My Favorite French Recipes


A great window in some little village in Provence

I continue to find that most French people don’t consider Americans to be good cooks. I recently had some French people at my house for the week-end and asked them why this was. While they were scarfing down my bar-b-que and mashed potatoes, they told me that they thought this was because so many Americans ate out at restaurants, and especially fast food places, rather than cook at home. Of course, most Americans that I know, myself included, cook and eat 95% of their meals at home. Eating out is a treat for me, not a daily occurrence. Even when I worked in the States, I took my own food or a frozen meal for lunch. Anyway, I was thinking about what they said and got to thinking that the person who said Americans eat out too much has never once, in the 4 years that I’ve known her, ever cooked a meal for me. Any time we have eaten at her house, it has been take-out food, always good, but all she did was reheat it. I think it is the way of the civilized world now. When there is good food you can buy, when you work full time and you are hungry or having guests, sometimes the easiest way is the best.
A really good way to cook green beans is the recipe below. The fresh basil makes them taste fabulous to me. Before, I had always cooked canned green beans with some bacon and onions and garlic salt. In fact, to this day, my children don’t like fresh green beans, but prefer the soggier canned kind.

Green Beans With Tomatoes (Haricots Verts a la Provencale)

1 pound ripe tomatoes
1 Tb olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 2 or 3 pieces
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper

Peel and seed tomatoes and chop coarsely.
Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, add shallot
and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes until just softened.
Add the chopped tomatoes and continue cooking for about 10 minutes until
the liquid has evaporated and the tomatoes are soft, stirring often. Season
with salt and pepper.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil and add the beans and cook until
desired tenderness. Drain, stir into tomatoe mixture, then add basil. The basil makes
this especially good.

A Foggy Morning

We had a whole day of rain on Saturday, unusual and much needed. Of course, this brings to mind all that the people of the South are going through with the hurricane. I can’t imagine such destruction and my thought and prayers go out to them. Back to my happy and blessed life-I vow to enjoy every moment-I love it when I wake up and I can see fog in the valley below. The valley is called, in the old Provencal language, the Valley of Water and I think this is why there is often fog when the weather is right. I jumped in my car and quickly went to my favorite little valley to see if I could get any photos. I should have left earlier as as soon as the sun comes up, the fog disapaites. I enjoyed the experience, none the less.


A little fog can be seen in this photo.


I especially love this cross beside a vineyard, probably put there in memorial to those who died in the wars that so heavily touched the people here.


No fog, but a sign that autumn is almost here with this field of what I call pumpkins. It is a type of squash that tastes similar to pumpkin. I use it to make a really good soup. You can buy a whole one in the markets or just a wedge, which is nice when you are cooking for two. One of these days I may try it making a pumpkin pie.

Ile sur Sorgue

Another beautiful, and popular, village is Ile sur Sorgue. It is a village where the Sorgue River splits in two and then circles it. Full of narrow streets, charming squares and canals with water wheels, it is a little Venice of Provence and best known for its antique market every Sunday. I’ve never been able to find anything affordable there, but it is fun to look.


One of the water wheels on the river.


I love this sign on a cafe there.


Ile sur Sorgue has a fabulous church. Much of it is painted this wonderful blue color. These golden angels are flying on the back wall of the church.


Some more angels sitting on either side of an arch.

Pernes des Fountains

Near Ile Sur Sorgue is an interesting little town with 35 Fountains. You can pick up a map at the information center that shows you a walking route. It takes 2 hours to see them all. We just found a few and, as it was so hot, made it a short stop. There is a very interesting gate to the city here as well, centuries old.


I especially liked this little angel fountain.


The mistral, that Provencal wind that can be very irritating, joined us on our travels and did some interesting things to the clouds over Pernes.

Carpentras


We had to make a quick trip into Carpentras, an interesting little town. There is an ancient 14th century gate left from the past and, right behind the church, almost touching it, is an old Roman arch almost worn smooth. I found these autumn-looking plants for sale there which I wish I had bought.


This door knock with the head of a friendly dog appealed to me.


Here is the beautiful church there, a real mix of styles.

Autumn Arrives in Provence


Aren’t these grapes a lovely color? They are getting close to the time when they will be harvested. This hasn’t been an extremely hot summer this year so it is hard to know when harvest will be. Each year I hope I will get to see the vendage, the harvesting of the grapes and the making of wine, but I always miss it. This year, unless there is a late harvest-they are usually in September-I will miss it again. I vow to be here next September. I hate to keep missing it.


I was driving along one day on one of the little narrow roads that are all over the place in Provence past a vineyard that Maurice and I have visited before, when I suddenly saw this windmill that hadn’t been there before as far as I can remember. The body of it looks old but the wooden structure and arms are all of new wood. Anyway, it is a lovely sight to see sitting amongst the grape vines.
I think Autumn is defintely here in Provence. On the 15th of August, for the first time, I needed a sweater when we ate dinner out on our porch. The area got its first rain in months last night and there is that little coolness in the air, especially in the mornings. This is when that lovely slant of the sun occurs and the light is particularly golden.