Monday, March 17, 2014

Captured sunlight in a meal inspired by Provence

Things are running a little late in the garden this year, due to some unseasonally cold weather we had back in spring, so it's only now really that the classic summer vegetables--tomatoes, capsicums, eggplants/aubergines, the zucchini/courgette family, butter and green beans--are really getting into their stride. These vegetables with their distinctive fragrances, colours and flavours that feel like captured sunlight, are brilliant to cook with and create meals with all kinds of influences, from Turkish to Georgian to Greek to Provençal. That's the influence I was channeling in this simple and delicious dinner menu.
First course: 'Verrine de Provence' : A 'verrine' just means something presented in a small individual glass dish, usually a first course. In this case, the verrine consisted of a layer of small roast tomatoes, followed by a layer of eggplant salad:char-grilled eggplant, cut up and mixed with garlic, olive oil, vinegar and salt; followed then by a layer of roast chopped capsicum, two anchovy fillets, a dab of home-made mayonnaise and chopped basil leaves. Put it together at least an hour or so before eating and keep it in the fridge till you are ready to serve.
Main course: 'Poulet à la provençale' : cut up a chiocken(or use ready-cut chicken pieces). Marinade for about an hour in some olive oil, juice of a lemon, salt, pepper and garlic. Fry some chopped onion in olive oil, take chicken out of marinade, fry till beginning to be golden, then add the marinade juice, some chopped flat leaf parsley, tarragon, salt, pepper, more garlic, and a dash of white wine. Cover and let simmer. Meanwhile prepare some tomatoes by scalding them to get rid of their skins, chop coarsely, and add to the dish. Simmer till chicken is thoroughly cooked and sauce has thickened, about 45--60 mins. When serving, add extra chopped parsley and tarragon.
Vegetables to accompany: courgettes/zucchini, coarsely chopped and sauteed with olive oil and onions, and butter beans, simply cooked for a short time in just a little water mixed with a dash of oil.
For dessert, we had fruit and home-made icecream.

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