Tag Archives: Paris

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

IMG_9796

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.

IMG_8378

IMG_9428

IMG_8259

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 !

IMG_9493

IMG_8368

IMG_9434

Page_7

IMG_8366

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.

Page_2

IMG_9425

Page_5

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.

Page_1

Page_4

Page_3

IMG_9677

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.

Page_6

IMG_9843

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.

Page_8

Frenchie and Julia Child

17 Jul

Would it be horribly uneducated of me, or perhaps just plain shamefully ignorant, to say that I had never heard of Julia Child until shortly after moving to the U.S. when someone looked at me with eyes the size of big round crêpes and guffawed You’re French and you don’t know who she is?

Phew! Glad we got this out of the way. More on that later…

For my fellow francophone readers – Julia Child is an American culinary icon and she would have turned 100 years-old this year on August 15.

For Julia, a simple lunch of sole meunière - her first meal in Paris – was life changing and inspired her 40-year love affair with food and the start of a cooking revolution in America.

This is why in her honor, YC Media and Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc., launched the JC100 national campaign involving restaurants, chefs, bookstores, and bloggers, all celebrating Julia and her legacy.

Their goal is to raise one million voices in tribute to Julia, and I am extremely honored I was asked to participate.

A panel of culinary luminaries, including celebrity chef Thomas Keller and food writer Amanda Hesser, has selected their most beloved 100 Julia Child recipes and since May 7th, one of her many recipes is highlighted every Monday.

This week (Week 11), Julia Child’s ratatouille recipe was chosen.

A simple and delicious side dish.

And with the first fresh tomatoes, zucchini and herbs recently picked from the garden, what a wonderful way to cook with them and bring her culinary spirit into the kitchen with her ratatouille – or as she used to say “perfume the kitchen with the essence of Provence”.

Non, je ne connais pas Julia Child !

This was the sentence I never thought would create such bewilderment.

But if you think about it, why would an American chef with a TV show called The French Chef teaching Americans how to cook French with a goal to introduce the basics of French cooking to American homes as an option for home-cooking when it was still considered high-end cuisine be well-known in France?

I never grew up with Julia Child. And nor did my parents or my grand-parents.

Always a challenging realization for Americans when their cherished thoughts that the French also lived glued to their TV sets watching Julia cook with her energetic confidence got crushed.

All the more reasons for me to catch up with lost time and discover who Julia Child was.

Julia Child is the All-American French Chef.

She loved Paris. She loved France.

She had an extensive knowledge about French cooking and food that she shared with Americans on TV as early as 1962.

When I asked my friends about their memories of Julia Child, the recurrent answers were:

her legendary good humor and joie de vivre

an American icon

her low-key bloopers and delightful personality

her voice

Queen of the kitchen

French food made easy for everyone

family time learning how to cook French in front of the TV

a real person

Julia Child – still very much relevant today as people remember her and her tremendous achievement as she singlehandedly revolutionized Americans’ perception of what cooking, good food and French cuisine are all about.

What I find even more extraordinary is that her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking was and still is a staple item in American kitchens – including my foodie friends – who continuously refer to Julia’s recipes.

The Bible of all cookbooks.

A book made so easy and clear to follow, anyone can cook.

And everybody should cook.

Just follow Julia Child.

C’est simple !

So I would like to ask you, what is your fondest memory of Julia Child?

How has she changed your views on cooking, on using fresh ingredients, and on French cuisine?

Do you own her book? Do you still cook with it?

Feel free to comment about Julia Child and her life’s work in the comments section.

And for my francophone readers who never had the pleasure to watch her in action, this video should do the trick.

And since she lived 4.5 miles (7 km) away from me, I couldn’t not go take a walk in her neighborhood in Cambridge, MA near Harvard Square and take a picture of her old house.

I don’t know if I was still smelling her ratatouille from my kitchen but it almost felt like scents of Provence were still lingering around her old stomping ground.

The ratatouille is Julia Child’s recipe from her book.

I have added the converted measurements for those who do not cook with pounds and cups.

The ingredients and instructions in bold and italics are Frenchie and the Yankee’s own additions to her already fantastic recipe – to put a spin on it.

I like my ratatouille with a lemony spicy taste and the addition of the lavender sugar makes for a sweet floral kick reminiscing of the lavender of Provence floating in the air.

And as she would have said herself: Bon appétit !

Follow the JC100 campaign on:

Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest

Tumblr

Julia Child’s Ratatouille

Excerpted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child.Copyright © 1961 by Alfred A. Knopf.

Reprinted with permission from the publisher Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.

For 6 to 8 people

1 lb. (0.4 kg) eggplant

1 lb. (0.4 kg) zucchini

A 3-quart (2.85 l), porcelain or stainless steel mixing bowl

1 teaspoon salt

Peel the eggplant and cut into lengthwise slices 3/8 inch (9.5 mm) thick, about 3 inches (7.62 cm) long, and 1 inch (2.54 cm) wide. Scrub the zucchini, slice off the two ends, and cut the zucchini into slices about the same size as the eggplant slices. Place the vegetables in a bowl and toss with salt. Let stand for 30 minutes. Drain. Dry each slice in a towel.

A 10- to 12-inch (25.4 to 30.48 cm) enameled skillet

4 tablespoons olive oil, more if needed

One layer at a time, sauté the eggplant, and then the zucchini in hot olive oil for about a minute on each side to brown very lightly. Remove to a side dish.

1/2 lb. (226 g) – about 1.5 cup – thinly sliced yellow onions

remove some of the yellow onions to add thinly sliced half a red onion and 1 shallot

2 (about 1 cup) sliced green bell peppers

only 1 green pepper but add 1 orange pepper

2 to 3 Tablespoons olive oil, if necessary

2 cloves mashed garlic

salt and pepper to taste

In the same skillet, cook the onions and peppers slowly in olive oil for about 10 minutes, or until tender but not browned. Stir in the garlic and season to taste.

1 lb. (0.4 kg) firm, ripe, red tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and juiced (makes 1.5 cups pulp)

grated zest of 1 organic lemon

1 teaspoon of lavender sugar (or use regular blonde cane sugar or light brown sugar instead)

salt and pepper

Slice the tomato pulp into 3/8-inch (9.5 mm) strips. Lay them over the onions and peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the skillet and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, or until tomatoes have begun to render their juice. Uncover, baste the tomatoes with the juices, raise heat and boil for several minutes, until juice has almost entirely evaporated. Finely grate the lemon zest and sprinkle with the sugar over the tomatoes. Mix.

A 2.5 quart (2.37 l) fireproof casserole about 2.5 inches (6.35 cm) deep

3 tablespoons minced parsley

3 tablespoons minced basil

salt and pepper

3 tablespoons minced oregano

a pinch of hot red pepper flakes

Place a third of the tomato mixture in the bottom of the casserole and sprinkle over it 1 tablespoon of parsley. Add 1 tablespoon of basil as well. Arrange half of the eggplant and zucchini on top, then half of the remaining tomatoes and parsley plus basil. Put in the rest of the eggplant and zucchini, and finish with the remaining tomatoes and parsley/basil.

Cover the casserole and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Uncover, tip casserole and baste with the rendered juices. Correct seasoning, if necessary. Raise heat slightly and cook uncovered for about 15 minutes more, basting several times, until juices have evaporated leaving a spoonful or two of flavored olive oil. Be careful of your heat; do not let the vegetables scorch in the bottom of the casserole.

Set aside uncovered. Reheat slowly at serving time, or serve cold.

I served my ratatouille in individual containers.

Sprinkle with oregano and red pepper flakes on top before serving.

Frenchie and les Fêtes – New Year

12 Jan

Sunny and warm in Le Mans. Cold and brisk in Paris upon arrival.

A mere 55-minute fast TGV train ride later transported into the bustling busy heart of the capital.

It’s like I haven’t left. Same bearings. Just that easy.

How the weather can be drastically different 130 miles (210 km) apart remains a mystery.

Goodbye Christmassy Le Mans. Bonjour New Year à Paris !

Grandma’s welcoming cosy apartment hasn’t changed. Sorry, it has.

With the winter coat still on and heavy bags in my cold and swollen hands, a careful inspection of the new installed modern windows is inevitable.

And the couch has been firmed up too. We do need to sit down to christen it.

One by one, the fresh exciting new additions of the comfortably decorated home are pointed out so I am briefed and caught up on all things current.

Regarde, c’est nouveau aussi, ça !

Nouveau or old, the place is full of memories and in my eyes a time capsule filled with visions of a past not to be forgotten – even with new windows!

Why don’t you replace this framed painting? You realize it’s been on the wall for 25 years. Here, there’s this new frame you have in the closet just dying to be hung and seen. Just sayin’.

And just like that – out with the old and on with the nouveau. The faded painting was swiftly replaced.

That’s what France is all about – a charming delightful shuffle of different eras and genres.

Just like in the post about New York City, discovering new places and neighborhoods in Paris is a favorite hobby of mine par excellence.

Loosing oneself in unknown territories, taking an uncertain turn only to end up somewhere familiar and suddenly guffawing I didn’t realize this was here!

It’s the magic of Paris. Big city, big crowds, quiet corners and silent escapes with photo opportunities at each foot step. Even when lost, familiar reference points pop unexpectedly.

The pleasure of the unexpected.

This year, my wandering mind was set to explore the areas of le Parc Montsouris (14th), la Butte aux Cailles (13th), Passy (16th) and… the list is quite long and there won’t be enough time.

La campagne à Paris (20th) and le Canal St Martin (10th) will just have to wait.

Finding different itineraries emanating provincial resonances in the heart of the city. J’adore !

A celebratory mood was floating in the air. The family was boiling with excitement.

Christmas, New Year, oui ! But also birthdays to celebrate. Gran turning 80 and Dad 53.

Just the special occasion needed to dress to the nines and dine at fancy brand new restaurant Cobéa.

Black, white and gray shaded, Cobéa served a delicate innovative tasting menu. Impressed is not the right adjective to describe the experience.

Amazed, possibly. Astonishingly and deliciously prestigious would be more appropriate.

An exceptional night to remember.

Spending time in Paris is also a way to uncover and hunt for new food places.

A morning visit to Au Petit Versailles du Marais bakery, which a dear friend recently renovated and reopened a month ago proved to be a perfect Parisian breakfast stop.

Belle Époque ceiling, tiles and mirrors. A sunny illuminated corner. Delicious breads and pastries. A restful nook for a French breakfast experience.

Americans should enjoy this spot for it provides several tables, which is a rarity in a Paris bakery.

If you happen to walk by the St Paul subway stop on line 1 and venture up to the corner of rue Tiron and rue Miron (4th), you’ll find this gem.

The early hours of the morning will brighten your day as the sun rises on your fresh and crispy pain au chocolat.

A visual pleasure.

Another day, another bakery visit.

I. Can’t. Stop.

Sébastien Gaudard opened a month ago as well on chic rue des Martyrs (9th).

Clean and refined surfaces for a bright crisp pâtisserie shop.

Uncluttered atmosphere.

The sophistication of the splendid pastries made the visit that much more exquisite.

Especially when I left with a rich chocolate tart and a mini buttery kouglof crossed with a pain aux raisins.

Meanwhile, the outdoor plentiful Christmas markets are in full swing.

Food, fabrics, Christmas gifts – it’s a gastronomic Tour de France where regional specialties collide in one spot.

A cup of mulled wine in one hand. A Nutella almond crêpe in the other. The markets swarm with crowds looking to get a taste of something they’ve never heard of before.

The Alsacian and Corsican booths are always the busiest.

But the enormous gooey cheesy tartiflette spread displayed in a giant pan at the Savoie corner attracts the biggest gatherings and gasps.

Contrasting with this country vibe, the sparkling and fully decorated shiny Grands Magasins next door provide an elegant getaway from the rustic markets.

Everybody knows that gazing at the department stores’ windows is a must-do when in Paris for les Fêtes.

On December 31, the city magically emptied itself. Subways, shops and streets.

Alone in St Germain. And alone again at Châtelet.

An end-of-year special treat while last-minute food shopping out and about.

A quest for the impromptu while consciously making lists in my head about the New Year’s Day feast menu striding along the streets.

Foie gras, duck confit, Corsican bean ragoût, mandarin-chocolate bûche – we’re all set.

A final purchase. Bon réveillon Monsieur ! Small storekeepers and customers alike glow with a joyful glee at the idea of a festive evening spent with friends or family.

At home, the apéritif and petits fours already await.

Midnight in Paris. A balmy 55 degree (13 C) night. 2012 is ahead of us.

Crowds dancing at the St Michel fountain.

Men and women kissing and hugging each other as they curve their walk to follow the winding Seine.

Champagne bottles heard popping on the 3rd floor of 25 rue du Temple.

Music playing throughout the streets between Odéon and le Champ de Mars.

And after a copious New Year’s Eve dinner with friends, a gentle 2-mile stroll with coats wide open and no scarf to admire the city at night was the best way to start a new year.

The warmest since 1883 or so they say.

And the first meal of 2012?

Delightfully prepared with love and care.

Abundantly colorful, rustic and tasty.

A simple yet stunning time spent around a cheerful table.

The wines kept for 15 years in the cellar made a [too-brief] appearance on the table.

In all honesty, they disappeared too quickly.

2012 was celebrated the entire day until dessert, coffee and 50-year old liquors and brandies were poured. Even then there was still room to ingest more.

Good wishes and steady health. A prosperous new year ahead.

Recurring thanks and wishes flying out of everyone’s mouths.

And as all good things come to an end, the trip nearing completion with a myriad of Paris memories thronging, we’ll remember while closing the 2011 window to widespread espèrance - hope – and optimism in the new year.

Bonne Année à tous.

Frenchie and New York City

29 Nov

A few of my French readers have asked me several times to post a little something about New York.

Lack of time and being forgetful contributed to putting New York in a corner… for now. And as you all know, nobody puts New York in a corner.

Spending the Thanksgiving weekend in The City That Never Sleeps is the perfect opportunity to finally satisfy the French obsession for New York.

Ô Chateau’s blog Stuff Parisians Like hit it right on the head when they wrote “Paris is every Parisians’ wife. New York is their mistress”.

The French are fascinated by New York – it’s a fact. In their minds, they think of New York as everything France is not: energetic and cosmopolitan.

They should really know that Americans have the same obsession with Paris. Ah, Paris et la belle France they all say. Quaint and historical come back regularly in conversations.

The grass is always greener on the other side of the Atlantic. I wonder if it would make New Yorkers and Parisians appreciate their cities a bit more knowing the infatuation they generate on each side.

It was a cold Thanksgiving morning.

The table was already set in preparation for the upcoming feast, the sun was slowly rising, the streets were still chilly and shaded.

Yet, the lack of wind and people around made it that much more enjoyable.

The crowds were gathering on the path of the Thanksgiving Parade. Adults and kids – all waiting for their favorite balloons.

And then they came out of nowhere. Giants led by strings through the buildings and the streets.

All eyes looking up at the sky. Kids on dad’s shoulders.

Mum, look it’s Snoopy!

And even if the Parade lasts for 3 hours, it’s an event no one will miss whether watching on TV at home or in the streets of New York City.

Even French tourists gathered around the police barricades to catch a glimpse of this American tradition, which started in the 1920s.

C’est vraiment incroyable, I heard behind me.

Last minute food shopping. Everything should be under control.

Thanksgiving is a big affair. We’ll be cooking all day.

Is the menu finalized?

As always, it will be too much food. But that’s what Thanksgiving is all about. And despite our best efforts to reduce the number of dishes, it will still be too much food.

With 9 people around the table, the cooking fest was about to begin.

So we will start with a Hungarian paprika-spiced cauliflower soup along with a roasted cranberry, grape and swiss chard salad.

And how many cooks are there in the kitchen? 4 cooks!

Who’s taking care of what? And who’s keeping an eye on the turkey?

The turkey is the star of the Thanksgiving table. Everyone has their own tricks to make it juicier, tastier and not dry. Cooking and roasting the Thanksgiving turkey is a national sport in this country.

Here’s what we ended up with:

Roasted and brined heritage turkey

Rabbit with gremolata and polenta

Roasted hen of the woods mushrooms

Cornbread stuffing with venison sausage and squash

Wild rice stuffing with cranberries, apples and walnuts

Lobster mashed potatoes

Caramelized Brussels sprouts with pancetta and sun-dried tomatoes

Golden beet and caramelized onion galette

Roasted sweet potatoes

Green beans almondine

Moroccan-spiced spaghetti squash

Cranberry-citrus compote

Still hungry? Thanksgiving is also known for its desserts!

Mixed berry pie

Bourbon pecan pie

Rustic Italian nut tart

Bacon-bourbon brownies with pecans

Pumpkin pie

Mincemeat pie – which I learned does not contain any meat in it!

And because I am that much of a gourmand, I had to take a cooking break at some point to enjoy a piece of bacon brownie and get away from the kitchen ebullience.

Excesses without moderation – très Américain, I shall say.

New York was only waiting for us to come out the next day to show us its best assets with a warm, sunny and colorful weather.

Walking a bit on the High Line on the way to the Chelsea Market brings a certain pastoral charm to one’s surroundings.

The High Line is a pedestrian walkway along former elevated freight rail tracks.

A place where grass and nature can run wild. A green path through Chelsea, which begins in the Meatpacking District.

Old slaughterhouses and packing plants. Industrial vibe and red bricks.

There is always an abandoned hidden corner or alley to discover. The promise of a new place to venture in with the hopes to find a gem.

Maybe an unknown restaurant patio to rest when feeling peckish.

Or forgotten posters of John Lennon, Louis Armstrong and Madonna tucked between a loading dock and a boarded up nightclub.

An adventure on its own.

We ended up in Hell’s Kitchen and its Sunday’s flea market where everything and anything can be bought.

With the Lincoln Tunnel as a backdrop, the flea market is the most famous urban outdoor market in the city.

Old armchairs, fake furs, jewels and leather pants – the market has them all for you to bargain-hunt.

Feeling courageous and needing to digest a bit more, our walk took us to Central Park – the lungs of the city.

We observed birds on a bench, while others boated around the Lake.

We said hi to the carriage horses and played in the fall leaves.

It was 66 degrees – mais oui, 19! – and a perfect reason to lay on the Great Lawn and walk by the Reservoir.

New York is like Paris. You can’t see it all at once and you can’t talk about it in one single post.

There will always be some new streets, neighborhoods and areas to discover. It’s endless.

And when you think you’ve seen it all, it will surprise you once more.

The photo opportunities seem to wait for you at each street corner.

Scenes of life to capture as they unfold and happen in front of you.

A slice of urban heaven for those who enjoy the bustling and effervescence of the city.

A place where you can eat anything. And is there anything you cannot find in New York?

A quick movement, a split second – everything around already changed.

A traffic light turning green, a smoking sewer drain, a honking horn and a sea of pedestrians pushing their way through.

Walking home trough the quiet and private Gramercy Park via the Christmas Market of Union Square, the city had started to switch from celebrating Thanksgiving to focusing on the next Holidays to come.

And as tradition wants it, the Christmas trees were put up the day after Thanksgiving. Homes and stores newly decorated with green, red and crystal clear white lights.

New York forever changing and reinventing itself, announcing a new season to come and celebrate.

That’s a New York Minute - en un clin d’œil!

Frenchie and the Cape Cod Boulangerie

16 May

If you can’t go to France this summer, then just go to the Cape and step inside PB Boulangerie and Bistro.

When I heard last year in March that a French bakery was opening on the Cape, I rolled my eyes and thought “been there, done that”. Yes, it’s that hard to find a good bakery in the U.S. Now, there is a difference between a bakery vs. a French bakery. I’ve found over the years excellent regular bakeries that sold more than tasty baked goods and breads but finding a decent authentic French bakery is hard. Boston does not even have one – it just has bakeries. And yet, yesterday I stepped into my new favorite place within a 100 mile (160 km) radius. A bit far for a croissant fix but so worth it! So leave your passports at home and head to the Cape for a French experience.

Luckily for me, I did not have to wait in line to place my order. I guess the summer season has not officially started yet. But I’ve heard reports of long lines going out the door, around the building and down the street. This place should actually be kept a secret. If you’re staying on the Cape this summer, just get up early in the morning, tell your friends you’re going for a “walk” and come back with boxes and bags of fresh treats for breakfast. If they ask, tell them anything from a French fairy dropped breakfast on your doorstep to FedEx just delivered a package from caring friends in France who pitied your sad dry scones and white bread toast breakfast. Just remember to remove the sticker tag on the box. The reason for keeping it a secret is to avoid hours of waiting in line.

There’s something in the air inside PB Boulangerie. I am not sure if it is the finely grated lemon zest and the heavy double cream from the tarte au citron, or perhaps the fresh yeast and hints of vanilla from the freshly baked brioches. No, it’s definitely chilled butter being rubbed with flour to make a sweet pastry crust. It just smells like a French bakery. Hold on… actually, it smells like cut off bits and pieces of excess pastry dough laying around the fluted tart tins while the crème pâtissière is being spooned on the pastry shell. That’s it!

3 croissants, 2 pains au chocolat and 3 pains aux raisins, please! Yes, we’re hungry!” The bakeries are what I was expecting: authentic, flakey, buttery, dough luscious, delicate and still warm. Fresh out of the oven. When was the last time you had a warm croissant in the U.S.? The variety of breads made me salivate. Olive bread, bâtard, fig bread, pain de mie – it seems they have it all. They even adapted to the local Cape flavors with a cranberry bread. Brilliant! The baguette I bought had a good crunchy crust and just the right amount of chewiness. It’s a small place and there are too many good things to look at with too little time – people are waiting behind! I saw croque-monsieurs that looked gooey cheese delicious. I glanced at the salade niçoise in small containers. They have bœuf bourguignon sandwiches too. And the Norman tarte aux pommes seemed heavy and rich with delight.

Ambiance, charm, smells and taste of France – thank you Philippe and Boris for bringing this to the States. It almost sounded like France too, but not quite yet (Frenchie and the European Noises). It’s only a matter of time. As I left with my flan and tarte au chocolat – yes, there was a second visit right before driving back to Boston – I was already making plans in my head to schedule another French pilgrimage very soon to hopefully sit down and try the PB Bistro attached to the Boulangerie. The menu looks exquisite. And who wouldn’t want to spend more time on the Cape, lounging in the quaint Wellfleet, MA scenery? A must do this summer!

Frenchie and the Lemon Yogurt Cake

3 May

Tourists flock to New England every fall to see the changing colors of the trees during the peak foliage months. It’s beautiful, it’s enchanting and very unique. But something needs to be said about spring in New England because it should be as popular of a destination as it is during the September-November window.

Traveling through New England at this time of year is as exquisite – and maybe even more! – as anything you can experience during the fall. The atmosphere gets warmer, the trees start to bloom, the sun nourishes the entire northeastern corner with soft rays, the snows have melted and the colorful flowers proudly display their new petals… in other words, New England is brought to full bloom and back to life in April-May. Hands down, this beats any overcast gray rainy French spring – except maybe in the South of France.

‘Tis the season when you still don’t know what to wear quite yet. Mornings are brisk, afternoons can sometimes be too warm and you most likely will end up carrying your coat on your arm towards the end of the day. The AC is not yet turned on but windows are left open all day and night long to let the crisp air of spring come inside your house. You know you will wake up in the middle of the night to put on a t-shirt or unroll that comforter at the foot of the bed. But if birds are singing, you know you’re on the right track.

At the onset of sunny days, and even though the coast is still a bit windy and cold, celebrating the new season with a tasty dessert is a must. Something light, something easy and something that can give you a cooling sensation after an over-indulging lunch of lobster boil and steamers: a breath of fresh air. Just as if you were standing on the beach of York Harbor, ME observing the gentle surf while engulfed by the soft cool wind.

The gâteau au yaourt is the most traditional French cake ever! It’s an institution. It’s a rite of passage. It’s the first cake French kidlets learn how to bake at school. If you don’t know how to make a yogurt cake, you’re not part of the “in” crowd. But mention “yogurt” as a baking ingredient to an American and you will only see bewilderment in their eyes.

Why is yogurt cake so popular? Because it’s extremely easy to make – anyone can do it and it’s fun for kids. It starts with one simple, basic ingredient: a small plain yogurt pot. And why is it easy? Because the empty yogurt pot is used as a measuring tool for all other ingredients. So once you know the ratio, you can’t go wrong. And isn’t the best part of a small yogurt to lick the lid and make some noise with your spoon at the bottom of the pot? Because even when you’re done with it, there’s always a tiny bit more leftover yogurt that you could almost get with the tip of your spoon. Unfortunately, in the majority of U.S. supermarkets plain yogurt is sold in a gigantic 32 oz (908 g) pot and not in a 6 oz (170 g) small container. Yes, millions of American kids deprived from the joys of making yogurt cake with a small yogurt pot!

The usual ratio – and everyone in France has their own variations with grandma’s secret recipe or magic ingredient – is 1 pot of yogurt, 1 pot of vegetable oil, 2 pots of sugar, 3 pots of flour. As easy as 1, 2, 3, or in this case un, deux, trois. Add 3 eggs, a bit of baking powder, a pinch of salt and a drop of vanilla extract and you’re good to go. You can make it in a round or rectangular cake pan. You can add chocolate chips, apples, bananas, orange zest, rum, coconut etc. the yogurt cake is your canvas and you can make it however you please. Bake it for 45 minutes at 370 °F (185 °C) and it will never fail. The yogurt cake should almost be featured on the French citizenship test – make it, bake it and you’re French… voilà!

The one I make has evolved a bit from the easy 1, 2, 3 pot combination. I glaze it with a lemon syrup to bring out the flavors of the citrus and I serve it with a home-made lemon sorbet. It’s bright with a nice warm yellow color, the glaze gives it a shiny sticky texture and the pairing with the sorbet makes for a wonderful refreshing cool splash down the spine. Have fun and enjoy!

Lemon Yogurt Cake

1 small plain yogurt pot (I use a 6 oz or 170 g one)

3 eggs

1 organic lemon (you will scrape the zest)

2 1/2 cup (250 g) of flour

1.5 cups (300 g) of sugar

9-10 Tbsps (15 cl) of vegetable oil

2 teaspoons of baking powder

the juice of 2 lemons

Preheat the oven at 350 °F (180 °C). Prepare a round or rectangular cake pan. I use a French rectangular cake pan which is narrower than an American one.

Separate the egg yolks from the whites in 2 different bowls. Add 1 cup (200 g) of the sugar to the yolks. Keep the remaining 1/2 cup (100 g) on the side. Mix well until the yolks and the sugar are blended together.

Wash the lemon and zest it (add the zest of a second lemon for an extra lemoney taste). I like to chop it very finely in the end. Add the zest, the yogurt and the oil to the sugar/yolk mix. Mix well. (Add 2-3 Tbsps of lemon juice in the batter for an extra lemoney taste).

Add the flour, the baking powder, and mix well until you get a smooth batter.

Beat the egg whites until stiff. Add to the batter slowly. Pour into the cake pan and bake in the oven first at 350 °F (180 °C) for 30 minutes. After that time, change the temperature to 400 °F (200 °C) and continue to bake for an additional 30 minutes. I find that the cake becomes moist and fluffy without being dry when cooked gradually for a longer period of time than traditional recipes.

In the meantime, while the cake is baking, prepare the syrup with 1 cup (25 cl) of water, the remaining 1/2 cup (100 g) of sugar and the juice of 2 lemons. Boil in a sauce pan and stir for 20-30 minutes until the spoon is coated. Let stand.

When your cake is out of the oven, turn it upside down and coat it with the syrup. Use a pastry brush to spread it. Flip the cake once more and continue to brush it with the remaining syrup. You can also use the syrup dripping on the sides to continue coating the top of the cake.

Place in the fridge and serve cold along a home-made lemon sorbet.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 256 other followers

%d bloggers like this: