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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tomatoland

Hello All - Slowly getting my Provencal act together! We found a lovely babysitter for Augustin, so now I have a few hours each morning to work (and share). I know everyone is expecting house photos - and I'm on it - just found the charger for my camera after a (desperate) two week ransacking of the boxes...

I could say I've been cooking - but that would be a slight distortion - it's more like arts and crafts: combining, stacking, slicing and dicing a few essential summer ingredients: tomatoes, tomatoes, melon, jambon cru (raw ham), peaches, plums, figs, tomatoes. And did I mention the tomatoes? I haven't turned on the stove in weeks.
The Provencal tomato is a thing of wonder - small as a marble, large as a human heart, red like a valentine, yellow like a sunflower, orange like an overripe apricot, bright green like a brand new leaf, even purplely olive, like seaweed seen through moving water. The names are equal to the colors: Ananas (Pineapple), Noire de Russie (Black Russian), Brin de Muguet (Lily of the Valley).There's no messing with perfection (ok, a little messing, just for fun) - a few crystals of coarse sea salt, a drizzle of local olive oil and a sprig or two of purple (yes, royal purple, my favorite childhood color) basil. I did do some impromptu matchmaking...Baby tomatoes with smoked mozeralla, red onion, fennel and balsamic vinegar. A giant yellow tomato (That's him. Her? Him, I think. It's a very muscular tomato) with a local sheep's milk cheese (feta would do nicely) and green basil. Last night I got a little fancy and layered slices of beefsteak tomato with artichoke puree and slivers of parmesan. I love to think of the utterly pretentious name this would be given in a trendy Parisian bistro...millefeuille de tomate Provencale, tapanade d'artichaut frais et coppa de Parmesan d'Italie (AOC) sur son lit de salade sauce apricot. The "sauce apricot" was an happy accident. While making the dressing for the green salad, I mistook a bottle of peach/apricot syrup for the olive oil. Since it was already at the bottom the bowl, I decided to try my luck. Mixed with dijon mustard and some olive oil, it was very nice - much sweeter than a French vinagrette, more like an American-style honey dijon. I decided to add it to my pretentious Parisian bistro dish because (believe it or not) they love imitating American food. Anyone who has been in Paris this past year or two will note the rise of "le Tchizzburger" (that's bistro for "cheeseburger").
Friends who sold all their worldly goods to go on an extended trip around the world stopped in for lunch (yes, even people freshly moved to Provence can experience travel envy) - and I discovered that my vegetable peeler makes very nice parmesan curly whirlies for yet another tomato salad. Excuse the close up. Tomato porn. Yes, must move on.
The days are hot and sunny - lunchtime is a search for shade. The evenings are cool and often breezy - ideal for long dinners in the garden (G. managed to snap this photo of both tomato salad and the view from our upper terrace.) I too am being eaten - the misquitos have been feasting on my ankles. My dad used to say it's because I was "sweet meat"...

Hope you too are enjoying the sweet days of summer!
P.S. I'm thinking of another tomato experiment - "tomato tatin" - which amounts to an upside down tomato tart. We'll see if I get up the courage to actually turn on the oven to slow roast the tomatoes...

14 comments:

  1. The "sauce apricot" sounds like a terrific way to cut the acidity of le tomate.
    Happy adjustment issues
    Provencal food - miam miam

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  2. OOOH! Your Provencale tomato porn pics way upstage my recently posted modest Normandy feasts - but hey, it's all France and don't we just love the fresh and fabulous food we find there?

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  3. Ohhhhh my! Not sure which is more luscious, your words or the fruits they describe.

    Btw, I saw a cheese wedding cake (as you do) and thought of the two of you:

    http://www.noraleah.com/post/928800546/when-elizabeth-and-her-husband-got-married-in

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  4. Great pictures! We arrive in Provence next Wednesday and I can't wait to leave the Australian winter (it does exist!) behind. Am hoping my morning sickness will have subsided so I too can enjoy some tomatoes!!Sadly though, no blue cheese for me.
    Looking forward to the next post.
    Tess in Oz.

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  5. J'adore les tomates -at the moment here in Australia they are out of season - but it won't be long before I can plant my little seedlings into my salad patch. I usually plant them with sweet basil and a row of cos lettuce on the side.
    ~Dianne~

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  6. What tomato love! In fact, I remember reading something about the tomato being the fruit of love...

    A quick Google search yields this interesting bit (from epicureantable.com):

    "The tomato, though first thought to be purely decorative before being tried - with trepidation - for culinary purposes, was later banned by the Church of Rome for being 'the devils fruit' and a sinful indulgence.

    It's seductive harlot red colour, the sensuous, slightly sweet flesh bursting with juicy splendour - proved far too much for the Church Fathers who called it scandalous."


    I loved all of that, and the rest of the article is good, too.

    Thank you so much for this update, and I am so glad the camera finally turned up. What wonderful ways to have tomatoes! I'm also so glad you are settling in well to your new home. :)

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  7. this made my list of my Top Three Summer TomatoPorn Moments: http://realitytruck.blogspot.com/2010/08/few-words-about-tomatoes.html

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  8. For your next tomato bit, why not try a Southern (American) Tomato Pie? Of course, you'll have to turn on the oven for the crust, but I promise you'll love it. Just Google for a good recipe. It's basically a crust, blind-baked, then tomatoe slices, and a mixture of cheese and mayo, basil on top, then repeat. End with cheese at the top. Shredded cheddar. Bake until hot and luscious.
    GiGi
    P.S., I'm not anonymous, just can't remember my password.

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  9. This made me envious... Not such a gorgeous bunch tomatoes in the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico where I live. Beautiful pictures, amazing words…

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  10. Reading your blog is such a joy and I loved the book as well! We have an overabundance of tomatoes in our backyard garden in San Diego and now I have about seven new ideas for the surplus. I will just have to close my eyes and imagine the fabulous Provencal landscape in the background as bite into my tomato feta basil salad. Gracias :)

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  11. Just read your book last month and I have been recommending it to everyone I know ever since. I am quite moved by your tomatoes. I live in Las Vegas and my attempt at a spring tomato garden was twarted by early, intense heat, thus cooking my plants to a crisp. The young fruit had blackened burn marks on them! So, I will enjoy tomato heaven (aka "summer porn")via blog - and get more of your writing to enjoy as well.

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  12. For when you're next back in Paris, Les Philosophes on rue vieille du temple does my favourite tomato tatin... yumm

    I'm in your hood now, enjoying all the great NY food! Not a tomato in sight - no wonder I always put on so much weight when I'm here.

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  13. Dear Elizabeth, I absolutely loved Lunch in Paris! It's the perfect melding of, gosh, everything on my mind these days. Success, values, food, love, learning to cook... 20 pages in I even 'tweeted' about it as I made lists of friends' I'm buying it for. I immediately made your yogurt cake (my life is forever changed) and I am dying to get salmon in puff pastry made. Finding your blog was the cherry on top of one of the most satisfying reading experiences I've had in years and I can't wait to read more. Thank you, again.

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  14. I have never seen a tomato that big! It is very impressive and I'm jealous as my mouth is watering seeing photos of tomatoes that I just know are full of flavour!

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