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Frenchie and the Mint-Infused Quinoa Tabbouleh

7 Jun

The move to Charlotte still fresh in my mind and France was already calling me.

A quick trip for a milestone birthday, a family visit and to recharge my French batteries.

And despite the gray, rainy, drab spring weather covering Europe throughout the month of May, we found the time to cook, visit, laugh, eat and use our umbrellas.

Many photos, memories and the story of a tabbouleh.

Magically, the sun came out at two distinct times during the trip.

As we were about to sit down for the birthday lunch – shinning brightly in the garden, calling us to delay lunch time and play in the garden.

And during a Parisian weekend as I explored new places and discovered new bites.

The feeling of being stuck inside when it’s cold and rainy outside.

The joy in everyone’s eyes when the call of the first sun rays hit the windows.

Tous dehors !

And with the amount of bouton-d’ors – buttercups – sprinkled in the fields showing us yellow dots all around, it was a celebration of all things yellow, happy and bright.

Despite all this, I still managed to enjoy the changing seasonal menu of L’Alchimie.

The quaint and quirky setting of Colorova Pâtisserie along with their tempting pastries.

The elegant design and honey-roasted pigeon at Le Quinze.

A very green matcha (green tea) financier in a newly opened 1950-1960s vibe Café Loustic for a quick goûter with my twin from another life – the lovely Lost in Cheeseland.

And an unusual mango éclair sprinkled with pansies at L’Éclair de Génie. When art meets food.

And then came the tabbouleh.

A secret but not-so-secret recipe.

Inspired by a recipe from “T.”.

A spring dish, a green plate, a yearly tabbouleh to prepare around that time of year.

A tabbouleh inspired by many springs. By a lifetime of many springs.

Rain, cold and gray – et si on faisait un taboulé ?

Yes, let’s make a tabbouleh! Un taboulé de couscous.

I knew I had to make something similar when I got home. A quinoa version.

And a southern maple cider vinaigrette with mustard was truly a good pairing as a way to celebrate new influences.

Mint-Infused Quinoa Tabbouleh with Peas and Maple Cider Vinaigrette

for 4-6

2 cups + 1/3 cup (553 ml) of water

50-60 mint leaves (whole) + 30 extra leaves (chopped)

3/4 cup (110 g) of peas, fresh or frozen

1 cup (200 g) quinoa, uncooked (white, red, or mixed)

1 Tbsp of summer savory, chopped

1 Tbsp of lemon thyme, chopped

1.5 Tbsp of flat-leaf parsley (or chervil), chopped

7 Tbsp of olive oil

1 teaspoon of strong French mustard

2 Tbsp of maple syrup, medium amber

4 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar

sea salt and pepper

4 Tbsp of unsalted, dry toasted slivered almonds

zest of 1 organic lemon (optional: add the juice of the lemon for an extra lemony flavor)

Prepare a mint herbal tea-like water as a base for cooking the peas and quinoa later.

Bring the water to a boil with 50-60 mint leaves in a saucepan. Boil for 5 minutes. Cover with a lid, remove from the heat and infuse for 15-20 min.

Squeeze out the excess water from the leaves with a spatula or a spoon and discard the leaves.

Bring the mint herbal water back to a boil. Cook the peas for 2 min, if frozen, or 3-4 min if fresh.

Strain the peas in a colander and over a bowl – do not discard the mint water and keep it aside in the bowl.

Run cold water over the peas in the colander to stop the cooking process. Set aside.

Put the mint water back in the saucepan. Rinse the quinoa throughly in cold water. Place the rinsed quinoa in the mint water and bring to a boil.

Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until all water is absorbed – about 10-13 min.

When done, fluff the quinoa with a fork and let cool in a bowl.

Prepare the vinaigrette in a small bowl by whisking the summer savory, lemon thyme, parsley and oil together. Whisk until well mixed.

Add the mustard, maple syrup and apple cider vinegar, sea salt and pepper while continuing to whisk.

Pour the vinaigrette over the cooked quinoa and mix well.

Add the peas, almonds, remaining chopped mint leaves and the lemon zest. Mix delicately so the peas don’t get mashed.

Cover and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving. Serve cold.

Frenchie and la Belle France

11 Dec

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La belle France !

I’ve been back for a month now and I’m finally sitting down to post some pictures and a new recipe directly inspired by this recent trip.

A journey in France under a soothing and warm fall sun.

Where red and green intertwine and the light coming from the sky is pale and white.

A color combination to remember in the kitchen when preparing a special seafood dish to impart this experience.

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The greatest of adventures in Paris is to discover new things, new places and new sceneries.

My latest kick? Walk through as many cours intérieures as possible.

Ever wanted to see those lovely small inside courtyards behind those big Parisian locked doors?

And despite the digicodes – those entry control systems with numeric pads outside every main doors in Paris – one might be sneaky enough to press the entry/exit button during the day when most systems are not turned on yet.

Between rue de Charonne and rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine.

Or as you stroll rue Pigalle and around rue des Martyrs.

I discovered gems.

Even behind 17 rue Bleue where the Cantine de la maison de la culture arménienne – a small restaurant at the Armenian Cultural Center – hides at the back of the courtyard.

And if you surprisingly run into la gardienne, just say Bonjour Madame !

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So many treasures to uncover.

And in these enclosed courtyards, protected from the outside world and noises, it’s the discreet and muffled sound of Parisian life that is distinctly heard through the few open windows.

A certain mood floating around as I stand in the center, looking up and around.

Demure. Calm. Unassuming. Yet full of life.

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The pastoral French countryside.

A bucolic side trip where the same colorful reds and greens kept revealing themselves in a scenic patchwork.

A wealth of trees and grass.

Farmers’ markets filled with distorted red orangish gourds and bright squash varieties.

The whispers of the market – a light hubbub of friends and neighbors babbling under a pale and transparent morning light.

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This new recipe was not only inspired by the color scheme following me throughout the trip but also by L’Agrume, a restaurant in the 5th arrondissement of Paris.

A bowl full of white pale clams.

Sprinkled with green onions.

A touch of red chorizo.

And a simple after taste of lemon.

It made for a perfect dish to enjoy throughout November.

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Clams, Chorizo and Green Onions with Creamy Lemon Broth

serves 4

3.5 cups (80 cl) of water

1 cube of vegetable bouillon (I use vegan vegetable bouillon cubes with sea salt)

the zest and juice of one organic lemon

2 Tbsp of chopped thyme

1 Tbsp of fennel seeds

2 green onions thinly sliced (green and white parts) + 2 more for sprinkling

sea salt and pepper

2 lbs (1 kg) of littleneck clams

1 Tbsp (15 g) of butter

2 heaping Tbsp of crème fraîche

about 3 oz (75 g) of chorizo – thinly sliced

slices of bread

In a big heavy pot, combine the water, bouillon cube, lemon zest and juice, thyme, fennel seeds, green onions, salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil.

Place the clams directly in the boiling water, reduce the heat, and cook until the clams open.

In the meantime, remove the casing around the chorizo and slice it thinly.

When the clams open, remove them from the pot and place them in a separate bowl covered with foil or a towel to keep warm.

Drop the butter and crème fraîche in the clam broth and stir until melted and well-combined.

Add the chorizo slices to the pot, stir and remove them as soon as they start to release a brightly red tint.

Serve the clams in bowls, top with the warm chorizo slices and scoop out the creamy lemon broth with a spoon. Drizzle all over the bowl and clams.

Sprinkle the last green onion slices on top with an extra dash of freshly ground pepper and some more thyme if needed.

Do not forget the slices of bread to soak up the broth.

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Frenchie and la Bretagne

21 Feb

Diving into old photos from our last trip in Bretagne (Brittany) brought warm and sunny delightful summer memories of the French northwestern peninsula where I used to spend half of my summers as a child.

Rugged, historical, windswept, mystical – the most perfect place to spend a summer.

Driving the 240 miles (390 km) between the fainted noise of the school bell announcing the beginning of the summer season and our family house in Brittany used to be torture.

I don’t recommend French summer traffic jams.

But as soon as Rennes was far behind us, the western country was finally ours for an entire month.

And with dreamy names like Carnac, Pont-Aven, Quimper, Loctudy, Bénodet, or Lesconil flashing on the road signs as we were swiftly driving by, I could already feel the ocean and the waves wash over my feet.

Brittany – Land of the Sea – Land of Legends.

The summer schedule was pretty simple and always strictly observed.

Sleep in. Play in the garden. Read Treasure Island just one more time. Maybe work on some Summer Activity/Study Book – the dear cahier de vacances. Hiding it so no one could study was also part of the schedule at times.

A trip to the fishing port before lunch to buy fish or langoustines (scampi).

Lunch in the shade outside.

Waiting to digest – yes, this was part of the schedule too. The French have this wonderful crazy rule that kids should not swim or play in the water right after lunch.

Ç’est dangereux !

A 2-hour rule is imposed on all kids and teens. Past 15, the rules could be bent. Maybe digesting in the water wasn’t dangerous for 16 year olds, or so it seemed.

And then, an entire afternoon spent on the beach.

Red buckets, green shovels, colorful beach towels and clear plastic sandals, we were on our merry way walking through the small city.

Turn left past the stone manor, on the way to the abbey, through the sandy path, next to the lighthouse – that’s the best spot.

The blue beach umbrella firmly driven into the sand.

The rocks always hid treasures under the soft green algae where tiny crabs and periwinkles – bigorneaux – were hoping kids wouldn’t find them.

Secretly laughing at all of us, the seagulls were eyeing the crêpes we had brought for a tiny goûter break while enumerating the fascinating adventures we had just witnessed on the beach pier with shiny mica flakes still stuck on our fingers.

The last bite of the crêpe always proved to be a bit sandy and crunchy.

Adults liked to tease and tell grand tales of magical forests and druidic rites, strong heroes and tempting enchanteresses, dragons and forgotten cities, and the Knights of the  Round Table.

Tales of the supernatural both fascinating and mystical.

The raging sea, turbulent wind and  blinding rain made for cautionary tales of the treacherous coastline.

But the romantic heritage of the Breton lifestyle and scenery is hypnotic like the noise of pebbles on sandless beaches skittering on the ocean.

Despite eating crêpes on the beach, one of my favorite treat was to walk to the boulangerie to buy a far breton.

A slice of far breton – a delicious custardy pastry with prunes.

Like a boat on her beam-ends at low tide, slouching and lounging on a sunny bench to devour the entire package carefully prepared and taped by the boulangère.

The tall tiny pyramid of pink paper with a sturdy square base tied up with brown ribbon to open delicately until the first sight of a prune inside the package.

And that golden-brown crust!

The recipe I am giving you here is for a spiced far breton – served in individual bowls. You can always make a bigger one in a regular baking dish to slice up.

I also like to cook them in silicone baking molds to eat them on-the-go and transport them for a picnic, for example.

My spiced version – which is non traditional – also adds raisins in the mix with cloves, cardamom, lemon and orange flavors.

Easy to make and easier to eat!

I miss spending time in Brittany.

The white and blue houses.

The orange and pink bright colorful spots of flowers.

The French sailor’s striped shirts.

The elegance of Quimper.

The historic port of Concarneau.

The sand dunes of Fouesnant.

The waterside walks of Pont-Aven.

The house in Loctudy.

And the windy granite cliffs of the Pointe du Raz, where it is fun to pretend you can fly by extending the arms as the wind blow through coats and hoods.

La mer tourne

autour de ses noms

la baie, le cap

le sillon

la presqu’île, la ria, le marais

et forment un paysage

Saint-Michel, Fréhel

Talbert

Crozon, Etel, Guérande

qui confirment un pays

où la mer tourne autour de la terre

sous la lumière du soleil”

La terre tourne – poem by Yvon Le Men

Spiced Far Breton

2 Tbsp (30 g) butter

3.5 oz (100 g) of pitted dried plums, sliced lengthwise

0.8 oz (25 g) of raisins

zest and juice of 1 orange

1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves

11 cardamom pods, crushed

3/4 cup (150 g) of sugar

1 cinnamon stick

2 Tbsp spiced rum (I use the MA locally made Diabolique rum)

3 eggs

pinch of salt

2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 cup (25 cl) milk

4 Tbsp of spelt flour

1/2 teaspoon of guar gum

pinch of ground cinnamon

Lightly butter small individual bowls with 1 Tbsp of butter. I use bowls with a 3.5 in. (9 cm) diameter and 2 in. (5 cm) high.

You can also use silicone baking molds – pour less dough than for individual bowls.

Place them on a baking sheet and preheat the oven to 425 °F (220 °C).

Prepare the dried plums and raisins first. Make sure to let them marinate overnight. If pressed for time, at least marinate for 2 hours.

In a small sauce pan, bring to a boil the orange juice and juice of half the lemon.

Add the ground cloves, crushed cardamom pods, 1/4 cup (50 g) of the sugar, the orange and lemon zests, the cinnamon stick and the rum to the sauce pan.

Mix well and let simmer for 4 minutes.

Discard the 11 crushed cardamom pods and pour the liquid/syrup over the sliced plums and raisins in a small bowl. Make sure they are covered.

Set aside overnight.

When you are ready to make the far breton, remove the cinnamon stick and zests from the bowl with the prunes and raisins. Drain them but keep the syrup.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the rest of the sugar (1/2 cup or 100 g) until smooth.

Add the pinch of salt, vanilla extract and milk. Whisk well.

Sift the flour and guar gum over the bowl. Gently incorporate the flour to the dough.

If you prefer a spicier taste, use the marinating syrup and add 1 Tbsp to the dough. Otherwise, discard the syrup.

Place prunes and raisins at the bottom of the lightly buttered individual bowls. Pour the dough over and fill the bowls 3/4 full.

Add a pinch of ground cinnamon on top of every bowl.

Bake for 25-27 minutes (less time if you’re using smaller silicone baking molds).

Set aside and let cool at room temperature. Sprinkle each far breton with tiny pieces of butter for a more authentic taste. Divide the last Tbsp of butter among all bowls. Let the butter melt and serve.

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