How do I choose the seeds to import for La Vie Rustic and
provide all the historical, botanical, and cultivating information
that accompanies them? I scour French horticultural magazines
and catalogs, culinary history books and gardening books to
find authentic seeds. I’ve visited the growing fields of the great
French seed companies, some now gone, like Vilmorin, founded
in the 1700s, and I’ve worked alongside market growers to learn
their techniques. I visit the gardening shops scattered throughout
France, getting a sense of what contemporary gardeners are
seeking. How do I know they are truly worth growing? Since the
early 1970s when I lived in rural France, and later, in the early
1980s when I founded Le Marche Seeds International, I’ve been
cultivating all these vegetable in my own potager garden, and
cooking with the rewards year round, year after year.
Cooking with seasonings that are traditional for French foods
is another way to savor the French way. Sprinkling an Herbes
de Provence mix, made with impeccably harvested and selected
herbs, over a log of goat cheese, then drizzling it with extra-
virgin olive oil is as simple, yet authentic, a dish as you could
offer. A favorite French salt, Sel de Guerande, flavored with bits
of dried fig or apricot, or even seaweed, is a way to bring a taste
of France into your kitchen. A fortuitous visit to the salt ponds of
Guerande in Brittany, which have been used since Roman times
to produce salt from the sea, assured me of the authenticity of
the salt that I import.
For household and kitchen items for La Vie Rustic, I wander the
brocante markets, looking for vintage items either to buy and
resell, to repurpose, or to replicate. A set of unused vintage linen
sheets for example, became hand-sewn, oversize napkins. A
local California ceramicist recreated my cherished hand-thrown
ceramic salt jar, complete with its stencil ‘Gros Sel’ and a natural
cork stopper. Another ceramicist replicate a Provencal gratin
dish for me, as well as salt cellars in the colors of Provence.
The inspiration for a sustainable life in the French style is
everywhere - in the brocante markets, in the supermarkets, in
cafes and restaurants and in the natural world. I try to look at
what I discover, experience, and find and seek a way to translate
it to enrich our lives here, with memories of France.
For the vinaigrette:
45 ml ( 3 tablespoons) extra-virgin olive oil
15 ml (1 tablespoon) red wine vinegar
1.25 ml (1/4 teaspoon) sea salt
1.25 ml (1/4 teaspoon) freshly ground pepper
For the chicken livers:
315 grams ( 10 ounces) chicken livers
15 ml (1 tablespoon) unsalted butter
15 ml (1 tablespoon) extra-virgin olive oil
45 ml ( 3 tablespoons) minced shallot
2. 5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) sea salt
1.25 (1/4 teaspoon) freshly ground pepper
90 grams ( 3 ounces/3 cups) torn leaves of assorted
chicories such as Castelfranco, Chioggia, Palla
Rossa, and Treviso radicchio and escarole
1. For the vinaigrette: In a salad bowl, whisk together
the oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
2. For the chicken livers: Pick over them and remove
any fatty pieces and dark veins. In a large frying
pan, heat the butter and oil over medium-high heat.
When they are hot, add the shallot and sauté just
until translucent, 1– 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon,
transfer the shallot to a bowl.
3. Add the chicken livers to the pan, sprinkle them with
the salt and pepper, and sauté, turning frequently,
until the livers are firm to the touch and still have a
faint rose hue when cut open, about 8 minutes. Be
careful not to overcook them. Return the shallot and
any juices to the pan and stir once or twice, just to
combine. Remove from the heat.
4. Add the chicories to the bowl with the vinaigrette and
toss to coat well. Divide the chicories between two
dinner plates or large shallow bowls. Top with the
chicken livers, shallot, and a little of the pan juices.
Serve at once.
Adapted from La Vie Rustic (Weldon Owen 2017) by
Chicory Salad with Sautéed Chicken Livers