Deprived? Who, me?

Deprived? Who, me?

One of the things that fascinated me about my workplace in the Silicon Valley was the very American profusion of food : the huge refrigerators in the kitchen were filled with every possible kind of soft drink (including those nasty nasty frappuccinos), the freezer was stocked with instant meals and frozen burritos (we’re talking engineer food here), and the cabinets and shelves looked like a movie theater snack stand : chips, nuts, beef jerky, microwave popcorn, crackers, cookies, chocolate bars and candy.

In the lobby, all screaming orange and blue with our cool 3D logo up on the wall, there was a bucket-sized bowl filled with mini peanut butter cups. I assumed these were for guests to nibble on while they waited, but I still picked up a few from time to time on my way out. At the first traffic light, I would unwrap the golden foil. At the second, I would start loosening the sides of the small ribbed paper cup, but very gently, so as not to lose too much chocolate into the creases. At the third, I would free the chocolate bite from its casing. And once on Highway 82, picking up speed, turning the music on louder, and checking the clock to see if carpool time was over, I would gobble up my mini-friend, letting it melt on my tongue, sweet milk chocolate, then soft, gooey peanut butter.

Continue reading »

Asparagus! Yay!

Asparagus! Yay!

Let us rejoice, my friends, for asparagus season is upon us!

They are starting to appear on produce stalls, the really thick white ones, and the thinner pinkish white ones, and my favorite, the glorious green with purple hues, and their pretty pointy little heads, curling onto one side or the other.

Simplicity is key. I discard the tough ends, bending each stalk gently until it snaps at the natural limit of tenderness. And always, the creeping doubt that this method will suddenly stop working, and that I’ll end up with a perfectly edible asparagus cut into pieces of nonsensical sizes. I heat up a little olive oil in a skillet, drop the asparagus in and stir to coat, sprinkle them with a bit of salt, and cook them until soft, and golden brown in places. I eat them as is, preferably with my fingers, starting from the head – a notable exception to the Last Bite Axiom.

The only thing I object to with asparagus, is that afterwards, … um well, okay, let’s not get into that here. But you know.

Truffled Scrambled Eggs

Brouillade de Truffe

[Truffled Scrambled Eggs]

The other day at lunchtime, I was on my own and starving. A glance in the fridge, and lunch rolled out before my eyes : I had one truffle left in its little jar, some eggs, fresh watercress, and fabulous walnut bread from the BoulangEpicier, which Patricia, the best neighbor in the whole wide world, had bought for me on her way home from work.

Upon closer inspection, the top of the truffle had grown a delicate little beard, white and fuzzy. I hesitated for a second, then thought well, aren’t truffles a type of fungus in the first place? A little more wouldn’t hurt, would it? And how often do I have truffles, bearded or otherwise, in the fridge?

I cut off the top and put the incident behind me.

I whipped up the brouillade (the name derives from “brouillé”, which means “scrambled”), rinsed and seasoned the watercress, toasted the bread, and arranged all this on a plate. I sat myself comfortably at the bar, and enjoyed my classy lunch, while leafing idly through the April issue of Gourmet Magazine, which my friend Nassim kindly brought back from his recent trip to NY.

Alternate name for the recipe : “How to feel like a superstar“.

Continue reading »

Swiss Chard Strudel

Strudel de Blettes

[Swiss Chard Strudel]

Last Saturday, I recruited a few dear friends to help me eat the Chocolate & Zucchini Cake I had baked : with Maxence away on a business trip, it was just me and that good-lookin’ cake, and although I can always be trusted to do my fair share of the eating, that’s exactly the problem. Plus, I needed opinions! So Ludo and Marie-Laure, and our next-door neighbors Stéphan and Patricia, were invited over for a little potluck dinner.

Ludo and Marie-Laure took care of the cheese course, bread and wine, and our neighbors brought appetizers, including little toasts of a wonderful chicken liver mousse made by their butcher friend. I love chicken liver, its sweet taste and soft texture, and this was really well seasoned, with shallots and herbs. Stéphan also made a gratin de pâtes, a sort of pasta bake with multicolored quinoa pasta, tasty and moist.

As for me, I contributed the cake, and wanted to make a savory dish as well. I had recently found sheets of filo dough (also spelled phyllo) at Monoprix, a slightly upscale French grocery store, so filo dough concoctions had been on my mind for awhile. I also had a fresh bunch of swiss chard and a round of fresh goat cheese, so I was inspired to make swiss chard strudels.

Filo dough is not commonly sold in mainstream stores around here. It is easier to find brick dough, which is somewhat similar, but not quite : brick dough is a North-African specialty (rather than Middle-Eastern), the sheets are round instead of rectangular, and they are thicker and not as smooth. It was my first time working with filo dough, and it turned out to be a bit more tricky to handle than brick dough. The thinness of filo causes it to dry out pretty quickly, so it’s a good idea to cover the stack of sheets with a damp towel. But not too damp, otherwise the sheets will get too soft and they’ll tear when you manipulate them. It does takes a little adjusting, but it is really worthwhile.

When layered and baked, the sheets of filo get this really pleasant consistency, brittle and flaky in places, soft and smooth in others. The swiss chard and goat cheese filling was really tasty, and the pairing was fabulous, both texture and flavor-wise. Not to mention that it also makes for a fairly elaborate and pretty presentation, worthy of a special occasion.

Continue reading »

Coffee and a Boggle

Coffee and a Boggle

Last Saturday, it was my great pleasure to have two American friends over for a late morning cup of coffee. Ruth, a coworker from my California days, was visiting Paris with her partner Pia, and she had contacted me to know if I’d like to meet up. We had the loveliest time chatting together and catching up.

It should be said that Ruth and I have been through special times together : she and a few other coworkers (namely Marni, Geoffrey and Marcia) had made it a habit to play Boggle in the office kitchen (roomy and warm, bright orange and blue, how I miss that kitchen) during lunchtime. You know, Boggle, where you shake sixteen dice in a plastic box (rattle rattle rattle) then let them settle to form a grid of letters, and try to find as many words as possible on the grid before the sand timer runs out.

I gradually joined in the fun, and became a real Boggle enthusiast. It was a fabulous way to learn a bunch of tiny improbable English words, which I can never get enough of, and I loved the mood we played in, cheerful and relaxed. People would walk in and out of the kitchen, hover over the game (hints were highly fordbidden of course, but they would make a big show of pretending to see 7-letter words), the wonderful Mark C. would unfailingly make his favorite “it boggles the mind” pun, and we would chew on our sandwiches between each game, comparing lists and counting points.

Continue reading »

Get the newsletter

Receive FREE email updates with all the latest recipes, plus exclusive inspiration and Paris tips. You can also choose to be notified when a new post is published.

View the latest edition of the newsletter.