A happy consequence of relocating to Provence is that there are visitors! And I’ve recently had the thought that a reasonable ticket of admission to these parts for those coming from the US, (especially California!) may just be a package of Corn Tortillas!
It all started with an unfortunate lapse of memory as I dragged my bags into the airport after a visit to Minnesota this summer. I had stashed a bag of corn tortillas in my sister’s refrigerator to bring back and ultimately left them behind.
A few weeks later, I received a message from her BFF that she would be traveling to France and be staying in Aix for a few days and would I have time to connect? Alas, her time in Aix overlapped with my sail in the Greek Islands so it looked like it would be a missed connection. As an afterthought, I fired a message back to her with a request that she bring a bag of corn tortillas with her and I would make arrangements for them to be picked up so that they would be waiting in my refrigerator upon my return. She was more than happy to oblige...and even better: my return to Aix caught them on their last evening in town so we managed to make the tortilla drop in person...and have a little party in the courtyard! Although a bit battered from traveling (as we all are when we make that trans-Atlantic trip), the sweet corn flavor with that hint of a lime under-note was just the little taste of home I had been craving.
Yes, this is the 21st century and yes, there is that little thing called "globalization" going on that make corn tortillas actually available here...but not the ones I'm used to...they’re just not quite right...too "corny" somehow...and too much like crêpes. What’s more, a package of six will cost over 4 euros!! Aie! (French for “ouch”! I simply cannot bring myself to pay such an outrageous price for corn tortillas in these parts.)
So, with my authentic stash there have been chicken tacos, bean burritos, and when the pieces got too small at the end of the bag, there were makeshift tostadas. With one more pack in the freezer for when the next pangs hit, I'm a very happy girl. Yipppeeeeee! (And "mille fois merci" to DT for making the door to door delivery!)
The summer days bring out the haricots rouges in the marché. Mottled red and white, known as cranberry beans in the US, on this side of the Atlantic, they cook up into a lovely pot of Mexican beans...”comfort food” for a California Girl.
With a scoop of my cherished stash of chili powder from New Mexico that was given to me by another California Girl (in fact, JS, when you are next in Santa Fe, I’ll trade you a bag of chili powder for some herbs de provence!) this pot of beans was intended to be set up for an arranged marriage with those corn tortillas. (I’m happy to report: the marriage worked!)
If you are coming this way and happen to be from California, tuck a bag of tortillas in your suitcase for me! (And if you happen to be coming from San Diego...how about stopping by El Indio on your way to the airport for a bag of fresh corn tortillas! Now that’s the ticket!)
Not exactly a fit for the Provençal theme here, but my pot of Mexican-style beans remind me of my life near the border at the edge of the Pacific...and sometimes nothing else will hit the spot!
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 (or more to taste) cloves of garlic, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 lbs. fresh cranberry beans, shelled and rinsed
1 (or more to taste) T. chili powder
1 quart chicken stock, preferably homemade
salt and pepper to taste
Cook onion and carrot in olive oil until softened. Add garlic and cook to soften - do not let it brown or burn. Add chili powder to "toast" and meld the flavors. Add the beans and chicken stock.
Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and let simmer for 2 to 3 hours. Check for seasonings to add salt and pepper to taste. (Depending on the consistency you prefer, add water during simmer as needed.)
Serve with corn or flour tortillas (if you can get them!)
(Soometimes I add a bit of chopped ham to this as well.)
Serves 4 to 6