C has tapped the secret of scrambled eggs.  Not even just the secret of making them, but the secret revelation of what they can be.   I have never had the best pastime of scrambled eggs.  They have always been a bit lost.  Somehow the rich sensuousness of the yolk is lost in the technique.  The dowdy other-half to bacon.  More of a showcase of salt and pepper.  I have become arrogant in my omelet abilities and have always attempted scrambled eggs with the same high-heat, pan-moving treatment.  However, they are always too dry and half of the final product gets lost to the pan.  I love the instant gratification of eggs, but sometimes a little added technique and patience can reintroduce something so simple and satisfying!

Low and slow is the way to go!  Turn on the stovetop to its lowest setting.  Beat best-quality eggs with a splash of milk, a small drizzle of water, and a generous amount of salt and pepper.

Throw a hearty nob of butter into the pan, about one teaspoon per egg, pour in the eggs, and be prepared to stir!  Much like a risotto, these eggs need both affection and attention.  Keep stirring

Cooking the eggs at the lowest temperature creates smaller, silkier curds and a creamier, velvety final product. Once you can draw a smiley face on the bottom of the pan, BRAVO!  You are almost there.

Depending on the temperature of your stove, it can take anywhere from 5-15 minutes.  Keep stirring until they are just barely set.  When done right, they will have a a custard-like texture.  Serve with chopped chives and crème fraiche, or with a tranche of smoked salmon.  Serve them however you would normally serve scrambled eggs.  However, they do not need much more than a sprinkle of sel de fleur and a piece or two of toast to sop up all the delicious creaminess.  Or reunite these made-over scrambled eggs with their other-half, bacon.

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…

Carottes Râpées

Photo by Jessie Kanelos

Oh, carottes râpées!  One of the few ways to eat raw vegetables in this crazy town.  Other than an obligatory green salad, the French prefer their vegetables cooked to death.   But when I need to eat something on the lighter side (meaning I have less than 2 weeks to slim down to the size of my vegan NYC days in which I bought my wedding gown.  Lay off the fromage, Jessie!), this quick recipe is as satisfying as it is simple.  I love carrots, but chewing them can be a bit tedious sometimes.  So this is a happy medium between carrot sticks and carrot juice.  Just grate fresh carrots on a box grater.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Easy.  I have tried dressing this up with glug of white wine vinegar, lemon juice, chopped garlic, or even maple syrup.  But at the end of the day, if the carrots are fresh, there really is no need to dress them with anything.  Maybe just a little bit of olive oil for some added sheen.  Hmmm, this might not be a far-off plot to slim down like a French woman….

Tricheur’s Apple Tarte

One of the joys of living in the food-obsessed culture of France, is learning all the cheater’s secrets.  For one, I’ve learned the French are guilty of takeout and the prepared foods isle of the supermarche.  Have a handful of friends stopping by for an aperitif?  Why not swing over to the local Picard (the sterile neighborhood frozen foods shop) for a handful of delicacies (shrimp toasts, savory cakes, molten chocolate cakes) to pull out of the oven when guests arrive?  Or why not run to the local Italian traiteur to create a spread of  beautiful cheeses, preserved tomatoes, and Italian charcuterie.  Secondly, there are plenty of ready-made products in the grocery store.  Who has time to cook, when quinoa, lentils, and rice are ready to be zapped onto the table?  Another supermarket favorite of mine is the ready-made puff pastry and pie crusts which make quiches and tartes a cinch to whip up.  The little girl I babysit for explained the simplest and easiest apple tarte she makes with her father.  A thin layer of apple sauce is spread onto a prepared pie crust.  Sliced apples are fanned on top to give it the touch of the boulanger.   Voila.  To my chagrin, it happened to be vegan and perfectly timed for a luncheon for some vegan friends from Brooklyn who were in town!  Enjoy.

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…

Waiting for Anton…

So, I’m in Paris.  I have a humble babysitting job to make ends meet while waiting on my working papers.  I search for the kids after school, buy groceries, cook dinner, and encourage the completion of homework.  Yesterday afternoon, the children’s mother informed me that I would be cooking for 8 on Friday night.  Nothing a roast chicken couldn’t handle, right?  Sure enough, this afternoon she informed me of one other important detail.  And guess who is coming to dinner!  It’s family friend Frédéric Anton, three-star chef and judge on Masterchef France.  (SHIT!  SHIT!  SHIT!)  There really is no American equivalent to this.  But I’ll shallowly compare Frédéric Anton to Tom Colicchio since they are both tv personalities with culinary street cred and members of the bald brotherhood.

So, what does one cook for a famous 3-star chef?  One thing is for sure, even though I can crank out a decent boeuf bourguignon, there is no way I’m touching French food.  Just like I would never sing the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ in the presence of Aretha Franklin. Luckily, I have been a devoted pupil of Masterchef since its conception.  And Frédéric Anton preaches to his puppy-eyed aspiring chefs to keep it simple and respect the integrity of the ingredients.  Part of me feels like I should really do something American; there’s always something to be said about the complimentary coupling of peanut butter and jelly.  At the end of the day, I need to make something I know.  Needless to say, HELP!

Zucchini & Mozzarella

I’m back in Paris!  Much to my dismay, the city is a ghost town in August.  I’m on a perpetual search for an open boulangerie!
Fortunately, C welcomed me with open arms and full refrigerator.  I needed to crank out a light, simple dinner one evening.  I found inspiration in two staples: zucchini and fresh mozzarella.  I picked up a trick by using a vegetable peeler to slice the zucchini into transparent ribbons which develop charming cross-hatching when hit on a grill pan.  Tossed with a healthy dose of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice, salt & paper, and a chiffonade of fresh mint from the garden, the zucchini ribbons are sensuously silky while showcasing the nutty quality of zucchini I often forget.  The ribbons are elegantly presented piled high topped with a crown of sliced fresh mozzarella.

The first time I made this dish, I was a little quick to over-season with too much lemon juice and the half-hearted addition of shaved cornichons.  C, my taste tester, had no words for the dish; something was off.  Surely he thought it was too acidic.  I’m realizing I have a taste for strong flavors.  However, at the same time, anything can taste like lemon juice!  But when food is prepared well, it should taste like a celebration of whatever it is.  I have challenged myself by living out this French food philosophy.  Furthermore, with respect for good ingredients, even a meal inspired by the remnants of a fridge can be wildly satisfying.  Now if only I could find that baguette…

JUST ZUCCHINI & MOZZARELLA for 2

2 medium zucchini, sliced thinly with a vegetable peeler

1 ball fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4 inch slices

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for grill pan

1 teaspoon fresh mint, sliced finely to a chiffonade (roll up leaves like a cigar and chop finely)

salt & pepper to taste

1.) Heat a grill pan over high heat.  Add 1 tablespoon oil and twirl pan until it is well-covered with oil.  Add zucchini to the grill pan, being careful not to overlap the slices.  Flip slices after 10-15 seconds when light grill marks appear.  When both sides have nice hatching, place in a bowl.  Proceed by grilling the rest of the slices, adding more oil to pan as needed.

2.) When all the slices have been grilled, toss with lemon juice, the tablespoon of olive oil, mint, salt, and pepper.  Pile zucchini high onto serving plates and top with several slices of fresh mozzarella.  Serve as a first course or with baguette for a light lunch.

Ring them bells! Another worthy food fad is soon to hit New York City! Laduree is opening an NYC location. My French colleague and I shrieked for joy when we read the first signs of speculation on Yelp several months ago! And thanks Vogue Magazine for confirming that an outpost of the hailed macaron bakery will be opening soon, nestled into the appropriately posh address of 864 Madison Ave (between 70th and 71st). It’s been a long-time coming; there are locations in just about every other city with Starbucks.

For those of you who have not had the pleasure of a enjoying a macaron from Laduree, eating one is like eating the heightened, pure essence of the said flavor (Raspberry! Vanilla! Pistachio! CHOCOLATE!), in an elegantly crispy exterior matched with the utterly sensuous creamy interior. I carefully transported an assortment of 12 to my parents in Turkey. After each meal, we ceremoniously ooooo’d and ahhhh’d, taking small bites of each flavor and passed them around like a peace pipe.

The Laduree NYC ironically opens August 22nd, which is the day I am moving back to France.

Goodbye, New York. But please accept my parting gift.