Tag Archives: Brittany

Frenchie and a Taste for Seafood

23 Apr

Living by the ocean has changed my life forever.

And since I am not a sunny summer nor beach person, this can only mean one thing… oui ! Fruits de mer !

“Fruits of the sea”. Seafood. “Sea fruits”.

Call it however you prefer, but living on the East Coast has allowed me – and all my visitors throughout the years – to fruitfully enjoy a cheap and wide variety of deliciously tasty shellfish.

I’m no stranger to seafood or fish.

Yearly summer vacations on the coasts of Brittany and Corsica as a kid developed my strong liking for anything and everything coming directly from the ocean.

Rolled up pants. Scratched feet climbing on rocks. Sharp-eyed kids searching for small crabs, winkles and other sea creatures and treasures.

Full red beach bucket on the way home, proud of the daily catch.

A heaping plate of langoustines with crusty bread and a home-made mayo for dinner.

Or crispy lemon cod fritters (fritelle di baccàla) and grilled trouts with garlic and vinegar (trùita a l’àgliu e a l’acètu).

I can still smell the parsley slowly grilling with the trouts and garlic.

As I am preparing a trip to Spain for next month, reading more about the many wonderful things I am about to see and visit, looking at food pictures of the flavors of the Costa Blanca and Catalonia, I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to post my recipe that combines both my love for tapas and seafood.

Blanca from FriendsEat already got out of me  in the interview she conducted back in November that one of my favorite restaurant is the tapas bar downstairs from my house.

C’est vrai, j’adore les tapas.

And there is no better way to plan a trip to Spain than with grilled calamari and a glass of Cava rosé.

Have you ever tried stuffing squid bodies with fresh bay leaves?

It makes a world of difference as they will soak up the strong flavors of the leaves.

Combined with lemon and mustard, it’s one dish that looks and tastes like a sunny-day-spent-on-the-coast all at once.

So here’s to Spain, abounding tapas and upcoming vacations!

Lemon Mustard Grilled Calamari Stuffed with Bay Leaves

for 10 squid bodies

even if you don’t have an outside grill, a tiny electric Foreman grill like I have will do the trick

10 squid bodies

2 lemons – juiced

2 teaspoons of mustard powder

1 teaspoon of Herbes de Provence

1/2 teaspoon of sea salt + more to taste

a shake of ground pepper

1 teaspoon of cane sugar

1 teaspoon of mustard – the hotter the mustard, the hotter the squids. Use a mild mustard or reduce to 1/2 teaspoon if you are sensitive

1 teaspoon of olive oil

13 fresh bay leaves

Start by boiling water in a big pot with 3 fresh bay leaves.

Stuff each squid body with a fresh bay leaf. Depending on the size of the bodies, you might want to stuff 2 leaves if they are big.

Remove the boiling water from the heat and plunge the squids in the water for 45 seconds. This will allow them not to shrink during the grilling process and it will make them tender in the end.

Pour the water and squids in a colander after 45 seconds and let them cool. Some bay leaves may have gotten loose in the water. Stuff them back in the squids if needed.

While the squids cool down, whisk the following ingredients in a medium bowl: lemon juice, mustard powder, Herbes de Provence, sea salt, pepper, sugar, mustard and olive oil.

When ready, fold the squids in the marinade, make sure they are well coated, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Heat up the grill and grill the marinated squids 15 to 30 seconds per side until they get a golden charred color.

Sprinkle with sea salt before serving. And do not forget to remove the leaves before eating the squid!


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


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.

Frenchie and the Hungarian Frenchie

20 Mar

Is there anything that this Hungarian phone ad taken last week at the Budapest airport left out from the French many stereotypes?

Baguette – check

Béret – check

Scarf – check

Boating t-shirt from Brittany with stripes  – check

Mustache / Goatee – check

The perfect eyes and gaze saying anything from I’m romantic / lost / I need a hug / I’m an artist deep inside / I will woo you all night long – check

Metrosexual / European jewelry – check

Eiffel Tower – check

Romantic sunset over Paris – check

Cobblestones – check

Old house with growing ivy – check

I guess we’re just missing the smell! Hard to portray that on a photo though. Maybe they should have added some flies somewhere around the “French” guy.

Whether stereotypes follow me in the U.S. (Is Pepé Le Pew really French? Frenchie and the Italian Skunk) or in Hungary, it’s hard to escape them in the end. And while sitting in front of this ad and waiting at the airport for my flight back to the U.S., I read somewhere in GQ that the boating striped sweater is one of the hottest fashion item for men for this upcoming Spring and Summer. I am afraid to ask… when is the béret making a come back?

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