Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Making chicken Basquaise... and basking in the present

Exploring and learning all about the blogging world and twitter and Instagram and “unique” visitors (aren't we all?)… I find myself in the ironic predicament of being tempted to be “swallowed up” by all of it and miss those “being in the moment” moments that make life – and food, and motherhood – worthwhile. Inspired by this amazing post on Vanilla Bean (which I found on Twitter, via another blog…), I am determined to set limits in my life so that I can prove to myself I can do both.

But fellow bloggers out there, I ask you: how do we live in the moment, enjoy it, and record it for posterity too? How do you manage it?




This brings me to the recipe I wanted to post today, Chicken basquaise. We made it last week and it gave us a perfectly happy-in-the-moment evening for which I am so thankful.

This is my mother’s way of doing it, which might differ from the traditional recipes.  I love that about my mother’s cooking. She cooks from the gut. She knows, she estimates, she tastes, she smells. She cooks organically. I try to follow in her footsteps with some things I cook, but I often find myself laboring over recipes and following instructions… I feel like a dutiful student of cooking. She has true wisdom in her cooking. I admire that.



























This is in honor of a wonderful meal shared with my mother and our dear friend Dominique (and her puppies). Summer night. Eating outside. My mother cooking. Me photographing. Pablo tasting and loving the cooked garlic most of all. Dogs licking. In the moment living… Cheers to that.





Chicken Basquaise


Recipe by my mom Daniele Rimbault



Age: 10-12 months, because it has a lot of different ingredients.
This can be mixed together in a food processor for a younger baby still eating purees, or just cut-up for an older toddler.


Health benefits: It’s basically chicken simmered with lots of vegetables… Need I say more?


Note: This is one of those dishes even better the next day, when the ingredients have had time to soak up all the flavors.  Ironically, it’s also a dish that rarely produces leftovers. It’s that good!


(Serves about 4 people)

1 whole chicken (cut up in large pieces. Time saving tip: either buy already cut or ask your butcher to do it for you)

4 tomatoes, peeled (after plunging them whole in boiling water for 30 seconds)

2 sliced bell peppers (red and green, or other colors)

4 sliced zucchinis (peeled only in strips)

1 peeled, sliced eggplant

2 sliced red onions

12 garlic cloves (6 peeled, 6 “en chemise”, with the film left on)

A few sprigs of Italian Parlsey

A couple of sprigs of fresh thyme

3 Laurel leaves

Salt & pepper

Piment d’Espelette (optional - powder made from a variety of chili peppers cultivated in the town of Espelette in the Basque country. You may find it in specialty stores, or in France!)

Olive oil



In a Dutch oven, sauté and brown the chicken pieces on all sides (in batches if needed) with 2 tbsp of olive oil and 6 peeled whole garlic cloves.

Put one layer of chicken, add one layer of sliced onions, add another layer of chicken on top.

Add the eggplant, bell peppers, zucchini, then the quartered tomatoes, the six remaining garlic cloves “en chemise” (literal translation: “in their shirt”, meaning you leave the film on).

Make a bouquet garni by tying together the parsley, thyme and laurel leaves. Add it on top.

Add salt & pepper, and a pinch of Piment d’Espelette.

Add half a glass of water, cover and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

Remove the bouquet guarni and serve with some cooking juice over the vegetables and meat.

Leftover tip:
If you have vegetables left-over (a big IF, we had none this time): A great way to make them, for baby or grownups, is to reheat them in a frying pan with a bit of olive oil, and scramble some eggs together with the vegetables. It’s called a “Chouchouka”. Delicious, and fun to say! J

PS: Adding "chicken" to the food sign list, check it out!


Loving the idea of cooking for a good cause, thanks to Vanesther at Bangers & Mash, I have learned about a wonderful adoption and fostering charity called TACT.

Entering this recipe in the Care to Cook Recipe Challenge, as this is definitely a meal we would serve to welcome someone into our home.

For details on the Care to Cook challenge, go to: http://bangermashchat.wordpress.com/2012/07/10/care-to-cook-challenge/

and details on TACT here: http://www.tactcare.org.uk/pages/en/buy_tact_adoptions_care_to_cook_recipe_book.html






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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Rainbow brandade... and the beauty of food


Sharing an adaptation of a classic French dish today: the brandade. It has many variations, but typically it is a mixture of cod fish and potato. To add a healthy twist with some leafy greens, I mixed in Rainbow Chards.



























Photographing produce and foods for this blog, I have been amazed to see how beautiful they can be.  I think it is an important part of the enjoyment of food and cuisine: the appreciation of the aesthetics, the beauty, the perfection of what nature has to offer. I heard on NPR / Splendid Table a fascinating interview with a man with no taste. In order to enjoy eating, he has to enjoy its other components, such as the aesthetics and the texture. Still thinking of food as a means to nurture other areas of development for our children, looking at the amazing colors of these chards with Pablo, at their veins, marveling with him at the intricate work of Mother Nature, was one sneaky little lesson in aesthetics, and in the value of seeing the beauty in the little things around us.




























This is a dish I don’t freeze, it’s best made right before serving. It’s about half an hour total prep time, with 20 minutes of free time while it cooks. Well worth it though! This was so tasty we made some for ourselves as well! The fish taste is very subtle, so it’s a good way to get a toddler to eat fish if he/she has been resistant to it before.





Bon appétit!



Cod & Rainbow Chards Brandade



Age : 8-10 months
 

Makes one portion.


1 medium potato, peeled, washed and diced.

4 leaves of Rainbow Chards, washed and cut-up

3.5 tbsp milk (whole or formula)

Black Cod (wild caught and fresh preferably) – a piece of 0.7 to 1 oz

2 tsp of butter



Place the diced potato in a pot, add the chards and ½ cup of water. Cook covered on low heat for about 20 minutes (make sure to add a bit of water if it evaporates).


Add the piece of fish and cook for another 5 minutes.


Drain, and place the chards, fish and milk in the food processor. Mix to desired consistency.


Optional step: Put the brandade in an broiler-safe ramekin, sprinkle some breadcrumbs, place the pieces of butter on top, and put in the preheated broiler for a couple of minutes, until golden brown on top.



Variations:


- You can replace the Rainbow chards with any leafy green of your choice: spinach (you can use frozen, then add a bit less water when cooking), Swiss chards, kale, etc.


- You can also experiment with other fish: Dover sole, tilapia, or salmon.
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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pablo's menu this week

So happy this has become my little Sunday night tradition, posting Pablo's menus and adding a little something to make it more interesting...  This week is a bit atypical, as we are taking Pablo camping in the Sequoia National Forest for the first time next weekend! I love cooking (and eating) in the great outdoors, so you will see what I'm planning on cooking while camping, we'll see how we do. I will post all about it the following week for sure.







































Now, for the culinary highlight of the week: I found gorgeous porcini mushrooms from Oregon at the market! This was absolutely unreasonable price-wise, but I just couldn't resist the opportunity for a real treat for us, and for Pablo to get a taste of a true delicacy. I have to say, I am quite finicky when it comes to mushrooms. "Regular" mushrooms leave me somewhat cold. They're just not that flavorful or interesting, unless very well prepared. The only mushrooms I really love are those apparently costing 40$ a pound or more, such as porcini, fresh morels, and truffle (only fresh and only in season). So after having that inner conversation with myself while staring at the porcinis, I convinced myself to buy 1/3 lb for a special treat... The best dishes are so often the simplest. They were so fresh and clean, we only brushed them a little, let them sweat at low temp in the pan for a few minutes, then pan-fried them with butter, Italian parsley and just a little garlic. Pablo had a few slices and to my great delight, loved it! Such a treat.




Before moving on to the menu, I wanted to say these menus are a lot simpler than they seem to look. I do not spend my days laboring in the kitchen for Pablo's meals. I make individual portions batches which I freeze, so it's easy to just reheat at meal times. Finger foods are quick to cut up, or steam. The challenge is more in finding new ideas and variety, and I have been VERY excited and inspired to discover the many wonderful blogs out there full of great recipes. I have started a recipe to-do list, and will be trying (or adapting) recipes I found, for Pablo each week (see a couple this week). I always welcome ideas and feedback, so feel free :-)

Cheeses of the week: Following French tradition, I always offer a little bit of cheese at the end of every meal, between the main course and dessert. This week's rotation will include a new aged sharp cheddar from New Zealand we haven't tried before; Petit Basque (sheep's milk cheese), Goat Gouda and Goat Brie.

Desserts: At lunch, I offer a fruit yogurt (or plain yogurt with fresh fruit), but at night, I prefer sticking to plain yogurt (regular whole milk plain, sheep’s milk, and Greek yogurt for extra protein) to avoid too much sugar before bedtime.


MONDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Cauliflower florets & tomato salad
Main course: Chicken & sweet potato puree

Goûter (4pm snack) - Plum-pear compote with mashed banana
Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Green beans and potato salad with Italian parsley
Main course: Tofu with pan-fried Japanese & graffiti eggplant


TUESDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Avocado, hearts of palm
Main course: Pork & eggplant puree

Goûter -  Attempting the watermelon-fig granita from the gorgeous blog Fig & Fauna.
It looked so amazing, summery and easy, I have to try it.

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Cold vegetable noodles and green tomato salad
Main course: Sardines, garlic green beans puree


WEDNESDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Broccoli florets, endive salad
Main course: Turkey & yellow zucchini puree

Goûter - Raw peach & mint compote

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: White asparagus tips in yogurt sauce
Main course: Planning on adapting the Carrot Risotto recipe found on the wonderful Food loves writing.


THURSDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Beets & goat cheese salad
Main course: Duck, white beans and tomato puree

Goûter - Cantaloupe

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Green beans & cauliflower salad
Main course: Soft-boiled egg, brussels sprouts puree


FRIDAY/SATURDAY/SUNDAY : Camping, cooking and eating in the great outdoors!

I will be making Bannock Bread over the campfire, very excited about that! Will be great for French Toast with plum-pear sauce for breakfast.

For lunches: planning on making the Tomato Jam found on Food loves writing, for open-faced sandwiches the French call "tartines". Hams, hard-boiled eggs, avocados, tomatoes, peaches, apricots, cherries, cantaloupes...

For dinners: Marinated grilled vegetables on the campfire, marinated chicken, corn on the cob, baked potatoes. I love my American classics too! Looking forward to posting all about it...

What do you like to cook when camping?



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Saturday, June 23, 2012

The simplicity of a roasted duck

When someone asks me, “What’s Pablo having today?”, and I answer, “Duck”, I immediately get that “how fancy, how French” vibe… Somehow, duck sounds fancy, something you only have in a restaurant. Yet, it can be as simple to cook as a roasted chicken, and doesn’t cost a lot more. And duck meat is wonderfully flavorful.


 

I was born in Toulouse, and Southwestern France will always stay in my heart as the place where I learned the true meaning of the word “gastronomy”. It’s a place full of smells: it’s where I smelled a tomato on the vine for the first time.  Where the melons and peaches at the market in summer are huge and as sweet as can be. It is of course the home of the truffle, my passion and obsession. And a place where duck is a staple.

So, inspired by the wonderful dishes from the southwest region of France (cassoulets, etc), I decided to combine roasted duck with white cannellini beans and roasted rosemary tomatoes.

Variety being a key component to my strategy with Pablo, I started him on duck (among the other meats: beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, veal) around 8 months. At first, I bought duck breast, which I steamed and mixed with vegetables (it goes well with turnip). This is a bit more involved, but for an ultra-simplified version, see the end of the recipe.





Duck with white beans and roasted tomatoes




Age : 8-10 months.


Health benefits: Duck meat is very high in iron. And most of its fat, which is “good” fat anyway, aka polyunsaturated, is in the skin or just below, easily removed from the meat.

1 duck
1 tbsp butter + 1 tbsp olive oil
Salt & pepper

2 cloves of garlic

3 tbsp of rosemary olive oil

1/2 can organic cannellini beans, rinsed*
(*You could make the beans from scratch, but I must admit, being busy as moms get, when I found canned organic cannellini beans with bpa free lining, I jumped on them!)

12 cherry tomatoes.


The duck:


Preheat the oven at 400°


Brown the duck with the butter and olive oil on all sides in a large dutch oven.


Place the duck breast-side down. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add ¼ cup of water.


Place the uncovered dutch oven in the oven and roast for about 45 mn, basting every 15-20 minutes.



The tomatoes:


Put some fresh rosemary and the garlic cloves in the olive oil, let it marinate for 20 minutes (I also make rosemary garlic olive oil by leaving a few cloves of garlic and some fresh rosemary in an olive oil bottle, so it’s always handy.)

Plunge the tomatoes in boiling water for 10 seconds, to peel them easily.

Cut them in half and place them in an oven-safe platter. Drizzle some rosemary olive oil (with the garlic cloves) over the tomatoes. Roast them at 425° for about 10 minutes.


The mix (to make 4 x 2 oz portions):
 

Put about 3 oz of roasted duck breast (skin removed), ½ can of cannellini beans (rinsed in cold water), the roasted tomatoes (with the garlic cloves) in the food processor and mix to desired consistency.



Old toddler option: You can serve the duck breast (cut-up), the beans and the roasted tomatoes on one plate.


Ultra easy option: The slightly “fancy” option above can be shortened by simply purchasing duck breast. Simply steam 3 oz of duck breast with the tomatoes and ½ garlic clove for about 15 mn. Add the cannellini beans, perhaps some fresh thyme, and mix in the food processor.




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Friday, June 22, 2012

Marveling at rituals... and the artichoke





Don’t you just love food rituals? Enyclopedia Britannica describes a ritual as “a specific, observable mode of behavior exhibited by all known societies, […] a way of defining or describing humans.” I think they exist in every culture, and in fact, it’s one of the most fun things to discover when traveling to a new country: not only its food, but its food rituals. Omakase in Japan. The lovo feast in Fiji. The carving of the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner.

I definitely grew up with a myriad of small food rituals in France. The meal, the order of the courses, the way we eat radish or cheese... All little rituals – not Thanksgiving scope, just small ways to celebrate the sacred: a pleasant meal.

I have found as an expat that reconnecting with and sharing these little food rituals I grew up with, here in my American life, has been a wonderful way to integrate both my French and American culture. And for people raising children in a multicultural environment, sharing those rituals with our children is one of the many small ways cultural heritage can be passed on.

As fate would have it, young children love rituals. We all know about the bedtime ritual, the nap ritual, the bath ritual. Just a way to make these moments special, reassuring and expected, so they are more agreeable to everyone involved. They are the moments children can count on in this big chaotic world. But more than that, children seem to really enjoy each and every part of the rituals. If you skip a step, like saying goodnight to Bunny, they’ll call you on it.

So I figured, using food rituals, whether they are from my childhood in France, shared by a friend from another culture, or from right here, is yet another great way to get Pablo engaged, interested and open-minded about food.


So what food ritual did I recently introduce Pablo to? I guess the post title and pictures kind of gave it away... The artichoke. 

Even though artichoke bottoms (different from the artichoke hearts) are very good for baby purees at a young age, I must admit this is one vegetable I have been avoiding… It’s so much work! You have to boil it, peel all the leaves, then take out the “furry” part, to be then left with the small bottom, that saucer looking part. People compare the complexity of human character to peeling an onion, but I for one think we should switch that analogy to artichokes!

Only as an adult can you recognize all the trouble your parents went to in order to please you. As a kid, I only remember artichokes were fun because of the fork-under-the-plate ritual… The French commonly eat artichokes by dipping the leaves into vinaigrette. To facilitate this, you put your fork underneath the plate so the plate is tilted. The vinaigrette pools in the lower part, and the leaves to be eaten stay on the top part, without soaking in the dressing. Of course you pick up the leaves with your fingers, dip them in the vinaigrette, and rake the “meat” with your front teeth. And as one of those ingrained back-to-childhood links, as soon as I look at an artichoke, I picture that plate sitting on the fork.


Introducing Pablo to the artichoke and its ritual was a lot of fun. He certainly took to it, biting the leaves was perfect since he only has his front teeth. The bottom of the artichoke, diced, makes an excellent finger food. Or can be otherwise made into a puree.










In the process of documenting this photographically, I realized just how beautiful and intricate an artichoke is! Every time you peel one part, another color, or texture appears. How does nature come up with this stuff?





Artichoke with vinaigrette





Age: Artichoke puree can be given at 6 months; as a finger food, around 8 months.


Health benefits: High in antioxidants and fiber, good for the liver and digestion, contains potassium, vitamin C and folic acid.

 

2 artichokes
Olive oil
Juice of a lemon


 

Cut off the foot of the artichoke, and put it in boiling water, covered, for about 30 minutes. Let it cool.

Peel off the leaves to be eaten dipped in vinaigrette.

Take out the furry part, and you are left with the bottom, to be diced or pureed.

Baby vinaigrette: Simply mix 2 tbsp of olive oil with the juice of half a lemon, add a bit of salt and pepper (optional).


Option 1: Cut it up to serve to baby as finger food (with or without vinaigrette)


Option 2: Make a puree. Steam ½ potato, mix it together with 2 artichoke bottoms. Should make about 2x 2 oz portions.

 

Other puree possibilities:


Artichoke-green beans puree (6 months and up): Steam a handful of green beans for about 10 minutes. Mix with one cooked artichoke bottom, and some milk to desired consistency.


Artichoke, peas & tomato puree (12 months and up): Steam ½ cup of frozen peas for about 15 minutes. Put 1 medium tomato in boiling water for 4 minutes. Peel the tomato. Mix together the steamed peas, tomato and artichoke bottom, add some milk to desired consistency.


Herb pairing for purees: Italian parsley, basil.


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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Thought for food… and crudités


I’ve been giving a lot of thought to food as an end, and food as a means… Of course, we are looking for strategies to get our kids to eat and to eat well, have a diversified diet and an open-mind about new foods. That’s one side of the coin. But because Pablo enjoys food so much - because we get excited about it as a family, because he loves to touch and squoosh and smell and get all sensorial about it, because we involve him in gardening, and going to the market, or quite simply because it’s so good! – I realized that we can use food as a means as well, an amazing teaching tool in fact. For example, teaching a sense of aesthetics & beauty.




Food can also be the perfect vehicle to learn, teach and practice the art of anticipation (otherwise known as “knowing how to wait”.) We can learn patience as a necessary evil, one of those inevitable burdens, like gravity. Or… we can learn the trampoline! We can learn to enjoy the wait, to have it enhance our experience, to embrace the anticipation. This seems like a really complex lesson which I’m still teaching myself on those chomping-at-the-bit days… But somehow, by watching me buy or grow the food, photograph it at every angle, look for what’s beautiful about it, then cook it and finally eat it, Pablo senses that whole process is a big part of the pleasure of eating. We're in the early days of toddlerhood, so he’s got a long way to go patience-wise, and is still just dying to pull on that green tomato because it just takes too long to get red. But I have seen him enjoy the wait and anticipation a few times, when waiting for the punchline of a song for example, as moments of excitement and complicity. And I want to find every possible way to nurture that. I suppose it’s just another way of saying that what counts is the journey, not the destination. I never expected food to help me teach him that, in a way that’s not superficial, but ingrained, a gut kind of learning.



Now this art of anticipation business brings me to the French four-course meal. (I know, it’s a big jump. As the French would say with their love of food-related expressions, I’m going “from pear to cheese”. But bear with me…)

I have recently read Bringing up bébé by Pamela Druckerman, after hearing about the “French method” on the radio and at the playground. Other parents would hear me speak French to Pablo and ask me about this “method” of ours. I had no clue what the “French method” was… So I read the book, and found it very interesting. The author knows us French better than we know ourselves! I identified with and recognized a lot of what she describes. She points out one thing in particular, which I had never realized explicitly: the nutritional benefits of eating in courses the way the French do.

In France, the four-course meal isn’t just for fancy restaurants, it is common-place in most households and schools. It usually goes something like this: you start the meal with “crudités” (raw or cold vegetables, tomatoes, cucumber, radishes, grated carrots, green beans, asparagus etc, with vinaigrette); then you proceed with a protein (meat, fish…) served with a starch, and maybe another hot veggie, pureed or sautéed; then cheese, with maybe some plain lettuce with vinaigrette (for digestion); and dessert  in the form of a yogurt or a piece of fruit. As she remarks in the book, most of the veggies are served at the start of the meal, when we are most hungry! Somewhat satiated, we can go on and be satisfied with smaller portions of the richer foods that follow.

Four-course meal, nutritional benefits: check. Now for the life-lesson benefits: when eating in courses in this manner, you can take your time, and anticipate the next course. Enjoy the meal as a journey, versus something to get over with as soon as possible. So even though I was raised eating this way all my childhood and youth, Ms. Druckerman helped me understand this implicit fundamental French approach to food, and to life.





This brings me to the recipe: the crème of crudités (This was a four-course blog post! I figure I’d serve the recipe as dessert, and my thoughts and ramblings as the first and main courses… J Do forgive me, force of habit.)

Raw crudités tend to be crunchy, and with 13 months and 8 teeth to his name, crunchy is somewhat out of Pablo’s league for now. So I puree them into a “crème of crudités”. You can mix whatever raw vegetables you want, as long as you’re mixing in veggies that have a lot of water (tomato, cucumber). This is also a great opportunity to have baby taste some fresh herbs. I list possible ingredients you can include below. Last week, thrilled to have found wonderful watermelon radishes at the market, which I only discovered a few weeks ago by chance, and whose beauty is so amazingly captured on this recent post on Cannelle et Vanille, I decided to take advantage of that gorgeous shade of pink to experiment with the color of my crème. It came out less pink than I had hoped, but was still pretty tasty!





And when Pablo has some molars, I can’t wait to share a slice of radish French-style, the way I grew up eating it: with butter, salt and pepper.  Patience… All in good time.




Crème of Crudités



Age: I started this around the 10-12 months mark, because the veggies are raw and harder to digest at a younger age.


Watermelon radish
Green tomatoes
Fresh cilantro
Cucumber
Endive
Drizzle of lemon
Some plain sheep’s milk yogurt, to desired consistency and creaminess
Olive oil (optional) 

Other possible ingredients:

All tomatoes
Raw carrots
Beets
Traditional radishes (red with white tips are milder)
All lettuces: Mâche (lamb’s lettuce), watercress, butter lettuce, baby spinach, arugula, microgreens, etc.
All fresh herbs: Chives, Italian parsley, mint, oregano, basil, sorrel, tarragon


Wash, peel, cut up and throw in the food processor. Taste to adjust lemon, oil and yogurt seasoning.


Variation for baby and the grown-ups: Cauliflower with crème of crudités dressing

The mixture can also be used as a dressing for cold vegetables in general, but I thought it went particularly well with cold steamed cauliflower.
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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Pablo's menu of the week

Here's what Pablo's tastebuds are up against this week...

Also sharing some of the foods that have inspired us this week... Getting Pablo very involved in looking and touching the produce, taking him to the market, talking about what we're going to cook with it, having feel the different textures, this all contributes in making him excited about eating and discovering new flavors. And food, cooking and mealtime (and everything related) represents a special family connection which he implicitly senses. He knows this is something we all value and enjoy together.




Cheeses of the week: Following French tradition, I always offer a little bit of cheese at the end of every meal, between the main course and dessert. Similar rotation as last week since we still have a bit left: a Blue Cheese from Point Reyes, Fol Epi (a French nutty Swiss cheese) and the Goat Gouda, which he loves.  I also use Babybel when we have lunch out, easy for picnics.

Desserts: At lunch, I offer a fruit yogurt (or plain yogurt with fresh fruit), but at night, I prefer sticking to plain yogurt (regular whole milk plain, sheep’s milk, and Greek yogurt for extra protein) to avoid too much sugar before bedtime.

I marked with a * the recipes which will be the topic of upcoming posts.

MONDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Endives & green tomatoes
Main course: Turkey & yellow squash puree

Goûter (4pm snack) - Cherries & banana

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Broccoli florets, yellow tomato
Main course: Sardines, Three Roots Puree.


TUESDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Black beans, hearts of palm
Main course: Veal, peashoots and microgreens puree

Goûter - Watermelon

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Green asparagus tips, dark red tomato
Main course: Pork & eggplant puree


WEDNESDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Blue potato, corn & tomato salad with Feta
Main course: Salmon with sorrel

Goûter - Strawberry-apple compote

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Broccoli florets
Main course: Chicken basquaise*


THURSDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Hearts of palm, green tomato
Main course: Duck, white beans and tomato puree*

Goûter - Raw apricots-peach & mint compote

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Green beans & parsley salad
Main course: Swiss chards & cod brandade*


FRIDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Crème of crudités
Main course: Beef patty with green beans, garlic and parsley puree

Goûter - Nectarine and plum 

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Cauliflower florets, yellow tomato
Main course: Lentils cooked with onions and herbs


SATURDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Avocado, red tomato
Main course: Shrimp scampi with pea-spinach puree

Goûter - Peach

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Cauliflower & beet
Main course: Soft boiled egg with brussels sprouts puree


SUNDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Tomato & hearts of palm
Main course: Chicken & leeks puree

Goûter - Plum, apricot

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Cooked carrots with Feta
Main course: Tofu, with broccoli-turnip puree


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Saturday, June 16, 2012

My gnarly roots


I like gnarly things. Gnarly faces. Gnarly trees. Gnarly truffles. Gnarly vegetables. Earthy, rooted, tough, intricate, complicated. Yet beauty and nuance come out of gnarly things. And that wonderful contrast is perfectly illustrated by the celery root.


  
I don’t know that there is a more gnarly-looking root (and if there is, do let me know asap!) than the celery root (though the sunchoke gives it a run for its money, plus it’s got a cool alias, “Jersulem Artichoke”, but I digress… more on sunchokes very soon). That thing looks like it's going to jump out and bite you, doesn't it? A far cry from its ham of a sibling, the celery stalk, all sleek and leafy up top. And yet it has such a delicate subtle taste, which makes wonderful purees, for baby or the whole family (My truffled celery puree is always a family favorite at Christmas dinner).







































Aside from their many health benefits (lots of fiber, lots of potassium, vitamin C and a flurry of other good stuff), roots have very unique flavors. Sometimes on the sweet side (rutabaga, parsnip, beet, carrots), sometimes on the bitter (turnip), or just unlike anything else (celery root, sunchokes), they add a very interesting set of flavors to a baby’s palate.


A roots puree can be any combination you wish, depending on your baby’s taste. If your baby tends to like carrots or have a bit of a sweet tooth, start with a rutabaga/parsnip/celery puree. Beets (of various shades) or carrots add a nice color component to these purees. For a pretty pink color, add a touch of beet (though the color of beet quickly takes over, so if you’re going for light pink, go easy on the beet! I used a whole, albeit small, beet in the puree below, and see the result…)





Three Roots Puree

 


Age: 6-8 months, consult with your pediatrician. (As always, start by offering a puree of each root individually for any potential allergies, and then mix and match…)

Makes 5 x 2 oz containers


1 small beet

1 medium celery root

½ turnip

Some fresh sage and chives



Peel the celery by cutting off the rough outer edge and stalks, and cut it up.

Peel the turnip and beet, and cut up in pieces.

Steam the roots with the herbs for about 15 mn, until tender.

Mix in food processor, adding some of the cooking juices to obtain desired consistency.


Other possible variations with roots:


Celery puree – Steam 1 cut up celery root with 1 small red potato and mix with some cooking juices (I even go as far as adding a tiny drop of truffle oil now, which marries itself so beautifully to celery. You can also mix it with a bit of fresh goat cheese in the processor, adds a touch of tanginess, calcium and protein)


Turnip-carrot puree – A good way to introduce baby to turnip, since it’s slightly on the bitter side, the carrot makes up for it. Steam ¼ turnip with a few carrots and mix.


Beet – I usually steam, puree and freeze one large beet into 1 oz container, that way I always have some when a recipe calls for a bit of beet, you can just add a touch for color and taste.


Parsnip & Rutabaga can be steamed and pureed on their own (or together). The purees come out very smooth, nice for a young baby who isn’t used to chunks yet.


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Friday, June 15, 2012

Asparagus… or the meaning of food


Food is so many things. It is nourishment. It is connection with others, with the earth, with our bodies. And food is childhood. Deep in the learning curve of this blogging endeavor, my brain is all widgets and gadgets and html and links these days (when I’m not obsessing over how to best photograph an artichoke).  And it occurred to me there was this strange link between certain foods and childhood memories. You think of a food, and click, you’re back in your mother’s kitchen, with its smells, its feel. Not just a cerebral memory, a very visceral one. Well, when I see white asparagus, click, my brain goes right back to Sunday lunches at my mother’s apartment. The spring. The cool weather. The radishes. The cream sauce.


Marcel Proust wrote a vastly more eloquent version of this idea in In Search of Lost Time, in the famous Madeleine scene, where taking a bite out of the little French cakes brings him back to his childhood:



“[…] When from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.”

(I found this translated quote here, where you will also find a more extended version of the scene)

I just love the idea that taste and smell are “souls”… I suppose my goal is to be creating lots of originating links in Pablo’s brain when cooking for him, imprinting tastes and smells he will click back to, later in life. A way to leave a mark as a parent, strangely.

So Proust had Madeleines, and I have (among other things) asparagus. White asparagus, to be precise. Yes, I know. They make your pee smell weird. But their flavor and texture are so unique (and so different from their green cousin). My mother prepared them lukewarm, in a creamy sauce. With fresh tarragon.



I have adapted my mother’s recipe for Pablo (and us as well), to make it on the healthier side, using sheep’s milk yogurt instead of cream.

It makes a great finger food (a bit messy with the creamy sauce… but messy is the word of the hour… or year). And it is a wonderful opportunity to familiarize baby with the flavor of tarragon. I cannot think of a happier (tastier) place for tarragon to be!

The contrast between the warm asparagus and cold cream sauce is something interesting and new for baby, and the texture of white asparagus is very unique as well. It’s healthy, tasty and pretty to look at... Nourishment and sensory experience, two for the price of one!




 

White asparagus tips with tarragon sauce


Age: I offered asparagus tips (white or green) as a puree, boiled and mixed with potato around 6 months. As a finger food, I offered them plain (boiled, not steamed, so they’re less bitter) around 8 months, and with the yogurt sauce around 9-10 months.


A bunch of white asparagus

2 tbsp of plain sheep’s milk yogurt (Bellwether farms has a very creamy kind)

Some lemon juice

A pinch of salt

Fresh tarragon


Peel the asparagus: Cut off the foot of the stem, and with a small knife, remove the shiny film covering the bottom two thirds of the asparagus (not going all the way to the tip, see picture above.)

Put the asparagus in boiling water for about 12-14 minutes. Use a knife to make sure they’re done, when they’re very soft.

Deposit the asparagus on a paper towel to absorb the moisture. Let cool to lukewarm.
(Or reheat if you want to refrigerate and eat later).

Yogurt sauce: Mix the sheep’s milk yogurt, lemon and salt (adjust quantities to taste, though go very easy on the salt for baby). Cut up the leaves of tarragon with scissors, to make their fragrance and flavor come out, and stir into the creamy sauce.

Cut the very tips of the warm asparagus for baby (they’re less stringy, keep the rest for the grown-ups!) and pour some of the creamy sauce over them.






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Thursday, June 14, 2012

At the farmers' market... for bites of summer

I love love love farmers’ markets. I feel at home in them. Their atmosphere says so much about their location. Being at a farmers’ market somewhere in the world, I feel I can get a sense of the place in general, of its people, its culture, its idiosyncrasies. It’s just enough to feel like I have an idea of what it is like to live there, for just a moment. The atmosphere at a market in Paris, Aubagne, Barcelona, Tokyo or Bali is completely different, and yet they have something in common. A sense of community perhaps? Or just simply the universal need (and love) for food.

Far from Bali, there’s the little Sherman Oaks Farmers' market, a few blocks away from our house, a nice stroller outing on Tuesday afternoons. It’s the little market that could. Yes, we are in Los Angeles: we have to walk past a freeway on-ramp, go underneath an overpass and breathe in that smog that gives us such lovely sunsets, to get to the market set up on the overflow parking lot of a giant mall. But it is peach season, and we need peaches. Among other things. So off we go.



As we walk on the lookout for anything with wheels – an absolute fascination for Pablo - I encounter this bit of grass covered with purple petals… from jacaranda trees (I finally found out the name of that tree for this post!). Those are the little gems of Los Angeles. Sometimes, the best views are either up close or far in the distance, not so much in midrange. Like in difficult times in life, I suppose. You only get through those by either living in the moment (which children are so wonderful at), or dreaming far ahead – or a bit of both. Sure, just outside that shot, there are trash cans and abandoned front yards of foreclosed houses. But in the distance, there are clouds over the Hollywood hills. And up close, there is purple. I needed purple today.

Riding on that purple… we arrive at the market. It is small, the selection is somewhat limited. But there are lots of peaches, plums, apricots and cherries. It’s the heart of the season. I’m excited. And Pablo is too!


I know from what I’ve written so far, one might think Pablo just eats everything. And well, it’s pretty much true. But it sometimes takes him a few tries. Just a couple of weeks ago, I gave him an apricot for the first time (he was too young last year). He put it his mouth, because he can’t help himself. Spat it right out. Weird texture. Not what he was expecting. Ok. We’ll try again. And again. I have faith in the apricot.


Well, it took the Farmer’s market, and the nice man selling apricots, to do it! When the man handed him, personally, an apricot, Pablo was so proud and delighted. He tasted it, touched it and held it like his most prized possession all the way back home!  It made me think the love for food goes far beyond our taste buds. At the outset, there’s taste, then texture, smell, feel. And then there’s the whole experience around it. That is why I love farmers’ markets: a place to experience food.  But back to taste buds...




Peaches have been the highlights of the goûter (afternoon snack) recently. Mostly just plain and simple. Juicy bites of summer. (Can you feel the juice dripping down your chin?)



But this afternoon, we experimented on that theme… mixing up a slightly overripe peach with wonderfully fragrant mint from my beloved topsy-turvy. Pablo picked the mint himself, and chewed on it happily! I guess the kid likes mint… and peaches. Let’s mix them up then.




So I give him an apricot to get started (he spits out a cookie to attack the apricot… happy mommy), while I mix up a peach with a few leaves of mint.


 I take a few pictures, give him the mixture, and then…


… he takes it upon himself to dip the apricot in the peach-mint compote….
Mint. Yum. Apricot. Yum. Peach with mint. Double yum. Add some apricot. Pablo heaven.  



Peach & mint raw compote

(Age note: I started Pablo on raw fruit – berries, pear, kiwi, banana - around 7-8 months. Before that, for all compotes, I steamed the fruit and mixed it with some cooking juices to make it very smooth.)

1 peach
5-6 leaves of mint
Apricot optional!

Wash, peel, cut up and mix! Depending on your processor, this can make a fairly chunky compote, so make sure your little one can handle little chunks of fruit (which can easily be gummed down)
For fun – add some apricots to the mix (no need to peel them)

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