Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Coronado Concerts in the Park and a Taste of Provence

The pink wine was flowing freely as our Coronado Concerts in the Park culinary group launched the first challenge of the summer season, A Taste of Provence.

John and I secured our spot in Spreckels Park by 4:00, and we dressed the main table with a tablecloth and vase of sunflowers and lavender sprigs.

Jim and Carmen were next to arrive with a steaming dutch oven full of Poor Man’s Bouillabaisse, also known as Bourride de Séte or Bourride Setoisé. John and I had the pleasure of Carmen's Provencal fish stew twice over the weekend, first on Friday night, on their balcony, and again at the Concert when she prepared another divine batch with scallops and monk fish. The bisque-like bourride is so incredibly flavorful with the addition of aioli and rouille.  Please see Carmen's witty and informative history in her "guest post" with the complete recipe and preparation notes.

As our friends continued to arrive, Provencal dishes in tow, John offered glasses of Ricard, a liqueur flavored with a subtle blend of star anise from China, licorice from the Mediterranean, and aromatic herbs from Provence.  Careful, that stuff will hurt you!

After everyone finished their aperitif, we uncorked various Vins de Provence. According to David Lebovitz, author of the blog, David Lebovitz, and several books, including The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious - and Perplexing - City, "...for any wine snobs out there that think it's folly to serve wine in cups instead of glasses haven't had the pleasure of standing near a wood-burning oven, eating a blistering-hot wedge of socca with a non-recyclable tumble of wine. Preferably served over ice, Marseille-style."

We didn't have a wood-fired oven at the park, but still managed to recreate the pleasure of drinking Rosé in plastic tumblers, and eating torn shards of Socca hot off the grill.

For our grill-method, John poured the Socca batter onto a cast iron skillet, closed the lid on the grill for a few minutes, and then flipped the crepe over onto a pizza stone to brown the other side. The texture is crisp on the outside and soft in the middle.

Below is a photo from our "test-run" the night before.  Drizzled with olive oil and showered with coarse salt and pepper, these incredible crepes became our Saturday night dinner. Who knew that chickpea, or garbanzo flour, seasoned with a touch of smokey cumin, and mixed with water and olive oil, could be so flavorful and addictive. You can find David's recipe, here, and I beg you to try these at home! The batter takes about two seconds to whisk up, but then needs to rest for a few hours. I used Bob's Red Mill Garbanzo Bean Flour, 22-Ounce (Pack of 4).

For my second dish, I strayed with a non-traditional version of Salad Niçoise, featuring Seared Ahi Tuna with a Lavender-Pepper Crust, blanched haricots verts, roasted fingerling potatoes, oven-roasted Roma tomatoes, sauteed fava beans, Niçoise olives, hard-boiled eggs, hearts of palm, purple spring onions, anchovies, and capers, drizzled with Tyler Florence's Niçoise Vinaigrette.

According to Wikipedia, the original version of the salad always included raw red peppers, shallots, and artichoke hearts, never potatoes. The French, especially in the Nice area, will clearly state no cooked veggies are to be used. "[...]la salade niçoise ne contient pas de légumes cuits."Rumors suggest the famous choreographer Balanchine may have influenced the creation of this dish during his tenure in Monte Carlo. Others claim it is a Provençal dish. This salad was made famous in America by "the French Chef", Julia Child.

Inspired by another wonderful blogger, Helen, author of Tartelette, Mom prepared Petits Farcis a la Provencal, Provencal Filled Zucchinis.  They are stuffed with a mixture of sausage, shallots, garlic, shitake mushrooms, tomatoes, brown rice, and fresh herbs, and baked.

Mom adds...Denise and John's foodie group always seems to spend a lot of time searching for that flawless recipe, then we change our minds daily when something else pops up that may be even more appealing. So when Denise came across Tartlette’s Petits Farcis a la Provencale or Provencal Filled Vegetables, and suggested this might be the recipe for me to prepare, I couldn’t resist. After all, not only is Tartlette one of my favorite food bloggers, she is from the Bouches Du Rhone, and tells such a lovely story about her sharing this little bit of Provence. What’s more, Denise was able to find these adorable little round eight balls zucchini squash at the Little Italy Farmers’ Market. They really are so darn cute and delicious!

Alec and Nina's Moules Marinières with Parsley were heavenly, especially with a slice of crusty bread and Ina Garten's version of Rouille, from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavor from Simple Ingredients, served alongside.

Kai and Hill arrived with pizza...SIX pizzas! We sampled Pissaladiere, the classic olive, anchovy, and onion pizza...

and two other versions - one with bacon and one with smoked salmon, capers and sour cream...

By now, as you can imagine, we were pleasantly floating on our rosé high and our tummies were full. We took a little break, listened to some music, and then tackled the desserts!

Nina's Chocolate Lavender Cake was inspired by France Monthly's Smooth Chocolate Cake. She added a smidgen of lavender to the batter and garnished with more lavender sprigs.

Mom's Gâteau aux carrottes, was inspired by David Lebovitz' version, here, which was adapted from Lulu's Provencal Table: The Exuberant Food and Wine from the Domaine Tempier Vineyard. I need to send David a note and thank him for two wonderful recipes! 

Mom says,  At my age, I get quite a kick out of my daughter, the food blogger, her foodies, food porn, and all the other gourmet wonders she and her fine chef friends create for our dining and picnic tables. I’m always invited to be a guest at our Concert in the Park galas, but sometimes, I just get caught up in searching for the perfect recipe from the chosen country or region, because I find it’s even more fun to join in.

That’s why when I spied the recipe for David Lebovitz’ Gâteau aux carrottes, as adapted from Lulu's Provençal Table by Richard Olneyon, I knew I had to make it. As David says,"Lulu is the proprietaire of Domaine Tempier in Province, and is a natural cook, using products from the region; lots of spring garlic, just-caught fish from the Mediterranean, locally-pressed olive oil, and pungent thyme. . . This is her recipe for Carrot Cake. It's not a traditional two-layer pièce de résistance, but moist and compact." That’s my kind of carrot cake and I was also intrigued by it.

John's Tarte Tropézienne with Basil, Vanilla and Orange Blossom Crème Pâtissière, was inspired from versions by Pastry Studio and Jean-Claude Perennou. John's brilliant idea of rolling the brioche dough into balls, baked closely together so they melded into one, made his Tarte more intriguing, and fun for everyone to simply pull off a piece at the park.

John slathered on the pastry creme table side and then listened intently as everyone tried to figure out his secret flavor combination. I knew he would enjoy The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs when I bought it!

Here's Kai enjoying a piece of Carmen's Pompe a l'huile.

Carmen says:  "This sweet olive-oil bread is a traditional favorite in Provence and serves as a staple during the holidays. Even though Pompe à l’huile ("oil pump") has a reputation for failed attempts, I did well to trust Jude's excellent recipe which you can find on his blog, Apple Pie, Patis & Pâté. I made three impressive sand-dollar shaped loaves - all were moist, flaky and delicious. Just a guess, but I think the bread's name describes the activity in the fermentation process as the dough, repeatedly releases the oil and draws it up again. I will definitely make this bread again!"

At some point during the evening, Carmen's husband, Jim, traded in his plastic tumbler for a real wine glass...

And, at some point in the evening, Bradley, our friend who doesn't even drink wine, attempted to propose to me with a piece of Chocolate Lavender Cake!

I wasn't able to photograph, and/or take decent photographs (blaming it on the Ricard), of all our French and Provencal dishes showcased at the Park, but I truly appreciate everyone who participated in making this first challenge of the season such a success! Thank you to Brent and Lenore for their Ratatouille; Kevin and Randi for their Shrimp, Asparagus and Tomato Salad; Sandra and Jack for their Roast Beef & Brie Sandwiches on Croissants; Madeleine for her Brownies; and Brad for his Apple and Brie platter.

We're looking forward to Sunday and Home on the Range!  Interpret it how you wish and wear your cowboy hat!  Foodies meet between 4:00 - 4:30 p.m.  "Chuck away, come an' get it" at 5:00 p.m.




bunkycooks said...

I am sooo jealous! You guys really know how to have a good time. I guess the closest thing we do here is have theme style dinner parties, but it is not nearly as nifty. Guess we need to move! :)

Carmen said...

Wow ... this really captures the essence of our first concert of the summer! But, how did I miss Carolyn's carrot cake?! So many discoveries ... Socca and rouille! Those two alone make a par-tay!

Denise said...

Mr. and Mrs. Bunkycooks would love living in Coronado and joining our foodie group! I hear you're in the market for a new summer home...I can hook you up!

Carmen - Those were my two favorites also, the Socca and Rouille. I'm thinking a Friday night cocktail party on the lawn, with Socca, wine, and a huge pot of mussels with Rouille on the side! And bread, of course!

Liz said...

I'm so envious of your "foodie" group and your concerts in the park! I will just continue to live vicariously through your posts! Have a great summer!

Denise said...

Liz - Thank you! I hope you have a wonderful summer too, and keep up your blogging!

Chef Dennis said...

thank you so much for bringing back so many wonderful memories of Provence...sigh...what a great time
your images are phenomenal and the food to die for.....
thanks again for sharing this incredible dinner!!

Lisa said...

Denise, I have such a hard time believing your croquembouche was anything less than lovely! I had such a hard time with the humidty that I almost skipped it altogether.

On another note..your take on Tartelette's provencal stuffed zucchini (It sounds so much better en francais lol) looks spectacular! Your culinary group sounds like so much fun and the delicacies they made look amazing - your incredible photos really showcasing them!

Kim at Rustic Garden Bistro said...

Hey Denise! So sorry, I'm a bit belated in saying hello. It was great sharing a table with you two at Camp Blogaway - you have a lovely site. And I LOVE the Taste of Provence idea! We were just there a year ago and miss it so. Happy weekend to you! [K]

Dina said...

wow the food looks wonderful.

Dani said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading that!! What a great time you all are having :-) I love it!

Julie said...

Sounds delicious!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing the link, but unfortunately it seems to be offline... Does anybody have a mirror or another source? Please answer to my post if you do!

I would appreciate if a staff member here at newfinmysoup.blogspot.com could post it.


Denise said...

I'm not sure which "link" you are referring to as being "off line."