Frozen Summer

22 09 2011

Unlike North America, here in France we had the coldest July in a decade.  We got our summer in fits and starts – I can’t recall any significant periods of wishing for a fan or not wearing a sweatshirt or jacket on my morning commute.  Bu we did have some nice days, here and there.  On one of these, Nick brought home a watermelon on a whim.  It seemed like such a good idea to keep it in the fridge, and have slices of cold, juicy melon serve as a light dessert on warm evenings.

But do you know what seemed like an even better idea?  Freezing it.  Seasoning it with a little basil, grown in our very own windowbox (thanks to Katia for the seedling!), and ensuring that even on cloudy days in September, we could still have a taste of the fleeting sunshine.

Sweet summer in a glass!

This sorbet recipe could very easily be prepared as a granita instead, by following the instructions here.  No ice cream maker required!  Should you be looking for something to do with the watermelon rind that inevitably gets tossed, might I suggest pickling?  (And may I ask for your suggestions on ways to serve said pickles?)  Lastly, if you’re still working on a mountain of zucchini from an overproductive garden, and want something new to do with them, try my recipe for vol-au-vents with Provençal zucchini over at Girls’ Guide to Paris.  It might be something you haven’t made before.

Watermelon-Basil Sorbet

Tastes like pure summer.

1 lb. 10 oz. / 750g watermelon, cut into chunks (weigh after cutting off the rind)
pinch sea salt
1 cup / 225ml basil syrup (recipe below)
½ lime or lemon, juice (optional)

1. Combine the watermelon with the salt and syrup. Liquefy in a food processor, blender, or in a bowl with a hand blender. Taste. If it’s too sweet, brighten the flavor with a squeeze of citrus juice. Chill thoroughly.
2. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
3. Serve in chilled glasses with sprigs of basil for garnish. For a more elaborate presentation, top with dollops of lightly sweetened whipped cream, a drizzle of reduced balsamic vinegar, and a sprinkling of black pepper.

* * *

Basil Syrup

A great way to add some herbal nuance to cocktails, too!

3 stems fresh sweet basil, with leaves
1 cup / 225ml water
8 oz. / 225g sugar

1. Put everything in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and steep 15-30 minutes. Strain and chill completely before using.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Patra ni Macchi

2 09 2011

It’s the first Friday of the month, and that means it’s time for another Currypalooza!  This time, I got to choose the recipe, and I picked Patra ni Macchi, a dish traditionally served for Parsi weddings.  It’s a flavorful dish featuring cod marinated in a spicy, aromatic paste of coconut, chilies, and herbs.  The fish is then wrapped in banana leaves and steamed.  It’s healthy, it’s quick, it’s easy, and best of all, it’s impressive.  Of course it comes from my favorite Indian cookbook, Miss Masala.  I wrote to Mallika Basu, the author, to ask her permission to reprint the recipe from her book, and she graciously gave it.

When I cooked this, I halved the recipe, since there were only three of us, and I substituted dried coconut (shredded, unsweetened) for the fresh.  It needed a little extra water, but no big deal.  I served it with a dish of my own invention – potatoes boiled with hot peppers, mashed, seasoned with turmeric and garam masala, mixed with some peas, then shaped into little patties and pan-fried.  The photo, I admit, is not great, due in part to the green-on-green nature of the dish, and in part to the extra long apéro hour before dinner.  But the gin and tonics were so refreshing, and, well, by the time we sat down to eat everyone was sufficiently… refreshed.

Patra ni Macchi

For dessert we had bowls of fresh mango sprinkled with vanilla salt and dolloped with yogurt.  It was a great summer meal that definitely transported us out of France for the evening.

Patra ni Macchi (Marinated cod steamed in banana-leaf parcels)
Reprinted with permission from Miss Masala by Mallika Basu

Feeds 6

6 cod fillets, skinned and all bones removed
6 large banana leaves
3 garlic cloves
6 fresh green finger chillies
6 Tbsp. fresh or frozen grated coconut
50g (2oz) fresh coriander leaves
25g (1oz) fresh mint leaves
3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
salt

  1. Wash each cod fillet well under cold running water, dabbing dry on kitchen paper.  Wash the banana leaves, taking care not to split the delicate fibres.
  2. Peel the garlic and, using a blender or food processor, purée into a paste with the remaining ingredients, adding salt to taste.  The marinade should be strong and punchy in every way.
  3. Place each fish fillet on a banana leaf and smother with the marinade.  Then wrap it as neatly as you can and set aside.  You don’t need to tie it with thread because the steaming process will seal the parcel shut.
  4. When you’re ready to eat, steam each banana leaf parcel for 7-10 minutes, open side facing down, using a steamer, or a colander covered with a pan lid and placed over a large pan of boiling water.  The fish should be moist but cooked through. (Open just one parcel first to check if cooked.)
  5. This is a wonderful way to impress guests and can be eaten alongside Parsi Brown Rice.  Or serve with Khichdi for a super-healthy meal.

Check out the other Currypalooza posts for this month:

More Please by Margie
Sage Trifle
Ann Mah

* * * * *

More bits and bobs from around the web for your weekend reading enjoyment:

Remember back in May, when I was on the Katia and Kyliemac podcast?  Well, we recorded a third episode, which is now up for your listening pleasure.

Last weekend Nick and I joined Emiglia of Tomato Kumato on a hike and a picnic to mark the end of summer.  Though to tell the truth, it’s been downright summery the last few days, and I am not complaining.

I have a new recipe up on Girls’ Guide to Paris, this time for Apricot Swirl Ice Cream.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a happy hour to get to.  Happy Friday!

On this day in 2010: Cactus L.A. (In which I eat Mexican food three times in one day.)

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Diet Food, My Way

25 08 2011

This week has not gone as planned on the blogging front.  I have a bunch of posts just dying to have their chance in the spotlight, one I even had to stop working to jot down this morning.  But of course I left that notebook at work.  Fortunately, I’ve got one of these “One Meal, One Photo, One Sentence” pictures up my sleeve.

Roasty-roasty

Roasted salmon, risotto made with shrimp stock and roasted zucchini.  This is what I make when I’m trying to eat lighter.  Really.

On this day in 2009: The Land of Chocolate (includes my recipe for premium chocolate ice cream)

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Eggplant with Mustard Seeds and Yogurt

5 08 2011

August’s Currypalooza recipe, chosen by Margie of More Please, features eggplant, which is appropriate considering we’re really at the height of eggplant season these days.  Like last month, it’s a Madhur Jaffrey recipe, and again features yogurt in the sauce, which has an unfortunate tendency to break and make the dish look rather unappetizing.

This was the best I could do.

It tasted great, though.  Not too spicy, nor overly mustardy, but with a rich, complex flavor.  The mustard seeds offered a nice textural contrast with the yielding eggplant.  There were some interesting techniques in the recipe, too – crushing mustard seeds and mixing them with lots of water and a little cayenne to use as the base for cooking the eggplant was certainly an unexpected step, but I think it helped to infuse those flavors right into the vegetable.

To increase the spice factor of our dinner, I also made a spicy vegetable dal with green beans and carrots, and rounded out the meal with some steamed basmati rice.

Margie has posted the recipe on her site, along with her take on it.  Rocquie of Sage Trifle has hers up as well, and check Needful Things later today for Grapefruit’s Currypalooza post.

I’m having a lot of fun with this Currypalooza so far.  I love getting a new Indian recipe to try every month, and it’s interesting to see how everyone else fared with the same recipe.  We often discuss it over email, sharing problems, ingredient questions, and the like, so it’s been educational, too.  If you want to join us, let me know, and I’ll be sure to get you on the email list for next month – when I get to choose the recipe!

On this day in 2009: C’est Moi Le Chef! Strangely enough, I had a similarly frustrating experience today, where I had to wait for TWO HOURS after finishing my work before the sales rep came so I could place my order for next week.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.

 





Vegetable and Grain Salad

14 07 2011

You can try to plan it out.  You can try to make sure you have holiday-appropriate recipes all ready in advance.  You can spend hours taking that perfect photo.  You can read, and re-read, and edit.  You can post regularly, multiple times per week, or day.  There are lots of you who do, and that’s why your blogs are better than mine.  Me, I’m in a phase with my blog right now where I am just letting it come to me.  If I don’t have inspiration to write about something, I’m not going to force you to read my pained output.  I’ve got a couple of books I’ve been trying to write about for weeks now.  But I’m afraid the truth is I don’t have much to say about them.  What I am excited about right now, and what I want to share with you, is this:

Don't judge a book by its cover.

I know.  It kind of looks like barf.  But this is just one in a parade of such grain-and-vegetable salads I’ve made over the last few weeks.  I wouldn’t keep making if they weren’t tasty.  It started with a box of blé, which translates literally to “wheat” but often refers in French to a particular product that resembles wheat berries in the way that Uncle Ben’s resembles rice.  I acquired this box of blé when a friend was moving away, and Nick and I both actually like the stuff – it’s a nice change from rice or pasta – so using hasn’t really been a problem.  But one day it occurred to me, perhaps following a party at a friend’s where she served a couple of delicious grain-based salads, that I could use the blé as more than just a side dish.  Combine that epiphany with a weekly delivery of fresh vegetables and an uncommonly delicious salad dressing, and you’ve got what’s been a very popular dinner in my house of late.

So far I’ve done it with asparagus, broccoli, and zucchini, but I suspect it’s also good with green beans, tomatoes, carrots, cauliflower, spinach, winter squash… you get the idea.  When I finally ran out of blé, I bought and used petit épeautre* which was equally successful.  I originally wanted to type this up as a nice recipe (see above re: planning), but the more I think about it, the more I think this is something you should be able to play around with.

Here’s how it goes.  Cook your grains in a pot of boiling water.  (If they require it, as my spelt did, soak them ahead of time.)  While the grains are cooking, make the dressing** and prepare and cook your vegetables.  Roasting and sautéeing are my preferred methods, for the flavorful browned bits they produce, but if you’d rather just steam yours over the already boiling pot of water, that’s fine, too, and saves energy to boot.  When the grains are tender, drain them and gently stir in the vegetables and dressing.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  A little crisped bacon, chunks of ham, or shredded cooked chicken would be good additions, too, but I assure you it’s just fine without the meat.  Some toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds add a nice crunch.  Fresh herbs like parsley or basil could add a fresh note.  See what I mean?  This “recipe” is so infinitely adaptable I see no reason to commit to just one version.

Have fun with it, and happy Bastille Day!

*Anyone who knows the difference between spelt and farro, and their respective names in French, is implored to comment here and enlighten me and my readers.

** I linked to the dressing recipe above, but here’s my paraphrased version: take a small pot of plain yogurt (about 125 grams or 4 ounces), add 4 big spoonfuls of tahini, a big pinch of salt, the juice of half a lemon, and a couple of smashed garlic cloves.  Blend them together.  The flavor of this dressing can vary according to the juiciness of the lemon and the pungency of the garlic, but it is always delicious.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Cardamom and Black Pepper Chicken

1 07 2011

Almost exactly a year ago, I got bitten by the Indian cooking bug.  Since then, I’ve been cooking up various vegetable dals on a pretty regular basis.  So when Grapefruit of the blog Needful Things announced that she was starting a monthly Currypalooza event, I was very excited to participate.  Then life happened for a few months – my arsenal of Indian spices were all packed away and I couldn’t get to them, I had insanely busy weeks juggling houseguests, job interviews, and deadlines, but now that we’re finally settled in the new apartment and have a little time to breathe (thank you, vacation!) I’m pleased to be able to play along in this month’s Currypalooza.  The dish in question?  Madhur Jaffrey’s Cardamom and Black Pepper Chicken.

Look Ma!  No Carbs!

The recipe was delightfully quick – prepare a marinade for the chicken, let it sit while preparing the rest of the sauce, throw it in the sauce, marinade and all, and let it finish cooking.  I deviated from the recipe a bit, because I wasn’t sure how or why I should grate a tomato, so I just chopped one up.  Other than that, I was unusually faithful.  Grapefruit will be posting the recipe on her blog, and as soon as she does, I’ll put in the link.  And here it is!

What to serve with a saucy Indian chicken dish?  The obvious answer is probably rice, but Nick and I had already eaten rice at lunch that day.  Or naan, but it was a little too close to dinnertime to start kneading and proofing dough.  I didn’t feel like getting two pots dirty to make lentils, and I definitely wanted a vegetable component to the meal.  Mallika and her wonderful Quick Indian Cooking blog to the rescue!  There I found a delectable recipe for Masala Mattar, a spicy side dish featuring peas.  The two dishes worked well together, and I even got to have some of the leftover chicken for lunch the next day.  The peas were all gone, so that time, I made rice.

On this day in 2008: Get Confident, Stupid!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





In A Pickle

8 06 2011

Homemade dill pickles

I do apologize for the increasing silence on this blog of late.  I’ve been very busy facing some Major Life and Career Decisions, and it’s distracting, to say the least.  I don’t want to go into it too much, but I have two very exciting job opportunities before me, and I’ve been wavering between them for weeks now.  Both jobs would be a big step up for me, and neither would require me to wake up at 5:00 am on a regular basis, so it’s generally a good situation, but I’m having a really hard time deciding which is the right next step for me.

But enough about me.  You don’t come here to read about my career angst, you come here (I hope) to read about Paris and the food I eat and cook here.  Paris by Mouth, an entertaining and informative website run by my friends Meg and Barbra, recently opened a brand-new discussion forum to celebrate the site’s 1st birthday.  It’s a great place for food-lovers in Paris to congregate and ask each other where to find the best steaks, outdoor eating, or ethnic eats in town.  It’s also a useful tool for travelers, as anyone planning a trip here can ask the forum for help finding family-friendly restaurants, places they can use AmEx, or the best food markets in a given neighborhood.  In one thread, somebody asked where to get dill pickles in France, and I remembered that while I’ve been making my own for several summers now, I had yet to post a recipe.

The reasons for this omission are twofold: one, because it’s hard to photograph things in jars; and two, because I never wrote down what I did, and the pickles came out slightly differently each time.  But knowing there was demand, I made sure to take notes on what I was doing when I made my most recent batch of pickles, from a gorgeous organic cucumber that came in my CSA bag.

Halved

I make a brine, taking inspiration and direction from Jessica of Apples and Butter and Michael Ruhlman‘s excellent book, Ratio.  While I’m waiting for it to cool, I prep my cucumbers and the jar.  (My favorite pickle jar is one that used to contain peeled chestnuts.  It’s the perfect size to hold a whole cucumber, cut into spears.)  I halve the cucumber, then halve the halves…

…then halve those, take out the seedy bit, and finally cut once more to create perfect pickle spears.  These get jammed into my jar, which is lined with fresh dill and a few spices.  Any whole spices will work, but mustard, garlic, and coriander are pretty classic, and I like the kick the pickles get from a hint of red chili flakes.  As luck would have it, this batch came out just the way I want my dill pickles to taste: cooling and crunchy, with just a touch of garlic and chili heat.  They’re just right next to a sandwich or burger, though I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t just been eating them out of the jar as an afternoon snack.

Dill pickles

Dill Pickles

Combine a dislike of cucumbers with a lack of dill pickles in France, and you end up with a pickling maniac! I haven’t tested the longevity of this recipe – once the jar is open they disappear within a week or two. Though if your jars are sterilized and you store them in a cool, dark place, I see no reason these couldn’t last a few months.

1 large cucumber
½ cup / 120 ml white wine vinegar or plain white vinegar
2 cups / 475 ml water
1 oz. / 30 g salt
3 cloves of garlic
2 tsp. brown mustard seeds
2 tsp. whole coriander seeds
A few shakes of red pepper flakes
10 or so sprigs of fresh dill

1. First, make the brine. Combine the vinegar, water, salt, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 tsp. Each of the mustard seeds and coriander seeds, and a shake of red pepper flakes in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then set aside to cool.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the cucumber. Wash it well and trim off the ends. Cut it in half so you have two cylinders, hopefully about the same length as your jar is tall. Cut each cylinder into quarters, lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Slice the de-seeded quarters in half again to make spears.

3. In a large, clean jar, pack about five sprigs of fresh dill. Add the remaining teaspoons of mustard seeds and coriander seeds, a clove of garlic, and another shake of red pepper flakes, if you wish (I usually do). Pack the cucumber spears into the jar vertically, and pour the cooled brine over them. When the jar is full, use a few more dill sprigs to ensure the cucumbers stay immersed in the brine.

4. Close the jar and leave it out at room temperature for 3-4 days. Move it to the fridge and wait another 3-4 days. Enjoy.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





You Know It’s Springtime When…

16 05 2011

… You finally get to take the sweaters to the dry cleaners.

… The flowers are in bloom, and the allergies go into overdrive.

… It’s starting to get light out when you go to work in the morning.  (Or maybe that’s just me.)

… The laundry dries in less than a day.

… Heaters, schmeaters!

… You bust out the sandals from the depths of the closet.

… Fresh produce abounds in the market: strawberries, lettuces, radishes, rhubarb, peas…

… Parisian café terraces are constantly full.

… Every food blog on the internet starts posting asparagus recipes.

Here’s mine, a warm herbed asparagus salad with poached eggs, at Girls’ Guide to Paris.  It’s not only great for brunch, but makes a lovely light supper as well.

On this day in 2008: L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon - still one of the best and most memorable dining experiences I’ve had in Paris.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Mustard in the Custard

2 05 2011

Longtime readers of this blog may remember my penchant for making breakfast strata on Easter.  And other times.  This year was no different.  Again looking to the contents of my fridge for inspiration, ham and cheddar sounded like a delightfully sandwich-y take on the strata.

Speaking of sandwiches, wouldn’t a little mustard be the perfect spice for eggy brunch sandwiches?  Monte Cristo breakfast casserole?  Ok, none of that sounds appetizing.  Let’s just say I put the mustard in the custard and get on with it.

mustard in the custard!

Layers: bread, caramelized onions (I seem to be incapable of making a strata without them), strips of ham, shredded Tillamook cheddar.  Repeat, finish with bread.  Custard: four eggs, two cups of milk, salt, pepper, a big spoonful each of grainy mustard and Dijon, and a few dashes of Tabasco sauce. Let it soak for at least half an hour, bake at 350F for an hour or so, and eat.  Champagne and Bloody Marys make perfect accompaniments.  I probably don’t need to tell you this, but it was so good.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





untitled (paris in the rain)

28 04 2011

there’s something cozy about paris in the rain.

drizzle, rather.

the glistening zinc rooftops, the early dark

make me want to settle in, shut down,

look at lit windows and imagine the home inside.

it must be cozy in there.  i bet they’re eating something delicious.

comforting.

soon i’ll be in my home, my windows invitingly lit, warm smells coming from my stove.

porcini ravioli, spinach cream sauce, wish we had some garlic and parmesan,

but it will still hit the spot.

rhubarb poached in blood orange juice and brown sugar.

warm, atop vanilla ice cream.  maybe.

inspired by a fortune cookie:

a noria turns buckets.

in the rain

everything stops.

take a deep breath,

and just.

slow.

down.

duties,

jobs, recipes, phone calls, address changes, photo editing

can wait one more day.

tonight,

it’s me and the stove in this borrowed apartment

in paris

in the rain.

On this day in 2008: Fish Stock Use #1: Seafood Risotto

Originally published on Croque-Camille.








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