Herbes de Provence and Escalivade Recipe

by Elise Pearlstine rosemary There is limestone all around shoving its way up through the grasses, shrubs and trees of the surrounding mountains and valleys. A breeze blows by with the scent of aromatic plants, clean, herbal and slightly astringent. Rosemary hangs over a rock wall by an old olive press that is preserved in a small roadside park. The large, lacy white flowers of Queen Anne’s lace (wild carrot) poke their showy heads above the vegetation of the fields and sway in the breeze. I am disappointed that the lavender fields are few and far between along the main road but we spot a few and enjoy the hazy purple view. The mountains in the south of France are in the Mediterranean biome. Plants characteristic of this region are often strongly aromatic in a resinous, sharp, herbal way and the warm dry summers and mild winters support a variety of such plants. Its location at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa has led to a high diversity of plant life and a large number of unique plant species. Many familiar herbs have their origin here and many others grow well in the region. Oregano, rosemary, lavender, thyme and savory are all characteristic herbs and may be used in flavoring many dishes or may be distilled for their essential oils. Many of these are readily available at local nurseries and can be grown outdoors or indoors to provide fresh herbs year round. The primary ingredient in growing herbs indoors is a window with bright sunshine – south or southeast is best. Check to see if you get at least five hours of sun per day, that it is away from cold drafts and provides plenty of room for your plants to grow. You can use individual pots or find a long container that may hold several different herbs. It is best to have pots about 6 inches wide and at least as deep for your herbs. Many herbs are sold in peat containers that are not suitable for container growing so you will need to pick up a nice pot while you are at the nursery to transplant your herb. Use a good, light soil mix that drains well, fill the bottom few inches with soil, position your plant in the center of the pot. Add soil to about 1 inch from the top and pat down firmly. It is important to keep the soil moist but not wet, check with your finger before watering. Once you see new growth on your plant you can begin clipping fresh leaves to use for cooking. Herbes de Provence refers to a mixture of herbs that are characteristic of the region and of the local cuisine. Many grocery stores carry a mixture labeled as such and the ingredients vary. An internet search will also bring up many recipes. I asked my good and lovely friend Claire Martin-Garrigue about herbes de Provence. She lives in Lyon and is a self-described foodie. She pointed me to a wonderful French website with a description of the herbs and some mouth-watering recipes (http://www.herbes-de-provence.org). The blend of dry herbs from that website is as follows: 3 percent basil, 19 percent thyme, 26 percent rosemary, 26 percent savory and 26 percent oregano.  In teaspoons, it translates as basil = ¼ tsp, thyme = 1 1/2 tsp, rosemary = 2 1/8 tsp, savory = 2 1/8 tsp, oregano = 2 1/8 tsp. Claire tells me that the savory is an important part of the formula.

Escalivade (Escalivada) Recipe

Herbes de Provence can be used as a seasoning for grilling vegetables such as zucchini, eggplant and onions, ham or fish. Here is a simple recipe for Escalivade, a dish thats originates in the Mediterranean using these native herbs. Prepare a marinade of the herb blend in olive oil with salt and black pepper. Slice your vegetables (zucchini, eggplant, sweet peppers and onions, tomatoes if you’d like) lengthwise and add whole garlic cloves to taste. Marinate for 15 minutes, or an hour, or 4 hours. Roast or grill the vegetables just until cooked and sprinkle with vinegar if you will be serving them cold. Enjoy with some lovely bread, wine and good company. Note: if you would like to keep the vegetables for later, sprinkle them with a little bit of vinegar when you get them out of the grill or oven.

Photography by Elise Pearlstine

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18 Comments

  • Bela: It sounds delicious, but I was wondering why, even though I spent my entire youth in Nice, I had never heard of ‘escalivade’. That’s because it is a Catalan dish, i.e. from Spain, not Provence. But, of course, since Catalonia is the province that is nearest to the South East region of France they grow the same herbs there.

    Your friend has a wonderfully Provençal name: Garrigue! 🙂 April 27, 2011 at 8:13am Reply

  • Pat Borow aka Olfacta: Sounds wonderful. But did she say whether it was winter or summer savory? I’ve grown the winter variety, which is often used to flavor beans, but have never found the summer kind in plant form.

    Interesting word-history: In central/south America pickled vegetables are called “escabeche.” I’m not sure if the dish is common now in Spain, but bet it’s there somewhere. In Catalonia, which is as different from Castile/Madrid as if they were two separate countries, even now — my guess is that both names may have originated there. April 27, 2011 at 9:00am Reply

  • Irina: Queen Anne’s lace is one of my biggest disappointment in life. 🙂 I heard that name, and was enchanted by it poetical sound. Then I googled it… it was dudka plant! At my childhood we ate dudka’s stalks, it was everywhere, every park, every field was covered by Queen Anne’s lace/dudka. April 27, 2011 at 9:03am Reply

  • Elise: Glad you liked the recipe Bela and thanks for the clarification. April 27, 2011 at 11:02am Reply

  • Elise: The scientific name is Satureia montana which seems to be winter savory. Thanks for the word-history! April 27, 2011 at 11:05am Reply

  • Elise: I am sorry for your disappointment. I think it’s a lovely plant even though quite common and probably a weed in places. April 27, 2011 at 11:09am Reply

  • dleep: Since I love to roast vegetables, I will have to try this. Sounds yummy! April 27, 2011 at 11:48am Reply

  • Elise: Thanks! I love roast vegetables too and am looking forward to trying a summer version. April 27, 2011 at 12:18pm Reply

  • Victoria: I also had to look it up, and my Catalan friend who currently lives in Nice mentioned it the other day. I realized that I've had escalivade (or as she calls it, escalivada) often at her house and loved it. The flavors are so vibrant! April 27, 2011 at 1:50pm Reply

  • Victoria: Elise, please thank you friend for the herb mix recipe. I've blended it today, and it is wonderful! It has the right balance of aromatic, green and spicy elements. Hope that the weekend will be sunny enough. My mom and I would love to do some grilling and try escalivade. April 27, 2011 at 1:52pm Reply

  • Maja: I use herbes de provence almost with anything. meat, fish, a little bit in my fresh pasta sauce, it is i just so versatile and gorgeous. April 27, 2011 at 4:35pm Reply

  • Elise: Hi Maja: I’m glad to hear this, I should use it more. Maybe fish next time. April 27, 2011 at 5:18pm Reply

  • Maggie: In England we call Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) ‘Queen Anne’s Lace’. It is the first umbellifer to bloom in the spring, and lines the roadways in May. Wild Carrot (Daucus carota) comes out later and is not so widespread. Common names can be confusing! April 28, 2011 at 3:41am Reply

  • Isa: I’m from Spain. I live in Alicante, in the south of Valencian Community, and escalivada is very common here. Escabeche too (it’s a kind of oil, garlic, herbs and vinegar marinade).
    If you like this kind of recipes, I recommend trying “pericana”. It’s delicious! April 28, 2011 at 4:40am Reply

  • Elise: Thanks Maggie – I looked this up and found several references to Queen Anne’s Lace as Daucus carota which is the one I was referring to. I have to admit I didn’t examine the ones I was seeing in France more than to ‘recognize’ the inflorescence. April 28, 2011 at 7:08am Reply

  • Elise: Hi Isa: Pericana looks like something I will have to research. Thanks. April 28, 2011 at 7:09am Reply

  • Natalia: OMG. now i know what it is, too! thanks Irina! lol April 28, 2011 at 6:52pm Reply

  • Brendan: Elise, What does your friend think about lavendar as an ingredient in herbes de provence mixture? August 1, 2011 at 11:30am Reply

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