Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tart Tuesday: Veulettes and a Tarte aux Mûres (Blackberry Tart)

This past weekend I got my first taste of the French countryside... both literally and figuratively. Our friend Jules (who also was kind enough to host my birthday party) and his family have a country house, or compound rather, in the coastal town of Veulettes sur Mer. It's located in the Normandy region on the coast of France, about 2 hours northwest of Paris. They share the compound with his whole family, aunts, uncles, and grandmother, each with their own home, a shared pool, trampoline, game house, etc.

Veulettes sur Mer

Coastline of Veulettes

Alabaster Cliffs

La Mer


One Year Younger than America!

Boingy Boingy...

Louis on the Trampoline!

We spent the weekend basking in the sun and eating our hearts out. We jumped like little kids on the big trampoline, and drank the night away. One of the best parts about this time of year is that it's blackberry season. If picking almost 3 kilos (almost 6 1/2 pounds) of blackberries with Quentin and his mother in the forest behind their apartment (just the day before, mind you) wasn't enough, Veulettes was loaded with unpicked bushes of the tart little morsels. We picked enough to make a tart (and a little extra)... you know, since we didn't already have tons of food... and went back to the house to look up some recipes. I came across one recipe which called for créme fraîche and since we just bought some of the most delicious créme fraîche from the supermarket that morning, I thought it would only make the tart that much better.

Blackberry Overload!

The tart was delicious. Blackberries taste so much better when you pick them yourself. It's probably due to all the hard work that goes into picking them... since they have super sharp thorns and tend grow alongside massive bushes of poison ivy (eek!). It's sooo worth it.


I didn't actually get a chance to take pictures of the tart we made in Veulettes... it was just so good, and  disappeared so quickly. So I went back into the forest when we got back to Bougival, and picked my way through the thorns and poison ivy to get enough blackberries to make one more tart. I added some lemon zest to this one, to brighten up the flavors even more.

So in honor of the blackberry, I'm substituting Tartine Tuesday with Tart Tuesday... it just seems fitting.

Tarte aux Mûres

Tarte aux Mûres (Blackberry Tart)

Pâte Brisée (Pastry Dough):
250g flour
125g room temperature butter
1 egg yolk
pinch of salt

Cut room temperature butter into small pieces. In a large bowl, add flour and a pinch of salt. Stir to combine. Add the pieces of softened butter to the flour. Using your fingertips, loosely incorporate butter into flour just until the butter/flour mixture becomes flaky. 

Add the egg yolk into the bowl. Begin gradually incorporating the flour into the egg yolk with your fingertips and add a little water if necessary. Mix until all the flour is incorporated into the dough, and you are able to form it into a ball. Be careful not to overwork the dough. Wrap ball of dough in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. 

Once dough has rested, roll out in a circle wide enough to fit an 11-inch tart pan.

600g blackberries
1/2 cup créme fraîche (if you don't have access to créme fraîche, I guess you could use sour cream... *sigh*... just make sure it's full fat, none of that low fat stuff!)
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 egg
zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

Wash blackberries in a colander and set aside. Line an 11-inch tart pan with pâte brisée (pastry dough) and arrange the blackberries on top. In one bowl, whisk the milk and créme fraîche together until there are no more lumps of créme fraîche. In another bowl, combine sugar, brown sugar, lemon zest, and flour. Stir to combine. Add egg and mix into the flour/sugar mixture. Finally, add milk/créme fraîche mixture into the flour/sugar/egg mixture and whisk to combine. Pour the mixture over the berries. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Serves 6.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Some of My Favorite Non-Food Photos

Here are some of my favorite non-food photos that I've taken so far... just so my family doesn't think the only thing I'm doing here is eating... ;)

I couldn't stay awake to take shots of Paris at dawn, so I made up for it by taking some shots at night. Definitely my favorite night shot so far... and the background on my computer.

Paris at Night

Taken right before I was hassled like crazy by bracelet vendors. Je ne veux pas ta merde!

Sacre Coeur




The menu hanging by the entrance to the restaurant looked awesome, I just didn't know how I was going to fit through the door... 


Sometimes it's a good thing Paris is dead in August...

Paris Street

Golden snails!!

L'Escargot Montorgueil

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tartine Tuesday: Jerk Chicken Salad and Black Tomato Tartines

On a previous trip to the grocery store, I came across black tomatoes. 

Black Tomatoes and Regular Ones

Also called kumato tomatoes, black tomatoes are a variety of tomatoes which are grown in Spain, France, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland and Canada. The interesting thing about these tomatoes is that they ripen from the inside outwards. They are slightly smaller than your normal, everyday tomato(as shown in the picture above), and come in colors ranging from dark brown, to red, to golden green. Their flavor is more intense, and their flesh is much firmer than a regular tomato, making them perfect for salads and sandwiches.

Kumato Tomato, Sliced

I wanted to incorporate my recently purchased black tomatoes into one of my "Tartine Tuesday" recipes before they became too ripe to use.

Last night we had rotisserie-style jerk chicken. With only 3 people eating dinner, had a good hunk of meat left over for today. I stared at the leftover leg/thigh combo to try to get some inspiration for my tartine of the week. I shredded some of the meat into a bowl and added some mayo that I found in the back of the fridge. Ding! Chicken salad.

Shredding the Chicken

Now, you can use this recipe with regular rotisserie chicken, but I figured the heat form the jerk spices would give a little kick to the everyday chicken salad. I know, I should post the jerk chicken recipe before posting this one, but honestly, it's just a spice mix we had and rubbed on the chicken. Feel free to do the same, and make your own leftover jerk chicken for this recipe!!

Jerk Chicken Salad and Black Tomato Tartines

Jerk Chicken Salad and Black Tomato Tartines

1 1/2 cups of shredded rotisserie-style jerk chicken
2 black tomatoes, sliced(If you can't find black tomatoes, you can use any kind of tomatoes)
1 1/2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
2 slices of whole grain bread, toasted
salt and pepper, to taste

In a bowl, add the shredded chicken and mayo, and stir to combine. Salt and pepper to taste. If you are using regular rotisserie-style chicken, you can add a pinch crushed red pepper to give it some kick. Spread the chicken salad over toast and top with black tomatoes. Serves 2.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Chocolate Covered Birthday

There's way too much to write about from this weekend, so I'll just give you the highlights... I turned the big ol' 26 this past Saturday, and had a birthday weekend for the books. I already felt as though this month was like one big party, as it seems everyone's birthday is in August. Quentin celebrated his 30th, his friend Louis turned 29, Quentin's dad, my dad, grandma, aunts, uncle, and cousin all share their birthday month with me. Geez.
I've been unbelievably fortunate to have had some of the most memorable birthdays of my life these past few years. I spent my 24th birthday on a remote beach in Jamaica, with my dad, brother, one of my best friends from college, Peter-Jhon, and Quentin. I shared my 25th birthday with Quentin at our favorite sushi restaurant with some of our closest friends... and got a boatload(literally) of sushi. This year was sure to be a good one, for being in France is a great backdrop for a birthday no matter how big or how small.
The weekend started with Quentin's present for me... a trip to the grocery store to pick out any chocolate treats I wanted!! This boy sure knows the way to a girls heart.

My Birthday Present from Quentin!!

I really tried not to get this much stuff(seriously!), but all I kept hearing from Quentin and his friend Jules was, "Oh, these are good. Ooh I love these. Yeah, those are delicious, get those." So, I am now the proud owner of a year's supply of chocolatey treats! Not that I'm complaining...

After the chocolate shopping spree, we went over to our friend Jules' place, to relax and start prepping for the party that night. I have to give a lot of credit and thanks to him for hosting us the whole weekend and making me some delicious birthday cookies!! Thanks Jules!

Jules Making Cookies!

We made jerk chicken and beef, rice and peas cooked in coconut milk, a salad of tomatoes, peppers, celery and avocados, lots of bread, beer, and wine... and topped it all with my favorite part... Jules' chocolate chip cookies. We played card games late into the night while sipping on framboise and cassis liquor from 1980.

Birthday Weekend

Birthday Weekend

Birthday Weekend

Birthday Weekend

It was the perfect recipe for a great birthday: good food, lots of alcohol, and great friends. It didn't end there though, for me anyways. The next morning we walked to the market to get some fresh air, and some fruits and veggies so Jules could make us some healthy hangover smoothies.

Sunday Morning Market



Before leaving the market, we walked past a shop that had a mouthwatering display of quiches and pastries. I couldn't resist... I was hungry and they just looked so perfect. I bought myself a quiche provençale... a crispy tart filled with eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, onions, peppers, all mixed together with eggs and topped with a thick slice of tomato. It was calling my name.

Quiche Provençale

We returned to a table full of coffee mugs and the handful of hungover party-goers who crashed at Jules' place that night. After downing a good 2 or 3 cups of coffee, we all took a walk through the nearby forest, so the boys could sweat out some alcohol while I videoed them playing hacky sack.

All in all, my birthday weekend was a quite eventful and super fun-filled weekend. Thanks Jules for hosting, thanks everyone for the gifts and for coming to the party, and thanks Quentin for the CHOCOLATE!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Back in the Burbs, and Missing the 6th

I think I'm having 6eme withdrawals. For the past four weeks we were spoiled with chocolatiers, museums, and kick ass kitchen equipment stores at our footsteps. The 6eme(6th arrondissement) is notorious for tourists, and all the fancy things that tourists like to see and do. I know, I live here now, so I guess I'm not technically considered a tourist, but that doesn't mean I don't like looking at(and sometimes buying) 6 different kinds of macarons from Ladurée and 7 euro hot chocolate from Angelina.

Ladurée Chocolat Amer Macaron

Ladurée Café Macaron

Ladurée Framboise Macaron

Ladurée Chocolat Amer Macaron
How often do you have a Pierre Marcolini Chocolatier right down the street?

Pierre Marcolini
Now that Romain and Melanie are back from their conveniently long vacation, we're back in Bougival, the suburbs where Quentin's parents live. Being back here has helped me a lot, work-wise, as I'm not distracted by the distant calls of the boulangeries and patisseries. It's also helps me health-wise, because if I really want that pain aux chocolat, I have to walk a good ways to get it. The way back is mostly uphill, too.


So, I've been pretty good at not eating too much junk recently, but the other night I felt the urge... the urge to make something bad. I wanted something gooey and chocolatey. I was halfway done with my spec writing for the day, and wanted a little pick-me-up to get me through the last stretch of fabrics and sofas. I recently came across a recipe for "5 Minute Mug Cake" in which you actually microwave yourself a seemingly gooey and delicious chocolate cake. I didn't want to go through the entire process of making my dark chocolate espresso soufflés(I will post soon, I promise) which is what I really wanted, so I made do with the thought of making chocolate cake à la mug. The recipe calls for a few tablespoons each of flour, cocoa, milk, oil, and one egg. You're supposed to just mix it all and microwave it for 5 minutes and voilà... chocolate cake. But, oh no, it was so not chocolate cake. It was more like a chunk of car tire with a hint of chocolate. Seriously. Even letting it soak for 5 minutes in a glass of milk couldn't save it. It didn't even look pretty. I had to take a picture just to show you how nasty it was... (knife to symbolize my anger towards said "cake")

5 Minute Mug Cake Disaster

Gross. Never making that again. I hoped to compensate by making the chocolate soufflés which I know how to make, and know are delicious... but never got around to it. Luckily, Quentin's younger brother Gabriel made up for it by making me pain perdu(french toast to you 'mericans) with Nutella for dinner tonight. Okay, the Nutella was my idea... but it still hit the spot.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tartine Tuesday: Goat Cheese, Caramelized Onion, and Balsamic Fig Tartines

This is for all my friends out there who, like me, adore goat cheese. You're welcome.

Originally, I wanted to make these tartines with fresh mission figs. It was only about a year ago when I had my very first taste of fresh fig. I know, I know, how could that be?! Well, growing up there were always Fig Newtons at my Grandmother's house. She loved(and still does) them, but I was never really a fan. I guess I figured fresh figs would taste the same. Wow, was I wrong.

While living in Atlanta, I noticed two large mission fig trees growing near my urban vegetable garden in our apartment complex. Being a lover of all things food(especially free food) I gave a stab at trying one fresh off the tree. Wow. I picked a handful, brought them back to my apartment and made roasted figs with goat cheese, and prosciutto. Even wow-er. Okay, so now I like figs.

So today I went looking for some fresh mission figs at the supermarket, but could only find dried Turkish figs. I figured I could improvise.

I saved the left over duck fat from last night's magret de canard(duck breast) that Quentin so deliciously cooked for us, and spent most of the night brainstorming on how I could use it. I thought to myself, "Figs go well with goat cheese, goat cheese goes well with caramelized onions, onions + duck fat = yum, and duck goes well with fig."


Goat Cheese, Caramelized Onions, and Balsamic Fig Tartines

6 slices of bread (or about 10 slices of baguette), toasted
2 medium sized yellow onions, sliced
1 tablespoon of duck fat(you can also use bacon grease, or just butter and olive oil)
6-8 turkish figs, dried
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon of honey
fresh goat's cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

Slice the dried figs in half and place in a small bowl. Pour boiling water over the figs until just covered, and let steep for 10-15 minutes.

In a medium-sized sauté pan or frying pan, heat a tablespoon of duck fat on medium-high heat. Once heated, add the onions and stir to coat the onions with fat. Spread the onions out evenly over the pan and reduce heat to medium. Stir every 10 minutes or so, until the onions are softened and brown. This will take about 30 to 45 minutes.

Remove figs from the hot water(save the water) and scoop out the seeds and pulp with a spoon. In a small saucepan, add the fig seeds and pulp, balsamic vinegar, honey, 1/3 cup of the water the figs were steeping in, and a pinch of salt. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 5-10 minutes, until thickened.

Spread fresh goat's cheese on toasts and top with freshly cracked black pepper. Spoon balsamic fig reduction over the goat cheese and top with caramelized onions. Add a little slice of dried fig to the top for presentation. Serves 2.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Bad Karma Can Be A Good Thing

I think karma was trying to tell me that I've been too lazy these past few days. It's true, for the most part, I've spent our last remaining days in our 6th arrondissement(center of Paris) apartment all cooped up indoors. It hasn't been without good reason, though! I didn't expect this to happen so soon, but I am now working remotely for HBA(the design firm I was working for in Atlanta) as a specification writer. It's great to have an income again, but not so fun to wake up to the annoying buzz of an alarm clock(not that I don't hit the snooze button for an hour or two anyway). Needless to say, I've been sitting at my computer for the last few days, spec'ing(I know that's not a word, but I want to make it one) away.

The one great thing about having a job again, is that I was able to afford the one thing I really wanted to get Quentin for his 30th birthday(which is today in fact... HAPPY BIRTHDAY QUENTIN!)... a Nintendo DSi. I took him yesterday to pick it out(he, of course, picked the red one) along with whatever game he wanted(Mario Kart). Hehe... I think he liked it.

So back to why karma kicked my ass today... since I've just been sitting on my butt for the past 4 days, I really wanted to get out of the apartment and do a little window shopping. Well, it was more like, "now that I have a job, let's see what I'm going to spend my money on" shopping. I figured before I started my daily spec writing, I could make the 15 minute trek to Le Bon Marché and get a little visual stimulation(wow, that sounds dirty). Le Bon Marché is super expensive, and I would probably never buy anything there, but it's great place to check out... not only for the things they sell, but for the interiors, the displays, and their creative use of kitchen tools... hehe.

(Note: All pictures were taken during a previous successful trip to Le Bon Marché)

Now, I've been to Le Bon Marché a good three or so times now, so I figured I could remember how to get there by memory. Ha. I should let you all know now, over the past couple of years, my memory has gone to shit... I don't really know why... I used to be able to remember everything. These days, I can barely remember what I did last week. I started walking towards what I thought was Rue du Four... but somehow ended up walking aimlessly and ending up at the Jardin du Luxembourg. By the time I figured out that I was lost, 20 minutes had already passed, and I knew it would take another 20 minutes just to find my way back home. Arrrgh! I wanted this to be a quick trip so that I could get home quickly and start working! I started walking a little faster to try and find something familiar so I could orient myself, and find my way home.

Here's the route I was supposed to go:

Here's the route I went:

So yeah, karma kicked my butt today. I figured it was telling me that; One, I shouldn't tempt myself into spending money just yet, and two, that my ass needed some exercise! I can't complain though, I burned a few calories, walked through the beautiful Jardin du Luxembourg, and managed not to spend a single dime. Thanks, Paris.