Welcome to The Aix-Files

Thanks for checking out The Aix-Files, my

blog postings inspired by my time in and around

Aix-en-Provence and the Vaucluse. The spot includes travel tips,

discoveries of local food and wine, recipes,

cultural events, interviews and historical

tidbits about Southern France. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Anchovies for Breakfast

Baguette in the basket (panier), flowering rosemary stolen from nearby

"Nuages" bread from Farinoman Fou

A popular bakery in Paris

Those were the days – when girls were girls and men were men and baguettes were baguettes. Nowadays, in French bakeries, you find all manner of breads, including the slim ficelle, the baguépi, the restaurant, the banette (referring to the type of flour), then fancier concoctions like à l’ancienne, rustique, fantaisie, you name it. Also, it goes without saying, croissants, pain au raisin and pain au chocolat. Upon arrival in Provence, one of my goals was to learn about and try out various new breads. But it’s important to ask the right question. One morning, in a bakery in Calvi, Corsica, I perused the vast range of loaves on display. I ordered one, and then, ignoring all my training as an interviewer, asked her if the bread next to it was the same as the one I had asked for. She curtly replied “Non!”, plunked my bread down on the counter, then moved on to the next customer. I left the bakery none the wiser.

Anchovy Pizza (okay, really a Pissaladière)

Most bakeries will also offer savoury treats, like a version of pizza prepared on their own bread dough. Being more attached to savoury (salé) than sweet (sucré), there are times when I arrive hungry at a bakery in the morning and find a slice of anchovy pizza too much to resist.

Scallops with apple rémoulade and apple ice cream

Carrot popsicle served with frozen crème caramel mixed with foie gras

Another creative touch at Pierre Reboul

One of the many restaurant trends we’ve observed is ice cream or sorbet served as part of a first course. At A Vista in Bastia, Corsica, we were served a tomato mozzarella salad deconstructed and re-imagined. It included fried mozzarella sticks with a melted mozzarella “dipping sauce”, a ball of mozzarella covered with herbs, plus a peeled and hollowed out tomato “gobelet” filled with tomato and basil sorbet. At U Fanale in Calvi, Jim enjoyed scallops, both raw and smoked, served with apple ice cream. At Le Formal in Aix-en-Provence, we marvelled at our foie gras “sandwich” served with fig and ginger ice cream. And at Pierre Reboul, a bastion of molecular gastronomy, one of our (many) starters was a carrot popsicle served with frozen crème caramel mixed with foie gras. Another appetizer included both celery sorbet and arugula sorbet served with smoked and raw fish.

Cake, pronounced “kek”, is a popular hors d’oeuvre in Provence. I’m talking about a savoury version. It can be served in slices or in cubes with toothpicks. A typical version is made with olives. Here is a variation of a cake that our friend Marie made for a dinner party recently. This version involves olives, zucchini, goat cheese and almonds. But feel free to vary the ingredients according to your taste or what’s on hand.

Yummy, even without a proper loaf pan

The challenge in making a savoury cake is to keep it moist. Here, the key is the addition of yogurt. The zucchini and goat cheese help, too. The olives add a bit of zing and the almonds give a crunch. The cake keeps well for a couple of days wrapped in plastic and it’s also delicious for breakfast.

Slice a medium zucchini into thin rounds and sauté it in a bit of olive oil until it is tender and just starting to brown. Cut about 150 grams of goat cheese into pieces. Grate 50 grams of emmental cheese (or gruyère). Pit and chop 12 black olives. Chop a handful of salted almonds, not too fine.

In a medium bowl, mix three eggs, 150 grams of flour, one packet of baking powder (about a tablespoon), salt and pepper. Stir in a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, 120 ml of plain yogurt, 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil, a teaspoon or so of fresh thyme (or herbes de provence). Then stir in the olives, the two cheeses, almonds and the zucchini. Add some chopped parsley or green onion if you wish.

Turn the mixture into a greased loaf pan and bake in a 350 degree oven for around 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean.

- Tartare – usually of beef, but also salmon or scallops or other fish. (Tartare means it is raw.) I’m still surprised by the number of restaurants that offer beef tartare. What is particularly funny is to stroll past a simple café, where everyone orders the plat du jour for lunch, and if it’s beef tartare, to see hordes of people eating mountains of raw beef. But Jim ordered it the other day at “Entre Midi et Deux”, a simple hole-in-the-wall restaurant on the Rue d’Italie in Aix, and it was truly delicious.
- Carpaccio – same – raw stuff, but sliced paper-thin.
- Wok – of chicken, lamb, vegetables, you name it – obviously indicates a Chinese preparation.
- Crumble, pronounced “crom-bull” – both savoury and sweet versions.
- Verrine – well, this trend is maybe getting a bit passé now, but basically it is a small something served in a glass (think tapas).
- Tapas.
- Cocottes - individual ceramic pots with lids filled with something delicious.
- Food that comes with instructions. For example, you may be served a plate with three items on it and the server insists you take a bit of each on your fork and eat them together. Or, you get a plate with three things on it and the server explains in which order to eat them.

A recent hike on the Calanques (rocky inlets) near Cassis

The Port-Miou calanque

The chilly water at the Calanque Port Pin

A la prochaine,


Anonymous said...

Visiting Aix for the first week in September before heading back to Paris for a week.. Love food and wine... thanks for the blog, any other favorites, fancy or not...


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