L’Etoile d’Or

L'Etoile d'Or

L’Etoile d’Or is a little candy store in the rue Fontaine, sprung right out of a fairy tale.

It is but a ten-minute walk from where I live, so I find it charmingly ironic that I owe its discovery to my Bay Area blog-friend, Derrick, who mentioned it to me in a recent email : he and his wife Melissa have taken several trips to Paris, and food lovers that they are, they have excellent finds to share.

And so it is that just a few days ago, following Derrick’s advice, I set off towards the Moulin Rouge to hunt for this little boutique, in the maze of narrow streets lined with cabarets and bars which have seen better days – days when they were all risqué and glamorous and shady, days come and gone, leaving them touchingly derelict. The very picture of a woman, way past her prime, with a tight leather top and too much makeup.

But I find L’Etoile d’Or easily in the midst of this, surrounded as it seems to be by a golden glow, showering down on me beneath the awning. The pleasant impression is confirmed when I push the door open to the ring of a bell, and step inside the store, all glass cases and mirrors and golden shelves and candy, candy everywhere, as far as the eye can see. I find myself alone inside, a little intimidated, a little Goldilocks.

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Is My Blog Burning? The Tartine Edition

Is My Blog Burning? The Tartine Edition

Feeling very bad about not finding the time to make soup for the first Is My Blog Burning? event, I told Alberto that I would be more than happy to host the second edition, to be held on Sunday March 7th, 2004.

For those of you not yet familiar with the concept, IMBB? is a distributed food blogging event, brought to us by Alberto : a date and a theme are set, each participating blogger cooks something following that theme, and posts about his creation on that particular day.

For the second edition, the theme I would like to propose is “Tartine“. A tartine is a popular Parisian dish, in which different ingredients are arranged and served on a slice of bread – a sort of open-faced sandwich if you will – usually on a bed of greens. Like the soup theme, this should leave the door wide open for you to express your culinary creativity!

And you can refer to the post I wrote a little while ago about The Wonderful World of Tartines for more tartine info and ideas, and a sample recipe.

The basic rules follow:

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Broccoli Mimolette Soup

Soupe Broccoli Mimolette

[Broccoli Mimolette Soup]

This soup has to be the best broccoli soup I’ve ever had – and without a doubt the best one I’ve ever made. The really cool thing about it, besides being really really good, is that it is infused with flavor from two ingredients that usually get thrown out without batting an eyelash : the rind from a firm and sharp cheese, and the stems from a bunch of fresh herbs.

From now on I vow to always throw these in the freezer for later use : the flavor of cheese is very concentrated in the rind, and the stems of herbs are no less fragrant than the leaves, but they usually get discarded because they don’t look too nice as a garnish.

Having read in a few places about the use of these poor disaffectioned ingredients in soups (and you know how I feel about poor disaffectioned ingredients), I had frozen the stems from a bunch of parsley a little while ago, as well as the rind of a large hunk of mimolette extra-vieille. Mimolette is a bright orange cheese from the North of France, called “extra-old” when aged for a long time until brittle and very sharp. In its young and unaged version, mimolette has a more mellow flavor but is also excellent : it’s a favorite among French kids, its cheerful color playing a big part I’m sure. Some say it was also Charles de Gaulle‘s preferred choice of cheese (and I mean the President, not the airport).

Note that any other type of herb would work in place of the parsley, and you can use another type of cheese too (or even several), as long as it’s a firm cheese (fromage à pâte ferme), with a strong and sharp flavor – parmesan would be a great substitution, for instance.

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Buckwheat Crêpes (or Galettes)

Buckwheat crêpe

Galettes de sarrasin

Tomorrow is Mardi-Gras, the last day before Lent begins. The Mardi-Gras tradition in France, amongst other things, is to gorge on crepes, supposedly to use up the eggs and butter that you won’t be allowed to eat until Easter. I am not religious and so I don’t observe Lent, but I will gladly take any opportunity to eat crepes. And last Friday, when my friends Marie-Laure and Laurence came over for dinner, I decided to make us crepes, using farine de sarrasin (buckwheat flour) like they do in Brittany, in the West of France.

Brittany is a fantasy land of wonderful crepes. We would spend a week of vacation there every year (often in Carnac) with my parents when I was younger. We would eat crepes every single night, to the sparkly-eyed delight of my sister and myself, and over time we had built quite a little itinerary of favorite crêperies to visit. In Brittany, savory crepes are made with buckwheat flour and are called “galettes“, whereas sweet crepes are made with wheat flour and are called “crêpes”.

And so it is that I can share with you my recipe for galettes de sarrasin, just in time for Mardi-Gras. You can use whatever filling suits your fancy, but the most traditional galette is probably the “complète“, filled with an egg (“mirroir”, sunny-side-up, or “brouillé”, scrambled) ham and cheese (usually gruyère or comté). But you can also use vegetables, goat cheese, tuna, bacon… This past Friday, I made a batch of galettes filled with egg (sunny side up), ham and cheese, and another of caramelized leeks and shallots with goat cheese.

The only downside of making galettes is that they’re in fact a little more work than I had foreseen, as I had to juggle two skillets, the fillings, and the keeping warm of the galettes that were ready. But we all enjoyed them very much, the taste of buckwheat flour is really special, nice and nutty ; the crêpe was just the way we like it, pliable in the middle and a little crunchy on the edges ; and the fillings were excellent.

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Galette Essenienne

Galette Essenienne

I bought this at Pousse-Pousse, the little boutique where I buy my sprouting seeds and where I collect my weekly Campanier baskets. It is a sort of thin flatbread, made with sprouted seeds that have been ground and dehydrated. There are different flavors, depending on the seeds that have been used, and I chose the leek one (well, of course). The galettes (or rather randomly broken pieces of it) are packaged up in little trays wrapped in plastic.

It’s called Essenian because recent research seems to indicate that two millenia ago, the members of the Essenian brotherhood (to which some claim Jesus may have belonged) followed a diet very similar to today’s “live food” eating guidelines, in which you mainly eat raw food, sprouted seeds, and food cooked at an extremely low temperature to preserve the nutrients and vitamins. And those guys made the same kind of sprouted seeds galette, which they let dry under the blazing Palestinian sun. Fascinating.

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