Thursday, August 7, 2008

Cascades, Pork Chops and Peperonata

The heatwave was still going strong on Wednesday so we took ourselves off to Roquefort-les-Cascades. Not a drippy blue-veined cheese, which is what it sounds like, but a small pretty village not far from Laroque d'Olmes. Just so you know, that's an ancient little town on a hill 5 km from the village of Léran where we live.  

We drove through the village, silent and dozy in the sun and rife with fiery red geraniums and followed a rough narrow road towards the waterfalls that give Roquefort-les-Cascades its name. But they weren't much in evidence today although the woman in charge of the tourism hut said they were spectacular between January and early spring. We followed a nartrail up through the forest past rock and fallen logs covered with thick velvety moss of an almost fluorescent green. Like all official trails in France, the paths are identified by yellow horizontal strokes or Xs to reassure you that you're going--or not going-- in the right direction.

Driving back through Lavelanet, we stopped for lunch. "Non merci" to a three-course menu on a day this hot but a salad with "tick off the boxes" ingredients hit the spot. 

It was definitely a night for the barbecue. I thawed a couple of pork chops, marinated them with chopped garlic, olive oil and a splash of passionfruit vinegar, abandoned them for an hour or so and Peter tossed them on the grill. Chops here are exceptionally juicy. I wonder if French pigs are allowed to produce fatter meat? A bowl of the peperonata I made yesterday from the recipe in Mark Strausman's The Campagna Table and baguette filled the other two thirds of our plates. 

A Sicilian dish, peperonata is basically a ratatouille-style stew of red and green peppers, canned crushed tomatoes, garlic, onion and anchovies, seasoned with oregano. Also a dash of hot chili flakes but, as I didn't have any, I used cayenne pepper instead. Like ratatouille, peperonata is one of those dishes that is endlessly useful. Sort of a "little black dress" of summer cooking. Straight off the stove, at room temperature, or chilled, it gets along happily with whatever protein you put it with. I could imagine spreading it on toasted baguette as an apero snack too, or dolloped on pasta or spooned over pan-fried wedges of polenta. 

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