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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 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.

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