It is weekend..almost. Time for winding down, letting go, stretching out the body and mind, reading that book you only get to read on weekends, riding that bike you only get to ride on Sundays, visit with friends you only get to do on Saturdays. It is time to do some cooking and fiddling in the kitchen, try new recipes, indulge in trusted ones and most of all…it is time to flirt with the markets and grab up the in season products; plump, healthy and inviting. Like tomatoes of all kinds. Coming into season in September…here in Feance in any case. And elsewhere…maybe the strawberries are rocking in?
You have to love seasonal. You have to love tomatoes. And don’t you just love a weekend?
Have a good weekend!
…tomato mozzarella salad…
From Ice cream versus salad: *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.
Yesterday we had rain here at Coin Perdu in Corréze, where we are restoring our mountain home. So last night asked for something soupy. Because we are temporarily living in the barn for the next year or two, I don’t have an oven, only a stove. So a soup is quite easy. And quick. I am always joyful when hearing the word quick.
…cold tomato and orange soup…
…summer says outside…
After speaking to a very good friend this morning, who is on holiday in the bush, I felt the need to concoct something for Mariaan. I miss her. She is funny and makes me laugh. I wish I was there in the bush with them; listening to the roar of the lion at night and watching the elephant’s play by the waterhole.
…watermelon, bresaola and cheese salad…
Cut some watermelon into slices, or chunks, add to a bowl along with some baby spinach leaves, or arugula, add some feta cheese, or blue cheese, or parmesan broken in chunks and lastly tear some bresaola over the salad. Finish off with a drizzling of live oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of white balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with toasted almonds. Serve with a seed bread and a cold white or rosé wine.
As with many of the dishes I do here, there is no formal recipe. And there are hundreds of versions of salads with watermelon.
I started off this blog simply to have fun. I’m not obsessed about/with cooking. Or coming up with the perfect recipe. I am much more interested in a combination of things which evolve around food. Food is the last thing I think about when thinking about “meals”. I almost always first design my table for entertaining, before I decide on the food. I will first decide on colour, before I start thinking about a food to post. I will see sunset on the ocean and then I will want to make a dish that will fall in with my sunset on the ocean. An idea for a photo will pop into my head and I will start thinking of some food to go along with the idea. I will invite friends over and take hours to decide if we are eating inside or under the stars and then I’ll decide on the food. I will miss a friend and then decide to make something that represents her.
It is the same as painting a canvas. It is a whole process. It is the doing it, that gives the pleasure. The original thought, the preparations, wiping of plates, the shining of silver, the billowing throw of the linen on the wooden table, the cutting up of vegetables, the whiffs of onion in the pan, the delight of colours on the tables, the smells of flowers in a vase, the tasting of a sauce with your tasting spoon(NOT a finger) the stirring of a soup, the pinching of salt, the clinging of pots, the sipping of wine, feeling the coolness of rolled dough under your palms, licking out the bowl with your fingers, touching the crispness of a linen napkin, hearing the ping of crystal…it is a complete creative experience. A sensory ecperience. A sensual experience.
So. The recipes found here on Myfrenchkitchen are only for inspiration. They may not be perfect. They sure aren’t perfect. I don’t care for them to be perfect. I don’t measure and I don’t count. I am not inspired by recipes. I am only inspired by the idea of a recipe. A gazpacho will inspire me to do something with colour. A soup may inspire me to go for a new way of serving. A salad might evoke the desire to take a healthy course. I don’t follow recipes, it is too much effort and I’ll need my reading glasses. It wastes my time. Except for rare occasions when I might bake and even then, as long as I have some basic knowledge about what makes a cake rise and why do you need eggs and what is the relationship between ingredients and how and why to beat air into an egg white, I can make it work. It is knowing a little bit of the science behing cooking. That and a little common sense. And if all fails, I have my cooking encyclopedias, my kitchen bibles to run to. Which I do. Often. If you don’t have one, you won’t be able to make a recipe your own. There are many on the market. My well used bible is Larousse Gastronomique.
The recipes posted here, the photo’s, the silly stories…are all simply for enjoyment. My own enjoyment, as well as those who pass by here. They serve only as inspiration. If it can only be fun to look at or light an idea in your head to have you take off to your kitchen, it has served its purpose.Take the recipes and ideas for serving and settings and compositions and go to your kitchen and make it your own, or else it will always be someone else’s recipe. Play around with it, forget about the precision of the measuring spoon and start using your tastebuds and judgements…and common sense. Make mistakes, adjust, change and then delight in your own creation.
There is a magnitude of cookbooks out there, even more blogs, so many cooks, so many chefs. The internet specifically is a rushing waterfall of recipes of all kinds and all cultures and tastes. The world of food and cooking is on such a fast track, everybody can do anything, trends change every month, nothing is new, everything has been done, everybody is trying to push the envelope in doing more, trying to do something that hasn’t been done before. Just google french onion soup or any other recipe and see the response, screen after screen. New tomatoes show up on the market each year, snazzy coloured carrots, tongue twister berries, everything is dried and refrigerated and shipped. Exotic fruit recipes from Russia and sushi recipes from France, fresh croissant deliveries in Japan and saki in Sweden. It is a runaway train.
So what can I offer anyone here on Myfrenchkitchen? Absolutely nothing, except maybe enjoyment, even if only for fleeting, a second or two. Or maybe a raised eyebrow. Or a snort. Whatever the case. If you like it, linger and enjoy. If you don’t like it, forget about it and move on. Tastes differ. Likes and dislikes are very personal. But you knew that.
I know my friend in the bush will like this salad. She doesn’t follow recipes either. And she only makes quick meals. And she laughs at my jokes, which are never funny. And she enjoys my recipes, which aren’t perfect. She is a good friend.
…in the bush…
I’ve never been a big fan of cucumber. I find them rather tasteless and watery. But it is those exact reasons that make them a perfect base for a cold summer soup. I use cucumber with different herbs, or combined with other fruits or vegetables to make a light soup, especially on a warm summers afternoon or dinner. In this case I used kiwi, an excellent source of vitamin C.
…cold cucumber and kiwi soup…
It may seem very “light” for a meal on its own, but we are eating way too much and our portions are way too big. This is an ample meal, if seved with some grilled seafood, like shrimps or langoustine tails, then followed by a cheese platter and a crusty grain bread and finished off with a seasonal dessert, or even only fruit.
It is custom in our house to eat “3 courses”. Now doesn’t that sound pretentious! But in fact, it is actually only “one course” that we serve seperately in 3 stages, or even more! A salad would serve as a starter, in it’s own bowl or plate, then followed up with maybe a fish/meat and a small vegetable, like a cherry tomato or two, or a bundle of french string beans tied with some tasty ham, and afterwards maybe a slice of 2 cheeses with baguette and finish off lastly with some dessert like a fruit, or joghurt. A small espresso. Maybe a chocolate. That’s it.
Another rule of thumb is: When you start light, you can go heavier OR start heavy and go lighter. And try to keep the portions small, served on small plates! That way, each serving gets centre stage, each flavour is appreciated on its own – no fighting flavours and colours all on one plate. With all the money you save on buying smaller quantities of food, you can invest in some interesting plates, making meals attractive and appealing. The stomach(and brain) is also cheated into thinking he has been given a five course meal, so the feeling of satiety and satisfaction is still rich! Serve the food on plates each individually as well, so you don’t get seduced into second helpings when the bowls stare longingly at you on the table, right in front of you! Men are usually resistant to get up to serve themselves and women are embaressed to have everybody see them get up for MORE FOOD!
So. Let’s eat less. Smaller portions. Around a table. Attractive table ware. Colourful. Light. Lets’ talk about our food. About its colours. The tastes and smells and flavours, textures. Let’s enjoy it and rise from the table, still having room and energy left for a brisk walk.
…the sunflower; Micheln 3 star restaurant…
June in France in special. Beautiful. Evenings are soothing and invitingly lingering.
Start off a dinner (or a lunch) with a cool fresh papaya pineapple salad, drizzled with a mirrin and rice vinegar vinaigrette.
…pineapple and papaya salad…
…dinner on a june evening…
A starter I love. Even good for a full meal. Or start off with the tartare and finish off with a light fish soup. The fresh salmon can be replaced by any other white fish. For those that don’t eat raw salmon, smoked salmon can be an option.
*Order some fresh salmon from you fishmonger, telling him it is for tartare…having pride in his knowledge and job, he’ll see to you getting the best quality fish; cleaned, bones and skin removed. Wrap in clingfilm and leave in the freezer to get to a softly frozen stage. Remove, cut into small dice and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add a drop or two lemon juice(not too much or else the fish will”cook” and lose its bright colour), olive oil and freshly milled pepper to the salmon, mix ightly with a fork, cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
*In the meantime, chop some red onion finely and a handful of fresh dill. Cut a lemon into small wedges. Toast some dark ry bread, and cut into small triangles.
*Serving: Serve the salmon along with the chopped onion, dill, lemon wedges, a dollop of créme frâiche and the rye toasts in small bowls on individual plates. Serve extra fleur de sel or maldon salt and freshly crushed black pepper on the side.
A burst of flavour in simplicity. Texture and colour. Easy, swift to make, a lingering sweetness on the palate…like life should be.
…cutting an orange into segments…
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…
Ham spring rolls
There is no formal recipe for this. See what your fridge and pantry comes up with and take the road to fresh and seasonal.
- Cut some vegetables into matchsticks. I’ve used carrot, cucumber, mango, rocket leaves and chives. Place a slice of ham on a chopping board and stack some vegetables onto the one end. roll up tight and secure with a toothpick or tie with a chive(softened in boiling water for a second or two).
- Serve with a dipping sauce made of natural joghurt and chopped herbs and splashed with a swirl of lemon juice.
- Or serve with a lime ginger sauce: A tablespoon of each – freshly squeezed lime juice, rice wine vinegar, mirrin, soja sauce and some grated ginger and chopped lemon grass. Taste and adjust.
On Mondays dinner is simple. It depends on what the fridge and vegetable basket deliver. Tonight will see a tomato salad and turkey breast on the menu. And since it is Monday, we’ll pass on the glass of wine and start off with a glass of Perrier and of course…an apron.
Turkey breast filet with warm tomato salad
- 4 turkey breasts filets
- a variety of tomatoes
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
- a lemon, sliced
- a handful of basil leaves
- a green chili of your choice
- 2 spring onions, shredded on the diagonal
- tomato vinegar/sherry vinegar
- Sautee the turkey breasts along with the lemon slices in some olive oil until nice browned. Season with salt and pepper.
- Cut the tomatoes in chunks, leaving the smaller ones whole and leaving some cherry tomatoes on the vine.
- Shred the spring onion on the diagonal.
- Sautee the smaller tomatoes, the cherry tomatoes on the vine and the spring onions in some olive oil until warmed through and the tomatoes begin to burst. Keep the cherry tomatoes on the vine aside for decoration.
- In a bowl, lightly mix the tomato chunks, the tomato- and onion mixture, the basil leaves and the chopped chili. Season with salt and pepper.
- Deglaze the tomato pan with the vinegar.
- To plate: Serve the turkey breast on a serving of salad. Top with a slice of caramelized lemon and the cherry tomato on the vine.Drizzle with the pan juices, a sprinkling of freshly milled pepper and to finish off, a last drizzling of olive oil.
- Serve immediately
- Serves 4
To finish off our meal, we’ll indulge in a handful of fresh cherries.
Everything looks and sounds great – I’m absolutely going to make this meal one day this week.
–>Ronell! How in the world did I miss this fabulous cooking blog of yours!! Ohmygoodness, one of my passions is cooking and I will be a frequent visitor here.
–>Thanks for the comments…happy you that you like it.
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!