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Vive l'été avec l'apéro!

This photo was taken a few summers ago when I was visiting my dear friends in Saint-Maximin-La-Sainte-Baume, in the Var region of Provence. Every meal began like this one, with "un apéro," also known as "un apéritif." Similar to our "Happy Hour," the "apéritif" is typically a light alcoholic beverage served before a meal to help stimulate the appetite. Every region has its own classic "apéritif"- most have some sort of fruit juice, or liquor like Kir, added to a base of wine or, like in Brittany, cider. (I sipped my share of Kir Breton when I lived in Quimper. Yum!) Usually, savory snacks are served with the cocktail. These small "amuse-bouches" can be as exciting as stuffed galettes, or as simple as la tapenade, Provençal olive paste served with crustini or pain grille...

Believe it or not, you don't have to live in France to eat like the French. Here's a simple way to begin eating "à la française" this summer: Invite your friends and family out to "la terrasse" and offer them "un apéro"!

L'aperitif français
Prenez-vous un apéro?

My favorite recipe for la tapenade aux olives noires:

Using a food processor, pour in about one cup of pitted black olives, (although when I'm feeling kind of "salty" I like to substitute niçoise careful to remove pits!), 6 anchovy fillets (canned and drained from the oil), 2 tbsp small capers, rinsed, 2 garlic cloves (or more if you love garlic like I do!), 1 tsp of fresh thyme leaves, (or if you have them available, some "herbes de Provence") 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, juice from half a lemon, and freshly ground black pepper. Process this mixture for approximately 20 seconds before scraping down the sides of the bowl. Continue processing an additional 10 or so seconds until mixture becomes smooth. Scrape sides down again. Now, with the machine going, slowly drizzle 4 to 6 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil into the mixture until it becomes a paste that looks worthy enough for a crusty piece of baguette. (For your baguette: Slice small "tranches" on the diagonal and then place on a cookie sheet. Rub each piece with garlic (I like to slightly crush a fresh clove and using my hands, spread it onto the bread). You can sprinkle a little sea salt, or sel gris, over the bread, as well...but not too much. Slowly drizzle olive oil over the bread before placing under a broiler for a few minutes...

Bien sûr, serve la tapenade with un apéro, like le vin rose, as pictured above...

Click on les recettes de tapenade for more versions of this recipe.

Bon Appétit! Vive l'été!

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