It’s sweet. It’s refreshing. It aids digestion, especially if you eat the whole thing. All that was left of this poor specimen was this drawing and a throbbing belly ache. Nevertheless, here’s a step-by-step guide to enjoying my favorite fruit, pineapple. Moderation at your own risk.
1.) Apricots! They’re starting to show up at the market, but they are just a taste of what’s to come. Cherries, nectarines, peaches, plums, mirabelles! I cannot wait to turn all of these beautiful summertime fruits into beautiful cakes, cobblers, and clafouti(s). Unfortunately, corn in France does not evoke the Midwestern summertime pastimes I think of. It’s basically pig feed. But it does not prevent me from being on a mission to find some proper sweet corn! “Chéri, fire up the barbie!”
2.) Fête de la musique. On June 21st, ringing in the summer solstice, France is bumping with free concerts, barbecues, block parties and dancing in the streets. Why can’t all festivals be for the sake of music’s sake?
3.) Cinéma en Plein Air de la Villette. When Paris transforms into a ghost town from July 25-August 26, the ‘left behind’ flock to free movie screenings every evening at dusk. Round up the friends, pack up a picnic, and the lawn chairs. I would recommend camping out early; the place fills up quickly. And if the sun is still out, I like to follow in the very big footsteps of Yogi Bear and creepily cruise around to see what is in other people’s picnic baskets. Anyway, «Métamorphoses» is this year’s theme. Check out the excellent schedule here.
4.) Living in a new place. Starting over and leaving the black mold behind. I wish that were a metaphor! Although our budget has been blown on the flat in favor of enjoying a proper vacation, we can still indulge in vacation pastimes such as bi-daily napping and stone fruit binges from the comfort of our new home. I don’t need no Loire Valley, I will have the Chateau de Vincennes on the way to the Metro now.
Just like any other day, aside from the crisper drawer full of Kodak, the fridge is barren, except for a well-rounded collection of condiments with nothing to put them on. But regardless of what’s inside, there are always a few zucchini lurking about. They are sturdy, reliable, adaptable, and have already outlasted Kodak.
I never cared much for zucchini in my previous life, pre-France. Growing up in the Midwest, zucchini was yet another victim of the deep fryer. And in the summertime, my mom always thought buying a 5-pounder from the farmer’s market would satiate our annual zucchini consumption. But in reality, half went to a zucchini bread and the other half was lost to the fridge. Just like avocado chocolate mousse and peanut butter & banana sandwiches, zucchini bread was another cultural over-share with mon mari qui fume. But that’s ok. In France, zucchini always seems to be in season and the price is always in reason. Mixed with a little creme fraiche and sprinkled with cheese, it bakes up into a beautiful gratin. I usually slice it and sauté it over a medium heat in olive oil with a crushed garlic clove until it caramelizes on both sides.
Mixed with anchovies and pasta or made into an omelette, this super-simple preparation heightens the nuttiness of the zucchini in less than 5 minutes. Now, what to do with all those condiments?
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?
Artichoke season is upon us. I can’t help but pick them up these beauties from the farmer’s market. Partially because they still remain a mystery to me. What’s one to do with that exoskeleton of tough scales? I know, I’ll watercolor it!
I must admit, I am still mastering the art of artichoke carving and preparation. But they will get my asparagus treatment, splitting them in half and baking them with a welcome smattering of garlic, lemon zest, parmesan and breadcrumbs. I need your help, dear readers. Please send me your favorite artichoke recipes!
Terraces and cigarettes. Rosé and the summertime. Radishes and butter. Radishes and butter? Yes! As a Ranch-dipping American, this came as a bit of a surprise to me . (How does one butter a radish? Have the French found an excuse to dip things into butter now? I admit to sneaking single-serving Country Crock packets under restaurant tables as a kid, but this is absurd!) In France, butter is the assigned spouse to radishes, with a sprinkle of extramarital sea salt just to keep things interesting. Although everyone does it differently, according to mon mari qui fume, the butter to my radish, the radishes are cut into four parts which create the surface area for the butter. The beauty of the pairing instantly makes itself clear; the smooth butter flatters the crisp, occasionally spicy radish. Give it a try! Anyone know where to get some Country Crock around here?
I am a real foodie now! I’ve started buying locally and seasonally. Farewell, sweet bananas and pineapples from faraway. See you sporadically! However, I made a recent discovery. Over Christmas vacation, we spent a few days at a friend’s cottage in the mountains near La Cévennes. The only fruit in the house were tiny kiwis no bigger than my thumb. And they were local, harvested just nearby. I always assumed that kiwi’s acidity and zippy vitamin C meant their origins were more tropical than domestic. But as winter fruit, they add a bit more variety to the apples, clementines, and grapefruits that fill the colder months. But since Spring has sprung, I should scrap this watercolor. It’s completely out of season!
Does this discovery come as a surprise to you, too?
Every now and then, we married folk give our MacBook Pros a rest and we get some fresh air.
Most recently, we caught Molière’s Le Malade Imaginaire at the Comédie-Française, where his plays have been produced since Molière himself. Unfortunately, the opulent Salle Richelieu is closed for renovations, but steps away in the Palais-Royal, the Comédie-Française is camped out temporarily in the Théâtre Ephémère. With 746 places, green construction, exceptional visibility even from the nose bleeds, and the unparalleled production values of the Comédie-Française, it was an evening of high culture with a very small addition. 65 places with an obstructed view are available at the last-minute, starting at 7:30 for just 5 euros. For all the young lovers under 28, free tickets are available on the first Monday of every month with the presentation of an id. When the curtain goes down, there is an obligatory stroll through the designer galeries of the Palais-Royal. Fortunately, Rick Owens does not frown upon a smiling window shopper.
To top off our evening, we grabbed a bite just nearby on Rue Sainte-Anne, the Japanese quartier of Paris. The long lines are a testament to which places are recommendable. One of our favorites is Aki at 11 Rue Sainte-Anne, 75001 Paris. Although there is a variety of soups and menus, the okonomiyaki, the seafood and vegetable omelette, is the highly-recommended specialty of the house.
It was such a wonderful evening, I had to run back home to my MacBook Pro and tell you all about it!