The Gorilla Date

The Gorilla Date

After reading the Amateur Gourmet‘s irrepressibly-giggle-inducing post on Medjool dates, I decided to chime in and add to the praise on that precious fruit.

But why is my date so angry, I wonder? Is it because it is all brown and wrinkled? Is it because we gobbled up all of its siblings in the clear plastic container and it is the only survivor? Is it because it cost an arm and a leg but didn’t even get a commission on the transaction?

It is so plump and moist and sweet, shouldn’t that cheer it up?

Orange Fennel Sea Bream

Dorades à l'Orange et au Fenouil

[Orange Fennel Sea Bream]

We have officially elected the Poissonnerie Bleue on the rue des Martyrs as the best fishmonger in our area. Their wide selection of fish and shellfish is very fresh and reasonably priced, the staff is kind, and they are very generous with their advice and tips, which is a surefire way to win me over.

As I walked by the other day, I decided on a whim to get whole fishes to roast in the oven (is my life exciting or what?), and had a look at what was on display, on beds of crushed ice, amid the decorative seaweed and lemons. The dorades (which I have found are the equivalent of sea bream, of the porgy family) were on sale, and I bought two for a grand total of 7 euros. I asked the sales guy for some cooking tips, and then he gave the fish to another employee in the back of the store, who dexterously grated the scales off their skins, then emptied and cleaned the fishes, while I stared in fascination.

The fishmonger’s advice was to cook the dorades on a bed of lemon slices, but since I had lovely blood oranges on hand, I decided to use slices from both types of citrus. This was pretty quick to put together, and as it turned out, the orange, lemon, fennel and herbes de Provence combine into a very interesting and subtle flavoring, which compliments the delicate taste of the dorade without overpowering it. Baking is a great method to cook fish, allowing the flesh to cook evenly and stay moist.

As always when fish is served whole, there is a little wrestling involved, to separate the edible flesh from the bones and skin and unidentified goo, but we happen to enjoy that – it forces you to pace your eating (I tend to eat way too fast) and you end up with sticky fish juice on your fingers, which you can then happily lick off. But this means that it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to serve it to kids, to picky or lazy eaters, or on a dinner occasion when spitting out fish bones and dirtying your fingers would be considered um… inappropriate. But adventurous eaters, aspiring mechanics and DIY enthusiasts will love it.

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Tourteau Fromagé

Tourteau Fromagé

Le Tourteau Fromagé is a French cheesecake, one that I mentioned buying during a recent grocery store trip. “Fromagé” means “with cheese”, and “tourteau” is a variation on the word “tourte”, which means “pie”. I happen to find the word “tourteau” very cute – it puts me in mind of a small cuddly animal for some reason.

It is a specialty from the Deux-Sèvres, a district in the Poitou (South-West of France), and its origins can be traced back to the beginning of the 19th century. It is traditionnally made with fresh goat cheese (but is also sometimes made with cow milk cheese), flour, sugar and egg yolks, in which you incorporate beaten egg whites. The mixture is then poured in a special small round mold lined with a thin layer of pastry dough, and baked in the oven.

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Finnish Your Sandwich!

Finnish Your Sandwich!

Here is the little sandwich I made myself for lunch yesterday, using the fine Gululainen Reissumies Täysjyväruis Fullkornsrag (rye bread rounds) that Maxence brought me back from his trip to Helsinki.

This isn’t a recipe really, I pretty much just used what I had on hand, spreading some Mme Loïc cheese (an addictive kind of cream cheese from Brittany) on one side and Branston pickles on the other, laying pieces of bone-in ham on top, and cramming the sandwich with as much chopped celery as would fit.

When I tore off the celery stalks I needed from the bunch, I unfortunately had to evict a fat little worm that had set up residence there. I’m not sure if the little guy was dead or just numb from the cold in the vegetable drawer, but I do hope he found new play buddies in the trash…

This good, healthy sandwich was washed down by a tall glass of Gazpacho, that slightly spicy, cold tomato soup from Spain that you can buy in cartons at grocery stores here. A wonderful match for the earthy taste of rye, it turns out.

Lamb’s Lettuce Chicken Soup

Soupe de Mâche au Poulet

[Lamb’s Lettuce Chicken Soup]

Foreword : you might notice that the picture above has the focus on the bread and not the soup. The soup will have to forgive me, I love it dearly and all, it is really the star of this post, but I’m sorry, soup, you are just not photogenic. At all.

La mâche, which I’m told translates to lamb’s lettuce, is a kind of salad which comes in small bouquets of soft green leaves in the shape of drops, and has a mild taste. I like its flavor and texture very much, I like that it looks very pretty and I like that “ça change de la salade!“, as a recurrent ad campaign says : “It’s a nice change from salad”.

We happened to have a bunch of mâche that was wilting so fast the naked eye could witness the process, and we also had leftovers from an astounding roasted chicken we had bought at our favorite rôtisserie a couple of days before. I considered making a chicken salad, but for all the daffodills and blooming buds, it is still winter here, so a soup felt much more appropriate.

This is the first soup I make that involves some kind of meat, and I am just now fully grasping the concept of chicken soup and what the fuss was all about : boy, talk about a comforting and fragrant soup! It is infused with flavor from the meat, bones and skin of the chicken which simmer in it for a while. Mâche turns out to be as delicious cooked as it is raw, with so mild a taste there’s almost a hint of sweetness.

It is also a very easy soup to put together, the only slightly annoying step being to remove the bones and skin. It would work with boneless skinless chicken breasts, but I still highly recommend using bone-in and skin-on pieces of chicken, I’m sure it really makes a difference in the depth of taste.

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