The month of May, in France, is quite specific. French people usually enjoy three long weekends and many of them decide to go on short holidays. Do not expect to fix any important business during that period.
Two years ago, when our daughter was just a newborn (she was only 6 weeks old) we spontaneously took off to Bordeaux for a couple of days. We wanted to try some local products and wine (at least my husband, because I was breastfeeding). While it was not a problem to find some nice “chambres d’hôtes” in the region, we were discouraged and disappointed by the fact that most of vineyards and little, charming restaurants were simply closed. This year, we spent the first weekend of May in Trouville, Normandy, another touristic place and rest area which Parisians especially like because it is only a couple of hours from the Capital. For those who know Claude Lelouch’s film “Un homme et une femme”, the names of Trouville and Deauville should ring a bell.
As regards today’s dish, I had the idea to prepare one of my favorite Polish cold soups, which I eat nearly every week during summertime and which, in my opinion, should make an international career. Unfortunately, when I visited my food market last week, I could not find all the necessary ingredients. On the other hand, the asparagus season had started for good. I had a chance to buy 1 kg of excellent green asparagus for 4 euro only. I also found beautiful young and crispy radishes, green onions and light pink baby turnips. I only discovered those when I moved to France; these turnips are not popular in Poland.
Following this really tough and long winter, both in Poland and in France, I have been missing, more than usually, seasonal vegetables and dishes. It is quite obvious to say that I like fresh salads in summer, like many other people do. When I went with my husband to celebrate our marriage anniversary, a couple of days ago, we were passing restaurants one after the other and I could notice that most people were consuming salads with first spring vegetables. I adore young green vegetables. One condition must be met. They have to be cooked al dente and they have to keep their vivid, green colors. All green vegetable, when overcooked, not only look non-appetizing, but also lose their good taste and texture.
Today’s proposition will be good for a rather lazy Saturday or Sunday lunch. The salad is not complicated, but it is a bit time-consuming to prepare. Its vegetables are prepared in different cooking methods. Some of them are blanched in boiling water; others are sautéed in a frying pan. I decided to cut them in different shapes: some of them along, some of them across, and so on. You can, however, simplify the preparation by using one cooking method (for example, sautéed in a frying pan – starting from those which require longer cooking and ending with those which can be eaten nearly raw) and slicing or cutting the vegetables in similar shapes.
This salad will taste great with crispy snow peas, baby fava beans, and zucchini tagliatelle blanched in boiling water. Feel free about proportions.
For the dressing, I used French red wine vinegar. I reduced it in a small saucepan with some sugar. You may, however, use balsamic vinegar or just prepare a simple French-style dressing with vinegar and oil, with no reduction without any sugar. You can experiment with pesto, for example Arugula and Basil Pesto. You can eat this salad warm as well. This was the second version we made the next day, and it was very good.
I served the salad with crispy olive oil crackers (the idea comes from Heidi’s 101 Cookbooks and you can find the recipe there). I added however, fresh chopped rosemary into the dough. One remark: Heidi indicates that the recipe makes 12 large crackers. Well, as she lives in the U.S., where everything is huge, the cracker in her opinion may only be big. In my opinion, they were huge, that is why I cut each piece of dough, before baking, into 4 or even 5 smaller pieces (still they were quite big).
Spring Salad with Green Asparagus, Turnips, Green Beans and Peas
Serves 2 as a full lunch salad or 4 as a starter
100 g thin green beans
60 g fresh peas
70 g arugula
3-4 young baby turnips
Around 20 young radishes
10 green asparagus
About 10 to 12 young green onions
1 small red onion
30 grams pistachios
½ bunch chives
A pinch of curcuma
A pinch of powdered chili
100 ml red wine vinegar
2-3 tablespoons brown sugar
Wash all vegetables, arugula and chives. Dry them and put them aside.
In a hot frying pan grill pistachios for 3 to 4 minutes. Then put them aside to cool down completely.
Chop chives into 2 cm strips.
Prepare the asparagus: cut off the wooden, dry parts of them and throw them away. If necessary, peel delicately the thicker part of their stems. Cut the asparagus across into halves. Slice delicately the parts with tips along (they should be around 9 cm long), and put aside. Cut the remaining parts across into very thin slices and put aside.
Cut tips of green beans, and put them aside.
Peel turnips and slice them very finely.
Peel the tips of one half of the radishes (keep a bit of their green tail). Slice finely the second half of radishes and put them aside.
Prepare the green onions: cut them about halfway to keep a part of their green leaves and cut their tips off. If they are too big, it is necessary to cut them along into halves. Put aside.
Pour the vinegar into a small saucepan, add sugar and cook over a small flame until 1/3 of the liquid evaporates and the sauce thickens a bit. Then put aside.
In another saucepan, bring water a boil, add the green beans, cook for 1 minute and add the peas and blanch everything for no longer than 2 to 3 minutes. Then strain the vegetables under ice cold water, to stop the cooking process, and put them aside.
Heat up a frying pan and pour some olive oil. Once it is hot, add asparagus (both slices and strips) and sauté them for about 2 to 3 minutes over a high flame. Then add turnips, all radishes, green onions and sauté them on a quite high flame until the asparagus are sautéed al dente but keeps their green color. Salt and pepper generously.
Switch off the flame and let the vegetables cool down a bit.
In a large bowl, mix all vegetables, arugula, onions, chives and pistachios.
Serve on plates. Sprinkle with some more olive oil. Pour the dressing (if it is too thick, heat up a bit). Finish the salad by sprinkling with some curcuma on top and a bit of powdered chili.
You remember, at the beginning of the post, I mentioned our short trip to Trouville. As opposed to those little towns in the Bordeaux region, food businesses in Trouville – restaurants serving sea food (“Les Vapeurs” being one of the most famous), fish markets and shops selling regional products, were open. The town itself is quite picturesque and nice, which explains the high number of tourists visiting it.
The local fish market, operates every day, all year round, and is very good. The range of fresh fish, seafood, shells and oysters it offers is fabulous. Prices usually are reasonable.
We stayed at our friend’s house with a fully equipped kitchen, and it was a real pleasure to prepare our food at home (especially since tourist-oriented restaurants, although expensive, are overcrowded). The fresh fish soup, bought on the market, served with fresh rouille sauce available there is exquisite. We were informed by the salesperson that this soup should not travel in a car, so we bought a jar of its pasteurized version and another jar of pasteurized bisque d’homard.
We further bought several little soles and some mussels to take back with us to Paris. I also bought amandes. and other shells, which I had never tasted before.
I did not eat oysters that time. 4 years ago, I was not lucky with eating oysters and I was sick for the whole week. I would rather stay away from them for a little while.
On Sundays, the parking lot next to the fish market converts into a large, typically French open air market where one can find much more than just food items. I found this latter a bit disappointing. Of course one can easily find local fresh butter and cream, and some local cheeses. Unfortunately, the camembert we bought was not good at all, and it is now waiting to be used in a gratin.