I am back from my long break with a picnic menu!! Today I will be sharing two French inspired recipes from a picnic menu- deliciously simple to make and can be eaten with Crusty French bread anytime of the day . I must admit that the last few slices of my Tortano Bread were wiped out a week ago when we enjoyed this picnic on the porch. I am catching up with some of my recipes from last week and running late so please bear with me:)
A few thoughts when talking about 'trends'-------------the fashion show "What Not to Wear" comes to mind (depending on where you live)-- by Stacy London and Clinton Kelly. I rarely watch reality shows, but this one is a reality show where vicitms are critiqued on their clothing choices and then (brutally)trained to buy an entire new wardrobe. It not only helps the poor victims, but also the audience to make smarter choices. It does have some useful points for those who need major help with their attire, but do we know what's in Stacy's closet? Doesn't she ever slip into an 80's theme sweater her Mom gave her for Xmas at least once in the comfort of her couch(I admit I love to do that!!)?
Why do we always feel compelled by peer pressure when we have raised our children to stand up against it? Do we always need to follow trends and fashion in clothes and accessories? Forgive me for diving into a debatable topic because I don't intend to whip up a controversy. How important is the impact of the social media in setting trends and changes in our daily life? Whether it be fashion or health, media always gets the audience into thinking, analyzing and moving towards a whole different direction. Do you recollect watching the News, TV shows or reading articles from a magazine and then relating it to your own life? Does it help us become smarter, stronger, healthier, better looking or more successful? or is it just a source of information? Don't we hear almost every week that a vegetable or ground meat is being recalled by the manufacturers? I love these alerts and news. Personally, I am thankful to the media for letting me know what to buy and what not to for the next few months!!
The first lady Michelle Obama introduced "the connection between what we eat and how we feel and how healthy we are.." to children in 2009 when she spread the word about stopping childhood obesity people started listening to her. I like to embrace both the positive and the negative side of trends, but I do like the positive aspect of all of the above media generated 'habits'. As a Psychologist once said----the key is to focus on what not to do just to illustrate the right thing to do!!
What makes humans follow trends? For one, it may be because we always want growth and improvement in every aspect of our life--the need to know? or are we just being nosy? I guess that's the way humans are wired to function and we always strive to improve our standard of life. Isn't that why we all want the latest electronic gadgets as soon as they are available for purchase? Some may call it being materialistic but I call it gathering "pearls of wisdom". Now pearls are always welcome and go well with everything.... right ladies?
I don't really follow all 'trends' in the true sense of the word like the young generation of today, but you're probably wondering why I did the research then? Well, it gave me some satisfaction to know why....no ulterior motive!! Perhaps that's how humans learn and improve. Now lets say that some of us do not believe in Food trends but expand our knowledge to such an extent we would like to put the best quality food in our bodies in the hope that we may avoid a lot of diseases or simple infections. We become vegetarians and stick to a "plant-based" diet. When we consume dairy products we call ourselves "lacto-vegetarians" and if eggs are part of our diet we then fall into the "ovo-vegetarian" bracket. With a sense of well being I will place myself into the "semi vegetarian" diet consuming seafood and eggs once in a while, while those who are "vegans" do not eat any animal products and may even avoid honey.
Picnicking is a common trend in Paris especially on the quays of the Siena river or strolling over to the Champs du Mars with a small picnic bag and bottle of fine wine. The food in the picnic bag may include French bread, cheese, fruit and plain cherry tomatoes. R and I enjoyed one such meal so much so that we continued this "trend" even after we were back in the US. It was then that we realized how deliriously addictive French baked bread can be----- just out of this world!!
When I baked my Tortano (not a baguette or even French) I had an impromptu frugal pique-nique on the porch to renew memories and trends of Paris right here at home!!
The Tortano is a large round bread and the leftovers are incredibly good the next day, so why not use the best Italian bread with the best French flavors. Serve the meal with petit fours, shaved ice or just madeleines for an awesome summer dessert.
BRANDIED MUSHROOM DIP
This starter is delicious served as a dip with bread or vegetables. It’s substantial enough to take along on a picnic as a light entrée, along with bread, cheese, and a bottle of spicy white wine.
•2 tablespoons butter
•½ cup onion, finely chopped
•½ lb mushrooms, finely chopped
•½ cup roasted red peppers, drained and finely chopped
•1 tablespoon dried parsley
•2 tablespoons Cognac
•¼ teaspoon salt
•1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat, and then sauté onions until they just start to turn tender and translucent – about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, red peppers, and parsley; cook, stirring occasionally for an additional 5 minutes. Add Cognac and stir until it has evaporated a bit – about 90 seconds. Remove from heat add salt and pepper. Serve warm or chilled.
MOULES A LA MARINIERE
This a French classic dish especially popular in most seafood towns and villages along the coast. France is an incredible country with diverse scenery and endless possibilities of exploring cuisines of different regions outside of the world famous fashion capital - Paris. The beautiful south-west region of Provence and its cuisine is wellknown worldwide. The art of fine cooking and good living in this region is associated with the delicious flavors and the abundance of seafood available here.
Marseilles is the gateway to the French riviera with picturesque fishing villages. Fresh seafood being available a classic dish such as Moules a la Mariniere is made using Herbes de Provence to enlighten the flavors and the juices sopped up with fresh bread. I threw in my twist of the Bouquet Garni instead, throwing in a few Clams that came in with the bag of mussels I purchased.
2 pounds mussels
4 teaspoons olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
10 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
Sriracha- 1 Tablespoon(this is my addition for a spicy kick)
Bouquet garni of parsley, thyme and bay leaves.
1 bottle dry white wine
chopped parsley- 1/4 cup
1.Wash the mussels under plenty of cold, running water. Discard any open ones that won't close when lightly squeezed.
2.Pull out the tough, fibrous beards protruding from between the tightly closed shells and any barnacles with a large knife.
Add enough water to cover the mussels. Add 2 Tblspns of flour to the mussels and leave them for a few hours.
Give the mussels another quick rinse to remove any little pieces of shell or sand that mixes with the flour and settles to the bottom.
3.Soften the garlic and shallots in the butter with the bouquet garni, in a large pan big enough to take all the mussels - it should only be half full.
4.Add the mussels and wine, sriracha, turn up the heat, then cover and steam them open in their own juices for 3-4 minutes. Give the pan a good shake every now and then.
5.Remove the bouquet garni, add the chopped parsley and remove from heat.
6.Take the pan off heat, Serve with bread!