Golden hour apéŽritif

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Best of April

Golden hour apéŽritif

Sharing an apéritif in the golden hour.

• April was spring break for school-aged children, and we took a family vacation to the Perche, a lush and beautiful countryside where we rent the same little house every time. This was over Easter, so we were able to do a proper chocolate egg hunt for the kids in the lovely garden, trying to adjust the level of hiding so the eggs weren’t too obvious for our almost-five-year-old, yet our two-year-old stood a chance. Let’s say it’s not a bad idea to keep a few spare eggs in your pocket that you can drop on the little one’s path as he goes.

• Maxence and I had a wonderful dinner at Ken Kawasaki, a pocket-size gastronomic restaurant with French and Japanese inspirations. You are seated sushi-bar-style around a counter, so you get to see the chef at work on the seven-course, monthly tasting menu, remarkably fresh and elegant. We love it there; it’s where we decided to get engaged, and went back to celebrate our four-month wedding anniversary. (See my wedding post if inexplicably you missed it.)

• I attended my assistant and friend Anne Elder’s thesis defense, which she wrote on the experience of refugee chefs in Paris. Such a rich and important topic, and her research work was exceedingly well received. There is a book to be drawn out of this for sure, and I can’t think of a better person to write it.

Anne used a beautiful poem by Nigerian writer Ijeoma Umebinyuo to open her presentation. It’s called Diaspora Blues:

“So, here you are
too foreign for home
too foreign for here.
never enough for both.”

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Radish Leaf Pesto

Radish season is in full swing, and I have been buying a bunch a week. I very much like radis roses, the pink, elongated ones with a white bottom that look like so many pink mice, but I don’t turn my nose at the red globes, and certainly not at the multicolored bouquets.

(Side note: never sure what’s in season when? My seasonal produce guide is for you, and it’s free to download!)

In fact, it is not so much the color or shape of the bulbs I pay attention to when I shop, but the color and vigor of their leaves*. First, because they are a telltale sign of freshness, and second, because I eat them as radish leaf pesto, a habit I’ve taken up in the spirit of frugality, eco-friendliness, and kitchen craftiness.

Freshly picked radishes

Radish leaves have a flavor I would situate somewhere between watercress and nettles, but a few notches milder. The texture of the larger leaves can be a bit rough so they’re not ideal for salads, but they make fine soups and gratins (I add them to my Swiss chard gratin), I like them in pasta, and they work beautifully in pesto, which is what I make with them most often.

When I get back from the market, I separate the leaves from the bulbs. I refrigerate the latter — radishes should be washed moments before eating — while I rinse and dry the leaves like I do herbs, discarding any that are limp or discolored. I then store them in a container in the fridge until I’m ready to use them — but no longer than a day.

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65 Kid-Friendly Vegetable Recipes

Adorable crochet vegetables hand-crafted in France. (My sons love theirs!)

The number one culinary concern of so many parents is to get their children to eat vegetables, as many as possible, and as varied as possible*.

I believe in the division of responsibility when it comes to feeding my own kids: I’m responsible for providing a variety of fresh foods; they’re responsible for deciding what and how much they eat. I don’t comment, I don’t coax, I don’t bargain, I don’t congratulate. I am Jack’s lack of judgement, and this keeps me cool through every phase and whim.

The books It’s Not About The Broccoli and My Child Won’t Eat! (not just about children who don’t eat) have also helped shape my approach.

That said, the parental half of the responsibility — providing health-promoting, varied options — is no small potatoes (ha). And when we encounter resistance to novelty, and a limited range of accepted vegetables, it is tempting to give up and just go on a rotation — you might call it a rut — of the same handful of proven options. (Some parents would be over the moon to even have options; the book adresses that in depth).

I myself tend to stick to my kids’ easy wins: peas, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, spinach, cucumbers, tomatoes, beets, sweet potatoes, mushrooms (sometimes), all prepared very simply. This is already pretty good, and they are (strangely) more adventurous when we eat out, but I wouldn’t mind adding more variety and more sophistication to their meals.

(Side note: Why won’t my kids eat zucchini? It’s the universe mocking me, for sure. At least they have no qualms about chocolate.)

So I thought it would be inspiring to put out a call on the C&Z Facebook page (please join us!) and inquire about the kid-approved vegetable recipes you may have up your sleeves.

Every kid is different, of course, but if at least one child somewhere laps it up, it’s worth a try, right?

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French Easter Pie with Spinach and Goat Cheese

French Easter Pie with Spinach and Goat Cheese

Among the French dishes traditional served at Easter, you’ll find tourte pascale* and pâté de Pâques, French Easter pies enclosed in a flaky crust, with eggs nested inside the filling. The purpose of this is to use up the surplus of eggs that hens have laid during Lent, the six-week period leading up to Easter when Christians abstain from certain foods, including anything derived from animals.

I love French Easter pies; they are fun to make and present beautifully on the table. These tourtes are often filled with minced meat such as you’ll find in French terrines, usually a seasoned mix of veal and pork. Unsurprisingly, I like them even better when they’re filled with vegetables, especially springtime greens. I’ve made it here with spinach, but if you have beet tops, Swiss chard greens, kale, perhaps a little fresh sorrel, those will work just as beautifully.

Some French Easter pie recipes have you put hard-boiled eggs inside, but then the eggs end up quite overcooked, so I prefer to form little nests in the filling and break the uncooked fresh eggs inside them. With fresh goat cheese — also a springtime treat — mixed in with the spinach, the result is a wonderfully moist and aromatic pie, simple and elegant in both its looks and flavor.

French Easter Pie with Spinach and Goat Cheese

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Easter Egg Jam Cookies

Like most French children, the boulangerie played a big role in my earliest food memories.

The corner bakery was the mythical place where snacks were purchased after school, where grownups could be observed closely while waiting in line with one’s mother for the Saturday lunch baguette, and where one secretly went to buy a few centime’s worth of candy to sneak into one’s room and share with one’s sister.

My allegiances to after-school snacks came and went. There was a long period of getting a milk bun (pain au lait) with a bar of milk chocolate unwrapped, unfoiled, and pushed right in. I never cared for pain aux raisins (eww raisins) but I was all over the almond croissants.

Easter Egg Jam Cookies

One of my all-time favorites was the lunettes à la confiture (“jam spectacles”), a football-shaped, sugar-dusted cookie sandwich with scalloped edges, and two holes cut out to reveal the layer of jam holding the sablés together (see this video).

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