I was fortunate to spend some time in France last September and this visit changed the way I thought about many things. One of the greatest lessons learned was that French food isn't really all I thought, you know, perspiring over the stove making sauces from twenty fresh herbs, finely diced mushroom stems, and duck livers. That all has its place, but from my experience, much of what makes French cooking great is the beautiful, fresh ingredients. Many of my favorite dishes there could be cooked up in a flash, if cooked at all. In the end, the essential cooking method used was in the selection of the ingredients. Delicious olive oil heated in the saute pan + thinly sliced fresh, gorgeous cremini mushrooms + sea salt + three minutes=delicious. I think the big difference with the food in France is the philosophy of those who prepare it. Those preparing the food are most likely the ones who will be eating it and value food for its pleasurable sensations. They respect the food and want to bring out the best in each ingredient. And many times, food, if it is high quality to begin with, is pretty simple to prepare. What I didn't see in France was any sort of stress about making something perfectly. There were no kitchen martyr hostesses slaving in the back during a party. Just people being creative with flavors and textures and smells. I love this philosophy and since returning back from my trip, I've tried to make my meals a more beautiful and simple experience.
[here are some foodie pics from France...mmmmm...]
So, in honor of my new aspirations, today I really tried to implement my lessons learned from Frenchie food at lunch and I must say that it was most pleasurable. Great company (fellow blogger, Kristy, Kari, and our kids), great entertainment (watching my son, Peter, try to shove all sorts of fruit in his mouth), and tasty, fresh, fast food, if I say so myself:
Tortellini Soup with Escarole--cooks up in about 10 minutes, max!
3 cans (14.5 ounces each) reduced-sodium chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 small head escarole, cleaned, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces (*note* I had the darndest time finding escarole in Utah, and substitute spinach. It seemed to work out just fine.)
1 pound cheese tortellini
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
In a large stockpot, combine chicken stock, 2 cups water and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Add escarole, and cook, stirring constantly, until wilted, about 15 seconds.
Add tortellini, and cook until they float to the top, 4 to 5 minutes. Discard bay leaf, and season soup with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
Just add some nice bread, nice cheese, and fresh fruit, and you have yourself a great lunch! bon appetit!