Category Archives: Recipes/Cooking

Swiss Chard, parmesan rinds, and white beans: a unique recipe for the end of winter and a colorful welcome to spring

It seems like springtime here in Kentucky. I slept with my window open last night and awoke to birds chirping in the tree outside. Spring birds. Happy birds.

They reminded me that in a few weeks it will be too late to make one of my favorite winter soups. (Sure, you can make hearty soup in spring, but it’s just so much more satisfying when it is cold outside!)

As I washed and patted my chard to the sound of white beans boiling on the stove, I thought, it would be a shame not to take a picture of this beautiful bouquet. I ran for my camera.

Not all chard is technicolor, so I recommend searching for “Rainbow Chard” in the supermarket. When it is packed together in the produce section, you can’t see what surprises are in store. It’s a real pleasure to unwrap the tie that binds the leaves, revealing bright red, pink, orange, and yellow stems. More than the recipe, this is what I wanted to share with you. It made me smile, and although I was using it to make a good hearty soup, I couldn’t help but think again of spring when I saw that rainbow in my hands!

*Some people are leery of using greens in soup, and a lot of people have never tried chard. Please, oh, please do! It is subtle, almost sweet — not at all like spinach — and delicious!


Parmesan Broth with Swiss chard and White Beans

A deeply satisfying soup that can compete with chicken noodle as a winter cure-all.Serves 4 to 6.

Over low heat, steep 8 cups chicken stock with 8 ounces Parmesan rinds for about 45 minutes, until the rinds are soft. Strain the liquid and reserve. // In a heavy-bottomed soup pot, sauté 1 smashed garlic clove in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat until garlic just begins to color. Add 1 dried red chili, crumbled; 4 cups loosely packed Swiss chard, stems removed and leaves cut into ribbons; and stir to coat. //Add the warm, strained stock and 2 cups canned cannellini beans and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper and add a teaspoon lemon zest. To serve, ladle soup over a slice of toasted country bread and drizzle with olive oil. —Sara Jenkins of Porsena and Porchetta, New York (Click here for full article)

{Hello, from Rêve}

Click here to see it in French, from Mélie: Continue reading


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Ground hog or Crêpes? + Recipe

Ground Hog Day is this Thursday. Pretty exciting day for some, apparently. I’ve never been a big fan, probably because the tradition doesn’t involve food or festivities (at least not that I am aware of) and usually passes with nothing more than a quiet mention on the radio or a comment in passing at the dinner table.

Chandeleur, par contre, is a day the festivities of which I would never choose to forget and that even in Kentucky I plan to celebrate this week.

(For those of you who aren’t aware, we Americans used to celebrate Candlemas too, until it was replaced by Ground Hog Day, for shame.)

It is the celebration of the Presentation of Jesus in the temple, a date that falls around forty days after Christmas, as the Old Testament tradition of presenting a newborn boy accompanied by an offering of two turtledoves prescribes. The feast as celebrated by the Church requires that blessed lamps (chandelles) be lit in place of torches inside churches to bring special attention to Christ as the light of the world.

The feast as celebrated dans la famille requires crêpes.

Crêpes with cheese. Crêpes with ham. Crêpes with spinach. For dessert, crêpes with sugar, crêpes with Nutella, crêpes with jam. Big crêpes, small crêpes. Stacks and stacks of crêpes.

Legend has it that by their round and golden form crêpes symbolize the disk of the sun, evoking the imminent return of spring (and linking this day to Ground Hog tradition). Christians also say that Pope Gélase I, who instituted the celebration in the fifth century, distributed crêpes to pilgrims arriving in Rome.

Just as there are superstitions associated with our esteemed little rodent, folklore has developed to include predictions for the new year. If one holds a gold coin, or more commonly a piece of change, in the writing hand and succeeds in flipping a crêpe with the other hand, the year is predicted to be prosperous. And, if the first crêpe that is cooked is then placed in an armoire for safe keeping, the year’s harvest is sure to be plentiful. (I have not yet met anyone who observes this tradition, which seems more likely to attract mice than to please the harvest fates.)

This week, my French meetup group has planned a Chandeleur celebration in Louisville. Although I’m only in charge of bringing the cheese, I want to share a special dessert crêpes recipe with you, in case you want to celebrate the French way too.

Crêpes Suzette
From Williams-Sonoma’s Essentials of French Cooking

For the batter:

  • 1/3 cup (60 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 ¾ cups (430 ml) whole milk, plus extra as needed
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Suzette Butter (explained below)
  • 6 tablespoons (90 ml) brandy
  • 3 tablespoons Grand Marnier
  • Thin strips of orange zest for garnish

To make the Suzette Butter, you’ll need

  • 1 orange
  • ½ cup (125 g) butter
  • 1/3 cup (90 g) sugar

Let’s start with the Suzette Butter. Grate the zest from the orange. Cut the orange in half and extract the juice. In a food processor, combine the orange zest, butter, and sugar, and process until completely blended. With the motor running, slowly add the orange juice and process again until blended. Use at once, or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Continue reading


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Inspired by une fleur: Hélène Dujardin’s Apple Tart

Si tu aimes une fleur qui se trouve dans une étoile, c’est doux, la nuit, de regarder le ciel. Toutes les étoiles sont fleuries.

“If you love a flower, of which just one single blossom grows in all the millions and millions of stars, it is enough to make you happy just to look at the stars.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le Petit Prince

When I saw this apple tart on Hélène Dujardin’s site, Tartelette, I said out loud, “I have to make that.”

I’ve made apple tarts before, but this one is special. Just look at it. (Did that sound conceited? I should say, look at Hélène’s.) Passionate about photography and food, Hélène brings the two together with exquisite creativity. I’ve been inspired by her blog for about two years now, and this apple tart just put me over the edge. I followed her recipe to the letter — which included about 34 studious glances at the flower design as I sliced and arranged my apples.

I didn’t think about the Little Prince’s rose until the moment I reached into the oven and delicately wrapped my potholder hands around the edges of the tart. The fragrance of warm, sugary apples filled my nose, and the room, and I thought, this is why people spend so much time baking beautiful things.

Beneath the flower arrangement is a layer of apple-vanilla compote, spread without moderation over a buttery homemade crust. Just before putting it in the oven, I sprinkled the top with lemon zesty sugar. I haven’t tasted it yet, but I think this is going to be the “ooh-ahh” ingredient.

If you have a little time, make this tart — and don’t cheat on the crust. I made the crust and compote last night, and baked the whole thing this morning. It’s super-simple, but it does take time. Which, I think, makes all the difference, anyway.

Here’s the recipe from Tartelette.


Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes/Cooking

Fromage: Part of a balanced meal

Small wonder the French are fans of New York Style Cheesecake. This Thanksgiving weekend, while my parents were eating turkey and pumpkin pie across the Atlantic, I was eating cheesecake at the special request of my French family.

I should mention that before coming to France I never ate cheesecake. Mom made delicious chocolate and Angel Food cakes, but I’m quite sure a cheesecake never emerged from our Kentucky oven. That’s why, on the only two occasions I’ve ever been called to make one such dessert, my stomach lurched at the possibility of disaster. I’d heard about cracked cakes and stiff cakes, overly beaten or overly cooked cakes.

“It’s not in my blood,” I wanted to say. “I don’t know how to make a cheesecake!”

But then, defeat is not in my blood either.

My first cheesecake, you’ll remember, was a success. I had my doubts about the second one. At Nicolas’ sister’s house for the weekend, I was on foreign soil in more ways than one. Unknown oven. Unfamiliar baking dish. Thermomix. Let the challenge begin. Continue reading


Filed under Culture, Food, Just for laughs, Recipes/Cooking

Homemade Apple Sauce

Sunday tradition insists that Nicolas and I leave his parents’ house with “les courses” (groceries) for the week.  Depending on the season we might load the trunk with strawberries or raspberries, fresh basil and tomatoes, potatoes, leeks, onions, or grapes.  In autumn, one of my favorite farm treats is Françoise’s apple compote.  Warm or cold, with sugar or yogurt, for breakfast or dessert, it is perfect.

Between two and four in the afternoon the subject of market-day requests arises.  As long as there are ample reserves, apple compote always tops my list.

This week Françoise decided it was time I learned the secret of compote myself.  She gave me apples instead of the usual jar of smooth, simmered fruit.

“But I don’t know how to make compote,” I said, knowing full well that I could if I tried.

Françoise clicked her tongue.  “Mais c’est très simple!” she said in a tone that implied, “if you teach a man to fish…”

And, as I would come to find out, that’s the secret.

Not really a secret, just a fact.  Compote is really, really simple to make.

Françoise explained (in all of twenty seconds), first you peel the apples; then you core the apples; next you dice the apples.  Throw them in a big pot, warm them over medium-low heat, stir, and add a little sugar at the end. (You’ll know when it’s “the end” because, whatdayaknow, it looks just like applesauce!) Voila.

Of course, there are tons of different variations you can try.  I put a couple sticks of vanilla in there while they were “compoting.”  Yum.  You can also add dried fruit for texture or alcohol for taste.  I’ve read that green tea can add a “smoky” flavor.

It’s apple season all over the world, so go pick some or pick some up and make your own compote.  Bon appletit!

{P.S. It’s also creepy-crawly season.}

For Marie-Amelie’s translation, Continue reading


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“And I wanted to live like the French”

As America celebrates Alice Waters’ cutting-edge contribution to the Organic, Slow-Food movement and her forty years at Chez Panisse — one of the most famous restaurants in America, named after Marcel Pagnol’s Fanny — Alice Waters celebrates her inspiration: France.

Tonight my Dad called me from the barn — where he was bent under his horse, hammering shoes into place — to let me know that “you might want to tune-in to NPR.”  Alice Waters was on, he said.

I had to laugh a little to think of him listening with one ear to the sound of nails in hooves and with the other to the  “dreamy” (his — appropriate — word, not mine) voice of Alice Waters.

Truth be told, I don’t know much about her, although I know she’s basically the Mother of the modern Organic movement.  No tomatoes in her restaurant before July, and all that jazz.  I have yet to visit her restaurant…and it looks like I’d need a pretty penny to do so.  Given what I heard tonight, though, I think the two of us would get along great.

Here’s my favorite part of tonight’s interview:

Alice Waters: I went to France in 1965 and it was an awakening for me. I felt like I had never really eaten before. I had liked certain things but I didn’t understand how it fit into peoples’ lives in a delicious way.  When I went there and I walked to schools, past the markets, and ate in the little restaurants in Paris, it was like a revelation…there was always something very political happening at the table in terms of conversation.  It was a whole cultural experience that I had there that really impressed me and so when I came home I felt like I could make this happen in my own life…I went about looking for the food, and cooking dinners at my house for friends.

Terry Gross: Did you think that the delicious food had to be French cuisine?

Alice Waters (Laughing): I’m afraid I did.  I loved the way the French ate: they had small courses, always had a salad with the meal, and some cheese.  It seemed so well considered, I would say.  I absorbed it, as if by osmosis.  And I wanted to live like the French.

Interview on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross

Photo Credits: Google Images


Filed under Cool Characters, Culture, Food, Inspiration, Recipes/Cooking

#1 secret to success in Paris: advice to ma petite cousine

A few months ago, in this post, I challenged ma chére cousine Sophie to try her hand at the Quiche Provençale recipe I had just made at my little apartment in Dijon.  As you can see, she accepted the challenge!  I think  she one-upped me too.  Look at that beautiful quiche!

You could say Sophie and I go way back.  I’ve known her all her life and she’s known me since I was seven.  We’re the only girl-cousins in a family full of boys, so we’ve stayed close even though there’s a country between us; like the rest of my family, she’s from California.

The two of us have always had a lot in common, from our love of horses to a taste for literature and poetry.  And then a few years ago, Sophie started learning French.  This week, she’s discovering Paris for the first time with some classmates and I am positively squirming with excitement to hear her impressions when she gets back.

Last Friday, I chatted with her on the phone as she prepared for her departure.  Excited but not nervous, she didn’t ask for my advice.  I gave it to her anyway.

“Force yourself to speak in French, even if someone responds to you in English,” I said.  “Everyone speaks English — or thinks they do — in Paris, but don’t let them!”

She promised to speak French.

“And even if your friends aren’t brave enough, sois courageuse!” I reiterated.

She promised to be courageous.

“And above all, DO NOT let those Parisian waiters intimidate you!”

“I won’t!” she exclaimed definitively.

I’m sure she’s doing just fine…


Secret numéro 1 pour réussir à Paris : conseil à ma petite cousine

Il y a quelques mois, dans ce post, j’ai lancé un défi à ma chère cousine Sophie : elle devait s’essayer à la recette de la Quiche Provençale que je venais tout juste de faire dans mon petit appartement dijonnais. Comme vous le voyez, elle a relevé le défi ! Je pense aussi qu’elle m’a dépassée. Regardez cette superbe quiche !

On peut dire que ça remonte à loin entre Sophie et moi. Je l’ai connue toute sa vie et elle me connaît depuis que j’ai sept ans. Nous sommes les seules cousines d’une famille pleine de garçons, donc nous sommes restées proches même si la distance nous sépare ; comme le reste de ma famille, elle vit en Californie.

Nous avons toujours eu toutes les deux beaucoup de choses en commun, de notre amour des chevaux à notre goût pour la littérature et la poésie. Et donc il y quelques années, Sophie a commencé le Français. Cette semaine, elle découvre Paris pour la première fois avec quelques camarades de cours et je frétille d’excitation à l’idée d’entendre ses impressions à son retour.

Vendredi dernier, j’ai discuté avec elle au téléphone pendant qu’elle préparait son départ. Excitée mais pas nerveuse, elle ne m’a pas demandé de conseils. Je lui en ai donné quand même.

« Force toi à parler Français, même si les gens te répondent en Anglais » lui ai-je dit. « Tout le monde parle Anglais – ou pense le parler – à Paris, mais ne les laisse pas faire ! »

Elle m’a promis de parler Français.

« Et même si tes amies ne sont pas assez téméraires, sois courageuse ! » ai-je réitéré.

Elle m’a promis d’être courageuse.

« Et surtout, ne te laisse pas intimider par ces serveurs parisiens ! »

« D’accord ! » s’est-elle finalement exclamée.

Je suis sûre qu’elle s’en sort très bien.


Filed under Adventure, Cool Characters, Culture, Food, Paris, Recipes/Cooking, Travel