Sunday, January 24, 2016

Tarte aux Mendiants & New Year Resolutions

Bonne Année! (I know, I know,  I am late.... but you see, in France, it is acceptable to wish people une Bonne Année!  until the end of January.... so I still within a reasonable timeframe!)

New Year is synonymous with resolutions... but there is nothing more difficult that trying to stick with them! Working for Wharton, I have come to reallly enjoy the research behind how people make  decisions (fascinating or depressing depending on how you want to look at it!). I particularly like Katherine Milkman's advice for making decision around new resolutions (published last year in the New York Times but still relevant) which she calls "bundling": i.e. allowing yourself to watch trash TV (if that's what you like to do but feel that you are wasting your time when you watch it) only if you are on the treadmill (which is what your resolution is all about.) (I know that January is the month when gym have the highest enrollment; I now wonder whether this is when Netflix has the hightest demand for "chick movies"...)

So no - I generally don't make resolutions... except that this year, I decided that I was going to get back to this blog more often than (argh!) once every six months! (I also have other things I would like to work on, but I'll write about them in other posts!)
What I decided is to cook a new dish every week-end.  Partly because I need to increase the pool of recipes I cook and partly because I like the challenge of learning new recipes...
Two weeks ago, I made Butter Chicken, which was a success among our family, which also means that I have to do it again to get a good picture to put on this blog... Last week, I made black-eye peas fritters - they were such a success that they disappeared before I could take a picture! While the Butter Chicken is a little time consuming and not that healthy (think cream and, well, yes, butter in no small quantity), the fritters are a piece-of-cake once you have soaked the peas....
As I try new dishes, I will try to engage our two children more as they have indicated that they wanted to cook with me more often. Perfect bundle: cook for our family while spending more time with them and learning new recipes! I might ask them to choose the recipe so that they end up cooking something they find (more) appealing!

As we were discussing this (and in a way, William was complaining noticing that menus don't change that much (read:I don't cook enough meat or dishes that simmer on the stove for hours)), our daugther asked him what he would cook if he had to cook everyday for a week (assuming that I had not prepared dishes in advance (as I always do when I travel); and he could not rely on frozen food nor take-out). His menu was something like: couscous, lasagnes, cassoulet, salade landaise, hachis Parmentier, choucroute, duck confit! Well, if it weren't for the lack of balance of this diet (our daughter did mention to him that the quantity of greens was really minimal!!), I would take him on the offer of cooking for a week or more just to be "off duty". That would be a great resolution on his part, n'est-ce-pas? I just don't know with what he could bundle it with because he is not the type of person who can do two things at the same time... Except that if he asks our children for help, he would end up spending time with them and that, as we all know, has no price!

Despite all this, I will have to credit him with making Spaghetti a la Carbonara last weekend (bacon, cream, grated cheese -  William's tastes, just there) but also with this impressing dessert he made for his cousins and uncle during our Christmas break in Canada. Note that this is one of the richest and sweetest desserts I have ever seen (William's tastes just there again!)  The type that makes most people sign up for a gym membership the very same night - and if they are bundling, would catch up with at least one full season of a TV serie on their first session!

As for my cooking resolution, a friend of mine just gave me a new cooking book with Asian recipes - so I now have plenty of recipes to try, hopefully with the children as sous-chefs! Be prepared!

The recipe for the Tarte aux Mendiants is from Cuisine et Vins de France and can be found here (in French).

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Petites merveilles de la nature

Following on my first post of the year around food waste (should be easy to find since I have not been able to post much in the first part of this year - work and family kept me really busy), I wanted to write about a campaign that a French supermarket chain, Intermarché,  launched to convince French consumers that ugly fruits and vegetables are not necessary bad to eat. To the contrary! The campaign was called "Les fruits et légumes moches" - an English version can be found here. 

What first stroke me the first time I came to the US in 1994 was the fact that apples were so perfect and so shiny in US supermarkets. "Standardization" has been the key driver of the food industry over the last decades. It's easier to ship; it's easier to store and display... and consumers tend to associate "good-looking" with "good taste" - hereby contributing to increased waste either at the production site or at the distribution.

Thanks to the positive results of this campaign Intermarché started offering ugly veggies and fruits in all its supermarkets ;other chains have jumped on the bandwagon, including in the UK and Canada.
While I don't know any US supermarket chain implementing such a campaign these days, I know that for us who are lucky to have access to farmers' markets for a few weeks every year, this is a place where ugly fruits & veggies are king! At the Reading Terminal in Philadelphia, one of the local cooperative was selling not only not-so-great looking produces but also had a box for older, slighly bruised apples at 50% off. These apples were just as tasty and wonderful for apple sauce! With an open mind and little bit of imagination, we should be able to use all these ugly fruits and vegetables....

Above is an example of a potato I received in our CSA box a few weeks ago and a carrott my brother-in-law purchased near Paris this past Winter. Petites merveilles de la nature... Délicieuses petites merveilles de la nature!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Poulet a l'estragon - Tarragon Chicken

It's Summer again and with it come all the herbs to spice up dishes! We grow a few on our rooftop - we gave up on cilantro and parsley because we eat so much of them that it's not "space-efficient". To much of my regret, we don't grow chervil either because it's too fragile. We therefore tend to have thyme, oregano, sage, basil, rosemary, chives, tarragon as well as mint. This year our tarragon is really enjoying the warm and damp weather - trying to move in with the oregano in the next pot!

My paternal grand-parents had a huge (OK, maybe not HUGE but it did look very big to me at the time) tarragon bush in  their garden in Burgundy. There was more tarragon in this garden that we could all eat and somehow, despite long cold Winters, it always came back for us in the Summer.
We would use tarragon to flavor the sauce vinaigrette (made with Dijon mustard, évidemment!) in our salades but as well as with cooked dishes. 
At home these days, I use it in pretty much every salad I make or in some hummus or other dips that we eat for apéritif or just with the rest of the meal. I recently made this Poulet a l'estragon and would encourage you to make it if you don't know how to use the tarragon you bought the other day or that your neighbor gave you! 
There are different versions of this dish - you could omit the crème fraiche is you wanted to keep it on the lighter side or if you are serving it with green beans or other vegetables that do not call for a sauce (as opposed to rice or potatoes which is what most French people would eat it with.) Some people add tomato paste in the sauce - nothing that I remember from cooking it with my grand-mother but why not...  I will leave it it up to you do improvise... Bon Appétit!

- Chicken (here again, you can decide if you want to use a whole chicken cut in 1/8 or if you'd rather use only chicken breasts)
- White wine (1/2 cup or 125ml)
- Chicken stock or water (1 cup/250ml)
- Shallots (minced) - I like them a lot so I use at least 4 or 5 depending on size
- Tarragon (at least 3 sprigs and 2 Tbs chopped tarragon as well)
- Creme fraiche (optional)
- Olive oil, salt and pepper 
- Salt & Pepper

  • In a pan, warm olive oil and brown the chicken to your liking. Set aside and réserve
  • In the same pan, saute the shallots in olive oil until they are golden.
  • Add the white wine and deglace the pan. Simmer until white wine redues
  • Add chicken stock (or water)
  • Add tarragon sprigs
  • Add the chicken back and simmer until the chicken is fully cooked (you can use a lid to ensure the sauce does not all evaporate)
  • Take the chicken out and place it in the oven to keep it warm
  • Add the crème fraiche in the pan over high heat and fresh chopped taragon - stir and bring to a boil. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
  • Pour over chicken and serve.

  • Sunday, March 8, 2015

    Cake Amandine aux Framboises - Almond and Rasberries Cake

    For the first time today, Spring seems to be coming to Philadelphia! All the more surprising that we got about 5 inches of snow last  Thursday! Patches of snow still remain in the city... but hopefully not for too long...  I get tired of snow in the city! It's nice for about 2 hours after the snow storm and then it starts to get dirty, mushy and sometimes really icy! Worst for all of us who walk in the city, the snow is pushed to the corners of streets so you can not cross the street on foot without getting your shoes wet!!
    My husband always makes fun of me because I put on my snow boots (or sneakers when it's dry enough) to get to work in the morning, something hardly anyone would do in Paris. I carry my dress shoes and  jacket in my backpack (another no-no in Paris) but I figured that if I am going to walk close to 10km (6 miles) every day, I'd rather be comfortable than stylish - at least for the communiting part of my day. It's also cheaper (my dress shoes last longer; I don't have to worry about orthopedic surgery!) and healthier (I used to log in close to 15,000 - 17,000 steps per day before I lost my Fitbit).
    I have been trying to have him walk more with limited success  - he likes the bus better except when there is about 5 feet of snow in the city and then he enjoys the peacefulness that comes with it and then he walks home! He might be the only one wishing for another snow storm in Philly in the coming days!!

    To celebrate Spring, I was thinking of making that Cake aux Framboises. I have made a few times in the past and it's always something our family enjoys.
    I know, I know, raspeberries are not in season in Pennsylvania yet... but it's a nice treat to celebrate the start of what I hope is going to be a season of wonderful fruits & veggies!
    Bon Appetit!

    - 3 eggs
    - 150g of brown cane suggéra
    - 150g corn flour
    - 80 g corn starch
    - 5g baking powder
    - 80g almond meal
    - 1 tbs vanilla extrait
    - 2 tbs milk
    - 150 g soft butter
    - 200g frozen raspberries
    - Fresh raspberries for decoration

    • Preheat oven to 360F (180C)
    • Butter a rectangular mold
    • In a bowl, cream the sugar and the eggs 
    • Add the corn meal, corn starch, baking powder and almond meal.
    • Add the Vanilla extrait, milk and butter and mix until you get a smooth batter.
    • Pour half of the batter in the mold. 
    • Make one layer with the raspberries
    • Pour the rest of the batter
    • Bake in the oven for 50 mins
    • Unmold - Eat cold with fresh raspberries.

    Saturday, January 3, 2015

    Pledging to reduce food waste in 2015....

    We just came back from a wonderful trip to Canada where we spent a week with my husband's uncle and cousins. We love going there for the company but also because we fully disconnect from our daily activities in the US (it's really the only time when William does not check his emails more than once a day, c'est pour dire!)

    William's uncle owns what-used-to-be a Christmas Tree farm in the Western end of the Quebec Province - 3 hours from Montreal but only less than an hour from Ottawa where William's uncle and his cousins live.

    We spend our days snow shoes hiking, toboggoning, skidooing, admiring beaver dams, or what nature has to offer (like this heart spotted by our son) but also just relaxing by the fire or in front of a good movie if the temperatures drop too low for us to go out (- 25C (or -13F ) being our it's-too-cold threshold; anything warmer is a "get-out!")

    The farm is on a remote road, about 10km from the main road... so we bring a week full of food (or we have to rely on hunting to survive!)... William's cousins have it all figure out - planning meals ahead of time - but always bringing more food than necessary just in case a big snow storm makes it impossible to get back on the road. At the end of the week, it's up to creativity to assemble meals from the leftovers and what has yet to be cooked before it goes bad. On top of our list was une soupe de légumes that used mushrooms, celery, tomatoes, onions, garlic with leftovers sauteed root vegetables. Served with crème fraiche, cheese and garlic bread it made a perfect Winter meal!

    Talking about food waste, we all pledged to make it our 2015 collective goal to reduce the amount of food that we waste in our households and talked about ways to go about this....
    A report summary from the Economic Research Service issued by the USDA in February 2014 reported that in the United States, 31 percent—or 133 billion pounds—of the 430 billion pounds of the avail-able food supply at the retail and consumer levels in 2010 went uneaten. The top three food groups in terms of share of total value of food loss were meat, poultry, and fish, vegetables,  and dairy products.

    Planning and creativity will be the top two skills to work on to reduce our food waste in the coming weeks and months. It will also save you money! So why not commit?!
    Making a "soupe aux legumes" at the end of the week is one way to get started! Another one is to plan meals for the week ahead and shopping with a list! Facile, non?

    Excellente Année à tous!

    Sunday, November 2, 2014

    A Post by our daughter : Le Punch du Soleil!

    I am Gaelle's  daughter.
    I know she talks a lot about me and my brother on her blog. I like most of her recipes but not all of them! This time I was the one to cook.I  made this drink called "Le Punch du Soleil". My mom liked it.I  added a little more fruits than the original recipe.(I like to improvise too!! )

    I hope you will like it!!!!

    For 4 persons you need:

    1. Press 4 oranges 
    2. Peel 1 pineapple and 5 kiwis
    3. Cut them in little pieces
    4. Then put them in a blender.
    5. Next pour them in 4 glasses and have fun drinking it!!

    Saturday, October 11, 2014

    La roulette russe: sauteed peppers

    One of my favorite part of the late summer farmer's market are the small peppers that you saute in olive oil until they are fully cooked and eat with lemon juice and sea salt. My friends from California enjoy them pretty much all year long (sigh! heavy sigh since I just came back from a two-day business trip to the Bay Area....) but back East, it's just a seasonal treat....

    Favorite peppers to serve that way are Padrón Peppers or the ones that we also find on the market (like the Bishop's Crown I got from Tom Culton Organics on the picture).   Unlike most peppers that are either sweet or really hot, you don't really know how hot a Padrón pepper is until you try them as only 10-25% of them are really hot...
    Last year, we bought many Padrón peppers that were really not that hot... but this year, the farmer warned us that some of them were actually much spicier than usual. And sure they were!!

    This is why we started calling it the "Roulette Russe" with our children when we eat these peppers... If you are lucky, the one you pick is not too hot; if you are unlucky, well, we have a nice slice of bread with butter ready for the unlucky eater! 
    Despite a few really really hot ones, our children have been enjoying eating them. We serve them as an appetizer, or a side dish or even when we do our Friday evening aperitif....
    Now if I could live in California... (re-sigh...)
    Bon Appétit!

    Sunday, July 6, 2014

    Filet mignon de Porc aux Raisins et au Cumin - Pork Tenderloin with Cumin and Grapes

    I was doing some "Summer Cleaning" yesterday (LOOONG overdue!!!) and part of it included getting rid of some magazines that had been piling up next to our bed. I don't purchase many magazines except for the New Yorker; I otherwise rely on my appointments here and there to catch up with past news... or to the free subscriptions I somehow receive. My husband only subscribes to professional magazines, which titles are only relevant if you are into veterinary ophthalmology research (anyone?).

    One exception are cooking magazines from France which my husband is really fond of.... He used to subscribe to one in particular when he was living in France (that was 14 years ago!) but kept an on-and-off subscription to that magazine since he moved to the US. While he has not had a subscription lately whoever comes from France knows to bring along the latest issue....
    What I noticed over the years though, is that the amount of magazines piling up/the amount of recipes indeed made is really high...  "No time, not the right ingredients, difficulty finding a recipe in all the magazines... ", any excuse is good for me to hear.  We tried to find a solution to the "recipe access" issue, sorting out some of the recipes he would most likely make and putting them in dedicated binders....  Despite all this nice filing and despite dozens of magazines later, he has made only 4 recipes (the Charlotte aux Fruits Rouges, the Creme Renverseà l'orange, a Soupe aux Fruits Rouges et à la Mascarpone and this recipe.) 4.
    My business hat tells me that 1) The magazine must be really excited about having such a loyal customer... 2) We should forget purchasing this magazine because it's a real waste of money, especially now that everything is a click-away... My supportive spouse heart actually loves having him dream in front of these recipes... but my practical head knows that I will most likely be cooking the next meals anyway (with or without a recipe from that magazine (because honestly, I am not a big fan of that cooking magazine myself)).

    He would argue that this is the same with me and the Elle à Table that I ask visitors to bring (or that I purchase while in France)... and this would be true except that I never purchase the magazines to make something; I only get them to get ideas and then improvise around because yes, I don't have time to make elaborated dishes anymore and I do lack some of the ingredients (or if they are available, what should be an affordable meal becomes very expensive....)...  and despite that, my magazines/recipes made ratio is much higher!

    One of the recipes he likes to make is this Pork Roast with Grapes and Cumin. I have come to making it myself as well (??!!) with generally great success -  it passes our children' "can-we-have-it-in-our-lunch-box-tomorrow? " test (i.e., a close to perfect score!))... and it's a relatively easy dish to make even the the night before...   so I would highly encourage you to try it out!

    In the meantime, I'll see whether we'll come back with new cooking magazines from our vacation in France! Stay tune, you never know what could be cooking soon in our family! Bon Appétit!

    - 2 pork tenderloin
    - 500 gr (1 pound) of white or red grapes
    - 200 gr (about 1/2 pound) of small pearl onions
    - 1 tbs honey
    - 30 gr (1 oz) butter
    - 1 tbs cumin seeds
    - Olive oil, salt and pepper

    • Peal the onions and reserve in a bowl
    • Wash the grapes and cut them in half. Blend about 1/3 to make a heavy juice. Reserve.
    • Salt and pepper the meat and roll it in cumin seeds (you can keep the tenderloin whole or cut them in chunks depending on the size of your cocotte)
    • In a cocotte, heat the oil and brown the meat. Once all pieces are done, add the honey and the grape juice. Cook for another 15mns.
    • In the same time, cook the onions in butter in a pan. Once they are cooked, take them out of the pan and drop the remaing grapes into it. Sautee the grapes for 5 minutes. 
    • Once the meat is fully cooked, take them out of the cocotte, and deglacez the cooking juice (scrapping the bottom of the cocotte very well) and let it cook for another 5 minutes to thicken.
    • Put the meat on a serving plate, laying the sauce over it and the onions & grapes around.
     My personal comments:
    • I generally cook the onions wih the meat and add the grapes a few minutes before serving so that they are cooked but not mushy.
    • I like to blend white & red grapes as well as white/yellow/red pearl onions.
    • I serve it with mashed carrots and/or rice.
    • You could make it with a pork roast - allow more time for cooking.

    Saturday, May 10, 2014

    Aragula Soup - Soupe à la Roquette

    Aragula ("roquette" in French) is a favorite green in our household. I don't know whether it was already common in the US in the late 80s  but I don't remember eating any in France growing up. Choices of greens for our salade verte were really limited to laitue, feuille de chêne, mâche et frisée (I promise to make frisée aux lardons one day - a favorite of my husband's but not something I ever ever enjoyed (even before I stopped eating meat)!)

    Aragula is something I really discovered in the US and have come to love (unlike iceberg lettuce).
    We could eat some everyday, especially when the other green options for our daily "salade verte"are iceberg lettuce or another unappealing romaine. 
    We eat aragula just plain with a balsamic vinaigrette, or in my home-made improvised mix-greens salad or other salade composée, on a white pizza or in a sandwich! Although it sometimes touches warm food, I had never thought about making it into a soup until I realized a few months ago that, because I was traveling a lot (hence the absence of posts since Feb! Sorry....), we were not going to be able to eat the whole aragula before it would go bad (and yes, it does go bad relatively quickly, even when we purchase it in a clamshell container (I know, I know)), I would have to come up with a soup. It was freezing cold outside (we had a LLOOOOOONG winter this year) and I figured that I could pretty much cook it in a similar way as I do the Soupe au Cresson
    Easy. Simple. Delicious. And a great success.
    To be honest, between watercress and aragula soup, I prefer watercress (if and only if, this is wild watercress (or watercress that actually tastes like watercress! (I have been disappointed sooo many times here...))... but making this aragula soup is a good alternative. Whereas the taste of aragula that can be pungent when eaten raw, it becomes milder in the warm soup - making it an easy alternative for children for instance. 
    I also think that this soup, or a slightly modified version of it, will be great served cold this Summer. Until then (I could eat hot soup every day), I know that I can go and purchase more aragula... we'll never run out of ideas (next on my list is aragula pesto (recipe anyone?)) to eat it all... Bon Appétit!

    Ingredients (for 4 persons)
    - aragula, washed and chopped
    - 3 cloves of garlic, minced
    - 1 small onion, minced
    - 2 potatoes, skin off and cubed
    - salt and pepper to taste
    - Olive oil

    • In a pot (with lid), over medium-heat, saute the onion, garlic and potato in olive oil.
    • Add about 3 cups of water
    • Put the lid on and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.
    • Immerse the aragula for two minutes
    • Blend thoroughly
    • Add salt and black pepper to taste .
    • Serve with crème fraîche, grated cheese, toasted bread.

    Saturday, February 15, 2014

    Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake

    A few months ago, I was in San Francisco and a friend of mine introduced me to a great local artisan chocolatier and we got to talk "excellence in Chocolate in the US and France" while visiting his atelier...  It was really fascinating to hear him talk about his passion for chocolate and innovation in chocolate-making... I do believe in "innovation" in companies; some of our Executive Education clients are actually coming to Wharton to get their executives to be more innovative.....  Obviously, it was even more mouth-watering to talk about innovation in... chocolate making! The very interesting thing he told me is that when he wants to bounce ideas, he calls up a French artisan chocolatier (excellent as well, trust me!!) and the two of them talk shop! From a business standpoint, this is really exciting to see two competitors helping eachother come up with another great product. It's a win-win situation: they both have something to win in coming up with new products because it will help their profession against the industrially-made chocolates that are out there and stealing some of their market share....
    I could not leave the atelier without purchasing some chocolate bars to take home to Philadelphia to share with my husband and our children. This started a discussion among us as we tend not to agree on what defines "un excellent chocolat"...  Like everything else in food, it does take time and experience to be able to distinguish and appreciate differences in chocolates... I am no expert... but do know that I'd rather not eat chocolate than a mediocre one... A real treat? A really nice piece of dark chocolate with an espresso after lunch (once all the dishes is done so that I can really enjoy my coffee!)...

    Despite all that I just wrote,  when it comes to baking with chocolate, I generally use the  IKEA dark chocolate bars.  IKEA chocolate??? Yes, I know that it is definitively not the best chocolate out there but it is good enough to bake a cake for a Sunday afternoon tea-break! This is my price/quality hat taking over....

    Here is a recipe I got a few years ago. This recipe is a great recipe, and not just for people who avoid gluten.... The best thing? It's even the next day.. so very practical when I don't have time to bake something on Sunday morning...  Verdict of the Chocolate-cake eaters in our family? They all love it! Would it taste better with a more-upscale chocolate? I am not sure. Will have to try! Bon Appétit!


    • 275 gr (9.7 oz) dark chocolate
    • 5 medium eggs separated
    • 175g (6.1 oz) sugar
    • 140g (4.9 oz) almond flour (ground almonds)
    • 1 TBs of rhum or orange liqueur (optional)

    • Preheat ovent to 170C (340F)
    • Roughly chop about 50g of the chocolate and reserve
    • Melt the remaining chocolate in the microwave or in a double-boiler
    • Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Gradually whisk in half of the sugar, a tablespoon at a time until incorporated - you have a soft meringue.
    • Beat the egg yolks together with the remaining sugar until pale and doubled in volume.
    • Carefully fold in the meringue mixture into the egg yolk mixture. 
    • Gently fold in the chocolate
    • Fold in the rest of the meringue
    • Fold in the almond flour and the chopped chocolate.
    • Add the rhum/liqueur.
    • Fold into a round mold and bake in the oven for 30mns. After 30mns, turn the oven off and leave the cake for another 15mns.