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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!

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Sometimes it’s the little things in France that give me pause. For instance, binders here have four rings, not 3 or 5. And they open separately. The two on top are connected, but not connected to the two on the bottom. You have to snap open both if you want to remove or add a page. It’s convenient so that papers aren’t falling out everywhere when you open up the rings, but I always forget. I start wondering why the paper is resisting movement and then I remember, “Oh yeah, French binder.”

At one of the companies where I teach outcenter, there are horses behind the office. No one really knows what they’re doing there. I’ve asked, because I can see them from the window. Once in a while I see someone come and feed them, but most days they just stare into the office window watching me teach. Today, one of them wouldn’t stop whinnying. Perhaps it knew I was carrying a batch of cookies with me to take into the school.

Not all of these cookies were the same. Two dozen had been colored green for the St. Patrick’s Day party we are having today. The other two were my own personal cookies. Ones I threw together and into the oven an hour before going to work.

I didn’t have eggs, but I was craving cookies. Could I make a good “vegan cookie” with what I had in my kitchen? I’d never made a successful vegan cookie before, but then again, I’d never taken the vegan cookie thing seriously.

But I turned on my Kindle and started flipping through Veganomicon until I found her Chewy Chocolate Raspberry Cookies. Instead of butter and eggs to hold the cookie together they use canola oil (no shock there) and raspberry preserves (shocking!).

What an amazing idea. Preserves for flavoring and binding a cookie. I didn’t have raspberry confiture in the house, but I did have confiture de citron – lemon that is, and decided to do what I could to satisfy my cookie craving without eating the cookies I had promised for work, or being late for class.

And while I don’t think these are quite vegan, they come as close as I’ll ever get.

(Almost) Vegan White Chocolate Lemon Cookies

Adapted from Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

  • ½ cup of lemon preserves or confiture de citron
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (all purpose is fine too)
  • ½ cup cake flour or farine fluide*
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • White chocolate chips, about 50-60 grams

*I’ve been experimenting with baking cookies with farine fluide, which has a consistency close to cake flour. It’s not necessary and 1 ½ cups of all purpose flour would work fine, not to mention was the original recipe.

 

Combine your wet ingredients: sugar, preserves, vanilla, and oil in a large mixing bowl. Stir together with a spoon or fork.

Once blended add your baking soda, then salt. Sift together your two flours and add to the wet batter a third at a time, mixing together with a fork.

The last third you make have to finish by hand, kneading and mixing together until you get a homogenous dough.

Add your white chocolate chips and mix together.

Roll into small balls, place on a lined cookie sheet and press down a little until you get small discs.

Bake at 180°C for 10 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Serve.

I’m pretty sure it’s the white chocolate that cancels out the “vegan-ness” of these cookies. There’s milk in there after all. But whatever. I made “vegan” cookies in 20 minutes and made it to work.

The texture is there. Chewy: check. Soft: check. Lemony: check. Honestly, olive oil would have been a fabulous replacement for the canola – and I’ll be remembering that for next time. A really excellent cookie that doesn’t leave me lacking in the cookie comfort department. Everything that a cookie needs to be, they are. Even the husband liked them and didn’t say anything about their lack of eggs and butter. He said, – and I quote – “They were good, I taste lemon.”

Get ready for this weekend. I’m stuffing and roasting quail.

Guess what? You can now follow me on twitter @WriterHolly. I have no idea what I’m doing with it, so you’ll have to bear with me for a few weeks or months while I get the hang of it, but please join my internet voyage of 140 characters or less.

Today was a day of discovery. It all started last night when I purchased Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz for my Kindle.  Now, I’m not a vegan, I’ll never be a vegan. I love ice cream and cheese far too much to go vegan. It’s just the way it is. But as I mentioned before, I’ll always love vegetables, beans, and legumes over meats and I’d been looking for a recipe book that would give me some new ideas. I was hesitant at first to buy this book, because I wasn’t sure if I would be able to adapt many of the recipes for vegetarian cooking (sorry Ms. Moskowitz – I can’t help it) but after reading through many of the recipes, I realized that most of them are very adaptable and the ones that aren’t seem tasty enough to try as is. And that’s what I did tonight.

But first, a discovery of a different kind.

For a while, the husband has wanted to try this:

Stevia, it’s a natural sweetener that has 0 calories. Unlike sugar and unlike Splenda. I think it’s from a flower. (Don’t quote me on that though) Apparently you can bake with it too. So today, I set out to try my cookies.

This was all the Stevia I needed according to the recipe on the Stevia website. See the butter? See the Stevia? Wow. I thought.

I ended up with the stiffest, blandest dough ever. So I added 2 tablespoons of milk and another teaspoon of Stevia. Now I had less stiff, but still bland dough. I considered that maybe the Stevia would sweeten up in the oven so I baked a test cookie without the chocolate I was planning to use.

Well, they were NOT cookies. I’ll need to work on that. What I did get, however, was the nicest and quickest milk biscuit I’ve ever seen.

So I added some cheese to rest of the dough and popped them into the oven.

The husband, though a bit surprised about the cookies, was also pleased by these. He told me not to forget the recipe so I could make them again. Quick, easy, and next time I’ll use more salt and leave out the Stevia.

  • 115 grams butter
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups flour

Combine. Cook at 180°C for 12 – 15 minutes.

Onto dinner.

For my Veganomicon trial run I chose one recipe to make as is and one to change around. The first was her Snobby Joes – basically sloppy joes made with lentils rather than beef.

I’m not going to post the recipe as I’m sure Ms. Moskowitz has it copyrighted – as well she should – and really, just buy the book. It’s worth it (and I’ve only made two recipes).

It started with all of these ingredients though.

And ended up like this.

Served on a corn bread roll.

While I think my chile powder must be way more spicy than hers (I had to scale it down ALOT), it was still an absolutely delightful, low fast and tasty dish. The husband and I both enjoyed it. I loved it, and even though I halved the recipe there was still plenty to freeze for another meal later in the week. An excellent consistency, good flavor, filling and hearty. And vegan!

The other recipe – the one I changed – was her Tomato Zucchini Fritters. I changed some of the spices – because I didn’t have mint or dill in the house – and used thyme and rosemary instead – more Mediterranean than Greek. Then instead of tofu, I used an egg and cheese.

But I mixed and baked them according to her recommendations (again scaling the recipe down to serve two).

And the result was a nice vegetable side dish (with cheese) to go along with our Snobby Joes. I should have used a different bread for my homemade breadcrumbs – buckwheat bread is a little strange as a breadcrumb – but they were lovely all the same. Very flavorful and a nice twist on the classic zucchini fritter that I’ve made in the past.

I’m thrilled by this book so far. There are some great recipes in there and most of them are not supermarket scary – even the ones she doesn’t have listed as supermarket friendly. Obviously, it’s easier for me as I won’t mind changing things around to be non-vegan, but it has amazing recipe ideas that I can’t wait to try.

2012 I’ve promised myself, is going to be a year of discovery. Discovering good food, French, a possible new career, and furthering my writing. But I’ll leave the writing aspect of this blog for a later date after I get the writing page up and fully functioning. Happy New Year!