La Belle France!

May 11, 2010 § 3 Comments

Fougasse d'olive, Aix-en-Provence.

After months of will-I-or-won’t-I, I have finally arrived in France for a super-isolated three week writers’ residency at Les Avocats du Diable, a few kilometers outside the town of Vauvert.  From my window, I see horses, cows, pine trees, and rows of grape vines. Yesterday, in order to conquer my urbanite anxiety, I went for a long, long walk among the trees, and eventually felt like if I took off my sweater, little birdies would be released and fly out into the sky.  I think this is going to be good for me.

Because of all the intra-national traveling I’ve been doing since I arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport, my biggest meals have been in the club cars of trains, which is a tremendous shame.  Still, there have been some marvelous exceptions.  In anticipation of my arrival to Aix-en-Provence, my friend Amitha went to the Saturday market and bought fresh goat cheese, aged goat cheese, and a crazily shaped olive bread, called fougasse d’olive (pictured above).  The dense, chewy bread was stuffed with olives, which were mysteriously so mellow they were practically sweet, yet somehow imparting their olive flavor evenly, like the whole thing had been dunked in the best possible olive oil.  Heaven!  We tore into it with our hands and demolished it without accompaniments within a few hours.

The next night, we wanted to make use of what was left in Amitha’s fridge, namely goat cheese, basil and pumpkin.  Despite the travails of cooking for oneself, it was wonderful to have culinary creative control once again.  We came back from our day trip to Marseille, bought a baguette and took it home for dinner as well.  Remembering an Indian recipe of my mother’s which combines pumpkin and garlic (a Kashmiri dish called “ambal” which also includes mustard oil, fenugreek seeds and tamarind paste), I put diced pumpkin and peeled garlic cloves in the oven for half an hour with some butter and salt.  When they came out smelling sweet and lovely, we mashed them up together with a fork and loaded them on some toasted baguette, topped with slivers of goat cheese and fresh basil.  The result was crunchy and mushy, sweet and spicy, warm and cool, fresh and pungent, and all around satisfying.

An above-average baguette

Above: The sign of a good baguette, according to my (enormously talented) boss at BK Magazine, Gregoire Glachant, is the irregular holes on the inside.  Look at the beauty!  The other sign is that it makes a huge mess when you tear up chunks to eat.

The end product

Two days later, in the modest but sufficient kitchenette at my residency, I’m finding some of the things left behind by previous writers: pasta, tans of tuna, balsamic vinegar, coarse sea salt.  Hmm.  Standby in coming days for more haphazard, and hopefully delicious, accidents.

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§ 3 Responses to La Belle France!

  • Mansoo says:

    Oh my gosh, the fougasse d’olive looks amazing… I also want.

  • Angie says:

    Mrigaa, j’adore tes ecritures et ta passion avec la cuisine. I will be off to Tuscany in two weeks and might stop off in Paris but will be back in BKK towards the end of June – give me a shout if you want some ingredients from either of the two places and I’ll bring them for you as a gift to a chef 🙂

    • innerkitchen says:

      Angie! That’s such a sweet offer, thanks! I’ll try and think of something. Regardless, be sure to let me know when you’re in Bangkok. It’ll be great to catch up.

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