Category Archives: cooking

First Day Back

I have been back in Paris for just over 24 hours and am still feeling a tad fuzzy-brained. I spent some time with my old friend Jet Lag in the middle of the night, and am not yet completely in this time zone. So please forgive incoherence or typos or weirdness of any kind.

Yesterday I managed a quick trip to my neighborhood Franprix for a few essentials. Guess what? It’s no longer the “stinky Franprix”! She has had a complete makeover and looks and smells infinitely better. Hooray for enclosed refrigeration of the cheese!  If I could just figure out where they moved the hummus I would be completely satisfied.

I picked up some gorgeous strawberries and this morning I mixed them with some frozen mango, plain yogurt, and a touch of honey to make a decadent smoothie for breakfast. Twas very delicious.

Hello, lovely.

Hello, lovely.

Feeling fortified, I grabbed my little red shopping cart and walked to the Wilson Market to see what new produce was in season. I found abundant strawberries, happy cherries, tiny bunches of wild asparagus (so cute but not sure what to do with them), rhubarb, artichokes, and eggplant. Here is what i bought:

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I don’t know why I never buy prepared food at the market, as it always looks and smells delicious. The huge saucer of paella reminded me of the amazing paella we ate in Madrid, so I bought some. Dinner: check.

Are you as intimidated by artichokes as I am? I love to eat them, but they are thorny and fuzzy and I never know how long to cook them. The market was full of these baby artichokes and I had just read a Smitten Kitchen post on Crispy Frizzled Artichokes, so I decided to give it a try. As you can see, I only bought five, just in case I don’t get it right.

Paris is cool and overcast this morning but the sun promises to peek out this afternoon. I think I will take a nap and hope for a sunny walk when I wake up.

Happy Hump Day, everyone!

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Filed under cooking, food markets, Paris

The Final Installment of Paris With My Mom and Niece

Mom and my niece were only here for a week, but we made sure we filled each day with as much Paris pleasure as we could pack in.

Obviously, my niece could not make her first trip to Paris and not see a bit of the Louvre. We walked over one morning, hoping to beat the crowds, and did the “Masterpiece Tour” on the museum’s very cool audio guide. The guide had a screen with a GPS on it that showed where we were and guided us to the “top hits” of the collection. As we approached each masterpiece, the audio would begin telling us about it without the need to push any buttons. Way cool. Despite some technical difficulties, which may or may not have been due to user error, we found the guide to be very helpful and I would highly recommend renting it.

We spent about an hour and half there, which was just about all we could manage.

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Aren’t you glad I opted not to video my tour, as many others were doing that day?

Having experienced a tip-top view of Paris by day, we decided to try a night-time view from the restaurant at the top of the Montparnasse tower, Le Ciel de Paris. Mark and I had never been up there and were curious about the restaurant and bar with a view that included the Eiffel Tower. I must say that my expectations were exceeded by our dinner experience. The service was professional and friendly, the atmosphere was elegant, the food was good, and the view was prime.

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I was thrilled that my niece was actually interested in art, so I didn’t pass up the opportunity to show her one of my favorite museums, the Musée d’Orsay. We toured the sure-to-please impressionist collection on the fifth floor, and then chose a few classics from the second floor.

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Their final night in Paris was a Sunday, and we took them to an old family favorite near the Eiffel Tower, La Fontaine de Mars. Not at all pricey, but always good, this place serves a delicious roasted chicken and mashed potatoes for when you have had all the fancy French food you can stand.

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and I love their gigantic, cheery napkins

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And just like that, our week was over. Time always goes by too fast when we share Paris with family!

On a more recent note, I went to the Wilson Market yesterday and came home with the last of the winter’s cauliflower and the first of the spring asparagus. I love it when seasons collide like they did in this tasty dish from Smitten Kitchen, Roasted Veggies With Brown Butter  Breadcrumbs. Actually, her recipe was just for cauliflower, but I knew it would be delicious with asparagus too, because, brown butter.

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And it was.

I hope you are all enjoying this lovely season, wherever you may be. Spring is taking a time-out in Paris today, where it is grey and drizzly and a breezy 52 degrees. No worries, though- sounds like a perfect Sunday to stay inside, blog, and check out my new favorite Netflix show, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Thanks for sharing part of your day with me!

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Meanwhile, Back At The Parc Monceau

Happy Tuesday, tout le monde! While my peeps in Texas are enjoying some stellar weather, it was another grey day in Paris. I’m not complaining. In fact, I spent a lovely hour in the park this afternoon, something I had not done in several weeks. The park was pretty bare of people and of blooms, although I did search for signs of spring.

These fancy pink trees are always first to the party. It’s kind of show-offy, really.

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This long purple bloom is pretty.

 

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That was about the extent of it- winter is sitting pretty still in Paris, although the days are definitely getting longer.

The little school in the park was having recess while I was there, and those kids had lots of spring in their steps! They were so cute- like a bed of ants in constant motion. They chased up and down the wide concrete path in the center of the park, slipping on gravel and occasionally falling down, only to pop back up and continue the game.

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This sweet little girl was thrilled with her balloon, which was almost bigger than she was.

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Let’s see- what else is new in Paris? Dominique Strauss-Kahn had no idea those women were prostitutes. He thought they were just very pretty and very friendly. Twas an easy mistake.

The cauliflower parm was delicious, and now I want to just fry up some cauliflower and dip it in something like chipotle sour cream, or sriracha and mayo. They would also be good on a bed of greens as a salad.

I keep thinking about a book I just finished called Department of Speculation. Such a big little book, and so fresh. It won’t be for everyone, but it was for me.

That’s all I got, mes amis. Enjoy your day!

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I’m Back On The Streets

Hellllooooo! I feel as though I have been away from this space for a very long time. Between a lingering illness and five days of travel, many parts of my life have suffered neglect. But I am finally feeling better and am ready to return to the streets and to the blogosphere. Is anyone still out there there there there????

Even though I knew I was well on the road to recovery, Mark insisted I go to the doctor this afternoon- my first time to visit a French doctor since we began this Paris chapter. After giving the receptionist a few bits of vital information (but nothing like the pages of questions on the clipboard at home) I was ushered into a small waiting room. The room was about the size of a typical American examining room and comfortably seated eight people. Instead of magazines there were coffee table art books, and instead of a TV there was classical music. Ahhhh- these Frenchies are so civilized. Is there anything worse than being trapped in a doctor’s waiting room with a television on? Like home, however, I did have to wait for over thirty minutes before being called into the doctor’s office. I hadn’t brought a book because I planned to catch up on emails, not realizing that there would be no cell service in the room. I was forced to close my eyes and enjoy the music until they called my name at last.The doctor met me at his desk and typed up my answers to  questions about my health and symptoms. There was an examining table in his office, and after the exam he opined that I probably had been sick with walking pneumonia, but was no longer sick enough to need antibiotics. He handed me an invoice and I paid the receptionist and left. It had been painless and quicker than the usual visit at home. Plus, I had this at the end of the street.

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And after my appointment I treated myself to a chocolat chaud.

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So the hour was not a total waste.

This morning I returned to the fun concept store, Merci . When I had taken Martha’s friends there, we were disappointed to find that it was in between installations, and I was hoping to see the newest incarnation today. However, it was still a work in progress.IMG_1916_2

Here is what it looks like so far.

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I am intrigued. Something with textiles, clearly, and lots of spools. I will put it on my list to return next month and show you the finished product, which I’m sure will be cool.

As always, lots of things caught my eye.

I wondered if either man in my life was fashion forward enough to rock these quilted shoes. Then I looked at the price and decided that the answer was no.

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These stone letters were cool.

IMG_1903_2This way- cool electric bicycle caught my eye. It will be available in March for 4500 euros.

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The linen at Merci always beckons to me.

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aprons. Yes please.

aprons. Yes please.

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These dishes are amazing.

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Loved this little fringey bag.

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And this linen dress just has me written all over it.

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and throw in the cute little pouch, too, please

So that was pretty much my Monday. Oh yeah- there’s this! Cauliflower Parmesan for dinner, thanks to Melissa Clark.  I can already tell you that it’s going to be tasty.

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Ah- it’s good to be back!

 

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Winter Vegetables Win

Mark left for a quick three-day trip to New York City today. That means that I can cook one big batch of something and eat it for the next few days, which is something I don’t mind doing but don’t force on my husband. It’s kind of lazy, I guess, but better than another possible alternative, which was to live on almonds, red wine, and butter (which I may or may not have considered when it was time to get out of my jammies and head to the market).

I didn’t over-buy, since it’s just me:

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Pictured are shallots, turnips, bread, celery root, carrots, lettuce, a parsnip (I hope), and a gorgeous piece of “pain noir”, bursting with seeds and nuts. She actually merits a close-up.

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You might ask why bought all that bread when it’s just me here, but then you would be rude.

As soon as I unwrapped all these beauties I peeled and chopped and roasted them until they looked like this:

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I roast veggies a lot, but this time I tried a new technique from America’s Test Kitchen that I read about here. It involved a few extra steps, like “par-microwaving” (is that even a thing?) the veggies, draining, and then adding to a hot sheet pan, but it resulted in a lovely, even caramelization in less time than these vegetables usually require. And my kitchen smelled amazing.

So my plan is to eat these for the next several days, perhaps with some cooked grains or lentils, and definitely with some bread. Now that my food is taken care of for the rest of the week, my only challenge will be resisting the call of my warm bed and the newly arrived French Netflix, which includes Orange Is The New Black and the British show, Call The Midwife. Yep- as much as I love tromping around Paris like a crazed woman, I also have a dark side that tempts me to stay inside and in my pajamas all day.

I have been bingeing on Orange Is The New Black, and as much as I like it, I can only take so much of all those women in prison garb. In fact, this might be the perfect time to switch back over to Mad Men for a bit. Nothing goes better with winter vegetables than a side of Hamm.

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Pioneer Woman and Pumpkin Soup

Some of you know of my longstanding relationship with Ree Drummond, aka “Pioneer Woman”, aka “PW”, aka “P-Dub”. I loved her long before she had a cookbook to her name, and before she ever appeared on The Today Show, much less in her very own show on Food Network. Back in the day she was just a blogger who took great photos of her ranch in Oklahoma and of whatever she might have been cooking for dinner.

When I read in 2009 that she would be doing a book tour for her first cookbook,  I suggested to my boss at the little independent bookstore where I worked that we might want to ask her to come by for a signing. My boss agreed, with the caveat that  I had better drum up an audience if we were going to host an event for her. That proved to be not a problem, as her signing turned out to be one of the biggest events our little store had ever thrown. We sold more than a few of her books that evening, which stretched until close to midnight. I was kind of a rock star at the store for a few days after that.

The rest, of course, is history. Ree has published children’s books, a memoir, and several more cookbooks since that day she first visited us in Houston. She has done several more signings at the store, and always asks to have her picture taken with me when she stops by.

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I am sorry to report that Ree and I have kind of gone our separate ways since last we met. Her style of cooking (for hungry cowboys and ranch hands) no longer meets my needs, and being a cattle rancher and all, she just doesn’t support my journey away from red meat.  I guess we have grown apart. Sigh.

Despite our differences, there are still a few of Ree’s recipes  that make frequent appearances at my table. One of those is a crusty herb bread that she calls “Pastor Ryan’s Herb Bread”. Everyone loves this bread. One year my daughter’s best friend asked for it for her birthday. Of course I made it for her, because who could deny such a sweet request?

This bread is super easy to make if you have a mixer with a dough hook. The parts come together in a jif, producing a ball of dough like this.

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Left alone for an hour or two, it looks like this.

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Finally, I rub the dough with olive oil (it loves that part), give it a liberal sprinkle of sea salt, score it with my chef’s knife, and pop it in a hot oven. It bakes in a heavy covered pot (enameled cast iron like Le Creuset is recommended), 30 minutes with the lid on and then 20 minutes uncovered.

And voila! This vision of deliciousness emerges from the oven.

 

 

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The hardest thing about this bread is not eating the entire round while it is still hot, with sweet butter dripping off the crust. So good. The reward for not eating the whole thing is toasted herb bread for breakfast the next day. Hooray for self-restraint! Hooray for toast!

Monday night we ate it with this spicy pumpkin soup and called it a winner.

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I do love making soup in the winter and pretending it’s cold outside. (Ha! Auto proofreader just wanted to place a hyphen between love and making. What a slut.)

Thanks, P-Dub. I still love ya.

 

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November??

Whoa November- what are you doing here so soon? I was just getting comfortable with October and now she’s gone? What the heck? Can’t we all just slow down a little bit? Because the next thing you know it’s going to be time for turkey and cranberries and then the next blink is ornaments and gift wrap and shopping lists and I’m just not ready for all that. Like at all.

I got home from Paris at the beginning of October, and have spent much of that month in the kitchen, reveling in the ease of shopping and cooking in my motherland. I made this gorgeous carrot soup from Orangette (yes I know it’s made with coconut milk and you will just have to trust me here), this hearty dark bread from David Lebovitz (which Wonder Chien stole off the counter, leaving a pile of incriminating sunflower seeds on the floor), this tasty vegetable soup with freekeh (cuz I’m a very freekeh girl…..), and the first five recipes from the “Cookies, Brownies & Bars” chapter of Joy The Baker’s new cookbook, Homemade Decadence (because a girl can’t live on soup and bread alone).

We have hit the road or skies every weekend but one since we got back. Last weekend we flew to St. Louis to see our daughter run her first half-marathon. An added bonus was a taste of fall, which we don’t get here in Texas.

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Washington University in St. Louis is beautiful any time of the year, but particularly during fall.

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The best part of the weekend was the surprise appearances of our other two kids, who flew in from Texas. Our daughter was shocked- in a good way.

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The race wound through Forest Park, a beautiful park just across the street from the school.

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The only thing more difficult than getting us all there for the weekend was getting a decent picture of all of us. Apparently the girl we snagged to snap our photo thought it was important to get the parking stripes in the background.

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I am so loving being home. But don’t worry. I have lots more Paris for you. Tune in again tomorrow!

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