This post featuring favorite summer dishes wraps up my 10th anniversary series on the best of The Everyday French Chef. And I have to say that, given the bounty of the season, it was hard to choose one special dish to highlight. My first thought was ratatouille, the ever-so-French veggie dish from Provence, made even more famous by the Disney film starring a gourmet Parisian rat. But in the end the winner is (drumroll, please)…
Grand aïoli / Cod with vegetables and garlic mayonnaise
I chose this dish because it combines so many foods I love — cod, steamed veggies, eggs and, especially, the intensely flavorful aïoli sauce, in which an olive-oil mayonnaise is infused with garlic. The name of the game here is variation. In addition to the veggies pictured above — carrots, potatoes, asparagus, chickpeas and cherry tomatoes — typical ingredients include sea snails (bulots), green beans, finocchio, artichokes and cauliflower. As for the fish, salt cod is traditional — but a lot more work than fresh. So I’ve switched.
Like ratatouille, aïoli is from Provence, which is where I first enjoyed it. This was back in the 1970s at a seaside restaurant outside Marseille, what with the waves lapping at the shore and the cicadas chirping in the summer heat. It’s a great dish for summer because it is served at room temperature. Everything may be prepared in advance and assembled just before serving. All you need to complete the picture is a bottle of chilled dry white or rosé.
And now to my favorite summer dishes, followed by menu suggestions for summer meals.
As an everyday French chef, how would I combine these dishes? Here are some examples.
For an everyday lunch, I might make a pan bagnat sandwich or salade niçoise. Vegetarians might enjoy a tomato tart and a mesclun salad of mixed greens. For vegans, eggplant caviar and zucchini soup. Everyone could follow up with seasonal fruit.
For an everyday dinner, everyone could start with a summer salad with fresh figs. Omnivores could follow with lamb meatballs, vegetarians with eggplant gratin and vegans with … ratatouille! For dessert, a cheese plate or seasonal fruit.
For a weekend dinner, salmon tartare and rolled roast of duck for omnivores, zucchini fritters and Corsican dumplings for vegetarians and chilled red pepper soup and pasta with French basil sauce for vegans. All could follow with a mesclun salad of mixed greens. For dessert, cherry clafoutis or ricotta with lavender and plums for omnivores and vegetarians, and summer fruit cup with cassis for vegans.
Happy summer, and happy cooking!