Fresh Goat's Cheese, Figs, Oil and Rose Wine from Provence
Fresh Goat's Cheese, Figs, Oil
and Rose Wine from Provence
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Demeurs, Jocelyn
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August, from 'The Cook and the Gardener',
Part 3
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“Bread deals with living things, with giving life, with growth, with the seed,
the grain that nurtures. It is not coincidence that we say bread is the staff of life.”

~ Lionel Poilane

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Tomatoes, Pate and Baguette Picnic in Vineyard, Epernay, Champagne-Ardenne, France
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Alex-Corton, Burgundy, France, Europe
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Simanor Eitan
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Recipe Source:

Cook and the Gardener:
A Year of Recipes and Writings
from the French Countryside

by Amanda Hesser, 1999, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

"The ancient link between the gardener and the cook is at the heart of this remarkably evocative cookbook, in which Amanda Hesser relates the story of
a year she spent as cook in a seventeenth-century château in Burgundy.
Before long, her culinary life becomes inextricably bound to the seasons of
the Yonne River Valley and to Monsieur Milbert, the seemingly impervious,
charmingly sly peasant caretaker of the château's kitchen garden..
"Along with the recipes comes a wealth of practical advice on everything from storing potatoes to beginning sourdough starter to making cassis. Essays
celebrate the seasons of the château kitchen garden and relate the growing
friendship between the old gardener and the young cook. As Milbert opens
up to Hesser, the reader glimpses the quirky customs and sensible wisdom of
a vanishing way of life in provincial France."

The Cook and the Gardener is the winner of the 2000 IACP Cookbook Award
in the Literary Food Writing category. No doubt you'll agree the award is well deserved. It remains one of our all-time favorite cookbooks.


Marinated Goat’s Milk Cheese Salad
with Basil

“This dish needs to be made ahead of time – it is best if marinated
for at least a week before eating. And it needs to be removed from
the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving to warm the oil
to room temperature.”

Serves 4

4 small crottins semi-firm goat’s milk cheese, halved,
yielding 8 wheels about 1/2 inch thick
Zest of 1 lime, peeled in wide strips
using a vegetable peeler
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs thyme
1 tablespoon white and black peppercorns,
lightly crushed
Good-quality olive oil, to cover
2-3 branches basil, purple if you can get it
3 handfuls Bibb lettuce, trimmed and washed
2 handfuls curly endive, trimmed and washed
Coarse or kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Sterilize a pint glass jar with boiling water. Place the cheese wheels in the jar, along with the lime zest, bay leaf, thyme, and peppercorns. Cover with olive oil and seal the jar. Let marinate for up to 2 weeks, storing the jar in
the refrigerator (not the coldest part – better to keep it up front so the olive
oil doesn’t completely coagulate). Keep an eye on the cheese. If the crottins
were not firm enough, they will begin to break down and fall apart. If this happens, use them right away. Before using, let the jar sit out for at least
30 minutes to give the oil time to loosen.
2. For the salad, tear the basil leaves into small pieces. Toss the basil with
the lettuce leaves and a little salt for seasoning, reserving 1 tablespoon of
the basil for decoration. Carefully fish out the cheese wheels from the jar
and set aside on a plate. Strain the oil and use 2 tablespoons of it to dress
the salad. Divide the salad greens among four plates, and lay two cheese
wheels (rind side down – if it has a rind, as some semi-firm goat’s milk
cheeses do), on top of the greens. Sprinkle with the reserved basil, a little
coarsely ground black pepper, and a few drops of the marinating oil over
the cheese.


Fresh Corn-and-Cilantro Salad

“Maintaining the opinion of his countrymen, Monsieur Milbert could not
be convinced that corn is anything but animal fodder. Nevertheless, he
planted some corn seeds in a back corner of the garden, in a place he
could conveniently neglect, leaving them to their own devices to grow
or die. I was convinced he wanted the corn to fail or at least develop a
fatal disease. He would not even harvest it for me, snickering at its
very presence.
Corn requires rife earth. And when the corn crop came in flourishing,
I realized just how fertile the soil in the garden was.
Leftover corn occurs about as frequently as leftover artichokes. If it
does, try this simple salad for a treat. The milky juice from the shaved
corn kernels serves as an emulsifier for the oil, and there is no need for
vinegar. The secret to this salad lies in the sweetness of the pebble-like
kernels. It is terrific for barbecues or picnics: It is extremely simple to
prepare and travels well."

Serves 6

6 ears corn, shucked
6-8 peppercorns
2 1/2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
 (about 15-18 sprigs)
1 shallot lobe, minced
1/4 cup best-quality olive oil
Coarse or kosher salt

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the corn and bring back to a
boil. Once it returns to a boil, let the corn cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Drain
and let cool. Run cold water over the corn until it is cool enough to handle.
It is a good idea to finish the salad while the corn is warm, because when
you mix in the herbs, the heat from the corn brings out their flavor.
2. Using a small knife, scrape the corn kernels from the ears: Hold an ear vertical to a cutting board to scrape it, working from the tip to the stem
end. After scraping a line of kernels, run the knife at an angle down the
side of the scraped cob to squeeze out any milky corn pulp. Transfer
the kernels to a medium bowl as you scrape the ears.
3. Put the peppercorns in a small plastic bag and use the base of a heavy
pan, a meat mallet, or a rolling pin to crack them into coarse crumbs.
Add the cracked pepper along with the cilantro and shallot to the bowl
and stir to mix. Add the olive oil and stir, folding as you would a soufflé mixture, to incorporate completely. Taste for seasoning, adding salt
only if necessary. The sugars in the corn usually contribute adequate
seasoning. Serve.


Black Olive-Basil Rolls

“These rolls have big flavor and are great for sandwiches: Slice a roll
down the center, sprinkle with fruity olive oil, and lay a wedge of
goat’s milk cheese and a few leaves of lettuce in the center.”

Makes 8 rolls

1 small bunch basil, leaves torn into pieces
(about 1 cup torn leaves)
1/2 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted and
coarsely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
1 recipe White Dough (recipe follows)
Unbleached all-purpose flour, for shaping
Whole-wheat flour, for rising

1. In a bowl combine the basil leaves with the chopped olives and season
to taste with pepper. Prepare the White Dough, incorporating the olive
mixture into the dough during the final 2 minutes of kneading.
2. After the first rising, punch the dough down and turn it out onto a
lightly floured work surface. Shape into a loose round loaf and let rest,
covered with plastic wrap, for 15 minutes. Rub whole-wheat flour into
a dish towel, thickly coating it so the dough will not stick to the towel.
Lay the towel on top of a baking sheet.
3. Divide the dough into eight pieces. Using as little flour as possible to
keep the dough from sticking to the board and your hands, pound out
each piece into a 1/2-inch-thick circle. To shape into rolls, pull the edges
of the dough into the center of each disk. Continue working around the
disk to form a taut round ball.
4. Place the rolls seam side down on top of the towel, spacing them 3
inches apart, so they rise without touching. Sprinkle the tops of the rolls
with whole-wheat flour and cover the entire baking sheet with plastic
wrap. Let rise until doubled, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
5. A half hour before baking, heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place a
baking stone [or baking tiles] in the lower third of the oven and a small
pan of water on the lowest rack.
6. Transfer the rolls to the baking stone by raising the edge of the towel
and carefully lifting each roll from it and inverting the roll onto the baking stone; you may want to use a spatula as support when transferring. Bake
in the heated oven until the rolls are risen and browned, 15 to 20 minutes.
Test a roll by tapping it on the bottom. If it sounds hollow, it’s done.
Transfer to a baking rack to cool.

Simple Bread Starter

“I love making bread but realize it is quite a commitment. At the château, it simply wasn’t possible to prepare meals with homemade bread every day.
Yes, I was making meals for six, eight, twelve and more, but I can assure
you everyone was eating baguettes from the boulangerie down at the bottom
of the hill.
I make bread when I have time off; it relaxes me to knead dough. The breads
in this book are a collection of recipes I have developed over a few years.
Some I learned while baking in restaurants in Europe, others were successful experiments at the château. Make them when you have time and are in the
mood for a small project.”

1/2 teaspoon dry yeast or 1 teaspoon
fresh cake yeast
2 tablespoons warm water
1/2 cup water, at room temperature
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
(preferably organic)

Make the starter one day ahead. In a small bowl, stir the yeast into the 2 tablespoons of warm water and let the mixture stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining water and the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let ferment in a cool place, 8 to 12 hours.

White Dough

“Just as gardeners need to have faith that their plants will grow, bakers
need to have faith that their dough will rise. This bread dough is moist
and supple and, I think, evokes the typical fear that it’s too wet to rise.
Trust me, it has again and again. Invest in a pastry scraper if you don’t
have one – it will help you handle this dough better, and you’ll be less
inclined to add excess flour.”

1/2 teaspoon dry yeast or
1 teaspoon fresh cake yeast
2 tablespoons warm water
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon milk
1 recipe Starter
2 tablespoons wheat germ
1 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt
1 - 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose
flour (preferably organic)

1. In a medium mixing bowl, stir the yeast into the water and let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Then stir in the olive oil, milk, and starter,
stirring to break up the latter. The texture should be that of house paint.
Add the wheat germ, stirring to mix, then the salt and the white flour,
adding it 1/4 cup at a time and stirring to mix with a wooden spoon until
the ingredients begin to clump together in a large ball.
2. Turn out onto a floured board and knead, incorporating the remaining
flour, until the dough is smooth and elastic, 10 to 12 minutes. Use a
pastry scraper to help lift and clear the dough from the work surface
so you don’t need to add too much flour. When kneading, make sure
to be aggressive with the dough and to slap it down against the work
surface from time to time – this develops tenacity in the dough. Place
the dough in a tall oiled bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let
rise in a cool place until doubled, 1 1/2  to 2 hours. Then proceed
with the recipe instructions.

More Amanda Hesser
August, The Cook and the Gardener, Part 1
August, The Cook and the Gardener, Part 2
August, The Cook and the Gardener, Part 4
Featured Archive Recipes:
Basil Cheese Loaf
French Country Bread Series
Camembert, Three Ways
Goat Cheese Appetizers, Two Ways
Three Corn Salads!

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