Category Archives: Uncategorized

Saffron Crocus to Harvest Next Month and a Cooking Class

Saffron Crocus to Harvest Next Month and a Cooking Class

It’s not too late to plant saffron crocus bulbs. Plant them in September, water them once,  and harvest your first crop in October – yes, this October. Order them asap, as supplies are running low. To harvest, pinch the blossoms from the plant with your fingers, or clip them with scissors (watch out for bees!). Remove the dark orange stamens – each blossom has three – and set aside on a plate in a warm dry place, such as your kitchen, to dry. After a day or two, put the dried stamens in a jar. Use in risotto, fish soup, sauces and more.

Your first harvest will be small, but leave the bulbs in the ground, and you’ll harvest increasing amounts, year after year, for five years.

Our sets come packed in a muslin bag with complete instructions and a recipe card for French fish soup, Soupe de Poissons.

La Vie Rustic Crocus – Set of 25

La Vie Rustic Crocus -Set of 50

And a Cooking Class….

On September 27, 2019 La Vie Rustic owner and award-winning cookbook author, Georgeanne Brennan, will be teaching a special, hands-on cooking class in Orinda, California. Some of the recipes are from her La Vie Rustic Cookbook, others are personal favorites. To register, visit Epicurean Exchange

HOMAGE TO PAGNOL: A FALL FORAGER MENU FROM THE BACKCOUNTRY OF PROVENCE

Menu:
• Wild Mushroom Beignets with Aioli 
• Fried Olives
​• Jambon Cru (prosciutto)
• Salad Sauvage (Wild Greens) with Lardons, Garlic Croutons and Goat Cheese
• Beef Daube with Fresh Cepes (Porcini Mushrooms)
• Cheese Course
• Fromage de Chevre with Georgeanne’s honey
• Tarte Tatin of Quince and Apples

 

Time to Pre-Order Saffron Crocus and Plant French Lettuces

Time to Pre-Order Saffron Crocus and Plant French Lettuces

La Vie Rustic is once again offering saffron crocus bulbs, and it’s time to pre-order for shipment first week of September, right after Labor Day. If you’ve not grown your own saffron before, give it a try. It is almost instant gratification because bulbs planted in September  bloom a month later – yes, just a month later – in October. You won’t get a big crop with the first planting, typically only a single blossom per bulb, but the next year and for three or four more years thereafter, look for anywhere from two to eight blossoms per bulb! A modest investment will reap you the reward of absolutely fresh, pure saffron.

La Vie Rustic offers two sizes, a bag of 25 bulbs and a bag of 50 bulbs. With each bag a 4-color recipe card for Soupe de Poisson is included along with full planting, care, and harvesting instructions for the crocus.

If you are wondering how La Vie Rustic came to offer saffron, read our blog post from 2017.

Saffron Crocus 25 count………..$17.00                Saffron Crocus 50 count………………..$30.00

French Heirloom Lettuce Seeds

The French love their lettuce, and so do we at La Vie Rustic. We offer a collection of 6 different heirloom varieties individually packed in a letterpress printed overpack, with full growing, maintaining, and harvesting information.

thomas Kuoh Photography

French Heirloom Lettuce Collection………………..$15.00

Mesclun Salad Seed Mix

A French specialty is Mesclun, a mixture of lettuce, escarole, chervil, arugula and nasturtiums, that originated in Nice, France at a monastery. La Vie Rustic has put together an authentic mix, based on research and garden trials, and now in late summer, early fall, is a good time to plant. The leaves are harvested when very young and tender, only 2-3 inches long, and the nasturtium leaves, buds, and of course flowers and harvested as well. Combine all with a very light vinaigrette and you’ll discover the taste of a French market mesclun salad.Our set comes boxed, suitable for gift-giving and includes full growing, maintaining and harvesting instructions as well as the story of mesclun’s origins.

Mesclun Salad Seed Mix………………….$20.00

 

Summertime Grilling Special

SUMMERTIME GRILLING SPECIAL

Summertime Grilling Special means you get five full stems of rosemary with your fresh bay leaf bouquet order and a jar of La Vie Rustic’s Herbes de Provence, all important elements for seasoning grilled vegetables and meats. The fresh bay leaves can even  be threaded directly onto your skewers, Mediterranean style, along with vegetables such as peppers, onions, and eggplant, with or without meaty chunks of pork, beef or lamb. Season the prepared skewers with a little fresh rosemary and some Herbes de Provence and savor the scent and taste of the Mediterranean. (Photo Sara Remington from La Vie Rustic Cooking and Living in the French Style-Weldon Owen 2017)

Summertime Grilling Special………….$17.00  Includes 5  8-inch long stems fresh bay, 5 stems fresh rosemary and a jar of Herbes de Provence

Or maybe you want to stuff a branch or two of rosemary into the cavity of a roasting chicken, and surround it with some sweet summer potatoes. There are so many seasoning possibilities! (Photo Sara Remington, La Vie Rustic Cooking and Living in the French Style, Weldon-Owen)

(P

Sunflowers for Summer Bouquets

Sunflowers for Summer Bouquets

Nothing says summer like summer bouquets. The photo here is taken from the pages of Victoria Magazines new French Cooking & Entertaining issue which features ten pages of life at La Vie Rustic, with recipes and lots of photos.

Happily sunflowers are one of the easiest of annual flowers to grow, and can be planted as soon as the ground has warmed. La Vie Rustic’s sunflower collection has six different varieties, in shades of apricot, gold, pale yellow, deep red, and orange, selected to replicate the types and colors in Van Gogh’s famous sunflower paintings. All the varieties are branching, meaning that they will produce more than one single flower head, and instead, send out more flowers on branching stems.

 

And don’t forget to plant lettuce to serve all spring and summer long. I like to serve the salad along with a cheese course, as theydo at Alain Ducasse’s Michelin-starred restaurant in Provence, the Bastide de Moustier.

 

Choose from La Vie Rustic’s French  Lettuce Collection of the new Mesclun de Nice salad mix. Both will provide your table with delicate salads all season long.

thomas Kuoh Photography

 

Get Your Garden Going with La Vie Rustic

Get Your Garden Going with La Vie Rustic’s French Seed Collections

La Vie Rustic has seed collections and sets for everyone who’s longing for a taste of France – or just plain garden- fresh food. Read all about the collections on our Potager -Kitchen Garden page.

Mesclun de Nice Salad Seed Set

Dreaming of a delicate French Mesclun salad like you had in that tiny Paris restaurant? You can grow that mixture in your own backyard, even in a planter box or pot. La Vie Rustic’s Mesclun de Nice Salad Seeds will keep you in salads for months, because to harvest you use the cut-and-come again method. You can learn all about it on the Potager page.

French Heirloom Chicory Seed Collection

Or maybe you’d like grow a few rows of escarole, frisee and radicchio for salads, grilling, and braising.If yes, the La Vie Rustic’s French Heirloom Chicory Seed Collection is for you.

And here is a link to chicory recipes by Georgeanne Brennan from the Napa Valley Register Newspaper to inspire you.

This Chicory Salad with Sauteed Chicken Livers pictured below is from La Vie Rustic -Cooking and Living in the French Style, by Georgeanne Brennan, Weldon-Owen 2017. Photo by Sara Remington.

Potager Garden Seed Set with Maps

Or maybe you envision your own year-round, French-style kitchen garden, starting with radishes,peas and lettuce in spring, then moving on to tomatoes, zucchini, and eggplant in summer, to follow with fall vegetables. If that’s your dream, La Vie Rustic’s Potager Garden Set with Maps is for you. Photo by Thomas Kuoh

 

French is the Language of Love – St. Valentine’s Day

French is the Language of Love – St. Valentine’s Day

The French love food almost as much as they love l’amour so La Vie Rustic is proposing some food related items that combine the two. First, what could be more French, more charming than a tete a tete dinner for two served on vintage ware plates with classic French cutlery and vintage oversized napkins? Add the flowers and the champagne, then a first course of escargots, followed by Lobster a la creme, or Steak Diane, next a single special cheese on its own cheese board, and  finally, something chocolate. If you bring the wine and food, La Vie Rustic has the rest.

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

MESCLUN DE NICE

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,