Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cold Celery Soup With Purple Potatoes

Soups are regularly on our weekly menu...and there is no exception in the Summer ( and I am talking Northern Hemisphere Summers!!) You see, when we were in the Alpsa few days ago, there were days when we were not taking our fleece away and even my husband who, unlike me, is not cold sensitive was not taking his away, c'est pour dire!.. Too cold.  On those depressing June days, hot soups were more than welcome! Une bonne soupe poireaux-pommes-de-terre with local cheese and cream! Delicious!
On hot days like today (temperatures reaching above 30 C or 86 F), cold soups are de rigueur.
In addition to being a way to feed more vegetables to my family, soups are also a good way to have my children drink extra liquids. Over the past few weeks, I noticed that my daughter was not drinking enough. When she is in school, she generally drinks a bowl of chocolate milk in the morning, then she has a mid-morning glass of water/juice in school and then she drinks from her water bottle over lunch and then again when she comes home at goûter and at dinner. On vacation, instead of increasing her water intake because of heat, she actually decreased it. And if there is something that is not good for anybody, it's not to drink enough. It's even more dangerous with girls as they tend to be prone to urinary tract infections that a lack of water only accerbate. I am now more aware of her need to be reminded that she needs to drink more. I keep telling her to "boire plus".... but as a way to increase her daily water intake in the Summer, I make cold soups as well.
This recipe for Celery Soup can be served both cold and warm. Because celery has a strong flavor, I used a few potatoes in the soup as well. And since celery is not my husband's favorite vegetable either (too many bad céleri rave salads growing up (a salad made of shredded celery roots with mayonnaise that was unfortunately a regular on our school menu)), I made sure to serve the soup with "something else" to make it more attractive. In this case, I used purple potatoes that I sauteed together with extra tiny cubes of celery in olive oil for a few minutes. This was a big hit among both my children and husband. My children had never seen purple potatoes before, so there was something new to eat...but to be honnest, I could have used regular potatoes and it would not have made a difference for them. Who does not like pommes-de-terre sautées? To me, it made a difference because the end-result was joli and appétissant. And that matters a lot, especially when cooking with root celery that is not attractive in the first place! Bon Appétit!

- One head of root celery
- 2 medium potatoes
- Light cream
- A few purple potatoes (optional), cut into tiny dices.
- Olive oil, salt and black pepper to taste

  • Start by pealing and cutting the celery roots.  Cut a few dices that will be sauteed with the potatoes
  • Peal and cut the yellow potatoes as well.
  • Saute the celery and potatoes in olive oil for a few minutes
  • Cover with water and simmer for 15 minutes until cooked
  • Using an immersion blender blend the soup. If you are serving it chilled, put it in the fridge for at least one hour. The longer, the better.
  • About 15 minutes before serving, saute the purple potatoes and celery root dices in olive oil.
  • Just before serving (cold or warm), add a few spoon of light cream
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve with purple potatoes and celery root dices.
My Personal Comments
  • I like it both warm and cold.
  • If you don't want to serve it with purple potatoes, you could serve it with a little bit of fresh chive or tarragon.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wild Blueberries Sorbet

I am back! Not in the US (not yet, I am taking European-style vacations!!!) but back to a high-speed internet connexion! We just spent a few days in the French Alps, in Le Villard, a tiny hameau (a village has a church, a townhall and sometimes a school, a hameau has none : it's just a group of houses that depend from a nearby village) near Annecy. [Note : I would highly recommend Annecy as a place to spend a few days in the Summer if you enjoy hiking or in the Winter if you enjoy skiing. You might even hear more about Annecy (and not just on this blog) because Annecy is one of the three cities competing (together with Munich in Germany and Pyeongchang in South Korea) to become host of the 2018 Winter Olympics.]
Whenever we go to Le Villard, we indulge in the local delicacies : cheese (Tomme de Savoie, Reblochon,
Beaufort), smoked ham and saucissons, wild bluberries pies and jams, Raclette, etc. We even drive 45 minutes to get locally made Reblochons and Tomme de Savoie. My husband calls it his commitment to the local Coopérative de Thônes, a place where local farmers bring their milk to make Reblochons fermiers (and yes, there is a code so as to what makes a Reblochon a Reblochon! It's France, after all!)

Our diet in the Alps has nothing in common with what we are used to eating otherwise. But it would be a sacrilège for us not to eat what we consider "local food". Because Le Villard is a place where we have many friends, we are always going from one apéritif to another apéritif. Everytime, we are offered homemade sweet wines made of walnuts, dandelion or other herbs I would not even be able to recognize! I like some better than others but I am willing to try them all, just for the local taste!
We manage to survive this culinary insanity rythm because we generally burn the extra calories hiking (and only stay for less than 2 weeks). Unfortunately for us this time, we got rain almost everyday for 9 straight days. We were extremely disappointed because we all had hoped to be able to go hiking with our backpacks and picnic (sandwiches made of smoked ham and Reblochon! Evidemment!!!). Instead, we had to limit ourselves to shorter hikes. On one of them we found wild bluberries or myrtilles sauvages. They were not ripe enough yet but good enough for all of us to eat some. Our children, who are used to American blueberries, were really intrigued by the tiny size of the local myrtilles. We had to explain that there are actually different types of blueberries and that les myrtilles sauvages are not common in the US.
I had been lucky to find frozen ones in Philadelphia back in the Spring and could not resist purchasing them: a little bit of the French Alps in the middle of Philadelphia? How could I resist? Since they were not sweet enough to make a tarte aux myrtilles, I made a sorbet instead.  A perfect dessert for any day when we feel like going back to Le Villard. Funny enough, sorbet aux myrtilles is not something you find much around Annecy! Pourquoi? Just maybe the local delicacies call for blueberry pies and jams... and nobody dares to change it! It's France afterall! But trust me, this brings a little bit of the French Alps to your table. Until you can go and set your table in the French Alps! Bon Appétit!

- Frozen wild blueberries, thawed.
- Sugar
- Water
- 1 lemon juiced
- Fruit liqueur (optional)

  • Prepare a bowl with ice cubes.
  • Puree the blueberries and drain to only keep a fruit liquid. Weigh that liquid.
  • You will need to make a syrup (50% water + 50% sugar) of equal weight of the fruit liquid. For instance, if you have 400 gr (4 oz) of fruit liquid, you will make a syrup with 200 gr (7oz) of sugar and 200 gr (7oz) of water.
  • In a pot, bring water and sugar to a boil. Boil for one minute. Cool rapidely in the ice bowl.
  • Once cooled, pour the syrup in the fruit liquid, add lemon juice (or liqueur) and place the sorbet in the ice cream maker.
My Personal Comments:
  • You could make it without an icecream maker : every 5610 minutes, you will have to stir the sorbet.
  • The Little Blueberry was made by Leslieyam whose Etsy shop is here.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Chili Con Carne

With Guacamole and Tortillas, Chile Con Carne is a Tex-Mex recipe (I would be ashamed to call it Mexican) that has made it to our home. I had never eaten red beans as a child even if their white-or-green colored cousins are a pillar of French recipes such as Cassoulet. Even Coco de Paimpol, a second-cousin of Cranberry Beans, have made it to French farmers' markets! But red or black beans? Nope.
As Tex-Mex restaurants opened in large cities and Tex-Mex food made it to some supermarkets, I am sure that we could find canned processed Chili con Carne in France today (I will double check for you one of these days). As usual, I am reluctant at purchasing something that I can make myself with healthier results (no added salts, no soy-based ingredients or other agents) and at a better price! I have therefore developed my own Chili Con Carne recipe. Some of you, especially from Texas, will disagree with this recipe. And that will be fine with me! I just think that Chili Con Carne is one of these recipes that is best adapted by the person who makes it depending on taste and available ingredients. As a French casual cook, I love to use shallots in my Chili Con Carne! Oui, des échalottes (French are the biggest eaters of shallots in the world so that you know!) The best indications that it's good enough are that 1) my children always want a second serving, 2) my daughter always makes sure that she can have some in her lunchbox the following day, and 3)my husband wants some for his lunch the next day as well! As a result, I always make more than we need for one meal and I know that it will eaten! Even with the échalottesBon Appétit!
- 2 small shallots minced
- 1 small green and 1 small red bell peppers, minced
- 2 large fresh tomatoes, diced
- 1 pound of ground beef
- 1 cup of cooked red beans (canned or freshly cooked)
- Cumin Seeds
- Olive Oil, salt, hot pepper sauce (like Tabasco)
- Grounded cumin, paprika and coriander (optional)
- A few sprigs of fresh cilantro

  • In a large pan, over medium heat, saute the shallots in olive oil and cumin seeds
  • Add the pepper and saute some more
  • Add the meat and saute the meat in the vegetables
  • Add the tomatoes and lower the heat and cook15- 20 minutes until the tomatoes are fully cooked.
  • Add the red beans and cook for another 5 minutes until the beans are fully cooked and warm
  • Season with salt, black pepper, extra grounded cumin, paprika, coriander, and hot pepper sauce to taste
  • Serve with fresh minced cilantro on top
My Personal Comments
  • I have made it with Buffalo meat as well
  • If you find that the tomatoes do not add enough liquid, you could use some tomato sauce
  • I have used canned beans when in a hurry.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Nutella Biscotti

Last week-end, my husband and I (yes, no children....hmm can't remember whent that happened last... but definitively enjoyable) went to Florence to visit our dear friend M., an American I met 15 years ago in California who is now married to a Florentin. I had not been able to attend their wedding two years ago and since they just had a baby boy, it was the perfect excuse to take another trip to Florence. Florence is only 5 hours away from where my in-laws live in the South of France. For us, who are used to American distances, 5 hours seem like "la porte d'à côté" (next door) and we are therefore not afraid to go there for 36 hours! However, a lot of French people who live on the Côte D'Azur have never crossed the border to go to Italy! And yet, Italy has so much to offer, especially when it comes to food!
What amazed us was the quality of the products we could purchase at the local farmers' market. Not that we can not purchase high-quality produces in the US but there, it seems that any stand at the daily farmers' market has the freshest produces to sell! Directly shipped from Southern Italy! And at half the price you could purchase them in Philadelphia! Talk about quality of life!
The other thing we realized is that there is hardly any food marketing targeted at children : there might be a box or two of American brand cereals with American cartoon caracters (or rather soccer players considering the upcoming World Cup in South Africa) but nothing in comparison with what you can have in the US, or France even. Italian children don't decide what they want to eat : parents do! Or so it seems!
There is one big exception to this observation though! And that's Nutella! In the center of Florence, you have windows where huge (I am talking 5 kilos) jars of Nutella are displayed, indicating that you can have whatever you want ( a crêpe, a gelato) with Nutella in it! My husband was in heaven, even though the jars were for commercial use only (i.e., we could not bring one home, which was better for everybody's waist line (yeah,yeah, French and Italian might have a great diet but we do put on weight while we vacation there!))

Because we do eat quite a bit of Nutella at home (out of the small jars, on bread, on crêpes or in cupcakes) and because I am trying to limit the purchase of industrialized cookies (read : no more butter and sugar but vegetable oils and high fructose corn syrup), I decided to make Nutella Biscotti a few weeks ago. I love biscotti  but I refuse to pay $$$ for cookies I can actually make myself. It might take you a few batches to perfect your recipe but it's really worth it! This particular one with Nutella is delicious : not too sweet but yet full of Nutella flavor! Biscotti and Nutella at the same time! Who would complain? Not my children! Bon Appétit!

- 100 gr (3.5oz) flour
- 100 gr (3.50z ) hazelnut flour (see note)
- 50gr ( 1.75 oz) light brown sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 60 gr (2.1oz) Nutella
- 2 eggs
- 60 gr (2.1) hazelnuts chopped

  • Pre-heat oven to 350F (175C)
  • In a large bowl, mix in flour, hazelnut flour, sugar and salt together
  • Add Nutella and stir
  • Add one egg and stir well
  • Add hazelnuts and last egg. Stirr well.
  • Divide the dough in two and dump them onto parchment paper
  • Work first half into a log about 20 cm (8") long, 5 cm (2") large and 2cm (4/5") thick; then second one.
  • Bake in the oven for 30 minutes
  • Take the logs out and place them onto a cutting board
  • With a bread knife, cut the logs into 1.5cm (2/3") thick slices (in diagonal)
  • Spread the slices onto the parchment paper again
  • Bake for another 10 minutes or until golden brown
  • Cool on a rack before eating. They will harden a little bit while they cool.
My Personal Comments:
  • To make hazelnut flour, I just grind whole hazelnuts
  • The biscotti are not very sweet, which I tend to like that way.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Veal Roast with Carrots

Tendrons de Veau aux Carottes is one of my husband's favorite entrees. It is a very traditional French recipe along the likes of Boeuf Bourguignon or Pôtée Lorraine.  And like many recipes mu husband likes, they remind him of his summers spent in France with his grand-parents when is grand-mother (and mother) would make traditional dishes for their family.
We would make it often in the US if only we could find the same cut of meat (at an affordable price.) That's another thing we have to adapt to when we travel : the way meat is cut! You would assume that meat would be cut the same way in France, Argentina, Chile, or the US! Et bien non! My husband being a vet by training, I have seen him engage with chefs or butchers around the world trying to find out which cuts of meat they were selling... or if we could find the cut we needed to make this or that particular dish! Sometimes with disappointment (like when we can not find tendrons in the US) or sometimes with great success (when we ate amazingly good and tender large huge pieces of meat in Argentina or Chile.)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Green Onion and Bacon Gluten-Free Gougères

From Belgium last week, we are now in the South of France, in Saint-Raphaël, about one hour West of Nice. The high-speed train TGV takes you from Paris to Saint-Raphaël in about 4h30 (vs. about 8 hours by car). I love the TGV! However, this line is extremely frustrating because in 2h30 you are in beautiful Aix-en-Provence... and for Parisians like me, Aix-en-Provence is already synonymous with le Sud and les vacances. Having to wait for another 2 hours to reach our final destination is almost unbearable. But worth the extra tantrums of my-over-excited-unable-to-rest-children!!
Le Sud is also synonymous with apéritifs or l'apéro : a social drink that people have before a meal (lunch or dinner!) while waiting for the other guests to arrive; or just the right time for a meal. No 6pm dinners allowed in this part of France. That would be a sacrilège! Acceptable time is around 8.30 pm with the apéro before!You really have to live for a few days in this part of France to realize how strongly the apéritif is anchored in people's life here. Pastis (an anis-based drink), a beer or a glass of Rosé are the most commonly offered drinks among adults in the South of France. I personally don't like any of them; I therefore have something else (with or without alcohol but I have shocked a few by ordering a glass of red wine! So Américain!).