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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!


One of the wonderful things about the United States is that all restaurants will do take out. This may not seem that great to you if you live in the US, but TRUST ME, you miss it when it’s gone. I’m not a huge take out fan but some nights I don’t want to have a waiter breathing down my neck, nor do I want to cook and neither pizza nor kebabs are going to cut it.

So on the night the sister and I couldn’t decide where or what to eat, we decided to order take out. She went to her favorite Thai place and I ordered from Acitron, a Mexican Bistro. It was more authentic than your typical tacos and enchiladas but it also had some fun, more creative items on the menu. One of which was this:

Fried Avocados.

All I have to say about these is WOW. They are battered in a floury-tempura mixed with jalapeño pepper and served with a creamy, spicy sauce. It was amazing. The avocados were soft and flavorful, mixed with the crispness of the batter and the spicy peppers were just enough to add tang to the nuttyness of the avocado. They were so awesome I’m going to attempt them on my own.

I also ordered chicken cooked in bitter chocolate sauce. This was something I’ve always wanted to try and jumped at the chance of tasting when I saw it on Acitron’s menu even though I wasn’t really in the mood for chicken.

Very interesting. It’s a thick sauce with a taste that I can only describe as dark but not bitter. It was almost like a rich, savory red Bordeaux that has aged about 10 years. Heavy and full, but you don’t notice all the flavors until the after taste. It was mixed with three different types of chili pepper which brought out the coco flavor, and the coco obviously killed some of the spice creating a nice contrast. Definitely something I would try again.

Friday the mom arrived and I cooked dinner.

The sister has a very nice apartment, but we need to talk to her about her kitchen space.

Some how despite having only a tiny table to cook on I managed to make kebabs – which were broiled in the oven – covered in provençal mustard and olive oil and risotto primavera.

Risotto is quite easy to make, like most things it just takes a bit of time. Cream isn’t even required if you do it right:

  • Broccoli
  • zucchini
  • onion
  • fresh spinach
  • garlic
  • yellow pepper
  • peas (I used snap peas because they looked yummy)
  • asparagus (I used white)
  • risotto rice
  • white wine
  • chicken broth
  • Parmesan cheese

Warm some olive oil in a large skillet. Cook the onion for 30-60 seconds over medium heat then add the rice and garlic. Stir often and cook until the rice begins to separate and crackle. Add about 1 cup of dry white wine. When the wine is mostly gone add the broth just until it covers the top of the rice. Cover and cook, adding more broth as needed. About 10 minutes before the rice is done add the other vegetables. You can add them before hand if you like softer, more cooked through veggies but I like a little snap in mine. When everything is done turn heat to low or off but don’t remove from heat just yet. First add shaved Parmesan cheese and stir in to let it melt throughout.

Both were a success and because I always cook too much, there were plenty of leftovers.

Saturday I had a cosmopolitan.

I started drinking them before I ever saw or even heard of Sex and the City, so it’s ok. Like I said, martinis and cosmos are impossible to find in France and when the mom and I went out to dinner, my one requirement that the restaurant had a good bar.

Today, it’s hot in France. I’m dreaming of another cool cosmo and trying not to fall asleep. My resolution when I returned to France was to listen to French talk radio for at least 20 minutes everyday. But for some reason RFI Monde isn’t connecting and so I’m listening to Spanish flamenco guitar. I figured it was almost fitting given the Mexican food.

Don’t miss part 3: Peaceful Meadows and Percy’s Place.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love vegetables? I love vegetables. I love them more than any other food. Cheese is a close second. Then bread. I could eat nothing but vegetables forever. They’re so versatile, so satisfying.

And cheese. I’m blessed to live in a country where cheese is a national treasure.

I also love days off from work. I have no idea why today is a holiday in France, they’re even wishing people a bon quinze août but I’ll take it and use it to make something yummy.

Pizza Primavera. It’s almost the end of summer and primavera means springtime – or so I’m told – but hey, it’s good, it’s cheesy and it’s full of veggies.

I used an aged Pecorino, which with all due respect for France, is Italian. Made from sheep’s milk, laced with salt and huge chunks of pepper. You don’t need a sauce for this pizza or any extra spices. This pizza is just that good.

Roasted red peppers, broccoli, peas, onion, garlic, tomato and zucchini.

I made my own pizza dough, which wasn’t difficult. Easier than bread.

But rolling it out was. I got an oblong rectangle rather than a circle. It was my first attempt. I have another pizza dough sitting in my freezer for next time. I wanted to toss it in the air and spin it around, but given my hand-eye coordination I could see that being a disaster.

Bake your pizza dough at 250°C for about 5-7 minutes before you put the toppings on it. I think this is necessary, because with the oil of the cheese, the water of the veggies – especially the tomato – will keep the dough from cooking fully other wise.

Put your toppings on. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake for another 12-15 minutes until the cheese is melted, the vegetables are cooked and the crust is golden brown.

Doesn’t it look amazing?

I sat on the balcony with a glass of rosé and enjoyed myself while reading The Dispossessed by Ursula K LeGuin.

A note on salt: if you use aged pecorino or aged Parmesan DO NOT salt your pizza when you put the toppings on it. Seriously. The cheese is already incredibly salty and will infuse into the vegetables and the dough.

I’m going to write for the rest of the day. I’m going to read. I’m going to have a dame blanche cookie and Earl Grey tea. The husband is sick. Wish him well so that he can enjoy my pizza for dinner tonight.

This week I have to go to the town hall to renew my titre de séjour. Wish me luck. It’s always a drama.

I had a long week. It commenced with teaching 4 teenagers to speak English. It was tiring and they were completely fish-eyed. I don’t remember being fish-eyed as a teen. But I do want to apologize to all the adults in my life then and now for once having been a teenager.

I’m so sorry. Really.

I’m sorry.

I made you cookies.

But we’ll get to that.

Friday night ended with me coming home at 8pm to a very exciting treat. Earlier in the day I had seen fleurs de courgette being sold in the market place and I immediately texted the husband with an excited note that if they weren’t too expensive, would he pleeeeeeeeeeeeeease buy some. He did.

These are zucchini flowers. They aren’t rare, they aren’t too expensive, but they are a bit hard to find. I love them. I had them first at La Colombe in Hyères (coincidentally, I’m going to that restaurant tonight), and thought they were so spectacular that I’d waited impatiently all year for summer and zucchini to come again.

These flowers are often stuffed. Usually with cheese or the zucchini itself and then fried or baked.

We stuffed ours with very fresh goat cheese mixed with garlic, onion and yellow pepper. Then drizzled them in olive oil and baked them in the oven for 15 minutes.

Fleurs de courgette are tangy, almost citrus-like with such a wonderful and satisfying crunch at the end. You know you’re eating a flower, it feels like eating a flower should. Like sunshine.


And now, your cookies.

The Dame Blanche is most often known as a sundae. Vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, strawberries or strawberry coulis and whipped cream. However, there is something much more exciting that can be found in almost every bakery in France: the Dame Blanche Cookie.

Dame Blanche or white lady is my favorite cookie. I’d never made them before, so bear with me:

  • 1 ¼ cup flour
  • 115g of butter, softened
  • ¾ of powdered sugar
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of vanilla extract
  • jam or confiture of your choice – I used strawberry, which is the most common.

Mix your softened butter, sugar and egg until every thing is smooth and homogenous. Add your flour, vanilla and salt and mix until everything comes together. Then mix a bit more to firm up your dough – not too firm – stop when you start to feel a bit of resistance – about 3 or 4 minutes on a low setting.

Set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Meanwhile preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C.

When the 30 minutes are up, flour your work surface and your rolling pin and your hands. Really coat it in the flour. Don’t be afraid to make a mess. Take your dough out of the bowl and set it on your work surface. Flour it too.

Carefully roll the dough out to about 1/8 of an inch thick. This dough is incredibly sticky – something I unhappily discovered, which is why I recommend LOTS of flour everywhere to keep it from sticking.

Using a cookie cutter, cut yourself as many cookies as the dough allows but make sure you have an even number of cookies. I cut one cookie at a time, put it on the cookie pan and then cut the next. It was just easier given how delicate the dough was.

For every other cookie you will cut a small hole in the center. I recommend doing this while the cutter is still supporting the shape of the cookie. My holes didn’t come out so great, but maybe next time.

Bake your cookies for 10 minutes or until they are fully cooked through. You want them to be firm and crispy and browned.

Take them out and let them cool fully. Try to clean up in the mean time before your significant other sees the mess you’ve made with the kitchen.

When the cookies are cool, take your jam and spread a nice amount all over the cookie bottoms – the ones without the hole. Put the cookie tops on – the ones with the hole in the center. Et voila!

Normally, the Dame Blanche has white powdered sugar on top of it. I couldn’t find any in the store today and ran out of sugar when I was making the recipe. But no matter – they still taste great. They’re just not as white as they should be. Keep them in the fridge for about 3 days.

So please forgive me, for every having been a teenager. And have a cookie. It makes everyone feel better.

Today was a a cat-day. If you own a cat, you know what I mean. A day when you sit around feeling pleased with yourself sitting around accomplishing nothing in particular. I ran, I shopped at the market, I watched this documentary on Mesopotamia  (warning, not worth it if you don’t speak French!)

Started a new book. Painted my nails. Had a glass of wine. Worked on a new story. I need to get the novel out of my head for a moment and come back to it fresh when I feel better about my writing skills. I listened to some of Chopin’s Nocturnes.

Pistou, our cat, spent his day on the balcony and in our jardiniere, where he shouldn’t be, but he too looked so content sitting there amongst the flowers that I let him be.


Yesterday a friend from work asked me, “Are you cooking anything good this weekend?” He likes to hear about my obsession. I said “No. I made so much bread yesterday and Sunday the husband and I are going to a really nice restaurant.” (Review to follow)

But I really shouldn’t lie. OF COURSE I cooked. Because I can’t help myself.

I made quiche.

Not just one quiche but three. Which worked out to six individual quiche in the end.

How does one make a quiche? It’s easy. Crust, eggs, cream, and whatever you feel like putting inside. Bake at 180°C until cooked through. And don’t really worry about timing it right. Quiche really can’t burn. It’ll brown, but if it does, then you know it’s done and you have a browned crispy top.

But if you REALLY need a cooking time, the husband recommends 10-15 minutes.

So my quiche(s?) were:

Roasted potato with herbs

Zucchini and leek

Roasted red pepper, garlic and tomato


So Z- even though I said I wouldn’t cook anything, because I was tired – these quiche are for you.

 Though not literally because the husband ate them all. 😉

Ice Cream is Amazing

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