Need Some Zing for the Re-entry?

DSC04588I swore I would not let La Rentrée get to me this year, but here we are and here we go again. Almost none of the things I’m dealing with are life-threatening. I’m not in the path of a hurricane or a typhoon, not in a flood or a landslide. In a way it’s even more frustrating and demotivating being preoccupied by the unsolvable while trying to rev up for another long school year and hopefully, one’s own projects… Maybe that’s why I’m in a state of confused inertia, wanting to step on the gas with one foot on the brake? In no particular order: my sweet neighborhood that I couldn’t wait to get back to is all torn up for some mysterious underground repairs, to the point where it’s difficult to cross the street, scaffolding is being hammered noisily in place for the city’s building resurfacing program, there are activity schedules to set arrange and meetings to sit through, medical appointments, giant mosquito bites, re-adjusting to small shared urban spaces, drug dealers returning after many years when we all thought they were gone for good…apparently preying on the migrants (result: one death and several stabbings, danger late at night for us and our kids…)

Soooooo! I take joy where I find it:

Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes!

With a drizzle of top grade olive oil and salt… or a fancier mandala version with buffala mozzarella, arugula and fresh basil:DSC04564

Ratatouille:

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Using the leftovers for a ratatouille savory tarte:DSC04581

My recipe:

Leftover ratatouille
I Chavrou (Chavrie in the US)
I fresh goat cheese log, Sainte-Maure de Touraine if you can
Parmesan, grated, can go in filling or on top as you prefer, adds tangy “umami” 🙂 also thickens
3 Eggs
Herbes de provence, salt, pepper
Tbs flour optional
I pie crust, unsweetened
Blend Chavrou and eggs, add to slightly strained ratatouille in salad bowl, stir well (shouldn’t be too soupy). Depending on how firm you want it, you can use just yolks, whole eggs or both. I use whole ones. Some people put in flour to firm it up, too. Season. Grease bottom of deep pie plate, position pie crust, pinch edges for decor 🙂
Pour in ratatouille mixture, decorate with slices of goat log, making sure pieces are moistened with filling mixture so they don’t burn. Sprinkle with parmesan and paprika if desired.
Bake at 350-ish F (180° C) until cheese is golden brown and filling is firm, usually 45-50 minutes? Have to keep an eye on it to be sure. If the cheese looks done but the filling isn’t firm enough, cover lightly with aluminum foil and return to oven.
PS some people use gruyère or mozzarella for the topping 🙂
Enjoy!
More zings to come…
xxxxx Love Aliss

Music…writing…lions, butterflies, healing and immortality…

Stock photo of a Monarch….Screen Shot 2018-07-01 at 14.58.59

Music is my aeroplane, writing is my time machine…no, writing keeps me sane? Maybe all of the above…The story of my life, especially right now…

Those of you who check in from time to time have noticed I completely let this poor blog flatline over the last few weeks. Life is what happens when you’ve scheduled something else, and/or hell is paved with good intentions?

There I was early June, barreling along, getting stuff done, moving mountains and then Pow! A big disturbance in the force, that phone call you never want to get, one of my favorite people had passed away in her sleep, which is the best way to go that anyone could ask for, but a horrible shock for me, especially because I had just finalized plans to see her over the summer.Screen Shot 2018-06-19 at 18.12.16

(My heart has been heavy since June 13th when this person left our lives, my sweet, funny, smart Aunt Barbie, my second Mom, inspiring mother, homemaker, health professional, business woman, story teller, hostess, fashion plate, decorator, traveler… No one can ever replace her and I can’t bear to say goodbye….)

This was two days before I was supposed to hop on a Eurostar for London to see some English music buddies and sign publishing contracts for a song we wrote and recorded together. While there I planned to take my son to see The Lion King, a required part of our family curriculum. When he suddenly came down with a flu bug and couldn’t travel, cancelling seemed like the best option… Yes, but MUSIC!

So went anyway. Put away sadness, put on a good face, and it was the perfect thing to do: move forward with a new song (more about that soon) that I can build a set around to get back on stage after a very long maternity leave, and brainstorm with my buds about sound, arrangements, the new Protools, gigs, etc.

… And the London cast of The Lion King gave new meaning to the word catharsis. (If you haven’t seen the stage version directed by Julie Taymor, you have no idea what you’re missing.) The Circle of Life and They Live in Me as interpreted by Brown Lindiwe Mkize as Rafiki were exactly what I needed.

DSC04365aIt felt like tears were coming up from my heart, through my eyes, and running down my face, in a loop of sadness and gratitude that the person I missed so much will always be in my life and our family. http://www.thelionking.co.uk/cast/

The next day, I sped back to Paris energized to sing and play a new song live at the Fête de la Musique as a guest of my favorite funk band, the Doodads.

At the top of my To Do list was journaling, going over my calendar where I scribble daily highlights and revelations, and then, when I have time, elaborate in my this-aint-no-bullet-journal-journal:IMG_1052

I had almost 3 weeks to catch up on while juggling other things, so it took many hours of pen to paper, off and on over several days until I was cross eyed and writers-cramped. Late at night when I was almost caught up I channel-flipped onto National  Geographic’s “One Strange Rock, Season 1, episode 10, Home.” http://onestrangerock.com/episodes/  Why now, why this episode?

It’s about Peggy Whitson, the distinguished, record-breaking female astronaut from Iowa. Her transformation from farm girl into Space Explorer is compared to the metamorphosis of Monarch caterpillars who liquefy in their chrysalises and emerge to migrate thousands of miles, all the way from our midwest and other far flung destinations, to Mexico, where they arrive every year on the Day of the Dead and are celebrated by local people as the souls of departed loved ones. Eye-popping Mexican make up and costumes included a full-body butterfly suit with enormous orange and black wings.

The next morning, when I journaled about this, it hit me: my aunt’s travel business was Monarch Travel and Cruises, and her logo was a monarch butterfly! OK, maybe just coincidence, but stunning, like a wink from the great beyond, a beautiful metaphor for a soul connections, to make me smile.

In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron says writing by hand connects us to our deepest selves. Right now I don’t have time to write every morning as she suggests, but my journaling marathons open up what’s under the surface, dip into my inner well, renew and inspire me, keep me sane, allow me to time travel forward and backward, connect the dots…

This one allowed me to resurrect this blog, no small thing…

xxxxxx Aliss

 

 

Happiness Recipes: a musical massage! (25/3/18)

For guaranteed fun and uplift try Gamelan! If you’re in the Paris area, it’s easy, keep reading. If not, it’s easy, too, scroll down for link to online version  🙂  (Photo: Javanese gamelan at Cité de la Musique, Paris 19)DSC04180

This is really a cool thing to do, alone, with friends or family. If you’ve never heard of it before, gamelan is an ensemble of 30+ elements, native to Indonesia, mainly composed of percussion instruments such as gongs, metallophones or drums. Sometimes there are string insturments such as rebab, celempung (kind of cithare), and woodwinds like the selung, a sort of bamboo flute. Gamelan plays an important role in Indonesian society. Every village or wealthy family owns one. Each is blessed and respected. Playing is not reserved for an elite, all social categories can participate. Gamelan is played on many occasions, religious or official ceremonies and holidays, and is often accompanied with other art forms: dance, song, and shadow theater. (Photo: gamelan workshop, Cité de la Musique, Paris 19)DSC04185

Shadow theater shows (Wayang Kulit) take place all over Indonesia. They can last all night. A dalang (storyteller and puppeteer) uses hand decorated leather marionnettes behind a scrim to illustrate epic tales from the Ramayana that relate the good and evil deeds of mankind in relationship with the supernatural realm. DSC04186

Gamelan uses fewer notes than the western chromatic scales– one with 5 notes (selendro) and one with 7 notes (pelog). Virtuosity results not from individual solos but from coordination between all the players, who don’t learn alone at home, but always in a group. The 30+ piece ensemble is considered as a single instrument. There is no sheet music as such. The learning process is oral. Instead of naming the notes, numbers are used to indicate which gongs and which metal bars to strike with special mallets. Gamelan uses repetitive cycles that overlap to form sound mandalas! (The dragon below is part of a Balinese gamelan at La Villette, Paris 19)DSC04181

If you are in Paris, sign up for the next gamelan workshop:

http://philharmoniedeparis.fr/fr/activite/atelier-du-week-end/18745-gamelan-de-java?date=1528632000

If you are not in Paris, or just want to explore, click on this link to see 5 gamelans from different regions (Java, Bali, Sunda). You can play them using the buttons on the panel at left:

http://pad.philharmoniedeparis.fr/gamelan.aspx

Screen Shot 2018-03-25 at 21.14.41

and see how the cycles form sound mandalas!Screen Shot 2018-03-25 at 21.15.18

The workshop leader at the Cité de la Musique is very nice and well versed in gamelan culture. He demonstrates the techniques and gets everyone in the groove. Can’t recommend it highly enough! A musical voyage away from our western habits into a shared experience of soothing, almost transe-inducing, musical relaxation and massage.

Enjoy! xxxxx Aliss

Text about Gamelan adapted and translated from CNED, Éducation Musicale, 4/e, 2018

 

Happiness Recipes (food!)

Pumpkin fondu           (Photo Z Worthington)

Theoretically Spring is around the corner, but Winter is still with us, at least until next week’s Equinox, with more snow and freezing temperatures on the way this weekend, now called the “Helsinki-Paris”… So before I say goodbye to the cold, here are two recipes I discovered this year and want to celebrate because they really brightened our spirits and table.

Why do I think about cooking and restaurants so much? Because I really believe that preparing and serving good food consciously is a form of social and ecological activism that fosters genetic diversity and sustainable, human-scale farming! It’s also a way to honor cultural traditions and life in general. When I attended “Les secrets du chef” (Chef’s Secrets) evenings at the Cordon Bleu school, I learned that every dish is a hologram of history, geography, evolution, language, and sensuality.  We know how the taste for spices resulted in trade routes across the globe, but did you know that following schools of cod led the Vikings to the New World? The ways this fish was caught and preserved, with smoke, salt, and air drying, provided livelihoods, terms, and tools for many people over centuries…No wonder the Cordon Bleu chefs speak so passionately about their ingredients…

So, recipe number one: Pumpkin and Cheese Fondue, but not just any old pumpkin, please. It has to be potimarron, much sweeter than other varieties. The English call it Red Kuri Squash, other names incude: “Japanese squash”, “orange Hokkaido squash”, and “baby red hubbard squash.” Personally I had never seen or tasted it before coming to France. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_kuri_squash

And not just any old cheese, please. Reblochon is my pick (although some people swear by camembert). In Sainsbury’s Book of Food, Frances Bissell describes Reblochon as “One  of France’s great mountain cheeses… made in Haute-Savoie, semisoft, with a yellowish brown rind and a gentle fruity flavor… sold in flat rounds set on thin wooden slices.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reblochon

Here’s one of my favorites, made with raw milk, vive la France:DSC04179Ingredients:

1 medium potimarron

2 small (or 1 large) raw milk reblochon cheeses, depending on availability

Pecans or walnuts, sprigs of fresh thyme, salt, freshly ground pepper, honey

Cut a hole in the top of the potimarron, large enough to insert the cheeses, scoop out the seeds and some of the pulp (to be saved for soup). Cut off the pointed tip under the potimarron so it sits firmly on a baking sheet or in a glass pie dish. Salt and pepper the inside.

Slice excess rind off cheeses and insert each in the potimarron, making small cuts in each top for pecan or walnut halves. Sprinkle with fresh thyme, salt, and pepper. Drizzle with honey. Replace the potimarron “hat.”

Bake at 350°F (180°C) for 45 minutes then turn oven up to 410°F (210°C) for 10 minutes, or until the potimarron is tender when tested with a fork and the cheese has melted and blended together.

Remove from oven, take off “hat,” dip fresh baguette chunks (or other delicious bread) in cheese mixture, then use forks to carve out pieces of potimarron drenched in cheese 🙂

Enjoy! PS when I made this the first time, the small reblochons fit inside easily, the times and temperatures were perfect and the cheese was bubbly without further baking. The second time I used one larger reblochon cut into pieces to fit. I followed the instructions to the letter, but had to add cooking time. Third try, I used small cheeses again but had to add cooking time. In an emergency, you can use a microwave for the finishing touch. In other words, improvisation may be required… Leftover potimarron is fabulous mashed and reheated later as a side-dish. 🙂

Recipe 2: Mini Mushroom Crissants, made with Sylvia’s Wild Mushroom-Chestnut Fricassee (courtesy of Sylvia Sabes, my favorite travel and lifestyle guru)DSC04062

Sylvia’s Mushroom Chestnut Fricassee (great vegan dish to include in holiday menus!)

Go to Picard (France’s gourmet frozen food chain) and buy morilles (morels), baby cèpes (ceps, porcinis), girolles (not the same as chanterelles, but I guess you can substitute these in a pinch) and pre-cooked chestnuts. The quantity depends on how many people you have to feed. Sylvia uses 3 packages of each mushroom for one of chestnuts.

Sauté the mushrooms (in olive oil if going for vegan, otherwise in butter), one kind at a time, being careful to drain off the liquid as you go (and freeze it for soups). Morels 10 minutes, then cèpes for 3 minutes, add chestnuts and girolles and sauté for another 7 minutes (refer to package instructions).

I had this at Sylvia’s for Thanksgiving and it was amazing. All the mushrooms were nicely browned with the chestnuts, tender and chewy. When I made it, I must not have drained off the liquid the right way because it got a little soupy and I had to thicken it for a while, which changed the texture.  I added garlic, Adobo (salty lemon and herb mixture), sweet paprika, and lots of pepper. Then I shaped it into a round “patties” with a metal circle form and plated it with arugula dressed with virgin olive oil, balsamic, and fresh parsley. Huge success! I had a lot left over, and a party coming up, which gave me the idea for the mini croissants (pictured above). The day of the party, I bought puff pastry, cut it into triangles, stuffed it with the mushroom filling, and baked in a medium oven until brown. DSC04059Next time, I’ll baste with egg yolk to get the perfect golden finish. No one noticed I hadn’t done that, big success, and leftovers can be reheated… For more brilliant inspiration from Sylvia Sabes: http://www.facebook.com/LoveOnlyNParis/

To be continued xxxxx Aliss

 

Back on the Beat

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I’m embarrassed to admit that while other people are surviving hurricanes, earthquakes, and violent religious and racial persecution, all it took to knock me down was a cold virus. Very humbling and frustrating!

Venturing outside again after several days of extreme inertia, inspired to see new murals in the ‘hood, like this one, rue Henri Noguères, Ars Longa Vita Brevis, signed Lima Lima-Raphe. The title is a latin translation of a quote from Hippocrates, open to different interpretations:

…”it takes a long time to acquire and perfect one’s expertise (in, say, medicine) and one has but a short time in which to do it”.[3] …”art lasts forever, but artists die and are forgotten”[3] (in this use sometimes rendered in the Greek order as “Life is short, Art eternal”), but most commonly it refers to how time limits our accomplishments in life.[4]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ars_longa,_vita_brevis

Thinking about art, trying to keep playing music, writing, researching, has kept me going over the past few low energy days. Here’s more nourishment for thought and soul, a beautiful article from the Washington Post, “This is Your Brain on Art.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/lifestyle/your-brain-on-art/?utm_term=.c8a54fbdf078

To be continued, xxxxx Aliss