Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cherry Almond Clafouti

Ma Fille picked a huge bag full of cherries when we were in Petit Village....you know about it right? You've seen it on the map, yeah?

It's cherry picking time in the South of France and you can tell because the cherry trees that line the roads in Provence are heaving, branches slung low, dazzling with deep red jewels. Fresh cherries. Ma Fille took her share.

And after we ate all we could, some of us (the Baby) not bothering to spit out the pits (don't ask how I know this) I thought it was time to try a new recipe.

Cherries are like manna from heaven. They're on the more expensive end of expensive seasonal fruit so when you have a bag bulging with freshly hand-picked cherries you have to use them up.
I asked your advice on twitter and considered taking it by making a compote. In the end I decided on a clafouti.

If I'm honest I chose clafouti over compote because I like the sound of it better. And then I could say this: 'Why not enjoy a Miss Patouti Clafouti'?

Cherry Almond Clafouti

2 cups pitted fresh cherries

1/3 cup or 70g granulated white sugar
1/3 cup or 40g ground almond powder
3 tblsp. flour

2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup /8 oz / 12 cl cream
1/2 cup/ 8 oz /12 cl milk (i used half-fat)

slivered almonds
powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350F/190C.

Pit your cherries. This is one of those times when you can get your zen on in the kitchen. I find these kitchen tasks quite absorbing and relaxing but maybe I just say that because I don't have a cherry pitter. It got kinda messy and now my favorite blue and white striped H&M shirt is spotted even though I was wearing an apron. Note: this is one of those times when a bikini under the apron would have been preferable.
{i heart my striped cherry stained shirt}

Put your pitted cherries in the bottom of a buttered or non-stick baking dish. I used a spring form cheesecake pan so didn't add the butter.

In a bowl, sift in the almond powder, flour and sugar and mix to blend.

In another bowl, whisk your two room temperature large eggs and then add in the cream and milk. Mix to combine.

Make a hole in the center of the dry ingredients bowl, pushing the dry mixture up the sides and gradually whisk in the eggy mixture. When it looks like cake batter, pour it all over the cherries.
Then, sprinkle on some slivered almonds.
And put it in the pre-heated oven for 40 minutes.
{ready for the oven}
A toothpick should come out clean and the spring form sides pop right off to release your Miss Patouti Clafouti.

Sprinkle on powdered sugar before serving.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Le Petit Village

I am proud to say that I have seen Le Petit Village. I have been to Le Petit Bar--met Fifty, the Parisian, Honey Jr., Child Bride, Le Petite Baby, Brother-In-Law, Vicky, and Gourmet Croupiere. You've not heard of her and this is my made up moniker but she's great; a friend of Sara and The Husband's who makes her own walnut wine, marinated wild mushrooms and an impromptu dessert for four of ice cream filled pastry with fudge sauce.

And of course there's Sara who I feel like I've known all my life. I always thought she and I were cut from the same cloth just from reading her blog but now that we've spent some time together I know it's true. She's like a blast of fresh Bestie air.
{me & my new bestie}
It's a strange thing, this living abroad. What happens is that you meet people and pretty much know if you're going to hit it off. You don't waste time in deciding because everything's all fast forward, English speaking, common connections bonding. Or it's not.

{La Gourmet Croupiere}

{view from the top}
My kids all have more than a small crush on The Husband, especially Ma Fille, and it's no surprise because he's so kind and gentle. My favorite thing was that the Middlest would only speak French with him and I sat there in awe of my son and how far his language has come in a year.

And then there's my French, which seemed to miraculously flow like the boxed wine as I told story after story. I really could not stop talking. Hard to believe I know, but true.

{Sara bartending...maybe this had something to do with my French}
Les Canadiennes came along on our Petit Village weekend so it was chock-full of kid mania and English speaking fun. I don't think the village knew what hit it and as I chased the Baby and the smallest Canadian around the cobbled streets trying not to fall and break my neck, crossing my fingers and cringing as they careened down hills, I wondered what the villagers must have thought. Oooh, la la there was a lot of English flying around those ancient streets.

{kids taking over le petit bar}

And then there's the food. You know that with me it's always the food. My favorite moments are when we're all seated, market chicken and potatoes served up with saucisses secs and fresh goat cheese, a glass of the pink stuff and laughter. Grateful doesn't begin to describe it.

Thank you, thank you to Le Petit Village and its welcoming arms.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Strawberry Cream--French & English Recipes

Ma Fille made this for dessert last night and it was heavenly. As usual we didn't completely follow the recipe--we're rogue apron wearers my daughter and me. 
I hope you  like what we came up with. 

Crème aux Fraises

500g fraises fraîches
25 cl de crème fleurette
2 blancs d'œufs
100g de sucre
1 c. à soupe de jus de citron

Lavez, séchez les fraises et équeutez-les. Coupez-les en quatre et mettez-les dans le bol du mixeur avec le jus de citron. Mixez jusqu’à l'obtention d'une fine purée.

Mettez la crème fleurette très froide dans un saladier et plongez dans un grand récipient rempli de glaçons. Fouettez au fouet électrique à vitesse moyenne. Ajoutez le sucre et mixez tout.

Montez les blancs d'œufs en neige très ferme à vitesse moyenne. Mélangez délicatement la purée de fraise et incorporez les blancs en neige. 

Répartissez la mousse dans 6 coupes à champagne et réservez au réfrigérateur jusqu’au moment de servir. 

Strawberry Cream 

1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries
1 cup or 1/2 pint of cream--in the US you should use half & half but in the UK use the type of cream you'd use to make custard or creme anglaise
2 egg whites
1/2 c sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Wash, dry and hull the strawberries. Cut them into quarters and put them in the bowl of a mixer with the lemon juice. Ma Fille used our handy dandy hand-held mixer for this. Mix to a fine puree.

Put the very cold cream into a bowl and then place that bowl in a bigger bowl full of ice. Mix the cream with an electric mixer on medium speed until firm. Add in the sugar and mix well.

Whip the egg whites until they are stiff with your electric mixer. Add the strawberry puree into the cream and then gently fold in the beaten egg whites.

Spoon the mousse into 6 champagne flutes and put them in the refrigerator until just ready to serve.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Les Cactus, Dragon Tails & Smelly Feet

Yesterday I went on a field trip with the Middlest's class. We didn't go far, just to the next town over. The kids at our school are pen pals with the kids there. They've been writing and sharing correspondence since January and yesterday they all got to meet. I missed out on the silk museum field trip but was quick to add my name to the list of helper mamans this time.

We left after lunch all climbing onto the big, hot bus.As you know, I've done this a few times for swimming lessons but it always takes me awhile to get used to all the kid French...it's harder to understand than when adults speak and they don't usually give visual cues like grown-up French do. Yesterday was the hottest day of the year so you have no idea how glad I was to be traveling for just five miles. The bus was hot, hot, hot and full of birds' nest smelling kids.

It was worth it though. Worth the smelly kid feet just to be there and watch my boy in action. I got a good idea of how it must be for him to be surrounded by French all day....and no wonder they're learning so quickly. Immersion or as the French say, 'un bain de langue' does make all the difference.

I was asked to help with the 'catch the dragon tail' game they played and did my concentrating hard face to understand the instructions the teacher gave. To the kids. I've been over generous with myself to think I'm on a 3rd grade level since I worked hard to follow the 1st grade teacher.

We shared a gouter (literally translated it means to taste but that's what they call a snack) and then the Middlests' class thanked their new friends with a few songs.

I don't know why this is true but it is; when little kids sing in French it is adorable, magical, très mignon.

And my guy sang right along, not missing a word or a beat and smiling, smiling. To say I felt proud isn't enough. I always feel a bit ridiculous at these things because of the tears that prick my eyes. Imagine how embarrassing it would be for the Middlest if his mother cried in front of his friends. It's bad enough that I mispronounce things and smile at him like a mental patient, so I controlled myself and no one even noticed that I got a bit misty.

After our kids sang, the other class wanted to share a couple of their songs too. They are all getting ready for the big end of school year shows so they've got a repetoire of songs at the ready.

So, cue the music.....this was the moment that the past and present collided in an absolutely hilarious way. Stay with me here. Years ago at home in Texas, way back when the Mari was just a boyfriend we'd hang out with friends listening to music, dancing and having a cocktail or two. (uh, hum)

One of the songs we loved to dance to was Les Cactus, sung by Vanessa Paradis. This was long before she was Mrs Johnny Depp. I loved the song and how she sang it and would shake and wriggle my 20 something tush off right along with her.
Fast forward to my 3* year-old tush sitting on a tiny person chair in a school in the South of France, mother of three, master of 1st grade level French.
The kids started singing Vanessa's song, complete with wriggle and 'Aie! aie! ouille! aie!' just like she did all those years ago. You gotta wriggle when you sit on a cactus!

And I felt like the perfect blend of my young and present selves these 16 years later, laughing inside at the sublime way of life; how it twists and turns and bends back on itself, surprising and delighting in equal measure. C'est la vie. Ain't it grand?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Transitions Abroad Winning Essay

A few months ago I entered a life abroad writing contest and was awarded runner-up. Hey, it's not first but it's better than a poke in the eye. My article was published online today and will feature in the Transitions Abroad magazine.

The magazine's director probably had a soft spot for my essay because he and his sister spent a few years in Nice when they were children. He says he still loves France and the opportunity to live abroad when he was a child has obviously made him who he is today.

Those of you who read my blog already know me well but maybe you'll find something new in my article. Thanks for sharing in my life and encouraging me to continue telling you about our experiences.

Love from my little spot here in the South of France,

Transitions Abroad Expatriate Life Article

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Seasonal Sunday--Beet & Chevre Salad with Toasted Almonds

I just realized how much goat cheese I use as I typed today's recipe title. What can I say? I love it.

Today's recipe is seasonal in the way that any salad is perfect in this warmer weather. At this time of year I basically live on some version of cold, fresh salad. This is one of my favorites and it is really quick to throw together.

Unfortunately, I'm the only one in my family who will eat beets so I make this in single size portions. I don't understand the beet naysayers. Beets are so delicious and healthy that I don't mind eating them nearly every day. I remember eating them out of the can when I was a little girl...I was always a bit of a vegetable weirdo.

This combination of  beets, goat cheese and toasted almonds with a small handful of baby greens is to me, salad perfection. Just be sure to wash your hands after handling the beets because they stain. I drizzle this with balsamic cream and olive oil and then a couple of turns of freshly ground black pepper.

Beet & Chevre Salad with Toasted Almonds, serves one

1 cooked beet, vacuum packed or canned
2 rounds soft goat cheese, no rind
small handful baby field greens
skinless almond slivers
balsamic cream
olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

Carefully drain and cut the beet into bite-sized chunks.Crumble the goat cheese into pieces close to the same size as the beets.
Put your handful of baby greens in the bottom of a bowl, drizzle on balsamic cream and olive oil.
Add in beet and goat cheese chunks.Toss it all around to coat all the bits in the dressing.
Dry toast the almond slivers in a hot pan, watching carefully so they don't burn and shaking the skillet around from time to time.
Sprinkle almonds on top and then add your pepper.

It's as easy as that.

Happy Sunday. We're off to the Medieval Festival this afternoon so I will fill you in on that tomorrow.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bunless Burgers with Eggs on Horseback--French & English Recipes

{here it is in all its deliciousness}
Today's recipe is famously Parisian. You can probably find this on the menu of any sidewalk cafe. The French don't eat eggs at breakfast like we're used to doing. They elevate the humble egg to lunch and dinner and serve it in ingenious ways. For me, a crazy egg lover, this makes perfect sense. I look for any opportunity to try a new egg recipe.

Remember the Parisian oeuf en croute?

I'm thinking of serving our bunless burgers with eggs riding horseback outside on the terrace with salad, fries (with mayonnaise of course) and a carafe of red wine. You should do the same and imagine you're on holiday in the City of Lights.

Bunless Burgers with Eggs on Horseback

1 1/2 lbs. ground meat, the best you can find or buy equal amount of chuck steak and grind it yourself
4 tsp unsalted butter
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
4 eggs
1/2 tsp sunflower oil
8 anchovies (optional)
4 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp capers 
1 tbsp chopped fresh flat parsley
salt & pepper
Mix the Worcestershire sauce in the ground beef and form four hamburger patties. Hide one teaspoon of butter inside each burger patty.

Put the burgers on a hot grill for three minutes per side. Check for doneness. If you made your own burger patties you can cook them more on the rare side. I'll cook mine medium rare here in France.
Remove the cooked burger patties to a plate and cover with foil. Let them rest while you cook the eggs.

Put the sunflower oil in a skillet big enough for all four eggs and let it heat until it runs along the bottom of the skillet. Gently crack the eggs in and let them cook sunny side up until the whites are firm. If you prefer you can turn them and cook for 30 seconds to a minute more to solidify the yolk a bit more. 

Put the eggs and two anchovies on each of the cooked hamburger patties. Cover.

Immediately make the sauce.

Heat four tablespoons of butter in a skillet just until the butter begins to foam. Add in the drained capers and chopped parsley and combine. 
Pour equal amounts of sauce on each burger, egg and anchovy stack.

Serve immediately. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

New Idea & Feature

I've been thinking. This sentence sends shivers of dread through Mon Mari. He never knows what it is I've come up with this time....and if it means he has something to do.
This time, I've been thinking. And it's me that will have to get busy.

You know how I said that I like to read French cookbooks and magazines to work on my French in a fun way? Well. What if I do a post a few times a week with a dinner recipe in French and English? Brilliant, non?

For you, really I am only thinking of all of you, this will mean a fun, French lesson PLUS a recipe to try. And for me, it's a chance to work on my French and a way to be more organized with weekly dinners.

Without further ado.....

Mardi Recette--Cake au Chorizo et aux Pomme de Terres

150g chorizo doux
150g de farine
2 cuilliere de soupe levure
3 oeufs
10 cl de lait ou creme legere
12 cl d'huile de tournesol
4 pomme de terres du salade
sel et poivre

Préchauffez le four à  180C/350F.
Éplucher et blanchir les pommes de terre jusqu'à tendreté et coupez-les. Coupez le chorizo en tout petits morceaux.

Chauffez 2 cl d’huile dans une poêle et ajoutez les pommes de terre et les morceaux de chorizo et laissez cuire 1 minute. Égouttez-les.

Cassez les œufs dans un saladier et fouettez-les. Incorporez dans l’ordre la farine, la levure, l’huile et le lait en mélangeant.
Ajoutez le chorizo et les pommes de terre dans la pâte. Salez, poivrez et mélangez. Pas trop sel car le chorizo est déjà salé.

Tapissez un moule à cake de papier sulfurisé. Versez-y la préparation.
Enfournez et faites cuire pour 45 à 55 minutes. Vérifiez la cuisson avec la lame d’un couteau. Sortez le cake du four et démoulez-le. 
Servez tiède ou froid.

Tuesday Recipe--Chorizo & Potato Cake

5 oz mild chorizo
5 oz flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
3 eggs
1/4 cup or 3.5 fl oz milk or light cream
1/4 cup or 3/5 fl oz  plus 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil
4 salad potatoes
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.

Peel and parboil the potatoes until just fork tender and cut them into small pieces. Cut the chorizo into small pieces.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a pan and add the parboiled potatoes and chorizo pieces. Let cook 1 minute.
Drain excess oil.

Break the eggs into a bowl and beat them. Add in the flour, baking powder, remaining sunflower oil and milk in that order. Mix well. 
Add the chorizo and potatoes. Salt and pepper and mix. Easy on the salt because the chorizo is already salty.

Line a loaf pan with parchment paper. Pour in the batter. 
Cook for 45 to 55 minutes. Test the doneness of the cake by sticking the point of a knife into the center. Take the cake out of the oven and remove it from the loaf pan. 
Serve warm or cold.

Any errors in conversion or French are mine. We're having this with green beans and a salad. And a glass of Côte du Rhône.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Seasonal Sunday--Asparagus & Chevre Mille-Feuille

As you all know, I love to cook. And I love to read cookbooks too. I'm one of those people who has a cookbook on my bedside table along with a novel and magazines.It makes sense then that one of the ways I like to work on my French is to read a cooking magazine that I buy at the grocery store every two weeks. It is full of great, doable recipes as well as a two week menu plan if you ever need extra inspiration. It's called Vie Pratique Gourmand if you're interested in finding it for yourself.

I found today's recipe in issue 213. It originally calls for courgettes (zucchini to we Americans) and I made it that way first. It was so delicious that even the kids ate it and they usually won't touch courgettes.
I had some fresh asparagus hanging around the other day so decided to try the recipe with it. It worked too. You could adapt this recipe in so many ways as long as you keep it light--it doesn't need oil or extra sauce and is beautiful in its simplicity. And no salt either because the goat cheese is salty enough on its own.

Mille-feuille literally means a thousand leaves; pretty, huh? It's called this because of the delicate filo pastry you use to make this looks like stacked crunchy leaves separated by vegetables and softly oozing goat cheese. In France this pastry is called Brick and you can find it in the refrigerated pastry section of any grocery store. But at home you should look for filo dough. It's what's used to make Greek dishes like spanakopita.

I hope you like it. It is a simple and impressive vegetarian dish to add to your repetoire.

Mille-Feuille of Asparagus & Chevre

8 leaves of Brick or Filo pastry
bunch of fresh green asparagus
1 tablespoon of butter, melted
1 log of goat cheese with rind--it melts better than the softer, rindless salad cheeses
fresh black pepper

Cut the pastry leaves into 4ths with kitchen scissors or a pizza cutter. Each stack of fourths will be one mille-feuille.
Wash, trim and cut the asparagus into bite-sized pieces and then boil for 8 minutes. Immediately plunge into a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking and keep it bright green.
Cut the goat cheese into rounds.
Melt the butter and get ready to assemble.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and make each mille-feuille directly onto it.
Put two leaves of pastry down for the base.
Then layer the asparagus and goat cheese on top of them. Add two more pastry leaves and brush the edges with the butter.
{i used soft goat cheese without a rind here}
Add one more layer of veg and cheese and then finish with the last four leaves, brushing each with a bit of the butter as you go.
And that's it. Super simple. Do that for all four and then cook them for 10 minutes in an oven preheated to 210C/410F.

Serve with a green salad for a perfect lunch or with a roast chicken for a bigger meal.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Argens-Minvervois in Photos

I hope you're all having a wonderful weekend. I'm just waiting for the Baby to break out in chicken pox and the big kids are recovering from a week back in school. It's lazy days here Chez Nous. 
Look for my asparagus and goat cheese mille-feuille recipe tomorrow--très French, light and delicious.
A demain.