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A French Country Dinner

by Lou Seibert Pappas

French country dining is presented here using seasonal bounty. The flavor blend of spring greens and green onions in broth makes a warming soup. Vinegar punctuates a chicken breast saut» and braised leeks make a fine accompaniment. The mushroom salad course is pleasing following the entree. For dessert, you have the option of serving one or both desserts, a light-style cocoa and coffee-flavored angel cake and strawberries steeped in red wine -- a French classic dessert.

For a wine, you may offer a Sauvignon Blanc or a French St. Veran.


Spring Greens Soup
makes 4 servings

2 teaspoons olive oil
3 green onions, chopped
3/4 cup shredded spinach
3/4 cup shredded butter lettuce
1/3 cup chopped watecress
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 cups chicken stock or low-fat broth
2 tablespoons each plain yogurt and low-fat sour cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped chives

In a saucepan, heat the oil and saute the onions until tender. Add the greens and parsley; cover and steam 5 minutes. Add the stock and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in the yogurt and sour cream. Season with salt and pepper. Puree in a blender or food processor.

Braised Leeks
makes 4 servings

8 medium leeks
1 cup chicken stock
8 whole allspice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Trim the root end from the leeks, remove tough fibrous outer leaves, and trim off the tough green leaves. Split lengthwise. Hold each section under running water and rinse away any sand. Lay the leeks in a saucepan, cover with chicken stock, add the allspice and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 10 to 15 minutes or until tender. Place the leeks on a serving dish. Cook down the juices slightly and spoon a few tablespoons over the leeks. Sprinkle with parsley.

Chicken Breast Saut»
serves 4

4 large split chicken breasts, skinned and boned, if desired
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon each unsalted butter and olive oil
1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried tarragon
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons dry white wine
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 medium tomato, peeled and diced
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives or flat-leaf parsley

Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper to taste. Using a large skillet, saut» the breasts in butter and oil, turning to brown both sides. Add the tarragon, shallots, garlic, and wine. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a heated platter and pour off the pan juices, reserving them. Pour the vinegar into the pan and cook down until reduced by half. Add the tomato and cook until hot. Pour in the cream and the reserved pan juices, stir, and cook down the sauce slightly. Spoon it over the chicken and sprinkle with the chives and parsley.

Mushrooms and Watercress in Mustard Dressing
makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon each red wine vinegar and Balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon crumbled dried tarragon
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives or green onion tops
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch watercress or butter lettuce

For the dressing, mix together the oil, vinegars, mustard, tarragon, salt and pepper, and chives. Add the mushrooms to the dressing, mixing lightly. Add several sprigs of watercress. Chill briefly. Arrange the remaining watercress or butter lettuce on a platter and and mound the mushroom salad on top.

Berries in Red Wine
makes 4 servings

1-1/2 pints strawberries
1/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 cups dry red wine such as Zinfandel or Gamay Beaujolais

Wash and hull the strawberries. Alternate layers of berries and sugar in a wide-mouthed tall cylindrical jar or glass serving container. Pour over enough wine to cover. Let stand at room temperature at least 3 hours. Serve in wide-mouthed wine glasses for a fun presentation.

Mocha Angel Cake
makes about 14 servings

1-2/3 cups egg whites (approximately 14)
1-1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons water
2 cups sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons unsweetened powdered European-style cocoa
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Farenheit. Beat the egg whites until frothy and beat in the ream of tartar, salt, and water. Beat until soft peaks form adding in 1-1/4 cups of the sugar and the vanilla extract. Stir together the flour, remaining 3/4 cup sugar, the cocoa, and coffee powder; add to the whites and fold in. Turn into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes; reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake 30 minutes longer or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool upside down. To serve, remove from the pan and slice in wedges.

Red Creamer Potatoes Tossed in Sage
makes 4 servings

1 pound small Red Creamer or Red Bliss new potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a steamer, cook potatoes over barely simmering water for 12 to 15 minutes or until tender. Toss with olive oil and sage and season with salt and pepper.

Lou Seibert Pappas is a former food editor of the Palo Alto Times Tribune and a home economist with Sunset Magazine. She currently writes food, home, and travel-related articles for national magazines and newspapers and is the author of more than 30 books.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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