Thursday, February 16, 2012


I always thought that dressings were something you had to buy. Why do I continue to be surprised every time things turn out better homemade?

1 spoonful ketchup
1 spoonful dijon mustard
salt, pepper, dried spices to your taste
a splash of lemon juice
1/3 red wine vinegar
2/3 oil

Stir or shake up everything but the oil until homogeneous. Add the oil, and shake well again. The amount of oil and red wine vinegar is variable - its really just a matter of how concentrated with the other flavors it will be. This small container is about 1 1/2 cups, so its fairly red. But you could double the amount of red wine vinegar and oil for more.

Carrot salad

Yes, I too would probably look at this photo and say "that looks too healthy to be good." But fear not, the boiled veggies might look "healthy," but they are surprisingly tasty and it is not lacking in yummy fresh dressing and cheese. The perfect combination, in my opinion. I am learning that boiling fresh veggies gives a very full flavor and filling results. Amazing with a sauce on top.
There is a concept for carrots, celery, and onion in french cooking called Mirepoix - or 'the holy trinity' in creole cooking. I always thought they were optional when I saw carrots and celery in a recipe, but I have been amazed recently at how much flavor is in each of them. This is just one permutation of that discovery.

2 carrots
1 onion

Bring a pot of water to a boil and salt. Pull or cut the mozzarella into shreds and set aside.

Clean the carrots and cut to your fancy - rounds, thin sticks, whirls if you can pull it off. Peel if you must, but if you can simply clean them well, there is a lot of flavor to be had in the peel. Cut up the onion, too. I just peel it and cut it into slices. It falls apart in the water.

Throw them in the boiling water and cook until you can pierce the carrot with a fork. About 10-15 minutes.

Drain, throw together with the mozzarella and season with vinaigrette. How can boiled vegetables have so much flavor?! I find that with real ingredients like these - though they might not have the nutrition facts attached - you can know that its a good, healthy, and filling meal. Even with oil based dressing and cheese.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Apple and Pear Tarte à la française

This is more of a method post. I was reading a french cookbook and this is just one step further than a fruit tarte, and I'm kind of in love. It means taking an apple tarte, and adding a cream, egg mixture overtop halfway through baking, which this cookbook apparently calls "à la française." The egg-cream mixture baked on top adds an almost pudding-like layer but because it is so thin, it retains the refined feeling of an apple tart for desert. The consistency makes it a bit more substantial than just the fruit and crust of an apple tarte. I added the pears because we bought too many and they're going bad. I will now do so every single time I bake apple anything.

1 crust
1 apple
1 pear

1 egg
a big scoop of a cream: crème fraiche, greek yogurt, marscapone, cream cheese, or maybe even sour cream if you like tart tarts
1/4 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla (optional, to make it killer)
a couple spoonfuls of almond powder/flour (ditto on the optional)

Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF

Butter your mold and prepare the crust. Use a fork to poke holes in the bottom of the crust so
it won't puff up too much.

Thinly slice your fruit and lay it in the crust only one layer thick. The french do this really beautifully in a spiral... but that's too much work. I call this art.

Bake for 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat together the egg, cream, and sugar (plus the vanilla and almond powder until
smooth, if you're using them). No fancy mixer necessary, a fork and bowl will do fine. Pour this over the tart and put it back in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until it browns a bit.

la Chawba

My favorite part of having a cooking blog is the excuse to invite myself over and learn other people's specialties. The problem is that generally, these recipes will never be the same twice, BUT this is one is a Ramadan specialty from an Algerien-French friend named Sabrina and everything in it is so good, I think it would be pretty hard for it to go too wrong. Merci, Sabrina!! A pillar of hospitality...

There are two basic ways to do this: if you have a pressure cooker, and if you don't. I don't, so it is much easier to leave out the meat.

1 large onion, finely diced
a large handful of chopped up celery stems and leaves
2 spoonfuls dry lentils
1 large spoonful of black pepper
1 large spoonful of cumin
1 large spoonful of ginger
1 large spoonful of saffron powder
1 large spoonful of red pepper powder
1-2 large spoonfuls of chopped parsley
a large dose of oil
a pound or so of cubed meat of your choice, veal and mutton are especially good, add another cube of bouillon if its veal or beef

2 liters water, after sautéeing

Sautée all this for a few minutes. Add the water. If you are using a pressure cooker, close it tightly and heat it up to medium/medium high. Once it starts singing, leave it for about 20-25 minutes, until the meat is cooked. If you're not using the pressure cooker, bring it to a boil, turn down to a simmer, cover, and start checking after about 20 minutes to see if it's all cooked. If there is no meat, it shouldn't take too much longer.

1/2 c vermicelle (those thin noodley things)
1 can of chickpeas, drained
1 large spoonful of rice
1 cube of bouillon
1 can tomato purée, or something like that. Other purées are better, but whatevs. a cup or two, in that case

Add II when I is cooked and let simmer for another 10 or 15 minutes, until the rice and vermicelle are cooked.

1 bowl of water
2 huge spoonfuls of flour or cornstarch

Mush this up into a white mush and start pouring this into the soup a bit at a time, stirring continuously, until it is the consistency that you want. This is optional, as its really only meant to thicken the soup. Yum yum

Perfect with a squeeze of lemon!!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


FINALLY. Good lord, this has taken me a million tries over two years and any number of hours reading all the detailed directions online. I may be exaggerating, but I've failed a good handful of times!
All the while my french friends tell me "oh its so easy...!" or "I make it all the time, of course I'll show you." but no one did. Curse the gods of mayonnaise!!

And then, in an extreme anti-climax, Karen showed me sunday. I am now very angry at all those sites that tried to tell me it was difficult, that i should buy special equipement, tricks, tips... I feel so betrayed.

You will need a bowl and a whisk. An egg, a spoonful of dijon and a spoon of red wine vinegar (optional). And about a cup of oil. Vegetable oil, probably.

I. Put one egg yolk in a bowl. Add a generous tablespoon of dijon mustard. Stir.

II. Add a small glug of oil. As in, a tablespoon or two. Choose your oil according to your personal taste because your mayonnaise will taste like the oil you use. Sunflower seed oil worked well. Vegetable oil seems to work well, too. Olive oil, Karen tells me, is a little harder to get to "climb" but it can work. Whisk until it goes from looking like little white bugs in oil to looking like mayonnaise. Its called emulsion, but thats not important.

III. Add another glug of oil. Repeat. A couple times.

IV. Add a tablespoon of vinegar oil for flavor along with your next glug of oil. Continue adding a glug at a time and whisking.

V. When it starts to look more white than yellow, and you have about a cup and a half of mayonnaise, you can call it finished.

I am not going to add all the tips and tricks here, because they only confused me for a long time. I can see why people added them, but good lord! way to throw me off my game, bloggers... But there is one good trick. If all is going well and then suddenly it breaks down into a bowl of oil and you can't get it to "remount," break another yolk into another bowl and start over, adding this "broken" mayonnaise instead of oil.

Egg, celery and bean sprout stir fry

This was simply made out of what was handy, but it turned out really delicious, even on the second and third try! So I am sharing. A quick dinner for two; absolutely perfect with sour cream, crème fraiche, ou bien soy sauce.

1 onion (any but red)
2 celery stalks
2 eggs
a good salt; I've been making celery salt... more to come on another post
a tablespoon of two of butter or olive oil for the sautéing

I/Dice the onion and celery and sautée them in the oil/butter on a medium high heat until they start to color a bit (meaning, brown a bit).

II/Throw in the bean sprouts just as the onions brown and let them sautée for a couple minutes.

III/Break the eggs straight into the pan and keep stirring until the eggs cook. This will be fairly fast. Its best not to overcook them, but don't worry about it too much.

IV/Salt and pepper and serve hot with rice, sour cream, soy sauce, or whatever you like. I eat it with ketchup. because I am classy like that.