Pictures from France
(Who Are We Kidding: What We Ate)

Family near Menton

Near Menton…

I have been exceptionally lucky this summer.  Living in London means that I’m always a two-and-a-half-hour train ride straight to the heart of Paris.  Diana Vreeland said that ‘the best thing about London is Paris.’  Dare I say she is right?

Aside from my proximity, I was in France for a number of occasions.  First, in Normany for my godson’s baptism.  Then, the annual family stay in Provence.  And most recently, a trip to Paris to plan my wedding there to Mr. English.  I know, it’s not fair.  I’m jealous of myself.  The point is, I don’t feel right about it unless I share the wealth.  I’m always posting my own French-inspired recipes.  But where do I get the inspiration?  From the pictures I take when I’m in la patrie.  In honor of France’s big fête today, I think we all deserve a little bit of French food ogling.  Consider this post book one in food writing’s Fifty Shades.

Normandy

Trouville Moules à la Crème

Trouville: Moules à la Crème
You should have seen how many frites came along with!
Try this.

Trouville Bavette with Shallots

Trouville: Bavette with Shallots (that’s flank steak, to us). What a classic!

Trouville Cidre de Normandie

Trouville: Cidre Buché
I never leave Normandy without a few big gulps of their dry hard apple cider.
No one likes it but me, so I get the bottle for myself.
Try this (I love this!).

Provence

Aix Veggie Lasagna

Aix-en-Provence: Provençal Vegetable Lasagna
My mom’s favorite meal in my favorite town.
Also the inspiration behind my Roasted Ratatouille Lasagna.

Cassis Niçoise Salad

Cassis: Niçoise Salad
Just off the plane in our favorite seaside nook, I have to order a classic Niçoise.
Mr. English and I fight over which part is best.
It’s obviously the haricots verts. What’s he playing at?
Try this, this, or this.

La Ciotat Zucchini and Zucchini Flower Beignets

La Ciotat: Zucchini and Zucchini Flower Beignets
I eat these every summer. Batter fried and delicious.
Try these or this.

La Ciotat Tapenade

La Ciotat: Tapenade
We went to a cool restaurant built on the site of the old shipyard.
Provence without tapenade is like clocks without time.
It just doesn’t make sense.
Try this, this, this, this, or this.

La Ciotat Steak Frites

La Ciotat: Steak Frites
Mr. English ordered this exquisite filet au poivre.
I stole most of his frites. Couldn’t be helped.
Try this.

La Ciotat Sea Bass with Ratatouille

La Ciotat: Fresh Grilled Sea Bass with Ratatouille
I split the whole beast, fresh from the Mediterranean, with my mom.
Sea bass is my absolute favorite. The ratatouille was deeply caramelized.
Try this or this.

La Ciotat Olives, Kerry, Maman

La Ciotat: Maman and I hunt for olives
There is nothing like a Provençal market.
We ate these olives every night before dinner with a bottle of rosé.
Definitely try this. It’s a family classic.

Cassis Seared Tuna Tartare

Cassis: Seared Tuna Tartare at Nino
I took everyone out to Nino our last night there.

Cassis Steak with Morilles

Cassis: Steak with Morilles
This was delicious.
The shallot on the left roasted whole in its skin was the biggest surprise.

Cassis Sea Bream with Truffled Risotto

Cassis: Sea Bream with Truffled Risotto
Also at Nino. The BEST risotto.

Paris

Paris Salmon Tartare

Paris: Salmon Tartare
Pre-wedding planning lunch in St. Germain.
HERS

Paris Steak Frites Red Wine Sauce

Paris: Steak Frites with Red Wine Sauce
HIS

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Categories: Côte d'Azur, Guides, Paris, Provence, Voyages
 

Bastille Day 2012, Chez Nous

Bastille Day Picnic

Oak smoked ham; Wyfe of Bath cheese; Maille cornichons; beefsteak tomatoes with Maldon sea salt, olive oil, and Greek basil; honeydew melon; blueberries; baguette from Le Pain Quotidien

I have one Bastille Day tradition: pétanque!  I love it, not so secretly because it’s the only ‘sport’ in which I can actually perform.  (Embarrassing fact: I was number two on my MBA pétanque team…shh!).  I measure my Bastille Days in pétanque.  One year, it was on the gravel in Madison Square Park in New York.  Another, in the sand on the beach in Florida.  Sometimes, in Place Dauphine at dusk in Paris.  And others, under the trees in the squares in St. Tropez.  And one horrific day with Mr. English in Oxford, when he came from behind and gained 11 points straight to humiliate me.  Today, I’m home in London.  And as usual in this gray city, it’s raining.  Yet again.  I woke up, thinking I was going to post all about our English garden pétanque game, and the baked Camembert in filo that I was going to make and bring outside.  Not so much.  But I have to say, the day is shaping up better than I expected.

Pétanque at HomeWe have taken out the pétanque set, and are playing on the carpet in our apartment.  And instead of hiking up to the supermarket for Camembert and layering filo, I made a cold lunch, similar to the lunches and dinners we have in France in the summers: cheese, ham, cornichons (Maille, squirreled back from Monoprix on the Eurostar a couple of weeks ago like precious cargo), melon, and ripe, ripe tomatoes.  For the first time in at least a season, I haven’t changed out of my pajamas at 3 in the afternoon.  I think I’ve determined the true, maybe even the best, definition of liberté: being utterly, incorrigibly lazy.

No, it’s not an explosion of macaron-hued fireworks over the Eiffel Tower.  But as far as my pétanque game is going, and as far as Bastille Days, I think this one is going to work out just fine.

Happy Quatorze!

Bastille Day Picnic, Second View

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Kir Royale Sangria: Perfect for Bastille Day

RECIPE: Kir Royale Sangria
Kir Royale Sangria Tall

Kir Royale Sangria

There are drinks you make in glasses, and drinks you make in pitchers.  The drinks in the pitchers are the party drinks.  This Saturday is Bastille Day, and it is a day for parties.  Of course, being American, it’s a cheeky holiday.  Not one that is always observed, so the stolen Bastille Days that are accidentally celebrated are that much more fabulous.  The can-can dancing on the bar at Florent in the Meatpacking District before it closed.  The explosions of pastel fireworks by the Eiffel Tower from the Pont des Arts in Paris.  Or a lazy, boozy pétanque picnic with Mr. English.  July 14th.  It’s a day that deserves a pitcher of something bubbly, delicious, and ever so slightly intoxicating—just like France.

On Saturday, I am making a pitcher of my proprietary concoction: Kir Royale Sangria, along with a roasted garlic Camembert en croûte for another pétanque picnic.  The Kir Royale Sangria, of course, takes it inspiration from the Kir Royale, a glass of champagne stained with a shot of crème de cassis.  In this version, I stir together a bottle of rosé champagne, a spoonful of sugar, a hefty glug of crème de cassis, and a glass of sparkling water.  The finishing touch is frozen berries.  In Europe, if you buy mixed frozen berries, you’ll get strawberries, blackberries, and red and black currants, which pair perfectly with the cassis.  But American mixed berries will work perfectly well to.  They add sweetness, body, and double as ice cubes.  The sangria is fresh, bubbly, sweet and dry at once, and full of life.  Chin-chin.  To a wonderful fête.  Vive la France!

Kir Royale Sangria

Excerpted from my weekly column French in a Flash on Serious Eats.

Kir Royale Sangria
serves 4

Kir Royale SangriaINGREDIENTS

  • 1 75-cL bottle of rosé Champagne, ice cold
  • ¾ cup crème de Cassis
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 cup sparkling water
  • 2 cups frozen mixed berries, straight from the freezer

PROCEDURE

Stir everything together in a big pitcher and pour away.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Cocktails, Drinks, Easy, Eat, French in a Flash, Recipes, Series, Vegetarian
 

Tandoori Charred Salmon and Vegetables

RECIPE: Tandoori Charred Salmon and Vegetables

Tandoori Salmon with Broccoli Zoom

I feel like this is a very Rachael Ray, 30 Minute Meals concept, but I love making takeout food at home.  Thai.  Chinese.  Indian.  But if I’m making it at home, I don’t want it to just be as fast as takeout.  I want it to be just as easy.  That means not a lot of ingredients, and not a lot of standing over a hot wok making things happen.

Here in London, takeout means Indian, and there’s nothing on the menu I love more than Tandoori fish.  Marinated in yogurt and spices, seared in a clay pot, it’s heady with spices, light, and just different from anything else.  Problem is, it’s also the most expensive thing on the menu.

Recreating it at home is astonishingly easy—and cheap.  I make a ridiculously simple marinade of plain yogurt, Garam Masala, and fresh ginger, garlic, and chili.  I don’t even chop anything; I just use a grater.  Garam Masala is one of those spice blends I keep on hand, along with Ras el Hanout and Five Spice.  At the risk of sounding uncouth, I buy a bottle of one of these iconic international spice blends, and in one simple purchase, I can make anything taste Indian, or Moroccan, or Chinese, without having to buy a whole shelf’s worth of spices and measuring out little quarter teaspoons every time I want to make this tandoori salmon.  I put two salmon fillets in the marinade, along with a whole bunch of asparagus.  It all marinates in the fridge for just 15 minutes, and then I sear them both simultaneously on a hot grill pan.  If you don’t have a grill pan, try them under a hot broiler.

Tandoori Salmon with BroccoliWhile the salmon is cooking, I make basmati rice.  To recreate the take out ease, I use, unapologetically I might add, boil-in-a-bag basmati, because it comes out fluffy and is perfectly portioned for two.  Then, I tear some cilantro over the top of the fish if I want to get fancy, and may even throw a half lemon on the grill to squirt over the top.  This meal is different enough to be exciting, and easy and cheap enough to prevent dialing up the greasy spoon around the corner.  Mr. English loved and so did I, so it’s working couple approved.  I will definitely be making it again.  Bon app!

From my weekly column Dinner for Two on Serious Eats.  Check it out every Friday! Continue reading

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Cheap, Dinner for Two, Easy, Eat, Fish, Main Courses, Recipes, Series
 

How to Feed the Fourth: A Round-Up of Easy, Delicious, and Maybe-a-Little-Bit-French Recipes for Independence Day

I look forward to the 4th of July all year.  It is, precisely, my second favorite holiday (between Thanksgiving and New Year’s).  When we are in Florida, we bring a picnic to the beach, and sit in the hot sand, and watch the fireworks explode over the ocean.  Nothing is more American than that.

As I’m now a Londoner, I’ll be at work tomorrow, but please do grant me a wish and have some fun on my behalf!  If you happen to be having a party, and I hope you are, and are looking for some gastronomic inspiration, look no further.  Here is my vicarious cooking wish list for tomorrow.  Bon app!  Enjoy those fireworks for me!

Follow the links in blue for recipes…

Dips for Chips

Spinach Artichoke Boursin Dip

Spinach and Artichoke Boursin Dip

Creamy Hot Spinach and Artichoke Boursin Dip

Seriously Good Chunky Seared Tuna and Avocado Dip

Holy Smokes Chipotle Guacamole

Holy Smokes Chipotle Guacamole

Holy Smokes Chipotle Guacamole

French Onion Shallot Dip

French “Onion” Caramelized Shallot Dip

French “Onion” Caramelized Shallot Dip

Avocado and Goat Cheese Dip with Root Veggie Chips

Snacks

Curried Sweet Potato Chips

Curried Sweet Potato Chips

Curried Sweet Potato Chips

Hot Dog Vol au Vent

Fried Cornichons

Southern Fried Cornichons

Southern Fried Cornichons

Sandwiches & Tacos

Niçoise Tuna Melts

Niçoise Tuna Melts

Niçoise Tuna Melts

Crispy Soft Shell Crab Sandwiches

Crispy Soft Shell Crab Sandwiches

Crispy Soft Shell Crab Sandwiches with Avocado, Tomato, and Tarragon

Chipotle Steak Tacos

Fiery Chipotle Steak Tacos

Fiery Chipotle Steak Soft Tacos

Smoky Guacamole and Black Bean Tacos

Meats

Apricot and Rosemary Oven Ribs

Apricot and Rosemary Oven Ribs

Apricot and Rosemary Oven Ribs

Pomegranate Molasses BBQ Ribs

Black & Bleu: Black Pepper Steak with Creamy Blue Cheese

Fresh Herbes de Provence Grilled Steak Tenderloin

Salads

Campanelle Pasta Salad

Campanelle Pasta Salad

Smoky, Fresh Campanelle with Eggplant Caviar Pasta Salad

Chipotle Slaw

Chipotle Slaw

Red Hot Chipotle Slaw

Simple Carrot and Celeriac Slaw

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Fleur de Sel

Drinks

Vanilla Tea

Vanilla Tea

Sweet Vanilla Iced Black Tea

Sweets

Sweet and Salty Maple Popcorn and Peanuts

Marmalade and Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream

Marmalade and Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream

Marmalade and Dark Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream

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Categories: Guides
 

Fresh Cod in a Paper Bag with Zucchini, Tomatoes, and Mint

RECIPE: Fresh Cod in a Paper Bag with Zucchini, Tomatoes, and Mint
Summer Provençal Cod en Papillote

Summer Provençal Cod en Papillote

Even when you’re cooking for two, even when it’s the middle of the week, even when you don’t want a whole fuss for dinner, you can make something that looks really fancy and French that at the same time is about the easiest way to foolproof cooking.

En papillote, also known as, a paper bag.

Papillote

The Paper Bag

When you cook en papillote, you put all your ingredients (your side veggies, your fish or chicken, and your sauce ingredients) into a parchment packet (or use that knew paper-lined foil to make it even easier), and bake it.  The veggies soften.  The fish or chicken steams and is tender and juicy.  And any garlic or wine or butter you put in the packets stews together into its own little sauce.  Then you just serve this elegant packet for dinner, cut into it, eat, and throw it out and you haven’t even dirtied a pot.

It’s genius.

This version is light and fresh and punchy.  I cut up some zucchini and put them at the bottom of my packet.  Then, a nice piece of thick, white cod.  Over that, I put garlic, chilies, mint, basil, and cherry tomatoes, followed by some olive oil, butter, and white wine to make the sauce (make sure to make the most of that white and have a glass while you cook!).  Then I fold it all together, and bake it in the oven for 12 minutes.  You have light, flaky fish, tender-crisp zucchini, roasted tomatoes, and this really bright, slightly spicy sauce.  It’s great.  But you could take this recipe and do whatever you want with it.  No cod?  Use any boneless, skinless fish you like.  If you don’t want to bother with fresh herbs or chilies, you could leave them out.  You could add asparagus or sugar snaps instead of zucchini.  The world is your oyster.

The point is, it looks great, it tastes fantastic, there’s no way to mess it up, and you don’t have to wash a single pot.  I love paper bags.

Uncooked Cod en Papillote

Full assembled, right before the oven

From my weekly column Dinner for Two on Serious Eats.  Check it out every Friday!

Fresh Cod in a Paper Bag with Zucchini, Tomatoes, and Mint
serves 2

Summer Provençal Cod en PapilloteINGREDIENTS

  • 2 small to medium zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 2 6-ounce boneless, skinless cod fillets
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 small red chili, thinly sliced, or a pinch of dried chili flakes
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 8 leaves of fresh basil
  • 12 leaves of fresh mint
  • 16 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine

PROCEDURE

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  Assemble the packets.  Using either two large rectangles of parchment or parchment-lined foil (parchment on the inside), divide the zucchini between the two and spread out the zucchini discs on one half of the parchment, leaving a one-inch border.  On top of each bed of zucchini, place the cod, and season everything with salt and pepper.  Then top with half the chili, garlic, basil, mint, and tomatoes.  Over each packet, spoon 1 tablespoon each of olive oil, butter, and wine.  Then, seal the pack by folding up the edges (I find a strategically placed staple really helps the parchment packets stay sealed).  For traditional papillote folding technique, read this: http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/03/how-to-cook-food-en-papillote-packages-vegetables-meat-fish.html.  Place the sealed packets on a baking sheet, and cook for 12 minutes.  Then cut into the packets, and eat!

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Cheap, Dinner for Two, Easy, Eat, Fish, Main Courses, Recipes, Series
 

Boursin and Gruyère Spinach and Artichoke Gratin Dip

RECIPE: Boursin and Gruyère Spinach and Artichoke Gratin Dip
Spinach and Artichoke Hot Boursin Dip

Spinach and Artichoke Hot Boursin Dip

London is a city of dinner parties.  I assure you they can get quite competitive.  And dinner party food in small city apartments is a very specific type of food: gasp-inducing, crowd-pleasing, and, this is a must, very simple to put together.  At the risk of sounding like Emily Post, no one likes a haggard hostess!

I’m a sucker for French-American “fusion”, and this is my dinner party wonder, a French take on the all-American artichoke and spinach dip.  Don’t let its pre-movie fast-food connotations deter you.  It’s excellent, and people love it.

I chop together one pound of frozen spinach and one can of artichoke hearts.  Healthy!  Next comes a slug of white wine, a box of garlic and herbs Boursin cheese, cream cheese, and Gruyère.  Everything bakes together in the oven like a gratin: the wine starts bubbling up, the Gruyère melts into a golden, elastic blanket, the cream cheese makes everything smoothly dippable.  But the secret ingredient is most certainly the Boursin, which in one little box adds creaminess, herbaceousness, and that strong, distinct Boursin garlic flavor.  I toast up little baguette chips to go alongside, although you could use pita chips, or even, like in the all-American chains, get some really good corn chips.  Plunge the chip into the dish of hot, fragrant, green stuff and it will emerge covered in thick creamed spinach, wafting the savory aromas of Boursin.  It is so good!

Boursin Spinach and Artichoke Dip on a Baguette Chip

Excerpted from my weekly column French in a Flash on Serious Eats.

Boursin and Gruyère Spinach and Artichoke Gratin Dip
serves 6 to 8

Spinach and Artichoke Hot Boursin DipINGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound frozen chopped spinach, thawed with the liquid pressed out
  • 1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 5 1/2 ounces garlic and herb Boursin, room temperature
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 cups coarsely grated Gruyère, divided
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 baguettes, thinly sliced
  • Drizzle of olive oil

PROCEDURE

Arrange the oven rack in the middle position.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  In a large bowl, stir together the spinach, artichokes, wine, Boursin, cream cheese, and 1 cup of Gruyère.  Season with salt and pepper, and mix until thoroughly combined.  Spread the mixture in a baking or gratin dish large enough to hold everything.  Top with the remaining cup of Gruyère.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Then, turn on the broiler, and broil just until the top is golden brown.

To make the baguette chips (if using), turn the oven down to 350 degrees F.  Arrange the baguette slices in an even layer on a baking sheet (you will need at least two baking sheets).  Drizzle very lightly with olive oil, and toast for 10 to 12 minutes, until crisp and golden around the edges.  Repeat with any remaining baguette slices.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Bread & Butter, Cheap, Dips, Spreads, Preserves, Easy, Eat, For a Crowd, French in a Flash, Recipes, Series, Vegetarian