The 14th of July is Bastille Day. As handy, dandy Wikipedia tells us:
Bastille Day is the name given in English-speaking countries to the French National Day, which is celebrated on the 14th of July each year. In France, it is formally called La Fête Nationale (French pronunciation: [la.fɛt.na.sjɔ’nal] ; The National Celebration) and commonly Le quatorze juillet (French pronunciation: [lə.ka.tɔʁz.ʒɥi’jɛ] ; the fourteenth of July). It commemorates the 1790 Fête de la Fédération, held on the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789; the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille fortress-prison was seen as a symbol of the uprising of the modern nation, and of the reconciliation of all the French inside the constitutional monarchy which preceded the First Republic, during the French Revolution. Festivities and official ceremonies are held all over France. The oldest and largest regular military parade in Europe is held on the morning of 14 July, on the Champs-Élysées avenue in Paris in front of the President of the Republic, French officials and foreign guests.
Whenever I think of France, I always think of their national anthem, La Marseilles, and this wonderful scene from that classic film, Casablanca (go on, take less than 2 minutes from your day and enjoy this scene again — you know you want to!):
Given my penchant for finding reasons to celebrate, I decided it would be fun for hubby and me to commemorate Bastille Day! It would also offer a great opportunity for hubby and me to relive, just a bit, our trip to Paris in 2006.
After much fun Googling (honestly, I enjoy researching and planning this kind of thing — yes, I know, I’m weird, but you love me anyway, right? 😉 LOL!), I was inspired by this post at About.com to have a French picnic starring gougères, black olive tapenade, and honeyed fruit salad, along with some champagne (well, California sparkling wine, if you want to be technical about it, and also non-alcoholic champagne for my hubby), yummy store-bought French bread (I picked up a French batard and a package of mini baguettes), and a couple of French cheeses (I picked up a camembert and another cheese I’d never heard of — the label reads “Ei Ossau Iraty Aoc Basque”). And to really get us in the mood, I also splurged on a CD from PuntoMayo of French music.
I’ve been wanting to make gougères ever since I read the thoroughly enjoyable Death at the Chateu Bremont by M.L. Longworth, and when I Googled to see what gougères were, this recipe by Alain Ducasse caught my eye. The protagonist is a foodie, and I first heard of gougères in this book. Gougères are essentially small (appetizer-size) cream puffs that have cheese in the dough. Gruyère cheese is commonly used, but of course, you can vary the taste of the gougères by
varying the kind of cheese. They can be refrigerated and re-heated; you can also freeze them! Small cream puffs that they are, they are light, airy bites of cheesiness. 🙂 Given their hollowness inside and overall lightness, hubby felt they should be stuffed with something and so he used his as a shell for camembert and black olive tapenade. 😉
At first, I wasn’t going to fiddle with the black olive tapenade, as the recipe struck me at first as being too complicated for what is supposed to be a simple picnic, but the more I looked at it, the more I realized that it, too, is a really simple — but yummy! — dish. I used Greek kalamata olives, and peoples, let me tell you, it is out of this world good!
The honeyed fruit salad was the most labor intensive because of preparing all the fresh fruit. It’s not difficult to make, mind you, just time-consuming. I used sugar-free honey in ours. It is incredibly fresh-tasting and so yummy, you’ll think you’re eating ambrosia. It would be delicious with pancakes or waffles, as well.
Tip for Measuring Honey: When measuring out honey, molasses, or other thick, sticky foods, spray the measuring spoon or measuring cup lightly with cooking spray.
Originally, I’d thought we’d enjoy this picnic out by our “pool” (a 6′ cattle tub on our front deck) while pretending we were on a beach in the South of France, but while we’re not having what I would call a cool summer, we have — thankfully! — been having rain and overcast weather recently, meaning our pool currently feels too cool for us to be enjoyable…and yet, the weather was too warm yesterday for us to feel comfortable outside if we couldn’t be getting in and out of our pool. So, instead, hubby kindly spread a blanket out in the living room floor and we had our picnic indoors 🙂
Oh, this is making me so hungry, I’m going to have to haul out the leftovers for lunch today!
Vive la France!
Gougères Inspired by Alain Ducasse’s (Makes 28 or so)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup milk (I used 1% milk)
- 4 ounces (1 stick) butter
- Pinch of coarse salt (I used sea salt)
- 1 cup of all-purpose flour
- 4 eggs OR 1 cup of egg substitute
- About 4 to 4 1/2 ounces shredded Gruyère cheese (I eye-balled it — you want a cup or so of cheese in the dough and then use the rest to sprinkle on)
- Sprinkling of coarsely-ground black pepper
- Sprinkling of nutmeg
- Preheat oven to 400F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the water, milk, and butter to a boil over medium to medium-high heat.
- Pour in flour and reduce heat to low. Stir in flour with a wooden spoon until dough clings together and leaves the sides of the pan (about 1 to 2 minutes).
- Place dough into a medium-sized bowl and let cool for a couple of minutes.
- Beat in eggs, 1 at a time (or 1/4 cup of egg substitute at a time), with a wooden spoon. Beat thoroughly with the addition of each egg; don’t worry, just keep beating and the egg will get incorporated into the dough.
- Stir in the sprinkling of pepper and nutmeg, to taste. Stir in about 1 cup of cheese.
- Drop by tablespoons onto parchment paper about 1 1/2″ to 2″ apart (they’ll rise up a bit, but won’t expand out too much).
- Bake until golden and puffy, about 22 minutes. Serve warm.
- Refrigerate leftovers and re-heat at 350F until hot (5 minutes or so).
- To Freeze: Place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Freeze until firm, then place into freezer bags. Re-heat at 350F until hot (probably around 8 or 10 minutes).
Black Olive Tapenade (Makes about 1 1/2 to 2 cups)
- 8 ounces pitted black olives, drained (I used Greek kalamata olives)
- 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste (I eyeballed it) — Vegetarians: Leave out
- 2 tablespoons capers, drained (I eyeballed it)
- 1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Sprinkling of cayenne pepper (red pepper)
- Lemon zest (1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon — I eyeballed it)
- Sprinkling of dried thyme (I used a few sprigs of fresh thyme from our garden)
- Olive oil to taste (I added in about a tablespoon to maybe 1 1/2 tablespoons)
- In a blender or food processor, pulse together everything EXCEPT the olive oil, stirring as necessary, just until it begins to turn into a paste.
- Drizzle in olive oil, a bit at a time, and pulse until the tapenade reaches desired spreading consistency.
- Keep refrigerated.
Honeyed Fruit Salad (Serves 8 or so)
For the dressing:
- 1/2 cup diet ginger ale (OR you could use 1/2 cup dry white wine)
- 3 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons honey (I used sugar-free honey)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon or more of lemon zest (I used the zest from half of a large lemon)
- 1 tablespoon sugar (I used Splenda)
For the salad:
- 1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced
- 2 pears, cored and sliced into bite-sized pieces
- 2 peaches, pitted and sliced into bite-sized chunks
- 3/4 cup or so (I eyeballed it) fresh cherries, pitted and sliced
- 1 kiwifruit, peeled and sliced
- In a blender or small food processor, mix together all dressing ingredients. (It has an utterly delicious grapefruit aroma.) Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
- Put prepared fruit into a large bowl. When ready to serve, toss with dressing.
- Refrigerate leftovers.