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Recipes: 'The Provence Cookbook'

Expat Patricia Wells shuttles between her apartment in Paris and her farmhouse in Provence. Her second book, The Provence Cookbook is recommended by Bonny Wolf for her summer roundup of cookbooks.

Tagliatelle with Rosemary and Lemon

Equipment: A 6-quart pasta pot fitted with a colander; a large nonstick skillet with a lid.

3 tablespoons coarse sea salt

1 pound fresh tagliatelle pasta or imported Italian linguine

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 cups fresh rosemary leaves, finely minced

2 cups (8 ounces) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Fine sea salt to taste

One summer this was the recipe of the season. I had a guest and we ate this beautifully simple pasta for dinner three nights in a row. I could have gone for a fourth, but we went out to dinner instead. What could possibly be bad about the trio of fresh golden pasta, lemons from the tree and rosemary from right outside the kitchen door? A touch of parmesan, a sip of wine, and the celebration has begun!

1. In the pasta pot, bring about 5 quarts of water to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the coarse sea salt and the pasta, stirring to prevent the pasta from sticking. Cook until tender but firm to the bite, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the pasta pot from the heat. Remove the colander and drain over a sink, shaking to remove excess water, but retain 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

2. In the skillet, heat the oil and lemon juice just until warm. Add the drained pasta and the pasta cooking water, tablespoon by tablespoon, until the pasta absorbs the liquid. Add the rosemary and toss. Add half of the cheese and toss once more. Cover and let rest for 1 to 2 minutes to allow the pasta to thoroughly absorb the sauce. Taste for seasoning. Transfer to individual warmed shallow soup bowls. Serve immediately, passing the remaining cheese at the table.

4 to 6 servings

Wine Suggestion: I like a golden wine here, one that reflects the lightness as well as the depth of the dish. One evening my friend Steven and I splurged on a bottle of white from the Domaine de la Granges des Pères, a unique white made from the Rousanne grape. This vin de pays de l’Hérault, from just north of Montpelier, is velvety, harmonious, and full of fresh fruit and big enough to stand up to the lemony acidity of the pasta as well as the power of rosemary.

Cold Cavaillon Melon Soup with Beaumes-de-Venise and Buttermilk Sorbet

Equipment: A food processor or blender

1 perfectly ripe cantaloupe (about 2 pounds)

1/4 cup Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise or other sweet white wine

8 scoops Buttermilk Sorbet

3 tablespoons fresh lemon balm leaves or mint leaves, cut into a chiffonade

From early spring through late summer, ripe and fragrant Cavaillon melons fill the markets of Provence. There is always one (or more) in my refrigerator, ready to serve as a breakfast treat, a snack, or for making this quick and satisfying dessert. I love to serve it with a scoop of Buttermilk Sorbet, for the color contrast is astonishing and the flavor contrast just as stunning. We have lemon balm, or mélisse, growing wild all over the farm, so this is one place to put that mint-family herb to use as a festive garnish.

1. Halve and seed the melon. Cut the melon into slices, peel, and cut into cubes. Place the cubes of melon in a food processor or blender, and blend until totally smooth. Add the wine and blend again. Transfer to a bowl. Cover securely and refrigerate until serving time. (The soup can be made up to 8 hours in advance.)

2. At serving time, stir the soup to blend again. Pour into eight chilled, shallow soup bowls. Place a small scoop of sorbet in the center of each bowl. Garnish with the chiffonade of fresh lemon balm or mint.

Eight 1/2-cup servings

Buttermilk Sorbet

Equipment: An ice cream maker.

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup light corn syrup

2 cups buttermilk, shaken to blend

I confess to a severe weakness for anything with a slightly lactic tang, and buttermilk is among those light and refreshing flavors that appeal to my palate. Buttermilk, which the French market as lait fermenté, is to my thinking an underutilized ingredient. It offers the pleasures of richer ingredients such as cream with much less fat. This sorbet goes with just about everything, so I serve it often.

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the lemon juice, sugar, and corn syrup. Simmer over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Cool to room temperature.

2. Combine the lemon syrup and the buttermilk, and stir to blend. Chill thoroughly. Transfer to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

10 to 12 servings

Excerpted from The Provence Cookbook by Patricia Wells. Copyright © 2004, Patricia Wells. Reprinted with permission by Morrow Cookbooks, a division of Harper Collins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Patricia Wells