Posts tagged “Amuse bouche

Tartine aux Courgettes …and “les jardins de Colette”.

When your potager starts exploding with courgettes, it is time to come up with all sorts of ways to eat those courgettes without getting bored. But even so, by the end of summer, I feel like a courgette and can’t even look at one, let alone eat it. Courgettes are more flavorful when they are young and nothing needs to be added to give them moire flavor. These tartines can be served s a starter, a lunch with a salad, or as an apéro before dinner..and come to think of it, why not pack it for a pique-nique?

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La recette:

tartines aux courgettes 4857x4415 4857x4415Pincée de fleur de sel:

  • Add some goat’s cheese or feta cheese to the tartines.
  • Leave the toasts and serve as a tagliatelle pasta, topped with a fillet of fish of your choice and a salad.
  • Make croutons instead of toasts and add along with the grilled courgettes to a salad. Top with dry roasted pine nuts, grated Parmesan cheese and a mustard vinaigrette.

 

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Les jardins de Colette is a large botanical garden at the foot of the chateau Castel-novel, where the French writer Colette lived with her 2nd husband Henry de Jouvenel and her daughter Bel-Gazou. The gardens were created in 2008 and depict her tumultuous life which centered around her insatiable desire for creating. You will surely know her for her novels Chéri in 1920 and of course Gigi from 1944, upon which the musical film was based and in which Leslie Caron played Gigi. Colette’s real name was actually Sidonie-Gabrielle , her last name/surname being Colette. But I’m her to show you the garden dedicated to her…so, to read about Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, you can pick and choose a site on Google.

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Some trinkets in the store…and I found their little truck quite cute…and a rose named after Colette in 1995…

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…Veronique flowers in abundance in the garden of her childhood in Bourgogne…and bees in abundance….

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..le jardin de Rozven in Bretagne was bought by her friend, Missy, in 1910  and for 10 years afterwards Colette and her family still spent their summers at Rozven.

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…a potager, part of remembering her childhood..

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..a labyrinth in the shape of a papillon,  where kiddies are told stories while finding their way to the end..

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..some annuals planted in the jardin de Saint- Sauveur-en -Puisaye  in Bourgogne...

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..an english garden..”aussi libre qu’elle”..as free in spirit as she was…

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…a little refuge for insects..

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Colette with her brother in childhood…

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…her love for animals clearly comes across in her books..

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..la coccinelle and le papillon..les amis du jardin!

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In the Correze gardin at Castel-Novel a little cabane/gloriettes was constructed from willow branches..

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..The olive trees and lavenders from the Provence garden..

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..a bit of freshness with a canal of water and fountain..

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In the rose garden her favorite rose can be found…Cuisse de Nymphe

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..as well as one of my favorites...Honore de Balzac…

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And lastly, a lane of tilleuls trees to remind of her last years spent in Paris, where her windows opened onto the gardens of the palais Royal…

 

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With something cool to drink, we finished this tour through the gardens of Colette and it was time to return to reality. I felt a vibrant kinship with her and her creativity, her desire to live to the full, her love for nature and animals and maybe one day I can retrace  her steps to really experience what her life was like…

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 3: Topinambours and chestnut velouté with wild mushroom croutons.

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

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Recipe:

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

Serves 4 people as a starter.

Une pincée de fleur de sel:

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

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

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

…The exterior of l’église de Meyssac…

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

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..the altar from close up..

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

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

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

.. alors, à demain!..

Ronelle


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

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

Two salmon and avocado terrine

two salmon terrine recette

Une pincée de fleur de sel:

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

salmon terrine 2

Brocante à Bordeaux:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

livres anciens

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

Alors mes amis…

à demain

Ronelle


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

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

menu-un noël à la campagne
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..Apéritif :
..marinated herring and litchi cups and foie gras and mango bites..
litchi cups and foie gras bites
..recette..
apéritif recette
Pincée de fleur de sel:
  • Use any other fish you prefer, even tartare de poisson(raw fish).
  • Cut the litchis on the opposite sides of the stem to make for pretty “lids”.
  • Use small kiwis instead of litchis and crab meat instead of fish.
  • Eat with small demitasse spoons.
  • Keep in fridge until served.
  • Use ham or other preferred cold meat instead of foie gras.
  • When using cold beef, add some mustard between the layers.
  • Use other firm slices of fruit in season instead of mango.
  • Work on five helpings of each per person to leave room for the rest of the dinner to follow.
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Noël window displays in Paris:
On a cold evening last week in Paris, I grabbed mon chéri and my camera at 23:00 to go snap some images of Lafayette and Printemps, famous for their Noël window displays. Here are somze images and just for that child in you, click on the following images to see the displays in action.. These displays always make me giggle with pleasure!
..vitrine Luis Vuiton..
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..ball..Dior- Printemps..
lights 2
..Dior – Printemps..
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..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!
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..at the ball – Printemps..
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..la Fayette house..
lights 3
..table exhibits;.
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..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


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


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

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

Suggestions:

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

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

…and a sous-chef..

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

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

..chef et sous-chef..

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

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

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

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

..amuse bouche in old childhood glasses..

..à la prochaine..

Ronelle


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

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

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

Suggestions:

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

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..and hand me the scissors!..

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

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

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

scissors-bedroom

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

..scissors-coiffeur..

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

..scissors-all purpose..

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

..scissors-la cuisine..

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

..scissors-sewing kit..

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

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

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

..old scissors..

…à la prochaine!..

..Ronelle..

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Chili peppers stuffed with rabbit..and a home library.

I had left over rabbit. And small chili peppers. Some goats cheese. Herbs. And guests for dinner. As un apéro, these would do perfectly.

But BEWARE: They are very hot. While I was preparing them, I took a tiny bite from one and it was fairly piquant, but not as I expected and I continued happily.  BUT THEN… later the afternoon, I propped a smallish whole one in my mouth….well,  I flounced desperately around the kitchen table, like a horse being backed for the first time. I fled  outside in the rain for oxygen and help.  Not finding it there, I scrambled back to the fridge and gulped down 6 joghurts… I think next time I will use the mild spanish red pepper instead…but oh, these look SO pretty on a platter…!


Suggestions:

  • Use left over chicken or duck or turkey instead of rabbit.
  • When using duck, leave out the cheese and replace with balsamic vinegar and grated apple, sprinkled with lemon juice.
  • Ricotta cheese or créme fraîche can be used in place of the goats cheese.
  • Serve as a sterter with a small green salad, or serve as an apéritif with a cold white wine.
  • If the chili peppers are too hot to your liking, use the long Spanish red peppers instead and cut them shorter from the thin point upward.

Apart from smelling freshly brewed coffee when entering a home, few other things can  give a home that feeling of lived in comfort, cosiness , than seeing books…stacks of books, or shelves overflowing with a chaos of books. It doesn’t matter if it is a formal library or the living room where books are strewn on the table and couches.  I’m not talking about the pretentious shelves and  more shelves of beautiful books, only admired for their leather covers…No,  I love entering a home and seeing books everywhere, inviting me to take on from a shelf or pick it up from a table or chair or even the floor….open it up and page through… read the end…the sinopsis and discover a little bit about the owner’s taste and likes and discover new titles…

We don’t have a libraryat home, only “corners” of books which  I try in vain to keep  neat. Now I look past it and only try to balance out the stacking in order to prevent a shelf from breaking. And I LOVE it when people come here and pick up a book…!

..books at home..

..books in corners..

..books on the coffeetable, by the bed, decorating corners(which I HAVE read and still reread, yes)..

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

I bought this beautiful and inspiring book on libraries a while ago: BIBLIOTHEQUES – l’art de vivre avec des livres by Roland Beaufre and Dominique Dupuich..

..BIBLIOTHEQUES - l'art de vivre avec des livres by Roland Beaufre and Dominique Dupuich..

*All the following images are borrowed from the book:

These next two libraries, are my most favorites in this book…if you leave me in either of these two, I’ll just happily disappear and you’ll never see me again!

..from the family Tazi, at Rabat..

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Another wonderful treasure of books!

..library of the Parisian decorator, Laure Welfing in Tanger..

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This library below is beautiful…too beautiful actually. I feel like someone’s is whispering…:”Don’t touch”!

..a bourgeoise library in Tanger..

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Don’t you just love a space like this, with so much to see and look at and loaded with personality…except for that spider on the lamp shade of course…

..working space/library of Gilles Neret in St-Germain-de-Prés, journalist and editor..

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This inviting couch and the lamp won me over!

..library/working space of art writer, Francois Jonquet with a bohemian flavor..

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A bit less chaotic, but still inviting with its couch and music station, the warmth of family photos, botanical prints…and of course…MANY books!!

..library of decoration journalist, Pamela de Monbrison..

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I hope this kicked you into a mood of reading, like it did me…and instead of watching a good DVD this weekend, let’s make it one of reading those oldies we haven’t touched in a while!

..bon week-end!..

Ronelle


Bruschetta with tomato…and a day at Montsoreau brocante.

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

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

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

…a large platter…

…old prints…

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

…les puces de montsoreau…

…à la prochaine!..

Ronelle


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

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

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

Suggestions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…every day (quotidien)…

…fish days(les jours du poisson)…

…and mixed days(mélangé)…

…à la prochaine..!


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

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

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



Suggestions:

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

VF:

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

…un brunch d’été…

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

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

…rustic romance for a brunch…

Choose a corner in the garden.

On cherche un coin dans le jardin.

…a view on summer…

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

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

…pétunias in trays and all things garden…

…serving corners…

…umbreallas at the ready…

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

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

..knee blankets and flowers do go together…

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

…garden tools and a warming fire…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…passez une bonne été et à la prochaine!…


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.


Sweet potato wrapped in bacon and sage.

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

sweetpotatosticks

Kaleidoscope



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