Tag Archives: Spain

Frenchie and l’Apéro Dînatoire

16 Aug

David, I’m scared! I was invited by this French family to an apéro dînatoire.

What is it and what am I getting myself into? It sounds appealing yet frightening.

Are they going to grill me on my subjonctif plus-que-parfait? Do I need to eat beforehand?

Should I brush up on La Marseillaise and boldly lie to them with positive comments as to why hand-held shower heads are better after all?

… such are the frantic questions I received via texts from my friend “J.”

Frankly, I am still surprised that American cooking and food magazines haven’t yet bought into the French fad of l’apéro dînatoire – especially since it involves food and drinks!

A great opportunity to write about what it actually is and give you 3 new recipes to go along with it.

Tapas, antipasti, finger food, cocktail party, hors d’œuvres, drinks and nibbles – translate it however you want, the apéro dînatoire is meant to have fun and eat.

In France, the apéritif takes place before the meal as a way to open up and boost the appetite.

Leave it to the French to awaken and exalt your stomach with finger food and the arousing idea of an exciting meal to be served next.

An alcoholic beverage as well as some amuse-bouches are offered to snack on while lunch or dinner is being prepared.

Commonly shortened to apéro in casual conversations, l’apéritif is a real tradition française.

French magazines picked up on the trendy apéro dînatoire very early on.

Apéro dînatoire ideas for 4, 8 or 10!

Apéro dînatoire on a budget!

Easy apéro dînatoire!

My definition of an apéro dînatoire is quite simple.

It is a social gathering mixing cold and hot finger foods – which should involve the least amount of prep time – usually made in advance, paired with wines or cocktails, and showcasing the host’s ability to effortlessly cook and assemble the most complicated delicious treats all the while telling impressed guests that it was soooo easy to prepare and that it took no time at all.

Mais non, c’est très simple ! I swear.

It should leave you fulfilled and content. Not hungry, yet not stuffed either.

An apéro dînatoire – more than just a small quick apéritif, yet not a full-on dinner either.

The French are very keen on the cake salé – or savory cake – for these events.

Another fad I am surprised American food magazines haven’t pick up yet.

Zucchini breads always end up too sweet in my opinion so I wouldn’t consider them as a cake salé.

Blue cheese with pears. Gorgonzola with honey. Blue cheese with bacon.

They are effortlessly “easy” to prepare, different, and make for great finger food sliced up with a glass of wine.

And since August comes to its end and I used to spend my August vacations as a kid in Corsica, my latest savory cake is reminiscent of those Corsican flavors I know so well.

A bit of southern France on your plate.

Made with chestnut flour, it awakens the taste buds with hints of prosciutto and sun-dried tomatoes, and brings great texture thanks to a combination of millet and amaranth flours and a crunchy finish with toasted pine nuts.

It took 4 hungry mouths and 25 minutes for the cake to almost disappear from the pan at my last apéro dînatoire.

So is the apéro dînatoire the French answer to the Spanish tapas and pinchos?

I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss Spain.

At times, my mind and my thoughts are still vacationing in Spain even though I got back in early June.

The power of traveling abroad! Lingering memories of a wonderful trip.

And with a post about apéro dînatoire, what better way than to include Spanish pinchos I keep dreaming about.

I know I will make as many pinchos and savory cakes as I can until the end of summer.

Enjoying the last warm evenings gathered with friends around a festive apéro dînatoire.

Chestnut-Flavored Savory Cake with Prosciutto and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

use an 8.5″ x 4.5″ (22 x 12 cm) loaf pan

3 eggs

0.5 cup (100 ml) of olive oil

1/4 cup (50 ml) of whole milk

1/4 cup (50 ml) of white wine

0.5  cup (50 g) of shredded Parmesan

0.5 cup (50 g) of grated Pecorino

0.5 cup (60 g) of chestnut flour

1/3 cup (60 g) of white rice flour

5 Tbsp of amaranth flour

3 Tbsp of millet flour

2 teaspoon of baking powder

1.5 Tbsp of xanthan gum

1 garlic clove – minced

1.5-2 oz (40-55 g) of prosciutto – roughly cut and chopped

12 green olives – sliced

6 Tbsp of pine nuts – toasted

7 sun dried-tomatoes – roughly chopped

2 Tbsp of sage – chopped

2 Tbsp of basil – chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 °F (180 °C). Butter the cake pan and set aside.

In a small pan, toast the pine nuts over high heat until they become fragrant (about 2 minutes). Let them cool.

I use sun-dried tomatoes already marinated in olive oil. Blot them with paper towels before chopping them.

In a big bowl, combine the eggs and the olive oil using a hand mixer until light and smooth. It should have doubled its volume (2 minutes).

Add the milk and wine. Continue mixing for 1 minute.

Add both cheeses to the bowl and mix delicately with a spatula.

In a smaller bowl, sift the flours together with the baking powder and xanthan gum.  Mix them together.

Add the flours to the wet ingredients and stir until well combined.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the batter: garlic, prosciutto, olives, toasted pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, sage and basil.

Mix gently.

Pour and spread the dough in the cake pan and bake in the oven for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of it comes out dry.

Note: I did not include any sea salt in this recipe. The olives, Parmesan, Pecorino and prosciutto add enough salt to the cake on their own.

Goat cheese with Spiced Peach Compote Pincho


Anchovy and Roasted Red Pepper Pincho with Quail Egg

exact numbers and measurements not given here so you can make as many as you want.

1 baguette

1 garlic clove – peeled and halved

olive oil

frisée lettuce

1 goat cheese with rind

1 batch of spiced peach compote ( you will need 11-13 ripe peaches, 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, 3 Tbsp of lime juice, 1.5 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 6 whole star anise, 10 whole cloves, 0.5 cup (100 g) of blonde cane sugar, 1/3 cup (65 g) of light Muscovado sugar, 1 Tbsp of vanilla extract)

pistachios – toasted and roughly chopped

cherry tomatoes

basil leaves

small skewers

Make the spiced peach compote. Combine all ingredients needed for the compote in a big pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 30 minutes. Check regularly. Uncover after 30 minutes and continue cooking for an additional 15-18 minutes until the peaches are really soft. Set aside and let cool. Discard the star anise and clove pieces when cold.

Toast the bread by setting the oven on broiler – high.

Rub the garlic clove on the bread slices – both sides – and brush them with olive oil.

Set them on a baking sheet and place under the broiler for 1-2 minutes until golden and toasted. Set aside.

Toast the pistachios in a small pan over high heat until fragrant (2-4 minutes).

Assemble the pincho by cutting a slice of goat cheese with a hot knife. Set the cheese on top of a frisée leaf. Drop a small spoonful of peach compote on top and sprinkle with the chopped toasted pistachios. Finish by placing a cherry tomato wrapped in a basil leaf on top and use a skewer to hold the pincho together.

For the other pincho, you will need:

1 baguette

1 garlic clove – peeled and halved

olive oil


fire roasted red peppers – thinly sliced lengthwise

pitted black olives

quail eggs

To boil the quail eggs, fill a small pan with water, drop the eggs in the water, cover and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water starts to boil, turn off the heat and let the eggs cook for 5 minutes.

Place them under cold water when done to stop the cooking process. Set aside and let cool.

Toast the bread slices as explained above.

Assemble the pincho by placing 2 thin slices of roasted red pepper as well as 2 small anchovies on the toasted bread.

Prepare a skewer with one black olive, one hard-boiled quail egg and another black olive.

Spike the pincho with the skewer to make it hold.


Frenchie and España

21 Jun

From San Francisco, CA to Calle San Francisco somewhere on the Spanish Costa Blanca.

The memories from the wedding of my friend “A.” forever locked in our collective memories as well as on my camera memory card.

Now onto Spain – the promise of more sunny landscapes, an idea for a recipe for this post and of course, another wedding.

After “A.”, this time, it’s my friend “B.”

I promise I’m not trying to be funny. As life would have it, “B.” decided to get married after “A.”

Sun, turquoise sea and warm sand.

Historic towns, remote hilltop villages, architecture and castle ruins.

Busy tapas bars and splendid beaches.

This list sounds like a dream come true. I’m actually doubtful myself as I type these words.

But it’s all true! I’ve seen it. I was there.

Oh and I forgot secret coves and rugged capes – not to rub it in!

As I’m going through my pictures – souvenirs of a beautiful vacation reflected in the rearview mirror and disappearing as you drive away – it would be hard for me not to talk about the following little things.

These little things, petits détails, igniting the soft mind when you’re back home and surprise yourself looking out the window, chin resting on fist, and daydreaming about something…

Something, anything other than the reality you know.

Like driving through the Costa Blanca region, from Alicante to Dénia, along the coast or inland by ways of Pego, Planes or Guadalest.

The richly beautiful valley – La Vall de Gallinera.

Landscapes seasoned with trees.

Zesty orange and lemon trees. Shiny olive trees. Majestic cypress trees. Crimson red cherry trees. And droopy avocado trees.

The secret beach of La Granadella under the Cap de la Nau where the water, pebble beach and jagged cliffs look like they were artificially inserted to create an illusory cove.

Yet, we feel we can do anything we want.

And what about El Barrio de la Santa Cruz in Alicante.

Colorful, whitewashed houses, flower-filled balconies, crooked stairways in all directions leading to the Santa Bárbara castle.

I was mesmerized walking up and down the narrow streets. Flags, tubs of flowers and colors everywhere.

An improvised lunch in Pego after hiking Peñon de Ifach proved to be memorable in every sense of the way.

Tapas, white wine, the splashing fountain on the plaza and the overlooking 16th century church.

Stretching the day to the hamlet of Planes where time stood still in some mysterious ways.

Too many nooks and crannies to consider. Just exploring!

But the casually floating laundry drying in the sun with olive trees in the background remains a sight to see.

And I certainly cannot forget to mention the accidental discovery of Altea.

If the word “quaint” could be paired with a picture in the dictionary, it would be with a picture of Altea.

I just sat at one of the cafés and took it all in.

I watched the city live around me. A cobbled maze. A crooked compact core group of streets making up the nucleus character of the town.

Surprises and enchantment at every street corners.

And of course, the white and blue domes of the church of La Mare de Déu del Consol.

However, nothing could compete with the breathtaking Mirador in Benidorm.

The location, the views, the delicate radiating white light from the immaculate surroundings.

And this is where my friends “B. and N.” got married.

I am so very thankful they too gave me their authorization to publish pictures from their wedding day.

It was an affair to remember.

“B.” and I met in 2003 through friends of ours in Milwaukee. But it wasn’t until 2004 that we connected.

And we connected in a peculiar way.

Instantly, I liked her laugh and her Spanish joie de vivre.

She’s a sparkling gal with sparkling eyes – yes, definitely using sparkling twice here and there’s a reason for it… she really is – combined with an infectious smile and personality.

She secretly liked the fact that we could speak French once in a while so she could dive back into her luxembourgeois roots.

And I think she enjoyed me making her laugh, which was perfect because it’d make me laugh in return.

We met but we really connected when we realized we were both going to close on our first house the same day at the same time. Separate houses of course!

And just like that, we opened two bottles of Champagne that night – one in each house – to celebrate the first biggest purchase of our lives.

We met, and we kept in touch. I love that she is part of my story that way and I am part of hers as well.

The wedding was brilliantly elegant – from the reception on the beach of the Montiboli Hotel to the dancing guests sharing their energy way into the night.

The aperitivo with Cava overlooking the sea.

The service in la Iglesia de San Jaime y Santa Ana.

The bride and groom’s smiles, love and humor spreading through the crowd.

Can we celebrate your wedding every day? – I begged. Does it really have to end?

Congratulations to “B. and N.” – I wish them every possible happiness.

Last stop: Barcelona.

Animated, inspired and inspiring, bold, funky, modern and old.

My highlights summed up in 4 words: art, food, Gaudí, people.

The food shopping at the Mercat de Sant Joseph de la Boqueria to buy pimientos de Padrón.

The colorful work and crazy spirit of Gaudí throughout the city.

The quick tapas stops at Quimet y Quimet or Tapas 24 to sample tapas of roasted onions and tomatoes with anchovies on cheese along with pescaditos fritos – an assortment of fried little fish.

The vibrant atmosphere at Cervecería Catalana.

Through the maze of streets and squares in the old town – Barri Gòtic – in search of the heart and essence of Barcelona.

Exploring the area of El Born and the neighborhood of La Barceloneta where flags and clothes hang from every windows and where smells of fresh pan con tomate being prepared float in the air before finally leading to the beach.

Strolling and looking up to glance at the Art Nouveau buildings and Modernism exploding in the Eixample area.

This reminds me that the best pan con tomate I tasted was at Ca La Nati. Their special touch: oregano.

I wanted to be in my kitchen to recreate these simple flavors of garlic, olive oil and tomatoes. Barcelona and Spain in my house.

Recreating the flavors with a Frenchie twist. A pan con tomate-flavored quiche.

A quiche with an olive oil oregano gluten-free crust. The earthy amaranth, the light tapioca, the mild crunch of the buckwheat.

A roasted tomato purée with garlic at the bottom.

Topped with tomato slices and oregano.

Emulating the sensation of biting into an olive oil grilled slice of bread rubbed with garlic and tomatoes, sprinkled with oregano.

A hit in my house so I can continue to remember Spain and the Spanish people.

Toujours en vacances !

Pan Con Tomate-flavored Quiche – Roasted Tomato and Garlic Quiche

makes a 9-inch (22-23 cm) quiche + 3 individual 4-inch (10 cm) tarts OR an 11-inch (27-28 cm) quiche + 1 individual 4-inch (10 cm) tart

make sure to use high-quality olive oil

for the roasted garlic tomatoes

4 tomatoes

3 garlic cloves

1/2 teaspoon sea salt


Preheat the oven to 400 °F (200 °C).

Core and seed the tomatoes – halved lengthwise.

Peel and mince the garlic cloves.

Sprinkle the garlic, salt and pepper over the tomatoes.

Roast in the oven for 30 minutes.

When done, place the roasted tomatoes and garlic in a strainer to discard any liquid and press gently with the back of a wooden spoon until all liquids are gone. Roughly chop the tomato purée, set aside and let cool.

for the gluten-free olive oil oregano crust

2/3 cup (100g) amaranth flour

2/3 cup (85g) tapioca flour

2/3 cup (100g) buckwheat flour

2 Tbsp sweet white rice flour

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 teaspoon sea salt

pinch of freshly grounded pepper

2 Tbsp chopped oregano

1/3 cup (75 ml) olive oil

1 egg

7 Tbsp cold water

Sift the 4 flours over a big bowl and combine them with the xantham gum, sea salt, pepper and oregano.

Dig a well in the center and add the oil. Working slowly with your fingers, mix the oil to the flours until well absorbed. It should be lumpy and chunky.

Crack the egg in a small bowl and add the cold water to it. Whisk for a few seconds with a fork to combine the water and egg.

Dig another well in the flour/oil mixture and pour the egg/water in the center.

Mix delicately with your hands in a circular motion until the dough forms a ball. Do not knead it too much.

Flatten the ball, cover and wrap with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight or for at least 1 hour. If chilled overnight, remember to remove it from the fridge and wait 30 minutes before rolling it.

Preheat the oven to 400 °F (200 °C).

Roll out the dough to fill a 9-inch tart pan (22-23 cm) or an 11-inch pan if you decide to make a bigger one. I use some of the rice flour to roll the dough in case it is a little wet. Line the dough with the pan, press in the corners, and trim it without any overhang.

With a fork, make small holes at the bottom over the entire surface. Cover the dough with parchment paper, drop weights on it (another smaller oven-proof dish, or dry garbanzo beans) and blind bake the crust for 10 minutes.

Remove the crust from the oven, remove the parchment paper and the weights, and bake for another 8 minutes. Set aside.

for the tomato cream egg batter

3/4 cup (180 ml) heavy cream

1 garlic clove – cut in 4 chunks

5 branches of oregano

2 Tbsp of tomato paste (I use the double concentrated paste)

1 garlic clove – minced

1 Tbsp of olive oil

sea salt and pepper

4 eggs

While the tomatoes are roasting or the crust is resting in the fridge, pour the cream in a bowl and steep the garlic and oregano branches in the cream for at least one hour.

Discard the garlic chunks and oregano branches when done and pour the cream through a strainer if necessary.

In a medium bowl, add the tomato paste to the cream as well as the minced garlic clove, olive oil and a pinch of sea salt and pepper.

Whisk until all ingredients are combined.

Add the eggs one by one and whisk until smooth. Set aside.

putting the quiche together

2 tomatoes – sliced thinly

2-3 Tbsp of oregano – chopped

pinch of sea salt

Bring the oven temperature down to 350 °F (180 °C).

Spread the roasted tomato and garlic purée at the bottom of the blind baked crust.

Pour the tomato cream egg batter over the top.

Arrange the tomato slices over the batter and place in the oven.

Bake the quiche for 45 to 55 minutes – if you make small quiches, 25-30 minutes.

The top should be golden and slightly puffed. The egg batter should not be moving.

Optional: at the end, set the broiler on high and broil the quiche for 1-2 minutes until the tomatoes and the top are brown.

Let the quiche rest for 15 minutes. Sprinkle oregano  and sea salt on top and serve.

Frenchie and the Two Weddings

4 Jun

It is hard to believe that my vacation is over. Time goes by so fast and all good things come to an end.

Landed last night. Tired. Jet-lagged. And already browsing photos. I can’t help it.

I had to share a preview of what’s to come on Frenchie and the Yankee. A teaser of photos and recipes to be featured soon.

And also to announce a surprise guest participation on the blog. I won’t say any more. But I am really excited.

On one side, flashes in front of my sleepy eyes of sun-kissed Napa vines and teary-eyed San Francisco newlyweds surrounded by much love and energy.

While on the other, Barcelona with its myriad of colors and tiles swallows me back up into my Spanish dreams of luscious orange trees, with other newlyweds celebrating their perfect moment on the Costa Blanca perfumed by rosemary, lavender, thyme and sprinkled with yellow hints of Spanish broom bushes combined with purple dots from the grey-leaved cistus.

I will be back very soon with posts about California and Spain.

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