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Provencal cuisine

 

 

 

Vegetables, fruits, grains and beans

The Provence region includes the Rhône and Durance valleys—highly fertile agricultural areas which are considered to be the garden of France. Commonly enjoyed vegetables include tomatoes, eggplant (aubergine), bell peppers, garlic, onions, lettuce, carrots, fennel, potatoes, mushrooms, cabbage, zucchini (courgettes), artichokes and asparagus.

These vegetables are traditionally added to bakes and soups or appetizing stews such as ratatouille, or eaten raw in salads (such as the mouthwatering salad Niçoise) and as crudités.

Fruit is traditionally eaten as a snack and dessert. Cherries, grapes, melons, berries, figs, dates, lemons, oranges, pears and apples are some of the most popular varieties.

Wheat is the most commonly eaten grain food in Provence and is used to make a wide variety of breads including crusty baguettes and whole grain loaves. A popular Provençal sandwich is the pan bagnat which is bread filled with tuna, tomatoes, olives, peppers and steeped in an olive oil dressing. Wheat flour is also used to make the base of the Provençal pizza known as pissaladiere.

Beans are enjoyed in a wide variety of dishes including stews, bakes and soups—such as soupe au pistou, a bean and vegetable soup infused with basil. Green beans are enjoyed in hot dishes or are cooked and cooled and added to salads. The most commonly enjoyed lentil is the Puy lentil, which is a small, slightly peppery lentil that retains its shape when cooked.

Olives and olive oil

Provence, like other regions of the Mediterranean, has a sun-blessed climate that makes it ideal for olive growing. And like their Italian neighbors to the east, the people of Provence rely heavily on olives—for food and as an oil.

Olive oil is used for sautéing foods, and is added to sauces, dressings, dips and marinades. Whole olives are scattered into hot dishes and salads, or are eaten as a snack. Olives are also an essential ingredient in tapenade, a luscious Provençal paste made with olives, olive oil, anchovies, capers and garlic which is typically spread on bread or served with grilled fish or chicken.

Fish and shellfish

Provence borders the Mediterranean sea, and fish and shellfish are eaten in abundance. Commonly enjoyed fish and shellfish include, tuna, sea bass, anchovies, red snapper, red mullet, monkfish, shrimp, crab, mussels, scallops and oysters.

Popular fish and shellfish dishes include bouillabaisse (a robust stew made with tomatoes, saffron and several varieties of fish and shellfish, which is typically eaten with toasted bread slices and a flavorsome garlic-chili mayonnaise called rouille), salad Niçoise (a vegetable, tuna and anchovy salad) and fruits de mer (a plate of fresh seafood accompanied with lemon wedges for drizzling).

Meat, cheese, poultry and eggs

Meat has traditionally been eaten sparingly throughout Provence. When meat is eaten, it's typically sheep or beef, and served in small amounts to add flavor and texture to food.

Cheese is enjoyed regularly—usually slightly tart chèvre (goat) cheese. Goat cheese can range in texture from soft and creamy to dry and semi-firm.

Chicken is a popular addition to stews and bakes, and eggs are enjoyed in omelets (such as the Provençal omelet called a crespèus which usually contains vegetables like tomatoes, zucchini and mushrooms) or hard boiled and added to hot dishes or salads.

Seasonings

Fresh and dried herbs are used extensively in Provençal cooking. A popular Provençal dried herb blend is called Herbes de Provence, and typically contains thyme, marjoram, savory, rosemary, sage and basil. These herbs, and others such as parsley, are used together or separately in a wide variety of dishes including stews, bakes, soups and salads—or are simply rubbed over fish, chicken or meat before grilling.

Other commonly used seasonings include saffron, anchoïade (anchovy paste), aïoli (garlic mayonnaise), capers, rouille (chili and garlic mayonnaise), tapenade, wine vinegar and lemon juice.

 

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