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Vive la France!

If Mexico is a postcard of memories for me, then France is the stuff of dreams.

I’ve already professed my love of Mexico and it’s food, but it’s France that I turn to most. Not specifically all things French, but the ways of France. I’m not a true Francophile in that sense. I don’t need a house in Provence or an apartment in Paris. I follow the rhythms and flows. Hard to explain. Nothing is that much of a crisis that a well-timed shrug or a glass of wine can’t solve. Fresh food, in season, is the way to eat. Butter is OK. Cheese makes an amazing finish to a meal. Looking put together, even if just running into the quickie-mart, is a sign of respect (for yourself, mostly). Choose your passions, and stick to your guns, even if it is for a certain sporting team or a way to cook chicken.

I follow the Tour de France, and honor Bastille Day (both, I usually keep to myself). I like French food, but mostly the country or bistro style of cooking. I like French wines. Who doesn’t? I enjoy the vintage fashions of Dior and Givenchy. French cinema, however, is…meh. France is my dream vacation. Too bad the closest I’ll get is probably Quebec.

The more I write on this little ol’ blog, the more I want to share my memories. I’ve been lucky enough to experience a lot of things. A lot of those experiences are recalled by food. It’s the best scrapbook, making a meal and being able to share. Even if those memories are watching a bunch of cyclists race around France while drinking rose and eating pan bagnat.

Pan bagnat & Le Village blood orange-ade

So, in keeping with the last few posts (about memories and experiences), I’ve decided to share some French goodies. Memories in the making for me, new experiences for you.

Pan Bagnat

adapted from Susan Spungen’s Recipes

Vinaigrette

  • 1 large clove garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tsp anchovy paste
  • 3 oil-cured olives, pitted
  • pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 6 Tbsp olive oil

Sandwich

  • 1 crusty French baguette
  • 1-2 roasted peppers
  • 1/2 c halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 can (6oz) light tuna, drained
  • 1/2 c oil-cured black olives, pitted and torn in half
  • 2 hard-cooked eggs, sliced
  • freshly ground black pepper

Make the vinaigrette by combining all the ingredients in a mini food processor or blender. Blend well, about 30 seconds, and set aside. This can be made several days in advance, and refrigerated.

Slice baguette lengthwise, toward the bottom third of the loaf and hollow out the top half. Spoon about two thirds of the vinaigrette on both side of the baguette. Layer the ingredients on the open baguette starting with the roasted pepper, followed by the tomatoes, onion, tuna, olives, then eggs. Drizzle remaining vinaigrette over the top. Sprinkle with pepper.

Close the baguette and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Place in under a heavy cutting board and weigh it down with heavy pots for 1 hour. Slice and serve.

note: feel free to add greens or basil to the sandwich. This is the way I like it.

Onion tart & spinach salad with bacon

 

Free-Form Onion Tarts

adapted from foodandwine.com

Dough

  • 3/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 c whole wheat flour
  • 6 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 5 Tbsp ice water

Filling

  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 lb sweet onions, thinly sliced
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 Tbsp creme fraiche (I used Greek yogurt and it worked just fine)
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp milk
  • blue cheese, crumbled (optional)

In a bowl, whisk the flour with the salt. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Drizzle the water over the flour and stir gently just until incorporated; gently press to form a dough. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.

In a skillet, melt the butter. Add the onions and thyme and cook over moderately high heat, until softened, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to moderately low and cook, until the onions are golden, 20 minutes longer. Remove from the heat and discard the thyme. Stir in the crème fraîche (or yogurt) and season with salt and pepper. Let cool.

Set a pizza stone on the bottom of the oven or position a rack on the lowest rung and preheat the oven to 375°. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide dough into quarters. On a floured work surface, roll out each quarter into a 6-inch round and transfer to the baking sheet. Spread the onions on the round, leaving a 1 -inch border. Fold the edge of the dough up and over the filling and brush the edge with the egg wash.

Free-form Onion Tart

Bake the tart on the stone or on the bottom shelf for about 20 minutes, until the  of the crust is browned. Transfer the tarts to a rack and let cool slightly. Top tarts with blue cheese crumbles (if using).

Serve with a a simple salad of greens topped with a simple vinaigrette.

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