It's true. France is famed for its perfectly baked breads, crispy, buttery pastries and meat-centric plats (that's French for "entrée," a word that we not-so-carefully stole from them).
However, French cuisine is also about eating seasonally, eating slowly and mindfully and in moderation, and enjoying very balanced plates of food.
Here are a few delicious plant-based twists on some French classics that are easy to make at home.
Tartine is a fancy French word for, well, toast topped with a spread, otherwise known as an open-faced sandwich. Tartines are great for a quick breakfast or anytime snack, or served with a side salad for an easy lunch. Tartines can be sweet (think: almond butter, mashed banana, NOtella) or savory. My favorite tartine is très simple: mashed avocado sprinkled with spices or mixed with fresh herbs or veggies du jour.
Avocado Tartine au Naturel
- 2 slices gluten-free bread
- 1 small avocado, pitted + peeled
- a pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice
- salt + pepper to taste
Toast the bread. In a bowl, mash the avocado and other ingredients together with a fork. Spread onto the toast. Voilà!
A few variations:
HURRIED + CURRIED AVOCADO TARTINE: Add a pinch of curry powder to the top of your Avocado Tartine au Naturel.
HERBED AVOCADO TARTINE: Chop up some fresh basil, chives, cilantro, and parsley and mix into the mashed avocado mixture.
MISO-CARROT TARTINE: Grate 1 small carrot and mix with 1 teaspoon of miso paste and a splash of lemon juice. Top the avocado toast with this mixture.
CHOUCROUTE GARNIE TARTINE: (One of my all-time favorite combinations!) Top your Avocado Tartine au Naturel with 1 to 2 tablespoons sauerkraut.
AVOCADO AND WHITE BEAN TARTINE: Mix together ¼ cup (15 g) white beans, mashed avocado, lemon juice, olive oil, salt/pepper, and fresh or dried herbs. Spread onto toast.
SWEET AVOCADO TARTINE: Mash an avocado in a bowl with ½ banana. Spread onto toast. Top with a pinch of cinnamon and/or a drizzle of maple syrup.
Cauliflower Steak Frites
Le hamburger may be in the spotlight now, but steak frites is of course the most traditional French bistro food. Why not have your steak and eat it, too? You can, and feel good about it, if you replace the steak with cauliflower (chou-fleur) — the other other other other white meat! — and use baked root veggie "fries." If you're really hungry, serve the steaks right alongside your veggie burgers — it's a great combo!
1. Using a sharp knife, cut the cauliflower lengthwise into slices around 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick. If you have trouble digesting raw cauliflower or prefer it extra tender, steam the cauliflower briefly.
2. Add the olive oil to a sauté pan on medium heat. Place the cauliflower into the pan and cook for around 5 minutes, or until lightly browned, then flip over and continue to cook. The cauliflower should be fork-tender but still crunchy. Alternatively, bake in a 400°F (200°C) oven for around 5 minutes on each side. Season with salt and pepper, and serve with veggie fries.
This thick stew from the Burgundy region, popularized by Julia Child, is usually made of beef braised in red wine with beef broth, bacon, garlic, onions, and mushrooms. I know what you are thinking: "There is nothing green about this!" But have no fear; you can beef up this classic recipe without bringing home any bacon.
This "Bourguignon" is beauty food at its finest. Beets cleanse the body of toxins, making skin radiant, and they are packed with folate, vitamins A and C, iron, potassium, manganese, and fiber to beautify the body from the inside out. Root vegetables are grounding, healing, "meaty," and starchy, making them perfect for cold-weather cuisine. The stew also features a bouquet garni (a bundle of herbs tied together with a string), veggies, broth, a thick, "meaty" texture, and even a deep red color resembling wine. Let's call it BourguiYUM!
Makes 1 hearty serving or 2 smaller servings
1. Tie the bouquet garni herbs together with a string or place them in a small tea sachet.* Wash and peel the beet, then cut into ½-inch (1 cm) cubes. Lightly steam for around 5 minutes, until the beet softens just a bit but still feels too hard to eat.
2. Cut off the "hairy" end of the leek and the green part of the stem. Wash the remaining white part very well. Cut in half vertically, then cut horizontally into around ½-inch (1 cm) thick slices.
3. Add the olive oil to a saucepan over low heat. Add the garlic and onion and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the steamed beet, the leek, carrot, celery, salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence. Cover the vegetables with water and add the bouquet garni. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for around 5 minutes.
4. Add the mushrooms, lentils, tomato, and arrowroot to the stew and continue to simmer, adding water as necessary so it doesn't stick. Once the beets are fully cooked (fork tender) and the stew is thick and aromatic, ladle into bowls and serve garnished with parsley.
5. Feel free to wipe your plate clean with crusty Le Pain Quotidien gluten-free bread.
Note: You are free to add some red wine here. If you're on a detox, it's not the best option, but a little bit to enhance the flavor of this dish is a nice treat.
*Tip: The bouquet garni also makes an easy veggie bouillon. Just add around 1 cup (250 ml) of hot water, cover, and simmer over the stove until fragrant. You can store this in the fridge and use all week to make soups, cook grains, or imply sip before a meal.
Recipes from Très Green, Très Clean, Très Chic: Eat (and Live!) the New French Way with Plant-Based, Gluten-Free Recipes for Every Season, by Rebecca Leffler. Copyright © Hachette Livre, 2014. Translation © Rebecca Leffler, 2015. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold. www.theexperimentpublishing.com
Photo by Sandra Mahut