Aperitif

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.

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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


Basil stuffed strawberries..and bubbles at la fête de la fraise.

In the spirit of the fraise season and it being the fruit of our region, I trumped up these little strawberry helpings. Very versatile, they can be served as part of a buffet, or an ending to a meal as dessert, or with a cheese platter, or even an apéritif  for an al fresco dinner. Won’t hurt to try them, non?

Basil stuffed strawberries

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Recette:

  1. Rinse and dry a handful of large strawberries.
  2. Cut the stem side off each strawberry to form a lid and keep aside. Cut the tip off to make the strawberry stand up straight.
  3. Use a small melon scoop and hollow out the inside to form a little cup.
  4. Cut the remove strawberry flesh into small pieces.
  5. Add to the chopped strawberry flesh: Some chopped  berries of your choice(blueberries, blackberries, mulberries…), a few drops of balsamic vinegar, a few drops of a fruit coulis of your choice, a few shredded fresh basil leaves. Mix together gently and spoon into the empty strawberry cups.
  6. Sprinkle some chopped pistachio nuts over the tops and replace the strawberry lids.
  7. Serve individually on a plate or on a large platter for a buffet and accompany with fruit coulis(which you have used in the strawberry cups)
  8. Decorate with berries and sifted icing sugar, basil leaves..

Pincée de fleur de sel:

  • I used blueberries and raspberries with a raspberry coulis.
  • If the berries aren’t in season yet, combine with another fruit like kiwi, which will also see to a nice filling.
  • Remember that the bigger the strawberries, the less flavor and sweetness they have, So choose youraccompanying fruit accordingly.
  • Pomegranate can make for a nice crunchy filling.
  • For an sweet/salty apéro(amuse bouche), try a filling of quinoa, chopped spring onion and chervil with a drizzling of lemon juice, olive oi, and serve on some salad leaves..mmm, superb! Serve with a cold rosé wine by the barbeque fire..
  • Don’t serve directly from the fridge..too cold temperatures kill the strawberry taste..in facet, I never serve anything, except ice cream and the likes, directly from the fridge. The fridge kills all flavours.
  • Serve as part of a cheese platter..fill with a small cube of feta cheese, a shredding of dill and add a little piment d’espelette jelly(or another piquant jelly) and a drop of olive oil.
  • Play around with your own preferences.

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This year’s fête de la fraise happened in the rain. Although the number of visitors were lower than previous years, there were still many brave ones..like mon chéri and me. The fraises were as usually in abundance, but I missed the taste of sunshine..it is clear that our fruit and vegetables aren’t what they usually are. All the rains and grey and rainy days are taking its toll. But nonetheless, going to la fête de la fraise is what we just do and we  strolled the streets and nibbled on strawberries all day long.

..a cool fête de la fraise

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..This was my attraction all day long..

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..Strawberries, smoothies, meringues, crèpes..it was all there..

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..just a few names under so many varieties..

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..and the traditional giant tarte aux fraises, a combined effort by the patissiers of Beaulieu..

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..I was as as fascinated by the bubbles as the kiddies were..

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..How I wish we could hang on to that uninhibited spontaneity..

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..just like the strawberries, bubbles of all sizes and shapes..

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..and this is where the bubbles originated from..a complicated vintage machine..

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..As usual, mon chéri had to discuss  the engineering principles behind the bubbles with Monsieur bubble machine..

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..And..forgive me..more bubbles!..

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..such a pity I have no more daughters; musicians and bands galore throughout the day…

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..and with this last image I want to say:

“Gros bisous à toutes les mamans et à ceux et celles qui les entourent..

bonne fête des mamans!!”

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**Note: the washing day post is postponed to later date due to loss of images(total computer clumsiness on my part!!)..I have to await a sunny day to redo it all…my apologies!

à la prochaine fois,

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..
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..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


Gaspacho! with crisp Iberian ham and a walk in Brive la Gaillarde, Corréze.

Yesterday was hot. Very very hot. I thought I was going to melt. Here in the southwest of France we are “au niveua 2 du canicule” (level 2 heatwave). In Paris everybody is in water…by the Eiffel, in die seine, in the fountains. We are drinking water by the tons, the ice cream shelves shelves are empty. We are thirsty and hot and sticky. We are like limp fish. But it isn’t the worst heat I’ve known, so I don’t complain..pretty soon it will be dark European winter days and I will miss this heat.

In the meantime, there are many ways to keep cool. One of them of course is eating cool meals…like sipping cold gazpacho!

Une petite pensée:

  • I don’t add bread to the gazpacho, but I love to serve it with croutons sprinkled on top. Omit the croutons and mix some country bread together with the vegetable mix.
  • Serve with vegetables cut into small dice(cucumber, peppers, spring onions)
  • Serve with a cocktail stick of goats cheese, cherry tomato, basil leaf.
  • Serve topped with a spoonful of scraped iced tomato juice.
  • Use a celery branch to stir.
  • Add cubes of ice in each glass
  • Serve in rustic Spanish glasses for the best effect.

A visit to Brive la Gaillarde..Les rues, des petits chemins, un bistro, la collegiale St. MArtin, lesboputis(quilts), l’architecturte et les fontaines..voilà Brive la Gaillarde a Corréze.

From an overheated Vallée de la Dordogne…à bientôt!

Ronelle


French Pierrot Gourmand bonbons et sucettes(lollipops)

Et voila…M Pierrot Gourmand, as promised!

We love our apéro (apéritif) before dinner. It can be many things and always quick and easy. Only with visitors do I try to do something more “travaillé” more elaborate. But most of the time it will be fresh tomatoes with some mozzarella, or a bowl of home marinated olives, or melted Camembert and baguette slices, or carrot sticks with vinaigrette dip, or brushcetta… These little tomato cocktails are very popular. Fresh from our tomato vines, they are dipped in caramel and in poppy seed and stuck into Pierrot and served with cold Provencal Rosé wine on the patio while Mon Chéri prepares his fire for our dinner… this is of course in summer where one can’t be anywhere else but outside!

Suggestions:

  • Dip the caramelized tips into any finish of your choice: dessicated coconut for a tropical touch; toasted seame seeds, finely chopped basil, or mixed fresh herbs; gremola; chopped dried tomatoes flakes, milled peppercorns, chopped nuts of your choice…
  • Don’t make the caramel too dark or else it will taste burnt.
  • Use wooden lollipop sticks for an authentic feel or use toothpicks and serve on wooden beard.
  • Serve with cold white or Rosé wines along with a bowl of torn and seasoned buffalo mozzarella pieces.

The birth of Pierrot Gourmand:

At the end of the XIXth century, the famous actor Debourreau created and played his own pantomime on the melody of  “Au clair de  la lune“. The personage Pierrot inspired Adolphe Willette, an artist to create a poetic Pierrot. He was referred to as “le Pierrot de Montmartre“. In 1892 Monsieur Everard of Everard and Herbert industries gave birth to a marquette of Pierrot sitting on the moon, offering bonbons to children.  And so Pierrot Gourmand was born.

The first lollipop was invented by Everard in 1924, made of barley sugar, fruit flavors, cola and caramel and shaped in the form of a spear head. The milky caramel was the first flavor on the market. Up until today Pierrot Gourmand lollipops still exist in both the round and original spear head shape.  With a production of over 2000 tons of candy per year, the fifties was regarded as the golden years for Pierrot Gourmand. Today it is part of the Agro-industriel-andros group, well known for its Andros jams and juices.

More reading on Pierrot gourmand:

* Adolphe Willett, the Pierrot of Montmartre.

*   “Souvenirs d’une p’tite Parisienne“.

Pierrot Gourmand, un siècle de création sucrée », Cherche Midi Editeur

..à bientôt mes amis!..

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!


Radishes with butter and fleur de sel..and a magazine feature.

I am writing from Coin Perdu in Puy d’Arnac, Correze, where we’ve opened up the house and restarted the restoration process.

I have started work in the vegetable garden, where the process is much slower than I would like, but like with art, it should be about the process and not only about the end result. so I’m slacking down and enjoying the stiff muscles and backaches and bruises and blisters…or am I? Be it as it may; life here in the green valleys of Correze doesn’t care for haste and speed(except on the roads).  Days are long and start and end in their own time. People stop in the roads to talk to the neighbour. Chickens and ducks waddle lazily by the roadsides and the cattle just graze without thought in the hills. how can I  push on with my vegetable garden when the rest of the world around me is taking time to enjoy the present moment. So I suggest a break from our hectic programs…stop by the market, buy a bunch of radishes, call some friends for a sundowner and catch up on that friendship while you munch on fresh radishes with real butter and a sprinkling of fleur de sel. It is what we do often. It is what all French do. Often.

Suggestions:

  • Use any herbs of your choice, but stick to a maximum of three. I used parsley, chives and lemon peel, with a drop of lemon juice.
  • Serve mayonnaise for those who don’t eat butter.
  • Instead of Fleur de sel, use Maldon salt flakes.
  • Don’t throw the leaves of the radishes away, use to make a soup, like you would use spinach.
  • Serve with a cold rose or cold dry white wine as an aperitif.

…and a magazine feature.

I’ve had the big honor of being featured in the spring issue of the elegant magazine Where women cook, by the very creative team of Jo Packham.  See the magazine cover on my sidebar.

In continuation of this article, everybody who is featured in this issue  is also featured on the Where women cook – blog, Amuse bouche. I can promise you will enjoy Amuse bouche…it is full of inspiration with ideas and good reads about interesting people with exciting adventures and projects and stunning photography!

I will be featured  on Amuse Bouchefrom Monday 18 April to Thursday 21 April with:

Please drop by and say hi…I hope you enjoy!

And last but not least: A BIG thank you to Jo Packham from the magazine Where women cook, for this invitation and to Loralee Choate who does such a fantastic job on Amuse Buche!

à bientôt

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

************************************************************************

..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


Salmon rolls with roasted red pepper and ricotta…and a street barbeque by the Loire

Summer is a wonderful time to try new recipes. Not to cook. But simply to put together. Myabe a bit of cooking. But only a little. It is too hot and time is too precious to spend in front of a stove. These little rolls are something new to try and it involves no cooking. Delicious and refreshing cold.  Serve either on its own with a drizzle of thick balsamic reduction, or enjoy as a summer lunch with a salad and some wholesome bread.

VF: L’été est parfaite pour s’amuser avec des nouvelles recettes vite et facile à assembler. On cuisine pas. Il fait trop chaud à la cuisinière et il y a trop de choses à faire… Bon d’accord. Peut-être un tout petit peu. Mais c’est tout.  Ces rouleaux de saumon fumé sont intéressants, faciles et vite à faire. Ils sont délicieux froid et servis comme ils sont, avec un filet de réduction de balsamique sur l’assiette òu en salade accompagnée avec un bon pain rustique.

Suggestions:

  • The rolls can be made small like in the recipe, or bigger by leaving the salmon slices uncut. In this case rolling would be a bit easier and the rolls can be cut carefully afterwards ibnto two slices. If you want neat rolls, cut off the ends with a very sharp knife. I prefer a more rustic look.
  • Spread the ricotta cheese on the red pepper for easier spreading  and top then with the spinach leaves.
  • The red pepper can be chopped finely and mixed in with the ricotta cheese for a different version.
  • Prioscutt, basill leaves and roasted oven tomatoes could be an interesting substitute for the red pepper and spinach leaves, giving a more Italian ambiance.
  • Serve two rolls of salmon rolls per person on a plate with a drizzling of thick reduced balsamic syrup, as in the photo.

Our street kicked off the holidays with our yearly bbq across our homes, on the banks of the Loire. A sunny Saturday. A Smoke from the bbq. Set tables. Fresh flowers. Pique-nique baskets. And happy neighbors. Perfect.

Notre rue à commencée cette été dans un esprit de festival. Un barbecue aux bords de la Loire. Un Samedi bien ensoleillé avec une trainée de fumée  qui conduit vers le ciel. Des fleurs gaies. Des paniers éparpillées partout, l’évidence de pique-nique. Et les gents bienheureux. Un midi parfait.


As always, we enjoy our three course. Starting off with some aperitif and a petillante and icy cold rosé wines. We had different kind of cakes, abig favorite in France for an apritif with a sparkling wine. Cake with sauteed leeks and artichokes, cake with goats cheese and tomato.

Et bien entendu, nous nous régalons toujours en commencer avec une petite apéritif et une pétillante de la région. Très froid bien sur.Sur la table était un bon choix de différentes cakes salés; un cake aux poireaux et artichauts…un cake a la tomate et au fromage de chèvre.

..around the aperitif table(autour l’aperitif)…

…the pique nique baskets speak of heavy loads(les paniers de pique-nique)…

…what could possibly hide under that wrapping?(que cache au dessous)…

…someimtes keeping an eye on the pique-nique baskets(garder un œil sur les paniers)…

…baguettes and wine – couldn’t do without!(pas sans baguettes et du vin)..

…choosing seating(òu s’installer à table)...

…but first – time for some conversation among pretty ladies and heavy discussions(des jolies femmes et sérieuses discussions)

…and a far off call while the fire is stretching high(un appel et le feu)…

…and the smoke is a sign of good things to come(la fumée des promesses)

…like this( de ca)…

…and this(et ca)

…and while we wait for those good things from the smoke, we start with our starters…salads and baguette!(salades et baguettes pour entrées en attendant de la viande)…

…everybody is happy(le monde est content)

…and silence sets over the long table(et la silence arrive à la table)

…while we taste and share, discuss and delight(lorsqu’on goute et partage, discute et se régale)

…far from done, we get to our cheeses(loin d’être terminé, on attack les fromages)...

…and clafoutis…of apricots and cherries, and peaches(et ensuite, un clafoutis de pêche.. et d’abricot.. et de cerise)…

…and after our coffee and chocolates, the Loire reclaims its silence once again, the only proof of an afternoon of laughter and good food and happy relionships are  some summer blooms picked from a garden in the street by the Loire…

…Et quand on a terminé nos cafés et chocolats et la Loire règne à nouveau en silence,  il ne reste comme preuve d’un après-midi de bons repas, de bonnes relations, et de joie,  que quelques fleurs d’un jardin de notre rue.



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!…


Asparagus with poppy vinaigrette and a confused chicken.

I always keep in mind something a great chef once told me:  “Asparagus are at their best until June 22″. This is my perfect excuse to luxuriate in  asparagus morning noon and night. By June 22 I then cross the finish line and can’t look an asparagus straight on. But for now, I am still running the course!

Suggestions:

  • Instead of making a vinaigrette…simple drizzle the asparagus with some oil and vinegar and sprinkle with salt an pepper just before serving.
  • Add a little bundel of sprouted seeds for some crunch and good health.
  • Use some green beans instead of aspaaragus.
  • The same can be done with purple or white asparagus, but be sure to cook them long enough to avoid struggling with stringy asparagus.
  • Green asparagus don’t need to be peeled, only break them at the ends(they will break easily at the most vulnerable point)  and rinse.
  • Boil them in only enough water to cover the end parts  and halfway up the asparagus. The top leafy parts must cook in the steam of the water, or else you will eb stick with mushy asparagus or without any tops.
  • Don’t overcook asparagus, they need to by JUST tender and still have some bite.
  • Serve them immediately if served on their own. If served in a salad, they can stand a while.
  • this recipe could be finished off with a perfectly  poached egg on top of the asparagus, my ultimate favorite way of enjoying asparagus!
  • Use nigella seeds or mustard seeds or poppy seeds instead of the black lava crystals(from Hawaii) and sprinkle only a little fleur de sel.

I fly violently out of bed, hit my hand hard agains the bedside table,  instantly feeling the pain in tears. Simultaneoulsy the two cats screech off the bed, run into each other and dive for cover. A shrill squawk just outside the window,  like that of a disorientated rooster, have us all in shock. In a haze of pain and confusion, I make it down the stairs, all the while fearing my chickens are hurt; my two eight weeks old poulettes,  who conversate in dainty chirping twitters, much like young débutantes giggling on their first public appearance. Very girly. Very excited.

Ah non! There it goes again! The false shriek. We soar down the last two stairs, anxious to see what affaire is stirring outside.

There they are. Petronella and Stephanie. Happily sitting on my chair in the shade of the big umbrella. Ecstatic to see me, they storm closer in a flurry of chirps and feathers,  look eagerly  into my eyes and wait for our usual intelligent conversations.

But first I pour a strong morning coffee, just to suddenly hear a blasting shriek again, right behind me.  The cats dart off  to safety leaving me standing there alone and barefoot in my pyjamas, hand bruised and aching, staring dumbfounded at  my two grinning poulettes…could it be that I have a gay chicken….or have I been duped?


…à la prochaine!…


Mackerel paté and creative recycling.

When a cup breaks, or we empty the orange juice bottle, or scrape out the last sardine,  the first thing we do, is decide in which recycling bin it has to go into; paper, glass, cartons or the normal trash.  There is a fifth option . The “creative recycling basket.

A mackerel pate, made from either fresh or smoked or canned mackerel and served in a recycled sardine can, makes  for fun summer entertaining.

Suggestions:

  • Use any other fish of your choice; salmon, tuna, sardines…
  • Add the creme fraiche/sour cream/thick cream little by little until you are happy with the consistency.  You don’t want too much cream and no fish.
  • For a slight tang, you can add some chopped green chili or some piment d’espelette.
  • Capers can be chopped and added.
  • Take care not to mix to an unrecognizable horrible pulp without any texture. Always mix lightly with a fork.
  • Lime zest can be used instead of lemon zest.

Don’t we tend to be a bit more frivolous and playful in summer? Using empty food cans can be different and interesting outside on the patio, for teenagers parties, or simply just to lose the seriousness and have fun.  Use them for serving food in as starters or appetizers, for serving olives with your white wine or tapenade with bread, or fill them colourful sands and tealights, prop a small container(recycled) into the sand and add a cute flower or two – perfect for some interest on the table or in corners of the garden or even the kitchen. It is nothing but fun.

The most magical recycling comes from glass containers and here in France, we get the cutest yoghurt and petit dessert glass bottles, not to mention the confiture bottles, and whatever else bottles. I recycle them all, meaning I reuse  a lot of them. They serve in my atelier for my paints, for flower vases all over the garden, for holders of all sort. Use some wire and string them together to make  “fairy lights”, using tealights. Or use some wire and make a hanging little vase for your windows and door knobs.

Fill them with small pebbles and hang like small lanterns in the garden on hooks stuck in the ground. Use them  en masse to achieve the best effect. Fill them with moss and stick flowers in, fill with sea shells, coloured sand. Use them for starters or appetizers. And when they get too “used up”, dump them into the glass recycle bin and start recycling into your creative recycle basket again. No guilt about breakage or expensive losses.

Unless you have a huge garden, few of us can afford masses of beautiful fresh flowers throughout the house.  And even a tiny vase costs more than it is worth. Why spend money when you can find something quirky and differ3nt  in your creative recycling basket? A chipped cup or teapot or glass is perfect to brighten corners right throughout the house, from the bedroom to the guest bathroom to the kitchen to the laundry. It can carry a flower or a leaf or a fern or the dead endings you do on your shrubs, or the daffodil you “pick” on your daily walks… Nothing gives so much pleasure and lifts a room like something fresh from nature, however small it may be.

Instead of throwing away the broken cup, save the pieces of porcelain and use them to mosaic a small table that has lost some life, or a vase or a pot or simply display in a bowl outside in the garden. Use a cup, or teapot, or bowl that isn’t completely broken and plant a small flower or sow a seed or two for colour in a corner somewhere – on the windowsill, on a small table, on your bed table,  next to the bath by the toothbrush, on a weathered chair in the corner, on a big stone, by the fish pond, on an old tree stump…

Don’t forget about sturdy small boxes which can be covered in colourful fabric or paper and used as  gift boxes or storage boxes, especially shoe boxes. Fill with shredded paper and add chocolates, or homebakes cookies, or an assortment of jams, or seedlings for the summer garden, or a pretty old chipped cup planted with a pansy… Recycle the balsa wooden holders from your cheeses,the baskets from the strawberries, fruit; line them with a napkin, use as a bread and biscuit  basket, or to serve your silverware for a barbeque. I use my camembert holders in my atelier for all my art things…pen nibs, sharpeners, erasers, one serves as a little table bin, another holds a lemon scented candle, another holds stamps…

In the kitchen, I use a recycled maple syrup bottle for my washing liquid by the sink. I added an oil spout and it works beautifully. I recyle other nice bottles for oils and use some for candles…fill with sand and stick a long “dripping” candle in. The wax that melts down the bottle makes for lovely “sculptures”.

If you don’t have a creative recyling basket or cupbard yet, consider it. It is cheap and creative, interesting and different, not to mention environmentally friendly.


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.


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


Corréze ham and vegetable parcels

A while ago Nina posted some delicous rolls and I’ve been threatening to make them ever since… I adapted her recipe a bit acoording to the ingredients we have available here in the country side in Corréze. I also wanted to give them a little bit of Greek touch.  They are delicious – whichever way they come! Quick, easy, colourful and fingerlicking good. Thanks Nina!

…veggie parcels…

corréze ham and vegetable rolls 9-2-2009 5-09-21 PM

I added some feta cheese to these rolls and made the sauce with greek joghurt, having someone special in mind when I made them this afternoon.

For Adela and John, two friends currently in Skiathos, Greece for 3 months. Adela is a regular reader here and I think this might be something she would enjoy. They love good food! So. May this be goo..ood..!

Thanks to Adela and all the other faithful readers who visit regularly and enjoy Myfrenchkitchen…I appreciate your support!

…sucrine, basil, string beans, feta, nectarine – voilà!…

preparing vegetable parcels 9-2-2009 4-28-08 PM

Corréze ham and veggie parcels 2…old but still working…

old door handle 8-26-2009 8-32-34 AMold lock 2 8-26-2009 8-33-15 AM


Cold tomato and orange soup

Yesterday we had rain here at Coin Perdu in Corréze, where we are restoring our mountain home. So last night asked for something soupy. Because we are temporarily living in the barn for the next year or two, I don’t have an oven, only a stove. So a soup is quite easy. And quick. I am always joyful when hearing the word quick.

…cold tomato and orange soup…

tomato soup 2

cold tomato soup recipe.bmp

…summer says outside…

relaxing after the jobgreen plate


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…


Quinoa salad with chicken and cranberries

I feel very nostalgic lately. Thinking of people I knew long ago, missing friends and family. I long for smells of my past…Christmas time in my mother’s kitchen, the early mornings on the farm of our friends, the African animals, the African bush, pancakes with cinnamon sugar wrapped in greased paper at church fairs, tomato and onion salad with a sugar vinegar sauce.

The salads I grew up with, were simple and straightforward. A salad was a cold dish, eaten with warm meats. Today we have small salads, large salads, cold salads, warm salads, even soupy ones. Fancy or simple, with sauces or with “vinaigrettes” and “croutons” and toppings. They are served in salad bowls and on spoons, towered on plates or layered in glasses. they are served at the beginning of a meal or at the end with cheese… or without cheese. I think my mom would’ve appreciated this little salad. She was an adventurous woman.

quinoasalad-10-27-2008-6-37-29-pm

quinoa-salad

…which rule?…

breaking-the-rules


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