Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Camargue

Before I visited the Camargue for the first time in 2005, I had read a little bit about it and had seen a couple of photos.  (Googling wasn't one of my favorite past times back then.  Did Google even exist?)  But nothing could have prepared me for the beauty of this part of the south of France.  I've now been back several times and taken clients, friends, and students with me.
Pink flamingoes are everywhere.  It's a bird refuge.

Horses also call it home.

You can go horseback riding.

I had a not-so-great experience on this particular day.  I was bringing up the rear and my horse spotted a fire in the distance

and decided to turn around and bolt back to the barn.  I rolled off, ever so gracefully, I am sure, into mud, horse poop, and a rock.  I trudged back, thinking that my arm might be broken.  None of my students witnessed the fall, thank goodness (or I would have a photograph).
GBear, our driver for the day and my dear friend,
jumped into his van and headed to the pharmacie.  For what I have no idea.  The woman running the place gave me a glass of water, told me not to drink it too fast because I might throw it up and she took off to see about the horse.  I could have told her that he was fine, if she'd asked.  He wasn't the one with the very sore arm.
It wasn't broken, just badly bruised.  
I was totally alone and, since I had my phone with me, decided to call the BFF back in the States so that someone would feel sorry for me.  But did she?  No, she did not.  I immediately launched into my woeful story, telling her that if I EVER again mentioned climbing on the back of a huge Camargue horse, she was to tell me I was crazy and forbid it.  (My language was pretty colorful, as I remember, however.)  She started laughing hysterically.  So much for trans-Atlantic sympathy.
I digress.  Back to the beauty of the Camargue.  
In addition to the flamingoes and the horses, there are also black bulls roaming around.

They are the main attraction in the summer courses camarguaises held in the local arenas.

I just happened to snap this sunset one evening coming back from the Camargue.  It's the scenery, not the photographer or camera, much of the time, I am convinced.  (But that doesn't keep me from wanting a new Canon PowerShot SX40 or hoping I will win the Nikon D90 Pioneer Woman is giving away...)

And this one is from last month.  We went to Néné and Hélène's restaurant, Le Mazet de Vaccarès, for dinner.  Néné is Chef Érick's cousin.   The restaurant looks out over the water, the flamingoes, and one lone little boat.

Here is Érick taking a photo of soon-to-be newlyweds Christian and Adrienne and another lovely woman, an Italian whose name I can't remember at the moment.  Before taking up cooking, he was a professional photographer and is immensely talented.  It was so good to see him again.

I wear this necklace around my neck at all times.  I think of it as my good luck charm.

It is the Camargue cross.  It is an anchor for hope and for the fishermen of the region, a cross for faith, with the upper part of the cross in the form of the trident-shaped tool used by the gardians, the cowboys of the Camargue, and a heart for charity.  It is the emblem of the church of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.  If I ever get a tattoo, it will be this symbol.  Not that I am rushing out to do this.  I'm just saying...
The Camargue produces rice
and salt.

I typically fill my suitcase past the weight limit with a much-too-small supply of both.  When I get lucky, the airline personnel at the check-in counter ignore my extra kilo or two.  Sometimes I have to pay.  It's a roll of the dice, but a chance I am willing to take.  Of course, I usually have lavender honey, a couple of bottles of wine, and some chocolate in there, too.
Last night, I decided to put the rice to good use and make my favorite tuna-rice salad.  The BFF came to dinner. (The Ex-Ex is still away.)  Some goat cheese, crackers, rosé, and a couple of dark chocolates from Joël Durand rounded out our meal.  Trop bon.

Tarragon from my back deck garden--

Camargue Rice and Tuna Salad
adapted from one of Chef Érick's recipes

1 cup of rice, cooked (when I don't have any Camargue rice, I use whatever I have, white or brown, but the Minute Rice type isn't as good)
2 small cans of tuna in olive oil
2 Tbsp. of capers (more or less to taste)
1 can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
A few sprigs of fresh tarragon, finely chopped (or maybe 1 tsp. of dried tarragon)
1/4 c. olive oil
Juice of 1 - 1 1/2 lemons
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. Dijon-style mustard
Sea salt

Cook the rice according to the package directions.  Drain, if necessary.
Combine the rice, tuna with its oil, capers, tarragon, and chickpeas in a large bowl.
Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, and mustard together in a small bowl and stir to combine.
Pour the dressing over the rice-tuna mixture and stir gently to coat.
Sprinkle with coarse salt, if desired.

I like this salad warm.  But not everyone does.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

The dressing is good on salads of all kinds-- potato, green, other rice salads with vegetables, such as this one made by M. Pastis this summer.

M. Pastis and his lovely wife, hanging out at a café.

Bon appétit, Camargue!

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