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.