, Gloucester, MA


March 6, 2013

Layers of lettuce, lemons surround salmon in casserole

I’m offering another recipe that mirrors the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, this one with Provencal roots because after I published a column ( discussing the long history and solid science behind the Mediterranean Diet on Feb. 8th, the New England Journal of Medicinedeclared it gospel on Feb. 25 (i

I found La Chartreuse de Saumon Frais a la Provence in the 1973 gastronomical darling, “The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth,” in which the great food writer Roy Andries de Groot tires of answering his guests’ questions about the green bottle of liquor on his table after every meal, and flies to France to chase down the mysteries of the 130-herb liquor — Green Chartreuse — produced by hermits in the Chartreuse mountains. Only two monks ever know the exact recipe at one time. Once in the Chartreuse, Mr. De Groot’s senses are hijacked by the bewitchingly faultless meals and critically superb wines presented to him each day by the two women running the small hotel, “The Auberge,” where he is staying. The subject of his trip and book are no longer Carthusian Monks but Les Mesdemoiselles Artaud and Girard and their perfect seasonal cuisine of the southeastern corner of France.

This recipe is unusual — unusual to prepare, unusually simple and unusually delicious. Onions, Boston lettuce, tomatoes and lemons are layered in a sauce pan, and then covered in fish fillets. The same layers are piled on top of the fish, only in reverse, starting with lemons and ending in onions. White wine is poured over all; it’s covered tightly, and disappears into a low oven for 2 1/2 hours. All those vegetables, a bit of fresh fish and a bit of olive oil? This dish could be the poster child for the Mediterranean Diet.

The recipe recommends that you uncover the dish at the table, allowing the fragrant steam to hit your guests in their appetites. I prepared this with salmon, but Les Desmoiselles also recommend fresh tuna. The whole ends up being a stewy pile of braised fish and vegetables balmy with lemon, blushing with summer. (Yes, this would be best made in season, but I welcomed the aromatic lightness of this dinner, even made with leafy grocery store lettuces and vine-ripened tomatoes.)

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