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Spring from Becavin- Brittany, France

Posted on March 4, 2011 at 7:06 PM Comments comments (0)




My friend Caroline sent this picture from her farm in Brittany.  This is where I spent one summer a few years back, when I needed some space of my own. I  relearned how to drive a stick shift, talk to cows and horses, speak a little French and cook French food.  I picture myself sitting at this kitchen table, munching on country bread and sipping wine. There are places that never leaves you. Becavin is one.

French Picnic

Posted on December 3, 2010 at 5:55 PM Comments comments (0)

On my recenttrip to Paris, I visited my friends Rudy and Brien who live in Fontainbleau.


Kasha


 We often have a picnic even when the weather turns on us.  We just move inside.  Even Kasha is cool about it.  (Here is the link to the Zester Daily story)





Kasha in play mode


Toast with Bordier butter and Quince Jelly

Posted on November 12, 2010 at 6:41 PM Comments comments (0)


Two things I always bring home from europe are butter and jam (cheese too, but that's a whole other story).  If I am lucky, I will pick up Bordier's butter in Paris.  This butter comes from Brittany where I spent a couple summers - one of my favorite destinations for good food in France.  iI I am even luckier, I get Caroline's homemade jam in London. Her jam also comes from her fruit trees in Brittany.  This Time, I got double lucky.  I got both.  Bordier makes a variety of butters.  His Bordier's smoked butter is particularly tasty.  I hardly use butter in my cooking but when I have butter like this, I do.  I spread it rather generously on my toast and think about my grandmother who did the same.
  

Spreading butter and jam with my grandmother's butter knife.

BESs


Buckwheat crepes - Breton Galette

Posted on July 18, 2010 at 3:28 PM Comments comments (0)




Breton Galettes



I can eat soba everyday, but there are other ways to enjoy buckwheat flour.  The French make a delicious buckwheat pancake called galettes.  A few years ago, I spent the whole summer at my friend Caroline Forbes' farm in Becavin, which is a small village in Brittany not far from the walled city of St. Malo.  This region is known for their galettes.  Galettes are much larger in size than crepes, and usually served with some type of filling, such as ham, cheese, onions, mushrooms or a sweet filling like honey, chocolate, etc.  Caroline made me this dish on the day I arrived to Becavin; we also tasted gallettes in the nearby villages.  I got hooked. Galletes are delicious with a cold glass of cidre, a sparkling apple cider; it's a typical Breton beverage.  


My galette in this picture is made with stone milled Japanese soba flour. I made them for my friend Mimi who was visiting from Kansas city. I served these galettes like pancakes, with hot maple syrup. They are also nice with powdered sugar. Mimi also wanted to try my soba noodles, so I cooked those, too.  Our breakfast turned into a brunch.


Recipe:

Serves 3


 

1/4 (1/2 stick) cup butter or vegetable oil

3/4 cups buckwheat flour, preferably stone milled soba flour

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 cup whole milk


Preparation

If using butter, melt the butter in a small saucepan and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, sift together the buckwheat flour, all-purpose flour and salt. Make a well in the center.

 

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg and the milk, and gradually add it into the flour to make a smooth batter.

Add half of the melted butter or oil, an d mix well.  Allow to stand in the fridge for 1 hour.


Just before cooking, stir and check the consistency of the batter. It should be like thin cream. If necessary, add more milk to achieve the right consistency. Use the remaining butter or oil to coat the pan.


Heat a cast iron skillet or non-stick pan over med-high heat. Sprinkle a few drops of water on the pan.

Brush with melted butter or oil.


Using a ladle, pour enough batter into the skillet to make a crepe, about 5-6 inches in diameter.   

Loosen the edges of the crepe with a metal spatula. Turn the crepe over when one side is cooked, and brown on the edges.  Unlike pancakes, buckwheat crepes will not rise and will remain thin.


Cook the other side until lightly brown, about a minute and slide it out onto a plate. Repeat with the remaining batter.


To serve:

Serve like you would serve pancakes.  I had butter and maple syrup on the table.  Also, some mixed fruit and yogurt. 



Le Train Bleu - Gare de Lyon - Paris

Posted on May 18, 2010 at 9:04 PM Comments comments (0)


The main dining room

I have been to the Gare de Lyon many times but this is the first time I learned about Le Train Bleu. It's easy to miss even though the sign and the stairs leading up to the restaurant are huge. I had only been paying attention to the cafe bar on the ground floor until my friend Pablo asked me to meet him there.  Le Train Bleu was built in the 1900 on the occasion of the Universal Exposition. It is one of the best preserved buildings of that period.  If you are not in a rush, I recommend you check out the place. It's like a palace.
 
There is a full service restaurant but if you walk further down to your left, there is a narrow hallway where they serve coffee and sweets. Its furnished with comfortable leather chairs . that make you feel like you're in a first class cabin from the old times.  I sat there with Pablo and had coffee before we caught our train to Fontainbleu. Many famous personalities hung out here, including  Luis Bunuel and more recently, Willem Dafoe, one travel guide said. I found that amusing.  


Le Train Bleu

Gare de Lyon 1er Place Louis Armand ,75012

Website: http://www.le-train-bleu.com/uk/navigation.htm




Paris - Rue de Bac

Posted on May 18, 2010 at 8:57 PM Comments comments (0)






Pain Perdu d'Huguette- J'Go-Paris

Posted on May 16, 2010 at 8:08 PM Comments comments (0)


This is not a piece of meat but a bread dessert!

I like to read David Lebovitz' blog to get the current food trend in Paris.  His photographs are crisp and gorgeous, and his writing is always informative and humorous.  But what impressed me most is this dessert he picked out at J'Go.  I went there with my friend Henrique who warned me that we were in for a hearty meal.  J'Go is known for their meat and potatoes type menu  I was not particularly hungry because I had a big lunch in Fontainbleu but I wanted to try the dessert David Lebovitz had described as being the best dessert he had in a long time. The bread was soaked in custard, then fried in hot, sizzling-brown butter, until crusty and caramelized. I couldn't imagine eating that after a heavy course of meat and potatoes but I decided to skip the entree, and split the appetizer with Henrique.  It worked out perfectly.  I thought I would only take a bite of the dessert but I ended up nearly licking the plate.  It was that good.  Afterwards, Henrique and I walked along the Seine. He then showed me how to ride the bus back to Republique from St. Germain de Pres.  Since I had never taken the bus in Paris before, it was an adventure, just as the dessert was.

Joie de Vivre - Making Soba in Paris

Posted on May 15, 2010 at 2:07 AM Comments comments (0)

100% Stone ground Buckwheat flour, Miyama, Gumma

Water ratio: 42%

Humidity: 55%

Water source: Volvic

Cooking time: 90 seconds counted by Carolina

Location: Paris, France


Hot soba with grilled Age tofu, seaweed,

wild asparagus and scallion toppings. 

 


For my five-day trip to Paris, I packed my suitcase with mostly soba making tools, not clothes. I promised my friends that I will make them soba. I hear about chefs traveling with their own knives. I am starting to do the same. I brought not only the soba cutting knife, but also buckwheat flour, a measuring cup, a scale, a cutting board, bonito flakes to make dashi, wasabi and some homemade dipping sauce

concentrate.   

 

The little   kitchen that could.

 

I arrived at my Brazilian friends, Andre and Carolina's apartment with two bags full of food and equipment. Carolina came downstairs to help me carry the stuff up to the fourth floor. I panted up the stairs. Carolina told me about the ninety year old woman who lives on the 3rd floor of this apartment building. She does the stairs twice a day. Amazing. 

Andre and Carolina greeted me with great music and ambience.  I knew right then that we will were in for a fun evening.  


Kneading the dough on the counter. Wild asparagus are

cooking next to me.


Their kitchen was equipped with an electric stove, the kind that you are not sure if the heat source is on or not. I was concerned if the heat source would be hot enough to boil the noodles, but Andre gave me an instant solution. We used the electric water kettle to boil the water, and transferred it to the pot. You make do with what you have, and we did fine.


For starters, I served Tunisian tuna sashimi with grated wasabi.  The sashimi was tender, the flavor was good. We wrapped the sashimi with shiso leaves and ate it like a taco. There was also blanched baby spinach seasoned with roasted ground sesame salt (made by Andre and Carolina). A spicy sauteed carrots with Thai chili peppers. It was nearly a vegan night. Andre was supposed to make a vegetable and goat cheese frittata but the eggs never it out the fridge.


Cold soba served with a variety of seaweeds, dill,

chives, grated daikon and wasabi.



We made two types of soba - cold and hot. One like a salad, the other like a soup. They both tasted delicious. I garnished the noodles with some seaweed, chopped dill, and chives. This is deviating from the classic Japanese dish, which is served plain, but I couldn't resist the beautiful herbs I found at the market this morning. I am sure basil, chervil, parsely will also go well with soba, but if you want to enjoy the fragrance of the soba first, serve the herbs on the side.

 

Andre and Carolina loved the soba. Andre was preferred the Hot soba. Carolina loved both. For thirds, we had another round of hot soba. They said soba tasted pure, that it was exactly the kind of food they liked to eat.  That's what I love to hear. We talked about starting a buckwheat farm in Brazil.  Wouldn't that be cool? I am going.


 

We ate strawberries and chocolate for dessert. Yummy, evening. Beautiful friends.

Merci beaucoup. A bientot.

 


Paris: Canal St. Martin - Le Poisson Rouge

Posted on May 11, 2010 at 11:04 PM Comments comments (0)


Le Poisson Rouge - Window


View of Rue Canal St. Martinl from the restaurant

For the last two years,  I have been staying in a little hotel near the Canal St. Martin.  I like this area a lot.  It is young and hip, but not too young. So I can fit in.  My favorite artisanal bakery is here. So are a couple of wine bars. One is Le Verre Volé on 67, rue de Lancry, 75010 but basically it's impossible to get a table there, unless you go there around 10pm, and if you try going there alone, most likely never.  One of the guys at Le Verre Vole recommended another wine bar/cafe nearby. It is  Le Poisson Rouge, on Rue de Jemmapes, facing the Canal.   

At Le Poisson Rouge, I usually sit outside.  I love watching the  people stroll along the canal, play music, drink wine, eat.  But this area never gets too noisy. I like to come here at dusk when the street lights come on.  Inside seating is also good. It is comfortable and cozy. The red wall matches the name of the bistro. It's an earthy red.

They have a nice selection of country wines, vin de pays

Their speciality is fish, but they also serves meat and a variety of seasonal vegetables. The size of their menu is just enough to fit the fish shape chalk board, and it changes seasonally. Their wine selection is three times larger, so you know where they put their emphasis.  I come here to enjoy just as much as the food as I do the wine. They have a decent selection of vin de pays.  I tried a  glass of Minervois , Cuvee "La Nine", a full bodied red wine from the south of France, near the border of Spain. It was the wine that the people next to me were drinking, and what the waiter recommended.  The wine was dark ruby. It was juicy and aromatic. I enjoyed it a lot.


 
The menu

I usually order the octopus salad to start with, but tonight  I went for the artichoke caviar. Since I began growing artichokes back home, I have been looking for recipes using artichokes.  The artichokes were pureed like eggplant caviar and mixed with a little cream. The seasoning was very mild. There were some small artichoke pieces in the puree, which gave it a nice texture.  The side of fresh greens was nice.  I ate the caviar with French bread. Ate too much bread. This always happens to me when I am in Paris.


I had a glass of Alsatian Riesling with the artichoke caviar.

Artichoke caviar

For the main course, I ordered a grilled monk fish on a bed of fennel rissoto.  Bite size pieces of the fish were served on skewers.  The risotto was a little mushy but I liked the taste of the fennel.  The for 2 glasses of wine, 2 dishes came to 37 euros. I've been here with friends and alone.  Today was my night alone. 



Le Poisson Rouge
112, Quai de Jemmanpes
75010 Paris
Tel 01 40 40 07 11
Metro: Jacques Bonsergent

Le Verre Volé.
67, rue de Lancry, 75010.
Tel: 01 48 03 17 34.
Métro: Jacques Bonsergent. 

Early Summer Lunch in Fointeanbleu - France

Posted on May 11, 2010 at 11:44 AM Comments comments (0)




One of my favorite people to visit when I am in France are my friends Rudy and Brian. They live near the forest of  Fontainebleu, about 45 minutes from Paris by train.  I visited them with my friend Pablo.

Brian and Rudy are both very good cooks.  Brian cooked a big plate of white asparagus. The French ones are particularly fat and tasty.  You can eat them plain. Pablo brought back a souenir from his recent trip to Barcelona where he is from. "Rudy loves ham," Brain said.   It was Jamon Iberico de Bellota, the finest of Spanish hams.  We ate everything.



The main dish was cod served with a soury sorrell sauce.  Brian picked the sorrel from her garden and cooked it with creme fraiche.  She said, it was the easiest sauce in the world.  I never tasted sorrel before.  It is slightly sour but very nice with the fish.  Brian went through the sorrel sauce recipe, which I jot down in my head.  It would be nice to make it at home but I am not sure if I will be able to find such good creme fraiche or fresh sorrel, unless I grow it.




I found a beautiful chocolatier in the St. German de Pres called Hugo and Victor.  Their design is modern, their flavors extoic.  I tried the yellow ball, which turned out to be mango flavor.  Very good.  I always have an adventure with chocolates when I am in Paris.  A box of chocolate can cost as much as 30 euros, as did this little box. But most of the time, it's worth it.

Field of Dreams, Brittany, France

Posted on August 23, 2009 at 4:54 PM Comments comments (0)

Becavin







The pictures of the buckwheat fields on the banner and the cow were taken in Brittany (the French say Bretagne) by my friend Caroline Forbes who is a photographer. Caroline sent me these pictures a few days ago because she knows about my wild dream - that I want to grow and mill my own buckwheat and make soba.  I wouldn't mind moving to Brittany to do just that.  Brittany is known for their buckwheat. The locals make a delicious buckwheat crepe called Breton Galette. Maybe they want to learn how to make soba, too. 


Caroline has the best of two worlds.  She  lives in London and has a farm house in Becavin in the heartland of Brittany.  To get to Brittany from London, she takes the overnight  ferry across the English channel to St. Malo and then drives South for another hour to Becavin. The whole of Brittany is a very special place, especially for a photographer - there is the ever changing tides of the emerald sea, the farms, the forests, the beautiful old villages dotted along the coast.  The climate is the most interesting part.  You can start the day with a sunny morning, which can then change into thunder and heavy showers during mid-day, sometimes even hail and snow, and then back again to being sunny in the late afternoon.  

 

One year, I rented her place for the whole summer.  I was there alone with my computer, cell phone and my suitcase full of books.  But what attracted me most the moment I got there was not what I brought from the city but what I saw  there - the wide open fields and the life in it.  The first evening in Becavin, I went for a long walk in the buckwheat fields. The young dairy cows were curious and followed me for awhile but they knew better to turn back.  I should have stayed with the herd but I kept exploring the bucolic life until I found myself lost in the middle of nowhere. No farm houses or roads in sight.   So what do I do?  I pick up my cell phone and call Caroline in London like she was going to jump on the ferry and come to the rescue.  Right.  It was approaching 10 pm. There was still some light out but if I didn't hurry, I would find myself in pitch darkness . Poor Caroline was so worried.  Somehow I felt fine though.  After another 3/4 of an hour of wandering, luck came my way. I saw in the near distance, the line of familiar trees and the Becavin chateau. I made it back to the farm house safe and sound. This experience didn't stop me from venturing out again the next day.  Crazy Japanese woman.  I managed fine for the rest of my stay in Becavin and even picked up some French. Caroline, who could not bare to leave me alone there, came out to spend a weekend with me. She took me to the best bakery that made a wonderful pain de campagne and to her favorite thrift shop where she always  finds treasures. She bought me a retro shirt for 1 Euro.  We cooked everyday. Caroline showed me how to make Breton Crepes stuffed with ham and cheese and many other wonderful dishes using local produce - coco beans, white asparagus, carrots, artichokes, oysters, mussels, etc. We ate well.  I didn't feel all alone when she left.  I befriended the farmer's old horse.  I kept myself busy in the garden.  At dusk, the bats flew around the fields looking for food.  Then at night, I watched the moon rise. The moon would hide in the clouds but then it would come out and  light the fields. I knew then that I had become part of the life in Becavin.  I only got through half of my books that summer but it didn't matter. I had my dream summer.

Basque Gateau with Apricot jam

Posted on July 26, 2009 at 11:27 AM Comments comments (0)




Just out of the of the oven




 

 

Something smells good. My sister Fuyuko is always testing recipes. I am the happy guinea pig. In general, I find French pastries too sweet for my palate but this Basque Gaeteau is not. You can have it for breakfast with coffee. Basque Gateau is made with an almond meal cookie base so it has a nice crumbly texture. It is filled with a custard creme but today Fuyuko filled it with Apricot jam and I thought it worked very well. Slowly but surely the cake disappears.

 

RECIPE

Serves 4

For the pastry

2.5 egg yolks (50 grams)

65 g powdered sugar

65 g granulated sugar

125 g softened butter

125 g unbleached all purpose flour

65 g almond meal

5 cm vanilla bean, split and scrape seeds

1 teaspoon rum

Apricot Jam - enough to fill the cavity, about 2/3 cup (see Apricot Jam with Vanilla)

 

Making the pastry

Combine all the ingredients for the pastry without overworking it.

Cover and let rest in a cool place for 4 hours.

 

Assembly

Butter a 16 cm round cake pan.

Roll out half the pastry to a thickness of approximately 3 mm.

Line the bottom and sides of the cake pan with the pastry.

Spread the apricot jam evenly in the pastry case.

Cover with the remaining pastry. Brush with egg yolk.

Bake in a 180° C oven for about 20 minutes. Then lower heat to 150 ° C for 10 minutes. Serve warm or cold.

 


Cooking in Paris

Posted on July 23, 2009 at 9:21 PM Comments comments (0)




It is always comforting to come back to a familiar place to cook and eat. That's how I feel about Fernando and Cissa's apartment in Paris where I spent last spring.

Since then, their apartment has gone through a major makeover. The old kitchen is gone. Gutted and replaced with beautiful modern appliances.  Walls removed and repainted, old posts exposed, etc. It's amazing what fresh ideas, new cabinets and carpentry can do. The whole apartment is lofty and light.  

 

This summer, Fernando was in Paris with his family.  So was our friend Niv and there was me. Fernando invited us to come and cook. This is what we often did when we were shooting our last film in Canada.  It was our favorite passtime.


We went shopping at the Grand Epicerie - on Rue du Bac- the gourmet supermarket to die for.  We let our whims and what caught our eyes dictate what to cook. That's always the best.  At the La Gazetta, Niv had eaten  a fabulous fish the night before. He wanted to recreate the dish.  He said it was this delicate fillet that was served on a creamy bed of cauliflower puree and some arugula. Mmmm.  I was thinking more like sashimi or ceviche to start with and something a bit more simple like grilled lamb chops. But that's okay. I welcomed the challenge.   





We found a very nice fat sea bass at he Poisonnerie on Rue de Bac. There were going to be eight of us for dinner so we bought two medium size sea bash and asked for the fishmonger to make them into fillets.  At the Grand Epicerie,  we found a variety of fresh pasta in the Italian section.  So we picked up some vegetable, mushroom and tomato ravioli.  We decided to make the tomato sauce from scratch.  







We came up with the following menu:


Red radishes and carrots with fresh hand churned smoked butter (Bordier)  

Mushroom, mixed vegetables and cheese ravioli with tomato sauce and basil.  

Sauteed seabass served on a bed of stir fried arugula and 

julienned red peppers

Cauliflower puree  

Mixed greens and herbs with lemon dressing

Bread from Eric Kaizer

Strawberries, blueberries and currants with creme fraiche

Cheeses

and of course plenty of wine and a nice vintage champagne.  


We couldn't go wrong with these ingredients.



Lots to carry back to the apartment.  Niv was the master chef.  I started the tomato sauce for the ravioli. The sauce needed to cook for a few hours.  Fernando chopped garlic.  Caca peeled the carrots.  We all contributed our love and labor.  The Tomato sauce was slightly on the sweet side but we adjusted the flavor with chopped basil.  


For the Fish dish, Niv marinated the sea bass in some olive oil, sliced pickled lemon. He seasoned it with some salt and pepper.  Then Spencer remembered that the fish had a little dill in it.  So Niv used the dill from the green salad.  One herb can do a whole lot good to a fish..  We didn't have a blender for the cauliflower puree but Niv made it with an old  French press puree   we found in the cabinet.  It belonged to the former owner.  It took two people to assemble it together but we did.  He added some creme fraiche to the puree and seasoned it with salt and pepper.  




Niv, sliced some red and yellow pepers and pan fried them.   He put them aside. 

He took the sea bass out of the marinade and pan fried it in the same pan as the peppers.


To serve, He lay a small handful of argula on each plate.  The put a bed of creamy cauliflower puree.  Arranged some peppers on the side and then finally the sea bass on top.  The dish looked beautiful.


   


Basically, we won everyone over with the first course - the ravioli with fresh tomato sauce. Then the main fish course was served.  It was fantastic.  With some creme fraiche and chopped chives, the cauliflower puree tasted like a creamy cloud.  We were basically in heaven for the rest of the evening. Master chef at work serving the fish on the beautiful old Limoge plates.



Mmmmm so good!


At the end of the  evening, we promised each other that we will do this again.

 

A bientot!


 

French Country Window

Posted on July 23, 2009 at 7:57 PM Comments comments (0)



French country window




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Bastille Farmers Market, Paris

Posted on July 21, 2009 at 1:09 PM Comments comments (0)





The farmers market in Bastile is right near the Metro station.  Before leaving Paris, I wanted to get some cheese to take back to my family in Japan.  Cheese, as with wine, has become popular in Japan but since most cheeses are imported, they can be very expensive.  In the last five years, I have seen such a variety of cheeses in Tokyo but you buy them as slivers and I find it takes the taste and fun away from cheese eating.  I am ready to take back a half a dozen cheeses.  Bastille is one of the largest fresh produce markets in Paris.  I find the most serious French shoppers staring at the fish, picking out the best produce and talking to the vendors.  The fish looks excellent.  I find three or four cheese shops.  I buy the cheeses from the place that has the most traffic.  A couple of goat cheeses, a brie and a compte. I  wish I can stay longer at the market, buy some food and cook them right here in Paris.  But I have to leave.  I will have to save the cooking for next time.

 




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Jacques Genin - Chocolatier, Paris

Posted on July 21, 2009 at 10:44 AM Comments comments (1)




My pastry chef sister Fuyuko e mailed me just before leaving Paris that I should check out Jacques Genin's new salon de the if I could get myself over to the Marais district.  Jacques Genin's  salon is breathtakingly beautiful. It is a bit daunting at first but the lovely marshmallows and caramels in the display case will lure you in.   What's was most impressive were Genin's chocolates. Creamy and dense in flavors of caramel, vanilla, chinammon, mint, etc.  The chocolates are packaged in a silver metal box.  I am telling you, he treats these little chocolates as if they were jewels.  I learned that in the old days, chocolates used to be sold in metal boxes because they stayed freshers.  Genin is bringing back the good old ways. I bought the smaller box of nine chocolates.  It was 10 euros for 9 tiny pieces but well worth it.  I was instructed not to put the chocolate in my suitcase while travelling because the temperature of the plane's cargo section was too cold.  So the silver box travelled with me in my backpack and stayed close to me during the 12 hour flight back to Tokyo.  


While you are at the shop, do have a cup of tea, sit here and enjoy the tranquil space. I loved it.  The teas are all Chinese green tea blended with herbs and flowers.  It was very relaxing.  You get two pieces of chocolate with the tea.  Also, when you buy the chocolate, they will let you try a free sample.  I ate so many chocolates that day, I felt full and happy.  I skipped dinner.



Paris - First Morning

Posted on July 20, 2009 at 2:27 AM Comments comments (0)
Paris - at a cafe near Jacques Bonsergant







French country lunch - Fontainbleau, France

Posted on July 19, 2009 at 1:30 AM Comments comments (0)






So this week brings me to Paris. Yes, I am hopping around the world a lot this summer. Tokyo then Paris, then back to Tokyo again before I go home to Santa Monica. It's business combined with a little pleasure. When I travel to a place like France, food is almost always good. So I love eating out but since I will take a good home made meal anytime over a restaurant meal, I get very excited when somebody invites me to their house.  This time I got very lucky.  

I was invited to Rudy and Brien Chelminski's home for lunch in Fontainbleau, which is about three quarters of an hour by train from Gare de Lyon in Paris. The Chelminskis are Americans who have lived in France for more than 30 years. Rudy is a journalist and Brien is a homemaker. Rudy has written several books on wine and French cuisine. So he always gtives me good insight on French culture and food. Their house sits right at the edge of the famous forest of Fontainbleau. I have visited them a dozen times. I always take the same 11 am-ish train and get there just in time for lunch. If it is warm, Brien sets the table outside and we eat in the beautiful garden.  Something is always blooming.  This time of the year, the hydrangeas dotted the garden in pink.  Today, it is a little cold so Brien set the table in the dining room. She is expecting two other guests. Her neighbors Joe and Benedictine who live across the street.



Every space in this house is used efficiently and reflects the Chelminski's artistic taste.  I love the kitchen.  It has a warm country feeling.  Whenever I am here, I feel like cooking.


      Brien painted the ceiling green.




All the pots and pans hang comfortably on the wall and they feel like they could be mine.





Rudy cooked a "more vegetables than egg frittata" - a recipe he found in the New York Times. The final garnish was chopped basil.  It was really more vegetables than egg. He used zuchinni, broccoli, red onions, peas.  The red onions made the frittata a little brownish in color but still, we all loved it a and there were very little left over.  It's nice to see a man cook.  I saw this happen in all three French kitchens I was invited to.  Which I think is a good thing.


  Everyone pitched in.


    





The table setting was very French.  There was five of us.  I was starving.





Dessert consisted of Brien's homemade apricot clauffouti and macarons from Pierre Herme.  I ate a lot of claffouti and macarons this month.  It started out with my sister's cherry claffouti in Tokyo, then Fran's cherry claffouti in Paris and Brien's apricot clafouti in Fountainbleau.  Fran said that Clafoutti is as homey as desserts come in France. It is so simple to make.  You can make it with crust or without.  I loved the claffouti with fresh apricots.  The classic claffouti is made with whole cherries, with the pit and all.  The pit adds flavor to the dish.  


Pierre Herme's macarons, the other dessert, were a big hit as always.  Pierre Herme worked at Le Notre, Fauchon, then at La Duree where he did a whole makeover of their pastries. He then opened his own open shops in Paris and Tokyo. I think his macarons, the variety and freshness of taste, are remarkable.  He even makes Yuzu and Wasabi flavors, which the Japanese clientele love.




 

MORE-VEGETABLE-THAN-EGG FRITTATA

From The New York Times - Mark Bittman


2 Tbls olve or or butter

1/2 onion, sliced

salt and ground pepper

4-6 cups of any chopped or sliced raw or barely cooked vegetables

1/4 cup fresh basil or parsely leaves, or 1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon or mint leaves, or any other herb

2-3 eggs


1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)


1. Put olive oil or butter in a skillet and turn heat to medium. When fat is hot, add onion, if using, and cook, sprinkling with salt and pepper, until it is soft, 3-5 minutes. Add vegetable, raise heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften, from a couple of minutes for greens to 15 minutes for sliced potatoes.  Adjust heat so vegetbles brown a little without scorching.  (With precooked vegetables, just add them to onions and stir before proceeding.)


2. When vegetable are nearly done, turn heat to low and add herb.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender.


3. Meanwhile, beat eggs with some salt and pepper, along with cheese if you are using it. Pour over vegetables, distributing them evenly.  Cook undisturbed until eggs are barely set, 10 minutes or so; run pan under broiler for a  minute or 2 if top does not set.  Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm or a t room temperature.


Yield: 2-4 servings.







Cooking class- Paris

Posted on July 14, 2009 at 11:03 PM Comments comments (0)



What do you do when you have the morning in Paris free? I signed up for a cooking class. It was a class for local Parisians taught in bullet speed French. It's a good way to see French life.  I hardly understood a word the teacher was saying but since it was a rather elementary cooking class, I managed.  But I must admit, I was quite anxious in the beginning and felt like a total intrusion.  Everyone was nice and eager to learn.  Some students were quite advanced in their peeling skills, using a peeler.  

The menu was a composed salad of chopped tomato, roasted bell pepper and zuchinni served with a tomato vinegarette and a side of mashed potatoes salad with sea urchin topping.  Dessert was macarons filled  with sweet anise flavored cream and red currants. I tried to remember everything since the teacher didn't hand out cooking instructions and took lots of pictures.




We blanched to yellow tomatoes to peel off the skin. The tomatoes were chopped and seeded. They rested on a strainer to drain the excess juice.




We diced the zuchinni and roasted yellow peppers.



The presentation was simple and elegant.  On a bed of chopped tomatoes, we put a layer of chopped yellow peppers and chopped zuchinni.  It was very nouvelle cuisine. This salad was served with a simple tomato vinagrette.



In the meantime, we cooked the potatoes.  While the potatoes were still warm, we made the sea urchin topping.  To make the potato salad, the potatoes were handled while they were still warm.  Olive oil, salt and pepper were added for texture and taste.




The sea urchin topping worked  well with the potatoes.  One student didn't care for it so she ate around it. I thought it was quite tasty.  The tomato, zuchinni, pepper salad was mostly consumed.




I couldn't stay for dessert.   I had fun.  I realized my French really needs work.

Cicadas

Posted on May 29, 2009 at 2:22 AM Comments comments (0)



People in France put these charming porcelain cicadas at the entrance of their homes to bring good luck.  I have been going to France for nearly 25 years, so I have accumulated a small collection. I didn't get one this year but I have enough to keep me company.  Not all of them are up on the fence.  Some could hold flowers, one could sing (battery operated).  I love the big yellow one, which iselaborately painted. Cicadas bring childhoood memories.  I grew up in Japan listening to cicadas sing and running away from them.  They fly furiously and can be rather annoying if they get inside your mosquito at night when you are just about to turn in. There were no chemical repellants to kill insects back then. My brother would catch the cicadas with a butterfly net during the day and at night release them in the mosquito net just to be mean! My sister and I would run out ofthe mosquito net screaming.  Not all cicadas are a nuisance. Some sing beautifully and forlornly.  My favorite one sings like this: hoshee,tsuku tsuku tsuku.  Hoshee, tsuku tsuku tsuku.  Cicadas spend six toseven years as larvae, come out of the ground to mate and die within a few of weeks. The life of a cicada is so ephemeral. Sometimes, I think we are like them.