Cooking On A Budget: Food Creations - A Blank Canvas

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Food Creations - A Blank Canvas

“A cook is creative, marrying ingredients in the way a poet marries words.”  These words were spoken by Master French Chef Roger Verge.  Roger Verge is a master of Provencal cooking.  Provence, a region of France is located along the Mediterranean Sea across from Italy. His restaurant, Le Moulin de Mougins is located in the village of Mougin, Provence France.  Translated into English the name of Chef Verge’s restaurant means the mill (or windmill) of Mougin.

A classic spice aptly called Herb du Provence is a blend of dried spices: thyme, sage, rosemary, lavender, savory, basil, fennel seed, marjoram, tarragon, oregano and bay leaf. Used throughout the region of Provence this blend has now become the backbone to some of the dishes I make at home.

While I was doing research on Chef Verge, I learned some things about the cuisine of Provence, France. The French, use fresh seafood and herbs in their cooking which are simple ingredients to a degree, however, the methods of cooking are far more complex than let’s say Italian Cuisine. A lot of the dishes require laying flavors. Bouillabaisse for instance, a seafood “stew” is traditionally made with 2 kinds of fish, shellfish, tomatoes and then layered in are the garlic, the saffron, various herbs, wine and olive oil.  A Bourride which is a Bouillabaisse minus the tomatoes is thickened with an aioli sauce.  Then another classic dish of Provence is called Pistou (soupe au pisto) which is a French version of minestrone.

Chef Verge also has been quoted as saying: “A recipe is not meant to be followed exactly – it is a canvas on which you can embroider.”  I can relate to that inasmuch as that has been the way I remember my grandmother and mother cooked.  They did not follow recipes to cook and pretty much, neither do I. Basically, I will take what I learned from them and cook the dishes that they introduced me to.  Also when I find a recipe that appeals to me I will make it the way a cookbook instructs me to, or alter it from the get go.  If I follow the recipe exactly I may find that I do not like it in it’s’ entirety and then I begin to deconstruct it to fit my own palate.

That’s what I think cooking is all about. It’s all about putting your own spin on something else based on your individual taste buds, or that of your family. Therefore, most dishes are a blank canvas just waiting to be recreated in some form.  Experiment with the Herbs du Provence and other spices - you'll be surprised at the food art you create and it could become a legacy in your own family.

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