Salmon Cobb Salad

For the last week, I’ve been trying to figure how to approach this first post after the big French extravaganza.  Don’t get me wrong, I had an amazing time, as one does, in Paris and the south of France.

But I’ve been left with a not surprising mild case of post-trip depression, not because it’s over (it is), not because it wasn’t beautiful (it was), not because I didn’t have a great time (I did) and not because I have jet lag (I do).  Mainly I’m depressed because the food, overall, was underwhelming.  I mean, it’s France!  In short, I expected more.  Let me explain.  Although I’d been gone four years, and have since read this fascinating book about the decline of French food and the rise of Spanish, I didn’t think it’d be noticeable to me, the everyday diner.  I wasn’t seeking out, nor being disappointed by the declining quality of, Michelin-starred restaurants after all.  I was simply hoping to revisit some old faves and maybe try out a couple that have been receiving some buzz.  Well, the old faves fell short and the buzz-worthys were booked solid.  Not to mention that I quickly began to notice the proliferation of le cheeseburger and le club sandwich on just about every menu.  I know that hamburgers have been on some french menus for quite some time.  I also know that the American food trucks are enjoying some success in Paris.  But what I didn’t expect was that I would see these items everywhere I went. I finally succumbed and ordered un club (and it wasn’t bad) but something about the whole situation left me empty.  Even my favorite salad seemed to be a smaller, less-appealing ghost of its former self.  Man, do I sound spoiled (and dramatic…geez, get a grip!)

I’m sure this would be a totally different post if I’d been able to get into L’Ami Jean or Café Constant.  But I wasn’t (she says without a tinge of bitterness.)

So on to Provence, where the food was ok (best on our patio) and the ice cream superior, but still was leaving me with a serious case of frustration.  At one particular low-point, after another mediocre meal (in the heat, with flies buzzing, and our inability to get our bill  and get the hell out despite having asked for it three times), I said privately (and crabbily) to my mother “if I don’t start eating some good food soon, I’m going to really lose it!”

There were of course a couple of bright spots, as there always are, that are worth mentioning.  For example, this chocolate-pistachio escargot from the well-regarded Du Pain et des Idées.

And this charmer, up in the mountains and among with vines, in Suzette, didn’t disappoint either.

Here we sampled numerous Provençal treats including a croustillant de chèvre (basically a crispy crêpe-wrapped goat cheese on salad), a tartare de tomates avec son duo des tapenades, a sassy little cheese plate and finally a crème brulée with “coquelicot” (poppy-flower flavored) syrup.  I was indeed happy that night.

Lyon also did not disappoint.  I sampled the requisite salade lyonnaise and seafood quenelles at a place recommended by our charming hotel clerk.  Saved again.

I’d also have to add that there was a content moment or two over café crèmes and fresh-baked croissants, both original and of the almond variety, sitting in the square watching the daily business of our little workaday wine town.

Our own daily apéro (otherwise known as snack time) was mighty pleasant as well.

As was our stunningly beautiful view.  Its memory will probably get me through some very gray days in the winter months.

If you’ll allow me to change the subject in an abrupt fashion,  I made one of the best salads I’ve ever had just before I left.  I had recently discovered the popular blog (and book, which I got lost in while on another mission at the local bookshop)  Dinner a Love Story and subsequently watched Jenny’s piece on the Today show where she made said salad.  I adapted her version with a slight change in the vinaigrette and by eliminating the corn and replacing it with avocado.  And I added blue cheese.  It’s simple yet spectacular, and if you can find the mix of colorful potatoes that I used (per Jenny’s suggestion), it’s also highly impressive.

For the salad

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 baby cucumbers or one large English, sliced
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup boiled green beans
  • 1 cup small potatoes, halved and boiled
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro or parsley
  • 1 pound salmon, oven-roasted or grilled

For the dressing

  • 1/4 cup champagne vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • juice of half a lemon
  • dash of kosher salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 400° and set a pot of water to boil on the stove top.  Prepare the salmon by brushing with olive oil and sprinkling with salt and pepper.  Roast on a foil-lined baking sheet for about 15 minutes.  Check for desired degree of doneness.

2. Mix the dressing ingredients in a jar and set aside.

3. While the salmon is roasting and cooling, prepare the salad ingredients by boiling first the potatoes, then the green beans in the same water.  Chop the tomatoes, onion and cilantro. Lastly, chop the avocado and drizzle with lime or lemon juice.

4.  Serve the salad ingredients cobb-style so diners can pick and choose their favorite ingredients (a Jenny idea for getting picky kids to eat well).  Add desired amount of salmon on top of salad and a drizzle of vinaigrette.

Mix it all up and eat!

I don’t think I’m yet done with posts about France, or salad for that matter (I’ve been trying to rebalance after eating and drinking my weight in croissants and rosé), but for now, there’s some grilled chicken and, coincidentally, Jenny’s shredded kale salad calling my name.  And my stomach is answering.

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About Liza M.

foodie, francophile, Ann Arborite, teacher, bookworm and self-professed latte-lover--come cook with me!
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16 Responses to Salmon Cobb Salad

  1. Molly says:

    Though the food was underwhelming to you, my mouth was watering throughout most of my reading! Maybe your food standards are higher than they were during your last trip? Regardless, it sounds like an amazing vacation. And the salad recipe sounds wonderful!

  2. Liza M. says:

    I’m glad to hear that the post ended up being a positive one, Molly! Thanks for the encouragement.

  3. Wendy says:

    Sorry to hear about the disappointments…hope the poulet fermier is still yummy over there! perhaps you are getting a more sophisticated palette with all of the blog cooking and Ann Arbor fine dining. I’m sure it’s good to be home and back in your humble kitchen;)

    • Liza M. says:

      Meant to tell you, no more “poulet fermier” at Cafe du Marche! The hard thing was, you could see where they whited it out off their menu board, just taunting me 😉

  4. Kristin says:

    We were in Lyon years ago and loved the food so much that we changed our itinerary just so we could squeeze in one more meal there!

  5. Pat says:

    Your post did end on a positive note.By the conclusion I had almost forgot that you were complaining at the beginning, when I was thinking, “Oh, oh, Liza is getting old or maybe the food-based vacations are. Anyway, to this non-discerning palate, it all looked and sounded just fine. Your photography is delicious. Welcome home! xo

    • Liza M. says:

      Thanks Pat. I hope I’m not getting too old for travel nor food-based vacations! It was just weird. Maybe I was expecting too much but all the hamburgers were getting me down. BTW, I’m at the library about to check out a book called, aptly enough, Paris I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down–ha-ha.

  6. Barb says:

    Clearly, it was not the year of brik. And it’s very classy you omitted the horreur of the Laduree . . (gasp) . . . trailer . . .

  7. Lindsay says:

    I could not agree more about the food. Some of the best was at our house. I miss the wine and chèvre. I was completely underwhelmed. I think my favorite thing was the tomato tartar. It was definitely not the France of yesteryear. Now I sound like I’m complaining! The trip was still wonderful!

    • Liza M. says:

      I did say in a post last year that I’d venture to state that the food in Ireland was better than the food in France. Gulp. I think it’s true now! I know…it was wonderful! But why couldn’t we find fresh basil in Provence??

  8. I agee with Pat (forgot the complaining as I looked at the pictures) and with Lindsay – the food we ate at the cottage was delicious. And the picture of the scenery was spectacular.

  9. La Torontoise says:

    Liza, I’ve been reading loyally your blog for while, but did not have the time to write. (I’m glad to connect now:-) I’m on vacation in the South of Fance, near Nice. Like yourself, I created my little Provence in the patio of my townhouse in Toronto, but since 2004 my passion for all things French, brought me to a job in Europe and this made it easier for me to have more of my vacation time in the South of France).

    Your vacation looks like a magnificent tour! I can relate to the frustrating experiences, which I also had in my earlier tours in France, especially in Paris. But, there is a light at the end of he tunnel:-) as you get more experienced you would develop a more precise feeling for what kind of restaurant is likely to turn into ‘your favorite place’ and your experimentation would be much more rewarding.
    What I found to work is the list of suggestions in the Bonnes Petites Tables du Guide Michelin; there, you can find plenty of suggestions with lunch menus for around 19 – 29 euro, which make makes the food sampling process much less expensive than one could think of. Since last year, I’ve been using this approach in Cannes, a place that has the reputation of being over-expensive. If you choose to stay in a rented apartment, you might want to consider the so-called traiteures, small catering businesses that prepare gastronomic food by using fresh ingredients, and all you can do is to warm it up at home. I have a bunch of traiteurs around my vacation place in Cannes and this allows me and my husband to enjoy exceptional meals even when our little boy does not let us go out…

    Looking forward to your next blog post!

    • Liza M. says:

      Wow! Thanks for the tips. Another problem on this trip was that I was traveling in a group of 6. Not only was it difficult to get reservations in those tiny, out-of-the-way places for a larger group, but my group was not so “obsessed” shall we say with fine eating. I had to finally give up and take in the small pleasures, i.e. a fresh morning croissant and a well-made cafe creme. Next time!

  10. La Torontoise says:

    Dear all,

    If you read French (I know Liza does:-), I thought you might be possibly interested in reviewing this article published in the culinary section of the French journal Le Figaro (Le Figaro is a national newspaper, with a monthly journal edition). It’s about the Luberon region, and specifically about a picturesque village, Lourmarin, located in the middle of the Luberon mountain in the South of France:

    http://www.lefigaro.fr/culture/2012/07/27/03004-20120727ARTFIG00592-le-luberon-une-terre-de-providence.php

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