French in a Flash: Easy Awesome Eggplant Tian

RECIPE: Easy Awesome Eggplant Tian
Easy Awesome Eggplant Tian

Easy Awesome Eggplant Tian

Discovering eggplant tian is like sending the man you love out for a makeover, and then having him return ten times more handsome than he was to begin with.  Eggplant Parm is wonderful.  I’ve been eating it since I was six years old.  It’s comfortable as flannel pajamas and a DVR on a Friday night.  But it’s fattening.  It doesn’t look so hot on the plate.  And after twenty-two years of devotion, it’s time to spice things up.

Eggplant Tian, my new and improved Eggplant Parm, comes from Provence, the land where eggplant is king.  Kind of like our New York-style Eggplant Parm, it is made with slices of eggplant, tomato sauce, and cheese.  But instead of being breaded and fried, the eggplant is sweet and softly roasted.  Instead of just mozzarella, the tian can be topped with Gruyère or Valbreso or any number of gooey, salty cheeses.  And most notably, tians are named for the dishes in which they are baked, round or oval porcelain gratin dishes.  Which adds a lot to the look of the dish, turning an Italian takeout classic to an elegant French dinner.

This version has a few steps, but is the easiest way I’ve ever found to make eggplant tian.  I roast the eggplant in a vinaigrette of olive oil and garlic (very Provençal) tempered with balsamic vinegar, which sweetens the eggplant as it roasts.  Then, into the tian dishes with bought tomato sauce, and a simple topping of fresh mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.  A drizzle of pesto or pistou over the top finishes this gorgeous vegetarian main course.  And no time is better for eggplant than right now, when they’re dark and sultry and so inviting.  Gather ye eggplants while ye may—there’s nothing worse than out-of-season eggplant.

Excerpted from my weekly column French in a Flash on Serious Eats.  Click HERE for this post.

Easy Awesome Eggplant Tian
serves 4

Easy Awesome Eggplant TianINGREDIENTS

  • 2 large eggplants

  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt

  • 1/2 cup olive oil

  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

  • 1 large clove garlic, grated

  • Freshly cracked black pepper

  • 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce, divided

  • 9 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn in small chunks

  • 4 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano

  • 4 teaspoons pesto sauce or pistou


Slice the eggplant into 1/2-inch rounds.  Toss the eggplant with the salt in a large colander, and allow to sit and drain in the sink for 30 minutes.

Preheat the boiler.  In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, and pepper.  Without rinsing the eggplant, toss them with the vinaigrette, and let marinate for 15 minutes.  Arrange the slices in a single layer on a large nonstick baking sheet (you may need to do this in batches).  Broil for 12 minutes.  Flip the eggplant slices over with a spatula.  Broil another 12 minutes.

Heat the oven to 425°F.  Place 2 tablespoons of marinara sauce in the bottom of each of 4 round au gratin dishes.  Divide the eggplant slices among the 4 dishes.  Top each dish with 1/4 cup of marinara sauce.  Then divide the mozzarella pieces among the 4 dishes, and finally the Parmigiano Reggiano.  Place the gratin dishes on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any spills, and bake for 30 minutes until the marinara sauce is bubbling, and the cheese is melted.  Let the tians rest for 10 minutes.  Drizzle with pesto sauce, and serve.

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Categories: Easy, Eat, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, Sides, Vegetables, Vegetarian, Vegetarian

The Paul Macaron Frappé

Pistachio Macaron Frappé Up Close

There's a macaron in here. I'm serious!

I have loved macarons for a really long time.  And when I am in Paris, and get the chance to buy the really good ones, I guard them with my life until I get them home, so there are no chips or dents or cracks to mar that magnificent exterior.  I guess I feel the same way about my macarons as some people feel about their Bentleys.  I don’t want them damaged.  Precious goods!

So when I saw that Paul, the French bakery that seems to be suddenly cropping up all over the world, in London was making “macaron frappés,” I obviously had to find out what was going on.  Imagine your typical frappé–usually a coffee drink, blended up with ice.  Like a coffee slushy.  So, it’s kind of like that, but substitute a macaron for the coffee.

First, it starts with a choice.  Pistachio, raspberry, chocolate, or vanilla.  If that doesn’t slay you where you stand, then they make your frappé.  I chose pistachio.  So they took a large pistachio macaron and, horror of horrors, stuffed in into the blender!  With milk, cream, and tons of ice.  As it swirled together, the whole blender turned pale, Easter egg green, and as they poured my frappé into its cup, despite my shattered macaron, I was giddy with anticipation.

I loved it.  I’m allergic to coffee, so this was that much more exciting to me.  It wasn’t too sweet–the only sweetness coming from the macaron.  There was the hint of almond-pistachio flavor, gentle, in a kind of milkshake, but not nearly so cloying or thick as a milkshake.  It was cold, and crunchy from the ice, and mild and delicious.  Most of all, refreshing.  And of course, I loved it all the more for knowing there was a macaron inside.

I just can’t believe I voluntarily crushed a macaron.  And loved it!

Pistachio Macaron Frappé

Macaron Frappé At Paul, London

At Paul, London

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Categories: Finds, London, Voyages

The Secret Ingredient (Dijon Mustard) Part 4: Moules Dijonnaise

RECIPE: Moules Dijonnaise
Moules Dijonnaise

Moules Dijonnaise

Usually, I only do three Secret Ingredient recipes per ingredient, but Dijon mustard is so up my alley, that I think I’m going to keep going. My apologies to those who have complained of a mustard allergy! I’m allergic to chicken and coffee, so I get where you’re coming from.

I know I’ve told this story before on French in a Flash, but it is worth repeating. When I was in Paris, I went to the Maille store, and it looks like something between a really nice pub bar, an apothecary shop, and a museum. Behind glass in lighted cases were kept the moutardiers, little mustard jars with prim little spoons, hand painted, and passed down through generations. From the bar, with taps, were different kinds of mustards you could buy or taste. And all along the walls, in neat little rows, were every conceivable kind of mustard: curry, piment d’Espelette, tarragon, walnut, cassis, blue cheese, clementine, garlic, shallot. Different colors, different textures. Each one screaming to be used in every conceivable recipe, especially vinaigrette. It was then that I fully began to understand the French love of mustard. Wow, I thought.

In my house, growing up, we really did put mustard on everything. My stepfather, from Normandy, puts it on the side of every dish he eats, methodically dipping meat, fish, even pasta into it–much like we complain some of us Americans do with ketchup. As for me, whenever I order fries, I ask for a side of Dijon mustard. Ketchup just wasn’t around for me to grow up with. When my mom went to Costco, she would buy industrial size jars of mustard. There was so much of it to use up, I began putting it in everything.

One of my favorite mustard recipes is Moules Dijonnaise: mussels in a creamy mustard sauce. I much prefer it to the traditional Marinière. I flavor the broth with shallots, leeks, and garlic, wine, and two mustards, and cream, and a garden full of fresh thyme. Hold on to your hats, and your baguettes. It’s so good.

Excerpted from my weekly column The Secret Ingredient on Serious Eats.  Click HERE for this post.

Moules Dijonnaise
serves 2 to 4

Moules DijonnaiseINGREDIENTS

  • 4 pounds mussels

  • 1 spoonful all purpose flour

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 shallots, diced

  • 1 skinny leek, finely sliced in halfmoons

  • Kosher salt

  • Freshly cracked black pepper

  • 4 cloves garlic, grated

  • 1 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvingnon Blanc

  • A small bunch of fresh thyme (about .2 ounces)

  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard

  • 1/4 cup whole grain mustard

  • 1 cup heavy cream


Place the mussels and flour in a huge bowl, and cover with cold water.  Leave the mussels to soak while you prepare the rest of the ingredients, and they will disgorge any sand they might be saving up in their bellies.  Finally, drain and rinse the mussels.  Throw out any that are open.

In a large, wide braising pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  When the oil ripples, add the shallots and leek, and season with salt and pepper.  Sauté, stirring often, until the vegetables are soft and fragrant, but not golden: about 3 minutes.  Lower the heat, and add the garlic, stirring it around with the other vegetables for about 45 seconds.  Then add the wine, and the thyme, and season the mixture with salt and pepper.  Cover the pot, keep it over low heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the mussels, and raise the heat to medium-high.  Keep the pot covered.  The mussels are cooked when they’ve all opened.  It takes about 5 minutes.  Discard any that remain stubbornly closed.

Turn off the heat, and stir in the mustards and the cream, until well combined into the broth.  Taste the broth for seasoning, and adjust as needed.  Serve right away, with a big baguette to tear apart and dip into the broth.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Fish, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, The Secret Ingredient

French in a Flash: Niçoise Tuna Melts

RECIPE: Niçoise Tuna Melts
Niçoise Tuna Melt

Niçoise Tuna Melt

The Niçoise salad is such a classic, I can’t seem to stop reinventing it.  I was actually inspired to make this sandwich while thumbing through Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook, and reading about her tuna melt history at Jackson Hole—a chain of diners with which every New Yorker will be very familiar.  On the back of her book is a picture of a Niçoise salad, and the light bulb above my head went off.

I start with a good crusty, chewy baguette, charred on the grill, and rubbed with the number one ingredient of Provence: garlic.  Then, a black olive tartare sauce, made from mayonnaise (of course), tapenade, Dijon mustard, vinegar, anchovy paste and chunks of cornichons, Niçoise olives, shallots, and parsley.  On top of that, handfuls of arugula and sweet-tart oven-roasted tomatoes.  The crowning glory is sliced herbes de Provence-rubbed rare-seared tuna steak, covered in a blanket of melted Gruyère cheese.  What could be better?  I think nothing.

Excerpted from my weekly column “French in a Flash” on Serious Eats.  Click HERE for this post.

Continue reading

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Bread & Butter, Easy, Eat, French in a Flash, Recipes, Sandwiches, Series

Franglais: Crispy Fried Boursin Cheese Balls

RECIPE: Crispy Fried Boursin Cheese Balls
Boursin Balls 2

Crispy Fried Boursin Cheese Balls

I was hungry and grumpy (when are those two ever seen apart?) at the Nice airport a few weeks ago.  I couldn’t find a McDonald’s, so I figured it was high time I tried the other fast food in France: Quick.

I scanned the menu for something different.  I didn’t come all the way to France to eat the same ol’ chicken nuggets I’ve been eating since I was five.  I spied something on the menu: Boursin balls, crispy fried little nuggets of creamy cheese.  Like a mozzarella stick, but round, and instead of stringy, mild cheese, Boursin is creamy and fiery with garlic and herbs.  Of course, they were dangerously addictive.  The Boursin was so full of flavor, I needed a toothbrush for my flight.  The outside crust of breadcrumbs was crisp, and like an eggshell, it cracked to let the warm, soft cheese ooze out into my mouth.  Hungry and Grumpy were banished back to wherever they came from, not to be seen or heard from again.  Until I touched down in Toulouse, and spotted the cassoulet.

When I was a little girl in school, when the other little girls would copy each other, and one would shout, “Copycat!”, the other would turn very calm and mature and recite, “Copying is the most sincere form of flattery.”  So, I am flattering Quick.  This is my version of Crispy Fried Boursin Balls, a smash up of Garlic and Fines Herbes Boursin, that you buy at the supermarket, shredded mozzarella, for gooeyness, and cream cheese, to bind everything together in creamy deliciousness.  I roll the balls in egg white and fine bread crumbs, and fry them for just a minute.  They are crisp, soft, and so flavorful from that Boursin.  I made 15, and it took far fewer than 15 minutes for them to get devoured.  These are perfect for cocktails, or for watching a game, or for a grown-up “after school” snack.  Bon app.

Boursin Balls 1

Mozzarella sticks, beware!

Excerpted from my weekly column “Franglais” on The Huffington Post.  Click HERE for this post.

Crispy Fried Boursin Cheese Balls
makes 15

Boursin Balls 2INGREDIENTS

  • 1 5.2-ounce box of Boursin cheese, garlic and herbs flavor, room temperature

  • ½ cup grated part-skim mozzarella

  • 1 ounce cream cheese, room temperature

  • ¼ cup flour

  • 1 egg white, beaten with 1 tablespoon water

  • ⅓ cup breadcrumbs

  • Canola oil, for frying

  • Kosher salt, for seasoning


In a medium bowl, smash together the Boursin, mozzarella, and cream cheese.  Use a 1 ¼-inch ice cream scoop to shape out little rounds of the cheese mixture, and place them on a small rimmed baking sheet lined with wax paper.  Freeze for 45 minutes to an hour.

Fill a small pot with at least 3 inches of canola oil, and heat the oil to 360°F.  While the oil is heating, bread the cheese balls.  Place the flour, egg white and water mixture, and crumbs in three separate small bowls.  Dredge each ball lightly in flour, lightly in eggwash, and finally lightly in bread crumbs.  Set aside.

Once the oil has reached 360°F, fry the cheese balls, 3 at a time, for about 1 minutes, until the outside crumbs are golden brown and crisp, and the cheese is just starting to melt and break through.  Drain on a paper towel.  Repeat with the remaining cheese balls.  Sprinkle the whole lot lightly with salt, and serve piping hot and oozing.

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Categories: 60 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Easy, Eat, For a Crowd, Franglais, Recipes, Series, Vegetarian

Avocado and Tomato “Canapé” Toasts

RECIPE: Avocado and Tomato "Canapé" Toasts
Avocado and Tomato Toasts

Avocado and Tomato Toasts

I just made these for dinner from some scraps lurking in my fridge.  So good and buttery and summery fresh.  Perfect with pinot grigio.  Delish.

Avocado and Tomato "Canapé" Toasts
makes 9

Avocado and Tomato ToastsINGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 baguette, sliced in 1/2-inch slices

  • 1/2 Haas avocado, small diced

  • 20 grape tomatoes, halved

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • Juice of 1/8 lemon

  • Salt and pepper


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Place the baguette slices in a single layer on a baking sheet, and toast until crisp--8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, toss together the avocado, tomato, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.  Pile the salad on the baguette toasts, and serve!  Done and done.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Cheap, Easy, Eat, For a Crowd, Recipes, Vegetarian



This is what you see driving up...



And this is what you see when you get there...

CARLA BAYLE View 5CARLA BAYLE View 6CARLA BAYLE View 7Carla-Bayle is one of those places that is way better than it should be.  A tiny hilltop town, with a weird name.  I didn’t even want to go.  But neighbors had said it was fantastic, and I lost my say in the matter.

The town is one street, on top of a mountain.  It is gorgeous.  The views in every direction reveal the rolling hills that you only think are beautiful from the roads.  A great lake.  A sunset as to steal your breath away.



The taco truck

CARLA BAYLE Night Lights

The town is one little stony cobbled street, with medieval buildings, and a string of bulbs running the length, lightly it up brightly.  Every little home has an artist’s studio.  There was a food truck–pretty avant garde for a medieval town–that sold tacos.  And one restaurant.  With one of the best meals I’d ever had.  It started with oysters, gratined with creamy leeks.  Sea bream, soaked in pine nuts and nut oil.  Cheeses, and pistachio ice cream.  And a gorgeous rosé from the area.  The sunset was so bright, I had to keep my sunglasses on even though we were inside.


Gratined oysters with creamed leeks and tomato skin cracklin'


Foie Gras

CARLA BAYLE Sea Bream with Pinenuts

Sea Bream with Pinenuts

CARLA BAYLE Fish with Crustacean Sauce

Crispy Fish with Crustacean Sauce

CARLA BAYLE Pistachio Ice Cream

Pistachio Ice Cream

CARLA BAYLE Earl Grey Macaron with Violet Syrup

Earl Grey Macarons with Violet Syrup

The restaurant is called Auberge Pierre Bayle.

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Categories: Restaurants, Toulouse, Voyages