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French Country Picnic

Slow down and share an afternoon picnic with your mom this Mother's Day, this menu fits the bill perfectly.

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Inspired by traditional French dishes, this country picnic features elegant sandwiches, crisp salads,and sweet vegan tarts, a treat for friends and family!

Few meals are more classic than an afternoon picnic. And with their love of fine, simple foods, the French have mastered the magic of well-planned outdoor dining. But even if you can’t make it to Normandy or Alsace, you can still capture the magic of a French countryside meal.

Start with a roomy wicker basket and a trip to a specialty market or well-stocked natural foods store. Buy a selection of fine cheeses, a loaf of crusty bread, a few ripe d’Anjou pears, and an assortment of specialty items, such as cultured butter, fig confit, olives, pâté, and Marcona almonds. And don’t forget the beverages! Try sparkling grape cider, chilled white tea with pomegranate juice, or citronnade à la menthe.

Add a little class with cloth napkins, roomy blankets, and colorful, unbreakable plates, glasses, and flatware that can be rewashed and used again. When you’re packing your basket, arrange items in reverse order; put food and ice packs on the bottom, then plates, glasses, and flatware. Then pack your ground spread or tablecloth on top. Other handy essentials: a corkscrew, a sheathed knife, and a small cutting board for cheese. Add fresh flowers, a small backgammon set, and a portable CD player with a selection of French classics, and you’ll transform even the most urban of settings into a peaceful French village.

Salade Niçoise on Baguette
Serves 4

Serving this French classic on a loaf of crusty bread makes it more than just a salad. Arugula adds a zesty flavor that elevates it further.

1 6-oz. can solid white tuna

1/4 cup homemade or olive oil mayonnaise

1/2 cup black olive tapenade

3 Tbs. minced red onion

2 small garlic cloves, pressed

2 Tbs. fresh minced basil

1 whole-wheat baguette

2 cups baby arugula leaves

4 small, very ripe tomatoes, sliced (about 1/2 cup)

2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced about 1/4-inch thick

8 oil-packed anchovy fillets, drained (optional)

  1. Drain water thoroughly from tuna. In medium bowl, combine tuna, mayonnaise, tapenade, onion, garlic, and basil. Mix well, and season to taste with sea salt and white pepper. Let stand 10 minutes.
  2. Cut baguette in half crosswise, then halve lengthwise. Hollow out centers of each half, leaving half-inch-thick crusts.
  3. Arrange arugula leaves in bottom half of baguette. Top with tomatoes.
  4. Mound tuna mixture on top of lettuce and tomatoes, pressing down slightly. Arrange egg slices on top of tuna. Add anchovies, if using, on top of eggs, and cover with top halves of bread.
  5. Wrap each baguette half tightly in foil to transport. Cut each half in half again, crosswise, just before serving.

PER SERVING: 421 cal; 20g prot; 22g total fat (4g sat fat); 36g carb; 116mg chol; 609mg sod; 5g fiber; 2g sugars

Celery Root and Carrot Rémoulade
Serves 4

Carrots and poppy seeds add color and extra nutrition to this tangy French classic. It’s better after sitting for an hour or two, which allows the flavors to blend. A mayo-free dressing makes it picnic safe.

1 small celery root

2 Tbs. lemon juice

1/2 tsp. sea salt

4 medium carrots

1 Tbs. poppy seeds

2 Tbs. Dijon mustard

1 Tbs. champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar

3 Tbs. chopped tarragon

2 tsp. drained and finely minced capers

2 Tbs. shallot, finely minced

1/3 cup olive oil

  1. Peel celery root with sharp paring knife, working quickly to prevent browning. Using food processor or hand grater, coarsely grate celery root. Immediately place in medium bowl, sprinkle with lemon juice and salt to prevent browning, and toss well to mix.
  2. Coarsely grate carrots, and add to bowl. Sprinkle with poppy seeds, toss to mix, and set aside.
  3. Whisk together mustard, vinegar, tarragon, capers, and shallot in small bowl. Slowly whisk in olive oil to create emulsion. Season to taste with white pepper.
  4. Pour dressing over celery root and carrot, toss to mix well, cover, and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to three days before serving.

PER SERVING: 261 cal; 3g prot; 20g total fat (3g sat fat); 20g carb; 0mg chol; 576mg sod; 4g fiber; 5g sugars

Haricots Vert Salad with Shallots and Candied Walnuts
Serves 4

1 Tbs. olive oil

1 medium shallot, minced (about 1/4 cup)

1 lb. haricots verts (slender French green beans), trimmed

1 Tbs. grapeseed oil

2 Tbs. turbinado sugar

1/4 tsp. sea salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1 Tbs. rice vinegar

1/2 cup coarsely chopped raw walnuts

  1. Heat olive oil on medium-low heat in medium saucepan. Sauté shallot 3-4 minutes, being careful not to brown.
  2. Add haricots verts, stir to coat with oil, and cook 2 minutes more, stirring frequently. Add a few Tbs. water, cover with tight-fitting lid, and steam 1-2 minutes, until beans are bright green and crisp-tender. Place beans in medium bowl and set aside.
  3. Wipe out pan, and combine grapeseed oil, sugar, salt, pepper, and rice vinegar until sugar is partly dissolved. Add walnuts, and cook over medium heat, stirring almost constantly, until nuts are coated, 2-4 minutes.
  4. Transfer nuts to sheet of waxed or parchment paper, and allow to cool completely. (Or place in freezer 3-4 minutes to cool.)
  5. Separate cooled nuts, combine with chilled haricots verts, season with salt and pepper, and serve.

PER SERVING: 204 cal; 4g prot; 15g total fat (2g sat fat); 17g carb; 0mg chol; 106mg sod; 4g fiber; 10g sugars

Five ooh la la! French-inspired finds Enjoy natural products with a French twist-perfect for a gift basket or hostess gift.

1.CalNaturale Wine, available in Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, features organically grown grapes and eco-friendly packaging.

2. The Organic Coffee Co. French Roast Whole Bean Coffee uses 100% organic beans grown on a biodynamic farm in Panama. The French Roast is a bold brew reminiscent of Parisian cafes.

3. Reserveage Organics The World’s Finest Resveratrol 250 mg boasts standardized resveratrol partly sourced from organic French red grapes.

4. South of France Lavender Soap Bar is beautifully scented with calming lavender and free of harsh chemicals, including parabens and SLS.5. Bonne Maman and St. Dalfour fruit spreads-each company offers a variety of delicious French natural preserves, jams, and jellies.

5. Bonne Maman and St. Dalfour fruit spreads-each company offers a variety of delicious French natural preserves, jams, and jellies.

Simple citronnade à la menthe

Stir up this French classic for refreshing picnic libations:

Juice two large, ripe lemons into a pitcher or jar. Add two liters of cold water and half a cup of crushed mint leaves, and sweeten to taste with honey. Refrigerate for at least two hours to allow mint to infuse. Or store in a freezer-safe beverage container, freeze the night before your picnic, and pack it in the basket with your goodies-the frozen citronnade will double as an ice pack.

Vegan Almond-Berry Tarts
Makes 6 4-inch tarts

Tiny tarts with a rustic crust are perfect for a picnic, Paris style. Substitute blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, or kiwi for variety and a colorful presentation.

1 cup whole-wheat flour

1/2 cup almond flour (not almond meal)

1/3 cup turbinado sugar

Dash salt

1/2 cup vegan shortening Ice water

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons apricot preserves

1 cup coconut milk

1 vanilla bean

3 Tbs. raw, unfiltered honey

3 1/2 Tbs. arrowroot or organic corn starch

1 pint raspberries or assorted other berries

1/2 cup slivered almonds

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly grease six 4-inch round tart pans with vegan shortening.
  2. Combine flours, sugar, and salt in medium bowl. Working quickly, cut shortening into flour until mixture resembles very coarse corn meal. Add ice water, 1 Tbs. at a time, until mixture forms dough.
  3. Divide dough into 6 pieces about the size of ping-pong balls, and roll into circles. Press each circle into a tart pan. Prick bottoms of crust three or four times with fork, place in oven, and bake 15 minutes, or until just golden. Remove from oven, brush bottoms of crusts lightly with preserves, and let cool.
  4. While tarts are baking, combine coconut milk, vanilla bean, and honey in small pan. Warm over medium-low heat 10-12 minutes, until milk is infused with vanilla bean and slightly thickened. In a small bowl, combine arrowroot with a few Tbs. cold water, and stir until dissolved.
  5. Remove vanilla bean from milk, and slowly whisk in arrowroot. Cook over medium-low heat 5-7 minutes longer, or until very thick.
  6. Pour custard into tart shells, and let stand at room temperature to cool.
  7. Arrange berries on top of tarts. Combine remaining preserves in small pan. Add a few Tbs. water, and heat until preserves are melted. Brush berries with melted preserves to glaze, sprinkle with almonds, carefully cover, and refrigerate until serving. (Store in freezer for easier transportation.)

PER SERVING: 578 cal; 8g prot; 37g total fat (15g sat fat); 60g carb; 0mg chol; 41mg sod; 8g fiber; 30g sugars