Editor’s Note — Victoria Allman is the chef aboard a 143-foot megayacht and the author of the recently released “Sea Fare: A Chef’s Journey Across the Ocean.” This is the second in a series of periodic columns here on OceanLines featuring her irresistible recipes. Best of all for OceanLines readers, who are travelers of the first order, Victoria also gives us a nice taste of the environment and context in which her recipes were developed. Last month, we savored her Spanish Clams with Sherry and Iberico Ham. In this month’s installment, the yacht has called on a French port. If you’d like to read her book, just click on the ad in our left sidebar and that will take you to an Amazon link where you can order it.
The Return of Summer
By Victoria Allman
A feast of summer colors assaulted me as I entered the Forville Marche in Cannes, France. Market tables sagged with tomatoes, the color of fast cars. The shine of the eggplants deep purple, almost black skin sat as backdrop to the emerald green slender zucchini. We had just cruised into port and I couldn’t wait to head back to this particular market.
I collected the freshest seasonal vegetables from tables laden with grey-green bulbs of baby artichokes still on the stalk. Mounds of wild mushrooms, gathered from the nearby woods, were heaped in wooden baskets. I picked up a long braid of garlic from the table in front of me, brought it under my nose and breathed deeply. The heady smell invaded my senses. “S’il vous plait.” I handed it to the market woman.
I passed tables piled high with over twenty varieties olives. Black wrinkled ones cured in sea salt sat next to pale green ones mixed with snipped herbs and whole cloves of garlic. Others floated in brine or were chopped to a fine paste to be used as a spread on baguettes. I popped a youthful fat olive with smooth skin into my mouth as I selected more than I would use that day.
Next, I visited the woman who grew all her own herbs. I couldn’t escape the distinctive citric smell of lemon balm, the herbaceous smell of rosemary, and the lingering scent of fresh dill. This was the way to begin a day. Brightly colored vegetables accosted me at every turn. “Victoria!” A woman behind me squealed. “Ca va?” I turned and was wrapped in a hug by Ana, the voluptuous fruit seller. She stepped back and placed her dirt-stained hands on my shoulders, rounding her self in to kiss each cheek. “Cheri, you have come back home.”
This is what I missed. Every day last summer, this same woman had filled my basket with a dozen, fist-sized white peaches from her garden. Each day, I had devoured more than my share, standing over the galley sink, juice dribbling down my chin. I gobbled the subtle flesh as sweetness swirled through my mouth. I would finish one and reach for another. By the end of the day, they had all disappeared. The next morning, I would return to Ana to start the cycle again. I am someone who loves the change of seasons, but I was more than a little sad to see last summer end. We sailed away and found new cuisines to explore, but now, here I was, back for more.
“Hola.” I stammered. “I mean, Bonjour.” Switching countries is a confusing way to shop. She giggled and picked up a peach. “For you, cheri.” I smiled, knowing what lay ahead. By the time I had walked home to the boat, I had sticky hands from the first of many of this season’s white peaches, and had planned my day’s menu around the vegetables bursting from my cloth bags.
I loved being back in France once more.
Seared Cod with Provençal Ratatouille
By Victoria Allman
Author of: Sea Fare: A Chef’s Journey Across the Ocean
6-6 oz fillets of cod
sea salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 red onion
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 yellow crookneck squash
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon thyme
2 bay leaves
Sea salt and pepper
Dice all the vegetables into a small one-inch dice. Sauté the onions and the garlic in olive oil for 2 minutes over medium heat until they are soft. Add the peppers and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the zucchini, squash, and eggplant. Sauté another 5 minutes. Season with the sea salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes, red wine vinegar, thyme and bay leaves. Combine the rest and stew for 20 minutes over low heat. Season with more vinegar, salt and pepper if necessary.
Pre-heat oven to 400.
Season the cod with sea salt and pepper. Heat a heavy-bottomed pan over high heat. Add olive oil to the pan and sear the cod, presentation-side down for 3 minutes until a golden crust occurs. Remove the cod to a baking dish, presentation-side up and repeat with the rest of the cod. Bake for 5 more minutes or until cod is at desired doneness.
Pool the ratatouille on a plate and top with arugula salad and fish.
Recipe, photography and narrative Copyright © 2010 by Victoria Allman
Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC. All rights reserved