August recipes from Monique and Andrea
This week, Andrea and Monique talk about August recipes. Andrea and Monique's book “Travels in Languedoc: Secrets to a Memorable Visit” can be bought from Amazon.
When we were discussing recipes for August, Monique talked about the heat of summer and how the meals tended either to be cold, prepared in advance recipes or else “grillades” meat or fish that can grilled on a barbecue. She indicated that people who live in Languedoc tend to remain close to home during the month, as the roads and tourist areas are too full of visitors and it’s too hot to be outside for long.
Her favourite recipes tend to be based on grains such as rice, lentils and beans with whatever vegetables Pierre brings in fresh from the garden. After an early morning walk up the hill to the markets to check out what else is fresh, she can then plan her menu.
This basic recipe allows so many variations that it’s easy to get through the month with a minimal use of the stove.
MONIQUE’S BASIC ONE DISH SUMMER MEAL
Ingredients for 4 persons:
2 cups of cooked lentils, rice, beans, pasta or any other grain that you like.
Combination of diced onions, tomatoes, shredded carrots or beets, peppers, cucumbers, beans, radishes or whatever else may be fresh.
Additional items that make for an interesting flavour are olives, sliced palm hearts, artichoke hearts, grated celeriac or jicama, fennel, apples, pears, nuts.
Any protein you like. Monique’s favourites are smoked duck breast, cold roasted chicken, cooked chicken livers, cold meats, tuna, hard boiled eggs, variety of cheeses.
Lettuce or other greens.
Combine the grains and vegetables in a large serving bowl and toss with a vinaigrette suited to the foods in the salad. This can be made in the morning and kept cool.
Wash the lettuce or other leaves and place in a large bowl.
Just before serving, add the protein source to the mix grain and vegetables and toss lightly.
Serve by placing the lettuce leaves on each plate and top with the grain and vegetable mixture
Add fresh bread and wine for a light, summer meal.
When I suggested to Monique that we prepare an omelette, she seemed surprised that such a basic dish would need a recipe. When I explained that French omelettes taste so different from ones I prepare at home, she agreed to show me how to prepare a classic French omelette à la Monique.
Ingredients for 2 persons:
4 fresh eggs at room temperature
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Salt and pepper or “herbes fines” – combination of finely minced chives, tarragon, parsley and chervil
Beat the 4 eggs briskly so that the yolks and whites are well combined with no stringy bits.
Add pinches of salt and pepper or herbes fines
A non-stick skillet works best to cook the omelettes
Place tablespoon of unsalted butter in the skillet and place over medium to high heat. Gas heat is one of Monique’s secrets to an evenly cooked omelette. When I tested the recipe at home, I found that cooking it over the gas side burner of the BBQ produced a better result than using the electric stove.
Pour egg mixture into the skillet and continuously and slowly stir with a fork. The cooking process should take only a couple of minutes so that the eggs are light and airy with no lumps or overcooked areas. When the omelette appears ready, turn one side over the other and then using a plate, turn the omelette out onto a plate, ready to serve. A classic French omelet looks slightly moist when it’s ready.
Monique explained that if I wanted to add fillings, it should be done while the omelette is flat in the skillet, before turning it over.
After a tiring day at the beach, this is a perfect, quick evening meal and all it needs is fresh bread and a green salad.
In almost any house with a backyard in Languedoc there is often a large stone grill made out of local stone or concrete blocks. Unlike modern gas barbecues, these grills typically use wood as the fuel source, although some are now equipped with propane. Monique explained that the best grillades are cooked with wood and that the secret to a good fire starts with branches from the sarments, the dried grape vines cut from last years pruning or dried, wild rosemary that has been gathered on walks up into the hills. These give a unique flavour to the foods being cooked.
Like Monique’s basic one dish meal, her recommendations for a grillade reflect what is fresh at the butcher, from the fisherman and at the vegetable stand. Typical foods include brochettes, foods combined on a skewer, whole vegetables such as zucchini, onion, tomato or aubergines, fish and seafood and all sorts of meats.
Monique used skewers of rosemary and thyme branches when we prepared lamb brochettes. She used tarragon and fennel branches for the fish. In both cases, the delicate taste of the herbs infused the lamb and fish.
Poulet Roti (roast chicken) is a classic French discovery that is a must for the hot days of August. Monique was clear that this is one recipe that is best left to the experts, especially during the heat of August. Most markets, butchers or supermarkets have a free-standing rotisserie with whole chickens slowly turning and basting in their own juices.
The knowing shopper arrives at the market and immediately places an order for a chicken to be picked up later in the morning. At noon, it is easy to find the way to the Poulet Roti stand because the smell wafts over the heads of the crowds, pulling you enticingly forward. After picking up fresh produce for a simple salad, a baguette made with artisanal flour, a couple of cheeses, some fresh figs and melons from the fruit stalls and of course, a simple tarte for dessert, there is nothing to be done but to head home and enjoy the meal under the protection of a large shady tree.
This easy to prepare drink is a great thirst-quencher during the hot days of August. It’s part beer and part lemonade. I have had it served with lemonade and also with Sprite and both are refreshing. The French use a blonde beer such as Stella Artois rather than a dark beer. I find that ¼ to ½ beer to lemonade is enough to minimise the sweetness of the lemonade and prevent any major alcohol buzz.
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