It has been a long running dream of mine to spend some time in Provence and, specifically, in a market town where I can pick up fresh produce from local growers, cheese makers and bakers. In my musings, I, with my bounty in hand, would walk back to my farmhouse kitchen and throw together a fresh salad or warming soup, complete with a crusty baguette and wedge of cheese on the side. Such reverie has somehow become my reality for the past couple of weeks, as I live my dream of France in food.
In my tour de French food, I have been constantly inspired by local produce, ingredients, flavours and the foreign world around me. I have been diligently taking to the kitchen daily, playing around with dishes, shooting food and jotting down recipe ideas. To be honest, it’s quite unlike me! It has been my greatest luxury to be able to travel to a town like L’isle Sur La Sorgue and to have at my disposal a magnificent, well-stocked provincial kitchen that allows me to cook like a local.
The grains and legumes of Southern France are something else. Camargue red rice is grown in a town just a bit further south from here, and has a deep, nutty flavour that I can’t resist. My bestie Jen recommends adding it to risotto, which sounds superbe! Here, this russet-hued gem inspired my Provençal-style grain salad, complete with juicy pan-fried haricot vert, chickpeas and more.
Provençal Grain Salad with French Green Beans and Lemony Parsley Oil
This hearty grain salad can be enjoyed warm during the cooler months, but is also lovely served at room temperature for those Summer days. The lemony-parsley oil provides a beautiful citrus lift to the dish. Use other herbs for the oil if you wish – basil, oregano, tarragon or chives also work well.
| Serves 4-6 |
- ½ cup Camargue red rice (or other wild rice)
- ½ cup brown rice
- ½ cup quinoa (white, red or a mix), rinsed
- ½ cup coarse bulgur wheat
- 1 can (440g) chickpeas, rinsed
- 200g green beans, trimmed
- 12 green olives, pitted
- ¼ cup (tightly packed) Chinese shallots, finely sliced
- ½ cup (tightly packed) continental parsley, finely chopped
- ¼ cup walnuts, toasted and crushed
- Sea salt and black pepper
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- ½ cup (tightly packed) continental parsley
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp walnut oil (or other nutty/neutral oil like grapeseed)
- Juice of ¼ lemon
- Sea salt and black pepper
Combine red and brown rice and place in medium size saucepan with 2 cups of water and a big handful of sea salt. Place on medium-high heat, cover with lid, bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to low and allow to simmer until the grains are soft. By this time, the water should have absorbed but if there is any water remaining, simply drain. If you prefer, you can cook this in a rice cooker too.
Now do the same with the quinoa and bulgur wheat. Combine the rinsed quinoa and bulgur in a medium pan with 2 cups of water, add a big handful of sea salt, cover with lid and bring to the boil. Turn heat down to low, remove the lid and allow to cook until grains are soft. Again, if there is any water remaining, drain. Allow the quinoa-bulgur to sit in the hot saucepan, off the heat, to allow the grains to ‘dry out’ further and get fluffier.
Trim the green beans into 2cm pieces. Heat a small frypan on high heat, add a little olive oil and fry the beans with a pinch of sea salt for 4-5 minutes, moving around pan until tender. I like to cook them until some of the beans start to brown. Remove and allow to cool.
To make the herb oil, add the garlic and about one teaspoon of salt to a mortar and pound until you have a paste. Add the parsley and pound again until your paste is green. Now stir in the oils, a squeeze of lemon juice (according to your preference) and black pepper and sea salt, to taste.
Combine the red rice, brown rice, quinoa, bulgur wheat, chickpeas, green beans, green olives, and herbs in a big bowl and stir well. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Scatter over the walnuts. To serve, drizzle over some lemon-parsley oil.