Now summer is here and the balmy warm evenings are allowing us to eat out on the terrace of our French holiday home, Chez Maison Bleue. The salada, lettuce are in plentiful supply and tomatoes are getting cheaper on Mirepoix market so we are serving more and more salads as a first course at dinner. Although we do some simple salade jambon, salad with the local cured ham, I like to serve warm salads. Unlike in England, here in the south of France warm salads are very common. The most common warm ingredient is lardons, small pieces of fried bacon, but other diced meats are also used. An Ariege speciality is gesier, the gizzard of a duck. Although it sounds pretty awful it is absolutely delicious! If you are not feeling quite so adventurous try this chicken salad for a great light lunch.
Prepare a bed of lettuce with a circle of tomato slices around the outside of the plate and maybe some peppers or red onions finely sliced – anything you fancy really but leave space for the chicken in the centre. Next take a skinned chicken breast and cut into strips. Put a little olive oil in a pan and add 2 cloves of chopped garlic (home grown here) some herbs de Provence, and a little chopped dried chilli (the amount depending on how hot and spicy your taste). Heat the pan and fry the herbs and garlic until the garlic starts to brown then add the chicken strips turning them to brown on all sides. Keep tuning until cooked through, this will only take a few minutes. Put the chicken strips onto the centre of the salad and pour over some of the oil and fried garlic as a dressing, serve immediately.
You will also find cold soups on the menu at our B&B, again not a popular thing in the UK where soup is something to warm you up. Our holiday home is close to Spain so Gazpaccio is very popular. With all the delicious and plentiful tomatoes and vegetable from the potager or from Mirepoix market, it is a beautiful entree on a hot evening. The other classic cold soup is crème vichyssoise. This classic dish is only associated with France because of its name and the fact that it was invented by a French chef. In fact it was first served by Louis Diat the chef at the Ritz – Carlton Hotel in New York in the summer of 1917 and is now considered an American dish. It is essentially a leek and potato soup with a significant amount of cream. It should be made well in advance and chilled for at least two hours before serving. It is important to only use the white part of the leek as the soup should be pure white in colour.
So we will continue to serve have hot salads and cold soups for dinner at our B&B in the south of France. They make delicious and healthy starters or a light lunch dish.