Le Chou Labyrinthe

Le Chou Labyrinthe

[Cabbage Maze]

Part of the intense pleasure I find in cooking comes from the simple joy of working with ingredients, handling them and admiring them, trying to make sense of their qualities and potential, and gently convincing them to give the best of what they have to offer.

I have a particular fondness for vegetables, and I often find myself, standing at the kitchen counter with a chef knife in my hand, awestruck by their sheer natural beauty. In this instance, I was cutting a small red cabbage in two, only to discover the purple maze hidden inside. So graphical and pretty that I had to run and get my camera, before I went back to my prepping tasks.

Happy Spring!

Happy Spring!

To celebrate the vernal equinox, I give you these wonderful crocus that Maxence has planted and coaxed into luxurious bloom on our bedroom window sill. It should be noted that the onions, along with some snowdrop onions, were kindly given by our friend Marion, who is also a balcony gardener in her own right.

Thank you Marion and Maxence, for jointly gracing me with such a happy sight!

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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