Stuffed Vegetables Provencal

January 22nd, 2014

Tours group picture

 

In the throes of winter, in my mind, I am enjoying a nostalgic trip back to our summer in France last year.  Our French friends Carole and Laurent (2nd and 3rd from left) graciously welcomed David, me, and our friends Tulin (center)and Dave (on right), into their home in Tours.  We had many fine meals with them.  Carole is a wonderful cook.  Her magret of duck cooked in peaches is sublime, as is her fois gras and ratatouille.  But I have been thinking most about her stuffed vegetables.

Tours stuffed peppers

The stuffed tomatoes and peppers turned out to be a collaboration between Carole and Tulin; a little bit French from Carole and a little bit Turkish from Tulin, who is originally from Istanbul.  I wish that I had paid more attention to the ingredients that they used.  I was a bit jet-lagged at the time. All I know is that every bite of the casserole was eaten with relish.

Stuffed Vegies 1
When I attempted to duplicate this dish, I used peppers and zucchini because they are readily available this time of year.  I avoid tomatoes in winter.  My inspiration was a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis.  Now we have an Italian spin.  But I guess the point is that many cultures have recipes for stuffed vegetables.  Whatever the cuisine, there is great flavor in stuffed vegetables.  And I was able to taste again, the wonderful food that we shared last summer.

Stuffed Vegies 2
I am calling these stuffed vegetables “Provencal” because of the bright colors, the use of olive oil, garlic and herbs, and because visiting sunny Provence was one of the highlights of our trip. Bring a little Provencal sunshine to your table as well.

STUFFED VEGETABLES PROVENCAL

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1/4 cup dried plain bread crumbs
  • 1 pound ground turkey, preferably dark meat
  • 2 zucchini, ends removed, halved lengthwise and crosswise
  • 1 orange bell pepper, halved and seeded
  • 1 red bell pepper, halved and seeded
  • 1 green bell pepper, halved and seeded
  • 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. 

    Lightly drizzle the olive oil into a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish.Whisk the onion, parsley, egg, ketchup, garlic, salt, and pepper in a large bowl to blend. Stir in the cheese and bread crumbs. Mix in the turkey. Cover and refrigerate the turkey mixture. 

    Using a melon baller or spoon, carefully scrape out the seeds and inner flesh from the zucchini, leaving 1/8-inch-thick shells. Be careful not to pierce through the skin. Fill the zucchini and pepper halves with the turkey mixture, dividing equally and mounding slightly. Arrange the stuffed vegetables in the baking dish. Pour the marinara sauce over the stuffed vegetables. 

    Bake uncovered until the vegetables are tender and beginning to brown and a thermometer inserted into the filling registers 165 degrees F, about 45 minutes. Transfer the stuffed vegetables to a platter and serve.Printable recipe

Paris, The Eiffel Tower

August 13th, 2013

 

Okay, you all amused me with your guesses as to what I was looking at in the previous post picture.  No one got it right.  I was staring at the Eiffel Tower.  It always grabs my mind and heart with its beauty.  We spent the last four days of our June France trip in Paris.  Four days were not enough to take in all that we wished to do there.  So we tried to concentrate on small pieces of Paris.  There is nothing more romantic than walking along the Seine at night with the glowing silhouette of the Eiffel tower to light the way.

One of the things that we had never done before was actually take the elevator to the top of the tower.  Somehow on our last trip I wanted to spend more time in the cafes, bistros, market streets and small haunts in the Latin Quarter.  This time we played the tourists more.  We got up early the morning after our night on the town and took the Metro to the Eiffel Tower stop.  Even though it was hard to stand in line for an hour and a half, we persevered.  It was well worth it.

 

 The view from the first platform was amazing.  Looking East one can see the Seine winding its way toward the Ile de la Cite.  In the far distance the white beauty of the Sacre-Coeur is visible on its hilltop.

Looking North one can see the Arc de Triomphe and the grand boulevard, Champs-Elysees.


The bridges of the Seine are unique characteristics of Paris.  Each bridge has its own personality.  Viewing them from the top of the Eiffel Tower is a stunning sight.

Gustave Eiffel was an architect and a structural engineer.  He took over the design of the Statue of Liberty, which France gave to the United States, after the original architect died.  Because of this fame he was chosen to build a structure for the World Exposition held in France in 1889.  The fair also commemorated the 100th Anniversary of the French Revolution.  The iron structure that he designed took over two years to complete and employed over 200 men.  There were misgivings about the design from the very beginning and Eiffel ended up financing 80 percent of the cost.  As it turned out he recouped his money in 5 months from the sale of tickets and he continued to profit for the next 20 years as per the agreement with Paris officials.  It was meant to be a temporary structure which suited many Parisians, as they thought it to be a vulgar sight.  But in 1909 when it was to be torn down, it was discovered to be a perfect tower for radio transmissions.  The tower would go on to serve an important part in communications during the First World War.


Gustav Eiffel had an office on the top platform of the tower where he entertained guests such as Thomas Edison.  The above picture shows wax figures of Eiffel and Edison in conversation.

David took the above picture from the top platform with his zoom lens.  Sacre Coeur is eerily beautiful.

On the elevator coming down we marveled at the iron struts and rivets that held the whole structure together.  We were glad that we had taken the time to get a close up view of one of my favorite landmarks.

I have just finished reading Paris by Edward Rutherfurd.  I highly recommend this historical fiction work that gives the history of Paris from the Middle Ages through the Second World War.  It was a fascinating read and the section on the building of the Eiffel Tower was especially interesting.

Oradour sur Glane: Remember

July 7th, 2013

There were hideous atrocities committed during World War II; too many to even contemplate.  But one of the most vile of them occurred in the small farming village of Oradour sur Glane near Limoges, France.   Today it is called the Village des Martyrs and is visited by school children from all over France.  I did not know the story before this trip.

On June 10th, 1944, four days after D-Day, a Waffen-SS division of Nazi soldiers on their way to Normandy entered the village and massacred all of the men, women and children.  Many of the children were infants.   They killed 642 people and then proceeded to burn  the whole village down.

The women and children were herded into the village church and tear-gassed.  If they tried to escape they were machine-gunned.  The alter of the church is pock-marked with bullet holes.  Only one woman escaped through the alter window on the left.

The plaques on the buildings indicate the names and occupations of the people who lived in the village.  The above plaque in blue is for a boulangerie or bakery with the shop owner’s name.  You can see the oven inside the structure. The plaque on the left indicates where some of the men were gathered and killed.

We walked the length of Oradour’s main street with other people making the pilgrimage.  Everyone spoke in hushed tones as they passed the gutted and burned buildings.  The town has been rebuilt in another location.  Charles De Gaulle wanted the original town to remain “as is” as a reminder of what happened there.  Today the ghost town has remained untouched for over 60 years.  Only one English word greets you as you enter. “”Remember””.   How could we ever forget?

Mont Saint-Michel and Back to the Loire Valley

June 26th, 2013


In my last post I did not include our visit to Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy.  Right now there is a lot of construction going on around this rocky tidal island.  The old causeway to the island is being replaced and the only way onto the island is by way of shuttle buses .  The history of Mont Saint-Michel dates back many centuries, but the first monastery was built on it in the 8th century.  Today the Abbey and Monastery top the rocky structure with the town, shops and houses below.

Although it is one of those sights that everyone should see while in the area, it is very crowded and not a great place to have a bite to eat.  We pondered the menus of all of the restaurants and found them all to be similar and expensive.

They are known for their crepes and we enjoyed watching the crepe batter being mixed.

The view from the top is spectacular.

But the most spectacular view is from a distance.

We passed many castles back in the Loire Valley.  The one above is Usse and was the inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty Castle.  Since we toured the major castles on our previous trip, we chose to just view them from the outside this time.

Carol joined us in Loches, one of the most picturesque villages in central France.  Tulin and I were happy to see her.   It is always good to have another female along, especially when she is French and knows all of the best areas for shopping and dining.

We enjoyed our room with a view and spent a pleasant evening in Loches exploring the ancient city and the Loches castle, a stronghold of the counts of Anjou.

Chateau Chenonceau on the River Cher

July 19th, 2012

Every castle has a story.  You can feel it in your bones when you explore the magnificent rooms.  The story that Chenonceau tells is one of political intrigue, great love and longing, jealousy and revenge.  Chenonceau has come to be known as “The Ladies’ Chateau”.

Built in the early 1500’s on the site of a demolished fortified castle, Chenonceau is completely surrounded by the river Cher.   It came to be known as the Ladies’ Chateau because of the women who called it home.

Diane de Poitiers was the mistress and great love of King Henry II of France.   In 1547 he gave the chateau to her and spent much time there with her entertaining members of the Court.  She had great influence over him and gave him advice about matters of State.  She was both intelligent and beautiful.  Diane was 18 years older than Henry II, but her beauty was such that it only improved with age.  She decorated the rooms and planted a magnificent garden.

Catherine de Medici was Henry II’s wife.  She was from a prominent Italian family and was betrothed to Henry when they were both 14 years old.  Part of Italy would fall under French control with their union.  She fell in love with her husband, but he did not return her passion.  Though she bore him 10 children, he preferred the company of Diane de Poitiers.  Henry was mortally wounded in a jousting competition in 1559.  Catherine kept Diane away from his death bed and when he died a few days later, she removed Diane from Chenonceau and took up residence there herself.

She hung her own portrait in Diane’s former bedchamber.  The fireplace was designed by Jean Goujon, a French sculptor.  Two Henry II armchairs covered with Cordoue leather flank the fireplace.

The room became Catherine’s bedchamber and she decorated the ceiling with the intertwined letters of C and H.   The chamber is beautiful with its two Flanders tapestries.

Catherine designed her own garden adjacent to Diane’s garden.  It is a more intimate space offering the “perfect image of refinement”.   Upon Henry II’s death Catherine became Regent.  Her son and heir to the throne Frances II, at fifteen, acquiesced to her wishes and Catherine ruled France from her rooms at Chenonceau.   They were turbulent times and Catherine’s duties were burdensome.  If you would like to learn more about the life and times of Catherine de Medici and Diane de Poitiers, Princess Michael of Kent has written a richly woven history of that time called The Serpent and  the Moon; Two Rivals for the Love of a Renaissance King.   I haven’t read it yet, but the reviews say that Princess Michael has a bias in favor of Diane.  From what little I have read of Catherine’s life, I would look more kindly on her position.

In the 18th century Louise Dupin was the mistress of the chateau.  The previous years had found the chateau in a steady decline through neglect and the lack of a royal presence.  Louise’s husband Claude Dupin, a rich farmer and general, bought the chateau from the Duke of Bourbon.  Louise established herself there, restoring the rooms and grounds.  She was an exquisite creature of the Age of Enlightenment and held salons with the elite among writers, poets, scientists and philosophers.  Her guests included among others,Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

While visiting Chenonceau we saw an exhibit of Rousseau’s writings and philsophies.  He had much to say about food and diet.  “On his plate, he refused out-of-season produce, costly and sophisticated preparations and exotic dishes that cost the earth since they had to be transported a long way and sauces that were as complicated as they were indigestible  Everything in moderation.  Meats needed to be grilled and not consumed in excess.  Dairy, fruit and vegetables were strongly advised.  Butter was not used for cooking and salt was scarcely recommended.  Nor were fried food and fat laden sauces.  As for drastic diets, he rejected them, preferring regular exercise.  But it is noted that while at the rich table at Chenonceau he ignored his beliefs about food and put on weight.  Here is another of his beliefs.

Hmmmm.  Very interesting.  His philosophies still have an audience today.  But that’s the first time I have heard that eating meat will make you cruel.

One of the accomplishments of Louise Dupin was vital to Chenonceau.  During the French Revolution she was able to save the chateau from being destroyed by the marauding political groups.  The chapel attached to the chateau was stacked high with wood and declared a storage area.  Religious symbols were a target of the movement at that time.  It is ironic that Rousseau, while a guest in the chateau, was preaching the very ideas of equality and justice that almost destroyed the chateau for the Dupin family and generations to come.

During the First World War, Chenonceau was turned into a hospital.  The kitchens were modernized to feed the patients and staff.  That stove is a thing of beauty.

Not much needed to be done to the spit in the fireplace.

The copper pieces were magnificent.  I wanted to take them home.  Do you know what the three legged device is?

I also loved this old ceramic mold.

Today Chateau de Chenonceau is classified as a Monument Historique by the French Ministry of Culture.  It is the second most visited castle in France after Versailles.  That ends our visit to Chateau Chenonceau;  a castle with a long, long story to tell . . . . if you just listen.  This is dedicated to my parents.  Today would have been their 69th wedding anniversary.  They were lucky to have found the love of their lives in each other.

© Penny Klett, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. All rights reserved.