31 October 2012
05 September 2012
Yesterday was official "back to school day" or la rentrée here in France. I've blogged about this phenomenon before. For the past week or so people have been little by little coming back from August vacations and getting back to work routine. Businesses have been opening again, neighborhoods have been filling back up with Parisians and people have been getting together with friends they missed over the summer. Although I hit the ground running with last week's 14-hour-days full of theater rehearsals, this week marks a return to the usual routine: some babysitting, teaching a few theater classes and continuing rehearsals for this year's plays.
It's also back to making delicious food from whatever the CSA throws our way week to week. Recently, I got a bunch of eggplants, both the classic purple kind and the white kind - I can only assume this is how the veggie got its name because they actually do resemble eggs. I'm not a big fan of eggplant and neither is D. (Send your delicious recipes my way, please.) My usual response when I don't like a vegetable is to put Indian spices on it. I mean, I'll eat pretty much anything once you add cumin, turmeric and eggplant is no exception. I discovered this recipe four or five years ago on the blog Orangette and it's been my go-to eggplant recipe ever since! And to top it off, it has peas in it and I LOVE peas.
(makes about 4 servings)
2 large eggplants (or 3-4 small)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. cumin seeds or ground cumin
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 small jalapeño, seeded (or not depending on how spicy you want it) and finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 ½ Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
4 or 5 curry leaves (optional)
3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped (out of season, canned tomatoes work too)
½ tsp. paprika
¼ tsp. turmeric
1 cup frozen peas
¾ cup chopped cilantro (I leave this out and sometimes garnish w/ chopped scallions at the end, but if you like cilantro, go for it)
1/3 - ½ cup whole-milk plain yogurt (if you're feeling fancy, you can also use cream or coconut milk. I've tried both and they're delicious variations)
Salt, to taste
Garam masala, for serving
Preheat the oven to 500° F (250ºC). Put the eggplants on in a baking dish, and pierce them all over with a fork or knife. Bake for about 1 hour, or until the skins are blackened and the eggplant is soft when pressed. Set aside to cool slightly. Then slice open lengthwise, scrape the flesh from the skin and mash coarsely. (You can do this part a day or two ahead and refrigerate it.)
Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large frying pan. Add the cumin seeds (or ground cumin) and cook until they begin to sizzle and pop, about 10 seconds. Add the onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is soft and beginning to brown, about 5-10 minutes. Add the jalapeño, garlic, ginger, cayenne and curry leaves (if using) and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add the paprika and turmeric, and cook, stirring, for another 2-3 minutes. Add the eggplant and peas and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, and stir in the cilantro (if using), yogurt (or cream or coconut milk), and salt.
Serve sprinkled with garam masala.
29 August 2012
Today marks the first official day of a new project, a week of physically and emotionally intensive rehearsals at a theater that has basically turned the keys over to us for a week to do as we please. Yes, they're crazy. But then again so are we - and anyone who throws themselves into something they are passionate about and just trusts the universe will provide.
I guess what I'm saying is that a certain healthy level of insanity is required to live life to the fullest. Marie Forleo - inspiring business woman living out her dreams - says in this interview that ambition is always unrealistic because it hasn't happened yet. I'm paraphrasing but it's a comforting thought because it means that if your dreams and desires are not based in "reality", then you're doing something right, you're on an adventure towards changing that reality into something else.
Of course those of us that cook know all about that. The history of cooking is full of unrealistic ambitions from "let's eat this big round red fruit of the nightshade family in the hopes it won't actually be poisonous," to "let's break down the molecules of this food, turn it into foam and serve it in a restaurant." You start with some random ingredients, or a list of constraints, or just a wild desire for something particular and off you sail out into the waters of culinary invention perhaps with a recipe or two for guidance -- or not.
In this case, I was looking for a nice before dinner drink that was cooling and non-alcoholic. Enter Lemon-Limeade. I took what looked like a super simple recipe from Food & Wine. Don't be fooled. There are few steps and no special equipment, but unless you have a juicer (I hope you do), you're going to be squeezing lots of lemons and limes by hand. However, this delicious recipe is worth it (as long as you don't have any paper cuts).
1 cup sugar (I used raw sugar, which gave the lemonade a nice rich color)
4 3/4 cups water
3/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
slices for garnish
In a saucepan on high heat, stir the sugar into 1 1/2 cups water until dissolved. Remove from heat BEFORE mixture comes to a boil. Pour into a pitcher and stir in 3 1/4 cups of cold water and lemon and lime juices. Refrigerate until cool. Serve over ice, garnished with lemon or lime slices. Good with appetizers before dinner or to cool off in the afternoon.
22 August 2012
18 August 2012
Ok, you are psychic. Now somebody give me tuna. It's hot. I need sustenance!
Dear readers, I must go back to lying on a tile floor where my psychic powers tell me I will be the coolest. I recommend you give it try. I think Hopie will be posting soon, though she's not very coherent in this heat.
Ooh, but I bet I could guilt her into giving me a cuddle anyway. It's been sooooooo long!
05 May 2012
However, although my CSA seems to think that rhubarb should count as my weekly fruit, I believe rhubarb is more correctly considered a vegetable and like most vegetables, it shines when roasted. To be fair, I did not come up with this idea, but when it comes to sailing off the edge of the culinary map, there's no one I trust more to navigate than Jaime Oliver (see: my slow but steady conversion to his recipes like Wild Mushroom Soup and this Seriously Good Grilled Zucchini Salad). This recipe is surprising and absolutely delicious. Like most of Oliver's recipes, it's not hard to make and whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
One bunch of fresh sage (I had to go to the three different places to get this, but I think fresh sage is so definitely worth it.)
1 clove garlic, peeled
2 pork fillets, trimmed
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 slices Parma ham or prosciutto (I used speck)
7-12 sticks of rhubarb (enough to blanket the bottom of your baking dish)
Crush a good handful of fresh sage in a pestle and mortar. Crush in the garlic and then add 5 tablespoons of olive oil. Rub this mixture all over the pork fillets. Let marinate for an hour (if you have the time). Preheat the oven to 425ºF / 220ºC. Lightly season the pork with salt and pepper, and wrap 5 slices of ham/prosciutto around each fillet. Cut the rhubarb into finger-sized pieces and place in an appropriately sized roasting tray. Lay the pork on top of the rhubarb. (You can rub the rest of the marinade into the ham at this point if you like). Sprinkle leftover sage leaves over the dish and drizzle with olive oil. Get a piece of wax paper, wet it and scrunch it up, lay it over the meat and tuck it in around the sides.
Cook in the preheated oven for 15 mins, remove the paper and cook for another 15 mins. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 mins. Slice the meat at an angle in thick slices and serve with juice over the roasted rhubarb. I served this with baked potatoes drizzled with sage butter. Oh, so yum!
20 April 2012
Marcel, Marcel, wake up! Hopie's away again. We can write to our dear readers on the blog again! I bet they miss us.
Enough to pet us? Or give us tuna?
All right. Hello? Anyone there?
Yes, hello dear readership this is Mastermind Edgar.
This is Marcel!
Hopie is doing a theater writing workshop with her company's loyal audiences in the center of France...
She likes them better than us. I bet she's giving them tuna right now.
...and then taking a show to another city she calls Lyon.
Lion? She's going to pet other cats??
So we're back to update our fans.
Tell them about our new toys!
I told you Marcel, those toys are not for us. They're for our humans.
But they squeak and roll around on the floor and look good to hunt! I know they're for us.
No Marcel, they're silly human pets called Zhu Zhus.
Other pets? Competition??
Exactly, Marcel. They are not to be played with. They must be eliminated.
Like we eliminated that evil leather chair?
Yes. We ripped it to shreds to show who was boss. We will do the same with these Zhu Zhu creatures.
Come to think of it, they're...kind of scary. I think I might rather curl up under the bed.
Don't be ridiculous. We must rule in this house.
Or...we could take a nap in the humans' underwear instead.
13 April 2012
Hello, readers of Hopie's Kitchen. I was recently in Mongolia, where I was lucky enough to sample some unique Mongolian dishes, so Hopie asked if I would write about it a little.
There were three Mongolia-only drinks I wanted to make a point of trying: Mongolian tea, fermented mare's milk (called airag), and Chinggis brand vodka ("Chinggis" being the more authentic Mongolian spelling of "Genghis", as in Khan). I didn't get a chance to try the second, and I can't tell you how to make the third, so I guess tea it is.
Mongolians call their tea "süütei tsai", which literally means "milk tea". I find this a bit misleading, because the key feature of the tea is not the milk. It's the salt. My host mom in Russia tells me that Mongolians drink their tea with milk and salt because the mixture provides both protein and electrolytes, which they need for long days of the nomadic herding lifestyle. However, it's popular enough to be found all over the place in Ulaanbaatar, where the closest thing to herders I saw were the policemen trying desperately to control the terrifying Mongolian traffic.
Every non-Mongolian I've met talks about this tea as something horrifying that is an "acquired taste". Maybe there's something wrong with me, because I acquired it on my second sip. I found this tea so intriguing and oddly addictive that I couldn't believe the recipe was so simple—I was sure there was something else giving it its flavor. But it's really just three ingredients.
Start with some loose tea. Any black tea will do. Boil some water in a saucepan, add tea leaves, and steep to your desired tea strength.
Next, add milk. The water-milk ratio in Mongolian tea is about 1-1, so add a lot. Just tell yourself you're making yourself strong for a long day of sheep-herding.
Instead of stirring, Mongolians will take a large spoon, lift some of the mixture out of the pot, and let it splash back in. This makes the milk light and frothy. I guess you could always just stir with a whisk, but why would you do that when you can pretend to be in a Mongolian ger, making your süütei tsai over the fire?
When the mixture is starting to boil again, take it off the heat and stir in some salt. This part is tricky, because the amount of salt really makes or breaks this beverage. I tried in vain to find a recipe that provided a concrete amount, so that I would have an actual proportion to go by, but most recipes for Mongolian tea say "add salt to taste." I don't know about you, but the amount of salt I usually prefer "to taste" is none.
Just start with a little bit, and gradually add more until it hits the perfect balance. Too little salt, and you won't taste a difference at all; too much, and it will just taste salty. Just enough, and you won't even be able to tell what the unusual ingredient is—it'll just give your tea a slightly enhanced flavor.
Made right, this tea has a rich, smooth taste. "It reminds me of caramel, but without the caramel part," I remarked the first time I tried it. ("I have no idea what you're talking about," my friend responded.) It truly does add up to more than the sum of its parts, so even if you are one of the apparently many people who don't love this tea as much as I did, it's worth a try. Be a little adventurous, like Chinggis Khan, who adventured out to defeat the enemies of the Mongolian empire, or like J. Enkhjargal, the architect who decided to build a 131-foot statue of Chinggis Khan in the middle of the Mongolian steppe.
03 April 2012
I made these champagne cocktails for a party this weekend and I am so enchanted with them that I'm using writing this post as an excuse to have another one...you know, for inspiration. So let me be inspired: there's something fruity going on with the grenadine syrup (and, especially for French people, something that reminds you a little bit of being a kid again), something smooth and sweet with the pear juice, something citrus-y and a tinge bitter with the Grand Marnier, and then something absolutely decadent with the champagne. And it doesn't have to be good quality champagne. I'm using cremant d'Alsace which is about a third of the price and just as yummy in this cocktail.
Just perfect for the beginning of party with friends, or for an after-work drink, or for a romantic evening. Delicate and fun enough to toast the warm weather and the return of spring.
Speaking of spring in Paris, even though I live in an area where winter is not too harsh and snow does not keep us inside for months at a time, spring has brought Parisians outside. They come to the parks. They sit at the outdoor tables at cafés and watch people go by. They put away their fondu pots and start thinking about lighter foods.
Simple Champagne Cocktail
1 frozen raspberry
1 Tbsp grenadine syrup
1 Tbsp pear juice
1 Tbsp Grand Marnier liqueur
Put the raspberry in the bottom of the glass. Measure the grenadine and Grand Marnier on top and then pour champagne over it until the glass is full. It layers prettily but the taste is better when you stir it (carefully so the champagne doesn't bubble over).
These Parmesan tuiles (a sort of thin appetizer wafer) are also perfect for spring parties. Not to mention, they go perfectly well with this champagne cocktail. So, since I've been a lazy blogger lately, this time you get two recipes in one post.
(makes a good plateful)
25g of flour
100g of Parmesan
1 tsp dried rosemary
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Heat a frying pan on medium heat. When hot, spoon about 1 Tbsp of mixture into the pan and spread thin, almost like a tiny pancake. You can probably do this three or four times in the pan until you run out of space. The Parmesan will melt and when it seems all melty on one side, carefully flip the tuile and cook it on the other side, all in all only a couple minutes. Remove from frying pan and let cool on a rolling pin to give them a nice curved shape. Repeat until you've used all the Parmesan mixture.
Happy spring parties! And happy Easter!
14 March 2012
This weekend D. and I did a good deed. We helped a friend who just moved this year to a new city celebrate a birthday. Did it hurt that this friend is a foodie and that the new city was Lyon, a city known for its gastronomy? Well, no. Ok, full confession: we spent the weekend eating. The birthday girl was happy and so were we!
I won't go into all the different kinds of food we came across (the amazing charcuteries and the patisseries and the divine smells in the streets and the typical bouchons lyonnais), though it's all worth mentioning, but I can't help sharing pictures of our birthday tea stop.
Bernachon is a chocolaterie and patisserie about which we had heard many good things. Their boutique is a shop on one side and a salon de thé on the other. We arrived around 3pm, which was just perfect because it was after lunch and before the tea rush. We were seated right away and the staff was pleasant and available.
Being the conscientious foodies that we are, we had to sample a maximum and so we got tea (small but good-quality selection), hot chocolate (amazingly smooth, chocolaty and creamy), the assortment of warm savory petits-fours AND the assortment of sweet petits-fours and then split everything three ways: a festival of tastes! The birthday girl finished off with the largest, most dense (and yet delicious) macaron I've ever seen, which she ate on and off for the rest of day!
All in all a very successful weekend!
21 February 2012
The common cold: exciting side effect of temperatures changes, bane of modern medicine, butt of this telling joke...
A man went to see his doctor because he was suffering from a miserable cold. His doctor prescribed some pills, but they didn't help. On his next visit the doctor gave him a shot, but that didn't do any good. On his third visit the doctor told the man to go home and take a hot bath. As soon as he was finished bathing he was to throw open all the windows and stands in the draft. "But doc," protested the patient, "if I do that, I'll get pneumonia." "I know," said his physician. "I can cure pneumonia."
Luckily my doctor prescribed rest and supplements for my immune system rather than pneumonia, so I immediately came home and made chicken soup. I made the stock directly with a whole chicken so the meat would get falling-off-the-bone-tender, then made the soup with onions, carrots, celery, and lots of garlic, parsley and some fresh ginger added near the end for the maximum in vitamin strength. I definitely recommend it if you're under the weather (even better if you can get someone else to make it for you)!
I've been trying a new kind of soup pretty much every week these days. Latest in this delicious craze has been Heidi's amazing Vegetarian Split Pea Soup. This is one of those recipes that's insanely cheap, insanely easy to make and insanely delicious. (Check out 101 Cookbooks in general for more of those kinds of recipes. Heidi's good at them!) I added cumin seeds to this soup and I think the flavor worked well.
serves 2-3 people
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
a pinch of sea salt
a pinch of cumin seeds
1 cup dried split peas
3 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1-2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (you can reserve the zest for garnish if you love lemon)
a few pinches of paprika
more olive oil to drizzle
Heat olive oil in a pot over med-high heat. Stir in onions and salt and cook a couple minutes, until the onions are soft but not brown. Add the split peas and stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the peas are cooked through but not mushy (about 20 minutes).
Using a cup measure, put about 1/2 cup of the soup aside. Puree the rest of the soup. Stir the reserved soup back into the puree. This technique gives the soup a little bit of texture. Stir in the lemon juice and season to taste.
Serve in bowls drizzled with olive oil and topped with paprika and a bit of lemon zest.
03 February 2012
A cold snap here has left Parisians shivering in their fashionable coats and reaching for their leather gloves. Yesterday the metro was slowed because of ice and people are generally at a lost as to how to keep warm. I am in my winter happy place. Ok, so it's in the low 20s and windy, but it's finally sunny! No rain boots, no more mid-season jacket. I finally have on my winter coat and the cute hat I bought in Bryant Park when I was in NYC over Christmas. When I wake up, the sun is rising and sending all sorts of beautiful colors across the sky. I'm onstage until the end of February and rehearsing two other shows. I play soccer every afternoon with kids I babysit for fun and exercise. Right now, life is good.
I've been trying to make all of my meals at home these days, even when they need to be simple and quick. When I absolutely have to eat on the run, I bring something with me. I gave up on buying sandwiches that are more expensive and not nearly as good as mine, and started having fun with all sorts of variations. This is one of my recent favorites.
Bayonne Ham Sandwich with Roquefort and Apple
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Two slices Bayonne ham or prosciutto
2 Tbsp Roquefort (or other blue) cheese
4 thin slices of apple (I used golden delicious)
fresh ground pepper
I know you all know how to make a sandwich, but just for the sake of being thorough...
Spread the mustard on the bread. Lay on the ham/prosciutto, Roquefort and apple slices. Grind pepper to taste. Close sandwich and eat!
22 January 2012
Look at me! Finally a free moment for blogging!
Traveling over Christmas break and then hitting the ground running in January with a new show going up next week has turned me into a terrible delinquent blogger. I haven't been reading blogs or responding to comments or posting new recipes. All I can say is thank you for your forbearance and I look forward to doing some catching up.
Winter is in full swing in Paris and my rain boots are getting lots of wear. I swear, if I had known cute rain boots were the secret to avoiding seasonal depression here, I would have bought them years ago (I'm telling you, fellow Parisians, get cute rain boots)! Weather was similar over Christmas in the US, but there were long walks in nature to counter any doldrums. Back in the city, a heavy work schedule hasn't really left time for doldrums either, but on those days when even my rain boots or my new blue and pink wool cape can't perk up the grey weather, there's always food!!
I don't know about you, but after the excesses of Christmas with the family (I'm not going to even think about the quantity of wine and cheese ingested, but man was it good), I've been going for warm, light meals this past month. Soups like classic Potato-Leek and Hearty Quinoa Stew have been favorites on the table, but I also love trying new soups in winter and this one, based on this recipe from the wonderful Art, Food and Travel Chronicles is definitely a winner.
3 shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
About 5 fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 cup red lentils
1 Tbsp cumin
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/4 cup coconut milk
Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add the shallots, garlic and red pepper flakes.
Saute it for a few minutes, until soft and then add the tomatoes. Let it simmer for 5-8 minutes.
Add the lentils, cumin and vegetable stock. Bring to boil and then let it simmer for about 45 minutes.
Putting aside maybe 1 cup of the soup, purée the remaining and then put back on the stove along with the cup of soup you put aside. Add the coconut milk and heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve hot.