...so...my husband and I had been planning a trip to Provence. We have traveled with Yale Educational Travel Group in the past and have been eyeing the French immersion seminar for several years. It is a month in Aix en Provence living in an apartment, taking language, cooking and art classes. Visiting wineries, farmers' markets, and historical sites. They only offer the trip every few years and this was it! The last time they offered it some of us (i.e. my husband) were still working, this year with both of us gainfully unemployed, we were planning to go. We would have been in the south of France for the end of June and the first part of July. I have been thinking about this for years, but something has always caused it to be put off. 2020 was the year...NOT!
I was trying really hard not to be too disappointed. Our adventure in France had been hijacked, yet again! As the summer of isolation approached July I decided that we should go to France, regardless. The trip had been cancelled and getting on a plane was not going to happen, so I put together an itinerary for a virtual trip to Provence. I know, pretty lame, but it kept my mind off the reality of still being in Michigan. I have to say, it has been really fun! Obviously not the same as being there, but it made cooking dinner...AGAIN...a bit more entertaining.
Here is a recap of our "Virtual Stay in Provence..."
Today in virtual Provence we made macaron. I had taken a class at SurLaTable a few years ago and learned to make these finicky little treats. I had made a batch of ice cream base a few days before which left me with 8 egg whites! What else do you do with that many egg whites...make macaron, of course! It takes the whole dang day! I made lemon with lemon curd and blackberry jam filling, pistachio with dark chocolate ganache filling, coconut with chocolate filling and an almond edge, and my favorite, Earl Grey Tea with honey butter cream filling. Mine turned out a bit 'rustic' but they tasted great!
For dinner we had:
Provencal Roasted Chicken
Roasted Potatoes and Fennel
and course, Rose!
Today in virtual Provence we made bread. There is a particular flatbread that is made in Provence called Fougasse. I saw lots of versions for it on the interweb, but decided to go with the traditional that is filled with black olives. I am not sure when French people find time to do anything but bake! Again I spent the whole day fussing with flour!
In preparation for our trip I had ordered several French cheeses and olives to sample. So for dinner...
A cheese platter with four cheeses (the Roquefort was my favorite)
Olives and olive spread
Fig and blackberry jams
Apples and pears
Butter dipped radishes with sea salt
and of course wine (this time white!)
Today in virtual Provence we visited a lavender farm. For real!! There is a lovely lavender farm about a 20 minute drive from our house (in Michigan, shhh) We donned our masks and headed out to enjoy the amazing smell of rows and rows of lavender.
...not quite as never ending as in real Provence.....
....but still pretty fragrant! The farm has a U-Pick option that let me spend all the time I wanted wandering along the gravel paths and clipping and inhaling! Sigh!
Dinner tonight, which did not include spending most of the day slinging flour....was a summer vegetable gratin and wine, duh!
Today in virtual Provence was a bit rainy. For inside fun, we made lavender wands. It's a bit like making a tiny basket that surrounds the flowers so when they dry they make a sachet. So pretty.
We also made cheese! Now I only know how to make one kind of cheese and it happens to be ricotta. But I decided to go with it! The south of France is really pretty close to Italy!
It cleared up later in the day so we could enjoy our Provencal soup outside. I think this was my favorite dinner of the week. The soup is loaded with vegetables and broken spaghetti noodles. It doesn't have much seasoning as it's cooking, but you make something called "pistou" which is kind of like a pesto with tomato paste, basil, parmesan cheese and loads of garlic, which is stirred into the soup just before it is served. It gives it such an amazing fresh, herby flavor. ...and more rose!
Today was our last day in virtual Provence and we tried to find some sunflowers, but the closest we got were the daisies along the fence. Still pretty happy!
I'm not sure it is strictly Provencal, but one of my favorite dishes from France is Cassoulet. Basically, French baked beans. This time the wine was red!
Dessert was an amazing Roquefort and pear tart. Salty, sweet, luscious! The perfect final note for our trip!
Bonus!!!! What fun, we decided to stay in Provence for a couple of more days! (Translation: we had several batches of leftovers that needed to be used up!)
Bonus Day 1
I always have a knitting project when I travel. It is perfect to have along for long plane rides. My project this trip was a cardigan using two different linen yarns so it has a tweedy look to it. I finished it on our trip, with assistance from my favorite knitting helper...
Who was also eyeing le fromage at dinner....
Bonus Day 2
This really was our last day in France, and it was rainy again, so back to the kitchen. The fougasse was finally finished and we had been in France for 6 days with nary a single baguette! Mon Dieu!
I don't think you forget your first real French baguette. It's hard to imagine that it is simply flour, water and yeast! Crispy crust, tender inside, ahhhhhhhhhh. It was 1989 when I had my first baguette. When I got home from that trip I decided I was going to learn to make french bread. I tried a whole bunch of recipes and learned that the right pans can make a huge difference in the quality of the bread. For several years I made it quite often. At some point it became easier to find good bread and I got busy with kids and work so it's been a while since I have made it. I pulled out my Henri Emile baking pan and my favorite recipe and again spent the day immersed in flour!
I wish I could share the smell in the kitchen when this stuff is baking...heavenly!
On a rainy day in virtual Provence leftover cassoulet with fresh french bread and more wine! Perfect ending.