kitchen

kitchen

Sunday, March 18, 2012




Since Martin is spending his spring break here with us, some sightseeing is in order.  We picked a good time to visit the Louvre...late morning on a Tuesday...as there were no lines at the entrance or the ticket machines. 

View from inside the south wing of the Louvre... it's nice to peek outside from time to time to get your bearings while wandering through one of the world's largest art museums.


While Martin's mission on this day was mainly to see the Greek and Roman works in the museum, one would be remiss not to pop in to see "La Joconde" (The Mona Lisa).  I didn't photograph the world's most famous portrait to post here... we all know what she looks like.   What you see below is the mob of tourists that one always finds in front of Leonardo Da Vinci's masterpiece, which is secured behind bullet-proof glass.

In The Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler, a brother and sister run away from home and live secretly in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, hiding from the guards and gathering coins from the fountain for spending money.  Martin and I were just talking about how much we love that book when we turned a corner and found ourselves alone on a grand staircase for just an instant.  Fun to imagine having the Louvre to oneself to explore.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


 Anna and I went up to the 18th Arrondissement, the Monmartre area, this morning for a baking class offered by Cook'n With Class.  We made croissants, pain au chocolat, pain raisin, and babas au rum.  The recipes are simple so it's the techniques that must be mastered.  This is the kind of cooking class that I still enjoy...those that teach techniques that are just about impossible to learn from a book.  

 Rolling croissants is very satisfying.  Can't wait to try it at home.

 Lovely little pastries just waiting for the oven.


 These raisin buns were to die for.  Funny that I've seen them in bakeries over here for years and never bought one, perhaps because they look too sweet. The kicker is that these rolls are "glued" together with vanilla pastry cream and that gives them an amazingly rich flavor....definitely the surprise of the day for me.

 This dough that we learned how to make today is comprised of 80 layers as you can see plainly in these fresh out of the oven pain au chocolats. The chef explained to us that the French like their pastries to be baked until quite dark.  They like the burnt caramel flavor as in Creme Caramel and Creme Brulee.  He said that baking this way signifies that this is something to be eaten right away, not saved for later and reheated.  According to him, Americans eat baked goods that are undercooked, "blond" and that uncooked gluten is hard to digest even for those who are not gluten sensitive.  In other words, no more snacking on raw cookie dough.  Don't know if all this is fact, just passing along the advice of our french pastry chef friend.

Anna plating her babas au rhum.... just after she had doused it with a very generous glug-glug of Rum.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

   
  No foggy London Town for us last weekend... it was 60 degrees and blue skies!  Looks like London will beat Paris in the race to Spring.   It's a quick and easy 2 1/2 hour Eurostar train ride from one capital city to the other...Gare du Nord to St. Pancras....thanks to the Channel Tunnel (otherwise known as The Chunnel).  Construction of this undersea link between England and France began in 1988 and was open for business in 1994.  I was surprised to learn that this idea had been around since 1802,  when Albert Mathieu first proposed just such a tunnel.  His vision, however, was one of horse-drawn carriages, oil lamps for illumination and an artificial island mid tunnel for the purpose of changing horses.  


   Here's a little something that has surely saved my life in London countless times.  I wonder how many foreigners had unfortunate run-ins with cars and motorbikes before the city started directing us which way to look before crossing the street. 


     We spent most of our weekend in the Notting Hill area where #2 son lives these days.  It can be a bit crowded on Saturday due to the wonderful and popular Portobello Street Market but otherwise a fabulous neighborhood.  We especially enjoyed a wonderful dinner on the outside patio of Portobello Ristorante Pizzaria, 7 Ladbrook Road, (Thanks Janos and Sevgi!)




On our way to Whole Foods on High Street Kensington (their upstairs food court is a wonderful spot for lunch) we were lucky enough to arrive just in time to help celebrate this company's return from duty in Iraq.   A bystander informed us that there is a little parade and ceremony for each troop as they make their way home.  Welcome home guys!



Here's a quick glimpse of the french countryside from the window of the Eurostar.  We are looking forward to renting a car in a couple of weeks to explore la campagne.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


   Another rainy day in Paris.  How does that Billy Joel song go?

It's a rainy night in Paris, and I'm sitting by the Seine, 
It's a pleasure to be soaking in the European rain,
Now my belly's full of fancy food and wine,
But in the morning there'll be hell to pay
Somewhere along the line.



This is what Anna wanted to do after finishing her schoolwork.  I, on the other hand, just wanted to get out for some fresh air so I grabbed the raincoat and umbrella and set out to wander.  I decided to turn down every small cobble-stoned street that I could find. 
     





Now here's one of the magical things about Paris.  I emerged from one on these passageways to this spectacular sight.  I've been to Notre Dame many times, climbed the claustrophobic circular stone staircase to stand nose to nose with the gargoyles, but I still find it thrilling to round a corner and come face to face with Our Grand Lady.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


What to do on a rainy Sunday in Paris?  Well, it's the first weekend of the month which means that the museums are free.  That also mean that the museums are incredibly crowded....the lines at the Musee D'Orsay were hours long.  Most shops are closed and you can only sit at a cafe drinking chocolat for so long.  That is why we were pleased to encounter this crowd of people right on our very own Rue Bonaparte.  There was an air of excitement and anticipation but no signage to indicate what was going on.  Obviously we just had to stop and watch like everyone else.  
  

     Turns out that this was the Hermes Ready to Wear Fashion Show (Fall 2012 line) and we quite enjoyed watching the models, designers, and special guests arrive.   I especially enjoyed watching the paparazzi, which, by the way, must be a very boring way to make a living 99.9 percent of the time.


So after a little Internet sleuthing, we found the schedule for the other designers' shows and set out once more.  This time we were looking for the Yves St Laurent show and all we knew is that it would be at the Jardin Des Plantes in the 5th arrondissement.   It was dusk when we arrived via metro and since we didn't have an address, we just started circling the perimeter of the park in search of clues.  In case you are wondering how large this park is I have downloaded this lovely map below.


See...that's a big park.  We were about 3/4 of the way around, it's was raining and cold and very dark by this point and we were considering heading back to the station when we the Mercedes and the Jaguars began to arrive.  Then came the camera flashes and the rush of the paparazzi.  We approached the crowd just in time to see Salma Hayak slip into the gates then stood for quite a while to do what Anna was there to do, which is to critique the wonderful dresses, coats, shoes and hair styles of the fashionistas.    


  Just as we were about to succumb to the elements and head for home we noticed that the photographers were beginning to chatter and jostle with each other in an even more noticeable fashion.  The next car to pull up to to gate was instantly surrounded and a gentleman (a driver, I think) called Anna and me to step out into the street to watch.


So here it is, my first and last paparazzi shot. Good thing Katy Perry has blue hair or she might not have been so recognizable from our vantage point.  

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

In the mood for Love!



     Have you heard of the love locks of Paris?  This is how it works...the happy couple puts their initials on a padlock, clips it onto one of two bridges in Paris and throws the key into the Seine as a symbol of their undying love.  This is the Pont des Arts, a nice little pedestrian bridge that connects the 6th arrondisement to  the Palais du Louvre in the 1st.  Supposedly, this is the bridge to which you affix your love lock if you are in a committed relationship.  The other lock-festooned bridge is over by Notre Dame and is apparently designated for those lovers who may not be quite ready for the commitment bridge.  I hear that that "lovers fling" bridge has many more locks on it than this one so we'll have to check it out.



This lovely old lock caught my eye because the initials are those of my brother and father, neither of whom, I hope, traveled to Paris in 2009 with a certain LGB.

Monday, March 5, 2012

In the mood for a room with a view!

View to the left...Place St Germain des Pres

     Greetings from Paris!  I've decided to hijack my own blog for the next couple of months and use it as a way to keep in touch with friend and family during our sabbatical.  First stop, Paris, where we have rented a delightful little apartment on the left bank.  As much as I love the woodsy views of our home in North Carolina, it's such a treat to have this beautiful city right on the other side of these charming, floor to ceiling casement windows.


View to the right...Rue Bonaparte

    Anna and I left home on leap day... a fitting date to start a journey, wouldn't you say?  We arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport, stiff legged and foggy brained, as are all who endure the ridiculously small seats of coach class for 8 hours.  We were met at our apartment on Rue Bonaparte by the rental agent, a lovely young american from Maryland, who gave us the keys and a couple of instructions and was off.  Too tired to search for a great lunch spot, we popped in the first cafe we saw and ended up with a somewhat forgettable meal and went straight back for a nap.

     Now I hate jet lag as much as anyone and possibly more than most.  But getting my daughter up after a 2 hour snooze was near to impossible.  So, while Anna was comatose on the couch, I ran to the Monoprix to purchase our basic survival items...water, fruit, yogurt, coffee (for me) and chocolate (for her).

      It was the promise of pizza that got Anna back on her feet that first evening and we found a wonderful little restaurant Pizzaria Positano (15 rue Cannettes, 6eme).  The pizzas came straight out of the wood fired oven and had that wonderful crunchy yet chewy crust that we love.


View from bedroom windows
     So we are off to a great start!  I'll try to post a little something each day and possibly add some recipes if I ever get around to cooking again!  Please send us hellos using the comment button below.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

In the mood for Banana Bars!


 Here's a wonderfully easy and extraordinarily tasty little bar recipe that I tried this week.  I needed to use up some over-ripe bananas and was in the mood to try something different.  Since I am traveling right now and not in possession of my collection of cookbooks, I moseyed on over to Tastespotting and searched for photos with the keyword "banana".  So... this recipe is comes courtesy of Cooking Classy and it is definitely a keeper!  Enjoy!

For the base:

1 1/4 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons applesauce
1 egg
1 cup over-ripe mashed bananas (about 2 large bananas)

For the frosting:

3 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup pecans, lightly toasted and chopped

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine all ingredients for the base in a large mixing bowl.  Mix with an electric mixer for 2 minutes.  Pour mixture in to a buttered 13x9 inch baking pan and spread evenly.  Bake about 20-25 minutes...until edges are just beginning to turn golden and center is puffed and set.  Cool completely.  
Mix the 5 frosting ingredients together in a medium bowl.  Whip until fluffy.  Spread evenly over cooled banana base and sprinkle with chopped pecans. 




Thursday, December 8, 2011

In which I make a show stopping Holiday Dessert!

Must be the festive holiday spirit in the air that compelled me to make this special dessert from Laurent Tourondel.  I'm no pastry chef so many of the spectacular holiday cakes that I see in cookbooks and magazines intimidate me.... but I had a feeling that I could pull this one off.

This is definitely a chef's recipe, and by that I mean it is a recipe that was written from a professional's prospective instead of being geared to the average home cook like me.  But it is actually very doable and I am going to try and be a bit more precise as I rewrite the directions.  I will warn you that I used a lot of mixing bowls in this process.  But you can make this dessert and run the dishwasher a good 36 hours before your guests walk in the door.

It cracks me up that this is called "Mom's Chocolate Cake"!  No wonder this guy became a chef....growing up with a mom who whips up cakes like this!

I am so happy to finally know how to make beautiful chocolate curls.  Of course I had to do a little online research to find a technique.  See what I mean about "chef's recipes"?  They say things like, "decorate with chocolate curls" just assuming that we all know how to do that.  But now I do know how to do that so thank you Chef Tourondel for inspiring me to figure it out.




Mom's Chocolate Cake
 (chocolate mousse cake with creme anglaise) 

Adapted from Bistro Laurent Tourondel: New American Bistro Cooking by Laurent Tourondel and Michele Scicolone. Here is the basic idea:  you make a yummy chocolate mousse, layer it with lady fingers dipped in syrup then let it sit in the refrigerator overnight.  Then you make a vanilla creme anglaise, let it chill a couple of hours, pour it on top of the cake and chill again for a bit.  Decorate with chocolate curls and serve.  I've made the cake a little less boozy cause I like my liquor on the side rather than in my dessert.  In my version the liquor just heightens the flavor but it won't come through on its own. As for the chocolate curls,  I turned to  The Pioneer Woman to get a photo demonstration to show me the way. (I used chocolate chips)  Here's a link:  Chocolate Curls  

Chocolate mousse

7 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 tablespoons rum
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup heavy cream
5 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons sugar, divided


1. Break the chocolate into small pieces and place it in the top half of a double boiler set over simmering water. Add the espresso powder and rum and let stand uncovered until the chocolate is softened. Stir until blended. Transfer the chocolate to a large bowl to cool.
2. In a large, chilled bowl, whip the cream on high speed for 4 minutes, or until soft peaks form.  In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with 2 tablespoons of the sugar until pale, about 3 minutes. In yet another bowl, beat the whites with an electric mixer on medium speed until frothy. Gradually add the remaining 4 tablespoons of the sugar and increase the speed to high. Whip until soft peaks form.
3. Add the egg mixture to the melted chocolate and stir to combine. Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture, then gently fold in the whites.

Cake Assembly

Chocolate mousse 
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons  rum
20 to 25 ladyfingers, cut in half horizontally

1. Make a simple syrup by combining the sugar and ¾ cup water in a small pot and bring to a simmer. Stir until the sugar is fully dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool completely.
2. Mix together the simple syrup (you should have ¾ cup) and the rum. Dip half of each ladyfinger in the syrup until slightly softened.
3. In a 2-quart glass serving bowl, alternate layers of 1/3 of the mousse followed by 1/3 of the ladyfingers, finishing with the mousse. Alternatively, you may make individual servings by layering the mousse and ladyfingers in large wine glasses. Cover and chill at least 8 hours or up to 2 days.

Creme Anglaise

2 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/2 cup sugar
5 egg yolks
Chocolate curls or shavings, if desired

1. Bring the milk, vanilla bean scrapings and pod, and 1/2 cup of the sugar to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Immediately remove the saucepan from the heat and discard the vanilla bean.
2. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks until thickened slightly and well combined. Very slowly,  add about 1/2 cup of the hot milk mixture into the yolks and whisk until well incorporated. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the saucepan with the remaining milk mixture, stirring constantly.  Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until thickened slightly and the mixture lightly coats the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Alternatively, dip a spatula in the sauce and run your finger through it. If your finger makes a trail rather than causes all of the custard to run off, the sauce is ready.
3. Remove the sauce from the heat and strain into a clean bowl. Place the bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice to cool. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
4. Pour the creme anglaise over the chocolate mousse cake and chill until ready to serve.  Decorate with chocolate curls just before serving.
Print Recipe



Thursday, November 17, 2011

In the mood for a Good Night's Sleep!

Isn't is ironic that insomnia is so common in 40 something gals like me?   I have no exams to pull an all-nighter for, no babies to feed every 2 hours, absolutely no reason to be productive at 2 am, and yet I find myself wide awake at that ungodly hour.

I suppose I could try one of the popular sleep aids, or as The New York Times  called them last Sunday,  "mother's little helper of the new millennium".  But I am entirely convinced that I would be the one out of a thousand people who would fall victim to the dreaded SRED (sleep related eating disorder).  I can see it now.... my jeans start to feel tight so I hook up a web cam in the kitchen and am horrified to discover that every night I creep into the kitchen and stand at the open refrigerator in a trance, eating whole packages of cookie dough and chugging half and half from the carton.  When they invent a sleep aid that has the potential side effort of causing sleep-running on treadmills, I'll be all over it.

Meanwhile, maybe I'll just use these photographs of my sweet children and their amazing capacity for peaceful slumber as inspiration.  On the other hand, I think I'll just pop into the kitchen and get the ingredients together for these Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins....they will be a lovely treat to wake up to.


Let sleeping children lie....unless they might fall down the stairs. 

Running on empty...


The Slumbering Superhero (note candy wrappers)


The not-so-vigilant vigilante
"You can make me go to bed but you can't make me sleep!"






Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins
Another wonderful recipe from Glamour's Gourmet on the Run.  It's a collection that never fails me.  I usually end up with 11 muffins instead of 12 because I like to fill the cups at least 3/4 full.


1 cup boiling water
2/3 cup oatmeal (not instant)
4 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a 12 cup muffin tin or line tin with cupcake papers. In small bowl, stir together boiling water, oatmeal and butter.  Set aside and let stand for 20 minutes.  In a large bowl combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.  Add chocolate pieces and stir.  Beat eggs and vanilla into oatmeal.  Stir oatmeal mixture into dry ingredients just until flour is moistened (batter will be lumpy, do not over mix)  Spoon into muffin cups.  Bake 20 minutes or until tops are golden.