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.

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Corsican Summer and a Birth Announcement

9 09 2009

In an attempt to prolong the summer – I’ve been getting some great little poires Williams (Bartlett pears) in the CSA panier for the last couple of weeks, and their appearance has made me wistful – this month we will be visiting the cuisine of Corsica.  This Mediterranean island has changed hands many times over the years, belonging at various times to the Romans, Goths, and Berbers, just to name a few, but has belonged to France since the reign of Louis XV in the mid-eighteenth century.  Strangely, Corsica, despite its being situated in the middle of the sea, doesn’t have much of a seafood tradition.  No, the Corsicans embrace the mountain on which they live, and instead of fishing, grow grapevines along the coast.

Corsican red wines are made from a few different grapes: Nielluccio (alias Sangiovese in Italy), Vermentino,  and the unique Sciacarello, which makes wines that are light in color but bold in flavor.  They also produce some very flavorful and refreshing rosés, perfect for the last few of summer’s sultry evenings.

It's all Mediterranean Food

This red prompted Nick to ask, “Why isn’t Corsica part of Italy?”  Mainly because its juicy character was distinctly reminiscent of Chianti (and it could well be the same grape).  So I whipped up a quick pasta sauce featuring tomatoes and zucchini from the panier – they haven’t started sending us winter squash just yet – and we enjoyed a Mediterranean island-inspired dinner.

Speaking of the panier, and seasonal produce and menus, it’s time for the birth announcement!  Croque-Camille has spawned a mini-blog dedicated to the weekly bounty of the CSA, along with ideas about how to use it.  True, I’m located in Paris, but the seasonal availability should be pretty similar across the Northern Hemisphere (those of you in the Southern hemisphere will just have to wait about six months).  So hop on over to Seasonal Market Menus: A Dispatch from Croque-Camille’s Kitchen, and get inspired!  I’m also putting an RSS widget for the new baby blog in my sidebar, so you can keep up to date on both blogs at once.  Enjoy!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.
Sciacarello Grapes on Foodista





Apéro Provençal

19 08 2009

It is HOT in Paris these days.  Like, too hot for me to be sitting upstairs in my apartment whose copious afternoon sun one fateful February day made me fall in love with it.  That same afternoon sun is now causing my awesome loft-office to heat up to approximately three million degrees (Fahrenheit, Celsius, it doesn’t really matter at that point, does it?).  I’ve been hearing that this is the hottest summer in Paris since the infamous death wave of 2003.  (well, August, anyway – July often required sweatshirts.)  What does all this have to do with Provence?  Nothing, really, except that down in the South they have longer, hotter summers, and have mastered the art of the refreshing apéritif in the form of Pastis.

The Classic

I’ll admit it took me a while to warm up to the anise-flavored spirit, licorice being a hard one for me to tolerate most of the time.  (There are notable exceptions.)  I still often choose a chilled glass of white or pink wine or a beer for my apéro, but thanks to some fancy boutique pastis Nick and I sampled at a salon, with a minty freshness to balance the other herbal qualities, I have found a place for it in my life.  Which is good, because Nick has taken a shine to the stuff.  We generally keep a bottle of Ricard, one of the most popular mass-market brands in France, on hand.  It is traditionally served chilled, with water to cut its potency.  We, being American, insist on ice cubes, which make it the perfect refresher on a hot day like today.  What’s cool is that when the ice and water hit the clear liquor, it turns a milky mint green color.  It even looks refreshing.

steps 2 and 3

Pastis is often enjoyed in conjunction with a friendly game of pétanque, or boules, as we call it around our house.  While the game is pretty much a national pastime in France, it is especially ingrained in the local culture of Provence, probably due to the region’s wealth of warm, sunny days.

Last Saturday

1. The First Throw, 2. Playing Boules (Pétanque)

Which I shouldn’t be complaining about here in Paris.

Just a quick reminder that my Provence poll is still open, so be sure to vote on how you want me to heat up my kitchen!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Provence-a-palooza

10 08 2009

I’m trying not to let half of August slip through my fingers before writing something about my chosen region for the month: Provence.  I’ve actually had this one planned out since I came up with the Regional French Month idea way back in January.  Provence, to me, is all about the sunny summery flavors of fresh herbs, juicy tomatoes, plump eggplant, and briny olives.  Knowing that August is the height of tomato season, not to mention that of zucchini, eggplant, and bell peppers (the Provençal “trinity” if you will), I thought it would be the perfect time to celebrate one of the best-loved cuisines of France.

A search through the archives here at Croque-Camille reveals a handful of Provence-inspired dishes and recipes, so I thought I’d round them up for you.

Eggplant, olives, tomato, and rosemary - yum!

Rereading the post about Nick’s Provençal Eggplant thing made me hungry for it all over again.  To the point where I went out and bought a couple eggplants so that I could recreate it sometime this week.

Anybody remember the fresh Herbes de Provence I found at the market one sunny morning last year?  I haven’t seen them since, but I still think about them, and how delicious they were in a light zucchini quiche.

Or how about the world’s easiest salad dressing, starring that most Provençal of condiments, tapenade?

And of course there’s the pissaladière, the original French pizza.  My version didn’t have anchovies, because while there are approximately six million varieties of canned sardine here, finding a jar of plain anchovies is next to impossible.

More recently, the zucchini bake could easily be made more provençal with anchovies instead of pancetta, and some fresh rosemary and thyme.  The potato and green bean salad was delicious made with herbes de Provence in place of the tarragon, and now that I think about it, potatoes and green beans are two of the ingredients in another provençal classic: Salade Niçoise.

Speaking of Salade Niçoise, there are obviously several more traditional dishes of Provence that I have yet to cook and write about.  So I’m putting it to a poll.  What makes you hungry for more?

Originally published on Croque-Camille.








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