Friday, September 4, 2009


Photo by award winning art photographer Paco Weaving,  Paris.
I know a full-grown and sexy French man--trust me not all of them are--who once complained to me that he had spent his childhood eating stale baguettes. We were sitting on a pebbled terrace at a hotel-restaurant lost in parasol-piney hills not far from Draguignan, in the south of France, when he revealed to me this despairing exaggeration.
"The irony," he said, "was that my mother bought fresh baguettes every day, no matter what."
He paused, swirled the rosé around in his glass, and held it up to look at its color. A  waiter appeared and set down a basket of baguette croutons and a small bowl of black olive tapenade on the round wrought-iron garden table. I tossed my hair back. We were sitting under a mulberry tree whose summer leaves looked as though they needed a dusting that only a good rain could give.

"You see," he went on, "One day the family didn't finish a couple of baguettes."
 I spread some tapenade on the toasted slice of baguette and looked up into the branches as I bit in. I felt seduced.
 "And so?"
"We were obliged to finish the older baguette before we could eat the fresh. So the fresh baguettes she would buy on Tuesday, we wouldn't eat until Wednesday, because on Tuesday we would be eating the baguettes she had bought on Monday. It would go on and on like that for weeks at a time!"
"Why didn't she just cut up the old baguettes and make croutons?" I asked as I tilted the bread basket in his direction.
"She didn't cook. She only knew how to shop."
"Poor darling. Have some tapenade."

Don't toss that baguette!

That baguettes dry out and harden so quickly is the ransom we pay their goodness. They have to be eaten fresh, and are best consumed within a fews hours of baking. But don't get rash and toss out what's left of yesterday's half-eaten, stale baguette. Saw it into thin slices and toast on a baking sheet in a low-heat oven for 5 minutes, or until slightly golden. Let cool to avoid condensation and place in an air-tight container. Use later for canapés or as croutons in onion soup.

Be smart and toast the slices when pre-heating the oven for another dish. You can save the breadcrumbs, too. Crush finely, and use as chapelure to dust over foods to be gratinéed, or to bread fish and meats.

Slices of baguette, either fresh or grilled, spread with Mediterranean black-olive and caper tapenade is a classic south of France hors-d'oeuvre. Its name comes from tapeno which means caper in the Provençal dialect of southern France. Every family has its own tapenade recipe, varying proportions and ingredients according to preferences. Some add thyme, bay leaf, rosemary or pepper; some add dijon mustard. One variant is to mix in tuna fish and to append its name with niçoise.

Some even temper it with cognac. Tapenade is also made with green olives, but the best is with Kalamata black olives. Don't be afraid to experiment with other varieties, after all, the recipe only takes five minutes to prepare.

1 cup pitted, Kalamata black olives or other richly flavored Mediterranean variety
3 tablespoons capers, drained
1/4 cup anchovy filets
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup fine olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Places olives, capers, anchovies and garlic in a food processor and mix until finely minced. Gradually add olive oil in a stream while continuing to mix until thick and smooth. It should not be reduced to a purée, tapenade should be thick and shiny. Add lemon juice and mix. Let rest a few hours before serving, store in the refrigerator. Serve on slices of baguette with a rosé wine, or use as an accompaniment to grilled fish. Keeps two weeks.
©2009 P.B.Lecron

An update!
Fast's now 2018 and our Franco-American daughter has written a charming children's story in French, which yours truly has illustrated. Check it out: Le lapin et la lune

It's available in English, too!  The Rabbit and the Moon

Both bedtime stories are available on Amazon sites worldwide.

©2018 P. B. Lecron