Posts tagged ‘Brunch’

June 15, 2013

Mechouîa | A guest post by the Beard

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Since we’ve been waiting for Spring for at least nine months now, and since this wonderful lady has been playing hard to get, I decided I’d bring Spring in our home on this St Barnaby. The best way to do so is to go back to the atmosphere of my lovely youth and taste what my all my Tunisian friends were so lucky to find on their table at dinner time: mechouîa, or literally “grilled pepper salad.” (pronounced may-shoe-uh)

Before I get on to ”mechouîng,” there is a little something you should know while reading these lines. In fact, the Guide and I recently relocated to a bigger and better-looking 150 year-old French building in which we’ve settled in a very bourgeois apartment. We’d post pictures, but I’m sure our roommate Aristide (our black cat, in fact) would sue us for copyright infringement 🙂 In any case, the good news is that the Guide and I noticed we spend most of our time together in our brand new kitchen! I just noticed how living has been made easier by just adapting to wiser eating habits. Not that I had bad eating habits before, but I am French… and I still can’t find a single article online that would prove me right in saying that one can take care of their figure by just shoving down 1.5 kilograms of cheese every day. So my cheese intake depends now on my bribing skills… et c’est pas plus mal!

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Our friend Christophe (the market gardener) is depressed, because the weather is so ugly that he can’t grow anything and business has therefore been horrible, to say the least. So to cheer him up, we bought 3 times the amount of food we usually get on a Saturday morning. And I ended up with 4 lbs. of banana peppers… and so what? I just thought about how the smell of roasted peppers freshly taken out of the oven could put a smile of the Guide’s face when she gets home. The smell of Summer, with a refreshing taste of happiness on the table. And a possibility for me to bribe the Guide into allowing me to go get a fresh mozzarella di Bufala Campana

Mechouîa salad

(adapted from omafaim)

Serves 4-6

What you’ll need:

  • 4.5 pounds of fresh banana peppers
  • 6 red tomatoes
  • 3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

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Now what?

  • Turn on the radio, and start singing along the tunes from back in the 1970s.
  • Place the peppers on a baking sheet and broil them in the oven. They must turn almost black, so that you can peel the skin off more easily. Half way through the broiling process, place the three (unpeeled) garlic cloves amidst the peppers, so that the smell of garlic spreads to the broiling veggies. Once they’re well cooked, let them cool down in a large bowl, and make sure you cover it with a lid.
  • While the peppers cook, bring water to a boil. Slash the top of each of the 6 tomatoes and place them in the boiling water. Remove after 15 minutes and let them cool down.
  • Bring another pan to a boil, and pour yourself a nice cup of jasmine tea. It helps with your singing. Change the radio and turn to the hits from the eighties.
  • Once everything has cooled down, start peeling the peppers and tomatoes and take the seeds out. Quick tip: don’t use a knife to peel the peppers, just open its lengthways with your hands and use your fingers to remove the pepper flesh on a cutting board. The peppers need to be long and ropy (just like the tomatoes, which you will cut with a knife, obviously).
  • Drain the peppers and tomatoes in a colander in the sink for at least two or three hours. Too much juice would turn the mechouîa into a mushy soup.
  • Once it has drained, mix the preparation with the garlic paste (after you press it out of the skin) and the juice of one lemon, as well as 2 teaspoons of cumin and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. I tend to add a bit of black pepper (Malabar, preferably) and a pinch of coarse sawlt.
  • Place it in the fridge for 2 hours.
  • Finish your cup of jasmine tea and imaging what the Guide’s smile will be like, craving your mozza-ball.

Bon app!

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November 28, 2012

FrenchGiving : The Third Edition (Chocolate Croissant French Toast | Pain au chocolat pain perdu)

This past Thanksgiving marked my very third Thanksgiving spent in France.  The first Thanksgiving was spent in intimate company where I attempted to recreate my mom’s recipes with plastic cups as estimated cup measurements.  The second Thanksgiving was a bit larger: 12 guests, innovative recipes, classic recipes, a wild goose chase for fresh cranberries, the whole kit and caboodle.  The tradition of cooking for this holiday was something that fulfilled me and made me less sad about being so far away.  This is why I have not called this year’s day Thanksgiving.  Because it was not.  This year was a new idea.  Seeing that I knew I couldn’t give this holiday my whole heart (5 days of cooking, days spent biking back and forth to supermarkets across town, hours to do the dishes afterwards), I decided not to do it.  I hesitated.  I thought about making one infamous dish.  But then I decided that you can’t have Thanksgiving with just one dish. It doesn’t work like that.

So I put a moratorium on Thanksgiving for this year and this year alone.  I couldn’t bear to go at it half-heartedly.  But my roommates, now with a taste of Thanksgiving in their hearts after 2 years gone by, were desperate to celebrate somehow.  I did what any American parent knows will thrill their children and I said….”how about breakfast for dinner!?”  Worked like a charm.  They were happy to do something,  I was happy that it wasn’t a shoddy version of Thanksgiving, and everyone cooked a frenchicized version of an American breakfast dish, sending all of us into food induced Frenchgiving comas after our 10 pm dinner.

My contribution was thanks to my darling Schnooze : croissant “french toast” / pain perdu.  In French, french toast is translated by “lost bread” because it was initially made out of stale brioche in order to salvage the hardened treat.  I bought some pain au chocolat (chocolate ‘croissants’ for a lack of a better translation) and turned them into a French toast worth making over and over again.

Chocolate Croissant French Toast | Pain au chocolat perdu

What you’ll need:

  • 4 croissants | pain au chocolat
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla as desired

Now what?

  1. Cut the croissants in two length-wise
  2. Dip them, but not for too long, into the milk/egg/sugar/spices mixture.
  3. Cook them in a heated frying pan with a little bit of salted butter until they are crispy, crunchy and melty.

Et voilà.  Bon appétit.  It is as easy as that.

October 20, 2012

Butternut Pasta with Caramalized Onions and Spinach

My friendly market vegetable stand man gifted me with a butternut squash this week.  He likes to tease me because I am American, often (and repeatedly) telling me stories about his trip to New Jersey and how he tried to lose his wife in the Bronx (oh Alsatian humor, unsure of how funny it actually is…)  His wife is usually standing right next to me as he tells this story, with a look of desperation in her eyes as if to say that she wished that she were still in the Bronx as well.  In any case, perhaps this gift was in fact a curse because never have I ever spent so much time deconstructing a butternut squash. But let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth, hm?  In America, we have the luxury of buying vegetables that are peeled and chopped for us.  Not in France.  They make you do the dirty work yourself.  And dirty it is — and incredibly dangerous as well — because those chopped pieces of squash have a proclivity to fly across the kitchen, nearly blinding any and all innocent standbys.

Anyway, I am not here to lecture on the hazards of butternut squash but rather to tell you how imperative it is that you make this faux-mac and cheese.  It is the kind of recipe that spent the entire week open in my tab-bar beckoning me at the end of every day. J’avoue (I admit) that it is a lot of preparation but oyé (Alsatian version of oy vey?), it is worth it in the end.  The most satiating pasta dish I’ve had in a very long time.  En plus, it is full of vegetables to rid the conscious of any sort of guilt.  And subbing in greek yogurt in the place of creme fraiche provides a tangy sort of sauce without breaking the calorie bank.  All in all an A+.

This recipe is originally made with KALE in the place of spinach but since I can’t seem to find this elusive vegetable in my current country, I opted for some fresh spinach instead to increase my intake of leafy greens!

Butternut Pasta with Caramelized Onions and Spinach

Serves 6, adapted from Eats Well With Others (my blog GURU)

What you’ll need:

  • 1 butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 oz (400 g) whole wheat pasta
  • 1 bunch fresh spinach
  • 2 cups sliced onion
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups vegetable broth, divided
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup greek yogurt
  • 1 cup shredded gruyere (let’s be honest, I may have used a little more)

Now what?

  1. Preheat oven to 400 f / 200 c Spend several hours face to face with your butternut squash fully equipped with a machete. Or, peel the squash like a potato (good luck with that), cut it length-wise and then scoop out its innards like that squash hurt the ones you loved the most. Take the cubes, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and put it on a baking sheet to roast in the oven for about 30 minutes. You want that to be soft and sort of caramelized.
  2. Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling salt water for about 7 minutes.
  3. Simultaneously (this recipe requires ambidexterity), sauté the onions in a medium sized skillet on medium heat for about 6 minutes until they start to brown. Add garlic and salt cooking until very fragrant.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk 1/4 cup of the vegetable broth with flour to create a sort of paste. Add to the onion mixture and cook until it thickens up a bit, slowly adding more vegetable broth. Wait until it thickens up before adding a little more. This is a sort of faux-roux.
  5. Once it seems good and thick, remove from heat, add red pepper flakes, greek yogurt (and a handful of gruyere) to make it officially a sauce.
  6. Pour the sauce into a large bowl and add the rest of the components: pasta, spinach, butternut squash, and mix well.
  7. Pour into a large glass baking dish, top with gruyere and put that sucker in the oven at 400 f / 200 c until you’ve got a crusty baked pasta dish (20 minutes)
  8. et bon app!
October 14, 2012

Crustless Leek Quiche | quiche aux poireaux sans pâte!

I feel like so much has happened in a month’s time.  I am slightly surprised by how time consuming working, going to classes, tutoring and trying to live my life has been.  I feel like I used to have impeccable time management skills in college and all of that went out the window when I got to France.  Maybe I am not used to balancing things.  Maybe this time period has been exceptionally hectic.  Maybe.  Maybe I should be working right now and I haven’t done squat just yet because cooking my lunch for the week seemed much more important.
Because how can I be expected to get things done if my lunch isn’t something that I look forward to greatly throughout the early morning hours of the day?

An amazing person gifted me with a bento box for my back to school days and I couldn’t be happier (and often, he fills it up for me with delicious home-cooked healthy lunches.)  So today I wanted to brainstorm a fairly easy contribution to the bento box in order to fill up his double decker delicious vessel.
And how about a quiche?  Nothing says miam miam like a single serving quiche.  Jam packed with egg protein, moderate cheese deliciousness and leeks.  Leeks were a vegetable I did not know about prior to coming to France.  Now it is something that my quiches must always have! Why crustless, you may be asking?  Well, it is a whole lot of butter and I didn’t have one on hand.  Consider this: quiche lite.  Consider this remorse cooking after eating not one but 2 birthday fondues last night (but my goodness weren’t they so good.)
Though I’d love to sit and chat, I must get back to my work.  But à l’aise fraise will be more attentive….I promise…

Crustless Leek Quiche | quiche aux poireaux sans pâte!

makes four single serving quiches

What you’ll need:

  • 2-3 medium leeks
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 5 large eggs
  • 600 mls milk
  • 2 tbsp creme fraiche
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch (maizena)
  • 4 ounces (1 cup) shredded Gruyère

Now what?

1. Preheat your oven to 350 f / 180 c degrees.

2. Meanwhile, cut off the roots and green leaves of leek.  Cut each leek lengthwise in half, then crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide slices.  Rinse in a bowl of water to get rid of dirt (be sure to swish the leeks around.)  Remove the leek by hand from the bowl of water and drain well.  Toss those babies into a preheated skill with olive oil.

3.  While the leeks are cooking (about 12-14 minutes), combine the eggs, milk, cream, cornstarch and half of the gruyère.  Season this well (I like to add a little cumin for absolutely no explainable reason.)  Whisk together until well mixed.

4.  Butter quiche dishes in order to ensure easy removal.  First, add the leeks equally to the dish or dishes to make sure that each quiche has a fair amount of leeks.  Finally, pour the egg mixture over the quiches and sprinkle with remaining gruyère to get that golden brown top often dreamt about.

5.  Bake 30-35 minutes or until a knife comes out clean and the tops are golden brown. Cool on a wire rack before removing. Enjoy hot or room temperature! Put it in your bento box for a quick (originally wrote quichke) lunch!

August 27, 2012

The best way I’ve ever eaten Eggplant

I am a bad Italian.  I HATE raw tomatoes and I’m not afraid to admit it anymore! There is something about the texture that freaks me out and to be frank, I am not all too crazy about the taste.  I know, it’s pretty horrible considering that tomatoes are a huge source of vitamins and I deprive myself of that on a regular basis.  Up until a couple of year ago, though, not only did I hate tomatoes but I also hated eggplant.  Beurk.  Non, merci.  I found it to be spongy and unpleasantly bitter.  An Italian who hates tomatoes and eggplant?  Not a good combination. But one day, I tasted eggplant in all of its glory — eggplant parmigiana.  How can anyone reject FRIED vegetables (screams the American inside of me?) It was outstanding.  Delicious.  Full of oil and happiness (and potential heart attacks.) But it still didn’t have a texture that suited me.

Now, it must be known that most of my hours trolling the internet  are spent on food websites.  And in my browsing, I stumbled upon an interesting technique for making eggplant that supposedly gets the bitterness out! I followed the instructions, and was bestowed with the discovery of the most silky, creamy eggplant that I’ve ever eaten in my life. Now I know how Christopher Columbus must’ve felt when he arrived in America.  Now, I will never eat eggplant any other way.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 2 cups milk
  • ½ cup flour
  • 3-5 Tb. olive oil
  • salt
    (optional: drizzle 3 Tb. honey with thyme leaves and sea salt)

Now what?

  1. Peel and slice the eggplant into thin 1/6 inch rounds.
  2. Place the eggplant slices in an airtight tupperware and pour the milk over it. Cover and refrigerate over night. *This is the vital part of the eggplant amelioration process!* 
  3. In a slightly deep dish, mix the flour with 1 tsp. salt. Heat the olive oil in large pan over medium-high heat. Line a plate with paper towels.
  4. When the oil is hot, dip the eggplant in the flour but be sure to tap off the excess.  Place them in the pan and fry for about 2 minutes per side, or until golden.  Remove from the oil and place on the paper toweled plate. Repeat with the remaining eggplant, always adding oil as needed.

How we ate it?

We enjoyed this creamy eggplant with some creamy goat cheese.  One of the best parts of living in France is the Saturday morning market.  I have a cheese guy.  He has a serious mustache.  My life in France. Anyway, we assembled our sandwiches on English muffins (which could perhaps be a French faux pas considering all of the crusty baguettes running freely!)  On the bread, we spread some eggplant cavier (recipe to come soon), goat cheese, eggplant, goat cheese, eggplant, truffled salt until the result was too divine to be true.  I imagine that the sandwich ideas are endless with this sort of eggplant! How do YOU eat eggplant?

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