Exotic Flavors

Squash Blossom Salad & Braized Endives

“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook – try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!” – Julia Child, My Life in France.

Our family came to the south of France this summer facing burnout, fleeing overstretched lives in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas.  This summer we’re returning to legendary places, looking for the unending summer days and adventure we’d been gifted as children.  I didn’t love to cook until I was married and then I explored our mixed cultural heritage one pot at a time discovering the joy of connecting to the world through it’s food.

In France, our world slowed down deliciously. No matter how languid an afternoon, when you travel with family you eventually hear. “I’m hungry.”  I’d packed instant oatmeal, granola bars and coffee so that we could hit the ground running but the pop-up markets of Monaco beckoned me and I quickly got lost in mushrooms, mussels, and camembert  cheese. When heaping crates of squash blossoms began to flood my vision I remembered my mother’s voice across time and miles asking if I’d tasted this southern French delicacy?  When it comes to food you don’t ignore a mother’s voice, the best recipes for everything from pecan pie to ratatouille can be held in the memory of an overprotective mother.  It’s universal across cultures.

In our host families home I’d discovered gruyer cheese, ham and the recipe for Braised Endive with béchamel sauce. (Thank you google translate.) It felt fabulous to want to cook again like apart of me was waking up, renewed and revitalized. As a family we hit the Uzess market looking for onions, squash blossoms, endives and lettuce. (We had two turtles to feed in our home but that’s another story all together). Nate found a quiet corner to wait out the tide of tourists, hung back with our four year old and ordered a glass of rose. . . Sophia and I were left to explore.

What is it about open air markets and a foreign language that makes you feel invincible? Returning with our simple groceries felt like the ultimate victory. (It doesn’t hurt that your pre-teen thinks your a goddess simply by purchasing salad in a foreign tongue!)

In Nice, I’d gone on a restaurant hunt for an lovely squash blossom beignets, beautiful blossoms battered and fried but that felt far to complicated for a borrowed kitchen. Instead we made them into a salad and served it with Braised Endive.

Squash Blossom Salad Dressing:

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 butter lettuce head, torn into large pieces
  • 2 cups small squash blossoms, stems removed, divided

Whisk together lemon juice, oil, mustard, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add lettuce, 1 1/2 cups blossoms, and lightly toss with dressing until coated. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup blossoms on top of salad.

For the perfect Braised Endive & Ham Jean-Georgess Vongerchten grandmother’s recipe is the best.

Looking for more inspiration? I’ve fallen into these three excellent books:
Lastly, while you’re indulging your French taste buds don’t miss this classic and delicious recipe for French Provencal Chicken. It turned out to be a crowd pleaser with our last minute guests. I was so excited to cook for people but  I’ll admit to being terrified by the three to five course dinners that are standard French evening with friends.
God in his mercy, walked me though this without too much humiliation. Our guests bought a lovely olive and ham cake for the first course which we ate standing in our kitchen. I served a simple salad, couscous and this chicken for the entree and felt like an idiot who FORGOT to serve my mother’s cucumber salad!
After dinner, I served the cheese plate (I can be taught) with my mother’s salad, turns out this is very common in France.
A salad and a cheese plate are a typical third course then finally desert and coffee.  We had a lovely watermelon and some kind to beautiful melon like a honeydew but I have no idea it’s name and my mistakes turned into an elegant meal on the patio with new and old friends.
Here’s to mistakes! If we never made them we’d never learn. Thank you, Julia!
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The child of missionary parents, writing became a natural was to process my adventures across the world.

Ndjerareou means 'he who builds the road in Ngambai, Nate's tribal language spoken in Chad, Africa.

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