* Between The Sea (the Med) and The Alps -- {Pronounce: ontruh la mair eh lay zalp}

Monday, July 20, 2015

A Provençal lunch

Lunching 01I seem to be sharing a lot about life in Provence at the moment.  As I am actually in the French Riviera area of the south, and Provence is more towards the west, I should be showing our more coastal/Alpine world.  However, both regions do get lumped together as a lifestyle, and that's what I'm currently trying to give you a glimpse into. 

While we've experienced some rather specific functions lately, we just had a quite simple afternoon barbecue with a few French friends, totally laid back, and I thought you might enjoy some of the very typical elements we managed to incorporate.  I was able to create a very local ambiance rather than some specific theme, and that was rather fun.

As Romea of course wasn't about to miss anything involving people and food, she also sends you her greetings.

Lunching 02
Olives, olives, and more olive decor

When we moved to the south, it was exciting to collect regional ambiance.  But I never seem to entertain outside of something specific, so I don't get to use much of it. 

I was really pleased to set this simple but pretty appetizer table in our garden.  I've had the tablecloth, but I was surprised to discover I had matching napkins!  I also got to use my new square dishes for the first time.  And yes, those are our own processed olives, which perfectly blend the olive theme I ended up with.

Lunching 03
Enjoying getting started
Lunching 04
Preparing the next course

While our guests have been here before, this is the first time during warm weather out in our garden with our view.  They loved it.  They also loved my ancient recipe dried onion soup dip, which they've never had before.  Fine for the veggies, weird for the chips!

While everybody else enjoyed the apero hour, I got the meat and veggies going on the grill.

Lunching 05
From origins to finished product
Lunching 06
Such a fine loaf of bread

I recently had a fun discussion with somebody on downsizing, including her wanting to give away her unused bread machine.  I raved about how I loved mine.  So this bit is for you, my friend.

Here is my loaf of bread using both olives and some oil from this possibly 300-year-old tree behind it, flavored with various Mediterranean herbs picked from my own Mediterranean garden.  I'm serving it on my regionally patterned tray on my olive motif tablecloth.

Try to recreate that with store-bought baked goods!

Lunching 07
A totally grilled plate

After our first course of a crab and avocado salad, accompanied of course by my lovely herbed olive bread, we had a totally grilled main course. 

I marinated everything in my own olive oil, my own wine vinegar (which turned the veggies dark, lol), and my own herbs.  Everything included slices of zucchini, eggplant, and fresh pineapple, plus a couple of strips of baby back ribs.  A friend brought some lovely chicken kabobs.  I also made garlic bread and heated it up on the grill.  The French are not used to garlic bread.  They loved it!

Lunching 08
Such pretty ambiance for a delicious meal
Lunching 09
Oh, the temptation!
Not only did the official guests enjoy just sitting around lunching in the summer ambiance, but the usual gate crasher duly showed up and thought she'd quite enjoy the grilled meat, too.  (She got a bone.)

Lunching 10
Even the cheese course is pretty
A proper French meal includes a cheese course after the main course, and I try not to disappoint.  I was afraid they wouldn't want it after all because of the heat and having already completely eaten everything else already served, but I had it, I was going to serve it!  I was actually surprised at how much of it they did eat after all.

I served three varieties of cheese (something I learned in Paris, whether it is correct or not) on my cheese map of France plate, with my new cute colorful cheese knives, more olive bread (garlic bread didn't seem quite right!), and used my cute little espresso set saucers for the theme, as well as my colorful little spreading knives.  After all, don't we have company so we can use some of our fun stuff?

Lunching 11
Not spectacularly gorgeous bakery quality, but still fun and tasty
To finish it all off, I made up a strawberry brownie (instead of shortcake) dessert.  I'd just bought these little heart molds with an inset for a filling, but I couldn't find a shortcake recipe (everybody just wants to buy them).  But I did find a brownie idea, and the French have recently fallen in love with brownies. 

To be fancy, I did a cream cheese marbled version.  Of course, the filling covered it all up.  For a filling base, I spooned on some homemade Greek yogurt, added a plum/strawberry mix sweetened with lavender honey instead of sugar, then topped it all off with a hastily piped whipped cream heart and a fresh berry in the middle.  Made a big summer flower out of the individual servings.  (Notice the olive tree design on the plate center!)  One of the guests claimed she didn't eat dessert, she just wanted fruit, so I got some apricots, which ended up totally matching the color theme (more than the main dessert!).  She didn't touch them, but she did eat her whole heart brownie!

Lunching 12
The Three Graces of the afternoon

While it's fun to have events and enjoy entertaining large groups of people, it was still a lot of fun to create specific ambiance for just a small group. 

Anybody can just throw out some paper plates and grill up a menu, something I would have definitely done back in my American days, but I had a great time playing around trying to use my stuff classy table settings that normally sit on the shelves. 

I think my guests enjoyed it all, too, don't you?


  1. My favorite shortcake recipe is from the British cooking show "The Two Fat Ladies". http://www.cookingchanneltv.com/recipes/raspberry-and-strawberry-shortcake.html

    1. Oh, that sounds absolutely lovely. I can't wait to give it a try! Thanks for sharing.

  2. I admire your creativity when you entertain. It always looks interesting! and tasty!

  3. I found your blog from the Pattern Review highlight about you. I am a French teacher and loved the details you gave about your meal. What do they call "brownies" in French? I have never visited the south of France and love to read all about it!

    1. Glad to have you! Brownies don't translate, they just deform! Try "broanies." I have quite a few posts on my take of life down here; hope you get a chance to check some out.

      Send me an email if you'd like to discuss more.

  4. This is fabulous and I want that bread recipe. Looks amazing and with your own olives and olive oil, too. This is such a lovely event. How come nobody makes that onion soup dip anymore? That was good! I love seeing all the nice things you do!


  5. I want the cream cheese marbled brownie recipe. Your menu sounds fabulous and it did sound like a terrific event. But all of your events sound wonderful and unique.


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