I had been looking forward to July 25th for days. It was the day the bikers riding in La Tour de France would be ascending Mont Ventoux.
We watch the Tour de France almost religiously each summer. I think I like cycling, but honestly, the reason I'm glued to the television screen during La Tour is because of the scenery. I'm a sucker for the cobblestones and tiled roofs of France. When the cyclists are on secluded stretches of road, I'll find little jobs to do around the house. But as soon as my husband yells, "Hey, look at this!", I run back to the t.v. and images of another village I now want to visit.
Seeing the 20th leg of La Tour was especially important to me because we always stay near Mont Ventoux in the Vaucluse region when visiting Provence. Last summer we based ourselves in Carpentras and wherever we ventured during the day, Mont Ventoux was most likely in our sight.
My husband, who has become more interested in cycling over the years and participates in Ragbrai (the bike race across Iowa) with our youngest daughter, has never joined me on my visits to Provence. But he seemed intrigued, seeing the shots of lavender fields and vineyards during La Tour yesterday. I'm hoping he'll consider a trip with me. He could ride his bike from village to village and I could meet up with him for lunch, taking a break from the markets and brocantes -- my favorite pasttimes in Provence.
Since we would be getting up at 6 a.m. (on a Saturday!) to watch the ascent of Mont Ventoux, I decided to assemble a strata the night before, to have as breakfast Saturday morning. The great thing about a strata is that you can work with what you've got. I had 2 cooked hot Italian sausages in my freezer along with a baguette. I sliced the baguette and covered the bottom of a buttered gratin with half. Over that I layered the sliced sausages and mushrooms from a jar in my pantry. I sprinkled about a cup of shredded Gruyére over the top, along with leaves of fresh basil from my garden. I covered this with another layer of baguette slices and more shredded cheese. I whisked together 4 large eggs and about a cup of half & half, seasoned with salt and pepper, and poured this evenly over the bread. (Feel free to add more cream or milk if the strata seems too dry). Covered with plastic wrap, the strata was placed in the refrigerator until the next morning when I popped it into a preheated 350˚F oven for 30 minutes. I wish the red peppers in my refrigerator had been roasted when I assembled this late Friday night. They would have been a great addition.