Summer Holidays in France
You know that old expression “getting there is half the fun”? Well, if you’ve traveled in France, you know that’s the whole truth!
Every summer, like many Parisians, we head to the south of France, le midi. Swimming in the azure waters of the Mediterranean is always refreshing, and we just love the selection of olives at provençal markets. And even though we don’t eat fish at every meal, we definitely take advantage of the sea’s edible gifts as often as we can, along with fresh shell beans and homemade aioli, which is basically a garlic mayonnaise (whisper it if you’re hanging around a provençal cook!).
Traveling with kids….
One thing that was definitely different about traveling this year was the “Pass Sanitaire” that was required of us everywhere we went, even in rest stops along the road.
Fortunately, some things never change: in the countryside, or in small towns and in cities, there were figs. Our walk through Condrieu yielded some visual gems, including gorgeous fig trees. And upon our arrival in Roquebrune sur Argens, we were greeted with our favorite view over the Massif des Maures.
Figs with Chèvre and Vanilla
Fig season is upon us! The thin skin of the purple fig, when ripe, yields pleasantly gritty and mushy insides, and their fragrant smokey flavor wins out over the texture every time. But I’ll admit, figs are strange!
The recipe below was given to me by the former owner of La Graineterie du Marché on the Place d’Aligre in Paris. Sophie Monti ran this family-owned shop – which opened in 1895! – before passing it on to her cousin, José. The store is a treasure trove, or what the French would call une caverne d’Ali Baba, and it features all sorts of culinary delights.
Gingerbread from Dijon, seeds to grow flowers and vegetables, red rice from the Camargue, fancy tinned fish from La Belle Iloise cannery, rose water, or decorative shopping bags are just a few of the items you can ogle and/or buy when you hit up the Graineterie.
- 1 whole vanilla pod, split in half lengthwise and opened like a book
- ¼ cup (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- ½ pound (225 g or about 6 small) fresh ripe figs, stems cuts off, cut horizontally into ¼-inch (6 mm) slices
- 3 ounces (85 g), or about 5 cups loosely packed, arugula, washed and spun dry
- 3½ ounces (100 g) very fresh (not aged) goat cheese (Sophie uses “Petit Billy” from the supermarket)
- 8 small bread rounds, lightly toasted
- fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- The day before you want to serve this dish, make the vanilla-infused olive oil: scrape the two halves of the vanilla pod with the back of a paring knife and place the beans (a paste, really) into the olive oil. Cover tightly and reserve.
- The next day, stir the infused oil, dredging the vanilla beans settled at the bottom. Heat 3 tablespoons of the vanilla oil in a medium non-stick pan over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers. Add the fig slices and cook for 2-3 minutes, tossing and turning very gently. The more ripe figs will break apart, but some slices should remain whole. Turn the figs onto a platter, and let cool.
- Divide the arugula evenly between 4 small plates, and drizzle with the remaining olive oil (about 1 teaspoon per serving). Spread the goat cheese onto the toast rounds and set aside. Divide the cooked figs between the four plates, placing them on the arugula.
- Place the chèvre toast round along one side of the plate, and drizzle the figs with any remaining olive oil from the pan. Serve immediately. Bon app’!
serves 4 as a first course