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The Provence Cookbook    by Patricia Wells order for
Provence Cookbook
by Patricia Wells
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2004 (2004)

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

This cookbook's subtitle is: '175 Recipes and a Select Guide to the Markets, Shops, and Restaurants in France's Sunny South'. What a bargain - all that between the covers of one book. Patricia Wells is the food critic for the International Herald Tribune as well as the author of ten books, including The Paris Cookbook and Bistro Cooking. This busy woman also conducts weeklong cooking classes in both Paris and Provence. Wells believes the 'an ingredient is best enjoyed when the least has been done to it. Over the years, my food has become simpler and simpler.' Works for me.

She opens her wonderful collection with Appetizers, Starters and First Courses (Les Hors-d'Oeuvres et Les Entrees) as do most cookbooks. But this one has a lovely twist. Not only does its author give you a mouthwatering recipe for, say, olives, but she adds a brief history of olives and also includes a vendor for olives. Along the way, she makes suggestions - maybe a recommended wine to sip with a completed recipe - or a word about cooking methods. Her snapshots - of vendors, foods or simply pictures of restaurants she likes - are charming. Her essays on various ingredients help us to appreciate a 'precious nectar', fine cheese, garlic, and so on.

Were I to choose a meal from this cookbook, I'd start with Black Truffle Open-Faced Sandwiches accompanied by a glass of bubbly. Then Bistro de France Garlic Salad served with toasted country bread. Next, soup - Creamy Zucchini And Fresh Lemon Verbena Soup. Fish to follow this - Tuna Fillet with Myer Lemons and Summer Savory, with a light white wine. I believe I could squeeze in La Mimosa's Rabbit stuffed with Pistachios and Sage while enjoying a glass of red.

Or perhaps, instead of rabbit I'd have Franck's Thyme Marinate Leg of Lamb. Vegetables next. I'd like a serving of each one in the cookbook, but would settle for Russian Tomato Gratin and Provencal Carrot Osso Buco. The above also goes for the potatoes - one each. But I'd order Bay-Scented Roasted Potatoes. For my meal I'd skip the Eggs and Cheese, although they all look inviting. I'd ask for just one slice of Black Olive Fougasse Bread. By now I'd have loosened my belt - but dessert? Who could resist? I believe the Lemon Mousse would top off my meal - but it's a hard choice.

If you can't get to Provence, The Provence Cookbook is the next best thing.

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