IMG_3079We had a little get-together last weekend, and I wanted to share some dishes with you. But first, some exciting news: We’re featured on Distant Francophile, on the “Franco-Files” audio interviews. Janelle, the Distant Francophile herself, visits France regularly and writes a great blog about French style, travel tips, culture and more.  I was very flattered to be included. We talked a lot about buying property in France and renovating it.

On to the dinner: Everything was made ahead, no last-minute slaving in a hot kitchen. Like most people in France, even in the south of France, we don’t have air conditioning. But the evenings are cool and the climate is dry enough that we don’t battle bugs. It’s ideal for using our outdoor dining room, a pergola surrounded by stone walls.

Our neighbors and our kid are vegetarian; I am 99.5% vegetarian, too. When I was dating the Carnivore, he asked me, warily, whether I was vegetarian. In my mind, either you are or you aren’t, like being pregnant, or being an art thief. There’s no, “it depends.” Thus, having a hamburger once a year and steak tartare maybe twice a year, plus a chicken a couple of times, and fish, too, made me anything but vegetarian, even if the total came to once or twice a month. Certainly not once or twice a day, which is the Carnivore’s case. So I have been a huge disappointment in the meat department, especially because he doesn’t count chicken or fish as meat.

Anyway, my plan was to have a complete vegetarian meal, and he would grill ridiculously gigantic steaks for the meat-eaters. I wasn’t interested in the usual vegetarian option of making a menu and just leaving out the meat for the vegetarians–“let them eat potatoes.” I wanted to flip that and make a vegetarian menu and just add meat for the carnivores.

For starters, we had crudités with ranch dip (huge hit in France); oeufs mimosa (deviled eggs); and hard sausages.

IMG_3092
Tarte soleil with carrot rillettes in the bowl in the center.

The entrées were tarte soleil with zucchini and tomato, carrot rillettes and a clafoutis with cherry tomatoes. Une tarte soleil is just a tart with the crust cut to look like a sun. Very pretty. And while clafoutis is typically a dessert, this was a savory version with cheese.

 

The main course was a daube, or thick stew, of eggplant and chickpeas, served with potatoes–same as for the steak eaters. And there was a vegetable terrine on the side. I wanted the vegetable side dish to be cold, pretty, and something I could serve as a piece, not by the spoonful. It was an esthetic choice. I didn’t want the vegetarian plates to be just splotches of undefined stuff.

You never know the secrets people will spill after a few glasses of wine. The secrets cascade, too. One person divulges something, and, receiving nothing but empathy and caring from those gathered, someone else is emboldened to share something as well. One friend described being taken from his hard-working but impoverished single mother and shipped to a convent, where the nuns were cruel (this was a common theme in the friends’ stories). This guy is the sweetest, calmest, gentlest person. So many people who have had bad childhoods turn out with their kindness broken. It’s beaten out of them. But not him. And it all made me think of how the scars of separation never heal, even seven decades later. He described the scene of being taken from his mother in minute detail. Children belong with their parents. I have several friends who are foster parents, and some of the cases are heartbreaking proof that at times children are not safe with their parents. But then there are cases of cruel bureaucracy–back in the day it was against single mothers; today it is, in some places, against parents with brown skin fleeing violence that has its roots in the very country they’re fleeing to–their hoped-for safe haven created and fed the dangers in their homelands that caused them to run.IMG_3080Another friend is from Normandy. That I always knew, and I always knew his age. But what I failed to put together before is that he was born in 1941. Think of what was going on in Normandy in the 1940s–some of the worst of World War II. He said his earliest memories were the planes buzzing overhead and the German trucks trundling past the house. Can you even imagine raising children smack in the middle of war? But if you can’t escape…. And of course, the problems didn’t end with V-E Day. Communities were destroyed, food was rationed, malnutrition was rampant. Our kid listened, eyes wide, to his very unusual childhood memories. Talk about making history come to life. It’s too bad elders aren’t tapped in a better way as a resource for teaching.

There are titillating secrets, too. I heard about one villager, known as TinTin, who apparently quite the womanizer when he was young. To get even, his wife had an affair with one of his buddies…and got pregnant. As the son grew, he looked exactly like the buddy; it’s true he doesn’t look a bit like TinTin. I used to think he was always mad, and steered clear–our kids were in school together. But now I wonder whether his expression was of sadness, of probably knowing the story of his birth, even though TinTin raised him as his own. And I never would have guessed Mme. TinTin was the scheming, nasty person described; I knew her only as the very prim and proper lady, whom I would greet as she meticulously swept her front step.

Back to the recipes!

Tarte Soleil

1 premade flaky pie crust (pâte feuillété…you can get a bunch of different kinds here).

2-3 tablespoons of soft cheese: cream cheese, ricotta, Boursin. Just so it spreads.

summer vegetables, sliced very thin. I used two zucchini and a tomato. I peeled the zucchini, cut rounds, then cut the rounds in half.

2 tablespoons of olive oil

Preheat the oven to 360F/180C. Spread out the pie crust on a large cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Mine were too small, so I turned one over. The crust extended past the edge a little but didn’t slump.IMG_3087Put a bowl about 5-6 inches (12-13 cms) in diameter in the middle of the crust. Smear the cheese on the pie crust around the bowl. Then arrange the vegetables. I made two rings, facing opposite directions.IMG_3089Remove the bowl and cut the pie crust in the center as shown below. IMG_3090Fold back the dough over the vegetables. Brush with olive oil and bake until the crust is brown. Delicious at room temperature.IMG_3091

Carrot Rillettes

Rillettes are made from meat or fish, cooked very, very slowly in their own fat until they fall apart into shreds. The vegetarian version gets its name because the carrots fall to shreds and you can spread the stuff on bread, but that’s where the similarities end.

2 carrots, peeled and cut into rounds

3 oz. or about 1/3 cup (75g) soft cheese like cream cheese, ricotta, St. Môret….I used cream cheese for both this and the tarte soleil, since the tarte requires so little.

Boil the carrots until they’re soft. Drain. Use a fork to smash them roughly into chunks. You don’t want purée.

When cool, mix the carrots with the cheese; salt and pepper to taste. You can jazz it up with spices–cumin is good.

Spread on baguettes or toast.

IMG_3096Tomato Clafoutis

Usually clafoutis is a dessert, made with cherries. The batter is similar to the batter for crêpes, but instead of individual, thin pancakes, you pour it all into a pan.

4 eggs

1 cup/120 g flour

1 cup/25 cl milk

2 oz/50g parmesan, finely grated (please don’t use the ready-made stuff!)

30-50 cherry tomatoes (small ones are better, but you need more of them)

thyme

peppercorns

Butter for the baking dish

Preheat the oven to 360F/180C. Beat the eggs. Add the flour, then thin out the mixture with the milk so you don’t get lumps. Add the parmesan. Let it rest 20-30 minutes.

Butter and flour a 9×12-inch baking dish. Pour in the batter. Then drop in the tomatoes here and there. Sprinkle with thyme and peppercorns. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Then you can set the oven to broil for a minute to make the top browner, if you like.

Serve at room temperature.

I didn’t have enough tomatoes from our garden, and the tomatoes I found at  the market were pretty large, with the result that they produced a lot of juice.. Look for the smallest size you can. A mix of colors is pretty.

You can do this other ways: instead of parmesan, try mozzarella (you’ll want to add some salt to the batter; note that this version doesn’t have any because parmesan is pretty salty).

More recipes on Friday!

 

 

 

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25 thoughts on “Midsummer’s Night Dinner Party

  1. Catherine thank you so much for agreeing to be a part of the Distant Francophile interview series. I had so much fun during our chat and I’m so grateful to you for sharing all your tips. And I cannot wait to meet you in person! Warmest, Janelle

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your tart is beautiful and so clever. I never would have thought about cutting the center and folding it back. There was a lot of sharing at your home… Was there lots of wine that helped people overcome any hesitancy to share? I’ve heard lots of tales here in the States about Catholics who were severely beaten and/or reprimanded by the nuns. Together with the sexual abuse by so many priests, it’s no wonder so many Catholics have turned away from the church. When our protectors become predators… I have no doubt that God will take care of them. xoxox, Brenda

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For a long time, the church was the unquestioned authority on everything. And anytime power is unquestioned, it’s abused. Today, those who question authority are called unpatriotic, but I see the exact same thing happening–impoverished parents trying to keep their children safe and fed, and those children being taken away from them by those in power. As my friend, who is in his 70s, attests, those scars remain for life.

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  3. Your tarte soleil is very creative. Will definitely try it, and the carrot rillettes look yummy. An English friend is coming to visit for two weeks. Your recipes will be very helpful for dinners with friends. Even if I do not eat meat, I’ll have to cook some as it is expected when you come to Argentina. My son and DIL are “carnivores” so I have the same doubts when deciding on a menu.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a lovely evening! I love all the recipes and plan on trying them when we go back to the UK. When we have family and friends over, I usually attempt a French meal.
    Distant Francophile is new to me but it sounds very interesting so I’ll have a look and a listen. Thanks for the introduction!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You are such an accomplished cook, and your presentation 100%. I’m going to try and duplicate your recipes.
    It’s really interesting the conversations that occur around a dinner table when a few bottles of wine are passed around. Sometimes it’s good to share your secrets…..
    Ali

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Industrial strength nuns, eh…

    I laughed out loud at your description of the Carnivore being so disappointed when he found out what he’d really hitched up with 🙂

    I’m conscious I haven’t responded to your email — too hot to do anything frankly. I have a cake club meeting this afternoon and I cheated. I have not baked a cake, but made a slice that sets in the refrigerator. No doubt I will polarise opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Love the look of that soleil tarte! And the savoury clafoutis looks like a tasty twist on a classic. I could fairly easily go vegetarian but I find it hard to prepare vegan dishes when my daughter comes. It always ends up being a lot of carbs, which don’t suit my weight! But as long as eggs and cheese are on offer, I won’t starve. Great idea to make the meat an option.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Vegan is a lot harder–I rely so much on eggs and cheese. Bravo to those who pull it off, but even short of that, just not eating as much meat, would help everybody’s health as well as the planet.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Your recipes look great! I can’t wait to try the clafoutis as I love sweet ones and always wanted a savory recipe, too. I am curious about why you peeled the zucchini for the tarte soleil. I’ve never peeled zucchini or yellow squash, but maybe I’ve never baked it either.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I usually never peel vegetables, but I did it here for two reasons. (1) It’s the typical French way–my friends do it and I wanted to please them and (2) I was afraid the peel would be chewy and unappetizing after baking in the oven, despite the brushing with olive oil. I’ve seen photos of vegetable tarts with alternating rings of yellow and green zucchini, which is very pretty, so it must be OK.

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  9. OH how I like the idea of going in different DIRECTIONS with THY FOOD!!!!!!!
    IT is HOT HERE TOO………………NO AIR just opened the doors its about 5 pm!
    Everything looks DELICIOUS…………hats off to YOU MADAME VEGETARIAN!!!!
    XX

    Liked by 1 person

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