Thursday, July 28, 2011

Black Olives Tapenade

I love olives.  I have always loved them and the story goes that for my two-year birthday a friend of my parents' gave me two olive jars. I was in heaven and did not bother playing with the doll I received as a gift! (hint: if you don't know what to bring to our house, good olives are always welcome!).
Being in France makes it cheaper to eat olives. Some of them grow just in your backyarkd if you live in the South of France... or just across the border in Italy or Spain or a little bit further away in Greece (but Greece is closer to Paris than San Francisco is to Philadelphia)...
Since we eat olives a lot in our family, my children have developed a good taste for them, including the spicy ones that we find at the supermarket.
My love for olives made me want to have a perfect Tapenade recipe to eat as an appetizer for our weekly aperitifs or just together with a nice salade composee for nice and relaxed Summer dinner. One that would not be loaded with salt and additives. One that would be smooth enough but with tiny bits of olives. This is not easy. I am not even sure this recipe is my favorite one. Why? Because I have not found the right olives to put into. I tried the cheap version with canned olives (yeah, canned, I know, I know) and it was tasteless. I then went the other extreme where I used cured black olives and that was way too strong (and too salty). Good thing I am in France these days, I'll be able to go and pick the ones I think would make a tapenade perfect. In the meantime, don't complain not to be in France (well, you can), but try to find the right olives near you and don't be disappointed if it does not work out great the first time. Trust me, when it comes to olives, you are on for major discoveries...I am still discovering some and can't wait to try new ones in the years to come!! Bon Appetit!

- 1 cup of black pitted olives (Kalamata would do)
- 1 clove garlic (you could put two if you like it a lot)
- 2 Tbs olive oil (a good one)
- 1 Tbs lemon juice
- 2 anchovies (optional)
- 1Tb capers (I put 2 because I like them a lot too)
- Salt

  • Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend until reaching desirable consistecy.
  • Add salt if needed (it will depend on the capers/anchovies).
  • Refrigerate
  • Serve with crackers, toasted bread.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Apple- Rhubarb Cake

One of the best things we did earlier this year is to join a CSA. We are luck to have a Farmers' Market just across from our building on Sundays. The place was meant for it (used to be one way way way back but only got used as a Farmers' market a few years ago). The farmers have produces that don't compete with what even Wholefoods would offer. We are talking about in-season, fresh (FRESH) produces, most of them organic. So yes, this is kind of our luxury because, let's face it as well, it's not cheap. However when it comes to purchasing veggies on Sunday to have enough to cook for the whole week (meal planning anybody????), it's worth investing in good fresh local produces.
The two guys we are supporting are called Tom and Matt. I admired their dedication to good produces. While we think we are having a hard time with the heat (who is readin this post in an AC room???), Tom and Matt are working their crop to make a living. That's just admirable. Merci Messieurs.
I'll have more to talk about Tom and Matt this Summer but one of the first produces we got in May was rhubarb. Lots of fresh rhubarb... so one day I decided to try it on a cake. It turned out to be a good cake, cholesterol-friendly to top it all. My son did declare that he did not really like rhubarb but it was just a one-night-only comment. The next day, he was happy to have another piece of cake!
I know that I should have published this recipe when rhubarb was in season. Oh well... you can always use the recipe to bake a cake with peaches these days... I can't wait to get some in my CSA box!
Bon Appetit!

- 200 g flour (a mix of flours would be OK)
- 2 ts baking powder
- 100 g sugar
- 1 ts cinnamon
- 200 g apple sauce (no sugar added)
- 100 g neutral oil (canola for instance)

  • Put all the dry ingredients in one bowl
  • In another bowl, mix in the apple sauce with the oil and mix into the dry ingredients
  • Bake in the oven at 360F for about 45 minutes

Monday, July 4, 2011


As I was driving the kids to school one day, we were behind a camion citerne (tanker) and everytime we are behind one, we play this game of trying to guess what it is inside the tank. I started that game a long time ago, trying to keep my children quiet in the car:  it was also a way to make them aware of how things move from point A to point B depending on their physical form.
Since we have played this game many times now (too many trucks on the Philadelphia highways!!), my daughter knows and start with the usual "orange juice, olive oil, water,". Picking up the game, my son started to say "apple juice, milk"... and then "beer". I started laughing! Soon enough he and his sister were saying "white wine, red wine, pisco!" We all started laughing...I felt that a stranger listening to this conversation could have thought that my husband and I are such heavy drinkers that our kids know all the names of the beverages we drink!! Yes, they tried a drop of Champagne at their christening; yes, they tried a drop of beer and wine; but no, we are not heavy drinkers! We just happen to enjoy a drink here and there (especially on our Friday aperitifs) and my kids just happen to be great observers...

Since it's hot these days, here is a cool non-alcoholic soup for you and your family. My children enjoy eating this gazpacho because they really get to chose the toppings they can eat it with! Worth the extra time to chop extra veggies to put on the table... Bon Appetit!

PS: And for those of you who had never had Pisco (a drink originally from Peru but which we discovered in Chile), here is a NY Times article I recently came across! We generally drink it with just lime, crushed ice and powdered sugar... but who knows, in a few years, my kids might add a few cocktail names to their "tanker list!"
- 2 large cans of whole peeled tomatoes (good quality)
- 2 fresh tomatoes, skin remove
- 1 cucumber
- 1 red onion
- 1 clove garlic

For garnish:
- Bell peppers
- Onion
- Croutons
- Cilantro/basil/chive
- Cucumber
- Tabasco
- Salt, black pepper

  • In a bowl, blend the canned tomatoes (including liquid), the fresh tomatoes, cucumber, 1/2 onion and garlic. 
  • Chill for a few hours
  • Serve cold.
My Personal Comments:
  • If I am able to plan ahead, I refrigerate the canned tomatoes overnight so that they are already chilled when I blend them with the other ingredients.
  • If can not plan, put the bowl in an ice-bath while refrigerating it. 
  • To peel the fresh tomatoes, drop them for 30s in simmering water.