Rosemary from an artist
After more than a year of living in Spain it was time to visit the northern neighbour again: La douce France. So I left for a trip to the Provence, the area in the southeast of France. Conveniently enough it is only a train ride away (or almost 10 hours by bus when the trains are on strike).
The Provence is famous for quite some reasons: from the Marseille soap via lavender and herbs de Provence to bouillabaisse and Pastis. Bouillabaisse being a fish stew and Pastis an anise-flavoured drink that is perfect as aperitif, they both come from Marseille. So of course, while in Marseille we had to try those local specialties to get better acknowledged with the area. We tried both close to the old harbour, where the beautiful French architecture now mixes with modern yachts and tourists.
But there is more to discover in the area than great food and drinks. The nature is beautiful; rolling hills covered with vineyards, cherry trees, lavender fields and pretty villages. It certainly is understandable that so many painters came to live here. We rented a car for a day to see more of the area than just the cities. The lavender fields weren´t flowering yet, but instead the landscape was covered with red poppies. Taking the small roads we discovered some of the villages. I love those places where it seems like the time has stopped, where there are almost no tourists and there is just one restaurant where people are relaxedly enjoying their lunch with a glass of regional wine.
Another day we went up to a hill close to Aix-en-Provence. From there you could see one of the mountains that Cézanne has painted many times. Although nowadays there are houses around the place where he used to paint, it is quiet and you can still just enjoy the feeling of the warm sun and hear the sound of the crickets and the birds, imagining the artist is still there painting the view. We had a small picnic with slices of pizza with anchovy that you can buy everywhere at the bakeries, as common and as delicious as the croissants. Since there was a lot of rosemary growing at that place, we picked some for dinner. Afterwards we passed by the market, full of bright and beautiful vegetables, cheese, honey, and other produce.
This recipe here is a simple recipe, trying to put those memories together on a plate. A tapenade with the rosemary from Cézanne´s place and the anchovy from the pizza. The courgette and black olives from the market. Overall a simple dish, like we cooked in the small apartment on two hotplates. And it goes well with rosé, the wine we drunk every sunny afternoon on a typical French square in Aix-en-Provence.
Steak with tapenade and courgette
Ingredients (dinner for two)
- 2 steaks – size according to your liking
- 2 small courgettes or 1 big one, use a yellow one if you can find it
- 3 tomatoes
- 6 large cloves of garlic
- Black olives – around 20, of a good quality
- Capers – a small tablespoon
- Anchovy fillets – around 4
- Oregano – around 2 heaped teaspoons
- Rosemary – a good bunch
- Thyme – around 2 heaped teaspoons
- Dried red chilli
- Good quality olive oil
Turn the oven up to 150°C. Slice the tomatoes in half and take out the seeds. Finely chop half of the rosemary. Place the tomato halves on some aluminium foil on a baking tray. Sprinkle with the chopped rosemary, the oregano, thyme and some salt. Drizzle some olive oil over the top. Place two of the cloves of garlic, unpeeled, on the tray as well. Place in the middle of the oven and let the tomatoes roast for around an hour. Switch the oven off and let the tomatoes cool down in the oven.
Meanwhile, marinate the steaks. Take the needles of the rest of the rosemary. Peel 3 of the cloves of garlic and quickly crush with the flat side of your knife. Mix half of the rosemary needles with some crushed dried red chillis. The amount of chilli depends. I use around four chillis, but it depends on how spicy your chillies are and how hot you like your food. Add a good dash of olive oil. Dry the steaks and place them in this marinate, leave them at room temperature.
Now you probably have some time to drink a glass of wine before the tomatoes are roasted. Once this is done, take the stones out of your olives. Rinse the capers and take the skin off the roasted tomatoes. You will just have the part of the tomato flesh that is just under the skin left, infused with the herbs and olive oil. Add the olives, capers, tomatoes and anchovy to a blender. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of its skin and add as well, together with a few drops of lemon juice. Blend this all until the olives are roughly chopped. Then taste and season with salt, olive oil, and lemon juice to taste.
Next, finely slice the courgettes and chop the last clove of garlic. Add a few drops of olive oil to a frying pan and place over medium fire. When the pan is warm, add a little bit of salt. Then place the slices of courgette in one layer in the pan. Fry them around 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Set the fried courgette aside. Repeat this until you have fried all the slices. When you turn the last batch around, add the garlic and the rosemary you have left over. Leave in the pan until the courgette is golden brown, and the garlic and rosemary crisp. Drizzle some olive oil over the fried slices of courgette.
Finally, fry your steaks. You can do this in the same pan that should still be hot, no need to add extra olive oil since the steaks have marinated in the olive oil already. The time they need varies according to the thickness of the meat and how you like the cooking done. As a reference, a steak of 2 centimeters thick needs around 2 minutes on each side for medium rare. Add the garlic and the rosemary from the marinate as well and don´t forget to season with a good pinch of salt. After cooking, leave the steaks to rest for at least 5 minutes. Leave the garlic and rosemary in the pan so the garlic becomes soft and the rosemary crispy.
Serve the steaks with the courgette, the tapenade, and the bread. Don´t forget a glass of wine with it, and enjoy!