Andrea Swan, and her neighbour, Monique Guezel, talk about salads today.
In France, there are several ways of serving salad, each with their own “rules”. Starter salads are likely to feature cheese, egg or cured meat. They are meant to be an entrée and while they will not be as large as a plat (main course) salad, they can certainly take the edge off your appetite. Salades a plat will certainly fulfill all the requirements of a main course dish and will often feature local specialties such as boudin (blood sausage), numerous seafood items or exotic cured meats. Finally, a small greens only salad may follow the main course and is considered a palate cleanser to settle the stomach, aid digestion and foster the transition between the main dish and the cheese course. In all cases, the salad dressing is typically a simple vinaigrette made from scratch.
Monique explained that each type of lettuce should be prepared in a specific manner. Laitue, scarole and battavia are best served with sweet onion such as the Nezignan les Cebes variety that are now appearing in the markets. Frisée lettuce should always be served with minced garlic rather than onion in order to complement the taste.
In preparing the salad, Monique revealed yet another of her tricks. Rather than search for a garlic press, she pressed a fork into the side of the mixing bowl and quickly grated the clove of garlic across it. Voila, finely minced garlic.
As I was reviewing the recipe for today, Monique and her friend, Gertrude, chuckled as they read the specific measurements for the various items. Bringing their fingers to their mouths, they said “il faut goutter”, (one must taste). The measurements indicated here reflect my North American taste-so please, when preparing these recipes, “goutez”.
Today’s recipe uses Salad Friseée, a curly headed variety with a slightly sharp taste.
Ingredients for 4 persons:
Head of a frisée salad
½ cup walnut pieces
Enough slices of smoked duck breast, smoked salmon, liver paté or prosciutto for 4 people.
2 cloves of garlic
½ teaspoon of mustard
3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
¼ cup of olive oil
¼ teaspoon of black pepper
¼ teaspoon of salt
In the salad bowl, mince one garlic clove and rub the bowl with the other garlic clove.
Mix together the mustard and vinegar and add minced garlic.
Slowly whisk in the olive oil until the ingredients are fully blended together.
Add the salt and pepper to taste.
Leave the vinaigrette in the bowl and add the salad ingredients at the last minute, tossing together to coat.
Andrea and Monique's book “Travels in Languedoc: Secrets to a Memorable Visit” can be bought from Amazon.
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