I know you might think there is a fishy theme happening with this French thing-sardines and now some smoked salmon. My sister who lives in the Pacific Northwest sent our family a nice piece of smoked Salmon to use during the holidays. Look at that salmon pic! Is that not the most amazing fish!! I love salmon or fish of any kind, any time, anywhere. And so do the French. (Insert disclaimer now)-I think what I want to happen here in my blog for French cooking to start with- is to find some of the lesser technically challenging recipes and then move to some more serious works of those kinds of foods we have come to love but never make. Another thing about French foods is you never find them on menus in your local restaurant, so why not try everything you can-just once. Well, the fish recipes come up often, but no worries, I have a chicken dish recipe that I made during the Christmas season that was out of this world.
But stay with me on the smoked salmon.
It matters not to me when I eat fish-breakfast, first course, lunch. So far, I have had three meals this year with fish for breakfast and here’s why I think you might like this too. One, it’s salmon and who doesn’t like salmon (okay, I know there are people who do not like it) two, it’s power packed with flavor and three, it’s really simple to make. You can use any kind of lightly smoked fish and if you choose to have it at lunch or for an appetizer, have it with a chilled Rosé. I had mine with an egg on the side and it was more of a brunch kind of thing.
La Boutarde is the name of a bistro on the Western edge of Paris and where this recipe comes from today. The word “tartine” means “open-faced sandwiches” and “pistou” means “pesto.” Pistou is basil, garlic, parmesan cheese, pine nuts and a good olive oil. Very popular in France as a topping on soups and pastas. The French way to make a Pistou is very different from the way us Americans do it. We like to [violently emulsify it in a blender] rather than patiently (here’s that word again- I think it might be a French word –tongue in cheek) use a mortar and pestal and pounding and grinding it by hand. The difference to me is more distinctive- able to distinguish the ingredients one from another. If you do not have a mortal and pestal, perhaps using a wooden bowl and wooden spoon to pound down the ingredients might work. Anyways just try it out and see what you think. In this particular dish, I happened to have a lot of spinach leaves on hand and used that instead of basil. I have also heard that some do a combination of both spinach and basil. I think I will have to try that later on for a soupe au pistou- vegetable soup with pesto. If you have some ready-made pesto, toss it in when the soup is in serving bowls and ready to eat, but be forewarned…it can overpower a dish, so unless you want your palate to eat pistou, go for less and then add more.
4 Tablespoons Pistou
4 thick slices country bread or whole wheat bread
4 thin slices of smoked fish, such as trout, whiting or salmon
Spread 1 tablespoon of pistou on each slice of toasted bread (I broiled mine). Place a slice of smoked fish on top. Neatly trim the edges of the fish to fit the bread, and serve. 4 Servings.
Pistou-by Simple French Food-Richard Olney
4 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 packed handful fresh basil leaves and flowers
Salt and freshly ground pepper
About 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 medium-sized, firm ripe tomato, peeled, seeded and cut into pieces
About 1 1/4 cups olive oil
Pound the garlic, basil, salt and pepper to a paste in a good-sized mortar- use wooden bowl if nothing else is available, using a wooden pestle and alternating between pounding and turning with a grinding motion. Work in some cheese until you have a very stiff paste, then add about 1/3 of the tomato, pounding and grinding to a paste, more cheese, a bit of olive oil, more tomato and so forth, the final addition of cheese bringing the consistency to that of a barely fluid paste. Add the remainder of the olive oil slowly and progressively, turning the while. It will not produce a genuine emulsion and should not and should be thoroughly mixed each time it is served out. Bon Appétit
Guy Gedda of La Tonnelle des Delices in Bormes-les-Mimosas, confesses “I am sick for basil. I adore basil…I make sandwiches with basil leaves that I sprinkle with olive oil. Delicious with a touch of salt and bread rubbed with a clove of fresh garlic- it brings me to my knees.” I have some friends who feel this way about basil. I may have to look into it again.