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!
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?
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.
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.