Cooking French cuisine

As illustrated by my blog’s name, one of the pleasures of belonging to a multicultural family is that we get to practice and explore different cuisines as part of our everyday life. As it happens, both France and India have a well-established reputation when it comes to their culinary traditions, so there is much to enjoy.

On the southern Indian front I am fortunate that Appa is a genuinely good cook who can fix a flavorful meal in no time. Effective and creative, that’s how I would describe him in a kitchen – and in many other places. In his (cook) book, a recipe is just a starting point, not a commandment. His approach is often less organized than mine – or maybe not the same kind of ‘organized’? – but the outcome is usually really tasty.

Of course, I also have my own Indian cooking repertoire, which I am still growing. More on this, and on my Indian cooking tips, in a few posts to come.

This post is about my French cooking repertoire, the one I draw from to feed my family and to treat our friends. French cuisine is itself diverse and I do not claim to master every classic. For example, I have not much taste for, nor command of, meat and sauce dishes. So boeuf bourguignon of Julia Child fame is not really my thing. I feel most inspired by mixed salads, soups, gratins (baked vegetable dishes), and baking in general.

Some of the French recipes on regular rotation in our home are gathered here. French bean salad is a good example. Tasty and really simple to make. Just be sure to include minced shallot in your vinaigrette and steam the beans (rather than cook them in water) if you can to keep them a little crunchy. Olive loaf, is also one of our classics. Perfect served with a green or mixed salad or as apéritif finger food cut in sticks. Cherry tomato and tapenade tart (pictured above) is also a delicious appetizer / entree, depending on the rest of your menu.

We all have a sweet tooth at home, so French desserts are also frequently, though not on every single day, on the menu. One of our favorites is fondant au chocolat. These good things do not belong in a fitness-obsessed diet, I am aware of that. But so far, we have managed to remain pretty healthy while still enjoying them a few times a week. What’s the secret? There is no secret, of course, just common sense.

We have a balanced diet, especially strong on grain and vegetables. We exercise. We eat treats in reasonable portions. We avoid processed food, especially American processed food. When I make a cake, there is usually sugar, flour, and butter in it, in no small quantities — that’s the way the French like it. But there is none of the stuff you find in most of the food made industrially in the USA, and that is, I think, a key aspect of how we eat and remain fit.

Minette is now greatly interested in cooking more independently so one of our projects is for her to hone her skills with the recipes for the French and Indian dishes she loves most and gather them in her own personal cook book that she will keep and use as an adult. That should keep us busy for a while…

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