I have a few risotto recipes that I adore. One is made with sweet potato, another with saffron, yet another with wild mushrooms and then…asparagus. In this case I used wild asparagus with a very short season, but delicious while they last.
- Asparagus, lemon and sage:
- Sauté the asparagus for only 3 – 4 minutes, in a large pan with olive oil, lemon wedges, a sprinkling of white balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Remove and keep aside. they should still be crunchy. Saute the lemon wedges a bit longer to caramelize.
- Heat enough olive oil in a small frying pan to cover the base.
- Add some sage leaves and fry until crisp. Remove and drain on kitchen towel.
- Sauté 1 chopped shallot in a little olive oil. Add about 1 cup of arborio or carnarolli rice and sauté for another 3 minutes top release the nutty flavors of risotto rice.
- Add 1/2 cup white wine and 1TBSP of white balsamic vinegar. Stir. Add about 500ml of hot vegetable stock, ladle by ladle to the risotto, stirring all the while over medium high heat.
- Chop a few leaves of fresh sage in thin ribbons and add to the risotto.
- Taste the risotto…the rice should still have some bite and not be mushed to a porridge.
- Add 1 TBSP of créme fraiche, 1 knob of butter and 2 TBSP of grated parmesan cheese and the grated rind of 1 lemon. Turn off the heat and stir through.
- Taste for seasoning.
- Serve immediately – spoon the risotto onto individual plates. top with the asparagus en finish off with the crisp oil fried sage leaves.
- Sere with extra Parmesan on the side.
Serves about 4 people.
- Use garden asparagus or string beans instead of wild asparagus.
- Combine with tarragon instead of sage.
- Leave out the creme fraiche and use a soft goats cheese instead.
- Leave out the creme fraiche and sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese just before serving.
- The risotto should be creamy and not dry at all.
When the bumps on the road get too disconcerting, I always pull off the road, switch off the engine, empty my mind and drift off to that world where I know giggles and laughter are plentiful. And smiles. That place where we run off to when life is too blue and we want it more colourful. They are our private corners where we deal with these road bumps in our own unique ways so we can be able to turn the ignition key and continue on the bumpy roads. I thought I would share some of the things I run to for a smile or a hearty laugh or a tickling giggle.
- I adore that first coffee of the morning.It turns me inside out with happiness.
- I love watching someone enjoying a meal with gusto and joy(and good manners of course), someone who has a visible appreciation for the goodness of good quality products and for the preparation that goes into a meal.
- I love people who can fold double with laughter, enjoying laughing so much you can hear it right in the pit of their stomach! It is contagious and I might not know what the laughter is about, but I have to join in, just for the sake of the joy it brings.
- I love that good sharp which some people have. Not jokes. Jokes are flat and boring. Wit is something completely different. It is an art. That ability to be able to catch a moment and react to it with just the perfect touch of irony and humor.
- I love the smell of horses…their sweat, their manes, the oil on their skin..
- I love playing tennis; running for every ball, sweating, groaning like a pro, stretching, running, sliding…all of it..
- I love my chickens’ eager trot-run when they see cheese in my hand, it makes me burst out in spontaneous laughter.
- I love watching the geese’s rhythmic swaying from behind.
- I adore our apéros at sunset. If heaven doesn’t have that, I don’t want to go there…
- I love swimming..not lengths or any fashionable style, but splashing and diving and twirling and drowning… like a dolphin. I just love being in the water.
- I love waking up early morning to blue skies and sunshine..I can just burst with happiness.
- I love the smell of oil paints on my palette.
- I love a scalp massage when I go to the hairdresser.
- I love walking barefoot.
- I love walking in the rain.
- I love walking in my garden endlessly throughout the day, hoping I’ll see something new every time.
- I love having coffee and croissant with mon chéri in town and we talk about everything and anything, especially since he is a man of few words.
- I love my perfumes..I splash it on when I go to dinner, when I go to town, when I go to bed or when I go work in the garden. M favorite, you ask? But Coco , eau de perfum, Chanel of course.
- I love burying my face and kissing the soft belly of my cat Ayiani…she grabs my head gently with her paws and it makes me giggle with pleasure…although I have had the occasional scratch of her fury when she’s not in the mood…
- I adore my bed and I adore slipping into crisp linen smelling of sunshine. I fall asleep with a content smile.
I hoe I have touched some of your soft spots or at least made you pull off the road to find your private world where laughter and giggles abound!
…my favorite perfume; Coco, from Chanel…
(for more sketches of perfumes, see my art blog Africantapestry)
à a prochaine fois
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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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…
With our weather being somewhat cooler and the rain pouring down constantly, our bones are in need of some warmer nourishment. The grey skies whispered lemon chicken. So we had the old classic, lemon chicken with herbs. An ever popular meal, so easily done in the oven and sliced at the table, which leaves you with ample time to indulge in that book you just glance at every time you speed past it.
Oven baked lemon chicken with herbs
Do I need to give the recipe?
- Take a chicken, clean it. Flee into your garden and cut herbs to heart’s delight…tarragon is a must. Lemon cut into chunks is a must. As is some butter, salt and pepper and two or three shallots. Then just stuff the chicken with all ingredients, rub with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Bake in a 180 deg. C oven for about an hour or until you have clear juices running when piercing the chicken into the thick flesh of the thigh next to the bone, normally the part which takes the longest to cook. Turn the chicken over and drizzle often with the pan juices.
- In the meantime prepare some vegetables. I used green asparagus, of which I snapped the ends off and some cherry tomatoes. Clean and dry them.
- When the chicken is done, remove from the pan and cover with foil on a serving platter. Skim off the excess fat from the pan.
- Arrange the asparagus in the pan and roast at 200 deg. c until nicely caramelized. Add the tomatoes 10 minutes before the asparagus is done and roast until the tomatoes start shrinking.
- Serve on the platter alongside the chicken, drizzle with the pan juices and serve the rest of the sauce on the side.
*for more about herbs and it’s uses, see “In my herb garden”
…the more you pick, the better I grow…
We have a long weekend coming up soon and your father told me to write you and tell you to come visit…
“…I received a phone call from Aunt Betty. You know how very elegant and stylish she is, never cooking without her string of pearls? But then, let’s not forget the wonderful and elegant meals she broils up with those pearls! She told me about her humiliating experience the other day and I just had to share this part with you…
” ‘Her granddaughter of five was visiting for the weekend, a real cutie she is, and asked Grandma for a boiled egg for lunch. While waiting for the water to come to boil, Aunt Betty put the egg, taken from the fridge door, into the pocket of her skirt, to get the edge off the cold egg. Then the telephone rang and now you also know that Aunt Betty does enjoy a telephone! After a final third goodbye to her good friend, sorting out their dates for their antique shopping and luncheon afterwards, she needed to drop in at the bathroom…..all those many cups of Earl grey she believes in drinking every day…..and right there is where disaster struck your elegant aunt and her precious raw egg, hidden and forgotten in her pocket!’
Now I’ll leave the rest up to your imagination! Suffice to say, elegant or not, when it comes to a raw egg in the pocket and a toilet seat, we’re all pretty much in the same kind of scramble!….
PS: I’m sending you this omelet recipe your father and I had for dinner last night and just to be a little naughty I sent it to Aunt Betty too!
Omelet with asparagus and serrano
- Tomato salsa: dice a mixture of red, yellow and orange tomatoes, sprinkle wit lemon juice, salt, pepper and drizzle with olive oil.
- 2 eggs
- a tablespoon of milk
- knob of butter
- 2 spring onions, roughly sliced on the diagonal.
- salt and pepper tot taste
- about 4 asparagus spears
- some shredded serrano ham, or other ham of your choice
- Cut the tomatoes into dice, mix lightly and add salt and pepper, lemon juice and olive oil to taste.
- Steam the asparagus until just tender.
- Saute the spring onions quickly until translucent, but still bright green.
- Lightly beat two eggs, add a tablespoon of milk.
- Heat a small skillet, add the butter and pour in the beaten eggs. Break the egg lightly up with a fork and when it start to settle, leave on low heat until puffed up.
- Take from the heat while the top of the egg is still runny and slide off on a plate.
- Place the sauteed spring onion and 4 to 5 asparagus spears onto the one half of the omelet. Fold the other half over.
- Top with the shredded serrano ham, flavour with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.
- Serve immediately with the tomato salsa on the side.
This post is dedicated to my dear friend Colette, who was the inspiration for this “story and recipe”. She was taken to hospital into intensive care today…Colette, get well soon, we have so many laughs (like this story) awaiting us all the tomorrows ahead..
Ice cream versus salad
How I love painting. And tennis. And I do love my garden, my house. Shopping. What else. Oh yes, and I love eating! Good food, healthy food, bad food, ordinary food, new food, traditional food, adventurous food…all food.
I am sitting here right now, licking a huge Magnum ice cream. A double caramel! Sweet and nerve rackingly rich, deliciously creamy, luscious, sticky, voluptuous and sensual…and far too small. While I am indulging in my ice cream I have a healthy menu for you, a great one for a long, lingering lunch on a hot summers afternoon around a huge table with great friends!
To start off: make a tomato mozzarella salad, using nice small vine tomatoes, some buffalo mozzarella torn into bite size pieces… stuff some in your mouth while you’re at it. Tear some basil leaves and lastly, sprinkle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and mill some fresh pepper and then add a sprinkling of finely chopped sun dried tomatoes.To finish off, mix gently with your hands and then lick off those fingers, serve on a pretty plate and enjoy with crusty bread.
For the main meal you dig your beautiful platter out of the back of the cupboard, give it a rinse and then fill it with…crispy green leaves of your choice, mesclun, spinach, rocket and other herbs and don’t forget somecrunchy red cabbage sliced finely for great color and crunch….
In the middle you stack some cooked quinoa, first sauteed in coconut oil with some red onions and then cooked until just done.
On top of that, beet cut into chunks, hand fulls of organic grated carrot and around the rim, little bundles of steamed asparagus wrapped in prosciutto or parma ham. And finish off with a little sweetness; a handful of golden raisins and pumpkin seeds and a Calamata olive or two. I like some green peppercorns sprinkled too. Finish off with a vinaigrette of your choice, some more crusty bread, a bottle of good Rose and you’re off to hear all the Oohs and Aahs from your hungry, anticipating guests waiting at the table! And do enter with flare…why else have you gone to so much trouble!
Dessert. No can’t do without dessert. To keep to the theme of health, you take lots and lots of strawberries…do the usual, and cut them roughly into chunks. Using a large fork, you crush them until pulpy but not to a puree. Then you add a large handful of chopped mint, which you ventured into your garden for early morning, with your hat and herbs scissors and gloves…and of course you pulled out some weeds while you were there. OK, the mint..you add this generous handful of mint to your strawberries and follow up with some balsamic vinegar and if you like your strawberries a bit sweeter, add some honey. Just before you put this beautiful dessert in the fridge, take a big spoonful to taste…you should be able to just sigh with pleasure, if not, then start over. Serve it in some beautiful glasses where its beauty can be seen. Top with a dollop of Greek yogurt, drizzle with some honey, a swirl of syrupy reduced balsamic vinegar, a dash of milled black pepper and of course, a small mint leaf…and please, don’t plant a tree!
So, off I go to fetch another Magnum…enjoy your lunch!