It’s the middle of the night. Lights are blinking through my closed eyelids. Then I hear the continuous rolls of thunder and, as I open my eyes, I see repeated violent lightning flashes. I can’t sleep.
The storm hits fast and loudly, and once it’s gone I hear train whistles and rumblings in the distance. I lay there, trying to quiet my mind. Instead, details of all sorts pop up in my brain and, even though it is now dark and silent, I am wide awake. I use an old trick to lull myself back to sleep. I take a virtual trip.
This time, I return to the very south of France, where we often go in early spring. Our hosts, Sophie and Claude are there to greet us as we arrive. We find our little cottage unchanged from last year, except for the fresh garden flowers on the table and the bottle of wine from the family vineyard on the counter. We decide on an early turn-in after a quick walk down to the bakery and the grocery store. We tuck ourselves in by closing all the shutters, shielding us from outside noises and the morning sunlight.
When we do wake up, we throw the shutters open to the sound of cooing doves and a view of clear deep blue skies. After a leisurely breakfast, we follow the edge of the Mediterranean as we walk over to the next town for the Wednesday market. We are looking for some fresh fish and vegetables for our evening meal.
The vendors are out in full array with everything from hats and underwear to cheeses and pastas. As we make our way down the aisles, we find more than we are looking for. At the baker’s, we buy the last loaf of Mouna, a sweet brioche with a hint of orange, that will be delicious for breakfast. At the cheesemonger’s, we taste a sample of aged goat cheese that we cannot live without. But it is the fishmonger’s we are looking for.
Since we are late, we must choose quickly: beautiful mussels, small crayfish and some fillets of whiting. Finally, we find a good mix of the typical Provençal vegetables: red peppers, large green onions, zucchini and tomato. Mission accomplished.
When we get back to our homey kitchen, after a detour for a cup of coffee out in the sun down by the port, we get down to business. We clean and scrub and chop and sautée, and the flavors of our surroundings take over the space. Along with our hosts’ wine, we enjoy this local feast. Second mission accomplished. I am sound asleep and don’t wake up until the alarm goes off.
Tonight, after a run in the park, and slightly cooler spring temperatures, it’s time to feature fish again. Here is a recipe that is easy and fast and tasty.
FISH EN PAPILLOTE
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 4 mushrooms, sliced
- 1 tablespoon parsley, minced
- 2 small garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil, minced
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest, finely grated
- 1 1/2 cup wild rice blend, cooked
- 2 tablespoons white wine
- Two 4-ounce fish fillets: sole, whitefish or hake
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the oven to 375 F.
- Fold two pieces of 14-inch-square parchment paper in half and cut into the largest heart shape possible. Open up flat.
- In a frying pan, heat the olive oil and fry the green onions and mushrooms, until the moisture is mostly gone. Mix the parsley, garlic, basil and lemon zest.
- Put the cooked rice on the middle of the parchment paper. Then, in layers, add the fish, salt and pepper, the herb mixture and the mushroom mixture. Sprinkle with the wine. Fold the parchment paper in half and close the edges by making folds the whole way around to seal. Repeat with second paper and place on baking sheet.
- In the oven, bake until the fish is cooked through, about 12 to 15 minutes.
- Place on two plates and serve in the paper.