Winter veggies


Oddly enough, we get some of our best veggies in the winter ~ 

Weekly veggiesFor the second winter in a row, we’re participating in a CSA (community supported agriculture). From a practical point of view, CSAs win out over traditional grocery stores: I get to order my food online, receive it door-front every Saturday and spend way less money than I would in the grocery store. (Our produce bill adds up to about $30 a week for the entire winter – January till end of March.) Plus, we are forced to plan a menu, which is automatically chock full of vitamins and minerals. It’s also fun to sample exotic (to us) veggies we didn’t know about before. Surely, you didn’t miss that terrifying looking growth front and center (romanesca). Just in case, here ya go again ~

RomanescaPart of the cruciferous family, romanesca is somewhere between broccoli and cauliflower, in everything from shape, to consistency, to color. We stir fried it last week with our winter broccoli. Not only was it deliciously sweet, but it also stood up well to being cooked. To try this week are rutabagas, which I plan to mash, similar to last winter’s since perfected mashed turnips. What veggies do you use during the cold months?

Soupe à l’oignon


I told you about the start of my Le Creuset collection last fall. It’s a bit irrational to feel such love for a piece of red enamel cookware, but let me tell ya, I really do love that Dutch oven. It’s the way slow cooking was intended to be done, as evidence by my first successful experiment with coq au vin, and then again, when I made a delicious (and easy!) French onion soup. (Of course in French simply known as soupe à l’oignon – onion soup). I used the recipe in my Williams Sonoma Paris cookbook. As you can imagine, some of the recipes in this book chock full of French classics can be labor intensive and complicated, but this one was a snap.  

I started off by valiantly trying to cut two and a half pounds of onions on the mandolin. Two problems arose: 1) I am not good with mandolins. 2) My eyes are extremely sensitive to onions, to the point that after two onions I couldn’t even see what was in front of me (onions). I just couldn’t face the remaining ten. Per usual, D rushed in and saved the day. He sliced all these yellow and reds up in no time flat ~

OnionsA bit under thirty minutes later, they looked like this, almost caramelized and meltingly sweet ~
Sauteeing onionsWe were both skeptical the entire two and half pounds was necessary, but they definitely cooked down enough to necessitate such a large quantity.  I opted to make one huge portion in a Pirex bowl since we don’t have anything that’s both oven-safe and larger than individual ramekins. Here’s what the cheesy, bubbly creation looked like all finished ~
Onion soupThe finished product tasted as cozy as it looks, and we had delicious soup for a week. The perfect wintertime meal!

French Onion Soup, adapted from Williams Sonoma Paris:

Ingredients

-2 1/2 lb of yellow onions (I did a mixture of yellow and red)
-3 tbsp unsalted butter
-1 tbsp canola oil
-Pinch of sugar
-Salt & freshly ground black pepper (I opted for chunky salt)
-2 cups light red or dry white wine (I opted for white this time, but plan to use red next time – the soup wasn’t quite as rich as I’m accustomed to)
-8 cups beef stock
-1 bay leaf
-6 thick slices coarse bread (I used a crusty baguette)
-3 cups shredded cheese, comté or gruyère (I did a mix of the two)

Procedure

1. Thinly slice the onions with a mandolin or knife.

2. In a large, heavy pot melt the butter with the oil over medium-low heat. Add onions and cover, stirring occasionally, adding sugar and seasoning with salt and pepper to your personal taste, until the onions are meltingly soft, golden and just caramelized. This should take between 25 and 30 minutes.

3. Add the wine, raise heat to high and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the stock and bay leaf, reduce heat to medium-low and let the soup simmer uncovered until it’s dark and fully flavored. (About 45 minutes.) 

4. Right before you are ready to serve, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and toast the sliced bread, turning once, until it’s golden on both sides. (About 3 – 5 minutes on each side.) Remove from the oven and set aside.

5. Remove the bay leaf from the soup. Ladle the hot soup into your chosen (oven-safe!) serving bowls on a baking sheet. Place toasts on top of each serving and sprinkle the tops and bread with a generous amount of cheese. Bake until the cheese is melty and toasts are slightly browned. (About 10 to 15 minutes.) Remove from the oven and serve at once.

I recommend accompanying the soup with a hearty red wine and a light green salad. Bon appétit !

 

A simple crêpe recipe


One of my *favorite* Christmas gifts this year was a crêpe pan. Have you seen one before? They’re very similar to a regular frying pan, but the edges don’t come up nearly as high, facilitating the flipping of that thin little pancake. 

Crepe pan

The one and only thing I accomplished on this year’s New Year’s Day was a mini crêpe extravaganza, something I plan to turn into a bit of a tradition. We were prepared with all the necessary batter ingredients and our choice of fillings. (No, vitamins are not a crêpe filling, they just happened to figure in the background.)

Crepe prep

I love classic ham and cheese (preferably grated gruyère) with a healthy dose of freshly ground pepper. I chose to double the batter recipe I’ll share in a few, which has allowed me to snack on my ultimate favorite treat, a crêpe nutella-banane, all week long. Délicieux.

Crepe nutella banane

 

Once you get the hang of having the pan at the right temperature (pretty close to high) and using the right amount of batter (about a 1/4 cup for a medium-sized crêpe), the rest is a piece of cake crêpe. You might mess up the first couple (one of mine landed in the burner flames, woopsie), but that’s part of the fun as you perfect your technique. 

Crêpes really are as simple as whisking together the ingredients listed below ~

-1 cup all-purpose flour

-2 eggs

-1/2 cup milk

-1/2 cup water

-1/4 tbsp salt

-2 tbsp melted butter

~ whose measurements I located here. Once they are all whisked, add 1/4 cup batter to a hot, lightly oiled pan. It’ll only take about a minute, maybe a bit more, for the super skinny pancake to cook through. Flip it when it’s safe to do so (it’ll start forming some bubbles in the middle) and then add in your chosen fillings. I added mine down the middle so that I could fold the sides in on another like so. 

Crepe jambon fromage

 

The last step (eating) is the best of course. Bon appétit !

Bonne année !


Bonne année à tous et à toutes !

It’s hard to believe I last artsdevivre’d almost two months ago. Eep. Things happen. Like life. Since I made that lovely coq au vin, we’ve been busy in our little corner of the world … D re-did our kitchen while I was in Michigan visiting my niece, nephew, brother and sister-in law for Thaksgiving.

La nouvelle cuisine

It was so sweet and thoughtful of him to take on such an aggressive project, and actually finish it (well!) in only five days. It’s so fun having the open cabinets I’ve been admiring for months on Pinterest. And the chalkboard paint is a super-fun bonus, too! 

I took on a few projects of my own (not nearly as expansive as re-doing the kitchen). I gave our front door a makeover, transforming from typical grey ~

Grey door

 ~ opting for a cheerful green ~

Green paint

I felt pretty nervous at how bright it was, but was ecstatic with the result ~

Green door

I love the contrast of the green door and black shutters. It was even more festive with this simple DYI wreath I hot glue-gunned together ~

Wreath

It was a bit perkier the first week in December than it is now (pesky gravity), but I’ll supplement it with additional ornaments next year.

We of course did the usual holiday rigamorale, spending time with friends and family (in person and on face time), sending and receiving holidays cards and well-wishes. 

Cards

I’m pretty militant about online privacy, which is why this one is blurred out. You get the idea though 🙂

I tried out new recipes ~

Christmas roast

~ learning how to improve ones like this simple roast via my personal favorite, the Barefoot Contessa (you really should cut a roast this thick in half to optimize a medium-rare temperature). I was fine with the end pieces, but the middle was really too rare for my family’s liking. I shockingly succeeding at intricate ones like an authentic French Bearnaise sauce. The key is to continue stirring for quite some time. (I think Maman and I together put in about 35 minutes.)

We celebrated NYE Charm City style, and were so ecstatic to happen on a small-time ball drop in Hampden, ‘hun. So fun and festive, I couldn’t believe we haven’t been attending annually.

I’d lost my motivation for artsdevivre the past couple months. I’m an habitual comparer of myself to others and was feeling frustrated with my utter lack of knowledge of photography and graphic design. I can’t give the time to this blog that I’d like, what with my job that actually pays me. But I started to really miss this whole process, from brainstorming, to documenting, to writing and publishing. So me re-voilà les amis. I don’t promise perfectly taken photographs (I’ll still be sticking with my trusty iphone, instagram and diptic for now), or super funky layouts but I do promise (most importantly to  myself) to continue documenting all the little daydreams and real-life experiences that add up to create the artsdevivre in our lives. 

Recipe highlights


Salut, les amis ! I hope you all enjoyed a beautiful fall weekend. I was so excited to get back to the farmer’s market and witness the amazing squash, pumpkins, gourds, pears and other fall-time treats. Secretly, I prefer the fall market to the summer. But I’m a veggie-a-holic so that makes sense. Here are some recipe highlights from last week, the first one headlining spaghetti squash, the perfect fall treat.

D claimed it was the first time he’s ever enjoyed this veggie I love to pretend is pasta. Maybe he was just being nice. But I have to admit, it was rather tasty. Mine was inspired by this recipe, but I think you really don’t need to follow any specific set of directions, measurements, etc. Do what looks natural to you and use the spices you prefer. Here’s a rough plan of what you should do:

1. Painstakingly halve the spaghetti squash. Be careful! Even with our amazing Shun knife, it was a task. 

2. Bake the squash skin side up, “meat” side down at 350 degrees for about an hour. 

3. Fork out the spaghetti squash and alternate layers, starting with squash, ending with cheese, of cheese (I did a mix of cheddar and parm – it was what we had), sliced tomatoes, squash and spices in a greased 8 x 11 baking dish. I did dried parsley and onion powder because that’s what the original recipe author called for. I substituted garlic powder with chopped garlic and basil from my herb garden for dried just because I always prefer fresh if I have it.

4. Bake the whole concoction for about a half an hour, uncovered, at 350 degrees. 

Next time around, I’m going to use a smaller baking pan (maybe my squash didn’t yield as much as hers) and go lighter on the cheese. I didn’t use all the cheese the recipe called for, and still felt there was a bit much (if it’s possible for there to be too much cheese, of course). 

The other yummy veggie recipe we tried last week was this absolutely delicious creamy avocado pasta that D made while I had parent-teacher conferences.

Normally, I can’t get him to crack a cookbook, but with my Pinterest craze we are trying lots of new recipes. It’s hard to believe this is vegan with the intensely rich creaminess the avocado sauce bestows upon the dish. (And I don’t mean that as a knock against vegans AT ALL, I’m just so addicted to cheese that I can’t imagine my diet without it.) D’s version was inspired by this recipe, but if you don’t feel like clicking through, follow these simple steps:

1. First pulse  3 large cloves of garlic, the juice of 1 lemon and 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil in the food processor. Then add two ripe avocados, 1/2 cup of packed basil leaves and salt to taste and re-pulse.

2. Then cook the pasta to your liking, drain and toss with the sauce. 

Délicieux ! My only caution on this one is to eat any leftovers ASAP since avocados spoil quickly once cut.

Kitchen organization


I get really annoyed with all that extra stuff – dish and hand soap, lotion, matches, kitchen candles – that tends to clutter up my counter tops, so I’ve been keeping all the runaways all together on a tray. Only thing is the one I have is oddly shaped for its purpose ~ 

So, I need a new tray. Par the course for moi, pulling the trigger and making a decision is not easy. 

Colorful? Love all of these.

{via}

Coral print? I’m not sure about the shape.

{via}

Sparkly? Yes, please. My inner bling is craving this not-so-subtle gold and pink number. 

{via}

Per the usual, I’m leaning towards the least practical option. However, I think I should follow the advice I give my students and “go with my gut.” Long live sparkle.

Birthday eats


If you join me here at artsdevivre regularly, you might have noticed two changes : 1) I’m really trying to post very consistently,  and 2) I’m developing a bit of a schedule: Mondays you find food and drink ideas and inspiration, Tuesdays house and home, Wednesdays travel, Thursdays Francophilia (a personal favorite) and Fridays are aléatoire (random). Just thought I’d point that out in case you hadn’t noticed 🙂

So, in the spirit of foodie Mondays, I thought I’d tell you about some of our culinary adventures this past weekend. We celebrated D’s birthday Saturday evening with friends and Sunday evening with his parents.

Saturday, we went to Pabu, an amazing sushi restaurant that lives at the 4 Seasons in the Inner Harbor. (One of D’s great friends from high school is actually one of the sushi chefs there!). Check out some of our beautiful plates ~

This was called a “Happy spoon.” Not for sushi beginners, it included uni, an oyster, ikura (salmon roe) and creme fraîche. I didn’t try it but everyone that did raved.

I love the presentation and mixture of color we got on this platter. The salmon, the tuna, the mackerel, the himachi and the cuttle fish were all fresh and delicious!

Yesterday, D fried catfish and made his homemade “Asian barbecue sauce” (it’s a hoisin-based sauce laced with soy, the perfect mixture of salty and sweet), for our version of fish tacos. I didn’t get around to photographing the tacos because I was too busy eating them, but I loved these vegetarian left overs ~

The green cilantro, purple cabbage, yellow corn and black beans are so pretty all mixed together. And actually make a yummy day after salad!

Since D is a chocoholic, I decided to make him a classic French flourless chocolate cake. It is not light – the only ingredients are eggs, butter, semi-sweet chocolate and sugar – but it is rich and delicious. I chose to sprinkle it with powdered sugar and whipped cream was an option (of which all four of us chose to avail ourselves)! This was the first time I’ve made a flourless cake and I’m thinking it’ll become a go-to. You can find the recipe I used here.

What did you nosh on this weekend?