Eggplant, Pepper and Tomato Gratin

Eggplant, Pepper and Tomato Gratin-1

Gratin typically brings to mind a rich and cheesy dish of root vegetables (pronounced by all American children to rhyme with “all rotten”).  Nutritional guilt over this fat fest drives food bloggers to frantic rearrangements of their refrigerator poetry magnets into epithets like “a holiday indulgence” and a “once in awhile treat.”  But in the Adams-Rivard kitchen we scoff at a such reservations.  We eat gratins when we feel like it, whether Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny is joining us for dinner or not. Thank God for bicycles.  Which offers me a segue into this week’s dish, Eggplant, Pepper and Tomato Gratin.  While pedaling through Provence a month ago we couldn’t help but notice how much lighter a Provencal gratin is than its Gerard Depardieu-like cousins to the north.  The cream had vanished, along with much of the cheese, both supplanted by olive oil, bread crumbs, and fistfuls of crushed herbs.  Olive oil, we were reminded, transforms the flesh of vegetables into something unctuous.  Caramelization is the gilding on the lily.

Swiss Chard Tart with Gruyère and Anchovies

Swiss Chard Tart with Anchovies and Gruyere-8143

Ceci n’est pas une quiche.  It’s a Swiss Chard Tart with Gruyère and Anchovies.  Quiche sounds so seventies, like the ubiquitous anonymous “white wine” that came into vogue as an alternative to cocktails during the same Swiss Chard Tart-6674culinary epoch.  Boring.  White.  Food.  But a tart, a tart can play.  Sweet or savory, rich or light, it has no rules beyond the obligatory crust, and inclination to use whatever looks good in the market that day.  And what looked good to us was the Swiss chard. So, yes, this is a savory custard tart, but it’s really about the chard. Oh, and the anchovies. The tart doesn’t taste like anchovies–it tastes like chard, with cream and cheese, and something salty and elusively delicious in the background.

Bike. Cook. Eat. Sleep. Provence.

Bike Cook Eat Sleep Provence-6281

Every year Jody participates in a cooking-cycling tour.  People like traveling with what Jody jokingly refers to as a “GCC,” that is, a “genuine celebrity chef.”  Over the course of 5 – 7 days people bike, visit local restaurants, vineyards and artisan producers of local products, and help prepare a multi-course meal based on the local cuisine with lots of instruction and guidance from Jody.  Accommodations are typically cushy.  The biking ability of participants ranges from novice to expert and everybody has a great time.  People abandon any inclination to count calories (and why would you?) after they experience a day of pedaling about the countryside.  Most people return to the US with at least one new discovery–a technique or taste sensation.  The top contenders on this trip were peeled tomatoes and rabbit.   My own favorite was rouget, small red fish from the Mediterranean, undoubtedly delicious in lots of ways, but I can personally vouch for them sautéed in butter with a little lemon and parsley.  Runner up was smoked cod roe, which I’d never even heard of before this trip–creamy, rich, unbelievably good when spread on a fresh baguette.