{postcard from France..} happy days with baguettes

baguette france

When you get the perfect baguette everything is right with the world. Baguette means stick or wand in French and it can, indeed, perform magic.

I may be guilty of biting off a crisp corner on the way home, almost always.

Ever since I was a kid, inhaling the warm, yeasty smell of fresh bread helped to envelop me in a feeling of comfort and home. I am sure it is that way for many people.

My travel in the South of France is up, for now, but, as ever, it has helped me recalibrate a bit.

New discoveries included freshly picked Eze lemons, fluffy ponies at the flea market, and the cutest lunch cafe (practically, in somebody’s living room) in La Colle Sur Loup.  I’ll let you in on a secret – it’s aptly called Comme à la maison.

p.s. {A sneak peak at that lunch & lots more from my travels and impressions over on instagram}

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Artichoke and goat cheese salad {artichauts au chèvre chaud}

Artichoke goat cheese salad

Hope – particularly, for spring itself – springs eternal.

I can sense it in the cool air, the tight flower buds, and the verdant watercress.

The past month has been challenging on many fronts but new seasons also offer new beginnings, and I am content to meet the newness of spring in France with a renewed emphasis on savoring the simple things.

So take a moment, give yourself a little coffee break, stop playing catch-up with the to-do list in your head.. And lunch will be ready before you know it!

Artichoke and goat cheese salad 

You’ll need:

  • baby arugula (rocket)
  • 6-8 artichoke hearts, steamed (high quality canned is okay here too)
  • 1/2 cup mild goat cheese (or the same amount of crottin rounds as artichokes)
  • olive oil
  • lemon juice
  • herbes de Provence
  • pine nuts, toasted
  • salt, white pepper

1. Wash and dry the arugula well and dress simply with olive oil. Toss with a little lemon juice and toasted pine nuts.

2. Place a crottin round or slice a piece of goat cheese and place inside each artichoke heart. Top lightly with herbs and broil until the cheese is just melted.

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3. Top salad with artichokes and goat cheese and season well before serving.

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As most things, best enjoyed al fresco.

Onions, roasted and stuffed

To me, dishes like these stuffed onions is what simple, classic Provençal cooking is all about.

They are deliciously satisfying, visually stunning, and you can still get them ready for dinner within the hour.

You can try this recipe with sweet yellow onions, as well, but I do love the deep sweet flavor and color of red onions.

It’s still snowing outside, but bring on March, spring must be just around the corner…

Luckily, I am heading back to France later this week, a bit closer to the sunshine, the shimmering sea, and the promise of summer.

Onions, roasted and stuffed

You’ll need:

  • 6 red onions
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 8 T Panko crumbs
  • 2 T softened butter (unsalted)
  • 4 T fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 T fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 T pistachios, shelled
  • Salt, pepper

1. Preheat oven to 360F. Peel off the outer layer of the onions and cut off the top cap so that they are balanced. Place snugly in a roasting pan and roast for about 35-40 minutes.

2. In the meantime, prepare the filling by mixing all of the ingredients well with your hands.

3. Once the onions have roasted, let them cool slightly, then cut off the top (about 1/4) and scoop out the white middle “heart.” Tip: reserve these for stir fries, salads, soup etc. or anything else you may be making in the next couple of days.

4. Fill the onions with the stuffing, drizzle with a bit more olive oil and roast for 15 more minutes until the panko is crispy and golden.

Top with more fresh herbs before serving hot or cold.

Vanilla-almond riz au lait

riz au lait Speaking of nostalgic desserts, riz au lait (a kind of rice pudding) is a French classic that I also love to have for breakfast.  I tell myself that, from time to time, it’s a nice treat.

Maybe we can pretend that using almond milk makes this a little bit healthier. But it’s really there for the delicate almond flavor.

This pudding is cooked in the oven and, as it bakes, it is infused with the scent of toasting almond and vanilla. I don’t need to tell you that it smells absolutely amazing.

I tried out this particular technique after flipping through a flea market book find – Edna McHugh’s Happy Endings. The book is fun,  although, in the depth of winter, reading the back jacket description which states that Ms McHugh “lives on the Pacific Ocean (Malibu, California) and cooks in a bathing suit (blue jeans in winter)” made me a tiny bit resentful.

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Vanilla-almond riz au lait

You’ll need:

  • 4 T basmati rice
  • 5 T sugar (I used 3 white granulated + 2 natural vanilla sugar)
  • pinch of salt
  • 4.5 cups of almond milk
  • 1/4 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 t nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 300F. In a baking dish, stir together 3 cups of milk and rice, sugar and salt.

2.  Bake for about 2.5 to 3 hours, until creamy. During the first hour, stir through with a fork 2-3 times. During the second hour, add in the last cup and a half of almond milk and stir through a few more times.

During the third hour, add in cinnamon and nutmeg and stir in gently.

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3. Cool and chill thoroughly before serving.

Serve with salted caramel, if you’d like.

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riz au lait three

Banana butterscotch pudding for the masses

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You know when you have some favorite dishes that you don’t tend to make yourself at home, whether because they seem too time-consuming or because it’s a little dangerous to have a tub of banana pudding in the house?

You know.

Comfort food is all food in this beautiful arctic weather we’re having. Plus, I am all about the retro desserts lately – there is something extra soothing and familiar about them, as the snow blankets the city once more.

Bring in banana butterscotch pudding – so rich and silky and perfect for serving in individual ramekins or mason jars.

Butterscotch banana pudding

(adapted from Food52/Yossy Arefi)

You’ll need:

  • 6 T granulated sugar
  • 2 T water
  • 2 T  heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 T cornstarch
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 vanilla bean (or 1/2 t vanilla bean paste)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 T unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
  • 4 ripe bananas, sliced
  • 1 box (12 oz) Nilla wafers

1. Tip: Prepare all of the components and assemble the pudding at least an hour and a half before serving.

Over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the water then continue to cook until caramelized and amber in color. Take off of heat and carefully whisk in the 2 T of heavy cream. Set aside.

2. Combine brown sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a separate saucepan. Whisk in the milk and vanilla and cook on medium heat, stirring, until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil. Take off heat.

3.  Whisk the egg yolks into the warm caramel mixture. Working quickly, return to heat, and add in the milk and sugar mixture. Stir constantly until it comes to a simmer, then whisk in the butter.

4. Pour pudding into a jar or a bowl, cover surface with plastic, and chill completely.

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5. To assemble, alternate layers of butterscotch pudding, whipped cream, sliced bananas, and Nilla wafers. Chill to let all the layers set and soak through for at least an hour and a half before serving.

et voilà!

Sugar & spice {special Valentine’s treats..}

IMG_2103I’ve spent the last week covered in caramel and licking chocolate off of spoons. Not a bad place to be, that.

Of course, there are so many chocolate gift options available these days, things you could buy – delicious things! – but it’s extra, extra special to make your own treats for your sweetheart. And oh yes, they make for an absolutely lovely surprise.

So when your friends and lovers unwrap their Valentine, they will find chocolate covered graham crackers topped with sea salt and lavender tea or sinfully good strawberries dipped in dulce de leche and speculoos crumbs.

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And if, like me, you enjoy something that both looks and tastes beautiful, pay extra attention to the presentation. Tie a bow (not with your chocolate-covered fingers!), write a card, or attach a custom heart sticker – mine are from the beautiful illustrators at Tiny Prints – to your chocolate parcel.

Sugar & spice and everything nice

You’ll need:

  • 2 x 2 oz unsweetened or bittersweet chocolate bars (I used Guittard baking bars)
  • strawberries
  • Graham crackers
  • 1/2 cup dulce de leche
  • toppings: fleur de sel, lavender tea (Lavende is the best), speculoos cookie crumbs

1. Melt the chocolate gently in a bain-marie. I like adding 2 T of milk per bar of chocolate to keep it extra smooth and easier to pour.

Temper the chocolate slowly – this will keep it glossy – melting about two-thirds of the chocolate first – do not stir!

2. Take off of heat; add the rest of the chocolate and stir it in with a dry spatula so that it melts into the rest of the mixture.

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3. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment and place a rack on top. Line up the crackers and the ripest, reddest strawberries you can find (quick tip: fluff up the stems and leaves to keep them away from the chocolate).

4. Working quickly, pour the chocolate evenly over the crackers. Top sparingly with your selected toppings.

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5. Repeat process for strawberries, if you’d like to cover them in chocolate. Alternatively, warm the dulce de leche slightly in a bowl and dip in strawberries to form a swirl.

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Top with speculoos cookie crumbs or a little bit of flaky sea salt.

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Wrap the cookies with a ribbon or bow and attach a card full of sugar and spice.

The strawberries don’t travel as well, so I would recommend everyone sharing them immediately!

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Sunday routines {this week on s&h…}

IMG_2753.JPGHappy, happy weekend to all of you  ~

My Sunday back at home has been sufficiently busy, playing catch up on work, apartment searching, and menu planning {wild guess which one of those activities is the most fun!}

Coming up soon on s&h, there will be salty & sweet Valentine’s treats, stuffed onions – because they are my new favorite thing – and savory buckwheat pancakes and waffles inspired by ELLE à Table.

For now, a little preview from breakfast this morning…

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If maple syrup + bacon are not the perfect pairing, then I don’t know what is!

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{a postcard from London..}

IMG_2520It was a mini-hurricane of a trip, all people to see and places to go, before heading to Paris.

Never enough time to catch up with friends and colleagues though we wouldn’t let the elements – there was snow, rain, and even hail in my few days in town – stop us.

Bread was broken – slathered with salty Irish butter – and wine was shared. Meals lasted all evening until closing and tasting menus provided a lingering surprise.

My favorite at Lyle’s was probably the purple sprouting broccoli and the salted caramel dessert. At Quality Chop House it was the perfectly medium rare lamb chops, the dauphinois-like fried potatoes, and the clementine creme brûlée. At The Wilmington, it was most definitely the chips dipped in rich gravy.

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And, of course, everywhere, it was the warm embrace of company.

Ever so grateful for friends that make you feel like no time at all has passed.

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Ps. Look for my article on the resurgence of the meat & game scene at London restaurants in VRAI magazine later this month.

Shiso, pomegranate & blood orange

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I’m writing to you from London {well, virtually.. I made this right before I left!} with a winter citrus report.

Loving these crisp, clean flavors bringing with them a piece of sunshine on a whiteout day.

If you have not used shiso before, it is full of vibrant lemon-y flavor itself, with a hidden depth reminiscent of Thai basil.

I hesitate to call this a salad – although this can be a supremely elegant dish, it is equally fantastic eaten with your hands, by wrapping a bite of all of the ingredients in each shiso leaf.

Shiso, pomegranate & blood orange

You’ll need:

  • 1 Cara Cara or blood orange
  • 1 small tangerine
  • 6-8 shiso leaves
  • 4 T pistachios, shelled
  • 3 T pomegranate seeds
  • fleur de sel
  • fresh lemon juice
  • green extra virgin olive oil

1. Supreme the blood orange and tangerine and arrange on top of shiso leaves.

2. Lightly crush the shelled pistachios with the back of a knife. Add the toppings to the citrus.

3. Dress simply with green extra virgin olive oil, a little lemon juice, and a sprinkle of fleur de sel.

More winter citrus inspiration here and here.

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Espelette spiced red lentil and carrot soup

IMG_2013 (1)There are really no excuses not to cook this time of year – in fact, it’s one of the best opportunities for cozy, indoor quality time to bond with your friends and family.

I hope that’s what you spent your day doing yesterday, if you found yourself snowed in on the East Coast. The storm has passed and the snow is so still and beautiful.

I baked some bread and enjoyed the rare quiet of the city, away from the usual hum.

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The snow day diffused light was something to behold too, so lots of photos were taken!

But back to the soup i.e. perfect comfort food for this weather.

This soup is an easy, warming delight of espelette-spiced lentils and finely grated carrots.

I love using espelette pepper, which originates from the Basque regions of France and Spain {originally likely from Espelette itself!}, for its nuanced smoky flavor with hints of sea salt, iodine, and cayenne.

And if you top this with a poached egg, it will completely send it over the top.

Red lentil and carrot soup

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 4 cups chicken stock (you can, of course, substitute vegetable stock, if need be)
  • 3 medium carrots
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1 t piment d’espelette
  • 1/3 t ground black pepper
  • 1/3 t ground cumin
  • salt
  • eggs, poached (optional)

1. Rinse the lentils well and bring to a simmer in the chicken stock.

2. After about 20 minutes, grate the carrots using a Microplane and cut the spinach (tip: use scissors!) directly into the soup. Add spices and stir to combine.

3. Cook uncovered for another 10-15 minutes until lentils are just tender. Taste for seasonings, turn off heat, and cover.

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I like this topped with something crunchy like rice or almond crackers or even some tortilla chips.

Oh, and you can add that over-the-top poached egg too.

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