Marie Leonard moved to the United States from France more than a score of years ago. She moved to Texas to attend grad school and found herself in a place far different from her home in Provence, France. The culture shock was tough in many ways, but perhaps the culinary differences were the most striking.
Leonard’s description of her first restaurant encounter is hilarious. French waiters are famously dour; it is the way they are supposed to be. There is the bare minimum of contact, as they figure you know what you are doing, and need their help, at most, only for a whispered suggestion that the trout is particularly good that day. So when a large woman walked up to the table and in a booming voice announced her name was Sally and she would be their waiter, Leonard almost went into shock.
She said, “I didn’t know if I was supposed to introduce myself, shake her hand and return the huge smile, or if perhaps a mad person had just wandered in and accosted our table.” Leonard has a handful of funny stories, but I am more interested in her descriptions of the food of her homeland. Is there a more culinarily famous part of the world than Provence? I think not.
Provence is the home of aioli, bouillabaisse, daube (where Biloxi’s famous daube spaghetti came from), ratatouille, tapenade and herbs de Provence. And talk about wine! Wine has been made in Provence for 2,600 years and Grenache Noir, Syrah, Mourvedre, Carignan, Cinsault, Counoise, Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon are all produced there.
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This is the menu that Leonard is going to cook at an upcoming class at the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center in Gulfport.
Tartines au Chèvre Chaud on Greens
1 crusty French baguette
Herbes de Provence
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut thin to medium slices of the baguette (three slices per person). Spread goat cheese on each slice. Sprinkle some Herbes de Provence on the cheese. Pour 1 teaspoon of olive oil on the top of each slice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place the slices on a baking sheet or baking pan. Place the sheet or pan in the oven for 5 minutes. Put oven on broil for 1 minute. Serve as is or place on top of a plate of mixed greens salad.
1 pound zucchinis
1 pound eggplants
1/2 pound tomatoes
1 green and 1 red pepper
1 large onion
3 cloves of garlic
Peel the eggplants, cut them into slices of about 1 centimeter (about a third of an inch), brown them in olive oil and let them cook for about 30 minutes. Set them aside.
Repeat the operation one by one for zucchinis (slices), onions (slices), red/green peppers (strips), then the tomatoes (peeled and in slices). Set each completed vegetable aside.
Finally, brown the garlic in olive oil, add the onions, eggplants, zucchinis, peppers and tomatoes, salt and pepper, herbs and spices. Cover and Let it stew for 30 minutes.
Serve with rice.
You can serve hot or cold.
6 ounces butter
6 ounces granulated sugar
7 ounces flour
Grate lemon zest from the lemons and set it aside.
Melt the butter in a baking bowl, break the eggs, add the sugar and beat (whisk) the mix until it blanches. Add the lemon zest, the flour and the melted butter little by little; mix well.
Let the mix rest for 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Fill each mold up to two-thirds.
Let each batch bake for 10 minutes. Makes 36 Madeleines.