Scan social media in the summertime and it seems like everyone is in Paris, Sicily, Tokyo, Hong Kong, or some other delicious, lovely place. You know what helps? Cooking like you’re abroad.
Whether you’re scowling in a cardigan during San Francisco “summer” nights or sweating it out in Boston, there’s nothing like flipping through social media to see your friends drinking rosé in breezy Provence or beachy Sicily. Instagram Envy is a real thing, but even if a staycation is what your budget needs, there’s no reason not to cook the foods that will make you feel like you’re living your best Parisian, Maine, or Mexican life—right now.
I’m lucky enough to be heading to France soon, and I’ve noticed that my cooking has tilted thataways even as I’m saving cash to eat all the moules frites, canard à l'orange and cannelés my heart desires. What I’ve learned is that there’s nothing like taking the edge off gritty New York nights by setting out nice napkins, good silverware, pretty plates, and French food I cooked on the cheap.
Here are some easy ways to make yourself feel like you’re living your best Gallic life.
Ah, me. Even if it’s just you at home for a long, leisurely Saturday lunch, make yourself a steak in a skillet on the stovetop. Plate it on a pile of salted greens and let the heat and fat from the steak wilt and dress them. Add a baguette and lunch is served—maybe with a chilled glass of red, too.
Make slow-cooked eggs
Slow-scrambled eggs in the French style are easy to do, but they take several minutes of concentration and stirring (as in this excellent recipe). These are ideal when an omelet sounds too complicated and you want creamy, delicious, silky eggs for breakfast.
Make Salade Niçoise
This classic Provençal dish looks particularly stunning arranged on a big platter, and as this recipe notes, you can include any vegetable you like—artichoke hearts; radishes; blanched leeks; roasted peppers; whatever looks fresh. The combo of olives, tuna, green beans, and Dijon is a perennial favorite for good reason.
Or Salade Lyonnaise
Some of us like our salads a bit, well, more luxe. For us, there is Lyon’s famous creation: poached egg, bacon, and frisée. Those textures together in salad form are pretty much unbeatable.
Mussels and Baguette
Lest we forget, mussels are among the least expensive seafood you can buy, and serving about a pound per person with a couple baguettes is a charming way to feed guests. (Tip: You can use white wine, red wine, rosé or even whisky to steam them open. All are delicious.)
Throw a Picnic
As is true of #snackdinner, a picnic is always charming, whether you’re inside or outdoors, and no matter which part of the world inspires you. Think: olives, baguette, drippy French cheese such as Brillat Savarin, cured meats, and perhaps a bowl of spiced, crisp chickpeas.
Wine or Cider
Whether you’re dishing out steak for dinner, macarons for dessert or croissants for brunch, the oenophile has a ton to choose from in France: Chablis, rosé, Bordeaux, Burgundy, and so many others. You could even choose sparkling French pear or apple cider, which can be very food-friendly. Just be sure to toast the Old World as you sip.
Alex Van Buren is a food and travel writer living in Brooklyn, New York whose work has appeared in Gourmet.com, Bon Appétit, Travel + Leisure, New York Magazine, Martha Stewart Living, and Epicurious. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @alexvanburen.