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September 1, 2013

Herbes de Provence (Recipe: marinated mozzarella) {vegetarian, gluten-free}

First published in June 2008, this updated ingredient post features new photos and links. Marinated mozzarella cheese takes just minutes to make, and a few days to steep in the good flavors of the herbs. For a quick appetizer, just add toothpicks.

Marinated bocconcini, small balls of mozzarella in herbs.

Who was more ingenious, the Provencal cook who first tossed together a few herbs growing on a hillside and gave it a fancy-sounding name -- herbes de Provence -- or the person who thought to market those herbs in an adorable ceramic crock ?

(You have one of those iconic little crocks on your spice rack, don't you? Me, too.)

Herbes de Provence is a bit of a free-wheeling spice blend. Like garam masala, the blend will vary with each cook, and from recipe to recipe in the cook's kitchen.

Herbesdeprovence

Depending on who's doing the blending, herbes de Provence might contain thyme, basil, summer savory, fennel seed and lavender flowers, which is what's in the crock in my pantry. If you purchase from Penzeys, you'll get a mix of rosemary, cracked fennel, thyme, savory, basil, tarragon, dill weed, Turkish oregano, lavender, chervil and marjoram. More complex flavor, but no crock.

The common components, spices that grow wild or are cultivated in the south of France and are harvested in the heat of the summer sun, include bay leaf, thyme, fennel, rosemary, chervil, oregano, summer savory, tarragon, mint and marjoram. Orange zest and/or lavender also make an appearance in many versions of the herbes.

If you don't live in France, you've probably purchased a crock of herbes de Provence to make one or two recipes, and because the ceramic pot is so cute, it's remained on your spice rack even though you don't use the contents very often.

So, get your crock out -- here are ten things to do with herbes de Provence:

  1. Mix with olive oil and rub on chicken before roasting or stewing.
  2. Add a pinch to scrambled eggs.
  3. Sprinkle a pinch or two on hot coals before grilling.
  4. Add a pinch to a vinaigrette salad dressing.
  5. Mix with oil, salt and pepper, and drizzle on garden-fresh sliced tomatoes.
  6. Put two parts mayonnaise and one part Dijon mustard in a bowl with a sprinkling of herbes de Provence. Stir together, thin with a bit of champagne vinegar, and use to season potato salad.
  7. Make a paste with butter, and smear under and over the skin of a turkey breast before roasting in the oven.
  8. Marinate boneless, butterflied leg of lamb in a mix of yogurt, garlic, and herbes de Provence.
  9. Rub fillets of fish with olive oil, season with salt, pepper and herbes de Provence, top with a slice of lemon, and seal in a parchment paper pouch. Bake in the oven or steam over a pot of water.
  10. Toss with roasted vegetables.

Though my climate zone is far from Provence, many of the traditional Provencal herbs grow well in my garden. I don't have great success with dill or chervil, mostly because they insist upon going to seed before I remember to cut them back, but I get a healthy crop of most of the other herbs every season. In the Fall, when I remember to do it, I dry them on a contraption Ted made for me out of an old screen window.

Maybe I could market my own herb blend.

Herbes de Rhody.

Coming to a farmers' market near you, maybe, some day. Just as soon as I save up enough little crocks. 

Marinated bocconcini, easy and elegant appetizer at the ready.

Marinated mozzarella cheese

From the pantry, you'll need: herbes de Provence, bay leaves, black peppercorns, olive oil.

Inspired by a recipe in Patricia Wells'  Bistro Cooking, this is a wonderful recipe to make for hostess gifts or summer picnics. Find some pretty jars for packaging, and be sure to make at least one week ahead. The original recipe calls for a semisoft goat cheese, such as Montrachet, but I love to make this with the mini mozzarella balls you find at the supermarket salad bar. Serves 8 or more.

Ingredients

12 oz bocconcini (small mozzarella balls)
1 tsp herbes de Provence
4 bay leaves
12 black peppercorns, slightly crushed (place them in a plastic bag, and hit with a frying pan)
1 to 1-1/2 cups fruity extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Place first four ingredients in a jar, and cover with oil.

Close securely, and store in a cool place for at least one week and up to a month. I usually store mine in the refrigerator, and bring it up to room temperature before serving.

Serve the cheese with crusty bread, and drizzle with a bit of the flavored oil from the jar.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]


More recipes with Mediterranean herbs in The Perfect Pantry:

Honey-roasted beets
Deviled eggs
Roasted fennel with potatoes and onions
White bean dip with goat cheese and herbes de Provence
Herbed cheese spread

Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Crunchy oven baked fries with herbes de Provence, from Joy the Baker
Herb roasted pork tenderloin with preserves, from The Pioneer Woman Cooks
Provencal tart with gruyere and herbes de Provence, from 101 Cookbooks
Zucchini and summer squash gratin with herbs de Provence, from Healthy. Delicious.
Roast chicken with herbs de Provence, from Revel & Feast

Comments

If it has lavender, I'm in! For twelve years I worked at an herb farm in Glocester and became familiar with many of these lovely ingredients. I developed a special fondness for lavender and used it in cooking from time to time. The owner of the shop was well known for her strawberry lavender jaw closed, else I'd mosey over to Glocester for a jar or two.

Lavender shortbread, anyone? Cake?

I thoroughly enjoyed this essay and will most certainly incorporate many of these ideas for herbes de Provence in my own cooking.

Thank you - I really wanted to use my tub of heres de Provence but I don't really cook anymore - these are terrific suggestions - I'll incorporate them into my routine-tried it this morning with scrambled eggs - delicious. Thank you thank you

So many good ideas to try with this blend. I have it but I don't use it nearly enough.

Oh my these look lovely. I want to try this very soon! I love marinated mozzarella.

Connie, I'm guessing you worked with Susan Carpenter? It's a small town!

Satonahat, Kalyn: I think we all have a little crock of herbes on our spice racks, and never use them enough. I know I don't, and I keep resolving to do better.

Stephanie, I love it, too. Such an easy party appetizer, and I'm always looking for easy ideas.

Great post, I love my herbes...I save those little crocks and I think I filled the last one with homemade mustard.

Well, now I want one of those crocks...

How come I didn't know about this lovely packaging option?

Great recipe, which I will try even without the crock!

I've never seen one of those crocks, but I started using Herbes from my mom's spice rack (my dad would bring them back after business trips to France, and I loved the French labels). I've never tried them with mozzarella, but I will.

Thanks, Lydia!

Sue, that is a fantastic idea. I'm going to borrow it.

TW, and here I never knew you could buy them any way except in the little crocks!

Kirsten, I hope there are a few good ideas in this post to keep you using those wonderful herbes.

Lydia, you are correct. I was with Susan at Cherry Valley Herb Farm, working in the shop, doing much of the buying, and of course helping tend the gardens and plants. Never a natural gardener, I learned, as Susan said I would, by osmosis.

We left at about the same time, I a year before the shop closed, moving to La Salle Academy, eight years in Admission, now in Guidance. My years at the farm are an integral part of my life.

Susan is a long time and cherished friend. She has found great joy in her new late-in-life "career" as an Episcopal priest. Small town, small state, small world. As I say all the time, we are all connected.

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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