~ Falafel ~ des lentilles

I had a bit of a shock yesterday.  Well not really a shock.  At the moment it was more like a surprise that was mildly amusing.  My oldest, who just turned thirteen, has proclaimed that he is now a vegetarian......Oh, really!?  He must be serious.  He posted it as his status on Facebook.  Serious.

Well here is the thing.  I am not against it.  I was a vegetarian throughout college and for a few years after...never 'vegan' but a vegetarian for a total of ten years.....honestly it was great.  It was more instrumental than I realized in influencing me in my cooking and creative style with food.  I wasn't willing just to 'cut-out' back then--it had to be more interesting and taste better than eating meat.

But, being that he is thirteen, and there is suspicion that all this comes about because of a particular 'belle-fille' at school who has talked him into abstaining from flesh--this may last only as long as said 'relationship' with this gal lasts--which in my estimation is about one week.

Nevertheless, last night I initiated him into the wonderful world of meatless-ness, by making a big pot of lentils, which I served as a lentil-burger with a side of tomates et cucumbre......Bienvenue à mon fils, bon appétit !  Ironically his little brother dined on TWO very juicy, slightly greasy 'steak-hache'...and he almost licked the plate--that's my little meat-eater!

So today at lunch the remaining 'lentilles' became a version of falafel, and it brought back comforting and tasty memories of my college days--a vegetarian feast--and a nice change from typical Normandy-winter food.....

So here you go!

2 cups cooked lentils
1 cup cooked, or canned chickpeas
4 tbs. olive oil
2 tbs. lemon juice
1 clove grated garlic (optional)
2 slices of whole grain bread (I used a gluten-free rice/millet bread) grated to breadcrumbs.
salt and pepper
sun-flower oil or light high-temp cooking oil

Make sure lentils and chickpeas are well drained. Combine all in a food processor. Form into small patties or balls. Fry until brown in hot oil.

Yummy served with plain yogurt and cucumbers.....and with your favorite salad. Even French Guy loved it when I gave it to him for lunch--but you should have seen his face when I suggested we might ALL become vegetarians................mais, non.  Jamais....ever.

Chai Tea Breakfast Cake

I love Sundays--really, who doesn't?  If I am not running off to a flea market or brocante, I can sneak back into bed with my cup of coffee and watch a few cooking and travel shows while I catch up on Facebook and emails.  I found two shows on 'Direct 8'--the first is 'A Vos Regions' which is followed by 'A Vos Recettes'..... they are shows about different areas of France, culture and food and I do my best to follow along--my food vocabulary in French is extensive--I wish I could say the same for my 'grammar et conjugation '   Je sais----someday.......  (le sigh.)

This morning I was on 'Petite Fille' duty, so while she watched 'Elmo' on video and sat in her high chair having toast and bananas, I made a cake that I have been thinking of for some time--a breakfast cake, not too sweet with the subtle 'spice' flavoring of Chai-tea and spiked with dried cherries.

Here it is:

1 1/2 cups almond flour
1 cup rice flour (whole 'grain' is best....you can sub regular wheat-flour here too.)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup organic apple sauce
2 eggs
1 tbs light oil
1 cup strongly brewed Chai-tea
3/4 cup dried cherries

Mix all of the dry ingredients.  Mix the apple sauce, eggs. and oil and add to dry ingredients, mix in dried cherries.  As a last step, add the tea--you can use more or less, but you want the batter to be thick and spreadable--not too thin and depending on the flour(s) you use--this might vary.

Spread batter into silicon cake form and bake at 350F or around 185C for 30 minutes or until firm and golden.

For an added hit of sweetness, I make an orange spice glaze or drizzle with powdered sugar, a few drops of orange juice and zest and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Yum.  It is really good and smells heavenly while it cooks.  Enjoy!....and Bonne Dimanche!

Onion Jam.....

 If you want a simple to make yet complexly flavored 'condiment' that is very French and totally fabulous--make a few jars of 'Confiture d' Oignons'  or onion jam.  I made some last week and we have almost finished the entire jar.  Used in bistros on steaks foie gras and terrines, at our house it goes on chops, burgers and duck breast....and adds a punch to panini or basic grilled cheese sandwiches.

Chopping up onions is not my favorite thing.  I was too lazy to set up my mandoline and my food processor makes a great shredded-dice, but not the long strings or rings that I like best for this recipe.  I am still trying to find the 'trick' to cutting up onions tear-free.  This time I lit a candle and had it next to the cutting board while I chopped--to no avail.  I was sobbing like a baby within minutes (and sneezing too!) Having a very sharp knife does help..... if you know of other tricks, please do share!  I use onions a lot!

Here is the recipe:

4-5 onions chopped or sliced into fine rings and strips
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1 tbs. honey
1 cup red wine
salt & pepper

Cook onions with olive oil and sugar and lemon juice for 15 minutes.  Add a cup of water and raise heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes.  Add honey and cayenne and cook on medium to high heat until the onions caramelize.  Finally add in the red wine and cook about 10 minutes.  The onions will fully absorb the wine and will become shiny and dark when done.

Put in glass jars with a tightly fitting lids to store in the refrigerator.  It will be easy to find ways to eat it up--but will last for several weeks if not used immediately!

Sunday Lunch

There has been a long string of very grey and wet days and this past week the temperatures finally dipped down below freezing.  We had a brief flash of sunlight this morning but by lunch the clouds had gathered together again and the winds were back.  A slow cooked, richly flavored winter dish was called for to help us cozy-in for the afternoon.

There is a quintessential French dish known as 'Pot-au-Feu', traditionally a slow cooked 'stew' of meat and vegetables cooked directly on an open fire.  Everything is cooked slowly in lots of broth, and there is plenty left after cooking to make soup.  When we go to the market, there are even large burlap sacks of 'pot-au-feu' vegetables for sale, perfectly portioned to make a very large-family-size meal.

My choice of vegetables today was based on what we found on Friday evening when we visited our local 'bio ferme' (organic), Le Chateau, so along with the expected carrots and onions and leeks, I also added parsnips (instead of turnips) and couldn't resist a huge head of 'chou' so that went into the pot as well.

'Poule au Pot' or Chicken Pot au Feu.....

1 large hen (or chicken)
3 tbs. olive oil
3 tbs. duck fat
1 onion or 4 shallots
4 large carrots
4-5 parsnips
1 large leek
1/2 head cabbage
1 cup dry white wine
5 cups broth
8 whole sage leaves
salt & pepper
Herb de Provence

Wash and prep the onions and root vegetables, skin and chop as you like and set aside.  In a large iron dutch oven, melt the duck fat with the olive oil.  Place whole chicken in the pot and brown skin on all sides.  Add onions, carrots, parsnips, and leek and toss to coat with oil and fat.  Sprinkle with herbs and salt and pepper.

Cover pot and put it in a very hot oven (about 475 F) for 25 minutes.  After 25 minutes, reduce heat to 350F and add wine and broth and sage leaves.

Cook for an additional hour with lid on.  In the final 20 minutes add chopped cabbage. 

Serve in bowls with a generous amount of broth. It's a perfect meal for a wet-wintery day!

Let them eat cake!

The momentous week is over!  My littlest has turned ONE and my oldest has turned THIRTEEN!  Very exciting -- their birthdays are 3 days (and 12 years!) apart-- and I love it.  My oldest has already proven himself as an awesome big brother to 'Middle Garcon' who is eight, and of course is completely crazy for his little sister, 'Petite Fille', who consequently took 7 steps yesterday... actually she would have take a few more steps, but I screamed, so she instantly sat down.....it was exciting!  I couldn't contain myself!  She is absolutely enjoying the new freedom that being so mobile brings having now two options: speed-crawling and walking....  Oh my.

So two cakes were made; one for the little girl and one for my big boy.  I have been experimenting with baking so much more since moving to France.  I think it's fair to say that the French are on the top of the podium for baking---anything.  One of my favorite things is how commonly almond flour or 'meal' is used in baking--in fact you have probably noticed it sneaks it's way into almost every baked good I make. Not only is it gluten-free, but very nutritious; high in protein and low in carbs--not to mention moist and delicious!

'Petite Fille's' cake was a yummy moist, rustic and simple almond-pear cake.  Call me a conservative health-nut--but she is one, and I am totally against artificial flavors, tons of sugar and disgusting neon-frosting for a birthday cake. She is a gorgeous, healthy, funny and sweet baby--and I would like her to stay that way!

Her cake was amazing!  I ate more than my share!  Here is the recipe....

Almond Pear Cake

3 cups almond meal
1 cup rice flour or any type of baking flour you prefer
3/4 unrefined sugar
2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla or almond extract
4 pears. peeled and quartered, or preserved pears sliced in quarters
3/4 cup reserved juice from pears, pear juice or apple juice
1 tbs. safflower oil

Blend the dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl mix eggs, vanilla, pear juice and oil.  In a greased or silicon baking form, arrange pear slices.  Mix dry and wet ingredients until well blended and pour cake batter over pears.  Bake at 350 degrees for approx. 35 minutes.  Once removed from oven, let the cake cool for about 25 minutes before turning it out on a plate.  It should be slightly brown and will crack as it cools due to the moisture from the pears.....

Pretty, fresh, rustic.....country pear cake!  Enjoy!

Creamy ~ Winter ~ Pesto

I love pesto, but there are two things that have gotten in my way to enjoy it lately.....it's winter, so I don't know where you are, but around here fresh basil is non-existent and the second 'problem' is that I am currently not eating dairy--hence no cheese (sigh...) and traditional pesto requires a generous addition of Parmesan or Asiago.  Limits fuel my creativity--and cravings even more so.  So recently I created my own version of pesto--that is nutty, 'cheesy', sharp and bien sur--green!

When summer returns, the same recipe can be adapted-back using basil, and of course you can use Parm or any cheese you like--but try this first without.  It's a perfect recipe to set aside in your recipe box for the next time you are entertaining your 'Vegan' friends!

  • 4 large handfuls of Arugula or Rocket
  • 5-6 large broccoli flowerettes, steamed to be very tender
  • 1 cup ground blanched almonds or almond-meal
  • 1 whole head of roasted garlic (I roast about 6 entire heads of garlic at time and store in the fridge.  I prefer using roasted garlic for this recipe, but you can use about 3 cloves of fresh instead--expect that it will be more 'sharp' and 'garlicky'.)
  • sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon
In a food processor blend and chop the Arugula and broccoli with the almond meal.  Add the roasted garlic cloves and pulse until consistently smooth.  Slowly drizzle in olive oil until it is the desired thickness...about 3/4 cup total.  Squeeze in lemon juice and pulse to finish.

When I made it this week, I tossed it with grilled shrimp on egg-linguini. We have 'Pasta Night' every Thursday, even here in France--where family-style pasta dinners are less common.

It also works perfectly added to risotto, or spread on a baguette and put under the broiler for a minute.  I love having a little left-over in the fridge to throw together a last minute appetizer, too!  In a tightly lidded jar, it will last about one week....except at our house.

Enjoy mes amis! Bon weekend!

Quinoa & Rocket Salad

I have to admit, we are not great at eating salads in the Winter months.  Even though I know there are so many great options; baby greens with citrus, beets with walnuts and goat cheese.... but still, we tend to eat warm slow roasted vegetables and forget to eat raw greens and veggies... so today for lunch I made a big bowl of an old stand by -- Quinoa.  We eat quinoa more often than any other 'grain'.  In fact it is not a grain, but a high-protein seed.  It has all 9 Amino-Acids is naturally gluten-free and can be served warm or cold in hundreds of different ways.

So here is one to get you started--if you don't know Quinoa, it takes about 15 minutes to cook at a ration of 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water (or broth).  If you let it slowly bubble until cooked without a lid--it is lighter that way and the grains are separate and 'dry'... if you use a lid--it is more like rice and can actually get a bit gummy.

For the salad--cook 1 cup Quinoa with 2 cups water and a pinch of salt for 15 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

~ First, toss together:
 Cooked and cooled Quinoa
1 carrot- grated
1 cup cubbed ham
A few generous handfuls of Rocket (also known as Arugula).

~For the Viniagrette:
1 tbs red wine vinegar
3tbs. olive oil
1 small shallot finely diced

~ Herbs and Spices:
I use a mix of tumeric, paprika, dried chives, basil and onion....you can simply use just basil or Herb de Provence.  Curry or Garamasala adds an entire new twist to it....

A perfect all-season salad!  Try it!

Soup Days....

Soup days are here.  I could almost do a post a day about soup.  In the past it has been suggested that I open a soup-cafe...that serves nothing but soup--all day every day--only soup....okay, and maybe coffee...oh and chocolate.  That would cover the three most important food groups, non?

It's the last day of Christmas vacation.  Les enfants head reluctantly gleefully back to school tomorrow.  With our clean-slate for the new year, French Guy and I plan to organize, simplify, prioritize and schedule our entire family life for 2012....in one day--tomorrow.  Yep.

In the meantime, I am (as best I can on one foot--Christmas Eve injury---don't ask.) back in the kitchen with new inspiration--Winter comfort food--and the top of the list of never-fail best comfort food ever--is soup.  I don't have one favorite kind--not even one category I lean towards--I love variety--vegetarian soups, creamy soups, meat soups, seafood soups, spicy, broths, chowders, bisques, gumbos.....

The 'soup de jour' is Curry Cauliflower--thanks to the mammoth size chou-fleur mon mari brought home from the market...which could have fed a family of ten, with leftover.  So today the remainder became soup---with the stock I made from a chicken this past weekend.  Note about broth/stock when in France--you have to make it.  No Pacific-Brand, Swansons, or Imagine Brand boxed yummy broth--the choice here is little foil wrapped cubes or make it yourself.... so there.  Which sometimes makes soup creating a tiny bit less spontaneous. 

Oh, also in the picture is an attempt at a seedy, whole grain gluten-free bread--I am still working on it...will post recipe once it is perfected.

Here's the recipe for the soup:

1 large cauliflower (pre-steamed to be tender)
2 white potatoes (steamed and diced)
2 shallots diced
1 clove minced garlic
4 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1/2 tbs. tumeric
2 tbs. sweet curry
1 tsp. hot curry (more or less to taste)
1 tsp. cumin
salt and pepper
1 cup full fat coconut milk

In a large pot in 2 tbs. olive oil, cook onions and garlic until soft--add spices and stir for one to two minutes.  Add broth, then cauliflower and potato and cook until completely soft.  Using a stick blender--puree until smooth.  As a finally step add coconut milk and salt and pepper to taste.  A big spoon of sour cream or creme-fraiche is lovely on the top if you can do dairy.

Lovely.  Happy 2nd day of 2012.  Bon Appetit!