Laurent Gras: My Provence

Laurent Gras

Loading up your favorite reading device for a holiday or a weekend in the country? Maybe adding a cookbook is a good idea – especially if it is Laurent Gras‘ new My Provence (Alta Editions 2012) with Mitchell Davis. Digital cookbooks are easier to use then you think, and have the nifty advantage of being easily portable to the market when you search for what is in season.

This is olive oil cooking – seasonal, colorful, flavorful:

Provence is the setting for the recipes that follow. The cuisine of Provence emphasizes freshness and seasonality. Local produce and seafood are predominant. Influences from Italy, Spain, and North Africa meld to produce the cuisine of the region. Food in Provence has not changed much in my lifetime. True, people do not spend as much time cooking as their grandparents did, but the local intuition and sensibility about food remains.

Even if Provencal cuisine is steeped in southern Mediterranean, it translates easily to other areas. These are recipes from Laurent’s family and early career, and so come with stories of his youth and his early career, bringing to life and giving context to the flavors and choices in the recipes.

My Provence, by Laurent GrasThe first chapter is full of light, colorful salads like Artichoke Salad with Pecorino, with shaved raw artichoke, cheese and a garnish of fried artichoke chips. The Radish Salad with Country Dressing is a smart combination of opposites:

The spiciness and crunchiness of this root vegetable is unique…Besides bread and butter, I also like to eat radishes with a rich, flavorful dressing, which we used to call “country dressing.” Potatoes, which have a totally opposite character, serve as a balanced companion to radishes.

Get great fresh and crunch radishes from a farmers market or your own backyard and enjoy a terrific salad.

The main courses start not with a roast or pan-fried meat, but with a sandwich, the marvelous Pan Bagnat:

Pan Bagnat is no ordinary sandwich—it’s a delicacy. The satisfaction that comes from eating one on a sunny Mediterranean beach is akin to the sensation of sinking your teeth into a hot pastrami sandwich from Katz’s Delicatessen on a cold New York winter’s day.

Tuna and anchovies are combined with vegetables on a roll and left to marinate. The next recipe is My Mother’s Provencal Tart, a double crusted vegetable tart, flavored with Comte cheese, bacon, and ham. The recipes are both rustic and elevated – elegant fish dishes and daubes – to serve for a fancy dinner.

The photographs by Shimon and Tamar showcase the lovely presentation. Home cooks might not get that piece of cod nestled just so under toast and bacon in Striped Bass with Spicy Tomato Sauce, but it is easy to follow the recipe and get good results.

Maybe you will be far away from Provence this autumn, (maybe not?) but Laurent Gras’ My Provence will bring sunny Provence right to your table.

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