Provençal cuisine, or anything from Provence really, carries a halo of languid bliss. Surprisingly, the food is pretty simple when you get right down to it. The key is all in the service.
In general, the French have made an art of simple elegance, but in Provence a relaxed atmosphere is the heart of hospitality. I have heard New American cuisine described as “sourcing excellent products and not doing too much to them,” but I think that is also an apt description of Provençal food. Courses are composed of a single ingredient and the secret to a happy housewife’s cooking is the patch of rosemary that she discovered in the woods or the fresh walnuts from her best friend’s tree.
While city dwellers can’t quite replicate that relationship with the land, we can usually find a way to replicate the outdoor setting that so heightens a meal. Whether it is a roof deck or a neighborhood park, eating outside makes any meal more luxurious. Or as one of David Tanis’ teachers in Provence taught him, outside is “where any normal person would want to be” eating. [from A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes]
Though simple, this Provençal vegetable platter completely transcends your average crudité. It is more like quattro staggione pizza version of an appetizer. One dish, but many options. The arrangement is similarly circular, with each slice or segment occupied by a different color and flavor.
It is hard not to make this platter visually appealing. All of this fresh produce provides a wide spectrum of eye-catching colors. For maximum presentation points, alternate your veggies so that the bright colors are offset by more subdued colors. To keep things organized, it is best to alternate the long items with the round items. This keeps the radishes and mushrooms from sliding around.
Feel free to substitute what you have around the kitchen, but be creative. Half the joy of this platter is in trying items that you might not usually find on your average party vegetable platter. Sugar snap peas, jicama, string beans, turnip wedges, hard-boiled eggs and yellow grape tomatoes can also be substituted for any of the above or added to expand the platter. You could stick to cucumber, cherry tomatoes, and mini carrots, but what’s the fun in that?
Enjoy! And please let me know if you have any questions.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Serves: 6-8 (as appetizer)
Adapted from Plates to Share by Jennifer Joyce
- handful whole white button mushrooms
- one bunch red or French breakfast radishes
- one zucchini
- one bunch baby carrots (whole carrots, not the little rounded ones that come in plastic packs)
- one fennel bulb
- 2 fresh turnips
- Remove the green, leafy tops from the fennel, radishes, and carrots.
- Wash (scrubbing gently to remove any dirt) and dry the fennel, radishes, turnips and carrots.
- Cut the tops and bottoms off of the carrots and arrange on one pie slice of a circular serving platter.
- Cut the tops and bottoms off of the radishes and cut them in half (top to bottom for red radishes, through the waist on French breakfast radishes). Arrange in a pile in the pie slice next to the carrots.
- Slice the whole fennel bulb, top to bottom, into 1/8 thick slices (beginning with the rounded edge, not the edge where the leaves meet). Arrange next to radishes.
- Wipe the mushrooms gently with a towel, cut into halves, and add to the platter.
- Cut the top and bottom off of the zucchini and cut in half. Cut each half into batons and arrange.
- Cut the turnips in half and then into wedges and fill in the final section of your veggie “pie.”
- Serve with a bowl of homemade mayonnaise or yogurt dip in the middle of the platter.
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