Bienvenue, nos chers amis ! (Welcome, our dear friends !) Feel that heat? “Les jours estival sont arrivées!” (the summer days have arrived!) The sun has been warming the deep blue Med, where you spent the morning at the beach. The water was an inviting 80 degrees and the air was even warmer. Now it’s time to get out of those strong UV rays. Come into the cool of our thick-walled stone house, sip a refreshing glass of something cold, and share some lunch. No, it’s no bother at all – everything’s ready, just waiting for you.
These are the salad days of summer! Anything to keep from cooking – we also enjoy cold soups, sandwiches, and ‘crudités‘ (raw veggies served with a dip) when July and August turn up the heat. Thierry, at the village shop, suggests round tomatoes, filled with brebis (sheep’s cheese) and topped with chopped black olives. Jacqueline likes courgettes (zucchini) cut in half length-ways with a spread of chèvre (goat’s cheese) and chives. Personally, we’d prefer a soft cow’s milk cheese but as they say “Chacun a son gout” (to each his own taste)!
What’s that you say? You ordered a salad yesterday and it turned out to be just lettuce served with oil and vinegar? That is very traditional and meant to clear the palate for the next dish. The French do have a word for lettuce (laitue), but a head of lettuce is called ‘salade‘, so read menus carefully if what you really want is a “Salade Composée” (a mixed salad).
I read a French saying the other day – “It takes four people to make a dressing”. Here is my rough translation, “a miser for the vinegar, a sage for the salt and pepper, a generous man for the olive oil, and a fool to shake it like mad!” My husband says he balances the oil and vinegar then adds a pinch of sugar and a healthy sprig of thyme or oregano to his homemade dressings. I assure you that they are great! Other ways to “French up” your salads, are to sprinkle some dill seeds, chopped in a fennel bulb, or add a pinch of dry mustard to your dressing.
Voila! Lunch is on the table. While these may not be classic “French salads”, they are certainly the salads that we are eating in France! Have some of this bread in the basket. It’s from Alain’s bakery around the corner. This is the true French sourdough called “le pain au levain“. For starters, there are chopped radishes, cucumbers, and carrot sticks to eat with the tapenade, (olive & capers dip) or you can arrange them with whole olives, a drizzle of béarnaise sauce, and add some herbes de Provence.
Let my husband refill your glass while we fill our plates. The plate at the center is typical of Provence. The sliced tomatoes, mozzarella, and fresh basil leaves are dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. If you have no basil or mozza, then try it with just tomatoes, dressing, and Parmesan (like this salad). The blue bowl is filled with “Salade de concombre sauce yaourt” (cucumber and yogurt) It is just what it sounds like, a chopped cucumber, a few tablespoons of plain yogurt, a tablespoon of French mustard, some chives, salt, and pepper.
I agree, the third salad makes a good party dish: a ring of shredded red cabbage and a ring of shredded carrot. It’s a tasty low-fat alternative to coleslaw. The dressing is 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 of vinegar, and two of lemon juice. Shred the veggies into separate bowls. Divide the dressing between them and toss gently. Carefully arrange the two in rings on the platter so they barely touch. At the center today are a few lettuce leaves but sprouts, tomato slices, or shredded radishes work well too. The flavor is light and refreshing.
Ah, that was quite a lunch! The dessert salad is mixed chunks of local nectarines, slices of bananas, and white grapes with a little fromage blanc. (It’s like a sweet sour cream) Take a slice of the Chanterais melon, if you like. This old French variety of cantaloupe is also grown in the States. I saw a cute idea at the village store – “Brochettes des fruites!” It was fresh fruit on skewers, sprinkled with a little powdered sugar. Another recipe card suggested cold waffles topped with whipped cream and melon balls. Ah, summer – perfect for sharing a cool meal. Let my husband refill your glass and we’ll toast your visit. “Santé, nos amis!” (To your good health, our friends).
May your journey home be safe and full of sunshine. It’s been wonderful to see you again. Keep cool and we hope to have your company when next we meet to share a taste of the south of France – how about a wine tasting at Chateau Planeres! See you then.