The Provence Cookbook
HarperCollins PublishersISBN: 0060507829
My Vegetable Man's Asparagus Flan
Le Flan d'Asperges de Mon Marchand de Légumes
8 Servings as a First Course
lt's funny how merchants in the market generally resemble their produce. The farmer selling gnarled old carrots and turnips always sports hands that advertise his long hard labor in the sun. The lady offering pristine little rounds of goat cheese manages to reflect a prim, proper, tidy life. Raymond Chapuis, who supplies me with first-of-season asparagus, tender peas, firm and shiny zucchini, and gorgeous fava beans, is always trim, neatly dressed, and sporting a well-kept beard and a hearty smile. I see him at the Tuesday market in Vasion-la-Romaine, then again on Wednesdays in Saint-Rémy. His wife, Simone, kindly shared this favored asparagus flan. Note that for this recipe you need only the tender tips, which in Provence are sold separately. The stems can be steamed, puréed, and blended with chicken stock to prepare a soup.
EQUIPMENT: A 10 1/2-inch round Porcelain gratin dish; a vegetable steamer.
1 pound thin green asparagus tips (about 2 cups)
4 ounces smoked slab bacon, rind removed, cut into cubes (1 cup)
1 cup light cream
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
Fine sea salt to taste
Freshly ground white pepper to taste
Wine Suggestion: This delicate spring flan calls for a floral white, perhaps one with a Viognier base. Try the vin de pays from the reputable Châteauneuf-du-Pape vineyard Domaine de la Janasse.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Butter the gratin dish and set aside.
- Bring about 3 cups of water to a simmer in the bottom of a vegetable steamer. Place the asparagus tips on the steaming rack. Place the rack over the simmering water, cover, and steam until they are cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes, Drain. Set aside.
- Place the bacon in a large skillet and cook, stirring frequently, over medium-high heat just until it begins to give off its fat and starts to brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the cream and eggs. Whisk to blend.
- Pour half of the cream and egg mixture into the gratin dish. Scatter the bacon ever the mixture. Layer the asparagus tips on top of the bacon. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with the remaining cream and egg mixture.
- Place the baking dish in the center of the oven. Bake until the mixture is set and the top is golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Serve in wedges as a first course, or as a main luncheon dish with a tossed salad alongside.
Salad of Tomatoes, Pine Nuts, and Basil
Salade de Tomates, Pignons de Pin, et Basilic
6 To 8 Servings
On the theory that "what grows together, goes together," all I need do is look out my kitchen window and find the makings of this marvelous salad: Myriad varieties of tomatoes and basil from the potager, and pine nuts from our towering parasol pines. (Okay, I don't harvest the pine nuts, but they do inspire!) If you have access to a good nut oil, pine nut oil is best — but good walnut or hazelnut oil are far from shabby substitutes. Even a very green herbaceous olive oil, like those from the Alpes de Haut Provence, would not be out of place here.
Layer the sliced tomatoes on a large platter, overlapping as necessary. Season with salt, Sprinkle with the pine nuts and the basil. Drizzle with the lemon juice and the oil. Season gently with salt, generously with pepper. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes to allow flavors to mellow. Serve as a first course or as part of a buffet.
6 ripe, red tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds) cored, peeled, and sliced lengthwiseContinues...
Fleur de sel or fine sea salt to taste
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 cup basil leaves, cut into a chiffonnade
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 tablespoons pine nut oil, or substitute walnut, hazelnut, or olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper to taste