Thursday, December 23, 2010

Galettes au saumon fume - Smoked Salmon Savory Crepes

There is something I miss about not spending the Holidays in France : delicate food all over the place and the endless conversations about food! At this time of year, it seems that the only thing French people are obsessed concerned about (beyond unusual heavy snow) is food. You can't miss it, it's all over the place (yes, more than usual!!) : on magazines cover, on TV, in every single shop in town, in supermarkets, etc.
Traditionally French people have two meals  : a small souper on Christmas Eve (originally a soup to warm you up after Midnight mass) and a big lunch on Christmas day. These days, people will choose from oysters, snails, smoked salmon, foie gras, boudin blanc, seafood vol-au-vent, fancy mushrooms feuilletés with truffle, crabs, lobster, coquilles saint-jacques, etc. On Christmas day, the stuffed turkey with chestnuts is common but so are capons, guinea fowls or any game meat. You might not believe me but a traditional public school Christmas lunch à la cantine would include venison (from public daycare all the way to high-school!!) And I am not even talking about dessert, marrons glacés ou les chocolats, let alone about wine and Champagne! A feast that everyone is looking forward to and won't feel too guilty about (because they eat a balance diet without snacks during the rest of the year!) And just in case you are not stuffed enough by reading this list, just bear in mind that French people tend to do it all over again on New Year's eve and New Year's Day! Et oui!
So yes, I miss that. I miss having a choice. I miss watching wonderful shop windows full of délices. I miss overhearing the conversations around food, the petits trucs exchanges among friends or colleagues to make a recipe really over-the-top. I miss the atmostphere it creates in France where, for once (and not because of strikes (or snow)), the whole country is fully paralyzed because it's engaged in food! Call me crazy... but I do miss it!
Smoked salmon is now ubiquitous in France and in the US (I purchase mine at IKEA, c'est pour dire!!)  and has therefore lost its "holiday special" place in our menu. My children love it on their bagel or mini sourdough crêpes... and I love it just plain with capers and lemon or, like here, in a savory crêpe. This is maybe my favorite galette ever... and just for that it deserves a special post, even around the Holiday season. Why? Because, like any other French citizen, I am thinking about what to make for Christmas Eve (lobster?) and for Christmas Day (capon? charlotte aux fruits rouge? snails?)... so I don't have much time to cook for the daily meals until then. So serving une galette is a perfect dinner option! Happy  Holidays and Bon Appétit!

- Recipe batter can be found here
- Smoked salmon
- Creme fraiche
- Chive
- Capers/dill/lemon
- Black pepper

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Thai Lemongrass Shrimp Soup - Soupe aux crevettes et à la Citronelle

We got our first snow in Philadelphia last week, which makes me long for warmer days already. Since I don't have a trip au soleil planned anytime soon in my agenda, I can only dream of these warmer spring and summer days... "les jours où on met juste une petite chemise, un short, et hop, on s'en va", as would my daughter say refering to the hot days when she only wears a short and a t-shirt!
Since it's winter, soups are au menu at least 3-4 times a week chez nous. And because I always try to introduce new dishes to my children, I have been making this shrimp version of Tom Ka Gai soup lately. I discovered Thai food while living in San Francisco... and can't get enough of it (and yes, I'd love to take a trip to Thailand to visit this beautiful country and eat more authentic food).  Same with my husband, who does not mind having "just" a Tom Ka Gai soup for dinner (if with shrimp, he is a little bit disappointed!). Same with my children who enjoy it but still prefer la Soupe Chinoise that they request more, especially when I am about to serve du potage aux legumes!
As I was serving this soup the other day, we talked about Thailand and the fact that one of his classmates was going to move back there permanently in a few weeks. H. then said "oh, il va manger de la soupe aux crevettest tous les jours alors?" (he is going to eat shrimp soup everyday then...). I don't know if Thai people eat shrimp/Tom Ka Gai soup everyday in Thailand... but I sure could have some often in the cold days of winter in Philadelphia! Bon Appétit!

- 1.5 L (6 cups or 48 Fl oz) vegetable (chicken) stock
- 4-5 shrimp per person ( or 1 or 2 chicken breast, cut in thin slices)
- 1 Lemongrass stalk
- 4 keffir lime leaves
- 1 cup mushrooms (shiitake prefered)
- 1 small piece of galangal
- a few fresh red chilies (2-3) (or red crushed pepper)
- 1/2 to one can coconut milk
- 2 Tbs (30 ml) lime juice
- 2 Tbs (30 ml) fish sauce
- Fresh coriander or fresh Thai basil
- sugar (optional)

  • In pot, grate the end of the Lemongrass stalk; cut the rest of the stalk and keep it for later.
  • Pour vegetable/chicken stock and bring  to a boil. Add shrimp/chicken pieces and mushrooms , reduce heat to medium-high. Cook until shrimp/chicken is cooked. Reduce heat to medium heat.
  • Add lemongrass stalk, galangal, kefir leaves, coconut milk, chilies and fish sauce. Cook for about 2-3 mn.
  • Reduce heat to minimum, add lime juice.
  • Adjust the flavor: if not salty enough, add more fish sauce, a teaspoon at a time; if too sour, add a few teaspoon of sugar; if too spicy, add more coconut milk; if not spicy enough, add more chili peppers.
  • Serve with fresh coriander or basil.
My Personal Comments
  • I serve this soup as a main course for our family. I add a little bit of rice noodle if I feel that they won't have enough that evening.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cilantro and Curry Gougères with/without Sourdough Starter

My dad is obsessed with enjoys to make un plan de table when there are a lot of us sharing a meal, even a casual lunch in the country. There is a whole étiquette about how to sit people : how do the host and hostess sit, who sits next to the hostess, etc. etc. I don't know all of it but have been used to be assigned to a specific seat often enough to master the basics. In our family, with the plan de table always comes the chair vs. stool assignement as well. The basics are here even more straightforward:  my mother will always get a chair and my brothers will most likely get the stools! Who get the remaining stools is always left at my dad's discretion!
When we got married, my husband made a short speech as we were all sitting for dinner. While I can't remember all of it (désolée, that was more than 9 years ago!), I do remember a comment he made about sharing meals with my family. It had caught his attention that the more meals he was sharing with us, the more comfortable my parents were with him (and wanted him to feel comfortable), the more likely he was to be assigned a stool (as opposed to a chair!) I found that comment hilarious and still laugh about it today! I thought about it because last night, we had friends over for dinner and because we were late feeding the children (our children plus my daughter's best friend C. who had come for a sleepover), we decided to have them sit at the coffee-table for dinner while we, adults, were having a drink. It was a great moment to share with the children (who were even happier to be able to share the apéritif with us to be honnest ( for once I did not make gougères but I have made this recipe for l'apéro in the past.)
One thing leading to another, the kids successfully asleep in bed, we, adults, ended up having dinner sitting around the coffee table as well. We did offer small IKEA chairs or my husband's grand-father's homemade stools... but eventually, we all sat down. Very casual! Very cozy... and very enjoyable! I'd love to do it again... but please, don't feel that we are not enjoying your company if you are not asked to eat at the coffee table!! Bon Appétit! 

- 40 gr (1.41 oz) butter
- 70 gr (2.47 oz) fresh sourdough starter (100% hydration) (if no starter, see note)
- 90 ml (3.04 Fl Oz) water
- 35 gr  (1.23 oz) flour
- 80 gr (2.82 oz) cheese
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 ts salt
- 1/4 ts curry powder
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped

  • Pre-heat oven to 400F (200C)
  • Bring water to a boil and melt butter in water.
  • Add sourdough starter and stirr
  • Add flour and stir; remove from heat.
  • Let cool for 2 minutes
  • Stir in eggs, one at a time
  • Add cheese, cilantro and curry powder and salt.
  • Scoop the dough (about one teaspoon at a time) and place the dollops on parchment paper
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown
  • Let cool and eat.
My Personal Comments
  • If you don't have a fresh sourdough starter, you can just add an extra 35ml of water and 35 gr of Flour instead.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lemon Poppyseeds Cake - Petits Gâteaux au Citron et Graines de Pavot

No "bon petit plat" on the menu tonight... so I figured I was going to bake some cookies for dessert in order to compensate for the lack of what-my-husband-would-consider-an-acceptable entrée.
The Holiday season being in full blast in the US, everybody is baking cookies... so I had my eyes on "sandies" cookies, a sort of Spanish/Mexican polvorones, which I just love. Back when I was working in San Francisco, a Spanish colleague of mine would always bring a few boxes back when he was going home to Barcelona for the Holidays. It was a real treat and I could have eaten the whole box by myself!
Today, I had all the ingredients ready, followed the recipe au pied de la lettre, made little balls and baked them in the oven. Only to discover, as I was checking for any sign of coloring, that CATASTROPHE, I did not have round balls anymore. Just flat balls! Why? I don't know. The recipe did not call for refrigerating the dough before baking the cookies and, for once, I really did follow the recipe! Oh well, tant pis! I'll try another recipe... I have not trashed them (unlike some carrots cupcakes I made the other day that were immangeables) because, as flat as they are, they do taste good.
Mis-happens in the kitchen happen to me. More than you would think, especially when I involve my children! I always laugh at myself... because, as I try to teach my children, there are more important things in life, than des petits gâteaux ratés. I always use my mistakes to build on the "trial and error" process that they should embrace instead of throwing out their markers because their dog does not look "comme un chien" (and when it comes to drawing, don't ask me. It's not in my DNA.)
I know that my children enjoy when I make mistakes in the kitchen : they can make fun of me, and that, they love!! They always try to give me advice (cute, non?).. so we talk about recipes, ingredients, and what we really would like to eat these days (my daughter said "des escargots" (snails that is!!)) My whole point is that it would not do anybody good to stress/be furious about mis-haps in the kitchen! Make fun of it! Have a good laugh with/without your kids! Engage them to try to solve the problems. They love it and are great support. "C'est pas grave, hein maman?"
So, flat sandies for dessert... but if I have time, maybe I'll make these little lemon poppyseeds cakes... but I don't have time to make lemoncurd to go with it. Une prochaine fois! Bon Appétit!

- 3 eggs
- 6 Tbs (90 g) sugar
- 1 Tbs (30g) honey
- 2 Tbs (60 g) heavy cream
- 1.5 cup flour (165 g)
- 1 ts baking powder
- 1/2 ts baking soda
- 7 Tbs (90g) salted butter, melted and at room temperature
- 2 lemons zested
- 2 Tbs (1 FLo or 30 ml)  lemon juice
- 2 Tbs poppy seeds
- 1/4 ts grounded cardamon (optional)

 For the syrup:
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1 Tbs (15g) sugar

  • Preheat oven to 330 F (165 C)
  • Melt the butter and reserve
  • In a large bowl, combine eggs, sugar, honey and lemon zest. 
  • Pour in the heavy cream and mix thoroughly
  • Add flour, baking powder and baking soda, poppy seeds (and cardamon)
  • Add melted room-temperature butter, mix well
  • Add lemon juice and mix well until smooth again
  • Divide in molds
  • Cook in the oven for about 20-30 minutes. An insert should come up clean
  • While the cakes are cooking, make the syrup by combining lemon juice and sugar in a sauce pan over medium heat for about 10-15 mn. The liquid should thicken a little bit. Let cool.
  • Spread over the cakes before serving or let people dip their cake into the syrup.
My Personal Comments:
  • You could make a whole loaf, add a little bit of cooking time
  • Perfect to serve with lemoncurd.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Weekly Menu - Week 15

Over Thanksgiving week-end, we drove to Ottawa to visit some of my husband's relatives. If it were not for the 8-hour journey, we'd go more often as we always have a great time up there!
Canadians don't celebrate Thanksgiving on the same date (it's in October) so my husband's cousins and uncle were working on Thursday and Friday. We did not mind because there are a lot of things to see in Ottawa, even with young children, and even when temperatures start to feel really cold.
Since we were "home" on Thursday afternoon, we had offered to cook dinner for the whole family. On our menu that evening (while most of you were having turkey...), we had a curried sweet potatoes soup (recipe to come soon), a boeuf bourguignon over pasta, and a tarte tatin for dessert (recipe to come as well). We cooked more than we needed so that Friday lunch/Sunday dinner were also taken care of! I felt that the least we could do was to help out with meal planning while we were adding extra chaos to an already-full life!
W's cousin is a physician and we talked about how she manages to balance her professional life with her family life (3 daughters, 2 of which are on a hectic gymnastics schedule; a one-year-old who is a real picky eater; a busy husband). One key element was meal planning. C. felt that if she did not plan meals ahead, then the whole week was going to be even more crazy! Having a meal plan was a relief in a way because she knew that all the grocery was already done accordingly (no last-minute trips to the supermarket), she knew that it was overall balanced... and that if a crisis was going to take place, she could always improvise an emergency dinner without damaging the overall balance of the diet! Since she works some week-ends and evenings, she knows that on those days, her husband (who is half-Italian) is going to cook pasta/pizza... so she knows that her meal plan has to offer more vegetarian dishes to balance out. Because she is the one making the veggies-dishes, her daughter always tell her "how much better dad's cooking is!" Unfair in a way because by making her husband's cooking/feeding life easier, she is actually making hers more difficult! Does it matter? Well, at this stage it does in a way because the girls give her a hard time... but hopes are that, in the future, when her daughters realize that the reason why they can still fit in skinny jeans is because they had a great diet all along, they'd be grateful to both their parents! That's what I hope for too when I serve Brussels sprouts to my family... (Okay, Brussel sprouts is maybe a little bit extreme, no?) Bonne Cuisine!

Weekly Menu - Week 15

DaySuggested Menu

MondayMoussaka with green salad
Homemade Plain Yogurt with Chestnut Spread
Fresh Fruits

TuesdayBrown Rice and Beans with Green Salad
Orange salad with Star Anise

WednesdayWatercress Soup with Gougères
Home made Plain Yogurt with honey
Fresh Fruits

ThursdayScallops with leeks dill and Orzo
Home Made Plain Yogurt with dark brown sugar
Fresh Fruits

FridayRatatouille with Quinoa
Pistachios Blackberries Cupcakes

Game Plan

Sunday Evening:
  • If you  make your own yogurt, prepare a batch for the week.

Monday Evening: 
  • You have to make the Moussaka. It requires a little bit of planning and is not an emergency dinner! 
  • Make more than you think you would need because it can be frozen.
Tuesday Evening:
  • You have cook the brown rice and make the fruit salad
  • Start by making the rice and veggies; while it cooks, you'll have time to make the dessert.
Wednesday Evening:
  • You have to make both the soup and the gougeres
  • Start with the soup.
  • While the soup is cooking, you have time to make the gougeres.
Thursday Evening:
  • You only have to cook the scallops and leeks dish.
  • Start by cleaning the leeks (if not using frozen ones). Assemble with the scallops
  • While the scallops are cooking, make the orzo
  • If you are feeling zealous, make the ratatouille for Friday evening and/or the cupcakes.
Friday Evening:
  • Relax, it's Friday!
  • Depending on what you prepared on Thursday, you'll have either to make both the ratatouille and the cupcakes or just one of them.
  • If you need to make both, start by pealing all the veggies to make the ratatouille. While the ratatouille is cooking you can prepare the cupcakes
  • While the cupcakes are cooking, you can make the quinoa.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Green Asparagus Velouté - Velouté d'Asperges Vertes

French people are known for making a potage (or soupe, the difference between the two words being less and less obvious) with any kind of vegetables... I actually grew up eating potage de légumes where "légumes" were potatoes, leeks, turnips, carots, celery, onions,  etc. and, if made by my grand-mother, some lettuce leaves as well (and I did not like lettuce in my soupe!)
I love soups so much that I actually don't mind having to make my own potage de légumes every week to use some fresh or in-the-bottom-of-the-fridge-forgotten vegetables. A scoop of crème fraiche and/or grated Swiss cheese plus nice homemade baguette, toasted pumpkin seeds and that's a full meal for me! Unfortunately, it's definitively not for my husband! Even if I add polenta croutons or small potatoes dices...
You see, my husband needs a "real" meal, and more precisely "un bon petit plat" as a main course. My friend C. and I had a good laugh talking about our respective French husbands who tend to think that a nice hearty soup, a quiche, socca, or even pasta don't qualify for "a real meal", even if everything has been made from scratch using fresh ingredients (and the occasional bacon!!) No matter how many hours we spend in the kitchen preparing daily meals, if no "petit plat", we know that our husbands will leave the table with some great disappointment despite a full stomach!  I don't know why this obsession with "bon petit plat" because, it's not like my mother-in-law, albeit a good cook, was cooking "des bons petits plats" every night for dinner when my husband was growing up! And it's not like any of my friends/relatives in France would cook "des bons petits plats" every night either! Once (or twice if you have guests) over the week-end is more the norm today!
What would qualify as a "bon petit plat" will you ask : boeuf bourguignonPotée Lorraineveau aux carottes would. Meat is obviously one key common denominator but poultry, let alone fish, don't qualify unless it's a choucroute de poissons (recipe to come one day).
The "bon petit plat" has become a joke in our family now... and having shared it with my husband's cousin last week-end, I know that C. and I are not the only one cooking most meals in our family and yet not being given full credit for it (maybe it's a men thing? Men with short memory when comes Thursday because they did have a bon petit plat over the week-end?) Do I care? No. I don't have the time or the desire to cook my husband's definition of "bons petits plats" more than once a week. Even if I had, I would not do it because it would not be healthy (it's not like my husband is burning 4,000 calories a day working in his lab!!)... And if I get more hints that it has been a while since we last had a "bon petit plat", I just remind him that, I have no, but absolutely no, ownership of quoique ce soit (laundry, cooking, financial planning, life organization, etc...) in our household and I ask him to go over the dishes he had over the last 7 days (because chances are he had one bon petit plat during that period!!)!
Obviously, this velouté d'asperges would never qualify as a "bon petit plat". Truth is that it has been very well accepted in our family, including by my children, as an....... appetizer.  How would you or your spouse call it? Bon Appétit!

- 1 bunch of green asparagus (about 1 pound), washed and cut
- 1 liter Vegetable (or chicken) stock
- A large potato, pealed and cut into small pieces
- Crème fraiche
- Olive oil, salt and black pepper to taste.

  • In a pot, saute the potato and asparagus pieces in olive oil until fully coated.
  • Add the vegetable/chicken stock.
  • Simmer until fully cooked (about 15-20 minutes)
  • Puree with an immersion blender
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve warm with a doll of crème fraiche.
My Personal Comments
  • Useless to say that I could have just a large bowl of this veloute for dinner!
  • I find that it works also well with frozen asparagus.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Glace à la Vanille - Vanilla Ice Cream

A recipe for vanilla ice cream? In mid-November? Yes, I know it seems a little bit off-season, (well, let me see, how off-season are the strawberries and raspberries I just saw at the supermarket the other day? Yeah, right. You see my point!) There is no season for ice cream in the US anyway ; there is only an annual peak in Summer months, that's all.  Numbers speak for themselves : on average, Americans (and 90% of American households eat ice cream!!) eat 21.5 quarts of ice cream per person per year. That's a little more than 20 liters (for my metric system-readers) per person per year (as opposed to less than 7 liters or 7.4 quarts in Europe!!) That's a lot of ice cream on the American market, so it'd better be spread over 365 days! But if so much ice cream gets eaten annually in the US, why don't Americans make more of their own?

My take on this is that ice cream is not considered a true dessert on its own in the US. It's an add-on to a dessert (the irritating ubiquitous "à la mode" option (which does not make any sense in French if you ever wondered)), a small treat, or worse, a snack after dinner! As a direct consequence, making your own ice cream is not given the same credit than baking another dessert from scratch! Nobody expects you to make your own (I can't remember eating homemade ice cream since I moved to the US) and if you do and serve it along a pie, chances are that people are not going to notice it. So why bother, really?  Well,  I think that it should change and that homemade ice cream for dessert should be re-instituted.
Yes, making ice cream (or sorbet) requires planning because you have to make it a few days before. It's also best if you have an ice cream maker... but at the end, it DOES taste better (not to mention the lack of additives/artificial ingredients) than any other commercial ice creams available around. And it costs much less than the Premium brands, even if you make it with organic ingredients. So why not try to make your own? Thanksgiving being around the corner, it would be the perfect dessert to serve instead of sugar-loaded pies! Put vanilla ice cream at the center of desserts.  Simple. Easy. Elegant... and made in advance! What else do you want? Bon Appetit!
Recipe by David Lebovitz
- 500 ml (16.9 Fl oz) Whole Milk
- 150gr  (5.29 oz) sugar
-  pinch of salt
-  250 ml (8.45 Fl oz) heavy cream
-  5 egg yolks
 - 15 ml (1 Tb) Pure vanilla extract
-  1 vanilla bean, cut open and scrapped

  • In a pot, heat the milk, sugar, salt and vanilla bean to a boil. Reserve and let infuse for one hour.
  • Prepare an ice bowl and pour the heavy cream in it. The bowl has to be able to accomodate the milk as well so use a large one.
  • Re-heat the milk. Pour it over the egg yolks and put the pot back on the stove . Over low heat, stirr constantly until the liquid thickens enough to coat your spatula.
  • Pour the custard over the cream and mix well. Add the vanilla extract and stirr.
  • Place in the fridge over night to cool
  • The next day, remove the vanilla bean and make the ice cream in your ice cream maker.
My Personal Comments:
  • Chilling the custard is key. 
  • You could make it 'lighter" by using half-and-half instead of the cream but the final texture will not be a rich. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Asparagus and Bacon Fettuccine

This is one of my when-asparagus-are-in-season emergency dinners or one of my for-lack-of-better-idea-when-asparagus-are-in-season dinners. I try not to cook pasta too often so as to be able to use them on these everyday occasions when my day did not develop the way I had anticipated or when I have no cooking inspiration!
On those all-too-frequent nights, some of you might consider take-out an emergency dinners solution. I don't. It does not even cross my mind that I could order food in a local restaurant when I need to prepare a meal in 15-20 minutes. I'd rather save my money to go out as a family or, three times a year and always on special occasions, to order sushis.  Worse comes to worse, I have frozen pizzas or fish fingers in the freezer, which I serve together with crudités (cucumber, tomatoes, avocado, etc.)
Being able to whip together a relatively healthy meal in no time is a skill that we all should have. Especially Including our spouses. It does not have to be fancy. It does not have to include meat/poultry/fish (which tend to take more time to cook anyway). It's just that we would all be better off with 3-5 emergency dinners recipes that we know are easy to make and, more important, widely accepted. It takes a little bit of planning (here I come again!) but trust me it's worth it. And being a SAH mom is not a reason why you (AND your spouse) should not have emergency dinners options available. Last minute changes of plans happen all the time in every family, n'est-ce-pas? And on those hectic evenings, it's nice to know that at least, dinner time won't be a battle (or an $$$-relatively-unhealthy take-out). If pasta and frozen pizza can't be your emergency dinners options because you serve them on regular nights as well, then try to cook MORE of the dishes that you can easily freeze: soups, casseroles, vegetarian dishes, etc. That way, on emergency dinner nights, you only have to open your freezer as opposed to your wallet. As you take a deep cold breath, relax, you know that everything is under control, at least when it comes to feeding your family that evening!  Bon Appétit!

- Fettucinne Pasta (preferably whole-wheat)
- Bacon (2-3 slices) cut into small bites
- Green asparagus, washed and cut into pieces.
- Parmesan, olive oil, salt and black pepper to taste
  • In a pot, brown the bacon. Reserve the bacon but keep the fat.
  • Add water and salt to the pot and bring the water to a boil. Cook the pasta in that pot. Drain.
  • In a different pot, cook the asparagus. Drain.
  • Assemble, drizzle with olive oil (if needed), parmesan and black pepper.
My personal comments:
  • If you have 5 extra minutes, you could add a chopped onion (which you would cook with the bacon)
  • If you have fresh cherry tomatoes handy, you could add them at the last minute for decoration and extra veggies.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Brioche au Sucre

While I feel that I am doing a good job at feeding my kids healthy, diverse and relatively easy-to-make food in general, there is one area that I am still not overly satisfied with : le goûter (or afterschool snack). It has been even more of a problem since my son started school in September. When he leaves home with my husband in the morning, he makes sure to ask me to bring "un petit goûter." When I pick him up from school, sure enough, the second he gets out, his first look goes to my hands to check whether I brought the sac du goûter with me (a bag where, in addition to the snack, I also carry wipes!!) If I do, he is happy: he goes on to play with his friends. If I don't, he asks whether I left the bag in the car (sometimes, I do, especially on the days when we don't stay long on the playground after school.) Depending on his mood, this can be the start of a meltdown. I know he is not starving. I know that he just woke up from his too-short nap, which can explain the grumpyness. But what I see is some sort of a Pavlov pattern, which is very common with young children (remember my post on snacking?), and, let's be honnest here, with adults too! I am not worried ; it actually makes me laugh to see him be so predictable! So yes, even the simple goûter requires some planning or homebaking!
Since I carry the goûter, it has to be something very easy to take with me. And us being French, it has to be sweet (ie, no cheese sticks or carrots). The easy options (and I look around to see what other parents are bringing) are cookies, applesauce pouches, or a Nutella sandwich when I make fresh baguette. I have also brought drinkable yogurts or flavored milk. These days, I bring some of the Halloween treats too.  To balance the snack (or to give me a better conscious?), I also bring fruits, which I would like them to eat first. In order to control for quantity, I give each kid (I drive my two children and another little girl) his/her two bags (one for fruits, one for the cookies/Nutella/Halloween treats). Je sais, je sais, it's not optimal for the environment, even if I try to recycle the bags! However, it is a very powerful to limit the number of cookies they'll eat otherwise. They know I don't bring more so this is it! And you know what, they are OK with it! And I know that they will be ready to eat a full meal when comes dinner time!
When I have time, I make chouquettes. I also made this brioche from Tartelette (while I am trying to make a nice brioche with my sourdough starter!!). It is a great alternative to cookies, it's different from bread and still goes very well with a little chocolate treat from Halloween. It's even better toasted for breakfast... but then again, if we eat it for breakfast, what am I going to bring for the goûterBon Appétit!

-  150 ml (5 Floz) whole milk (warm : 43-45 C (110-115 F))
-  280 g (9.87 oz) all purpose flour
- 1 pack of active yeast (7g)
- 1 egg
- 50 g (1.76 z) sugar
- 1/4 ts salt
- 15 ml (0.5 Floz) Orange Flower water
- 70 g (2.47 oz) butter at room temperature
- Pearl sugar for decoration
- egg wash: 1 egg beaten with 30 ml (1 Fl oz) milk

  • In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, yeast and sugar.
  • Add beaten egg and stirr
  • Pour warm milk and mix well
  • Add orange flower water
  • Add butter, one tablespoon at a time.
  • Transfer dough into a lightly oiled bowl
  • Cover with a table cloth and let raise for about 1 hour
  • When ready to bake the brioche, cover a baking sheet with parchment paper
  • Use flour to scoop small balls of dough. Place them on the parchment paper and use water to smoothen them. Let rest for 30 minutes
  • Pre-heat oven to 175C (350 F)
  • Combine milk and egg to make egg wash and brush on top of brioche
  • Add pearl sugar (push it into the dough)
  • Cook in the oven for  20-30 minutes or until golden brown. 

My Personal Comments

  • This brioche, also called Brioche des Rois, is very common in the South of France around Epiphany, when most French people eat Galette des Rois
  • You could add candied fruits on top/in the brioche but since I am not a big fan I don't use them much
  • You could make small balls for individual servings!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Chou Rouge Râpé - Shredded Red Cabbage

If you ever ate a few lunches in a French cantine (or with a French family), chances are that you were served du chou rouge râpé. More than once. Together with carottes râpées or a salade de betteraves, chou rouge râpé is a pillar of French crudités, especially in the Fall and Winter when other vegetables such as cucumbers or tomatoes are off season.
Interestingly enough, French people don't eat much cooked chou rouge whereas they will eat a lot of sauerkraut in the traditional choucroute. I have personally never made a recipe calling for cooked red cabbage (I know, I have to work on a borscht recipe) but enjoyed it the few times I ate it at friends' or in restaurants (yeah, I am the kind of person who would order cooked red cabbage!!)
Since I have had too much chou rouge râpé growing up, I have not been serving it much to my children. One day though, I found a nice chou rouge and decided that it was high time for my children to be introduced to what is a pillar of French cuisine. Since they like carottes râpées and coleslaw, I figured that it would be relatively easy to have them try du chou rouge. But because I was anticipating some resistance, I mixed it up with carottes râpées. And like for my carottes râpées, I used the finest blade I had on my food processor so as to achieve a very thin, easy to chew, consistency. I served it with a vinaigrette, traditional French dressing for crudités. The verdict? Well, it was not a franc succès but my kids did eat more than the required "try-spoon".
Because cabbage season is in full blast now, I am likely to serve them chou rouge râpé again soon. I like it more today than when it was served to us in the cantine... so hopefully my kids will get to like it as well. But no matter how much I would like to start cooking chou rouge, I think that I'll take the path of least resistance and keep with its raw version for the time being. At least with my kids. And even if kids are more likely to eat colored vegetables, between red and white, I'd rather see them enjoy sauerkraut! It will be a more useful taste to have for our future trips to France! Same with chou rouge râpé! So if you are planning a trip to France with your kids, even 10 years down the road, start feeding them chou rouge râpé today! Bon Appétit!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Edamame and Goat Cheese Mint Spread

When talking with friends and their family memories of shared meals, pique-niques, brunches or other unusual food events, it became clear that every family creates, one way or another, their family food tradition (in addition to the national food events such as Thanksgiving Dinner or the Galette des Rois.) Examples of French family traditions are two-hour excruciating Sunday lunch with extended family members (grand-parents or in-laws), Fresh croissants on Sunday morning, left-overs on Sunday evening (to recover from the extended lunch with the extended family), Saturday evening pizza, etc.
We had a few traditions in my family. No Sunday croissants unless there was something to celebrate (birthday for instance) but Wednesday lunch at my maternal grand-parents where the menu 99% of the time was white-fish with sticky rice (we loved it back then!!). My mother would have loved to have a drunch (dinner-brunch) on Sunday evening where we would put leftovers on the table and everybody would help themselves with whatever they felt like... but my dad would not agree and insisted on having an easy formal dinner that evening : coquillettes (elbow pasta) or oeufs cocottes (surprised eggs) became part of the Sunday evening dinner tradition.

As I am now feeding my own family, I have been thinking about establishing some traditions as well. While I'd love to go out for brunch on Saturday or Sunday, it is out-the-question for two major reasons: 1)  We don't have the financial means to go out for brunch everyweek, and 2) My husband does not like brunch at all! He needs his breakfast in the morning so by 11 am he is not hungry enough for omelette, French toasts, pancakes, sausages or whatever brunch menu!  And when we do have brunch (like twice a year?), by 3pm, he feels hungry again (I don't know how much of his hunger is real or just a result of his negative attitude towards brunch in the first place..). Lunch and dinners with extended family are unfortunately out of the question for obvious geographical reasons... So, as I have already written on my post on kale chips, we have been having our Friday evening apéritifs. And if we have friends over for dinner on week-ends, we'll serve it as well! This is something we all look forward to and my kids get more and more excited about it. We do have to restrain them from gulping on olives, guacamole, gougères, roasted chickpeas, kale chips, simple nuts or whatever I manage to put together like this Edamame and Goat Cheese Spread!  They (and they take it from me!!) could just eat apéritif munchies and be fully contented (that's why I generally feed them a proper dinner before). I find that our Friday apéros are an easy family tradition; a perfect time together to relax! What are your family traditions? Bon Appétit!
- 1 pound (450 grams) of shelled edamame.
- 1 small fresh goat cheese (about 100 grams or 3.5 oz)
- Juice of one lemon
- 1 or 2 sprigs of fresh mint
- Olive Oil
- Salt, black pepper to taste
- Hot peppers (optional)

  • Bring water to a boil to boil the edamame until fully cooked. Rince with cold water and drain.
  • Transfer to a food processor and add the fresh goat cheese, the lemon juice and the fresh mint. Blend until smooth, adding Olive oil to reach creamy consistency.
  • Add salt, pepper to taste.
  • Serve chilled with pita chips.
My Personal Comments:
  • You could add red onions or garlic and cilantro to spice it up a bit but I found that, for the children, this recipe with a little bit of Tabasco worked well.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Weekly Menu - Week 14

These days, I get too many "moi, je n'aime pas ça" from my daughter and "moi, va pas aimer" from my son. Of course, if one starts saying that he/she does not like what I bring to the table, the other one is very likely to jump and say the same. And obviously,  I don't like it when they say something like that. While I totally accept that their tastes might be different from mine and that tastes evolve over time, I just don't accept them making a statement BEFORE even taking one bite. It's part of our table etiquette and I really mean it (like using a napkin, not putting one's elbows on the table, etc...)
When I cook dinner (they bring their lunch to school during the week), I naturellement try to serve something they'll like. I am not in for a fight over food. However, I am also trying to introduce them to new dishes, so, of course, I am going to serve them things they have not been exposed to before or have been but in a different way. They might not like it the first time. They might not like it the second time. Even the third time.... but no matter what, they have to try it first before they affirm "je n'aime pas ça". Because, truth be told, most of the time, they'll like it.
Planning the meal for the week is a way for me to balance the easy-no-fight dishes (like socca) with the a-little-bit-more-difficult ones (like gratin de choux-fleur). It enables me to choose the evenings to serve one dish rather than another. It's easier to have them eat something they really like on a school night (when they are tired and we are on a schedule to put them to bed early) and keep the more challenging dishes for Friday evening or the week-end (that way, I tell them that they won't have it in their lunchbox the next day! And if we are having our weekly apéritif, I can always bribe them (yeah, I do that too!!). Bonne Cuisine!


DaySuggested Menu

MondayStuffed Tomatoes with Quinoa
Plain Yogurt with Chestnut Spread
Fresh Fruits

TuesdaySocca With Caramelized Onions with Green Salad
Crème Renversée au Caramel a l'Orange

WednesdayZucchini - Fennel Soup with Polenta Croutons
Homemade Plain Yogurt with honey
Fresh Fruits

ThursdayTuna Curry with Yellow Squash Over Rice
Pommes au Four (Baked Apples)

FridayGratin of Baked Fall Vegetables
Homemade Plain Yogurt with dark brown sugar
Fresh Fruits

Game Plan:
Sunday Evening:
  • Make the Tomates Farcies (Stuffed Tomatoes) on Sunday evening. It will save you a lot of time for Monday
  • If you are making your own yogurt, make your weekly batch on Sunday evening. 
Monday Evening:
  • You only have to re-heat the Tomates Farcies and cook some quinoa (15mn)
  • Make Crème Renversée on Monday. The longer the crèmes rest in the fridge, the better. If you re-heat the Tomates Farcies in the oven, then you don't have to re-heat your oven for the Tomates Farcies.
Tuesday Evening:
  • You have to make the Socca. If you are serving it with caramelized onions, then make the Socca batter and then while it rests, cook the onions. It takes a while for them to caramelize.
Wednesday Evening:
  • You have to make the Zucchini - Fennel soup and the Polenta Croutons
  • Start with making the Polenta. The Croutons need to rest a little bit in the fridge before you bake them in the oven. While they are in the fridge, make the soup
Thursday Evening:
  • You have to make the Tuna Curry, cook the rice and bake the apples in the oven.
  • Start with the apples. One they are in the oven, make the curry
  • While the curry is on the stove, you can make the rice.
Friday Evening:
  • It's Friday! Enjoy! 
  • You only have to make the Gratin. It requires a little bit of work to peel all the vegetables but worth it!