Apricot almond tart

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With the recent homemade vs store-bought debate in French restaurant legislation, puff pastry falls on the side of quality items that restaurants are generally allowed not to produce in-house.

At home? It’s your own call. Puff pastry is time consuming and requires a certain finesse and, personally, I don’t see anything wrong with having some waiting for you in the freezer.

It certainly makes baking this tart much faster. Just roll out the pastry thinly and flour lightly.

I love apricots and this tart is all easy sunshine and sunny indulgences. Bon appétit!

Apricot almond tart

You’ll need:

  • one sheet puff pastry
  • 1 egg (for egg wash)
  • 10-12 ripe apricots, depending on size
  • 1/4 cup vanilla sugar
  • 2 T honey
  • 1/3 cup water
  • a handful (or more) blanched whole almonds

1. Roll out the pastry thinly, flour lightly, prick lightly with a fork all over, and drape into whatever cake pan or baking dish you’re using. Refrigerate while making the filling.

2. Wash and pit apricots, cut them in half (or smaller, depending on size) and divide up in half – keep half fresh and cook the rest.

3. Heat up a deep pan, place half of the apricots face down in the pan with 1/3 cup water. Sprinkle with vanilla sugar and honey.

Cook until the apricots are tender and syrupy, but not falling apart.

4. Preheat oven to 365F.  Take the dough out of the fridge. Layer fresh apricots “face” up in the middle of the tart. Place an almond inside each half. Then, place the cooked apricots all around in a single layer. Top with most of the syrup, reserving about a T for glazing later.

5. Crimp the edges of the tart and brush with egg wash. Bake until golden brown and puffy.

Let cool slightly, then glaze with remaining syrup – this will give the tart a nice sheen.IMG_1514 Top with a few more almonds, if desired, and serve on its own or with a lot of fresh whipped cream or a scoop of greek yogurt.

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Playing catch up {+ this week on s&h}

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Still running around playing catch-up and feeling constantly under caffeinated, by French standards.

But trying to take a deep breath after the past week of travel nightmares and jet lagged adventures.

This week I am excited about a few lovely al fresco dinners and an upcoming feature on The Besty on my favorite places around town.

I am also working on an ochre-colored crowd-pleaser of an apricot tart for you that tastes like today’s perfectly diffused summer sunshine.
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Did I show you the pot de crème – a whole big pot of freshly whipped cream – that came with my much more modest apple tart at dinner in Cagnes?

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That’s serious stuff.

Look out, I am going to make it a mandatory part of any future tart and pie recipes!

And here is one more unbelievable sunset for you. {We really try our best to capture a mood or a moment with photos, but capturing nature is close to impossible…}

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Cauliflower tabouleh

photo 1I’ve owed you guys this recipe for a while now, but have been working on making the dressing subtle yet still punchy.

I think this version really makes the most of all of the lovely, wholesome ingredients and, yes, everyone will still have their I-can’t-believe-this-is-cauliflower moment.

Although this is far from a traditional tabouleh, the herbs and texture are still what make this salad shine. So don’t skimp on the lemon juice or the greens!

Tips: The tabbouleh also keeps well (in case you have any leftovers). And if you’re in the market for a slightly more traditional take, these bulgur tabouleh wraps are a great easy weeknight meal and another Meatless Monday alternative.

My sojourn is coming to a close and I’ll be back in NY almost as soon as you read this. Already missing the easy family dinners and daily trips to the market and that startling pink light settling over the sea.

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Cauliflower tabouleh

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 head of large cauliflower (peeled, trimmed)
  • 1/3 cup of light red grapes, halved
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins, rehydrated (see below)
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced and diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 t pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or both
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • a lot of lemon juice (to taste)
  • labne (or another strained, tart yogurt)
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper

1. Chop cauliflower in a food processor or, alternatively, grate to the size of very small grains on a grater. Prepare the rest of the ingredients.

2. Rehydrate the raisins by placing them in a bowl, covering with boiling water, then draining well.

3. Make the dressing by mixing olive oil with lemon juice, a good pinch of salt, and a few tablespoons of labne. You don’t want the salad to drown in the dressing, but you need it to help combine all of the flavors – so use that as your guide to the amount you make.photo 3

4. Combine all of the ingredients, toss gently with dressing. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper accordingly.
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Summertime in Provence

20140715-215047-78647300.jpgSummertime in Provence is ripe with the smell of honey, lavender, and tomatoes.

And then there is the salt of the sea and the sea marshes that whiffs over with the late morning breeze, as well.

Away from the coast, I’m back for a visit to the farm in Les Baux and the goats (who have grown up quite a bit since last month!). But I’ll be honest, I’m actually back just for the golden apricot jam.

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And if I happen upon my favorite mango ice cream dessert along the way, well, that’s even better.

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Goat’s milk & ricotta pikelets

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Pikelets, pancakes, crumpets, crepes & blini… different cultures have their own takes on this great breakfast or tea time tradition.

And these ones are made with goat’s milk and we all know goats are great (see here), it’s just a fact.

I know you’ll make your whole family happy this weekend, if you whip up a patch of these for breakfast.

{As per me, since I’m in France at the moment, I will have to be content with my more French style breakfast of coffee. And more coffee, with a side of berries}.

Goat’s milk and ricotta pikelets

(adapted from Donna Hay magazine)

  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups goat’s milk
  • 1 t malt or rice vinegar
  • 200 g goat’s milk or regular fresh ricotta, crumbled
  • 20 g butter
  • fresh honeycomb

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, sugar and eggs. The batter will feel pretty heavy, initially.

2. Gradually pour in and whisk in goat’s milk and vinegar.

3. Gently fold in the crumbled ricotta.

4. Heat a large non-stick pan and melt a dollop of butter.

Drop batter in tablespoons, cooking each pikelet about 2 minutes on each side until golden brown.10464365_724689260927174_395266348540955892_n

Serve with honey and a little more ricotta.

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{this week on s&h..} big birthdays

20140703-194811-71291271.jpgIt’s my birthday week! {if only work would stop for the duration…}

So excited to have friends visiting from out of town to help me celebrate. And desperately trying to fit in some late night dinners (last night, it was salsa verde pizza at Emily’s), plenty of bubbly, and outdoor movies in Red Hook all week long.

We’re off to a good start. I’m already surrounded by many of my favorite things like sweet peas (thanks, Flower Girl!), cereal milk ice cream with salty, crunchy corn flakes. . .20140706-101234-36754788.jpg

and amazing new street art popping up in the neighborhood.

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Hope everyone has a great week! I’ll be posting those very popular honeycomb pikelets later in the week + be in touch from France next week.

Green tea and chocolate marble cake with mint glaze

IMG_1461This is about as “fancy” as I get with desserts when I make them at home.

And still, this cake has the soft, lightly spongey texture of a cannele, which is probably why I want to eat it non-stop.

And it doesn’t even require a mixer so, you could easily make it at your holiday weekend beach house or anywhere this week!

The subtle notes of green tea echo the stronger hits of cocoa in what is – to me – an irresistible combination.

Tips: Definitely strain the tea before adding it to the batter but if a few loose leaves escape, that is completely okay. I also like decorating the cake with some dry tea leaves on top. The green tea flavor here is subtle; if you want a stronger, more concentrated green tea, use matcha.

Green tea and chocolate marble cake with mint glaze 

You’ll need:

  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 2/3 cup raw sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 T BP
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 5 T very strong brewed green tea (I used Chinese whole leaf green tea from Teavivre.com)
  • 1/3 cup good cocoa powder + a little more for sifting (I used Scharggen Berger)
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 t vanilla
  • mint + simple syrup (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9 inch cake pan with parchment paper.

2. Sift together the dry ingredients, minus the cocoa powder. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, tea, and yogurt.

3. Fold in the flour mixture into the egg and yogurt mixture, adding about a cup at a time. Slowly incorporate the oil.

4. Divide the batter in half – add cocoa powder to one half of it, stirring well so that there are no clumps.

Pour the batter into the pan, alternating between chocolate and non-chocolate batters. Use a toothpick or chopstick – whatever is on hand – to swirl the two together into a marble pattern.

5. Bake cake for 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.IMG_1452

6. While the cake is baking, dissolve 1 cup sugar in 1 cup of water and bring to light simmer. Take off heat and infuse with fresh mint. Strain.

7. Once the cake cools, you can glaze it lightly with a brush dipped in the syrup. This also adds a little bit of extra sweetness, so adjust the amount of glaze according to your taste.IMG_1469

Sprinkle with cocoa powder and some dry tea leaves before serving.

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Have a great 4th of July, if you’re celebrating!

Pomegranate guacamole

IMG_1478Late June evenings are really lovely and special. The residual heat of the day makes dusk so quiet and comfortable that you just want to linger… it’s my favorite time of day.

Of course, in the last few weeks, there have been other things occupying any free moments – namely, the World Cup.

And let me tell you, I stress eat a lot while watching my favorites fight it out.

So as you cheer on your favorite team (Les Bleus? or USA?), tuck into this summery pomegranate guacamole.

Just the right amount of spice versus sweetness. And isn’t that just the combination in life that makes it all happen.

Tips: Don’t tell, but I actually prefer this with homemade pita chips rather than tortilla chips, although it is delicious with either.

Pomegranate guacamole

You’ll need:

  • 4 ripe avocados
  • 1 small pomegranate, seeded
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • lime juice
  • red pepper flakes
  • 1 small tomato, finely diced
  • salt, pepper
  • fresh mint (optional)

1.  Scoop out the avocado. In a large bowl, mash together the avocado, garlic, lime juice, and red pepper flakes.

I prefer to leave it a little bit chunky, but do it according to your own taste.

2. Add the red onion and taste for seasoning. Add salt & pepper.IMG_1485

3. Fold in the tomato, cilantro and pomegranate. Top with more pomegranate seeds and a few sprigs of fresh mint.IMG_1484

Capturing light + back to breakfast

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Ideally, one would have all the time in the world and would only take natural light photos at dusk or in the soft light of mid-morning.

The above was a capture of one such lucky moment, right before sticking our forks into the beautiful Baghali Ghatogh (recipe shared by the lovely Darya of the Franco-English blog Tortore) over breakfast.

Baghali Ghatogh is an Iranian dish of fava beans & eggs, seasoned with turmeric, garlic, and plenty of dill. And even though I made it for the first time the other day, it will quickly rival my other regional favorite, shakshouka, this summer.

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The “stew” is traditionally served with rice, but we scooped up the eggy sauce with English muffins (a bit of a culture clash, but no less delicious for it).

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If you pre-soak – or even pre-cook – the gorgeous, green lava beans, you can make this hearty breakfast dish in no time at all.IMG_1489
Best enjoyed on the porch, in your bare feet (not a requirement, but nice nonetheless!)

Summer + strawberries in lavender syrup

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You get to summertime and the living is, undeniably, easy.

Great fruit abounds and enjoying it right off of the bush/tree or out of a basket is perfect.

But even store bought strawberries can shine in this simple recipe, which brings with it the scents of the fields of Provence.

Lavender infuses really well into syrups or other liquids like milk (for panna cotta!) or tea. And the smell of fresh lavender is beyond transportive.

Summer is my favorite time of year, always has been. The days are longer, the nights are brighter, everything shines with color and flecks of sunshine.

Hope you are out there taking advantage of it all!

As for me, it is just a few more weeks until my birthday (it’s a big one) and then I’m looking forward to fitting in as much as possible on the now classic Summer of Fun list (unregistered trademark). Kicking off with clam bakes, barbecues, beach trips, a traipse back to Les Baux and to Jazz a Juan, then to the Newport Folk Fest and even, hopefully, the hot hot heat of El Paso.

Strawberries in lavender syrup

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup fresh strawberries, hulled, sliced
  • 2 T fresh (or dried) lavender
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 t lemon juice

1. Make the syrup first. Dissolve sugar in water and simmer over medium heat until completely dissolved.

2. Take off of heat, add lavender and lemon juice and let steep for 30 minutes to an hour. Strain.

3. Top fresh strawberries with syrup – they don’t need to float in it – and a few fresh lavender sprigs.

Now, if your berries are a little past their prime, toss them in slightly more syrup and let stand a few minutes before serving.

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{as you may have noticed, I always like to put the herbs used in the recipe on the plate or on baked goods etc. so that it is clear what’s inside!}

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