Discovering the Basque Country in France and Spain

Sauteed Pork Tenderloin with Piperade 1 3648x2736Though we have been traveling to France for decades, my husband and I had never visited the Basque country. We’d been to Burgundy, Provence, and Brittany, but the southwestern area of France that boasts the glorious Pyrenees and an exquisite coast line on the Atlantic remained unknown to us. So we flew into Paris last week, kept our bags packed, and took off for points southwest with our friends, Harriet and Philippe.


En route we stopped by St. Emilion in the verdant wine country, and took a quick tour of Bordeaux. Then we headed for St. Jean de Luz, a charming, old coastal town near the Spanish border. The quaint white-washed houses with their traditional rust or black trim caught our eyes as did the elegant cathedral located in the heart of town, where Louis XIV of France married Marie Thérèse of Spain in 1660. Next we crossed the border to Spain, traveling to Bilbao to see the magnificent Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Gehry. We walked the cobblestoned streets of San Sebastiàn, another town nestled in a protected port. After winding through the mountainous terrain dotted with Basques farms, we had a light lunch in Biarritz, a ritzy resort town, favored by Russian nobility in the late 19th century. It is still redolent of the belle époque. Continue reading

Riding Out the Storm with a French Classic—Cassoulet

Cassoulet Rapide 1By Wednesday last week everyone in our small New England town was talking about the big storm! The first I heard of it was at my ophthalmologist’s office where the nurses were all abuzz about the weekend weather forecast. I didn’t pay much attention since predictions here are so often incorrect, but as the day went on, and one television weather reporter after another promised that the upcoming event was going to be historic, I got nervous. Like most of Amherst it seems, I trekked to the market to stock up on food.

On the way there, I decided that I’d try a new recipe—a short version of cassoulet, that classic casserole of beans, sausages, meats, and poultry celebrated in southwestern France. Typically, cassoulet takes several days to make. The beans are prepared at one session, the duck, meats, and sausages at others. I had a recipe, however, for a quick version that my friend, Jacques Ableman, had shared with me when I was in Amsterdam recently. Continue reading

Cider-Baked Pork, Red Cabbage and Apples

A Great Dish for Cool Fall Nights

When the first fresh cider arrives in our markets each fall, I buy a quart and bring it home, not only for sipping but also for cooking dishes like Cider-Baked Pork, Red Cabbage, and Apples. For this hearty casserole, sliced red cabbage, onions, and apples are sautéed in butter, then simmered in cider along with seasonings of sugar, vinegar, and crushed fennel seeds. The cabbage and apples are spread in an oven-to table dish, topped with pan-fried slices of pork tenderloin, and then baked. Although this main course is substantial enough to be stand alone accompanied by a simple salad, creamy mashed potatoes or buttered noodles would make tempting sides. Continue reading

Four-Hour Roasted Pork Shoulder for Pulled Pork Sandwiches

I grew up in the American South where pulled pork barbecue sandwiches were at the top of the food pyramid. My parents thought nothing of driving well over an hour to indulge in the best pulled pork in the region. The pork featured here could easily rival those of my youth. A boneless shoulder is rubbed with a handful of seasonings, then roasted slow and low until it is so tender it can be “pulled” apart with table forks. When ready to serve, you mound the pork atop soft hamburger buns, then slather on the simple homemade barbecue sauce.

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