The warmer weather is upon us in Southern California, and this has revived one of the fondest summer traditions of my childhood: being able to eat outside. Raised in Normandy with many, many days of grey and rain (admittedly accountable for the amazing grass and thus, very healthy cows producing amazing cream and cheeses), I grew up valuing and savoring every second of sunny and warmer days. Meals savored outside felt like a joyous celebration of the end of the dreary tunnel that winter in Northern France can be. It felt like a rebirth, like one could finally fill one’s lungs with a deep breath of fresh air. To sit down, feeling the sun on my back, listening to the sounds of the world out there, and eat a simple crudités salad, dipping bread in its vinaigrette… what a way to commune and connect with loved ones, with oneself, to slow down, take time.
To take our time. The very opposite of losing or wasting time. For being in the moment is the best possible use of our time. Cooking, eating are golden opportunities for us, to reclaim time.
The other night, after a long day of cooking and preparations for Pablo’s birthday picnic, a day of people in a small kitchen, ovens going and stifling heat in the house, I suddenly felt the walls around me. I peered out the window to the garden, and just the thought of eating in the quiet dusk outside made me feel relieved, calm, like a sigh, an exhale. When we eat indoors, our meals are lovely, we take our time, we bond, we laugh and savor together, but everyday life is still there, around us, lurking. The cleaning, organizing that has yet to be done. The objects around us remind us of the past, sad or happy. Photos of lost ones. Gifts from the estranged. Images of past voyages. (Though this is the burden of adulthood, as young children do not (and cannot) project in this way. They are wired to be fully in the moment. There’s too much fascination in the present to bother about the rest. Yet.)
In contrast, when we eat outside, I glance at my herbs and strawberries in becoming, and I feel surrounded by the present and the future, by inner and outer growth and ripening. The descending light makes our other senses more attentive to the world around us: the smell of sundown, of the neighbors barbecuing; the song of the tireless mockingbird, of a firetruck in the distance, of an airplane going to a faraway land; the sensation of a passing evening breeze on the skin; the flavors on our plates.
I don’t know much about what the future holds, but I do know we shall be savoring most of our meals outside for the next few months (and cooking them outside too whenever possible).
So should the weather show some clemency wherever you live, I wish you many meaningful, mindful, delightful meals outside, precious celebrations of the timeless here and now.
I have become a big fan of “tartines” in the past few months, simple open-faced sandwiches. They are as scrumptious as easy to make, and ever so versatile. It is such fun to experiment with the ingredients and different combinations. It allows us to think with our palate. They make a lovely lunch, along with a salad. Children and grown-ups can eat with their fingers. And indeed with this one tartine I’m sharing today, all our fingers were thoroughly licked. Hope you enjoy!
And scroll down for our upcoming week’s menu… 🙂
Mushroom comté prosciutto tartine
Adapted from Petit Larousse des Recettes aux Légumes du Potager by Valérie Lhomme
Makes 4 tartines
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Age for babies: 12 months and up, they will most likely eat the components of the tartine with their fingers, which is fine.
1 lb mushrooms
1 sprig of thyme
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp crème fraîche (or heavy cream)
3.5 oz grated comté cheese (or pecorino, manchego, gruyere, any flavorful hard cheese or your liking)
4 thick slice of good country bread
4 slices of prosciutto (San Daniele is very good and not too salty)
4 pinches of nutmeg
Salt & pepper
Clean the mushrooms, cut off the tip of the foot, and slice. Wash the thyme and remove the leaves from the stem.
In a pan over high heat, melt the butter and coconut oil, and toss in the mushrooms. Cook over high heat for about 5 minutes, then add the thyme leaves, a pinch of salt and pepper, and continue cooking over medium heat for another five minutes.
Drain the mushrooms. In a bowl, whisk the crème fraîche and add in the mushrooms, gently stir to combine and set aside.
Preheat the oven at 450°F
Toast the bread slices lightly. Place a slice of prosciutto on top of each slice. Add some creamy mushrooms, some grated cheese, a pinch of nutmeg, and place in the oven for 5 minutes, until cheese is melted.