Nail in Foot, Burger in Hand

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We are in the demolition stage of our new apartment.  This morning, as we walked into the place for our daily visit, our quirky 1950s flat to-be was transformed into the town of Bedrock.  Before I could even say “Wow, what a dump!”, “Ohmygawwwwputainmerde!”  My first step into the apartment, I got a nail in the foot.  The throbbing pain was the least of my worries.  Since I have the undisputed Generation Me dilemma of not having had health insurance since my shatterproof undergraduate days, I was sure I could feel my jaw locking in the matter of moments. Luckily, I had an unsuccessful semester in grad school that got me up to speed on that important tetanus shot.  Phew!

To help ease the pain, I was whisked off for lunch at the hyper-popular food truck Le Camion Qui Fume by mon mari qui fume.  Le Camion Qui Fume ends the search for an authentic American cheeseburger in Paris.  Although there are imposters on every cafe menu, 18 euros for a dry, uninspired hamburger on an industrial bun is not worth the ho-hum indulgence.  Food trucks have not  taken off in Paris yet, partially considering that the French cannot eat with their hands alone.  But fellow American expat Kristin Frederick has mastered the right fatty mix of ground beef, the soft, butter-brushed sesame seed buns, real cheddar and shoestring fries to cheer up any expat having a bad day.  Although the truck changes locations everyday, we dug into our burgers on the steps of the Église de la Madeleine overlooking the Place de la Concorde.  And at just 10 euros for a burger and fries, there is no better bargain or breathtaking view.

http://www.lecamionquifume.com/

What Me Hungry?

I’m still in the French Alps.  Remember I mentioned eating 5-course meals gracefully?  Well, I thought raclette, being a single-course and all, would be a good breather.  Mind you, it was my first time.  But alas, at the end of the day, it’s just a glob of melted cheese.  Poured on top of potatoes, accompanied with charcuterie, it is hearty, mountain food at its best.  But I feel like I really should have skied or chopped wood beforehand to truly enjoy it.  It’s a good thing we did not order a cheese fondue for the first course.  After 4 days of eating 3 courses (onion tarte, boeuf bourguignon, caramel tarte) at lunch and 5 courses at dinner (veloute de cepes, escargot, filet de lotte, fromage, royal chocolat) my moderation is finally sinking in.  Does this mean I’m becoming more French?

Anyway, I love a multi-course meal.  It’s always been treat since I first discovered the soup, salad, entree, jello/rice pudding option at the local Chicago Greek diners of my youth.  However, after 5-courses, I am usually on the brink of explosion.  And what’s a proud member of the clean-plate/waste-not club to do?  But here is what I have learned from experience.   Although everybody loves a generous plateau of Alpine cheeses to choose from, choose either cheese or dessert.  Or eat a small portion of each.  Incorporate vegetables when possible, if given a choice.  Stay hydrated during the day.  And move around as much as possible.  I’m starting to feel a bit of empathy for food critics…

Les Vacances.

Bridget Bardot, my snow bunny inspiration. theselvedgeyard.wordpress.com

The first weeks of March, all the French people I know flock to the French Alps for the obligatory February ski trip.  Luckily, I am a part of the majority this week; it’s a family tradition of my new in-laws.  Bonjour, French Alps!  Bonjour, Mother-in-Law!  We are in Meribel, a favorite ski station of Bridget Bardot.  Unfortunately, I do not ski or snowboard.  And I have not found a good snow sport compatible with my two left feet.  Any recommendations?  In the meantime, I’m trying out the snow bunny look and learning to eat 5-course meals gracefully.  More on that soon…

P.S.  Sorry I forgot my camera!  I will let Bardot do the talking.

Les Marchés Parisiens

After eating lentils all week, I often lose track of what day of the week it is!  Not that you should not try the delicious aforementioned recipe.  However, it very well could be just a side effect of freelancing; any day could be Saturday.  But what always keeps me on track is the local market, every Thursday and Sunday morning.  In Paris, there are several markets in every neighborhood, twice a week.  And it takes a tremendous amount of effort and resources.  Sanitation workers set up a row of metal frames and tarps are rolled out to commence the market.  Everything is promptly cleaned up and hosed down without a trace of the bustling, haggling, crate-strewn bi-weekly tradition.  The only trace is the fruit and veg seen in the still life above. 

The tremendous joy of food shopping in France is unparalleled in the States.  Although there are supermarkets and aptly titled ‘hypermarches’ to make a weekly grocery run, just looking at the streets of Paris will give you a clue of the sensibilities of shoppers.  On my short walk to the Metro from chez moi, there is a boucher, a fish shop, four boulangeries, a cheese shop, two Kosher sushi places, four sandwich shops, a honey boutique, and a handful of grocery stores.  I cannot tell if the French are just completely obsessed with food or they just value the craft of their neighborhood artisans.  To faire le course, the mundane task of food shopping, can take several stops.  Although it would be more efficient to stock up  (American-style) at the grocery just once a week, our fridge is half the size of those which can accommodate a proper trip to Kroger.  This is precisely why I love the market; twice a week, I can stock up on the freshest products that I need in just one place.  Take a look at these quick tips.

Tips 

1. If you are visiting Paris, click here (http://marche.equipement.paris.fr/tousleshoraires) to find a market near you.  Spring is just around the corner. And there is no better way to assemble a fabulous picnic.

2. Shop around.  There is something for everybody and a booth for everything: bouchers, chicken specialists, fish mongers, Greek specialties, eggs, cheese.  Prices and quality vary with each vendor.  In general, the deeper into the market, the less expensive.  Often times, prices are cheaper than the grocery stores and the quality is superior

3.  If PRODUCTEUR is advertised in a stall, the fruit and vegetables are coming directly from the source.  Although the produce may not be as impeccable-looking as neighboring booths, its freshness is top.  

4.  Say hello to your vendors.  I have been going to the same bargain booth for years now.  And the venders recognize my loyalty.  They call me princess and give me free avocados.  And they don’t give me a hard time when I beg them not to use plastic bags.  Hypermarche be damned!
Although the farmers market trend is going strong in the States, the bi-weekly market is a simple pleasure, deeply engrained into everyday life.  So you can have your still life and eat it, too.



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…

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.