Shilling French Toast

2 08 2010

I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to realized that picnic leftovers make excellent breakfasts.  First there was the enchistrata, and now, upon Nick’s insistence, the pile of mini pains perdus.

Mise en place for French toast

He’s asked for this before, but today finally managed to convince me to do it.  And it turns out he was right.  Half a day-old baguette makes the perfect amount of little French toasts for breakfast for two.  I started out calling them “silver dollar French toast,” but it just didn’t feel right.  Who knows what a silver dollar is over here?

Soaking

“Two-euro toast” didn’t sound quite right either.  But yesterday, while picnicking outside the Château de Versailles, Nick found a shilling coin in the grass.  From 1922.  It got me wondering how long it had been lying there, what it was worth when it was dropped…

But most of all, it seemed like a fitting name for the breakfast made of the leftover baguette from said picnic.

Frying

I don’t know the amounts I used, but if I were to venture a guess, it would go something like this: 1 egg, a third to a half a cup of milk, a couple tablespoons of cream, a pinch of sugar, a pinch of salt, and in a last-minute flash of inspiration, a splash of plum eau-de-vie.

I served the toasts with wedges of plum, not purchased for the picnic but could well have been, and slices of crisp oven bacon – having tried it once, I am a firm convert.

Shilling French Toast with Plums

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Picnic Pesto

18 05 2009

Picnicking season is finally upon us.  Our blanket is at the ready, our supplies of wet naps have been replenished, and a bottle of rosé awaits in the fridge at all times.  I love the impromptu nature of the picnic.  It’s the sort of meal where Nick can call me from work on a particularly sunny afternoon and ask me to throw together a salad and get out the cheese, tell me he will pick up a baguette on the way from work, and we meet at the canal for a light, leisurely supper.

Ingredients for a springy pesto.

Even when you plan a picnic, like I did a few weeks ago with Hope, it’s nice to have dishes you can throw together at a moment’s notice.  Pasta salad is a picnic favorite in our house, and ever since I learned the trick to making pesto that doesn’t separate and clump when served on cold pasta (hint: it’s mayonnaise), I’ve been experimenting with different combinations of herbs and vegetables.  I usually employ a clean-out-the-fridge method of pesto-making.  Any fresh herbs I have lying around get thrown in, and the results are always tasty.  This time around, I happened to have two bunches of mint that needed some attention.  I had purchased them at the market because they smelled so refreshing, forgetting that I had used up the last of the rum making vanilla extract.

Mint pesto, peas, pasta

I added some parsley to the mix to help maintain the green color, and a handful of peas came along for the ride.  Because what says Spring more than peas and mint?  With the exception of cheese, the rest of the Usual Suspects were there: pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice.  Tossed with twirly pasta, toasted pine nuts, and more peas, it was a hit at the picnic.  The fresh, green flavor helped us all feel a little better about sitting around eating while watching the joggers in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont.  I’ll be sure to make this again, next time I have mint lying around.  Or I may even buy some for the occasion.

Perfect Pesto Picnic Pasta

Pea and Mint Pesto Pasta Salad

 Delicious, refreshing, and utterly springy, this is the perfect dish for the first picnic of the season.  The addition of mayonnaise to the traditional pesto helps it cling to the cold pasta.  If you start the pasta first, you can have this salad ready to go in around 20 minutes.

 For the Mint Pesto:

2 bunches mint, washed and leaved (about 2 cups/450 ml packed leaves)
½ bunch parsley, washed and picked
1-2 small cloves of garlic, peeled
¼ cup/60 ml peas (use fresh if they are young and sweet, otherwise use frozen, thawed)
¼ cup/60 ml pine nuts
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
Juice of 1 lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
A little reserved pasta cooking water, if necessary

  1. Combine all ingredients except pasta water in a tall container.  Purée with an immersion blender, adjusting the consistency if necessary with a little of the cooking water.  Taste and tweak the seasoning as you desire.

 For the Pasta Salad:

7 oz./200 g pasta (short shapes with lots of surface area are best – think fusilli or farfalle)
1 recipe Mint Pesto
½ cup/120 ml peas (see note above)
½ cup pine nuts, toasted

  1. Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water to just past al dente.  (You’re going to be eating this cold or room temperature, so it should be tender.)  Drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking.
  2. Toss the pasta with the pesto, peas, and pine nuts.  Pack into a reusable, picnic-friendly container and get outside!  Serve on a picnic blanket with plastic utensils.

 Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.


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Bastille Day Picnic

16 07 2008

The Champ de Mars on Bastille Day

While this is still timely, I’d like to wish everyone a happy Bastille Day.  (For those of you who don’t know, July 14th is also the Fête de Ste. Camille – my name day!  So nice of them to put on a fireworks show for all the Camilles out there.)

Anyway, we had a picnic with a couple thousand of our closest friends on the Champ de Mars, the park in front of the Eiffel Tower.  Our little group managed to bring enough food to feed everyone, I think.

This is a picnic for 5 people!

We had pita bread, baguettes, potted tuna, stuffed peppers, dolmas, hummus, baba ghanoush (homemade by yours truly), pasta salad, no less than four bags of chips, three kinds of cheese, three different cookie flavors (one of which was peanut butter, also made by me), and the now-notorious onion dip, front and center.  Since there were only five of us eating, joined by four more later, we managed to make two meals out of this spread.  It was a long afternoon spent lounging in the sun and enjoying the scenery.  Really, just like the 4th of July, only 10 days later.

I feel like I’ve been teasing you a bit with the onion dip, so without further ado, here’s my recipe (with thanks again to my friend Pete for the suggestion):

Pete’s Caramelized Onion-Bacon Dip

 

1 oz./25 g bacon, chopped (about 2 slices)

2 medium onions, sliced

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Cayenne pepper

White wine

Rosemary red wine vinegar (substitute balsamic or sherry vinegar)

 

1 lb./500 g crème fraîche or sour cream

 

  1. Put the chopped bacon in a medium skillet over low heat.  Cook until most of the fat has rendered out.
  2. Add onions and season with salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste (bear in mind the bacon is already contributing some salt).  Continue cooking over low heat, stirring occasionally, until onions deepen in color to a nice golden brown.  When you start to notice browning on the bottom of the pan, splash in a bit of white wine and stir to scrape up the brown bits.  When the onions are the desired color, add a hit of vinegar to the pan to keep them moist.  Remove from heat and cool a few minutes.
  3. Stir onion-bacon mixture into crème fraîche.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.  It is best if you wait an hour or so before serving it, but that can be hard to do.  Serve with potato chips, crackers, baguette slices, crudités…

 

Serves:  Fewer people than you might think.





BBLTs

19 06 2008

The extra B is for Bbleu d’Auvergne.

I came to the realization the other day that for once, the stars had aligned properly and I had all the components of a BLT sandwich in the kitchen at one time (well, except the bread, which takes all of 3 minutes to run down to the corner and buy).  Nick’s been hankering for a BLT for a while, so when he called to let me know he was on his way home, I fired up the stove and started cooking bacon.

While I was getting the bacon out of the fridge, I noticed a hunk of Bleu d’Auvergne that had somehow escaped my notice for the last couple of days and was therefore untouched.  Bacon and bleu cheese being a natural pairing in my book, I grabbed the cheese as well.

There were also a couple of artichokes lying around in there, and I thought they would make a good side dish, so I got a big pot of water boiling.  Then Nick arrived home and announced that since it was such a nice day we should take our dinner to the park.  I agreed, and then I remembered the artichokes, which are not exactly the world’s most picnic-friendly food.  We decided to stick them in our biggest tupperware and bring along a small one of melted butter.  Problem solved!

For the sandwiches, I split lengths of baguette and spread one half of each with butter.  The other half I smeared with Bleu d’Auvergne before stuffing the sandwiches with 4-5 slices of bacon each, and the requisite lettuce and tomatoes.

His and Hers BBLTs

We packed up our picnic and headed up the canal to a nearby park.  We had just enough time to find a spot, open our wine, and take a few bites of sandwich before we heard the telltale whistles of the park police.  This meant that it was coming up on 9:30, closing time.  Which seemed very odd, considering that the park was full of families playing and large groups having picnics in the early evening sun.

Yes, sun.  The sun officially sets just before 10 pm, but these days, it seems to stay light until nearly 11 o’clock.  Here’s a picture from after we had relocated to a spot beside the canal, set up, and eaten our way through the better part of our sandwiches and one of the artichokes.  (It had to be at least quarter past 10.)

Now I understand why the French eat dinner so late...

The artichokes actually caused quite a stir among the group next to us – one guy couldn’t help but gape and exclaim gleefully to his friends that we had brought artichokes on our picnic.  The friends apologized and explained that he was absolutely crazy for artichokes.  Then we lent them our corkscrew and were deemed “des touristes très sympas” (very nice tourists).  I jumped to correct the error.  “Nous ne sommes pas des touristes, nous habitons ici.”  It still feels awesome to say that.








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