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

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

 

Taming the Beast from the East (updated 2/3/18)

DSC04163Cold front blowing in from Siberia, the French call it “Moscou-Paris”, all the better to feed ourselves with…

Before continuing this post, I just need to say how grateful I am to have a roof over my head and food on the table in front of me. I want to thank our city officials for their huge efforts to shelter the homeless. The cold sunny days made me feel intensely alive and also deeply worried for the people and creatures endangered by it. For many years now our family has been contributing warm clothing, sleeping bags, linens, and toiletries whenever possible through various charities, but it seems like a micro-drop in a bucket the size of an ocean. I generally post upbeat photos and information as a way to lift my spirits in the face of all this, not because I don’t know there is great suffering everywhere…

So, recently I was lucky to be invited to sample some of the best restaurants in my area of Paris, lovingly chosen among the Michelin Guide’s Bib Gourmet selection for the arrondissements near me (X, XIX):

http://restaurant.michelin.fr/restaurants/paris-10/restaurants-michelin

All of them share a commitment to ultra fresh farm to table ingredients in creative combinations, natural wines, original, low key decor and inspiring websites.

At the top of my list of recommendations:

Mensae, http://www.mensae-restaurant.com 23 Rue Mélingue 75019 Paris (be sure to reserve)

Remoulade of crab, rice chips, lobster shell powder (pictured above)

Wild Pollack confit and grilled, broccoli, and brussels sprouts in haddock mousseDSC04164 Wine: Sople e Joios, Mas de l’Escarida, Rhone

Followed by dessert: White chocolate and citrus sundae, clementine sorbet, fresh mint leaves and strawberry accents DSC04165 (Yes, I need a new phone/camera…)

Next on the list, Fraiche, 8 rue Vicq d’Azir, 75010 Paris http://www.fraicheparis.fr/photos/ See my previous post from July 8 2017 🙂

Marinated salmon with its beet “declination”DSC04168

Scallops, sweet potato chips and Iberian chorizo sausageDSC04169And instead of dessert, roasted St Marcellin cheese with herb sauce and apple confitDSC04171Served with Domaine Servin Chablis

Last but not least, Les Résistants, 16 rue du Chateau d’Eau, 75010, Paris. For lush photographs and mouth watering travelog, see http://www.lesresistants.fr

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Smoked Lake Leman Fera with polenta, lemon, lamb’s lettuce, Atlanta leaks and fromage blanc

Wild pollack with heirloom root vegetables

Winter clementines, Conference pears, Corsican lemon sorbet, nut streusel, custard and fromage blanc

All on vintage dinnerware with an excellent Bourgogne Aligoté and an unforgettable organic Sauvignon from http://www.vinibee.com/nos-vins-naturels/la-pente-de-chavigny/

We are blessed

xxxxx Aliss

How to be your own Valentine (and outsmart winter blues)

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So, as planned,  I made Christmas last until the end of January. Then decorations were put away, tree recycled,  pictures sorted, cards sent, presents played with, playlists turned off, virus waned, work and life went on along with the darkest winter in three decades, heavy, gray, damp. Jealous of NY weather, I grumbled, “This is it, I’m done, have to move to a place where I can see snow”.. and presto-change-o, Lumos Maxima! This week we had the biggest Paris snowfall in 30+ years, 10 inches in 24 hours… Suddenly lightness and brightness instead of gloom.DSC04122.JPG

Later in the week, the sun was even shining on the snowy roofs and city gardens.

Of course it wasn’t all fun. People were slipping on icy pavements, or stuck in cars and transportation. (Not to mention the homeless and refugees living on the streets.) Thirteen beautiful trees keeled over in our Buttes Chaumont park up the hill.

In any case, a big life lesson. Everything can change in a few hours…

But, we’re not “out of the woods” yet. Spring doesn’t arrive for another 7 weeks and knowing this part of the world, we could definitely enter a depressing weather tunnel again. So here are some strategies to outsmart the end of winter:

  • Be your own Valentine! Create an atmosphere of “anything can happen” expectancy. Make a list of things you love to receive and enjoy–hugs, flowers, pretty chocolates, massages, pedicures, compliments, cards and postcards, dinner invitations, high tea invitations, party invitations, concert/theater/museum tickets, hearing a favorite song, “I love you” texts in your inbox, trip to the pool, a walk in a beautiful landscape, vacation plans, flattering pix of yourself, happy pix of you with people you love, smiles, fun movies… Whatever your heart desires. Write each one on a piece of paper, fold up and put in a jar or box by your computer, labeled “Open Me.” Then open one a day until Valentine’s Day (and beyond) and give these things to yourself within 24 hours, or at least schedule it. (I guarantee you won’t remember the entire list and you’ll get a spontaneous lift.)
  • Even better! Turn the energy around. Be everyone’s Valentine! Give yourself all of the above and invite a special person or people to join you. Giving is receiving, right?  You’ll get a love boomerang!
  • Music! How to create a magic holiday updraft? Back in the 60’s, French otolaryngologist Alfred Tomatis discovered that Mozart violin concertos stimulate the cerebral cortex, creativity, optimism, and calm efficiency. Researchers theorize that it’s about inducing beta waves in the brain. Who knows. Try it and see. Another good bet: the complete works of the Beatles in chronological order, Irish bands Kila and Solas, Bretons Alan Stivell and Dan Ar Braz will get your blood moving (let me know if you suddenly start repainting and remodeling your apartment single-handedly). You can experiment with light transe-inducing gamelan, dance to “Happy” by Pharrel and “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk, float to Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloé, or maybe your taste runs to Macklemore, whatever, have fun, see what works!!
  • Have a crepe party! La Chandeleur was earlier in the week and Mardi Gras falls on February 13th, two occasions to make dinner pancakes! Organic hard apple and pear ciders are prominently displayed on grocery store shelves, buck wheat crepes grilled in big skillets with your choice of cheese, mushrooms, ham, egg yolk, sautéd onions or shallots, sour cream… plus green salad on the side, is very festive, you’ll see.*
  • Take advantage of these weeks to make other winter recipes that are easy to burn off in cold weather. Some new faves: Reblochon fondue in roasted potimaron pumpkins, wild mushroom fricassee (thank you Sylvia Sabes) 🙂 Leftovers from both of these can be turned into soups and fabulous mini mushroom croissants… Pumpkin fonduDSC04062
  • Details coming… (Thank you Z Worthington for the fondue picture)

*Got these dates mixed up at first but now they’re correct 🙂

To be continued xxxxx Aliss

 

Thankful for another year

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Love having a summer birthday…. unplugging, resetting, celebrating for days and weeks, watching the spectacle of our country’s racial agony from afar, will share thoughts soon… to be continued, xxxxx Aliss

(Delicious strawberry shortcake from Adams Fair Acre Farm store in Kingston, NY)

Rockin’ the Cuisine Scene: Canal St M

In a tangle of streets fanning out along the Canal Saint Martin, Paris X, hidden gems await…THE spot of the moment, worth locating on unglamorous rue Vicq d’Azir near Metro Colonel Fabien, Fraîche, highly rated for top quality ingredients, creativity and fine service:  http://www.fraicheparis.fr (See website for prices)

DSC03602Above left: Seabream ceviche in sweet and sour marinade with taragon and piquillo peppers, sculpted radish, cucumber, herbs, and crisp. Right: Patience du moment hors’ d oeuvre, bowl of prawns in piquant herb salsa, spicy avocado dip, Asian cabbage, toasted bread from Liberté artisanal bakery and pâtisserie: http://libertepatisserieboulangerie.comDSC03601Catch of the day sea bass with artichokes in poivrade sauce, sea asparagus, aged mimolette accents and several other delicious secret ingredients.DSC03600Lemony madeleines to enjoy while we pay the bill (couldn’t resist mine)… And of course house-selected chilled rosé….DSC03604 (1)Gender-equal kitchen with a female and a male chef: Tiffany Depardieu (Top Chef Season 2) and Michel Boivin. An attentive maitre ‘d watches over your table. Family and couple-friendly.DSC03603 Venturing down the hill to your left, more possibilities for summer evenings:DSC03619Above, Le verre taquin, a highly-rated beer and wine bar: http://www.facebook.com/leverretaquinDSC03620La Baraque A tea room and coffee shop: http://www.facebook.com/La-Baraque-A-828761103855850/ praised online for delicious brunches and karaoke…DSC03621And La Fontaine de Belleville for tasty and reasonable café food: http://lefooding.com/en/restaurants/restaurant-la-fontaine-de-belleville-paris

Nourishment for thought (in French): an article about 40 female chefs rockin’ the cuisine scene in Paris, lots of addresses to try:

http://www.telerama.fr/sortir/les-40-femmes-qui-agitent-la-gastronomie-parisienne,154973.php

And courtesy of my favorite travel writer and style curator, Sylvia Sabes http://m.facebook.com/LoveOnlyNParis/ ten eateries open during the annual Parisian summer closings:

http://www.lefigaro.fr/sortir-paris/2017/07/05/30004-20170705ARTFIG00021-dix-tables-ouvertes-en-juillet-et-en-aout-a-paris.php

Enjoy! xxxxx Aliss

Cakes and Cathedrals

Dear blog friends, Haven’t been able to post this week, hosting visitors, long conversations with long lost friends, sharing my favorite places. More thoughts taking shape about the soul of France, how cathedrals and cakes are holographic alphas and omegas of the traditional French experience, the first, centuries in the making, centuries standing solid, the second, sensual and ephemeral, but with the same love for graceful architecture, story-telling in images… More to come, love xxxxx Aliss

(Bakery Benoist, 29 avenue Secretan, Paris 75019, tel: 01 42 40 23 86, and rose window in Chartres Cathedral)