It is a quiet, cloudy Sunday in Arles and I am grateful to have a few minutes for this new post. We have had eleven teens with us this past week, along with Dorette Snover (pictured above with me at a picnic at the home of organic wine maker Jean-Paul Cabanis) of C'est si bon! cooking school in Chapel Hill and her assistant par excellence, Emily Whipper. The group is off to Avignon this morning and I stayed back to work on reservations sent to the bed & breakfast via email.
It has been a busy week! We have cooked with the teens each night. One night, we made dough for pissaladière and pizza (all delicious!) and that was a huge success. I think they had all been without pizza for way too long. Last night, they divided into groups, with each group in charge of a part of our meal. The day before, each group met with Chefs Érick and Dorette and me, the translator, to discuss ideas for recipes. Érick had to bring them back to earth a bit by letting them know what is in season and available at the market at this time. One group really wanted to work with tuna, but the limit of locally fished tuna has already been met in southern France. Érick will not buy fish that is not caught locally by fishermen he knows and trusts. Saturday morning is Arles' big market day, so after breakfast we all headed to the market with our shopping lists in hand to buy ingredients for the meal. I accompanied the group in charge of the main dish as we looked for olives, sun-dried tomatoes and onions. The teens worked hard in the kitchen, beginning at 5:30 pm, aproned and ready to go. I asked that they stay focused, clean up after themselves and make it a goal to get dinner on the table by 8:30. They met all three of those goals and we had a feast! Seafood salad- shrimp, mussels, tellines and palourdes on a bed of lettuce with a lemon-mustard dressing, shrimp and leeks cooked with cumin, purée of caramelized zucchini and yellow squash, guinea hen stuffed with rice, black and green olives, and sun-dried tomatoes, roasted potatoes, zucchini and tomatoes with herbes de provence, haricots verts en persillade, and two beautiful millefeuilles garnished with fresh strawberries, black and red currants and raspberries. The stuffed guinea hens were a new recipe, created by the girls and we look forward to getting it down on paper and adding it to our repertoire!
We got up early one morning and headed out at 5:00 am to Maillane to visit the Fassy family-owned and run bakery. Once again, a true religious experience-- pain au chocolat right out of the oven. Each morning, the bakers make 300-400 baguettes, as well as croissants, fougasse (their specialty-- a savory pastry baked with olives), small pizzas, an almond pastry whose name I do not know but I see it in my dreams, brioche filled with cream and tiny chocolate chips, just to name a few.
Yesterday, we all went for a boat ride on the Rhône river for a couple of hours. Our host was Philippe, a local historian. We invited him to have dinner with us and he amazed me with his knowledge of French history. Did you know that monks were also soldiers back in the day? Well, I didn't. Philippe made it all very interesting. And it does somehow seem to come to life when you are right where it all happened.
We visited the Cabanis winery for an official tasting, to Claudine, the goat cheese maker for a picnic, to the Mas des Barres to taste olive oil and tonight we are heading through the Camargue to the beach for a cookout. NO horseback riding! We have already had our share of illness with the group-- a nasty spider bite on Natalie's toe, David got the hives twice, and Johnny had an upset stomach on the morning of our bakery trip. Not to mention Emily's barbed wire injury from the Loire Valley. Need some javel (bleach), Em?
I have enjoyed spending time with all of the teens and getting to know them. I will be sad to see them leave tomorrow morning. Dorette will be back in a few days to spend some time living here while working on her book. Emily will head back to Angers to her mom's family château. Her mom is Peg Ginoux, the artist responsible for the beautiful artwork in the Durham Academy middle school library dedicated to the Brumley family. Emily plans to spend a month walking part of the Chemin de Saint Jacques, the Compostelle pilgrimage route through western Europe. Hopefully, she will come back to Arles for a visit before going back to the States. I am lucky to have made such wonderful friends!
Pizza dough- you can prepare it yourself or buy it at the grocery store
If you want to do it yourself--
one package of yeast, mixed in warm water
pinch of salt
little bit of sugar
enough flour to make a nice dough
allow it to rise in a warm place while you prepare the following--
3 onions, cut in thin rounds or slices
1-2 tomatoes, sliced thinly
3 garlic cloves, crushed and minced (crush the clove with the skin on with the back of a knife- the skin will then remove easily and it is ready to be minced)
10 anchovies, in salt, rinsed and fileted
6 Tbsp olive oil
6-10 black Greek olives
Spread the dough onto a baking sheet or stone.
In 3 Tbsp of the olive oil, cook the onions until golden brown.
in 3 Tbsp of the olive oil, cook the anchovies, stirring until they melt and make a paste. Add half of the garlic and sizzle for 30 seconds. Remove from heat.
Spread the anchovy paste on the dough. Sprinkle on the rest of the minced garlic. Add the onion. Arrange the tomato slices on top of the onions. Top with the olives.
Bake for about 15 minutes in a 375 oven or until crust is browned. Cut into slices and serve with a nice rosé. This makes a great appetizer or a light meal!