There’s nothing like a soon-to-be mother-in-law! Fortunately, as of now, I’ve only good things to tell. When I moved to France, I quickly learned that Sunday was the ultimate day of relaxation. I mean a ‘watching 3 movies, not moving the couch’ type of Sunday. And thanks to France, I was finally able to train myself to do this without feeling a drop of guilt. When I started seeing C, I learned Sunday was the ultimate day of family, too. Whenever we weren’t glued to the couch or scavenging for food after noon, we were more than likely on our way to his parent’s place in the 15th arrondisement. C’s mother is a very striking beauty. She’s impeccably preserved with radiant, olive skin and dark tresses. Only her slow walk gives away the fact she’s in her early 70s. She’s a retired primary school teacher. Thankfully, she speaks clearly and simply enough for both a 4h grader and a barely bilingual Americaine like me to understand. And she just adores her son. She beams when she sees him and buys him a chocolate basset hounds every Easter and is quick to pull out his childhood photos. But I knew she finally warmed up to me when she whipped out the vegetables just for me! And plenty of them! Carotte rappe with just a touch of olive olive, cucumbers simply dressed with vinegar, and the most beautifully sumptuous red pepper and tomato salad/confiture/thing you must try at home!
So, it’s just a kilo of tomatoes and a kilo of red peppers. It’s that easy. They are scorched on either an open flame or in the broiler until their skins are completely black and pull away from the flesh. From there, wrap them in a papertowel and wrap in a plastic bag until they cooled. Remove the skins and slice into strips. From there, place the sliced peppers and tomatoes into a skillet with some olive oil and let them slowly concentrate until they morph into their own sauce. Add a little water here and there to keep them from sticking to the pan and to continue the caramelizing. After about 45 minutes-1 hour, you are left with is just the silkiest and smokiest thing that has ever come out of 2 kilos of vegetables. The sweetness of the peppers mellows out the acidity of the tomatoes brilliantly. With the necessary addition of baguette, you’re set for a terrifically light lunch or first course. Or reserve a little for your omelet the day after. Or place on top of a crostini with a little goat cheese for an elegant hors d’oeurves. But from my experience, the salad won’t last long enough to consider sharing.
From this day on, I still haven’t seen this little salad anywhere else! Unlike the Thai chicken wraps or the Mexican tortilla soup my family has adopted as our own family recipes from the supermarket periodical aisle, I can assume this recipe is one of those time-treasured Marseillaise recipes made in C’s family for at least a couple of generations. And nothing can taste as good! Not even a molten chocolate Martha Stewart recipe from my family recipe vault. Enjoy.
Although I had initially set out of the make this a bi-coastal New Yorkaise/Parisienne food blog, my interests are slowly moving more permanently overseas. My boyfriend and I have started the process of getting hitched Parisien style! And a process it is! Before I can start gushing about boutonnières and Jordan almonds, like all things French, there is an endless stack of paperwork that needs to transpire before the wedding plans can begin. At this rate, I’ll need a notarized letter to get the handful of rambunctious Kaneloses into the country for the wedding. Although there’s a bevy of ‘How to Marry to French Guy!’ and ‘Yikes, I married a sexy Frenchman’ websites, none of them spell out the actual process. Falling in love is the easy part. Not to put a damper on the exciting prospects ahead by being so damn practical, but I will try to consolidate the months of the process into one whirlwind blog. But I promise it will be much more amusing than French bureaucracy alone.
So in brief, I moved to Paris weeks after college graduation! It was my way to learn a new language and escape the inevitable recession. I worked as a jeune fille au pair; the domestic right of passage for any wide-eyed expat girl! More on that later. When I wasn’t blow-drying this small child’s hair or cutting her chicken cordon bleu into small pieces, I was out-and-about in the fine city of Paris! Just months before I had planned to return to the States, I met C at my favorite little indie bar in the 11th arrondissement. There was beer in plastic cups and the Smiths were in the background. It was love at first sight. But more on that later. After two years of togetherness and several periods of long-distance, we are ready to take the next step to be together! And that’s where you find me here now pondering out loud how to get Sarah Burton to design my wedding gown…
I never tasted panna cotta until about a year into Paris, in the early ‘wining and dining’ days of my courtship with C. After a beautifully prepared Italian dinner at Swan et Vincent, a neighborhood restaurant in the Bastille quartier, he ordered panna cotta for dessert. It came to our table humbly in a ramekin with a veil of raspberry coulis. But its simplicity was a marvel! It had the luxurious texture of a proper pudding, but with an absolutely pure taste of cream, milk, and vanilla bean. Panna cotta is to pudding as gelato is to ice cream. Panna cota and gelato showcase the flavor of their ingredients without being weighed down with eggs. And luckily, for the humble home cook, this makes it a lot easier to make, too!
I hold no grudges against animal hooves, but the inclusion of gelatin in recipes always intimidated me a bit before making this. But much like quinoa or fennel, it was just a matter of time and a good recipe to take away any culinary fear! A basic mixture of cream, milk, and sugar is heated until warm enough to melt good-quality dark chocolate and the softened gelatin. If you are more vanilla than chocolate, the chocolate can easily be replaced with a halved and seeded vanilla bean. The mixture is poured into individual cups and chilled. I do not know who I am quoting when I say this (too much Saveur Magazine), but the finished panna cotta should have the ‘wobble of a woman’s breast’. And remember, respect for quality, pure ingredients will leave you with an exceptional result every time! Enjoy!
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