Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tarts, Pies, Galettes

In France they are the dessert of choice. From quiche to apple tart--some sort of crusty based pastry is going to make its way onto your plate at sometime during the day.
Considering you can buy pre-made shells for less than 50 cents it makes sense.
Oh, these puns are painful, but I can't stop! Blame my dad, he passed this down to me.

Anyways here are a few I have made.

The galette was homemade. A Martha Stewart adaptation. You can substitute the butter for vegetable shortening or those Vegan butter sticks if you would like to got the no animals-involved route, and it will be just as delicious. Plums, apricots, apples work great and hazelnuts just as well.

Plum and Peach Galette


Last piece!

Caramelized onions, Roquefort/Goat Cheese tart

I couldn't decide which cheese would go better with the onions so half and half. I am partial to the Roquefort.

Apricot tart

Fruit Galette
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Serves 8

2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces (or Vegetable shortening)
5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup ice water
1/4 cup almonds, toasted (or hazelnuts)
6 to 7 plums, apples, apricots, peaches halved, pitted and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream or egg white (0ptional)

In a large bowl combine 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon sugar and salt. Mix together then add butter. Using a pastry cutter cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup ice water. Mix into the flour mixture until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeeze. If necessary, add 1 tablespoon of ice water at a time until you reach the right consistency. Shape dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a food processor add toasted almonds, 5 tablespoons sugar, and 2 tablespoons flour; pulse until ground unto a coarse meal.

Preheat oven to 350°F. On a floured surface roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle dough with almond mixture. Fan fruit out onto dough, leaving a 2 inch border. Fold edge of dough over fruit. Refrigerate 20-30 minutes. Brush crust with cream or egg wash; sprinkle galette with sugar. Bake until crust is golden and underside is cooked through, about 70 minutes.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Citrus, Olive Oil and Salt

I went to the market this morning. This is what I got. I get a high from going to the market. It takes every willpower cell in my body to resist buying everything there. This was restraint at its peak.

I have a tendency to over-think my dishes.
I get inspired and then get distracted by the bazillion ingredients I could combine it with and spend far too much time trying to decide on how to combine them all.

Today was a day that I was reminded why I should clam down, look at what I have and not obsess on creating some blow-your-mind flavor sensation that the world has yet to discover. Seriously.

Unless you are some master-wizard chef, most flavor combos have been thought of and we are all plagiarizing to a degree.

Every time I think of a new dish I could make all I need to do is hit the Google and ta-da!


50 other people have already done it.

So much for originality.

BUT we can all put our own spin and stamp on things. And why mess with a good thing?

I will never be some molecular gastronomy chef. That involves Science which involves math, which I failed.

I get inspired by ingredients and produce and eating and people who love to eat my food.

Especially people who like to eat my food.

Without an audience I feel like a circus clown under house arrest. (What does that mean? It sounded good at first but upon proofreading...hmmmm...)

Anyways. Here was my lunch.

I was reminded why simple is best.

Tablespoon of olive oil. Juice of a lime. Sea salt.

When in doubt look to this threesome. They never disappoint.

Couple handfuls of arugula and some of the lovely shelled peas. Chop up some mint---around a couple tablespoons. . Sprinkle with feta or another salty cheese.

Manchego or parmesan but not shredded parmesan that comes out of anything plastic.

If you go the parmesan or manchego route use a vegetable peeler to cut off long stips. Toss and dive in!

PS. I hate being in front of a computer. Uploading posts is like forcing me in front of a computer. There is no metaphor because I am it. So if I must, this is now the view I expect my office to have.

Spoiled brat.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Wine. I love it. Red. White. Rose. Sparkling. All are in my good books.

France is number 1 at making it.

No, I am not saying they are the best (but they do a very good job) but they do make the most of it.

Since my love affair with it began, I am more in love with it today than when we met.

I cannot say that about many things.

At first, I was introduced to it do the “vendanges” which is the grape harvest in Switzerland.

Yes, Switzerland makes wine.

The year was 1996 and I needed to make some extra cash while traveling. It was such a memorable experience. Waking up at 7, hitting the vineyards, having a glass by 9:30am—I love it when drinking on the job is encouraged!

Since then and especially in the last 7 years or so I have developed a great appreciation and tolerance for this fermented grape liquid.

I must confess I have acted snobby and silly towards it and am slightly embarrassed of my behavior. It is like wine is the cool kid in school and you have to say the right thing and wear the right clothes in order to be their friend.

I think the more wine knowledge you get the less snobby and pretentious you become. Like confident yet humble people, I think if you know you don’t need to boast.

I recently just took the level 2 Wine and Spirit Education Trust course. This certifies me to be really annoying to people who are not into wine at all.

But I digress.

My point is that I had the most fantastic instructor. This guy knows alot about wine.

He was so un-judgmental and open with his views on it I was almost taken aback.

I approached him with like an eager 5 year old on the first day of Kindergarten

“You know everything! Now give me your opinion!”

But he didn’t.

He just let you decide.

If he didn’t share your opinion, stated why, the reasons and in the most non-condescending way.

What it taught me most of all was two things:

1. Wine is Objective

2. Wine is Subjective

Yup. Some people only drink red. A red over $75 dollars in a restaurant.

Some people only drink red. A red under $ 15 dollars in the liquor store.

Some people love white. Some love white with bubbles but ONLY if the bubbles were carbonated from a specific area in France.

Some people don’t give a shit and will drink whatever is put in front of them.

And the right answer to how to drink wine is all of the above.

Because really, if it makes you happy, you are having a good time and the wine is enhancing whatever experience you are in, then that is what it is all about.

I have been pretty damn blessed to get to drink some lovely wines while here. The other night we did a blind tasting of some Bordeaux's.

I was able to identify each (cough cough--boast-ing) but really what that means is that the wine course taught me to dissect wine and identify its particular traits, characteristics and flavours.

So, while the most expensive bottle definitely was the most complex and had a lot going on, it was not the most desirable on the palate.

Which brings me to the moral of this story.

Since, I have been here, I have drunk a considerable amount of wine.

What kind you ask?

This kind

A rose from Provence in a box.
That retails for around 10 Euros. For 5 litres!

Oh and this is the latest aperitif to hit France.

juice/syrup and Rose.

Don’t jud
ge me.


BUT, taste it and then tell me it isn't like a boozey non-carbonated pink Fre
sca dream.

Seriously. It is delicious. If the word wine wasn't on the box it wouldn't be under such harsh criticism.

Hot days demand a cool refreshing drink and in the wise words of my wine instructor “When I am at the beach in July I don’t want a Chateau Margeaux, I want a cool $10 dollar bottle of Pinot Grigio or a light Rose”

Amen. And cheers.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Blue Cheese & Sancerre

Cheese, Fruit and Sweetness (in the form of Honeycomb)

A trifecta of flavour sensations.

Apples. Tart apples.

Roquefort (or anything blue and moldy and STRONG!)

Honeycomb (this one was very floraly as the bees must have spent their time on some lavender and such)


Don't forget the wine. Sancerre is what we had but drink anything you want!

All lined up and ready to go.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Happy Bastille Day OR What France Does Better...

Yes, I am that annoying person right now who is in the first few weeks of dating someone they really like. That someone happens to be a country.

Called "FRANCE".

So, basically the equivalent of making out on park benches and other public places, talking about the person/place ALL THE TIME.

Annoying as hell. I am in the honeymoon stage.

But, like all people in love I am oblivious to your rolling eyes and your under your breath’s and mumbling's of ‘whatever, lets see you in 6 months’ .

So here we go.

Why I am infatuated with France.

Number 1


Supermarket Cheese

I don’t think anyone could argue this with me. Seriously. You could eat a different cheese every day of the year (true fact) and they all practically cost under 3 Euros.

Cheese is so good.

Runny cheese. Stinky cheese. Hard cheese.

Love them all!

Never get tired of them.

Market Cheese

Number 2.


When I see this at the local supermarket, I imagine little Jean and Claudette* skipping off to school with these tucked away in their lunch boxes.

*Note: Totally fictional characters and by no means am I saying children here drink underage. They do. This is lunch box friendly and probably happens. Everyone leads a happier life because of it.


We have bottles of Bordeaux for $1.99?! Is this a dream?!

May I also say how wine in general, promotes family and social gatherings, which is one of the benchmarks of French society. European society, in general. (By the way I make this stuff up based on opinionated observations)

Yup. I realize I could say that in a less alcoholic way but, it is a fact.

Yesterday we went to a local village picnic. Locals got together in the town square. They brought some food, some wine and conversation and made it a good old time.

This sort of activity would be illegal back home, as enjoying a glass in public is against the law.

So lets segregate the kids and parents and pretend they don’t drink.


Enough of a rant.

I don’t want to hate. I just want to share this experience with the rest of the world.

Ian, Paul & Tom enjoying the picnic

Jean-Jacques (in scarf). He is one of my faveourite people here.

Number 3


French Vogue? Blowing my mind. All the spreads are super inspiring, sexy and enchanting.

Yes, I realize this says Greece. But it is the current issue of French Vogue with a photo shoot in Greece.

It translates so well. I mean I WANT to be this girl. Sometimes I find fashion layouts to be so out there and far-fetched I cannot relate.

The men? Scarves, tailored suits, beautiful brogues.

Attention to detail.

They care about what they look like and appear to ENJOY shopping.

Imagine that!

Number 4

Le Dejeuner.

Lunch time!!! Here in France NOTHING, and I repeat NOTHING comes between the French and their mid-time meal. You could be giving birth and stop the show for a glass of red, some fromage, charcuterie and salad.


A few weeks ago we went to the local Brocante which is like a massive garage sale that everyone in the surrounding 100kms brings all their old Nana Mouskouri records, mismatched cutlery, dated clothing and other dust collectors to and sells them all in a big field.

By 12:00 all the vendors took a time out, pulled out a fold up table a bottle or two of vino and some grub and chowed down. Yup, food is priority number one.

Number 5

Architecture and landscape.

So gorgeous. I melt and swoon everytime I pass a stone farmhouse, babbling brook, vineyard---you name it.

This country nailed it.

You can see why the French get a tad cocky about this place.

It is pretty idyllic.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Local Delights


They are everywhere. Fields upon fields. Sunflowers and vineyards. They are the reason I get lost whenever I got out for a bike ride. Everywhere is a sunflower field or vineyard. You cannot tell one from the other. They are the best though. How can you not smile when you see them? Seriously.

I think if they grew sunflowers everywhere there would be no wars* because how can you be mad in a field of sunflowers?!

*based on my silly opinion and nothing else.


This is a fortified wine made with Cognac, and is the local aperitif. Tastes kinda like a sherry or port.

They have it everywhere. There is even a Miss PIneau contest. I don’t know what kind of honour it carries or what you have to do to qualify

but if consumption gets you points I need to try o

ut for Miss. Medoc or Miss. Puilly Fuse. I do like the Pineau but in small amounts.

It is very sweet. It is especially good on my next delight as a summer dessert.

I made some amazing mussels with this recipe from Epicurious.

You can substitute grape juice and Cognac like the recipe says if you cannot get the Pineau.


In this particular area I am in, cantaloupe is in season and so devine I feel bad calling it cantaloupe, because it is so much more.

I have never had cantaloupes’ this good. I think I have eaten more of it in the past few weeks than in my entire life.

It is like the difference of having Wonderbread and a fresh baguette.

I must do a comparison to illustrate how much better it is.


The incredible dairy here makes for an astounding selection

of yogurts.

Aisles of it.

I mean look at this!

ALL yogurt (ok, some mousses and puddings as well).

I spent the better part of an afternoon inspecting the flavours, textures and brands.

I have a particular affection for the fromage blanc. They have it in a light version. It is smooth, creamy and tastes super decadent.

I get the plain version and then contaminate with loads of preserves.

This one has a fig, orange and walnut chutney in it.

Back in Canada I recommend getting the non-fat Liberty Greek yogurt and doing the same thing. A nice jam or honey or stewed fruit is such a tasty addition.