Category Archives: French

French Bistro Salad (aka Simple Green Salad)

This post looks like I am just giving you a recipe for lettuce, right?

Well, I am not.  I am giving you a recipe for the quintessential French bistro salad, and it is from none other than the famous (and simply incredible) Ms. Julia Child herself.

Since arriving in France, I can confirm that they don’t indulge in a lot of vegetables during their main meals, or at least this has been my experience at the restaurants I’ve visited. However, most main plates are accompanied by a small green salad. But this isn’t just any green salad, this is the FRENCH green salad.  It is dressed with the most perfect dressing, one that is light, yet flavourful and definitely not overpowering.  I always yearn for more (and end up stealing CH’s off his plate).

So, I have been on the hunt for a recipe for this dressing since I arrived in France and tasted my first bistro salad.  I’ve probably tried about 5 or 6 recipes, and bought 3 types of oil.  None of them have matched the bistro salads I’ve had. One afternoon, I was working away on some school stuff and I decided that I wanted to watch a food show, to get inspired (and to hear some English!).  I clicked onto Hulu and up came 6 Julia Child episodes.  I decided it was fate, given that these were French recipes, but in English.  So, away went the books and I spent the afternoon enthralled with Julia Child & Jacques Pepin and all of their antics and recipes.  The very last episode I watched was their “Salad” episode and what was their first recipe…yupp, none other than a simple French green salad.  Julia Child described it as “one of the best things” and I couldn’t agree more.  I watched the segment 3 times, just to make sure I got the ingredients correct and I tried to measure out by eye how much of each ingredient she was using, since she doesn’t state it explicitly.  I ran immediately to my kitchen and made this salad (having just picked up a head of green lettuce that morning).

I sat down and was immediately overjoyed.  This was it – this was the salad I had been yearning for.  So simple, so quick, but so special.  You may have to play with the quantities of the ingredients a bit, depending on your mustard, olive oil and the acidity of your lemon juice, but keep adjusting until it suits your taste buds.

So, if you are looking for a simple salad to accompany a flavourful main dish or just a taste of France – this salad is it.  Also, do yourself a favour and watch a few Julia Child episodes, she is truly amazing.  Her salad episode (on Hulu) can be found here.

Enjoy a taste of France!

(and yes, I brought my MAFC with me to France!)

Simple Green Salad

Yield: 4 side salads or 2 main course servings
Prep Time:  5 minutes
Cook Time:  n/a

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of green lettuce (butter or green leaf)
  • 1 or 2 green onions (scallions), diced
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 of a lemon, juiced
  • S&P (be generous with the pepper)
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons good quality olive oil

Directions:

Wash your lettuce and dry thoroughly (using a salad spinner).  Tip – Jacques Pepin explicitly states that a salad should be cold, but not too cold.  Therefore, wash your lettuce and dry it, and then prepare your dressing as your lettuce sits.

For the dressing.

In a small bowl, combine the mustard, lemon juice and S&P and whisk well to combine.  Slowly, add the olive oil and whisk until smooth and well incorporated.  That’s it.

Place the salad in a large bowl and top with dressing immediately before serving.

Enjoy.

Recipe From Julia Childs & Jacques Pepin

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Filed under French, Healthy, Mains, Salads, Side Dishes, Vegetarian and Vegan

Summer Tomato Soup with Basil

In my opinion, there is no better way to enjoy the best of the season than with this simple soup that requires no cooking.  This is basically the French version of a traditional Gazpacho (which I cannot pronounce to save my life and it is the running joke with my two Spanish friends here in France…I swear, every time we go for tapas, they make me say it!).

This soup was one of the easiest things I’ve prepared in a long time, except for the slight problem I encountered, given that I don’t have my handheld stick blender in France and the 6 euro food mill I bought just didn’t do the trick to purée the soup.  Oh well, it was just a little chunkier than called for, but I didn’t mind.

Even without cooking, the flavours of this soup are absolutely incredible.  It is light and fresh, with a slight kick (which you can control with the addition of the cayenne pepper). It is absolutely perfect for a summer day, and it comes with the bonus that you don’t have to heat the stove to prepare it.

CH and I enjoyed this soup with a fresh baguette the first night and the next day I prepare some pasta and tossed it with the leftover soup, which made for a delicious pasta salad that we took to the park with us.

Although simple and easy to prepare, don’t be fooled. It is an absolutely gorgeous soup that presents as though a lot of work has gone into preparing it (and it tastes like it too!)

Sometimes it’s the simplest of things in life that we enjoy the most.

Enjoy.

Summer Tomato and Basil Soup

Yield:  4 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes (and overnight in the fridge)
Cook Time: 0

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs (900 g) very ripe, summer fresh tomatoes, quartered, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1/2 red pepper, cored and diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, grated
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup (250ml) vegetable stock or tomato juice
  • 16 basil leaves, julienned
  • S&P
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • Honey (optional – depending on how acidic your tomatoes are)
  • 1/4 cup croutons (store bought or homemade)

Directions:

In a large bowl (preferably one with a lid), toss together the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, red pepper, garlic, breadcrumbs, red wine vinegar and 12 basil leaves.  Stir the mixture well until evenly coated.

Cover the mixture (with a tight fitting lid or with plastic wrap) and place in the fridge overnight, or for a minimum of 8 – 10 hours (the longer the better).

The next day, remove the mixture from the fridge and using your handheld blender or a food processor, purée the soup until smooth.

Add in a dash of cayenne pepper and taste.  Adjust seasonings to your liking.  You may also need to add a teaspoon of honey (or sugar), depending on how acidic your tomatoes were.

Serve cold with the remaining basil leaves and croutons.

Enjoy!

Recipe Adapted From Laura Calder – French Food At Home

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Filed under Appetizers, French, Healthy, Mains, Side Dishes, Soups & Stews, Vegetarian and Vegan

Moules à la Provençale

Mussels are something that you either love or hate, in my opinion.  I know many people, including one of my closest friends, who despise them.  I however, adore them. They are versatile and so easy to prepare, but when you serve them to guests’, they are so beautiful and impressive.  I would order mussels at any opportunity and given I live(d) in Vancouver, where seafood (including the best salmon) are bountiful, this was quite often.

I still remember the first time I made mussels.  I had two of my girlfriends over and I decided to make mussels.  So, over I went to Granville Island (in Vancouver, BC) and I went straight to the wharf where the fishermen bring in their bounty.  I walked from stall to shall and finally chose my fisherman (lol, this sounds so wrong).  I came home with these beautiful, dark purple creatures of the sea and had no idea what to do from there.  So, google I did and away I went (as an aside, am I the only one that wonders what I did before google?!) I remember Mel and Bart, my two friends, were literally speechless when I served them and I remember Mel taking a picture and sending it to her boyfriend, saying ‘ha ha’, look what I am eating.  The recipe below is identical to the ones I served them almost 3 years ago, it hasn’t changed a bit, you just can’t mess with perfection when they are this good (and I think I may have won over a few more friends along the way with this recipe, including you Caits!).

Here in France, “moules frites” are very popular, especially now that mussels are finally in their prime season.  I walked by the fishmonger in the market every day, just waiting for mussels to be there.  Finally, last week, there they were – just waiting for me.  I immediately bought 1.5lbs and ran home (side note – they were so inexpensive – like 2 euros, which is a steal).  Needless to say, it was a happy happy night in my kitchen (and I made CH very jealous via Skype that night, as I devoured my mussels without him!)

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do and don’t forget to serve a fresh baguette alongside, soaking up the broth is one of the best parts!

Moules à la Provençale

Yield: About 4 servings (figure about 1lb of mussels per person, for main course)
Prep Time:  20 minutes
Cook Time:  10 – 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 – 4lbs fresh mussels, cleaned and de-bearded
  • 1 large leek (white parts only), minced
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup white wine (I use a French muscadet or a sauvingnon blanc)
  • 1.5 cups chicken stock
  • 4 – 5 roma tomatoes (or two large tomatoes), diced (or whatever tomatoes you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup parsley, minced
  • 2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 TBSP butter
  • 1 lemon
  • S&P

Directions:

Prepare your mussels for cooking by removing the beards and scrubbing them clean.

In an extra large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Once glistening, add the leek, shallots and garlic.  Sauté until shallots are translucent and leeks are slightly soft (2 – 3 minutes).

De-glaze the pan with the white wine and cook for 1 – 2 minutes (this will burn-off the majority of the alcohol).

Add the mussels to the pan and stir gentle to coat, then add the chicken stock to the pan and cover with a tight fitting  lid.

Cook mussels, covered, for 3 – 4 minutes.  Remove the lid and check the mussels.  If more than 2/3 of them are open, proceed.  If not, replace lid and give them another minute or two.

Add the tomatoes, butter and parsley to the pan and stir gently.  Cook the mussels for an additional 2 – 3 minutes (without the lid), until the tomatoes are soft.

When ready, place the mussels in a large serving bowl/platter, and top with the liquid (which is delicious soaked up with a toasted baguette).   Place lemon wedges alongside the mussels, to garnish as you please.

Enjoy.

Recipe Adapted From Tyler Florence

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Filed under Appetizers, French, Healthy, Mains