summer food – fresh and easy

by Sharon Santoni


fresh figs on table

One of the unavoidable facts of being on holiday with the whole family reunited is that they all eat SO MUCH!!! How do we forget so fast?! The fridge is full one minute and empty again the next, and if we don’t want to become slaves to the kitchen then the answer is to eat fresh produce that everyone enjoys, can be found at the local markets  and is relatively easy to prepare.

Summer food has to be easy.   Of course tomatoes, figs, peaches and melons are on our table each day, but yesterday I made two dishes that just say ‘summer’ to me and I think are typically French.


FIrst of all a ‘Tarte aux Mirabelles’.   Mirabelle is a tiny, sweet yellow plum that has just come into season, and is sold at all the local markets.

ingredients for a plum tart

There’s nothing clever about making a french fruit tart.    Simply make your favourite pastry (I made a sweet pastry yesterday), or alternatively purchase a brand that you trust.

ingredients for a plum tart

Cut the plums in half and remove the stones then carefully lay them over the pre-baked tart base that you have sprinkled lightly with sugar to help absorb the plum juice.   Bake in a hot oven for about 15 minutes and then let the tart rest for 10 minutes before serving warm.  As you can see from the photo below, the pastry is not picture perfect, but at the speed at which it disappeared, I think it must have tasted OK!

french plum tart

A very quick and delicious salad that we love is fresh green beans, lightly cooked in boiling water and refreshed in cold water to stop them becoming soggy.    We dress them with olive oil, some shredded basil leaves and small black Niçois olives.

tomatoes and green beans on wooden table

A dish we only ever eat in the south of France is deep fried courgette flowers.  They are very simple to prepare, I just make a batter with plain flour, a good pinch of salt and enough beer to make a batter that is the consistency of olive oil.

For large quantities it’s worth having two frying pans heating the oil (I use sunflower oil) and dip each flower into the batter before lowering it carefully into the hot oil.    Each flower takes a few minutes to fry on each side and can be laid to drain on absorbent paper before transferring to a serving platter.

baby courgettes and courgette flowers on wooden table

And finally, a dish you may not be familiar with.    Mediterranean sardines baked in the oven.   The mediterranean sardines are smaller than the Atlantic variety, slightly less strong in flavour, and extremely easy to fillet.

fresh sardines

Without traumatising you with too many gory details, you don’t need a knife or any other tool to  fillet sardines. Simply pinch and pull off their heads (ouch!), then run your thumb up their belly and in one fell swoop remove their guts and backbone.   You finish with a neat pair of open fillets, ready to be laid out in straight lines on your baking dish, that has already been drizzled with a little olive oil .

sardines baked in oven

Once the dish is covered with a layer of sardine fillets, sprinkle with breadcrumbs, a drop more olive oil and pop into a hot oven for about twelve minutes.   I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t love this dish, eaten warm with a salad of tomatoes .  YUM!

Hope you’re having a great summer too, and of course I’d love to hear about your favourite summer turn-to meals.

summer vegetables on wooden table




Kathy Olson August 20, 2016 - 2:49 pm

I’d love to know how you cook your eggplant!

Sharon Santoni August 20, 2016 - 9:38 pm

Hi Kathy, we mostly roast it in the oven with other vegetables, a sort of roasted ratatouille:)

Angela ridge August 20, 2016 - 3:46 pm

We had fleur de courgettes last night in Mougin and I saw a box of the beautiful flowers for sale at the amazing green grocer on the parking in Valbonne, do you know the one I mean (look on my IG account and I’m sure you’ll recognize it). I was so tempted to lots of beautiful vegetables but with a very long drive home today (the traffic was horrendous up to Lyon and we still have 6 hours left!) I didn’t dare buy. A cool box will accompany us next time. The fleur de courgettes are our family favourite but I can never find them in Antwerp, I think I may have to grow courgettes next year By the way, Valbonne is such a beautiful little town isn’t it and the house we rented was just so perfect. Enjoy the rest of your holiday Sharon xx

Sharon Santoni August 20, 2016 - 9:40 pm

Hi Angela

Glad you had such a great holiday, you certainly seemed to have packed a lot in! 😉

Pamela August 20, 2016 - 3:54 pm

The tart is beautiful and I love the look of the crust. I bet it was delicious!

Sharon Santoni August 20, 2016 - 9:41 pm

Thank you Pamela, there’s none left!!

dottie monta August 20, 2016 - 4:05 pm

Loved this post, because who among us is not dealing with hungry boys. (And girls.)
Cold green beans with little green onions and oil and vinegar is a favorite here, too!
(Will start adding the olives!)
We simply do not have the lovely little fish here in Pennsylvania, but do get get fresh market fish to grill. Summer is winding down. White peaches are the best right now. I hope you have them in France.
Thank you (always!) for the lovely ideas and incentives. We really are the same, the whole world over, aren’t we.
With affection,

Sharon Santoni August 20, 2016 - 9:42 pm

You are so right Dottie, we all are the same, wherever we live

Vicky from Athens August 20, 2016 - 4:10 pm

Thanks for sharing a few of your favorite summer recipes! I look forward to making the plum tart . . . even though I can’t get the same plums as you, I’m sure it’ll be yummy!

Sharon Santoni August 20, 2016 - 9:44 pm

The recipe works with most fruit Vicki. :). Hope you’re keeping well, it was so nice to meet you in Marietta

Vicky from Athens August 23, 2016 - 2:22 am

I’ll be trying this with some end of the season peaches! Should be delicious! I’m well, thank you and hope you are also. Meeting you in Marietta was real treat for me!

stacey snacks August 20, 2016 - 4:11 pm

You could be writing this from NJ with all that gorgeous summer produce…..except for the little fishes of course!

Sharon Santoni August 20, 2016 - 9:45 pm

Surely there’s a fishmonger in NY who could find Mediterranean sardines for you my friend!!


Taste of France August 20, 2016 - 4:30 pm

It has been too hot to turn on the oven in Carcassonne, so we have been grilling or eating cold.
–Composed salads (bed of lettuce, topped with whatever is in the fridge: cubed cheese, slices of hard sausage, tomatoes, nectarines, figs, beans, leftover potatoes….salt, pepper, oil and vinegar. If it’s arranged prettily, it tastes better.
–Wedges of melon topped with cured ham (Serrano, Bayonne)
–Tomatoes stuffed with tuna salad
–Grilled anything. Mostly steaks, duck breasts, etc. but also pizza. No way am I turning the oven to the maximum setting to make a pizza in this weather.

Pam August 20, 2016 - 4:30 pm

What a beautiful meal. Loved the sardines.

cyl August 20, 2016 - 4:32 pm

We live in California and we get NOTHING like this! No fresh fish like this and most is farm raised and frozen. Even our organic store tomatoes rot and do not ripen, and my husband has finally said he will not buy store tomatoes ever again. We had one small tomato we grew and it was fantastic. We have no luck with growing our own veggies here. Our food is so very poor and so expensive. When we have gone to Europe we always are loving the food! Salads look like they are fresh picked instead of the junk we get which looks like it has been run over by a truck. Our food lacks nutrients and it is hard to eat veggies sometimes because of the quality. Last year we were in France and loved the different types of butter we found in the stores. And yes, I bought a large package and ate bites of it! Your store veggies are also amazing!

Emily August 20, 2016 - 6:20 pm

Syl, Where in CA do you live? Here on the central coast we have a plethora of fantastic fresh fruits and vegetables. Farmer’s markets abound and our only difficulty is choosing among the many varieties of each item offered, and overbuying because everything is so good.

Kate August 20, 2016 - 6:34 pm

I agree, Emily!
I lived in Napa, CA FOR 11 years and the produce and fresh fish from San Francisco were always top quality.
Enjoy your summer everyone.

Adelia August 21, 2016 - 5:07 am

🙂 I also live Central coast California and was thinking the very same thing. We can both grow a lot of lovely things and and are blessed with much-loved farmers markets and farm stands….

Our Frensh Oasis August 20, 2016 - 4:58 pm

Always simple, always outdoors and always fresh, that’s the beauty of summer. Impromptu dining with friends, fish from the market, mackerel is a firm favourite, whole on th e BBQ. Aubergines from the garden, thinly sliced, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and again grilled on the BBQ, tomatoes, salad, peppers and Charentais melon, all fresh from our potager too. Finally what seems to have become a firm favourite this some, giant prawns cooked on the Plancha; the children absolutely love to cook them – it’s all very social and all very convivial, just as summer meals should be. No fuss, no hassle, just pure enjoyment.

Nancy August 20, 2016 - 5:19 pm

Our summer produce from the garden has been fair this year. We’ve had gorgeous peppers….and some tomatoes, which we eat in a light salad when they are ready, or just sliced on the plate.
Our little fig tree, a Black Mission, has given us about 15-20 figs this year, nicely done at two at a time. Yum….
What kind of fig was it you had on the page? Green with red insides? Looks fabulous.
All our beans are drying for soup in the fall as the crop was small…even with water.
Love the plum tart you made….

Jeanne Visser August 20, 2016 - 5:35 pm

So inspiring Sharon, thank you! Summer coming soon, and I plan to keep these ideas fresh in my mind until then. In the meanwhile, its’ daubes cooked slowly and salad with nuts and orange…

Mumbai August 20, 2016 - 7:55 pm

Summertime …and I cook up a storm. It’s all about frrresh. Unfortunately the Spanish apparently litter the courgette flowers.
Formerly I stuffed it with goat cheese and then used the same procedure
as you described. In place of the courgette flowers I “cook” different styles of salad accompanied with toasted bread and of course very chilled wine. So we can tolerate the very hot summer here.

Darina August 20, 2016 - 8:50 pm

Looks delicious! I love the summertime food, the freshness and the colors!

Mary Crozier August 20, 2016 - 9:21 pm

Looks delicious-nothing better than fresh and prepared at home. Thanks for the visuals-now I am hungry and unfortunately traveling so I have to eat out!!!!

Wendi Yates August 20, 2016 - 9:28 pm

Those little plums will soon be arriving from the Niagara fruit farms…and for sure I will try your tart Sharon! Thank you for sharing all of this with us. We, of course, do not have those beautiful sardines which I am very envious of but we do have lovely salmon from the Maritimes. It has been SO VERY hot and humid here for days on end, so the BBQ has been the cooking method du jour! My favorite at the moment is to take a large square of parchment paper, fold diagonally and score. Open out and on one half you can place a bed of whatever veg is at hand – zucchini and various peppers, green and yellow beans. Give the vegetables a little of your best olive oil, salt, pepper, a little garlic powder, some chopped up herbs from your garden. Place a nice salmon fillet, sans skin on top. Again, you can top the salmon with some lemon slices, a little nice salad dressing can work too. Then fold over the parchment and seal the package by folding and rolling the two edges of the parchment together to form a little packet. I place this on one of those racks with holes for the BBQ and place on the pre-heated BBQ. Shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes for everything to be done. Open and enjoy with your favorite cold, crisp white wine. Few dishes to clean and no heat in the kitchen!! I have a fine cheese store and have been enjoying lots of Buffalo Mozzarella with slices of beefsteak tomato with balsamic and my best olive oil…basil and chives from my garden. And wonderful peaches from Niagara, sliced up with nothing else because they are so sweet and delicious!

pamela August 21, 2016 - 1:10 am

Your tart looked so yummy!! The sardines looked great also! My grandma would make sardines for Christmas Eve dinner OMG!! I would eat as many as possible , their were 18 of us for dinner so you kinda had to be quick. 🙂 Thank you for sharing your recipes.

Steven Yancey August 21, 2016 - 1:40 am

I have two sardine memories. Growing up in the Deep South (Pensacola, Florida) we had a lovely housekeeper who worked for (and was part of) our family for twenty years. After preparing lunch for my sister and me she would eat Campbell’s vegetable soup cold out of the can with a tin of sardines and a sleeve of Saltine crackers. Yikes! But she loved it.

My other memory is of my wife’s Swedish grandmother. She thought sardines were the ultimate treat and would horde cans of them in a little wooden chest under the edge of her bed. Her fears were unfounded; no one would have dared touch them.

Perhaps I would be brave enough to try your fish pie. I’ll take your word on how delicious it is.
But I could do justice to that plum tart! My grandmother made something similar out of Slo plums that grew wild along the fence rows at the farm. Thanks for calling up that sweet memory!

Sharon Santoni August 21, 2016 - 5:21 pm

Steven you need to come to lunch with me!! Comparing fresh sardines to tinned sardines is like comparing raisins to fresh grapes, or corned beef to a juicy steak!

Who knows? Maybe one day we’ll have another opportunity to meet and if it’s in France then I’ll be sure to find some fresh sardines for lunch! 🙂

Marilyn August 21, 2016 - 2:26 am

The fish reminds me of a “surf fish” my grandfather would bring home and my mother would make them very similarly. I loved them. Oh the bounty of the season is just wonderful.

Judy Lambert August 21, 2016 - 7:38 am

Awesome and all look so simple yet delicious. We just had fresh figs yesterday on greens with strawberries, fresh basil and goat cheese. Wonderful! The first fresh figs we had was in the south of France at Bagnol sur Cez near Avignon (may be spelled incorrect), in 2013. I planted my own fig tree the next year!

De Maeyer Ingrid August 21, 2016 - 8:10 pm

The French like the Italians are masters in keeping their dishes simple and are happy to let the ingredients playing the lead, sardines, mmmm, yummy and I just can not resist a clafoutis, the classic ones with cérises, or I sometimes make them with apricots or reine claudes

Sally August 21, 2016 - 9:25 pm

Love the sardine recipe, looks delicious and simple.

Jayne August 23, 2016 - 1:05 am

oh the fresh fruit looks divine. Makes me want to bake – even in the heat we are having! But the sardines – mais non! Though I used to eat them with my Dad, packed in oil, from the can, and always on plain crackers.

Lynn August 24, 2016 - 12:22 pm

Lovely food there! Your post title caught my attention – I adore summer food.

My favorite is an orzo, spinach and grape tomato salad with olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt and freshly ground pepper. I don’t use a recipe for this really – it’s something I figured out from a salad I was buying at Fresh Market (in Atlanta, Georgia.)

And I love to make this salad from the Smitten Kitchen blog:


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