about 1 hour to cook. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
Serve very hot. Always drizzle some olive oil on top and decorate with some fresh basil.
Also very nice, once it’s ready, is to place in a Pyrex dish, cover with fresh mozzarella and place in the grill.
Serves 4
■ 1 kg. drum fish (musar) filleted, but keep the bones and head
■ 4 baby red mullet (barbounia), cleaned
■ 1 kg. gray mullet (buri), cleaned and cut into 1-in. slices
■ 2 large onion, chopped
■ 1 fennel, cleaned and chopped
■ 2 garlic cloves, sliced
■ 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
■ 2 boiled potatoes, chopped
■ 3 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped
■ ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
■ ½ cup dry white wine
■ 1 bay leaf
■ ½ tsp. saffron threads
■ ½ tsp. powdered paprika
■ 2 liters fish stock
■ Sea salt and pepper, to taste
■ 100 gr. baguette, sliced into long slices and toasted
Start by boiling in 2½ liters of water the heads of all the fish and bones of the drum fish, one onion, fennel, bay leaf and carrots. Boil for 2 hours, remove from the heat and pass through a sieve. You will be left with a nice, colorful aromatic stock.
In a clean pot add olive oil and start sautéing the other onion, garlic and tomatoes. Mix well until onions are soft and brownish. Add potatoes, wine, paprika, all the fish stock and saffron. Cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Reduce heat and start adding fish. Boil for an extra 20 minutes. Salt and pepper, to taste.
Toast baguette slices, drizzle some olive oil on your croutons. Prepare 4 deep soup bowls. Carefully transfer fish from the soup, then ladle some of the aromatic broth into each bowl and serve with a crouton on each bowl.
Serves 6
■ 1 kg. puff pastry (from any supermarket)
■ 1 kg. ripe apricots, washed pitted and sliced
■ 2 Tbsp. apricot marmalade
■ 2 small rosemary flowers
■ 2 large eggs
■ 20 gr. sugar
■ 3 Tbsp. corn flour
■ 1 vanilla pod, split and scraped
■ ¼ pint whole milk
■ 300 ml. cream
For the custard: Start by mixing with a metal whisk the corn flour, sugar, vanilla pod and eggs. Gradually start mixing in the milk and cream. Place over a low heat and heat gently, mixing constantly until you have a nice, smooth and thick custard. Very important: Do not boil! Put aside in the fridge to cool.
Open your puff pastry over an oven tray and bake in a medium-hot oven at 180° for 25 minutes. Remove when brown and puffed; leave to cool.
Once your custard is cold, spread it over the puff pastry, then carefully place all your sliced apricots on the custard and, with a brush, cover the apricots with the marmalade.
Place for 5 minutes under the grill and serve immediately with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.