Serious Entertaining: Provençal Party
Provence is that magical region in southeastern France where the food is just as beautiful as the landscape. The region produces row after row of olive and almond trees, fields of lavender, and hillsides of grenache and syrah. Classic dishes like aioli, bouillabaisse, and ratatouille are rustic yet refined. In fact, the food in Provençe seems made for parties. Hunking loaves of bread, dips and tapanades, big pots of soup (and of course generous carafes of wine) are inherently perfect for sharing at a long table with friends.
Two staple drinks of Provençe are pastis, an anise flavored liquor that's typically served diluted with a little water, and rosé, a pink colored wine that gets its trademark hue by letting white wine remain in contact with grape skins for a short period of time.
Soupe au Pistou: For me, the combination of soup and pistou (essentially french pesto) is probably how some others feel about the melding of peanut butter and chocolate. I love each component individually but together, oh mon dieu. This dish also proves that serving soup shouldn't end with winter, which is a relief for a hostess who likes to feed a crowd.
In honor of spring, this soupe au pistou is based on fresh produce like zucchini, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, carrots and green beans. Almost an entire head of garlic (this does serve twelve) gives the soup a deep flavor and the unmistakable taste of Provence. A final swirl of freshly made pistou with basil, garlic, and olive oil, puts this dish over the top.
Rosemary and Black Olive Fougasse: Fougasse is a traditional Provencal bread that's shaped like a tree, wheat, or ladder. A measure of olive oil in the dough gives the loaf a subtle fruity flavor and a soft, chewy crumb. In this version, piney rosemary is paired with salty black olives, making each slice super savory and incredibly addictive. Good on its own, there's no harm in giving it a dunk in your soupe au pistou.
Lemon Mousse: I took one bite of this cold, creamy mousse and thought, "Hey there. I'll be seeing you around a lot this summer." The combination of lemon zest and juice makes this mousse sweet yet refreshing while freshly whipped cream is folded in to give the perfect airy texture. This dessert would be welcome at any time on a hot day. I'll definitely be keeping some in my fridge. It's also great for refreshing the palate after all that garlic and olives in the main course.