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Do you know what this is?

Up until a few weeks ago, I had no idea. At the market I saw them, looking all white and flowery (because to me they look a little like a flower) with the rest of the squash whispering “don’t you want to open me up and look inside?”

Ok, I know that sounds sort of dirty, but when ever I see a new vegetable and fruit that’s how I feel. France is excellent on bringing out the old-timey vegetables in winter and this winter I’m determined to expand my horizons and cook with some of them. My first year in France I discovered leeks. Don’t laugh.

So I bought this squash and contemplated it for a while. I wasn’t even sure how to open it. I did what anyone who has no idea what their doing would do.

Cut it in half.

It’s white inside. Kind of like chou ravé (whatever that is in English), or yellow squash. Scooped it out and stared at it some more. The only thing I could think of to do was stuff it. Into the oven it went, out the door I went to consult my butcher on what to put inside.

If you’ve ever read Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence, where he encounters the butcher in a town near Avignon who tells him how to cook his stew – there are still butchers like this in France. Mine happens to be one of them. When I cooked my turkey for thanksgiving fifteen minutes were spent discussing basting, stuffing, baking techniques to the end of him giving me a needle, thread and the intestine of a lamb to put over the turkey in order to keep the stuffing inside. He was horrified when I said I was going to use aluminum foil.

Anyway, my butcher is proud of his sausage. I know – a little dirty. And he recommended his homemade spicy pork sausage with a mixture of spices and seasoning for stuffing with garlic onion and celery.

I walked home, hoping my squash wasn’t done yet. It wasn’t.

Everything was chopped and cooked in a pan. I added a bit of shredded Emmental just to hold it all together.

I stuffed it all into the small space inside my squash and baked it for a final 10 minutes in the oven at about 200°C.

When reading about patty pan squash online, I read that the skin of the squash was rather thin and you had to be careful the thing didn’t fall apart when you served it. My squash wasn’t like this at all, and in fact the next time I make this particular squash I’m going to scoop out the meat and use the shell as a bowl for serving. It was more than hard enough.

But how did it taste? Well, it’s not a sweet squash like butternut or pumpkin. It has much more of a crisp, vegetable bite to it, cross between zucchini or celery. Combined with the garlic, sausage and cheese it worked quite well. The sausage was savory and in some ways the cooked squash was fresh and even a bit summery. Can’t beat that.

It’s a little tough to eat squash sideways. Or to stuff squash sideways. Or serve and cook sideways. And it looks a little like menacing mouth smiling at you with huge white teeth and a long meaty tongue. Hopefully patty pan squash won’t be in your nightmares tonight.

FYI: My last post got eaten by WordPress in some glitch and I had to delete it. Hopefully it will be back up tomorrow or Monday!

I’ve almost hit 68,000 words and I’m close to the halfway point of the story. Tonight the husband is cooking porc au caramel with some Asian noodles and I will take the time not spent cooking, writing. I’m still hoping to finish by the end of the month, but it’s going to take quite a bit of pushing over the next twelve days to get there. Thanksgiving dinner for my in-laws is coming next Saturday, and I haven’t even finalized the menu yet-

Well, anyway…

Autumn has officially arrived in Provence. It always takes a while.  I know plenty of other people ruminate on autumn. For me it’s the light that is the most magical. It’s golden light that illuminates everything.

Unfortunately, I definitely don’t have the time to enjoy it except on my morning run when I’m too busy trying not to freeze.

This recipe has been all over Foodbuzz, a site of which I’m only  minor contributor. I looked at this recipe by Juls, but didn’t use her cheeses as I had a limited selection at the organic market.

Roast your pumpkin at 180°C for 30 minutes. Throw in a few cloves of garlic for good measure. Everything should be very soft and squashable. (I don’t think that’s a word.) Peel your pumpkin and garlic and set aside.

Meanwhile cook your macaroni. And prepare your cheese sauce. I used Munster and a generous handful of shredded Emmenta. In a medium sauce pan, pour in some light cream, a small pat of butter, add your cheeses and let them melt down, stirring quite a bit in order to be sure it doesn’t get burnt. Add your pumpkin and mash and stir into a thick sauce.

Pour macaroni into a greased dish, add the sauce on top and stir together until it’s evenly blended. Instead of breadcrumbs, I added bits of toasted bread. Barely more than a handful, just enough to add some crunch.

Put in the oven for another 10 minutes to reheat and get a little brown on top. Voila!

The sharp, strong Munster contrats nicely with sweetness of the pumpkin. It worked well, which was a relief because I wasn’t exactly sure how well they would go when I was choosing my cheese. But I figured if someone else put blue cheese in this recipe then Munster would be a safe bet and it was. It’s warm and filling and a great autumn twist on the old classic. Perfect comfort food.

Back when I didn’t cook, I never understood my friends who told me that baking relaxes them. I do now. Baking bread is the perfect break from spending a rainy afternoon home writing.

Fridays are easy days for me. I teach at a company in the morning and then at a different company in the evening. Just for an hour and a half each. To make matters easier, both companies are a 30 minute walk from my apartment, so I don’t bother going to the English school where I spend most of my days. This friday I’m determined to write 5,000 words of my novel, which will get me over 15K. I had all afternoon, from noon to 4:30 and then the whole night. 7 o’clock on.

Ready, set, go!

 But wait, I have to think about dinner. As the huband made me a three course meal last night, filled with duck, onion tart, cheeses, and poached pears, it’s only fair that I return the favor.

So I wanted to write, I wanted to bake.

Let me take you through my day:

First I set up the workspace. All those papers are my outline and character sheets. I sometimes forget who is who.

I make strong coffee, disregarding my automatic drip and going for the cafetier instead. It’s Italian, its tasty. Like a reverse French press. And then I turn my oven to 220°C.

I had a half of squash I wanted to roast for use tonight. Spread on bread with a little bit of cream, onion, garlic – delightful.

I find my squash, emptied it of seeds, added garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper and set aside. I don’t know about you, but my oven makes a little “tick” when it’s hot. So while I wait, it’s time to write. My coffee comes with me.

The oven ticks. I put my squash in, avoid checking my word count. Now I have 20 minutes to write uninterrupted. The coffee will keep me going.

Fifteen minutes into it, I check the squash. 10 minutes left. Back to the story.

When the squash is done, remove from the oven. Check the word count. 976 words so far. 11006 total. Not a bad start. And I continue.

Usually on Friday afternoons, I treat myself to a nap. No time for that today, and Pistou the cat has taken up my place on the couch for me.

A while later, my eyes hurt, the coffee is gone. It’s time for a break, and my squash has cooled. I peel and cube it, put it in a bowl and into the fridge until tonight.

Now it’s time to start the bread. I’m making flatbread today, which sounds good, but I’ve never made before. Here’s a recipe to work with: Flatbread from the Food Network I put on my apron because I’m wearing black pants and a solid blue shirt and there’s still work to do, and flour always looks out of place in an office.

Have 5 minutes while the yeast activates? Write! Write fast! How many words can I get? There’s already flour all over my keyboard from past breads anyway. I got 150 words. I think too much. But anyway, I put the bread ingredients together, follow the recipe, knead, cover, set aside. I had a good hour until the dough rises. I knew what to do. I keep the apron on, or I’ll forget when I go back to the dough later.

I wanted to make it to 3000 words for the day before I left for my class at 5. It was 3:45. Time to check on the bread. I was at 2628. I was tired and the bread was ready. 15 more minutes, I told myself. Can you make 372 words in 15 minutes?

3:59: Word count 13009. Success! Now to bread.

These is just a test before I make the bread tonight. I’ve never made flat bread before. So I just have a small piece of dough to roll out and cook.

Into the pan.

ZOMG! Warm, moist, wonderful bread. This will make an excellent pizza – I tell myself and finish the second piece, put on a plate and set aside for the husband. Cover with paper towel, because I’ve woken up some nights to find my cat licking my bread. Yeah -I know right?

Then I have to get ready for work and head out. It’s raining a little and windy, but the bus never comes on time so I have to walk.

Dinner:

There are plenty of fixings and a glass of Côtes du Rhone.

And then to writing. At the end of the evening my word count is 15049. So there you have it. Flatbread for 15K.

I’m trying to think of a dish that begins with T for 25K, but maybe I’ll just make myself a cup of tea when I hit that milestone. At this rate I’m going to gain 10lbs by the time November is over.

Did you expect me to cook again today? I didn’t. But here I am.

There was a bike race going on underneath my balcony today. It started around one and went until five.

Kind of odd, considering I live on a quiet street in a very quiet urban town. It’s just not the type of thing you’d expect to see after lunch.

Last month the first strawberries appeared and I celebrated. This month the first cherries appeared, and as soon as I saw them at the market, my mouth started to water.

My first thought was: I really need to buy some.

My second thought was: Chocolate Covered Cherries

I finally bought a handful today. Most were eaten as dessert, but then I remembered I had chocolate in the house. And I also had rum.

Ok, so a cherry liquor would have worked better, but I worked with what I had.

Honestly, I didn’t know if this would take. I mean, how exactly does one make chocolate-covered liquored fruit?

First wash your cherries. (Did you hear about the contaminated Spanish cucumber scare? Wash your cucumbers!) Put them in a small bowl and cover them with liquor. Let sit.

Bowl water in a large saucepan, with a bain-marie on top. Once the water is boiling add chocolate and a little bit of milk.

This is the most delicate part, I think. I’ve worked with chocolate a lot and it’s a finicky sweet thing when melted. I found that adding milk to the melted chocolate keeps the chocolate or the sugar in the chocolate from cooking and caramelizing – if that’s true or not I don’t know, but it seems to work for me.

It also seems to require patience. I wait until the chocolate looks completely melted before I mix the milk in to form a paste and then I usually add more milk – just to make sure. I mix lightly, slowly. The spoon doesn’t whip around the bain-marie, but mostly spreads the chocolate around and I let the milk do its thing on its own.

Then take the cherries that have been soaking in the liquor and dip them into the bain-marie, coating them with the chocolate.

Make sure you steer clear of the steam from the water! I burned my wrists a few times.

Put the cherries on a baking sheet and let cool.

I wasn’t sure if the rum would actually stick to the cherries. Honestly, they’d only been soaking for maybe 15 minutes, but the end result was a very light rum taste that off-set the sweetness of the chocolate and acid-berry of the cherry.

Ideally, if I’d had any forethought I would have let the cherries sit in the rum for an hour or two. But I’ll try that next time – maybe after I return from the market tomorrow.

Thursday is the husband’s 30th birthday. You could ask why I wanted to make him a huge lunch almost one week before his day of birth – but do you want to?

No.

Actually, it was a good day to cook. Not to hot. Windy. Cloudy. A mild spring day, which would be a mild summer day if you live anywhere outside of Provence.

Lunch was much debated by moi. I considered beef, I considered pork, I considered buying a whole rabbit and taking it apart (because I love rabbit, but they are sold whole – head, organs, feet, claws etc). In the end I decided on lamb. Souris d’agneau to be precise which is lamb shank in English, but souris sounds so much nicer so we’ll stick to that.

I’ve never cooked lamb, it’s normally the husband who cooks the red meat, and I had to make an occasion out of it. And out of the husband’s birthday, but food first. The menu was as follows:

Radish, Zucchini, Carrots with an artichoke, cream and herb dip, served with jambon de parme (ham from Parme, Italy).

Souris d’agneau with a pesto crust and tomate provençal

Cheese: St. Felicine and Tomme de montagne

Dessert: Pastries.

Wine: Chateauneuf Domain de Rampart 2000, red of course!

The sauces/dips:

 Creamy artichoke dip:

  • artichoke hearts
  • crème legère or sour cream
  • 1 basil leaf
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • a bit of thyme
  • a bit of rosemary
  • a bit of sage
  • salt and pepper
  • lemon juice

Put it in a food processor and blender. Chill. Voila! Granted it wasn’t your typical creamy vegetable dip, but it was great with the vegetables and bread.

Pesto. It’s so easy to make, there’s no reason not to make it fresh when basil is in season. I forgot the pine nuts and it still came out fine.

  • Basil leaves
  • Parmesan
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive oil
  • garlic
  • Pine nuts or walnuts – when you remember to buy them.

Blend the dry ingredients. When they make a coarse paste slowly add the olive oil and blend some more adding salt and pepper. Chill.

This was my first time making lamb. I found a recipe online that said if you cover the lamb with something there’s no need to brown it first in a pan. The husband was skeptical, but said to try it anyway.

We went to our favorite butcher the evening before and ordered our souris. Originally, we ordered two, but when we arrived at 9:30 this morning the butcher said “Well, today they were kind of small, so do you want three?” Like the husband was going to say no. We bought 3.

I took them out and put them in the pan feeling nervous:

I covered them in the pesto. Green meat!

 And cooked them at 400 °C or 200 °F for 1 hour.

 Along side the lamb, I made provincial tomatoes: tomates provençals. This is basically tomato covered with bread crumbs, herbs like rosemary, parsley, thyme, garlic and olive oil and baked in the oven for 20-30 minutes.

 Bread crumbs bought in the store are high in calories and full of stuff, like salt and disgusting chemicals, that are completely unnecessary. I make my own bread crumbs – or chapelure – whenever I need them. It’s simple:

  • Take some bread, slice it thin
  • Put it in the oven to toast for 15 – 20 minutes – low temperature.
  • Once it’s pretty dry and toasted, put it in a blender with the herbs of your choice.

 I used coeur de boeuf tomatoes. They have some other name in English but I don’t know what it is, but these are huge tomatoes that are not perfectly round, and have ridges. They’re great for stuffing or in salads. I wanted two round tomatoes for our tomates provençal but I couldn’t find any big enough so I went with the coeur de boeuf from my favorite produce vendor at the market.

Cut the tomatoes in half. Cover with a bit of parmesan, then the bread crumbs. A bit of olive oil. Bake for 20 – 30 minutes at 200 °C.

The beauty of the lamb and the tomatoes was that they cooked at the same temperature, so I started the lamb and then put in the tomatoes about 30 minutes after and let them cook together.

Upon tasting the lamb my husband said he was proud of me. I used to be a vegetarian and had to give it up upon moving to France – there’s just no way to go out to eat here – unless you live in Paris. But I always shied away from actually cooking read meat.

These souris d’agneau came out perfect.

First, don’t worry about the pesto burning. It might seem worry-some but it’s not. It creates a nice crust around the lamb and holds the moisture inside the meat, so that when you cut into it, it’s tender, moist and yummy. The pesto, even though it was crisp, was actually still tasty and a bit sweet – probably because of the garlic.

Fabulous.

The tomatoes were soft and melty and made me happy. I love vegetables.

Cheese:

St. Felicien and Tomme de montagne are two of my husband’s favorite cheeses. The St. Felicine is known as a creamy cheese with a very sharp bite to it. With the red Chateauneuf it was amazing.

Tomme is a much firmer cheese. The kind you see in the really thick brown or black rinds. It had a milder taste, and is a perfect end to the meal.

Wine:

Oh Chateauneuf. I’ll die drinking this wine. Really.

No, really. I love it. The grenache grapes – I don’t know what it is – they’re amazing. This 2000 had a lovely acidic, berry taste to it. Different from many older wines. It wasn’t the best thing to have with all the garlic, but with the cheese – OMG. And at 14.5% 11 years ago, it was pushing 15.5 – 16% alcohol, which meant that by the time the cheese course was done, the husband and I were sous-table – or very drunk.

A friend of mine stopped by for wine and chat – which was a nice interlude because I could walk down to the port and walk off some of the wine. When we had returned the sun was out and the afternoon was getting warm. We sat on the balcony, had a glass of reisling and then it was time for dessert to be served.

Chosen from our favorite patisserie: A little marzapan pig with chocolate inside, coffee and meringue pastry and a millefeuille. They were sweet and rich and full of cream and butter and other things that make me want to run another 10 kilometers.

At that has been my day. Filled with food and wine and some social activity. Now you can do the dishes while I take a nap.

Today consisted of lots of boring activities. But it also included a trip to Botanic, our local organic food market, where I buy my weekly soup ration. As it’s spring heading into what looks like a very hot summer I decided to take a look at the fresh vegetables for dinner inspiration. Every time I go to the market – any market – I start drooling over all the veggies. I love vegetables. I really do. They are may favorite thing to cook with, to eat, to look at, to smell. I just love vegetables… and garlic.

 I bought tomatoes, I bought potatoes, an eggplant, and then I bought fresh fava beans.

 I’ve only had fava beans once. In a dip Greg made, and they were good, but I didn’t really know what they tasted like or how they were even supposed to be cooked when they are fresh. So back to the apartment we went and I looked up how to cook them on the internet.

First, I had to shell the beans out of their pods.

Then, they needed to be blanched by boiling them in water, draining them and dumping the beans into icy cold water. This causes the outer skin to come off easier and causes the bean to be that pretty green color we all know and love.

Yay.

 

There was a brief pause to feed Pistou. He has a rough life.

So then I sliced the eggplant and salted it. Leaving it fresh, sliced and salted for about 20 minutes brings out the flavor of the eggplant by draining out the water. Obviously you wash off the eggplant before you cook it – otherwise you’ll taste nothing but salt.

I minced some onion. I minced some garlic. I rinsed a tomato.

And then:

Usually I work from recipes. This time, instead of looking for a recipe, I simply looked how to cook the beans and then decided what I wanted to use. I didn’t know what to do. I went out on the balcony and stared at the olive tree for inspiration. I opened the refrigerator and stared at the food inside. Really, I didn’t have any idea what to do with my pretty vegetables.


 I seeded and chopped the tomato. I found some frozen basil (almost as good as fresh). Oil, salt and pepper went into a pan. High heat.

 Everything was sautéed. Eggplant, beans, tomato, and I threw in some pepper. Then I added this:

 

Spicy chili pepper because I like destroying my taste buds.

But then what? I guess rice might have been a good choice. Or quinoa. Couscous maybe?

I decided to hollow out part of a baguette, put a few slices of mimolette on top and then my vegetable – thing – on top of that.

So… how did it taste?

 

Pretty good actually. The beans are have an almost sweet, pea-style flavor that mixed well with the onion and garlic. They worked even well with the chili pepper purée. And the mimolette, which has the look and flavor of a sharp cheddar offset the spice real well. In contrast, slicing the eggplant as thick as I did, and pressing out all the water, made it almost crisp. Nothing can replace the taste of eggplant for me, and I’ll eat it with anything. The tomatoes were probably unnecessary, but I can’t resist a tomato and it made the plate pretty.

Considering this is the first time I’ve made fava beans and the first recipe I’ve totally made up on my own, it was pretty good. I think next time I’ll either leave out the eggplant or the tomato to make a more simpler meal. In any case, I’ll be buying more fava beans the next time I go to the market.

In case you’re wondering, the husband had pizza for dinner.

It’s a new month and all of Provence has just returned from vacation. It’s also spring which brings very sunny days, beach and skirt weather and almost no humidity. Blossoming flowers, the smell of mimosa and lilacs and something else I can’t recognize.

Basically, what that means is that I don’t have much work. I teach English to adults, and what adult with free time on their hands wants to sit in a classroom on a beautiful spring afternoon learning English? I’m often booked solid, but right now, things are petering down causing me lots of worry about income and also leaving me with lots of free time on my hands. So, what do I do to block out the worry?

Well, most of the time I write. But some days – ok most days – I get the urge to bake something yummy and I resist until I can’t resist anymore.

Today, after teaching in the morning I found myself at home with nothing to do. I went online looking for bread recipes.

Let me tell you something: muffins and cakes are not bread. But that doesn’t matter, because I clicked on facebook in boredom and saw that The Purple Foodie  – who I love – had a new, and amazing recipe up. Cinnamon Sugar Pull Apart Bread

This actually comes from Joy the Baker who I’d never seen before and is also a new love.

At some point this weekend I intended to make cookies – I had even stopped at the store on the way home to buy butter, but saw this recipe and after showing it to my husband who said “Wow,” and to my sister, through the wonders of AOLIM, who said, “That looks amazing,” I had to make it.

This required me to go back out and buy milk. I know what you’re thinking, “You don’t keep butter and milk in the house?” But the husband and I do all of our normal cooking with olive oil and we get all of our dairy intake (and more) from cheese. It’s France, what else would you expect?

Anyway, I’m am a “faux-pas baker.” I can be counted on to make at least three mistakes in any recipe that I’m trying for the first time. Such as adding all of the flour at once, like I did this time (faux-pas number 1),  instead of reading the recipe carefully and discovering that I was only supposed to add 2 cups of flour and then the last ¾ after the dough was starting to combine.

Number 2: I only had flour for cereal bread in the house. Yeah. Well, that’s alright. I can pretend my cinnamon-sugar bread is healthy.

Number 3: I have no measurement estimation perception – if you put two objects in front of me that are slightly similar in size – they’re the same size. So cutting the dough into equally proportioned sizes was just a fail.

At least it gave me a reason to use my rolling pin.

This recipe takes some time to make. It’s pretty easy, but once the gastronomic juices start flowing it was SO difficult to wait for the dough to rise, put it together without munching on it, and then wait another 30 minutes for the dough to rise again. I wanted to cry every 5 minutes when I went back to the dough to see if it had magically risen yet. It hadn’t.

Luckily, the husband had prepared dinner in the meantime: Pepper Frita a provençal favorite during the spring/summer season.

Peppers, tomato paste, herbs and garlic, baked open in a savory pie crust. Because he’s a cheese fanatic, he added some to the top. The peppers and tomato paste (herbs etc) are cooked slowly over low heat for about 1 hour until everything is very melty and everything has become very aromatic. Then the mixture is scooped into the crust and baked for about 20 minutes.

We ate as the bread baked. I stared at the stove. I waited. The smells of cinnamon, sugar, butter and dough permeated through the air. My husband said “It looks promising.” The anticipation was building…

Was it worth it?

Oh god, yes. Even before I tasted it I knew the answer. The top of the bread is crusty and caramelized from the butter and sugar. The inner part of the bread is moist and soft and mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. It cooked up so well, so fluffy, so full of comforting sweet goodness. Being “pull-apart” bread makes it too easy to pick at. My waist line is going to hate me. I have to stop trolling the internet when I’m bored. It only forces me to make tasty treats.

And so, to my dear boss, please send me more English students.

Imagine food shopping down this street:

 

The French have a false friend with English – that’s a word that sounds the same but has a different meaning like ancien/ancient or sensible. Profiter. In English “to profit” is usually to make money. But in French the verb profiter means to enjoy. You’ll often hear people say “J’ai profité du soleil” – I enjoyed the sun – or “Profite bien de notre prix bas” – Enjoy our low prices. I guess a better translation would be “to take advantage of” but that has a negative connotation to it and I prefer to use enjoy.

But enjoy doesn’t have the same sound to it that profiter has. Enjoy is flat, it’s dull, it can sound – well a bit sad – if you don’t put a push of enthusiasm in your voice behind it.

Profiter, or profite on the other hand is exciting. Profiter! Profite! Said with an ee sound at the i and an ay sound when there’s the er is fun. It has it’s own joy and lifting lilt behind it and the word sounds happy even when you’re about to fall asleep. I want to start using it in English, let’s change the word “profit” to something that doesn’t have to do with money and all start profiting from more pleasant things.

And that’s what I did today.

The town where I now live (I’ve moved out of Toulon) is a traditional town. The morning market is exclusively a morning market. The vendors are set up out on the street everyday at 8:30 except Monday and they are gone by 12:30. The rest of the day the shops are closed, the street is quiet and cars have taken the place of fruit, vegetables and butcheries.

Sunday is the most crowded day, because Sunday is a day of rest, and what is more restful that a bit of shopping in the morning spring sun (it’s already 66°F outside) and then a big relaxing lunch on the balcony, followed by coffee and pastries.

The patisserie where I bought these little jewels was too packed for me to get a photograph of their stall. They are one of six bakeries on the main street where the market is, and every Sunday they pack their stall with cakes, pastries and tarts/pies that are – as Peter Mayle says – a dieter’s vision of hell.

Today, my search was for fruit. Now that it’s spring, strawberries are coming in from all over, but in France of course, and especially in Provence, nothing can outdo the strawberry from Carpentras. I also bought clementines and pears.

Friday the hubby went to the market on his own, buying eggplant, zucchini, onion, pepper, tomato, goat cheese and selle d’angeau. This is somewhere in the front of the lamb, the meat before the ribs I believe and contrary to the US, we bought it straight from our favorite butcher who trimmed and sliced it for two portions straight off the bone, and didn’t hygienically wrap it in Styrofoam and plastic: all for 6.80 Euros.

The hubby made a gratin of the goat cheese and vegetables – which he insisted I take a photo of before it went in the oven. Everything was roasted in the oven for 40 minutes and at lunch on the balcony with a bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape, Domain du Rempart 2005.

 

 

 

 

On the way home I stopped at the bakery that is closest to our apartment and by far my favorite. Ronde des Pains is actually a franchise and our particular bakers are fantastic. As with all bakeries the breads are fresh, but they do a pain aux cereal that is soft, sweet and irresistible. Not to mention they have the biggest tropezienne in the world.

 

 

 

It’s not just buying food on a Sunday morning – or any morning – that makes me praise this market to the world. It’s the trees, now green, that hang over the street, and the way bird-song is audible above the vendors and customers picking out lunch. It’s the way foot traffic suddenly takes precedence over the cars and the way my favorite fruit vendor spends the extra few minutes squeezing the oranges and picking through the piles of strawberries to avoid the ones that are over-ripe or not ripe enough. He does this for everyone – I’m not special – and I profit from it.

 

Profitez du marché de dimanche!

On Saturday, I had a “I’m sick of making salad, but I want to eat vegetables” day. That usually ends up meaning hours on allrecipes.com scouring the website looking for something interesting to make. Don’t get me wrong – if you know what you want to make or want to clean out the pantry – allrecipes.com is a great resource. Ok, there are 10 different chocolate chip cookie recipes using the same exact ingredients and the same exact quantities and baking methods but there are some good base recipes on there that can give you plenty of ideas when you have a butternut squash sitting on your counter and have no idea what to do with it.

But. If you have no idea whatsoever what you want to make for dinner, allrecipes isn’t much of a help unless you want to spend hours flipping through recipes. I don’t. I’d rather be out shopping for foods and then cooking. And then choosing a wine to go with it, but that’s another story…

Enter The Purple Foodie. Honestly, I don’t quite remember how I found her. I think I typed in “stuffed vegetable recipes” or some such nonsense and up came this little gem of a blog from a woman who likes food and has a pretty creative gene in her. I decided on her very excellent Stuffed Eggplant replacing the sausage with chicken, because I had chicken but didn’t have sausage – and chicken sausage is hard to find in a country that loves it’s pork (a little too much). I also use emmental which is a Gruyeres like cheese used as a pasta topper here because the place where I buy my fresh parmesaen was a far walk and I was feeling lazy.

They were a little long to make, but The Purple Foodie was right – they were excellent. I love veggies and chicken and cheese so I knew they’d be a success for me, but the husband bit into his and after getting over the initial mouth burning “hot shock” he said “mmmmmmmm.”

Along with them I made her Hassleback Potatoes. I didn’t have the type of potatoes required for the recipe and had to use red salad potatoes instead. Nonetheless after a good 50 minutes of cooking the tops of the potatoes were crispy while the inside was tender and moist – creating an excellent and pleasing texture. The pesto sauce on top was something I would have never thought of, but it totally worked.

If you’re looking for something a little different The Purple Foodie is a great resource. The recipes might be a little long and a few are a little strange, but they are as tasty as she promises and definitely worth the time and effort in the end.

She’s also a pastry chef in Bombay, India – so if you’re in the area – look her up! I bet her stuff is as tasty as anything I could find here in France.