In the olden days, when I was a more adventurous cook, I used to make a French-themed meal on Bastille Day. My favorite was a chicken in cream dish from Elizabeth David who was not French, but cooked like she could have been. That dish was wonderful, but better suited to cooler weather. Though I have no French roots myself and have never been to France, I do enjoy a good culinary theme, so I picked up on Bastille Day again yesterday, with warm weather in mind this time meaning no cooking allowed.
The first thing you see is a cold tomato soup. I found this in a Lucinda Scala Quinn cookbook. I don’t know that you’d really call it a recipe (in fact there was just a note about it in the book), but it truly is brilliant. You simply mix equal parts (or vary the ratio if you prefer) tomato juice and buttermilk and maybe sprinkle with something green on top (chives are shown above). This has everything you want in a cold soup – good flavor, a bit of tang, the right thickness, refreshment – and it couldn’t be easier to make. When I discovered this last summer, I would often mix up a mug as a kind of before dinner cocktail. It took my hunger pangs away as I prepared the rest of the meal. I don’t think there is anything French about it, but it’s a great warm weather meal accompaniment and you can even make it look chic depending on how you serve it. That’s very French, isn’t it?
The baguette sandwiches were inspired by the Parisian sandwich on the menu at the La Baguette bakery at the Stanford Shopping Center. I have loved this sandwich for years (I worked in Palo Alto early on). It’s simply a narrow baguette (not an overwhelming amount of bread) spread with butter with a Swiss cheese filling. They also serve variations with ham, turkey, or turkey pastrami. So simple, but not so easy to recreate, I’m afraid. Where I live we have a number of artisanal bakeries that provide bread to the local stores. Many of them are very good, but the baguettes frequently disappoint me. Too hard, too dense, too much exercise for my mouth. What I want in a sandwich baguette is a crisp crust that easily gives way to a softer interior that actually tastes like something. So if you want to make these, try to use baguettes from a bakery you like instead of the supermarket. If you still end up with baguettes from the supermarket like I did you can at least give your sandwiches that extra je ne sais quoi with a wrapping of paper and some string.
Now let’s talk about the dessert. It looks so fancy, even with no decoration or sauces, doesn’t it? That color, that shape certainly don’t hurt. This ice cream bombe comes from Ina Garten’s Barefoot in Paris. Mine is made from 1 pint raspberry ice cream, 1 pint peach sorbet and 1 pint raspberry sorbet. Ina’s recipe makes a larger bombe, but this one will easily feed six to eight people. I used the middle of a set of three mixing bowls for my mold. I let my raspberry sorbet soften and then spread it around the edges of the mold, leaving a well in the center. I put it in the freezer to harden it, then let my peach sorbet soften and when the raspberry layer was hard (about 30 minutes) I spread the peach layer on top of it, leaving a well in the center again. Again I put the mold in the freezer and let my ice cream soften. Once the peach layer was frozen, I loaded the center well with the raspberry ice cream and put the mold back in the freezer until it was just about time for dessert.
I put the mold in a larger bowl of warm water to loosen the bombe and then turned it out on a serving plate. It was so shiny and pretty and pink! But I carefully put it back in the freezer to harden up again.
Then I cut and served wedges with a store-bought palmier. Ina also serves hers with a raspberry sauce. Bon appetit!