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I know that I promised you quail. Stuffed quail to be exact. But due to a glitch with our butcher’s bird supplier, the quail won’t be coming until Sunday. Apparently, when he ordered caille (French for quail) that some how translated to canard (duck) and the delivery last Saturday included two ducks instead of two quail. I love duck, but I didn’t need two of them. This weekend, he promised us, he’d go pick up the quail personally. We’ll see. I think he knew I was so disappointed.

In the meantime, I give you a Français-Sud Américain blend for lunch. Red Bean Plantain Empanadas with Tomato Mozzarella Salad.

I’d been thinking about empanadas for some time. They just sounded fun. Simple – only a few ingredients are in the filling. Hot – baked in the oven. With a crust. I love crunchy crusts. I’m a pie-without-the-pie-filling kind of girl. It’s weird.

Why red beans you ask? Well, I have looked EVERYWHERE – in fact in every market and grocery I go to, I still look – and I cannot find black beans anywhere. If you live in Provence and know of a place that sells black beans let me know. Or, if you’re feeling generous and live in the States, I haven’t lost anything in the mail yet.

There are many different recipes out there for empanada dough. But I was feeling lazy and simply bought two pâte brisée, which are close enough. That’s the French twist to these I guess.

Red Bean Plantain Empanadas

(Makes 8 LARGE Empanadas)

  • 1 can red beans – drained
  • 1 plantain
  • 1/3 red onion finely chopped
  • 1 – 2 cloves of garlic
  • ½ tsp of chili powder or to taste (I have super hot chili powder so I have to scale it back a lot)
  • ½ tomato finely chopped.

Slice up your plantain. In a heated frying pan with a little bit of oil, sautée your onion, garlic, and plantain until softish – about 8 minutes. Lower heat. Add beans, tomato, and chili powder. Cook until heated, then remove from heat immediately. Mix and mash up the plantains a bit. This is really just a texture thing and to get a good blend of plantain-bean in your filling. It’s entirely unnecessary.

Roll out your dough.

Here’s where I decided to forget the half-moon shape and just go for ease in presentation. I scooped a generous portion of the bean-plantain mixture onto one of the dough circles in about 7 portions.

Then I laid the other dough on top of it. Used a big coffee mug to mark out my empanadas. Cut the excess away and used it to make one final empanada.

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 180°C or until golden brown.

You might want to add a little more oil to your filling before making your empanadas for some extra moisture. Or add cream or cheese if you’re like the husband and can’t imagine having something that doesn’t have meat and cheese in it:

“Mexican food has cheese!” He cried. Apparently, he’s the authority despite never having eaten Mexican food until he met me.

“They’re not Mexican,” I told him. “They’re from South America. Some say Peru, some say Argentina.” Actually, I looked it up and they’re originally from Moorish Spain and Portugal.

“Oh,” he said. But I could still hear the unspoken cries of “CHEESE!!!” going around in his head.

Serve your Empanads with something light. Because these babies are deceptively heavy. Tomato salad is a good choice. Simple, fresh, and so colorful.

  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1/3 red onion
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 can corn
  • 1/2 ball of mozzarella
  • Salsa verde or dressing of choice (lemon, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard)

Chop all ingredients. Put into a bowl. Mix. Season with salt and pepper. Add a little salsa verde. Mix. Serve.

What is so fabulous about this lunch is that it’s so few ingredients and easy to prepare. Other than putting the empanadas together, it takes little time (around 30 minutes) and there was no stress involved, the way stuffing a quail might be stressful.

Definitely Thursday lunch comfort food. The type of thing you eat on a day off and then lie on the couch after with a cup of coffee trying not to fall asleep, so you type up a blog entry about your lunch that includes a myriad of run-on sentences because you’re so excited about how well your empanadas and tomato salad worked out and how the textures and flavors binded so wonderfully together and yet it was so SIMPLE.

I need more simplicity in my life. But that’s something for another day. Sorry about the run-on sentences and the quail. Here’s hoping Sunday won’t disappoint!


It’s snowing again. And again, I’m not pleased. In fact, it’s freezing all over France. Only here in the Var has it risen above freezing and only then by 4 degrees. It would be an ideal day to spend time with a mug of homemade hot chocolate in my hands, gazing out the window with a wistful expression, remembering my childhood of snow days, snow angels, snowball fights, snow igloos and massive snow suits.

But that’s not happening this weekend. Not the hot chocolate part anyway. This weekend it’s all about the soup.

I’m into week 4 of quitting smoking. It’s not going so well. I hate everyone and have a lot of time on my hands to do it. I know that seems odd. I smoke and run. A cigarette for every kilometer.

I have another confession to make. And it’s pretty serious. Sometimes I go a little nuts on the sweets. And by a little nuts I mean a binge. And by a binge I mean a real binge. The one where you eat 24 cookies in 5 minutes without ever tasting anything. After that I eat a pint of ice cream and then a bar of chocolate. Time Elapsed: 12 minutes. It’s a bad food relationship and it’s been happening a little too much lately.

These two things combined create one very upset digestive system and a very unhealthy mentality towards food. Did you see the Mindful Eating article in the NY Times on Thursday? Though I do consider myself a Buddhist, I’ve never been a very good one. My mindfulness and meditation practices are pretty awful.

But since quitting smoking, I’ve found a need to snatch any moments of meditation where ever I can. See: Be Here Now from NPR for some tips on short meditation. It’s not perfect, but anytime you can take the time to “quiet your mind and open your heart” as Jack Kornfield says, you’re helping yourself in all sorts of positive ways.

What better way to renew a healthy and enjoyable relationship with food and cooking by practicing mindfulness while I eat?

Mindful eating is not a diet, or about giving up anything at all. It’s about experiencing food more intensely — especially the pleasure of it. You can eat a cheeseburger mindfully, if you wish. You might enjoy it a lot more. Or you might decide, halfway through, that your body has had enough. Or that it really needs some salad. ~Jeff Gordinier; NY Times 

When I binge, I don’t actually taste anything. I couldn’t tell you if those almond butter cookies I made yesterday were good or not. If they tasted different than peanut butter cookies or if the white chocolate I put inside added anything in texture, taste, pleasure. The same with the handful of Brazil nuts I ate after. I still don’t know if they were salted.

This weekend, then, it’s about two things. 1) A bit of a liquid diet to go easy on my digestion. 2) Learning to slow down and re-focus my brain and do things more mindfully – in small chunks of course because these things take lifetimes – but especially to be more mindful of my eating and my food.

This is where the soup comes in. When was the last time you tasted soup? Really tasted soup? All the textures, the tastes, the way it slides around your tongue, your mouth and then down your throat. It’s an intense experience if you have a good soup. It could be something as simple as leek soup with a twist of ground pepper. The bite-burn of the pepper, over the leek’s soft twang. When the leeks are puréed they are mushy – as all purée is – but there’s an interesting consistency, not thick, not thin. Almost like a thin oatmeal. Comforting.

Comfort foods are necessary when it looks like this.

There are lots of soups on the menu. Some homemade, some store-bought. Leek soup, Carrot and sweet potato soup, roasted vegetable soup with tahini (recipe below), tomato soup, lentil soup, zucchini soup. I’m stocked on soups.

And lemons. Got to clean out that liver.

Don’t get worried here. I’m not trying to starve myself. Though almost all of my soups are under 150 calories, I’m eating a bowl every 2 hours and keeping myself up around 1200 calories. I am allowing myself a bit of homemade focaccia bread or rice cakes as the mood strikes me.

Spiced Roasted Vegetable Soup with Tahini

based off of Babaganoush Soup by Sprint 2 the Table.

  • 1 red pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 100 g Eggplant sliced
  • 100 g Zucchini sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 100 g red onion
  • 1 tomato
  • 2 tblspn EVOO, divided
  • 1 tblspn Sesame Tahini
  • 1 lemon slice
  • 500mL Organic vegetable broth

And a whole lot of spices. But we’ll get to those.

First preheat your oven to 200°C. On a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper put all your veggies except the tomato. Keep the garlic in their skins. Drizzle with the olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes, turning everything halfway through. Take out of the oven when fully roasted, let cool and remove any blackened skins.

In the meantime boil your vegetable broth in a large pot, slice your tomato and add to the pot. Reduce to simmer. Add the roasted vegetables and cook for 10 minutes at a simmer so that the flavors have a chance to blend together. Add the other tablespoon of EVOO.

Then add your spices. Here are the ones I used all in ¼ or 1/8 teaspoons:

  • ground cumin
  • ground cinnamon
  • ground ginger
  • tumeric
  • cayenne pepper
  • ground nutmeg
  • ground cloves
  • ground black pepper

And add your tahini and lemon. Let simmer for another 5 or 10 minutes. Pour into a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy with a bit of homemade bread. Enjoy it with mindfulness – every last drop.

Spend the day relaxing, reading, catching up on sleep. Like I’m doing with the cats. We’re all on the couch staying warm together.

I’ll be updating on my journey in Mindful Eating later on in the week. Try the experience with me. For dinner, lunch, or breakfast – or even during a snack – tomorrow turn off the TV, sit down comfortably and spend a good 20 minutes concentrating on what you’re eating. The texture, taste, smell, look. Enjoy it from all sides and experience your food.

Toulon is not an international city. It’s French. Very French. And in poor condition. About fifteen years ago the mayor was ineffective, the police corrupt, the red light district booming and you did NOT walk around the city at night. Period. Unless you wanted drugs. Which you might. That’s alright.

Today, Toulon is under the leadership of Falco, a man born and raised in Toulon, a man who is admittedly running the city like a minor king, but also doing a good job of it. So who am I to complain?

I’m not.

Toulon is an up and coming city, but it’s still highly traditional. The shops and cafés close at 7pm, the restaurants don’t open until 8pm, and in between you have a small collection of strange bars and the American influence – you know what I mean – fast food joints, which I avoid at all costs. The food is French and sometimes Italian. There are a few Indian places, only two of them good. One Thai place WAAAAAAAAAAAAAY up in le Farons and some random sushi joints. However, I cannot eat sushi, being allergic (or at least believing I’m allergic) to shellfish and in the mean time strange bars are not my thing.

So what do I do on a Wednesday night, when the new movies come out and the husband and I plan a little date?

First there are drinks at Gaetano Café. When I first came to Toulon 7 years ago, the Gaetano was simply a family run pizza joint that sold relatively good pizza and had a huge open area seating near Galarie Lafayette and Place d’Arms. Since then the family has expanded a bit, buying the small place next to them and opening up not so much a café but a nice bar with a fresh, youthful look and the best of all COCKTAILS.

Cosmopolitans and margaritas! The French outside of the big cities are new to cocktails, so finding a place in Toulon that make a proper margarita or cosmo is huge. It’s not in the right glass, but the taste was there. We were pleased. The music is good, the bartender is friendly and the price is pretty correct – 7Euro50. They also serve little appetizers, which is unusual for a bar in France. Nothing great, but if you’re looking for some baked Camembert with fresh bread, nice sliced ham, an olive plate, small pizza, you can find it here and it makes a nice snack or shared starter before dinner.

We headed to Teppanyaki Roll just a few blocks away from Place Liberté and cinema for dinner. If you want Japanese in American-sized portions this place is for you. It’s a small place with black and red decor, a slightly more relaxed décor than Sushi Roll, it’s sister restaurant located right next door.

Inside there’s a lot of red light. It was a very nice for ambiance, but made for bad photography. The restaurant is tiny and it’s possible to see everything from where I was sitting.  There was an electric fire appliance to keep us warm. The husband tried to get out of the way of my shot, but he didn’t try too hard.

I was a little worried about sitting in that type of indoor/outdoor greenhouse style seating during the night. While the days have been warm here in Toulon, the nights are very cold and I didn’t want to be freezing. But it was well heated and very comfortable, no drafts at all. Maybe it was the wine and saki we order.

Remember when I said I don’t eat sushi? That’s not entirely true. If the restaurant chef is willing to prepare me a vegetarian option, I’ll go for it. Remember when I said Toulon is a traditional city? That means anything vegetarian is viewed with suspicion. But not here. They were happy to make me nori, rice rolls with only avocado. It was even on their menu.

The husband and I split them. I wouldn’t have been able to eat all eight and then my main dish. They were very simple, very tasty. What more can be said?

While we munched we watched our chef prepare our meals. This is what teppanyaki is all about, of course. Or at least that’s how they interpret it in Toulon.

In a small restaurant such as this one, it was impossible to put the chef anywhere other than where he was. But he is visible no matter where you are in the restaurant and entertaining to watch. I had been here before Wednesday, and he was more playful the first time, but we all have our days.

I ordered chicken with mushrooms and leeks in a sweet sauce.

Along with a side of sautéed vegetables

It was a MASSIVE plate. I’m not sure how I finished it all, but the bathroom scale is confirming that I did. The chicken, mushroom, and leeks were very tasty and though the sauce was sweet it had a savory flavor behind it. The vegetables were well prepared, not too oily and still had a bit of crunch to them – the way I like to eat my cooked veggies. I did however, find the dish too salty. I grew up in a household that abhorred salt and consequently I don’t like foods that have a lot of salt in them – pretzels, fries, chips, popcorn – if there’s a little salt that’s one thing, if they are covered in it, it’s inedible for me. There was enough flavor here to make the dish enjoyable – otherwise I wouldn’t have finished it – but I do think the chef could have cut back on the salt a bit and created something just as flavorful.

The husband had beef teriyaki and egg fried rice.

He claims to have never had teriyaki before. I’m not sure if that’s true, I must have taken him somewhere in the States where we had a teriyaki dish, but whatever. He really wanted to try this sweet dish and enjoyed it, saying that the beef was perfectly cooked, very tender and moist. For the record, he did not find the food too salty at all.

Even though I was stuffed we had to order something for dessert. Mostly because we had plenty of time to kill before our movie at ten. And there’s one thing that Teppanyaki Roll serves that I’d been talking about since the first time I went there. Maybe it’s not authentic Japanese, but if you’re looking for the most wonderful, most unhealthful dessert, most amazing creation in the world and can’t find it in France- you’ve found it now.

Do you know what it is? Ten points if you guess correctly!

Fried Ice Cream. Oh baby.

It’s not something for everyday – it can’t be. But on those rare occasions when I’m feeling naughty, I can’t resist it. Deep frying combined with ice cream. Amazing. Served with just a touch of caramel and I was in heaven. Despite being totally bad for you, there is something so pleasing about the contrast of warm, fried dough and the cool, soft texture of the ice cream. I love it.

There are much better cities in France to visit. There are more authentic Japanese restaurants out there. But I’m in Toulon and I like to eat out. When I don’t want classic French cuisine, Teppanyaki Roll is a fine option. A friendly ambiance, good food, huge portions and plenty of variety on the menu from sushi to tempura to stir-fry to kobe beef, all for a fair price. I’d like them to go easier on the salt, but otherwise Teppanyaki Roll is a fine choice for a Wednesday out on a dinner and movie date.

    Have you ever watched Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares?

Here it’s called Cauchemar en Cuisine and the Ramsay version plays on Sundays – British and American versions – from about 5 – 7:30 with the type of dubbing where you can hear the English being spoken under the French. The type they use for newscasts. It drives my crazy.

The husband and I love the show. It’s one of those reality TV guilty pleasures where you know half of it is staged but you can’t get enough.

So you can imagine my delight when M6 began their own French series of Cauchemar en Cuisine, complete with their own version of Ramasy in the guise of Philippe Etchebest. That link is in French by the way. He’s a two starred chef and former Rugby player.

Mr. Etchebest is far tamer than Ramsay, but that’s not too surprising. Nor is it surprising that in the program’s first season, I haven’t seen one dirty, disgusting kitchen. I think the French are too self-conscious for that. However, what I did see on Tuesday night when I sat down to watch my new favorite program – at least until Top Chef saison 3 begins next week – was a fabulous recipe idea.
Imagine this:  
Roasted garlic
butternut squash
aged Parmesan
1 wonderfully poached egg
a sprinkling of sage

Equals the perfect way to spice up butternut squash soup.

The original recipe called for cèpes – a type of wild mushroom, croutons, egg, and a Parmesan chantilly. The original recipe used an entire stick of butter and an entire cup of heavy whipping cream.

So unnecessary.

The original recipe didn’t have garlic. Mine does and it’s fabulous.

Roasted Garlic Butternut Squash Soup with Poached Eggs and Parmesan
Inspired by Phillipe Etchebest

  • 1 garlic bulb, separated into cloves
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, chopped into cubes. The squash I used was about 1/3 the size of a normal squash. When I weighed it after peeling, seeding, cubing, it was just under 500 grams.
  • ½ white onion diced
  • 2 tblsp Olive oil
  • 2.5 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 eggs
  • 40 grams of aged 24 months, Parmesan

First the cheese. When I cook with Parmesan I go all out. Trust me and spend the money on the cheese. Aged Parmesan cannot be beat in texture and taste. Salty and tart, it piques on the tongue and leaves a pleasant, sharp after taste that is better than any cheddar.

Preheat your oven to 200°C. In a baking dish separate your garlic bulb into its cloves and toss with a bit of olive oil. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 40 minutes or until very mushy and tender.

In the meantime, prepare your soup. In the bottom of a large pot heat up the olive oil and cook the onion over high heat for about 2-3 minutes or until fragrant. Add you squash and broth. Bring to a boil. Stir, add salt and pepper, cover and simmer until squash is completely tender.

Foggy soup goodness.

When both garlic and squash are cooked, and the garlic has cooled down enough so you can remove the skin, pour everything into a blender and blend until smooth. Add some sage. Pour back into your pot, cover and keep warm.

Slice up some Parmesan, set aside.

Now the hard part. Poaching an egg is easy, but difficult at the same time. It’s not just about cooking the egg, but getting the look. Making sure you don’t crack the yolk, that there’s enough of the white to form a nice base around said yolk. Putting it in and taking it out of the softly boiling water without destroying everything.

I recommend this website as a guide: How to Poach an Egg.  It covered the basics pretty well.

While your egg is poaching, ladle your soup into the bowl, have the Parmesan ready, because this needs to be served immediately.

Take your egg out of the water and gently lay it into the soup. Top with Parmesan. Serve.

Honestly, I knew the Parmesan would work but I wasn’t too sure of the egg. Eggs taste like eggs. This we agree on. And the addition of the egg to this soup added flavor and texture. Though the taste of an egg is simple, layered with the soup and cheese it was like eating a complex, wintry breakfast.

So I served it with homemade home fries. They were yummy too.
Thanks to M. Etchebest (pronounced Etch-eh-best) for his fabulous idea. Who knows what happened to the restaurant he was trying to help, but he has made this little American amateur extremely happy.

Wednesday, I purchased the ultimate tool in smart cooking. Something the husband had been complaining about the price of, something he kept telling me we didn’t have the counter space for, something that we really, really needed. It’s the thing EVERY chef has, amateur or professional.

The scale. Sorry about the blurriness, I think I’m drinking too much coffee.

What made me break down and finally buy such a thing when I’d apparently getting along without it?

Cat food.

Pistou is getting fat. Soon Dumpling will be, if she continues to eat the way she is. They needed to have their food intake monitored (just like I do). And we all know how important a good scale is to proper baking and even a proper diet. Yes, cup are alright, ounces are OK, but grams are precise. I’m a convert to the metric system.

Apparently Chinese New Year is sometime around now? Sorry to my Asian friends but I’ve never paid much attention Chinese New Year. I have enough to keep track of being of Jewish-descent and living in a Roman-influenced world. Honestly, I don’t need another calendar to keep track of.

I could say that I made these spring rolls in honor of the Chinese New Year but that would be a lie. I made them because I wanted to, because for some inexplicable reason I went out on Monday and bought rice paper.

I made three different rolls. Here’s a list of the ingredients for all three in no particular order.

  • Cabbage
  • carrots
  • onion
  • peanuts
  • smoked tofu
  • diced chicken
  • avocado
  • radish
  • bell pepper
  • soy sauce
  • sesame oil
  • ground garlic
  • ground ginger
  • rice paper wrappers
  • chopped basil (I used frozen, but fresh is best)

Don’t be daunted by the list of ingredients, it’s super easy to prepare.

Steam the carrots, cabbage and pepper. You can steam the tofu too if you like. Or marinate it along side the chicken in soy sauce. Dice your onion, slice your avocado, etc.

I’m not going to give you the measurements of what I used, because it would be a little strange as I made two dumplings with veggies and tofu, two with chicken, cabbage, and onion and two with veggies, chicken, and avocado slices. There was far more cabbage than anything else. You can arrange them however you like.

I overstuffed these, as I have a tendency to do, so we had with 6 dumplings (3 each) and 1 left over filled with random veggies. This really doesn’t pose a problem – who doesn’t love overstuffed stuff? – except that the a few of the rolls fell apart in the steamer. Live and learn.

With a blend of sesame oil and soy sauce on the side these were a lovely dinner treat. The husband declared them a success, even enjoying the one with smoked tofu. The lightly steamed vegetables allowed for a soft crunch, heavy on the flavor of carrots and cabbage which I honestly find comforting during these cold winter days. What makes these “spring rolls” for me is the addition of basil. I know it’s common in Asian foods, but I have often found that combining winter vegetables like cabbage and carrots with basil – which is strictly a summer thing here and near impossible to find in winter – fuses the flavors of the two opposing seasons. This way, you’re eating your way to spring, long sunny days, and warm(er) weather.

It was 56 degrees here on Wednesday. Also, spring rolls are really hard to photograph.

This is spelt. It’s a dark, ancient grain that you can boil and eat like rice. It has a lovely wild and nutty flavor and is, I’m sure, rich in something that I’m not aware of. But ancient grains are good for you.

This is merguez. It’s a spicy sausage made with lamb. Yes, these particular merguez come from my butcher in la Seyne.

Last night I combined them to make a nutty, spicy, heady (think a deep red wine) stuffing to go in roasted peppers.  Ideally you could use any meat for this, but the merguez gives it an extra depth.

  • 1/2 cup dry spelt
  • vegetable broth
  • 2 merguez sausages
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 coeur de boeuf tomato (hot house?)
  • 1 1/2 tsp Garam masala
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Put spelt in a medium sauce pan with 3X as much vegetable broth (So around 1 1/2 cups). Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium heat and let simmer for 25 minutes.

In the meantime, slice the bottoms off of your peppers and clean out the insides. Set aside. Mince the bottoms of the peppers for use in the stuffing. I sliced about 1 1/2 inches off of my pepper, but they were pretty big. Also, I know normally you slice the tops off, but these peppers in particular, were not able to stand up on their own on their bottoms, but they could stand up by their tops – work with what you have.

Mince your onion and garlic. Dice your tomato. Heat olive oil in a pan and sautée the onion and pepper about 2-3 minutes, then add the garlic and merguez. Let the merguez cook for about 5 minutes and then take out to slice up. When you take the merguez out, add the tomato in its place and let it cook down. Dice up the merguez (which will probably still be uncooked but that’s fine) and throw back in the pan. Add your garam masala, salt, pepper.

When the spelt is done, add everything – liquid included – into the pan. Mix. Let everything simmer for another 5 minutes so the flavors blend. Then stuff your peppers. Add any remaining liquid or filling in the bottom of the pan to give the peppers a broth to baste in. Bake in the oven at 180°C for 40 minutes or until peppers are soft.

They’re a nice twist on simple stuffed vegetables, hearty and easy to make. A delightful, healthful meal that is not too spicy but has a little kick.

In Dumpling-Pistou news: Dumpling has a mouth problem, we think it’s either infected gums or rotten teeth. But the people from the refuge are afraid to take her away because she doesn’t eat when she gets upset and she’s already too, too thin. Who would have thought there’d be someone too thin in this house.

Pistou however, walks up to her when she’s sleeping in order to sniff and inspect. He’s still in shock, but he is also currently crying in the bathroom – a return to his bizarre drama queen ways…

My fruit bowl is over flowing.

I love fruit, but I don’t eat enough of it. Don’t we all have this problem? We buy fruit that looks so luscious with the best of intentions but it ends up sitting in the fruit bowl until it’s soggy and sad.

Pears, lemons, oranges, apples, bananas, half a mango in the fridge. There’s only one thing to do with all of this stuff.


They have lots of fruit, flavor, sweetness and for someone like me who is ALWAYS hungry, they fill you up.

One excellent thing about smoothies is the endless variety. Throw in a few spices, change your regular milk for rice or almond milk, use orange juice, and you have a whole new drink.

This one is orange, banana, and mango. It was dessert after lunch.

Lunch was garlic, buckwheat and multi-grain flat bread.

Fresh flat bread is fabulous.

Top it with goat cheese, butternut squash, roasted potato (or tomato) and peas.

Throw on some sage. Warm, healthy, filling, so sweet and savory – squash is so wonderful – and goes well with so many things. With the potato and creamy, mild goat cheese is was hearty and savory. With the tomato and sharp goat cheese it’s fresh and sweet. Delightful

Though this is a food blog – I’d like to change the topic a moment – to discuss the title of this lovely entry.

Say hello to Dumpling. She’s kind of a fan of fruit too, and she’s being fostered by the husband and me until she gains 5lbs and feels more secure about herself. If all goes well, and she’s not sick (and sadly there’s the possibility that something is very wrong) we might adopt her.

The husband and I went to the Refuge aux Chats et Chiens in Toulon yesterday to inquire – just inquire about fostering a cat in the hopes of adopting some day. The next thing we knew, they were paying us to take her home, because she was so depressed and stressed that she wasn’t eating – and as you can see – she needs food.

I’m not going to lie. It’s a little alarming to have a cat, so painfully thin, and now we’re starting to realize – probably sick – shoved on you like this – even if it is temporary, but we’re hoping her problems are not serious and that we can help her to feel better soon.

She’s already taken over the husband’s underwear drawer.

Here was Pistou’s shocked expression when he realized what we’d brought home:

As of now, about 30 hours after Dumpling’s arrival, we’ve had no fights. A little minor hissing, a mixing of the food bowls, some tail and nose sniffing, and a whole lot of staring competitions. So everyone welcome and hope for the best for little Dumpling – who was named after the Chinese delicacy, courtesy of the husband.

There has been a new addition to my household. No, I’m not pregnant and I didn’t get another cat.

After three pasta fails, I broke down or rather the husband and I broke down and bought a pasta roller.

Sure there are fancier ones out there where you can adjust thickness and can do all sorts of fancy things that mine can’t but I still welcomed my new addition with open and excited arms. This roller is simple stainless steel, held to the counter by a C clamp and makes spaghetti, tagliatelle, and lasagna sheets – perfect for ravioli. Tonight, I made tagliatelle.

While I’ve mastered the cookie, the biscotti, almost mastered the bread dough, I have yet to master the pasta dough. No butter or sugar? No yeast? No water? Just egg and a tiny bit of olive oil? WHAT?

Je ne comprends rien.

But I had 2 eggs and flour and olive oil, so there you go.

I used 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour. It’s not particularly how I like my pasta, but this flour had a fine grind to it that I’ve read can be important for pasta dough.

All rolled into a little ball.

And now all rolled out.

And the roller is christened by rolling out it’s first dough into nice strips of tagliatelle.

Lots of tagliatelle.

So, what does one make with all this pasta?

Veggies! Spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, red onion.

Blue cheese of course.

In the pan and looking like once again, I’ve made WAY too much.

I like to put in the spinach last and let it wilt only slightly. This way the leafy greens retain some of their crunch but are still warmed by the pasta and the sautéed vegetables.

But it was fabulous. I guess there are worse things to gorge yourself on than fresh whole wheat pasta.

Next up: Ravioli. Lots and lots of ravioli. With squash and sausage. But not at the same time.

And now let’s all give my pasta roller a hearty welcome on the step to making me have to add another 5 kilometers to my morning run.

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!

It’s been seven days since my last post and we’re now twelve days into the novel. I reached 40,000 words last Thursday night, officially Friday morning. 7 days, 25,000 words. Today I hit 46K. Am I tired? Yes. For NaNoWriMo only 50,000 words are required to win. As I’m at 46K and not even one third into the story, I’m aiming for about 120k. By the end of November? Can I do it? I have no idea.

For those of you wondering what you get if you win, the answer is nothing but the satisfaction that you wrote a novel. And a certificate you can print from the website. I still have mine from 2009. It was on the fridge for a year.

For ten days the weather was rainy. Wait. Did I say rainy? I mean POURING. And WINDY. This wasn’t your typical run of the mill wind. This was wind with an attitude. This was wind that broke my super strong titanium umbrella. This was wind that blew off the roof of a building on my running route – that was a surprise one morning. This was wind that picked up fish from the sea and tossed them on the sidewalk. It was kind of gross. It’s called the Mistral. It came early this year. Had it lasted one more day I would have called in to work. I couldn’t handle it anymore.

By Wednesday, flood trucks were by the shore in case they had to suddenly evacuate. A friend told me the roads into and out of St. Tropez were closed off, the city completely shut down. I was lucky. Parts of the Var are under water. This is only disturbing when you realize that those parts are on the side of a mountain.

And yes, I ran everyday, through the wind and rain. 10K. I’m masochistic.

But it’s gone – for now – and there are sunny skies. I never realized how much noise the wind made. The silence outside when hanging laundry on my balcony is golden.

Let me update you on food. Because that’s what you’re hear for. With laying down this many words per day and trying to keep some semblance of a figure, I haven’t been cooking much. There’s a party tomorrow and Thanksgiving for the in-laws in two weeks and I will make SOMETHING when I hit 50K tomorrow, a trip to Table du Vigneron if I finish… well, I have to lay off the food. But I’m still cooking.

There was butternut squash soup at 25K.

Soup has always intimidated me, but it was super easy and so yummy, even cold. I’ve conquered my fear of homemade soups, much to my husbands dismay.

There were banana cream desserts. Creme fraiche, a teaspoon and a half of sugar, softened banana cooked over a low flame for 10 minutes and then cooled in the refrigerator for a few hours. I should have put them in the blender for a smoother finish, but can you get any easier than that? Not really.

And there were buttery, garlic wheat knots for yesterday at my 40K milestone. The husband and I going through them like they’re going out of style. I might have to make more.

The best part of each one of these delights is that they were not only easy to make, but they allowed time for me to step away from both the computer and the stove. I got to go back and forth, I got to take breaks and relax my mind, which for all intents and purposes is a little fried.

But I’m only 12 days in and there’s a whole two-thirds of a novel to finish. It’s time to go pick up the pace…

Ice Cream is Amazing

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