Passion for My Provence: Home Cooking from the South of France

Overview

With charm and enthusiasm, Lydie Marshall invites readers to explore the savory splendor of her native France. In A Passion for My Provence (previously published as Chez Nous), Lydie combines anecdotes of her time spent in Provence—the land of olive oil and garlic—with recipes she has acquired from three generations of French friends and family. The book begins with a tour of Lydie's restored château in the olive capital, Nyons, ending at the birthplace of many fabulous meals—her inviting kitchen. But Lydie's ...

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Overview

With charm and enthusiasm, Lydie Marshall invites readers to explore the savory splendor of her native France. In A Passion for My Provence (previously published as Chez Nous), Lydie combines anecdotes of her time spent in Provence—the land of olive oil and garlic—with recipes she has acquired from three generations of French friends and family. The book begins with a tour of Lydie's restored château in the olive capital, Nyons, ending at the birthplace of many fabulous meals—her inviting kitchen. But Lydie's inspirations come from beyond her copper-potted enclave; she gathers wild herbs in the surrounding hills, buys fresh produce and meats from the village market, and collects the traditional country recipes of her neighbors. These recipes, cleverly adapted for American kitchens, reflect the joyous bounty of France. With relaxed guidance and eminent authority, Lydie Marshall combines French flair, style, thrift, and taste with American efficiency and concern for diet. Sample Lydie's recipes, and you will taste the honest, satisfying, and delicious cooking of rural France.

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Editorial Reviews

Richard Flaste
Ms. Marshall has the touch. She can dazzle. —New York Times Book Review
Arthur Schwartz
That Lydie! She'll make a French housewife of me yet. At least, with the recipes in A Passion for My Provence, I can do a good imitation.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060931643
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/28/1999
  • Pages: 303
  • Product dimensions: 7.37 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

Lydie Marshall is the author of Soup of the Day, A Passion for My Provence, A Passion for Potatoes, Chez Nous, and Cooking with Lydie Marshall. She owns Chez Lydie en Provence cooking school in Nyons, France. She divides her time between France and New York.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


My French Kitchen

I love my kitchen in Nyons even though it has only a bare min-
imum of modern conveniences. The former owner of the chateau was an artist, not
a cook. She hid the sink in an armoire and the stove in a credenza! Every time you wanted to use the sink you had to open doors and (invariably) you bumped your head on the front of the armoire. Armoire and credenza had to go; otherwise, we left the kitchen very much as it was. It's an old-fashioned kitchen, on two levels, with an ancient flagstone floor, furnished with antiques, adorned with shiny copper pots and Provencal pottery from Cliousclat and Dieulefit, the northern Provencal pottery center. It gets high marks for charm, but it's low on convenience. There are no proper counters to prepare a meal, only tables. If you are short, like me, it's no problem to cut and chop, but if you are tall, your back breaks. Perhaps one day I'll renovate to put in what the French contractors call une cuisine americaine (fitted cupboards and counters flush with kitchen appliances), but I know a lot of its personality will be sacrificed.
I fantasize that my kitchen was also the kitchen of the chateau in the Middle Ages. Kitchens and sculleries never had the best orientation in the planning of rooms, and mine is dark, facing northwest. But it's a delight in the summer—the western sun hits it toward the end of the afternoon, just when I am ready to cook. The sun is not too hot then and it makes me and the room very cheerful. I am ready for my favorite activity, cooking.
During the summer I entertain all the time, so much so that when October comes, I am ready to go back toNew York, where I entertain on a much smaller scale. "If you own a house in the Midi," my French friends say, "you are everybody's friend. It's the region of France where the sun shines the most."
My meals are not elaborate; they are simple and seasonal meals. Typically, we start with a glass of wine and the olives of Nyons. I follow with a barbecued meat, a vegetable, and a green salad; for dessert, we have fruit or a fruit tart. For special occasions, I make either a more elaborate first course or a main course that involves more cooking than just barbecuing.
I love to cook but I refuse to spend hours in the kitchen, where I tire and am isolated from my guests. Since my friends tend to stay with us for at least a week, every one has to participate in meal preparation. I don't mind teaching them as long as I don't have to prep and clean dishes! It works out very well, and it gives me an opportunity to test recipes.
I cook in Nyons from mid-May to the end of September, the months when herbs abound. In the hills, back of Nyons and in Brezes, I send my husband to pick bundles of wild thyme. (Unfortunately, I am unable to stand the heavenly but very pungent scent of large patches of wild thyme; my head spins and I faint!) We dry the thyme in small bouquets, hanging them upside down on rafters in the armory of the chateau or in the barn at Brezes.
A rosemary bush taller than me gives shade to the garden; I make large bouquets of roses and rosemary branches to decorate my kitchen besides flavoring dishes with the fragrant herb.
Sage covers half the ground of my small garden; I use it sparingly in cooking, but again I make great bouquets, combining it with lavender in July when the lavender blooms. I also dry small bouquets of sage next to the thyme.
I cultivate basil and sorrel, which I use only during the summer in salad greens.
I dry orange peels on a fine-mesh stretcher (I dry lavender the same way) in a well-ventilated room (in Brezes, it's a barn, in Nyons, it's the armory of the chateau). I put them in daubes and bouillabaisses.
Salted anchovies and Nyons olives are always present in my pantry. I keep olives in brine in an old crockery pot that belonged to my grandfather.
To cure your own olives as they do in the Midi, make a brine of salt and water in a ratio of 1 to 10; add the olives, cover, and reserve in a cool place for about 4 months. Store them in the brine and remove the olives with a slotted spoon or a perforated olive wood scoop.
When I am in New York, I substitute anchovy fillets in oil for the salt and I use Nicoise or Gaeta olives.
In my kitchen, the two basic ingredients placed on the table next to the stove are Nyons olive oil and my husband Wayne's vinegar.

On Olive Oil
During the Christmas holidays, I take my two 10-liter glass demijohns (large bottles now found at flea markets for lamp bases) to my favorite olive mill down by the river Eygues, where I have them filled with olive oil, the liquid gold of Nyons.
Olive oil from Nyons is the only one in France that boasts an appellation d'ori-gine. It is made exclusively with olives from Nyons, a variety called La Tanche. The olives ripen on the trees and are picked in December. Many Nyonsais harvest olives from their trees, then go to one of the three olive mills in town to have their year's supply of olive oil made.
First the olives are sorted; large and medium olives are sold to markets and small olives are kept for making oil. They are thrown into large vats and crushed to a paste by stone rollers. In Nyons, the millers still use the ancient Greek technique of crushing olives together with the pits. The pit has an almond that keeps the oil fresh for over a year without need for a chemical preservative.
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