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How to Make an Easy Picnic That Transports You to France

With fair weather settling in and summer on the horizon, what I want to serve friends is a bright, sort-of-French pique-nique spread. In France, with cheese shops, bakeries and fine prepared foods available in every neighborhood, it’s easy to have an impromptu picnic — at a park, in the woods or on a river bank — at the drop of a (straw) hat.

All of the dishes here are strikingly Francophile. But as a colleague mentioned to me, it’s not fancy or fussy, it’s just good, simple French food. I see it as a buffet, served in the backyard with everything at room temperature, though it could also easily travel to the beach. And if you get rained out, it’s still delicious indoors.

I want vegetables at my picnic, so there are two salads in this menu.

Recipes: French Potato Salad | Cherry Tomato
and Green Bean Salad

This straightforward, old-fashioned French potato salad is tossed with chives and tarragon, and finished with a generous amount of olive oil.Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.
A briny black olive dressing finishes this fresh salad of cherry tomatoes and green beans.Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

First is a straightforward, old-fashioned French potato salad with chives and tarragon. Medium waxy potatoes are boiled and peeled, then thickly sliced, then coated in an easy dressing. A generous dribble of fruity extra-virgin olive oil is customary.

Then, there is a colorful green bean and cherry tomato salad, finished with a black olive dressing. For the best result, choose the smallest green beans and the sweetest cherry tomatoes. The dressing, made with Niçoise olives, capers, anchovy and garlic, is similar to a Provençal tapenade. The beans and tomatoes benefit from a short bath in the mixture. Add arugula or other salad greens just before serving, if you wish.

Recipe: Pepper-Crusted Flank Steak

The coarse, crushed black peppercorns that coat this steak give it a distinctive flavor.Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

For something grilled, consider this pepper-crusted flank steak. Flank tends to be less expensive and has a reputation for being tougher, but it can be just as tender if cooked to medium-rare and sliced thinly on a diagonal.

A rather large amount of coarse crushed black peppercorns coats this flank steak for a distinctive burst of flavor. It’s best to crush your own pepper, with a mortar and pestle or an electric spice mill. Patting the pepper on both sides of the steak well in advance of the cooking ensures the seasoning will penetrate. Cook your steak over coals, in a covered gas grill, in a cast-iron pan on the stove or under the broiler. It may be served warm or at room temperature.

Recipe: Raspberry-Almond Clafoutis

Raspberries replace the traditional cherries in this take on French clafoutis.Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

Raspberry-almond clafoutis is one of the simplest desserts out there. You mix up a little batter and pour it over fruit in a baking dish — nothing more. A traditional clafoutis is made with cherries, but here they’re replaced with raspberries, which have a slight tartness. I devised a gluten-free version with almond flour and a little almond extract. It’s a pretty dessert, dusted with powdered sugar.

Staying true to the French theme, be sure your picnic includes chilled rosé, a lightly sparkling water and a freshly baked baguette or two.

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