Happy 2012! I apologize for being a bit absent.  Since I last wrote, there was a wedding, a trip to New York, a honeymoon holiday in Nice, and many trips to the Prefacture de Police.  As of today, I have my residence permit, which means I will be bureaucracy-free for the next 9 months!  (Unless I decide to apply for a bank account, a library card, a masters program, leave my apartment.  Wait a minute…)  I wish I could celebrate by torching the rainforest of paperwork I have accumulated the last few months while singing ‘J’ai Deux Amours’ at the top of my lungs.  But alas, from now on I need to adopt the ‘French touch’ of maintaining a color coordinated bureaucracy binder.

Paris is cooling down.  Although my style integrates fairly well, I’m inevitably challenged to layer gracefully.  I’ve noticed on the streets, many women deal with either a ‘doudoune’, a duvet of a jacket or carefully calculated cashmere layers.  Me, I have a few chunky long, wool sweaters that I wear under either a camel jacket or my wool vintage herringbone blazer.  However, this recently backfired.  Case in point, on a quick trip to the local health insurance office, after I taking a number, I was quickly ushered by the hostess to a chair because I was mistaken as being ‘enceinte’ or with child.  Bundling up should not be mistaken for a bundle of joy.  “EXCUSEZ-MOI!!!” I gasped.  “JE SUIS PAS ENCEINTE!!!” The hostess was just as mortified as I was.  (Take that, bitch!)  Half-hearted apology unaccepted, I walked out of there forever mortified.  Maybe it is time to swear off my dear chunky knits.  Maybe it is time to lay off the fromage.  And maybe an Hermes Kelly Bag would certainly solve all of my problems…

Illustration by Jessie Kanelos

Fig season has arrived in France!  The daintier, sweeter variety indigenous to France are at their peak although the larger imports from Greece and Turkey are not a bad snack either.  I’ve been waiting months to test out a recipe in Jamie Oliver’s Happy Days with the Naked Chef for months now.  ‘Tis the season!  It’s a sensually simple salad of figs, buffalo mozzarella, and prosciutto di parma.  I slit an x on the top of the figs and gently squeezed them to reveal their velvety flesh.  Arrange on a platter with sliced buffalo mozzarella.  Next, a few ribbons of jambon du parma were weaved organically between the figs.  A nice handful of basil thrown on top, a drizzle of best quality extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt and pepper.  And there you have a sensationally seasonal first course.

Waiting for Anton Part 2


So the 48 hours after my last posting were a continuous panic attack.  What could I possibly scrounge up for a 3-star Masterchef to eat?  Sure this would be a great story to tell, but at the moment it was far from funny.  Although it was the first thing C had to share with everyone we crossed paths with last week.  And everyone sure thought is was hilarious!  And an unlimited budget and creative freedom only made the scenario a bit more daunting.

Although it has been over a month since I have been back in France, I am still relearning my tools of moderation.  My day usually revolves around my daily treat, which usually is product of a trip to the boulangerie, or I happen to be in the neighborhood of Laduree, or a something else that involves a helpless pastry.  Needless to say, because I’m surrounded by decadent, comforting foods, I am starting to crave things spicy and fragrant things that remind my life out West (meaning NYC and the 31 flavors of takeout).  Speaking of which, I’ve been on a bit of a curry kick the past few weeks.  And I was confident enough in my technique to pull it off elegantly for the big dinner.

I made a special trip to Passage Brady in the 10eme for some authentic spices at sensational prices.  I fried up some onions and ginger with my spices (fenugreek, tumeric, mustard seeds, and divinely aromatic curry leaves) and added the last heirloom tomatoes of the season.  I hit it with some coconut milk for some richness.  I carefully threw my curry sauce through a sieve to give it a touch of refinement for French tastes.  And from there, I used the sauce to slowly poach a few chicken breasts.  Paired with basmati rice with lemon zest and curry leaves, it was a simple, but special dinner for a very special guest.

The real star was my first course: empanadas of espinacas catalan.  I did a quick sautee of garlic, baby spinach, chickpeas, pinenuts, and golden raisins.  I hit it generously with salt, pepper, and lemon juice and wrapped it all up in puff pastry.  A tasty first course full of surprises.

Following the dinner party, I got a text from the host exclaiming it was a hit and the food was ‘supergood’.  Bon!  Success!  Does this mean that I, Jessie Kanelos from the Midwest USA, might have a chance at becoming a French Masterchef via reality tv simply by cooking a humble chicken curry for the big judge?  Sure enough, the guest star of the evening was caught up at work and did not attend.  Here I am, feeling played like Stanley Tucci in a Big Night that I did not even attend.  Although Frederic Anton could not enjoy my empanadas, maybe you will!…

Espinacas Catalan Empanadas makes 4

1 sheet puff pastry

6 cups baby spinach

1/4 cup pinenuts, gently toasted

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup chickpeas, drained

1 clove garlic, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 egg white

zest of one lemon

1 tablespoon lemon juice

salt & pepper

1.) Preheat oven to 400 f.

2.) Heat olive oil over low heat and cook garlic for several minutes until fragrant, but not brown.  Add golden raisins.  Start adding spinach one handful at a time.  When it has wilted, add more until all cooked.  Add chickpeas.  Place mixture in bowl and let cool.

3.) Roll out pastry dough and cut into 4 parts.  Add a handful of the spinach mixture on one side of the parts and fold over.  Crimp edges to close the triangle.  Poke a few holes on top of the empanada.  Brush with egg white for a pretty sheen.

4.) Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden brown.

Serve as light lunch with a green salad.  Or as a first course at a very important dinner party…