Nothing Says Summer like the South of France

Those who know me are familiar with my love and loyalty to the South of France. Not only did my family travel to France frequently when I was growing up (after all, Paris was only a 3-4 hour train ride away from London), but I spent time traveling the country and living in Aix-en-Provence after college. I still yearn for the people, the food, the markets, the cafés, the language, the ambiance, the laissez-faire approach to life…

Especially on dreary days like today. I, like many Bostonians, was minding my own business and celebrating the arrival of Spring…only to have it taken away with the one more Nor’easter followed by buckets of rain. So what’s the best thing we can do besides grin and bear it!?

We can call to mind the South of France – through cooking. I make two different versions of the quintessential Provençal dish, ratatouille. One is my adaptation of my mother’s recipe and the other is an adaptation from The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook. They both come out quite differently! So think of summer this week, get cooking, and Bon Appétit!

Ratatouille Two Ways

In a dutch oven or pot, sauté with olive oil, salt and pepper, 1-2 chopped onions (big chunks), 1 chopped green pepper, 1 chopped red pepper (big chunks), 1-2 chopped zucchinis, ½-1 chopped eggplant, and 2-4 cloves of minced garlic
After softened, add 1-2 cups of sliced baby bella mushrooms
Add 1 can of diced tomatoes, ½ jar of marinara/red sauce, 1-2 tbsp of tomato paste, 1 cup of red wine, 1-2 cups of chicken stock (enough to almost cover all the vegetables)
Add Herbes de Provence
Allow to simmer for 1-1½ hours, stirring occasionally and seasoning as needed
Add 2tbsp chopped parsley before serving over rice, potatoes, or cous cous—delicious with roast chicken, too. Even better the next day.
Slice 1 eggplant, 2 zucchinis, and 2 large tomatoes
Cut 4 cloves of garlic into slices and chop 2tbsp parsley
Pour layer of olive oil into bottom of small dutch oven or pot (not on stove yet)
Create layers; first a layer of eggplants, then layer of tomatoes, then layer of zucchini, then repeat until full
As you create layers, put pieces of garlic, some parsley, Herbes de Provence, salt, and pepper intermittently
Cover the pot and place on very low heat for 1-1½ hours, stirring occasionally but mostly left alone
Serve with rice, potatoes, or cous cous—also delicious with roast chicken. And also even better the next day.

No time or energy to cook? No problem! Boston has a large and growing number of French restaurants, go check them out (and feel free to add any that must make the list!):

Les Zygomates: Waterfront
Petit Robert Bistro: Downtown, Kenmore, South End, and Needham
Jacky’s Table: Brighton
Cognac Bistro: Brookline
The Elephant Walk: Brookline, Cambridge, Waltham
Brasserie Jo: Back Bay
Menton: Fort Point Channel
Gaslight Brasserie: South End
Sandrine’s Bistro: Harvard Square
L’Espalier: Back Bay
Pigalle: Theatre District
Mistral: Back Bay

  3 Replies to “Nothing Says Summer like the South of France”

  1. Lenore
    April 5, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    Yummy. I’m hungry and tasting the delicious ratatouille already. Its a rainy day here in South Florida today, too.

  2. April 5, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    i was longing for a life like this today too! very well timed post!

  3. April 6, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    Just got a tip to try out Jasmine Bistro in Brighton — anyone been? Keep the tips coming!

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