My landscape changed abruptly between France and Boston upon my return from the Holiday trip.
The French glowing yellow light and shades of peaceful green were suddenly replaced by cold, bright, and cottony snow.
Playful temperatures replaced the month of January on the calendar with a surprising April only to unleash the bitter winter wrath as soon as the wooly scarfs were left hanging on the coat stand.
But while the snow delicately absorbed the shock of my physical landing, mentally landing back into reality requires a different set of skills.
Glimpses and flashes of France follow me well after the empty suitcase is tucked in a corner of the basement.
I guess it’s the sign of a successful trip.
A special boat on the Seine.
Opening the shutters of the house in the morning to see the sun rise.
Tasting colorful and melt-in-your-mouth macarons.
Getting grandma to finally write down her ancient most-esteemed family apple compote recipe.
Gently twisting your ankle on uneven cobblestones while walking historic streets.
Inserting your hand in a basket full of freshly harvested walnuts from the walnut tree in the garden.
Indeed, a successful trip.
Playing in the snow is an exclusive luxury for me since I didn’t grow up with it.
A muffled universe. A wet icy embrace.
Adopting a deliberate nonchalant demeanor – always be first to invade this brand new immaculate universe and mark my territory with a fresh footprint.
C’est moi le premier !
With a white sky and ground, cold steel-blue and pale tints also hijack the mood of my house.
As I had previously mentioned, bringing colors into the kitchen is essential when the lack of colors outside makes you long for something a tad different.
Bright beets were the answer!
Beets remind me of France.
Summery simple red beet salad with fresh green leafy parsley, strong garlic and shiny fruity olive oil in the garden for lunch in Brittany.
Quelle belle salade !
Fresh earthy beets dropped off on the kitchen table by a neighbor in Corsica.
Definitely a staple item growing up.
A millefeuille (literally “thousand sheets”) is a French pastry made up of layers.
Savory millefeuilles are my favorite though.
It’s delicate and tasty all at once.
A bit of a grandiose effect with its patchwork of colors and tastes.
The softness of the goat cheese.
The sweetness of the honey glaze.
The earthy bite of the watercress
And the texture of the beets.
A perfect simple appetizer.
And while the snow has already melted outside, the whispers of spring and summer started to spread in our plates at home with this beet appetizer.
Seeing, breathing and eating brightly colored food definitely makes life more lively as we wait for the next snow storm.
Until then, there are lots of beet leftovers. Une salade pour le déjeuner… that’s a great idea!
Beet Millefeuille with Watercress Purée and Goat Cheese
4 large beets – golden or red beets. I prefer to use golden beets when available. You can mix and match as well.
1 1/2 cup (225 g) of frozen peas
3 bunches of watercress or upland cress, which has less of a bite
1 Tbsp (15 g) of butter
2 small shallots – sliced
1 Tbsp lemon thyme
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 cup (60 ml) of vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
3.5 oz (100 g) fresh plain goat cheese
5 Tbsp of honey
2 Tbsp of aged balsamic vinegar
fresh ground pepper
DO 1 DAY AHEAD: Cook beets + make watercress purée
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the beets for at least 60 minutes. Drain, bring to room temperature and store in the fridge overnight.
To make the watercress purée, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the peas until al dente (3 min).
Add the watercress bunches in the water and continue to cook for 1 extra minute.
Drain and leave peas and watercress in a colander.
In the same pot, melt 1 Tbsp of butter on medium low. Add the shallot slices and cook until transparent (2 minutes).
Add the vegetable broth and bring to a simmer.
Carefully put the peas and watercress back in the pot and stir with the broth. Mix well for 2 minutes.
Remove from the heat. Use a hand-held mixer or a blender to purée the vegetables together.
Add the lemon thyme, ginger and salt to the purée. Simmer the purée and return the pot to low heat for 5 minutes – in case there is too much liquid.
Taste for seasoning. The purée has a bit (earthy/grassy), which will pair perfectly later with the rest of the ingredients.
If you prefer a softer watercress taste, add more peas at the beginning OR use upland cress instead of watercress.
Store the watercress purée in the fridge overnight.
PREPARING THE MILLEFEUILLE (4):
Peel and slice the beets (1/4″ – 6 mm).
In a small bowl, work the goat cheese with 1 Tbsp of honey and freshly ground pepper.
The assemble the millefeuille, layer 1 slice of beet on a plate, 1 Tbsp of watercress purée, 1 slice of beet, 1 Tbsp of goat cheese and one last slice of beet.
I find it easier to work the goat cheese with my fingers when layering. Each millefeuille will require 3 slices of beet.
To prepare the vinaigrette, whisk and emulsify 4 Tbsp of honey with 2 Tbsp of aged balsamic vinegar and some salt and pepper to taste.
Spoon out 1 Tbsp of the vinaigrette and coat the top slice of beet with the back of the spoon. Delicately spread it in circles for the vinaigrette to start dripping on the sides of the millefeuille.
Sprinkle with sea salt. Serve immediately.