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!