Author Archives: Georgeanne Brennan

Gratin of Cranberry Beans, Sweet Peppers and Toulouse Sausages

A Winter Gratin

Winter is a good time for hearty, warming gratins, and hand-crafted gratin dishes like the one used here, make a special Christmas gift. This is ready to go in the oven once it’s topped with buttered bread crumbs.

Gratin of Cranberry Beans, Sweet Peppers and Toulouse Sausage

Cranberry beans appear as fresh shelling beans in the French markets in fall,  but it is such a small window of availability it makes sense to use dried beans in order to make this dish year round. The saffron and cumin give the juices a golden hue and a hint of the exotic, and sausages contribute their own flavors to the whole.

½ pound dried cranberry beans, picked over, rinsed and soaked overnight or for a few hours

Sea salt

1 bay leaf

4 Toulouse sausages or substitute mild Italian

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil plus 1 tablespoon

½ onion, thinly sliced

1 sweet red bell pepper, thinly sliced lengthwise

1 yellow or orange bell pepper, thinly sliced lengthwise

Freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of saffron

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon fresh oregano

1 tablespoon butter

½ cup freshly torn bread

Put the beans and their soaking water or use fresh water, in a saucepan to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to low. Partially cover. After an hour, add 1 teaspoon of salt and a bay leaf. Continue to simmer, adding more water if necessary, until the beans are tender, about 1 ½ to 2 hours total. Taste and add salt to taste.

In a frying pan, warm 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the sausages, and cook, turning often until they are browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove the sausages to a bowl and pour the cooking juice from the pan over them. Return the pan to the heat and add the olive oil. When it is hot add the onions, reducing the heat to medium, and cook until the onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the peppers. Continue to cook, stirring as needed, until the onions and peppers are very soft, about 15 minutes. Do not brown.

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Pour the onions, peppers and their cooking juices into a gratin dish. With a slotted spoon, add the beans to the dish, reserving the broth, and turning the beans several time. Add about ¼ cup of the reserved broth. Add salt and pepper to taste, plus the saffron, cumin and the oregano. Cut the sausages into 1 inch pieces, reserving the collected juice in their bowl, and add the sausage to the gratin dish, along with a tablespoon of their cooking juices. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.

In a frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat. When it has melted, add the torn bread and cook stirring, until the bread is lightly golden, about 3 minutes.

Scatter the gratin with the buttered bread crumbs. It will not make a solid layer.

Place in the oven and cook until the surface is bubbling and the bread is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove and sprinkle with the remaining oregano.

Serve hot directly from the gratin dish.  Serves 4

Adapted from French Beans by Georgeanne Brennan, Rancho Gordo Press, 2018


La Vie Rustic Holiday Shop

LA VIE RUSTIC HOLIDAY SHOP PART I We’re all decked out here, ready for the holidays with French-style gifts for the gourmand, the gardener, the cook and the decorator. All orders in December will be accompanied by one of our letterpress printed ‘Joyeux Noel’ cards (see below). At your request, we’ll add your sentiments – just let us know. Here are some of our favorites.

Petits Pots for Escargots – vintage stoneware pots, set of 12 with recipe card. $55.00

Mesclun de Nice Salad Seeds -Mix of 13 different kinds of seeds to plant in planter boxes, pots, or in the garden to create your own classic salad mix to harvest over and over again, with full information card with instructions for planting and cut-and-come again harvest.   $20.00


Hand-thrown French Gratin dish in red clay, oven proof and dishwasher proof in the colors of Provence, it’s the perfect size for 4 to 6 servings. Leek gratin? Potato? Cauliflower? $110.00     Herbes de Provence – our own special blend. The perfect stocking stuffer for cooks.   $8.00                                                                                                                                                                                      White Bean and Winter Savory Soup Set – give the gift of knowledge – cooking dried beans – and deliciousness – eating homemade bean soup. Our set has it all – recipe card, seasonings, Rancho Gordo Royal Corona Beans, and even fresh sweet bay leaves. $28. Also Cranberry Bean Set.

Below is a sample of the holiday card we’ll include with each gift.



Mesclun de Nice Salad Seed Mix


La Vie Rustic has a new product, just in time for holiday gift-giving – a seed mix for growing your own, authentic mesclun salad, in the style of Nice, France, where the salad originated.

Origins of Mesclun

High above the city of Nice in Southern France, on a hill that was the site of the ancient Roman city of Cemenulum, now Cimiez, a Franciscan monastery was founded in the 16th century. As part of the monastic life, the monks there, like elsewhere, cultivated a potager garden that included various lettuces and greens as well as other vegetables and herbs. By the 19th century, so the story goes, the monks of Cimiez were too poor to purchase lettuce seeds of a single variety, so for their salads they grew a mixture of whatever lettuce seeds they could obtain, and supplemented the young leaves with the shoots of chervil, and wild greens like roquette, purslane, dandelion, and chicory that grew near their hillside gardens.

The resulting mélange or mix was a balance in flavor of mild from the lettuces, slightly bitter from the chicory, spicy from the roquette, chervil, and nasturtium leaves and flowers. There was also harmony in the variation of colors of the ingredients from light to dark green to magenta and red, and in the shapes of the leaves. Oakleaf lettuces and roquette were treasured for their elongated pointed leaves, a contrast to the curved leaves of the butterhead lettuces and the spoon shape of the romaine. Chervil was considered a key element, not only for its slightly anise-lemon flavor but also for its lacy elegance.

By the early 20th century the mix, under the term Mesclun, became identified as a specifically Niçoise salad mix but not until the 1960s did the mix appear in the markets and restaurants in other parts of France.

Today, to be a considered a true Mesclun de Nice, the mix must contain chervil and roquette and a minimum of five different lettuces, though many Niçoise insist on a minimum of eleven other different ingredients to include lettuce, escarole, and frisée.

However, there are a multitude of variations on Mesclun that use Asian greens, such as mizuna for spiciness, baby spinach, chard, or beet leaves for mildly bitter flavor and in the case of chard and beet leaves, color. Radicchio is frequently added as well.

Regardless of the mix combination, purists insist that the leaves must be no larger than 7 centimeters or about 2 ½ inches. If the leaves are larger, it is considered to be a young salad mix, no longer Mesclun

The leaves are cut from the growing plant, allowing for continuous regrowth.

About La Vie Rustic’s Mesclun de Nice

Ours is a balanced and harmonious mixture of seeds of seven different types of French heirloom lettuce, of two different French heirloom escaroles and one frisée, plus chervil and roquette. These are pre-mixed and packed into a muslin bag. A smaller muslin bag contains nasturtium seeds. There are enough mixed seed to plant a five foot row or five-foot square patch 3 times.

The seeds can be sown directly in the ground, in a planter box or a pot. They can be planted in rows or scattered planted, French-style in a patch. Regardless of the method, they should be planted a scant ¼” deep in prepared soil or planter mix in a sunny location, covered with a very, very light layer of soil or potting mix and watered. Plant the larger Nasturtium seeds ½ ‘inch deep and cover accordingly. During growing, the soil or mix should be kept moist. Germination is in 5 to 7 days, slightly longer for the chervil.

The leaves are harvested by cutting them with a knife or scissors when they are 2 1/2 to 3 inches tall, leaving a few of the outer leaves in place. Continue to water the planting for renewed growth. To be assured of a continuous harvest, plant a row or a patch every 3 to 4 weeks.

Use the leaves and blossoms in salads or course, but they are other creative uses as well, such as this breakfast dish of avocado toasts and eggs.

Mesclun de Nice Salad Seed Mix……….$20.00




New French Style Gifts for the Holidays!

Our Tête à Tête Set for Two, with French vintage transferware dinner plates, vintage knives and forks, and oversized linen or damask napkins sets the table for a French-style moment, be it dinner, lunch, or breakfast, or even a picnic. The  set comes packaged in a Kraft box with a La Vie Rustic label and an indigo satin ribbon, perfect for gift-giving.

Gratin dishes are back at La Vie Rustic, this time hand-thrown by artisan potter Rebecca Bresnick, based on one of my favorite French gratin dishes, a classic in shades of ochre and rust. It’s the right size for 4 to 6 servings of any gratin – think potato, seafood, or leek for winter, asparagus, artichoke and fava bean for spring, tomato, eggplant, pepper for summer, and fresh shelling beans, celery root, and savory quince for fall. The dish is a unique, one-of-a-kind gift for your favorite cook. The supply is limited, so we suggest pre-ordering for November shipping.

And don’t forget our popular Petits Pots for Escargots set of 12 vintage stoneware pots for the Francophile on your list,

Red Poppies for Remembrance

Red Poppies for Remembrance

We’re celebrating red poppies this year with the 100th Anniversary of the end of World War on November 11, 2018 when the armistice was signed. Red poppies have become the symbol of remembrance in the Commonwealth countries and in the United States for those men and women lost not only in World War I but in all wars. John Mc Crae, the Canadian poet immortalized the poppies in his World War I poem, In Flanders Field.Our popular Field of Red Poppies will have a red paper poppy attached to the seed bag through December 31, and we suggest giving this gift of remembrance to anyone you know who has lost a loved one to war who has a little space to plant their own red poppy field. And also, to give yourself and anyone else the gift of remembering the sacrifices of World War I and the terrible wars that followed. Planted in fall or early spring, the poppies will bloom in spring and early summer, the same time they are blooming in the fields of France.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
        In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
        In Flanders fields.




Field of Red Poppies and Bishop’s Lace Seeds with Rice Hulls for Ease of Spreading $10.00



La Vie Rustic has mixed red poppy seeds with Bishop’s Lace seeds, Ammi majus, which is a cultivated version of Queen Anne’s Lace, along with California rice hulls for ease of scattering. With these, you can create your own iconic red poppy fields to wander in, cut bouquets from, or perhaps, even to paint or simply to admire while sipping an aperitif. Plant this mixture of Red Poppies and  Bishop’s Lace flowers wherever you would like a swath of color and romance and remembrance. Photo above by Thomas Kuoh



Contents: 7 grams Red Poppy and Ammi majus seeds, rice hulls and complete growing instructions, enough to plant 2000 square feet.

Germination: 5 to 7 days



Something New and Something Old

Something New and Something Old at La Vie Rustic

New are these beautiful hand silk-screened pillow shams in a delicate fern-like pattern in dark plum and mauve  from textile artist, Sharon Spain. Combine them with her square sham in rose pink for unusual pillows for bed, couch or chairs.

Something old, with the patina of time? A set of 4 vintage French knives, or combine old and new with a mini-pistachio wood cutting board with its own vintage knife.



‘Gros Sel’ Salt Jars are Back in Stock

‘Gros Sel’ Salt Jars are back in stock! Hand thrown on a potter’s wheel, patterned after my own salt jar, which was hand-thrown by a Provencal potter. These are made in Northern California exclusively for La Vie Rustic . They are six inches tall, including the stopper, have a wide mouth, over three inches, which makes them easy to reach into, and a natural cork bark stopper. They are meant to store large salt crystals,hence the label ‘Gros Sel’, but they can be used for anything.  The salt jars make special, unusual gifts for people who love to cook and who have almost everything.


It’s not too late to plant lettuce and chicories! Order now to plant in September, and you’ll have fall and winter salads that look like the photo below, by Sara Remington for La Vie Rustic-Cooking and Living in the French Style.  Heirloom French Lettuce Seeds and Chicory Seeds

End-of-Summer Salad Starts with White Bean Soup

End-of-Summer Salad Starts with White Bean Soup

La Vie Rustic’s White Bean Soup with Winter Savory Soup Set, using large, meaty Royal Corona Beans, Herbes de Provence, Winter Savory Sea Salt (Sel de Sarriette) and fresh sweet bay laurel produces an unctuous broth and well-seasoned beans. My suggestion, switch things up. Serve the broth in a shot glass with a dollop of creme fraiche for a fancy appetizer,  and turn the beans into an end- of- summer salad, like those you find in Paris, heaped on platters in the windows of the city’s delicatessens.

This salad pictured above combines arugula, prosciutto, and shaved Parmesan cheese dressed with an olive oil and red wine vinaigrette, but another favorite of mine uses loads of minced parsley, olive-oil packed tuna, minced red onion and olive oil and lemon juice vinaigrette with lots of freshly ground black pepper.

La Vie Rustic’s White Bean and Winter Savory Soup Set, pictured above, has everything you need to make the soup, including a recipe card. Of course, the soup is so delicious you may find it difficult to use the beans for salad.

We have a new shipment of vintage Escargot Pots from France, prettily boxed with a full-color recipe card for classic Escargots a la Bourguignonneif you want to get a start on holiday gift giving, as well as lovely sets of vintage French dinner knives.

Saffron for Fall Paella and Risotto

If you plant your saffron crocus bulbs in September, you’ll be harvesting saffron for fall and winter paella and risotto. Each year, for at least five years, your harvest will multiply by many fold. The plant about is from a second-year plant. The first year the plants only have one blossom, but with 25 or more bulbs, you’ll have a first harvest for that paella. Order now in lots of 25 or 50 for early September shipping.

Chicken and Artichoke Paella

This is one of my favorite versions. I cook it in a paella pan on my Weber, but it can be done on the stove top as well.

1 cup large dry white beans or fresh shelling beans

salt and pepper to taste

1 bay leaf

2 sprigs winter savory

1 chicken or rabbit, about 2 1/2 pounds, cut in small pieces

1 teaspoon Spanish paprika

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

4 to 5 cups chicken broth, heated

8 small artichokes, upper 1/3 removed, outer leaves peeled back to yellow center and cut in half (soak in acidulated water until ready to use)

2 sprigs rosemary, minced

1 pound fresh peas, shelled

1 pound fava beans, shelled (optional)

1 pound thin green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths

¼ pound pancetta, in ¼ inch cubes

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed and soaked in 2 tablespoons heated broth

2 1/2 cups Bomba or arborio rice

lemon wedges

If dry beans, soak the beans overnight. Bring to a boil with a teaspoon of sea salt, a fresh bay leaf and a 2 sprigs winter savory, and then simmer until tender, about 1 1 /2 hours. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid. Set aside in a bowl, glazed with some of the cooking liquid to prevent drying. If fresh, shell the beans and cook as above, until tender, about 45 minutes.

Season the chicken with salt, pepper, paprika, and thyme and set aside.

Prepare a charcoal or wood fire, with the coals to be 8 inches below the grill. When the coals are hot, set the paella pan on the grill, over the coals. Add the olive oil and when it is warm, add the chicken, sautéing and turning often, for about 5 to 7 minutes, until brown. Remove to a plate and set aside.

Add the onions, garlic, and tomatoes to the oil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the soft, about 7 to 10 minutes. Return the chicken to the pan, add the broth, drained white beans, artichokes, peas, favas if using, beans, rosemary, pancetta, and rice. Stir well, and cook uncovered without further stirring until the rice is nearly tender and much of the liquid absorbed, about 20 minutes. Tuck in the fava beans. Check the bottom that the rice is crisping, but not burning. Remove the pan when the rice still is a tiny bit firm. Cover with foil and let rest 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 6 to 8




It’s time to pre-order saffron crocus

It’s time to pre-order your saffron crocus for early September shipment. As soon as you get your crocus, plant them for an October –November harvest. It’s almost instant gratification. If you bought crocus from us last year you can expect double your harvest this year, since. Do water last year’s bulbs now, in August




August is also the time to be planting escarole, frisee, and radicchio,  to harvest in fall, and in mild climates, through winter and into early spring.La Vie Rustic’s French Heirloom Chicory Seed collections gives you six different varieties, including the history of each variety.


Plant them close together and use the cut and come again method for harvest. To do this, cut out the mild, tender leaves at the heart of the plant. New ones will take their place, over and over again to provide you with steady, tasty salads for months.