P1080727It’s hot. The glare of the sunshine, the sharp shadows, the heat mirages wavering up from the asphalt. I don’t mind, because it’s summer, and summer is always too short. What I do mind is cooking when it’s hot.

Our kid had a friend over for a few days and I made a Moroccan chicken pastilla (yes, I’m on a Moroccan kick after all that yummy food in Casablanca), and the next day we made pizzas. Both pastilla and pizzas are cooked in the oven. And the day before, I had made a cake because a bunch of friends were coming for coffee. Too much oven!

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Pasta salad is not unknown. Nor potato salad.

We are back to regular summer programming. That means salad for dinner. When I ask French friends what they do for dinner, they say “soup” in winter and “salad” in summer.   While I have seen some French salads that involve cold pasta tossed with raw (or canned) vegetables, more often it’s a salade composée–a composed salad, in which the ingredients sit nicely next to each other, like neighbors, respecting each other’s personal space.

BTW, the word for lettuce is salade, but a salad doesn’t always have salade in it. And there are many kinds of lettuce–laitue, chêne, romaine, batavia, scarole, mâche, cresson, mesclun….IMG_3843There are the famous French composed salads. Salade niçoise, named after the city of Nice, has tuna, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, anchovies and olives, often served on a bed of lettuce.

Another is salade lyonnaise, named after Lyon, with bitter greens like frisée (frizzy!), lardons (bacon chunks), and a poached egg.

And a salad that doesn’t have a special name but is a classic found in many traditional restaurants features cold, cooked green beans, cold boiled potatoes, and either tuna or lardons.

All these would be served with a homemade vinaigrette. Homemade is SO quick and easy, and without all the nasty chemicals. One part vinegar to three parts olive oil, a finely chopped shallot or clove of garlic, a little salt and pepper, and maybe a little Dijon mustard. Put it in a jar with a tight cover and shake. Voilà. Change the kind of vinegar (balsamic instead of red wine, for example) and it’s very different. Sometimes I make it with rice wine vinegar and a mix of sesame and peanut oils. IMG_4069Here’s what we do: clean out the fridge. Anything goes. Fruit, vegetables, cheese, ham or other charcuterie, leftover steak sliced thin. We’ll call it the Salade Composée du Carnivore, because he is the specialist, arranging everything artfully. Either drizzled with vinaigrette or just splashed with olive oil and vinegar.couscous salad closeupEvery few days, I make a big bowl of chopped salad, involving whatever vegetables are in season, plus some kind of vegetarian protein–beans and corn, beans and rice, quinoa, lentils, etc. It is good, but not as pretty as the French variety. cabbage and carrot salad closeup

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38 thoughts on “Cool, Composed and So French

  1. my choice too….. add to this cubes of watermelon with crushed pistazios and a dash of balsamico, ditto with rocket leaves…. glass of wine and if not, a panaché or water with fresh lemon. yummy

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    1. Watermelon works stunningly well with feta and black olives, half moons of red onion steeped in lime (or lemon) juice and flat leaf parsley torn like salad leaves rather than chopped. Olive oil and fresh mint finish it …. give it a go on these balmy sunny hot days x

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  2. I’ve been staying in a hotel, leaving early and getting back late to help care for a friend in the hospital. No wonder so many nurses are overweight! Hospital cafeterias don’t have any healthy food choices. Now that I’m home I’m craving salad! Thanks for the reminder. Today I’ll make fresh corn, avocado, halved cherry tomatoes, red and yellow peppers, red onion and drizzle with olive oil and lime juice. My body is happy just thinking about it. xoxo, Brenda

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  3. You forgot the rosé…..it’s much too early here for wine though. What a beautiful presentation. Very magazine worthy.
    So looking forward to….sometime in October?!!?
    Ali x

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  4. We eat salad year round and also soup. Soups are cold and refreshing right now and will move slowly towards rib-sticking for winter. Very seldom any meat. Salads are either main course as at this time of year and are generally referred to as les surprises or starters in winter. I don’t think there is much I haven’t included in a salad at one time or another. Or indeed a soup! How are you bearing up to the World Cup …. and are you Red Devils or Les Bleus this evening 😉

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          1. Just saw the final score …. 😔 Tomorrow is England vs Croatia – I guess I get another bite of the cherry but I so wanted les bleus victorieux

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          2. Scratch that …. Goodness knows what I was looking at but it looks like party time Chez moi and game on for Sunday!!!! Thanks for waving the flag for me …. mine will go up on Saturday which will confuse the neighbors for sure (no star spangled banner on July 4th here …. tricolore for le quatorze is much more fitting 😉). By the way, do try the watermelon salad – I have used a nice hard brebis in place of the feta with success and I’m sure you would like it. Sadly no meat for your husband but I’m certain you can fix that!

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              1. From what I gather and the highlights I watched later, it was a decent game. I think the NYT are over-egging things as is the tendency here. But I do believe that France should win the trophy – they are a side with depth, flare and crucially the ability to continue to concentrate when the game gets dull. I’m no football expert but that’s what I see. And I do so hope I am right!!

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  5. Definitely no oven cooking at this time of year – unless the oven is in someone else’s summer kitchen!! BBQ perhaps… So salads most of the time and like you I do a lot of “check the fridge” type salads. Beetroot, potato, crab sticks, feta and tomato is a good combo!! 🙂

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    1. That’s funny–I made a beet salad yesterday (for me and the kid; it’s meatless), with grated beets, carrots, cucumber, red peppers, red beans and corn. With a curry vinaigrette (curry and cumin go well with beets).

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  6. Winter here in Argentina, but salad every lunch. Spinach, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, avocado, endives or radicchio rosso (when you can find it), a hard boiled egg and some left over fish.
    Our typical tomato/lettuce or “criolla” (tomato/lettuce/onion) salads are so boring. Yours are really yummy .
    Lovely photos!

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    1. In winter, I like lots of root vegetables–carrots, beets, celery root….probably in Argentina as in France, spinach, endives and cherry tomatoes grow even in winter, yes?

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      1. they do, and in the city it is easy to get almost anything. Prices vary according to season and sometimes on the weather. In April lettuce skyrocketed due to heavy rains every day for one month. I try to buy organic but it is not always easy.

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