You know what sounds good? Making myself this mushroom toast and sit outside to enjoy it!
The warmer weather is upon us in Southern California, and this has revived one of the fondest summer traditions of my childhood: being able to eat outside. Raised in Normandy with many, many days of grey and rain (admittedly accountable for the amazing grass and thus, very healthy cows producing amazing cream and cheeses), I grew up valuing and savoring every second of sunny and warmer days. Meals savored outside felt like a joyous celebration of the end of the dreary tunnel that winter in Northern France can be. It felt like a rebirth, like one could finally fill one’s lungs with a deep breath of fresh air. To sit down, feeling the sun on my back, listening to the sounds of the world out there, and eat a simple crudités salad, dipping bread in its vinaigrette… what a way to commune and connect with loved ones, with oneself, to slow down, take time.
To take our time. The very opposite of losing or wasting time. For being in the moment is the best possible use of our time. Cooking, eating are golden opportunities for us, to reclaim time.
The other night, after a long day of cooking and preparations for Pablo’s birthday picnic, a day of people in a small kitchen, ovens going and stifling heat in the house, I suddenly felt the walls around me. I peered out the window to the garden, and just the thought of eating in the quiet dusk outside made me feel relieved, calm, like a sigh, an exhale. When we eat indoors, our meals are lovely, we take our time, we bond, we laugh and savor together, but everyday life is still there, around us, lurking. The cleaning, organizing that has yet to be done. The objects around us remind us of the past, sad or happy. Photos of lost ones. Gifts from the estranged. Images of past voyages. (Though this is the burden of adulthood, as young children do not (and cannot) project in this way. They are wired to be fully in the moment. There’s too much fascination in the present to bother about the rest. Yet.)
In contrast, when we eat outside, I glance at my herbs and strawberries in becoming, and I feel surrounded by the present and the future, by inner and outer growth and ripening. The descending light makes our other senses more attentive to the world around us: the smell of sundown, of the neighbors barbecuing; the song of the tireless mockingbird, of a firetruck in the distance, of an airplane going to a faraway land; the sensation of a passing evening breeze on the skin; the flavors on our plates.
I don’t know much about what the future holds, but I do know we shall be savoring most of our meals outside for the next few months (and cooking them outside too whenever possible).
So should the weather show some clemency wherever you live, I wish you many meaningful, mindful, delightful meals outside, precious celebrations of the timeless here and now.
A Creamy Mushroom Toast
I have become a big fan of “tartines” – toast or open-faced sandwich – in the past few months, simple open-faced sandwiches. They are as scrumptious as easy to make, and ever so versatile. It is such fun to experiment with the ingredients and different combinations. It allows us to think with our palate. They make a lovely lunch, along with a salad. Children and grown-ups can eat with their fingers. And indeed with this creamy mushroom toast I’m sharing today, all our fingers were thoroughly licked. Hope you enjoy!
And scroll down for our upcoming week’s menu… 🙂
Onto our and Pablo’s menu this week…
Cheeses of the week: Following French tradition, I always offer a little bit of cheese at the end of every meal, between the main course and dessert. Rotation this week: Pont L’Eveque (a classic French cheese Trader Joe’s just started to carry, give it a try!) Goat brie, Stilton.
Desserts: At lunch, I offer a fruit yogurt (or plain yogurt with fresh fruit), but at night, I prefer sticking to plain yogurt (regular homemade* whole milk, sheep’s milk, goat’s milk and Greek yogurt for extra protein) to avoid too much sugar before bedtime.
If you would like a particular recipe on the menu, feel free to contact me! (I marked with a * the recipes that will be the topic of upcoming posts).
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Cooked cold zucchini with mint vinaigrette
Main course: Sardines, creamed spinach
Goûter (4pm snack) – Banana
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Butter lettuce hearts of palm + lots of herbs salad, radishes
Main course: Pan-fried skirt steak with celeriac puree
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Authentic Greek salad
Main course: Ham,simple ratatouille
Goûter – Apple-strawberry compote
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Pan-fried baby artichokes
Main course: Pan-fried Dover sole fillets with coconut milk rice
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Green bean blue potato parsley salad
Main course: Hard boiled egg, peas
Goûter – Strawberry rhubarb compote*
Appetizer / Finger Foods: White asparagus in tarragon yogurt sauce
Main course: Pan-fried veal liver, chards with sesame dressing
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Grated carrots French-style
Main course: Smoked salmon, baby bok choy puree
Goûter – Pear-blueberry compote
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Pea, edamame, mint soup from Gourmande in the Kitchen
Main course: Braised ham & endive au gratin (quinoa bechamel)
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Avocado & cherry tomatoes
Main course: Shrimp & lime with quinoa
Goûter – Passion fruit
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Cauliflower, peas, chives salad
Main course: Roasted squabs with raisins & new potatoes
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Warm leeks with vinaigrette
Main course: Dutch oven chicken, pan-fried thyme eggplant
Goûter – Apple
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Quinoa, corn, bell pepper, garbanzo bean salad
Main course: Lamb chops, rosemary creamy carrots in a parcel
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Spring pea salad
Main course: Leftover cold chicken with mustard, broccoli florets
Goûter – Kiwi
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Leek & chive flan
Main course: Mozzarella stuffed radicchio leaves, baked in a parcel*