I’m back from Provence. I’ve been back for several weeks now, but as I mentioned in my last post, I decided to take the month of July away from this website, away from sharing my life and the resulting recipes. But here we are in the beginning of August and I’m ready to expose some of the dishes that have come out of my time in the kitchen since returning home from vacation.
What can I tell you about Provence that you may not already know? The scenery is stunningly beautiful, from the fields of lavender to the Alpilles mountains, to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea with its glamorous cities. We drove to so many small towns, each with their own personality - oftentimes expressed by their food and always distinctly expressed by their wines. The flavors of the foods that I ate were unlike anything I’d ever tasted before in France. Everything was so fresh and fragrant, the produce was grown down the road from the restaurants where we dined, the herbs often grown on the patio. It doesn’t get much fresher or local than that!
For years, I’ve known about the blend of herbs called Herbes de Provence, and as I figured, these herbs were everywhere in Provence! Typically, this mixture of dried herbs contains savory, marjarom, rosemary, thyme and oregano. Sometimes, lavender is also added, since it grows in abundance in Provence, but I prefer lavender in desserts and not in more savory recipes. The blend of herbs is sold dried, but the component herbs are used widely in Provençal cooking, especially when they’re available fresh and in-season. I brought home a big bag of Herbes de Provence and knew that I wanted to share a recipe with this blend first.
When it’s hot outside, as it is right now, I try to keep my indoor cooking to a minimum and avoid heating-up my kitchen. Salads are an easy solution, but some of my favorite vegetables taste better when cooked. The solution - the grill. I love to grill vegetables! Note that for today’s recipe, you will need a mesh grill basket to keep the small pieces of vegetables from falling into the fire. Grilling some of the vegetables gives an amazing texture to them and heightens the flavors of the Herbes de Provence. I like combining grilled vegetables with raw ones, the contrast is distinct and interesting. And because I have tons of dried beans from Rancho Gordo in my pantry, I’m finding ways to use them as often as possible! There are plenty of dried beans used in French cooking, I happened to use a variety that isn’t from France, but any larger heirloom bean would be perfect in this recipe.
While vacationing is fun and I love being away from Baltimore in the summertime, it’s always great to come home to my kitchen and put my ideas and inspiration into action. There’s really no better time than the summer, with the bounty of local fresh vegetables and herbs, to turn into delicious dishes to feed my family and friends. I hope you’ll give this recipe a try, especially now that it’s tomato season. The grape tomatoes I used were so sweet and juicy, there’s really nothing quite like them.
I’ll be back next week with another vacation-inspired recipe. Until then, be well and support your local farmers by shopping at the farmers markets!
Wishing you a relaxing weekend, full of delicious food, health & wellness.
Colorful Summertime Provençal Salad
print recipe here
Ingredients: (note - use organic whenever possible)
1/2 pound dried heirloom beans (I used Rancho Gordo Scarlet Runner beans)
1 1/4 pounds Pattypan squash (about 4)
1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 C freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 t sea salt
1 T Herbes de Provence
1/4 pound yellow wax beans, washed and trimmed into 1-inch pieces
1 pint grape tomatoes, washed and cut in half
2-3 T extra-virgin olive oil
Maldon salt - to taste
optional: fresh herbs to garnish
Rinse, soak and cook beans according to package instructions. Drain and cool to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.
Preheat the grill. Cut the Pattypan squash into 1-inch wedges and place in a large mixing bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt and Herbes de Provence. Pour mixture over the squash, toss to coat, and allow to marinate at room temperature for 10-15 minutes while the grill gets hot. Put a mesh grill basket on the grill-top during the last few minutes of preheating.
Carefully put the squash into the grill basket, reserving the marinade. Put the lid down over the grill. Toss the squash within the basket occasionally, until the edges are slightly charred and the flesh has softened. Add the yellow wax beans to the reserved marinade while the squash is cooking. After the squash has been on the grill for at least 10 minutes, add the yellow wax beans to the basket and toss with the squash, reserving the marinade. Cover the grill and turn-off the flame.
To the bowl of reserved marinade, add the cooked beans and the grape tomatoes. Remove the squash and yellow wax beans from the grill and place on top of the tomatoes and beans. The heat from the grilled vegetables will help to soften the tomatoes. Allow to rest for five minutes.
Toss the vegetable mixture together. Drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil over the top of the salad, sprinkle with Maldon salt, to taste. Pour into a serving bowl and garnish with fresh herbs, if desired. Serve at room temperature.
recipe yields 4-6 side dish servings
substitute zucchini or yellow squash for the Pattypan squash, if desired
if no outdoor grill is available, cook the squash and yellow wax bean in a hot skillet, adding additional extra-virgin olive oil as needed