The French have a way with food, there's no doubt. French chefs plan menus based on the availability of seasonal fruits and vegetables. Cooking with seasonal foods means you are using the freshest ingredients available and you'll taste more of the natural goodness of the food and get the most nutritional value too.
Typical French summer menus include a great variety of fresh produce - greens, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, zucchini, green beans, peaches, pears, berries and plums, plus whole grains and protein. Shop your local farm markets and create your meals around what is in season in your area.
Styles of cooking in France range from elaborate and time-consuming recipes to fresh, easy-to-prepare dishes. The Nouvelle Cuisine style of French cooking emphasizes fresh ingredients and simple recipes using seasonings that include fresh herbs, lemon juice, vinegars and butter. This style of cuisine is perfect for family-friendly summer dining.
Food presentation is important in French cooking. In fact it's practically an art form. Food is plated with great care and you will often see a sprig of fresh herbs, thinly sliced fruit or edible flowers added to plates giving them a splash of color an added touch of culinary artistry.
Guide To Herbs in French Cooking
Herbs play a big role in French cooking. They offer flavor and aroma to food that can help develop both senses of taste and smell for your kids. Choose fresh or dried herbs depending on what is available in your area. If you would like to try growing your own, herbs grow well in indoor containers or outdoor gardens.
Commonly used herbs in French cooking include:
- Fennel - Fennel's refreshing licorice flavor enhances poultry and vegetable dishes. Fennel is also a great source of Vitamin C. Use dry fennel seeds in soups or stews or roast the bulbs and serve it as a vegetable.
- Lavender - This herb is commonly found in perfume or aromatherapy, but some varieties are edible. Use fresh or dried lavender flowers in baked goods and as a seasoning for vegetables.
- Marjoram - Marjoram tastes a bit like oregano with a delicate citrus twist. It is a great all-around herb and can be used to season meats, eggs and vegetables.
- Mint - Fresh mint's refreshing flavor makes is the perfect ingredient for a great summer meal. It is often served with fruit (in a salad or punch) or paired with a vegetable.
- Rosemary - Rosemary contains anti-oxidants and is full of flavor, which makes it both a tasty and healthy addition to roasted potatoes and grilled or roasted meats (especially lamb).
- Sage - Sage is best known as the seasoning in your Thanksgiving stuffing, but don't save it for just that purpose. Use fresh or dried sage on pork, chicken, rice and vegetable dishes.
- Tarragon - Adding a small amount of fresh or dried tarragon to vinegars and oils is a great way to add flavor to meat, tofu, seafood and vegetable dishes.
- Thyme - Thyme is a culinary favorite for many chefs. Use thyme to season soups, salads, meats and vegetables. It brings a sweet, lemony flavor to food.
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