Starting this post with a little housekeeping note: one spot came available my workshop/retreat in Northern Ireland, July 19th – 23rd (details here) If you are interested, please email or call the Belle-Isle Cookery School where the workshop and retreat will be hosted, here.
Speaking of that workshop in Northern Ireland, we are finalizing the schedule of lessons, shoots, cooking and fun and I am getting so excited I can’t stop smiling all day! Really can’t wait to be there and meet everyone. I am also still pinching myself that I can do this with Bill and we are taking a few days before to explore both Scotland and Northern Ireland where is ancestors are from.
We travel well together. We have a way of dividing planning tasks without even saying it. From the first time we crossed the English Channel on a super long, chaotic and loud ferry route, we knew we could travel together without wanting to throttle each other. He’s really the best companion.
I am realizing this post is turning into a public Thank You note to my husband….but he deserves it. For everytime I have been able to spend an hour geeking out on the photos for a post or taken another more time to write and edit recipes and words – he’s been behind me, supportive of this blog, intended at first to be nothing more than a fun creative outlet.
That fun creative outlet turned out into a fun and amazingly rewarding life, creating stories through images. And he’s been my rock throughout the process. While my mom was complaining I was "still on the internet", he would gently tell her "give it a bit more time, she’s got a plan."
Did I? Have a plan? No, not really. My guts were telling me there was something there. My creative self was telling me not to let go. So I pushed through. With Bill by my side, never complaining. Many times a day I feel the urge to tell him thank you for this gift. I pick up the phone and send a text. A smiley face, a one liner. An extra hug. Something. Anything that shows him that I am mindful of what he’s doing.
To tell my husband "thank you" for his awesomeness, I know that the simple act of putting a nice lunch together will say just that. We never eat lunch together so when Summer rolls around, it’s a bit of a treat. Taking a few extra minutes to pack up a nice picnic and a bottle of cold lemonade to head out to the dock or the bench in the backyard is one way for me to say "I notice what you do".
From the first years that I moved to the US, I have always loved the idea of the "Sandwich and Soup" lunch combo one can find at restaurant. I’ve loved seeing how different years bring different favorites, from the elaborate "Salmon BLT and Vichyssoise" combo to the classic "Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup" one. Each chef, restaurant, region and era putting its own spin on it.
One of my favorite salade is Salade Nicoise, one of my favorite sandwiches is a Pan Bagnat and one of my favorite soup is gazpacho. I finally combined them all in one of our favorite picnic fares to date: Tuna Nicoise Sandwiches and Portuguese White Gazpacho.
The sandwiches are pretty straightforward, combining all the ingredients of a Salade Nicoise; tuna, oilves, green beans, eggs, tomatoes into a sandwich that needs to be made the night before, such as the Pan Bagnat, so that the bread can get all soft inside and the flavors meld together inside.
The gazpacho has been made three times since I made it first thing last week when I came back from New Hampshire. We just can’t get enough. A creamy blend of almonds, cucumber, fennel, oregano and garlic. If a soup ought to be called "sensual", it would be it. It made my toes curl. Which is always a pretty good indication I am happy… Thank you David Leite, author of The New Portuguese Table, for the recipe!
For dessert, the first cherries from our neighbors tree. A nice picnic indeed…
Sorry for the so-so polaroid, was in a hurry to eat them!
Tuna Nicoise Sandwiches:
Makes 4 large sandwiches
1 cup French green beans
4 large eggs
2 cans tuna in oil, drained, coarsely flaked
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/3 cup small black olives, pitted
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1/4 cup torn and loosely packed basil leaves (no need to chop fine, just use your fingers)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
2 anchovy fillets, finely crushed with back of fork
1 garlic clove, minced
1 baguette (regular or gluten free)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a pinch of salt and blanch the green beans in it for about 3 minutes. Drain them in a colander and place them in a bowl full of ice until they are completely cold. Drain again well and reserve. The goal is to cook the green beans just enough to remove the raw taste of their uncooked selves but still keep the vibrant color and nice crunch of their barely cooked selves.
Bring another large pot of water to a boil. Add the eggs to the boiling water, cook for 6 minutes (soft yolks). Remove them from the water and run them under cold water until they are cooled enough to peel. Once peeled, coarsely chop them up and add them to the green beans.
Add the tuna, tomatoes, olives, shallot and basil. Toss well to combine.
In a small bowl, whisk the oil, vinegar, anchovy and garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper and pour this vinaigrette over the green bean and eggs. Toss well until everything is nicely seasoned with the vinaigrette.
Cut the baguette in half horizontally and spread the Salade Nicoise all along its bottom part. Wrap with a layer of parchment paper and then a layer of foil or plastic wrap. Refrigerate 6 hours or overnight. The next day, cut the baguette into 4 pieces and serve.
Portuguese White Gazpacho:
I am not reposting the recipe here since I made it ad verbatim from David’s site, Leite’s Culinaria.
I skipped the crab salad included in the recipe but I have no doubt it was as good as the gazpacho.
I used gluten free leftover bread that was going a bit stale but feel free to use regular bread.
**Mortar & Pestle from Le Creuset.