French July

Wisps of clouds swing across the sky this early July day as tomatoes ripen, nectarines and peaches sweeten, apricots turn their honeyed best.  The flax is curing in the fields, the landscape has taken on a golden hue.  It’s a glorious French July.

Almost as glorious as June, which was filled with new tastes and flavors, a trip to Sicily where the coffee came decorated with hearts and flowers, and all the anticipated tastes of summer.

Hearts and Flowers in Commiso

During classes we transformed eggplant into sesame-scented caviar, combined tomatoes with goat cheese and walnuts, stuffed sweet dates with toasted almonds, and ground spices and hazelnuts into dukkah, remaining true to the Nuts in the Kitchen ethic and philosophy!  We roasted guinea hens and grilled rosemary stuffed sardines, marinated strawberries in orange flower water and baked apricots in almond custard, and we’re not finished yet!

My most recent restaurant discovery is the stunning Mini Palais at the Grand Palais, in Paris.  The food is imagined by Bristol chef Eric Fréchon, and it is alive with his signature flights of fancy which are always tied to tradition.  I love his big, fluffy gougères almost as much as the trio of tomato creations in one dish – a yellow tomate soup poured around a cake of diced green tomatoes scented with lemon thyme, topped with a meaty scoop of beef heart tomato sorbet.  Deliciously summery.   Lunch on the terrace at Mini Palais is, indeed, an elegant summer past time. Mini Palais – Ave. Winston Churchill, in The Grand Palais, 75008; Tel; 33 (0)1 42 56 42 42.

Happy July!

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In the 14th century, a pound of nutmeg was purportedly worth three sheep and a cow; in the 17th century, the little, fragrant nut was valued higher than gold.

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