Our Vacation Rental Homes in Sablet, Provence

Sablet Village, Vaucluse, Provence, France
Maison des Pelerins and La Baume des Pelerins, or "les Pelerins" as we affectionately refer to our dream come true, of owning our own homes in Provence, are located in the heart of the Vaucluse. We thoroughly enjoy hearing from our guests to "les Pelerins" that they feel they are spending time in their own home in Provence. To be a part of village life, Sablet is the perfect place. "Les Pelerins" dates back to the time when the Popes administered the Catholic Church from Avignon, with a Papal Vice-Legat having a residence right here in Sablet. Our neighbor's home was the Vice-Legat's residence. Ours was one of the buildings that housed visitors and pilgrims and was connected to it, as we can see from the internal portals, and the front door of Maison des Pelerins. Hence the name - Pelerins is French for pilgrims. I hope this Blog will help you get to know Provence and live your Provencal Dream.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Provencal Cuisine - "la Cuisine du Soleil"

The sun is shining ... birds and cigales sing .... this means breakfast, lunch and dinner in the courtyard at Maison des Pelerins and thoughts of cooking in Provence.

Lunch under the parasol in the courtyard at Maison des Pelerins - Tarte Provencale followed by a green salad,fresh Chevre and Cavaillon Melon ...
La Cuisine du Soleil - with its intensely sunny and natural  flavors of Provence - rosemary, thyme and other herbs growing wild in the fields, that sheep graze on; Fish straight from the Mediterranean - caught daily; fresh tomatoes and garlic - green and mild in the Spring, but stronger when it is dried, the way we see it throughout the year; intensely sweet melons, strawberries and figs ...  the bright colors reminding you of their freshness and their rich flavors which have drawn food lovers to this part of France for a very long time.

Succulent figs and fresh Chevre - a perfect pair
Throughout France, food and cooking is an art, both in practice and in form - delicious - and beautiful to look at.  In Provence, you see this all around you - in markets, shops and restaurants ...
if you are traveling to Provence, get ready for a treat.

The Essentials - a good Olive Oil and Herbes de Provence
Here are some of my favorite Provencal dishes you may see on menus:

Bouillabaisse: Who has not heard of Bouillabaisse? (Otherwise known as "woolly bears" to our then four year old son). A hearty saffron based Seafood Stew, served as a main course – usually a special meal. The origin of this dish comes from the very fisherman who went out into the Mediterranean every night, coming back - boats laden with all varieties of fish. Amongst these were smaller boney fish such as racasse (skorpion fish), that were caught up in the nets. These fish, while not particularly pleasant to eat due to their bones,  made the perfect base for a strong and flavorful soup, which was the fisherman's meal. The traditional Marseillaise way for serving Bouillabaisse, is to serve the broth first, with rouille - a spicy, garlicky mayonaise which gets its name from the rusty color of the saffron used in its preparation - croutons, and a finely grated sharp cheese. The fish and any vegetables are then served as a second course.

Marseille is the home of this dish where the “Vieux Port” is lined with many restaurants featuring this specialty. Along the Mediterranean coast, you find Bouillabaisse on the menu in many smaller towns and villages as well. Local cooks will tell you that a good Bouillabaisse must have three important ingredients:  the bony rock fish found in the Mediterranean; a fine saffron; and rich Provencal olive oil (and herbes de Provence).

Bouillabaisse as it is traditionally served at the Vieux Port in Marseille
Soupe de Poissons: Earthy Mediterranean fish soup, served with aioli (garlic mayonnaise), garlic for rubbing on croutons, croutons and finely grated sharp cheese.

Rouille - a mayonnaise made with saffron, garlic and spices  is  a traditional accompaniment to Bouillabaisse
Daube Provencale: Traditional Provencal stew, made with either beef, veal or lamb. Perfumed with Herbs de Provence and orange zest, and cooked with a good amount of red wine. Since the Provencaux have always been hard working people who went out into the fields or vineyards each day, dishes such as the Daube, which requires slow cooking, became common. The basic recipe could be prepared in advance (in the morning), and left to cook (mijoter), while the family went out to work in the fields or vineyards. When they returned at lunchtime, the meal was ready.

Pistou is a close relative of its Italian cousin Pesto
Soupe au Pistou - a hearty vegetable soup richly flavored with Pistou
Soupe au Pistou: The soup of Provence. Perfumed with Basil and rich in flavor.

Ratatouille - a bright combination of summer vegetables - shown here is a sauteed version of the dish
Here - Ratatouille in which the vegetables are mixed and baked.  Vegetable Tians (a name given to various combinations of vegetables prepared and baked in a ceramic dish known locally as a tian), are common in Provencal cuisine.  Although the cooking vessel is not the traditional shape of a tian, this dish would be referred to as a "tian". The shape of the tian is a straight sided ceramic dish,  with a narrow base spreading out to a wide rim that has a pouring lip. You will see these at many markets and in stores.
Ratatouille: A vegetable mixture (usually tomatoes, eggplant aka. aubergines, bell peppers, onions, garlic and herbes de Provence, but sometimes including zucchini aka courgette). Served hot usually as an accompaniment to meat, or cold as a starter.

One of my favorites for using leftover Ratatouille is to spread it thinly on a Galette Sarasin (buckwheat crepe) with a light sprinkling of cheese. Served with a green salad, it makes a delicious and easy light meal. I was first introduced to these at the L'Annexe Cafe on the Place de Montfort in Vaison la Romaine, where is it named the Galette Sarasin - Provencal.  They also serve many other varieties of "galettes" with other savory fillings.

Tapenade: Olive spread served on toast or with raw vegetables with “aperitif”.  It is readily available at  Provencal markets, and in any supermarket.

Anchoiade: Also for “aperitif” anchovy paste served in a similar manner to Tappenade.

Pissaladiere - "grown up's Pizza"
Pissaladiere:  Ina Garten described this dish on one of her "Barefoot Contessa" episodes as "a grown up's pizza".  It does indeed have a pizza base, and I have eaten it on a thin cracker crust style base, as well as a thicker base.  The topping is what makes it uniquely Provencal.  A layer of rich, golden, caramelized onions (and garlic), anchovies (my preference is for those preserved in olive oil), dotted with dark olives and sprinkled with a strong, sharp cheese (such as Parmesan) and herbes de Provence. mmm.......

These are only a few of the treats you will encounter in Provence during your adventures with a knife, fork and spoon.         Bon Courage .... Bon Chance .... most of all .... Bon Apetit!

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