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Frenchie and le Marché

14 Jul

In honor of le 14 juillet - Bastille Day in English – a post about France and something very French would be in order for today.

Markets! French markets that is. And not all markets either. Food markets. They’re my favorite. Not that I don’t like the other markets – flowers, flea, antiques, rare books. Au contraire! But the important tradition of the French food markets is anchored very deep in the culture and they are such a unique experience.

Seen from the U.S., they make France… well, so French!

If you missed the market on Wednesday mornings, or Fridays, there is always one somewhere in town on Sunday mornings.

Sunday mornings don’t all start with a trip to the market. No, they start with a grasse matinée – yes, sleeping in is a “fat morning”! Another idiom. To this day, I am still unsure if it’s supposed to mean that after 8:00 am you’ll magically gain weight from staying in bed, salivating about 2 or 3 crispy butter croissants.

In any case, once the nutritious coffee-baguette-jam-butter-croissant breakfast is over, with 3 wicker baskets around the arm, the call for the marché is heard loud and clear like a first crusade. And all roads lead to the market.

Just follow the French – they know where to go. And they all walk in the same direction too.

The discreet hubbub of le marché already surrounds me even though I am still walking towards it. Entangled voices of shoppers are intertwined with louder voices promoting a cheaper kilo of shiny red tomatoes and a dozen fresh farm eggs.

The melodic church bells are ringing – it’s 10:00 am. It’s always better to go earlier rather than later. By noon, markets become overly crowded and not as enjoyable to navigate through.

The place smells of everything and anything. Floating scents of garlic, curly parsley, ripe peaches, moldy Roquefort and greasy spit-roasted chicken as I walk past the different farmers. My nostrils are filled with appetizing flavors – it feels like having a fancy 4-course meal by just walking aimlessly and smelling the air.

I want to look at the prices first, let’s walk around. I never buy right on the spot. I want to see what each farmer has to offer and the quality of the food.

Le fromager is whistling as he cuts through a colossal round wheel of holey Gruyère cheese. Et avec ceci, Madame? This lady is not having anything else but I already eyed a big chunk of yellow cantal, which I think would royally pair with this light fruity red wine I still have at home.

The rustle of the thin plastic bags carrying food whispers throughout the market. It’s a sign people are buying. Baskets are full.

Oh, des fraises des bois! It’s not often that you see wild strawberries on the market – strawberries of the forest as we call them. So small, sweet, brightly red and deliciously strong. They’ll be perfect for strawberry tartlets with a lemony cream in the center. They’re expensive though. C’est une folie!

The French always “complain” about splurging and love to say out loud that it’s “crazy”. But they secretly love it nonetheless.

It’s a whole process for them – first, acknowledge the price, then announce the word “une folie” out loud, and finally, appear to find some comfort: ok, just for once - yes, pour une fois. Let’s get the strawberries! <shoulder shrug>

Le boucher has a great rôtisserie oven next to his booth-truck. Un poulet, s’il vous plaît, Monsieur. The skin of this slow turning chicken looks so crispy, I will make a meal out of it. Eggs, we need eggs! I know where to get them.

I prefer not to give my money away to the big farmers in their fancy food trucks. No, I buy from my favorite adorable 78 year-old grandpa in the corner there… next to La Poste and the Café Bar Tabac. He does not have much with him – eggs, some tomatoes, cherries, plums and green beans. I always buy a dozen from him. His wife Léonne is not here today, I hope everything is ok.

She’s taking care of Jolie, my best egg-layer. Something happened. I think the fox scared her last night. You’re not buying Jolie’s eggs today. These were laid by Picorette.

As he’s searching inside his rusty metal coin box to break my 20 €, the noises of loose change hitting the box with other coins echo sounds of empty cardboard fruit crates being tossed on the side.

The church bells are ringing again. This time it’s noon! Where did 11:00 go? And I did not have time to make it to the fish and seafood booths. They’re my favorite too.

Do we buy something to eat here or just go home? In all honesty, I want my crispy chicken now. The green beans with parsley and a bit of butter will be just enough. We’ll cook them in the pressure cooker – so much faster and they’ll be crisp, just how I like them. We’ll make a plum tart too.

The wild strawberry tartlets will be for tonight then. For dessert. Une folie!

Farmers already actively packed up and left.

Some abandoned wooden and cardboard crates stayed behind.

Hissing water sprays are cleaning the market ground.

Lively homes now sparkle with colorful fresh veggies and fruits.

We’ll go back next Sunday, c’est sûr!

Joyeux 14 juillet!

Frenchie and the Tuscan Gun’s Village Food

7 Jul

Frenchie and the Yankee tastes the essence of Corsican flavors and eats away during a lazy day spent in a village for Under the Tuscan Gun in Frenchie and the Corsican Village Food.

Sizzling olive oil, fresh peppery wild mint, frittata, smoked charcuterie and roasted kid. Taste this new post, it’s delicious! Spend a lazy day reading about the tasty and flavorful food from a rustic village lost far away in a mountainous maze.

If you enjoyed what you read, share it, tweet it, e-mail it, post it! Keep checking for food, adventures, desserts and wild encounters across the Island of Beauty from F & Y. It’s only starting.

Under the Tuscan Gun is the fresh, healthy, traditional Tuscan website created by American actress Debi Mazar and her Italian husband, Gabriele Corcos, to share their passion for Tuscan food.

Catch them also on the Cooking Channel where they invite viewers into their home and kitchen in the series Extra Virgin.

Frenchie and the Tuscan Gun’s Secret

17 Jun

Frenchie and the Yankee continues the adventurous journey in Corsica for Under the Tuscan Gun in Frenchie and the Corsican Secret.

Crazy driving in the mountains, baked goods, sweets, chestnuts, a cake recipe, nature and wild pigs. You know you want to read it! Share it, send it, forward it, like it and tweet it.

This is the second contribution for Under the Tuscan Gun from Frenchie and the Yankee. Click to read the first collaboration Frenchie and the Corsican Airport.

Under the Tuscan Gun is the fresh, healthy, traditional Tuscan website created by American actress Debi Mazar and her Italian husband, Gabriele Corcos, to share their passion for Tuscan food.

Catch them also on the Cooking Channel where they invite viewers into their home and kitchen in the series Extra Virgin.

Keep checking for updates to follow F & Y across the Island of Beauty – you never know what might happen.

Frenchie and the Suppa Corsa

10 Jun

June Gloom in L.A. as I see on Twitter, 50 °F (10 °C) in the Midwest and me – sick in the Northeast. If it isn’t a sign that I need to make a soup to feel better and bring warm hearty flavors in the house, I don’t know what would make me get out of bed.

There are probably thousands of recipes for the traditional rustic country-style Corsican soup depending on which village you come from, which side of the mountain you grew up on and culturally-speaking what family heritage was handed down and preserved. Every Corsican will argue that their family recipe is the best.

Some recipes have leeks and some don’t. Some add green beans while others prefer Swiss chard. Some throw in lots of charcuterie. Others just mention ham. Fettuccine vs. macaroni vs. spaghetti for the pasta. I don’t want to say my recipe is the best recipe in the world but it’s tasty, simple yet rich in complex flavors and it’s an excellent remedy when sick. And when your kitchen smells of sizzling ham mixed with basil, garlic and chervil, you know you can’t go wrong.

What’s extraordinary about Corsican soup is the fact that it looks really heavy but is very easy to digest at the same time. I’ve always found that the best Corsican soups are the ones that are thick enough to allow for your spoon to stand proud and tall in the bowl without moving or falling on the side. It’s something to see. This recipe will not make for an extra thick soup but you can always cook it longer to get rid of the left over juice. Note: this soup is even better reheated the next day.

Not having easy access to Corsican charcuterie in my area, if you can find coppa or panzetta or prisuttu, feel free to thrown them in the soup in lieu of the smoked ham.

I also found this adorable old Corsican lady making her traditional Corsican soup on YouTube (or suppa paysanna as they call it). Her recipe is somehow similar yet different than mine. Even though she speaks French and the Corsican dialect when making the soup, it’s easy to follow her. The language of cooking is international!

Corsican Soup / Suppa Corsa

1.5 cups (250 g) of red beans

1.5 cups (250 g) of white beans

2 potatoes

2 onions

2 leeks

1 cabbage

0.5 lb (150 g) of green beans

2 carrots

2 garlic cloves

2 tomatoes + 3 oz (85 g) of tomato paste

2 zucchinis

0.5 lb (150 g) of smoked ham

olive oil

basil leaves

marjoram + chervil

5 oz (150 g) of pasta – fettuccine

salt and pepper

The day before making the soup, soak the white and red beans in cold water – overnight.

Wash and cut all of the veggies: cut the potatoes in 4, slice up the onions, thinly slice the leeks, cut up the cabbage and tomatoes, cut the green beans in half, cut the carrots as well as the garlic cloves and slice up the zucchinis).

Fill a big pot with 8.5 cups (2 liters) of water. Add the white and red beans, half of the ham cut up in small pieces, the sliced up onions, the garlic and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 hour on medium heat – covered.

Throw in the potatoes, leeks, cabbage, zucchinis, cut up tomatoes and the tomato paste, green beans and carrots. Cook covered for another hour.

Before serving (about 10-15 minutes), throw in the pasta.

At the last minute, mix the marjoram, chervil and the rest of the ham in the soup. Taste for seasoning. Add more or less depending on your taste.

Upon serving the soup in big bowls, top with sliced up basil leaves and olive oil.

Frenchie and Under the Tuscan Gun

1 Jun

Frenchie and the Yankee is happy and proud to announce that it is now a collaborator for Under the Tuscan Gun, the fresh, healthy, traditional Tuscan website created by American actress Debi Mazar and her Italian husband, Gabriele Corcos, to share their passion for Tuscan food.

Catch them also on the Cooking Channel where they invite viewers into their home and kitchen in the series Extra Virgin.

Frenchie and the Yankee will be contributing to Under the Tuscan Gun to feature the island of Corsica. Check out the first post Frenchie and the Corsican Airport here and keep checking for updates to follow the adventure and the journey across the Island of Beauty.

Frenchie and the Sweet Chestnut Flour Cake

24 May

What a surprise and treat to find sweet chestnut flour by my house at a local store! The Italians use it a lot to make gluten-free cakes and of course Corsicans are anchored in this long tradition of making flour-based food with chestnuts from the abundant chestnut trees in the center of the island.

Chestnut flour is different in taste and color from any other regular flour. It’s a grayish tan-colored flour made from ground chestnuts bringing wonderful warm woody flavors to cakes, polenta, cookies, crêpes, tart crust, breads etc. and if you are up for making your own pasta, it can be used to substitute part of the regular flour to bring a new layer of savory tastes to a pasta dish.

This flour contains no gluten, which makes it very attractive to people with celiac disease. However, it works better for baking purposes when mixed with regular flour – with gluten. This is why this recipe is not gluten-free unfortunately. Usually, the ratio is 20 to 50 percent chestnut to regular flour so you can end up with a tasty dessert.

To make the flour and according to the Corsican tradition, chestnuts are dried over a wood fire and shelled. They are then placed in a stone oven to dehydrate them completely so they can be ground through a granite millstone. This process brings a special aroma and scent to the chestnuts and to the flour.

If you’ve never smelled roasted chestnuts before or if you’ve never eaten food made with chestnut flour, the aroma of the nut can be quite overwhelming for some. Opening a bag full of chestnut flour will bring out the essence of the forest right inside your kitchen. The fresh roasted smells wafting towards your nose will overpower any other lingering smells around. It is so distracting, you almost feel like you are standing next to the wood fire, looking over the roasting process and smelling the sweetness of the chestnuts. It will leave your fingers permeated with their natural and earthy concentrated perfume. The hint of wildfire is to be noticed as well and will wrap around you in no time following you for hours to come.

Corsicans usually add one big spoonful of candied citron to their chestnut cakes. [French speakers be careful - this is a false friend. Citron is not lemon]. It is hard to find pre-made candied citron in the U.S. but if you are able to buy a whole citron, use David Lebovitz’s fantastic recipe here to make it yourself.

And for the other chestnut flour cake recipe (chocolate glazed chestnut flour cake with mandarin filling), click here.

Sweet Chestnut Flour Cake

1 cup (90 g) of sweet chestnut flour

1 1/4 cup (120 g) of regular flour

1 1/4 cup (240 g) of sugar

3 eggs

1 stick + 3 Tbsps (150 g) of butter

3/4 cup (125 g) of golden raisins or currants

1/2 cup (50 g) of chopped hazelnuts – or almonds if you prefer

1/2 teaspoon of baking powder

zest of 1 orange

a pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 375 °F (190 °C).

In a medium bowl, whisk the melted butter and the sugar until completely dissolved. Add the eggs and whisk again.

In a small bowl, put the 2 flours through a sieve and mix with the pinch of salt and the baking powder.

Add the flour mixture to the other bowl.

Grind the hazelnuts in rough big chunks, chop the orange zest in small pieces and mix them with the raisins. Add to the dough and mix well. You should get a thick dough in the end.

Butter and grease a round cake pan. I use a 9.5 in (24 cm) pan. Pour the dough in the pan and bake in the oven for 45 minutes.

Frenchie and the Fiadone (Corsican Cheesecake)

12 May

A mission like no other. An impossible task involving tedious work and argumentative discussions. How to convince the French that the cheesecake is one of the most wonderful and decadent American dessert ever created?

When describing cheesecakes to a Frenchie, Americans like to talk about a gâteau de fromage, which sounds horribly disgusting as a literal translation. Add to this the explanation that cheesecakes are made with cream cheese – or as translated to crème de fromage – and your French audience just fainted. The reason for such repulsion towards cheesecakes? Cream cheese is not sold in stores in France just like it’s never used in French cooking. In fact, the French don’t even know what it is. It’s a common American cooking ingredient that provokes fear – for the French, fear of the unknown and the idea of a sickening cake made with cream AND cheese. However, I seem to remember that since 2007-2008 La Grande Épicerie de Paris at Le Bon Marché sells Philadelphia cream cheese. Small gourmet stores might sell it as well. Needless to say, it’s a rare item and terribly difficult to find. Secretly, friends living in eastern France will drive and cross the border to go buy cream cheese in German supermarkets. The crazy things we’ll do for cream cheese!

So how to describe a cheesecake? While made with cream cheese, it does not taste “cheesy”. Smooth, rich and yet easy to eat, cheesecakes are not usually strong if they are plain. If made with chocolate or topped with fruits however, they can melt on your tongue like butter as the succulence of the fruits explodes in your mouth. Sweet, slightly tart, tangy and creamy on top, it can be paired with a delicate pie or cookie crust. Flooding the senses with pure splendor, it leaves you longing for just one more bite. The taste of a cheesecake will soothe your soul gently but quietly and will make for a decadent scrumptious slice of heaven. That’s how cheesecakes taste like!

Parisians are slowly but surely getting into yummy American baked goods and are now treasure hunting the entire city for “real” cheesecakes and cup cakes sold exclusively in expensive bakeries and gourmet stores. It’s all the rage these days. The trick is to find an equivalent and comparable ingredient to cream cheese to get the same type of texture and taste. I’ve read that a mix of fromage blanc and petit-suisse - neither of which are sold commonly in the U.S. – or using St Môret spreadable cheese are possibly good ingredients to use for lack of cream cheese. To be determined and tested – I’m not convinced.

Special guest photographer: Damien Bordreuil for the photo of the purple flower-cupcakes (above)

And then… the fiadone came along. A Corsican classic. The most famous and popular of Corsican desserts. The fiadone is also called the Corsican crustless cheesecake; and although Corsicans won’t be too happy to hear this, it’s also been referred to as an Italian ricotta cheese torte – aka the Italian Easter Pie. The fiadone is probably the closest dessert to an American cheesecake you will find anywhere in France. Crustless and no more than an inch in thickness, the fiadone is made with a Corsican cheese called brocciu, which does not contain lactose. It is a whey cheese made from sheep or goat milk and could be easily replaced by fresh ricotta cheese or cottage cheese – or a mix of the two – if brocciu is not available by you. I prefer to use ricotta even though it does not bring out the tangier and more complex flavors of the brocciu but it is a close match.

Corsica is France’s Island of Beauty. Purchased secretly from The Republic of Genoa – now Italy – in 1764, it has been incorporated into France since 1770. It is one of those destinations the French keep secret by fear of attracting unwanted tourism and ruin the fun of being part of an exclusive paradise. Craggy mountains plunging directly into a deep blue sea, Corsica embodies this idea of an isolated beauty that a very small few will have the chance to explore once in their lifetime putting to shame any Caribbean island.

Aromatics such as myrtle, rosemary, lavender, rockrose and heather will forever haunt your sense of smell after walking through the dense forests or hiking in the mountains of the back country nuzzling through the bushes and trees for blackberries, chestnuts, figs and wild grapes. Rivers, natural ponds and lakes will offer cooling and refreshing baths during the scorching summer months. Snowy mountains in winter will make for picture perfect photos. And of course, the colorful coast and its yellow sunny beaches will allow for restful lazy days playing in the waves and napping on a beach towel.

The fiadone is lighter than a regular cheesecake, which is why Corsicans don’t mind eating it even during summer months. I could easily say that fiadone is as popular in Corsica as cheesecake is in America. And since cheesecakes have their own Holiday – July 30 as the National Cheesecake Day – here is my shoutout for the inclusion of the fiadone in this mid-summer celebration of sweet and creamy goodness.

Special guest photographer: Marc Santori for all 3 photos in this post featuring animals

Fiadone – Corsican Cheesecake

1.5 Tbsp (20 g) of melted butter

6 eggs

17.5 oz (500 g) of ricotta cheese

1 organic lemon

3/4 cup (160 gram) of sugar – up to 1.5 cup (300 g) if you like it sweeter

2 drops of vanilla extract

1 shot – about 1 Tbsp – of brandy (or replace with orange blossom)

Preheat your oven to 375 °F (190 °C).

In a bowl, mix the ricotta cheese with 2 whole eggs slightly beaten and 4 yolks. Reserve the 4 egg whites in a different bowl. Mix well.

Zest the lemon and drop lemon zest in the ricotta mix along with the sugar, the vanilla drops and the brandy. I use a Corsican plum brandy because I happen to find that the plum goes very well with the lemon.

Beat the egg whites with a hand mixer until firm – stop when you get stiff peaks. Fold them into the ricotta mixture.

Use a 10 inch (25.4 cm) springform pan. Add a round of parchment paper at the bottom. With a pastry brush, spread the melted butter at the bottom of the pan and on the sides. Pour the mixture into the pan and bake in the oven for 30-45 minutes – or until a knife will come out dry from the cake. With my oven, it is an exact 45 minutes. The top of the fiadone should be golden brown.

Let it cool and place in the fridge. Serve cold or at room temperature.

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