Spring is a month of greens. From sprouting to adult leaf and branch. From bud to flower. From seed to fruit. It bursts with health and it begs for salads. Green asparagus is at its peak at the moment and will only last one more month before it comes to rest for whole year. Assemble your salads. Feast on your asparagus. There are no limits to pure goodness.
- Boil some pasta of your choice to al dente and keep aside.
- Clean and cut an onion into slices. Sauté in a pan with some olive oil. Add 3 or 4 small potatoes cut into rings, cover and cook over low heat until soft.
- Rinse some asparagus. Rinse some pois gourmande. Steam together until just tender. Add to the onions and mix lightly. Add freshly chopped herbs of your choice…basil is nice.
- Grate 2 or 3 carrots and mix lightly with some olive oil, lemon juice and a drizzle of flowered honey.
- Assemble the salad by adding the warm onion mixture to the pasta; Season with salt and pepper, leom juice and olive oil.
- Top with the cool, fresh carrot salad, sprinkle dry roasted pine nuts and drizzle with the carrot juices.
- Serve a good mayonnaise and baguette on the side.
Pincée de sel:
- Sauté the asparagus beforehand in olive oil, herbs and lemon butter and then add to the pasta…tastier.
- Use other vegetables like spring peas, or beans.
- Keep the variety of vegetables to a minimum to avoid a confusion of flavours.
- Omit the potatoes and add a meat of your choice, like chicken. add more sauce in that case to avoid a dry salad.
- Omit the carrot salad and use grated beetroot instead with a pungent vinaigrette which goes well with the potaoes and pasta.
Spring greens come in many shades (and tastes as well). For now, we will stick to the shades and tones. for this excercise I stuck to pure greens straight from the tube., painting some ribbons of greens on paper and walking around in the garden, trying to match the colour on the paper to the greens I can find in the garden.
Another fun project would be to do it with food…matching greens to what one can find in the fridge. Or doing it with summer yellows, reds, aubergines. Colour makes the world go round…at least for me.
Maybe in the next post I’ll set a spring green table..;paint some greens on paper ribbons and try to find matching greens for the table.
..grass green chives…
..young tilleul leaves with golden greens, brown greens and ochres..
..a young olive branch in olive greens and earth green..
..and my favorite green in the garden is Sennelier grey – the santolinas, some lavendins, curry plants, stachys, armoises, ballotas, convolvulus(image below), cérastiums…
..and lastly the lovely dark rich greens of ceanothes with its overflowing purple flowers..
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Vegetables are part of our every day healthy diet, right? Five portions of different fruit and veggies every day. Yes, that is what we are advised here in France. I try my best to adhere to that..in any case, we love fruit and we love our vegetables. On the menu here are thus some carrots of all colours served with Greek yoghurt and a sauce flavoured with orange flower water.
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- Serve the carrots warm in fall and winter as a starter on individaul plates.
- Serve cold with salad leaves in summer.
- The sauce can be kept in the fridge for about two weeks.
- Add orange juice to the sauce with the vinegar and reduce to a syrup.
- Use an orange flower honey if possible, but otherwise a wildflower honey can work too.
..parsnips can serve as “white carrots”..
..when using young and organic carrots, it isn’t necessary to peel, only wash and use..
*recipe adapted from “Les légumes de Monsieur Wilkinson; Matt Wilkinson.
Like the carrots, my chickens are rainbow coloured too. And I adore them, no doubt about that. Every day is a story that unfolds before me from the morning to the evenings when silence dawns finally on the chicken coop.
..keeping an eye on the cooking in the barn kitchen…
..aren’t I pretty with all my colours..?
..I am the epitome of elegance, in case you haven’t noticed..
..life looks interesting from up here..
..Where are those hens again..!
..Don’t mess with our corner..!
à la prochaine fois
Our potager is bursting with courgettes and we can’t keep up with eating them. With vegetables one doesn’t have to do much in summer, the vegetables are good just on their own. Which is why any salad or carpaccio is a good idea.
- Cut 4 small to medium courgettes into thin slices. Layer onto a plate and drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil and leave aside for 30 minutes to marinate.
- To serve: Divide the slices among 4 plates by spreading them evenly on each plate. Drizzle with some more olive oil and lemon juice, a teaspoon of sundried tomato paste, and a drizzle of balsamic syrup. Season with fleur de sel and freshly milled black pepper. Add some olives of your choice, shavings of Parmesan cheese and finish off with rocket/arugula leaves.
Pincée de fleur de sel:
- Use green pesto instead of the tomato paste.
- Add dry roasted pine nuts.
- Use small black Greek olives.
- Add chopped sundried tomatoes or semi-oven roasted tomatoes.
- Use crumbled goats cheese instead of Parmesan cheese.
Summer evenings at Coin Perdu
Our evenings are spent around the fire..we start off with a glass of icy cold rosé while the fire is lit and we munch on a little apéritif, a must to keep my legs from going jello from the wine. It is something quick and easy..fresh cherry tomatoes from the garden, baguette slices with some sliced sauccisson of the region, or melted Camembert over the fire with baguette slices, or fresh radishes with salt(a big favorite!).
In the meantime, while the fire is coming on, mon chéri still fiddles with some activities around the garden, like mowing the lawn, feeding apples to the horses who are allowed late afternoons to graze on the lawns, cleaning the fountain orother small tasks around the house.
I am mostly sunken deep into an Adirondeck by the fire in the shade of the tilleul tree. My feet are up and I have a book in my hand. It is my favorite time of the day and I savor every minute. War will break loose if someone expects me to do anything else than reading my book, sipping my rosé and enjoying the early evening ambiance. At that hour am in my zone and refuse to be disturbed.
After dinner, we linger as late as we can around the fire. As the coals burn away and the horizon turns dark, we start moving away from the fire, lazy and slowly. It is time to call it a day.
**And some summer music for these summer evenings…
Girls in their summer clothes – Bruce Springsteen
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
- Rinse and dry a handful of large strawberries.
- 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.
- Use a small melon scoop and hollow out the inside to form a little cup.
- Cut the remove strawberry flesh into small pieces.
- 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.
- Sprinkle some chopped pistachio nuts over the tops and replace the strawberry lids.
- 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)
- 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.
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
..This was my attraction all day long..
..Strawberries, smoothies, meringues, crèpes..it was all there..
..just a few names under so many varieties..
..and the traditional giant tarte aux fraises, a combined effort by the patissiers of Beaulieu..
..I was as as fascinated by the bubbles as the kiddies were..
..How I wish we could hang on to that uninhibited spontaneity..
..just like the strawberries, bubbles of all sizes and shapes..
..and this is where the bubbles originated from..a complicated vintage machine..
..As usual, mon chéri had to discuss the engineering principles behind the bubbles with Monsieur bubble machine..
..And..forgive me..more bubbles!..
..such a pity I have no more daughters; musicians and bands galore throughout the day…
..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!!”
**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,
Nothing makes a better salad than leftovers.During spring, when all attention is focused on the garden and restoration work on the house, all sorts of salads with leftover meats and fish and vegetables make life so much easier. It is also a time when I stock my pantry heavier than usual with some interesting condiments to add zest to the salads without spending hours in the kitchen in the evenings. It is typically additions like sundried tomatoes, ready made pestos and tapenades, marinated mussels and oysters, canned sardines and anchovies, mackerels, beans and split peas.
For this easy peezy, light and delicious salad, I used the left over salmon and steamed potatoes from the previous evening’s dinner and turned it into a salad with all sorts of other goodies coming from the pantry and the fridge. I served it with toasted pita bread and a cream and dill sauce. What can I say…“cetait un régal tout simple”!
Salmon, potato and mussel salad.
- Heat some leftover salmon(flaked) and potatoes(cut into chunks). Add some chopped spring onions and a handful of currants.
- Arrange a mix of fresh salad leaves and herbs on a large platter.
- Sprinkle with nuts and marinated mussels and sliced marinated tomatoes and artichoke hearts.
- Make a cream sauce of a finely chopped small shallot, handful of chopped dill, a cup of cream or créme fraîche and a TBS of mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper and a squirt of lemon juice.
- Top with the warm(not hot) salmon mix. Sprinkle with chopped dill.
- Serve immediately with pita breads or a country bread and some extra sauce on the side.
Une pincée de sel:
- Use a good mixture of herb salad leaves.
- Use mushrooms instead of the fish, if you don’t like fish.
- When using chicken, replace the dill int eh sauce with basil pesto or freshly sliced basil.
A contribution to Pie•ography..
Last year I’ve been asked by the creative Jo Packham, creator of Where women cook, to contribute, along with 38 other women, a recipe to her book, Pie•ography. The project was to create a pie which best described each author and write a short biography along with it. I found it quite a challenge, because talking about myself isn’t something I am comfortable with. Nothing wrong with revealing a little bite here and a little pinch there, but sitting down and directly saying: “..and so, his is who I am…” – THAT is tough. BUT…I finally got something on paper and created my pie..so I can tap myslef on the shoulder and say ;..“not too bad, Ronelle, not too bad at all..!”
For fun, I listed 30 tongue in cheek- things you don’t know about me. Read at the bottom if you’re interested.
Thank you to Jo for inviting me to join in..it is a great book and I am honoured to be in the company of highly talented and educated and ambitious women in this book, of whom Jo is of course one. Her creativity is never ending. for me it was a fun and exciting project to be part of!
30 things you don’t know about me:
- My worst characteristic is impatience.
- My best one is enthusiasm.
- I can lift my one eyebrow and drop the other at the same time.
- My ankles are rather thick
- My feet are quite cute.
- I used to trust people easily.
- I now put my trust rather in animals.
- I am impulsive and it gets me into trouble.
- I don’t fit into my wedding dress any more, but it doesn’t bother me.
- I don’t fit into my bathing suit and that bothers me.
- I still want to do parachute jumping, but I hate flying.
- I don’t like sharing the licking bowl when baking.
- I hate washing dishes. I also hate stacking the dishwasher. I see no light.
- My mom used to say my bladder is situated just under my eyes. It takes very little to make me cry.
- I laugh easily and loudly.
- I have perfected the puppy eye flutter. Mon chéri is completely defenseless against it.
- I hate conflict of any kind.
- I don’t believe the truth has to be told at any cost. Sometimes the truth serves no purpose..
- I have a great sense of humour. It is my life line.
- I love to learn, but I hate to be taught.
- I don’t mind making a fool of myself, but I don’t like to be made a fool of by others.
- It only takes one glass of wine to have me make a fool of myself.
- I don’t answer a telephone.
- I am a coffee snob.
- I have two experiences in my past which I can’t forgive and forget. They still influence my self image to this day.
- I am a nomad, I have to move on every few years.
- Autumn makes me sad.
- When I am upset I get into bed and cover my head.
- I am a Leo.
- The sun is my oxygen.
You can find the recipe and how I worked my way to it here.
Pi•ography can be ordered from Amazon.com.
If you want more information, don’t hesitate to contact me(details in my sidebar)
So, until next time…
Amusez vous bien et soyez sage sage!
(Have fun and stay out of trouble!)
Once again, I had to scratch my head to think of a recipe that would accompany the stunning ochre colours of fall. Of course not only in colour, but also in taste, spirit, ambiance..Of course..cheese. I can’t believe I haven’t shared this simple salad yet. It can be manipulated and changed according to the seasons and is always a winner with its warm toast, cheese and apple and fresh green salad.
- Place the apple rounds and goat’s cheese on toasted bread before putting under the grill.
- Take care to slice your apples, bread for toast and cheese more or less the same size.
- Use slices of Camembert instead of goat’s cheese.
- Use pears or quince instead of apples.
- Use brown sugar to caramelize the pears or quince instead of honey and serve with a helping of quince jam/jelly.
- Play around and make your own combinations to serve a melted cheese and apple/pear/quince salad.
..stillife nicked by a chicken..
..stillife with Royal Gala apples..
..walnut oil, walnut vinegar, raspberry vinegar, truffle vinegar..
Our fall colors have only now really reached their peak and the ochres are in abundance. I don’t have much to say, except that nature is at the moment an explosion of magnificence..
à la prochaine!
Sunday was a real “Dimanche à la campagne” at Coin Perdu. Our children from Toulouse visited the weekend, the sun was shining, we stopped working on our house for the day and we had a great brunch outside under the Tilleul tree. What made it really perfect was that Mon Chéri made lunch! I just sat in the shade, sipped my Rosè and enjoyed the company of the people I love. This frittata/tortilla/ omelette is the brainchild of Mon Chéri and it changes every time he makes it which course is typical of a frittata…you use whatever is available and to your liking!
..frittata/tortilla/omelette on the barbecue..
..the assistant earns her lunch..
Une petite pensée:
- Make a frittata to empty the fridge at the end of a month.
- Normally a frittata is done on the stove and placed under a grill for a few minutes before serving. I is firm enough to cut into slices.
- If you want it creamier, add a TBSP of crème fraîche just after you’ve added the eggs and stir .
- Always add a sprinkling of freshly cut herbs before serving for a fresh appeal.
- Place your frittata under the grill for a few minutes to have it puff up, melt the cheese if added and brown nicely.
- To make it vegetarian, omit the left over meat.
- Be creative with your frittata.
- Serve with fresh green salad, toast or country bread and fruit.
..dèjeuner à la campagne..
But back to the moment: ..the strawberries try desperately to produce one last crop… I sure did something wrong, because my garlic went to seed and is even smaller than when I planted them!… I lost all my newly planted carrots by simple neglect unfortunately (I didn’t water them…too lazy?)…my basil dried up too, but I still have some new leaves pushing, so I’m not completely hopeless!…My onions are all dug up…my young leeks look a bit frail…
..an empty late summer potager..
But on the other hand…my maize (corn) looks beautiful, although few…my pumpkin is coming along beautifully and already have little pumpkins all over…I am in love with all my grey foliaged herbs like the Absinthe(Artemisia absinthium), the santolinas, the grey potent curry plants..
..absinthe, french marigolds, tomatoes, maize, pumpkin herbs..
My artichokes are late, but I’m happy, even though I have only one plant carrying buds…next year I will have plenty of artichokes..enough to leave for flowering and enough for eating!…
One thing I don’t fail at, is growing beets…deliciously sweet, small and big, the young leaves delicious in salads. We have feasted this season on fresh beets and I’ve just planted some more and I’m already picking the leaves for colour in my salads – of course beets are one of the easiest vegetables to grow, but I pretend they are very difficult and I’m just soo good!…
..young beetroot peeping through the lavender..
A lovely green view on my potager..I have to add that this photo was taken just after some hard work, like weeding and digging-in horse manure(with the help of sweet Mon chéri of course) and pruning and all the labour a potager asks for…but still… quite pretty with the bright tansy and gay French marigolfds, the cloches and yellow pots, tomato forest… heh?…
..bright yellows for a potager..
Now just look at my maize (admitting again in a whisper that Mon Chéri sees to it being watered…?). In France maize is not eaten “corn on the cob” wise. On the contrary, it is seen as animal food and frowned upon as human food..but once they try it our way..on the BBQ.. with butter and fleur de sel..they are converted!…
..maize(corn on the cob)..
Of course I have camomile, as everubody does…how can one not have Camomile…such an easy growing, abundant and gratifying herb! Don’t trust the marker…nothing is what it seems here at Coin Perdu…
rosemary…oops non, camomile..
Aha…the tomatoes – last year I was conscientious and my tomatoes were properly staked and all the necessary pinching and mulching were religiously done and they were beautiful! This year, it is more of a tomato war with cherries and grapes and rondes and ovals fighting for air and power and it is an ordeal to harvest, but when we succeed, we have nice sweet abundant crops; I’ll be perfect again next year!…
As said…I love the santolinas…the greens and the greys…mixed with lavender, I can dwell there for hours. Hopefully I’ll have a whole field of mixed santolinas and lavenders next year – it all comes down to efficient planning?…
The visitors are bountiful and it rewards the hard work of gardening without pesticides! This young lady goes by the pretty name of le Nacré de la ronce(Brenthis daphné)…
..Nacre de la ronce..
Without planning it, my potager developed and grew towards the yellows. And I love it! Yellows, oranges, greens, whites and grey. Beautiful. But only in my garden. and only in the potager. The rest stays all white. And definitely not on my body! Look at these cheeky marigolds, bursting with energy!… and they get picked when they start to wilt, the petals are dried and used in salads..Nothing goes to waste .
Salads. A potager isn’t a potager without its salads. A leaf here and a leaf there, a handful f tomatoes, a basil leaf, a beetroot leaf … voilà, a salad for lunch….
salads (feuille de chène)
I’m one of those crazy gardeners… I am greedy, I plant too much, I plant too close together, I sow too many seeds… And so I planted far too many courgettes for our household and we ended up having these giants…pretty to look at, not as tasty as the young sweet courgettes though. But I always reason that life must be pretty too, not only practical and sensible, and that same reasoning goes for a potager…pretty has its place too in a potager. So here they are, my pretty giants!…
I hope you enjoyed walking with me through my potager at the end of the summer…almost.
A potager is hard work…all that weeding, the watering, the planting and seeding, the harsh summer sun, fighting the slugs and the deer, the rabbits and snails……it IS hard work and I am fa..aar from being the most effective gardener. Around us, everything grows and wanders like it wishes(animals included, people included) and when the worms devour my artichokes, I break into an instant fit and man and animal flees, but then calm down and casually start over again. We pretty much believe in laisser faire, so you will never see perfection around here, but I believe that it is a stress free way of gardening. What is a few weeds after all? And insects do more good than harm, and if the snails feed on your salads, just plant a few more.. or plant some sorrel to keep them away from your salad(snails adore sorrel)..or cover the soil with broken eggshells, or ash from the barbecue…live and let live..
OK. I have to shower and clean my nails and go find my gloves, which stayed behind somewhere in the potager…
Easter weekend is around our tables.. Families are preparing for visitors, or are preparing to hit the road to family.. We’re doing neither, but we prepare for an Easter brunch le Lundi de Pacques, just the two of us, mon chéri et moi. I have sent a sweet message Upstairs asking for a sunny day, so we can enjoy our lunch outside . But if I don’t get my wish, we will still have our brunch, albeit in the barn. Just as perfect.
Instead of showing Easter chocolate and with our two little hens being so prolific in their egg producing, I decided to do some deviled eggs, or as we call them here in France, Les oeufs Mimosa, reminding of the mimosa flowers which are of the first signs of spring here and it happens all around Easter. I had to do a search about why it is called deviled eggs…
According to Wikipedia it originated in ancient Rome…go figure. Apparently “deviled” referred to the spicy nature of the food. The deviled egg gourmet has a description of the origin of the term deviled which you can read for some more info. I prefer to call them eggs Mimosa, like we do here in France. We push the hard boiled egg yolk through a fine sieve, having it look like the Mimosa flowers of early spring, which we sprinkle over the filled egg halves, so it looks like we have sprinkled some Mimosa petals over our egg halves. It is a little bit of old French cooking but still sort of romantic, don’t you think? I revisited the “egg halve” -presentation, serving it with a salad of green vegetable brunoise.
So, without any further ado, I present some Easter Oeufs Mimosa revisités to you!
- If you have a rectangle inox shape, it works easy to shape it in the rectangle, I don’t have rectangle ones, but I do plan on getting, they work fantastic!
- The Mimosa eggs can also be served in “petites verrines“, small glasses. Start off with toasted croutons at the bottom, follow with egg white, then the egg yolk cream en finish by decorating with the “mimosa”( the fine grated egg yolk).
- OR make an egg sandwich , adding some of the salad to the filling too.
- OR serve the egg whites and egg yolk cream and salad in small bowls, with toasted bread rounds separately for an aperitif i summer outside by the pool and each one serves himself/herself a small piece of toast with a scoop of whatever he/she feels like topping up with.
Serves 4 people for starter
..large geese eggs, ordinary chicken eggs and small eggs from my little bantam hens…
A spring brunch and geese and chicken chronicles.
I’d like you to meet our two new feathered children…Sidonie et Aglaé. They are named after a 70′s French television show, called Sidonie et Aglaé.
They showed up last Sunday and after a week of discovering the farm, they already have their favorite spots and they continue roaming about, following me or the chickens or the cats. They love company and I , of course, love their company too!!
Sidonie et Aglaé
Since I am still in the process of constructing our little lake for the geese and the ducks and the peacocks and….and…, they have to make do with two large bowls for some swimming. Do they complain? On the contrary, looking at the photos below, they are having a ball! Wouldn’t life be wonderful if we all could be happy with so little…?
Camembert, Mimolette et Ciboulette are not disturbed by the newcomers. They do their thing tranquilement, happy as always – the amount of tiny eggs I have at the end of a week, is proof enough! I used their eggs to make some oeufs Mimosas for Easter, to be seen at Myfrenchkitchen, Les oeufs Mimosa, for an Easter brunch.
..and a very simple spring brunch last week with two good friends..
I am showing off my very simple but very wonderful day here…far too many photos of the same thing! But, it was such a glorious midday in early spring and we lingered lazily under the still-leafless walnut and tilleul trees. I can’t stop reveling in the colors of the spring sky and the sun and the greens of the fields, the color of the air…everything…spring gives me such a kick!
Today is Vendredi saint, which means for the roman Catholics that it is the Friday of fasting just before Pacques, of spiritual day of rest, peace, restrain from eating and alcohol and just quiet reflection. Many places were closed today, depending on the prefecture of the region. the death of Christ on the cross is celebrated and even Christians are invited to join in this “chemin du croix“. Because we have many friends in the Catholic religion, we too will respect this tradition and we will spend a quiet evening, with salmon, some salad and water and reflection.
I wish you a wonderful Easter weekend !
I’m not a very big potato fan, but with our extremely cold temperatures here in Europe and especially here at Coin Perdu in the barn, I take comfort in a hearty true mountain tartiflette. It does wonders for my cold body…and spirit! It is a favorite in my family and we make it different every time. It is a recipe that can be played around with, except for the cheese..that can NOT be replaced. It won’t be a tartiflette without that strong flavoured creamy cheese.
There aren’t any specific quantities for making a tartiflette…I can only tell you more or less what I do:
- Wash 4 -6 large potatoes and boil until almost tender.
- Rinse, leave to cool aside.
- Fry 2 large onions in a pan, add a handful of sliced champignons de Paris and a packet of bacon pieces. Season to you taste.
- When the potatoes have cooled down, remove the skin and cut into thin slices.
- Heat the oven to 200 degr. C.
- Layer the potatoes in an oven proof dish, alternating the potatoes and the onions.
- Cut a Reblochon cheese(or another soft cheese of your choice) through the middle so you have two thin rounds. I used a Montagnard des Vosges. Place cut side down on the potatoes.
- If your dish looks too dry, add a drizzling of créme fraiche before placing the cheese on top.
- Bake for about 30 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the crust has become dry and brittle. Remove from the oven and remove the crust from the dish. Sprinkle with some paprika or “piment d’Espelette” and bake for another 10 minutes or until the top is nicely caramelized.
- Serve warm with some slices of smoked ham and a large fresh green salad on the side with a pungent vinaigrette.
Serves 4 as a meal.
Europe had been covered in a Siberian snow blanket for the past week or so…freezing cold, hyper dangerous, but spectacular! It is exceptionally cold here at Coin Perdu and I have a rough time keeping warm, seeing to fresh water for the horses with all the plumbing frozen rock solid. Warming up the barn to a comfortable temperature has also been a challenging task as of late and the only solution is to dress Inuit style, shuffling around in multiple layers and moving with less agility than a polar bear. don’;t even mention femininity.. We were snowed in without snow chains for the car and couldn’t get up the hill. the small French country roads are not made for snow and tiny cars and evidence of this is seen all around the countryside with cars in ditches off the roads.
..our/my home for now…
..bringing the horses in for the night, feeding them, carrying hay from the e other barn and water from the swimming pool..
…an unfinished home – what would I give to be all snug in my home..
…VERY c..c..c..c0ld visits..!!
…the boxwoods are still standing and showing off their beauty against a white background…
..first time snow for Mimolette…
…discovering this all-white-business…
..a white potager(vegetable garden) with the eiffel tower empty, a garden cloche looking quite pretty and last year’s cherry tomatoes…
Mésanges bleues(blue tits and a mésange charbonniére(Great tits) are all too playful in this cold. Between them and the red robins and the pies and the horses and the chickens and the cats and the rabbits and whoever else…; I just can’t keep up with feeding everybody!…
…just some prettiness…
Last, but not least: THANK YOU to everybody who has sent me emails and messages expressing concern for our staying here in the barn at Coin Perdu during this cold, wondering how we/I’m holding up and whether we/I’m surviving. It is very much appreciated.!! I’m still here, even though I have to admit it is a bit tough lately. Thank you for caring!
the polar bear(ess)!
I think the time has come for some good ole healthy eating. I always that little “click” before I can step forward into action.. Maybe sniffing a delicious mango was that “click”… or was it the belt of my jeans that needed a different hole. Whatever. A click is a click and can’t be ignored! Let’s do it! This simple salad is chock full of vitamins and fiber and very few calories.
- Cleaned 1 mango and sliced it into juliennes.
- Cleaned 1 handful of mange tout and sliced it on the diagonal into juliennes.
- Wash 1 handful of mint leaves and Italian parsley leaves and break into a bowl.
- Cut 1 large spring onions on the diagonal into strips and add to the herb leaves. Add a handful of haricot mungo sprouts, the mango slices and the mange tout strips to the salad. Add 1 lemon grass stick, harder outside removed and finely chopped to the salad. Mix lightly with your fingers.
- Drizzle the salad with some olive oil, a bit of nuoc nam sauce, lemon juice, chopped fresh ginger and a teaspoon of acacia honey anf season with salt and pepper.
- Finish off with a sprinkling of dry roasted almonds and lastly black sesame seeds.
Those who bask in summer at the moment, will enjoy the salad as is, but for us in the North, it is probably a little too cold. So I enjoy it with a big pot of green tea. You can always drink a tisane(herbal/flower infusion). Along with the salad it will be great for digestion.
…walk, walk and walk..
…load up on fruits and vegetables…
…eat more fish..
- drink enough water every day…about 6 to 8 glasses.
- eat smaller and varied portions.
- have an extra light hand on the salt, sugars, butters and creams.
- Cut off fat from your meat.
- when and if choosing bread, then choose whole wheat…whole wheat rice, grains, lentils, wild rice, quinoa..
“The Bathing Suit (by a middle-age woman unknown).
When I was a child in the 1950s, the bathing suit for the mature figure
was-boned, trussed and reinforced, not so much sewn as engineered. They
were built to hold back and uplift, and they did a good job.
Today’s stretch fabrics are designed for the prepubescent girl with a
figure carved from a potato chip.
The mature woman has a choice, she can either go up front to the
maternity department and try on a floral suit with a skirt, coming away
looking like a hippopotamus that escaped from Disney’s Fantasia, or she
can wander around every run-of-the-mill department store trying to make
a sensible choice from what amounts to a designer range of fluorescent
What choice did I have? I wandered around, made my sensible choice and
entered the chamber of horrors known as the fitting room. The first
thing I noticed was the extraord ina ry tensile strength of the stretch
Lycra used in bathing costumes was developed, I believe, by NASA to
launch small rockets from a slingshot, which gives the added bonus that
if you manage to actually lever yourself into one, you would be
protected from shark attacks. Any shark taking a swipe at your passing
midriff would immediately suffer whiplash.
I fought my way into the bathing suit, but as I twanged the shoulder
strap in place I gasped in horror, my boobs had disappeared!
Eventually, I found one boob cowering under my left armpit. It took a
while to find the other. At last I located it flattened beside my
The problem is that modern bathing suits have no bra cups. The mature
woman is meant to wear her boobs spread across her chest like a speed
bump. I realigned my speed bump and lurched toward the mirror to take a
full view assessment. The bathing suit fitted all right, but
unfortunately it only fitted those bits of me willing to stay inside it.
The rest of me oozed out rebelliously from top, bottom and sides. I
looked like a lump of Playdoh wearing undersized cling wrap.
As I tried to work out where all those extra bits had come from, the
prepubescent sales girl popped her head through the curtain, “Oh, there
you are,” she said, admiring the bathing suit. I replied that I wasn’t
so sure and asked what else she had to show me.
I tried on a cream crinkled one that made me look like a lump of
masking tape, and a floral two-piece that gave the appearance of an
oversized napkin in a serving ring.
I struggled into a pair of leopard-skin bathers with ragged frills and
came out looking like Tarzan’s Jane, pregnant with triplets and having a
I tried on a black number with a midriff and looked like a jellyfish in
I tried on a bright pink pair with such a high cut leg I thought I would
have to wax my eyebrows to wear them.
Finally, I found a suit that fitted, it was a two-piece affair with a
shorts-style bottom and a loose blouse-type top. It was cheap,
comfortable, and bulge-friendly, so I bought it.
My ridiculous search had a successful outcome, I figured.
When I got it home, I found a label that read, “Material might become
transparent in water.”
So, if you happen to be on the beach or near any other body of water
this year and I’m there too, I’ll be the one in cut-off jeans and a
You’d better be laughing or rolling on the floor by this time. Life
isn’t about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain, with
or without a bathing suit!”
Until next time,
from the middle aged, dieting, but laughing diva.
Very few people enjoy white beans. I’m actually not one of those few. But a salad…that’s something I always enjoy, and with bean salad, it is no different. Not a cold salad though. Slightly warm. And not a mushy one either. Fresh and crispy. That’s how I like all my salads. Try it, you might like it too.
There can be so much playing around with this recipe:
- Use a mixture of white and red beans.
- Do yourself a favor and use either the fresh pods or dry beans from the organic store, but not the canned beans…there is just no comparison between beans freshly cooked…just, just tender with still some bite…and those overcooked, bleak, mushy, floury canned stuff.
- Keep the colors and flavors in your recipe simple.
- Add other grapes of your preference, or try figs, which are also in season now.
- Use chervil along with the parsley, which will compliment the anchovies.
- The anchovies can be left out or replaced by another fish like sardines.
- Use red onion for its sweetness.
- Add some freshly grated ginger for extra piquancy and flavor, in which case one would leave out the chervil.
- This little salad can be used as an aperitif, which is very “tendance” at the moment – serve a helping on pretty spoons with a cold wine, or serve on a small toast triangle, or in a verrine(small glass), or serve in a bowl with slices of baguette so each person can serve him/herself.
- Add the grapes cold and just before serving, so as to have nice crisp and cool contrast with room temperature.
Here at the end of summer, I am remembering a garden by the Loire. One I haven’t seen in almost 6 months. A garden I miss for its beauty. Its tranquility. Its animal life. For the many memories it gave birth to.
I remember the hard work, shaping something from nothing. I remember the many mistakes made. But mostly I remember the small but significant successes. The bounty in flower and foliage, the madness of rambunctious herbs, the unforgiving heat of summer sun, the many surprises and no less , the stubborn, but amusing persistence of the weeds. This all shaped my garden, gave it a rich and full life… gave me a rich and full life… season after season.
I remember being too ambitious. Having too little space and planting far too much. I My little garden turned into a forest by the end of summer…the roquette sweeping through the pebbles, the fennels reaching for the skies, the lavenders dancing wild sambas in the beds, the Pierre de Ronsard climbing rose playing out a Sleeping Beauty fairytale. The boxwoods’ constant demand for pruning, the long shoots everywhere, the new shoots everywhere, the dead heads waiting paitiently…
I remember how the garden could change as often as I can change my mind. Each seasons’ corners were plentiful and changed from one year to the next. Or even more. There was a corner for reflection, for morning coffee, one for sipping a coolness in midday. There was room to bask in the sun and of course a spot chosen somewhere for the meal of the evening. And how romantic were these summer evenings in this garden by the Loire, accompanied by the heady fragrances of jasmines and roses, lavenders and lilies! These lazy dinners lasted long into the night, lit up by candles and lanterns, handmade especially for me by a lover.
I remember how different this love affair with my little garden was to what I have now here at Coin Perdu, where our eyes follow the fall of the sun every evening to far beyond the horizon. It flames up the skies and we are woken up much later by the brightness of a moon and a starlit sky. In the garden by the Loire, sunsets were rare, cut off early evenings by the shadows of the cliffs and the welcome coolness of the caves. The small garden enfolded our evenings in a soft dusk pashmina, a warm embrace of familiarity and comfort. We lit up our candles and made fires in the summer kitchen. With herbs from the garden we stuffed meats and marinated vegetables. Our summer days began and ended in this little garden.
We lived and worked close together in this tiny “jardin de curé”...the cats, the chickens, the people…we all crowded in the summer cave, or in the working “cave” or in my “ atelier“…purring on cushions, lounging on daybeds, playing guitar, listening to music, reading, talking deep talks, speaking deep thoughts, painting, eating, sleeping…
It was nice.
No. It was magical.
It was mine.
This tiny garden by the Loire.
My courgette is taking over my potager here at Coin Perdu…beautiful and healthy with enormous bright green leaves and underneath those cheeky yellow flowers peeking through. The male flowers are starting to fall of and I’m picking them up and drying them to use as dried flowers for sprinkling over my salads…my latest craze; if you keep still long enough, I sprinkle you with dried flowers
The female courgettes are the only ones carrying fruit and I’ve picked some of both to stuff with a crab filling. Both male and female flowers are edible. If ever you can get hold of some courgette flowers…they are absolutely divine, from another world and savored slowly and deliberately…well, I’m a lady, I can’t say what I really think, but you’ll know what I mean when once you’ve enjoyed one!
- Serve the flowers stuffed, without steaming.
- OR make a batter of some flour and add some fizzy water, mix until a thick cream . Dip the courgette flowers wth filling into the batter until coated and deep fry quickly, one by one, turning each once once. Remove, drain and serve sprinkled with fleur de sel and a few drops of lemon juice, or a light yoghurt/mint sauce (natural yoghurt, chopped mint, seasoning, lemon juice..)Make your own filling by choosing ingredients you like and by mixing flavor which compliment each other. Keep it light.
- Serve on a bed of mixed salad leaves with a vinaigrette.
Myfenchkitchen is off to Provence for a week of painting with 3 artist buddies. We’ll be staying in the Vaucluse home of well known painter of Postcards from Provence, Julian Merrow Smith and his wife Ruth Philips, while they will be in England where Ruth will be playing cello at the Garsington festival. We even have our own blog, Four go painting in Provence and you’re invited to follow us every step of the way on this trip if you’re interested in seeing all our adventures…which of course will be mostly painting…and eating…and painting again…and then visiting the markets and painting them …and eating…and having some wine perhaps and eating again… or is it painting…in any case, a lot of everything! you can read a little more on my art blog too: Africantapestry is off to Provence for a crazy painting experience!
I’m leaving on Sunday for a week..the other three artist buddies, Katherine, Sarah and Robyn will be there for 3 weeks. unfortunately I have some exciting obligations to tend to here at Coin Perdu, which I’ll share with you once I’m back! So don’t go away…keep well and in the meantime…keep those pots sizzling!
Can we ever get enough of strawberries? Of course not! Right off the vine, directly out of the basket, sliced with cream, sorbet, panacotta, tarts, salads…every which way. And as a lunch with fresh country bread, goats cheese and basil? Simply delicious.
- The strawberries can be used fresh instead of sautéed, o cut and marinated in some white balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. Add a bit of olive oil to the marinade and use as a vinaigrette.
- Use some soft cottage cheese instead of the goats cheese with freshly chopped chives and basil the and salt and pepper mixed into the cottage cheese.
- Omit the cheese completely and make a sandwich of fresh strawberries, basil, chopped chives and add a drizzle of maple syrup.
- Another version could be to top the bread with strawberries and lastly add some goats cheese, put under the gril for two to three minutes and add the basil and a drizzle of honey just before serving.
- Use other sliced fruit in season instead of the strawberries.
We stopped our restoration here at Coin Perdu for a day of fun. With aprons. And three delightful, playful models. They chopped and chirped, giggled and grated, peeled and pestered, mocked and mixed, all the while performing with an apron chosen from the heap. So.. can an apron be fun? Judge for yourself…
I grew up seeing my mother in her apron every day. While she was doing her morning’s work; the washing, ironing, cleaning, kitchen work, she faithfully wore her apron. And after lunch, it would be removed until dinner time, when preparing dinner and cleaning up would demand an apron again.
Unlike those days, when aprons at home were more of a necessity to protect the small wardrobe of clothes, we have a multitude of aprons today for adding to that special ambiance of an occasion or activity. It partially serves to also show our domain of expertise as well as our our fun loving side. But some habits haven’t changes over the years…the butcher still wears his butcher’s apron/outfit, the boulanger(baker) is still clearly recognized by his apron, the fishmonger wears his proudly, the blacksmith is never without his leather aprons, the “garcon” serving your “panache” at the bar wears his with French flair… an apron is there for our barbecues and for our kitchens , our gardens, for playgrounds, yes, it is fun equally for men, women and children.
So, do you have a fun loving side…?
A salad is something that can be eaten at any time…mealtimes or snack times and even those times you feel like eating out of boredom. Go for a salad. It is safe. It is my ultimate favorite dish, summer through winter.
In our home we are always stocked to the brim with ingredients for a salad. Vegetables, greens, leaves, nuts and seeds, dried fruits, cheeses, flowers and herbs, essential oils, but even more so… an interesting vinaigrette and little “addition” to prevent a salad from becoming boring.
This time… a salad with broccoli and preserved ginger, a pungent ginger vinaigrette and a scattering of dried edible flowers for some interest.
- Use a mix of broccoli and cauliflowers florets.
- Use broccolini instead of broccoli.
- Omit the ginger and use a firm fruit in season. Use some juice or pulp of the same fruit in the vinaigrette.
- Try different herbal/flower teas or infusions as a base for a vinaigrette.
- Use fresh flowers instead of dry dried ones.
- Add some fried bacon pieces or thin strips of pancetta for a salty addition.
- Serve the broccoli still warm for a salad with more substance and sprinkle the dried flowers just before serving.
- Marinate the broccoli in the vinaigrette for 15-30 minutes before serving at room temperature.
…and edible flowers:
Nothing can be easier than making your own dried flowers to use in vinaigrette, salads, and sauces and any other food decoration, with only one rule to keep in mind: make sure the flowers are edible! sometimes the leaves can be used, but not the flowers or vice versa. Make sure you’re not allergic to some flower or pollen. Don’t use flowers from florists which may be sprayed with pesticides. Your own garden or nature is the place to gather your flowers. Whether you’re in summer or winter, you can always find some flowers around you to use in your foods and of course, so much the better, because you DO eat seasonal don’t you?
We all use herbs in our salads, dried and fresh and they are familiar to us. A few lesser known flowers for a vinaigrette are marigolds, lawn daisies, dandelions, pansies, clover, hibiscus, cornflower, mallow, zinnia, tulips, phlox, day lilies, begonia, gardenia, lilacs, magnolias, fuchsias…
and of course, the well known violets, nasturtiums, borage, lavender, sages, sunflowers,roses, camomile, marguerites, geraniums, honeysuckle, poppies, courgette…
I’m showing a few that I’m drying now which are in season:
I pick my flowers when I dead head them…snip off the drying ones. Pick them during midday, wash them, let dry. I then use a scissors to cut the flowers off right behind the petals, as to keep only the softer tips of the petals. I mostly use only the petals of the flowers to dry, except for the small lawn daisy which looks very cute scattered on a salad or sorbet. To keep its daisy shape, I let them dry face down with a little pressure to keep them open . The harder and tougher stems aren’t always enjoyable in a salad or sauce, so make sure all hard stems are removed. Spread the petals on a large tray, covered with a absorbing paper or kitchen towel. Leave in a dark, cool and dry place. The petals dry very quickly and can then be stored separately in small glass containers to use on different occasions and with different dishes. Store in cool dark spot.
…lawn daisy (paquerette)…
When you’re not in the mood for drying your own flowers, you can run off to the organic store or any herbalist where you will find interesting tea infusions and herbal infusions which you can buy.
à la prochaine!
In the spirit of this perfect spring , enjoying fresh asparagus with a balsamic sauce, topped with a poached egg fresh from my chickens, is a sin easily forgiven. It is a popular spring dish and with a twist here and there, you can enjoy it several times and each time have something different on your plate. (see suggestions below)
- Stem or boil the asparagus instead of sauteing in oil if you want to cut down on fat. Make a vinaigrette of olive oil and lemon juice and balsamic and drizzle when served.
- If the asparagus are too thick, cut in half.
- Use wild asparagus.
- Use thin green string beans instead.
- Instead of a poached egg, a soft boiled egg can be used.
- Chop a hard boiled egg finely, sprinkle on the asparagus and top off with a dollop of mayonnaise and fresh herbs, instead of the poached egg.
- Instead of balsamic vinegar, make a reduction of white wine and a few saffron strands: Remove the asparagus from the pan, add about 150 ml white wine, 1 tsp of white balsamic to the pan along with a few strands of saffron, let simmer until syrupy and drizzle over the asparagus.
- Use dry roasted almond flakes instead of pine nuts.
…and a brocante at Collonges la rouge.
Elsewhere it may be cold and rainy, but here in Correze, France, it seems we have skipped spring and jumped straight into summer. Browsing the brocante in Collonge la rouge this past Easter weekend, couldn’t have been more perfect, The brocantes are starting off with full force and every weekend one can pick and choose between several. I prefer the small town, more informal ones with jovial, hearty conversations and laid back country side ambiance.
Collonges la Rouge counts as one of “The most beautiful villages of France” and is a charming little 800′s village with its rustic red stone. In a next post I’ll show and tell more about it.
We can never do it any other way..always start off with a coffee!
…Wooden farm furniture at the brocante…
…and two sketchers…not buying, only observing…
…and Scruffy is keeping an eye from down below…
…bottles I would love to have, but can’t afford…
…and ditto for this beautiful white and black Gien pot…extremely expensive…
…such nice milk glass vases…
…and finally I found lovely lace curtains for the barn door at Coin Perdu…
As said before, I’m not fond of cucumber. But it is a handy vegetable to use as a basis for a cold summer soup, or a summer sorbet or as in this case, here in a European winter…a cup with a filling. The combination of shrimp and goat’s cheese , dill and capers, seasons the watery cucumber. And even though cucumber is not in season at the moment, I feel like fresh foods after the heavy holidays.
- The quantities are only approximate, use to your own taste.
- The filling can be varied to your taste too.
- Decorate the skin of the cucumber by scraping shavings off with a peeler, or use a fork or a small lemon scoop to scrape off strips..
- Use sardines instead of shrimps, or shredded white fish or chopped smoked salmon.
- Use fromage frais with chopped herbs or diced seasonal vegetables.
- Add mustard or pesto to ricotta and mix with shredded ham.
- Consider chopped almonds with a finely chopped chicken filling.
- Serve with a vinaigrette of your choice.
…a life around bicycles…
“Do you remember all the times we got pulled over by the policemen for me carrying you on the handles of my bicycle? “, he asked.
She laughed. “Oh yes! … such fun and carefree, irresponsible years!”
That happened of course in the university years of this couple. They relived these moments while reminiscing over past times and paging through all the old photo albums. They remebered the times when they both grew up in their childhood homes, each with their bicycle, driving to different schools in different towns. Then they met at university and continued cycling everywhere together…to class, to tennis matches, to university functions, to town, to the movies, to dances, to river picnics. Those years, most of the student population owned bicycles rather than cars. It was cheaper. And easier. And if yours got “borrowed”, you would just “borrow” the next one. Then after a while it got more romantic for the guy to carry his girl in front of him on the bicycle handles…his ox, as his bike was called…that way he could smell her hair waving in his face and have her close to him, and she enjoyed her Titanic-moment in front on the handles, with her guy doing all the pedalling work. So it happened many times that study hours were to be spent at “the dam”.She would ride in front on the handles, carrying their books and he would pedal for death to reach the top of the bridge crossing the rail road track so they could free down on the other side at an exhilirating speed. Suddenly a siren would honk beside them, forcing them to stop at the foot of the bridge and obediently and humbly they listened to the policemen’s rant about their criminal act of lifting on the bike handles. But when the stern officer of law disappeared in the distance, they continued on their course, unperturbed by the mean little piece of paper in the pocket. It is just what a student does in a university town. Laws don’t apply to students of course…which is why they carry student cards..
When this guy finally married this girl and entered the professional career world, they continued their cycling ways for a while, until they couldn’t hide behind their student faces any more.the fines started burning a hoole in their pocket, so they decided it would be cheaper for the girl, now a grown-up wife, to pedal her own bike again. Gone were the carefree riding on bicycle handles.
..the first cycles..
When two daughters enriched their lives, the tricycles and bicycles started taking up more and more space in the garage… The young guy was now a father and he trained his girls on thier bikes in the garage where it was safe, thenmoved into the garden andfinally he pedalled beside them to pre school across the big, scary main road. And on their firm demand, he watched them pedal the last two metres to school, where they turned and waved a proud little hand back at him. It continued for many years, and they enjoyed every minute on their bikes… doing their tricks, racing their father, chasing the dog, racing around the pool, falling into the pool…where the safety net proved its worth by allowing only their behinds to get soaking wet.
As young students, the girls too depended on their bicycles to get around and now, as young adults, they race their bicycles up and down mountains and in the challenging traffic of Paris and Toulouse. And the young student-couple of years ago, still ride their bicycles too…of which one is still a black ox and the other a cute pink velo with a basket for fruit and a flask of coffee and two old leather bags for art stuff. And like in their student years, the guy still holds the back line, and although he can’t feel her hair waving in his face as he did so long ago, he can now appreciate her cute derriére as she pedals frantically in front of him.
..riding my bicycle..
We are off to Coin Perdu in Correze for the rest of the summer. Packing the chickens in their “traveling castle”, the cats in their “coaches”, overloading our little blue Peugeot and we’ll be off with frequent stops to let the farm out the car for fresh air and let fresh air into the car!
- There is no recipe for this salad. Anything from the garden and the vegetable basket and the fridge and pantry will make a salad as delicious.
- I took a handful of leaves from my herb garden ; rocket, basil, red and green sorrel, chives, and a mixture of salad leaves.Mix with some cleaned and steamed green string beans, butter beans, petit pois, and shelled fava beans. Add quickly fried calamari or shrimp or any other white meat of your choice, make a vinaigrette and serve with a country bread.
..a summer garden…
I’m saying goodbye to the wild of our Loire summer garden and when I see it again, it will have grown beyond wild…!
I can hear everything whisper the minute we leave: “Hey, they’re gone! We are free! We can grow and proliferate, have wild parties and sow our seeds freely! So come on! Let’s not waste any time!”
And the lavender will fall over from laughter, the weeds will do obscene pole dancing, the rocket will keep the whole herb garden hostage, the fennel will try and reach for the skies and when they realize that they are too old for such adventures, they will just lie down in peaceful rest. The Virginia creeper will be unstoppable in their usual mischief escaping and going where they’re not allowed and the bay leaf will now make use of their freedom to block everyone who wants to pass them and of course the ivy are just so rebellious in their freedom! I think the only ones who will try and behave, might be the hydrangeas. They will try and set an example, show their true color and just bloom in being “keeper of order”. Unfortunately they will come up against strong armies, like the snails and slugs who will join forces once they realize the enemy is unprotected! I can just hope that Captain Hedgehog will bring in his friends to come to the rescue. My only regret is that I have neglected the young boxwood hedges the past few weeks. They didn’t receive my full span of attention like they’re used to and I just fear they might be a bit spiteful and teach me a lesson in some way or other. But I promised them they will be the first ones I pay attention to when I get back…I can only hope the promise will keep them happy?
Well, I am leaving in good faith that they will all live and play together in harmony. I want no fights and no complaints from the neighbors. Other than that, they deserve their time of freedom and fun and I wish my garden a wild and happy summer!
…tartelette and omelette in the wild rocket…
…untrimmed boxwood hedges and stalky fennel…
…a forest of green…
…lavender nodding and hydrangeas in charge…
…trespassing virginia creeper and dropping petals…
…ciao until soon!!…
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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..!
…”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..!
Sprouting seeds is so easy. Healthy. Available to everybody. If you have a kitchen, you can have some sprouted seeds. Wonderful to use in salads and on sandwiches and it can serve as edible decoration on summer soups.
VF: Les graines germinées sont très faciles à faire. Tout le monde peut y arriver. Si on a une cuisine, si petite soit- elle, on peut toujours trouver un coin pour un germoir. C’est sain, délicieux en salade ainsi que sur une tartine et même comme une décoration comestible sur une soupe froide.
- Shave your cucumber in thin strips with a potato peeler.
- Use also other vegetables, like carrot strips, courgette strips or fennel and combine with thin apple slices or pear slices.
- When using pear or apple, consider using a soft blue cheese.
- Use a real country style bread, with a hard crust and soft interior, giving you that nutty taste. Please don’t eat those “plastic bread loaves” which just have no taste or flavor or texture!
- Use some nuts and accompanying oil to finish off your sandwich.
- the vegetables can first be made into a little salad, sprinkled lightly with your favorite vinaigrette and spooned on to some sliced country bread.
- Serve with an ice cold dry rosé wine.
…moutarde blanche et roquette(white mustard seeds and rocket)…
Tips for sprouting seeds:
- Rinse the seeds/grains under cold water and leave to stand for an hour or three, depending on the size and type of seeds.
- Rinse again and spread in a sprouter or in a glass jar, covered with muslin.
- Rinse the seeds/grains twice a day and even more on hot days.
- Leave in a dark corner, or in direct light if you want your seeds to turn green. Seeds left in the dark will be crunchier than those exposed to light.
- Use a special sprouter for seeds/grains which has a gel when it gets wet…mustard seeds, rocket, lambs lettuce…
- Spread your grains which form a gel onto some wet cottonwool if you don’t have a special sprouter.
- It takes from about 3 days to 10 days to have grains ready for your use.
- When the grains are ready, remove them from the tray, dry on a piece of toweling and store in the fridge.
- My favorites – trefle rouge, radis noir, cressonnette, oignon, chou rouge, moutarde, broccoli, adzuki
- Some sites to read for sprouting your own grains: Natur santé, Handy pantry sprouting, Primal seeds.
…the containers also vary from affordable to glamorous and expensive. But even plain can fruit bottles turned on their side will do the trick…fill them with about 2 TBSP of seeds, rinse, cover with muslin and turn onto its side...
…some are just plain difficult and I don’t even bother with them any more…like beetroot seeds. I’ve tried every which way, but can only succeed in sprouting 5 seeds out of a whole handful…and I DO have a pretty green finger…!
…some seeds sprout faster than others. Transfer those quick sprouting one to a container in the fridge and start fresh with new seeds. That way there will always be a variety of seeds for your salads in the fridge…
..une boîte a graines pour donner l’inspiration..
Amusez vous bien avec votre germoir, quelques graines, un peu d’inspiration et beaucoup d’enthousiasme!
…à la prochaine…
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!
- 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!…
It is time for nature. For long walks. For the garden. Double digging and planting. For pruning and sowing. And for observing. After a hard winter, nature is on the verge of exploding into its exuberant spring plumage. To harmonize with the new growth and hope springing up all around, I wanted something green. Petits pois came to mind with its vibrant green . I call it a dip, but it is a spread, a paté, a guacamole, a tapenade too… I added Maroccan mint, some freshly sprouted seeds, soft goats cheese; it is early spring on a bruschetta. Nothing more can be said.
- In a next post, we’ll talk a little about sprouting seeds, which is something we all should be doing at our homes!
- Instead of serving the dip on bread, it can be served in individual small glasses or bowls and eaten with a spoon as a starter and some bread on the side.
- Or serve as a little salad on a bed of young spinach leaves.
- Add some dried currants for a little sweetness.
- Use other vegetables like fava beans or a mixture of the two.
- Consider also crushed steamed broccoli or steamed courgettes.
- Don’t skimp on the mint.
- Some mayonnaise or cream can be added to the mixture to give it more of a dip texture. Serve with carrot and celery sticks.
- Serve with toasted bread slices or fresh crusty baguette slices.
Let’s put winter with its deep conversation and full bodied Cabernets and hypnotic fireplaces behind for a while. Let’s move outside to the stories of nature. To the optimistic nesting of the gulls on the Loire islands. To the plunging flights of the swallows. The fearless circling of the eagles. Let’s focus on the delicate entrance of the apple blossom. The almond blossom. Let’s admire the elegance of the magnolia and not shy away from the shameless flirtation of the sweeping wildflowers.
From the beginning of time, man had been entranced by nature. Living by it, dying by it. Cursing by it, loving by it. We live by it force every day.
…it is only when you start to garden, probably after 50 – that you realize something important happens every day – Geoffrey B Charlesworth…
I can’t pass by a book on garden stories. Some day I’ll share one of my own stories from my garden journal. But for now, I’d like to share four of my favorite garden story books. (The lovely bookmarks you see in the following images, was a gift from la belle Monique)
…A growing gardener by Abbie Zabar. Delightful sketches about her garden on the rooftop, with delightful accompanying drawings, a feast for the eye and an enrichment for the soul!…
…Les affranchis jardiniers by Annick Bertrand-Gillen…..a couple living the simple way, providing for themselves from nature, doing it all the biological way. I adore this book.We experience a bit of their life with them, their garden and home and it gives us envy to follow in their footsteps. A beautiful life. A beautiful garden, open to the public in summer….
…Simple pleasures of the garden by Susannah Seton…...a collection of stories and recipes, quotes and tips for every season. This is a book to be read outside in the shade of the walnut, or curled up by the fireplace, or in the splendor of autumn by the riverside, it makes you love every season.
…True nature by Barbara Bash…..a writer/illustrator taking solitary retreats, living close to nature with only her thoughts and art and her journal. I received this as a gift from a good friend an fellow artist, the very creative Lindsay who sent it to me when I was not in the best of places. It was wonderful food for my thoughts then and still is!
… welcoming spring…
And last but not least…have a spring inspired look at Jain’s day inthe country!
Don’t throw outt the water you’ve used to boil your eggs in. They are rich in mineral salts…use it to water your plants with.
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…!
- 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.
A refreshing salad..full of crunch and texture…a delight on the taste buds with the soft sweetness of the pears and the tart exploding sweetness of the pomegranate seeds. Fitting for a special parcel…
- Red cabbage ribbons can be added for more colour.
- Add the pomegranate seeds last if you want you salad to be “unstained”.
- A yoghurt dressing with lemon and honey is great too.
- If you want a more “sustainable ” salad, add some coarsely grated hard cheese of your choice.
- Good with fish.
- Can be served on its own as a starter or accompaniment as a side.
- A good salad for losing weight and/or detox.
Some days are sometimes unexpectedly special. Like a Tuesday when the post lady knocks on your door and with a broad smile hands you a parcel: “Voilá! Toujours Noël!” (still christmas for you!)
A lovely surprise from the extraordinary Monique at A la table de Nana. After opening up the very well wrapped outer box and fixing my eyes upon the beautiful first layer, I found myself working softer and more delicate with each unwrapping; lingering, feathering and stroking my fingers deliberately over each wrapping, wonder what hides underneath, trying to prolong the seconds to minutes, enjoying the feeling of excitement and yielding to the pleasure of feeling special.
…opening up onto creative bookmarks and cards...
…then a next surprise…
…even more delicate and beautifully wrapped…
…so many unfolding surprises in such a small box…
…a notebook, beautiful chcolate transfers, even more beautiful cookie transfers…
Few things in life give us that warmth around the heart than caring, attention, a spontaneous compliment…a little act of some kind making you feel special. This little parcel did exactly that. It had something of everything…
…a little bit of romance, a touch of personal creativity, a hint of refinement, a sprinkling of originality, a taste of beauty…finished off with drizzlings of warmth and presented with care and delicate attention…
Have you sent a small parcel to someone? Wrapped with care and attention to small détail, adding a little note here and a chocolate there, a smile, a giggle, a wish…not a Christmas gift. Not a birthday gift. Just something to say someone else is special. No? So…let’s just do it!
Trucs et astuces de nos grands-mères: