How and why you should celebrate Bastille Day!

RECIPE: Sloshed Red Berries in Rosé Wine with Thyme

Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong era because one of my favorite things to do is “entertain at home”.  Does that sound so Mitford?  I’ll be honest: I don’t do it as often as I would like.  The excuses are endless: I work, and I live in Manhattan where dinner out can cost as little as $7.00 and my “dining room” is the size of a postage stamp, and everyone’s schedule is a mile a New York minute.  But in serene moments, I fantasize about having everyone over, having the time and space to put out a feast, and just sitting all night talking and laughing and refilling wine glasses until the early morning.  I like that it’s about the company, which feels precious.  I like that it can last.  Shoes come off.  No one is waiting for your table.  And you make memories.

Consequently, I’m always looking for an occasion for a party.  And one that I am religious about is Bastille Day.  I’m half French, but most of my friends aren’t, so it’s always the perfect excuse to throw an “extra” celebration on the calendar.  Every year it changes.  One year, the famous Bastille Day can-can show at the now defunct but fabulous Florent in the Meatpacking District of New York City; another year, pétanque in Madison Square Park.  Sometimes, it’s just a bottle of rosé and sandwiches on the roof, or if we’re out of the city, a barbecue on the beach or in a backyard.  One lucky year, it was a rainbow of pastel fireworks from a bridge spanning the Seine, followed by a nightcap in a café spilling onto the sidewalk a stone’s throw from Notre Dame (that was while I was at Le Cordon Bleu, and I’ll never forget it).

As the multitude of French lifestyle books over the last few years will attest, you don’t need to be French to, well, be French!  And you know what?  I’m okay with that.  I have always been evangelical about French flavors and joie de vivre.  So this year, join me in throwing a fourteenth of July fête!  You don’t even need to tell people it’s Bastille Day – just use it as an excuse to have people over, to celebrate summer, to rejoice, and to say chin-chin.  Or, do as I do, and go all-out:

The Food

Crustless Quiche

Crustless quiche stuffed with tangy chèvre and fines herbes

It’s summer, so I always think picnic food, things that can be picked and nicked at will throughout a long, hot night.  A reader favorite has always been my Petite Crustless Quiches with Fines Herbes and Chèvre, which you could also bake as one large quiche and serve in wedges or squares.  I love Bon Appetit’s recipe for chicken roasted with garlic and herbes de Provence, which I serve at room temperature.  Another favorite is Elizabeth Bard’s oven-roasted ribs with honey and rosemary, from Lunch in Paris.  But my “franglais” choice for this year is the lowly merguez baguette, street food in France: spicy North African lamb merguez sausage, charred on the grilled, and stuffed unceremoniously in a crusty baguette.  I would add half sour or new pickles and cilantro for a banh mi feel, or, instead, goat cheese and drizzle of honey, or a wonderful American red pepper preserve, or a broccoli pesto.  It’s casual, but it’s not expected.

Merguez Baguette

Merguez baguette charred off the grill

To start, I recommend my riff on guacamole: avocado’s mashed with goat cheese and served with artisanal potato chips (try with sweet potato chips!) and crudités.

Rosé BerriesAnd for dessert, you have to try my new Sloshed Berries in Rosé.  It couldn’t be easier, and it is so good (I have just been eating it very fashionably out of a Ball jar from the fridge).  For four people, pour a cup of rosé wine (I used côtes de Provence) into a small saucepan along with three tablespoons of sugar.  Heat the two together just until the sugar dissolves; then turn off the heat, throw in one or two sprigs of fresh thyme, and let the syrup infuse until it comes to room temperature.  One of the best combinations I picked up in France is strawberry and thyme; the herb cuts through the sweetness and adds a woodsiness that you can’t quite place.  It feels grown up.  Just toss the cooled rosé wine syrup with an assortment of berries, and you have the most light, refreshing, surprising, (and intoxicating) dessert.

Kerry and Berries

French Market Berries

Berry paparazzi shots from French markets last summer

The Drinks

You can’t go wrong with very cold bottles of rosé.  Another option is La Piscine, a drink I discovered in Juan-les-Pins, near Cap d’Antibes.  As fancy as it sounds, it’s just champagne on the rocks, and I like how irreverent it is.  And a panaché is always refreshing: equal parts beer cut with good French limonade.

Boissons

La Piscine in Juan-les-Pins, and artisanal limonade in Forcalquier

Kerry PetanqueThe Activities

If you are outside, it must be pétanque.  Mr. English and I have already determined that in our retirement, we will be a fiercely competitive husband-and-wife pétanque duo.  Look out Provence!

If you’re at a table, play French Consequences.  Write a sentence in English, and pass it to your left.  The person there attempts to translate it to French, and then folds it so that only the French shows.  Then, the next person translates it to English, folds, and passes it along.  And so on.  By the time it gets to the end of the table, it’s pretty funny.  This works best if everyone has taken a little bit of French and forgotten it, and / or you’ve had a few of the drinks I recommend above.

Pétanque

A picturesque pétanque court at Le Couvent des Minimes; playing pétanque in a New York City park

The Music

For something fun, search “French” in Songza; they have a handful of lively playlists, my favorite of which is French hip-hop.  Who can resist?

Or, for something classic, create an Edith Piaf station on Pandora.  Timeless.

Bistro Lights

Bistro lights strung up at our wedding

The Décor

Bistro lights, strung from trees, from balcony railings, or even from bookcases always make me feel like I am eating on the sidewalk to the tune of a wonderfully wheezing accordion.  Blue, white, and pink hydrangeas on the table remind me of those wonderful pastel tricolore Parisian fireworks that July five years ago.  For me, a truly French touch is always plain white china that allows the food to speak without being interrupted.  And I love Duralex Picardie glasses: inexpensive but authentic, stackable, and perfect for water and wine.

Hydrangeas

Pink, blue, and white hydrangeas evoke le bleu, blanc, et rouge (at also the red, white, and blue of the Fourth)

Paris White China and Sparrow

White china reminds me of French bistro; here, a plate we shared with a Parisian sparrow

The Invitations

I have long been a devotée of Paperless Post, which provides virtual iterations of beautiful stationary – the paper weight, the embossing, the foil magically jump of the screen, but retain the ease, timeliness, traceability of email.  I love it so much that the save-the-date to our wedding in France was created using Paperless Post.  If you search for “France” and “Paris”, you’ll get some great themed options!

So, bonne chance, mes amis, with your summer entertaining!  Bastille Day is such a fun occasion; and besides, I happen to think the world should celebrate things like equality, brotherhood, and freedom more often.  Bon app!

SaveLaDate

A version of our real “save the date” on Paperless Post

Sloshed Red Berries in Rosé Wine with Thyme
serves 4

Rosé BerriesINGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup rosé wine (like côtes de Provence)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 to 2 sprigs thyme
  • 12 large strawberries, halved
  • 16 blackberries
  • 24 raspberries

METHOD

In a small saucepan, heat the wine and sugar over medium heat, stirring until dissolved.  Take off the heat and add the thyme.  Leave to infuse and cool completely.

Combine the berries and divide among four cups.  Divide the cooled syrup over them, and serve right away.  It’s that easy, and so very good.

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Desserts, Easy, Eat, Fruit, Recipes, Vegetarian
 

Farmhouse Flavors on Father’s Day

RECIPE: Drunken Goat Spaghetti

Pinot Noir PastaMy dad is pretty special.  I know all daughters say that, but it’s really true.  He has taught me a lot over the years, not least of which was how to enjoy food.  A true gourmand, he simply cannot boil water, so he educated my palate and entertained his by taking me all over Manhattan when I was young, to restaurants high and low.  He is slim, but he enthusiastically and methodically and consistently finishes whatever is put before him.  He taught me that eating, the meal, is the time and the place to connect with your family and to share your life, which is a lesson by which I have always lived.

The second lesson he taught me is a more recent one (see dad, I am still learning!).  My dad, like me, is a creature of habit.  We love adventure, but we also love to return to what is tried and true.  This is a part of myself that I have always been ashamed of, that I have always fought against.  Shouldn’t we leave the neighborhood, I’ll ask Mr. English, just to see what else is out there?  Isn’t it boring to always order vanilla ice cream (vanilla is my favorite)?  Shouldn’t I try something new?

Pinot Noir PastaMy dad does not have these hang-ups.  When he identifies something he likes, he likes it.  There is no shame; there is no restlessness.  For example, he loves pinot noir.  Whenever he orders wine, he orders pinot noir.  For years, I made fun of him.  “Come on, dad,” I cajoled impatiently.  “Why don’t you try something different!?”

“Because I like it.”

And that is courage of conviction; not something to be admonished, but rather to be admired.

Pinot Noir PastaIn honor of Father’s Day and my dad, I created this Drunken Goat Pasta, thick spaghetti drowned and cooked in a bottle of pinot noir.  It is incredibly farmhouse in flavor: the pasta is cooked with shallots, garlic, and thyme sautéed simply in olive oil.  It slurps up both the color and the flavor of the dry, light, fruity pinot noir, which becomes the essential flavor of the dish.  And it is finished with fresh parsley, a touch of butter, and creamy goat cheese, which you can either serve sliced or crumbled on top of the pasta, or melted into it.

I just feel like this dish is so my dad; it is sophisticated, but also simple and honest.  My dad doesn’t eat meat, so it captures his sensibilities.  But I have to say, I think it would go beautifully as the unexpected side to a roast chicken or a braised cut of beef.

Happy Father’s Day to everyone out there; tonight, I will toast my dad with a glass (and a pot!) of pinot noir.

Kerry and Pinot Pasta

Kerry and Pinot Pasta

Drunken Goat Spaghetti
serves 4

Pinot Noir PastaINGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound thick spaghetti, spaghettoni, (recommended: Barilla), or regular spaghetti
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 bottle Pinot Noir
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cold
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • 2 ounces chèvre

METHOD

Bring a large bottle of salted water to a boil.  Cook the pasta for half of the amount of time prescribed on the box.  It should be soft enough to bend, but not yet al dente.

Meanwhile, in a heavy-bottomed braising pot, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat.  Add the shallots and sweat for three minutes until soft.  Add the garlic and thyme, season with salt and pepper, and just heat through for one minute.  Add the pinot noir, salt well, and bring to a bubble.

Use a pair of tongs to transfer the pasta from the boiling water to the bubbling wine (you’ll want to keep the pasta water in case you need to loosen the sauce later).  Cook the pasta, stirring occasionally, until it is al dente, and which point the wine will have been absorbed into the pasta.  Add the butter and parsley, and toss through.  Then, you can either add the goat cheese now, and toss through to melt, or you can serve it sliced or crumbled up on top of the pasta.  Bon app!

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Recipes, Sides, Starches, Vegetarian, Vegetarian
 

Long Island’s North Fork and Springtime Sorrel Salmon

RECIPE: Springtime Sorrel Salmon for Two

Sorrel SalmonWhen I was young I had a friend named Catherine.  Our mothers were friends, and every now and again we’d take the drive out from Manhattan to their cottage in Jamesport, just by the sea.  I have vivid, cinematic memories of the place because it was so extraordinarily sensory.  The smoking steam of hamburgers sizzling on the barbecue.  The clouds of perfume shrouding lilacs collapsing on their vines in the summer air.  The pant and froth of the horses as we trotted through the heat.  The pages of Narnia as they were turned in the little wooden cottage.  The chestnut brown of the prehistoric horseshoe crabs nestled in their sandy beds on the gray beach.

It’s been nearly twenty-five years since those summers.  For Mothers’ Day this year, Maman and I had determined that we would go away together somewhere different, like we did during what we like to call our “adventures” when I was young.  She and me, contra mundo.  But when I looked at flights for the May weekend, everything was over $500.  So much for spontaneity!  Desperately disappointed, I tried to take Mr. English’s advice: “Don’t panic,” he often admonishes me.  “Problem solve.”

North Fork Maman et MoiSo I pluckily resolved to find a destination that was cool enough for our adventure and within driving distance of New York; I had been hearing so much about the vineyards on the North Fork.  Seven-year-old me had no idea that Jamesport was on what is known as the “North Fork” of Long Island, so I was delighted as I was plotting our wine-tasting, farm stand-hopping trip to realize that our modern-day adventure was a frolic through one from our ancient past.

We began the weekend at Noah’s in Greenport.  My father used to take my mother on treks to Long Island in their early marriage just for the duck, so naturally Maman and I ordered Long Island duck confit with bacon-flecked black lentils.  We had a head of roast garlic, to smother onto grilled bread.  We had a kale Caesar splintered with julienne of apples.  And a fritto misto of calamari, sugar snap peas, and lemon slices.

North Fork Calamari Noah'sNorth Fork Duck Confit Lentils Noah'sNorth Fork Rhubarb Crostade Noah'sWhen I announced that I wanted the rhubarb crostade for dessert, Maman looked at me and asked, deadpan, “What is roo-bart?”

With that, it had to be ordered, a wonderful handfolded pie of astringent rhubarb offset with a turban of fresh whipped cream.  Maman declared it the best thing she’d ever eaten and set out on every subsequent meal in search of roo-bart.

The next morning came more firsts for my mom.  At Harbes Family Farm, I introduced her to the joys of apple cider donuts.  “Mmm!” was the exclamation.  Unfortunately, the roo-bart had not come to harvest time yet at Harbes, but I bought two gorgeous bouquets of fresh green asparagus, and all the organic herbs for my windowsill herb garden that I’d been dreaming of through the winter.

North Fork Apple Cider Donut Sampling HarbesNorth Fork AsparagusNorth Fork Herb Garden HarbesLater, we ran into friends at the rosé-only vineyard Croteaux (apparently New York is not only a small city, but also a small state), and sampled six rosé varietals.  I finally settled on one with wild fermented yeast to bring back for Mr. English.  And that night we dined at the famed North Fork Table and Inn, where I experienced the North Fork harvest brought to life in fresh spring pea soup with buttered crab and stinging nettle cavatelli which may have been the most original and well executed American pasta I have ever had.  Maman’s fennel and orange cheesecake was the lightest, most exquisite dessert, but no, she confirmed, it did not rival her new beloved roo-bart.

North Fork RoseNorth Fork Rose AftermathNorth Fork Pea Soup NFTINorth Fork Nettle Cavatelli NFTINorth Fork Coconut Tapioca NFTISunday found us back at the North Fork Table and Inn, sitting at a picnic table under their leafy trees sampling their food truck.  Season salad.  Artisinal hotdogs.  Fries.  It reminded me of those cookouts so many years ago, albeit more refined.  We headed out to Orient to walk the beach and collect sea glass and shells, trying ineffectually to skip rocks.  Finally, heaving sighs, we decided to drive back to the city.  Oh, let’s just stop here, we said at the lavender farm as we sniffed at the different sprigs.  Ooh, and here! we excused ourselves as we stopped by Catapano farms to sample their homemade goat cheese and buy a pot of chervil to complete my herb collection.  We were now running officially late for our city dinner at Little Owl, but when I saw a huge sign on the side of the road shouting “fresh sorrel”, I stunt-drive swerved off the road and into the little road-side stand’s parking lot.

North Fork Food Truck 1North Fork Food Truck 2North Fork Kerry Food Truck 1North Fork Kerry Food Truck 2North Fork Kerry Food Truck 3North Fork Food Truck 4North Fork Food Truck 3North Fork SheepNorth Fork SheepI love sorrel.  I don’t know why it’s not a bigger deal here in the States.  I can often find it at Whole Foods for about $3, but the volume is so infinitesimal compared to the recipes that call for vast quantities of the astringent herb in French cookbooks.  To know me is to know that I love traditional French pairings, to France what peanut butter and jelly are to America: terrine and mustard, fondue and cornichons, sausages and lentils, and my favorite, salmon with sorrel.

North Fork SorrelSorrel, in its astringency, is almost a citrus, even though it looks like a green leafy vegetable.  Traditionally, salmon is seared, and served with a lightly creamy sorrel sauce in fine restaurants, or an almost creamed spinach version in hearty homey restaurants.  Inspired by the French-American fusion I saw at Noah’s, I created my own simple version of salmon with sorrel.  I seared the salmon with just salt and pepper in olive oil until crisp.  For the sorrel sauce, I wilt the sorrel in just seconds with a few chives and a splash of white wine.  Then I whip it together with just a bit of Greek yogurt – it’s healthy, and the tang goes so well with the sorrel.  You could also use crème fraiche for the same effect.  Although not the healthy part.  The sauce melts in tiny rivulets into the ravines of the crispy salmon.  The acerbic tang of the herb cuts through the fatty richness of the salmon.  It is so, so good.  I serve it on top of fresh medley of green vegetables, just sautéed until tender crisp.  You could, of course, use just Long Island asparagus.

At the farm stand, I grabbed a big handful of sorrel, convinced it would cost a fortune.  When the till rang up $1.25, I went back to grab more.  “No,” Maman exclaimed!  “Mr. English is waiting!  We are late!”

They sell sorrel for pennies; I am thinking that kind of savings means I can start looking at real estate.

Springtime Sorrel Salmon for Two
serves 2

Sorrel Salmonsorrel sauce

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ ounce chives, chopped
  • ¾ ounce sorrel leaves, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup dry white wine, like Sauvignon Blanc
  • ¼ cup Greek yogurt

METHOD

In a small ceramic nonstick sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the chives and sorrel, season with salt and pepper, and wilt for 30 seconds.  Add the wine and reduce to 1 tablespoon.  Add everything to a small blender, add the yogurt, and whiz until smooth.  Set aside.

salmon

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 5-ounce filets of salmon
  • Salt and pepper

METHOD

In the same pan as the sorrel (no need to wash it!), heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Season the salmon with salt and pepper.  Place the salmon flesh-side-down in the pan.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium, flip the salmon, and cook for an additional 5 minutes for medium-well.

TO SERVE

To plate, spoon some sautéed vegetables (if you want) in a wide, shallow bowl.  Place the salmon on top, and crown with sorrel sauce.  Eat up!

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Easy, Eat, Fish, Main Courses, Recipes
 

Elizabeth Bard Answers Readers’ Questions + 1001 Nuits Ice Cream!

RECIPE: 1001 Nights --Raz el-Hanout Ice Cream with Grilled Almonds

Picnic in ProvenceElizabeth Bard, author and ice cream adventurer, is back to answer ALL your questions.  Below, she discusses the virtue of fried dough and (my favorite ingredient!) orange flower water, hairy vegetables, sea snails, and, of course, picnicking in Provence!  Plus, if you haven’t already gone out and bought Picnic in Provence (it has nearly five stars on Amazon!), here’s a sneak peak at one of my favorite recipes: 1001 Nuits Ice Cream.

Thank you all so much for sending in these questions.  Because Elizabeth was so kind as to answer all of them, I’ve selected one entrant at random (I actually wrote everyone on slips of paper and picked blind from a bowl!) for the prize of a free copy of Picnic in Provence.

Readers’ Interview with Elizabeth Bard

@findingfrenchie: What is her favorite meal of all time?

Elizabeth Bard: Oh difficult, but I’d have to pick a dinner we had in Barcelona in 2013. Restaurant with no name, no sign, you have to pick the right door and walk down a florescent lit corridor. There’s no menu, it’s the chef’s choice. Out came course after course, baby squid in garlic oil, sea snails on a bed of sea salt, langoustines, and to finish – the most divine oxtail I’ve ever tasted.

@findingfrenchie: What is Elizabeth’s most used ingredient as of now?

EB: I’m obsessed with roasted cauliflower at the moment…I can never be without fresh herbs: parsley, cilantro, thyme, rosemary.

@akopald: Where should we eat in Provence?

EB: You should buy lots of tempting things at one of the local outdoor markets and find yourself a spot with a lovely view to picnic.

@ruths_collection: I’ve read Lunch in Paris and it’s one of my favorite books [and] cookbooks. Although I don’t really cook and my favorite recipe is the yogurt cake (which I make with pineapples). It seemed you were not a cook before you moved to Paris — but food brought you closer to the culture and suddenly you weren’t shy about trying. How has the Provence experience helped your cooking grow and mature — how is cooking in Provence and the market and foods availability there different from Paris?

EB: I’ve always cooked with olive oil, because I can’t stand the smell of melting butter, and Provence has really reinforced that habit. I do a lot more “naked” cooking in Provence – simple stacking, slicing and combining of great ingredients. It’s more like arts and crafts than cooking!

@lindar1: What is your favorite market in Provence?

EB: Apt on a Saturday for hustle bustle, or Reillanne on a Sunday to really do your weekly errands.

Michelle: Question for Elizabeth! What is your favorite ice cream flavor that you serve at your shop?  The 1001 Nuits sounds amazing.

EB: I’m a sucker for the Fraise a la Creme (Strawberries and Cream) ice cream. I forced my husband to make it alongside the more French style strawberry sorbet. 

Linda: I loved Lunch in Paris and can’t wait to read Picnic in Provence. Where will your next adventure be?  Maybe the west coast, Bordeaux area?

EB: I think with a new business and a great local school, we will be staying put for a while. There’s so much more to learn and do here.

Meridith: Elizabeth, do you incorporate any American food traditions into your holiday celebrations with your family?

EB: Of course, I make my grandmother’s mandel bread for Passover and a fab corn souffle and pumpkin cheesecake for Thanksgiving. 

Christine: When you moved, did you discover new breads or pastries (!) that are “native” to Provence?  If so, please tell us about your favourites!

EB: I love fried dough in any form, so I wait eagerly each year for the Mardi Gras “Bugnes” – fried puffs of dough flavored with orange flower water.

@JKDabrowska: Have you found a fruit or veg unique to France that we have yet to discover and try over here?

EB: Most people in the States have yet to experiment with the humble (and hairy) celery root. I think it makes the best mashed potatoes ever. I never tasted dandelion greens until I came to Provence, I love their bitter curly bite.   

Lacey: Really looking forward to this book!  Elizabeth, what is the best part about raising a child in the French countryside?  Thank you!

GoatEB: I love the fact that our son has a real relationship to nature (much more than I ever did). We did an Easter egg hunt out in fields behind a friend’s farm, and he recently adopted a baby goat.

Jennai: Have you ever eaten escargots and / or frog legs?  Do you like them?  Must take some getting used to.

EB: I love the chewy texture of escargot (not so different from clams) and frogs’ legs are really not that different than chicken wings, just more delicate flavor – but mostly it’s about the garlic butter they are often cooked in. There’s nothing like a sizzling platter of escargot with a piece of crusty baguette to sop up the garlic butter. 

Isabel: Do you think you’ll stay in France forever or do you envision living somewhere else someday?  And if so, where?

EB: “Forever” is about 18 months for us. Hard to say. There’s no 5-year plan in the world that would have gotten me where I am right now, and we are so happy in Cereste. We’ll just have to wait and see!

@findingfrenchie: What meal does her family most enjoy that she prepares?

EB: My son loves my sautéed haricot verts (green beans with or without bacon) and my carrot soup (those two recipes are in Lunch in Paris). Everyone loves the Gateau Maman – literally “Mommy Cake” – which is a pear quickbread (that recipe is in Picnic in Provence). 

Christine: What is your preferred writing environment?  Do you have a special spot?

EB: A café. Preferably a noisy one. I can’t concentrate alone. 

Christine: In your opinion, what is your most ingenious ice cream flavour?  Do your customers agree?

EB: The 1001 Nuits (our ice cream based on raz el-hanout, a North African spice blend) has been a big hit; it’s a bit like a spicier version of chai with grilled almonds mixed in.  (Kerry’s note: see below!)

Merci, Elizabeth!

1001 Nuits Ice Cream1001 Nuits Ice Cream

If you’ve read this blog more than once, you know that my mother was born in France, and my grandmother in Casablanca.  My mother’s cooking leans more towards the French – roast duck, potatoes au gratin, ratatouille.  Meme’s, decidedly more Moroccan: her mechoui and green olive stew are legendary (and my personal and much contested viewpoint: the best in the family!  Shhh…).  When I saw Elizabeth’s 1001 Nuits ice cream, inspired by The Arabian Nights, made with toasted almonds and ras el-hanout (a Moroccan spice blend that means “head of the shop” because each spice shopkeeper has his own secret blend), I thought, this is so us I have to try it!  My mother was coming into town, and I knew she’d flip.

The ras el-hanout has the ginger and clove spice that lends a Christmas warmth, but it’s also full of pepper and rose that give it so much more exoticism.  I churned it and served it with an extra crack of black pepper and a shower of almond shards over the top.  With my family’s predilection for Moroccan flavors (heat in sweets; sweets in savories), combined for their French enthusiasm for ice cream, they really did, in fact, flip.  She and my stepfather each had two servings.  My father, New York City through and through, had three!  Proving you don’t need to have Scheherazade in your blood to find this ice cream irresistible.  And like Scheherazade herself, it keeps you coming back for more.  Bon app!

1001 Nuits Ice Cream Collage

1001 Nights --Raz el-Hanout Ice Cream with Grilled Almonds
makes 1 quart. recipe courtesy Elizabeth Bard, Picnic in Provence, Little Brown, (c) 2015

1001 Nuits Ice CreamINGREDIENTS

  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons raz el-hanout
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

METHOD

Toast the almonds in a small frying pan, until golden.  Let cool fully and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat egg yolks with sugar until a light lemon yellow.  Set aside.

Prepare an ice bath — a large mixing bowl full of ice cubes will do it.  Set aside.  Find your fine mesh strainer and leave it near the ice bath.

Pour the milk and cream into a medium saucepan and add the raz el-hanout.  Heat over a low flame, unitl it’s just about to boil.  Shut the flame, then slowly add the hot milk to the egg yolk mixture, whisking quickly and continuously to combine.

Pour the mixture back into the saucepan, and cook over low heat, stirring continuously, until the cream coats the back of a wooden spoon.  About 5 minutes.

Immediately pour the custard through a fine mesh strainer back into the mixing bowl.  Cool briefly in the ice bath, whisking for a few minutes until the cream has cooled a bit.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge.  If possible, leave for 24 hours, so the flavor has time to develop.  Freeze in your home ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

After churning, mix in the toasted almonds.  Freeze in an air-tight container for an hour or two before serving.  Keeps for about a week, but in terms of texture, best eaten on the day it’s churned.

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Categories: Desserts, Eat, Finds, Frozen, People, Recipes, Vegetarian
 

Picnic in Provence, Apple Clafoutis, New York Parking Lot Markets, and Figapalooza

Apple ClafoutisSpring is finally here, but it’s been a long time coming.  When I received the galley of Elizabeth’s book, I sat down to read it, all along looking for ways that it would work on French Rev.  As I said in my review of the book, the pages transported me back to Provence.  And for me, Provence is a synonym for markets.  Mr. English and I pretty much ONLY picnic in Provence.  Stopping by markets for melons and white peaches, bottles of strange liqueurs, olives, tomatoes, and even saucisson.  The flavors are like prizefighters — so punchy they take up more space than they should, packing more force than they have any right to, filling the air with smells so strong you can actually taste them.

Feeling forlorn about the state of my New York produce, I saw Elizabeth’s recipe for clafoutis, and I thought, there is something that works anywhere and any time.  Just swap out the cherries for whatever is in season.  That is the French way!  That is why clafoutis was invented!  I can do that, even here!  Plus, I had just found out about a little farmers’ market just two blocks away in a small parking lot on Saturdays.  Not exactly Elizabeth’s Forcalquier, but something!

Clafoutis is a classic French dessert.  Like a soft pancake custard, sweet, fluffy, cream, and poured over the season’s prized fruit — usually cherries.  I couldn’t wait to see what my cherries would be.  The Saturday before last rolls around.  I am up; I am ready.  I run to the elevator, and out the door.  It never pays to be late to a farmers’ market.

I emerged into the snow.  Great flakes pouring down around me, so ridiculous I felt like I must be standing under one of those snow machines they use in the movies.  I was shocked to see that they really truly melted — real snow.  I arrived at the little market, looking for signs of life.  Daffodils.  Asparagus.  Spring!

Empire ApplesInstead, amidst the flurries, I found rows and rows of apples.  It felt nearly medieval — like these apples had been stored underground in some cellar as the only bit of freshness to tide us over until the spring that would never come.  This is New York, the Big Apple, so I shouldn’t have been shocked by the multitude of apples.  Apples I’d never heard of, that by the chalk signs on the crates were hybrid descendants of other apples I’d never heard of.  But when New York gives you apples, I said to Mr. English, we make apple clafoutis!

Snowy ApplesI have never heard of apple clafoutis, but in true Franglais fashion, that is what we had for our Sunday breakfast.  Apples, baked in the oven under a pillow of custard, biting their thumbs at the snowy drifts outside, as we tucked cozily in.

Of course, I used Elizabeth’s clafoutis recipe, simply swapping out the pound of cherries for a pound of peeled, cored, and sliced apples, and exchanging the amaretto for a spoonful of true Norman pommeau that I snuck back last spring.  I asked Elizabeth about clafoutis and markets down in Provence, and this is what she has to say…

Apple Clafoutis SliceElizabeth Talks Clafoutis

Kerry Saretsky: How did you learn to make clafoutis?

Elizabeth Bard: I played around with the custard base in Paris, but it was after we moved to Provence and our neighbor, Mr. Cappelletti, invited us to pick cherries from his tree that I had to get serious about perfecting my clafoutis. Like pancake batter, the key is not to overmix. 

KS: What produce most inspires you in Provence?

EB: I’m a fig lover, every year when the fresh figs arrive I throw myself a little fig fest – Figapalooza, if you will. 

KS: What is the market culture like in the South of France today?

EB: It’s still the best and cheapest way to buy seasonal ingredients. There are still a lot of small producers, people selling from their own farms or their own herds. I only go to the supermarket once every three or four months, for staples like pasta, chocolate, and cleaning products. The rest I buy at the butcher and the Sunday market in Reillanne. 

KS: Do you believe in clafoutis for breakfast?

EB: I believe in clafoutis 24 hours a day!

Merci, Elizabeth!  Picnic in Provence comes out in just a few short hours!  Pre-order it here.

PinP Cherry Clafoutis Card

Elizabeth’s Cherry Clafoutis recipe from Picnic in Provence

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Categories: 60 Minutes, Breakfast & Brunch, Cheap, Desserts, Easy, Eat, Eggs, Finds, Fruit, Pastries, Recipes, Sweets, Vegetarian
 

Eating Provence with Elizabeth Bard, Author of LUNCH IN PARIS and the New PICNIC IN PROVENCE (and a giveaway!)

I am honored to have kindred spirit Elizabeth Bard on French Revolution.  Any woman who grows up near New York, moves to France, marries a Frenchman, then moves to Provence, opens an ice cream store, and spends every spare minute writing about what she eats in her fabulous life is welcome to take over these pages.  She has chronicled it all in Lunch in Paris and her latest memoir with recipes, Picnic in Provence.  I am an unerring fan.  Here, a few of her thoughts about France, food, Twizzlers, and asparagus tongs.

Bon app!

I will be excerpting two of the recipes from Elizabeth’s Picnic in Provence over the coming days.  In celebration of the new book, Elizabeth has agreed to answer a question submitted by readers!  And one lucky reader will win a copy of Picnic in Provence.  So leave your questions in the comments section of this post, or on Facebook (#PicnicInProvence) or Twitter (@FrenchRev #PicnicInProvence) or Instagram (@KerrySaretsky #PicnicInProvence).  Pre-order Picnic in Provence here.

Picnic in Provence Market Pics

Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Bard

Interview with Writer and Entrepreneur Elizabeth Bard

Interview

Kerry Saretsky: What defines Frenchness?

Elizabeth Bard: Pleasure and moderation.

KS: What defines French food?

EB: Ditto, pleasure and moderation

KS: What makes food Parisian?

EB: Butter.

KS: And what makes food Provençal?

EB: Olive Oil.

KS: What are the best towns and restaurants to visit in Provence?

EB: We live in the Alpes de Haute-Provence, which is the less developed, some might say more authentic, part of Provence. A visit to the Monday morning market in Forcalquier is a real treat. Just outside Cereste is the hilltop village of Montjustin; they have a tiny Bistro de Pays that serves a “menu unique” – you eat whatever they are making that day. The terrace is sunny and protected from the wind; even in Feb[ruary], you can eat in a tee-shirt. Whenever we need a two hour vacation – that’s where we go. 

KS: Your favorite places to eat in Paris?

EB: Honestly, now that we live in the countryside, where there is no ethnic cuisine of any kind, when I go back to Paris all I want to eat is Thai and Vietnamese food in Belleville… 

KS: What ingredients and tricks have you picked up since moving to France?

EB: Don’t judge a book by its cover – my friend the hairy celery root is a case in point. 

KS: What was the moment when you thought to yourself, I’ve gone native?

EB: There was the almost tribal satisfaction of gutting by first whole fish…

KS: What foods do you long for when you come back to America?

EB: Crap – Twizzlers, Dots, Hershey’s Kisses. But my palate has changed so much that this kind sugar now gives me a migraine. I love a good rare hamburger with fried onions, my mother’s noodle pudding and the apple cider donuts from the farm stand. 

KS: What is the secret to perfect ice cream?

EB: If you want great texture from a home machine, it’s best to eat the ice cream the day (or even the hour) it’s made.

KS: What advice do you have for budding entrepreneurs?

EB: Dream big, work harder than you thought possible, be stubborn about your principals.

KS: Favorite food writers or food books?

EB: Like everyone I know, I’m cooking my way through Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem at the moment. I love reading M.K. Fisher. Nigella Lawson always makes me hungry – I love her dry, honest voice. I somehow reread Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential at least once a year. He’s got a fabulous ear for the kitchen. 

Elizabeth Bard Family

Photo by Cindi de Channes

The Epicurean Proust

1 What is your idea of perfect culinary happiness?

A really terrific fresh-filled cannoli. 

6 What is your greatest culinary extravagance?

A few Christmases ago, I bought myself a huge cherry red Le Creuset.

15 What or who is the greatest love of your life?

My husband.

16 When and where were you happiest?  In life?  In food?

On holiday with my husband in a tiny seaside village in Crete, eating grilled calamari and reading 19th century novels.

19 What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Doing something I love for a living, and recording family history in the process.

21 Where would you most like to live?  Paris or Provence?  Small town or big city?

I’m still a city girl at heart, but I love the neighborliness of the village. And my son just adopted a goat!

22 What is your most treasured culinary possession?

My mother’s silver asparagus tongs.

28 Who is your hero of food?

My friend Marion Peyric. She’s an organic farmer in Cereste, and she shares her love of all things true and tasty with her friends, her clients, her interns, her colleagues. She’s a wonderful ambassador for the land and foods she loves. 

35 What is your culinary motto?

Bon appetit!

Other reading: French Revolution’s review of Picnic in ProvenceFrench Revolution’s Review of Lunch in Paris from 2011The French Revolution Lunch in Paris Giveaway

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Categories: People
 

Reading Elizabeth Bard’s New Book PICNIC IN PROVENCE

Elizabeth Bard

Photo by Cindi de Channes

I may be a “millennial”, but I am old enough to remember a time that in order to make a friend, you had to be in the same room as her — at least once.

I am not a typical blogger.  I love writing about food, and sharing it, but it’s not in my nature to broadcast myself.  I am, I admit it, intensely shy.  Hence, my “Internet friends” are few.  And I can’t believe Elizabeth Bard is one of them.

I can’t remember exactly how we met.  I think it was around her first book, Lunch in Paris.  If you haven’t read it, you must.  I had thought it might be flippant, a chouquette-light, cavalier telling of a happy romance between an American girl and a French boy that ends in profiteroles and a balloon bouquet on the Eiffel Tower.  It was not that.  Elizabeth is a great capturer of the way things are.  Her books are poignant remembrances of her recent past.  Lunch in Paris is her love story with her husband, Gwendal, the love of her life (as you’ll find out in tomorrow’ interview).

But it was not all profiteroles and balloons.  She captures the difficulty of falling in love with an ocean between your passports, and only a handful of common words between you.  And as that love deepens, and you begin to come closer, losing part of your old self only to find a new self that is marvelous but unexpected, and going through the true trials of life (like the loss of Gwendal’s father to cancer and discovering one’s calling and career).  Anyone who has been deeply in love and lived a real life feels the reverberation of her stories, like a bell struck true.

Her new book, Picnic in Provence, which comes out on April 7th, picks up the story.  The happy couple is married and in Paris.  But even after professional success, getting everything that you worked your whole twenties for, the thirty-something couple can’t help but ask each other — what’s next?  Off to Provence, to a whole new adventure: a child, a tiny village, and a little ice cream shop recently voted one of the best in all France.

Again, Elizabeth’s frankness makes her stories intensely relatable.  She questions herself over whether and how to be a mother.  She stumbles at losing family income to pursue the family ice cream shop.  She struggles with an Americanness she at times describes as nearly gauche in a sea of seemingly effortless French perfection.  And through it all, is the view of village life from a city girl who always pictured success in the city, life in the city, love in the city.  And the picture left with the reader is one of aching nostalgia, the opposite of my friendship with Elizabeth, where neighbors become friends simply BECAUSE they are in the same room as each other, people harvest together, people gather.  Reading it, I felt galaxies away from my apartment in the sky over New York City, and began to wonder myself — what’s next?

Let me share my favorite metaphor, as she discusses the raising of her son:

“A baby is a wishing well.  We walk by, every day, and throw our pennies in.  Most are bright and shiny, full of smiles and possibility.  Some are tarnished with bad memories, unlucky genes.  Others have been hiding under the couch cushions all these years, just waiting for someone to dig them out.  A baby is a wishing well.  Everyone puts their hopes, their fears, their past, their two cents, in.”  Excerpted from Picnic in Provence by Elizabeth Bard, 2015.

And through it all, she eats.  Like me, and I am sure like you, she is a Prufrock, measuring out her life in coffee spoons and other meal-related metrics.  So each chapter contains the recipes that recollect the life described therein.  I still remember the bistro ribs from Lunch in Paris, shared at a lovers’ corner table, cozily tucked away from the street.  Mr. English and I are passionate Provence picnickers.  It is so ceremonial for us that we revisit the same markets each summer, have a Laguiole pocket knife and (I’m not kidding) weightless cutlery expressly for our Provençal picnics, and know to have the proprietor select our fruit for “today, tomorrow, and the day after”.  Elizabeth captures the sweet juiciness of Provençal produce perfectly.  The melons that weep.  The white peaches that explode with perfume.  The tomatoes!  I have to stop.  Again, as I stared at the sad city produce in my fridge I wondered what on Earth I was doing here.  Because Elizabeth writes not only to take you there visually, but also gustatorily, and you just cannot help being swept away.  And Haute Provence is DEFINITELY a place to which you want to be swept away.

And they are both memoirs with recipes.  Who doesn’t love that as a genre!?

PinP Cover

Picnic in Provence

Both books are ultimately about taking a chance — a big leap.  Doing something you didn’t expect to do — something no one around you expects you to do.  Cracking through the plaster mold you had for your life, going off piste, and come out through the anxiety of it, the work of it, the pain of it in a far better place than you could ever have imagined.  Better than profiteroles and a balloon bouquet at the top of the Eiffel Tower.  And in that, her books are inspiring.  Because she is real, she has fears — fears that I have too.  And she leaps anyway. And suddenly, as a reader, I question how much more I can push myself, how much more faith I should have, and how much more stake I should put in getting to that place just beyond comfortable.

After years of email back-and-forth, I finally met Elizabeth in New York a couple of months ago.  I was nervous — as I said, I can be shy.  Both online, and in analog.  But she is just like she is on the page — honest, open, razor smart, perceptive, generous, and kind.  I found so much in common with her.  A New York-area girl who loves books and food and her husband.  Just reading her interview, I realized that we both live for celery root and Ottolenghi and have the same culinary mantra.  But there was more — we spoke of real issues in the wake of Charlie Hebdo, of motherhood for type-A women in the twenty-first century, of careers in writing.  And I realized that in meeting her, I had taken one of the leaps that her books are always beckoning me to take.  That little chance to extend myself that results in something so terrific, I marveled that I ever hesitated, ever wanted to be shy.  Think of all I could have missed.  That is what Elizabeth’s books are.  Glimpses at all you could miss if you don’t follow that joie de vivre and take a chance at life.

COMING TOMORROW, AN INTERVIEW WITH ELIZABETH BARD.  MERCI, MON AMIE!

Other reading: French Revolution’s Review of Lunch in Paris from 2011; The French Revolution Lunch in Paris Giveaway

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Categories: Finds, People