Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thanksgiving dinner—a memo for next year

I hope that those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving had a wonderful time last Thursday—we certainly did. My parents were visiting from France, and we prepared our first ever traditional Thanksgiving dinner together. We usually jump on the occasion of a 4-day weekend to travel around the US, but staying home with family and cooking all day was actually quite enjoyable (as always!).

We prepared no fewer than 8 dishes from scratch, using recipes we had never tried before, with lots of unfamiliar ingredients and techniques. Quite a challenge... But everything turned out great. Before I forget, let me write down what we cooked. This will come in handy a year from now... Or sooner...


We started with dessert, using this butternut squash pie recipe from High Ground Organics farm, but with orange kabocha squash, heavy whipping cream, and this pie crust. I had roasted the squash and taken a ball of pie dough out of the freezer the night before, and was ready to go in the morning.


Before lunch I had also made corn bread, half of which got used in the stuffing, and the other half served with the appetizer.

I used the Southern Corn Bread recipe from Joy of Cooking (75th anniversary edition, page 632). It was really fun to see the batter start cooking as soon as I poured it in the hot pyrex dish. It smelled delicious too!

The stuffing recipe also came from Joy of Cooking: Bread Stuffing with Giblets (page 534). I replaced the chopped nuts with a jar of chestnuts, cut in 2–3 pieces each, and chose the "sausage meat" option (using mild Italian sausage). We followed Alton Brown's advice and didn't actually stuff the turkey, but baked the stuffing (or is it dressing in that case?) separately.


Alton Brown also provided the secrets to a delicious turkey roast. We brined a 13-lbs all-natural, free range turkey (from Diestel Ranch) in our biggest cooler for 24 hours (after thawing it for about a day in the fridge), then roasted it for about 2.5 hours.
We replaced allspice berries with cinnamon and nutmeg in the brine (just because we didn't have any allspice).


My friend Susyn had sent me her cranberry relish and candied yam recipes, which her mother and grandmother had passed on to her. I felt very honored to be given such treasures. 
The relish was simply a raw mix of cranberries and navel oranges, with a little bit of brown sugar. It was amazingly refreshing.


The yams were boiled then sliced and covered with a sauce made of caramelized navel orange zest, juice, and brown sugar.
Susyn had said "yams, not sweet potatoes," but I couldn't resist the temptation to try different types of yams. From left to right in the upper left corner picture: Japanese yam, Hannah yam, Jewel yam, and Garnet yam. (In the lower right corner picture: Hannah, Jewel, Garnet, Japanese.) I believe that Garnet yam is the most traditional one. 


The last side dish was Brussels sprouts. We found our inspiration in Jerry James Stone's recipe on KQED's Bay Area Bites. Instead of baking the tiny cabbages on skewers, we simply steamed them in a pressure cooker for a few minutes, then sautéed them in a pan with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and pine nuts, and added freshly grated parmesan cheese at the last minute.

The appetizer was a radicchio salad with pecan nuts and a honey vinaigrette dressing. This was Pierre's invention, and a very fresh and light start to a copious dinner. 


There was one bit of Frenchness in this meal... Did you see the wine bottle? It was a 1999 Gevrey-Chambertin (from Côte d'Or, near Burgundy), which we had bought at the château several years ago, during a vacation there with my parents. There wasn't a better occasion than this family reunion in our country of adoption to open this little gem.



Thursday, August 09, 2012

Lemon verbena tea


Lemon verbena infusion is one of these tried and true "grandmother's remedies" that are really enjoyable. Drink a cup after a heavy meal and you won't suffer indigestion. Not only is this drink good for your gut, it freshens the mouth and gives you the perfect excuse for a relaxing break during your day. Time will stop for a few minutes while you sip your hot "verveine."

People in France love herbal teas. Actually, when I am in France, I am offered an herbal tea after every single meal—lunch and dinner, heavy or not. Stores in France offer an incredible selection of tea bags filled with all kinds of tasty herb and flower mixes, but many families still grow (or pick) and dry their own medicinal herbs. Some very common examples are lime blossom (linden tree flower—le tilleul), chamomille, thyme, mint, and of course lemon verbena. All can be brewed and turned into delectable beverages and have specific benefits. Chamomille and linden are great bedtime relaxation teas. Thyme is antiseptic and can help fight a cold or sore throat—you can simply inhale the vapors if you don't like the taste. Mint and lemon verbena (often used together) are said to have digestive and antioxidant properties.


I bought a plant several years ago in a nearby nursery (probably SummerWinds in Sunnyvale) and it might be the only plant I haven't managed to kill yet :-) The more I trim it the more it grows. It sits in a rather cool, partly shaded corner of my backyard and gets watered by the sprinklers every day.

I trimmed the longest branches a few weeks ago—this can be done all through the spring and summer—rinsed them very rapidly to remove any dust from the leaves without rinsing off the flavors, then hung the branches upside down in my kitchen for 3 days. When the leaves became brittle, I knew they were dry. I cut the branches into 1–2" sticks (cutting between every group of leaves, or every other group), then stored in a glass jar.


I use 3 or 4 sticks (with the verbena leaves attached to them) in every mug with about 2 cups of boiling water. I brew for several minutes and drink hot. If you prefer something sweet, try adding a teaspoon of honey.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A few more green tips

Hope you all had a nice Earth Day today. Here are a few more tips and links to conclude this week's blogging marathon. You can access all these posts by clicking the Green Your Kitchen tab at the top of this blog.


Origin and Nature of your Food
Many factors contribute to the energy bill of the food we eat:

  • The type of food it is (Livestock consumes a lot more energy than fields of vegetables for instance) 
  • The way it is produced (Is the food produced organically or with the use of petroleum products for instance?) 
  • The distance it travels before reaching your kitchen 
  • The type of transportation used and the quantity transported on each trip 
  • The amount of processing involved in producing the food
  • The type of packaging used

Although some of these variables are difficult to determine, keeping them in mind and being as well informed as you can will help you choose healthy, tasty, and eco-friendly foods. (This is true for drinks too, including water.)

Cooking Methods
The judicial use of cooking methods and appliances can have a positive impact on your energy use. Here are a few tips:

  • Before cooking: thaw food in the refrigerator to shorten the cooking time, and avoid preheating your oven.
  • While cooking: avoid heat loss by using pots and pans sized for the amount of food being cooked and for the diameter of the burner, using lids, and avoiding peeking. Use energy-efficient cooking methods (such as pressure-cooking).
  • After cooking: use the residual heat of your oven to start cooking another dish or warm up your home. (And eat raw food, such as salads, on hot summer days, to keep your house cool.)
  • Double your recipe and save half for later.

Dish Washing
Using a built-in dishwasher is generally more efficient than washing the dishes by hand. However, you can further reduce your water and electricity usage by doing the following:

  • Scrape dirty cookware and plates rather than rinse them. 
  • Run full dishwasher loads. 
  • Use the "light wash" and "air dry" (non-heated dry) settings of your dishwasher.
Links


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Unplugging small appliances


There is time for one more post before Earth Day tomorrow. This week I have told you about freezer and refrigerator temperatures, hot water temperature, and energy-efficient lighting. Let's talk about one more way to save electricity.

Most electric appliances consume energy as soon are they are plugged in, whether they are actively used or not. The power is drawn from digital clocks and displays, remote controls, or voltage regulators, and can be as high as 10 to 15 watts. This standby power is sometimes called "phantom load."

How to measure your energy usage
You can use a wattmeter to measure the electric power of any device plugged to an outlet. (Some public libraries lend wattmeters.)
  1. Plug the wattmeter to the electric outlet.
  2. Plug the device to the wattmeter.
  3. Read the power usage in watts when the device is running.
  4. Read the power usage in watts when the device is in standby mode (that is, plugged in but not performing its main function).
You can then compute the yearly energy usage of your appliance with the Energy Usage Calculator provided below.

When the appliance is in use, the wattmeter indicates how much power is needed to run the appliance. This allows you to compute how much energy you consume by using your appliance and encourages you to think of a less powerful appliance to use or to use it for shorter periods of time.

When the appliance is in standby mode, the wattmeter indicates its phantom load. This allows you to compute how much energy is wasted by keeping your appliance plugged in when not in use.


Energy Usage Calculator
Daily Appliance Usage:
hours/day
Measured Power (in Use):
Watts
Measured Power (Standby):
Watts
Electricity Rate:
$/kWh
––––––––––––––––––––––
Yearly Energy Usage:
kWh/year
$/year
Yearly Energy Waste:
kWh/year
$/year
Percentage of Energy Wasted:
%
(Numbers are shown as an example. Enter your own data.)


Example
When your coffee maker is in use, the wattmeter reads 800 watts. The coffee maker is in use for 30 minutes (or 0.5 hours) every day. Your yearly energy usage is 145.6 kWh/year. At a rate of $0.12233 per kWh, brewing coffee costs $17.81 per year.

When your coffee maker is in standby mode, that is, when you aren't brewing any coffee but the digital display is on, the wattmeter reads 3 watts. If the coffee maker is plugged in around the clock but you actively use it for only 30 minutes every day (that is, it is in standby mode 23.5 hours per day), the energy wasted in a year is: 25.7 kWh/year, which translates into $3.14 per year.

In this example, 15 percent of the energy consumed by the appliance is due to phantom load, and is thus wasted.


Friday, April 20, 2012

CFL vs. LED vs. Incandescent Light Bulbs

Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) use about 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer.

Light emitting diode bulbs (LEDs) seem to be even more attractive, as they use the same amount of energy as CFLs, but last at least 15 times longer than incandescent bulbs. They may eventually replace CFLs as their price goes down.

Replacing incandescent light bulbs with CFLs or LEDs
A CFL or LED bulb will produce the same brightness, or light output, as an incandescent bulb, while requiring less power. Use the Energy Savings Calculator provided below to determine the power and energy savings obtained for each light. The energy savings depend on how long the light is turned on during the day.


Energy Savings Calculator
Old Bulb Power:
Watts
New Bulb Power:
Watts
Daily Bulb Usage:
hours/day
Electricity Rate:
$/kWh
––––––––––––––––––––––
Power Savings:
Watts
Yearly Energy Savings:
kWh/year
$/year
(Numbers are shown as an example. Enter your own data.)

Example
You replace a 60-watt incandescent light bulb with a 13-watt CFL. You are saving 47 watts of power.
Your lamp is turned on 4 hours per day. Your energy savings are 68.4 kWh per year.
At a rate of $0.12233 per kWh (check your electricity bill to find out your own rate), changing a light bulb is saving you $8.37 per year.

Multiply that by the number of lamps you use in the house, and by the number of houses in your city, etc., and these small savings will quickly add up.


Other tips for saving energy
Remember to turn off the light when leaving the kitchen, and make good use of daylight.

Buying guide
CFL and LED packages indicate the wattage of incandescent bulbs with an equivalent light output. For example a 13-watt CFL package will indicate that it is as bright as a 60-watt incandescent bulb. CFLs and LEDs come in various sizes, shapes and color temperatures.



   

Thursday, April 19, 2012

How much water comes out of your tap?


To continue this week's Green Your Kitchen series, I will show you how to measure your kitchen faucet flow rate.

Your faucet's flow rate indicates how much water passes through your faucet during a given amount of time. In the U.S., it is often measured in gallons per minute (gpm). The bigger the flow rate, the more water you consume.

The recommended flow rate is 1.5 gpm or less, which ensures proper pressure while minimizing water consumption. However most fixtures have a flow rate of 2.2 gpm or more, according to Energy Savers.

Recommended water flow rate: 
1.5 gallons per minute or less

How to measure the water flow rate
To measure your faucet's flow rate, follow these simple steps:
  1. Open the faucet completely.
  2. Collect cold water in a graduated container for an exact period of time (for example 4 seconds).
  3. Measure the amount of water collected.
  4. Convert your measurement to gallons per minute.
Use the Water Flow Rate Calculator provided below to convert your measurement in fluid ounces to a flow rate in gallons per minute.


Water Flow Rate Calculator
Amount of water collected:
fl.oz.
Measurement duration:
sec.
Water Flow Rate:
gpm
(Numbers are shown as an example. Enter your own data.)

For example, in the following video, I collected 17 fluid ounces of water in 4 seconds. My faucet's flow rate is hence 1.99 gpm.

video

Other tips for saving energy
Many little habits can help you save water. For instance, you can water your plants and garden with the water you use while cooking, whether it is the water you rinsed your vegetables in or the water you cooked them in and that you allowed to cool down.

Buying guide
If your faucet's flow rate is higher than 1.5 gallons per minute, buy a kitchen faucet aerator at your hardware store. An aerator will put air bubbles in your water flow, decreasing the volume of water flowing through, while maintaining the pressure of the stream.


   

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Is your hot water too hot?

Now that you have tuned up your refrigerator and freezer temperatures, how about tuning down your water heater?



Heating water accounts for 19 percent of a household's energy bill. Hot water should be set to no more than 120ºF to avoid scalding and heat loss.

Recommended water temperature: 120ºF (48.9ºC)

How to measure the water temperature
Measure the hot water temperature at the faucet that is the closest to your water heater, that is, where the hot water travels the shortest distance from the water heater.

Pour hot water in a container, plunge a water-proof thermometer, and wait until it stabilizes before reading the temperature. If you have to dial down the water heater's setting, wait 24 hours before performing a new measurement.

Other tips for saving energy
Providing adequate insulation around your water tank and pipes will help you keep hot water hot.

Buying guide
If you are about to buy a new water heater, you should consider one of the following options, as recommended by ENERGY STAR:

  • Whole home gas tankless water heater
  • Heat pump water heater
  • Gas condensing water heater
  • Solar water heater
  • High-efficiency gas storage water heater

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Is your freezer too cold?


To continue this week's Earth Day special Green Your Kitchen series, let's talk about refrigerator and freezer temperatures.


Your refrigerator and freezer account for about 5 percent of your household's energy usage. By setting them to the optimal temperatures, you can save substantial amounts of energy.

Recommended temperature settings:
Best1Maximum2
Freezer   0ºF   5ºF   
-17.8ºC-15ºC
Refrigerator   35–38ºF42ºF
1.7–3.4ºC   5.6ºC
1 Best temperature settings for energy efficiency
2 Highest temperature allowed for food safety


How to measure the temperature
To measure the temperature in your refrigerator or freezer, follow these instructions:
  1. Place a refrigerator thermometer in the center of your refrigerator or freezer, between two packages or food items.
  2. Close the door and wait for at least 20 minutes until the thermometer stabilizes.
  3. Read the temperature as soon as you take the thermometer out of the cold.
If you change your temperature settings, wait 24 hours before performing a new measurement.

Other tips for saving energy
The best way to keep the temperature constant is to keep your refrigerator or freezer always full. Fill it with water jugs when there is no food. (This is also a good way to keep emergency water handy.)

If you use two fridges, try to see if you can combine their contents and unplug the oldest or least energy-efficient one (you know, the one in the garage that you seldom use anyway).

Buying guide
The following recommendations from ENERGY STAR can help you improve the energy efficiency of your refrigerator and freezer:

  • Choose an ENERGY STAR model.
  • Choose a top-mounted freezer.
  • Purchase an appropriately-sized refrigerator.
  • Avoid ice-makers and dispensers.

(You must have noticed that the picture I took in my freezer tonight is a counterexample of what I just described—the thermometer is hanging in the void and the temperature is too high. Do as I say, not as I do...)

Earth Day Challenge










This Sunday, April 22, is Earth Day. A day dedicated since 1970 to mobilizing "people of all nationalities and backgrounds [to] voice their appreciation for the planet and demand its protection." I appreciate our planet, so for the occasion of Earth Day, I will blog all week about the "little" things you can do in your kitchen (and around the house) to save energy and water. Little things with a big impact!

I hope you will find these tips useful. I would love to hear about your own precious Earth-preserving tips. You can leave comments on this blog, on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

So let's get started...

Day 1—Introduction

Green Your Kitchen 
Over 20 percent of the energy used in the United States is consumed in residential houses1. In addition, over 3.8 billion gallons of water are used in residences every day2. If we combine our efforts, saving energy and water at home will have a huge positive impact on our environment.

This week's blog posts will help you reduce your energy and water consumption in the kitchen. You will learn how to measure your current consumption and how to perform simple upgrades, such as how to set your refrigerator temperature optimally. Additional tips will guide you in adopting environmentally friendly behaviors, such as unplugging your unused kitchen appliances.


Be green in 21 days — Washing your hands in cold water, turning off the water while washing the dishes, switching off the lights when you leave the kitchen, and recycling are small steps that will soon add up. New habits—good or bad—only take an average of 21 days to form3. If you can make a conscious effort to reduce your use of energy and water for three weeks, chances are you will keep behaving that way effortlessly for the rest of your life.

Five Upgrades You Can Perform in Minutes 
  1. Set your refrigeration and freezer to the optimal temperatures 
  2. Turn down your hot water temperature setting 
  3. Reduce your faucet flow rate 
  4. Use energy-efficient lighting 
  5. Unplug unused electric appliances 
I will blog about these and other tips and resources in the coming days. Stay tuned...


Sources:
1 U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Review 2009
2 U.S. Geographical Survey, Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 2005
3 Maxwell Maltz, Psycho-Cybernetics, 1960

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Easy week-night greens


I read this article in The Guardian the other day and thought that Eliane Glaser had a very good point. Sure, celebrity chefs do live in a bubble, and their culinary advice, as healthy and tasty and wonderful as they might sound, aren't always practical. But I work full time, I have two young kids, an overworked partner, no one around to give us a hand, and yet we cook dinner from scratch every single night. The kids and I get home at 6:30pm every week night and we are ready to eat dinner by 7:15. Dinners consist of freshly cooked vegetables, usually served with meat or fish (the type of recipes you read on this blog), then a dairy product (yogurt or cheese), and a fruit. Most nights we start with a salad or soup (made from scratch as well, including dressing). (For drinks: water.) So I know there is a way to eat healthy food even on a tight schedule, and I know that the food revolution isn't just a great big fat lie.

Well, that was my conclusion two weeks ago. Yesterday, I took this quiz by Charles Murray, on NPR.org, and had to admit that I, too, live in a pretty thick bubble. Hm... So... Err... Take my advice with a grain of salt ;-)

Here is one of my new week-night favorites. It works well aside grilled meat, baked fish, or a starchier vegetable dish (which can be as simple as boiled potatoes).

Serves 4

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil 
  • 1/2 yellow onion, coarsely chopped 
  • 2 cloves garlic, halved and stemmed 
  • 2 bunches swiss chards, or 1 bunch swiss chards and 1 bunch collard greens, or any other combination of green-leafed vegetables 
  • 2 Tbsp sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, cut into strips 
  • salt, freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1 tsp whole coriander seeds, crushed, or 1/2 tsp coriander seed powder 
  1.  If you use swiss chards and the stems are large enough, use them. 
    • Cut off the leaves close to the stem and reserve. 
    • Cut the base of each stem without detaching it completely, and pull the fibers that come off. 
    • Cut the stem again, 2 inches away from its base, starting from the other side of the stem, and pull off the fibers again. Repeat until you reach the tip of the stem. 
    • You are left with 2-inch strips of delicious stem, free of the extra fibers that would make them chewy.
    • Chop the stem strips. 
  2. Wash the stemmed leaves and drain them the way you would wash and drain lettuce leaves. Take a few leaves at a time, roll them together along their longer axis, and cut into 1-inch strips. 
  3. Heat up the olive oil in a sautee pan. Add the chopped onion, chard stems and garlic and sautee until translucent (1-2 minutes). 
  4. Add the greens and toss until all the leaves are wilted, but still bright (another 1-2 minutes). 
  5. Toss in the julienned dried tomatoes and seasoning. Serve immediately. 
Step 3 (with green onions instead of yellow, here)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Pear-almond tart

I brought dessert to a party a couple weeks ago and everyone asked for the recipe, so here it is. :-)



For a 10" tart (plus some left-over pastry):

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 125g sugar
  • 250g flour
  • 125g butter
  • 2 or 3 ripe pears (d'Anjou or Bartlett)
  • ground cinnamon
  • almond powder or thin almond slivers (optional)

Prepare the pâte sablée pastry as follows:
  1. Beat the egg, salt, and sugar in a large bowl, using a wooden spoon, until they become foamy and turn to a pale yellow. (Note: why use a stand mixer when you can have a free workout?)
  2. Sift all the flour at once over the egg and sugar mix. Start mixing slowly with the wooden spoon, then use your fingers to mix all the ingredients. Rub small amounts of dough between your fingers or hands to turn the mix into a grainy "sand." (Pâte sablée means "sanded dough.")
  3. Cut the butter into small parcels. If the butter is very cold, heat up in the microwave for a few seconds. Add to the mix and knead the dough with your hands very briefly, then form a ball. The dough should come off of your hands easily (add a little bit of flour if needed), but it remains a little sticky.
  4. (If the dough feels really soft, or you are making this recipe on a hot summer day, or in a warm kitchen, you may want to cool down the dough in the fridge for a while. This step is optional.) 
  5. Roll out the pie crust on floured parchment paper down to 3-4 mm in thickness. Press into the bottom of a 10" pie dish (mine is metallic). Punch a few holes in the crust with a fork.
  6. Bake the crust at 350ºF (180ºC) for about 15-20 minutes. It should remain pale.

Cut two ripe, juicy pears into quarters. D'Anjou and Bartlett (Williams) work great for this. Peel and core, then slice thinly. Arrange the pear slices on the pre-baked pie crust, either in circles on in rows.

Dust with cinnamon (just a tad), then add a few tiny bits of butter and optionally sprinkle with almond powder (1-2 TBSP) or almond slivers. Bake for about 10 minutes at 350ºF (180ºC).



I brought a 10" tart to the party, but for the picture, I made the same recipe again, using my daughter's bakeware: mini pie dish, mini utensils... And we made animal cookies with the rest of the dough. They were delicious.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Hi All!

Just a quick note to let you know that I have updated the Recipe Index and A La Carte pages (see the tabs  just under the blog title). I hope you'll have fun browsing my 80+ recipes, either by key word / main ingredient (in the Recipe Index) or by type of dish (with the A La Carte menu).

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

I accidentally made my best crepes ever


It was last weekend, a few days after la Chandeleur, the French "crepe day." I had made the batter around 4pm on Saturday, thinking that we would have the crepes for dinner that evening. Since the batter needs a couple hours of rest at room temperature, I left it on the kitchen counter while we visited our new friends, a family we met through preschool. But kids and parents alike had such a good time that we decided to end the day at the restaurant all together. I figured that the crepes could wait another day. On the way back from dinner, I put the bowl of batter in the fridge until Sunday's lunch. And what a lunch we had!

Making crepes is a bit like making jam, as far as I'm concerned: as simple as the recipe might be, something always goes wrong, and I never know what it is. Crepes end up being too thick, jam overcooks... It's an art much more than it is a science. Successes always seem like miracles. 

On Saturday, although I always prepare the batter with a wooden spoon and a manual whisk (and a fair amount of elbow grease), I decided to try using my shiny but seldom used stand mixer for a change. I weighed the flour into the mixing bowl, pushed the flour to the sides and added the beaten eggs in the center, then mixed a bit with a wooden spoon (see, I can't help it), letting the flour fall in little by little. I added the milk, oil, and salt. Then off to the mixer, on slow rotation, with the wire whip attachment (rather than the flat beater). After a minute or two, the batter was homogeneous. I then slowly poured in a bottle of beer and let the mixer do its magic for another couple of minutes. I covered the bowl of batter with a sheet of paper towel and let it stand at room temperature for roughly 5 hours, then in the fridge for another 15 hours or so. Did the extra night of fermentation do the trick? Was the mechanical whisking more efficient than the manual? Did I use more liquid than usual? Was it wiser to use a paper towel than a kitchen cloth? I don't really know.

When I took the bowl out of the fridge, the batter was quite liquid—something my cookbook said I didn't want. But the crepes ended up being perfect : thin and fluffy. They reminded me of the marvelous crepes I devoured in Brittany as a kid. (Brittany is where crepes originated. Bretons make their crepes very thin, almost like dentelle (lace), another of their renowned specialties.) But they also had that subtle fermented taste of South-Indian dosas (which are made of fermented rice and lentil flour). A great combination.

After a few savory crepes filled with French ham, mushrooms (sautéed in butter) and grated Emmentaler, I spread another one with redcurrant jelly, which I just happened to find in a gourmet store. This long forgotten taste brought me right back to my grandmother's house. She had several bushes of redcurrants in her backyard, and we would help her harvest les groseilles every year. She would make the most delicious jelly, in a giant copper pan (bassine a confiture), and covered each jar with a paper soaked in paraffin wax for better preservation, so we could enjoy the jelly all year round.

What a pleasure to accidentally make crepes that would remind me of such fond memories.

For 12 large crepes, 2 hours to 1 day in advance:
  • 250 grams flour 
  • 3 whole eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 liter whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • 2 or 3 pinches (about 1/2 teaspoon) salt
  • 11.2 oz (one bottle, about 1/3 liter) Kronenbourg 1664 beer, a pale lager from Alsace, or any other mild-tasting beer
  1. Mix all the ingredients slowly, in the order of the above list, until obtaining a smooth and runny (but not totally liquid) batter. 
  2. Let the batter rest at room temperature for at least 2 hours, covered with a paper or kitchen towel, then optionally in the fridge for up to a day.
  3. Heat up a large flat non-stick pan (ideally a crepe pan, but a frying pan does the job too) on medium-high heat. 
  4. Carefully wipe the whole pan with a paper towel on which you have poured a little bit of high-heat resistant oil, such as sunflower oil.
  5. Once the pan is hot, pour one laddle of batter in the center of the pan and quickly tilt the pan in a circular motion to cover the whole pan with batter. (The first crepe never looks good...)
  6. When the edges of the crepe start lifting up or change color (it should take a minute or less), flip the crepe with a long spatula. Cook the second side for another 20 seconds to one minute.
  7. Stack the crepes on a plate, or eat them as soon as they are ready.
I gave some filling ideas in this earlier post.


Thursday, February 02, 2012

Just for the eyes

A few souvenirs from my recent trip to Lyon...

Christmas lunch at my parents'


Shrimp, avocado, and grapefruit salad


Stuffed duck with truffles, sautéed potatoes, and mushrooms



Tome de Savoie, Beaufort, Charolais, Fourme d'Ambert, Saint-Félicien, and other delicious cheeses


Fruits déguisés ("costumed fruits"—dried dates, prunes, figs, and walnuts, stuffed with almond paste)

Dinner at my aunt's and uncle's


Raw oysters from the Atlantic ocean


Another lunch at my parents'


Beef roast just about to go in the oven
Sautéed zucchini and tomatoes


Baked apples sprinkled with cinnamon, butter and a little bit of sugar
(I believe they were Golden Russets—Reinettes grises du Canada)

Lunch at my parents-in-law's


Quail eggs


Saucisson de Lyon (regional cooked sausage. This one came from Pierre's grandmother's butcher.)


Pierre's aunt Suzanne's famous Christmas cookies


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Childhood memories

Hi everyone! Hope the new year started well for all of you.

I spent two weeks in Lyon over the holidays. My head is full of memories, and my camera full of pictures... I tried to capture all the beautiful and delicious food that my parents and parents in law lovingly cooked for us. I will share a selection in a later post.

Just before leaving for France, a friend had told me about a wonderful post she had read on TheKitchn.com, where Sara Kate gathered childhood pictures of her readers in the kitchens where they first learned to love food. I wondered if I could find any pictures on me in the kitchen(s) where I learned to love food. Glancing through my parents' photo albums proved to be quite emotional. Many long forgotten memories came back to mind. I smiled at the many happy faces and many sweet moments. Among these little treasures were several shots that immortalized my early love for cooking.


Cooking with my Mom (I look just like her now)



Picking wild blackberries with my Dad


Preparing and eating one of my first chocolate cakes