Last week I was all about America's Independence Day, and this week I'm celebrating France's freedom. Bastille Day is July 14 and to commemorate the occasion, why not host an intimate weekend lunch? Like a chic Parisian, select a menu that's stylish yet casual, and wonderfully delicious. Start with a big jar of marinated goat cheese, olives, artichokes, tomatoes, and toasted baguette slices.
A refreshing bowl of vichyssoise — the classic chilled French puree consisting of leeks and potatoes — is an excellent first course, while grilled tuna salade niçoise makes an elegant entree. All three of these dishes can be prepared in advance, leaving plenty of time to mingle in the garden with guests. This delightful menu would also work well at a female-centric event like a bridal or baby shower. To check out the light French recipes, read more.
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 1/2 pounds fresh goat cheese, softened
2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
2 teaspoons chopped thyme
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
1 quart extra-virgin olive oil
20 cooked baby artichoke hearts, from the deli counter
1 cup red cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes
1 cup Niçoise olives
Toasted baguette slices, for serving
- Preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the pine nuts in a pie plate and bake for 10 minutes, or until fragrant and lightly toasted. Transfer to a plate and let cool.
- In a standing mixer, using the paddle, blend the goat cheese with the toasted pine nuts, rosemary, thyme and paprika. Alternatively, blend the cheese in a bowl using a wooden spoon. Season with salt. Shape rounded tablespoons of the seasoned cheese into balls.
- Pour 1 inch of olive oil into a tall 1-gallon glass container. Layer the cheese balls, artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes and olives in the container with enough of the remaining olive oil to cover. Let marinate at room temperature for 24 hours. Serve with the toasted baguette.
Make Ahead: the recipe can be assembled, minus the tomatoes, and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Add the tomatoes shortly before serving.
4 medium leeks, trimmed and washed as directed opposite, sliced 1/8 inch thick (about 3 cups)
2 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick (about 4 cups)
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tbs. thinly sliced fresh chives, for garnish
- Combine the leeks, potatoes, milk, and 2 cups water in a 4-quart pot.
- Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add 1-1/2 tsp. salt, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer until a potato slice falls apart when you poke it with a fork, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the cream, and let cool briefly.
- Purée the soup, preferably using a regular blender and working in batches, filling it only half way each time.
- Strain the puréed soup through a fine sieve. Let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally (stirring prevents a skin from forming), and then refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
- Before serving, thin the soup with water if necessary—it should be the consistency of heavy cream. Season to taste with salt. Serve cold in chilled bowls, garnished with the chives.
Makes 6 cups.
1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons minced shallot
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 large garlic clove, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon salt
Rounded 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
3/4 lb green beans (preferably haricots verts), trimmed
1 1/2 lb small (1- to 2-inch) potatoes (preferably Yukon Gold)
1 1/2 lb (1-inch-thick) tuna steaks
Vegetable oil for brushing
1/4 cup drained bottled capers (1 1/2 oz)
3/4 lb Boston lettuce (2 heads), leaves separated and large ones torn into pieces
1 pt cherry or grape tomatoes
2/3 cup Niçoise or other small brine-cured black olives
4 hard-boiled large eggs, quartered
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley and/or basil
- Make dressing: whisk together vinegar, shallot, mustard, garlic paste, and anchovy paste in a small bowl until combined well, then add oil in a slow stream, whisking until emulsified. Whisk in thyme, basil, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Cook beans in a 4- to 6-quart pot of boiling salted water , uncovered, until crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes, then immediately transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking.
- Add potatoes to boiling water and simmer, uncovered, until tender, 15 to 20 minutes, then drain in a colander. Halve potatoes while still warm (peel if desired) and toss with 2 tablespoons dressing in a bowl, then cool.
- Prepare grill for cooking. If using a charcoal grill, open vents on bottom of grill, then light charcoal. Charcoal fire is medium-hot when you can hold your hand 5 inches above rack for 3 to 4 seconds. If using a gas grill, preheat burners on high, covered, 10 minutes, then reduce heat to moderately high.
- Brush tuna with oil and season with salt and pepper, then grill on lightly oiled rack, uncovered, turning over once, until browned on outside but still pink in center, 6 to 8 minutes total. Let tuna stand 3 minutes, then break into large (3-inch) pieces. Transfer tuna to a large platter and drizzle with 2 to 3 tablespoons dressing and top with capers.
- Transfer potatoes to platter with tuna, reserving bowl.
- Drain beans and pat dry. Toss beans in bowl with 1 tablespoon dressing and salt and pepper to taste, then transfer to platter.
- Toss lettuce in bowl with 2 tablespoons dressing and salt and pepper to taste, then transfer to platter.
- Toss tomatoes in bowl with 1 tablespoon dressing and salt and pepper to taste, then transfer to platter.
- Arrange olives and eggs on platter and sprinkle salad with parsley and/or basil. Serve salad with remaining dressing on the side.