Sunday, July 29, 2012

Pablo's menu this week...



I find myself going back and forth between different modes. Sometimes, I'm in cerebral mode: I want to introspect and analyze and write about it. Sometimes, I'm in experiential mode. I just want to be. Be in the moment. I suppose this is why I love the combination of writing and photography. Writing is cerebral, photography is experiential. You capture the moment (or you try to), and then you figure out its meaning (or you try to). The past week in our life feels more experiential than cerebral, so I find the best way to convey it, is with images, and few words... Hence:


Summer + milk teeth: tomato teeth / Chive flowers tempura
Carottes rapées. Grated heirloom carrots. Memories of French school lunches.

Braised endives + ham & béchamel: Mother. Childhood.

Remnants of the homemade ravioli experiment... A few more tries before I get it right
Blue beans + boiling water: green beans
Homemade bread + goat cheese: Frenchness
Fresh figs + a day with friends: Fig goat cheese clafouti

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. Rotation this week: Goat gouda, truffle Italian cheese, Manchego.

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

If you would like a particular recipe on the menu, feel free to contact me! (I marked with a * the recipes that will be the topic of upcoming posts).


MONDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Blue beans, tomato and feta salad
Main course: Veal, green beans, garlic and parsley puree

Goûter (4pm snack) - Watermelon

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Leek's white in vinaigrette, broccoli florets
Main course: Velvet chicken and snap peas from Mummy I can cook! blog, making that again because it was that good.



TUESDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Avocado & tomato salad
Main course: Turkey, zucchini and black beans puree

Goûter - Peaches (our nice friend Sam at the peach stand always cuts one up for Pablo :-)

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Crème de crudités (with fresh produce from the market)
Main course: Pork belly with roasted apples*


WEDNESDAY 

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Grated heirloom carrots, classic French-Style recipe on Karen Le Billon's blog
Main course: Tofu & vegetable brunoise (leeks, turnip, carrot) puree*


Goûter - Lavender rice pudding* with cherries

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Green & yellow tomato with hearts of palm
Main course: Pan-fried Dover sole filets with micro amaranth puree*

THURSDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Trying the Chilled pea soup with lemon and tarragon from Tastefood blog
Main course: Lamb ratatouille*

Goûter - Nectarine

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Peas and feta fritter*
Main course: Sardines & eggplant brandade


FRIDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Cucumber in tarragon yogurt sauce
Main course: Beef patty with creamed cauliflower

Goûter - Apple compote

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Mint & zucchini terrine*
Main course: Salmon & kale puree



SATURDAY

Lunch


Appetizer / Finger Foods: Avocado & tomato
Main course: Probably out and about, eating out that day... we'll see what we find! :-)

Goûter - Cherries

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Broccoli florets & hearts of palm
Main course: Braised lentils, a recipe kindly shared by Jacqueline from Tinned Tomatoes


SUNDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Trying the watermelon, tomato and almond gazpacho from Cannelle & Vanille
Main course: Soft boiled egg, baby bok choy puree

Goûter - Apple-fig compote

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Artichoke with vinaigrette
Main course: Roasted guinea fowl, my mother's recipe!*


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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sardine & eggplant brandade... why the heck not?




"The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”
I love this quote by Julia Child. It's just another way of saying: "Embrace the process". And embracing the process has been my challenge and my light these past few months. With parenting. And cooking. And blogging. All things that make me patient somehow. And not so worried about what comes next. Just enjoying the present and its inescapable reality.



So one week night, I am feeding Pablo sardines, and sauteed eggplant. He has a bite, I have a bite. And wow, what a great combination. Let's follow that lead and make a new kind of "brandade" then... I guess this is a nice lesson to teach. As Pablo is watching me photograph sardine "mush" from every angle, hopefully he's learning. That sardine mush is hard to photograph. And that when you sense a speck of inventiveness or creativity, no matter how silly or minute, grab hold and don't let go, follow that thread, even if it doesn't lead anywhere. Success in life lies in that thread. It certainly is a lesson it took me a while to learn, and I have been too often guilty in my life of letting go of the thread and watching the speck burn out.




Let me be honest though... As much as I enjoy the process of cooking, I'm just so darn happy when a dish turns out delicious and Pablo gobbles it up licking his fingers and signing for more! Process is all fine and dandy, but a little result is pretty nice too... ;-) I guess, once again, it's all about balance.




Sardine & eggplant brandade

 

Age: 8-10 months. I gave Pablo sardines around 6-7 months, but since this recipe mixes a few ingredients, better wait til 8-10 months. This is a nice easy family dish everyone can enjoy.

Health benefits: Sardines are very nutritious, high in protein, vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids and calcium, with very low levels of toxins (see their many health benefits here.) Eggplant and cilantro both contain a host of vitamins and nutrients. Eggplant is a good source of fiber, vitamins B1, B6 and potassium. Cilantro is very rich in vitamins A & K, among many others.


Makes 2 servings

1 can of sardines in olive oil (you can use some of the oil)
1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut-up
Some olive oil
1/2 bunch of cilantro
2 tsp lemon juice
Some grated Pecorino cheese (Parmesan or Swiss are also an option)
1 tbsp of bread crumbs
A dab of butter

Preheat the broiler at 450/500°.

Sauté the eggplant over medium heat in olive oil (you can use some of the olive oil from the can of sardines) until golden brown and soft, about 10 minutes. It absorbs a lot of olive oil, so add some if the pan gets too dry.

Place the sardine filets, the cooked eggplant and the cilantro (pre-cut with scissors) in the food processor, drizzle with lemon juice, and pulse a few times (you can make it a fine puree or a more grossly chopped mixture).

Pour the mixture into two oven-safe ramekins, sprinkle some bread crumbs, then the grated Pecorino, and two or three pea-sized pieces of butter on top.

Place in the broiler for 4-5 minutes, until golden brown on top.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Veggies can be sexy too... artichoke, parsley & an egg



Children can teach us so much and vastly improve our lives. Being with Pablo has taught me how to be fully engaged in the present, how to appreciate the process of things without impatience, how to marvel at the amazing power of human connection. And thanks to him, we're also motivated to eat wholesome, delicious and healthy foods day in and day out. 

Now that Pablo is 15 months old, I'm doing less and less purees and have to come up with creative and yummy ways for the whole family to eat a lot of vegetables. He has been exposed to pretty much every vegetable I could think of since he's five months old and really enjoys their flavor, so it's now up to me to live up to that appreciation by offering vegetable dishes that are actually good. Steamed and boiled plain vegetables can be dreary, and as I was going through a book we got at Christmas called The Food of Spain by Claudia Roden, I realized the Spanish really know how to make their veggies look - and taste - sexy! Stuffed peppers, marinated mushrooms... and of course, the gazpacho, among many others.

I found this recipe using parsley and artichoke bottoms, and even though I find artichoke somewhat daunting to prepare (not a last minute kind of veggie), this recipe made me a convert: it is worth the trouble! Just because it's fun to combine food rituals, we served it with a soft boiled egg and parsley mouillettes (strips of bread, usually buttered, you dip into the egg yolk - a ritual & tradition French kids adore), and of course chewing on the artichoke leaves with vinaigrette. Let me just tell you: it was finger-lickin' good! It's so great to be able to say that about something else than fried chicken! Pablo simply devoured it (I think chewing on the artichoke leaves was therapeutic for the teething as well.) It just felt so wonderful to have such a healthy meal be so scrumptious.




Artichoke bottoms with green sauce


Inspired from "The Food of Spain" by Claudia Roden

Age: 8-10 months, maybe before, if your child has previously tasted all the ingredients (for allergies.)

Health benefits: Artichoke is an amazingly nutritious food, with antioxidants and fiber, great for the liver & digestion. Parsley has vitamin C, A, K & antioxidants, among many nutrients.

Serves 4

4 large artichokes
1/2 slice of white bread, crust removed
2 garlic cloves
2-3 tbsp olive oil (for frying the bread) + 3 tbsp (for the mixture)
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped Italian parsley (only leaves, no stems)

Wash the artichokes and cut off the ends of the stems. Plunge them in boiling water, cover and cook until tender, about 25 mn. (If the leaves can be pulled easily, it's done.)

Fry the bread and whole garlic cloves in olive oil over medium heat, until brown all over. Drain on a paper towel.

Place the bread and garlic in a food processor, add the vinegar, parsley and olive oil. Blend until you obtain a creamy sauce. (Add a little olive oil if it's not creamy enough).

Once the artichokes are cooked, drain and let cool. Then pull off all the leaves, to be eaten with vinaigrette as appetizer, as described here.

Carefully pull off the "fur" to get to the bottom... of the artichoke ;-)

Scoop some parsley mixture in the artichoke bottom and serve at room temperature.

Serving suggestion:

With a soft boiled egg (3 mn in boiling water) and the classic French "mouillettes", spread with some of the remaining parsley mixture. Dip away!

Note: for Pablo, the texture of the bottom was a little too crunchy, so I pureed it (grossly) with the parsley mixture and he ate it right up!





Check out Bangers & Mash hosting Herbs on Saturday this month!
http://bangermashchat.wordpress.com/2012/07/01/july-herbs-on-saturday/

Check out Lavender and lovage for more on the herbs on saturday contest!
http://www.lavenderandlovage.com/herbs-on-saturday


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Pablo's weekly menu...



I leave a strange week behind, with the feeling of not having accomplished enough of the mountain of projects I have set before myself. Tonight, looking over the pictures of the week, I realize I did more than I thought. I can honestly say this is the first week of my life that I have: made lavender yogurt, black sesame pudding tomato polenta tart, hand-kneaded bread, found inspiration here and here and spent quality time with family and friends... I guess it wasn't as an unproductive week as I felt it was. Anxious to get organized and get more posts in this week... Enjoying this food blogging journey and learning experience so very much. First a few photos to share, then the week's menu...

Peppers and tomatoes for Chicken basquaise & the Cavaillon melons gave us
a taste of summer in Southwestern France
Boiled squid with miso vinaigrette from Just One Cook Book / White asparagus with tarragon yogurt sauce
Obsessed with lavender these days, after last week's Peach Lavender Custard, lavender yogurt was made...
The cardamom flatbread from Vanilla Bean blog
The daily ripe strawberry from our garden, the near future holds many fruits

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. Rotation this week: Goat brie & gouda, blue Stilton, Vermont Cheddar.

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

If you would like a particular recipe on the menu, feel free to contact me! (I marked with a * the recipes that will be the topic of upcoming posts).


MONDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Tomato, hearts of palm & basil salad
Main course: Beef patty with red chards puree

Goûter (4pm snack) - Apple & peach (from Gopher Springs Farm)

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Vegetable noodles, yellow tomato
Main course: Soft boiled egg, artichoke bottoms with green sauce*



TUESDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Andalusian Gazpacho
Main course: Turkey, zucchini and black beans puree

Goûter - Watermelon (and whatever fruit we get to taste at the farmers' market!)

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Broccoli & Cauliflower florets with vinaigrette
Main course: Braised endives with ham*


WEDNESDAY  (Pablo turning 15 months today!)

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Green beans, tomato & Italian parsley salad
Main course: Sardines & baby bok choy puree

Goûter - Shiso Nectarine Ice Cream

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Leek whites with vinaigrette*
Main course: Veal blanquette* (soon on my guest post on http://www.artsyfartsymama.com/!)

THURSDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Cauliflower and shaved watermelon radish salad
Main course: Chicken with ratatouille*

Goûter - Lavender rice pudding with peach*

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Crème de crudités
Main course: Attempting home-made raviolis, following pasta recipe from Fig + Fauna


FRIDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Hearts of palm, green beans yellow tomato & chives salad
Main course: Tofu with cucumber puree

Goûter - Plums

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: White bean, cilantro and tomato salad
Main course: Pork belly with roasted apples*



SATURDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Avocado & tomato
Main course: Rosemary lamb with garlic and parsley flageolet beans

Goûter - Apple chausson* (puff pastry with a compote from our recently harvested apples)

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Cucumber in tarragon yogurt sauce
Main course: Salmon & kale puree


SUNDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Greek salad with fresh oregano
Main course: Veal, peashoots & microgreens puree

Goûter - Cherries & nectarine

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Green asparagus tips with vinaigrette
Main course: Tofu with peas & spinach puree


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Friday, July 20, 2012

Peach lavender custard... at Gopher Springs Farm



There is something both fascinating and somewhat irritating about seeing things come full circle. I grew up in a village in Normandy, France, where I spent minutes, hours and years devising plans on how to leave the land of cream and apples, go to a bigger city, a bigger country, elsewhere. And I eventually made it to the next big town, then to Paris, then to Los Angeles.


Now, here I am, reading through wonderful food blogs, many of them describing the simple life on a farm, eating what you grow, the return to the soil, and I find myself irresistibly charmed by the whole idea. Did I go around in a circle all these years? I suppose it is what I learned, where I failed, the joys and sorrows and experiences along that circle which make up my path thus far. All to find myself longing to get back to where I started, appreciating now what I took for granted then. Maybe that's what wisdom is all about. Finding my way back to the apples.

  
Don’t get me wrong, I do love big cities, Paris, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, among many. I love the mix of culture, the open-mindedness and diversity and vibration of a city, each in its idiosyncratic way. But I realize now more than ever, and perhaps because I now have a child, that I need the soil. I want the basics, the elements. Soil, water, fire, air. I want to get back to what’s real, and I want my son to experience those things fully while young. Instead of a disconnected view of a world of instant gratification, I would like to teach him to appreciate the genesis of things. The genesis of a crunchy sweet apple.


This is why I have felt so incredibly fortunate and privileged to meet Eric & Franka who invited us to spend a day with them, their son Dexter and their cat Pépé, harvesting fruit (ok, Pépé didn’t do much harvesting, but Dexter and Pablo did help!) at their wonderful place in Topanga Canyon, the newly formed Gopher Springs Farm.  In the middle of Los Angeles in this haven of Topanga, is another little haven: on the grounds of an old school from the 1930s, a pink house with an oddball history, surrounded by old fruit trees and land (a rare commodity in the city), inhabited by a trio with a vision to build a life of farming here. A life I admire and which we were fortunate to share for a day.

That day starts with harvesting apples. Three different kinds on the property. Then onto the peaches and nectarines. The apricots have already been harvested, partly by the local coyote. The plums aren’t ready yet. As Franka points out, their fruit trees (apples, plums, peaches, nectarines, figs, apricots, persimmons) are the old kind, planted in the 30s probably, the fruit tastes wild and natural, for lack of a better description. “Like in Europe.”


 

They’re building this place from the soil up. Eric speaks of his compost, of the importance of good, rich, healthy, nurturing, giving soil. And he works at it, patiently and lovingly, this compost is going to be a life source. Vegetables and fruits will grow strong and flavorful and juicy in it. The idea just makes me want to plant my hands deep in the rich soil and just feel its potential. This is one potential you can really count on.

They’re also building from the air down. He speaks of bees, he knows so much about them. He’s not a beekeeper, he’s a bee-charmer, devising ways to make the bees want to set up hive and produce honey here, and pollinate the fruit trees. It’s already working, the trees are more bountiful this year than ever before.




Franka and I sit under the nectarine tree, talk about being expats, living improbable lives here in LA, lives we would have never imagined as kids. Meanwhile, 13 and 14 months old Dexter and Pablo help picking the apples, take a single bite out of each one they grab, before handing it to each other. Sharing an apple under the tree. I think this makes us all feel happy and warm inside. We’re all thankful to be spending this vacation day of sorts together.


Voltaire said it. "We must cultivate our garden". I understand how profound that phrase is so much more fully than ever before. What a breath of hope and joy to see someone truly practice that. That is most definitely what is happening at Gopher Springs Farm, and I look forward, like the patient (or impatient) gardner-in-training that I am, to watching them grow...

Some things we saw: horses, frog, rabbit, mouse, artichokes, woodpecker hole, wild fennel.

Some things we heard: donkey, crickets, bucket of rainwater splashing, toddler babbling, toddler grunting, toddler giggling.

Some things we did: harvesting, eating, talking, wagon riding, laughing, cooking, sweating, laughing, smiling.

Some things we made: friends, and peach lavender custard.



Peach Lavender Custard


Age: Obviously this is for the whole family, but you can offer this at 8-10 months. This is a little bit on the sweet side, so not an every day dessert for baby, but a nice introduction to custard and lavender, for special occasions.

Note: It is pretty healthy as far as desserts go, with the help of the coconut milk, and the protein from the eggs balances the sugar & fat contents.



Makes 6 ramekins
1 1/2 cups of unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup of heavy cream
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp cane sugar
Scrapings from 1 vanilla bean (split lengthwise and scraped)
2 tbsp edible dried English lavender buds
6 egg yolks
4-6 ripe, cut up peaches

Preheat the oven at 325°

Combine coconut milk, cream, sugar, vanilla bean scrapings & lavender buds. Bring to a light boil, remove from heat and let steep for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks. Take six ramekins and place a few pieces of cut-up peaches into each ramekin.

Pour the milk-lavender mixture through a fine mesh colander into a bowl (press the lavender with a spoon in the colander to squeeze the flavor out of it.)

Pour the whisked egg yolks through a fine mesh colander (not the same one, or wash it up first) into the milk-lavender mixture and whisk until combined.

Pour the milk-lavender-egg mixture into each ramekin, on top of the fruit.

Place the ramekin in a deep baking dish, and pour boiling water up to the level of the custard mixture inside the ramekins, being careful not to pour any water inside the custards.

Place in the oven for about 30-35 minutes, until set.

Let cool, and serve at room temperature or chilled.


(Optional: Sprinkle some cane sugar on top and torch for a caramelized top crust)









Check out Bangers & Mash hosting Herbs on Saturday this month!
http://bangermashchat.wordpress.com/2012/07/01/july-herbs-on-saturday/

Check out Lavender and lovage for more on the herbs on saturday contest!
 http://www.lavenderandlovage.com/herbs-on-saturday

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Pablo's Weekly Menu...


The theme of this past week has been all about making new friends, which is such a rare gift that never ceases to amaze me and make me feel grateful.


It began with a fingerpainting (or rather, bodypainting) playdate, where I was thrilled to share some of my recent concoctions (Watermelon-fig granita, shiso nectarine ice cream, strawberry scones, quatre-quart cake) with the group of moms and their toddlers. Fun was had by all, every language and culture (or close) was represented, from French to German, to Japanese, Persian and Russian, to Argentinian and American...



Then, the highlight of our week was a day spent with Eric, Franka, Dexter and Pépé the cat at Gopher Springs Farm in Topanga Canyon, Los Angeles. This fantastic visit, to help harvest apples, peaches and nectarines, will be the topic of an entire post, but I couldn't resist sharing some delightful bites from the day here...

The boys (13 and 14 months) had green onions, artichokes and olives for finger foods, they loved it!
The peaches we harvested, and some lavender buds
Franka prepared a fabulous lunch overlooking the canyon. I made peach lavender custard for dessert.

Planning on starting a series called "My friends' garden", visiting gardens and cooking with friends, stay tuned for that.

Onward to this week's menu...

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. Rotation this week: White cheddar from Vermont, Goat Gouda, Petit Basque, Babybel.

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

If you would like a particular recipe on the menu, feel free to contact me! (I marked with a * the recipes that will be the topic of upcoming posts).


MONDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Out to lunch with a friend! What we'll find at the restaurant, most likely avocado and tomato (I don't even look at the children's menu BTW)
Main course: Chicken & leeks puree

Goûter (4pm snack) - Peaches & nectarines (from this weekend's harvest!)

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Green beans, basil & blue potato salad
Main course: Baked bittermelon with veal stuffing (an experiment with bittermelon we found at the Asian produce stand.)



TUESDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Tomato, hearts of palm, cauliflower salad
Main course: Dover sole filet with broccoli-turnip puree

Goûter - Shiso Nectarine Ice Cream

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: White asparagus in tarragon yogurt sauce
Main course: Stuffed tomato* (with veal stuffing)


WEDNESDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Cold cauliflower, basil and green bean salad
Main course: Trying the cardamom flatbread from Vanilla Bean blog, to make the peach, basil & ricotta flatbread from Cookie + Kate blog, accompanied by a soft-boiled egg (for extra protein).

Goûter - Nectarine & mint raw compote

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Leek's whites in baby vinaigrette*
Main course: Salmon & Sorrel puree

THURSDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Courgette & oregano flowers salad from Banger & Mash blog (if I can find flowers!)
Main course: Bison meat patty with kale puree

Goûter - Peaches with lavender yogurt*

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Artichokes & green onions with shallot vinaigrette (in fond memory of Gopher Springs Farm!)
Main course: Gorgonzola polenta with summer squash - a recipe I found here


FRIDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Endive & yellow tomato salad
Main course: Turkey & ratatouille*

Goûter - Peach, with my attempt at the black sesame pudding from La Fuji Mama blog

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Broccoli florets, vegetable noodles
Main course: Tofu with three roots puree

*Having friends over for dinner, planning on making this bread on a stick over a fire!

SATURDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Avocado, tomato
Main course: Sardine eggplant gratin*

Goûter - Cantaloupe & mint granita*

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Hearts of palm & vegetable noodles
Main course: Chicken basquaise


SUNDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Green asparagus tips with vinaigrette
Main course: Veal brunoise puree*

Goûter - Watermelon


Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Green beans, feta & tomato salad
Main course: Trying Boiled squid with miso vinaigrette from Just One Cookbook blog


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