In books including The Paris Cookbook
and Bistro Cooking
Patricia Wells offered personal takes on delicious French fare. The Provence Cookbook
finds Wells, a resident of the region, evoking the terroir
in over 200 recipes culled form chefs, home cooks, farmers, and more. Like her other collections, Provence
yields easy but elegant fare--modern, light-on-their-feet dishes like Six-Minute Cod Braised in Spicy Tomato Sauce and Francks's Roasted Duck Breasts with Green Olives. While the recipes are truly French (with an occasional cross-cultural contribution), Wells has done her usual trick of translating them for relaxed American cooking; she's also provided enticing vignettes on local markets; on ingredients, like the nutty camargue rice; and on other culinary suppliers such as Hervé Poron, "The Truffle King." In themselves, the listings make a useful guide.
In addition to the expected categories, the large recipe range includes breads, pasta, and egg and cheese dishes, such as Quick Polenta Bread with Rosemary, Linguini with Saffron, and Baked Arugula Omelet. Desserts are hardly neglected, and include evocative specialties like Fresh Fig and Homemade Apricot Jam Tart, Three Pear Cake, and Individual Cherry-Hazelnut Gratins. Tips like "On Peeling Tomatoes," menus, and photos further distinguish a book that will delight both Wells's fans and those fortunate to discover her culinary France. --Arthur Boehm
From Publishers Weekly
Wells is one of the most famous American culinary expats living in France, and she's carved out quite a niche for herself as the voice of France for American home cooks. Provence, a sunny region in the hills above the Riviera, is not a new subject for Wells; although her last book focused on Paris, she authored Patricia Wells at Home in Provence in 1996. For this lively volume, she seems to have combed the villages surrounding her and her husband's "rewarding little farmhouse" in northern Provence to come up with recipes and culinary tips from farmers, winemakers, tradesmen, shopkeepers and restaurateurs. It's a robust collection (with over 200 recipes), encompassing all manner of food, wine and preparation techniques, and a highly personal one too. For example, in the Salads section, the recipe for Mireille's Tomato, Green Pepper, Olive, and Anchovy Salad prompts Wells to expound on her favorite olive oil; while the recipe for the Maussane Potter's Spaghetti, which comes from some of the author's potter friends in the village of Maussane-les-Alpilles, leads Wells to write about her favorite pottery shops in Provence. This could be bothersome if Wells were not so instructive, but her personal digressions serve as important lessons to cooks and to those planning a trip to the area. To that end, Wells includes plenty of travel information, giving the various locations and hours of Provence's many markets and contact information for restaurants and shops. Altogether, this is a lovely cookbook, a celebration of simple, delectable cuisine.
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