Provençal pleasures

Cooking in Provence is an artistic affair; Simple and delicious are the key words.

Beef Daube Provencal (photo credit: AYA MASSIAS)
Beef Daube Provencal
(photo credit: AYA MASSIAS)
 Aya and I are delighted to announce that Prof. Samuel Torjman Thomas will be joining us as scholar in residence on our upcoming Jewish heritage culinary tour of Provence and Catalonia (June 20- 30). He is a professor of Sephardi studies and Ethnomusicology at Hunter College and John Jay College and the artistic director of the New York Andalus Ensemble. Thomas will be providing exciting contextual learning in the form of mini-lectures throughout our tour, including texts, poetry and songs that will bring the region’s heritage to life. We would love you to join us.
This week’s recipes are from the Provence region.
Cooking in Provence is an artistic affair. Just as artists and poets like Jean Giono, Marcel Pagnol, Matisse, Picasso, Cezanne and Van Gogh chose this beautiful, romantic, colorful part of the world to live and create in, the pervading joie de vivre also affects the culinary treasures of the area. Simple and delicious are the key words.
Tuna Tartare is a very elegant appetizer for any dinner party, including a holiday or Shabbat meal.
Fresh salmon, bass or bream can be substituted for the tuna, but be aware that any non-frozen or tinned fish used for the tartare must be bought from a fishmonger on the same day and checked for absolute freshness.
The main course, Beef Daube Provencal is one of Provence’s most authentic dishes. It is very rich and at the same time extremely tasty. It is also similar to ossobuco in Italy. You will need fatty meat, either beef shanks or even a nice fatty rib eye or sirloin. Brisket can be good for this stew.
As for the Banana Pie dessert, I tasted it at a bistro in Saint Remy de Provence and immediately decided to make it one of my favorites in the dessert section of my forthcoming cookbook. 
The writer, a London Savoy Hotel-trained chef and former owner of various high-end restaurants in Jerusalem and New York, hails from a Spanish and Portuguese Sephardi family. He and his wife live on a farm in Andalusia and run Yaya Food and Travel, specializing in gourmet kosher Jewish heritage culinary tours in Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Sicily and Provence. Isaac and Aya Massias can be reached directly at or or +34 678011585 Please note the correct Yaya Food & Travel website address:
Serves 6
5 ripe medium-size avocados
2 green onions finely chopped
1 medium-sized red onion finely chopped
1 small red pepper finely chopped
½ cup cilantro very finely chopped
2 Tbsp. good mayonnaise Salt and black pepper to taste
Tuna Tartare
½ kilo very fresh yellow-fin tuna
¼ cup chives very finely chopped
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup sesame seeds
In a bowl mix avocado, red pepper, cilantro, mayonnaise, salt and black pepper to taste (be aware that the soy sauce in the tartare will add saltiness to the dish) until you achieve a nice creamy mix.
Chop tuna into small pieces and place in a bowl. Add the chives, soy sauce, sesame oil, olive oil, salt and pepper; mix well.
Prepare 7.5-cm. metal molds (they can be round, square or rectangular) and just before serving place them on a tray and half fill them with the guacamole.
Add the layer of tartare, decorate with sesame seeds.
When the guests are ready for the first course, remove the metal molds and you will be left with the beautiful shape and color of the guacamole and tartare.
Serves 6
Use a medium-sized heavy steel pot.
1 kilo fresh fatty beef, cut into 6 big pieces
1 medium-sized leak, chopped
1 medium-sized onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 whole head of garlic
Fresh rosemary to taste
Fresh thyme to taste
3 bay leaves
1 liter beef stock (you can use chicken stock)
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cups dry red wine
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Start by heating the oil. When very hot, add the beef and brown on all sides for 5 minutes. Add the leek, onion, carrot, garlic, fresh herbs, bay leaves and red wine.
Cook for 2 hours. As it cooks, gradually add the beef stock. The meat should always be covered by the stock, and when it finishes cooking, it should have a lovely, thick dark brown sauce. In Provence it is served with pasta or mashed potato and steamed carrots. Serving recommendation: a good dry red wine is advisable.
Step 1: Base
100 gr. butter, melted
250 gr. digestive biscuits, crushed.
Step 2: Topping
4 ripe bananas
1 cup fresh custard
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup fresh whipping cream
1 cup dulce de leche
½ cup grated Belgium chocolate
½ cup grated hazelnuts
You can prepare this pie in any size Pyrex dish, but I usually prefer a 20-cm. loose-bottomed cake tin. Start by pouring the cookie crumbs into a bowl. Add the melted butter, and with your fingers make it like a dough and start pressing it into your base to make your pie shell. Chill for 15 minutes.
Take pie shell out of the fridge and add the dulce de leche. With a knife, make sure it’s evenly spread and put it back into the fridge for 10 minutes. In a mixing bowl, whip the cream and sugar. When ready, fold in the custard. Once you have a nice thick cream, refrigerate for 10 minutes.
Slice the bananas. Take the tart shell out of the fridge and place banana slices on top of the dulce de leche. Spread the creamy custard evenly over the bananas and put back into the fridge for 2 hours. Just before serving, decorate with grated chocolate and hazelnuts and serve with vanilla ice cream and fresh strawberries. The banana tart can also be made in individual containers (see photo).