Happy #BastilleDay!

This weekend’s chatter about #BastilleDay events in and around Philadelphia brought back very fond memories of my time in France.

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My best friend, @LaurenJacobson1, and I spent several weeks exploring the country as part of a four-month soul-searching adventure in 2010. We ate our way from south to north, then east to west, stopping in various towns along our journey to taste their regional specialties.  We had quiche made with reblechon cheese in La Clusaz; bouf bourgignon in Beaune; and escargot at Las Halles in Lyon.

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Lauren and I in Lyon

We noshed on coq au vin and raclette, both a type of cheese and a cooking method, in Chinon; sampled from the many boulangeries and patisseries in Paris; and tried foi gras pate and other traditional Basque dishes in Biarritz.  As we drove across the border  into Spain, ready for the next leg of our journey, I wondered if we’d ever eat that well again.  Up to that point, I was certain Italy had my heart, but France…France was playing for keeps.

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Reblechon quiche in La Clusaz

I have since used #BastilleDay as an opportunity to pay homage to French cuisine.  For last year’s celebration, I threw a French Garden Party with The Porch Light, a farm-to-table, community supper club I ran while living in North Carolina. The meal – prepared using the area’s seasonal bounty – highlighted classic French dishes “with a twist,” like heritage pork sausage; a buckwheat zucchini-ricotta galette; and a grilled ratatouille salad.  While landing a spot in Walter Magazine made the event that much more gratifying, I was satisfied with just sharing my love for the country through our food.

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This year, inspired by the gorgeous produce and baked offerings at the Rittenhouse Farmers Market (@FarmtoCity), I spent my Sunday morning embracing my inner Julia Child, starting with a basic recipe for French Bread from food enthusiast Jaden Hair’s Steamy Kitchen.

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I blame five hours of sleep and lack of coffee on its shape, but in just three hours, my loaf was ready for slicing. And talk about beauty in the beast – the bread was just like many I’d eaten abroad: light, airy, and slightly chewy on the inside, firm and crunchy on the outside. Delicious.

I used my bread as the base for a roasted red pepper, almond-basil, and arugula tartine, which served alongside a salad made for an easy, healthy dinner on a hot summer Sunday.

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I reveled in my nostalgia for France throughout the day and enjoyed being surrounded by a city that appreciates French history and culture as much as I do.  I can’t promise I’ll wait until next year to get my French fix, but thanks for sharing my joy, Philly.

Roasted Red Pepper, Arugula and Almond-Basil Tartine

This is super easy, friends. Lightly oil your red peppers and bake in a 450 degree oven for about 30 – 45 minutes until the skin is darkened and the peppers are soft.  Remove the pepper skins (add them hot to a bowl and cover, the skins will fall off more easily) and slice into long strips.  Meanwhile, in a blender, combine a cup of fresh basil, minced, 1/2 cup slivered almonds, a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar, one clove of minced garlic, 1 T of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and a little water, as needed. Blend until the desired consistency is achieved.  Toast the bread in the oven if you’d prefer, then top it with the pesto, arugula, and peppers.

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