French Cooking Friday: Tomato Salad, Vegetable Tian, Duck Breasts & Panna Cotta

If you've never had duck before, this is a great way to start. I have fallen in love with French cooking since starting this journey. Sure, it can be stressful when I decide to do too many things at once but each individual dish is simple in its own way. Whether it's a short ingredient list or all the work is done in the oven or in a pot on the stove, it is the easiest and least stressful cooking I've experienced. This is another pure summer menu with juicy peaches and tomatoes coming in at the center of everything. This is a great August meal so if you want to try any of these recipes for yourself do it now while peaches and tomatoes are at their best!

STARTER: Tomato Salad with Parsley and Shallots
This is an incredibly simple dish you can throw together in a jiff. There are literally 5 ingredients, one of them shallots which I feel the need to point out are not onions. Shallots are a bit more potent than onions and are often described as a cross between garlic and onions. They're smaller, usually grow in groups, are purple and white and are quite strong. Be prepared to cry as you chop these babies. Heirloom tomatoes work best for any tomato salad. They have the best flavor of any other tomatoes (in my opinion) and because they're not any traditional shape, it makes a funky visual. You can also mix up the colors if you'd like. This is a very refreshing salad and simple. Pair it with crusty bread and you're off to a fantastic dinner.

MAIN: Duck Breasts Grilled Over Grapevines
In case you're wondering, I have no idea where to find grapevines in the Chicagoland suburbs. It would take beating down winery doors but would probably lead nowhere since they get their grapes shipped in. Our vineyard scene is rather lacking. Instead, I just grilled them normally. This was my first time trying duck and it was fantastic. Duck has so much flavor because it's naturally fattier than other types of poultry. I did cook it a little too long, notice the extra crispy crust but it was still tender and juicy on the inside. The seared peaches were a really nice touch as well. It turned this dish into a sweet and savory masterpiece that is perfect for summertime.

SIDE: Vegetable Tian
This dish is basically ratatouille only assembled and roasted. Try your best to find vegetables that are about the same size in diameter. It will make assembling much easier. It's tedious to prepare but delicious once complete and beautiful to look at. This is another simple dish and allows the summer veggies to really shine. It features a combination of tomato, zucchini and eggplant. They're roasted for about 30 minutes so that they're not mushy and roasted just enough for incredible flavor.

DESSERT: Apricot (Peach) Panna Cotta
Apricots have a short season, at least where I'm from. Since I couldn't find any in the store when I whipped this tasty dessert up, I substituted with peaches. The "peach" part is basically a jam, or compote. I've made compotes on my own several times so it wasn't anything new and it helped me know what consistency to look for, thick but not burnt. The creaminess of the panna cotta pairs perfect with the sweet peach making this a light, decadent summer treat. 

Only two weeks left of the summer section from A Kitchen In France with Mimi Thorisson. I'm kind of kicking myself because she just came out with another cookbook, French Country Cooking, that I am dying to get my hands on. She's really inspired me to go out of the box with seasonal produce and embrace each season for its greatest qualities.