Jeffrey Greene, tagliatelle with sea marsh foods

 Picture of Dutch and English copy of  books
I invited chroniqueur Jeffrey Greene to participate in “geprekken en gerechten” (conversation and recipes) Many years ago I read a book from his hands called “French Spirits” A story on living in in former presbytery in the smokey hills of Burgundy. In that time I did not visit this region often. Later I found the same book in Dutch in my parent’s house in Burgundy. It is translated by the mother of a dear school friend.  It is always nice to reread some parts from this book, especially when you are in a tiny Burgundian village. Jeffrey writes about the people he meets in a very colorful way. So I contacted Jeffrey in Paris. Kindly Jeffrey sent me another book, titled ” The golden bristled boar” He has dugged into the life and background of this beast. But Jeffrey does more things. He teaches creative writing and he is now researching on edible things from te wild. Quite a topic and a trending one.  Let’s see if  I can write him a recipe, that  reflects  his knowledge on Burgundy, animals and wild edible things. And needless to say a combination with wine is made.
Who is Jeffrey? Tell me some more
I grew up in a shack-like house in the New England woods with a rather eccentric young mother and father.  My mother was a teenage runaway from a grim boarding school, her head full of fanciful ideas of creating a family and living off the land based on M.G. Kains’ book Five Acres and Independence.  My father came from a typical Jewish family in New York’s Lower East Side.  Sent to art school to study textile design for the family business, he made himself the family’s black sheep by becoming a sculptor instead and marrying a sixteen year old.  My parents’ attempts at raising goats and planting a garden turned out to be resounding disasters with deer and rabbits decimating the garden and the goats poisoning themselves on laurel. However, my father was a naturally gifted hunter-gatherer.  He never hunted game, but he gathered wonderful bounty from the seaside or berries from the woods.  Our having to move to the city when I was eleven was a great disappointment for me.  I was a shy kid who enjoyed solitude and the woods suited that.  My mother was too isolated though and took a job at Yale University, and my parents divorced.
Although I’ve gone on to become a professor, poet, and author, I’m someone who likes to make things—whether it’s building walls and bookcases or cooking dinner.  I’m ultimately more physical than intellectual.  I think that comes from my early years in the woods.  My writing comes from this too—it springs from things, thingyness—observant of how the senses are engage.  The rest is character and place.
When did you move to France and how did you adapt to French life and habits?
 To be honest, it never occurred to me that I would leave America, that I would become a permanent resident in France, a kind of dual citizen, not officially, but in every other sense, an insider and outsider in two countries.  It was not an overt decision like ones my ancestors made, immigrating to America for economic opportunities or to save their Eastern European skins.  My life in France crept up on me.  In 1986, I was finishing my graduate studies in Texas, and my mother gave me a call, “I’ve got good news!  I will be on sabbatical at the Pasteur Institute in Paris.  Why don’t you come an write for a year?”  So instead of being a responsible, freshly minted Ph.D., hunting for a junior faculty position in some forsaken place, I came on quixotic impulse to Paris to be a writer.  I soon found myself at Castello di Gargonza in Tuscany, sharing a dinner that included crostini, pasta with artichoke, and wild boar stew with my mother’s boss, Mary.  Who knew I’d end up marrying a molecular biologist in a foreign country?  It seemed like a conspiracy of improbables.
For a decade my life was complicated, because I did get a faculty position at a university in New England and could have supported a small family on phone bills and travel.  But my sense of home slowly shifted to France, particularly after Mary and bought an old deserted presbytery (priest’s house) in northwestern Burgundy.  We were living such a privileged life between the country and Paris.  Eventually, I made the decision to give up my tenured position and devote my time to writing.  Fortunately, I was asked to teach at the American University of Paris, which is a great pleasure.  I love working with our young people coming to us from all over the world.
You wrote me that you were researching a book on edible things from the wild, why did you start these activities?
 My father had a huge influence my hunter-gather habits.  He fished, caught crabs, and gathered oysters, clams and oysters.  My brother and I joined him in these activities.  Simply, it was the most fun thing we did together, while he still lived with us.  Even now, as my father approaches 90, the woods and seaside provide pure joy for him.  He was a child of the Depression and his motivation as hunter-gatherer instincts seemed primarily based on getting something for nothing or a kind of treasure hunt.  It was my mother who instilled the value and pleasure derived from healthy natural foods.
When I came to France, I began collecting mushrooms and that alone became a passion.  I was writing for a different book, one about how I saw myself as an American transplant in France, in fact how imported my sense of Thoreau and Emerson, American transcendentalists, to the French forests.  I approached the subject through wild mushrooms, describing not only the pleasure of looking for them and their earthy, nutty, even smoky flavors that they add to cuisine but also the problems, how they absorb and concentrate radiation, heavy metals, and chemicals.  It occurred to me that wild edibles, a popular topic, could be approached in important ways, including their role in culture, art, and survival.
You wrote a book on buying a presbytery in a small village in Burgundy, where you still live. Has anything changed over the years?
 Yes, I wrote a book called French Spirits, which was translated into Dutch among other languages.  The village I wrote about is Rogny-les-Sept-Ecluses ( Rogny of the seven locks), which has the Loing River and the Briaire Canal running through it.  Built in the 1600s, the Briaire Canal is the first canal in Europe linking two river valleys—those of the Seine and the Loire.  Much has changed in the twenty years since we bought the old deserted presbytery.  Part of the charm of the village was that it seemed completely lost, and our neighbors were woodsmen, sheep farmers, and masons, people with country savvy and worked with their hands.
The ports on the canal and the river were renovated, a park built, and some parking put it, so the town has become something of a minor tourist destination.  Also a number of the old houses and the eleventh-century church next to our house were restored.  Of course we’ve don’t major renovations and restoration work.  Our gardens are thriving as is the old curé’s orchard.  My book turned out to be aptly named; many of the main characters have become French spirits.
Another book from you hand is on boars, that are abundant in Burgundy,  you even learned how to butcher a half boar, what is you most striking anecdote on this animal?
 The Golden-Bristled Boar: Last Ferocious Beast of the Forest was so much fun to write.  In many ways, it was a sequel to French Spirits, since the main setting is the same as are many of the characters.  Of course, many of experiences are recounted in the book.  The wild boar and close relative the feral hog have become the number one animal outlaw in the world, and they’ve had an extraordinary relationship with humans, particularly in Europe and Asia.  They figure in art, myth, cuisine, and even the founding of early civilizations.  Burgundy is overrun with wild boars as is Germany, Italy, and elsewhere.  This anecdote doesn’t appear in the book, but while I was doing a nationwide book tour in the United States I received an email from my personal doctor, who is a nature lover and helped connect me to a forestry expert who becomes a major character.  He was on a major highway just outside of Paris when a group of wild boars caused a six-car accident.  Only my doctor was still able to drive.  Wild boars cause 14,500 accidents in France, more than any other large animal.
 I have the feeling that you are a dreamer. If you had to choose, only one option is possible, between being a writer or adventurer? What would it be?
 Yes, I am a dreamer, which is different from being an adventurer.  I have friends, mainly journalists who are far more adventurous than I am.  They are driven to experience life’s extremes, often in awful war zones in Africa, the Balkans, Asia, and the Middle East.  It’s not just war, but some go off to exotic places to report on nature.  I admire them—they are our witnesses.  Making a life in Europe seems to me a true privilege and maybe an adventure only in taking professional risks for love and a richer life.  So this question is for me.  Nothing keeps me going more than having a project at my writing desk.
Which plant do you like the most and which one you dislike? I am very curious about that
 This is one of the hardest questions I’ve ever been asked.  All plants are amazing and a discussion of grass is hugely important, since life as we know it is sustained on grass.  And who doesn’t love violets or field poppies or wild daffodils or cyclamen or any wild flower.  The plant that amazes me is the snowdrop.  They are the first sign of spring and they generate warmth to melt through snow.  You see them take over the ground of forests here, and the wild daffodils.  It’s truly magical.
 I should say nettles and brambles, since I’m at constant war with them.  My legs are burning now from yard work and nettles.  But I wrote a book called Water from Stone about land restoration, the protection of endangered species, and environmental education.  When you change natural environment situations, certain native plants or exotics can take over and create hugely limited environments.  The ash-juniper does that in Texas.
 As an American, what did wonder you the most in Burgundy ?
 I don’t think Americans know too much about Burgundy, which is a huge region in France. They’ve heard of the wines and the cuisine.  Americans tend to go to Paris, Normandy, and Provence.  I saw a movie when I was very young that was set Burgundy, and I had a vision of gentle rolling countryside, hidden chateaus, forests, and misty world full of deer and wild boar. That’s what much of it is—a beautiful harmony of forests, rolling countryside, rivers, ponds, and fecund earth.  It’s hardly a wonder that the Neanderthals and early Homo Sapiens lived there and that there was always a significant human population.  There is much more—some of the most gorgeous Romanesque churches with carved capitals, a unique art giving insight into the both the secular and the religious life in the medieval world.  Abbeys, chateaux, and hospices.
You also write poetry, can you share something on this topic?
What is the difference between Van Gogh or Rembrandt or the great Flemish painters and the greatest poetry of their time.  These are pure arts, the creative foundations since the cave painters and oral tradition, which was in poetry.  I started out as a poet, and I’m just finishing my fifth collection.  It’s a pure art.  I love writing the prose because it really is fun and engaging, but poetry matters deeply to me.
Speaking of food, which dish you prefer the most? And of course what food you do not eat?
To pick out a single dish seems almost impossible—I love everything from macaroni and cheese and pizza to dinners we were taught to prepare by the French president’s personal cook.  I love to cook, and I love trying different ethic recipes.  If I had to choose one thing, it would probably be lobster.  I used to dive for lobsters at night as a kid.  Now it’s impossible to afford them.
 What I wouldn’t like to eat is easy—brains, although I’ve probably eaten a lot of brains without knowing it.  Now that I’m writing a book on wild edibles, there a ton of things that I’m worried about eating but will have to try.
Which wines do you like? Since you are in Burgundy it most be more.
 Our village is in northwest Burgundy.  Believe it or not, the closest wines to us are Sancerre, Menetou-Salon, and Pouilly Fumé and on the Burgundy side Chablis and wines in the north, mainly white.  We love these wines.  My wife is a scientist and I’m a professor, and we don’t have much money to invest in wine.  We love wines from all over.  I still have to say Burgundies are my favorite.  It’s still the wine we go to producers, and we put away to age.  The trick we use is to go to restaurants in the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune, and get recommendations for wine with food and if it’s good we get the producer’s address and buy for the future.  Our big splurge is on Volnay and Pommard.  Santenay is great, Savigny les Beaune, Chassagne Montrachet.  It’s not cheap.
What else do you want to share?
 My mother is Gretchen Van Blaricom, and she is half-Dutch.  She’s proud of it.  Obvious that makes me a quarter Dutch.  We have the most extraordinary Dutch friends in our part of Burgundy.  I can’t believe how many they are, and they are among our closest friends.

Picture cover of Jeffrey’s book

THE RECIPE

The Netherlands is a country of rivers and estuaries. Its shores, mudflats and beaches are full of edible wild things. Jeffrey went  all the way to Amsterdam to collect a boat, that he will use when he gathers wild edibles.  His wonderful story and ofcourse his Dutch descent this gave me the clue for his recipe. The dish I made for Jeffrey is a pasta dish with wild clams (kokkel in Dutch), Dutch shrimps, the grey ones, and salty vegetables like grasswort (salicornia Europea) and sea lavender (limonium vulgare) from the southwestern province of Zeeland. They can be found growing on the so called “kwelders” or sea marshes.
The wine to pair this dish is a white Burgundy form the village of Mancey in Southern Burgundy, “Mâcon Mancey  “Les Cadoles”  Blanc”  The dish, the wine and the terroirs will have a gathering of their own. I hope Jeffrey enjoys it. I wish him a lot of succes while exploring, gathering, eating and writing (on) wild edible things

Ingredients 4 persons:

300 g of tagliatelle
1 kg of wild clams
250 g  peeled shrimps
150 g grasswort
150 g sea lavender
1/2 lemon
1 chopped onion
1 glass of white wine
olive oil
butter
salt and  black pepper
parsley

Preparation:

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package. Put aside for later use. Rinse the clams a few times in salted water. This will take some time, because clams can contain a lot of sand! The last rinse should be done with fresh water. Gently rinse the vegetables and shake them dry. Never leave these vegetables in fresh water because they are used to salty waters. Cook the grasswort  for 3 minutes al dente. Heat 2 tbs. of oil in a big casserole, stir fry the chopped onion. Then add the clams and  the glass of wine. Put the lid on and leave the clams to cook for about 8 minutes. Shake the pan from time to time. Get the clams out of the casserole and save some of its cooking moisture. Put a knob of butter in the pan. Add the grasswort, the tagliatelle and some of the cooking moisture. Let this warm gently on a low fire. Put the clams back in the pan and mingle gently with pasta and vegetables. Finally add the shrimps and sea lavender. Season with some salt and  black pepper. Serve this dish on plates. Give it a dash of lemon juice, put on a tiny knob of butter and a sprinkle of chopped parsley.

To vary this dish you may also use razors, American immigrants on our shores, to be found on every beach or mudflat. (picture)

 

Blog nr. 100 recept voor de kaasmeisjes uit Bourgondië

Photo: Ghislaine Dangoin
Enige jaren terug las ik in het tijdschrift “Leven in Frankrijk” het verhaal van  de  kaasmeisjes uit Bourgondië Suus en Paula van der Linden-Beck. Zij staan op Bourgondische markten met hun eigen Hollandse kazen.  Zowaar een bijzonder verhaal, omdat de Bourgogne waarschijnlijk de hoogste kaasdichtheid heeft van Frankrijk. Beide vrouwen verruilden hun professionele leven voor het bestaan op het platteland tussen de weilanden vol Charolais vee. Ik vind hun verhaal bijzonder, te meer omdat ik deze streek redelijk ken en er veel moed en durf voor nodig is om iets te starten. Benieuwd als ik ben naar hun relaas en het ondernemen en leven in Frankrijk, nodigde ik ze uit om mee te doen aan gesprekken en gerechten. In hun recept speelt kaas in ieder geval een rolletje.
Wie zijn Suus en Paula van der Linden. Vertel eens iets over  jullie zelf?
Tja… waar te beginnen en eenmaal begonnen waar te eindigen??
Ik kan eigenlijk in deze iedereen het beste doorverwijzen naar www.emigreermagazine.nl editie juni 2012, daar staat ons verhaal eigenhandig opgetekend (met plaatjes!!) over onze emigratie en onze achtergrond.
Wat doen jullie op dit moment? Wat houdt jullie bezig?
Letterlijk zitten wij op dit moment op het terras van onze riante tuin te genieten van een koud roseetje en het spectaculaire uitzicht. Een uitzicht dat nooit went, we zitten er al 9 jaar met open mond naar te staren. Globaal gezien bestaat de rest van ons bestaan ook vooral uit genieten, dat deden we in Nederland al maar dat doen we hier in de zuid Bourgogne eigenlijk nog meer.
De lijst van zaken die ons bezighouden is niet zo heel gek lang, we bestieren ons eigen bedrijf en proberen ver uit de buurt van stress situaties te blijven hetgeen goed lukt. Naast het werk smullen we van de Franse streekgerechten, de beroemde Bourgogne wijnen, leren we ons uit te drukken in deze zalige taal, maken we vrienden waarmee we dan weer gaan zitten eten en wijn drinken en waarvan we de taal nog beter leren… en ziet, zo is de cirkel weer rond!
Vertel eens over jullie vertrek naar de Zuidelijke Bourgogne? Hoe is dat ontstaan?
In den beginne was er ons huis hier, gekocht als vakantieverblijf waar we idioot vaak naartoe reden, men verklaarde ons voor gek, onze hand niet omdraaiend voor de hoeveelheid kilometers echter ging de terugweg ons steeds meer tegenstaan. Terug naar onze stressbanen en de vanaf Brussel zich opeenhopende verkeersdrukte die de dichtbevolktheid zo bijzonder goed illustreert om kort te gaan: we wilden niet meer weg en op een dag hebben we besloten te blijven.
Hoe hebben jullie je aangepast aan het Franse plattelandsleven?
Niet eigenlijk. Wij zijn gewoon wij en natuurlijk spreken we de taal, betalen braaf aan de Franse fiscus, betrekken producten als mede hand en spandiensten van de locale bevolking maar veel meer acties vereist het niet. “Simple comme bonjour”.
En natuurlijk de Fransen aan jullie?
Van het zelfde laken een pak. Als je zelf met een positieve insteek ergens aan begint heb je de helft al gewonnen. Overigens is 95% van onze klantenkring Frans, gewoon de locale bevolking. Dat was ook ons doel en dat is dus gelukt, je zou overigens anders ook nooit de winter overleven maar dat percentage alleen al spreekt voor zich.
Wat zouden jullie gedaan hebben, als jullie niet in de Bourgogne waren beland? Ook een buitenlands avontuur?
Niet speciaal nee. We hebben eerst in Nederland gezocht naar een wat vrijer onderkomen, minder straat, meer tuin, uitzicht, groen, rust, stilte en dergelijke maar dat wat wij zochten is binnen Nederland voor ons vrijwel onbetaalbaar. Vandaar dat we mede gedreven door de gedeelde liefde voor Frankrijk naar de Bourgogne zijn uitgeweken.
Wat is minst aantrekkelijke kant van het leven op het Franse platteland voor jullie? En dan meteen de meest aantrekkelijke?
Waar je aan moet wennen zijn de afstanden. Alles is ver. Verder moet je hier altijd rekening houden met het grote “repas-gat” tussen de middag waarin in feite heel Frankrijk stilligt. Je moet daar altijd voor je gevoel omheen plannen.
Op andere tijden een restaurant inschuiven voor een hapje dan strikt tussen de middag is ook lastig.
De rest is aantrekkelijk. De ruimte, de natuur, de ongelofelijke afwisseling in landschap, de gezellige dorpjes, de anti sloop mentaliteit want er is toch ruimte zat waardoor er oeroude gebouwtjes, kerken, krakkemikkige hutjes, oude stationnetjes als ware het vanzelf op hun plaats blijven staan. Geschiedenis schept sfeer, denk maar aan een oud huis. Naast het lekkere eten en drinken ook de eetcultuur, de Franse flair, de gulheid op het platteland, het mooiere weer en ga zo maar door. Wonen in een prachtige omgeving in een erg gezellig land.
Wat kunnen jullie over kaas maken/affineren vertellen?
Over kaasmaken niets want wij maken zelf geen kaas. Wij verkopen Hollandse Ambachtelijke kazen en die kun je hier niet maken, dan zouden het “Franse kazen naar Hollands recept zijn”. Voor Hollandse kazen met die keur aan specifieke smaken heb je Holland nodig, Hollandse boerderijen, Hollandse koeien, geiten en schapen, Hollands gras etc..
Affineren doen wij wel, vandaar de zin onder onze bedrijfsnaam:
Fromage Artisanal Hollandais, Affiné en Bourgogne.
De kazen die wij affineren komen jong binnen om hier ter Bourgogne door te rijpen en op smaak te komen.
Was het moeilijk of juist makkelijk om op markten terecht te komen?
De hangt geheel en al van de betreffende markt en het gemeentelijk beleid af. Op de ene markt hebben we een jaar moeten wachten en officieel een verzoekschrift moeten schrijven voor de aanvraag van een vaste plek, op de andere markt hadden we onze vaste plaats al na twee weken.
Inmiddels hebben we overal onze eigen vaste plek, weer een stressfactor minder.
Wat vinden de Fransen van jullie kazen?
De meeste Fransen zijn net als de meeste Nederlanders gek op kaas. Nederlandse kaas heeft een slechte reputatie wegens het aanbod van naar plastic smakende zogenáámde Goudse kazen in de supermarkt en daarnaast heeft Frankrijk zelf een keur aan kazen maar eenmaal geproefd worden de kazen die wij verkopen met open armen ontvangen.
Overigens is de Franse kaaskeuze hier in de zuid Bourgogne juist niet zo groot, er worden hier voornamelijk van die kleine ronde geitenkaasjes gemaakt. Voor het veel grotere assortiment moet je een stuk zuidelijker zijn.
Staan er nog andere projecten op stapel?
Behalve genieten? Nee hoor, niet direct behalve dan het verder verfijnen van onze zaak waar we bijzonder veel plezier in hebben en het in stand houden van wat we hebben opgebouwd. Daarnaast zien we wel wat er nog komt opborrelen.
Wat vinden jullie een heerlijke maaltijd?
Hemel! Dat loopt zeer uiteen. De Bourgondische traditionele keuken vinden wij heerlijk, salade met gesiers, entrecote, escartgots, kaasplankie uiteraard. Maar ook racletten in de winter of een Thaise maaltijd,  de Indonesische, Italiaanse, Vlaamse keuken of Spaanse tapas heerlijk! En als we een enkele keer in Nederland zijn: Chinees halen! en dan zo uit die bakkies opeten.
En natuurlijk welke wijnen, ik weet dat één keuze niet mogelijk is, gezien de keuze in Frankrijk?
Dat hangt uiteraard van het moment, het seizoen en de gerechten af maar samenvattend komen wij vaak uit op witte wijnen nou, dan kun je hier je lol op natuurlijk! Santenay, Pouilly Fuissé, Viré Clessé, Saint Véran, Chaintré, Givry… Maar een mooie rode slaan wij ook niet makkelijk af, een vriend van ons is Wijnboer en maakt een heerlijke Beaujolais gerijpt in eiken vaten, maar een volle rode Merlot kan ons ook zeer bekoren. Van wit en rood smullen wij, rosé slobberen wij meer (klok klok op het terras) maar kan ook erg lekker zijn. En vergeet niet de heerlijke Crémant de Bourgogne, de Champagne uit de Bourgogne zeg maar, daarin is én veel keus alsmede kwaliteit te vinden. Ach Frankrijk en wijn! Kan er niet over óphouden!
Wat lusten jullie echt niet en waarom niet?
Ik ben persoonlijk niet dol op oesters, heb het wel 2X geprobeerd want zo ben ik opgevoed: eerst proberen, dan oordelen! Eerst proeven en dan pas met peper en zout gaan gooien! Moest van mijn moeder en ze had gelijk. Maar met oesters ben ik eruit: Zonder dienstdoende arts die kan reanimeren begin ik er niet meer aan. P krijgt ze wel weg maar ze bestelt ze nooit dus… Verder zijn wij allebei niet te porren voor zaken als tripes (pens) en bijvoorbeeld andouilettes (die bleke worsten).
Verder eten wij vrijwel alles wat zich als eten voordoet. Proberen graag dingen uit en zijn allebei dol op koken.
Jullie wonen nu in Frankrijk.. Waar gaan jullie het liefst naar op reis?
We blijven graag in eigen land. Vroeger betrof dit land ook doorgaans onze vakantiebestemming en dat is eigenlijk zo gebleven. Frankrijk is ongelofelijk veelzijdig qua landschap, je hebt er alles, zee, bergen, laagvlaktes, hoogvlaktes, rivieren, meren, dorpjes, steden, bossen, ruig, rustig etc… terwijl je toch overal die typische Franse gezelligheid aantreft.
Een weekje naar bijvoorbeeld een Grieks eiland vinden we ook lekker mits de honden als handbagage mee mogen!
Wil je nog iets anders vertellen….delen?
Natuurlijk! Je bent ondernemer of je bent het niet!
Suus en Paula VAN DER LINDEN
Fromage Artisanal Hollandais affiné en Bourgogne
Wij zijn te vinden op de volgende markten:
Maandag: Marcigny
Donderdag: Gueugnon
Vrijdag: Digoin
Zaterdag: Cluny
Zondag: Chagny
Met zeer veel dank voor je belangstelling Gereon!
Hartelijke groeten,
Suus en Paula
foto de rijpende kazen
Het recept:
Voor deze ondernemende dames heb ik een recept voor kalfsvleesrolletjes gevuld met salami en natuurlijk wat belegen  Hollandse kaas. Erbij een saus van tomaat, courgette en witte wijn. Samen met de rosé van domaine la Rizolière uit de Beaujolais een heerlijk gerecht voor op het terras. Met natuurlijk het uitzicht op de prachtige zuidelijke Bourgogne. Geniet ervan.
Nodig 4 personen:4 kalfsschnitzels
100 g belegen kaas
100 g salami
1 eigeel
1 el citroenrasp
8 tomaten
1 courgette
1 sjalot
2 tenen knoflook
1 glas witte wijn
oregano blaadjes
tijm blaadjes
peterselie gehakt
bloem
150 geraspte oude kaas
boter
olijfolie
peper en zout
touw of prikkers

Bereiding:

Rasp de belegen kaas. Snijd de salami heel fijn. Voeg de eidooier toe en meng goed. Vul de schnitzels met dit mengsel en zet vast met prikker. Rasp de oude kaas en strooi deze op bakpapier. zet de oven op 180 graden en bak de kaas kort tot een krokantje. Dit is later garnering. Bestrooi het vlees met wat bloem waar peper en zout aan is toegevoegd. Verhit de boter en olijfolie in een pan. Bak de kalfsschnitzels kort aan. zet het vlees afgedekt met folie in een oven van 80 graden. Ontvel de tomaten en haal zaadjes eruit. Snijd de tomaten in hele fijne blokjes. Snipper het sjalotje, hak de tenen knoflook fijn. Haal de zaadlijsten uit courgette en snijd in hele kleine blokjes. Fruit het uitje en de knoflook in wat olie. Voeg de courgetteblokjes toe en roerbak kort. Blus met glas witte wijn. Voeg de tijm, oreganoblaadjes en citroenrasp toe. Laat kort sudderen. Voeg als laatste de tomaten blokjes toe en zet vuur uit. Haal het vlees uit de oven, leg in schaal en giet de groentesaus erover. Bestrooi met gehakte peterselie. Garneer met de krokantjes van oude kaas.
Serveer dit gerecht met wat met knoflook en olie gebakken spaghetti.

Carol Drinkwater, Stuffed farmer’s bread.

 

 Picture courtesy Carol Drinkwater from her website
Recently I invited Carol Drinkwater to particpate in my series “geprekken en gerechten” (conversation and recipes) Carol Drinkwater is an exceptional and multi talented woman.  She starred as an actress in many TV series, on stage and films. In the Netherlands we know her as Helen Herriot from the series ”All creatures great and small” that is now again on Dutch television. She is a film maker. Carol is also a writer of many books,  her memoirs on buying a house, called Appassionata, and her adventures in the Provence. She restored its olive groves and got an AOC. This resulted in another passion. Carol dived into the history and culture of the olive tree and its fruits. I am now reading her book the “Olive Tree” It can be said that she became a real expert on this topic. For all these reasons and from a culinary point of view I am very interested what she will answer to my questions. Let’s see if  I can write her a recipe,  that  reflects  her passions and talents. And sure, a Provencal touch and olive oil will be in the recipe.
Who is Carol Drinkwater? Tell me some more
I was born in London though I am Irish and my Irish culture and background is very important to me. I believe that the passion the Irish have expressed to win back their land and to rediscover their own identity is an energy I have directed in other ways. I am equally passionate about my life in France where I am married to a French documentary film producer. Together, we make films and tell stories with words and pictures. I think of myself as an actress, writer and filmmaker.
When did you start acting and which role you still remember?
My very first role was playing the small girl in Arther Miller’s The Crucible. I was eleven-years old. This was at the loacl repertory theatre. I had wanted to act from the age of about four but this experience consolidated the dream for me. My first professional role was in Stanley Kubrick’s film,Clockwork Orange. This was directly after drama school.
You wrote me that you were filming this June, when did you start these activities? And what kind of films you make?
We have been shooting a five-film documentary series inspired by my two books The Olive Routeand The Olive Tree. We have been shooting all around the Mediterranean. It was has been a very special experience.
You wrote a lot of books, childrens books, but also memoirs of buying a house and living in France, on olive trees, can you tell something more on your writing?
I have been writing since I was a small girl but only began to write professionally in the late 80s. My husband, Michel, encouraged me to get on with it. My first book was for youngsters, The Haunted School, and we made it into a film in Australia. It won the Chicago Film festival’s gold award for children’s films.
The Olive Farm is the first book in the Olive series. It is translated into Dutch and has sold very well there. It recounst the stories of our purchase of this rundown olive farm here in Provence. There are now seven books in the series icluding a fabulous photogrpahic book called The Illustrated Olive Farm. This series of books has sold well more than a million copies.
If you had to choose, only one option is possible, between being a writer or actress? What would it be?
I never make this choice because I don’t see a line down the middle between them. I am telling a story as an actress just as much as when I write a book. I like to think I am someone who takes people and situations from life and turns them nto fascinating stories.
You als write historical novels, in August, your new book Nowhere to Run will be published? Can you give a clue?
This is one in my young adult series published by Scholastic Books in the UK. It is the story of a young girl, Rebecca, who escapes from Poland in 1938 and they head for Paris. From Paris, they are forced to run to the South of France. And then they must run again, which explains the title. They are a Jewish family trying to escape the Nazis.. I love this book. I hope t will be as succesful as the others in the series.
Which plant do you like the most and which one you dislike? I am very curious about that
Well, I must say olive trees. Of course! I have travelled all over the Mediterranean in search of their stories, the stories of those who live by the olive tree and the history of the tree. It is a very very fascinating plant. There is no plant I don’t like though I am not very inspired by ivy because its roots breaks up our walls…
You traveled a lot worldwide,  what are your favorite spots?
Many places. I love Australia and I am very fond of Palestine and Lebanon. The Middle East because its cultures are so old and, sadly, confused and tragic. Palestine is a very beautiful land with a heartbreaking history. I also love the island of Sicily and, of course, the South of France.
What was the biggest difference between your life in the UK and France?
I was never very at home in the UK. I prefer to be in southern Ireland but the weather in Ireland is a bit cold for me. I am a lizard and love the sun. Here, in the south of France, I have found my spot, you might say. Like a dog curled up sleeping on the terrace.
Has it been easy to adapt for you to the French customs?
No, they were waiting to welcome me here!
Can you tell me some more on the olive growing process? That must be quite a hard job
It is a very time-consuling provcess and that is why olive oil can be very expensive. We pick our fruits by hand and we use no pesticides on the land. This is an organic farm and that, too, adds to the challenges. The trees need little watering because they are very drought-resistant but they need pruning every second year and we have to watch for an insect called the olive fruit fly that lays its eggs in the growing drupe. This is usually why farmers spray with chemicals but we are always looking for organic methods to combat the fly. It’s not easy!
Last April I visited the South of France and was caught again by the blue of the Sea, the yellow of the Sun and the snow in the mountains? After all these years, are you still taken by thes colours?
Every day, I marvel at the beaty and the colours. Now, midsummer, the garden is ablaze with oleander flowers of vibrant reds, picks, shades of apricot and the bougainvilleas. Oh, it is a joy to see them.
On food, which dish you prefer the most? And ofcourse what food you dislike?
I enjoy seafood very much. I like sea bass and cod meals and I love good pastas when I am in Italy. Fresh salads from the garden with lots of tomatoes….
What wine do you like?
I most enjoy a white Burgundy in summer and good Bordeaux reds in winter
What else do you want to share?
Thank you for inviting me to play this little culinary game with you. It’s a terrific idea. I have many readers in Holland and it is always a pleasure to hear from them. If you want to know more about me my website is www.caroldrinkwater.com and I have a fabulous and very active Facebook pagehttps://www.facebook.com/olive.farm. You can always talk to me there.
 Picture the Olive tree on my outside table
 
 
 
The recipe:
 
I found in the book Cuisine du Terroir (ISBN 0-9512121-0-9) a recipe that dates from Ancient Greek times in the area where Carol lives. It is a stuffed Savoy cabbage cooked for three hours in a piece of cheese cloth. It is called Sou Fassum. This time consuming recipe is still made in Antibes and Grasse.  For Carol I have a creative recipe of a rustic bread stuffed with vegetables, lamb sausages and Greek feta cheese. And needless to say delicious Extra Vierge olive oil. This dish can be served warm and cold. Or she can take it with her on a trip or as a snack when working in her olive grove. To pair this dish I would suggest a red Rhône wine, like the one from Vacqueyras
Ingredients for 4 persons:
1 big round loaf of rustic bread
8 lamb sausages
50 g of black olives cut in halves
1 tbs lemon zest
1 red bell pepper
200 g French haricot beans
1 courgette
1 container of wild cherry tomatoes
1 red onion
1 ts chopped rosemary
basil leaves
oregano leaves
1 clove of garlic
125 g feta cheese
1 dl olive oil EV
salt and pepper
Preparation:
Cut the upper third part from the loaf. This will later serve as a lid. With a spoon remove the crumble from the inside. The bread becomes a kind of bowl. Keep some bread crumbs apart. Cook the French haricot beans for several minutes. Cut the bell pepper and courgette in dices. Do the same with the garlic and onion. Heat some oil in a pan and  fry the onion and vegetables for 3 minutes. Add the chopped garlic, lemon zest and rosemary.  Roast the lamb sausages until almost done and cut them in pieces. Mix everything in a large bowl, adding the bread crumbs, halved cherry tomatoes, crumbled feta cheese, torn basil leaves, the oregano leaves and halved black olives. Give it a good dash of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Fill the bread bowl with this mix and put the lid on. Set the oven on 100 degrees Celcius and warm the bread  for about 10 minutes. Serve this dish with a nice watercress salad with just a dash of EV olive oil and lemon juice.

 

The Tuscan Sun Cookbook, spaghetti met krab.

 

foto cover kookboek

De zomer laat het deze reis afweten. Geen warme avonden om al fresco zoals dat zo mooi heet te tafelen. Nou ja dan halen we gewoon de zuidelijke zon in huis. In maart verscheen het nieuwste werk van Frances Mayes, een kookboek. Samen met haar man Ed heeft ze eindeloos gekookt en gebakken met als resultaat het “Tuscan Sun Cookbook“. (ISBN 978-0-307-88528-9) In dit mooi geïllustreerde kookboek met foto’s van Steven Rothfield gunt mijn vriendin Frances een kijkje in haar Toscaanse keuken. Zij begon 20 jaar geleden te koken met beperkte middelen in haar nog te renoveren huis Bramasole. Daarna verkende zij beetje bij beetje de eetcultuur van de Toscanen, van haar vrienden en buren. Het kookboek bevat gerechten, die je kunt verwachten als je bij Frances en Ed op bezoek komt. Heerlijk eten en een “casa aperta”, open huis, zoals zij dat noemt. Ook lardeert zij het kookboek met verhalen uit haar eerdere boeken, foto’s van vrienden en haar huizen. Een speciale zeer praktische sectie bevat tips om een Italiaanse voorraad in huis te halen. Al met al een heerlijk boek om in te lezen en om uit te koken. Nu het zomerweer nog. Uit het “Tuscan Sun Cookbook” maak ik een spaghetti met krab, zest en witte wijn. Een lichte maaltijd. Salade erbij en presto! Een lekker koude sauvignon blanc erbij. Voor de verandering eens één uit Nieuw Zeeland, koel en crisp.

Nodig 4 personen

400 g spaghetti
400 g krabvlees
2 el olijfolie eerste persing
1 glas witte wijn
sap van halve citroen
1 el citroenrasp
zout en zwarte peper
50 g Parmezaanse kaas
gehakte peterselie

Bereiding:

Kook de spaghetti al dente. Meng het krabvlees met de olijfolie, peper en zout. Verwarm in een pan en voeg de witte wijn toe. Als het kookt kun je meteen het vuur uitzetten. Meng de spaghetti en de krab en voeg de zest en sap van de citroen toe. Bestrooi het gerecht met de Parmezaanse kaas en peterselie. Indien de pasta iets meer vocht nodig heeft kun je wat kookvocht van de spaghetti toevoegen.

James Ernest Shaw a talented man, Chicken Tajine

 

foto: James Ernest Shaw


Some while ago I read about James Ernest Shaw through the weblog of an other American writer. I discovered that James is a man of many talents and passions. Filmmaker by origin, farmer and  writer. This man has a lot of stories to tell. A virtual conversation began through, mail and on social media on his latest book An Italian Journey. I immediately ordered his book and started to read his adventures in the olive groves of Italy. James most ardent question is the why of Italy! I invited him to particpate in “geprekken en gerechten” (conversation and recipes) Let’s see if we can conceive a dish for James Ernest from the answers he gives to my questions. Needless to say that this willl be an organic dish and olives to be an ingredient. And likely more elements from the Mediterranean.
Who is James Ernest Shaw? Tell me some more.
I am a retired filmmaker of documentary and adventure films. I grew up in the middle part of America, in wheat country in southwestern Nebraska. As a youngster I loved bicycling. I took my first long distance ride to the mountains of Colorado when I was fifteen and discovered that people are very open and welcoming to people who tour via bicycle.
How did your attraction for Italy and the Italians start?
My attraction for Italy began early – my best friend was Italian, his family owned a restaurant, and the food was very good. They also had a beautiful daughter. I briefly tell of her in the introduction to “An Italian Journey.”
Currently you own an organic farm, when did you start these activities?
I became interested in small scale farming when I read “The Unsettling of America” by Wendell Berry in the 1980s when I was researching the production of a film for a huge agribusiness client. Berry’s book opened my eyes to the abuses of agribusiness that attempt to overwhelm the natural cycles.
What is your favorite type of agriculture?
Small scale family farming. I love that small farms not only raise great food, they tend to raise outstanding families and citizens as well. Family farms grow strong work ethics.
Which plant do you like the most and which one you dislike? I am very curious about that.
I love lots of plants, but my favorite may well be wild plums. Once when my father was baling hay we discovered a bountiful harvest of plums surrounding the hay fields. My mother turned those plums into a delicious and very tart jam that I loved eating with homemade bread. Decades later, when I discovered that the farm I was considering buying had dozens of thickets of wild plums, I was ecstatic.
You traveled by bike through Tuscany, picking olives, what was your most striking moment? Many moments come to mind, some of which I relate in the book, but in general the thing that I can say is that traveling by bike rewards the rider with many unplanned and unexpected treasures, those special moments when the sunlight paints a landscape with a special glow, or you take shelter from a passing rainshower and are treated to the delicious smells of a field that has just been plowed and wetted down – I love that smell of freshly moistened earth.
Are there differences between American and Italian farmers?
 Yes. The important distinction is not that one is Italian and one American, but the differences are due to what food is being produced. American agriculture tends toward more mechanization because of the food that we tend to raise – wheat, corn, etc. Olives and grapes require more personal involvment – those activities require people and that builds stronger communities.
You talk a lot on the hand of God in the Tuscan landscape. Does that also apply to Colorado and Winsconsin?
No, the collaboration between man and God in creating the landscapes is not so noticeable in Colorado and Wisconsin. Small scale farming such as is prevalent in Tuscany shows off the collaboration much better – whether it is a rock wall defining a field or an odd-shaped pasture, the hand of man is seen much better in Tuscany. In Colorado and Wisconsin and my home state of Nebraska, the landscape and countryside is more a production of big tractors and machinery and less the production of a man working with his hands.
And for whom you would like to pick olives again and why?
 I would like to revisit all the farms where I worked, but I have a special fondness for Pietro and Aurora because in them I saw the battles that I see playing out in agriculture worldwide, between small scale farming and agribusiness, between farming for love and farming for business – both are important. It comes down to a question of balance and coming to the understanding that the land must be respected. We can get in trouble when we get so focused on high yields that we damage the land that sustains us.
On food, which food do you like and which you would never eat?
I can’t think of any food that I wouldn’t eat, except things like ants. I love tomatoes – they bring out the flavors of all foods so well. I also have a great fondness for potatoes – especially when they go from being in the earth to being on my plate in less than thirty minutes. I love fresh potatoes and tomatoes.
What wines do you like?
I seem to like everything I’ve tried from the Montepulciano area. I also have found that I enjoy making my own wine. Last year I made a particularly fine-tasting red wine from our raspberries – love drinking wine from my own land.
Can you tell me something about your “foodprint” A lot of waste we have in the Western world?
My wife and I favor local food. We enjoy getting to know our local producers and our local shopkeepers. We are raising less of our own now that our children are on their own (for the most part). We are now enjoying buying more of our food from our neighbors.
What else do you want to tell/share?
 If you want to get to know more about farming, or about people, I highly recommend volunteering to help with harvest, or planting, or cultivating, especially if you also receive an invitation to join the farmers at their kitchen tables. It will be an experience that you will never forget.

The Dish, chicken tajine with lemon and green olives
The dish I suggest for James Ernest will be a Moroccan tajine made of chicken thighs, olives and cured lemons. I chose this dish for him first ofcourse because of the green olives, but also for its flavors. I prepared this dish many times when giving a cooking class. A tajine is a stonewear cooking pot they use for hot pots like this. It has a conic lid and works like a kind of oven. It can be used on your stove as well on your way on a fire. Cured lemons are easy to make. Make sure they are organic. To drink I suggest a white Languedoc viognier wine. With its fruity tones to pair the 1000 and 1 night flavors.

Ingredients 6 persons:

4 sweet onions
6/8 chicken thighs
6 oz dryed apricots soaked for 1 hour, chopped
1/2 bushel of flat parsley
1/2 bushel of cilantro
3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 ts ginger powder
1 ts turmeric powder
5 saffron threads
1 red chili pepper, sliced
juice of half a lemon
1 cured lemon in tiny pieces
olive oil to fry
water
pepper and salt

Preparation:

Rip the leaves of the parsley and cilantro. Put these leaves aside in a bowl to use later on. Make sure you do not throw away the stems of the herbs. They will be used in the stewing process. In a flat pan you heat some oil and fry the chicken thighs, rubbed with salt and pepper. Fry them golden brown. Get the meat of the pan and put them together with the herb stems in the tajine pot. Put the chopped onions, the garlic, ginger powder, turmeric, saffron and chilipepper in the same oil and fry. Add some water and pour everyhting on the meat in the tajine. Cover the tajine with its lid and let simmer slowly. Do not forget to add some water as to prevent dish from cooking dry. After 30 minutes you add some lemon juice and all the green herbs. At the end when the chicken meat is done you add the green olives, apricots and cured lemons, just to warm. Season with some salt and pepper.
Serve this dish with some steamed couscous.

Cured lemons

Wash the lemons thouroughly. Put a big jar in boiling water to pasteurize. Cut the organic lemons in 4 parts, but make sure that the lemons are not cut in 4 (loose) pieces. Put some salt flakes in each lemon and close. Put the lemons in the jar and press them thightly. Close jar and store for hree days in a dark spot. If after this period the lemons are not totaaly covered by their own juices, add some boiling water and salt flakes. For seasoning add some bay leaves and rosemary. Pour some olive oil EV on top to tighten from air. Store the jar for a month in a dark place.

Gesprekken en gerechten: Susan Herrmann Loomis and her recipe

 foto: Susan with a beautiful tarte tatin

Some years ago now I read the books and adventures of the American writer Susan Hermann Loomis, who wrote two books for which she is known in the Netherlands, a report on her kick off in Paris, restoring an old Norman timber house in the town of Louviers, adapting to French life and her start of a cooking school, called On Rue Tatin. The second book was called “Tarte Tatin” Reading her adventures make you feel as if you’ve known her for a long time. The press called her stories pure escapism. Susan was already known for her farmhouse cookbooks in the US. She has written a total of nine books.  In her third book, Cooking at Home on Rue Tatin, also translated in Dutch, Susan shares her recipes with us. I never got it back after lending it to someone. (who?) Suddenly I got the idea to invite Susan for my series “gesprekken en gerechten” (conversation and recipes) Based on the answers she gave I conceived a recipe, that will please her and ofcourse my readers. I suppose that it
will have a Norman Dutch touch. Certainly by using lamb’s meat from salty pastures.

Who is Susan and what would you like to share with us?
I’m an American journalist who specializes in food and loves France. I have lived in France for twenty years, and I am now a French citizen. I own a small, exclusive cooking school called On Rue Tatin (www.onruetatin.com) in Normandy, and Paris where I teach technique-oriented classes in English. I have two wonderful children, and I live in a lovely home in the center of a French town.

You come from the Northwest of the US, can you give a description of that region and what is special over there?
The Northwest is gorgeous. Seattle is on the water. Portland is in a lush valley. Both cities are home in a certain sense, though France is my real home. If I had to choose between the cities, I’d choose Portland, for its food culture.

Nowadays you live in a small town in Normandy. Is there a difference?
Normandy has a very similar climate to both Seattle and Portland. There, the similarity ends.  In Normandy, the houses are old, the culture is too. People aren’t terribly friendly, but when you get to know them, they’re great. Everyone loves food; the soil is fertile so everything grows here (except citrus), it’s possible to buy just about everything from the person who produced it. And it doesn’t rain as much as people say it does.The colors of everything here are intensely beautiful, which is why the Impressionists called it home.

You invested a lot of energy in restoring your house and starting a cooking school? In another life, would you do it again? Or would it be somewhere else?
I’d do it again. I don’t believe in re-writing the script.

Your prose and recipes speak to the imagination, certainly with me. How do you do that?
I write what I feel and I feel things deeply. I think that’s what speaks.

My parents were/are very French oriented. De last two decades there has been a shift from French to Italian cuisine, certainly in my generation. Do you notice that in France too?
Not at all. Italy is looked upon with a certain disdain in France, particularly when it comes to food and wine. Everyone here likes pizza, but I’m not certain everyone here thinks it comes from Italy. There are plenty of Italian restaurants, but again, I wouldn’t say there is any “shift” in allegiance from French to Italian. The French love themselves, and they love and revere their cuisine.

On French society. In your books you tell that you had to adapt to many things. Did you experience change in the last decades?
Yes. There has been change. There are fewer mom and pop-owned stores. Even in my town, there is less of a personal touch, as bigger chain stores, banks, and telephone stores have moved in. Supermarkets have become the center of things more than they used to be. But the farmers markets are still active, there are still many producers. I think the link with the soil in France is what keeps it fascinating and rich. As an expatriate, one is constantly being surprised, constantly learning.

What do you miss from the US living in France?
Sometimes I miss efficiency; sometimes I miss smiles on people’s faces. I miss the instinctive understanding of “systems,” from the postal system to the electoral system. I miss friends, of course, but I’m very happy in France.

Culinary speaking, you are very experienced in French cooking now, which one is your favorite recipe? And naturally which wine?
I don’t have a favorite recipe, though I love to saute magret de canard and serve it with fresh sauteed cherries. I love almost all French wines; and as soon as I find one I love, I get some to put in the cave, then move along to discover more. That said, I have a penchant for French whites.

If you were to start a cooking school in the Netherlands, what would you want to teach us? I know this is a though question.
I would teach what I always teach: first, the importance of buying local and seasonal, making the best choices possible. Then, I would teach technique. Then, I would encourage everyone so that they gain confidence in the kitchen, and have fun both in kitchen and at the table.

Last but not least, do you want to share anything else in my blog? Please be welcome
Thank you so much for the opportunity to be part of your blog! I like what you’re doing. Putting people in touch with each other is so very important. Encouraging people to shop for good ingredients and cook with them is both satisfying and necessary. Time together at the table is too. Congratulations on a great blog!

 foto books by Susan

As said your dish will have Norman and Dutch components. This for me will be quite a challenge.
The recipe I suggest for Susan is a kind of navarin printanier, stew of lamb’s shoulder with vegetables, since it is Spring now and the Dutch pré salé lamb meat meets a French cuisson. The wine to pair is a red Bandol from the Provence.

Ingredients 4 persons:

1 kg/ 2,5 lbs lamb (from the shoulder)
4 medium sized tomatoes
150 g/ 5 oz French beans
4 carrots
6 stone leeks or spring onions
3 sticks of celery
1 bunch thin green asparagus
1 red onion
3 cloves garlic
250 ml/1 cup of chicken stock
6 tbs olive oil to fry
250 ml/ 1 cup of dry white wine
1 tbs flower
salt and freshly ground black pepper
freshly ground nutmeg
Preparation:

Rinse the lamb’s meat and dab with some kitchen paper. Cut the meat in 2 inch dices. Season with salt and freshly gorund black pepper. Remove the skin of tomatoes in the classical way, by using hot and then cold water. Cut them in four parts, remove the seeeds and chop into cubes. Peel the carrots and cut them in nice, not to small sticks. Wash the French beans, cut of the ends. Chop the stone leeks in nice tiny rings, cut the celery sticks in pieces. Rinse the asparagus and cut of the woody end. Chop the garlic and onion finely.
Heat half of the olive oil in a pan. Fry the lamb´s meat for about 10 minutes til brown. Add the flower, put in the chopped garlic and onion and fry for another 2 minutes. Pour in the white wine and add the tomato cubes. Bring to a boil and leave to simmer for 45 minutes, lid on.
The rest of the oil is heated in a sauce pan. Stir fry the carrots and stoneleek rings, keep stirring constantly. Add the beans and celery and fry for another 2 minutes. Cover with the chicken stock and let the vegetables simmer for about 10 minutes. In another pan the asparagus are cooked for about 8 minutes til tender. Get the asparagus form the pan and put in a separate dish, give them a dash of freshly ground nutmeg. Get all the vegetables from te sauce pan and put on a ovendish. Keep everything warm in oven.
Add the half of the chickenstock to the meatpan and let it simmer for 5 minutes. get the lamb´s meat out and put on same dish as the vegetables.
Reduce the sauce to the half, taste it and if needed, season with some extra salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables and serve.
Needless to say that this dish will be best enjoyed with crispy bread and rich creamy Norman or perhaps Dutch butter, the choice is yours!

Gesprekken en gerechten: Frances Mayes and her recipe

photo Frances Mayes (source internet)

For years I have been an ardent reader of the books of the American writer Frances Mayes, who wrote Under the Tuscan Sun, a stunning memoir on restoring a derilict villa in Tuscany and how to fill in her new Italian life. For over 20 years she has given her readers much inpiration out of the Tuscan land. I read on her weblog,www.francesmayesbooks.com that coming 13 March 2012  a cookbook with her Tuscan recipes will be given to the light, a saying of giving birth In Italy, dare alla luce. Suddenly I got the idea to invite Frances Mayes for my series “gesprekken en gerechten” (conversation and recipes) Based on the answers she gives I am going to conceive a recipe, that  I hope will please her. I chose for a surf and turf dish with an tomato/mascarpone sauce. The turkey meat and crayfish have both conquered the European menu, coming from the New World. And what to think of the pommodori? These are the quintessence of so many Italian dishes  Ofcourse there is no meal without wine. In my opinion a young Morelino de Scansano will pair with the dish. This wine is made from the Sangiovese grape in the coastal region of Maremma. This wine is not stocked on wood and bottled after 8 months. Serve this wine slightly cooled.

Who is Frances Mayes and What would you like to share with us? 
Writer, traveler, reader, cook. I live half and half in Tuscany and North Carolina, where my family is. I’m exceptionally lucky to be married to Ed, poet and fellow-adventurer. We never forget that life is to savor and rejoice in.

You were a teacher in San Fransisco, creative writing, how did this help to start an new life as a writer?
I’ve been a writer since I was nine years old. My teaching career built up a helpful knowledge of how other writers write. I learned to read anew–once for pleasure, again to see how the writer did it. I wrote a book, The Discovery of Poetry, that quantified my knowledge of the craft of a poem. Working with young writers was always stimulating–seeing them catch what I said and run with it. I quit teaching a decade ago to devote myself to full-time writing. I don’t miss teaching at all–23 years was good.

You wrote that at first you liked the calm pace of the Italian land compared to the frantic life in San Fransico. Now you live in North Carolina. Is there still such a difference?
My social life in Italy has become formidable! So now, North Carolina, where I’ve lived only six years, is my peaceful place.

You invested a lot of energy in restoring houses. In an other life, would you like to be a “geometra”?
I’ve a shadow career always haunting me: architecture. I’ve studied it always and love to travel to see buildings. I like interior design too and have a line of furniture, At Home in Tuscany, from Drexel Heritage. I like houses that ARE the inhabitant, not super-designed places that could be anyone.

Your prose speaks to the imagination, certainly with me. How do you do that?
Thank you! I like to work with images because they make direct contact with the senses of the reader.

My parents were/are very French oriented. The last two decades there has been a shift from French to Italian cuisine, certainly in my generation. How does it feel to be one of the pioneers in this field?
Cooking has been enlightening in Italy–the simplicity that’s possible with prime ingredients and a good way with them. Early on, I studied cooking with Simone Beck, partner of Julia Child, in Provence, an area so close to Italian cooking. I still love French food–and Moroccan, Chinese, Mexican, Thai–but for day-to-day, Italian is best.

On Italian society, you’ve called it homogeneous. Did you experience change in the last two decades?
Oh, yes, yes. The entire world is changing fast. Everywhere there are people who are from elsewhere–and in Italy I’m one of them! Right now in Italy, there’s a big influx of Romanians, who blend well, though one of my neighbors calls them “red face.” Immigration has been hard for Italy because for so long they were the immigrants but no one came to their soil.

What do you miss from the US being in Italy?
Only friends and family and my farm.

Culinary speaking, you have quite some experience in Tuscan cooking now, which one is your favorite recipe? 
That’s impossible to say! Love the pastas, the gelato, and most of all the plethora of vegetables from my garden. The big pork roasts, the pizza, guinea hen, figs, plums—everything!

Corn, tomatoes, eggplant are all from American descent. Italians gave an own twist to it. What can they learn form someone from the South like you?
Not much! They know everything! When I’ve served classic southern desserts such as pecan pie or caramel cake, they push it away after two bites. Too sweet. I’ve planted American corn and have had no success. “This is for pigs!” they say wonderingly. I think they would like, if I made it, our low-country boil, hush puppies, shrimp and grits, maybe fried chicken.

Last but not least, do you want to share anything else in my blog? Please be welcome 
I meet many Dutch people in Italy. You all are great travelers. I hope to get back there on a book tour sometime–have been only once.

Your dish I will give a litlle hint will be Italo Southern style. This for me will be quite a challenge.
I look forward to tasting it!

photo Sunday morning at home

Thus for Frances a recipe from under the low Dutch sky, with American origins and a dash of Tuscan sun.

The recipe:

Ingredients 4 persons:

4 turkey breasts
5 oz crayfish
1 bunch of parsley finely chopped
4 thin slices of smoked bacon
salt, pepper
2 tbs olive oil
knob of butter

1 can of peeled tomatoes
1 sweet onion finely chopped
2 garlic cloves
salt, pepper
dired oregano
4 oz of mascarpone cheese
2 tbs of cream
olive oil
1 glass of white wine

2 oranges
2  heads of radicchio
1 cup of  roasted walnuts
salt, pepper
3 tbs olive oil
1 tbs of walnut oil
2 tbs of induced balsamic vinegar or crema di balsamico
a little dash of dried oregano

Preparation:

Cut the turkey breasts in halves an put them between two sheets of clinging foil. Flatten the meat by using the back of a pan. This is always fun to do. Season the meat with some pepper and salt. Put the crayfish and finely chopped parsley on top of the meat and roll the meat tightly around the crayfish. Cover the rolls with the bacon. Put together with a wooden stick. Heat some oil and butter in a frying pan and fry the rolls of meat quickly until brown. Put them on an oven dish and keep warm in the oven on 176 degrees. (80 Celsius)

In another pan fry the finely chopped sweet onion and garlic in some oil. Add the peeled tomatoes and a glass of white wine. Season with salt and pepper. Add some oregano. Let this simmer for a while. Whisk the cream and mascarpone in a bowl to loosen up. Strain the tomato sauce through a sieve. Do not bring the sauce to a boil again and mingle bit by bit with the cream/mascarpone.  (cover to keep warm)

Peel the oranges and cut them in nice thin slices. Cut the radicchio in pieces. Put both in a salad bowl and top with the roasted walnuts. Make a vinaigrette from the oils and induced balsamic vinegar. Season the salad with some salt an freshly ground pepper. Add a dash of dried oregano. Pour the dressing on the salad in tiny drips, so that the oil and balsamic vinegar seem to appear as drops.

Get the turkey rolls from te oven and put them on a plate. Cover with the creamy tomato/mascarpone sauce. Add some of the salad. (or in a separate plate)

Gesprekken en gerechten, Smoked cod for Jeff Minnich

This is the first in my new series of interviews and recipes. I start my sequel with Jeff Minnich from Arlington, USA. I happened to meet him through the blog of American writer Frances Mayes. We are both ardent readers of her books and blog. I invited him to join my series of “gesprekken en gerechten” Jeff is a garden designer and a poetical blogwriter. He has many talents. But, who am I to tell his story?  Thus, I sent him through mail some questions, which he gladly answered. Ofcourse my part of the deal is creating a recipe. As Jeff is living in the Mid Atlantic, I suggest a smoked cod, Dutch stirfried vegetables and a sauce hollandaise. The fun of this recipe is that it can be made at home or as in Jeffs case “al fresco”. My wine suggestion is a crisp white chardonnay wine from Burgundy, Mâcon region.

 foto: Jeff Minnich

Who is Jeff Minnich? Tell me some more.
I am landscape designer, horticulturist, gardener, reader, writer, cook, veterans advocate, partnered. I dabble in interior design; I don’t have any formal interior design training, but I love experimenting and learning. One thing I’ve come to know is that design is design—in other words, the principles are the same, no matter what kind of art you do.
I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Horticulture from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA, here in the U.S. I specialized in landscape design and nursery management. I have minors in English and business, also. I use every bit of what I’ve learned, and I’m still learning, every day. I have my own landscape design/build business in Arlington, VA, which is in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area. Most of my work is in the immediate Washington area, though I do some work outside the area from time to time.
My partner, Steve, is a fireman in Wilmington, North Carolina, which is on the Atlantic coast in the far, southeast corner of North Carolina, almost to the South Carolina border. It’s very mild there. Palm trees and Live Oaks, draped in Spanish moss, grow all over there. The Live Oak is a beautiful, evergreen Oak that grows twice as wide as tall—very majestic. Spanish moss is an epiphyte—it lives on its own, yet uses the oak (and other trees) for support. It is gray and hangs off the trees in long strands–very mysterious and beautiful. The warmer climate allows me to grow lots of subtropical plants I can’t grow in Arlington which is fun for both of us. One of the many things Steve and I have in common is our love of gardening, which we do together, often. We have a special place in our hearts for military veterans, also, and especially for those who were injured in combat physically and/or mentally. We try to help where we can.
In Arlington, I live in a little cottage (which is called Woodland Cottage) built on a hillside, surrounded by old trees. It’s magical. My garden is a place for good, hard, physical work, beauty, relaxation and spiritual uplifting. I love to share it with all who want to visit.
I write a fair amount—mostly newspaper and magazine articles. I have a blog, also, and I try to write in it once a week or so. It’s been fun and I’ve met many new friends. As I get older, and the physical work becomes more difficult (it isn’t so much yet), I’d like to do more and more writing and less of the landscape design/installation work. This Winter and throughout the coming year, for instance, I’ve agreed to write several articles for a newspaper and magazine here in Wilmington. It’s good Winter work and keeps my mind nice and sharp.
Steve and I love Savannah, Georgia, and travel there several times a year. The climate is wonderful. We’ve thought we might want to retire down that way sometime in the not-too-distant future, buy a bit of land and start a little Palm nursery, grow our own vegetables, get back to the land. I think we’d be very content with that set-up.
When did your attraction to gardening start?
I’ve wanted to garden for as long as I can remember. I grew up in Alexandria, Virginia (right outside Washington, DC, also). We had an elderly neighbor who was an old family friend—in fact, our families go back together many years. They are really like family. Anyway, this neighbor, Marguerite, was a wonderful gardener and decided to help me plant my first, little garden on the back of our property. I grew vegetables, mainly, and a few flowers. Gradually, I took over the maintenance of the entire yard at our house (about ¾ of an acre), though I did share the grass cutting with my younger brother. Additionally, my maternal grandparents and my paternal grandfather were great gardeners, and I worked and learned from them, as well. They were “old school” gardeners and gardened by wisdom passed down through the generations—using few chemicals, planting/harvesting by the moon, keen observance of the seasons. Actually, all of this “old school” gardening is coming back into fashion now, as we all look for ways to preserve our environment.
I’ve had many other wonderful teachers throughout my life and I’ve learned much from them.
Currently you are a garden designer and owner of a garden design company. When did you start these activities?
I started my company, Jeff Minnich Garden Design, Inc., in 1997. Here’s a link to the website:www.minnichgardendesign.com It’s been an incredible amount of work, yet extremely rewarding. I absolutely love making order out of chaos, and that’s my job. I try to get inside my clients’ heads and figure out the best type of garden for each of them. It’s so interesting to see how many people evolve through the process. At the beginning, they say what they think they want in a garden…many times, after careful consideration, they find out what they actually want is much different. Fascinating, this metamorphosis. Many become wonderful gardeners, when previously they were not gardeners, and I think they are more surprised that I am.
Prior to 1997, I worked for 15 years as a landscape designer at a large landscape company/nursery/garden center in Northern Virginia. I’ve worked in florists, greenhouses (both retail and wholesale), nurseries…come to think of it, I’ve worked my tail off most of my working life! And loved almost every minute of it. Working with plants is the only work I’ve ever had, and I’ve been doing it since I was 5 years old, and professionally for over 30 years now.
What is your favorite type of garden?
My favorite type of garden is an eclectic one–evergreen (mostly broadleaf), textured, layered, very green, very dense; simple from a distance and more complex close-up. I love a garden that is private. A garden that appeals to all the senses. I would say a woodland, shady garden is my favorite—they are much more subtle, softer, with an emphasis on the textures and colors of the foliage versus the flowers.
Which plant do you like the most and which one do you dislike?
I love Palms, specifically the hardier species. When I look at them, I feel warm, even if the air is cold (as you may have discerned, I am not a lover of cold weather!!).
I really do love all plants, so it is hard for me to pick one I dislike. I would have to say I am not a big fan of Barberries (Berberis is the genus), specifically the deciduous types. While they have many wonderful attributes, particularly for Northern climates, I find them difficult to work around because of the monstrous amount of thorns.
You’ve travelled a lot to see gardens in the U.S. and worldwide—tell me about your favorite garden.
I find it hard to choose one, but since I must, I’d say Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, DC. It was designed by Beatrix Farrand, a niece of the writer Edith Wharton, and the first woman in the world to become a landscape architect. Dumbarton’s garden is a series of very different garden rooms and each provokes a different mood. I particularly love to sit on a beautiful bench in a very, very simple garden “room” surrounded by clipped Yews. It’s quiet and peaceful.
I’ve admired many, many other gardens around the world, but these stand out without thinking about it too much: the Oak allee at Oak Alley in Louisiana; a magnificent, Bougainvillea-covered, modern arbor in a park along the river in Brisbane, Australia (it seemed to go on forever); the botanical garden in the same city which had a tree called a Sausage Tree—maybe the most bizarre plant I’ve ever seen; and Hayman Island in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia was incredibly beautiful, too. Come to think of it, at the Sydney, Australia, botanical garden, the Ficus trees were huge, but the amazing part was the flying foxes which roosted in the trees and ate the fruit at night. Those bats are giant!! And Muir Woods in California—those giant Redwoods—awe-inspiring.
I’ve loved so many gardens around the world, for so many different reasons.
Are there differences between American and other gardens?
Oh, absolutely. Our diverse climates make for the necessity of very different gardens across the U.S., based on the local climate. I will say that within these climates we’ve adopted the gardens from other countries that match that particular climate. For instance, California has a very Mediterranean climate, so the gardens there have many attributes that resemble Italy, Spain, and Mexico. The English settled in Virginia early on, so many of the Virginia gardens have a truly English feel to them, not to mention English boxwoods so suit the Virginia climate. They look right there. Further South, in South Florida, tropical plants from around the world have been brought in to create a beautiful, lush feel. It suits the climate.
And because America is such a melting pot of people from other countries and cultures, those influences have affected how our gardens have evolved, as well.
I would say the most uniquely “American” gardens might be those of the grasslands of the Midwest and Plains, and the deserts of the Southwest. In my own travels, I haven’t seen those represented as much outside the U.S.
What garden would you never design?
I would have to say a desert garden because I don’t know the plant material as well. I come from a lush place of humidity and rain. That’s what I know. As I mentioned earlier, design principles are design principles—the same around the world—but then, to make a healthy garden, you’ve got to know the best plants for a particular environment.
And for whom would you like to design a garden and why?
I love to design gardens for people who open their minds to the possibilities. Those gardens always turn out the best because they evolve with the collaboration. Oh, it’s fun, and we become wonderful friends during the process, too, nine times out of ten.
So many people come to the table with an absolute idea of what [they think] they want in their garden, and often, in my opinion, the kind of garden they think they want is not the garden for them, at all. Yet, stubbornly, they persist. If they would just open their minds to the possibilities, let go, and let the garden evolve as it will, they would have a garden much more tailored to their lifestyle and who they really are—not who they think they would like to be. I know that sounds harsh, yet in so many cases it is so true.
I once read an article about the movie star, Brad Pitt’s, garden. He collaborated with a very headstrong designer and Mr. Pitt is very headstrong, too, according to the article. There was a lot of head-banging and arguing, I understand! And yet, the garden they created together, their collaboration, is just astoundingly creative, beautiful and lush. I would love to visit there sometime, if Mr. Pitt still owns it, because I know he keeps it maintained as he likes it. What a talented garden designer he has…the guy is to-the-moon creative, in my opinion.
On food, do you think food and gardens can be complimentary?
Oh, absolutely. It’s the big trend now here in the U.S. Unfortunately, where I garden and do most of my design work, there is too much shade to include vegetables, fruit and herbs. But we do try where we can. In Wilmington, we have sandy soil and lots of sunshine, plus a long, long growing season. You can grow many seasons of different crops here. We put the Tomatoes in with the Zinnias, the Marigolds with the shrubs…we mix it all up. It really pulls in the bees, and the crop yields are really good (given a year of good climate). The birds come in…oh, it’s glorious. Birds and bees bouncing, flying and playing; singing and buzzing…the scents, the sounds…it’s so entertaining. And there is NOTHING like a fresh Tomato—the store-bought Tomatoes here in the U.S. are dreadful.
What wine do you like?
I have a limited wine palate—sorry, I do! I wish I knew more about wines! But I do know that I love the Cabernets, Merlots and Shiraz for the cold months; and chilled Chardonnays, sweeter whites, roses for the warmer months. I do not like dry, bitter wines—I always go for the sweeter. Champagne is lovely, but it gives me a terrific headache, so I don’t indulge often, unfortunately. As far as specific wines…I leave the brand names to the experts. I am probably kind of trashy when it comes to wine selection, but I do know what I like when I taste it!!
What else do you want to tell?
I’m very private, very simple. I decorate my own house and garden to satisfy me, not anyone else. To me, our houses and gardens in Arlington and Wilmington are beautiful, each very different, yes—but we’ve done them for our pleasure, not to show off or keep up with others. That turns me off. That said, others can do whatever they want with what they have. Who am I to judge? Have at it—whatever makes you happy.
I like nice things, yet I am not materialistic. I love to travel, yet I don’t have to stay in the Taj Mahal, either. I love simple dinners with close friends, our gardens, hanging out with my partner and family in our cherished spare time.
I love people. That’s a big part of my work, getting to know people so I can help them with their yards. The resulting friendships are a nice bonus. I know lots and lots of people, it’s true, yet I have very few “best” friends—those with whom I spend a lot of time. I can count those special people on one hand. And my family, of course. I do love my family and Steve’s family, our family. As much as I love people, I need my time alone—to read, write, cook, garden, sit and meditate, recharge. My work is very demanding, so I need this time to recharge so I don’t burn out.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  foto: bronze eelsmoker in Monnickendam harbour
The recipe:
Ingredients 4 persons:
for the smoked cod:
1 ½ lb of fresh cod or pollock
2 tbs olive oil
salt and peper
lemon juice
4 tbs smoking ground
for the vegetables:
1 big carrot in dices
½ lb of Brussels sprouts, halved
1 leek in slices
1 turnip in dices
olive oil
peper, salt and ground nutmeg
for the sauce hollandaise:
3 egg yolks
2 tbs water
6 oz unsalted butter, cut into tiny cubes, not too cold
2 tbs white wine vinegar
salt and ground white pepper
chopped parsley
the smoked cod:
You can either use an outside smoker, or a steam pan from a well known Swedish furniture supplier. You fill the device with special smoking woodpieces, like small pieces of oak, birch etc. or smoking ground. If not, an alternative way, is to use and old pan, with a thin bottom. You cover the whole inside of the pan with some aluminium foil, shiny side up. On top of the foil you put 4 tbs of special smoking ground.
Meanwhile you cure the fresh cod in olive oil, salt, pepper and some lemon juice and leave it to rest for 20 minutes. After that, you cut the fish in  medium thin slices.
Cover the smoking ground with some alu foil, pierce it with a fork and put a plate on it. Put some pebbles under the plate to help smoke/air circulation. Put a small grill on top of the plate.
Put the pan on a high fire and when the ground starts smoking, put the cod on the grill. Cover up with foil and a lid an let the fish smoke for about 10 minutes.
the vegetables:
Rinse and peel the vegetables. Put some oil in a stir frying pan and fry them until “al dente” Let them simmer for a while and add some ground nutmeg. Keep warm until the fish is done.
the sauce:
Melt the butter in a pan, that is in another pan with boiling water. See that the bottom is not in direct contact with the boiling water. (au bain marie method) In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks with some vinegar and a dash of lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Bit by bit beat in the melted butter, then add some water water. Return this into pan and beat over very low heat until mixture is slightly thickened. Leave to rest. Add some chopped fresh parsley before serving.
Serve the pieces of fish on a bed of the stir fried vegetables and add the sauce.
Note: Special thanks to Keizer Culinair for teaching me how to smoke cod in a pan.

 

Gesprekken en gerechten, Talk and table

GESPREKKEN EN GERECHTEN

In het komende voorjaar start ik met een nieuwe serie blogs op culi_DL. Het heet voorlopig gesprekken en gerechten. In deze serie wordt aan de hand van een gesprek, een kunstwerk, belevenis of een boek een beeld geschetst van de verteller of maker. Naar aanleiding van het gesprek maak ik dan een recept dat het meest het besprokene weergeeft. Ik heb al enkele slachtoffers gevonden, maar ben JIJ van mening dat je in een korte dialoog een mooi recept zal opleveren?   Meld je dan aan en vertel me je verhaal.  Hier op de blog www.culidl.blogspot.com of via Twitter gereon_DL

This Spring I will start a new sequel of blogs on Culi_DL. For now it is called “Conversations and Recipes”  The blogs will portrait the maker of a piece of art, book or  the person who experienced an adventure. From the things they will tell, I will conceive a dish or recipe, that shows a portrait of the person to the reader. Already some “victims”volunteered. BUT, if you think that a short dialogue will make a nice recipe? Be my guest and apply  for a conversation. Apply now on my blog www.culidl.blogspot.com or Twitter gereon_DL

De weg voorbij: Poulet Basquaise

Jour de répos. De zachte smaak van de wijn nog op mijn lippen. Het feestmaal van de avond ervoor: “‘C’est simple, mais ca marche”, zegt mijn oom. Het menu: potage d’onion, jambom de pays (gerookte ham, vooraf geïnjecteerd met zelfgestookte eau de vie van pruimen, knoflook en afgewreven met zwarte peper), omelette aux cêpes, salade verte au vinaigrette, fromage, camembert van lait cru, Lanquetot, café noir en cognac.

En de wijn: Pomerol 1979, Mercurey en Bourgogne 1983, Domaine des hautes Perrays Clos du Cochet. Praten, veel praten en roken. savoir vivre, savoir la joie de vivre. Omstreeks middernacht val ik tussen de lakens.

Zomaar een citaat uit het zojuist verschenen relaas (De weg voorbij ISBN/EAN 978-90-817282-1-8) van mijn vriend Maarten van Rooy over zijn tocht naar Santiago de Compostela jaren geleden. Niet lopend, maar gewoon op zijn fiets vanuit het Brabantse land. Dit werkje stuurde hij mij deze week op. En, omdat u vraagt wij draaien nog liep tot 30 november heb ik voor deze noeste fietser vandaag een recept voor poulet Basquaise. Weliswaar niet zo copieuze maaltijd als in het citaat, maar wel genoeg energie gevend voor de klim over de Pyreneeën. Bij dit gerecht past een fruitige soepele rode wijn, zoals een Beaujolais Villages.Nodig:

1 grote kip
2 zoete uien
5 tenen knoflook
3 rode paprika’s
1 dl olijfolie
2 blikken gepelde tomaten
1 laurierblad
1/2 tl tijm
2 tl pimenton (gerookte Spaanse paprikapoeder)
peper en zout
1 glas witte wijn

Bereiding:

Verdeel hele kip in gelijke stukken ( poten, vleugels en borst). Snijd de uien in ringen en de paprika’s in stukken. Hak de knoflook fijn. Bestrooi de kippenbouten met peper en zout.
Verhit wat olijfolie in de pan en bak hierin de kip mooi bruin rondom. Haal de kip uit de pan. Giet het braad vet weg. Doe nieuwe olie in de pan en bak zachtjes de ui, paprika en knoflook aan. Voeg de pimenton toe en bak deze even aan voor de rokerige smaak. Blus af met witte wijn en voeg tomaten, tijm en laurierblad toe. Breng aan de kook. Leg de kip in deze saus en laat het geheel een uur sudderen. Breng nadien op smaak met wat peper en zout.
Serveer de kip met stokbrood.

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