I am often asked why I love France so much that I have a home here (and am looking for another). I give you a trip to the grocery store and lunch in the grocery store restaurant (because it has one, of course). Keep in mind that these are pictures of just some of it (left out the boucherie, patisserie etc etc etc so as not to overwhelm my readers). Enjoy!
And dejuener (lunch). Salade Robochon. Salad, Tomatoes, Small Roasted Potatoes, Melted Reblochon Cheese, Dried Ham dressed with a mustard vinegarette. All accompanied by local Rosé, sparkling water and, of course, bread (Reblochon is a traditional fondu cheese which is not available in the US). Bear in mind that lunch is commonly the biggest meal of the day in France and usually takes two hours, but they also work later than in the US.
This ENTIRE meal (which was FABULOUS!) cost 18€ or $20. I love France!
This what I will be making for lunch today. Tartine. Check it out. To the market I go!
Here in Ohio, summer is at its peak. Tomatoes grow exceptionally well in Ohio. A visit to an Ohio farmer’s market in July will reward you with lots of tomatoes to choose from, often including heirloom varieties such as the yellow tomatoes pictured above. The flavor of fresh tomatoes is one of the best arguments for eating seasonally. Because tomatoes are highly acidic, they can be canned in a water bath. So easy! Learn more about canning tomatoes here.
One of the easiest herbs to grow is basil. Basil does exceptionally well in containers, loves the sun and grows quickly throughout the summer. One large plant (like this one in my container garden) will keep you supplied with fresh basil throughout the summer. Plant an extra one or two and you’ll have basil to make pesto too! Pesto cannot be safely canned at home, but it does freeze extremely well. If you are freezing the pesto, omit the cheese as it doesn’t freeze well. You can add it after you thaw the pesto. Learn how to make pesto here.
Plant some basil and discover for yourself the taste of your own fresh picked basil. Basil plants are often available at your grocery store.
Now for the Perfect Summer Salad! We’ve all had that most traditional of Italian salads, the Caprese. Made with just four ingredients…tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, basil and balsamic reduction…the Caprese comes into it’s own at summer’s peak when the freshest tomatoes and basil are available. You can reduce your own balsamic vinegar. Find out how here. It will take a few hours and must be watched closely to prevent it from over reducing. I find it much easier to purchase a prepared reduction.
I particularly like Gia Russa.
Once you’ve assembled your ingredients, putting your Caprese salad together couldn’t be easier. Just follow these steps:
-Slice your tomatoes into approximately 1/2″ slices. Spread the slices out on paper towels and sprinkle lightly with salt. Let the tomatoes sweat for 30 minutes.
-While the tomatoes are sweating, pick and rinse your basil. Pinch the the leaves off the stems and set aside.
Slice a log of fresh mozzarella in 1/2″ slices.
-After 30 minutes, arrange the tomatoes on a platter and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Tuck the mozzarella slices and basil leaves in between the tomato slices. Drizzle balsamic reduction over all.
And there you have it! Summer’s Perfect Salad.
It would take a lifetime to see all there is to see in Paris. Paris is to France what New York or Los Angeles is to the United States. It’s a place and culture unto itself. If you are fortunate enough to have four or five full days in Paris, consider taking part of one to visit a small town. There are many beautiful, interesting places easily accessible by train that can give you a taste of the rest of France. Today, I want to share Coullomiers with you. A welcoming town, Coullomiers was a Gallo-Roman settlement in the fifth century but is almost certainly older. Having survived both World Wars without suffering great physical damage, Coullomiers is traditional, pretty and rich in medieval architecture.
Located in the Seine-et-Marne region, Coullomiers is most famous for its cheese and rightly so. A soft-ripened, artisanal cows milk cheese, Coullomiers cheese is a lesser-known cousin of Brie although it has been produced for much longer. True Coullomiers cheese is made with unpasteurized milk and cannot be exported to the United States. Those that are available in the US lack the depth and creaminess of French Coullomiers.
One of the best reasons to visit Coullomiers is its lively twice weekly market, one of my very favorites. Beginning at 8 am on Wednesday and Saturday and lasting until around 1 pm, this market is the real thing. It’s a gastronomic destination for Parisians who want to shop at a country market for “les produits de la terroir”, literally “the products of the land.” The market stretches down several side streets from the two market squares and features two “marches couvert” (covered markets). Spend an hour or two wandering through the market and listening to the vendors calling out their products. You will find everything from cheeses, the freshest produce, fish, charcuterie and meat to sewing machines, clothes, linens and more. Try to arrive by 10 AM to get the full effect. It’s noisy, colorful and smells divine. After your wandering is done, enjoy a coffee or a glass of wine in one of the many cafés or purchase all the makings for a picnic. Enjoy it in the beautiful gardens of Parc des Capucins where you will see the ruins of the tanneries that were once a major industry in Coullomiers and supplied the highest quality leather for French Royalty. There is also a small museum inside a 14th century Roman church that boasts a breathtaking grotto. During the summer months, you can rent a paddle boat and travel the gentle old mill stream through the ancient town.
Not to be missed is the Commanderie des Templiers. Constructed in 1173, it is one of the best preserved Knights Templar sites in all of France. It is a bit of a hike but truly amazing to see. Learn more about the Knights Templar here.
There is an RER (nonstop) train to/from Paris Est to Coullomiers several times a day. The trip takes approximately one hour. You can find out more about the Coullomiers train station and the schedule here. It is not necessary to purchase your tickets in advance. There are plenty of kiosks with an English option in Gare Est and the ticket agents there speak English. Click here for a navigable map of Coullomiers from the Coullomiers Office of Tourism. The Market Squares and the Office of Tourism (which is worth a visit) are both only a 10 minute walk from the train station.
As always, feel free to contact me with any questions.