23 December 2009

fromage frais / fromage blanc

dessert.jpg_effectedfromage frais = fromage blanc. it’s a fresh white cheese that you can’t really find in america. more info here. and when you need to prepare a simply but amazing dessert, it’s amazing.

*ok, cheese as dessert is an idea that would’ve grossed me out before france. but. it’s not cheese like the cheese you’re thinking of. and i can’t really think of a good comparison. it’s not yogurt. it’s not custard. it’s not ice cream. it’s not pudding. it’s not whipped cream. it’s not buttercream. it’s not a mousse. it’s just… what it is. and the only way to understand is it to taste it. so please, find yourself in europe one day!

strasbourg063look familiar? yep. indeed, i was served this in strasbourg when a friend of a friend made dinner for us. i love being invited to eat at someone’s home because it means i get to observe, ask, and learn. i always take notes, then recreate it later on. as much as i love cookbooks, this is definitely my favorite way of discovering new recipes.

but it also means that you are never given any exact quantities – cups, grams, etc. no. it’s always “oh, you just chop some pork up, sauté it with a bit of onions with a chunk of butter, then you add a few tomatoes…” it sounds intimidating, but you know what? i’m learning to have confidence in myself in judging how much is needed for how many people. and it’s working!

so, if you are ever in france and need to make a dessert:

fromage frais with fruit

fromage frais/blanc

vanilla bean(s)



recipe: slice open the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds and mix it with the fromage frais along with the sugar to taste until it tastes good. then add the fruit on top. in my case, fresh clementines and canned cherries. the rare rare time i will use something canned.

SO, happy holidays, i just got back today, but i’m off again tomorrow morning, so see you next year!

18 December 2009

happy accident

snowan accidental foggy lens make a softness in photos that i adore.

but from now on, i think they’ll be intentional.

later: a proper snow post. more deliciousness. and, best of all, a reinspired cathy as les vacances have begun! off to lyon + strasbourg. a pause in evreux. then to the south of paris. and then to la suisse.

if i don’t write before then, happy happy happy holidays and joyeuses fêtes!

i’ll be back!

pear and speculoos tart

peartart01mmmm. hello there. in october i bought a cooking magazine, saveurs. it wasn’t until december that i finally made something from it.

so, i’d like you to meet tarte aux poires et speculoos.

peartart03this tart was supposed to have mirabelles (the little yellow plums) in it, but since i live in a place where things out of season are actually difficult to find, i decided to go with what was in season and plentiful: the pear.

and speculoos? what’s that? up here in france and belgium, it’s a thin and crispy spice cookie (usually embossed with gorgeous designs from a wooden mold) that is traditionally eaten for st. nicholas on dec 6th. but due to its tastiness you can find variations of it all year round by different manufactures. the key thing about this cookie is cinnamon and brown sugar. more info about this cookie, its origins, and recipes can be found here and here and here.

then you take this delicious cookie and you mix it with some creamy goodness known as ricotta cheese to form a heavenly base for your pears.

peartart07 ingredients:

1 sweet tart dough

100g speculoos cookies, crushed*

100g ricotta cheese

1 egg

4 pears, or however many you need

40g sugar

*and if you don’t live in europe, just use any cinnamon or spiced cookie that you like.

recipe by delphine brunet, adapted from p. 43 of the october 2009 issue of saveurs

peartart04preheat your oven to 190C/375F

line your tart pan with the dough.

peel your pears. cut them in half. sprinkle them with the sugar in a bowl and set them aside.

mix the crushed speculoos cookies with the ricotta. then add the egg and keep on mixing. spread this mixture on top of the dough in the tart pan to form a nice even layer.

peartart05arrange the pears on your tart however you like so it visually pleases you.

bake for about 40 minutes, then eat away!

peartart06 just leaving you with the lovely profile view!

17 December 2009

la neige

i just have to pause a moment to say…neige2 it snowed!

neigeand it’s only 7:50am! i’ve got the whole day to play! (and work as well, don’t worry)

16 December 2009

a salad and a tartine

its always wonderful when i find someone who likes to cook and doesn’t mind being photographed and also cares about the angles and colors like i do. N was like that in quebec (with a salad and tartine as well), and so is K from france who lives in the foyer with me.

and i love nothing more than observing how people prepare food – because it gives me lots of ideas for me to copy and adapt for how i eat.


1 tomato

1 apple

2 slices of ham

1 shallot

2 walnuts


2:1 olive oil : balsamic vinegar

dijon mustard to taste

ksalad02it’s all very simple. You just dice everything and mix it together. K is the most graceful food dicer i’ve ever seen. everything is perfectly cubed and he does it so effortlessly. me, everything is blocky and rectangular and not very classy… but hey, in the end, it all tastes good, right?

ksalad03And then you mix the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and honey mustard to taste. You add that to the salad… and you eat. I stole a gout and it was delicious. But when you start with such yummy ingredients, how could it taste bad?

ktartineand the tartine! K’s idea of a dessert is a slice of bread spread with nutella and then some apple sauce on top. so simple. but so delicious.

14 December 2009

i went to lyon for the lights but i came back with something sugary and red.

rosethis past weekend, i spent some good quality time with my best friend: the oven. we hadn’t hung out in over a month and i was just not feeling right.

soon, you’ll be able to meet all the new friends i made:

mango avocado pizza

pear and speculoos tart

cashew maple syrup golden raisin granola

spiced trail mix

but for right now, you get to meet tarte aux pralines roses.

lyon06 it started with my trip to lyon. i was enamored with all the specks of red i was seeing everywhere. the bikes, the flag, the lights, but most of all… the pralines roses that were in all the tarts, croissants, brioches, madeleines… every patisserie in lyon had something with these pralines, and i was on a tasting mission.

praline01a praline is simply a nut coated in sugar. and according to this blog, there are 3 types of pralines. 1. the brown one that is the most common. 2. the filling used in belgian chocolates. and last but not least 3. the pink praline, which unlike the brown, does not have the sugar caramelized* and has a very bumpy appearance. and while we’re at it, we can also add 4. american southern praline, which has cream added, and usually features pecans rather than almonds.

*but i am a little confused, because the book i have says the sugar is caramelized… so i don’t know who to believe… ?

rose02my original idea was to buy a pink praline tart to bring back and share with my friends, but:

1. that’s expensive

2. it wouldn’t be fresh since i’d have bought it the morning before.

3. the idea of navigating a 5 hour car ride + paris + train with a delicate tart terrifies me.

4. i could just buy the pralines in a pretty sachet and make it myself.

5. and that would give me an excuse to buy a book…

leshallwhich is exactly what i did. say hello to les halles de lyon by sonia ezgulian, jean-françois mesplède, and emmanuel auger.  i fell in love with a book that collected recipes from people who work in a market devoted only to regional and local products. and there are hints of their handwriting which makes the book so much more personal.

and on page 99, i found my recipe – with no photo, so the form was up to my imagination.

let’s get baking, shall we?

praline02 Ingredients:

1 sweet pie/tart dough

Part 1:

80g heavy cream

80g crushed pralines roses

Part 2:

50g soft butter

50g powdered sugar

2 egg yolks

125g all-purpose flour

pinch of salt

Part 3:

200g heavy cream

Part 4:

some more crushed pralines to decorate

Recipe from Bernard Mariller from les halles de lyon p. 99

praline03line your tart pan with your tart dough.

for part 1, bring 80g of heavy cream to a boil and then stir in 80g of the crushed pralines. stir vigorously so it doesn’t burn, and continue for a few minutes so it’s a bit thicker and not too runny. then set it aside and let it cool. (and worse to worse, if it is too thick, just reheat and add more cream, or if its too runny, just reheat and stir a bit longer to let the liquid evaporate. in the end you’ll be mixing this with some whipped cream.)

for part 2, cream your 50g of softened butter and then mix in 50g of powdered sugar as well as your 2 egg yolks. once all together, add in your 125g of flour and the pinch of salt. for me, the mixture was very crumbly, and i have no idea if that’s the way it was supposed to be, but it tasted fine so oh well! line your tart pan with this mixture, and bake in a 200C oven for 15 minutes.

for part 3, whisk your heavy cream into some thick whipped cream and then gently add in the cooked praline cream mix from part 1. you’ll have a most delicious whipped cream that will be hard to stop stealing licks from…

once your tart has spent 15 minutes in the oven for part 2, take it out and let it cool for a bit, then spread the whipped cream mix on top.

put the almost finished tart in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to let it cool.

and finally, for part 4, sprinkle with the crushed pralines and eat!

praline04mmm. if i don’t bake, i feel very unbalanced. so now, i’m back to normal!

ps, i can’t even buy those pralines here in normandy… i have to go to lyon. so i can’t even imagine how i would get them in america. it’s amazing how truly regional things are here in france. which only makes them more special!

13 December 2009

quarante (forty) reasons why i fell in love with lyon… with quarante photos as well

lyon. oh, lyon. you make me tick. a city full of everything i adore: beautiful patisseries, plenty of bookstores (an english one and  a cooking one plus all the french ones), tons of light, a place to climb to see all of the city, two rivers…

but because this entry so image heavy, i’m going to keep the text light by simply listing 40 reasons why i love lyon.

lyon01un// a basilica. on a hill. with gorgeous patterns inside. and a gorgeous view outside.

lyon02deux// hidden passageways that have shortcuts that link the city to the river.

lyon03trois// patisseries and their vitrines (shop windows)

lyon04quatre// a miniature museum. with the cutest little model of a silk winding machine. (i think)

lyon05cinq// the tartes aux pralines roses – i have so much to say about this, but that’s for another day.

lyon06six// the everything else aux pralines roses… those hints of red just make me swoon.

lyon07sept// macarons, old style.

lyon08huit// rice pudding mixes. aren’t they so wonderfully packaged?

lyon10neuf// eating local specialties of lyon and the rhone-alps in a restaurant with the perfect ambiance.

lyon09dix// two things lyon is famous for: the creamy and oh so runny st. marcellin cheese + the rosette de lyon saucisson.

lyon12onze// shared bike system. can’t wait for the day that this becomes popular in america…

lyon13douze// more pâtisseries.

lyon14treize// silk museum… with a special exhibition on “intelligent” fabrics. and look, they even decorated the entrance for the festival!

lyon15quatorze// laundromats that are into the spirit of the fête des lumières.

lyon16quinze// ferris wheels. at night.

lyon17seize// christmas trees.

lyon18dix-sept// buzzers for lists of tenants which will remain lit even when the festival is over.

lyon19dix-huit// dramatic clouds.

lyon20dix-neuf// the iciness of the color blue at night.

lyon21vingt// boats which pass by and give me gorgeous reflections. they’re kind of like tears, no?

 lyon22vingt et un// live music. i didn’t realize how much i missed austin until i saw this band playing in the street. i stayed here for a good hour because it just felt so good being around music that was real and not coming from speakers.

lyon23vingt-deux// spirals of light hanging in the trees.

lyon24vingt-trois// tartiflette – food for those who ski: potatoes, bacon, and cheese! unfortunately, i don’t work out enough to justify eating this.

lyon25vingt-quatre// light shows projected on important buildings.

lyon26vingt-cinq// vin chaud. spiced hot wine with apples and pears. you can’t leave lyon without succumbing to at least one vendor selling hot hot hot cups of deliciousness.

lyon27vingt-six// i love how there was a constant theme of time in all the projections.

lyon28vingt-sept// yet another mesmerizing projection. tick tock. and a liminal space.

lyon29vingt-huit// the lovely house from the 1930s that i stayed in. top right, do you see that odd silver circle? it’s the doorbell! you turn it, and it makes a click-click-click-click noise. instant love for me.

lyon29bvingt-neuf// brioche saucission. tartilette. clementines from la corse. made by my lovely host who is also my twin in terms of our passion for eating and cooking.

lyon30trente// christmas market with a traditional guignol puppet show.

lyon31trente et un// meats to buy, but no room in the stomach to eat.

lyon32trente-deux// fireworks. when are fireworks not magical?

lyon36trente-trois// neon blue and neon green.

lyon33trente-quatre// lights. floating. on a river.

lyon34trente-cinq// purple and red

lyon37trente-six// lights, lights, and more lights!

lyon35trente-sept// blue and yellow.

lyon35atrente-huit// rings of light under a bridge mimicking drips of water.

lyon38trente-neuf// patterns. on light. lots of them.

lyon39quarante// water + light = love.

making a spontaneous trip to lyon for a weekend was one of the best decisions i’ve ever made. as usual, the same things happen each time i travel:  i met wonderful people. ate wonderful things. saw wonderful things. and just fell in love.

ps: if you know me at all, and if you know lyon at all, you will notice that there are two very important things missing: bernachon chocolate and les halles. don’t know what i’m talking about? don’t worry – i’ll be back again in lyon next week, and i’m going to go visit those two places and report back! the first visit was for the festival, and the second visit will be for the gourmand in me.