Tabbouleh and Crudites


French people have much different eating habits than Americans. To describe it the best, you can say that “In France they live to eat, whereas in the US, we eat to live”. This means that French people live to enjoy the food and to savour it, while Americans eat to live. They eat for nourishment. And this translates in their respective eating habits. French people will not settle for a sandwich for lunch, instead they will have a long lunch that lasts 1 to 2 hours.

I don’t know if this is still done since the world is changing so quickly, but growing up I came home for lunch to join my parents. And after lunch, I walked back to school. See in France, lunch break for school and many companies is 90 minutes.

Anyway, since people have time to eat during lunch time, they tend to eat the copiest meal for lunch (and it is much healthier that way). Therefore, dinner is usually a lighter fare where soups, quiches, salads are usually served.

Today for dinner, we had crudites ( an assortment of fresh vegetables), Saucissons ( French salamis), Tabbouleh and Cheese.
Yum….

Anyway, I will share with you the recipe of Tabbouleh. Tabbouleh is originally from Lebanon. It is very very refreshing, and can easily replace pasta salads.

Ingredients for about 8 servings:

2 cups of bulghur wheat or ( couscous),1 1/2 cups of boiling water, juice of 2 lemons ( about 1/4 cups),  3 tbsp of olive oil, 3 scallions chopped thinly, 1 cup of fresh mint chopped, 1 cup of fresh parsley chopped, 1 cucumber (peeled, sliced and diced), 2+ tomatoes ( peeled and diced), salt and pepper to taste.


Place the bulghur wheat or coucous in a bowl and pour the hot water over it. Let it rest for 5 minutes until all the water has been absorbed, and the bulghur wheat or couscous is tender  and cool. Add all the other ingredients and mix well. Cover and place in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours ( overnight preferably: the longer it marinades, the more flavorful is your tabbouleh). I hope you will enjoy it. It is really really good!

Bon Appetit and Happy Cooking!!!

Pasta with Prosciutto and Toasted Pine Nuts


A few days ago, my sister and I went to Bordeaux for ” La fete du Fleuve” ( River Festival). Bordeaux used to be an affluent port in the past, so this festival is celebrating the history of the port and of the city.


For the occasion lots of merchants came to sell traditional pastries, clothes and so forth. Even people were stationed at different parts of the docks and were performing songs, dances, and fights.

Old ships were also displayed for people to visit, or to take a boat ride.


After walking along the Port de la Lune ( harbor classified in 2007 as one of the most beautiful site by UNESCO, World Heritage Committee ), we strolled through the cute streets of the town.

Since we spent the day there, it was quite late when we came home so no time to spend hours in the kitchen. Just like me, my sister looked in her fridge to see what she had and brewed something quite good even though I am not too pasta…

Ingredients: 1 small box of spaghetti or pasta of your choice. 1/3 lb of prociutto, 1/4 cup of pine nuts, 1 cup of heavy cream, salt and pepper to taste.

Fill up a saucepan with water and add 1 tbsp of salt. Bring to boil. When the water is boiling, lower the temperature to medium, and add the pasta. Cook until al dente ( about 10 minutes). Meanwhile, in a large sauce pan, saute the prosciutto that you would have sliced thinly ( as you would with bacon). When the prosciutto is getting crispy, add the heavy cream and bring to boil. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes until the sauce thickens, and set aside. In another small frying pan, saute your pine nuts on medium heat, but be careful to stir so they will not burn.

Drain your pasta, and place in a large bowl. Add the sauce with the prosciutto and the toasted pine nuts and mix well. Serve on each plate and sprinkle with grated swiss cheese or parmesan. Serve with a salad…. How easy was that!!!!!!:-)

Bon Appetit and Happy Cooking!!!

Moules Marinieres – Mussels


A few days ago, my sister served Mussels for dinner. She served them with Pommes-Frites ( fries). It is customary to serve mussels with fries in France. Mussels and fries is a regional dish from Belgium, and the North part of France. Actually THE National Belge Dish is Moules Marinieres with Pommes-Frites ( fries- I will not call them French fries since “French fries” are not originary from France, but rather from Belgium. Belges were the first ones to cut potatoes in long thin strips, and to fry them in 1680. Even though Thomas Jefferson was the first one in fact to attribute the word “French fries” to his fried potatoes, the term and the “thin fried potato” did not come popular in the Us until soldiers from World War I came back home. Indeed, when American Soldiers came into France during World War I, and were served  Pommes-frites (long thin rectangular fried potatoes), they assumed that they were French and gave them that name on their return to their homeland).

There are many ways to serve Mussels, but today I will offer you the recipe of Moules Marinieres.

Ingredients: 2 lbs of Mussels, 1 carott, 1 onion sliced thinly, 1 shallot thinly sliced, 1 garlic clove, 1 tsp of fresh thyme, 2, 3 laurel leaves, 1/4 cup of fresh parsley, 4 tbsp of butter, 1 cup of white wine, 1 lemon, 1 tbsp of flour, 2 egg yolks, salt and pepper to taste, 1/2 cup of heavy cream.

In a large saucepan, melt  butter and saute onions, shallots and garlic, thyme and laurel. Add the wine and bring to boil. Add the mussels and stir. Cover for a few minutes, and cook the mussels until they open up. Set aside. Meanwhile, in another saucepan, melt 2 tbsp of butter, add flour and make a roux ( cook until the flour turns golden), add 2 cups of the mussel liquid, stir and cook for 2 minutes.

In a bowl, beat the egg yolks with the juice of half of a lemon, 1 tbsp of melted butter and 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Add the mixture to the sauce above, and stir. Pour the content over the mussels, sprinkle the parsley over the mussels and serve.

Serve the mussels in soup bowls, and accompany them with Pommes-frites, and a Riesling or a Golden Ale Beer.

Bon Appetit and Happy Cooking!!!

La Fete de La Musique ( Music Festival)


On June 21st, two days ago, it was La Fete de la Musique. La Fete de la Musique also known in parts of the world as the World Music festival always occurs on the 21st of June. This festival has been taking place in all regions of France ever since 1982. It was initialized by Jack Lang, the then Ministre de la Culture Francaise ( secretary of State of French Culture). Today this celebration takes place in more than 110 countries worldwide, and counts more than 340 cities around the globe. We too went to the nearest Musical Festival which was in Arcachon.

Arcachon is a seaside resort located on the shore of the Atlantic coast in the region of Gironde in the South West of France. It is very close to Bordeaux.

On this typical night, people, like us, walk around the city and stop at the various stages set in all parts of the city. They listen to music, window shop, and eat on terraces of restaurants or cafes. After dinner, they walk around some more while enjoying an ice cream, a crepe or even a waffle.

 


We did exactly that. We walked around the city until 11 pm, and then sat for dinner. Late… I know… but we were not the only one.In fact, we even had trouble getting a table. We stopped at Pierre, a seafood restaurant. I wanted to eat mussels, but since my sister had planned on cooking those the following evening, I had to settle for something else.

So I had Fish Soup for my appetizer,

Scallops on a bed of cinammon apple and served with a vanilla and hazelnut emulsion for my entree,

and a cappuccino for my dessert. …Yum..

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sophie, my sister had Foie Gras poached in a poultry bouillon and served with a Rhubarb sauce

she then had Duck with a celeri, macarpone puree and a blackberry sauce.

 

And for desserts we all share the magnificient, so yummy, yet very very rich Chocolat Liegeois.


 

 

 

 

 

Well after all this eating, we were all so full that we had to continue our stroll along the shore of the ocean.

Though only a few souls were wandering the same streets there, in town it was still hoping on strong at 2:00 am.

It was fun!!!

Speculos


Have you ever heard of speculos? Do you know what they are?  When you flip a page of a cookbook, you will find recipes of anything with speculos. Foie gras with speculos crumble, speculos ice cream, Sea bass with speculos. It was so common to see this word everywhere that I started thinking that it was a new spice that I did not know about. Well, it turns out it is a cookie. Obviously a cookie that is quite fashionable here in France and in Europe. In fact, they seem to be the best sold cookies in France before Macarons…

My sister is an accomplished cook and baker. She loves to cook like me, but has a particular talent for cookies and cakes. In fact look at one of the centerpiece she made this spring for an event…. Puffs pastries in a shape of a wave.

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Unlike me, she does this for a living. She sells pastries, cookies and jellies to specialized stores and online. Check her out if you can: www.douceurs-et-candeur.com
She was just given a big order to deliver for the end of the week. A mere 200 lbs of various cookies. So guess what I have been doing? ….cooking…
It is quite fun. I am learning lots since baking cookies is not what I do often. Well, if you don’t know what to do for treats at Christmas time, bake those cookies. They almost taste like gingerbread.

The recipe for about 40 cookies:

1 1/2 cups of flour, 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of unsalted butter at room temperature, 1 egg,  8 oz of butter, 1 tsp of baking powder, 1 tsp of nutmeg, 1 tsp of 4 spices, 1 tsp of ginger, 1 tsp of cinammon.

In a bowl place all spices and sugar. Add the butter and the egg and mix until well blent. Add flour and baking powder and continue mixing. Shape a round ball with the dough, and with a rolling pin roll the dough out to a 1/2 inch thick. Place the dough in the refrigerator to cool. 3o minutes later, take the dough out and start cutting cookies in the shape of your choice. Bake in a warm oven for 12 minutes at a temperature of 356 F. Remove then from oven and let them cool at room temperature before placing in containers.


Bon Appetit and Happy Cooking!

A New Popular Dish in France: Tortillas and Fajitas….


I enjoy coming back to France every summer. I love to come here to wander around the streets and look at old buildings, I love to sit at cafes and watch people walk by, and I love to eat French food such as fresh croissants, scrumptious pastries, and French cheeses!!!

Though I love the United States and I consider it now my home, to me,  there are no country in my eyes that equates France.  Yet, over the years I have found that France is rapidly changing, and becoming more and more like America. People are wearing more and more American fashion. More and more American music is being played on radio. More than 75 % of TV shows on French TV are American shows that have been dubbed.  Even traditional French Brasseries, that used to only offer mostly French cuisine, offer American Cuisine. I was so surprised to see Fajitas,  Tortillas and Chicken Nuggets, and hamburgers, and mixed salads on menus. Though I understand that city such as Paris try to cater to the needs and likes of tourists, I found it sad that France is loosing somewhat of its identity by trying to copy the American Culture. Even my sister offer Fajitas for lunch on Saturday because she said that it was “in” and it was easy to make, yet very healthy. The main difference between she and a normal American, is that, she did not just buy all the ingredients, she actually made everything from scratch, even the tortillas. Simply amazing!!!!

Well, those tortillas tasted nothing like the one you buy in a grocery store like I do. They are so easy to make, I thought I would share today this recipe with you.

Ingredients for 4: 2 red bell pepper roasted in oven and peeled and sliced, 2 tomatoes diced thinly, 2 cups of lettuce chopped thinly as well, 1 small can of corn, 1 lb of ground beef, taco seasoning, 2 cups of cheddar cheese or monterrey cheese, 1 small jar of salsa, 6 oz of flour, 1 tsp of salt, 1/2 cup of water.

You will want to first prepare your bell peppers. You may buy them already roasted and peeled but in the event that you can’t find any. It is quite easy to do. Cut the bell peppers in half, remove the seeds and the inside, and place the bell peppers on a baking sheet skin up. Bake in oven at 375 for 30 minutes until the skin is starting to bubble and burn. Remove the peppers from the oven, and place them in a plastic bag. Let them cool off. Meanwhile prepare your fajitas. In a bowl, mix the flour and the salt, and slowly add the water and mix well. Out of the dough, make a ball that you will cut in 8 pieces. Flour a section of your kitchen counter, and roll each little balls out to make 8 disks of about 9 inches.

 

Turn up the heat on your stove to medium/ high and cook your fajitas in a frying pan for 1 minute on each side. Do not use grease or fat!!!! Set aside. Remove the bell peppers from the plastic bag, peel the skin, and slice the bell peppers in thin strips. Set aside.

In an another frying pan, melt 1 tsp of butter and when it starts to sizzle, throw in the ground beef. Cook the ground beef until it turns to a brown color. Add 1 Tbsp of taco seasoning and 1 cup of water and bring to boil. Season with salt and pepper if necessary. Place in a bowl.

To serve, place all ingredients in individualized bowls, and let everyone fix their own fajitas.

Bon Appetit and Happy Cooking!!!!

Creme Brulee…. Our Father’s Day Treat


What did you guys do for Father’s Day? Did your spoil your dad or even your spouse? Being far away from home, all I did was sent my best wishes to my husband and hope that my children had done the right thing…..?!?!

I was not at my dad either, but at my sister so I was not able to do a thing for him either…Oh well.

So guess what I did today? nothing!!!! which was quite nice. I enjoyed the day with my twin sister. We had a late breakfast and then we went for a long afternoon cross country ride in the surrounding forests. Sophie, my twin sister, lives near Arcachon which is located on the shore of the Atlantic ocean near Bordeaux. The landscape is quite amazing. There are large forests of pine trees, and many salty lakes. Not very far from where she lives, sits the largest sand dunes of all Europe. It is quite impressive! So it was really nice to ride our bike this afternoon in this beautiful landscape. When we came back though, we had to get back in the kitchen to prepare a good meal. After all it was Father’s Day;-)

This is what we had. Doesn’t it look appetizing?

On the menu:

  • Foie Gras
  • Mixed Greens with a walnut and balsamic vinaigrette and warm goat cheese on toasts.
  • Duck Confits with Pomme de Terres Sarladaises (Sauteed potatoes in duck fat)

and for desserts, we had Creme Brulee. Yummmmmm

As you see, I am not on a “diet”. I am trying to be careful about what I am eating, but when my sister says” You need to eat this, this is good for you…”, what am I to do?

I am not going to give you the recipes for everything because, 1. it would take too long, 2. i am not sure that you would actually cook things such as confit or foie gras…So I will share the recipe of the Creme brulee. It is fairly easy to make and such a delight to eat!!!

Ingredients: 10 egg yolks, 1 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 liter of heavy cream, 1 tbsp of vanilla extract, brown sugar to dust the creme brulee at the end.

Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until the mixture becomes almost white and has doubled in size. Warm the cream to boiling temperature and pour the cream into the egg mixture. Place the mixture on the stove at a medium/low, and keep stirring with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens a bit, and the cream can “coat” the spoon. Remove from the stove, and pour in small containers. Place the container in a tall baking sheet. Fill the baking sheet with water. And bake in oven for 60 minutes at a T of 257. When cooked, remove the containers from the oven and let them cool. Sprinkle brown sugar on the top of the cream, and with a torch burn the sugar until it become a thick layer of caramel. Let it cool and eat!!!

Bon Appetit!!!!!

Normandie: A must……


France is an amazing country for the variety of scenery and culture that it offers. Traveling through France is like visiting the surrounding countries that are adjacent to her. Indeed, Alsace and Lorraine are reminiscent of Germany, and Bretagne and Normandie, that of England and Wales. La Provence reminds you of Tuscany in Italy, and La Savoie reminds you a bit of Switzerland. Since our time was limited, all we could do was to go to Normandie since it was not so far away from Paris. The girls wanted to see the beaches of Normandie and more particularly the beach of Omaha ( where American Soldiers debarqued on D Day). Though their request was most honorable( I think most people in the world should one day go there to understand the magnitude of the war, and the sacrifice those soldiers took to come and help us),  I wanted them to see that there is more of Normandie that D Day. So our day trip took us along the coast of Normandie and Bretagne.

We first stop at Honfleur. A cute little harbour located on the coast of Normandie. It used to be a significant transit point for goods for England from the beginning of the 12th century. It became even more important during the 16th century as it saw the departure of numerous explorers. Samuel de Champlain departed from there in 1608, and later founded the city of Quebec.

The Port is quite charming with house of slate roofs and slate walls. While we were there, they were getting ready for a festival so they had flowers everywhere, and floats. Very very charming….

From there , we went to Trouville and Deauville. Deauville is regarded as the “queen of the Norman beaches” and one of the most prestigious seaside resort in all of France. It is often referred to as the Parisian riviera. Since the 19th century, the town of Deauville has been a fashionable holiday resort for the international upper class.

While Honfleur was a quaint little harbor, Deauville was overwhelming and ostentatious. Not really my cup of tea, but certainly something the girls had to see:-) After all Coco Chanel opened her first store there in 1912.

From there, we went to Trouville, a neighboring harbor. We had lunch there and ate the regional dish: Crepes… Yum

After that, it was the race against time to see as much as we could of D day. We drove along the coast to see the various places where D day took place from Sword to Juno to Omaha. We stopped at Omaha. I had already been there several times. I went as a child and went back with my children 8 years ago but coming back was as emotional to me as it was the first time. Standing tall on the cliff, and on those beaches makes you so grateful of the life we have today, and make you realize that our mere  thank-yous to Veterans and soldiers just cannot suffice to express our appreciation for what they did to deliver us from  evil.

Enough of my being belligerent. I am not here to bore you, but to tell you about my food experiences and my recipes.

So today, I am presenting you the recipe of  French Crepes because they are the regional specialty of Bretagne. They are the best there, and in Normandie, its neighboring region. If you have a chance to go to Bretagne or Normandie, though, do not forget to drink apple cider ( le doux is the best) with it.

Crepes are similar to pancakes except that they are as thin as cigarette paper. There are two types of crepes. The salty one made with sarrasin or whole-wheat flour, and the sweet ones are made with white flour.

Since my friends, and myself like the white-flour the best, today i will offer you the recipe of that one.

Ingredients: 11 oz of flour, 4 eggs, 1 1/2 cup of milk, 1 1/4 cup of beer or more. 4 tbsp of butter melted in a small bowl.

Take a large bowl and place the flour in the bowl. Curve a hole in the flour, and slowly pour the milk while mixing with a whisk. Be careful to whisk slowly so as to make the  mixture smooth and free of lumps. Then add the eggs one at a time and mix well. Add the beer and mix well also. The mixture should be smooth and liquid, but not too liquid. Turn the stove to medium high and place the frying pan on the stove. The frying pan should be hot before starting to fix the pancakes .With a paper towel or a brush, spread butter on the walls of the frying pan and pour a small ladle of crepe mixture. Move the frying pan in a circle motion so that the dough has spread to the entire surface of the pan. Cook for 1 minute. With a spatula, flip the crepe and cook for 1 minute. Place the crepes flat on a plate. Continue the process until you have exhausted all the dough.

To eat the crepes, there are many things you may do. I love them with sugar and creme fraiche. I spread a bit a creme fraiche,  sprinkle a bit of sugar, roll them in a cylinder or fold them in a triangle and eat them as such.

You can add nutella ( hazelnut chocolate spread from Europe) and whipped cream, jelly and whipped cream.

You may also make salty filling such as ham, mushroom and cheese. Your imagination again is your only boundary! So be creative!!!!!!

and Happy Cooking!!!!!

Easy Rye Bread


This would probably not happen to most people in the USA, as they are not much  bread eaters. But in France, when bread is part of the meal and French people eat bread with all their meals, bread needs be present on the table. So when dinner is approaching and all the bakeries are closed, what do you do? if you are my sister, you make your own bread.

The recipe is fairly easy, and is very healthy.

You will need the following ingredients:

11 oz of white flour, 2 oz of whole-wheat flour, 2 tsp of baking soda, 1 tsp of slat, 1 tsp of olive oil, 11 oz of greek yogurt ( possibly fat free).

Warm up your oven to 392 F. Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix it all together until a dough forms, sticks together, and no longer sticks to the wall of the mixing bowl. Place the dough on a plastic mat on the counter that you would have previously dusted with flour. Divide the dough in about 6 small balls of equal weight.

Shape them in small baguettes, by folding the dough onto itself and rolling it. Place the dough onto the baguette tray. Using a brush, baste each baguette with milk. Make 3 small incisions across the width of the baguette, using a razor blade. Dust each baguette with a mixture of various seeds ( sunflowers, poppy seed, oat, and flax seed). Place the tray of baguette in the oven. Quickly throw a cup of water onto the bottom of the oven for creating moisture, which will help the bake to rise and bake.  Bake for 25 minutes. Be careful not to overbake, so watch that the bread does not become too dark.

I love to make my own bread, but all the recipes I usually do takes several days. I am so glad that I was able to learn this new recipe. I will no longer need to go to Panera Bread or Publix to buy my rye bread. Yeah!!!!

Easy Appetizers: Petites Tartlets


Do you entertain? And if you do, what do you offer as appetizers to your guests? Like most of my friends, I would bet that what you offer is nuts, dips with salsa, maybe cheese with crackers. Am I right?

Well, I propose that you break from your “rut”, and impress your friends by offering a variety of small tartlets as appetizers. Even my niece who is 12 can make them all by herself, so i am certain you can do as good of a job too:-)

For this recipe, you will however need the small tartlet mold from Demarle that I sell, and you will need the tartlet scalloped mold cutter. Each recipe that I am proposing today will make about 30 tartlets per recipe, or per pie crust.

You can make a variety of flavors, your imagination is your only boundary;-)

We cheated here with the dough as we bought one instead, but making the dough from scratch would add considerable time to this recipe.

Onion and Thyme Tartlets:
You need: 1 pie crust, 1/2  of red onions chopped thin, 1 tsp of thyme ( fresh or dry), 1 egg. salt and pepper to taste.
Mix all the ingredients together, and set aside. With the small dough cutter, cut the dough in small circles, place each dough in each indentation of the mini tartlet tray. With the fork, make hole in the dough to allow the air to come out and your dough will not bubble during baking. Fill each tartlet with the filling ( 1/2-1 tsp) and cook in already warm oven at 400 for 10-12 minutes.

The Tomato/ Onion and Bacon Tartlets

You need: 1 pie crust, 1/2 cup of chopped very thinly tomatoes, 1/2 cup of red onions chopped thinly again, 1/2 bacon ( fresh and cooked, or bacon bits), 1/2 cup of mayonnaise, 1/2 tsp of fresh or dry basil.
Mix all the ingredients together, and set aside. With the small dough cutter, cut the dough in small circles, place each dough in each indentation of the mini tartlet tray. With the fork, make hole in the dough to allow the air to come out and your dough will not bubble during baking. Fill each tartlet with the filling ( 1/2-1 tsp) and cook in already warm oven at 400 for 10-12 minutes.

Cream Cheese and Chives.

You will need 1 pie crust, 8 oz of cream cheese, 1/2 cup of heavy cream, 2 Tbsp of fresh chives, pepper to taste.

Mix everything together, and spoon the mixture in each indentation. Bake for 10 minutes in a warm oven at 400 F.

Red lumpfish caviar and Cream

You will need 1 pie crust, 1 small container of lumpfish caviar (100 grams) of whatever color. 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Mix both ingredients together and spoon in each indentation. Bake also for 10 minutes in a warm oven at 400 F.

Bon Appetit and Happy Cooking mes amis…