Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Seeking raw simplicity... & rediscovering the Greek salad



 
 
Today, two little things made me feel true joy and happiness, as if I could feel my whole being smiling: Pablo, bare feet, ate grapes from a grapevine, and drank from a natural fresh water spring. And this, of all places, happened in Greece, a place with which I have a difficult family history. Yet could happiness be that simple? Certainly seems naive from the outside.  But my theory is that if the enjoyment of simple things (one could also call them pure, or authentic things) is encoded in our brain somewhere, even from very early childhood, or perhaps especially from very early childhood, it remains an enjoyment we will be able to experience later in life. Or come back to, if we steer away from it. I guess the same theory goes with getting baby to taste simple / pure flavors when young, a simple single vegetable puree for example. Hopefully simplicity and purity of flavor, and of experience, remain in the brain as the reference, the standard of authenticity other things in our life get judged by.

Speaking of simplicity, let me rewind a few days back. Here we are, sitting by the port of the island of Tinos, fresh (or not so fresh) of a four hour ride from Athensport of Rafina. I am so happy to be here. My sister has organized everything and it’s wonderful to be led in complete trust and open-mindedness. I am ready to eat anything she’ll order, sleep anywhere she chooses, see anything she recommends. It’s going to be a wonderfully rich experience no matter what. We sit under grapevines. As Pablo discovers life without the high chair, he can walk around the table and be fed, as he checks in near my plate. I let it go, I’m too eager to savor the moment. The waiter brings the much anticipated Greek salad… Tomatoes, cucumber, pale green bell peppers, small red onions that look like shallots, black olives, a thick slice of Feta cheese sprinkled with dried oregano, with freshly pickled capers on top, and lots and lots of olive oil.  Along comes a loaf of thick Greek country bread.

 
 At home, we eat a “Greek salad” almost everyday, especially in heirloom tomato season. I love Feta cheese. We basically throw together tomatoes, cucumber, feta (I do get the blocks of sheep’s cheese feta), basil or oregano if we bother to go pick it in the backyard, and (Greek) olive oil. But it really pales in comparison with the authentic Greek salad we have enjoyed here.



 
Like the white walls and blue shutters bursting out of the arid landscape all over the Greek isles, every bite of this salad is a burst of flavor. The Feta is strong and salty, the onions even seem crunchier, the cucumber, juicier. The olive oil actually tastes of olives, and the capers… oh the capers, they’re the sleepers. So strong in flavor, but complementing perfectly the feta and tomatoes, they're the perfect substitute for vinegar in this salad. I can honestly say I don’t intend to ever buy capers in a jar in an American supermarket again. If only I can find a way to grow the plant and pickle them myself. They’re that good… This salad is the perfect combination of flavors and textures. Crunchy cucumber, peppers and onions (but in different ways), soft tomatoes, crumbly feta. Salty, tart, tangy, watery, sweet… You taste the sea, the sun, the salt in the air, the wind, the heat. In short, you taste Greece.
 
 
 

Traditional Greek Salad

 
Age for babies: I started giving tomatoes and Feta to Pablo as finger foods between 8 and 10 months, raw cucumber and bell peppers a bit later, about 12 months, because they're harder to chew.

Serves 4-6
 
5 large ripe tomatoes, quartered
2 cucumbers, peeled and sliced
2 small Greek onions, or shallots, sliced
3 green or yellow bell peppers, cored, seeds removed, and sliced
12 black kalamata olives
Freshly pickled capers (see if you can find them in a specialty grocery store or Greek shop, they're worth it!)
1 thick slice of sheep's milk Feta cheese
Fragrant dried oregano, or fresh oregano
Salt & pepper
Greek olive oil
 
Toss all the vegetables in a large salad bowl. Sprinkle some dried oregano on top of the slice of Feta and place on top of the salad.
 
Pour a fair amount of olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
 
Greek "paparra" tradition: Dip some country bread in the sauce directly in the bowl, it's the best!
 
 


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Sunday, August 26, 2012

When in Greece...







Finally checking in from Greece where we have spent the past few days, mostly on the island of Tinos. There's so much I want to share, so much I would like to talk about, with some fears of being off-topic and boring my readers, for whom I am so thankful, with the numerous ramblings and thoughts on food, parenting, family, culture, and life in general as a human being on this planet, which our travels have given rise to. But all in good time.


For now, besides sharing some of these images of our days and lunches, I shall continue my Sunday menu tradition, sharing what we ate this week. I suspected Pablo would enjoy Greek food very much, and it was confirmed. I was reminded how varied, flavorful and healthy Greek food can be. We had many raw and cooked vegetables, goat, beef, lamb, fish. Olive oil, lemon and herbs are staples. Breakfast has consisted of Greek yogurt with honey, grapes and cheese pie (a puff pastry with a mild creamy cheese filling). Afternoon snacks have been mostly fruit and a few more cracker-type biscuits than I care to admit!
 
 
I will definitely be following up with recipes for a lot of these dishes in the coming weeks, especially as I intend to integrate a number of them into our regular menus back home.  I am also hoping to do a post about Greek salad - the real deal - within the next couple of days, so stay tuned if you're so inclined...

 


WEDNESDAY

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Traditional Greek salad
Main course: Pastitchio (Greek version of the lasagna)

THURSDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Traditional Greek salad, eggplant salad (this was actually a cold eggplant puree with spices and lemon)
Main course: Small fry fish (pan-fried), zucchini in light batter.

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Traditional Greek salad, tzatziki spread
Main course: Lamb Gyro sandwich


FRIDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Traditional Greek salad, tarama spread
Main course: Pan-fried red mullet, boiled small chards with lemon and olive oil, potato fries

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Cabbage slaw with balsamic vinegar and pomegranate seeds
Main course: Meatballs with light tomato sauce (no comparison with what that is in the US), pan-fried green beans



SATURDAY

Lunch


Appetizer / Finger Foods:  Traditional Crete salad (similar to the Greek salad, with a slice of stale bread soaked in water, olive oil and lemon at the bottom of the plate), pickled artichoke hearts
Main course: Goat ragout in lemon sauce, potato fries, eggplant and tomato gratin


Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Traditional Greek Salad
Main course: Beef patties


SUNDAY

Lunch (on the boat)


Appetizer / Finger Foods: Cucumber and feta
Main course: Meat balls (beef, onions, oregano) with potato fries


Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Traditional Greek salad
Main course: Stewed zucchinis, eggplant and potatoes, followed by fruit (melon, peach, grapes, figs)




 
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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

About them apples...




On another beautiful day spent at Gopher Springs Farm with Franka, Eric, Dexter and Pepe the cat, we were invited to help with the making of apple cider.



Grandmothers wheel Dexter and Pablo on a cart around the property as they happily munch on apples, and watch, unphased, teamwork in action. Next to a high pile of red & golden apples, Franka and her father-in-law wash and cut the fruit. These are some of the apples we harvested a couple of weeks ago, from the many fruit trees here. There are three varieties of apples, and the trees are still full to the brim, apples falling and rolling downhill to our feet.


Eric has designed and built a wooden apple crusher requiring a high level of coordination for the novice that I am. Turning and crushing. After going through the crusher twice, the apples are put inside a cheesecloth, and placed in the apple press, to produce unfiltered apple juice.




With the help of some yeast from Austria and time, about a month, this apple juice will become cider.

In the meantime, when you have lemons, make lemonade. Or in our case, when you have apple juice, make turnip gratin. This is a very simple gratin recipe, where the sweetness of the apple juice compensates the slight bitterness of the turnip, with a touch of salt and crunch brought by the pancetta.



Turnips au gratin with apple juice & pancetta

Adapted from Idées futées pour inviter
Serves 4 people

Age for babies: 8-10 months, the turnip can be given as finger food, cut up in small pieces (though I wouldn't give baby any pancetta)
1 cup + 1/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup + 1.5 tbsp unfiltered apple juice
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1.5 lbs turnips
6 strips of pancetta
Salt & pepper

Preheat the oven at 400°F.

Peel and slice the turnips.

Pour the cream and apple juice in a large saucepan, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for about 2 minutes. Add salt, pepper and the mustard.

Put the turnip slices in the juice-cream mixture (stirring to coat all pieces, if needed) and cook for another 5 minutes.

Cut the pancetta in small pieces, and sauté in a non-stick frying pan for a few seconds.

Pour the turnip / cream / apple juice mixture in a baking dish. Sprinkle with the pieces of pancetta.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until the gratin is golden on top.

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Monday, August 20, 2012

For the love of figs...



Since we will be in Greece in a couple of days, I guess Pablo's menu this week will consist of a lot of his favorite things: tomatoes, feta, cucumber, olives, lamb, squid, bread & olive oil... and possibly FIGS.



To set us off on the right foot for this journey, our dear friend Minou invited us to join her and her dogs for an afternoon of fig picking, fig cooking and eating. And that we did...




This morning, the song "All we need is love" came on as I was watching my son play, and point, and babble and explore his little world. Watching him, thinking of how complicated life can be, of the time some lessons take to learn, the naivete of that song struck me. For as much as I appreciate the sentiment the song conveys, that sense of "yeah, I guess it all boils down to that", my experience so far has been that it just isn't so. We need way more than love, though I suppose it is the very first thing we need. Just like in cooking, love is the first of the ingredients, but a great many other things go into a dish for it to make our taste buds, tummies and souls feel good.

Contemplating the complexities of life for a few seconds made me even more thankful for all the very loving people we have, those in our life here, and those we will share joyful moments with on our journey. One of the people I am most thankful for, is our wonderful Minou. Friend, aunt, sister, godmother, confidante, cheerleader, supporter, listener, laugh partner, tear partner, dance partner, dog whisperer and beloved Minou. For the many joyful moments spent together, so many of them around lunches and dinners, merci.

Today, around figs picked from her tree, we talked and laughed. We cooked. Oh and of course, we ate too.


From this day, I'd like to share two wonderful fig recipes. A fig, feta & mint salad which possibly creates the perfect bite with a combination of sweet, savory & tart and a great contrast of textures.





Then I went on to experiment with a sweet-savory fig tatin with Manchego cheese, which we savored with some slices of prosciutto San Daniele.




Here's to eating well, living well and loving well.

Fig, feta & mint salad


Age for babies: 8-10 months, cut up in small pieces, feta and figs make nice finger foods, and it's a good way to expose them to mint.

Serves 4

2 medium blocks of sheep's milk Feta cheese
12 figs, washed and quartered
A handful of mint leaves, washed
Olive oil
Fresh ground pepper

Place the two blocks of Feta on a platter. Place the quartered figs on and around them.

Using scissors, cut the mint leaves and spread over the Feta and figs.

Drizzle with olive oil, and some fresh ground pepper.


Fig tatin with rosemary & Manchego


Age for baby: 10-12 months, cut up as finger food at first.

Serves 4

1 frozen puff pastry sheet*
12 figs, washed and cut in half
6 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 sprig of rosemary
3 oz of Manchego, in thin slices
Olive oil / Rosemary infused olive oil
Fresh ground pepper

Preheat the oven at 375°F.

With a rolling pin and a little flour, flatten your puff pastry so that it is bigger than the pie pan you will use.

Sauté the figs, skin side up, in a large frying pan with some rosemary-infused olive oil for about 3 minutes, sprinkling some fresh ground pepper over them. Remove from heat and set aside.

Pour the balsamic vinegar in the frying pan, adding some fresh rosemary, and cook on low heat until it becomes syrupy, a few minutes (you should end up with about 3 tbsp). Remove from heat.

Butter a round pie pan. Pour the balsamic reduction in. Place the figs, skin side up. Add the Manchego slices.

Cover the pie pan with the puff pastry, tucking the dough on the sides inside the pie pan.

Bake for about 35 Min. Let cool to lukewarm, and then turn it over onto a plate for serving.

Serve with some slices of prosciutto.

*Being French, I am somewhat ashamed to admit that making puff pastry from scratch really scares me. I will probably get to it some day... In the meantime, I use the pre-made puff pastry sold frozen here. (The French actually commonly use pre-made puff pastry, readily available in all supermarkets). All you have to do is leave it out for about 15 minutes, then unfold it onto some flour and let it sit a few more minutes, until soft enough to be manipulated and worked with the rolling pin.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A French Meal for Julia Child's Birthday





Today, I am guest-posting over at Artsy-Fartsy Mama! Meet me over there for recipes for a four-course French family meal! Cold sorrel cucumber gazpacho, veal blanquette, fromage and peach soufflé au gratin are on the menu... go check it out.


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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Heirlooms for my little father




Heirloom. Fruit of labor from generations of roots, with days in the sun and days in the rain. Fruits passed on, ever so precious, when the time is right. The heirloom is precious in the eye of the inheriter. Watching it grow, all that it takes, work and patience and nurture. Honoring where it comes from, what it stands for.


Growing up in France, we very much ate with the seasons. So much so that, to this day, foods, in my mind, remain inextricably associated with times of the year, and places.  French Cavaillon melon, southern France, summer holidays. Radishes, white asparagus, Normandy, spring. Blackberries, grapes, the path by our apartment complex, September. Oysters, home, Christmas. Clementines & walnuts, home, January.

This had the wonderful effect of making these foods precious by their limited availability. We enjoyed them even more. The excitement of the first strawberry of the season. My mother even made me make a wish every first time a year I tasted something. All this gave these foods tremendous human value, the anticipation, the savoring, the treasuring of what is precious and rare. And the learning to part with something that has run its course. Peach season is over. Grapes are next. Appreciating, and accepting, the cycles of nature. Creating a deep-rooted connections between food, childhood, time, soul, senses, life and self.


In Southern California, most fruits and vegetables are available year around, which has obvious advantages. But it makes it harder to experience that osmosis with the seasons. Some produce do remain very seasonal, even here, and are all the more precious for it. Perhaps the one we were looking forward to the most this year, is the heirloom tomato. Incomparable, juicy and delicious, and so aptly named.

We have certainly taken full advantage of the season this year, making all kinds of gazpachos, tomato jam, roasted tomatoes, tomato salads, etc. And now, these very simple and deliciously summery tomatoes au gratin.


The French have a wonderful term of endearment for theirs sons, for which there's no real translation or equivalent in English, except perhaps "little guy". Mon petit père. My little father. This summer, I gave lots of gorgeous heirlooms to my little father. And he loved every bite. My little father deserves his nickname, as he has taught me so much. He has taught me to enjoy the moment in a way I was never able to achieve before. Thanks to him, I have started this blog and discovered so much that can be learned through food and cooking. I used to get stressed out and perfectionist, and overly ambitious about entertaining. Which served no purpose at all. This summer, I really learned to practice what I always knew to be true: a meal with friends or family is an end in itself, it need not be elaborate, it just has to be made with love and warmth. That is the heirloom of the soul I would like to bequeath to my little father.

So I wanted to share a simple summer lunch to be enjoyed with loved ones. Tomatoes au gratin, marinated olives and figs with blue cheese, served perhaps with prosciutto, roasted bell peppers and bread. Delicious, but easy and quick to prepare, so a lot of time can be devoted to talking and laughing and stories and connecting and really living.


Heirloom Tomatoes au Gratin

Adapted from La Bonne cuisine du comté de Nice, by Jacques Médecin

Age for babies: 8-10 months, the texture of the tomatoes is very soft, so it is almost pureed as it is. At that age, they can also taste olives, Pablo loved them from the first time he had them. And they can also be given a taste of fig and blue cheese.
Serves 6

3 very large, ripe heirloom tomatoes
1/2 bunch of Italian parsley
1 garlic clove
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1 filet of anchovy (canned in olive oil)
Some olive oil, salt & pepper

Preheat the oven at 450°F.

Cut the tomatoes in half, and squeeze gently each half over the sink to extract the seeds.

Put a pinch of salt on each half and let stand for 5 minutes.

Then turn tomato halves over a baking rack, above the sink, so as to drain some of their water content.

With a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic with the anchovy. Finely chop the parsley in a small food processor and mix with the garlic-anchovy mixture.

Place the tomatoes, cut side up, in a baking dish. Spread some of the parsley/garlic/anchovy mixture over each tomato.

Sprinkle bread crumbs generously. Pour a drop of olive oil on top, and some fresh ground pepper.

Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes.

Marinated Olives

This recipe is from my good friend Franka.

1 can of pitted green olives
1 tbsp of coriander seeds
The juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil

Drain the olives and place them in a bowl or container.

With a mortar and pestle, crush the coriander seeds until fragrant.

Sprinkle the crushed coriander over the olives, pour the lemon juice and olive oil.
Mix with two spoons, cover and let marinate for 30 minutes.

Figs with Blue Cheese


6 Figs
2 oz of Saint Augur blue cheese (This is a milder, creamy but very flavorful blue cheese which lends itself particularly well to figs)
6 strips of pancetta

Preheat the broiler at 500°F.

Make a cross shape incision in each fig, and insert a small piece of blue cheese in it.

Wrap the fig with a strip of pancetta.

Grill in the broiler for about 5 minutes.

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Pablo's menu this week


This week will be a very busy one focused on eating what we have on hand, as my son and I will be taking a month-long journey to Greece and France leaving next week. I am so looking forward to sharing our travels and culinary adventures in this space. Travelling has been my passion since I was very young, and always something very much associated to food discovery. This trip will be a major step in Pablo's "éducation du goût" as we are reunited with dear friends and family, sharing meals, memories and laughs, and cooking with local products. After 15 years in the US, going back to France is the best of both worlds for me. It's still home in some ways, mostly because of the food and produce (I have been known to spend more time than I care to admit just marveling at the yogurt and cheese sections of supermarkets in France!) And yet, I can look at it with fresh eyes and appreciate it as a traveler.

I most definitely will be sharing recipes for the blog and cooking up a storm over there, but the Sunday posts won't be so much planning the menus of the week ahead, as reporting back what our tastebuds were faced with each week. And I can't promise you I won't flood this blog with photos of farmer's markets and food shops!

In the meantime, here are some photos of this past week, with a distinct fruit theme. And of course... the week's menu.

T'is fig season. We will be cooking with figs this week when visiting our friend D's fig tree

Persimmon from our friend D's garden. Was enjoyed just the way it is, by the spoonful
Thrilled to have found red currants, Pablo adored them. Such delicate beads of tangy fruit.
Currant and blackberry custard from Cannelle & Vanille, a great mix of tangy and sweet, just wonderful


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: Comté (a kind of Swiss common in France), Camembert, St Augur Blue Cheese, Goat Gouda.

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, goat'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: Cauliflower, blue potato & tomato salad
Main course: Soft-boiled egg with broccoli-turnip puree

Goûter (4pm snack) - Lavender rice pudding*

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Micro pasta with corn, hearts of palm & tomato
Main course: Turnip, apple juice and pancetta gratin*



TUESDAY 

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Broccoli florets
Main course: Lamb, eggplant & parsley root puree

Goûter - Peach


Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: White asparagus in tarragon yogurt sauce
Main course: Flageolets beans "à la française"*


WEDNESDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Lunch date with a friend and farmer's market, we'll see what we find!
Main course:


Goûter - Watermelon

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Trying the chilled cucumber-avocado soup from Tartelette
Main course: Salmon & mustard greens puree

THURSDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Green beans and cauliflower salad
Main course: Turkey, leeks, kale and turnip puree

Goûter - Peach

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Watermelon gazpacho from Cannelle & Vanille (we made it last week, it's so fabulous and refreshing! Taking advantage of watermelon and tomato season!)
Main course: Tofu & polenta with mushrooms

FRIDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Broccoli florets and chick peas
Main course: Cod & kale puree

Goûter - Nectarine, figs
Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Leeks' whites with vinaigrette
Main course: Duck with white beans and roasted tomatoes


SATURDAY

Lunch


Appetizer / Finger Foods:  Avocado & hearts of palm
Main course: Sardine & eggplant brandade

Goûter - Plum pear compote

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Green asparagus tips in vinaigrette
Main course: Roasted chicken with red chards puree

SUNDAY

Lunch


Appetizer / Finger Foods: Blue potato & cauliflower salad
Main course: Beef patty with baby bok choy puree

Goûter - Currants (if I can find them again! Pablo loved them)

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Mixed quinoa salad with tomatoes, corn & green beans
Main course: Dover sole filet with ratatouille


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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Zucchini & Mint Terrine... and thoughts on osmosis





Osmosis. The process of gradual or unconscious assimilation of ideas or knowledge
It is a warm summer night. It's 7pm and it's still 85° out. We set the table outside. Eating outdoors, one of the great delights of summer. Our friends arrive, they are back to visit after moving overseas last year. A summer meal to celebrate our reunion. Grilled artichokes with shallot vinaigrette, baked tomatoes and zucchini flowers stuffed with parsley & anchovies, olives marinated in coriander seeds... I watch Pablo play and smile. He follows me from the backyard to the kitchen and back, while I carry the food out. He gets excited when he spots the artichokes. The boy loves artichokes. Everyone marvels at his mastery when scraping the meat off the leaves with his four front teeth. We all feel warm inside and out. It's good to be together.

What we learn in life by osmosis seems to be much deeper and more meaningful than what we learn in an explicit or deliberate way. When we learn osmotically (first time I use that word!), we learn organically. Maybe because it's a process. Or because it's gradual. Or because it's unconscious. And all things related to human connections and relationships, all things complex and subtle, can only be properly learned by osmosis. You don't learn how to nurture friendships by reading a book (those who try come through as "trying too hard"). You don't learn empathy or mindfulness in a classroom. And I guess you don't learn cooking in a cookbook either. You learn it in the kitchen, practising, failing, tasting. It's barely noticeable that you're learning. But you are.
When we can find osmosis with something, that's when we "got it". That's when we can get it right. That's when things feel right. This goes for writing, for cooking, for love and friendship.

This is another area where children set the example for us baggage-ridden adults. Young children are automatically in osmosis. Their whole life is about the process of gradual, unconscious assimilation. With all five senses, exploring their world and learning, synapses going all directions. On that warm summer night, I become aware Pablo is learning so much by osmosis: the meal, what went into it. The friends. The warmth. The flavors. Artichoke. Tomatoes. And mint.



When it comes to teaching children to enjoy good food, it isn't so much by telling them that "broccoli is good for you" or to read the labels on food packages that they will truly learn the value of good healthy eating. And all the richness of values around food in our life (the human connection, the pleasure of the senses, the enjoyment of the present moment, of nature's bounty, etc)  can only be taught... by osmosis. Kids have to "bathe" in it. So we go pick the thyme and mint and sorrel in the backyard. We smell it. We sit down together for a meal, we savor each moment. We get excited about a new recipe. About an ingredient. We share a meal with friends to bond.

I myself have recently felt very much in osmosis in the kitchen. I have been cooking since I was a child, but only now, through this blog, a medium that is very much process-centric, do I feel like I'm truly learning. About cooking, writing, photographing, parenting, living. (I can see it now, the title of my future book, "Cooking or the meaning of life" ;-))


Back to summer night osmosis. I bring out the zucchini mint terrine I found in an old French recipe book recently. I had lot of mint, it's zucchini season, why not? We all take a bite, and the mint just breathes some fresh air into our bones. We sit back and enjoy, with a sigh and a smile.



Admittedly, this isn't one of those quick "whip up at the last minute" dishes (in fact, you must prepare and cook it at least a day before you serve it), but it is so delicious and refreshing that it is worth the effort.


Zucchini & mint terrine

Adapted from Recevoir paresseusement

Serves 12 people easily, can keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Age for babies/toddlers: 10 to 12 months because of the whole eggs. This has a lot of healthy veggies and herbs, it's a great, balanced dish easily eaten with fingers.

Note: This is called a "terrine" (term usually used for pâtés cooked in earthenware, which are typically quite firm), but this is softer in texture, almost quiche-y.


4 pounds of zucchini
2 onions
3/4 cup milk
3/4 lb sorrel (or as much as you can find)
1.5 oz of tarragon
1.5 oz of mint
3 tbsp olive oil
6 eggs
7 oz bread, crust removed
A pinch of nutmeg

Preheat the oven at 250°F.

Peel and slice the zucchini and onions. In a large covered pan, melt (without browning) with olive oil on low heat until very soft, about 20-25 Min.

Meanwhile, wet the bread in milk and squeeze the milk out by hand, to obtain a semi-dry mixture. Set aside.

Wash and separate the leaves of the mint and tarragon, and chop finely by hand or in a small food processor.

Beat the eggs with a fork, add salt, pepper and nutmeg.

When the zucchini & onions are cooked, drain and chop grossly (not into a fine puree) by pulsing in a food processor.  Add the bread, the eggs and the herbs and mix.

Wash and drain the sorrel. Cook the sorrel in butter over low heat until barely melted, 2 or 3 minutes.

Butter generously a baking dish (earthenware preferably). Pour half the zucchini mixture in it. Spread a layer of sorrel. Pour the rest of the zucchini mixture over it.

Place the baking dish inside another larger deep dish. Cook in a water bath: pour boiling water in the deep dish, being cautious not to pour any water in the terrine, about half way up.

Bake in the oven for about 90 minutes. Turn off the oven but leave the terrine inside the oven, for as long as possible (a few hours at least), so it dries a bit and comes out more firm.

Then take out of the baking dish, place on a serving platter, and refrigerate overnight (it tastes really better chilled).

It can be served with some bread and herbed cream cheese or Boursin as hors-d'œuvre. We also served it with a mâche & endive salad with walnut vinaigrette (2 tbsp of red wine vinegar, 5 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp walnut oil, 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard, salt & pepper) as an appetizer. That would also do nicely for a light lunch.






Entering the August Herbs on Saturday contest from Lavender & Lovage
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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Happy birthday maman



A personal message to my mother today, the one who taught me
the appreciation of gastronomie, good food in all its subtleties.



Your motherly love is an island
In life's ocean, vast and wide
A peaceful, quiet shelter
From the wind, the rain, the tide.

'Tis bound to the North, by hope,
By patience, to the West,
By tender counsel, to the South
And to the East, by rest.
Above it like a beacon light
Shine faith, truth and prayer;
And through the changing scenes of life
I found a haven there.
You're so havenly maman
Bon anniversaire
 
 
Adapted by Jon Bratton


Her birthday dinner menu

Chilled pea soup (from TasteFood)

Rack of lamb with blue potato and comté soufflé (from Yours Truly)

Aged goat cheese

Red currants and blackberry custard (from Cannelle & Vanille)

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Monday, August 6, 2012

Pablo's weekly menu...


Is getting organized and finding balance the same thing? It's a sort of existential chicken & egg conundrum. You need to get organized to find balance, you need some balance to get organized. I guess they both contribute to zen-ness. But then a friend once told me some recommend dropping lists all together and following organically what you want to do. Anything urgent will present itself when it's time to do something about it. I find that outlook very attractive, but can't say I've been able to make it work. Or to make it work to satisfaction. In fact when I do do that, I find myself torn between the feeling that I don't have a plan pinned down and things are piling up and I'm a bit in over my head, and the fact that it just feels good to do what I decide to do (a great luxury, mind you) and the rest will somehow fall into place. It gives me the mental space to focus on the task at hand, actually. This past week was one of those dual weeks, where the impetus to follow my instincts (cook, try, have friends over several nights in a row) yielded joy and satisfaction, with a slight pinch of guilt for going off my plan a bit.

Here goes some images from our plates and our kitchen, followed by this week's menu.

We found parsley root this week. Delicious, post on it soon.
We made pork belly two ways, Japanese style from Just One Cook Book blog, and roasted with apples
A peach & mint clafoutis which I still need to tweak before posting...
The Watermelon Gazpacho from Cannelle & Vanille, and the Chilled Pea Soup from Taste Food were both amazing

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: Morbier (a good cheese to introduce blue, as there's that fine line of blue in the middle, not too overwhelming), Italian Truffle Cheese (so decadent!), Comté (a kind of Swiss common in France), 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 homemade* whole milk, sheep’s milk, goat'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: Zucchini & mint terrine*
Main course: Lamb with eggplant & parsley root puree

Goûter (4pm snack) - Watermelon & lychees

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Artichokes with vinaigrette
Main course: Tofu & baby bok choy puree




TUESDAY  (My mother's birthday!)

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Tomatoes, cucumber & hearts of palm salad
Main course: Salmon with mustard greens puree

Goûter - Plum pear compote with banana

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Chilled pea soup from TasteFood, my mother loved it so much she wants more for her birthday dinner! (Rest of dinner is still TBD.)
Main course: Chicken & sweet potato puree


WEDNESDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Lunch date with a friend and farmer's market, we'll see what we find!
Main course:



Goûter - Plums & figs

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Leek whites with vinaigrette*
Main course: Soft boiled egg with sauteed parsley root* & crispy kale

THURSDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Blue potato, green beans and parsley salad
Main course: Beef patty with ratatouille*

Goûter - Peach

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Yellow & red tomatoes with feta
Main course: Clams in fennel & shallot broth from Cannelle & Vanille


FRIDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Cauliflower, chives & green beans salad
Main course: Pan-fried veal liver with Red Chards puree

Goûter - Blackberries*
(*The reason you rarely see berries in Pablo's menus is because I offer berries (all the ones I can find) to him at breakfast. So I usually keep the afternoon snack for stone fruits or other fruits. But we'll be on the go, and blackberries will be convenient)

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Quinoa, tomato, cucumber salad
Main course: Trying the braised chicken with lemon & capers from The Urban Spork



SATURDAY

Lunch


Appetizer / Finger Foods:  Endive & tomato salad, vegetable noodles
Main course: Shrimp scampi with three roots puree

Goûter - Cherries

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: White asparagus in tarragon yogurt sauce
Main course: Cauliflower & Brussels sprouts gratin from Tasty Kitchen


SUNDAY

Lunch


Appetizer / Finger Foods: Edamame, broccoli florets
Main course: Turkey & rutabaga puree

Goûter - Apple-fig compote

Dinner

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Cucumber Sorrel Gazpacho*
Main course: Roasted heirloom tomatoes with lamb & quinoa stuffing*


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Saturday, August 4, 2012

You gotta stop and smell the... sole & amaranth



Why do we spend so much time... forward? There I am, in my kitchen on a Saturday afternoon. Tired yes, but for once I have more or less done what I had set out to do so far. I am going through mint and tarragon for a vegetable terrine recipe (coming soon! See? Thinking forward again) and my mind is jumping forward. What about tonight? And tomorrow? And my post about the sole filets, what is it really going to be about? Ah, this antsy-ness. I have to stop and smell the mint and tarragon.

This "living in the moment" business has been very much on my mind since I had my son. He's shown me that sometimes (if not always), life is as simple as that. And that's really what this simple little post is about. And believe me, when Pablo gets his hands on that sole, he's fully one hundred percent in the moment! And that's the point: making food, sometimes simple, sometimes more elaborate, but equally enjoyable, so we may spend at the very least a couple of meals a day in the moment, living, savoring, one bite at a time.

This is a meal we have pretty much every week, with slight variations. It is very simple, healthy and delicious, and so I thought it would be worth sharing.




Purees are great for babies, but they're good for grown-ups too. It's a great way to eat those vegetables whose flavor is enjoyable but whose texture you dislike. For example, we enjoy broccoli or celery root much more in the form of a puree than any other way. The smoothness of this puree with added microgreens flavor complements nicely the very flaky and tangy sole filets. Some puree and some fish for one perfect bite.




Dover Sole filets with Micro Amaranth puree


Age: Any potato-microgreens puree can be given from 5-6 months on (see below). I started Pablo on fish around 6 months, but I steamed the sole with the microgreens and mixed it all together. I started giving him pan-fried sole, mashed with a fork, around 10 months.

Serves 3 people

2/3 Dover sole filets* per person, depending on the size of the filets
3 tbsp butter
1/3 cup flour
2 lemons

One box (about 6 oz) of micro amaranth leaves**
One box (about 6 oz) of micro mustard greens**
3 yellow potatoes, peeled
1/4 cup milk (optional)
Salt & pepper

*The "Dover sole" sold here in California is actually not from Dover and it is not sole (!). It is a type of flounder from the Pacific. It is very thin and flaky, mild flavored, and boneless, which is so important (I hated fish as a kid almost exclusively because of the bones)
**Note that you can use whatever microgreens you find for this, they're all very concentrated in flavor, and have different health benefits depending on the green.


Place the amaranth and mustard microgreens, along with the 3 cut up potatoes in a steamer, for about 12-15 min, until the potato is cooked through.

Meanwhile, sprinkle some flour on a surface, lay the fish filets on top and sprinkle flour on top of the filets.

When the microgreens and potatoes are cooked, place the greens, one of the potatoes and half of the milk in a food processor and mix until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, add the rest of the potatoes (pre-mash them) and whip with a hand mixer, going up and down instead of turning (this is to prevent the puree to be pasty), adding some milk if necessary, to obtain a smooth puree of the desired consistency. Salt & pepper to taste.

Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium high heat, and add the sole filets. Squeeze half a lemon over the filets. Once golden on the bottom, after 2 or 3 minutes, use a spatula to turn the filets over. Cook another 2 or 3 minutes each side, drizzling the other half of lemon over the filets.

Spoon the puree onto the plate and the filet of sole on top, drizzle the fish with some extra lemon, and serve right away.


Baby purees:

Microgreens puree (from 5 months): Steam 1 1/2 cup of any microgreens with 1 potato and mix, adding milk (formula or breast before 10 months) or cooking juices to obtain the desired consistency.
(This should yield about 4 x 2 oz containers to be frozen)

Sole & Microgreens puree (from 7 months): Steam 2 oz of sole (can also be salmon or black cod) with the greens and potatoes and mix as above. (Also yields 4 x 2 oz containers)

Note that I have in the past also added organic pea shoots to that mix, adds great flavor.

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