"We are what we believe we are."
C.S. Lewis

Thursday, July 28, 2011

First a Tourist Then a Cook

Our days in Provence took on an easy rhythm of a daily adventure followed by cooking at our own house in the evenings.
Every day we picked a different village to visit and with our giant map we set off on the winding roads and prayed for guardrails.
We visited Dieulefit ("god did it") just before Bastille Day and were able to enjoy the friendly town in the midst of its preparations.
It is another charming French village surrounded by old forests and long fields of vibrant lavender and sunflowers. The village itself is comprised of ancient buildings and winding cobblestones, and of course those picturesque window shutters that I am such a fan of.
Dieulefit is known especially as a Potter's town and glazed bowls and pitchers were presented in their sun-blazed colors in all of the quaint shops.
There was a woman demonstrating her craft near the tourist's office and we stopped to watch her work, it was mesmerizing. My 9yo daughter announced that she now wants to be a Potter as well as a Producer (which has been her typical career choice!)

Every day after some sightseeing we would decide on a restaurant for lunch. We ate a big lunch every day and so became accustomed to grumbly bellies by 12:30.

On this particular day we decided on ArtHome Restaurant, which you can see HERE.

I decided on a dish which fully embraced the local specialty: Picodon. Picodon is a fresh goat's cheese that is just delicious. It is creamy and mild yet seems to taste of all the good things that grow in Provence.
This dish was quite filling as the Picodon was not just wrapped up in a phyllo dough, it was also fried. Of course the result was that the cheese was warm inside and a perfect accompaniment to the grilled courgette (zucchini), the roasted red onion, basil pistou and the black olive tapenade.
We drank a bottle of the local Chardonnay from an organic producer: it was just perfect with the Picodon.

Most afternoons we would make it back to our rental house by around 4pm. We would then walk down to the village to source out ingredients for our dinner.
On this day I made some stuffed tomatoes. I found the recipe in a French cookbook stored on the kitchen shelf, and it was in reading this cookbook as well as some French cooking magazines that I worked on my language while I was there.
The recipe is quite simple.
First cut the tops off of your tomatoes and scrape out the seeds and pulp. Salt the interior and then place them upside down to drain in a colander while you get on with the stuffing.

Grate yesterday's baguette with a cheese grater to create a good amount of crumbs. Mix the crumbs with:
A handful of chopped fresh basil and parsley
A sprinkle of herbes de provence
Some grated cheese, any hard cheese will do
2 or 3 chopped anchovies
A small glug of olive oil
Fleur de sel and pepper

Once mixed simply stuff your tomatoes, place close together in a dish and sprinkle with a bit more olive oil.
Place in a hot (350) oven for 20 to 30 minutes, keeping an eye on them: you want them browned but not overcooked.

We found this a delicious light dinner when served with an arugula salad, fresh bread and a bit of cheese. The regional rose wine is of course a must!


  1. Wow, this is all so amazing. Isn't the South of France just so beautiful? I really want to rent a place and self cater next time but there's no way I'd cook as well as you every night. Oh those lunches Dani , I'd quite like to live like that ever day.

  2. I would too it was heaven! Of course we can't eat this way all of the time. I can't believe I only gained 2lbs (I finally had the nerve to check) , thank goodness for all of the walking we did or it would have been 10.
    Self catering is the way to go, it's very affordable too as the food in France is so reasonably priced even though it is so superior!

  3. This sounds like a complete dream vacation. French cooking AND French markets, French wine, French villages . . . ahh. And of course you're so smart to sample *their* cooking at lunch when restaurants are more reasonable, and then repair to your own relais in the evening when you just want to relax and wind down after the day. Love these posts! More please!!!

  4. The shutters are magical...I can imagine a whole coffee table book devoted to them! The tomatoes are so simple like so much of the best French country cooking...the idea of grating the old baguette for crumbs is brilliant.

  5. It all sounds so delightful Dani. I seldom have an opportunity to cook when traveling, only if we are staying with certain friends. I love to visit local markets though and your lingering lunches sound just so delightful.

  6. I love these trip posts! The meal you made seems on a par with the restaurant one...Dani's Bistro, perhaps? Too much work. This is the good life-- simply prepared delicious local food in a beautiful setting with family. And wine. Shutter photos remind me of DH's series of doorways in Florence-- endlessly fascinating.

  7. I also love all of these trip posts Dani! What an absolutely beautiful place to visit, and it sounds as if your stay was not only enjoyable and relaxing, but a bit educational, as well. :)

    I really hope to visit France again someday. After reading about your stay in Provence, I'd love to go, but do think that I would have a hard time wanting to return home after staying there.

  8. Hi FFM:
    I have to say it was really an enriching holiday! We all learned so much and yet relaxed and laughed together too.
    I hope that you can make it to Provence with your family, it's quite a magical place for children as well.
    I love France and though I love home as well it's not as beautiful and the food and wine are not as wonderful!

  9. Lane: Florence is quite high on my list, I can't wait to visit. MrBP was there many years ago (beforeDBP) and it is his favorite city in Italy. I bet those door photos are amazing.
    Thanks for the compliment re my cooking: I have to say that cooking with wonderful ingredients makes it all very easy!

  10. xoxo: The local markets were the best and such a part of everyday life in France, now that I'm home I am very jealous of the lifestyle!

  11. Sue: I had never thought of grating stale bread for crumbs, but it is quite easy and a terrific way to avoid waste. My French recipes use day old bread quite frequently, I've got another for my next post!

  12. Hi Beth: You've got it, eating out at lunch is actually a great way to economize on a family holiday though it feels so decadent. You can have a wonderful meal for half the price of what it would be at dinner, and of course a heavier lunch/lighter dinner is healthier anyway.

  13. Hi Dani!

    WOnderful post - I, too, am a huge fan of shutters and am actually trying to source old ones for my patio doors!

    The dinner and lunch look equally divine! It is so fun to wander through these little villages, isn't it? you actually have an opportunity to interact with people and slow down a bit. The french know how to live!

  14. Oh these posts are so compelling! It sounds like you had a perfect routine going with the day trips, lunches and dinners. Glad you had such good family times as well.

    Keep it up with these travel posts--I love them!

  15. Wonderful posts Dani. I used to live near Provence, so you have brought back many wonderful memories. I'm going to try the goat cheese filo dough tonight.

  16. Hi Legend,
    Thanks so much. Lucky you living near Provence! We fantasize about living in France, even for a short while. I think the goat cheese wrapped in phyllo could even be baked, which would be less messy and less calorific.

  17. Dannie: Oh good you're back from your trip!
    More France posts coming after the weekend, stay tuned Dahlinks!

  18. WMM: My overwhelming thought while in France was just that: These people know how to live!
    They have high standards yet they are quite relaxed, a brilliant combination.
    I hope you find some shutters. I've been looking for some old ones for the back of my house, facing my garden, for some time. They are difficult to source out around here!

  19. Great post!! The Picodon looks positively decadent. Thank you for sharing the recipe for the stuffed tomatoes, it looks delicious and very easy to do. I love eating local specialties and looking at cookbooks from the region when I travel, it really is an important part of immersing oneself in the culture.

  20. dani,

    first, i just finished another year and loved it. i thought i'd strangle mary with her wining but it was really good. thanks for the recommendation. have you seen buffalo 66? i just watched it and although it is dark, it was excellent.

    now onto this post. why are the shutters in france so beautiful? i mean there are shutters everywhere but french shutters are just amazing. and the tomatoes, yum. i have quite a crop at the moment so i'll be making these. thanks!