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Frenchie and the SoCal Dates

29 May

San Diego, CA

I cannot believe how long it’s been since the last post.

Pas d’excuse !

You know how it goes…

Neck and shoulder issues in March without the possibility of looking up or down.

No cooking. No photos.

Food poisoning in April.

No cooking. Oh no, no cooking for sure! No photos.

The fear of the blank page. It’s been so long!

And then May travels.

I’ve traveled coast to coast this past month and am ready to bring back lots of memories, experiences, food and colors.

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Still on the road but wanted to share this nut cake with you.

You can always catch up with me on Instagram where I post pictures daily.

For my non-dairy friends, this cake is actually dairy-free.

Inspirations from my Southern California travels.

The sweet discovery of local SoCal dates at the San Diego Hillcrest farmers’ market.

Is it wrong to say I brought 2 pounds of those dates back with me?

The market was everything I have yearned for in a market.

Filled with fresh food, ethnic diversity, love, colors and smiles.

But so is this part of California and I ought to post more photos from my latest discoveries later.

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Until then, hello from New York City while I am enjoying a date or two as I type this post

I did bring some with me – guilty!

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Date and Honey Nut Cake with Olive Oil

makes a 12×9 cake (30×23 cm)

2/3 cup (160 ml) of olive oil

1/3 cup (80 ml) of honey

4 eggs at room temperature

1 cup (235 ml) of almond milk

1 vanilla bean – scrapped and seeded

1 cup (120 g) of almond meal or flour

1/2 cup (60 g) of cashew meal or flour

1/2 cup (60 g) of coconut flour

3 tablespoons of chestnut flour

1/4 teaspoon of sea salt

2 tablespoons of baking powder

6 oz (170 g) of dates – pitted and chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 °F (180 °C) and grease the inside of the baking dish with olive oil and a brush. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stander mixer on high speed, beat the olive oil with the honey until well incorporated and smooth.

Add the eggs and continue to mix until blended in.

Add the milk and the vanilla seeds and continue to blend.

In a small bowl, combine the flours (almond, cashew, coconut and chestnut) with the sea salt and baking powder.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in the bowl and reduce to speed to slow. Mix slowly until well combined.

When creamy, remove the bowl from the stander mixer and scrape the sides with a spatula.

Add the chopped dates to the dough and spread in the pan.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out dry.

Let cool for 15 minutes before cutting squares and serving.

Frenchie and a Spring Tartine

24 Feb

Spring isn’t for another 24 days but it seems it already settled in the southeast.

In the cool of the evening, you can already feel the calm and serenity of the elements.

The birds came back during the day and they welcome the sun at dawn.

This isn’t without saying that one winter here looks completely different from a Boston winter – except for those 2 days of snow.

The joyful white blanket of winter that I miss so very much.

And just like that it disappeared – sliding back into spring.

The thrill of traveling near and far in January – the first month of the year, the first trips of a new year.

Charleston, San Francisco, Sonoma.

Family, work and friends.

Colors to capture, smells to remember, landscapes to observe, new memories to make.

Elusive treasures, little fragments of happiness.

And even though spring has arrived at my house early and unannounced, I thought it best to celebrate this new season in the kitchen as well.

A green tartine for a bright spring.

Smoked Salmon/Prosciutto Tartines with Edamame Horseradish Spread

1/3 cup (50 g) cannellini beans

3/4 cup (100 g) edamame – shelled

1 teaspoon of sea salt

1 small shallot – chopped

1/2 cup (30 g) of arugula – packed

1/4 cup (60 ml) of olive oil

1/8 cup (30 ml) of walnut oil + more for drizzling

3 teaspoons of freshly grated horseradish root (note: if you are sensitive to horseradish, 3 teasp. will only give a slight faint after taste. Add more as needed depending on preferences)

1 Tbsp of sesame seeds

5-6 oz (140-170 g) of smoked salmon or prosciutto

freshly ground pepper

multicolored baby beets – raw and thinly sliced

crusty country bread – thinly sliced

In a food processor, add the beans, edamame, salt, shallot, arugula, and olive oil.

Pulse for 20 seconds until it turns into a paste.

Add the walnut oil and horseradish. Pulse for another 5-10 seconds.

Spread the edamame horseradish spread on lightly toasted bread slices. Top the tartine with smoked salmon (my favorite) or prosciutto and raw, crunchy baby beets thin slices.

Sprinkle the tartine with more sea salt, freshly ground pepper and an extra drizzle of walnut oil.

Frenchie and a Year in Review – 2013

2 Jan

Wishing you a very happy New Year 2014.

Une très Bonne Année… full of good food, adventures, colorful travel experiences and health.

And starting the new year with a chocolate recipe is a good way to start the year.

Resolution for 2014? More chocolate!

Looking back at 2013 – the most popular photos and posts – the delightful memories of a busy year full of excitement.

Los Angeles, Malibu and a Boston blizzard in January.

The preparation for the move – from the Northeast to the Southeast.

A leap of faith. A new region.

Boxing up my Boston life and saying goodbye to lovely New England.

Financiers and roasted vegetables to gather friends around last meals before the movers take everything away.

Setting up and creating a new life in North Carolina.

A thirst for discovering places, flavors and what the area has to offer.

Un changement de vie.

Fresh ingredients for a quinoa tabbouleh.

Fresh air experience with Relish Carolina and their roaming dinner club.

Oh the joys of exploring Charlotte through food.

2013 took me twice to Mexico.

Puerto Vallarta and Mexico City.

The vibrant colors of a culture and country yet unknown to me.

The fond memories of times well spent with friends on the beach and at a wedding.

France, summer, a peach and cherry mousse, a chilled cucumber soup, and summer weather in Charlotte were also in the cards for me.

Spending time with family, photographing life as it happens, and finding food inspirations in Charleston,  Newport and Wisconsin travels.

Bright green countryside and golden sandy beaches.

Parisian walks and quaint cobblestone Charleston streets.

This past summer included everything needed for an escape and break from setting up a new home – all thanks to friends and family for welcoming and inviting me.

And if the anticipation for fall wasn’t high enough…

Not only my favorite time of the year.

But a Tahiti trip was in the works – comme un rêve.

French Polynesia vs. North Carolina’s autumn transformations.

A tale of two worlds apart. Each with their own unique colors.

And frankly, it’s probably impossible to take a bad picture in French Polynesia.

Le paradis.

And with a New Year resolution to eat more chocolate, it is only appropriate to share the first recipe of the year – with chocolate of course!

Neither a cake nor a gratin.

But a delicious treat to start the year.

And what about you? Any New Year resolutions to share?

May 2014 be full of joy and health.

Happy New Year!

And thank you to the Charlotte Observer, the Journal of the American Chestnut Foundation and NoshOn.It for featuring F & Y last year.

Un grand merci!

Orange-Flavored Warm Chocolate Cakes with Sour Cherries

makes four 2/3-cup ramekins

1 egg + 1 yolk

1/3 cup (65 g) Turbinado sugar

zest of half an organic orange + 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice

2 Tbsp hazelnut flour/meal

1 Tbsp millet flour

1 Tbsp Dutch cocoa powder

1 Tbsp black onyx cocoa powder – it gives a more intense color/taste to the cakes (replace with another Tbsp of Dutch cocoa if needed)

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

pinch of sea salt

2/3 cup (155 ml) coconut milk

3.5 oz (100 g) of dried sour cherries – roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 °F (180 °C) and butter the inside of the ramekins. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg, yolk, sugar, orange zest and orange juice together.

In a medium bowl, combine the flours (hazelnut and millet), the cocoa powders (Dutch and black) with the cinnamon, ginger and salt.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Whisk until well mixed.

Pour the coconut milk slowly while whisking until well combined.

Put 1 Tbsp of chopped dried sour cherries at the bottom of each ramekins.

Fill each ramekin with batter, over the dried cherries. Top each ramekin with 2 Tbsp of dried cherries.

Place in the oven and bake for 25-30 min. Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 min.

Frenchie and French Polynesia

15 Nov

Many experience French Polynesia differently.

All islands have something unique to offer.

And they all look different. Somehow.

I chose the old South Seas experience. The cultural and historical experiences.

The remnants of coconut planters, beach bums and missionaries.

And it’s still in my mind. I miss it.

I wonder what all the people met along the way are doing now.

Téké, Sandra, Violetta…

And among all the things I miss, here are 20 of them.

1- 50 shades of blue – more blueish colors than I could count. All different from one another, yet blending but setting themselves apart.

2- Banana everything – jam, raw, in a tart, on the markets, on the side of the roads, in gardens, in my bag, in my hand.

3- Laying down under coconut palm trees – looking up at the sky and diving into the blue surrounded by palm leaves.

4- Motu hopping – small islets trapped in bright turquoise waters ready to be explored and discovered.

5- Tahitian coconut milk ceviche – for lunch or dinner, with Chinese spices or Tahitian vanilla sauce. Memories of catching the fish with Téké who prepared the ceviche on the beach with all the ingredients he had brought in his cooler.

6- Dark skies and days – the darker the sky and horizon, the brighter the ocean and lagoon.

7- Maupiti and its wild untamed side. Renting bikes to go around the main island in less than 40 minutes.

8- Le lycée agricole de Moorea – discovering how pineapples grow, their pretty shapes and cosy nests, walking along shimmering lemon and lime trees, smelling the grapefruits hanging on thick branches.

9- Sunsets – their colors, brightness, shades of orange, purple and pink. They looked different on every island. The prettiest were on Raiatea looking over Bora Bora.

10- Colors on the table – orange fruit, white coconut milk, freshly caught colorful fish, yellow bananas and green ‘hulus – breadfruit – all displayed on tablecloths and napkins with traditional Tahitian colors.

11- Sailing on the Pacific with friends – life on a boat at sea, freshly baked bread made every morning by one of the “sailor”, fish, seafood, and quick stops at local markets on the coasts.

12- French Polynesians – meeting people along the many roads travelled. Being invited to dinner on Huahine by a local man walking his daughter back from the beach for dinner time. Vous avez faim ? Come have dinner with us, he said!

13- Les petits et les gros poissons – tiptoeing on long wooden decks stretching into the blue ocean to observe fish crawling under rocks in the transparent waters, catching the warm sun rays filtering through. Yellow, blue, purple, a colorful symphony of fish. Rays and baby sharks too, all happily playful with each other.

14- Tiaré flowers – smelling them every day walking down the road was a sweet sugary olfactory treat, which one can never forget. Creamy white. Easy to spot among the shrubs.

15- Les marchés – the produce, the variety of fruits, French, Chinese and Japanese influences in the food served from food trucks, the loud hubbub of French mixed with Tahitian, Marquesan and sometimes Chinese dialect, the vibrant smells tickling my nose and the incredible need to try to eat everything.

16- Vanilla beans – discovering those thick, plump, flat and moist beans compared to those that I know from Madagascar or Mexico. Surprisingly very sweet and fruity – strong in flavor. Fewer seeds to scrape but an easy vanilla paste to extract from the pods. Un délice !

17- Looking beyond the horizon – blue sky, blue ocean and a thin line between the two. Always wondering what’s beyond those seas, what’s across from me? And if you’re lucky, between Moorea and Tahiti, you can see whales rubbing elbows with boats as they pass by.

18- Maraes - a big hierarchy of Gods, stories and legends. The ancient temples (maraes) and their ruins still visible on some islands, those meeting places for elaborate religious ceremonies and the importance of the northwest corner of each island where it was believed that the souls of the departed would leave – the direction of Asia from whence the ancestors came from.

19- I won’t lie but sipping Tahitian Mai Tais on the beach is always an added bonus to any end of the day as the sun is ready to set.

20- Banana jam – and especially Sandra’s banana jam. Served for breakfast in a big oversized jar with a red lid. And after many questions, sneaky attempts to get the recipe, she remained tight lipped. A secret recipe kept secret.

And in honor of this trip and Sandra’s secret jam, this is what I’d like to share with you – my own version of a Tahitian banana and vanilla jam. It’s not Sandra’s, but it’s really close!

And with it a bit of French Polynesia remains in my fridge for grey and rainy winter mornings, or for an afternoon pick-me-up-treat after a long day.

Tahitian Banana and Vanilla Jam

the juice of 3 lemons

6 oz (600 g) of bananas (about 5) – sliced

1/2 cup (100 g) of blonde cane sugar

1/2 cup (100 g) of brown sugar

1/2 cup (120 ml) of water

1 cinnamon stick

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

a dash of freshly grated nutmeg

2 vanilla beans – Tahitian beans if you can – split open with seeds scraped out

In a big bowl, combine the sliced bananas with the lemon juice so they don’t turn brown. Coat well.

In a big pot over medium high heat, pour the sugars and water together and stir to dissolve them. Mix well until combined but do not let the water boil.

Place the slices of bananas and any remaining lemon juice inside the bowl in the pot along with the cinnamon stick, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla seeds and the beans.

Cook for 15-20 min over medium low heat and mix often.

When the back of the mixing spoon is coated with banana jam, remove the pot from the heat and let it cool.

Keep in a jar with a tight lid in the fridge. I leave the cinnamon stick and the vanilla beans in the jam for added flavor.

Frenchie and the Wait for Fall

24 Oct

A new region and new weather patterns.

Et l’automne ?

As I dream of red and orange twirling leaves, the trees haven’t changed here – still proudly displaying their bright summer green.

It does not look like fall but it tastes like it.

Apples, pumpkins and squash on the markets.

Vivid fall colors mixed with a summer background.

Les belles pommes !

And with apples come the pleasures of spending time in the kitchen cooking and baking.

During rainy and dark afternoons when it’s better to stay inside.

Cutting, peeling and coring apples.

Dipping a finger in the vanilla sugar container.

Stewing pears and apples in a pan to create wonders and treats.

Or during bright and shiny mornings.

Putting the final touches to a belle tarte aux pommes for a friend’s party.

And this is what I wanted to share with you.

A tart that I like to eat during the week as I browse and sort all of the Tahiti pictures.

A quinoa and hazelnut crust.

A slice of fall in my mouth as I reminisce about the trip.

Apple Tart with Grand Marnier and Rose Water

makes a 9-inch tart

for the gluten-free crust

3/4 cup (90 g) of quinoa flour

1/2 cup (60 g) of hazelnut flour

1/3 cup (60 g) + 3 Tbsp of brown rice flour

1/3 cup (40 g) of tapioca flour

2/3 cup (80 g) of powdered sugar

1.5 teaspoon of guar gum

a pinch of sea salt

optional: 1 Tbsp of vanilla sugar

8 Tbsp (115 g) of cold butter – cut in small cubes

1 egg + 1 Tbsp of water

Sift the 4 flours and the sugar together over a big bowl and combine them with the guar gum and sea salt.

Drop the butter cubes in the bowl and working slowly with your fingers, rub the butter with the flour mix until sandy, soft and well absorbed. It should be lumpy and should look like breadcrumbs.

Crack the egg in a small bowl and add the cold water to it. Whisk for a few seconds with a fork to combine the water and egg.

Dig a well in the center of the big bowl and pour the egg/water in the center.

Mix delicately with your hands in a circular motion until the dough forms a ball. Do not knead it too much.

Flatten the ball, cover and wrap with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight or for at least 1 hour. If chilled overnight, remember to remove it from the fridge and wait at least 45 minutes before rolling it.

for the filling

3 apples – choose between sweet baking apples or tart apples depending what you prefer. I tend to mix both because I enjoy the taste very much.

2 Tbsp of Grand Marnier

2 Tbsp of rose water (if you are sensitive to the taste of rose water use only 1 to 1.5 Tbsp)

1 teaspoon of cinnamon + an extra dash for sprinkling

a dash of grated nutmeg

2 Tbsp of brown sugar

the juice of 1 lemon

3 Tbsp of apple sauce – use your favorite recipe for apple sauce. Apple butter works well here too.

blonde cane sugar for sprinkling

While the dough is resting in the fridge and before you blind bake it, whisk in a big bowl the Grand Marnier, rose water, cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar and lemon juice.

Slice the apple thinly. If using a mandoline, use 3 mm/1/8″. Mix the apple slices in the bowl with the juice and make sure they are well coated.

Let the apples marinate in the bowl for 30 minutes. Use a spoon to coat them again with the juices at the bottom of the bowl.

Preheat the oven to 400 °F (200 °C).

Roll out the dough to fill a 9-inch tart pan (22-23 cm). I use some of the tapioca flour to roll the dough. Line the dough with the pan, press in the corners, and trim it without any overhang.

With a fork, make small holes at the bottom over the entire surface. Cover the dough with parchment paper, drop weights on it (another smaller oven-proof dish, or dry garbanzo beans) and blind bake the crust for 10 minutes.

Remove the crust from the oven, remove the parchment paper and the weights, and bake for another 8 minutes.

When done, lower the oven temperature to 350 °F (180 °C).

Coat the bottom of the crust with the apple sauce or apple butter. Arrange the apple slices tightly on the crust. Keep their juices in the bowl and pour it all over the apples in the tart.

Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Let the tart cool for 10 minutes before removing it from the pan.

Frenchie and une Partie de Campagne

4 Sep

Frenchie à la ferme !

Une partie de campagne in August with 100 strangers for a “celebration of community, cuisine and culture”.

The Underwood Family Farm in Lawndale, NC was the stage.

We were the willing actors participating in this end-of-summer Sunday supper.

A gently paced 6-course supper with Serbian and southern influences.

And of course, a French twist as well – a trou normand in the middle of the event with a plum brandy.

It is the kind of event where everything is perfect.

The light, colors, people, animals, details and flowers.

And of course the food.

A kind of event that truly marks the celebration of all things festive.

An artfully crafted sendoff to summer.

A time of year when a light soft sweater is needed at the end of the day as the air feels cool.

Cool air but warm faces as we ate with the setting sun in our eyes.

The people responsible for this gathering and appreciation of meeting friends around the dinner table are Relish Carolina.

They’ve been able to create their own food family and followers like me come to celebrate with them the art of bringing people together around dishes and stories.

And it was only fitting that the first course of this  dinner à la campagne was a chilled cucumber soup with goat cheese panna cotta, chive oil and mint.

Cold cucumber soup has been on the menu almost every week at my house this summer.

A recipe to share here to celebrate this Relish Carolina event.

We all experienced great dinners before.

When everything seems to flow so well and guests are no longer guests but family.

When the food keeps appearing on the table – coming from nowhere and everywhere.

When laughing out loud while getting a second serving of hickory roasted pork shoulder is perfectly fine.

The Underwood family dinner was that kind of moment.

With magic words and food combinations that sound something like olive honey ginger vinegar.

Smoked tomato purée.

Sorghum molasses-peach BBQ sauce.

Kabocha squash sherbet with candied bacon.

And homemade blueberry pie.

A big merci to the hosts and organizers…

… until next year and next season!

Chilled Cucumber Summer Soup with Honeydew

1 lb (500 g) of cucumber – peeled, seeded and diced

16 oz (450 g) of honeydew – diced

5 scallions – chopped

2 garlic cloves – minced

3/4 cup (about 20 g) of mint – chopped

2-3 Tbsp of lemon juice

2 Tbsp of olive oil

2 Tbsp of coconut cream

1/2 teaspoon of paprika

11 oz (300 g) of fromage blanc – replace with Greek yogurt if needed

sea salt and pepper

In a food processor, add and combine all ingredients and purée finely.

Taste for salt and pepper.

Place in the fridge and serve chilled with thin slices of cucumber on top and a sprinkle of paprika.

Frenchie and an Ode to Summer

27 Aug

Traveling by plane high above the clouds warmed up by an unobstructed hot summer sun through the small oval window.

A morning walk barefoot in the grass – a garden in July by the ocean.

A southern dinner party at a friend’s house surrounded by lush trees and summer noises.

A green coconut milk pistachio ice cream scoop in a red bowl one afternoon on the balcony.

A thin book eagerly devoured, a poem by Wilde, on a bench in a Mexico City park. The Ballad of Reading Gaol.

A red plum tart with Grand Marnier cooling in the shade next to a plastic container of freshly picked blackberries.

Summer…

First summer in Charlotte. First summer in a new region.

Expectations, hesitations, and the unknown. Will it be as hot and humid as described?

A time for adventures and discoveries through the neighborhoods – familiar ritual of exploring a new city as if I was traveling.

The sunlight catching the shiny plants on the beautiful southern porches.

Exciting moments as everything around me becomes more familiar.

A quick birthday getaway to Charleston, SC where the humidity and scorching heat could not be avoided.

An escape back in time.

An enchanting condensed world with so much charm.

It felt as though I was back in Boston for a weekend – with a southern twist.

Cobblestones, colorful old doors, gardens, bicyclists and a cosy atmosphere.

Trekking calmly through the small streets expecting the unexpected.

Quel charme !

And did I mention that the food alone is worth a visit?

Husk, F.I.G. or The Cocktail Club captured my taste buds and proved to be wonderful additions to the birthday plans.

In keeping with the southern destinations – going a bit further south, it was time for this couple to get married.

Back in Mexico to explore the big city.

I don’t know if “sprawling” could well describe the feeling of walking in the city. Giant maybe?

Energized and colorful.

Historic and very modern.

And this slight cool breeze I did not expect.

The reception matched the local colors.

Shrouded with love and great friendships with the sprinkling of Mexican food.

Creating the pages of memory lane one twinkling eye after another.

And we all felt it when it was over – can we do it all over again?

And summer wouldn’t be the same without the simple small pleasures of watching the sunset in Newport, RI or marveling at a farm in southeast Wisconsin.

It feels as if you’re seeing with your whole body.

A certain complicity with the other onlookers – not our first sunset but it could very well be.

Simple dinners too. The French are keen on fresh, light and colorful summer meals.

A cold red and golden beet salad with garlic and curly parsley.

The traditional summery grated carrot salad with olive oil and a dash of lemon juice.

Et pour ce soir ? Une autre salade de carottes râpées !

And every week a new twist to the salad – juste pour essayer, to give it a try.

Et bientôt l’automne…

But summer kept me busy.

More than just a taste of it, summer came, settled and enthusiastically made me embrace it with each mouthful, scenery and encounter.

And what best way to enjoy summer but on the grass with a picnic basket and the love of your life?

Merci l’été…

Grated Carrot Salad with Black Radish and Fennel

12 oz (350 g) of carrots (about 3 big carrots) – peeled

1 black radish (8 oz – 200 g)

1 fennel bulb or 2 small bulbs (5 oz – 125 g) – cored

7 Tbsp of olive oil

the juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon of Champagne vinegar

sea salt and pepper

4 Tbsp of curly parsley – chopped

1 Tbsp of tarragon – chopped

With a food processor, grate the carrots and black radish. Place the grated vegetables in a bowl.

With a mandoline, thinly slice the fennel bulb (1.5 mm – 1/16″). Set aside.

Prepare the vinaigrette and whisk the olive oil with the lemon juice and vinegar as well as the sea salt and pepper.

Pour the vinaigrette over the grated vegetables and mix until well coated.

Add the slices of fennel on top, cover and place in the fridge until cold or ready to serve.

Before serving, add the herbs, mix and serve.

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