I love Herbs de Provence. I use it regularly and cannot get enough of it. Every time I visit France, I purchase the herbs at the open air Saturday market from local vendors. Packaged so sweetly in a small paper bag and hand labeled, I try to make it last for a year until I can return for more. This year, I purchased Herbs de Provence in Carcassonne and again in Provence in a small ville outside of Avignon.
When I returned home, anxious to cook with the herbs, I noticed a very different aroma from each of these mixtures. Curious, I wondered exactly which herbs are in this aromatic mix. For some reason, I had assumed there was some sort of standard recipe. Well, there is not! I discovered that herbs frequenting the French table are a combination of local tastes, ranging from savory to sweet, using regional flavors. It was not until the 1970’s when spice companies decided to capitalize on the market demand for French herbs and name them “Herbs de Provence.” Rosemary, thyme, marjoram, bay leaf and savory are the basics but many companies also include fennel and more recently lavender, although sparingly. Some substitute the more pungent oregano for the marjoram and areas close to Italy add basil. I prefer the simpler variety with less outspoken flavors and spiked with just a hint of lavender. The fresh flavors of Herbs de Provence lends itself to poultry, vegetables, soups and sauces.
My herb garden is in full bloom with many of the herbs I’m writing about. Instead of using the dried variety, I decided to create version using the fresh herbs growing outside my kitchen door.
I’m not easily impressed with all the fancy olive oils and vinegars out there used in cooking. Sure, I love my Meyer lemon olive oil but have not really found anything that knocked my socks off until I tasted the California Olive and counterpart, San Felipe Olive Company’s infusions. Great News is our San Diego go-to store for all things cooking. I had a 35% off coupon and was itching to use it. As I perused the cutting boards, the knowledgeable sales rep guided me to an olive oil tasting. I met Jeff who introduced me to three of their featured items. As he poured the Peach Balsamic Vinegar into the tasting cup, I was already in love. The thick syrup and fragrance sold me immediately. Did I need bread with this? No! I wanted to drink it. Immediately I was dreaming of recipes with grilled peaches, figs, fruit salad, chicken. Then he poured me the Rosemary Infused Olive Oil. So fragrant and rich. This would be the base for my Herbs de Provence recipes. Ideas flooded my brain and I couldn’t wait to cook. When he mixed the thick White Balsamic with the Rosemary Infused Oil, a salad came to mind of mixed grains, white beans and Niçoise olives. I wanted to cook all weekend! Here is what transpired.
A butterflied whole chicken, smothered inside and out with buttery Herbs de Provence and garlic mixture came to mind. I would enhance the flavor by drizzling it with a splash of olive oil but not just any olive oil. The rosemary infused oil that came home with me. Here’s how I came to rediscover a classic flavor – rosemary, a key ingredient in Herbs de Provence.
Really such a simple dish, I grilled it for about 15 minutes on each side and paired it with zucchini from my garden and traditional ratatouille ingredients, eggplant, onions, red pepper and tomatoes.
As you can see, I roughly chopped the veggies, tossed with salt and pepper and a bit of tomato paste. The veggies were then stuffed into the zucchini, wrapped in foil and placed on the grill for 15 minutes.
When you cook a whole chicken, there are always leftovers. Chicken salad is an easy way to use it up and create flavorful dishes. Immediately, aioli came to mind, a southern French creation of garlicy mayonnaise. I mixed chopped chicken with my own version of aioli by mashing garlic in my mortar and pestle and slowly adding mayonnaise and rosemary olive oil.
A dash of salt and pepper and voilà, the taste is gorgeous.
Slices of fennel garnish the salad, add crunch and a bit of a clean taste to contrast the heat of the garlic. Both dishes are easy to make, very healthy and tasty and make use of all the fresh summer veggies, hopefully from your garden.
Next I share my passion for late summer and early fall fruit….