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How to Make and Use Herbes de Provence
I discovered Herbes de Provence this past summer at the Brucemore Garden and Art Show in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I found a rack of the aromatic herb mix among displays of handmade herbal soaps at the Jeanne's Soaps booth. As I stood there sniffing the sample like it was a perfume bottle, Jeanne approached. "You can use it in all kinds of dishes," she told me. "Any kind of vegetable. And it's really good for roasting chicken."
I bought a one-ounce bottle and, as Jeanne suggested, started using it in everything, from stuffed bell peppers and zucchini to my favorite chicken-in-a-pot recipe to a butternut squash and white bean mac 'n cheese dish I created one night. The fragrant blend of dried herbs added a fresh taste and delicate aroma to my dishes while inspiring me to explore new levels of culinary creativity.
It's easy to make Herbes de Provence using dried herbs harvested from the garden or purchased in bulk from a natural foods stores. Packaged in a pretty glass jar or a terra cotta crock as used in the south of France, it would make a thoughtful handmade gift for anyone who likes to cook.
How to Make Herbes de Provence
Herbes de Provence is a blend of herbs traditionally grown on the hillsides of southern France. The addition of lavender flowers is an Americanization of the traditional French mix, and is said to have been a response to American tourists' infatuation with the lavender fields growing throughout the Provence region. While some purists argue that lavender has no place in the herb blend, it adds a subtle floral flavor and lovely purple accent to the mix. Make sure to use lavender indicated for culinary use.
To make your own blend, mix together equal parts of the following dried herbs:
- Fennel seeds (crush for best results)
- Lavender flowers
Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to four months.
How to Use Herbes de Provence
Herbes de Provence is a common seasoning in French country cuisine. The applications are endless. Use it as a rub for roasting or grilling chicken, lamb or pork. Toss root vegetables (try potatoes, carrots, and parsnips) with olive oil and Herbes de Provence and roast until tender. Use a pinch of Herbes de Provence in scrambled eggs or omelets with a few crumbles of goat cheese. Sprinkle it into stews and soups during cooking.
Fresh Tomato Soup with Herbes de Provence
The flavors of Herbes de Provence pair particularly well with the traditional ingredients of Mediterranean cooking. Use it in fresh tomato soup to infuse a hint of floral and citrus flavors.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence
6 cups fresh tomato juice (To learn how to make tomato juice from fresh tomatoes, click here. Substitute fresh tomato juice with canned low-sodium tomato juice.)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Heat olive oil in a large, non-reactive stock pot (i.e., stainless steel, not aluminum). Add onion and carrots cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes or until onion is translucent. Add the Herbes de Provence and stir for one minute.
Carefully pour in the tomato juice and add salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then turn the heat down and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
Puree the soup directly in the pot using an immersion blender or transfer the soup to a regular blender or food processor and puree in batches. Heat through and ladle into warned bowls.
Makes six servings.