Can I recreate the tastes of Paris in my own kitchen?
What is it about the food in Paris that made me like it more than what I am used to eating at home? The grass always seems greener on the other side, but the ingredients in my Parisian meals were not any fresher or of a higher quality than the ones I use on an everyday basis. I could not help noticing that the meals we had in France did not differ greatly from the meal I cook at home. What made the difference for me?
- the sauces were thinner
- the taste combinations were finer and more subtle
- the beef in particular was generally more tender
- the presentation of the meal on the diner's plate was much more refined, even when the food itself represented a homely meal
Chartier's endive salad was a simple dish consisting of crunchy quartered endives, a small block of camembert cheese placed in the middle of the plate, and a small amount of a creamy dressing which had been poured over the salad:
Endives, topped with a piece of rocquefort, with a light vinaigrette-mayonnaise salad; the endives were served as an entree in quarters which we chopped up, before mixing the salad to make it look more 'Greek'.
For my first attempt, I stuck as closely to the original ingredients as I possibly could, to give me more confidence to later when I wanted to find locally available ingredients that could replace the 'French' ones: endives are not produced in Crete, and neither is rocquefort (they were both imported).
Vinaigrette is basically an emulsion of oil and vinegar; instead of pouring oil and vinegar over a Greek salad, a vinaigrette can be used, which gives it a different taste using the same ingredients as a dressing. I shook 3:1 parts of olive oil:balsamic vinegar in a small jar, drizzled the emulsion onto the leaves, then left it in the fridge for the flavours to blend. It needed to be shaken again before I poured it over each section of endives:
This salad was just as good as the one in the restaurant.
The next time I make this, I could use Greek feta cheese instead, as it easily replaces rocquefort. A good crisp cabbage can be used in place of the imported endives (until these are grown in Crete - at the rate of the globalisation of our food sector, I don't think it will take too long).
To be honest, I didn't like the colour of the dressing: it was too dark (due to the balsamic vinegar), so my next attempt at vinaigrette was made with 3:1 olive oil:white grape vinegar for a paler hue, with a tablespoon of mayonnaise, a small squirt of prepared mustard, some finely chopped garlic* and a dash of freshly ground pepper for extra taste.
My home-made salad dressing
I used this paler vinaigrette to make Chartier's frisee aux lardons salad:
My version contained locally grown red curly lettuce (lollo) with lightly sauteed singlina (preserved pork) instead of bacon, which I cut up into small chunks and heated before adding to the salad:
I can honestly say that my salad was better than the restaurant's version; the fresh ingredients and the home-made vinaigrette gave it a special aroma.
My "French salads a la Crete" were inspired by the new tastes I tried in France, and they are not radically different salads from the kind I am used to preparing on a regular basis. The taste combinations were somewhat novel for all of us, and added a new dimension to our regular diet.
The salad was an easy choice, n'est-ce pas? Now for those little meat parcels... (coming up in a future blog post).
* Since I used fresh garlic, the vinaigrette needed straining before being poured into the salad. Garlic powder can be used instead for a finer texture.
©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.