When you think of outdoor summer dining, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Many people have great memories of celebrating the warm weather and entertaining outdoors, and we’re no different. While we’re always eager to welcome the start of summer, in our books it doesn’t officially start until we are able to entertain in the traditional southern French style with a Mediterranean lunch.
In the south of France, the main attraction of any Mediterranean lunch is the farm-to-table aspect of the meal.
Before you begin preparing Grilled Loup de Mer (European sea bass), Deconstructed Niçoise Salad, or extravagant crudités baskets, recognize that it’s important to use ingredients that are as fresh as possible and grown as close as possible to home.
While this menu can be enjoyed as lunch or dinner, we like to combine the two with “linner,” and let the meal move slowly and indulgently. Our favourite thing about a casual Mediterranean lunch is that while it may begin as early as 1:00 pm or as late as 3:00 pm, oftentimes we find ourselves still drinking, dining, and laughing around the table into the early (or sometimes late) hours of the evening.
Because of the laid-back aspect of this meal, we use it as an opportunity to invite some of our dearest friends and family to join us in celebrating summer, including our good friends, the Doerges, who introduced us to the term linner!
In our family, it goes without saying that no Mediterranean or Saint Tropez– style lunch would be complete without rosé! Though we drink rosé simply on ice, over the years we’ve been introduced to a few rosé-based cocktails that are definitely worth trying.
When you’re planning a lunch like this one, creating the right look is often the most important part of the table setting. It will absolutely set the tone for the entire event. Before you take out your favourite plateware, do a quick search to see if you have anything that would tie in nicely with a Provençal theme. Décor from the south of France is eclectic with lots of different patterns, textures, and colours, so don’t be afraid to mix and match your serving pieces.
- Smaller bouquet arrangements of artichokes, lemons, and lavender spread across the table are an easy way to evoke the Mediterranean seaside.
- For a nice touch, and to help with those extra hot summer afternoons we love creating personalized paddle fans, which we place at each setting.
We like to incorporate a large centrepiece of fresh crudités on our table. It’s a fun way to add colour to the table, but because fresh crudités are also a staple at many of Saint Tropez’s most famous beach clubs, it also serves as an authentic first course for the meal.
This option can also be in lieu of traditional canapés, when you kick off your Mediterranean lunch with a platter perfect for sharing. Though you can’t make a wrong choice when deciding what vegetables to include, we like to feature a mix of field carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, fennel, cauliflower, and mini radishes.
Use whole vegetables with the stems still on for that fresh-from-the-farm feel.
As your guests nibble on the selection of crudités, it’s time to bring your Deconstructed Niçoise Salad to the table. Since the ingredients in this dish can be similar to the crudités, it’s important to make sure you include new vegetables like beets, mini potatoes, and romaine hearts for some variety. The dressing should be served in a smaller bowl off to the side for guests to help themselves (we served a Classic Aioli + Lemon Vinaigrette).
Next, it’s time for the most exciting part of your Mediterranean lunch: the fresh fish! Although any whole white fish will work well, if you have the opportunity to get a whole Loup de Mer (European sea bass), branzino, or sea bream from your local fish market, we would highly recommend trying them.
If none of these are available, ask your fishmonger for a white fish alternative, but make sure you tell them whether you’re planning to grill the fish on the barbecue or bake it in the oven, as that will affect how the fishmonger prepares it. For grilling, you want the scales left on so the fish stays together when you flip it; for baking, the fish can be descaled.
One of our favourite dishes to pair alongside this fish is Rice with Compound Butter. It’s a beautiful accent for the Loup de Mer and doesn’t overpower the flavours of the fish. Whether you follow our recipe, or adjust it to make your own, compound butter is an easy way to upgrade standard butter with lots of added flavour.
Tip: Compound butter can be made months in advance and stored in the fridge or freezer. Use it to flavour rice, chicken, fish, or potatoes, or spread it on a warm baguette.
For our Mediterranean lunch we like to offer beverages that are a bit lighter and brighter than we would typically serve at lunch or dinner. That’s why both of the drinks we’ve included in this article revolve around rosé! Whether it’s mixed into a cocktail or served on ice, rosé is one of the most versatile summer wines.
Seb & Sheila Say
- Since this meal is served as a lunch, you will have less time to prepare on the actual day. We recommend having most things done the night before to create a stress-free morning that will set you up for an enjoyable afternoon.
- If you want to set the table the day before, either turn your glasses and plates upside down so you can simply turn them over before your guests arrive, or use a second tablecloth to completely cover the table overnight.
- Serving a dish on several smaller platters on the table makes it easier for your guests to access food without having to reach across the table.
- If you really want to wow your guests, buy a spherical ice cube mould to create edible flower-filled ice cubes for the Rosé Floater.
- For the Rosé Sangria freeze the fruit and use them as ice cubes to help keep the sangria cold for longer.
Content from Eatertainment – Recipes and Ideas for Effortless Entertaining by Sebastien & Sheila Centner. Published by Appetite Penguin Random House and available at Indigo, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and more. Visit eatertainment.com or sebandsheila.com for more info and follow us: @sebcentner @sheilacentner @sebandsheila @eatertainment @appetite_randomhouse