Patricia Wells, is the quintessential American in Paris. She's written 11 books, and is an accomplished journalist and restaurant critic. She now runs a cooking school in Paris and offers week-long classes out of her home in Provence.
I was so excited to get to this week's tribute because I've come to love country French cooking, if only from afar, through cookbooks, cooking shows and blogs. I chose this recipe from Patricia's book "At Home in Provence" because it captures the spirit of rustic farmhouse food, freshly prepared from the fields. The flavors are pure Provence. It's the kind of meal that I think is actually best made in the home kitchen. Even the finest restaurants have a hard time producing a perfect pasta dish, which requires delicate timing and a personal touch. You can actually do a better job with at home.
With food this simple, you need the best ingredients you can find. The garlic and the mint are fresh. The olives should be from an olive bar or specialty store, not from a jar or can. The cheese should be authentic Parmigano-Reggiano. Here's why this dish works---it showcases a few strong flavors, and each of them is allowed to shine. The 2 juicy cloves of fresh garlic are pungent. The large bouquet of fresh mint makes a definitive statement, not just a hint in the background. The fresh green olives are tangy. Parmigano Reggiano cheese is robust and nutty. My addition of the zest of a lemon adds yet another bright layer. So when you bite into this pasta you are getting an explosion of flavors. They don't fight with each other, but they definitely get into a lively discussion!
SPAGHETTI WITH GREEN OLIVES, GARLIC, AND FRESH MINT
---Patricia Wells, At Home in Provence
1 cup pitted green olives
2 plump, moist cloves garlic, peeled, halved, green germ removed
1 cup fresh mint leaves (remove the stems)
the zest of one lemon (my addition)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmigano-Reggiano cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup coarse sea salt
1 pound imported Italian spaghetti (I use more like 3/4 pound, and I use whole grain thin spaghetti)
In a food processor or a blender, combine the olives, garlic, mint, oil, and half of the cheese. Pulse to create a roughly chopped, not smooth, sauce. Season with pepper. Transfer to a shallow bowl large enough to hold the sauce and the pasta and toss gently.
Cook your spaghetti, drain, and immediately toss with the olive sauce. Serve with the remaining cheese.
For most Americans this dish is slightly outside their comfort zone. The flavors are bold and assertive and the combination is a little unfamiliar. I made roast chicken to appease the rest of my family, but I loved this dish.
We Americans have some ways to go if we are to embrace the kinds of food choices that make sense for the health of our bodies and for the planet. Patricia Wells is one of those persuasive voices pointing us in the right direction.
Check out these other bloggers who are participating in this weekly tribute to the 50 Women Game Changers:
Mary of One Perfect Bite - Golden Cream and Apple Tart - Tart Aux Pommes A La Creme
Val of More Than Burnt Toast - Seared Pancetta Wrapped Cod on a Bed of Lemon Risotto
Joanne of Eats Well With Others - Provence on a Plate
Susan of The Spice Garden - Pork Tenderloin with Peppers and Chipotles
Taryn of Have Kitchen, Will Feed - Scrubbed Toast
Heather of Girlichef -Wedge Salad with Buttermilk-Lemon Zest Dressing
Miranda of Mangoes and Chutney - Cobb Salad
Jeanette at Jeanette's Healthy Living - Zucchini Carpaccio with Avocado, Pistachios and Pistachio Oil Salad
April of Abbys Sweets
Katie of Making Michael Pollan Proud - Roasted Tomato Confit
Kathleen Van Bruinisse at Bake Away with Me - Chicken Salad with Green Beans and Tahini-Lemon Yogurt Dressing
Viola - The Life is Good Kitchen
Linda of There and Back Again - Domaine St. Luc’s Almond Cookies and Lemon Mousse
Amy of belovedgreen- Watermelon and Feta Salad
Barbara of Moveable Feasts - Winemakers Cake
Kathleen of Gonna Want Seconds - Penne with Vodka Sauce.