Tag Archives: salade nicoise

France Celebrates Bastille Day – And So Can You!

Bastille DayJuly 14 is the annual National Day celebration in France. The date marks the one-year anniversary of the famous storming of the Bastille and the end of the French Revolution which changed France from a feudal nation governed by a monarchy to a republic. Admittedly, there were a few sketchy years when Napolean was in charge.

Many French make a distinction between July 14, 1789 and July 14, 1790. As with any political change, particularly one that resulted in bloodshed and loss of life, there were hard feelings on both sides.

In 1880, French Senate Chairman Henri Martin explained why he believed France should adopt July 14th as its National Day:

“Do not forget that behind this 14 July, where victory of the new era over the ancien régime was bought by fighting, do not forget that after the day of 14 July 1789, there was the day of 14 July 1790. … This [latter] day cannot be blamed for having shed a drop of blood, for having divided the country. It was the consecration of the unity of France. … If some of you might have scruples against the first 14 July, they certainly hold none against the second. Whatever difference which might part us, something hovers over them, it is the great images of national unity, which we all desire, for which we would all stand, willing to die if necessary.”

For most French people, these distinctions have ceased to matter. Instead, the day is about parades and parties. To help the French celebrate (after all, they did help us out a whole lot during our American Revolution), here are some ideas for a kid-friendly, French-inspired picnic.

Cheese platter – You don’t have to pick fancy, stinky cheeses in order to enjoy a cheese platter with your kids. Pick what you – and they – enjoy. Ideally, try to get a variety of different cheese textures for them to sample along with a lovely grape juice.

Salade Nicoise – She may not be French but Martha Stewart is “la dame” when it comes to an American version of the famous French salad. Here’s her recipe for salade nicoise. Definitely splurge on the bottle of white wine vinegar; it makes a lovely difference!

Crepes – I love crepes either with sugar or nutella. Here’s a basic crepe recipe from AllRecipes.com you can try.

Baguette sandwiches – Take the humble ham and cheese sandwich and put it into a delicious baguette and you’re halfway to France! This easy sandwich is super kid-friendly. For an authentic feel, add cornichons, tiny French pickles, to the sandwich with either mayonnaise or mustard.

For more articles from KidCulture about France and French food, check out these links:

Soup’s On! French Onion Soup

French Food Made Fun

French Cooking Class for Kids

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French Food Made Fun

French food has always struck me as the belle-mere (mother-in-law) of cuisine.

Like a mother-in-law, she has her own, iron-clad way of doing things; she is a little disdainful of time-saving tricks; she is convinced that old-fashioned hard work is good for everyone; she insists that you try everything – even aspic and bone marrow – and dares to look triumphant when you admit that it’s good.

She is challenging; she forces you to acquire new skills and step outside your comfort zone; and – if you succeed – she ultimately rewards you.

I’m not a French chef and I don’t aspire to be one.

I’m a home cook drawn to exotic foods from around the world. I live for blow-your-head-off spiciness. I’m undisciplined and a little lazy. I like near-instant gratification. Although I enjoy watching Julia and Jacques and reading their books, I never cook their recipes. I learned from Julie Powell’s lesson – I don’t need to live it.

But still, when I had a chance to take a French cooking class (one night only!) I thought the belle-mere and I should get to know each other a little bit better.

Although I can’t pretend to have really cooked any of these dishes, I did enjoy watching the real chefs pull it together. And – armed with lots of information on how to “cheat” my way to close-enough, I might even prepare some of these dishes on my own.

The sous-chefs pry the chestnut meat from the shell

Chestnut Soup with Madeira

I’ve never really eaten chestnuts before. Sure, I sing the song during Christmas but that’s about it. So my expectations were pretty low when I saw this soup on our to-do list.

The other students and I watched as the sous-chefs painstakingly picked apart roasted chestnuts to get enough for soup for 25.

As they slit into the shiny (and slippery) roasted chestnuts with extremely sharp knives, I closely examined the cut I had earned just a few days before trying to slice open an English muffin.

I knew – no matter how fantastic this soup was, and it was fantastic – that I would never prepare it myself. I just don’t have good enough insurance (or hand-eye coordination). But the chef assured me that frozen chestnuts or canned chestnuts would produce roughly the same result.

My own little cup of yum

Salade Nicoise

I really like Salade Nicoise and I have to say I was embarrassingly excited to make the vinaigrette for this dish. I would definitely make this for my family.

Coq au Vin

This classic dish was delicious and looked relatively easy to make (on the French scale, at least). I really loved the mushrooms and pearl onions we sauteed in bacon fat as a side dish.

Pot au Feu

As good as it was, I will not be making pot au feu for the next big family get-together. Too many “interesting” ingredients such as bones and oxtail. But I would definitely order it in a restaurant!

Fig Clafoutis

After this feast, who would still have room for dessert? It turns out, I did. By the way, I think Clafoutis would be a great name for a child of a celebrity.

By the end of the night I had reached an agreement with the belle-mere. All that was left was the bon digestion!

 

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