Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Courgette with Bûche de Chèvre and Walnuts

Courgette with Bûche de Chèvre and Walnuts

Zucchini has been in season for several months already at the organic store, and a great cheese pairing with zucchini is chèvre (goat) cheese. You could pick any chevre, probably an aged one as opposed to a fresh one, I would save the fresh ones for a salad. The aged goat cheese intensify in flavor as they cook, or so it seems. And perception is everything!


1-2 Zucchinis
Bûche de Chèvre – a log of goat cheese, fresh or aged
Handful of Walnuts coarsely chopped
Olive Oil to cover Zucchini lightly
Fleur de sel to taste

Preheat over to 190˚C (375˚F) while chopping the walnuts and slicing zucchini in rounds (I slice mine about 3-5 cm thick  or ¼ inch, in other words, not too thin or they might get soggy in the oil.) 

Place zucchini rounds in a glass baking pan and sitr in the olive oil.

Bake for 15 -20 minutes, then for last 5 minutes gently mix in the chopped walnuts, chèvre and fleur de sel.

A few notes:

Extra Ingredient Mixing Ideas: (Because it’s fun to MIX!)
To make this recipe sweet, you can drizzle honey over all the ingredients once you’ve added the chevre, walnuts and salt.
To make this recipe spicier, dash a bit of cayenne pepper on top.
To make this recipe more colorful, add paprika, which has minimal flavor but adds that red dusty color.
To make this recipe more Basque, add piment d’espelette – a mild red pepper, adding a bit of flavor and color!

The photo below shows this dish along with Pommes Sarladaises and Magret de Canard à
l'Orange with homemade Plum Sauce from our own plum tree (watch for the upcoming recipes!), accompanied by a "Blanc" Pineau des Charentes liqueur from the Cognac region (usually served as an aperitif or with dessert, but I had it with my dinner!

Why Preheat the Oven? To get to the right temperature for cooking BEFORE you put the food in. So turn that oven on as you walk into the kitchen (some ovens take longer than others).

Why Cook at 190˚C (375˚F)? I cook everything at 190C, 375, it tends not to burn things but gets them cooked in a decent amount of time while locking in flavor (or maybe I’m just maing this up!)

Why Use Glass? For the oven, I use glass as much as possible to reduce the toxic load from treated metallic pans, as these usually have some coating which essentially is a plastic. Plastics leach their toxins into food, especially when heated or frozen.

Why Eat Organic? I try to use as many organic ingredients as possibly in all my cooking. Organic food has been grown using biodegradable substances (instead of persistent chemicals which do not biodegrade and remain in the environment and in us). Buying organic food tends to support smaller farmers using organic methods, and organic foods are generally not industrially genetically modified; they are “non-GMO.” Eating GMO foods (such as soy, corn and wheat) changes our own DNA expression and the proteins in GMO foods cause many adverse reactions and food sensitivities in many people and animals. Organic food tends to taste better overall. You can feel good about each bite, as opposed to non-organic food, whose growing methods and pesticide residue is utterly ambiguous to the consumer.

Disclaimer: The “health” information in this blog is not meant to cure any illness, but rather as information, to better understand the cooking process and my reasons for the choices I make.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Uzbek Lagman Recipe

Uzbek Lagman Recipe

This is the dish, if one were stuck on a desert island, that my husband and I might just possibly want to have because it’s just so flavorful and satisfying. And did I mention it tastes delicious? This is also the dish with which you can wow even your most gourmet French cooking chef friend!

Meat and vegetable stew over noodles is the basic premise. (Paleo and Gluten Free people, please keep reading!) But add all the spices and fresh herbs and you’ve got yourself a sensational dish!

I first had this dish as a soup version at the dark little Otrar hotel in Almaty, Kazakhstan in early 1994, and I was deeply impressed (or else just startving!) My most recent encounters with the dish have been in Moscow at the chain of restaurants that does it best: Chaixona No. 1 – pronounced “Chigh-HON-a NO-mer a-DEEN.” It’s a mouthful, and so is the dish!)

To prepare this dish, you must be ready to put in a bit of chopping time as well as have a cupboard full of spices you may not have heard of or used yet. Recruit some sous-chefs in the house, if possible, or else put on a good podcast. I recommend Underground Wellness podcasts if you are into learning about health and nutrition. Sometimes I get my elder daughter to peel garlic cloves, because that alone seems to take half of my prep time. In fact, I have her peel an entire bulb and I save the unused for future meals in an hermetically sealed glass jar! They keep for many days, no harm done, only time saved and then you will be more likely to cook something with healthful garlic!

Here are the ingredients:

1 kg lamb (mutton, veal or beef can also be used)
2 big fat carrots
1 onion
5-7 cloves garlic minced
1 shallot
Nigella and/or kala jeera
2 whote star anise pieces
Salt to taste 2 bay leaves
1 can of peeled tomatoes chooped
Tablespoon of ginger
2 big yellow bell peppers
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
4 cloves
1 ½  tsp whole cumin seed
3 dashes of turmeric for good measure
Black pepper
Dash of nutmeg
Half a cup to 4-5 cups water, depending on how soupy you want it)
Fresh chopped cilantro on top
Fleur de sel on top
Optional: Omelette or Scrambled Egg (1 per person), sliced
Other things you can add:celery, radish, chives, leek, scallions, dried hot red chili pepper, chinese cabbade, zucchini, eggplant, parsley, cilantro, spice: black cumin “zeera”
dried crushed red pepper, dash of coriander, bits of celery

The Process:

Chop everything into bite size pieces, except garlic which can be minced
Heat pan
Add fat in pan (butter, ghee, coconut oil, duck fat, etc. – no vegetable oils, please! These plastic resembling oils are verboten, banish them from your kitchen!)
Add the meat to sear it until light brown
Add spices

Cover to keep juices in
Add garlic, onion, ginger then carrot, pepper
Add tomatoes
Cover and let simmer until vegetables are cooked to your desired taste (10-45 mins), during which time you can also add the water if you’d like it to be brothier. I add a few tablespoons of water to have a little sauce. I also like to keep my veggies more “cru” – uncooked, so I turn off the stove once the meat is cooked through and well mixed with the veggies, as opposed to letting the vegetable cook until they are limp.

While the meat has been cooking I will be preparing the noodles. If you are Gluten Free, which I am “trying” to adjust to in my own nutritional approach, then you can also eat this dish with rice of all kinds if you don’t/can’t eat noodles. To make this more Paleo, just take out the grain side dish entirely. Paleo experts probably have many suggestions as to replacements for the noodles other than rice, such as possibly spaghetti squash, or other things, depending on the season.

The crowining topping, if you have the time and patience after all that chopping and mixing, is to scramble eggs or make a plain omelette, one egg per person, and slice into thin slices to garnish the top along with piles of cut parsley and/or cilantro! (You can easily skip the egg if you are eating an egg-free diet!)

VoilàYou now can say you can cook a real dish from Central Asia!

Bon Appetit!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Lardons & Hazelnuts

In France, it is hard to find American-style bacon. Maybe I haven’t looked hard enough, but I have found, in the bio aisle even, packs of lardons, which are strips of bacon, cut into neat little tidbits for use in many French recipes.
I credit Michelle Tam of  Nom Nom Paleo for providing a similar recipe on her website, which I then tweaked and which has now become a winter mainstay of mine.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Lardons and Hazelnuts

750 grams (a little more than 1.5 lbs or about 26 oz.) Brussel Sprouts
200 grams (a little less than half a lb, or about 7 oz.) of Lardons (or else Bacon, Jambon Fumé, Parma Ham or Prosciutto)
Large Handful of Hazelnuts
Fleur de Sel

Preheat oven to 375F / 190C  while you are chopping off the stems and peeling off the outer leaves of the brussels sprouts. Cut them in half and place them in a glass rectangular pan. Add Lardons, Hazelnuts and Olive Oil and mix around gently in the pan. Add a sprinkling of Fleur de Sel and pop it in the oven for a total of 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minuntes to ensure an even roast. Eat as a snack, side dish or main course.

This savory, nutty dish is a sensation of salty and bitter flavors for the winter palate, but it may take awhile to convince your kids to eat it!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The "Raw Kale & Egg Salad" Salad

Last summer, I learned from my pal, award-winning blogger Erica Green that you can eat kale raw as a salad, like spinach, lettuce and cabbage. Both Safeway and Whole Foods carried kale but once we moved to France, I couldn't find it. I figured out the name in French: "chou frisé” and asked at the marché if they sold this. They said it would be available in the winter. Just two weeks ago, to my joy and rapture, I saw bouquets of kale near the cauliflower and grabbed a couple of bunches and developed the following recipe:

The "Raw Kale & Egg Salad" Salad

Salad (for one big serving in a spacious bowl): Fresh Kale Salad with vine-ripened cherry tomatoes halved or quartered, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, crumbled walnuts, sprinkling of turmeric, pepper & fleur de sel
Dressing(in a mug or small bowl): Mix of olive oil, walnut oil and sesame oil, ½ tsp smooth Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, flax seeds, sesame seeds
Egg Salad (perpared in a separate, small bowl): Two boiled eggs chopped, ½ tsp mustard, 1 tsp mayo, dash black pepper.

Remove the kale leaves from the thicker stem areas, rip or cut into bite-size pieces, and add dressing. Then scoop on the egg mixture, garnish with black pepper and chives if you have them! (I didn’t in the picture.)

If you are not crazy about say turmeric or walnuts, then just leave them out! You can also add avocado to this salad, which adds creaminess along with the egg salad. The combination of kale, egg and nuts in this salad makes for a crunchy, hearty salad with a nice balance of protein and complex carbohydrates, while the dressing, mustard and mayo ingredients give it creaminess and the balsamic vinegar give it some acidic pop.

Freshness Tip: If the kale looks a bit weary because it hasn’t been misted by water, as was the case with mine, wash it and put it in a plastic bag or sealable salad spinner or saleable glass pyrex bowl, somewhat damp, so that it’ll spring back to life after a few hours in the fridge.

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Power Granola Recipe for Adults and Adventurous Kids

This recipe has everything good I could cram into it. you may think of more things. Sometimes more is better! But there are many variations possible here, depending on your taste.

3 Cups Rolled Oats (or any mix of rolled/flaked grains: Rice, Wheat, Rye, Barley)
¼ cup Honey (if honey is viscous, heat it in the oven first) and/or Maple Syrup
3-4 TBSP Olive Oil (you can substitute other oils as well)
TBSP Sesame Oil
TBSP Vanilla Extract
TSP Almond Extract
Any combination of the following: chopped almonds, chopped walnuts, chopped hazelnuts, (total amount of nuts: about 1 cup, I like nuts!), pumpkin seeds (I put in about 4 TBSP), sesame seeds (I like these, I put in 3 TBSP), sunflower seeds (2 TBSP), several dashes of cinnamon powder, a couple of dashes of cardamon powder, 1-2 dashes of nutmeg and/or allspice. Salt is optional, as are coconut flakes.

Mix wet ingredients in a big bowl first, then add dry ingredients, mixing to cover the dry ingredients so that the flakes are lightly covered but not doused (you may need to add a bit more oil or honey/syrup if it’s not sweet enough for your, or flakes if it’s too moist, just experiment! Then add seeds, nuts, etc.
Spread out a thin layer of the mix on parchment paper on a cookie sheet or in a roasting pan and roast for 8-10 minutes at 300F (or 150C) -- a slow roast is better than a fast burn. Use a silicone or wooden flat edge spatula to turn the mix in the pan, roast several more minutes (5-10) until golden – don’t over-bake. Over-baked granola is no fun to eat!

After roasting, the following may be added to the mix: chia seeds, flax flakes, goji berries.
Allow mixture to cool before storing in an airtight container, preferably made of glass. Keep in refridgerator for up to two weeks. If you and your family eat it every day, it will go fast. Otherwise, you can cut the recipe in half. I like to bake in quantities so I don’t have to do it again right away!

Extra Credit: Granola for Kids Who Don’t Like Nuts or Seeds

EVOO, Sesame Oil, Mix of Rolled Oats and/or other rolled grains
Honey, Brown Sugar, Maple Syrup or any combination of these three ingredients
1-2 TBLSP Olive Oil, Dash of Sesame Oil
Dash of Cinnamon

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Bring on the Cream Pumpkin Soup

For cold and rainy fall days, try this delicious calorie-bomb of a soup!

2 kg chopped pumpkin chunks which is about one and a half de-seeded small pumpkins (If it’s the small potimarron you can leave the skin on! Yes! It adds beaucoup de flavor.)
20-30 cl heavy cream
Handful of Chopped Shallots, Garlic, Fresh Ginger
Lots of EVOO

Add several gernerous sprinklings of Fleur de Sel (I’m using Sel de Guerande) on the unroasted pumpkin chunks in a large baking pan.
Roast pumpkin chunks at 175C or 350F for 20 minutes, stir, add chopped ginger, shallots, garlic, roast another 20 minutes, roast again if needed for several more minutes until pumpkin pieces are soft.
Blend roasted goodies in blender, adding optional flax flakes for your Omegas!
Pour in half the cream, adding a bit of water to dilute if you don’t like your spoon to be able to stand up in your soup.
Transfer to a pot and cook a few minutes on medium heat, stirring to make sure it doesn’t burn to the bottom. 
Add EVOO if needed.
I also added basil leaves for garnish and a bit of creamy vinaigrette sauce to make it look fancy.

 Bon Appetit!

Friday, November 8, 2013

“Le Best of” Top10 Funniest French Car Model Names (that sound like the Seven Dwarves)

Living in France again now, my husband and I are reminded of this funny car name phenomenon. Take time to read each of these slowly and enjoy the images they evoke as you mentally graft these images to a car.

10. Lodgy

9. Clio

8. Jumper (a medium-sized utility van, also known as Boxer)

7. Berlingo (also called Partner)

6. Dokker

5. Nemo (also known as Bipper. Bipper? Really?)

4. Yaris (related to Dr. Seuss’ Lorax and Yottle)

3. Jumpy (also known as Expert or Scudo, it’s a compact car, the smaller cousin of Jumper)

2. Kangoo (A personal favorite name of ours. Also known as Express or Kubistar)

And our number one Funniest French Car Model Name is:

1. Twingo (Two steps from a Twinkie, what self-respecting car owner would…?)

Well, anyway, all in good fun!

PS- My plumber, an Irishman converted to Frencholicism, just drove up in his large utility van called Trafic. (Yes, that's spelled with one "f.") He says it’s the best-selling utility van in Europe. And, he says, at least it’s got a masculine name.