I first met Elizabeth Bard in Paris, when we shared a plate of duck tongues and swapped book publishing experiences. She had just published a food memoir, Lunch in Paris, and given birth to a baby boy, and I remember feeling quite awestruck by her unflappable calm. A few months after our lunch, Elizabeth and her husband, Gwendal, moved to a small village in Provence. I followed their news on Facebook as they opened an artisanal ice cream parlor, but I was curious to learn more about their adjustment to country life, and adventures raising a Franco-American son. Happily, Elizabeth has gifted all who loved her first, romantic book with a second volume. Picnic in Provence is a heartfelt ode to her new home, as well as an honest portrayal of motherhood. I loved it.
I was lucky enough to read an early galley of the book for a blurb. Here is what I said: “I was entranced by Picnic in Provence from Elizabeth Bard’s very first encounter with spring asparagus in the French countryside. Her tale of delicious adventure left me drooling—and her sensitive thoughts on marriage and motherhood were like a heartfelt conversation with a true friend. A delightful book, filled with humor, heart, and the heady scent of lavender.”
One of things I loved most about the book is the romantic way Elizabeth and Gwendal discover their new home. While on a pre-baby vacation, they decide to trace the footsteps of one of Gwendal’s heroes, the WWII resistance leader and poet René Char. After bit of delicate (yet dogged) investigation, they discover that Char’s home is actually for sale—and that his heirs hope a young family will buy it and settle in the village. This bit of kismet provides just the impetus Gwendal and Elizabeth need to make a GIGANTIC leap from Parisians to Provençals. They celebrate in the best way: with a picnic! Each chapter ends with a flurry of enticing recipes, including this simple, light and lemony tahini dip, which Elizabeth pairs with the first spring asparagus. It’s a fitting start to her tale of new motherhood, new professional passions (including entrepreneurship!), and new kitchen adventures (many of which involve frozen desserts :) If you love stories about France and food, you’ll love Elizabeth’s new book.
Asparagus with tahini sauce
Adapted from Picnic in Provence by Elizabeth Bard
*Note: Elizabeth says this sauce is “an alternative to hollandaise,” and she pairs it with steamed asparagus and poached salmon. I roasted my asparagus and doctored the sauce so that it’s a bit more fluid. If you prefer a thicker sauce, replace the plain yogurt with the Greek variety and omit the olive oil.
1 1/2 lbs asparagus (look for thin stems)
2 tablespoons tahini
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup Greek yogurt (whole milk is best)
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Wash the asparagus and snap off the tough ends. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the asparagus stalks in a single layer, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss gently to combine. Roast for 10 minutes, or until stalks are bright green and tender.
Prepare the sauce. In a medium, non-reactive bowl whisk together the tahini and lemon juice. Whisk in both kinds of yogurt and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Serve the asparagus warm, or at room temperature, with a generous dollop of sauce.