A month or so ago Barbara of Winos and Foodies put out the call for help in pulling off a blogger event to celebrate the Tour de France and since she is one of the most fabulous people I know, I agreed to do my part. I was assigned Stage 17 and more specifically the mountain town of Col du Tourmalet in the Midi Pyrenees, which suited me well since the food of the southwest of France is an obsession of mine. The French border region is heavily influenced from both sides and among those with their spoons in the pot are the Basque and Catalan.
The food and drink from this region is varied and beautiful from Prunes in Armagnac to Duck Confit to Cassoulet and Poule au Pot with each one deeply ingrained in the lives of the people of the region. Col du Tourmalet itself is known for the production of the hard sheeps milk cheese Tourmalet, while the region at large is known for Roquefort, Tomme Pyrenees and Cabecou. They are also known for producing and raising the finest foie gras, black truffles, sausages and fowl such as geese and duck. There is some wine production in the region, but it is not known as one of the great growing regions of France. The drink most commonly associated with the area is the much venerated armagnac.
Something I love about the southwest of France is the staple ingredients of peppers, onions, anchovies, olives and ham. Everything is brightly colored and bursting with flavor lending itself to a simple, often ingredient driven cuisine (you know I love that). I chose to do a salad that celebrates both Basque and Catalan tastes, by Caroline Conran from her lovely cookbook Under the Sun. I love how it represents two rich cultures of the region on one plate. The combination of luscious, ripe tomatoes with pan fried and toasty green peppers is absolutely gorgeous with oil cured black olives and pungent anchovy. It is summer on a plate.
I did decide that since we are discussing French soil that the French should be represented on my plate as well. Go figure. So I fried up a couple of gorgeous Toulouse style sausages courtesy of the Fatted Calf in Napa. They went perfectly with this salad, it was sort of a French version of sausage and peppers, but so much better. The vinegar, tomatoes and peppers really played well with the sausage and I think next time I may even load it all into a bun!
Thanks for checking out my contribution to Project Tour de France 2010. To find out a little more about it click this link: Winos and Foodies or visit the entry for Stage 16 from Molly at Seasonal Seattle . Stage 18 Salies-de-Bearn to Bordeaux will be posted tomorrow by Gilli of So Simple.
Salade de Tomates aux Piments Verts
By: Caroline Conran
2 Green Bell Peppers, sliced in quarters
1/2 tsp Salt (I’d use sea or kosher)
1/2 cup Olive Oil
5 Tomatoes, peeled and sliced ( don’t think the peeling is at all necessary)
4-5 TBS Olive Oil, for Serving
2 TBS White Wine Vinegar
1 Garlic Clove, finely chopped
1/4 cup black olives (I used oil cured and more of them), pit removed
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste
6-10 Anchovies (optional, but you should really choose this option. Also, try to find salt cured it is worth it)
Salt the bell pepper on the inside and allow to sit for 1 hour or so. Rise the salt out, drain and cut into wide strips.
Heat the oil in a skillet and fry the peppers on both sides until they begin to brown. Remove, cool and remove the skin.
Arrange the peppers and tomatoes, seasoning with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil, vinegar, garlic, olives and anchovies.
Note: I fry the quartered peppers before slicing them again, it is a lot less fussy to remove the skin this way. Also, Caroline recommends long thin skinned peppers. I do not have long sweet peppers available to me so I subbed in plain old bell peppers which worked quite well.
**I love this salad, but disagree a lot on the preparation. No offense to the author, she makes beautiful food and I really love her book. I just have my own ways of doing things and really hate using recipes.**