Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Today's Lunch

Today for lunch I brought an endive salad to the office. When endives are small and crisp white, they are not bitter at all and they are so refreshing! Eating raw endives brings as much pleasure to the ears as to the palate. They are divinely crunchy and juicy. Hmmm... I'm salivating!

For 2 (as a main dish):
  • 6 small endives
  • 3 Roma tomatoes
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs
  • 2 handfuls half walnuts
  • 1 handful black olives
  • 1 finely sliced scallion
  • 3 tablespoons vinaigrette dressing

  1. If the endives are small, no need to remove the core. Simply slice them into 1" segments. The leaves will fall apart by themselves. Cut the core into 4 pieces.
  2. Cut the tomatoes into 4 wedges then in 2 again.
  3. Cut the eggs into 4 wedges.
  4. Slice the scallion thinly (use the white part and some of the tender green but not the whole length of it).
  5. Add the walnuts and olives.
  6. Toss with the salad dressing.

Another popular endive salad is made with cubed Gruyère cheese, green apple slices, walnuts (and endives).

Friday, March 24, 2006

Last year on March 24...

Last year on March 24, I hit the "Publish" button of my very first post! My French Cuisine was born, with the sweet taste of a chocolate mousse. It took me 365 days to make another one and take a picture this time.

My first year of food blogging has been everything from fun to frustrating, from motivating (what a good excuse to try out new recipes,to spend the time to care about the details, and to try to make the dish look as nice as possible...) to discouraging (why work so hard on publishing recipes while there are so many wonderful blogs out there?). It has been rewarding many times (thank you all for your nice comments and emails!). And I guess overall it has been a very satisfying learning experience in many more ways that I could have imagined. The bottom line is that I feel like sticking around some more on the blogosphere. :-)

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog so far and that you'll come back often! "Your opinion is important to us" so don't hesitate to leave a comment any time.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

La moutarde me monte au nez

Be reassured, I'm not actually loosing my temper. I just want to explain another food idiom! La moutarde me monte au nez litterally means "the mustard is getting up my nose". Now if you've ever tried real Dijon mustard (it's much hotter than the one sold in the US; even French brands seem to make it milder for exportation), you can imagine the effect of eating a spoonful of this nose-tickling condiment. When someone is upset and his/her face gets gradually red (you know, like in cartoons!), you can tell that "la moutarde lui monte au nez".

Talking about mustard, I have a new favorite brand! I was looking for Maille mustard the other day at Whole Foods Market but couldn't find it. Maille is excellent (they used to sell it in gigantic jars -1 pound!- at Williams Sonoma. Can't find it there anymore). Not knowing what to do, and not being able to live a few days without mustard, I picked a jar Beaufor's extra strong Dijon mustard at random (well not exactly. It was the "cheapest" -read the least expensive- jar on Whole Foods' gourmet shelves). And it turns out to be the best mustard I've ever tasted overseas! The fact that it is "extra strong" brings it to the the expected spiciness level. Their Moutarde à l'Ancienne (whole-grain mustard) and Moutarde aux Herbes de Provence are exquisite too.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

International Women's Day

No cooking today...

March 8 is International Women's Day. Although there is much to celebrate about, this day should also be a time to remember that there is a lot left to accomplish for women's rights, health and education around the world, even in "developed" countries. The simple fact that there is a need for a yearly event to celebrate women's achievements speaks volumes.

Here are a few links where you can find information on the subject.

Back to recipes in my next post...

Thursday, March 02, 2006

"Quatre Quarts" Pound Cake

Here is a cake recipe that's really piece of cake: the pound cake. The name of this cake comes from the fact that all ingredients are weighed and used in equal proportions (traditionally, one pound each of flour, butter, eggs and sugar). In French we call it "Quatre quarts" (litterally "4 fourths"), also reflecting the fact that all 4 ingredients are used in equal amounts.
It is a very simple yet deliciously fragrant and addictive cake. No additional flavoring is needed if you choose good quality products. The biggest challenge is to beat and blend the ingredients well enough to make the cake moist and fluffy (otherwise "pound cake" will have a very different meaning!). So:
  • Take 3 large eggs and weigh them. They should weigh about 2 oz. each (60 grams).
  • Weigh the same amount of all-purpose flour: 6 oz. (180 grams) or 1 1/4 cups
  • Weigh the same amount of sugar: 6 oz. (180 grams) or 3/4 cup
  • Weigh the same amount of butter: 6 oz. (180 grams) or 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks).
    You can use unsalted and salted butter (50-50), or unsalted butter alone with a good amount of salt (up to 1 teaspoon). The first time I've used salted butter in a pound cake, I thought I'd just made a huge mistake (I intended to use unsalted butter) and panicked. But it turned out to be really good, maybe even better than with unsalted butter: all the simple and earthy flavors of the butter, sugar and egg are enhanced by the salt. And it gives the cake the unique flavor of Britany pastries, that also use "beurre demi-sel". Free trip to the beach!
  1. Pour the sugar in a large bowl. Pour the melted butter* and blend it in with a wooden spoon until smooth.
  2. Separate the egg yolks from the whites. Set the whites aside.
  3. Add the egg yolks to the sugar-butter mix. Stir well (with the wooden spoon). The more energetically you beat, the fluffier the cake.
  4. Slowly add the sifted flour and incorporate it gradually as it falls on the batter.
  5. Add some salt (up to a whole teaspoon). This isn't needed if you are using salted butter.
  6. Add a pinch of salt to the egg whites and beat until stiff. If the egg whites have been beaten enough you should be able to flip the bowl upside down and they won't fall down... Up to you to take the risk!
  7. Incorporate the egg whites to the batter, one big spoonful at a time, very delicately, making under-and-over motions until evenly blended. The foam (air bubble) shouldn't "break". This is also a very important step in getting a fluffy cake.
  8. Pour the batter in a buttered round metallic cake mold (about 12" 9-10 inches in diameter).
  9. Bake at 350F (180C) for about 45 minutes or until baked (if you stick a knife in the center of the cake it should come out dry).

* For long I've melted butter directly in the cake pan, in the preheating oven. This way the mold was buttered and I didn't have to wash another dish. But it's easy to "over melt" the butter (i.e. get to the point where it's bright yellow and oily rather than white and foamy). Now that I have a micro-wave (it's only been a few months, believe it or not) I find it even more convenient to melt the butter in there. My micro-wave even has a "melt butter" button!