I arrived home in the wee hours of Tuesday morning after a truly amazing study trip to Paris. Eighteen of us spent two weeks examining the performance of Frenchness through food. As you might imagine, we ate quite a bit in the process. We did not, however, encounter fresh vegetables in the quantity that Food Studies scholars are accustomed to eating. By day four, we were all obsessing about dark leafy greens, which were nowhere to be found.
What we did encounter was bread. There were crusty baguettes from the anarchist collective, rustic country loaves steeped in a studied old world charm, slender and elegant ficelles, impossibly buttery croissants a mere three blocks from our uninspired hotel, luscious eggy brioches encased in glass bells, and a particularly memorable seed-encrusted whole wheat loaf that we consumed in an impromptu picnic on the steps of the Musee d’Orsay.
But one bread emerged as the clear winner. My final day in Paris found me stashing my suitcase in a locker and (finally) mastering the bike share system with a single goal. I traveled from the 15th to the 10th arrondissement to purchase a hunk of Du Pain et Des Idees‘ sublime pain des amis.
As those who have had occasion to dine with me know, I’m not much of a bread eater. It can be helpful for transporting sandwich fillings into your mouth or sopping up egg yolk, but I prefer to take my cheese straight, or perhaps with a crisp apple slice. Bread fills space in one’s stomach that could be devoted to more tantalizing fare. Or so I thought before I encountered pain des amis. This nutty, toothsome loaf with its confounding bacon aroma is good all by itself. It is even better, I have learned, toasted in a dry cast iron skillet.
The pain des amis and I survived a rather harrowing bike ride on some of Paris’ main thoroughfares, a painfully expensive taxi to Charles de Gaulle airport, a troubling but comical security encounter involving two kilos of artisanal flour, a missed connection in London, a delayed flight, and an even pricier cab ride home from Newark (which was not our intended destination).
Staying awake until a suitable bedtime was about all I was good for on Tuesday. (Well, that and some cat cuddling.) I headed out around 5:30 to pick up my weekly CSA share and nearly wept at the site of all those vegetables. I had some truly spectacular food in Paris. I did not, however, encounter any kale. I returned home eager to introduce my pain des amis to all of this fresh produce.
Summer Squash & Kale Bruschetta
- 2 scallions
- 3 thin slices good bread
- 1 medium summer squash
- 5 stalks purple kale
- 1 ounce feta cheese
- 6 basil leaves (mint or parsley would also be great)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons good quality olive oil
- 1/2 lemon (zest and juice)
- pinch Aleppo pepper (or a little less red pepper)
- salt and pepper
- Bring a cast iron skillet up to medium low heat with half a tablespoon of olive oil. Trim and reserve the dark green portion of the scallions. Slice the white and light green portions lengthwise into strips. Cook, flipping occasionally, until limp and starting to brown. Sprinkle with salt and remove from pan.
- Place bread slices into pan and allow to toast, flipping as needed, while you go about the next steps.
- Using a vegetable peeler, shave long ribbons of summer squash into a small bowl. Slice the kale as you would for a slaw and add this to the bowl along with the feta, remaining olive oil, lemon juice and lemon zest, Aleppo pepper, and salt and pepper. Mince the scallion greens and fresh herbs. Add these plus the cooked scallions. Stir to combine and let sit for at least five minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
If you were serving this as an hors d’oeuvre, I would recommend piling the kale and squash salad onto small pieces of toast and serving immediately. I went for a deconstructed bruschetta, which ensured that the bread didn’t get soggy before I ate it.