A Culinary Journey to Southern France

I miss traveling.  I miss boarding an airplane or, better yet, a ship to whisk me away to new places or favorite destinations.  I miss exploring new sights, wandering ancient streets, tasting unfamiliar flavors, browsing outdoor markets to see what locals cook and eat, and visiting museums with a sense of awe at the wonders of other cultures.

Memories of past travels are as near as my kitchen, where I recreate the flavors I experienced while touring.

When I hosted a group cruise from Athens to Barcelona, the excitement was elevated because the culinary director for Oceania Cruises is my PBS colleague, Jacques Pepin.  We visited places I’d only read about on our way to Barcelona, but after living in Paris, it’s in France that I feel most at home, so I fell in love with our stop in Southern France.

We docked in Monaco and immediately departed with friends for Nice. Wandering through the outdoor market, the intoxicating fragrance of lavender was everywhere, as were the heady aromas of cheese, yeast breads, and booths overflowing with flowers. Packages of sun-dried tomatoes were plentiful, which inspired my recipe for Caramelized Onion and Gruyere Tart Provencal.


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 large sweet onions, peeled and thinly sliced

2 large cloves garlic, peeled and diced

1/8 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt

1 sheet frozen puffed pastry, thawed and chilled

1/3 pound Gruyere cheese, coarsely grated, about 2 ½ cups

2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Sun-dried tomatoes

1 egg, beaten


Preheat a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil and butter, and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Add onions, toss to coat with oil and butter, and saute 12 to 15 minutes until the onions are golden brown. Stir in garlic and salt, cook 1 minute more, and set the pan aside to cool, about 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Unfold the puff pastry on a cutting board and gently seal the creases with a rolling pin. 

Transfer the pastry to a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.  Make half-inch indentations around the perimeter of the pastry with a table knife, taking care not to cut all the way through the pastry.  Transfer the onion mixture to the center of the pastry and spread it to within ½-inch of the pastry’s edge.

In a medium bowl, combine the Gruyere and Parmesan cheeses.  Sprinkle evenly over the onions and garnish with sun-dried tomatoes.  If the tomatoes are packed in liquid, drain them on paper towels before garnishing.  Brush the edges of the pastry with beaten egg and bake 18 to 20 minutes until the cheese is melted and the pastry is puffed and golden brown.

Transfer the tart to a cutting board, slice, and serve while hot.

Yield:  8-10 appetizer slices or 6 brunch servings

Onion tarts are popular in France, though ingredients change depending on the region. In the Alsace, which borders the Rhine River, onion tarts are commonly made with bacon. In a nod to Provence, where the sun is warm, and sun-dried tomatoes are plentiful, I’ve omitted bacon, added a generous topping of Gruyere cheese, and garnished the tart with sun-dried tomatoes.  The intense flavor and chewy texture of these tomatoes provide a sublime counterpoint to the sweet, caramelized onions and earthy, melted cheese.

The onion filling and cheese are cradled in puff pastry, which quickly rises and turns golden brown and flaky when baked. For Sunday brunch, a light supper, or sliced into small wedges and served as an appetizer, this Caramelized Onion and Gruyere Tart Provencal brings a bit of France to the table while transporting me to a sidewalk café in Provence.

I can hardly wait to host my next cruise group in Summer 2023.  Oh, the flavors!

Cookbook author and PBS chef Christy Rost is a longtime resident of the Park Cities and Preston Hollow. Visit youtube.com/ChristyRostCooks and christyrost.com to see her Celebrating Home 4-minute cooking videos.

Christy Rost

Public television chef Christy Rost is the author of three cookbooks and a longtime resident of the Park Cities and Preston Hollow. For additional recipes and entertaining tips, please visit christyrost.com or follow her on Facebook and Twitter @ChristyRost.

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