SylvesterSuppe

SylvesterSuppe.04-1400729

Otherwise known as The Soup of New Year’s Eve. Naturally, the lead photo shows potatoes roasting in duck fat, what else?! To offer an excuse, I have yet to edit so many photos and do so much background research for posts at both this blog and my travel blog that I felt completely overwhelmed yesterday. Therefore, to end the year with a warm and cozy feeling, I decided to postpone my writing to 2020 and cook a rich fish soup for our Saint Sylvestre dinner instead.

Ingredients and proceedings developed pretty much as usual. Celery, fennel, carrot, onion, leek, and potato, the usual suspects, cooked in court bouillon comme d’habitude, as we say around here. This time around, though, I simmered all the ends and trimmings in the bouillon for about an hour, also adding a bundle of dried thyme with laurel leaves and a half an onion with three cloves to the vegetable broth to give it a stronger herbal aroma. For seasoning, I added a teaspoon of umami and some salt to the usual teaspoon of ground coriander seeds.

While the stock was simmering, there was time to watch the last few minutes of the “Great British Bake Off” Christmas special and an installment of “Escape to the Country” on SKY TV while roasting les pommes de terre grenailles aka baby potatoes for 10 min @240ºC and marinating the fish with freshly ground pepper, cucurma powder, and lemon zest.

SylvesterSuppe.10-1400735

I had bought a Lieu noir filet for the soup, a Pollock or Saithe in English, a Köhler in German. The Pollachius virens, Gadidae, is great for soup because it’s heated through in just a couple of minutes and it is very inexpensive. I read that for marketing reasons, the fish is often sold as Seelachs in Germany. Lachs is the German term for salmon, species that belong to the family of Salmonidae which are much more costly than Gadidae or, in German, Dorsch. That renders the designation of “salmon” for a Köhler a big fat lie.

Back in our kitchen, I first strained the stock, then slow-simmered the finely julienned yellow onion in olive oil for about 15 minutes. I wanted them to be really soft, almost as if they were destined for an onion soup, but not browned. Next in line were the carrots,  plus a little liquid from the stockpot to be soaked up by the carrots.

SylvesterSuppe.07-1400734

Before long, the remaining sliced and diced veggies followed,

SylvesterSuppe.08-1400736

eventually to be drowned in more stock.

SylvesterSuppe.09-1400738

Then the potatoes were added to the simmering soup to finish cooking, while I assembled the salad, opened the wine, sliced the bread, and set the table. Since our dining room is currently in use as an office, we eat even festive diners right next to the stove.

SylvesterSuppe.11-1400741

This is a bit of a sentimental picture. The teakwood salt cellar with its miniature shovel and the matching peppermill used to grace my parental dining table when I was a little girl sixty-odd years ago. And those Marimekko design placemats? Well, we’ve been using those for just about 40 seasons now.

Lastly, I added the fish and six big shrimp to the soup and heated a nice dollop of butter in a frying pan for the crowning glory of our New Year’s Eve Fish Soup, six Atlantic Great Scallops, Pecten maximus, not to be confused with the Mediterranean scallops Pecten jacobeus. After two minutes, when the scallops were browned on the bottom, I turned them over and flambéed them in a shot of Ricard. Since I can’t play with fire and take pictures at the same time, sadly, I can’t offer you any pictorial proof of these actions! I can only show you the quite tasty results.

SylvesterSuppe.12-1400747SylvesterSuppe.13-1400746

The dirt specs are actually sumac or sumach, Rhus coriaria, Anacardiaceae. The dried Rhus fruit are crushed into a crimson spice with a tart, citrusy flavor. It is apparently a much-loved spice in the Middle Eastern kitchen of which I am woefully ignorant. We were introduced to the spice recently in Bilbao during our extraordinary anniversary dinner at Extanobe Atelier. They very kindly gave us a quantity of sumac to take home with us.

SylvesterSuppe.16-0483

Guten Appetit and my heartfelt Good Wishes for a tasty New Year 2020!

Happy Fish with a little Frost

Fish.Stew.August.10-1360986

You have to admit, these codpieces -allow me to rephrase- these pieces of cod do look happy! They are about to be steamed in a deep pot filled with vegetables cooked in broth.

Fish.Stew.August.01-1360963

The night before, I soaked some Tarbais beans and cooked them while the rest of the vegetables received a good wash and dice-and-slice.

Fish.Stew.August.02-1360965

In addition to the beans, there were three more newcomers enhancing my latest version of fish soup, yellow pepper for crunch, algae for ocean saltiness, and freshly grated ginger for punch.

Fish.Stew.August.03-1360969

Soon, the ingredients were sorted, ready to go in the pot.

Fish.Stew.August.04-1360971

Fish.Stew.August.05-1360977

As always, my soup began with the dry toasting of crushed coriander seeds, before heating olive oil to receive the first batch of veggies, followed by ginger and lemon zest. Once that was heated through nicely, it was time to add all the remaining, softer vegetables like fennel, yellow pepper, and parsley, all submerged in Court-Bouillon.

The beans joined the party just ahead of the algae which formed a soft bed for the cod. With the lid firmly closed to steam the happy fish, it will be ready to jump onto your plate in about 15 min.

Fish.Stew.August.11-1360989

A glass of peppery Côtes de Gascogne Colombard-Ugni Blanc is a perfect match for this aromatic soup, possibly to be followed by some home-grown sweet and juicy grapes with your cheese course?

Grapes-1370125

After dinner, your partner, like mine, might read a Robert Frost poem to you as you relax in the salon. Such a lovely closing of summertime in Cognac, France – although it did put Monty the Fox to sleep.

BNL.August-1360925

Late Summer Musing

HeureBleue.August-1360947

As August is winding down, the ambiance all around us is turning a subtle shade of Fall. Nothing as obvious as falling leaves, it is rather more a feeling than a color change, as the trees are no longer quite as vigorously green as we recall their rustling splendor seemingly only hours ago.

Jardin.August.01-1370052

Earlier this week, we finally managed to do something we had planned to do since the first of May when the venue opened. On our way into town for a walk and a drink, we made the sudden decision to pull instead into the parking lot of the Cognac House Martell. The main building of the Martell Headquarters sports a unique drinking spot, a roof terrace bar. By any stretch of the imagination, we are clearly not in NYC as the building has only five floors, but this is exciting enough for us small-town folk here in Cognac!

Screenshot 2019-08-22 at 10.11.50

A screenshot of a promotional video on the Martell website. It’s an aerial shot of the Indigo by Martell bar overlooking Old Town Cognac.

Martell.Indigo.03-1448

Martell.Indigo.02-1447

Martell.Indigo.01-1446

The swift is the logo for the cognac house. In French, a swift [Apus apus, Apodidae] is called un martinet which ties a disciplinarian ribbon between Jean Martell [1694 – 1753] the founder of the cognac House Martell and Charles Martel of Herstal [~688 – 741] hero of the battle of Tour, founder of the feudal House of the Carolingian, and grandfather of Charlemagne.

One of the recent cognac creations of the House Martell is called the Blue Swift. It’s a VSOP cognac finished in Kentucky Bourbon casks, very hip and international indeed. At the Indigo by Martell rooftop bar, I had a Blue Swift straight up, while my husband opted for a Sazerac cocktail made with Blue Swift. In the link, you can read all the exciting tidbits about the origin of this quintessential Big Easy cocktail. The Cognac House Sazerac de Forge & Fils of Angoulême, mentioned in the blog post, provided the cognac used to make these cocktails in New Orleans in the 1850s. The House ceased production about 120 years later, although some ancient bottles can still be found at auction for gobsmacking prices. The currently operating successor to Sazerac de Forge & Fils is the Cognac House ABK6. A-B-K-6 is an acronym which, if pronounced in French, forms the family name of the owners of the cognac house, Abécassis. After all that deep immersion into cognac lore and the alphabet, we couldn’t help but recreated a traditional Sazerac cocktail at home yesterday with Meukow VS, our go-to cognac for cocktails.

Sazerac.August-1370088

What else happened during this very, very hot summer? Some cooking, of course, by both residents. Chinese dishes and the occasional burger, by one of us, while the other one was more focused on salads & grains.

The garden brought us a lot of joy and a little grief, too, when some new plantings were struggling to make it through the extreme heat in July. The juvenile fig tree suffered especially hard. Although it is carrying fruit, its leaves are largely gone, so we don’t know if the figs will ripen, nor if it will make a healthy comeback next year.

Jardin.August.09-1370078

Our blackberries are pretty pathetic as well. They grow so much more plentiful and juicy at our friends’ place in the Pacific NW!

Jardin.August.10-1370077

The garden also presented us with a huge surprise, when we realized we actually had a pomegranate bush right in front of that sad fig tree.

Since I had no idea if these tiny garnet apples are edible, I cut one open to discover it was filled with a plentitude of unripe seeds. I’ve since read up on the creatures and I’m now hoping for a harvest of miniature pomegranates in a couple of month or so.

Jardin.August.08-1370101

Before saying good-bye to you today, a swift addendum.

Cows-1370063

Phlegmatic cows, excitable swifts, and one dove as seen from my desk.

À la prochaine, mes amis !

Jardin.August.11-1370076

Of Chocolate and other Sins

Chocolats.02-1360907

Chocolats.04-1360916

Handmade chocolates & guimauves

My favorite French pastry is a gâteau opéra or opera cake, and my most favorite opera cake comes from the absolutely fabulous “Relais des Gourmandises” pastry shop, where Maître Artisan Chocolatier Maurice Mabillot whips up amazing sweets with his magical fouet.

Chocolats.06-1360932

Rich cakes with a drop of the finest Premier Cru Grande Fine Champagne Cognac.

The Relais des Gourmandises is located in Matha, Charente-Maritime, roughly a 30-minute drive from our house. We hadn’t been in Matha for a chocolate fix in ages, so I called Mme Mabillot who runs the boutique to place an order for my beloved opera cakes, yes, in the plural, for a next day pick-up. It was a beautiful summer day, so before collecting the sweets, we strolled through Matha to the bistro in the main square where we settled on the patio in the shade of lilac trees for a beer and a glass of local white wine respectively.

At the Relais, madame had already boxed the telephone order and my husband had the tough task of selecting his own pastry choices. This poor, deprived man has never experienced the delight of opera cake because he, well, despises everything with a coffee aroma, imagine that! Fortunately, there is no shortage of baked goods in this country to compensate for his self-imposed culinary limitations.

Chocolats.05-1360927

It was a fairly quiet afternoon at the pastry shop, and to our surprise and delight, the maître and his wife gave us The Grand Tour through the business end of a pâtisserie boulangerie, a French bakery. The atelier was composed of four sections, each with its own tools and machinery, ovens and/or coolers, work surfaces, supply closets, and so forth. There was one area for bread making, another one for les viennoiseries, those lovely, flaky breakfast pastries like croissants or apple turnovers, followed by the area dedicated to the creation of fancy cakes like the opéra, Paris-Brest, or religieuse*, etc. Lastly, we were introduced to the atelier for “chocolates” as in les pralinés, les bonbons, les truffes, and, of course, the much-loved guimauves or marshmallows. It was amazing to see the workshop and learn a little about the highly specialized and intricate work of a chocolatier. Thank you very much for our tour, Maître et Madame Mabillot.

* With the exception of local baked goods, all French pastries & cakes have names and their ingredients are standardized. The quality of the ingredients and the talent, creativity, and expertise of the pastry chef determine if his or her efforts result in an average or a superb product.

The origin of opera cake is shrouded in the mists of speculation. Many people believe it was the highly respected chocolatier Maître Cyriaque Gavillon who created the multi-tiered rectangular cake in 1955 at the famous Parisian pâtisserie house Dalloyau. Legend has it that the richness of the pastry reminded Madame Andrée Gavillon, the master’s wife, of the sumptuousness of the Baroque-Revival opera house, the Palais Garnier, therefore she named it after the opera house. On the other hand, Maître Gaston Lenôtre, another globally famous Parisian chocolatier, chef, and all-around culinary wizard, claimed to have created the café-flavored cake in 1960, whilst the former daily newspaper “Le Gaulois” advertised a gâteau opéra already in 1899.

If one were so inclined, a subtle connection could be woven between Le Gaulois newspaper and the Palais Garnier, and possibly even the invention of a cake celebrating the opera house. You see, in 1909 and 1910 Le Gaulois published a story as a serial which was destined to become very famous indeed. Its author was one Gaston Louis Alfred Leroux and he called his story Le Fantôme de l’Opéra. The plot thickens! Since its publication as a book in 1910, followed by an English translation in 1911, Gaston’s Fantôme served as the storyline for a great number of films and stage productions, but the music of Andrew Baron Lloyd Webber gave this “Phantom of the Opera” the ultimate push into eternal stardom.

Leroux was a wild and adventurous guy, turning first to journalism and then to writing detective fiction after he had squandered an inherited fortune. He had a neck for finding himself in exotic locations during major historical events. For example, he witnessed the onset of the Russian Revolution on Blood Sunday, January 22, 1905, in St. Petersburg. Another affair Monsieur Leroux observed rather closely was the investigation into a secret prison cell in the basement of the Paris opera house, otherwise known as Palais Garnier which subsequently became the fictional home of his phantom. Who is to say, there wasn’t an entrepreneurially minded pâtisserie chef in Paris during these days of the fledgling Third Republic trying to link his cake to the most beautiful building in Paris and advertising it in the most popular daily paper of his time? Maybe the circle closed when those prominent 20th-century chocolatiers rediscovered the unsung original gâteau opéra, refining and standardizing it.

And while we are contemplating French chocolate creations, let us also remember the most typical and beloved of French chocolaty sins, la Mousse au Chocolat. My late brother Charles learned the art of making chocolate mousse at the tender age of seven at the knee of his maman d’été, his summer mama, in La Baule at the beautiful Côte d’Armour in Brittany. I have carried his recipe around with me through continents and decades, yet I never prepared the dessert until early last Saturday morning, when I decided to pull out the kitchen machine and whip up his mousse for our lunch guests. Not entirely “his” mousse, as I worked in my own little twist by omitting one of the ingredients, heavy cream, while adding a new one.

La Nouvelle Mousse au Chocolat façon Basque

  • 200 g de chocolat noir, soit 70% de cacao de la meilleure qualité (!)
  • 40 g de beurre doux
  • 80 g de sucre en poudre
  • 4 gros œufs très frais, séparés
  • 1/2 cuillère à café de Piment d’Espelette*
  • une pincée de sel

Preparation:

  1. Separate the eggs, then beat the egg whites with the pinch of salt to form very stiff peaks. Put the bowl in the fridge.
  2. Melt the chocolate with the butter and the chili in a microwave – or a bain-marie if you prefer – making sure to use moderate heat so you won’t burn the chocolate. Stir to combine.
  3. Beat the yolks with the sugar until fluffy, very fluffy, one yolk at a time.
  4. Combine the warm chocolate sauce with the sweet yolk cream.
  5. Very gently fold in the stiffly beaten egg whites until all the white “spots” are gone.
  6. Distribute the chocolate mousse into individual serving dishes and cool for several hours.

There are a few principles to consider in this preparation. The bowl in which you beat the egg whites has to be very clean, fat-free and cold to achieve a large volume of foam with stiff peaks. The chocolate has to be fluid but not so hot as to curdle the egg yolks. Sugar takes a long time to dissolve, be patient. Mousse au Chocolat is a heavy dessert. Small portions are just right and won’t overwhelm your guest’s stomachs. The mousse could be decorated with a few crystals of fleur de sel or a whipped cream rosette just before serving. The recipe serves six comfortably.

Charles' Mousse au Chocolat

* The addition of Espelette chili granules to Charles’ recipe was a spontaneous decision last Saturday morning. It added a nice kick to this sweet dessert and I believe my brother would’ve approved. It was, however, not an original idea. Some twenty years ago, I discovered the sweet-and-spicy creations of the chocolatière Katrina Markoff, founder of Haut-Vosges Chocolats, who put her creations on the map pairing them with flavors like wasabi, paprika, Mexican chilis, and more. Besides, the combination of crystalized ginger with dark chocolate has been a traditional favorite among sweet lovers for centuries.

 

 

 

Chili à la Française

 

Chile.15-1360677

Recently, I was overcome by desire for chili. I had neither cooked nor tasted chili since we left behind our ranch in Central Texas to move to France. Thanks to the mail-order supermarket “My American Market” it has, however, become possible to recreate some of those familiar flavors or at least close facsimiles thereof.

CLAUDINHA’s CHILI & CORNBREAD

 

As it turned out, with the exception of the coarse cornmeal and the can of “Rotel” diced tomatoes & green chilies, all ingredients for this recipe came straight out of our local supermarket. The biggest difference between Ranch chili and French chili was the meat I used. In Texas, we only ate flavorful deer meat, mostly Axis deer, raised on our own land. And the meat for my Ranch chilis was not ground but diced, which added a more interesting texture to the stew. Commercially processed ground beef just can’t match that. A word of caution before we proceed with the cooking. Do not, and I mean not ever call this “Texas chili”. Texas chili consists of beef cubes cooked slowly and gently in a sauce of freshly made chili paste. Period. Tomatoes or, heaven forbid, beans are never to be found in a true Texas’ Bowl o’Red. My chilis, on the other hand, have always included tomatoes and red beans, both from cans. That’s the way I like it.

For my first French chili, I began by softening the diced onion and garlic in a goodly slug of olive oil under low-medium heat before adding the ground beef.

Chile.04-1360632Chile.05-1360633

Once the meat was nicely browned, I mixed in most of the can of “Rotel”,

Chile.07-1360639

followed by the content of the envelope of “Mexican spices” and a tablespoon of ground cumin seeds, working in the spices while turning up the heat to medium-high.

Chile.06-1360637

Under high heat, I doused the mix with the dark beer and scraped the pan bottom vigorously while inhaling all that nice hops aroma. After a couple of minutes, I turned down the heat all the way, put a lid on the pot leaving a very small gap on one side for steam to escape. I let the meat simmer in the beer for around fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally. Then it was time to add the large can of whole, peeled tomatoes with their juice, stir well, put the lid back on and continue to simmer the chili for another hour or so.

Chile.08-1360640

While the chili burps and bubbles contentedly, one could utilize this spare hour to get the cornbread going – but only if the chili is meant for the same day. Cornbread is such a lusciously sweet and crumbly kind of bread that it’s most delicious when eaten still warm from the oven, slathered in soft demi-sel Charentaise butter from the local farmer’s market … nothing could be better! You’ve seen a recipe for cornbread in my April 7 post, this time around I used a straight-up 1:1 mix of white wheat flour and yellow cornmeal.

Chile.01-1360653

For the dry ingredients, I combined

  • 1 cup coarse yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cumin seeds
  • 10 grinds of a pepper mill filled with white peppercorns
  • 1 tsp Piment d’Espelette [or smoked paprika]

In a separate bowl, I beat the bejeebers out of

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 4 Tbs yogurt [I used sheep milk yogurt, Greek-style should be equivalently tart]
  • 6 generous Tbs creamed corn
  • 2 Tbs fluid honey
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

In yet another bowl, I beat the two egg whites with a little salt into fluffy soft peaks, which, on second thought, is a superfluous step I shall not repeat. Considering the coarse cornmeal in conjunction with the creamed corn, it’s a bit silly to try to introduce lightness into such a wet and heavy dough, don’t you agree?

Chile.10-1360659

I combined the wet with the dry and folded in the fluffy, pouring the resulting farrago into a baking dish which went into a preheated oven at 200ºC/~400ºF for about 30 min, plus 10 min with the oven turned off.

Chile.11-1360663

Chile.12-1360669

To finish the chili, I added both the coke and the well-rinsed beans and let it simmer without a lid to evaporate some liquid and to heat it through thoroughly for serving.

Chile.14-1360673

This kind of chili is extremely benign, suitable for children and spiceophobic adults. It tastes even better reheated and freezes well, so it pays off to make a big batch for easy meals later. If you utilize a chili kit with a separate cayenne pepper envelope, use it sparingly, or not at all if you cook for guests with unknown Scoville scale tolerances. It’s much safer to let the diners heat up their individual portions with Harissa paste. The intensity of the cayenne powder develops through the cooking process and it is difficult to judge the resulting heat level, while the paste is a condiment that you taste immediately. Or set the table with a variety of Tabasco sauce flavors 🌶 Enjoy in good health!

 

 

 

 

 

A Gigantic Gourd

Zucchini.Bread.12-1360450

Our friends Steve and Lorraine gave us a zucchini the other day. Their neighbor tends his potager with great dedication, growing all his vegetables organically, which they seem to appreciate since his produce grow happily to rather impressive sizes. We were presented with a 1.76 Kg or, in Imperial measurements, a three-pound fourteen-ounce zucchini. What do you do with a beast like that?

One finds zucchini or courgettes in the vegetable section of the supermarket, but biologically speaking they are fruits which belong in the Genus Cucurbita, gourds or squashes. C. pepo, our courgettes are one of the oldest known gourds. They were already cultivated 10 000 years ago in Oaxaca, Mexico. Many gourds are commonly used as winter squash, like pumpkins for example, and they can be stored for months. Zucchini, however, fall into the category of summer squash. They are preferably harvested when they are still young and tender, and eaten raw or grilled.

Clearly, our zucchini fell into the winter spectrum. Quite firm, not to call it wooden, with a large core of seeds, it wasn’t at all suitable for raw consumption. I walked past it for a few days looking at it a bit sideways, to tell the truth, but one can’t very well throw out a perfectly healthy vegetable, never you mind it’s actually a fruit. Finally, I decided to make zucchini bread. I’m not sure what came over me, but it seemed to be the only way to process a kilo-and-a-half-plus of aging zucchini.

Many decades ago, when we lived in Michigan and even earlier in Texas, I used to bake bread occasionally. Those were times when it was difficult, sometimes even impossible to buy actual bread, meaning a same-day baked loaf with a crust and a flavorful center as opposed to pre-sliced, plastic-sheathed squishy things languishing on store shelves for weeks on end. Since moving to France, I haven’t baked anything other than a tarte now and then. And cornbread, I forgot about making cornbread. Anyway, that’s not bread, it’s soul food. I gladly leave the creation of true bread to professionals.

On the internet, I found a well-liked recipe, possibly one of Elise Bauer’s “Simply Recipes”, and adapted it according to the content of our pantry. The dry ingredients evolved into:

  • 2 cups/450 g white wheat flour
  • 110 g coarsely ground blanched & skinned almonds*
  • 120 g cornmeal
  • 1 heaped tsp baking powder
  • 1 heaped tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 tsp cardamom powder
  • a good lick of freshly grated nutmeg

[* I had processed the almonds a few weeks ago for a different recipe and it was high time for the leftovers to disappear. Ditto for the cornmeal. I would suggest just using 3 cups of flour]

Zucchini.Bread.01-1360404

Combine the dry ingredients and set aside.

My next chore involved processing that unloved mega gourd.

Zucchini.Bread.03-1360409

3 lb 14 oz of gourdness!

Without much fuss, thanks to the kitchen machine, this yielded 1 255 g or roughly 44 oz of squashy flesh.

Zucchini.Bread.04-1360413

Lastly, again in the kitchen machine, I combined the wet ingredients:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup of white sugar
  • 1/2 cup of light brown sugar
  • 3 tsp of good quality Bourbon vanilla extract
  • 1 envelop of vanilla sugar
  • 1/2 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup of unsweetened apple sauce

Zucchini.Bread.05-1360418

I beat the wet ingredients until fluffy and creamy, before folding the dry into the wet, adding some coarsely chopped walnuts along the way.

Zucchini.Bread.02-1360406

Zucchini.Bread.06-1360421

I had no idea how much of the shredded zucchini I should use, so I gradually added three heaped cups, roughly the same amount as the dry ingredients. I should’ve stopped right there. But I didn’t. As there was a goodly amount left, I foolishly incorporated every last bit of the shredded gourd thus tilting the balance of proportion between vegetable matter, or fruit matter as it were, and dough to 2 to 1. Bad move!

Zucchini.Bread.07-1360423

Before

Zucchini.Bread.08-1360425

During

Zucchini.Bread.09-1360432

After

After 60 min at 160ºC Umluft or 320ºF convection, plus 15 minutes with the oven turned off, our zucchini loafs looked quite nice with an evenly browned, crusty top.

Zucchini.Bread.10-1360429

But the zucchini aggregation had overwhelmed the small amount of dough. Alas, as you can see, instead of bread we had sliceable pudding.

Zucchini.Bread.13-1360474

Lesson learned: continue to cook if you must but leave the baking to people who know what they’re doing 😱

A Canicule and a Can of Fish

WH.June.21-1360218

16. Juni 2019, 21:25:29

WH.June.22-1360222

17. Juni 2019, 21:59:24

Over in my other blog, you know which one I mean, I’ve recently finished posting about our Loire Valley trip. Castles galore, of course, and some wine and food, scenery, and all those precious memories of adventurous times on the road. But you know, one’s home turf can be beautiful, too! Summer has arrived and with it a changing landscape in our small but lush courtyard garden.

WH.June.07-1360286

We’re still in the throes of our bathroom renovation which generates daily mayhem in the form of high pitched sounds from power tools setting nerve endings on edge and powdered sticky stuff seeping through cracks and crevices. From the front door through the entry and up the stairs, bubble-wrap-like plastic protects delicate ancient tiles and old oak steps, while thin plastic sheets billow over doorways, but the dust settles everywhere, protection or not. Our house has currently the air of a chantier, a work site requiring hard hats, it seems. To top off all that fun, the main sewer pipe got plugged up by ingrown roots and we had to call the Roto-Rooter pros with their heavy-duty equipment, cash or check, please. Naturally, all this is happening as we go through the hottest week of the year. A quiet cup of early morning coffee in a shady spot under the pergola is much appreciated indeed!

WH.June.06-1360256

The jasmine shading the pergola is in full bloom, releasing a lovely scent.

WH.June.08-1360297

WH.June.09-1360301

WH.June.10-1360304

WH.June.16-1360314

I love to prepare pies with ready-made dough from the grocery store in the summer. Last week I had a solitary sweet potato lying around, so I made a pie layered with very thinly sliced sweet potato, pre-sliced Emmental that needed to disappear, spinach – first wilted in a large pan with softened diced onion and a dusting of fresh nutmeg – and tomatoes. Light, easy, and tasty with a green salad, just right for warmer temperatures.

Food.June.01-1360213

Yesterday’s Tarte au Thon à Canicule, my Heatwave-Tuna-Pie was even easier.

The ingredients were:

  • 280g net or ~10 oz of tuna packed in water, drained
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 3 Tbl olive oil
  • 1 Tbl white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 Tsp each garlic paste, anchovy paste, harissa paste
  • 1/2 Tsp crushed, dried marjoram
  • salt, freshly ground pepper

mix the above vigorously, cover with saran wrap and refrigerate while you pre-bake the dough, if you wish, and slice the tomatoes in thick slices. Once the dough is ready, toss the cooled tuna mix with 2 Tbl of fresh lemon juice and spread sour cream and sweet mustard generously over the pie bottom. Spread the tuna mix evenly across the pie round and cover it with densely packed tomato slices. I sprinkled some parmigiano bits on it simply because I had them, but cheese is really not necessary for this pie – lots of tomatoes are! Drizzle the pie with olive oil before baking.

Food.June.02-1360360

Bake the Tarte au Thon à Canicule for 45 min. at 200º/180ºC convection [400º/360ºF convection] for ~45 min. Before slicing, let it rest for 10 minutes or so. As a matter of fact, if you’re not too hungry, slide the pie on a rack to cool down without getting soggy, while you clean and slice a crunchy garden cucumber and maybe some radishes. Especially on a hot day, this pie tastes even better at room temperature.

And don’t forget to close the shutters against the heat!

WH.June.19-1360348