August 23, 2010

ladies who dine

Oh la la...

This month our taste buds were transported to France with a long stop-over in the Provençal region, via my very own dining room & the culinary skill of ces femmes fantastiques. I popped up some café curtains, we popped open a few bottles of rosé, & immersed ourselves in the fresh, rich, buttery, cheesy, delicious cuisine that is French. From roasted duck with a currant-pomegranate-port reduction, pisadalliere, tourbot en bourride, ratatouille, sautéed tomatoes & green beans Provençal, & phenomenal cheese course array with tapenade, we feasted comme des rois.

I believe we all declared ourselves absolutely stuffed before we proceeded to forge ahead with a dollop of the richest mousse chocolat that I have ever laid a spoon on, an absolutely splendid Beaumes-de-Venise cake with grapes, & a glass of muscat. Bon appetit!

from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child

1/2 pound eggplant
1/2 pound zucchini
A 3-quart, porcelain or stainless-steel mixing bowl
1 teaspoon salt
A 10- to 12-inch enameled skillet
4 tablespoons olive oil, more if needed
1/2 pound (about 1 1/2 cups) thinly sliced yellow onions
2 (about 1 cup) sliced green bell peppers
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil, if necessary
2 cloves mashed garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound firm, ripe, red tomatoes, peeled, seeded and juiced (makes 1 1/2 cups pulp)
Salt and pepper
A 2 1/2 quart fireproof casserole about 2 1/2 inches deep
3 tablespoons minced parsley
Salt and pepper

Peel the eggplant and cut into lengthwise slices 3/8 inch thick, about 3 inches long and 1 inch wide. Scrub the zucchini, slice off the two ends and cut the zucchini into slices about the same size as the eggplant slices. Place the vegetables in a bowl and toss with the salt. Let stand for 30 minutes. Drain. Dry each slice in a towel.

One layer at a time, saute the eggplant and then the zucchini in hot olive oil in the skillet for about a minute on each side to brown very lightly. Remove to a side dish.

In the same skillet, cook the onions and peppers slowly in olive oil for about 10 minutes, or until tender but not browned. Stir in the garlic and season to taste.

Slice the tomato pulp into 3/8-inch strips. Lay them over the onions and peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the skillet and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, or until tomatoes have begun to render their juice. Uncover, baste the tomatoes with the juices, raise heat and boil for several minutes, until juice has almost entirely evaporated.

Place a third of the tomato mixture in the bottom of the casserole and sprinkle over it 1 tablespoon of the parsley. Arrange half of the eggplant and zucchini on top, then half the remaining tomatoes and parsley. Put in the rest of the eggplant and zucchini and finish with the remaining tomatoes and parsley.

Cover the casserole and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Uncover, tip casserole and baste with the rendered juices. Correct seasoning, if necessary. Raise heat slightly and cook uncovered for about 15 minutes more, basting several times, until juices have evaporated leaving a spoonful or two of flavored olive oil. Be careful of your heat; do not let the vegetables scorch in the bottom of the casserole.

Set aside uncovered. Reheat slowly at serving time or serve cold.

chocolate honey mousse perfumed with orange blossoms
adapted from Epicurious

2 1/2 cups chilled whipping cream
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate
5 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon orange flower water

Stir 3/4 cup cream, chocolate and honey in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat & stir in orange flower water, then let cool, stirring occasionally.

In large bowl, beat 1 1/4 cups cream until soft peaks form. Fold cream into chocolate mixture in 2 additions. Pour mousse into eight 3/4-cup ramekins, or large serving bowl.

Refrigerate until set, about 2 hours.
Whip remaining 1/2 cup cream to firm peaks. Spoon a dollop of cream in center of each serving of mousse.


  1. I heard about your blog from a mutual friend, Sylvio, and love it - especially the ladies who dine posts. I've been thinking about Ratatouille recently and was given a recipe from my French host mother when I was in Provence 9 years ago. Unfortunately I'm missing some of the pages from the recipe, and it's in French (9 years of not speaking French does take a toll). I may use some of your recipe to fill in the blanks - thanks!

  2. Thank you Baking Midwife, & welcome!
    Ratatouille is a staple in our household, & I've been loosely following Julia Child's recipe for years, so I would attest that it's a good, reliable one to follow, or fill in missing pages (a recipe that is pages long - love it! - and in the original language/from a femme Provençale - what a wonderful gem of which to have even just a portion).

    Ah yes, language is a muscle that needs to be exercised, & my French is indeed flabby.

    I am very excited to explore your blog - looks like a veritable treasure trove of fantastic recipes & photos... merci!

  3. PS - love your blog title, as well :)

  4. And lovely Tera - thank you - these ladies are also beautiful & intelligent & fun & funny - I do feel INCREDIBLY lucky. Why don't you consider a move to the Northeast... you'd fit right in! And, we have snow!


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