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 !

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.


I love pretty much everything David Lebovitz does, from his blog, to his book The Sweet Life in Paris, to his restaurant alma mater, Chez Panisse. (Well, that’s not entirely true. I really want to go to Chez Panisse. Embarrassingly, I have not yet spent any time in the Bay Area and therefore have not yet tried it. But I am dying to.)

So I was ecstatic to find this *pastry* app he developed. It fits the bill for most of my favorite things …

 

 … France, desserts and Paris! What more could a gal ask for? I can’t wait to try this out next summer, and experiment in previously unbeknownst-to-me sweets shops. Pierre Hermé’s macarons will never be replaced as my number one preferred, but that doesn’t mean I’m not willing to try others 😉 

Snickerdoodle dip


This may not look all that delicious …

but let me tell you this *snickerdoodle* (yep, you read that right) dip is the healthiest sweet treat you’ll ever taste. I wish you could taste before predicting the main ingredient, but given our platform, that would be a bit difficult, now wouldn’t it.

I’ll give you the recipe in just a moment before giving many thanks for this amazing recipe to prolific desserts blogger Chocolate Covered Katie. Katie comes up with the most amazing recipes that are so delicious that they not only tempt but practically beg you to have seconds and even thirds! The best part is, they’re healthy!

I was looking for a special treat to kick off D’s birthday last weekend, and figured this would fit the bill since we wouldn’t have to feel guilty indulging in it prior to our flourless chocolate cake. The sweetness of the dip combined with the salty Stacy’s pita chips we chose to dip it in was the perfect combination, and it transitioned well into last week. I enjoyed it warmed on toast with a sliced banana on top for breakfast. To enjoy this delicious treat, follow Kate’s simple instructions (which I borrowed from here):

Snickerdoodle Dip
(high-protein and gluten-free!)

Ingredients
– 1 1/2 cups chickpeas or white beans (1 can) (250g after draining)
– 3 tbsp nut butter of choice (or other fat source)
– 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
– 1/8 tsp baking soda
– heaping 1/8 tsp salt
– 3/4 c of brown sugar
– 1 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
– 1/4 cup ground flax or quick oats (20g) (you can omit)
– 2 and 1/4 tsp cinnamon
– optional ingredients: a pinch cream of tartar, raisins

Drain and rinse your beans very well. Blend all ingredients in a food processor (not a blender) until the mixture is as smooth as you can get it. Dip with salty crackers, fruit or toast!

CAN YOU BELIEVE THE BASE IS CHICKPEAS?! SO delicious 🙂

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?