On our way to the UK in May…
See you there? xxxxx
On our way to the UK in May…
See you there? xxxxx
I 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:
Using the leftovers for a ratatouille savory tarte:
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:Ingredients:
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)
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. Next 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
Winter is still with us, how can we love it? Let me count the ways… Number one: new discoveries and passions like Madame, my favorite woman street artist, whose interactive mural collages I discovered on a recent cold evening at Art 42, a Parisian programming school and street art gallery in the 17th. In honor of International Women’s Day, I posted the one above, shown by the stairs in Art 42’s courtyard: “By calculating everything, we made our lives indecipherable equations…”
From Madame’s website Bio: “…I work with and rework vintage documents and photographs from the last century up to the 50’s and 60’s, to create new, more contemporary images.
These original visuals are always articulated in the following characteristic way: an image and a punch line that dialog, but don’t illustrate one another.
Once these small format collages are finished, they are scanned and then printed in very large formats and affixed in the street, to offer passersby a door to another more playful, offbeat reality.
It’s about offering viewers an image that can be interpreted in many ways, an open door to elsewhere.”
Photo of photo displayed in the basement of Art 42, “Building paper castles, we don’t cause the storm, we defy it.”
And a detail from wall sculpture upstairs, “Day and night always end up in embrace”
Below: “To be sure I’d never find myself, I sowed my heart like a tiny bread crumb” has frames that swing open like windows:
She keeps her own identity and image secret, posing beside “I sometimes embrace the past to stay standing”
To see and find out more, see her website and Instagram:
All the pieces above and examples of her earlier work can be seen at
Cold 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):
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 mousse 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 (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”
Scallops, sweet potato chips and Iberian chorizo sausageAnd instead of dessert, roasted St Marcellin cheese with herb sauce and apple confitServed 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
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
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.
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:
*Got these dates mixed up at first but now they’re correct 🙂
To be continued xxxxx Aliss
(In case you’re wondering…That’s my bubbly in the picture, not his 🙂 )
Still a long way to go until Spring… Having as much fun as we can in the meantime. No snow this year, but we pretend with Pelmeni, Siberian “ravioli” (from the Far East like all pasta, until Marco Polo brought it to Europe in the 14th century). Never realized what an institution this is for Russians until our Saint Petersburg friends initiated us. During our in-person tutorial, they told us how their clans gather around kitchen tables and make hundreds of dumplings to store outside on frozen apartment balconies all through the winter, bringing some in once or twice a week for dinners. Everyone competes to see who can make the most and the best, singing, telling jokes and stories. Each family has their own recipe and unique style so when a couple moves in together or marries, their traditions better be compatible or the relationship won’t be happy. Of course there are Pelmeni restaurants in the old country, but nothing compares to home-made ones. So, as soon as Parisian temperatures approach zero, we set out our ingredients, roll out our dough (gyoza and wonton wrappers are for sissies!), chop our meat and onions, cut out our circles, dole out filling, boil our broth, and enjoy with black bread, red caviar, sour cream, vinegar, chives (considered sacrilege by some) and only top-of-the-line beverages.
Veronika’s ST-P style, for 4: 1 pound of meat (mixture of beef and pork), 1 large onion, 1 pound of flour, salt, water, bay leaf, black pepper corns (+ fresh herbs, vinegar depending on the family…)
Olga’s Siberian style (more people, more elbow grease) filling: 2 pounds ground meat (half beef, half pork and veal, must not be too lean!), 1 tbsp water, 2 large onions, salt, pepper. Dough: 2 lbs flour, salt, water, 1 egg per cup of flour.
Pour flour on the table or counter, add a pinch of salt, make a little well in the middle, start adding water and mixing until it begins to form a ball. (Siberians add eggs)
Keep kneading, adding flour and water until it becomes smooth and elastic. Work as a team, taking turns, it’s strenuous! Never try this in the spring or summer!
Now we’re getting somewhere. Roll it into a ball, let rest.
Meanwhile, prepare meat and onions for filling (we put pork shoulder in food processor and mix with ground beef). Roll out dough on floury surface until thin and cut circles with the rim of a glass. These look huge, but are about 3″ diameter. Bring a big kettle of water to a boil. Pop in a bay leaf, black pepper corns, and salt.
Put a spoon of filling in each center, fold over, moisten edges and pinch shut, fold corners to center, moisten and pinch again. (Variation: pinch off little pieces of dough and roll out individually, then fill, fold, close, fold again)
We cheated. Ours are bigger because we were hungry and in a hurry.
Gently drop dumplings in the boiling water, about 5 per person to start (don’t let them glob together) and boil until they rise to the surface. It’s OK if one or two come apart, that makes the broth even tastier. Meanwhile, munch on whole grain black bread and red caviar.
Dip dumplings out with a strainer, place in shallow soup plates with a ladle of broth, garnish with organic smetana, crème fraîche, or sour cream (and fresh chives, dill or parsley). Some people like a few drops of vinegar. Repeat as necessary.
Broth can be refrigerated or frozen, reused once, for more pelmeni, soups or sauces, but do not refreeze 🙂