Amuse bouche

Anchoïade ( anchovy cream)..and hopes of spring.

*It seems my previous post of January  has been re-emailed to my subscribers last night..It is a mystery….I promise it is not of my doing and I have no idea how it could have happened. I have never emailed a post twice, but  I apologize and I trust all my regular readers know me by now and would have realized that it was a glitch.

An anchoïade(anchovy cream) is a big favorite of mine…that and aïoli (garlic cream). In summer it is frequently on our tables, served as an apéro with a cold glass of rosé wine.

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Anchoïade (anchovy cream)

  1. Everything is made to taste…
  2. Use 100g of anchovy fillets in olive oil, or marinated in wine.
  3. Place it in a mortar and pestle, or in a mixer/handmixer.
  4. Add about 10 capers, 1 large garlic clove with the inner core removed, 1/2 TBSP white wine vinegar, 1 tsp Provencal herbs and milled pepper.
  5. Mix together while slowly adding olive oil until it turns to a nice, firm paste.
  6. Taste and add a little more white wine or capers or herbs.
  7. Serve with crusty bread or vegetables as starter or an amuse bouche.

Suggestions:

  • Add a small tsp of sundried tomato paste to the anchoïade.
  • Add a few black seeded olives when grinding or mixing the anchoïade.
  • Add the olive slowly, like you would do for mayonnaise to prevent the oil from seeping out later and the paste becoming runny and oily.
  • Keeps in the fridge for 5 days.
  • Make it the previous day to allow the flavours to develop.
  • Using fresh anchovies can be done, but I find it a hassle to remove all the very fine bones.

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I have been occupied by other things this first part of the year, one of which was moving home and finding place for everything that needs storage until our house is finished here at Coin Perdu. Every nook in the barn is filled with something which needed to be “stored”. I have never been so challenged in finding a spot for everything. I can proudly announce that I have indeed found a resting place for everything, from a chair to a pillow case. Just in case you are wondering if we can still move about, I give you a shot of our kitchen corner in the barn where we were busy preparing a dinner for 10 people a while ago. So yes, we even still have room for a table and 10 guests in the barn.

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In the meantime, spring has crept up on us. the days are longer, the sun is bright and warm, nature is exploding in colour and I am glowing with contentment. winter is behind me. even if we still have colder days, I revel in the fact that I am in spring and summer for the wonderful months to come!

 ..my borage never stopped flowering this winter, a sign of our unusual, mild winter…

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..Working in March with many teabreaks in the sun..

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..and a tea break always leads to a nap..

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..the first paperwhites, perfect in beauty..

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..the cyanothes, waiting to explode in blue flowers..

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..happy chickens as company…

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..Jack Frost with its clouds of blue forget me not- flowers..

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..Viburnum..

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..Iberis..

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..Plum blossoms..

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..Lilas..

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à la prochaine fois

Ronelle

 


Salmon, apple and dill amuse bouche…and a touch of green.

The regulars here on Myfrenchkitchen will by now know how much I love an apéro(apéritif), or amuse bouche, or the spanish tapas.. On weekends it is standard practice in our home to have a glass of wine before dinner with an apéro. I hope one day in heaven there will be some apéros awaiting me on weekends- that and good coffee-or else I will take my business elsewhere…

As all the regulars will alos know, is that everything on Myfrenchkitchen is simple, as these salmon amuses bouches clearly show. The only requisite is “l’envie”, the desire to make it and enjoy it.

apple salmoin amuse bouche 04-10-2013 12-50-19 2462x2106 La Recette:

  1. Cut 140 g smoked salmon into thin strips, about 2cm wide. If possible, use wild salmon, which is much stronger in flavour. If you have your own gravlax that you made, all the better. Wash and cut green 1 large Granny Smith apple(unpeeled) into matchtsticks. Drizzle liberally with freshly squeezed lemon juice.
  2. Wash a few branches of fresh dill.
  3. Roll about 5 matchsticks of apple and a tiny branch of dill in a strip of salmon.
  4. Arrange on a platter, sprinkle with freshly milled pepper and decorate with lemon slices, dill flowers and serve with cold white wine, rosé, sparkling wine or champagne.
  5. One large Granny Smith apple and 140g smoked salmon (4 slices) make about 14 amuse bouche.Provide for 3 – 4 helpings per person if it is the only apéritif served.

Serves 3-4 people.

Pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Use fresh fennel or fresh chertvil instead of dill.
  • Add a dollop of sour cream or crème fraìche when rolling the salmon.
  • Serve with a bowl of mayonniase or crème fraîche as an accompanying dip.
  • Use other fruits in season and use smoked ham instead of salmon.

apple matchsticks 04-10-2013 11-13-33 3644x2914

Since we are in the greens today…the hydrangeas are beautiful at the moment with nuances of green and salmon. Two Granny smith apples complete the picture in the barn.

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..Green is one of the colours I love for setting tables outside. And blue. And red. And of course white. And ochre. Well, for that matter, all colours! I have a few things here at Coin Perdu which we often use for dining on the terrace in summer: rustic green rimmed glasses, old bottles, green fun plates, green banana lreaf bowls, green pottery bowls..

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..Some small wild apples live in harmony with berries and egglantine rosehips..

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..the birds don’t shy away from digging into the small wild apples..

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..and neither do the horses..

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..when going through my artwork in search of painted apples, I realized I have almost nothing. I had to rectify that immediately with a sketch. Green is a difficult colour. So many shades of it in nature. The challenge lies in creating your own green from yellows and blues with touches of reds and purples. That way you get much richer and interesting greens than the greens directly from the tube.

apples aqua

..à bientôt!.

Ronelle


Un Noël à la campagne 3: Topinambours and chestnut velouté with wild mushroom croutons.

The entrée (starter) for this menu is A topinambour (Jerusalem artichokes) and chestnut velouté with  wild mushroom croûtons. It has a wonderful woodsy flavor and finished off with a shaving of black truffle on the chanterelles mushrooms, it transports you into a winter forest.

topinambour et marron velouté 2

Recipe:

  1. Clean 1 onion and cut in slices. Fry the onion in a little olive oil until translucent.
  2. Clean 5 large Jerusalem artichokes, cut into small, even chunks  and add to the the onion.
  3. Add a tin of peeled chestnuts (210g)  to the mixture.
  4. Add a bouguet garni  and 350 ml water or stock (vegetable) to the vegetables and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
  5. Remove the bouquet garni and remove the soup from the heat. Add a handful of washed parsley and mix with an electrical hand mixer until the soup is creamy. If you want the soupy perfectly creamy, you can push it through a sieve.
  6. Add some cream, or stock, or milk to bring it to the right consistency (like thick cream). Season with salt and freshly milled pepper and a few drops of lemon juice.
  7. Serve warm with some freshly  grated nutmeg and a mushroom croûton.
  8. Mushroom croûton: Toast three thick slices of bread. cut into fingers and brush with truffle oil on all sides. Clean some some mushrooms of your choice with a brush and fry quickly in olive oil. Add some chopped parsley , season and place on top of the toast fingers. Finish off by placing two shavings of black truffle on the mushrooms and serve immediately with the soup.
  9. This soup can also be served as an amuse bouche, served in small glasses, with small fingers of toast.

Serves 4 people as a starter.

Une pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Don’t add too much liquid in the beginning..you can always thin with some milk, or stock or water towards the end to the thickness you prefer.
  • Replace the mushrooms with plain button mushrooms or with crispy Spanish ham.
  • Replace the Jerusalem artichokes with pumpkin.
  • Toast the croutons in a toaster or dry toast in a pan to keep it light.
  • Finish the soup with a twirl of truffle oil.
  • Never wash mushrooms with water, clean them with a brush.
  • Fry mushrooms in a hot pan ..I prefer to fry mushrooms in duckfat(a little) which can be heated to very high heat without becoming toxic. Afterwards I drizzle a little Olive oil. In a hot pan, you don’t need much fat, because the mushrooms fry very quickly.
  • I don’t push the soup through a sieve, because I like the tiny pieces of parsley which gives a nice 3speckly” effect to the soup.
  • Enjoy.

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The Christmas market in Meyssac was very quaint and I especially loved the lovely church with its display of nativity scenes in all the alcoves. Each nativity scene depicted a country…Brazil was there, France of course, Italy, Africa. Even Peru was there, each little figurine dressed in typical clothing. I adored it and planned on going back to Meyssac to take pictures of all the scenes. When I finally went back, it was gone! Of course, it made sense..it was on display only for the weekend of the market..all those precious figurines couldn’t be left unattended for the whole season. I can kick myself! So I lost out on the lovely nativity scenes..you will have to wait until next year.

But the little église of Meyssac is still adorable and here are some photos…

…The exterior of l’église de Meyssac…

eglmise de Meyssac 1

..the interior towards the altar with Chrismas lights hanging above the aisle…

eglise de meyssac 2

..the altar from close up..

eglise de myessac 3

..and the only nativity scene left for the season..

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..un lustre lighting up one of the many figurines the Catholics so love..

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  • Tomorrow will see the plat principal (main meal): Beef tournedos with bone marrow in a wine sauce and steamed vegetables.
  • A nice DVD to get you in a French vintage mood…La plus belle histoire des femmes.

.. alors, à demain!..

Ronelle


Un noël à la campagne 2: Two-salmon and avocado terrine.

We are at the amuse bouche of our Noël à la campagne menu…a two salmon and avocado terrine with a cream herb sauce. When hosting a dinner for guests or on special occasions like our Christmas dinner, I like to have an amuse bouche, a  little surprise awaiting at the table when my guests seat themselves. We usually enjoy our aperitif somewhere else..outside or in another room, or even around the kitchen table. Then we move to the dining room for the rest of the dinner. It looks very welcoming when guests enter the dining room with candles burning at the table and an amuse bouche  waiting on each plate.. When we are all seated and I leave the table to quickly get my entrée(starter) ready, the guests can enjoy the amuse bouche at their leasure and by the time they are finished, I am ready and there with my starter, without them noticing my absence, since the amuse bouche kept them quite busy! To present such an amuse bouche ready at the table, you will have to keep to something that can be prepared beforehand and can stand a few minutes without melting, drying out, falling over etc.

Two salmon and avocado terrine

two salmon terrine recette

Une pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Keep the amuse bouche small and decorated attractively.
  • This salmon terrine can also be served as a starter or as a summer lunch with a salad on the side.
  • Replace half of the poached salmon with shrimp meat.
  • Add some crushed red pepper berries for a different taste.

salmon terrine 2

Brocante à Bordeaux:

Bordeaux has 2 huge brocantes on the place Quinconce every year…end of autumn and beginning of spring. I missed the spring brocante, but one doesn’t make the same mistake twice! On Saterday morning very early we jumped into our four wheels and took the road to Bordeaux, about two hours drive from us. We arrived in the cold, in the mist, just as les exposants were opening up their stalls. It was still quiet and calm and after our coffee and croissant(of course!!), I shifted my bag properly over my blades, pulled back my shoulders, rubbed my hands together, took a deep breath and advanced with  that first step into this other world where I lose touch with reality and modern life and lose myself completely in the beauty of dust and rust..

Le coq de la France greets the visitor at Place Quinconce. I have a coq like that here at Coin Perdu..he thinks the whole of France belongs to him..attitude, attitude..!

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Greeted by mist, but not at all disturbed by it!

bordeaux brocante - coillage 1

Wouldn’t I love to have these drawers for my atelier! I hinted and hinted with puppy eyes lifted to mon chéri, but it is true what they say..no one as deaf as those who don’t want to hear… ah well…

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Old postcards make my knees jello too, especially the ones with old towns and streets  life from years back: I imagine seeing myself roaming about, or maybe cycling about…everybody cycled those days..

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And of course, chairs – we do need to sit, don’t we. Sitting on chair that tell a story…isn’t that special? I think I might come back for these chairs in spring…will mon chéri fall for these I wonder..?

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And a cutie..no, don’t ask me what outomobile this is. I knew, but  forgot again..and mon chéri is in Paris, I can’t ask him…

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It just keeps going on…and on…and on…, with something for everyone and every budget..

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I also found mon bonheur…..a real trouvaille(bargain)! Mon chéri was happy too…I came home with only 11 small books and I have already finished reading  one!

livres anciens

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  • So, while the amuse bouche was enjoyed, the entrée has been siummering away..yes… topinambours and chestnut velouté with wild musqhroom croutôns.
  • Another holiday French movie: l’orange de Noël

Alors mes amis…

à demain

Ronelle


Un noël à la campagne 1: Marinated herring and litchi cups, and foie gras with mango toasts.

It is a crazy time, the end of the year. Whether winter or summer, it is Christmas, gifts, parties, holidays, celebrations…and food. thank goodness it only happens once a year. I have decided to propose a menu over the following 5 days. A series of posts covering “Un Noël à la campagne“. (And non, it is NOT our Christmas menu.) I’ve chosen light food, a little bit more creamy, warm, cold, great French cheese and a showstopper dessert. But don’t fret. Most of the dishes can be made ahead of time and others without fuss or long processes. I hope it inspires you to play around with ideas of your own. The secret to a Christmas dinner is always… keep it simple and small and DON’T WASTE!

menu-un noël à la campagne
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..Apéritif :
..marinated herring and litchi cups and foie gras and mango bites..
litchi cups and foie gras bites
..recette..
apéritif recette
Pincée de fleur de sel:
  • Use any other fish you prefer, even tartare de poisson(raw fish).
  • Cut the litchis on the opposite sides of the stem to make for pretty “lids”.
  • Use small kiwis instead of litchis and crab meat instead of fish.
  • Eat with small demitasse spoons.
  • Keep in fridge until served.
  • Use ham or other preferred cold meat instead of foie gras.
  • When using cold beef, add some mustard between the layers.
  • Use other firm slices of fruit in season instead of mango.
  • Work on five helpings of each per person to leave room for the rest of the dinner to follow.
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Noël window displays in Paris:
On a cold evening last week in Paris, I grabbed mon chéri and my camera at 23:00 to go snap some images of Lafayette and Printemps, famous for their Noël window displays. Here are somze images and just for that child in you, click on the following images to see the displays in action.. These displays always make me giggle with pleasure!
..vitrine Luis Vuiton..
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..ball..Dior- Printemps..
lights 2
..Dior – Printemps..
lights 4
..my favorite vitrine!..ice skating – Printemps..it reminds me of myself..on the ice, wrong way up and wondering how to camouflage my embarrassment in the most elegant way!
lights 7
..at the ball – Printemps..
lights 16
..la Fayette house..
lights 3
..table exhibits;.
lights 12
..Lafayette house vitrine
lights 9
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  • The menu will continue tomorrow with the amuse bouche: Two salmon and avocado terrine.
  • A nice French film for December – Tous les matins du monde with Gèrard Dépardieu ane Anne Brochet. It won the Louis Delluc prize for best film and the César for best music in 1992.
  • Some links of the window displays:

à demain

Ronelle


Quick fleur de sel grissinis..and Past Decembers, chronicles 2: tables.

I like to nibble on a grissini with a glass of wine. It prevents the wine making me do stupid things.. Or dunk it in a cup of tomato soup, a gazpacho.. But frankly, the store bought grissini are awful. No matter how expensive or grand they are. They taste like compacted paper. Maybe you agree. Then you might enjoy this recipe which is so easy and so quick and so delicious and has absolutely nothing to do with compacted paper!

The recipe is so easy, I can do it in only two sentences…

  1. Unroll a sheet of puff pastry and cut into strips of about 15mm and divide each strip into two short strips. Brush the flat strips with one beaten egg.
  2. Take each strip at the ends and twist while you stretch a little at the same time . Place on a baking sheet, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with fleur de sel, freshly ground pepper and crushed red pepper berries.
  3. Place under grill for 8 minutes until golden, remove from the oven, turn them over, return and grill for another 8 minutes until golden.
  4. Remove and leave to cool.
  5. Can be stored in an airtight container for a week.

Pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Sprinkle some grated Parmesan cheese on the flat strips, before twisting them. In which case you have to check your addition of salt, because the Parmesan is already very salty.
  • Use other interesting salts..vanilla salt, sea salt, saffron salt(see photo of ingredients), maldon salt…
  • Use some seeds of your choice. I’m not too fond of seeds like poppy seeds, which has no taste whatsoever and only embarrassingly sticks in between your teeth..
  • Take care not to over bake your strips so they too indeed become compacted paper.
  • Serve with a glass of wine or champagne or soup,  in summer with a cold gazpacho.
  • Sprinkle with sugar for something to serve with dessert or a champagne in summer.
  • Bake only with brushed olive oil and when out of the oven, still warm, sprinkle liberally with icing sugar.
  • Brush with melted butter for more flavor instead of olive oil.

..ingredients..

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As is the case all over the globe, December is family time. A time to snuggle in front of fires or laze on beaches and close to Christmas, we get together with families to open tins of cookies and traditional foods and drinks. Of course. It is Christmas. A time to remember. A time to forgive and forget. A time for peace..there is a song that says it all…

Its a time for giving, a time for getting,
A time for forgiving and for forgetting.
Christmas is love, Christmas is peace,
A time for hating and fighting to cease..”

Mistletoe and wine -Cliff Richard

Getting together with families, whether only one or ten, we do it around tables and food than matter to us. After all, food is more than just nourishment for our bodies. It also feeds our senses.  Our  sensitive souls. Yes, a soul is a sensitive thing, we fight and cry and love with our souls.When we sit around a table and taste our apple pie, we remember our parents, our childhood, our children. Sometimes we laugh. Sometimes we cry. It is all good. We are feeding our souls.

Like the Chronicles 1 I have decided to also show our family tables, because it has now changed too…our Christmas table for the last 7 years at home  has seated only  our small family of 4. We have now grown to a wonderful 6 around the table! An exciting new chapter!

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I’ll leave you in peace to browse if you like or skip top the bottom if you don’t.

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  • More photos of Decembers past can be seen in my gallery on the sidebar..Joyeux Noël.
  • Music to add to your December playlist..Une Nuit à Versailles – Vanessa Paradis. I am quite the fan. Sure, there are some songs I skip, but mostly I enjoy them all. this is her  4th live album..hope you enjoy. Here is one of the songs..Il Y A
  • Tomorrow I will see you with the last walk through memory lane… Easy caramel squares..and Chronicles III, backstage.

à plus!

Ronelle


Coley fish(lieu noir) in crispy filo pastry.

I make only easy, simple and quick food. I have done the difficult, intricate thing, but now I enjoy doing relaxed cooking. This is another very simple, very versatile recipe, which I’m sure many a home has in its possession. Only the presentation differs from the one occasion to the next and the one family to the next.

Suggestions:

  • Use any other white fish.
  • Instead of folding the pastry in rolls, fold them in triangles.
  • serve as a cold apéritif before dinner with a cold dry white wine.
  • The same recipe can be used in different ways: as a crumble with a breadcrumb, butter and oats topping and baked in the oven. OR topped with mashed potatoes and baked in the oven, OR with flour and butter and eggs added for some fish cakes…
  • Can be served small as a starter or larger as a light lunch with a big mixed salad.

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Some Koi images. I’m not truly a fish person, but Koi can fascinate me with their movements, their colors and their behaviour. they really have personalities, which I didn’t believe until I saw it for myself. I have done some paintings and some studies of them, but find it very difficult…it is much easier to capture the personality of a person than a fish!

…Koi…

Have a great weekend!

à bientôt

Ronelle


Cherry and bacon rolls..and happy Valentine!

I suppose everyone thinks “chocolate” when in February and especially around the 14th. I’m breaking the rules a bit here…these small cherry and bacon rolls are much more popular in our home under my loved ones than chocolate. In fact, I’m the only chocolate fan around here! So, when I make my people these little rolls, they know it says something about my love for them.

Very easy, so much so that it doesn’t require any recipe. I’ve had this “recipe” for as long as I can remember. It is sort of my “signature” snack and I have not yet come across a single person who sticks to only one or even two.

  1. Simply roll some sweet “cake cherries” as we used to call them in strips thin bacon. Secure with a toothpick
  2. Bake in a 200 degrees C (356 degr F) oven until the bacon is caramelized. In a preheated oven, this won’t take longer than 12-15 minutes.

Suggestions:

  • Use some prunes or apricots instead of cherries.
  • Use a leaner ham, like prosciutto or Serrano ham, cut in think slices and roll around the cherries. I’ve tried them all, but our favourite stays bacon strips.
  • The bacon rolls can be fried in a pan(without oil), but they are crispier and tastier(and healthier) baked in the oven.
  • Use simple toothpicks.. fancy ones will burn in the oven.
  • Eat warm from the oven.

…cherries in syrup, strips of bacon, toothpicks…

…May you all have  a cherry sweet Valentine’s day!..

…à bientôt

 from Chérie here in Corréze!


Clementine and litchi amuse bouche..and a sous-chef.

Voiçi my very first starter I made in my mother’s house as a child. With a few changes here and there, it is better served now as a small amuse bouche before dinner. It is still very light and fresh and I’m still proud of my very first attempt! The little glasses it is served in (in the photos), are the original glasses from my mother that I used about 40 years ago for my starter of clementines and litchis.  So, les verrines is not something new…it was already a successful concept 40 years ago!

Suggestions:

  • Marinate the fruit in the vinaigrette for about an hour, but not longer.
  • Use mandarins or orange segments instead of clementines.
  • Try serving it as a bigger salad by placing the fruit on a bed of salad greens and add some shredded smoked salmon.
  • Can be used as a fruit salad…replace the vinaigrette with a sauce: clementine juice, sugar, a little water, few drops of lemon juice, zest of a clementine…simmer untul reduced to a syrup. Add a few drops of Clementine liqueur just before serving.
  • Replace the raspberries with a small scoop of raspberry sorbet.

..clementines, licthis and old tools from childhood..

…and a sous-chef..

To me, December is a month of remembrance, memories, reflections. Many memories surface during this time…some of which are funny, some sad, some without any particular significance and because memories aren’t always honest, I remember them all as dear, solely because they have brought me to this point where I am today and who I am today.

Christmas was a time in our house where things happened according to my mother’s schedule. She was a formidable woman who had the ability to organize an army into baking cookies. So,  under her hand, Decembers were very busy in our house and all the while she hoaxed me into thinking chores were fun! Baking cookies, cleaning the silver, polishing floors, washing curtains, ironing the Christmas tablecloth, decorating the living room, cooking jams, preparing for holidays…these were the things that filled up our month, with my mother holding the reigns firmly in her hands and me a close step beside her.

..chef et sous-chef..

I was sous-chef from a very young age,  whether it was washing the curtains or cooking a meal or baking the cookies. A very important position…the sous-chef! Without me, how could she have hung the wet heavy curtains  on the line to catch the sun…without me, how could she have polished the silver in time for Christmas,…without me being in charge of the cookiemaker, we would have no coffee cookies for December? It  would be disastrous…scandalous! How would the maizena cookies have jamfilled centres without me? Christmas would be sad and lonely, if I hadn’t had the responsibility of lavishing it in swirls of silver and gold streamers and glitter and shining stars!

It is of course one of the big secrets…the complete confidence of a chef in his/her sous-chef! My mom trusted me with many things, so much so that I was allowed the responsibility for the starter at a big dinner. This was my first ever solo contribution to a dinner.  She also allowed me the key to her dinnerware cabinet where I could choose something for my starter. Such an important position…the sous-chef!

So here I am presenting my first starter, then as a sous-chef in my mother’s kitchen. The only difference is that now I’ve been promoted to chef. I have my own kitchen. And the starter is now served as an amuse bouche.

..May your December memories be as dear as mine!..

..amuse bouche in old childhood glasses..

..à la prochaine..

Ronelle


La ratatouille à ma façon..and hand me the scissors!

Ratatouille is such a versatile dish – there are more ways than can be counted to do it nowadays and everyone swears by his/her way. The traditional  way takes takes far too long(for me in any case!) and the vegetables are too soft and juicy to my taste. So I do it the quicker and crunchier way and so far, nobody has complained…on the contrary…everybody finds it fresh and enjoys the crunchiness still present and the appearance pleasant. It is a perfect little vegetable starter for the festive meals that await us!

La ratatouille est un plat assez commun et pourtant, chacun  fait sa ratatouille a sa façon. La façon traditionnelle veut que ce soit cuit longtemps, comme tout les ragout. Pour ma part, je trouve ça  pénible! Et de toute façon, je préfère mes légumes toujours plus croquants avec ces couleurs encore vive! Donc, je fais ma ratatouille vite et croquante et personne ne s’en plaint. Au contraire!  Tout le monde la trouve très bonne!Voilà une bonne petite entrée aux légumes pour les fêtes qui nous approchent.

Suggestions:

  • Ratatouille can be used as a startert or an amuse bouche or as a side accompanying chicken, fish or red meat. If it is to accompany a meat dish, cut the dice a little bigger…perhaps 6×6 mm.
  • Don’t overcook, so the texture can still be crunchy, which makes it different from the traditional ratatouille which is simmered for a longer time to have the vegetables really tender with more sauce than I have here.
  • Add some garlic and provencal herbs to the ratatouille like thyme, marjoram, oreganum.
  • It can be served warm or at room temperature.
  • Serve with freshly shredded basil over the top for a nice fresh appearance.
  • Serve on a canape(small slice of bread) for an amuse bouche, or serve in a little bowl or glass and toast some brioches to serve with it.
  • If you want more special flavour to your ratatouille, add some chilies and spices to give it a kick.
  • Add some langoustine, cut in chunks or mussels, oysters or shrimp to your rataouille along with chervil or dill.

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..and hand me the scissors!..

I don’t have any fond feelings aboutf scissors, in fact, I pretty much associate them with pain and blood, of which I have first hand experience.

But then again, if I think of life without them..?

I had a pretty little old one from my mother which I kept in my handbag and forgot to take out before we had to board at the airport.  I still have another one left, a very ancient model, frequently used by her and even though it lacks performance, its beauty stays unsurpassed. No psychedelic colored plastic in sight and the handle shows signs of hard use and yes, the blade is full of rust spots, but the lines are sleek and graceful and the grip allows for good comfort. Just a simple but beautiful, old pair of scissors from my childhood, one that came from my mother’s sewing kit and is now not so much a utility as a connection to the past.

scissors-bedroom

Like everybody else, I also have  scissors everywhere throughout the house. In the bedroom.. a small pair for removing labels or a loose thread here and there. In the bathroom for cutting and trimming hair, my husband still only trusts me to cut his hair. In the atelier where hundreds(well, almost a hundred!)have to cut anything from plaster to paper.

..scissors-coiffeur..

Then there is the handyman that cuts just about anything, although I don’t believe in this all-round-scissors. I want one for every purpose – one for cutting hair and one for cutting paper, another for cutting plastic and one at close hand when I can’t find the hammer, or the screwdriver or the can-opener…The sewing kit has a few of its own, and to my dismay, the huge fabric scissors is in high demand at Christmas when all the others scissors have magically disappeared.

..scissors-all purpose..

The kitchen is an interesting topic. I have yet to figure out the system there – one for every task? But that would leave neither time nor place for anything else in the kitchen!

..scissors-la cuisine..

My pièce de résistance is my  giant, heavy pair of fabric scissors that I acquired years ago with every cent we owned and woe to the one who dare use it for anything else! It has never been sharpened and after almost 30 years still cuts through a piece of fabric like a hot knife through butter!

..scissors-sewing kit..

And let’s not forget the garden scissors…those very important pruning tools and the small scissors for bonsai that I use to cut string for tying and staking in the garden. Do you keep your garden scissors clean and oiled? Not? shame on you!! the same goes for cutting flowers for the house…clean them, oil them and they will serve you a lifetime.

..scissors - garden... and ...flower arranging..

It seems I can actually conjure up some images of pleasure and so maybe I do have fond memories of scissors after all….

..old scissors..

…à la prochaine!..

..Ronelle..

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Artichokes with figs..and a little bit of Paris.

Artichokes filled with red fig and topped with a goats cheese can be served whichever way  you want to…on the side with a meat dish, or as a salad, or a starter, and even as an amuse bouche with a glass of cold white wine. It is truly delicious and even enjoyed by people who find artichokes without taste. If you want to be really gourmet, you will prepare the atichokes yourself, but you can choose the easier but still delicious way, by buying the frozen artichoke hearts, readily available everywhere.


Suggestions:

  • Use frozen artichoke hearts, which is as delicious and fresh and less work. BUT for a special occasion in season , DO put in some effort for some fresh, seasonal artichokes.
  • Feta cheese with ricotta or sour cream  can be used instead of goats cheese and crème fraîche.
  • Yellow figs can be used instead of red figs.
  • Substitue maple syrup or thym honey for the white balsamic syrup.
  • Serve as a starter on a bed of greens, or as a side with duck, or as an amuse bouche, served on small plates.
  • Bake at 200 degrees C for about 10 -15 minutes.

..les coeurs d'atichauts au four..

les figues rouges...la crème de balsamique...les artichauts

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..and a little bit of Paris…

I was in Paris for a quick visit and when passing by Antoine, I couldn’t resist this parapluie for the coming winter and its rains. I never actually use one, because I knock everyone in the eye and over the head or umbrella them off the sidewalk. But I’ve decided everything can be worked at and I want to look chic this winter and for that I need this parapaluie. So I will work at my clumsiness with a parapluie and turn myself into a proper parisienne…just imagine…never again wet hair clinging to my forehead..

I’m almost tempted to say that the elagant Parisienne you see in the following images, is me, but unfortunately my concience won’t allow it! It is my beautiful  friend who was willing to play model for me with my ombrelle! And she knows exactly how, since she had been une Parisienne a few years ago, before she became une Tourangelle.

..la parisienne et le parapluie..

And some scenes from my meanderings in Paris:

…statues always attract me with their wistfull quietness and their frozen stares…

..statues de paris..

…and architecture with  roofs and chimneys, towers and  balcomies, doors and windows…

..architecture de paris..

..and of course, on my way to catch the TGV home, I have to wander through le jardin du Luxembourg where I always stop for a game of chess and delight in the creative chaos of the the Luxembourg chairs…

..jardin du luxembourg..

… in le bois de Vincenne, autumn is a flaming opera with the colours performing the libretto with  extravagant flair…

..l’automne à paris..

..à la prochaine!..

Ronelle


Bruschetta with tomato…and a day at Montsoreau brocante.

We will always have to eat. Even if it is just something quick and simple. A bruschetta is just that. Quick and simple.

I cut a baguette into slices, spooned some tomato paste on top with a slice of cemembert cheese,  and lastly added a slice of semi dried tomato in olive oil and freshy shredded basil. Place onto a grill for a few seconds and serve with freshly milled pepper and a sprinkling of fleur de sel.

Last year, when we arrived back home, I wrote about my little village Montlouis sur Loire in this post:  Scorpion fish with citrus salad.  We are now back again from our time in correze and this morning I took my camera and sketching stuff and headed for our bigger town Tours, a place I really love for its architecture and green parks, tree lanes, fresh markets and yes,  its shops and people. I wanted to show what I see. But it  started raining. I ran for cover and enjoyed a coffee and croissant while waiting for the skies to clear. When that didn’t happen, I bought a cake and on impulse decided to drive to Montsoreau where there is a “puce”(fleamarket) on today. It is a quaint little village on the Loire and it just feels like holiday being there. The spirit today was one of holiday indeed. The clouds made room for the sun, which had me take out my purse way more than initially planned.

…a large platter…

…old prints…

…my weak spot – story plates, and tasses de cafés

…les puces de montsoreau…

…à la prochaine!..

Ronelle


Tomato and goats cheese tartlet…and a love for white: in the kitchen.

Tomatoes can be used in so many forms and a small tartlet is one of them. Combined with some goats cheese, a few chopped olives, some torn basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil, served in a pastry cup and voila, you have a starter, or amuse bouche, or even a main meal served with a green salad.

VF: Avec une tomate on peut toujours s’amuser dans l’esprit estival – mettre ensembles dans une coupe de pâtisserie, les tomates avec un morceau de fromage de chèvre, des olives, des feuilles de basiliques, un filet d’huile d’olive et on sert pour une amuse bouche ou une entrée ou même un plat principal, accompagné d’une salade verte.

Suggestions:

  • Use any other cheese, like mozzarella or a piece of camembert or brie.
  • Use a puff pastry instead of Phyllo pastry. Adapt the baking time(longer).
  • Instead of marinated tomatoes, cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes can be used in which case the tomatoes should be halved, the seeds removed and slightly sautèed before hand to soften them.
  • Add some chives or finely sliced spring onions to the tartlets.
  • Taste for seasoning, before adding any. The goats cheese and marinated tomatoes add enough flavor and salt.
  • Adapt the size of the tartlet for a starter. for an amuse bouche, a 5 cm size is good, for a starter, move to a 7 cm size and for a meal with a green salad make it even a little bigger, depending on the size of muffin pan/tart pan available.
  • To make a lighter version for health/diet…use a thin phyllo pastry, spread lightly with melted butter, use fresh cherry tomatoes and substitute mozzarella cheese.

If I say that I love white in the kitchen I know there will be  quite a few readers out there who will eagerly say the same.

Je sais qu’il y a plein de gens qui, comme moi, adorent utiliser le blanc dans la cuisine.

White in the kitchen is, apart from being practical, also beautiful, economical and fun. A white plate is a showcase for all foods, from a simple sandwich ton elaborate cooked leg of lamb. Combine different whites with different textures on the same table.

Utiliser le  blanc dans la cuisine est pratique, beau, économique et n’oubliez pas..amusant! Une assiette blanche est une façon parfaite de  faire une ravissante présentation.

…don’t overlook a little humor(un peu de gaieté dans l’assiette)…

My mother had the most beautiful complete tea sets; the teapot, sugar bowl, milk jug, cups and saucers, the cake stand and dessert plates. They were white tiny pink flowers, white with blue forget-me-nots, white with colored musical notes, pretty and feminine. She used a whole set at a time, especially on Sunday afternoons for tea; serving a tart on the cake stand, sprinkling colored sugar in the sugar bowl and warm tea leaves in the teapot with a tea strainer on the side. That is how it was in those days.

Today we mix and match. In our clothing and on our tables. I sometimes wonder whether I’m disturbing he3r peace in her hereafter life with my massacring her tea sets by mixing and matching;  the teapot for flowers, the cake stand for soaps in the bathroom or the cups for mints by the side table…or maybe she is watching me with a smile, shaking her head and thinking…”how much my little girl loves my tea sets!’…

Je me souviens des sets à thé complètes de ma mère…très féminines, très belles. Les théières, les bols de sucre, les assiettes de dessert, les tasses et ses soucoupes. Elles était blanches avec des petites fleurs en roses, des petites fleurs du myosites. Elle servais du thé et une tarte les dimanches après-midis à l’heure de goûter..comme d’habitude a l’époque.

Aujourd’hui ça change. On fait un mélange de styles et de couleurs, il n’y a pas de règles. Je me demande parfois si ma mère me regarde de si lointaine avec l’horreur quand j’emploie sa théière pour une vase de fleurs, ou l’assiette de gâteau pour les savons dans la salle de bain, ou les tasses de thé pour les menthes dans la chambre…ou peut-être elle me regarde souriante, surprise par ma créativité, et contente de voir que j’aime ses sets à thé..!

…old and contemporary in harmony side by side(ancienne et contemporaine vivent ensemble) ..

…”the hare and the tortoise”(le lièvre et la tortue) – jean de la fontaine…

…every day (quotidien)…

…fish days(les jours du poisson)…

…and mixed days(mélangé)…

…à la prochaine..!


A summer apricot soup amuse bouche and une fête d’été!

An apricot soup says SUMMER! in so many ways.In its bright yellow color we find the warmth of mid summer days. The flavor has us  smelling the shadows of big overhanging tree branches…that afternoon nap after the pic-nique. And the taste…the taste that makes us hear les cigales in the heat of the day, see les guêpes hoovering over all the sweet delicacies of our al fresco meals… So. If you’re in the mood for a little summer heat and holiday…take to an apricot soup, close your eyes and see yourself  stretched out in the fields, chewing on a grass sprig, dozing off  with a heavy summer laze and then just lose yourself in being the happiest soul walking this earth!

*Une petite soupe d’abricot est indispensable pour l’été. Sa couleur nous donne la chaleur des journées dorées. Dans son saveur on sent les ombres des rameaux d’un grand noyer et on a envie de  s’allonger et fermer les yeux pour un petit moment magique. Et le goût…le goût nous donne l’impression d’entendre les cigales, de voir les guêpes qui dérangent la tranquilité d’un repas al fresco. Alors. Goûtons cette petite soupe et laissons notre imaginaire nous transporter vers un champ où on s’allonge dans l’herbe et nos pensées disparaissent dans les nuages de rêves et de bonheur.



Suggestions:

  • Try this also with soft ripe peaches.
  • Use a rose wine instead of a white.
  • for a completely vegetarian dish, replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock.
  • Serve with a fresh traditional baguette, topped with some melted camembert cheese.

VF:

  • Substituez avec des pèches.
  • Remplacez le vin blanc par une rosé.
  • Pour la version végétarienne, replacer le bouillon de poulet par un bouillon de légumes.
  • Servez accompagnée d’une baguette ancienne et son camembert fondu.

…un brunch d’été…

With two weeks left before the summer holidays, it is now or never to have a fete d’ete with all our friends before they all take off with their straw hats  and tanning lotions. Let’s make it special. Make it fun. Make it beautiful and dreamy. Summer. Gay with color. Inviting.

*Dans deux semaines on arrive au début de vacances d’été. Il reste donc qu’un petit bout de temps pour se régaler une toute dernière fois avec nos amies, avant qu’on prenne la route, armée de nos crèmes solaires et les espadrilles! Allé! Faisons une fête spéciale. Gracieuse. Chaleureuse.  Merveilleusement habillée avec les couleurs gaies de l’été.

…rustic romance for a brunch…

Choose a corner in the garden.

On cherche un coin dans le jardin.

…a view on summer…

Go overboard on flowers and plants. Don’t spend money on buying flowers. Pick all kinds of greenery and even herbs and don’t overlook the beauty of weeds all around you. Ask a friend for trimmings which are happening now to pump new life into plants. Buy some seedlings or summer plants instead that can be planted afterward in the garden. They come at cheap prices everywhere now and buy them in trays. Set the trays as is on your tables and in your serving corners. Tie some rafia or some sisal around for a ristic garden look. And don’t forget to send a few plants in a cute container home with your friends, which they can plant in a pot or their own garden. And DON”T do what I did….have so much fun that you forget to give each friend her plants at going home time!

*Il y’a un choix exubérant de  fleurs et  de plantes. Ne dépensez pas d’argent sur les fleurs en commerce. Elles sont libres et abondantes tout autour de nous. Pensez aux herbes, aux feuillages, même les mauvaises herbes qui poussent sans cesse avec une beauté plus subtile. Surtout on a des voisins et des amis qui font une nettoyage de saison en ce moment, donnant une nouvelle vie saisonnier au jardin. Passez par la jardinerie et achetez des barquettes de fleurs d’été, qui peut servir pour la décoration de table et  comme cadeaux pour nos invités, voir plantée dans leurs propres coins du jardin.

…pétunias in trays and all things garden…

…serving corners…

…umbreallas at the ready…

Have some colorful umbrellas close by for that urgent run in that rain to the bathroom! And in the same thinking frame…remember some suncream for those who prefer sitting in the sunny side, have an ecofriendly trap for the “gueppes” so you can  lunch in peace and provide lots of cool water if you are lucky to have a blasting hot summers day, but if not…a cozy little throw can provide some body heat if your day is cool and cloudy like we had on Friday!

*N’oubliez pas les jolies parapluies pour les courses sous la pluie ou pour se rendre à la maison. Et pourquoi pas une crème solaire pour ceux qui adorent s’installer en plein soleil. Une piège bio pour les omniprésentes guêpes sera un petit geste attentionné. Voir dans le cas d’une canicule, l’eau fraîche à boire nous éviterons de tomber dans un sommeil impolie. Pourtant, dans mon cas ce Vendredi dernier…cette scenario était impossible, car on est ici en France toujours capturé dans l’âge de glace!

..knee blankets and flowers do go together…

…cherries, freshly picked from a friends garden, a garden hat and pretty flower…

…garden tools and a warming fire…

Have your guests bring their favorite dish to the table. We had delicious quiches and gorgeous salads, which I hope to bring to you soon with the permission of my friends, we finished with magnificent  cheese a friend got fresh from the market earlier the morning and we feasted on local rose’s and homemade moelleux wine with our strawberry soup.

*Les amies apprécient toujours contribuer à la table, n’hésitez pas à demander une bonne quiche ou une salade gourmande, comme elles sont faites pour notre brunch. Puis, on a terminé le brunch avec du fromage du marché, une soupe de fraises pour un dessert et ce festin était accompagné par une bonnes rosé d’Evres et un moelleux fait maison par ma gentille voisine Claudine!

A fete d’ete indeed. More than that. An uplifiting 5 hours spent with lovely ladies, funny ladies, creative ladies. Friends. Summer. Good food. And so traditionally french,  we tasted, examined, commented, complimented, changed the recipe, suggested alternative ingredients, discussed accompanying wines, and simply savored each helping. 

*Voila une vraie fete! En fait, beaucoup plus que ça. C’était quelques 5 heures passées dans la compagnie de femmes très sympas, drôles et créatives. Les amies. L’été. Une bonne table. Et comme la tradition dicte toujours en France, nous avons goûté et fait des propositions de différentes  ingrédients. On a testée, examinée, changée les recettes, discutée les vins comme des pros… bref…un après-midi savoureux et chaleureux!

Then we said our goodbyes and gave our “bisous” with promises of outings to chateaux…and a lunch.. To show gardens…and a lunch. To walks around town…and a lunch. To hiking trails…and a lunch. To painting days…and a lunch. to music concerts…and a lunch. The moral of the story? We have to seize the moment.
So c’mon! Deck the garden, load the table with fresh produce! Call up your friends! Chill the wine! Life is short…grab onto it with in a fork in the one hand and a joie de vivre in the other!

*Nous avons faites nos bisous avec de sacrées promesses de se réunir en visites des châteaux…et un lunch. Des promenades en ville…et un lunch. Des rencontres Van goghe-esques…et un lunch. Les concerts musiques…et un lunch. Alors. On comprend qu’une chose. Il faut profiter de chaque moment!

Allez! appelons nos amies!Ouvrons le portail! Faisons le marché! Décapitons le champagne! La vie passe trop vite…profitons-en avec une fourchette et un joie de vivre triomphant!

…passez une bonne été et à la prochaine!…


Sweet pepper and scallop amuse bouche and cloches(bells).

Sometimes things can be so beautiful, they become without purpose.  Their beauty makes them too fragile, too precious. Think of a Fabergé egg. Beautiful, obscenely expensive and without any purpose. Empty…. Oïe..I’m busy shooting myself in the foot here…being an aritist and optimistically hoping my art would be “beautiful” enough to offer nothing else but the sole purpose of bringing pleasure to the world…!

Suggestions:

  • Use a green sweet pepper instead of the green chili for a milder taste, or use strondger chilis for more bite.
  • Peeled tomato can be added.
  • Replace the scallops with mussels or shrimp for variety.
  • To eat as a starter, use the bigger bay scallops.
  • Dry the scallops thoroughly and sauté very quick over high heat to prevent them from becoming rubbery.
  • the preparations can be done earlier and kept covered and cool until just before serving.
  • Assemble just before serving and serve  at room temperature or slightly warmer if preferred.
  • Finish off with dry raosted nuts or seeds like sunflower or pine nuts or pistachios.

Cloches(bells) don’t fall in this aesthetically pleasing but useless category. They are gorgeous in their appearance as well as in their use. They can bring an enchantment to a simple corner, and they add the same magic to a dinner table. Food under a cloche draws you in, makes you bend down and peek closer, stare around and beyond the reflections, wondering about the smell and taste, wanting to touch what is inside the glass cage.

Showing up in trendy styles ands shapes , we can have our cloches throughout the year. In spring, while taking a break from planting herbs, we can unveil an array of cheese and charcuterie(cold meats) olives, tomatoes, whatever you feel like, and sit out, seeking out the shy sun.

Or maybe on a summers day, stretch out in the shade of the old oak tree, hiding from the mischievous sun and indulge in what hides under a  rattan cloche; fruit, juices, a sorbet… And winters find our cloches surrounded by romantic candlelight..

In the garden, cloches have been around forever. They bestow the garden with interest and old worlde  charm while at the same time fulfilling its obligation in protecting young seedlings from the elements.

Small cloches for small still lives in small corners, not forgetting a wire cloche, which can travel from the kitchen to the sitting room to the garden.

A cake cloche, awaiting a platter of  sweetness accompanying teatime, a gouter, as we so aptly call it in french, but in the meantime it is showing off its company of old plates on an old dresser. Hopefully, the gouter might find its place on the weekend…

Use small cloches to serve an amuse bouche at the dinner table, all ready and greeting your guests as they arrive at the table. It is something I always do. A small amuse bouche on each plate. When the guests seat themselves, their eyes are fixed on the little “gift” in front of them. It heightens the expectation and  starts off the dinner on an exciting note.

You don’t need expensive or antique silver cloches to bring a note of style and festivity to your table. Just by looking around your house, you will find many things which can serve as a little cloche.

Little glass bowls, fish bowls, empty yoghurt glass container, wide rimmed glasses turned upside down, flower pots, vases, candle holders… turn them upside down and place a fake “knob” on the top, using a cherry tomato, nuts, fave bean, broccoli flower, radish, crab apple, strawberry, flowers, empty snail shells, sea shells, decorative sugars, sugar cubes, pebbles(with each guest’s name on), steal your son’s marbles for the day… Play around with some self made cloches and bring a bit of fun and tongue-in-cheek elegance to your table!

To clean your inside plant leaves, especially the smooth and shiny ones which accumulate dust and grime  easily, use a cloth soaked in beer  to give them shine.


An introspective last three days of 2009.

We have about three days left for remembering the old year and planning for the new year. Dreaming up new dreams. Setting new heights. Asking simple questions. Struggling with honest answers.

Part of dreaming new dreams and setting new goals, is a desire to give back more to life than receiving. Looking back on this year, I’ve seen our human soiety grasped in the claws of spending. We were/are admired for our talents. For our beautiful homes. And our beautiful blogs. For our wonderful recipes. Our creativity. We have friends across the globe, praising us for our kindness, gentleness, goodness. It has driven me to ask some simple questions during this time.  A time  which inspires real hope and renewal. Change. Growth..

Have you been grateful this past year, content with what you have? Without a desire for what you don’t yet have?

Have you given back more than you received?

Have you brought fresh vegetables to the grumpy old lady/man down the street whenever you brought back your own loaded bags? Do you even know a grumpy old lady for whom you could have dropped a fresh bread?

Have you dropped a coin in the hands of the beggar, or have you justified your simply walking past that it would have just be going for alcohol anyway…could you have helped in some different way…something that took more trouble, more effort…started making a difference? Have you even given it any thought after just walking on? Or have you just turned your head and started thinking of dinner?

Have you done anything consciously for charity, effort, planning, effort – just as you would do it for yourself? Or were you very busy.

Have you ever spent some of your precious time to go an old age home to read to the elderly? Do you know any elderly people? Do you know their fears? Their fascinating stories? Their needs? Or do you only hope to not grow into such an old sour prune?

Have you contributed in any way positively to our environment? Have you ever been to the dump yard? Talked to the people working there? Have you ever taken a pie and shared a coffee with them? Have you ever woken up early to thank the garbage workers for the work they do?

Could you have  cared more in an unspending way for your dear ones? Without the aid of money. Without the aid of material things. Just you and your time. Your effort.

Could you have cared more in an unspending way for friends? For your community?

Did you run to the store to buy something to make you feel better, to rid you of depression, to lift your mood? Did you run to an stock full  pantry to indulge in foods of all choices and flavours to wallow in your awful life?

Have you given a shoulder to someone in need?  Reached out to a complete stranger?

Have you taken a dinner for someone at  her/his home who was just simply tired, worn out, or just because you wanted to?

Have you done something special for someone, not so YOU could  feel good afterwards, but because he/she needed it? Without receiving a thank you, without caring about a thank you?

Have you complained constantly about your circumstances and then got into a warm bed, luxurious bedlinen, having had a hot meal, even having sipped a glass of wine? Or complained about your misfortune…or about being misunderstood….or neglected?

Have you complained about your circumstances and then had had the luxury of  ice in your drink or a cool glass of water to quench your thirst…turning the tap and having had water running freely to fill a bath to your heart’s content?

Have you written down at the end of each day how many good things life had handed you during the course of the day? Have you even noticed it?

On a bad day, have you even tried to find something good in your life?

Have you sat quietly and really listened to someone’s else’s fears, dried her/his tears without thinking of your own hurt, or comparing to your own hurt, but could only feel the sadness of this person?

Were you quick to rationalize and justify your own reasons or motives, your jealousy, your envy, your anger, your hurt…

Were you spiteful…were you critical…were you judgmental…were you righteous…

Were you deeply sorry after harsh words…did you admit it, say it out loud?

Were you ashamed after harsh behaviour…did you acknowledge it, say it out loud?

Have you sat down and wondered, marvelled at this wondrous thing called life?

What small things have you done,  unnoticed by your friends and family, society… just because?

….And so these simple questions are never ending. One leads to another. Looking us straight on with raised eyebrows. Awaiting a response.  Can we meet the straight stare? Can we be be honest in our answers? Do they make us look ahead differently? Will they change anything?

May 2010 be less about ourselves.

May we care more about the world around us. Our community.The bigger picture.

May we use our talents and our good fortunes to make the world better for everyone.

May we live each day with a long list of gratitudes. Small ones. Important ones.

May we give more attention to the small, insignificant aspects of life. May they grow and become life changing.

May we give in abundance. Love. Time. Attention. Care. Empathy. Understanding…

May we receive with grace. Love, Teachings. Lessons. Help. Advice…

May we ALL grow in wisdom and get to that place which is called peace. Contentment. Happiness. Understanding.

Bliss.

A Wonderful, rich 2010 to all.


Salmon and avocado aperitif and an old brown suitcase(aperitif de saumon aux avocats et la vieille valise)

It is time to start baking cookies for Christmas. Time to think about the menu and order your meats. time to think about  some aperitif to toast with your champagne. And time to dig up the old memories.

Salmon and créme frâiche with blinis and topped with some caviar is an old favourite for high occasions. And loved by all. By changing and adapting it a little, we can still enjoy tradition ; bringing in some new without throwing out the old. Spark it up a bit, freshen it up.

Suggestions:

  1. Serve the aperitif with some blinis on the side.
  2. It can be made in bigger portions and served as a starter.
  3. Créme frâiche can be added to the mayonnaise to make it creamier…add to your taste.
  4. Before topping the glasses with the mayonnaise/créme frâiche mixture, leave for about an hour in the fridge to become a bit more firm, or else it will be too runny.
  5. Instead of the smoked salmon a tartare of good raw salmon can be used.
  6. Use tomatoes instead of salmon if you are a vegetarian.
  7. Don’t use an expensive caviar for the topping..a lumpfish caviar works fine.
  8. To make a quenelle of lumpfish caviar: use two spoons and slide a dollop of lumpfish caviar alternatively between the two spoons until you have an olive shaped quenelle. Slide the one spoon from front to back on the second spoon under the quenelle. Repeat once  or twice until you are happy with the shape.  See photos above.

…shaping a quenelle…

During Decembers I have a habit of digging up all old things and remembering. That is what I think winter is for after all. Reflection. Reminiscence. I reorganize drawers and closets, throw out old magazines, go pick them back up an hour later…Browse until early morning hours through old photo albums, discover old letters….like my own and those of my parents. The ones we dug up in our cave in the garden. Photos and letters are stories. They make us cry. They take us back on distant roads and make us laugh. They make us glance in the mirror to see the traces time had left.

…good wishes and happy writings…

…an old brown suitcase for embracing  old memories…

How will we be remembered and looked upon one day? Will someone have an old filled suitcase somewhere  where our picture dwells? Or will our picture appear in a virtual realm in a hyper contemporary room…or not at all. Will someone also look at us and cry and laugh at once upon a time…

…once upon a time…

Somewhere old becomes mingled with the new and we wonder…when is old really old.  Memories have no sense of time. Yesterday can be long ago and tomorrow can still be far away.

…a mix of old and not so old…

May I never forget. May my brown suitcases never be empty.

Do you have an old brown suitcase?

*Truc et astuces de grand-mére:

If your vinaigrette is too salty, place a cube of sugar on a teaspoon and rest it in the vinaigrette for about 10 seconds to absorb the salt and then remove the teaspoon with sugar cube.


Baguette slices with a seaweed(salade de mer) salsa

Back from Hawai’i, I’m inspired to do some “island painting” and eat more seafood, especially fish. I’m alittle disappointed in the availability of fish and seafood there as well as exotic fruits. I expected a wealth of seafood and a whole range of interesting and different fish meals. We could find loads of pasta meals and New York steaks and hamburgers and chips, even French resturants, with Mahi Mahi quite frequently, but for the rest, exciting fish meals were scarce.  We also had to drive quite deep into Kona island to find guavas , which we picked from a tree and they were absolutely delicious! But maybe the season wasn’t producing what I was looking for. At least it got me back into the “fish and fruit” zone again and the first thing I did when arriving back home – apart from loading a first bundle of washing – was to take off to the fish market and buy fish for our dinner! For now, a little appetizer – ocean inspired, to get going…

…baguette slices with seaweed salsa…

baguettes slices with seaweed salsa

With a glass of cold, dry white wine, it is a good and easy little appetizer to tantalize the tastebuds while waiting for your fish to appear on the table. You can also be sure of many health benefits in seaweeds. In french we call it salade de  mer, which literally means sea salad, composed of different sea weeds, found at health and Asian stores.  It is healthy cocktail of vitamins and proteins and minerals.

The quantities are relative. Start with a little and add more as you proceed. Here is what I did:

  • 2 TBSP of salade de la mer(a mixture of dried seaweeds)
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of chopped , rinsed capers
  • a pinch of fennel fleur de sel
  • TBSP of rice vinegar
  • TBSP of mirrin
  • TBSP olive oil
  • Toasted slices of seeded baguette

Mix all the ingredients together and leave for about 10 minutes for the seaweed to absorb the oils and vinegars. Taste again and adjust seasoning. Serve in a little bowl along with toasted baguette slices.

* Suggestions:

  1. The seaweed can be replaced by finely shredded white meat fish, or fish can be added along with the seaweed.
  2. A drop or two of white balsamic vinegar can be added with lime/lemon juice and shallot wine vinegar, instead of the rice vinegar and mirrin,  for a different interpretation.
  3. The salsa can be eaten with fish, like tuna or a cod or any other “gentle flavoured”  white fish”.
  4. A cold dry white wine, like a chenin blanc is a good companion.
  5. Don’t leave the seaweed salsa standing for too long, since it becomes “rubbery” after a while.
  6. The seaweed mixture can be found at health stores or at Asian stores.

…ingredients…

ingredients for seaweed appetizers

Since Hartman was at the convention and meetings most of the time, I had ample time to sketch…

…flamingos and koi…

hawaii flamingoes hawaii koi fish 10-2-2009 7-19-50 PM

…reflections and flora…

hawaii 3hawaii sketch 1

A short  tour  through our trip to Hawai’i:

…sunsets from our room, different every evening!

sunset from our room sunset 3

…Kona coffee to wake up and start the day with…

kona coffee fishing early morning 1

…bananas and guavas on the tree…

guava onthe tree bananas

…a shea shore and a coast of volcano rock…

horizon volcano eruption

…shades of blue…

by the shorebreaking wave

…for the energetics!…

surfing 3 surfing 4

More Hawai’i photos can be seen here at Myfrenchkitchen: Travel


Cold cucumber and kiwi soup

I’ve never been a big fan of cucumber. I find them rather tasteless and watery. But it is those exact reasons that make them a perfect base for a cold summer soup. I use cucumber with different herbs, or combined with other fruits or vegetables to make a light soup, especially on a warm summers afternoon or dinner. In this case I used kiwi, an excellent source of vitamin C.

…cold cucumber and kiwi soup…

cold Cucumber and kiwi salad.bmp

It may seem very “light” for a meal on its own, but we are eating way too much and our portions are way too big. This is an ample meal, if seved with some grilled seafood, like shrimps or langoustine tails, then followed by a cheese platter and a crusty grain bread and finished off with a seasonal dessert, or even only fruit.

It is custom in our house to eat “3 courses”. Now doesn’t that sound pretentious! But in fact, it is actually only “one course” that we serve seperately in 3 stages, or even more! A salad would serve as a starter, in it’s own bowl or plate, then followed up with maybe a fish/meat and a small vegetable, like a cherry tomato or two, or a bundle of french string beans tied with some tasty ham,  and afterwards maybe a slice of 2 cheeses  with baguette and finish off lastly with some dessert like a fruit, or joghurt.  A small espresso. Maybe a chocolate. That’s it.

Another rule of thumb is: When you start light, you can go heavier OR start heavy and go lighter. And try to keep the portions small, served on small plates!  That way, each serving gets centre stage, each flavour is appreciated on its own – no fighting flavours and colours all on one plate. With all the money you save on buying smaller quantities of food, you can invest in some interesting plates, making meals attractive and appealing. The stomach(and brain) is also cheated into thinking he has been given a five course meal, so the feeling of satiety and satisfaction is still rich! Serve the food on plates each individually as well, so you don’t get seduced into second helpings when the bowls stare longingly at you on the table,  right in front of you! Men are usually resistant to get up to serve themselves and women are embaressed to have everybody see them get up for MORE FOOD!

So. Let’s eat less. Smaller portions. Around a table. Attractive table ware. Colourful. Light. Lets’ talk about our food. About its colours. The tastes and smells and flavours, textures. Let’s enjoy it and rise from the table, still having room and energy left for a brisk walk.

…the sunflower; Micheln 3 star restaurant…

sunflowers 2sunflowers 3sunflowers 9sunflowers 7



Salmon tartare

A starter I love. Even good for a full meal. Or start off with the tartare and finish off with a light fish soup. The fresh salmon can be replaced by any other white fish. For those that don’t eat raw salmon, smoked salmon can be an option.

Salmon tartare

…yum..

salmon-tartare2-1-15-2009-3-00-00-pmSalmon tartare 3

Salmon tartare.

*Order some fresh salmon from you fishmonger, telling him it is for tartare…having pride in his knowledge and job, he’ll see to you getting the best quality fish; cleaned, bones and skin removed.  Wrap in clingfilm and leave in the freezer to get to a softly frozen stage. Remove, cut into small dice and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add a drop or two lemon juice(not too much or else the fish will”cook” and lose its bright colour), olive oil and freshly milled pepper to the salmon, mix ightly with a fork, cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

*In the meantime, chop some red onion finely and a handful of fresh dill. Cut a lemon into small wedges. Toast some dark ry bread, and cut into small triangles.

*Serving: Serve the salmon along with the chopped onion, dill, lemon wedges, a dollop of créme frâiche and the rye toasts in small bowls on individual plates. Serve extra fleur de sel or maldon salt and freshly crushed black pepper on the side.

…natural sculptures…

Ice 2Ice 3


Citrus and carrot salad with currants and toasted sunflower seeds

A burst of flavour in simplicity. Texture and colour. Easy, swift to make, a lingering sweetness on the palate…like life should be.

carrotsalad1-12-6-2008-3-58-00-pm

citruscarrotsalad

…cutting an orange into segments…


Sweet potato wrapped in bacon and sage.

Now is the time to enjoy sweet potatoes…soups, purees, oven roasted, boiled in the skin and served with honey or as part of a salad or appetizer as shown here.  It can also be served on the side. It is quick and easy, with no fuss and it looks colourful and inviting.

sweetpotatosticks

Kaleidoscope



Fava and petit pois salad.

It may seem that all we eat in this house, is salad. Well, in spring and summer, that is pretty much the case! The vegetables and fruit are so beautiful and abundant that we can’t do it any differently. And because of the freshness it would be a shame to dress them up. We leave “creative cooking” for the colder months and eat fresh and simple in spring and summer.

Here is another salad, straightforward and unadorned.

Fava and peitit pois salad.

Decide whether you’d like to serve this on the side or as a starter or even as a light meal and measure your quantities according to that.

Fresh fava beans, blanched in boiling water and shelled. OR use frozen fava beans, treated the same way. I find the frozen beans in excellent condition and much easier when pressed for time. The same goes for the peas. Go fresh and hull them if you have lazy weekend days on hand, otherwise go frozen. I’m not such a purist that I would bend backwards just for the sake of announcing: “I’ve hulled my own, garden picked peas!” Some frozen products are really great substitutes and I have no qualm in using them…petit pois, fava and spinach, comes to mind.

  • Fresh/frozen fava beans blanched and shelled.
  • Fresh/frozen petit pois, blanched
  • A spring onion, finely chopped
  • A handful of dry roasted sunflower seeds
  • a spoonful or two of caraway seeds (or cumin seeds)
  • A vinaigrette made of olive oil, feshly squeezed lemon juice, white balsamic vinegar(optional), salt and pepper
  1. Mix all the ingredients toghether gently and serve at room temperature, decorated with some herbs of your choice.
  2. Serve as a starter with a cold dry white wine of your choice or a cold rose, seeing that we’re in spring/summer. Maybe something like your trusted Sauvignon Blanc, from our region here in the France Loire valley or why not a crisp Tariquet Ugni Blanc/Colombard from the south west of France.

…five, six, seven, eight….

This is an entry for WHB at Kalyn’s kitchen, this week hosted by Sweetnicks.

 


Kiwi and crab salad

Dear Mom

Thank you for your letter and the parcel with all the delicious goodies….

…I invited some friends over this past weekend for lunch and I made this little salad for a starter. It reminded me of home and early summers in your garden. Everybody loved the combination of crab with kiwi and I got so many compliments, I almost felt like a renowned chef! It is light which had everybody enjoying their chocolate dessert with full gusto! I am amazed at how many men are keeping an eye on their weight! I am sure you and Dad will love it too….

With much love from me.”

“Oh, and by the way, could you send me some recipes on healthy summer lunches; there’s this new cute guy at the tennis club I need to impress…”

Kiwi and crab salad

  • 6 kiwis
  • 2 cans of crabmeat
  • grated rind of one lemon
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • toasted sesame seeds
  • a few sprigs of chives
  • a few chervil leaves
  • a few crushed red pepercorns(optional)
  • salt and pepper
  1. Cut the tops off the kiwis, remove the flesh with a spoon and dice finely. Turn the hollowed out kiwis upside down on toweling paper to drain.
  2. Drain the crab meat and add to the diced kiwi. (Don’t use all the kiwi flesh if it seem too much)
  3. Add the lemon juice, lemon rind, chopped herbs and toasted sesame seeds to the crab meat. Season to taste
  4. Fill the kiwis with the crabfilling and decorate with a sprig of chervil and a sprinkling of crushed red peppercorns.

                                     Serves 6

Alternative: serve the crab salad on a bed on mixed salad leaves or on slices of toasted baguettes.


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