Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook
Finally it's spring and the Spring Flower Show reflected the excitement of the season throughout the living flowers, bulbs, olive trees - raised edible gardens, verdant with herbs, lettuces, swiss chard and lacy fennel fronds. The landscaping was captivating as well with natural pavers, fountains and ethereal blue ceramic glazed pots.
I pretended I was living in the most charming cottage in the Mediterranean Retreat exhibit and thought about what I would cook to show folks the favored herbs of the region. Herbes de Provence is the blend that won because it classically combines a variety found on the hillsides of Provence. However, this combination is used throughout France, Italy and Greece. When the combination was dried and then sold as a French classic, it became popular worldwide.
Herbes de Provence or Provençal herbs, is a traditional blend of aromatic herbs that flourish in hills of southern France during the hot summer months. Used by the handful when fresh, Herbes de Provence is also good using dried herbs. It was in the 1970s that standard mixtures were formulated by spice wholesalers, notably Ducros in France (now part of McCormick & Company) and sold to the public. Bay leaf, thyme, fennel, rosemary, chervil, oregano, summer savory, tarragon, mint, and marjoram are some of the herbs typically used. Orange zest is sometimes included as well as lavender.
Salade de Provence
- 2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves, washed & patted dry
- 1 head butter lettuce, washed and patted dry
- 2 cups sliced mushrooms
- 1/2 cup medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 cup shaved fresh fennel
- 1/2 cup pitted black olives (preferably Niçoise)
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
- 1 clove fresh garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon fresh Herbes de Provence (left)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Vinaigrette: Mix first 5 ingredients, then whisk in oil until thickened.
Salad: First toss olives, onion and mushrooms with vinaigrette and marinate in refrigerator 1 hour. Tear
butter lettuce in pieces. Toss marinade and salad ingredients and serve. Serves 4-6 people.
Fresh Herbes de Provence
When used in the Mediterranean, often the herbs are plucked fresh from the garden by the handful and
gently tossed together.
- 1 tablespoon thyme
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon rosemary
- 1 tablespoon summer savory
- 1 teaspoon lavender
- 1 teaspoon tarragon
- 1 teaspoon marjoram
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon mint
Herbes de Provence Frittata
The Frittata or baked omelete is not only simple but is an elegant low cost for feeding a crowd. I always keep it in my repertoire for company. MOst of the ingredients are items you have on hand. You can always adjust to your own design.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 cups thinly sliced fresh fennel bulb, fronds chopped & reserved
- 1 cup sliced baby bella mushrooms
- 1/2 cup smoke tomatoes, chopped & drained
- Dried porcini mushrooms, rehydrated
- 8 large eggs, beaten with 1 teaspoon salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 4 ounces package crumbled goat cheese, grated Chapel Country Creamery Talbot Reserve or crumbled feta
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Herbes de Provence
To make the filling heat 1 tablespoon oil in 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
Add fennel bulb; sauté until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes; add the sliced mushrooms and saute 3 more minutes. Cover and cook until softened, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes. Stir in the rehydrated porcini mushrooms. Add tomatoes and half the herbs and cook for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to medium bowl and add the cheese. Toss and set aside.
Beat eggs with the rest of the fresh herbs, add to the skillet and add half of the fennel, tomato, cheese mixture; cook until eggs are just set in center, tilting skillet and lifting edges of omelet with spatula to let uncooked portion flow underneath, about 3 minutes. Top the with remaining fennel, tomato, cheese mixture.
Flash under a hot broiler for a few seconds to brown the top. Garnish with chopped fennel fronds or herb of your choice and serve.