It's been a very long time since I've taken part in a blog event. However, I will whole-heartedly participate in anything that Barbara from Winos and Foodies puts in front of me. She's been one of my longest blog buddies and her struggles with cancer & the inspiring way she puts her battles to good use are something we should all emulate. Her Tour de France blog project - where each stage is represented by a different blogger - was a way for me to learn something new about a cuisine that I adore...and a great excuse to cook dinner for friends.
Chris from Mele Cotte talked about Stage 10 and the section of the Tour before me - her post about Gap & the accompanying duck recipe look fabulous! My region is Sisteron, which is part of Stage 11, which spans 119.3 miles to Bourg Les Valence. Sisteron is known as "The Gate to Provence". With a population of around 8,000 residents, its located 135 km from Marseille and Grenoble & 180 km from Nice. From all accounts, they have around 300 sunny days per year. Who's moving with me?
The cuisine of Sisteron follows much of the same flavor profiles as the other regions of Provence. Sisteron is most well known for their lamb. Lamb stews, garlicky lamb shanks and roasted chops rubbed simply with Herbes de Provence. There are plentiful amounts of wild herbs as well as grains, goat milk and cheeses. Bread rubbed with garlic and tomatoes. For that matter, tomatoes in many forms. Briny olives and capers tempered by mild citrus and starches.
Our Sisteron meal started with icy cold Rosé and homemade black olive tapenade. I just lightly toasted the bread after I rubbed the slices with garlic cloves. The quick, almost fridge-cleaner recipe I used made plenty & enough to throw into pasta the next day.
Black Olive Tapenade - serves 4 as an appetizer
- 30 pitted Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
- 1 Tbsp rinsed, drained, and chopped capers
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice and zest of one lemon
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp anchovy paste
- Fresh cracked black pepper
At dinner, the lamb chops were rubbed with a bit of Dijon mustard and Herbes de Provence then roasted in the oven for about 25 minutes at 350. While I don't eat much lamb, this was proclaimed by our guests to be their favorite preparation of lamb they've ever had. The real star of the main course - for which I also made a Tian de Courgettes that was too dense to recommend here - was the Tomatoes Provencal. I used Laurent Tourondel's recipe and they were divine - garlicky, flavorful, herby and a great source of texture on the plate. I'd make this over and over again.
Tomatoes Provencal - serves 6 as a side dish
- 6 tomatoes, halved lengthwise and cored
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
- 5 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season tomato halves with salt and pepper, and set them on a baking sheet. Mix together the bread crumbs, parsley, and garlic in a bowl, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover tomatoes with the mixture, and drizzle with oil. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
My dear friend Helen, who considers Sisteron her backyard in her native France, consulted with me on my menu. When I asked what I should serve to finish the meal, she gave me a wonderful recounting of desserts in Provence: roasted fruit, a little honey, some ice cream or sorbet - maybe a drizzle of port on sliced fruit.
Roasted Apricots with Goat Milk Ice Cream - serves 4
- 4 just-ripe apricots, sliced in half vertically & pitted
- 1 tablespoon fruity extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pint good quality goat's milk vanilla ice cream or your favorite good quality ice cream
- 2 tablespoons best quality local honey
- 1 tsp. dried lavender flowers
- Preheat oven to 325 F. In a shallow roasting pan, place apricots cut sides up and drizzle them all with the olive oil. Roast until just tender - this was about 15 minutes for me. Once the fruit is roasted, set aside to cool slightly while assembling the rest of the dessert. Scoop 2 small scoops of ice cream into serving bowls, Top with roasted fruit, a drizzle of honey & a sprinkle of lavender flowers. Serve immediately.
Thanks again to Barbara for organizing this event and coordinating it so well - it's been so much fun. Keep following the Tour via food bloggers - there are still lots of stages left. Next up, Stage 12: Borg de Peage - Mende, brought to you by Tammi of Tammi Tasting Terroir.