All photos courtesy CIVP/Francois Millo
The French Riviera. Cote d’Azur. Saint-Tropez. Cannes. They all evoke a relaxed, outdoor lifestyle of warm breezes and brilliant sun overlooking azur blue waters, glass in hand filled with a light-bodied, mouthwatering and fruity rosé. This is the scene we often imagine ourselves in when sipping a glass of rosé from Provence but this region of nearly 70,000 acres is much more than just sunny beaches and fruity wines. I described the diverse expressions of Provencal rosé wines in 50 Shades of Rose and in the new book “Provence Food and Wine: The Art of Living,” authors Francois Millo and Viktorija Todorovska explain why, in colorful detail and recipes.
The wines reflect a wide swath of terroirs from hilly high country, protected valleys, wind-swept plains, dramatic mountains and Aegean coastline, the climates from continental to Mediterranean. Soils range from limestone to ancient crystalline rock, adding minerality to the wines. But Todorvska, a cookbook author, and Millo, Provence native and Director of the Provence Wine Council, go beyond just describing the appellation terroirs and wines, they seduce the reader with the many facets of the Provencal lifestyle of which the wines are but one part.
The authors explore the distinct regions of Provence through their unique histories, traditions, specialty products and cuisines. The foods of the ancient port city of Marseilles are influenced by spices from Northern Africa and abundance of sea catch, the leftovers often being thrown into a pot of water until it boiled down, or bouillabase. Further east, the dishes of Nice are more influenced by its neighbor Italy and includes pastas and gnocchi. Nice is but one of two cities in France recognized for its own unique cuisine.
The Haute, or upper, Provence and Aix-en-Provence enchanted artists like Cezanne and Matisse with their magical light. The cuisine in this more rugged and mountainous region includes lamb, stews, truffles and goat cheeses.
Syncing the Mediterranean Lifestyle
What this book highlights with its recipes is its affinity with the California lifestyle and how we eat. According to the authors, Provence “is the only region in France where vegetables are not a side dish, but…an essential part of the meal” and where “extra virgin olive oil is the basis for all dishes.” The simplicity of the preparations such as grilling preserves the pure flavors of the ingredients. Many of the dishes can be served hot or room temp, like the Crespeou (multi-flavored layered omelette pictured above), perfect for outdoor entertaining. Like California, regions like Marseille and Nice have an active street food scene with foods like panisse, a fried chickpea flour morsel, or pissaladiere onion tart. Meals are casually laid out to be shared like our small plates, and not typically as formal courses.
California Ingredients, Provence Rosé
We grow all the ingredients here to create the flavors of the Mediterranean with an abundance of seafood and fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, figs, olives, nuts and woody herbs. But the authors do add Provencal touches to all the recipes that make them really authentic. Add light-bodied, refreshing Provencal wines, and the flavors are complete.
This softbound book is filled with enticing photographs by Francois Millo that will inspire you to live the lifestyle all year round.
Provence Food and Wine: The Art of Living. By Francois Millo and Viktorija Todorovska. Agate, $19.95.