Pique-nique de Provence

DSC_0328A Year in Provence — what a wonderful idea.  I’m not sure how I would manage to get you all over there, together with my books and all our picnic goodies, however, so instead I’ll share our recent picnic inspired by Picnics in Provence.

DSC_0438Just up the road from us is Weir Farm NHS, once the home of the American painter J. Alden Weir, one of the founders of the American Impressionism movement.  While studying art in Paris as a young man, he attended an exhibit of the works of Monet, Renoir, and other Impressionists, many of whom spent time in Provence trying to capture the light and views with a paint and brush.  But his reaction to the new idea was negative, and he referred to the exhibit as “a chamber of horrors.”  Later, however, after moving to this “hunting lodge” in Ridgefield, Connecticut, he slowly shifted his style to one which used muted colors and the techniques of the Impressionists to capture the beauty of the countryside and family life.  Today, artists can be seen every day in the fields here, standing at easels or propped on the numerous stone walls.

Now that we’ve had our art history lesson for the day, it’s time to enjoy our picnic!!  

We planned to hike down these paths, stopping to see the gardens and views along the way.

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Over this stone wall and just beyond the cosmos was our destination.

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But first we needed to get past the National Park Ranger.

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Well, we didn’t quite make it.  Oh, the picnic basket was fine, as was the camera.  But our pique-nique needed to continue without the bottle of wine I had chosen because it was from Provence and had a gorgeous label.  “No alcohol,” Mr. Ranger exclaimed.  “But, Mr. Ranger, sir,” I pleaded, “I’ll just use it as a photo prop.”  His instant reply, “No ma’am, this is federal land!” brought visions of federal prison (not the cushy ones) to my mind, so I reluctantly returned the wine to the car.  The Perrier and limonade would have to do, and besides, I knew I had a special little something tucked away to add to our dessert.

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The evening before our adventure began I prepared the famous provencal sandwich, a pan bagnat.  I marinated and steamed fresh tuna so that it would be tender and juicy.  After creating a little trench in the bread loaf, I added the tuna, basil leaves, tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, red peppers, capers, and, on one end only, anchovies.  (I don’t mind them crushed and pureed, but something about the hairy, slimy little things makes me shudder!)  Then I doused it with lots of olive oil.

DSC_0321I was beginning to see why this sandwich was found in every cookbook about Provence!  I carefully flipped the two sides together, and it just looked so pretty I wanted to eat it immediately.

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But instead I wrapped it very, very tightly in glad wrap, stuck it in the fridge with a huge and very heavy rock (wrapped in foil!) on top of it, and left it overnight to squish together.  The next morning I packed up our baskets with several other delicious items.

~~~ limonade from France, with champagne grapes ~~~

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~~~ a jug from Provence filled with flowers from my yard ~~~

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(the Ranger also reminded me that there was no picking flowers at the Park!)

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~~~ goat cheese and brie with champagne grapes ~~~

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~~~ and there’s that special little treat, hidden in the mini jam jar ~~~

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Once we were cleared by Mr. Ranger we proceeded to our chosen shady site, under some huge trees near some of the many old stone walls.  And while I prepared the feast, Mr. Fun had a little fun of his own trying out the free art supplies available to visitors.  He’s not going to like this …

DSC_0374His impressionistic interpretation of my picnic blanket.

DSC_0342After all this creativity and brush with the law we were starving.  These little grapes popped with a sweet burst, a perfect contrast to the goat cheese.

DSC_0428Then it was time for the pan bagnat.  I was so excited to try it!  I didn’t know what to expect from this “bathed sandwich.”

DSC_0400Very messy, as described, dripping with juices and olive oil, but absolutely delicious!!!!  Perfect for an outdoor meal!

DSC_0404We ate it ALL!  But the dessert awaiting us was so tempting that we couldn’t say no.

DSC_0421Fresh fruit — raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and melon — with LU petit écolier dark chocolate cookies.

DSC_0387Topped with my secret ingredient — a drizzle of chambord, a black raspberry liqueur from France.  My recipe from Picnics in Provence suggested creme de cassis, but this was an excellent substitute.

DSC_0394We enjoyed this picnic earlier this summer, but as I recall this delicious food I am planning another outing with the same menu, or perhaps a meal at home with this dessert adapted for a dinner table.  The combination of the fruit and liqueur and chocolate from the cookies was so memorable, and I’m dreaming again about that pan bagnat!

DSC_0403I’ve only been to Provence once, and yes, it is indeed a beautiful place with scenery and light to inspire anyone.  Go if you can, but in the meantime have a picnic of your own, with inspiration and recipes from the Novel Bakers!

jain

mary

michael lee

pam

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Linda 🙂

p.s.  Mr. Ranger was actually a very sweet and knowledgable man.  But the quotes are real.  🙂

 

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7 thoughts on “Pique-nique de Provence

  1. Linda, I’m chortling about your pique-nique and brush with the law, I would have been tempted to drown my sorrows with the wine in the car and then stagger my way back to your limonade 🙂 Your setting looks beautiful, I loved hearing the history and the fact that they hand out art supplies to visitors. Your Pan Bagnat looks délicieux and your chambord-drizzled fruit like the perfect ending, wouldn’t Mr. Ranger be shaking his head in disapproval?! Merci for the fun and food this morning, I so enjoyed picnicking with you!

  2. What an adventure! That Pan Bagnat sounds absolutely wonderful. I’ll have to try it. I’ve never been to Provence, but now it looks as though I’m going to add it to my bucket list. I don’t want Picnic Week to end!

  3. this is so delightful having you join us this week, enlightening, refreshing and funny! i love your wire basket, we share the same chargers too, so of course i am drawn to all your props! what a wonderful place to take us all today, and i adore all your little side stories, and side stepping to boot!

    as much fun as us novel bakers have prepping, i do think the husbands reap the most benefits, look at yours painting in the plein air, i bet not an everyday occurrence 😉

    your sandwich is work of art, along with all your other styling right down to the teeny tiny grapes i think are so cute… and more chicken wire too! every inch of your picnic was pure pleasure, thank you so much for joining us this week, a tisket a tasket, i am loving all your baskets!

  4. Oh my, how wonderful everything looks. That sandwich is to die for – everything looks perfect. Your photos are terrific. To bad that you could have the wine, but rules are rules. So glad that had a terrific time, great food and for sharing this post with us.
    Mary

  5. Oh Linda, that’s too funny about the park ranger getting a glimpse of the wine!!! This was another lovely setting. You’re so lucky to live surrounded by that beauty. The pan bag at looks scrumptious!! I’m with you on the anchovies, though…eek!! I love the idea of the free art supplies for visitors. Thanks for sharing Mr. Fun’s creations.

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