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What’s Brewing Chez Moi?

23 May

I often have trouble deciding what to order when we go out for drinks with our friends. Beer can be refreshing, but it is pretty heavy and after one I need a nap. I like cocktails, but I am a lightweight and I would prefer something with less alcohol so that I can have more than one.  Wine is great, but it gives me migraines and I haven’t been able to drink it for a while now… enter: hard cider. It is the perfect drink for me because it is light and refreshing, gluten-free, and low in alcohol. I have really fallen in love with it.

I first had hard cider in France while on a visit to Normandy. The region is famous for it, and with good reason. We would drive around the bucolic countryside, through miles of apple orchards, and pull over at one of the many “degustations” offering tastes. I have actually been to the town of Calvados, where apple brandy is made, and wished that someone here was making a product of equal quality.


I think that a lof of Americans are afraid of cider because they think it is too sweet. The few brands we have been able to get here are overly sweetened and (to my palate) undrinkable. But, recently there has been a cider renaissance in Washington State, and now there are quite a few good (and great) ones to choose from. But, you know me, I love to make everything from scratch and so why not cider? I mean, our forefathers made it themselves (John Adams was known to drink a tankard of it a day, lucky man), so I know it can’t be that hard.








And you know what? It isn’t hard at all. Actually, the apple juice we started with had a warning label on the bottle that said to keep it in the fridge else it could turn alcoholic. So really, it just simply could not be easier to make this stuff. We now have our first batch fermenting down in the basement, and for this batch we are experimenting with two different yeasts to see which we prefer. Once we get our baseline taste profile then we can add fun things to the cider, like ginger or lemon or whatever we decide would be fun. If you want to be involved in some of the tastings we will do send me a message and I will put you on the list.










31 Oct

Two weeks in France went by so fast! Now I am home, jet-lagged, and feeling a little like Cinderella after the ball. No more waking up to fresh pastries for breakfast; no more sunshine and blue skies; no more chateaux. Just gray Seattle welcoming me back with barely a nod.

My friend Robyn and I managed to visit 10 different towns during our 2 weeks, a feat accomplished by the proximity of towns in Normandy that allowed us to visit more than a few per day. We ate Camembert in the town of Camembert, drank Calvados in the shadow of gnarled apple trees, and spotted more cows (in shades of taupe, gold, and crimson) per square meter than I have ever before seen.

This was my second time in Normandy, and I absolutely fell in love again: pastoral, bucolic, peaceful. Such a change from city life! And I love that much of small-town France still closes for lunch from 12-2pm, a reminder to me to relax and enjoy the slow pace of the day. I loved taking a long leisurely lunch, resting my tired feet, enjoying a cafe at the end of each meal. We managed to squeeze so much into each day, but never felt rushed or hurried.

eI will leave you with some pictures from the trip, since they really are the best explanation of a great trip. Merci for reading!

Á bientot!

Chicken Soup, North African Style

11 Oct

This will be my last post for a little while as I am headed to my favorite place in all the world~France!  They have been having a little heat wave over there this month– 80 degrees or more in Paris– but here in Seattle it is cool and blustery and just exactly how I like my fall days. This is perfect soup weather, and so I leave you with this great little twist on your traditional chicken soup. If anyone in your family is already falling victim to those change-of-weather-colds, this is the perfect remedy. Á bientôt!


Chicken Soup, North African Style
From Martha Stewart Living Cook Book
Serves 8

3 medium carrots
2 whole chicken breasts, split, bone in, skin removed
1 leek, white and pale-green parts, quartered lengthwise, well-washed
1 celery stalk cut into 1-inch lengths
3 sprigs flat leaf parsley
2 sprigs thyme
2 dried bay leaves
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
3 whole canned tomatoes, drained, seeded and quartered
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 cup diced butternut squash
1 cup quick-cooking couscous
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
2 small zucchini, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 cup cooked or canned chickpeas, drained
2 limes, cut into wedges

Halve one carrot; place in stockpot. Add chicken, 2 quarts water, leek, celery, parsley, thyme, bay leaves and 1 tsp salt. Cover; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer uncovered 1 hour; skim off any foam. Remove chicken. Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl. Discard solids, reserving meat. Slice chicken into 1-inch strips and set aside.

Rinse pot; add stock back into pot. Set over medium-low heat; add pepper. Dice remaining carrots. Add carrots, tomatoes, cumin, ginger and squash; simmer over medium heat until tender, about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring 1 cup water to boil in a saucepan. Add couscous and remaining salt. Cover; remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes. Fluff. Stir in jalapeno and cilantro.

Add zucchini and chickpeas; cook until tender, 5 mins. Add chicken; simmer 5 mins. Season with salt and pepper. Place couscous in bowls; add hot soup; add cilantro sprigs and lime wedges. Serve hot.

Potatoes Lyonnaise with Lemon and Chile

13 Sep

The countdown to my next trip to France has already begun! In exactly one month I will be boarding a plane for my favorite place in all the world. I am again going to Normandy (fall is such an incredible time to be there, with apples ripe and cider season in full swing), and then to Paris. This month is going to fly by, I just know it.

The latest Food & Wine arrived yesterday, and the theme of the issue is New French Classics. I love this, of course, because I do this all the time at home. One of the recipes that caught my eye immediately was the updated version of Potatoes Lyonnaise. If you aren’t familiar with the recipe, it is simply potatoes, onions, garlic. But the marriage of the three (with a healthy dose of butter, I’m not going to lie), exults the simple tubers into things of sheer genius. You will never eat plain old hash browns again.

I didn't have parsley on hand so this pic is missing the oomph of green needed to make these pop, but they tasted great anyway!

Potatoes Lyonnaise with Lemon and Chile
From Food & Wine Magazine

1 tbs unsalted butter
1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 baking potatoes (peeled and sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick)
1/4 cup pork fat (I used leaf lard that I had on hand for pie crusts) or melted unsalted butter
1 large clove garlic, chopped
freshly ground pepper
pinch of crushed red pepper
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbs chopped parsley

In medium saucepan, melt the butter in the olive oil. Add the sliced onions and a large pinch of salt. Cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft and golden, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the potato slices in a large pan of water, add a large pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately high heat until the potatoes are just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain the potatoes and spread the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet; let cool to room temperature. Gently pat the slices dry.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the pork fat (or butter). Add the potato slices and cook over moderately high heat until they are browned and crisp, about 6 minutes on each side. Add the chopped garlic and shake it in the skillet until just golden, about 30 seconds. Add the cooked omnions and season them with salt and pepper. Gently stir in the crushed red pepper and lemon juice. Transfer to a platter, sprinkle with the chopped parsley and serve right away.


Pan Bagnat

22 Jun

One of my favorite things about visiting Nice is the street food.  I tried so many things there, like socca and pissaladiere, and have great memories of hanging out in the sunshine while eating some new thing or another.  We were planning a road trip recently, and the thought of packing a picnic and enjoying a pan bagnat in the sunshine reminded me a lot of our time in southern France.

If you have ever had a salad Nicoise then you are already familiar with the ingredients that make up a pan bagnat, which is essentially a salad Nicoise eaten as a sandwich.   The best part is that the sandwich gets weighted down overnight and is a dense, hearty meal the next day.

The perfect summer sandwich

Feel free to play with the ingredients and add/subtract things as you wish.  Veganomicon has a great recipe for a vegan version of this sandwich with roasted eggplant if you prefer to have yours without the tuna and eggs. I left the eggs off mine, and I added red bell pepper and shredded carrots for a little color and crunch.  I added some homemade pesto that I had on hand, and an olive tapenade from Trader Joe’s that I like.  Traditionally it is served on a round loaf, but a baguette would work just fine here too. Below is my own version, made to my taste preferences, but nothing is written in stone for this recipe.

Pan Bagnat
From LaFemmeCooks

1 round loaf of bread (I used the Rosemary and Sea Salt version from Essential Bakery here in Seattle)
1 cup spinach, lightly tossed in olive oil and vinegar of any kind
1 can tuna, drained
1/2 can marinated artichoke hearts
1/3 cup pepperocinis
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/2 sliced red bell pepper
olive tapenade or chopped kalamata olives
1/2 cup pesto

Slice bread in half through the middle. Scoop out much of the bread from the halves, but leave enough to support the sandwich toppings. Spread pesto on the top half and olive tapenade on the bottom half. If you don’t have either of these things add a good dijon mustard instead.  Add the spinach first, then top with remaining ingredients, being careful to spread everything out evenly. When all toppings are added, put the “lid” back on the sandwich and wrap the sandwich in wax paper. Place it in the fridge overnight with a good heavy weight on top. If you don’t have overnight to wait, a few hours will do. Remove the weight when ready to serve, and cut into wedges. Serves 4, depending on the size of the bread.

Nice harbor, from our trip April 2009


Roasted Sunchoke Soup

21 Dec

My husband and I (well, mostly me) submitted an application for a rescue French bulldog last week, and now I am trying to be patient while they start the process.  The entire process can take 4-6 weeks, and includes interviewing our current vet and a home visit, to make sure that we are suitable candidates.  I am a little worried because I have never owned a dog before and I’m afraid that might count against us.  In the meantime, I have ordered several books from the library, including Dog Training for Dummies and How to care for your French Bulldog. I am hoping to do plenty of research while our application is processing so that we will be prepared for the questions they might throw our way.

The particular Frenchie we want to adopt is a female brindle, and she is the most beautiful ugly dog.  In fact, she reminded me of Frida Kahlo, for some reason, and so if we get her I will name her Frida.  This got me on the subject of pretty ugly things, and thus the inspiration for this soup: sunchokes.

What in the world are sunchokes? you might ask.  They are also called jerusalem artichokes and are a strange-looking little tuber.  They taste sort of like a water chestnut, I would say, and have that same sort of texture as well.  They are delicious simply cut up and added to salads or used for dips, with a good fresh crunch similar to jicama.  When I got a bushel of them in my last farm share, I knew I wanted to make the soup that I have had (and adored) many times in France (where they are quite popular).

So, fingers crossed that Frida is going to be a part of our family in 2011~!  And cheers to all that is pretty and ugly at the same time.

Roasted Sunchoke Soup
From Return to Tradition

4 lbs sunchokes, scrubbed clean
2-3 tbs olive oil
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 head garlic, cloves peeled and sliced
1 cup dry white wine
2 quarts vegetable stock
1 lemon, zest and juice
2/3 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450F.  Cut the cleaned sunchokes in half lengthwise.  Toss with salt, pepper and a 2 tbs of olive oil. Place sunchokes cut side down on a baking sheet and roast at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes. The sunchokes should be tender and the bottoms should be caramelized. Reserve for later.

Put the sliced onion and garlic into a non-reactive stockpot with the wine, and a heavy pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes, until the liquid has mostly evaporated.

Add the vegetable stock, roasted sunchokes, and bring to a simmer again for 20 minutes.

Using a blender, puree the soup in small batches, adding a bit of the olive oil and the lemon juice/zest to each batch, adjusting the seasoning as you go. Pass the soup through a strainer to remove the fibrous sunchoke skin.

Garnish with crème fraiche and fresh chives/scallions.

Boeuf Bourguignonne

29 Nov

I sometimes get cookbooks in the mail to review, and I admit I was super excited whenVirginia Willis’s  Bon Appétit, Y’ All showed up on my doorstop.  A marriage of  American Southern and traditional French cooking?  Yes, please!  The recipes all sound amazing and I can’t wait to try all of them, but of course the first thing I had to make was her version of Boeuf Bourguignonne.

Many folks have been asking me lately for the perfect warming, winter dish and this is hands-down my favorite.  It is classic, delicious, and though time-consuming (I won’t lie, this recipe is pretty involved) it is totally worth the work.  If you want to make something special for friends or family, this is the dish to make.  I serve it over mashed potatoes, which everyone seems to like.

Boeuf Bourguignonne
From Bon Appétit, Y’All

3 lbs lean rump roast, chcuk pot roast, sirloin tip, top round or bottom round, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 bottle red wine, preferably Pinot Noir
1 carrot, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 stalk celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 onion, preferably Vidalia, coarsely chopped
4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into lardons
3 tbs canola oil, plus more if needed
coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbs all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups low-fat, low-sodium beef broth
Bouquet garni (5 sprigs thyme, 4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, 2 bay leaves, 10 black peppercorns, tied together in cheesecloth)
1 tbs tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbs unsalted butter
24 pearl onions, trimmed and peeled
8 oz white button mushrooms, halved or quartered if large

To marinate the beef, place the cubes in a large nonreactive bowl.  Add the wine, carrot, celery and onion.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Line both a baking sheet and a large plate with paper towels.  Remove the beef from the marinade and transfer to the prepared baking sheet.  Pat the meat dry with paper towels.  Strain the marinade, reserving separately both the vegetables and the liquid.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  To cook the beef, heat a large, heavy-duty Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the bacon and cook until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp, about 5 mins.  Remove the bacon to the prepared plate to drain.  Pour off all but 1 tbs of the bacon fat from the pan.  Decrease the heat to medium, add 2 tbs of the canola oil and heat until shimmering.

Season the beef with salt and pepper.  Sear the beef in two or three batches, without crowding, until nicely browned on all sides.  Transfer to the prepared baking sheet when done.  Add the reserved vegetables from the marinade and cook until they start to color, about 5-7 mins.  Sprinkle on the flour and toss again to lightly coat.  Cook, stirring constantly, until the flour turns brown, 2-3 mins.  Return the beef to the Dutch oven.  Add the reserved marinade liquid and enough stock to barely cover the meat.

Add the bouquet garni, tomato paste, and garlic to the pan.  Bring to a boil on high heat on the cooktop.  Cover and transfer to the oven.  Cook until the meat is tender, 2.5-3 hrs.

Meanwhile, to make the garnish, in a large skillet heat the remaining 1 tbs of oil and the butter over medium heat.  Add the peeled onions, mushrooms, the remaining sprig of thyme and the remaining bay leaf.  Season with salt and pepper.  Saute until the vegetables are lightly browned and tender, 5-7 mins.  Set aside and keep warm.

Remove the bouquet garni from the Dutch oven and discard.  Transfer the beef with a slotted spoon to a bowl.  In the Dutch oven, using an immersion blender, puree the sauce and vegetables until smooth.  Or, once the beef is removed, ladle the sauce and vegetables into a blender and puree until smooth a little at a time.  Cook the pureed sauce over med-high heat until the sauce coats the back of a spoon; if needed, thin with more stock to achieve this consistency.  Return the beef to the sauce and turn to coat.

Remove the sprig of thyme and the bay leaf from the skillet.  Add the mushrooms, onions and reserved bacon to the beef and sauce.  Stir to combine.  Bring to a simmer over  medium heat and cook until warm and the flavors marry and blend, 5-7 mins.  Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.

Countdown to Paris

9 Sep

I leave for Paris in 21 days.  I have been counting down since oh, about 6 months ago, so 21 days feels very close.  I am going with my friend Jen, who I grew up with, and we are meeting another friend of ours who is attending graduate school at the American University in Paris.  I have been to Paris many times with my husband, but I have never been with just my girlfriends and I am over the moon about the trip.

Jen and Moi, 2009

Mon amie, Jen, and I have rented an apartment in Montmarte through a company I have used before.  Renting an apartment is the only way to go, à mon avis.  Jen has never been to Paris before, so of course I am frantically planning a million and one things that she must see/do while we are there.  Over the last few months I have been fowarding her all kinds of articles, like this one and this one, and researching great places to eat, shop and play.

I have made some lovely friends over at Twitter, who have made Paris planning a breeze.  I especially love:

Paris, April 2009

If you are on Twitter and at all interested in Paris, I highly suggest following some of these folks.  They also write blogs, which I love and follow with regularity.  They know so much about the city, and their love for it really shines through in their writing.  I am dreaming of cafes and picnics and shopping and wine…

I might even say I am most excited about the end of my trip, as I am heading up to Normandy to take a 3-day cooking class at On Rue Tatin.  The theme is mushrooms, and we are going to be out foraging as well as cooking indoors.  I have always wanted to go to Susan’s place in Louviers, and I am finally getting my chance.  If I had a bucket list, this would definitely be near the top.

If you have any tips/ideas for off-the-beaten-path things to do in Paris, please feel free to leave a comment on this post.  I am always looking for new ideas.  Also, Jen and I are considering taking a half-day cooking class in Paris, so if you have one to recommend, please do!


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