Provence regional specialties - Food and Wine
The cuisine of Provence is the result of the warm, dry Mediterranean climate; the rugged landscape, good for grazing sheep and goats but, outside of the Rhone Valley, with poor soil for large-scale agriculture; and the abundant seafood on the coast. The basic ingredients are olives and olive oil; garlic; sardines, rockfish, sea urchins and octopus; lamb and goat; chickpeas; local fruits, such as grapes, peaches, apricots, strawberries, cherries, and the famous melons of Cavaillon.
The fish frequently found on menus in Provence are the rouget, a small red fish usually eaten grilled, and the loup, (known elsewhere in France as the bar), often grilled with fennel over the wood of grapevines.
Aïoli is a thick emulsion sauce made from olive oil flavored with crushed garlic. It often accompanies a bourride, a fish soup, or is served with potatoes and cod (fr. Morue). There are as many recipes as there are families in Provence.
Bouillabaisse is the classic seafood dish of Marseille. The traditional version is made with three fish: scorpionfish, sea robin, and European conger, plus an assortment of other fish and shellfish, such as John Dory, monkfish, sea urchins, crabs and sea spiders included for flavor. The seasoning is as important as the fish, including salt, pepper, onion, tomato, safron, fennel, sage, thyme, bay laurel, sometimes orange peel, and a cup of white wine or cognac. In Marseille the fish and the broth are served separately – the broth is served over thick slices of bread with rouille (see below.)
- Brandade de Morue
Brandade de Morue is a thick cream made of cod crushed and mixed with olive oil, milk, garlic and sometimes truffles.
- Daube provençale
Daube provençale is a stew made with cubed beef braised in wine, vegetables, garlic, and herbes de provence. Variations also call for olives, prunes, and flavoring with duck fat, vinegar, brandy, lavender, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, juniper berries, or orange peel. For best flavor, it is cooked in several stages, and cooled for a day between each stage to allow the flavors to meld together. In the Camargue area of France, bulls killed in the bullfighting festivals are sometimes used for daube.Daube provençale is a stew made with cubed beef braised in wine, vegetables, garlic, and herbes de provence. Variations also call for olives, prunes, and flavoring with duck fat, vinegar, brandy, lavender, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, juniper berries, or orange peel. For best flavor, it is cooked in several stages, and cooled for a day between each stage to allow the flavors to meld together. In the Camargue area of France, bulls killed in the bullfighting festivals are sometimes used for daube.
Escabeche is another popular seafood dish; the fish (usually sardines) are either poached or fried after being marinated overnight in vinegar or citrus juice.
Fougasse is the traditional bread of Provence, round and flat with holes cut out by the baker. Modern versions are baked with olives or nuts inside.
Oursinade is the name of a sauce based on the coral of the sea urchin, and usually is used with fish, and also refers to a tasting of sea urchins.
La pissaladière is another speciality of Nice. Though it resembles a pizza, it is made with bread dough and the traditional variety never has a tomato topping. It is usually sold in bakeries, and is topped with a bed of onions, lightly browned, and a kind of paste, called pissalat, made from sardines and anchovies, and the small black olives of Nice, called caillettes.
Ratatouille is a traditional dish of stewed vegetables, which originated in Nice.
Rouille is a mayonnaise with red pimentos, often spread onto bread and added to fish soups.
- Soupe au pistou
Soupe au pistou, either cold or hot, usually made with fresh basil ground and mixed with olive oil, along with summer vegetables,
Tapenade is a relish consisting of pureed or finely chopped olives, capers, and olive oil, usually spread onto bread and served as an hors d'œuvre.
- The Calisson of Aix-en-Provence
The calisson is the traditional cookie of Aix-en-Provence, made from a base of almond paste flavored with confit of melon and orange. They have been made in Aix-en-Provence since the 17th century.
- The gâteau des Rois
The gâteau des Rois is a type of epiphany cake found all over France; the Provençal version is different because it is made of brioche in a ring, flavored with the essence of orange flowers and covered with sugar and fruit confit.
- The Tarte Tropezienne
The tarte Tropézienne is a tart of pastry cream (crème pâtissière) invented by a St. Tropez pastry chef named Alexandre Micka in the 1950s, based on a recipe he brought from his native Poland. In 1955, he was chef on the set of the film And God Created Woman when actress Brigitte Bardot suggested he name the cake La Tropézienne. It is now found in bakeries throughout the Var.
- The Thirteen desserts is a Christmas tradition in Provence, when thirteen different dishes, representing Jesus and the twelve apostles, and each with a different significance, are served after the large Christmas meal.
- Provençal herbs
Herbes de Provence (or Provençal herbs) are a mixture of dried herbs from Provence which are commonly used in Provençal cooking.