Sunday, December 1, 2013

Cranberry - Orange - Ginger Relish

French people don't celebrate Thanksgiving and very few actually know that Americans get together with their family on that special Thursday in November to eat a Thanksgiving feast made of Turkey, squash and cranberries. This is not to say that French people don't eat turkey. I grew up eating roasted turkey (in a wood-oven mind you!) for Christmas lunch or New Year's lunch at my grand-mother's house when we would all get together with my relatives (about 20 of us). She would wake up really early to start her wooden stove and have the turkey ready by lunch time around 1pm. She would stuff the very local (I remember picking it up at the farm!!) bird with with shallots, oinions and chestnuts (no bread!)... and to this day, this is the best stuffing I have ever eaten (just maybe so because I love chestnuts in savory recipes...)
Although there were about 20 of us, the turkeys were much much smaller than the ones I have seen in local supermarkets around Philadelphia. No way she could have cooked such a big bird in her wood oven and have it ready by 1pm! When my parents come to visit and see the size of turkeys we all wonder how my grand-mother could have cooked such birds in her oven...

Turkey was served with additional chestnuts, cooked apples and maybe green beans... but definitively no cranberry sauce. French people don't know cranberries. Well, let me be more precise, the only French people I know who know what cranberries are (canneberges in French) are the ones who use it to prevent/fight UTI or the ones who traveled to the US/UK and got exposed to fresh/canned cranberries.....
I personally like cranberries but hardly ever cook them except in a pound cake/muffins where I mix them with apples and other Fall spices.  The other recipe I discovered last year through a friend of mine and have been enjoying (alone - no one else except my mom would eat it at home)... is this orange-cranberry relish.  I like it because I cut the sugar amount in half and let it "cook" overnight in its juice. I eat it as dessert or with some roasted winter squash and .... chestnuts.  I have seen this (or very similar) recipe in cooking magazines this year so maybe some of you just had it with your turkey a few days ago! If not, make it with leftovers/discounted fresh cranberries you can find around you these days. It's really worth it... and a most welcome change from the canned cranberry sauce I have tasted in the past! Bon Appetit!

Makes 8-10 servings

  • 1 orange, unpeeled and preferably organic, scrubbed
  • 2 bags ( 12 oz each) fresh cranberries
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar  (300 gr) ( I use anywhere between 1/3 to 2/3 of that depending on how sweet I want it)
  • 1/3 cup (2 oz) peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
  • Cut the orange ( with the peel on) into 16 chunks and discard any seeds.  Working in batches, combine the orange chunks, cranberries, sugar and ginger in a food processor.  Pulse to chop finely and evenly, stopping once or twice with each batch to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  • Transfer to a storage container, cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours to develop the flavors. 
  • Bring to room temperature and stir well before serving.
  • Can prepare up to 3 days in advance.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Coconut Chia Pudding

Don't ask me where September and most of October went... We have all been busy : first a professional trip to California (my first in 9 years! San Francisco looks even better than the last time I went there/when I lived there (but more on that trip in another post) ),my parents' visit (always a treat), a trip to France for work (VERY hard to say "no" when it was offered for me to to Paris!!), then friends' visit... and of course, the Rentrée des Classes (back to school) with homework, new activities, new friends, etc....

One of the things people who have come to our house discover is that, since I turned vegan a few months ago, we have a lot of seeds & nuts (in addition to other grains French people don't eat often like  Kasha, Quinoa or Millet)  in the house as I use them as a great source of proteins.
Among the cashews nuts (raw or roasted (always unsalted)), almonds, walnuts, soy nuts, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, peanuts, pistachios, pine nuts, Brazilian nuts, Macadamia nuts and other pecans, the seeds that trigger the most interest are Chia seeds. Most people have never heard of them; or when they have, they don't really know how to use them. They just know it's supposedly good for you because of their Omega 3-6 content...
I get the same question at work where some of my colleagues have started eating them...  No later than this morning, a colleague told me that she was putting a few in her tea; since Chia seeds become gelatinous, it reminded her of tapioca pearls...  I had never thought about this way of using them and will try it out...

I personally put them in yogurt or on apple sauce, never on anything salted for some reasons...
I have also used them to bind dough in cakes.... but most recently, I have been making Chia pudding. This is the easiest dessert to make and the options are endless when it comes to taste, texture and flavor.  I first saw this Chia pudding in a local restaurant and realized that it was really easy to make. I now saw some "Chia Pods" in the dairy section at Whole Foods (I have never tried them and will wait for them to go on major sale to purchase one : for the same price you can make about 10 of them, if not more)...
Our children do eat Chia seeds in their yogurt... and have been enjoying some versions of this Chia pudding.... so voila another easy healthy homemade dessert! Bon Appétit!


  • Chia seeds
  • Coconut Milk (whole, not light)
  • Agave syrup or honey for sweetness
  • Vanilla extract

  • In a large bowl, measure 1/4 cup of Chia Seeds. 
  • Slowly add 1 cup of milk, stirring a lot. Stirr more so that all the seeds get wet.
  • Add syrup/honey and sweeten taste.
  • Put in the fridge, stirring it frequently so that no chia seeds cluster together.
  • Serve cold with cut fruits (mango, cantaloupe, kiwi, strawberries, etc.)
My Personal Comments
  • I have tried it with Soy, Almond and Coconut milk. I prefer it with whole coconut milk.
  • You can play with the ratio chia seeds: liquid. I like it at 1:4 but some people like it at 1:3.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Cold Celery-Cucumber Soup

I just came back from two (too short) weeks of vacation in France where we spent time with relatives and friends in rural Normandie, Lozère (that's in the middle of nowhere France) and the French Alps (near Annecy - a city worth visiting both in the Summer and Winter!) Needless to say that we had a great time....

It was really hot (unusually hot for the season), which made us eat a lot of salades composées, generally made up with fresh vegetables from the potager. Spending time with friends who are lucky motivated enough grow their own vegetables in their potager (think fresh lettuce, peas,  tomatoes, fresh French beans, fava beans, zucchinis, eggplants, etc....) reminded me of my grand-mother's silly cucumbers & zucchinis!What I loved about gardening with my grand-mother in the Summer was to watch the vegetables grow and trick us into growing too fast for us to harvest and eat (hence a lot of canning!) My grand-mother got really upset when one zucchini/cucumber would escape her thorough gardening and hide from her to become so big that we could only puree them into a soup...

If you are feeling overwhelmed with cucumbers this summer, here is a quick recipe. I make this soupe froide a lot either with celery or with fennel. The recipe below is vegan (and my husband did say "hmm c'est super bon!!) but you could definitively use cream or yogurt instead of silk tofu and raw cashew nuts. Bon appétit!

- 2 small or 1 large cucumber (skin off but with seeds unless too bitter)
- 1 small celery stalks & leaves
- 1 small red hot pepper (optional)
- 1/4 cup of raw cashew nuts
- About 1/2 lb of silk tofu (250g)
- 2 Tbs of olive oil
- salt, pepper

  • In a blender, put the silk tofu
  • Add cucumber and celery (cut into small pieces)
  • Add cashew nuts, hot pepper, salt and olive oil
  • Blend until really smooth
  • Add salt and pepper to taste
  • Serve cold
My Personal Comments
  • In total I have about 7 cups (1750 ml) of ingredients in the blender (loosely packed)
  • The trick is to blend the soup longer than you would want at high speed so that it becomes really smooth.
  • I would add about a cup (250gr) of plain yogurt instead of the silk tofu.
  • If using fennel, two small bulbs would do the work.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

La salade composée verte....

May already went by, pff... And June also (re  pfff). I just can't really remember why it went by so fast.. but May brought our first CSA produces: fresh rhubarb, fresh asparagus, fresh French beans, fresh garlic, fresh lettuces etc.  Petit plaisir du dimanche... Nothing better than fresh local produces... Even though I have to be more creative when it comes to serving the same vegetables weeks after weeks... I feel fortunate to be able to have access to and be able to afford such produces. That said, I don't purchase ALL the fruits & vegetables we eat from the local Farmers' market. For once, it would require me to spend even more time in the kitchen to find good recipes to cook with the vegetables -I-could-only-find-at-the-market-that-Sunday. Then, I am not sure that my family would approve of eating within the limitation of this supply (Kale is definively not their favorite food.... yet!)... but more importantly, our already-high-food budget would explode...  So we compromise or, rather, mix-and-match.  When mix-and-matching, I use Farmers' market produces for dishes where they are served with minimum transformation and supermarket produces for the rest. For instance, if I am only serving a zucchinis compotée, I will use the Farmer's market zucchinis. If I am making a ratatouille, I will use the local supermarket ones. I am sure there is a difference. Maybe I would be able to tell it. Would it really matter? No. Will we enjoy the dish as much? Yes.
The only time when I don't compromise is when fruits or veggies (generally from the supermarket, including high-end ones like Wholefoods) have no flavor. I'd rather not buy these produces and fall back on something else, even if it means serving it twice the same week, than purchasing des fruits et légumes sans goût. Fruits AND veggies are meant to be flavorful. The flavor might be subtle (zucchinis for instance) or fragrant (raspberries)... but they have to taste flavorful! Unfortunately, for the sake of supply chain, supermarkets have been pushing for growers to forgo flavorful varieties (heirloom varieties, anyone?) to the benefits of varieties that can travel miles (some of which have been genetically modified to do so...). And unfortunately, some of these travel-resistent varieties do not taste as good (Canadian tomatoes exported to Philadelphia in February? Really??) It's a shame but not matter how many fresh produces I want to include in our family diet, I will try to avoid purchasing those as much as I can.  I want my children to know to appreciate fresh good produces and develop a taste for them.  I don't believe that they are too young to do so; they are already there when it comes to certain fruits (pears and strawberries especially)... so even if Kale is definitively not their favorite vegetable (yet!), I'll keep serving different varieties to them so that maybe, just maybe, one tastes better to them than another. I know what I will get at the Farmer's market this week-end....

One of the salade composées I have been making with our CSA produces is what I call my "salade composée verte" (as opposed to a salade verte, which in French, means plain lettuce). My sister-in-law made one for us last year when we were in Singapore to visit. Since then I have been serving it many times, and as usual, playing with the ingredients that are available to me when I make it. The key is to have a good balance between bitter-sweet and crunchy....It will work with whatever you get at the Farmer's market this week-end or at your local supermarket. No worries! Bon Appétit!

  • 1 cup of cooked Quinoa (couscous or orzo would be fine too)
  • Aragula or mixed greens thinly sliced
  • Green veggies such as asparagus, snap peas, snow peas, cucumber, raw fresh zucchinis, avocados, edamame, celery etc.
  • Toasted Pumpkin seeds (for added crunch)
  • Green herbs (basil, parsley, tarragon, chive, green onions) - I generally pick one only.
  • Feta cheese (if you have to have cheese in your salad)
My Personal Comments:
  • There are no set-proportions but you want the veggies to dominate (ie, you don't put as much quinoa/couscous); the balance depends on what you like and have available to you. If you have fresh zucchinis, then I would not use cucumbers or celery.
  • If I have vegan or lactore-intolerant guests, I serve the feta cheese on the side
  • I serve it with a regular sauce vinaigrette for dressing

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Lapin à la moutarde (yes, that's rabbit!)

Whenever we have friends over, I ask them whether they have any dietary restrictions. I did not use to do it at first because it is was very uncommon in France to do so. You just assumed everybody was eating the same food you did... and that, if they did not, they would eat it anyway to be polite! Things changed as the French society opened up: you knew you were not going to serve pork to Muslim or some Jewish people; more people became vegetarian... but it is still a question that most people don't ask. If you are invited and are vegetarian or have a serious allergic reaction to a food ingredient, is is OK to actually tell your hosts about it. You might put them outside of their comfort zone but they will accomodate (and tell their friends how much of an effort it was to accomodate you! But they will be very proud!)

Having lived (and cooked) in the US for many years, this is something that comes naturally to me now... However, beyond the obvious religous-allergic-medical restrictions, the main reason I ask is to make sure that our guests will enjoy the dinning experience as much as they should. Having witnessed rather (very) awkward situations where the dish I serve is obviously not our guest's favorite, asking prior to hosting helps avoid such situations... I also ask because when people tell me that "they eat everything", the "everything" I have in mind is definitively not the "everything" our guests eat by...
No doubt about it, culturally-eating, we all come from different backgrounds.... When Americans tell me that "they eat everything", I have come to narrow it down to poultry, beef, shrimp, and fish in fillet. I generally have to ask back whether they eat pork, lamb, veal, duck or seafood... I just never ask about rabbit.... When Asian friends of ours come and tell me "we eat everything", I know that I have a little bit more choices... but I do have to ask whether they eat seafood (beyond shrimp) and rabbit. I also know that most of them don't care much for strongly-flavored cheese. When French friends come over, I know that my options are almost unlimited. If our friends live in France and are just visiting, I try to introduce them to American food I have come to love and that are hard to find in France to broaden their culinary horizon: wild rice, sweet potatoes, parnsnips, blue corn chips, corn on the cob, corn bread, cranberries, etc. If our French friends live in the US, then the options are unlimited except for snails which, despite cultural clichés, not all French people enjoy (my mother does not like them for instance; our children LOVE them)...If we are hosting a big party for my husband's lab for instance, I make a mix of everything so that everybody has a few safe options to choose from as well as new dishes to try to expand their culinary horizon. Lapin à la moutarde, anyone? Bon Appétit!


  • 1 rabbit cut in small pieces 
  • Shallots (the more, the better) - cut in 4-6 pieces each.
  • Bay leaves (1 or 2) or/and Fresh thyme 
  • 1 cup (250ml) White wine 
  • Salt, pepper 
  • 2 tbs Dijon mustard 
  • Olive oil 
  • White All purpose flour
  • Parsley (for garnish)

  • In a large pot (I use a cast iron pot with lid), heat some olive oil
  • Coat the rabbit pieces in white flour and brown in the hot olive oil. Once brown, take the meat out of the pot.
  • Pour some white wine and scratch the bottom of the pot.
  • Add the mustard and stirr well; season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add the shallots, bay leaves and thyme and saute for a few minutes
  • Add the meat back, lower the temperature and cook for one hour, stirring occasionnally
  • Serve with pasta or French green beans with parsley.

My Personal Comments
  • I ask for the rabbit to be cut in smaller pieces than the regular 6 pieces.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Cranberries - Orange Pound Cake

Spring is just around the corner. We got a nice glimpse of it last week-end when temperatures climbed up to the mid-60s (15C) for two days: everybody was out, students had already traded their down-jackets for t-shirts, their winter boots for flip-flops (??? don't ask!!) It felt that everybody was coming out of their house, fully alive and ready to dance! People were crowding public parks again (we once counted two benches with people in Rittenhouse Square one Sunday in February... last week-end, if two benches were inoccuppied, we were lucky!!)
It was unfortunately short-lived.  We are now back to wearing our down-jackets again (some students are still in T-shirts but because they are hot from celebrating Saint Patrick's Day today!!) .... and I have to say that I have a hard time dealing with this grey-dump-cold weather!
On those days, I only want to stay inside, eat some nice hearty soups, read a good book and/or watch a good movie or play a nice game with our children. Unfortunately, with two children in need of energy-burning exercises, this Sunday-inside is not an option for us (we were homebound for 36 hours when Hurricane Sandy hit last Fall and it did not do us any good. By Tuesday morning, we were already outside for a walk in the neighborhood....)
Nice or not-so-nice weather,  off we go!  Our children bundle up, take their scooters and we go out for at least 2 hours...  If we are lucky, they will take a good nap, which is when I have a few minutes to read a book (or take a nap myself!); my husband taking advantage of this quiet time to work...
One thing that I always do on these gloomy days is make some soups for dinner and, if I feel zealous, a nice pound cake for our afternoon goûter. With a nice cup of tea to warm us up, it helps us deal with the grey weather outside. Until it is nice enough again to be able to enjoy a more fruity (ie, no more citrus) pound cake on our roof terrasse. Allez, encore quelques semaines! Bon Appétit!

- 1.5  (200g) cups all purpose flour
-  2 ts baking powder
- 1/2 ts salt
- 1 cup (250 ml) plain yogurt
- 1 cup (200g) sugar
- 3 eggs
- zest of 2 organic oranges
- 1/2 cup (125ml) canola oil 
- 1/3 cup (80ml)  orange juice
- Dried cranberries
- 2 ts Grand Marnier

  • Pre-heat oven to 375 F (185C)
  • In bowl, combine al the dry ingredients and the orange zest
  • In another bowl, combine the eggs and yogurt and mix well. 
  • Add the orange juice and Grand-Marnier and mix gently
  • Incorporate the oil gently.
  • Combine the wet ingredients in the wet ingredients
  • Add the cranberries at the last minute - stirr
  • Pour into a mold and bake in the oven for 45mns - 50mns or until a knife inserted comes out clean

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Rutabaga Fries

I don't like kids Menus in restaurants. I don't even look at them. The only time I allow them on the table is if they have some games for the children to play while we order our food from the "adult" menu.
I know that if the restaurant outing has to be an enjoyable experience for both adults and children, (ie children are not dictating where the whole family is having dinner) feeding children what they like very much is a close guarantee to a peaceful dinner. I get that. I am a parent as well. However, the idea that the only things children will be allowed to eat until they are 8 or older (12?) are chicken nuggets, hamburger, cheese sandwich, mac&cheese or pizza makes me roll my eyes! Children above one are NEVER too young to try and eat new food...

When my parents came over for Christmas, we went out to one of our favorite restaurants BYOB (Bring Your Own Beverage - small restaurants that don't want to pay for the liquor & alcohol license and for buying a large offering of alcohol beverages allow patrons to bring their own bottles and don't charge a corking fee). As we were waiting inside the restaurant for our table to be ready, a man in his early fifties who was on his way out saw our children and told them "you are going to eat here? You are too young for this food!" We were all in shock! My children did not understand why he was saying that! Obviously, he had a few drinks too many but still, insead of telling them how lucky they were going to be able to enjoy really good food, he just thought that it was a waste of food and money for our children to eat with us. Needless to say that I jumped into the conversation and asked why he thought that they were too young? He did not really took the time to answer me properly; he only mentioned that the sweetbreads were really good. I would not know because we did not order that dish but I can just say that we all had a great dinner... and look forward to going back.
Do our children eat everything? No. However, they know that they have to try. It might not be their best dish ever... but at least they try. And more than once as it takes a few good trials to develop and acquire a taste for new textures & flavors.
Take the Rutabaga fries I made for us one Sunday evening. Our children tasted them but could not really care for them. I have to say that I am not a big fan of rutabaga either but will I make them again? Yes. Will our children will have to eat a few again? Yes. Will they eat them? Yes. Will they like them? Most likely not. But at least, that evening, I will have managed to make them eat something different.
Bon Appétit!

- Rutabagas, peeled and cut in fries-shape
- Olive oil
- Thyme and salt to taste

  • Pre-heat the oven to 400F (200C)
  • Lay the fried into a frying pan and coat them with olive oil. Add salt and thyme
  • Roast in the oven until golden brown.
  • Serve hot