Provençal Potato Salad

The recipe that played a starring role in the Aleksandra Kurzak and Roberto Alagna concert from Èze, France is listed here. This salad is packed full of summer flavors ! With its inherent freshness and chic, Mediterranean appeal, it’s no wonder that the recipe was featured on the cover of The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook in 1999.

The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook (Copyright: Ina Garten, 1999)

(Adaptions and notes made from Ina Garten’s original Provençal Potato Salad recipe are marked by asterisks* and italics)

Ingredients:

1 pound small white boiling potatoes
1 pound small red boiling potatoes
(or any combination of small red, white, or yellow potatoes)
2 tablespoons good dry white wine
2 tablespoons chicken stock
3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar (white wine vinegar works fine)
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 tablespoons good olive oil
1/4 cup minced scallions (white and green parts)
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill (or more)
2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley (or more)
2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves
1/2 pound haricots verts, stems removed (or green beans)
1 6-ounce can Italian tuna, drained and flaked (two cans of a good, chunky American tuna will work just as well)
1/2 cup capers, drained
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup small-diced red onion
1/2 cup black olives, pitted
6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and quartered, optional
6 anchovy fillets, optional*

*I chop 2-4 anchovy fillets for the vinaigrette and do not add additional fillets for garnish.

Instructions

Drop the white and red potatoes into a large pot of boiling salted water and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until they are just cooked through. (I steam my potatoes in a large pot for the same amount of time) Drain in a colander and place a towel over the potatoes to allow them to steam for 10 more minutes. As soon as you can handle them, cut in 1/2 (quarters if the potatoes are larger) and place in a medium bowl. Toss gently with the wine and chicken stock. Allow the liquids to soak into the warm potatoes before proceeding.

Combine the vinegar, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper (and chopped anchovies) and slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion. Add the vinaigrette to the potatoes. Add the scallions, dill, parsley, basil, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss.

In a pot of boiling salted water, blanch the haricots verts for 3 to 5 minutes, until barely tender. Drain and immerse into ice water for 5 minutes. Drain again.*

*I steam the green beans at the same time as I’m steaming the eggs, removing the greens beans after the specified time while continuing to steam the eggs.

In a large bowl, combine the haricot verts with potato salad, tuna, capers, tomatoes, onions, olives, eggs, and anchovy fillets.* Serve warm or at room temperature.

*Be careful when tossing the quartered eggs with the rest of the ingredients ─ I found that the yolks separated all too easily when combining the mixture. Another option would be to arrange the eggs on top in a serving bowl.

Just look at all those colors !

Enjoy !

Toi, Toi, Toi,

Mary Martha

Rolling on the Riviera ─ Aleksandra Kurzak and Roberto Alagna in Concert

“The dynamic husband-and-wife duo of tenor Roberto Alagna and soprano Aleksandra Kurzak give a concert of arias and duets, accompanied by string quintet, from an outdoor terrace in Èze, France, with a spectacular view of the Mediterranean.”

Two for the price of one ? A string quintet ? A château on the French Riviera ? Count me in ! If the description for the third installment of the Met Stars Live in Concert initiative wasn’t appealing already, the set list for Aleksandra Kurzak and Roberto Alagna’s concert was the icing on the cake. Favorites from Puccini and Verdi seamlessly mixed with adorable folk songs from Mexico and Italy, all richly accompanied by the Vienna Morphing Quintet. Below is an abbreviated video of highlights from the concert:

Aside from being a technical feat, the vistas overlooking the pelagic Mediterranean Sea were arresting. Several times during the concert, I found my eyes floating over the floral garlanded railing to espy sleek motor yachts and nearby barrier islands as Aleksandra and Roberto charmed me with their singing and effortless chemistry. Their intuitive camaraderie led to dynamic and touching duets, which also included an overflowing dose of mirth. In what is rapidly becoming the duo’s calling card, the hilarious “love potion” duet from Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore involved a clever prop and crafty English ad libs ─ I was rollicking with laughter watching the two perform !

Aleksandra Kurzak and Roberto Alagna singing “Caro Elisir” from L’Elisir d’Amore in concert / Metropolitan Opera

There were more serious moments as well with Aleksandra singing Desdemona’s “Ave Maria” followed by a melting rendition of the love duet from Otello, in which the darkening sky serendipitously played a role in one of the final lines. Singing “The Pleiades are low in the heavens”, the pair turned to face the azure sky and motioned to the stars just as they were beginning to illuminate. Chills !!!!

Aleksandra Kurzak and Roberto Alagna singing the love duet from Otello in concert

The Cuisine

The concert locale, above all else, provided the best (and most straightforward) watch party theme: Rolling on the Riviera. Provence, with its uniqueness of sights and senses was the central inspiration behind our small gathering at Chris’s home. Each of us chipped in to make the get-together unforgettable. Jayne knew of a terrific French sparkling rosé wine while I was elated to try out Ina Garten’s Provençal Potato Salad, which was chocked full of Provençal ingredients: black olives, capers, haricot verts, cherry tomatoes, scallions, red onion, lots of fresh herbs, flaked tuna, hard cooked eggs, and anchovies. The freshness was equivalent to lounging on a sun-soaked beach chair with the sea mist brushing across your face. In the words of Ina Garten, “How bad can that be ?” The salad is so gorgeous that it was featured as the cover image on the original Barefoot Contessa cookbook from 1999.

The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook and Jayne’s sparkling rosé

I highly recommend the wine and the niçoise-inspired potato salad for an instant summer getaway.

Anne sure knows how to arrange a cheese platter ! Roquefort, Boursin, and Brie, oh my ! And of course, my favorite prosciutto…

Even Chris, our gracious hostess, made blackberry sorbet to be accompanied with chocolate covered French cookies. Bon appétit !

The Clothes

Imagine partaking in a leisurely promenade along one of the coastal towns of the Riviera… what would you wear ? For me, the answer was obvious: beach pajamas !

Made popular in the 1930’s, beach pajamas (or pyjamas) were all the rage on the Riviera where the rich and famous would rendezvous. Women would wear flowy fabrics with grace, oftentimes to dressier occasions spanning into the evening hour. Casual and comfortable, while still oh-so chic, I knew I wanted to sew a set of these beloved beach clothes.

Seeking a two piece style, I contemplated designing my own set until I came across a FREE pattern online from Gertie’s Charm Patterns brand. With a complete sew-a-long tutorial on YouTube showing the details of making the pajamas, the pattern was just right for my needs. With this being my very first “Gertie” pattern, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but found that the pattern was accurately sized with differing cup sizes for an even better fit.

Using a soft rayon challis I bought in June from Julie’s Picks swatch club mailer, I paired it with an equally sumptuous berry-colored material from Fabric Mart’s gorgeous selection of rayon/nylon shimmer satins. Softness and style united as one.

I loved wearing my 1930’s beach pajamas to what transpired as a joyous afternoon in Provence. From the cliffs of Èze to the rolling hills of central Florida, the pleasures of the French Riviera were abundant ─ an uplifting concert, delicious food, and lively conversation… what could be finer ?

Toi, Toi, Toi,

Mary Martha

Cast and Credits:

Met Stars Live in Concert: Aleksandra Kurzak and Roberto Alagna
Château de la Chèvre d’Or
Èze, France
Live broadcast date: August 16, 2020
(Date seen: August 20, 2020)

Aleksandra Kurzak ─ soprano
Roberto Alagna ─ tenor

Vienna Morphing Quintet