An August detox in Paris is torture, and nigh on impossible. Une petite bière en terrace, une bouteille de rosé au picnic, un bon pastis à l’apéro…everyone in the city is either on holiday or thinks they should be on holiday. Restraint goes out the window and there is an irresistible estival abandon in the air.
This has coincided badly this year with my beloved DS wanting to shed a few post-film-tour pounds. To make things worse, I have just returned home after a long project in the UK, meaning that ‘celebration’ is constant, and essential. Rather than attempt the ridiculous, an alcohol free week, I am doing ALL I can to help by providing light but delicious dinners for him to come home to. Aren’t I the good little wife. Our local market stall, who grow all their own produce in the greater Paris region, makes this a walk in the summery park. Three times a week we are spoiled for choice over obscene looking cucumbers and courgettes, tomatoes so sweet they finally earn their fruit status, bulbous aubergines, runner beans as thick as your thumb and basil which gets right up your nose. Eating healthily becomes a real pleasure at this time of year, leaving us a little less guilty over our booze consumption. I’ve just put two bottles in the fridge for tonight, as I couldn’t decide between bubbly or white. Hopefully we will make the choice and not steam roll through both, though I can’t promise anything….
Here are some favourites from this week. Nothing complicated, but hopefully enough to give you some inspiration.
Green bean, olive and preserved lemon
For two, takes 10 minutes
A zingy, greener than green salad.
* French beans - two handfuls, topped and tailed
* Black olives - a handful, pitted
* Preserved lemon - 1/4 quarter, finely sliced
* Basil - a few leaves, finely sliced
* Lemon - juice of 1/4
* Olive oil - to drizzle
* Zatar (optional) - a sprinkling
Cook the beans in salted water for around five minutes, or until tender. Drain and set aside. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
Watermelon, feta and courgette salad
For two, takes 10 minutes
A refreshing summer salad.
* Watermelon - 2 slices, flesh cut into small cubes
* Feta - 100g, cubed
* Courgette - half, thinly sliced into rounds (a few mm thick)
* Mint - a few leaves, finely chopped
* Balsamic vinegar - a glug
* Walnut oil (or other oil) - a glug
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine.
For two, takes 20 minutes
Quinoa tabouleh is a light, nutritious and gluten free alternative to regular tabouleh. I make mine without onions because I’m not a raw onion fan, but feel free to add finely sliced red onion or spring onions.
* Quinoa - 1/4 cup
* Tomatoes - 3, chopped
* Cucumber - 1/3, peeled and cut into slices, then quarters
* Parsley - a large handful, chopped
* Coriander - a large handful, chopped
* Mint - a few leaves, chopped
* Pomegranate - seeds of 1/4
* Olive oil - a glug
* Lemon - juice of 1/2
Boil the quinoa in 1/2 cup of salted water for around 15 minutes, or until tender and all the water has evaporated. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.
Tian of summer vegetables
For four, 15 minutes prep time, 60 minutes cooking time
This is a favourite recipe of my mother’s to make in the south of France. It’s easy and impressive looking, so makes a lovely accompaniment for a dinner party. This week we had ours alongside a red rice and green bean salad (a very similar recipe to the green bean salad above, but adding half a cup of red rice for a more substantial meal).
* Garlic - 2 cloves, thickly sliced
* Aubergine - 1 large, cut into 1cm rounds
* Courgettes - 2, cut into 1 cm rounds
* Tomatoes - 3, cut into 1cm rounds
* Dried oregano - a tbsp
* Basil - a few leaves, sliced
* Olive oil - a glug
Preheat the oven to 180 celsius. Rub the garlic all over the insides of a medium sized roasting tin - this coating will then infuse the whole dish. Arrange the vegetables in tight rows in the roasting tin, alternating the different types as much as you can. If you have more of one type than another, don’t worry, it will still taste just as good! When the vegetables are tightly packed in, sprinkle the whole dish with oregano and season generously with salt and pepper. Then tuck the garlic and basil leaves in amongst the vegetable slices. Drizzle olive oil all over and then roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven and use a slotted spoon to squash the vegetables down a little, this will get the juices to mingle. Roast for a further 30 minutes. Enjoy hot, cold or at room temperature.