Thursday, July 2, 2009

Recipes from the Languedoc

Fourth of July weekend is the 'official-official' start of summer for a lot of Americans. Memorial Day sneaks up and, if you live on the East Coast, always seems to be either still wet, cold or both. The fourth is far enough into the summer to actually be summer. So let the summer eating and celebrating begin. Now it's really time to fire up the grill and to eat outdoors.

As promised in the last post, here are two recipes from our 'Menu for a Friday Evening at Soustres'; these spare ribs are a perfect summer dish. And there's nothing wrong with making a printanier of summer vegetables to go with them. The spare ribs, or coustillous, are part of the meat for the mixed grill we ate in France. They can be eaten alone, or you may do as we did and add chicken and sausage. The coustillous recipe is provided by Anne de Ravel of Saveur Languedoc and can also be found on her blog and website. The recipe includes harissa, a wonderful hot chili sauce of North African origins that I adore. It is the go-to hot sauce for the French, and quite different from most other hot sauces I have tasted. If you can locate some, you should give it a try. Most specialty food stores should carry it. If you are really adventurous, make a batch yourself! (Try a Google search for a recipe.)

Spare Ribs, or Coustillous

Provided by Anne de Ravel, Saveur Languedoc

Serves 6

Preparation time - 2-1/2 hours

  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 4 scallions, green and white part, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. cilantro, minced
  • 3 Tbsp. lemon balm, minced, or 1 stalk lemon grass, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped coarsely
  • 1-2 tsp. harissa paste, or to taste (see note)
  • 3 Lbs. slab spare ribs, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a mixing bowl. Wisk together. Place the spare ribs in a shallow glass baking dish. Pour the marinade over the meat, and turn to coat all sides evenly. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 2 hours.

When to ready to cook, preheat grill to medium hot, or check to be sure coals on a barbecue are medium hot (coals white in color). Remove the ribs from the refigerator, uncover and shake each piece gently to allow excess liquid to drain off. Grill for 5 to 6 minutes on each side, depending on thickness of the ribs. They should be fully cooked yet still juicy. Remove from the grill, and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Note: harissa is a Morrocan chili paste made from hot peppers and spices. If unavailable, you may use your favorite hot sauce to taste.

Printanier of Artichokes, Fava Beans and Peas

A printanier is a braise of vegetables. The vegetables used can vary; the one we made in France included artichokes, fava beans and peas. This was due in part to the fact that these vegetables were in abundant supply at the open air market when we went shopping for our meal. Artichoke season is just ending so be careful when buying fresh artichokes. The recipe can easily be altered using other seasonally available vegetables.

Adapted from 'Mastering The Art of French Cooking'

Serves 6 to 8

Preparation time - 2 to 2-1/2 hours


  • 6 large artichokes
  • 1 1/2 lbs. of fresh peas
  • 2 lbs. of fava beans
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 6 Tbsp. of olive oil
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • Fresh herbs; thyme, rosemary, or parsely, chopped fine
  • Chives, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Rinse the artichokes. You will only be using the hearts of the plant; using a sharp knife cut 3/4 of an inch off the leaves thus removing the sharp stickers from the tips. Peel away most of the outer leaves until you expose the inner white parts. Cut the stem off completely at the base then cut each artichoke in half. Remove the fuzzy parts at the center with a knife. Peel down any remaining leaves. The goal is to end of up with the hard inner part, the heart, only. Cut the halves into about three lengthwise pieces each (see photo for size needed). Put all the pieces into a bowl with lemon juice and water. The acid keeps the artichokes from turning brown. Set aside.

Remove the fava beans from their outer pod. Blanch the beans in boiling water for a few minutes. Rinse with cold water, once cool enough to handle remove the peas from their outer shell by slitting the skin with a knife, or your finger nail, and gently squeezing the bean out. Set aside.

Shell the peas and set aside.

Using a large casserole, cook the onions slowly for 5 minutes in the olive oil without letting them color. Stir in the garlic. Arrange the artichokes in the casserole and baste with the onions and garlic. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover the casserole and cook slowly for 10 minutes not allowing the artichokes to brown.

Pour in the vinegar and wine. Raise heat and boil until liquid is reduced by half. Next pour in the water. Add the herbs. Bring to a simmer. Cover the casserole and place in the middle of a preheated oven. Casserole should simmer for 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours, or until liquid has almost entirely evaporated. To prevent over cooking, half way through the baking process add the fava beans and peas to the casserole and stir gently together. Before removing from the oven poke an artichoke with a knife; it should give easily. If it doesn't let bake a little longer.

Before serving sprinkle the dish with the chopped chives.

Happy 4th and bon appétit!

My Status: home, blogging, cooking, missing Paris, eating, blogging, missing the Languedoc, dreaming of Barcelona... (yes, still!)

Upcoming Posts: Spain: yes, finally blog posts about Spain. The Wedge Salad: a recipe, the origins of the salad and of Iceberg lettuce. Review: 'The Barcelona Cookbook'.

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  1. I am wanting those slab spareribs so!

  2. I know! Right? I had to post this right at dinner time and I'm starving. Thanks for stopping by. :-)

  3. Wow, those spare ribs look wonderful! I love the marinade!

  4. Thanks Natasha! They were, and are, wonderful. Happy 4th to you!

  5. I almost want to take a bite of monitor!!
    The spare ribs photo is making me so hungry!

  6. Thanks Afaf! They were very good! Happy 4th!

  7. Oh my, harissa and spareribs, that is simply brilliant! This will definitely go on the must make soon list. Thank you for the recipes!

  8. Thanks Phoo-D. The harissa addition does take these a step above. Enjoy!

  9. LOVED the Printanier of Artichokes, Fava Beans and Peas. Now, to find a suitable replacement for artichokes ...

  10. Thanks Beth! And it was so nice to eat it with you!! Hope all is well in Paris...