Cherries, peaches, apricots. What now?

© Jessie Kanelos

The past week, our fridge turned into a jewel box of stone fruit.  I haven’t made a trip to the kitchen without taking a little handful of cherries or pulling apart a perfect apricot.    But in preparation for yet another pendaison de crémaillère, I was racking my brain for a clever way to showcase all these seasonal beauties in a dessert.  I envisioned a colorful pavlova with macerated nectarines, cherries, and apricots, the luscious fruit sandwiched between vanilla-studded whipped creme and crispy meringue.  But after eating (and tirelessly trying to replicate) so many flawless French fruit tartes, I was sold on creating a humble free-form fruit tarte, with a flaky pastry folding over the kaleidoscope of summer fruit.  Nevertheless, it was a bonne soiree indeed.  Although mon mari uncannily likened my tarte to a pizza,  I took it as a good opportunity to have him to serve me another slice.

Free-form stone fruit tarte

1 1/4 cup flour, plus 1 tablespoon

10 tablespoons of butter, chilled

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

3-5 tablespoons ice water

3 cups seasonal stone fruit (peaches, apricots, nectarines, plums, mirabelles, cherries, etc), pitted and quartered

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon rum

1.)  Preheat oven to 375 degrees f.  Add sugar and salt to flour.  Using a food processor, pastry cutter, or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles a fine meal.  Adding one tablespoon at a time, pour in the ice water and stir just until a dough forms, being careful not to overwork the dough.  Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.

2.)  In the meantime, dissolve the honey in the rum.  Pour over the pitted and quartered fruit and add the tablespoon of flour.  Stir.  And let marinate while dough is cooling.

3.)  Roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment paper until 1/4 of an inch thick.  Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Prick the center of the dough with a fork.  Spoon the fruit into the center of the dough leaving 2-3 inches on each side.  Fold the dough over the fruit.  Brush the pastry with beaten egg yolk and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

4.)  Bake for 45 minutes until the pastry is golden and the fruit is bubbling.  Serve warm with ice cream.  Or cold with creme fraiche or whipped cream.

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Legumes Farcis : An Aller-Retour Niçois

© Jessie Kanelos for BonjourParis.com

Although being bilingual has theoretically done wonders for my brain, I can’t help but notice that it has slowed down my English.  When three second pauses pepper my conversation, in search of the words I once said, I overcompensate using coolcrazy, and nice.  And door has permanently become porte.  Am I turning into one of those pretentious Americans who lives in FrAHHHnce?

For a lack of better words, please check out my new cool, crazy, and nice contribution to Bonjour Paris.  

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Legumes Farcis : An Aller-Retour Niçoise  by Jessie Kanelos. Published by BonjourParis.com.

Routine completely flips itself on the head when starting over in France. Peanut butter, the humblest of American pastimes, gets an upgrade from domestic to imported.  And a sandwich eaten on-the-go can get anything from a sincere “bon appetit” from a stranger to a snarl of disapproval on the street.  But discovering new, French comfort food is like an expatriate embrace.  And it is a welcome addition to the dinner table of anyone looking for a little mealtime inspiration.  Legumes farcis, or stuffed vegetables, are a specialty of the sun-baked Cote D’Azur. And as the summer harvest abundantly overloads the farmer’s market, why not put a Niçoise spin on the season’s best?
Instead of a proper honeymoon, my cash-strapped husband and I took a roadtrip down South to visit my new in-laws in Nice. I am still trying to justify the reasoning behind this one.  Nevertheless, we managed to sneek out of the house during the day to walk on the beach, dream big at the impeccible Cours Saleya flea market, and test out all the Niçoise specialties. Along with the hearty chickpea crepe socca and pissaladière, the caramelized onion and anchovy pizza gone French, I was instantly enamored by legumes farcis.  Essentially the makings of a meatball, a fine mixture of ground meat, breadcrumbs, and aromatics is baked in local, sun-ripened Provençal vegetables until impossibly juicy. Charmingly coined legumes de soleil, or sun vegetables, these can include anything from tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms, red peppers, and onions. Served hot out of the oven or direct from the refrigerator, they are deliciously easy and satisfying post-beach, post-swimming pool, or post-in-laws.

Although legumes farcis are rarely found on restaurant menus outside of the Cote D’azur, French butchers always have chair à saucisse on display.  Basically a sausage without its casing, it is a porky mystery meat destined for legumes farcis.  However, one part ground beef to one part ground pork or one part ground veal to one part chopped ham are suitable alternatives, minus the mystery.  Be creative!  With fruits et legumes at their height of diversity, why not experiement with a couple of round zucchini, Japanese eggplants, or a rainbow of heirloom tomatoes ?  Served with white rice, another local staple of the South, that 7 euro jar of Skippy will become completely unjustifiable.

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Legumes Farcis Niçois, Serves 6

Note: Choose vegetables of a similar size so they bake evenly.

6 small, round  tomatoes

6 small onions

6 small zucchinis

6 small eggplants

¼ lb. ground beef

¼ lb ground pork

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

Breadcrumbs

½ teaspoon herbes de provence

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or basil

Olive oil

Salt & pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350° f/180° c

2. Slice the vegetables ¾ of the way lengthwise to create a reservoir for the filling and its hat. Scoop out the flesh of the zucchini and eggplant, chop and reserve. Scoop out the seeds and the ribs of the pepper.  Use a paring knife to carve out the center of the onions and tomatoes.

3.  In a bowl, mix the beef, pork, reserved zucchini and eggplant, chopped garlic, parmesan cheese, and herbs.

4. Drizzle a baking dish with olive oil.  Stuff the vegetables with the meat mixture and place in the baking dish.  Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and olive oil.

5.  Bake for 45 minutes.  Add a hat to each vegetable and bake for another 45 minutes.  Serve with white rice.

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Happy 6th of July!

© Jessie Kanelos

Greetings direct from McDonald’s!

Shortly after I wrote my last post, I was rudely awakened by a girl on the Metro wearing American flag knee-highs and a stars & stripes bandana.  My stomach turned; I knew something was terribly wrong.  I completely forgot it was the 4th of July.  With all the unpacking and deeply pondering how to organize my spices, it completely slipped my mind.  Since I already supported my nation’s economy with my McCappuccino, that’s as patriotic as I could be.

So America, I tardily toast you today with this hot dog illustration and my 0.5 liter Coke Zero on ice.  Tchin-tchin!

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A ratatouille is a ratatouille is a ratatouille.

© Jessie Kanelos

It all began with a Sunday roast, rather a rosbif (translation: ‘French’ for roast beef).  Like always, mon mari was in charge of the roast and I was in charge of the accompaniment.  Digging through the fridge, I exclaimed, “Hey!  I’ve got all the makings of a ratatouille!”  I’ve always thought that any combination of zucchini, eggplant, red peppers, tomatoes, onions and garlic would instantly qualify as a ratatouille, even disguised as a the quick saute.  But mon mari is always discouraging me from making it.   As Mr. Meat & Potatoes himself, I just shrugged it off as an unsuccessful attempt at force-feeding him something green.  But finally, it came out, “c‘est pas terrible!  A real ratatouille needs to be cooked for at least a day or two.  It should be like jam when it is done”, he insisted.  Was this just another cross-cultural, marital culinary scuff?

Sure enough, in a country divided by 200-something kinds of cheese, the preparation of ratatouille has inspired a national debate, too.  The ingredients can simply be sautéed.  Or they can be layered and baked in the oven.   Or simmered away for hours à la Joël Robuchon.  I sucked up my pride and rescheduled the ratatouille, leaving it to stew away into the evening hours.  Alas, Robuchon, I mean, my husband, was right.  Although all the vibrant colors of the vegetables were lost in the stewing, what was left was a rich, meaty concentration of vegetables, leaving it with an intensely savory sauce evoking a boeuf bourguignon.  I poached some eggs in the ratatouille and dinner was served.

Although I will still use all three methods, all of them should be explored to come to a personal conclusion.  But the simmering method upgrades ratatouille from an unconscious side dish to a sophisticated main course.

Frenchie knows best.

Beignet d’oignon sounds much too fancy for a humble onion ring.

© Jessie Kanelos

Although I have no complaints in regards to my culinary transition to France, every now and then I get a little nostalgic for certain things Stateside.  For example, I miss New York and its 31-flavors of take-out.  And like all Americans in Paris, I can’t help but sniffle when speaking of Mexican food.  But not enough to test the new Chipotle that just opened, which has all the Americans in town speaking Spanglish again (If nostalgia permits, it can be found at 20 Boulevard Montmartre 75009 Paris).

But all my Yankee Doodle cravings were properly satiated having recently completed the food styling for the cookbook of Paris’ first wildly-popular food truck, Le Camion Qui Fume.  It will be the most authentic collection of American recipes to ever be published in French.  Needless to say, I never had feelings for onion rings or pulled pork sandwiches until the shoot.  And embarrassingly, it has inspired me to put ketchup on everything again.  But I quickly learned that although most Frenchies will turn up their noses at chili cheese fries, they can’t help going back for a second bite.  Vive la révolution!

Truite Rose en Papillote

One of the first things I have learned living in France is that non happens much more quickly than what you want to hear.  Similarly, customer service follows the same philosophy.  Every time I ask where to find something at the grocery store, I get a few shrugged shoulders and a je ne sais pas.  But luckily, I have found a place where useful information is generously rationed, at the biweekly, neighborhood market.  And wouldn’t you much rather take advice from an artisan?  Recently, I’ve been experimenting with smaller, inexpensive, more sustainable fish like mackerel and sardines.  Truite rose, or rainbow trout, a distant cousin of salmon, caught my eye.  I quickly inquired how my fishmonger would prepare it.  He suggested en papillote, or wrapped up and baked in parchment paper.  I brought the little beauty home, stuffed her with a few lemon slices, parsley, plopped on a nob of better, sea salt and sealed her in egg-brushed parchment.  Cooking the trout precisely for 15 minutes at 250 C or 480 F, we were left with a perfectly cooked fish for two.  Although the truite rose itself is not as tasty as its oilier predecessors like sardines and mackerel, this non-recipe recipe can be suited to any fish with any combination of herbs and aromatics.  Just ask your poissonnier!

Which aromatics would you add to your truite en papillote?