Summer Refresh with a Little French Style

SUMMER REFRESH WITH A LITTLE FRENCH STYLE

It seems every season can use a little refresh, and updating our homes and gardens in even a small way with something new is rewarding. Here at La Vie Rustic the refresh takes on a bit of French style, from vintage French knives for the table or picnic basket, airy pillows with Japonism-style silk screening, or a dash of lavender sea salt for grilled meats to young salad greens of heirloom French lettuces and escaroles, even a late planting of Van Gogh sunflowers for early fall bouquets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

La Vie Rustic Featured in Victoria Magazine

As summer comes and we start to move outside for meals and gatherings, Victoria Magazine captured the La Vie Rustic style of garden and table in their July/August issue with lush photographs at my home and inspirational text.  Fruits, vegetables, and flowers from the garden, vintage tableware mixed with contemporary, and easy, seasonal seasonal dishes from appetizers to dessert are the hallmark of that style.

Here is one of the recipes from the cookbook, La Vie Rustic -Cooking and Living in the French Style we made that day.

Zucchini and Pine Nut Fritters

In Provence, summer gardens are always laden with zucchini. They are a fundamental ingredient in the summer vegetable stew, ratatouille, in Soupe au Pistou and they are frequently sautéed with lots of garlic and onion as a side dish. Here the zucchini, grated raw, preservers its fresh, green flavor. The fritters,

similar to potato pancakes, but with a softer interior, get an added texture from toasted pine nuts, plus a sprinkle of sea salt. I like to serve these as a first course or a side dish.

 

2 zucchini, ends trimmed

¼ cup flour

1 egg

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½  teaspoon coarse sea salt plus extra for sprinkling

¼ to 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted

Extra-virgin olive oil for frying

Grate the zucchini on the large holes of a hand-held grater. With your hands, squeeze the zucchini dry. You should have about 2 cups.

Put the zucchini in a large bowl and sprinkle with the flour, then turn to mix well. Add the egg and ½ teaspoon of the salt. With a spoon, mix well to form a batter.

Film a frying pan with some olive oil. Over medium high heat, heat the olive oil. When it is hot, spoon about 3 tablespoons of batter per pancake, allowing about 2 inches between each pancake.

With the back of a spatula, press down to spread the batter to make about a pancake 3 inches in diameter and ¼-inch thick.  When the bottom of the pancakes are golden, and the edges are cooked, about 3 to 4 minutes, sprinkle some pine nuts on top of each pancake, pressing them in slightly with the back of the spatula. Using the spatula, turn the pancakes and fry until crisp and golden, about 3 minutes. Remove to a paper towel lined platter and continue until the remaining batter is used.

To serve, sprinkle the pancakes with the remaining pine nuts and sprinkle with a little sea salt.

Makes 8 to 10 fritters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grilling Time with Fresh Bay Leaves

If you lived in the Mediterranean region, you’d find an abundance of the sweet bay laurel trees (Laurus nobilis) that are native to the area and where the fresh or dried leaves have been used for thousands of years to season food, like these Lamb and Eggplant Kebobs. Fresh bay leaves are tucked between the meat and vegetables and provide a deep, aromatic flavoring to all.

Here at La Vie Rustic we have more than 40 Laurus nobilis trees to provide for your cooking pleasure. We snip the cuttings for you the day we ship them to you, ready to use.

Since it’s grilling time, we also suggest our Herbes de Provence, and Artisan Fruit and Herb Sea Salts to season grilled vegetables and meats of all kinds. What to accompany the grilled foods? Beans, of course – big, white, juicy Royal Corona beans from Rancho Gordo which come with their own jars of Herbes de Provence and Winter Savory Sea Salt, and a 4-color recipe card.  To serve as a side dish, simply scoop the beans from their broth into a bowl.

And for Father’s Day, why not a heavy duty cutting board of English Walnut or Black Walnut to keep alongside the barbecue, plus some fresh sweet bay and a jar of Herbes de Provence? Or other LVR items? We’ll even gift wrap it for you and enclose a card.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credits:Kebobs by Sara Remington from La Vie Rustic – Cooking and Living in the French Style (Weldon-Owen, 2017), Herbes de Provence, Thomas Kuoh, Cutting Boards, Frankie Frankeny .

 

 

New Shipment from France of Vintage Escargot Pots!

I love these hand-made stoneware escargot pots. Each has just room for a juicy escargot and lots and lots of garlic/parsley butter, the best part. As Eater.com tells us classic French food is cool again (for some of us it always was) and nothing is more classique than escargot. La Vie Rustic’s set of 12 escargot pots comes boxed with a pretty, enticing label and a card with a recipe for Escargots Bourguignonne making the set  good for gift-giving too.

Van Gogh in Your Garden (Or Your Mother’s)

Vincent Van Gogh’s sunflower paintings, a series of seven different paintings of sunflowers in vases inspired La Vie Rustic’s Sunflower Seed Collection. It contains six different types of sunflowers with exotic names like Lemon Eclair, Chianti, and Sunburst, each of which resembles in some way the different flowers in his paintings.

On close inspection of the paintings you’ll see the differences among the flowers. Some have wild-looking, spidery petals, others petals are thickly packed like chrysanthemums, and yet others double or single petals. The centers or faces differ as well. Some centers are bright chartreuse green, other chocolate brown or black ringed with orange. Petal colors are brilliant yellow, pale orange, darker orangish-red, reddish, and pale yellow. This link will take you to a site where you can see the seven paintings in the series. http://www.vggallery.com/misc/sunflowers.htm.

All the sunflowers in the collection are cutting flowers, and all are branching types which mean, in addition to a main flower head on the center stalk, there will be numerous side shoots branching out ensuring ongoing bloom over several weeks or longer.

Each individual letterpress printed packet contains approximately 25 seeds, for a total of 150 seeds.  All germinate within 7-14 days and bloom within 60- 65 days of planting, An instruction card is included which covers planting, watering, pinching, and cutting and caring.

Watch out for insects and birds – they love to eat the seeds and young sprouts.

 

Foraging in Spring

Foraging for spring greens is a much-anticipated activity in France. However, you don’t need to be in France there to enjoy the sport. Depending on where you live, wild greens in your area might include chicory weed, dandelion, purslane, Miner’s lettuce, borage, fennel, mint, watercress, or amaranth. Even if you’re not a forager, you can still create a salad that has the taste of the wild, like this one from La Vie Rustic – Cooking and Living in the French Style by Georgeanne Brennan.

To Create the Salad

You’ll need 4 cups of mixed greens to include such items as dandelion, arugula, mint, watercress, parsley and maybe radicchio. Make a vinaigrette with 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, and a little pepper too, if you’d like. Toss the greens in the the dressing and add 2 ounces of thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into 1/2 inch strips. photo by Sara Remington

And, to keep in the spirit of the French countryside, why not a Vintage French Serving Set for tossing and serving the salad?

 

 

 

 

Spring Planting

Now is the time to think about spring  planting too, and La Vie Rustic has a fine, spring potager garden starter set – with 7 different varieties of vegetable seeds to plant in spring, accompanied by a garden map for a small space that includes planting, care, and harvesting instructions. Our larger, boxed Potager set includes 13 different varieties and three maps, plus 13 zinc garden stakes – everything you need for a year-round garden – except the sun and soil. To learn more about the French Style Potager kitchen garden and its importance to French life and food, click here.

Escargots

Escargots, unlike wild spring greens, are always in season and we are happy to say our little escargot sets of vintage stoneware are back in stock. No need to forage for the snails, though, because you can buy high quality canned snails in specialty food stores or on-line. The set comes with a recipe card for the classic snails in garlic and parsley butter.

 

All Things Stocking Stuffer Size

Thomas Kuoh Photography

Special things often come in small sizes, and La Vie Rustic has a host of small, but special gifts from a field of Monet-like red poppies to French vintage serving sets and artisan salts. They are all slim enough to slip into a stocking for a Christmas surprise.

For the lover of the French countryside and of Monet’s paintings, a bagful of red poppy seeds mixed with Bishop’s lace flower seeds to create a personal field makes a special gift.

For the cheese lover on your gift list, a small, single cheese size cutting board made from California pistachio wood accompanied by a silver-collared vintage French knife gives any cheese center stage.

If there’s someone on your list who likes quirky table-settings that mix and match vintage and contemporary, a set of of 4 French vintage knives or a French vintage serving set make an ideal gift.

Photos on the left by Frankie Frankeny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the adventuresome cooks on your list, a jar or two of artisan fruit salts make an unusual contribution to the kitchen pantry.

Sel de Figues Photo by Thomas Kuoh

Inspiration: The Thirteen Desserts of Christmas in Provence

Tradition says that Provence’s thirteen desserts of Christmas Eve are symbolic of the Last Supper, when Christ last dined with his twelve apostles. Almonds, walnuts, figs, and raisins, part of the dessert, are called the quatre mendiants, or “four beggars” because the colors of the nuts and fruits symbolize the monks’ robes of the four religious orders that are vowed to poverty: almonds for the Carmelites, walnutss for the Augustinians, figs for the Franciscans, and raisins for the Dominicans. As time has passed, the religious significance of the thirteen desserts has waned, but the cultural importance endures.

The exact composition of the thirteen desserts various in different regions, even villages, of Provence, with one thing in common:: at least twelve of the desserts should be composed entirely of produits de terroir, locally grown ingredients, while the thirteenth can be something exotic, such as dates or tangerines. The evocative photo above, by Sara Remington, appears in La Vie Rustic – cooking and living in the French style (Weldon Owen 2017), and showcases figs, black and white nougat, dates, tangerines, quince paste, raisins, almonds, walnuts, and sweet biscuits. Often a fougasse, or bread made with olive oil will be included.

I like the idea of a simple dessert, composed of seasonal fruits and nuts, and maybe a confection or two like an almond and walnut tart. (See blog post Time for Tarts for the recipe)

The platters here are pewter, but La Vie Rustic’s Pistachio serving boards large and small, with a French vintage knife or two would be good choices, linking the past with the present.

 

Time for Tarts

 

In France, patisserie windows always have a full display of  lush tarts filled with custards and topped with jewel-like fruit combinations, of golden glazed apple tarts, and, best of all, especially in winter, nut tarts, like the one above. The crust is buttery and flakey, the filling sweet, the nuts toasted and crunchy. Each rich bite is rewarding, perfect to have with a cup of tea in the afternoon or to follow a meal, whether splendid or humble. The photo, by Sara Remington, is from La Vie Rustic – Cooking and Living in the French Style, as is the recipe below. It is an easy tart to make and combines walnuts and almonds, both of which grow in abundance in northern California orchards as well as in France. The nuts are harvested in September and October, just in time for the winter holidays, where they play a major role in confections of all kinds.

As a nod to nature and what it gives us, I like to serve this tart on a one of La Vie Rustic’s Walnut cutting boards .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the Pastry

1 ½ cups flour

¼ cup sugar

¼ cup butter, cut into ½ inch chunks

1 large egg

Filling

2 tablespoon butter, melted and cooled

½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 inch piece of vanilla bean

1 ½ cups walnuts and almonds, coarsely chopped and lightly toasted

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. F.

To make the pastry, in a bowl, stir together the flour and the sugar. Add the butter and work it in with your fingers or a pastry cutter. The dough will feel crumbly Tightly pack the dough into a ball. Using your fingers, press the dough evenly into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, reaching to the top of the rim.  Set Aside.

For the filling, in a bowl, combine the melted butter, brown sugar, and eggs. Slit the vanilla bean and scrape the soft inner bit into the bowl.  Beat until well blended. Stir in the nuts and pour the filling into the pan. Do not over fill.

Bake until the crust and the filling are golden brown, about 50 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool. Loosen the edges of the crust with the tip of a knife, then remove the pan rim and slide the tart onto a plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 8

A Special Gift -Freshly-Milled Olive Oil, Meyer Lemon and more

It only happens once a year, in winter. Olives are harvested and milled. A few weeks later the oil is bottled. Except for a small amount that is bottled immediately. That’s olio nuovo, or new olive oil. La Vie Rustic acquired a limited amount of Seka Hills Estate Olio Nuovo, from nearby Seka Hills here in Northern California in order to offer a special gift for the holidays. Our Olio Nuovo and Citrus Salad Set combines 250 ml of the fresh olive oil, a jar of La Vie Rustic’s Sel d’Agrume (French sea salt blended with California orange and lemon zest), and a fresh Meyer lemon – all the ingredients needed to make a French-style winter vinaigrette, including a recipe card. And to inspire for spring salads, the set includes an overpack of 6 different heirloom French lettuce seeds with an information card telling the history of each variety, and full planting and harvesting instructions. The lemon is picked from La Vie Rustic’s  Meyer lemon trees the day the set is  shipped………..Olio Nuovo and Citrus Salad Set $40.00

Vintage French Comes Calling

Vintage French Comes Calling

There’s something special for me about incorporating vintage, heirloom tableware items into daily life where they serve as both a memory of the past and the people who prized them, as well as creating new memories when used today. I’m happy to introduce three new La Vie Rustic French vintage products just in time for holiday  parties and shopping. To read more about the Vintage French products, visit the Cuisine-Kitchen page at La Vie Rustic.

Pictured above are La Vie Rustic French Vintage Knives, a set of 4. Each knife is different, but all have a silver plated, decorative collar. Mix them in with your own tableware for a bit of French style and nostalgia.

French Vintage Knives, Set of 4……………………………………………………………$79.00

Pictured here is a hand milled and hand crafted California Pistachio Wood Mini-Cutting board which comes with a French Vintage knife. Each board varies in the pattern and color of the grains, which is part of their charm. The handles of the French vintage knives vary too in pattern and color, reflecting the wood. At just 11 1/2 inches long and 5 inches wide, the board and its knife are just the right size to tuck into a picnic basket or back pack, perhaps starting life as a stocking stuffer.

Pistachio Wood Mini-Cutting Board with French Vintage Knife……………………….$42.00

This  French Vintage Serving Set, pictured below,with its slight patina and decorative elements adds a note of elegance to whatever dish you are serving, whether it is a salad or a platter of roast beef. Sometimes the knife and the fork will have the same pattern, other times not, but are always beautiful and good to hold in the hand.

French Vintage Serving Set (1 fork, 1 spoon)………………………………..$39.00