Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A different green salad, & our weekly menu




Yes, I know, it is a season for warm soups, and this one, or this one, sound very appetizing on this cold rainy day in Southern California.

Yet I come to you with the easiest and loveliest of salads, another wonderful recipe from The Forest Feast cookbook (where last week's Gorgonzola Grapes were from). It contains numerous salads that are so original, flavorful and festive. This one is fresh, crunchy and mostly seasonal. A crisp way to start a meal!



Scroll down to check out our weekly menu too, below the recipe :-)


Another kind of green salad


Adapted from The Forest Feast by Erin Gleeson


Serves 3-4 (appetizer portion)

Prep time: 15-20 minutes

Age for babies: 12 months up depending on baby's teeth and familiarity with the ingredients. This is a crunchy salad (watch out for the nuts). but certainly pieces of cucumber and avocado can be given from a younger age.

2 scallions
1 small cucumber
1 green apple (the book uses pear)
2 stalks of celery
1/2 avocado (ripe but firm)
1/4 cup pistachios
7-8 leaves of fresh basil
1 cup shelled edamame (I use shelled frozen edamame. Frozen peas could be used also, place in boiling water for 2-3 minutes and rinse in cold water)
1 lime
3 tbsp olive oil
Salt

Wash and chop bite-size the scallions, cucumber, apple, celery and avocado, pistachios and basil (keep a few smaller leaves whole for esthetics :-))

Toss together in a bowl with the edamame. Squeeze the juice of the lime over it and drizzle with olive oil. Salt to taste.


Onto the week's menu!

A few changes to the menu format.

First, as our schedule is always shifting, Pablo eats lunch at school most days now, his preschool prepares a hot organic lunch as well as a seasonal fruit and nuts snack mid-afternoon (no processed foods :-)), which all the children sit down and take their time to eat together. Needless to say I love that!

So we now eat breakfast and dinner together as a family, and lunches on off days, which I'll post here.

However, I have been making a regular habit of cooking Monday nights once Pablo is sleeping, and I will share here what I'm making, in case it sparks some ideas for your meal-planning and cooking plans.


Cheeses of the week: Following French tradition, I always offer a little bit of cheese at the end of every meal, between the main course and dessert. Rotation this week: Truffle Brie, Petit Basque (sheep's milk), Gorgonzola.

FruitAt dinner, I offer a piece of seasonal fresh fruit (sometimes with yogurt). For younger children or those especially sensitive to sugar, at night, I recommend sticking to plain yogurt (regular homemade* whole milk, sheep’s milk, goat's milk and Greek yogurt for extra protein) to avoid too much sugar before bedtime. (Otherwise, Pablo usually eats berries at breakfast, and has a fruit snack at school in the afternoon.)

Fruits we're choosing from this weekApples, pears, kiwis, tangerines, grapes

Sweet treats: Since Pablo turned 3, I do offer sweet treats here and there (cake, chocolate, cookie, ice cream) in small quantity (homemade or artisan made whenever possible) at snack time (mid-afternoon) only, rarely as part of a main meal unless it's a special occasion.



MONDAY


Goûter (4pm snack) – Apple (from our tree!)

Dinner
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Endive, Gorgonzola, blue cheese salad
Main course: Chicken mushroom and potato bake*


LATE NIGHT COOKING ahead (about 2/2.5 hours)
- Steaming green beans, potatoes and a whole cauliflower for easy salads
- Preparing these braised collard greens for next day dinner
- I have leftover pumpkin puree, trying this pumpkin bread (good for breakfast and snack).

TUESDAY

Goûter - Pumpkin chocolate chip bread

Dinner
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Cauliflower, green beans, potato, parsley salad
Main course:  Pork tenderloin with mustard sauce, braised collard greens

WEDNESDAY

Goûter – Pick of Farmer's Market (Seasonal fruit samples, or a lovely brittle cookie from Morning Glory Confections! Pablo approved!)

Dinner 
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Crab, vegetable, corn salad
Main course:  Scrambled farm eggs with sheep's cheese

THURSDAY

Dinner
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Cucumber in creamy tarragon dressing
Main course:  Pan-fried Dover sole fillets with coconut rice

FRIDAY

Lunch 
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Salami, leftover crab vegetable salad
Main course: Sardine avocado tartines

Goûter - Tangerine

Dinner 
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Baby bok choy, avocado, cashew salad from Café Sucré Farine
Main course: Braised coconut milk oxtails in slow cooker, quinoa

SATURDAY

Goûter - Kiwi

Dinner
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Apple, celery, cucumber salad
Main course: Pan-fried lambchops with these cumin and honey roasted carrots over ricotta from Bojon Gourmet


SUNDAY


Goûter - A treat of Pablo's choice :-)

Dinner
Appetizer / Finger Foods:  Creamy romaine salad with lots of herbs
Main course: Skirt steak and sweet potatoes




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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Presence, gratitude and Gorgonzola grapes




I started a gratitude jar with Pablo recently. A few minutes here and there, where we both think about the things we're grateful for that day. (I know, gratitude isn't exactly an original topic this week, with Thanksgiving upon us.) The thought of that jar and my contribution to it, has made me pay attention to small things throughout the day. The color of that tree. Two people in a coffee shop, connecting. Pablo's green eyes, his dimpled smile, an intonation, a question, a memory. A right here. A right now.

This has been yet another way for me to be more present. I have been on a ruthless mission to fight and eliminate multitasking and divided attention, and to give my full presence to each thing I do.

This is hard. I struggle with it daily. But it has become a continual awareness.

I am always grateful for moments of true presence (whether it is a pleasant or not so pleasant moment). And thinking of gratitude helps me be more present.

With the holidays coming up, amidst the rushing, planning, obligations, engagements, and multitudes of busy, I wish for all of us many moments of full presence with our loved ones, gems of life, instants of complete acceptance of who we are exactly as we are in the present moment.

Now, how about a present moment dipping fingers in cheese?

































I wanted to come to you with a quick and easy, last minute appetizer we just love. Perhaps an added fun touch to your holiday celebration.

I discovered it in the lovely book by Erin Gleeson called The Forest Feast, a wonderful resource of easy to complete, vegetarian recipes that are so festive!

I made these Gorgonzola pecan grapes when I cooked for the wedding of dear friends in July, and they were a big hit.  They are also PERFECT for making with a child or toddler. Smearing cheese, rolling grapes in nuts, and lots of finger licking = much fun in the kitchen for all ages :-)

Wishing you and yours a lovely, joyful, and flavorful Thanksgiving.



























































Gorgonzola Pecan Grapes


From The Forest Feast by Erin Gleeson


Prep time: 20 minutes

For 12 grapes

Age for babies: 12 months and up, cut up, supervised to see how the pecans are handled.


1/2 cup of creamy gorgonzola (make sure it's not too aged, nice and soft)
12 grapes (seedless probably better)
1/2 cup of pecan nuts

12 toothpicks


First place the pecan nuts in a food processor, and grind into tiny pieces. Place in a deep plate (makes it easier to roll the grapes in, and to keep the pecans in the plate too). Wash the grapes.

Take a tablespoon or so of gorgonzola, and smear it on a each grape so it's more or less covered.
Fingers are handy to complete this messy (yet so fun) task (Expect lots of finger licking here!!!).

Then roll the grape in the plate of pecan nuts until it's covered, and place on a plate.

Repeat with as many grapes as you need.

Once fingers are properly licked and washed :-) stick toothpicks in each grape, and serve!


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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A day of presence, connection & French madeleines







I have known Chloe for eleven years, since the day she was born. She is someone for whom I feel such love and affection, a lovely bond that brightens my thoughts, and my days when she’s in them.
Such a fun and lovely day we had a few months ago, when we had a long overdue cooking day together.

We had a definite plan to make homemade butter (super easy by the way, see here how. I make mine with raw cream, but you can use regular heavy cream too. Something children can make to contribute to a Thanksgiving dinner, for example!), a perfect opportunity for her to show me her dance moves.

For Chloe has a bold, dancing spirit.
























































When deciding what else we would make that would be delicious and new, we put our minds together. Being French-American, Chloe loves Madeleines, those puffy, spongy little French cakes so scrumptious when dipped in milk or tea. And since it was the season, we made them strawberry Madeleines.

So we mixed, and shook, and baked. We watched cream turn solid. We scraped and smelled vanilla beans. We watched dough puff up, turn golden, and even a little too dark.  We drained, and rinsed, and squeezed the butter. And then we styled and photographed the Madeleines. Chloe was inspired, she observed, rearranged, and made beautiful images (the styling of the top picture is her creation!) For Chloe has a creative, studious spirit.

And then of course, Madeleines were eaten, savored in fact. Shared.

A "Madeleine de Proust" moment in the making...






























































I wanted to share this day here, because I got to work in the kitchen with someone I really admire. I am inspired by Chloe’s courage, willingness and trust in the face of fear, and her motivation and her joyous spark in the face of life.  She is someone beautiful inside and out, whom I profoundly believe in; someone I look forward to watching grow and flourish, as I have already for the past eleven years.

In those busy, 21st century lives we lead, of divided attention and too much rushing, I realize more than ever the need to be more present, to model a mindful life for my son, and to always take the time to nurture connection (I loved this video on the topic, by the way)

There are many things we can do together with those we love, our children, our parents, our friends, as a way of experiencing that bond, of being engaged and present together. Whether it’s gardening, traveling, eating, walking, painting, foraging, or in this case, cooking together. If you have a chance to seek and find ways to connect and be present with your children in this way, no matter how young, you will not regret it. It is infinitely worthwhile.

Also always worthwhile is to express what we love about those we love. I am thankful to have done just that here. Thank you, Chloe :-)
























































French Madeleines



Makes 20-24 little individual cakes

Prep time: 15 minutes (+ 30 min resting time)
Cook time: 6-8 minutes per batch

Age for babies: 10-12 months, in small quantity


You do need a special Madeleine pan for this. This one is good and affordable.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup butter
Pinch of salt
Seeds from one vanilla bean
Zest of one lemon
8-10 strawberries (cut up), or a handful of chocolate chips

First, place the empty madeleine pan in the freezer (The key to that lovely puff of the madeleine is thermic shock, so don't skip this step!)

Melt the butter in a small pan (or in microwave).

In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.

Make a well in the middle of the flour, and place the eggs, then mix.

Add the melted butter, the zest and scrape the vanilla bean seeds. Mix, cover with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven at 450° F.

Grease the madeleine pan. Stir the strawberry pieces or chocolate chips into the dough. (Since this is two batches, place the remaining dough back in the fridge).

Fill each shell about 3/4 of the way, and place in the oven for 6-8 minutes. Watch them carefully, as they're quick to burn (as you see in my pictures, an extra minute chatting with Chloe, and the edges got a little darker than we would have wanted!) As soon as they're golden and they've puffed up, take them out and remove from the pan, let them rest on a kitchen towel or a baking sheet.

These quantities will make about two batches, so if you have one pan, don't forget to stick it back in the freezer before making the second batch.

(Note you can make the dough 1 or 2 days ahead if need be, bake them the day you want to enjoy them! Once made, they'll stay fresh 1-2 days).








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Monday, September 22, 2014

A salad of peach, shiso and mozzarella... & our week's menu





























I come to you today with a simple salad and our week's menu in hope it can spark some ideas for your family.
If you have grabbed some of the last peaches of the season this weekend, perhaps to try your hand at this peach buttermilk sherbet, or perhaps this peach lavender custard I posted a couple of years ago, this salad is perfect for those few ripe peaches left over.





I was kindly sent a copy of the cookbook Frenchie, New Bistro Cooking, by Greg Marchand, full of mouth-watering French-inspired recipes for each season. I couldn't resist this salad. Marchand uses smoked mozzarella for it, which would be lovely, but I couldn't resist burrata, that super creamy cloud of heaven of a mozzarella that makes your whole body relax in one bite :-) The combination of flavors is simply wonderful. And Pablo has been particularly fond of peaches in salads this summer. (We've also made this chards salad from The Vanilla Bean Blog with peaches instead of oranges, for a lovely outcome.) He's also been eating the shiso leaves right off the plant.

Our week's menu is right after the recipe, I have been inspired by many recipes from some gorgeous food blogs...   Have a lovely, flavorful week :-)

Peach burrata shiso salad

Adapted from Frenchie, New Bistro Cooking by Greg Marchand

Serves 3-4 as appetizer

Prep time: 10 minutes

Age for babies: 8-10 months

4 fresh peaches (or nectarines)
1 pack of burrata mozzarella
8-10 leaves of shiso (or basil, or both)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
A pinch of fleur de sel

Halve the peaches, remove the pit, tear them by hand (for that rustic look!) and place the pieces in a bowl. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil, the shiso or basil leaves (keep a few for garnish), and a pinch of fleur de sel.

Cut the burrata in four pieces, place in four serving bowls or small plates. Add a pinch of salt, fresh ground pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. Add the peaches, and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Garnish with fresh shiso leaves. Voilà :-)




















































I received a free copy of the cookbook from the publisher for my honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.



Onto the menu...

Cheeses of the week: Following French tradition, I always offer a little bit of cheese at the end of every meal, between the main course and dessert. Rotation this week: Truffle gouda, Petit Basque (sheep's milk), Goat brie.

Desserts: At lunch and dinner, I offer a piece of seasonal fresh fruit (sometimes with yogurt). For younger children or those especially sensitive to sugar, at night, I recommend sticking to plain yogurt (regular homemade* whole milk, sheep’s milk, goat's milk and Greek yogurt for extra protein) to avoid too much sugar before bedtime. (Offering fruit for the first three meals of the day is plenty.)


Our schedule has changed a bit and Pablo has started a new preschool where a wonderful hot organic lunch is provided, which the children help prepare (love :-)), and eat together.  So some lunches are at school and on the go for the grown-ups. Lunchboxes are only needed once or twice a week now. 

MONDAY

Lunch at school / on the go

Goûter (4pm snack) – Chocolate pudding

Dinner
Appetizer / Finger Foods: This watermelon almond gazpacho from Cannelle & Vanille
Main course: Curried roasted eggplant with smoked cardamom & coconut milk from Bojon Gourmet

TUESDAY

Lunch at school / on the go

Goûter - Peach

Dinner
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Green beans, potato, tomato, cauliflower salad
Main course: Espresso braised short ribs*

WEDNESDAY
In this busy life we lead, Wednesday has become a no cooking day for us, with a picnic lunch from Whole Foods salad and sushi bar with Grandma, and dinner at the Farmer's Market, where we also grab fresh produce for the next few days.
This week, we have a field trip with school, so we'll pack a lunchbox.

Picnic Lunch: Grated carrots, Spanish tortilla with spinach, ham & olive bread, grapes.

Goûter – Chocolate French Macaron (Pablo's favorite!)

Dinner at the Farmer's Market 
(Some of Pablo's favorites: Oysters, musubi rice balls, Basil cilantro quesadillas, cherry tomatoes, grape leaves, almond gelato)

THURSDAY

Lunch at school / on the go

Goûter - Apple

Dinner
Appetizer / Finger FoodsBaby bok choy cashew avocado salad from the blog Café Sucré Farine.
Main course: Whole chicken (roasted in Dutch oven with onions)

FRIDAY

Lunch 
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Authentic Greek Salad
Main course: Leftover cold chicken

Goûter - Pear

Dinner 
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Pear, celery, cucumber salad*
Main course: Vegetable blue corn bread inspired by Bojon Gourmet

SATURDAY

Lunchbox for Spanish class: Quinoa crudites salad, smoked salmon, Petit Basque cheese, apple. 

Goûter - Mango

Dinner
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Honeydew feta mint salad
Main course: Lamb chops with coconut rosemary carrots


SUNDAY

Lunch out

Goûter - Nectarine

Dinner
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Persimmon, pomegranate, cilantro salad*
Main course: Sausages, leek sweet potato gratin*





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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Making life worthwhile... with a bowl of peach buttermilk sherbet





Is getting what we want a measure of success? I have wondered about that lately.
If so, I am widely unsuccessful, as I have wanted to do so many things, including posting here more regularly, in vain.

This idea of “success” seems to miss the mark for me. An outside judgment on our lives, one that matters for a moment, and doesn’t matter in the end.

Every time I think of what a successful life might be, I fast forward to my 99 year old self (should I be so fortunate as to get that far). What will I ask myself, then? “Have I been successful in my life?” Perhaps. But I have a hunch that what will matter most, is whether it was worthwhile.

So what is the difference? A “successful life.”  A “worthwhile life.” A “successful day.” A “worthwhile day.” It doesn’t feel the same, does it? It’s not the same life. Not the same day.



For me, a “successful” day would go something like this:

I’d probably start it with oatmeal instead of brioche. (Need I say more?)
I’d answer agents’ requests for a book deal, before writing a brilliant blog post that’s brilliant and clever at the first draft. Pablo would be in a perfectly good mood all day from all my perfect mothering (ha!). Everything would get done quickly, efficiently. I’d cook a very sophisticated dish perfectly the first time around, and it would come out just like the picture in the recipe book.  

A worthwhile day, on the other hand, would go something like this:

We already know what breakfast would be ;-) Then I rack my brain to make extra time from work and daily duties in the coming week to think about, let alone write the book about food and life that I want to write. Perhaps I do find the time to sit down and write a blog post, but I stare at the blank screen in frustration. Then I write a few random lines, and they help me make a connection, a thought perhaps worth sharing. Pablo has started a new school, has a tantrum when he comes home. I’m hungry, pressed for time, I feel impatient and frustrated, I don’t want to be tested right now. It’s hard not to snap. I do snap a couple of times, and I catch myself. I remember. I take a breath, and sit with him through his big feelings the best I can, letting all his pent up emotions come out. I talk myself through it, because it’s hard to not just want it to be over. It’s hard to be present. I catch up on Skype with my dear friend in France, sharing ordinary bits of our daily lives; time flies, disappears.
I had planned to make corn chowder for dinner, but now I can’t, I have too much work, a deadline to complete. I am grateful for my mother’s help, for her art in making the simplest ingredients shine. I still have work tonight, so many things I didn’t get done today. Yet we sit down on our terrace and eat together. We talk, listen, laugh, share, connect. We notice the days are getting shorter. For dessert, we feel the evening gently descending, over a shared bowl of buttermilk peach sherbet.

























































Successful speaks of objectives, results, speed, and looks good from the outside.

Worthwhile speaks of process, slow and meandering, of struggles; it feels right, real, from the inside.

In the end, life is not for show. Life is for living, learning, feeling, connecting. Not necessarily in that order. 




























Summer is coming to an end, and this sherbet is one way to make it last just a touch longer... If you can grab the last peaches or nectarines of the season, then I highly recommend you try this sherbet, another foolproof recipe by the incredible Aran Goyoaga from Cannelle & Vanille. The flavor is the taste and essence of peach, so refreshing and sweet. Pure delight. A last stronghold of summer before pumpkins and apples take over our kitchens...



























































Peach buttermilk sherbet

From Small Plates and Sweet Treats by Aran Goyoaga

Yields 1 1/2 quarts approx
Time to prep: 30 min prep + overnight refrigeration prior to churning + abt 30 mn churning

Age for babies: 6-8 months 


1 cup cane sugar
4 large peaches or nectarines (I have never tried it with canned peaches, but I suppose it would be okay, as long as they're rinsed, otherwise, the sugar amount needs to be adjusted).
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 tsp salt


In a small pan, cook the sugar and 1/2 cup of water, until the sugar is dissolved. Pour in a bowl and let cool.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cut a cross on the bottom of the peaches or nectarines. 
Prepare a large bowl with ice water.
Plunge the fruit in the boiling water for a minute or so.  Immediately place them in the ice water. 
Then peel the fruit, the skin should come off easily.  Then cut the fruit and remove the pits.

In a blender, mix peaches and lemon juice. It'll turn into a puree. 

Transfer to a large bowl, whisk in buttermilk and salt.  Cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. (I usually place the freezing element of my ice cream maker in the freezer at the same time the night before churning,)

Churn in your ice cream maker, until solid but creamy. Freeze for a few hours before serving. (I have kept mine in the freezer for 2-3 months with no problem).






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Thursday, June 12, 2014

A tip of the week, a weekly menu...


Many of you have found the posting of our menus very helpful, so I will work at posting them more regularly, even if it's a shorter post with just the menu (This is our menu from last week actually). 

I thought I'd start a "tip of the week" series. Something that has helped our family in the food journey. Here's this week's:

Talk about and marvel at seasonal produce with your children, the same way you would point out a beautiful flower or landscape. 

I get excited about vegetables like you wouldn't believe. Especially with summer produce, marvel at the beauty of an heirloom tomato, or peach or apricot.  This is something we do often because I photograph a lot of our food. But it also happens every time we go to the farmer's market, or receive our CSA delivery, and certainly while watching our vegetable garden grow.
It can be as simple as sitting down with a child for a couple of minutes, just looking at, touching, smelling, and eventually tasting a produce, a piece of fruit, peas in a pod, colorful chards, anything on hand. Bringing children and ourselves to direct our attention at the beauty of real food through our excitement and sense of awe and gratitude, goes a long way in engaging them. Making time for these moments is part of creating positive associations with food (real, good food). 

When I was in Seattle recently, I brought back these wild ramps which were so gorgeous and delicate and ever so flavorful. They provided our family with an opportunity for connection, fun, discovery, and pleasure of the senses.  


Onto the menu...

Cheeses of the week: Following French tradition, I always offer a little bit of cheese at the end of every meal, between the main course and dessert. Rotation this week: Goat gouda, Petit Basque (sheep's milk), Camembert.

Desserts: At lunch and dinner, I offer a piece of seasonal fresh fruit (sometimes with yogurt). For younger children or those especially sensitive to sugar, at night, I recommend sticking to plain yogurt (regular homemade* whole milk, sheep’s milk, goat's milk and Greek yogurt for extra protein) to avoid too much sugar before bedtime. (Offering fruit for the first three meals of the day is plenty.)


MONDAY

Pablo's Lunchbox: 
Greek salad, cold roasted duck (with mustard), green beans, Petit Basque sheep's milk cheese, tangerine

Goûter (4pm snack) – Apricot

Dinner
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Herbed asparagus & potato salad
Main course: Ham wrapped endives au gratin, quinoa béchamel

TUESDAY

Pablo's Lunchbox:
Asparagus, potato & smoked salmon salad, tofu, Goat gouda, strawberries

Goûter - Peach

Dinner
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Cucumber salad, yogurt tarragon dressing
Main course: Dover sole filets, coconut rice

WEDNESDAY

Lunch
Appetizer / Finger Foods: 1/2 avocado with vinaigrette
Main course: Smoked salmon green bean rolls

Goûter – Chocolate pudding

Dinner at the Farmer's Market 
(Last week, we had oysters to start, Japanese onigiri, Spanish paella, lavender sauerkraut, and peaches and apricots)


THURSDAY

Lunch
Appetizer / Finger FoodsAuthentic Greek salad
Main course: Sardines and lavender sauerkraut (awesome from Brassica and Brine)

Goûter - Nectarine

Dinner
Appetizer / Finger FoodsRaw kale salad from Food Loves Writing
Main course: Oven roasted pork ribs, thyme potatoes

FRIDAY

Lunch OUT

Goûter - Donut peach

Dinner 
Appetizer / Finger FoodsLentil shallot salad
Main courseBraised fennel tomato rice casserole from Green Kitchen Stories

SATURDAY

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Peach burrata salad*
Main courseChards Spanish tortilla

Goûter - Chocolate pudding

Dinner
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Cold pea soup from TasteFood
Main course: Lentil & vegetable coconut milk dahl* + this incredible tomato cobbler by Food Loves Writing
(It's a dinner party, so making strawberry rhubarb mascarpone tarte* for dessert)


SUNDAY

Lunch 
Appetizer / Finger FoodsLeek and chive flans
Main courseZucchini leek quail egg cassolette by La Tartine Gourmande

Goûter - Nectarine

Dinner
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Cold cooked squash in mint vinaigrette
Main courseHerbed lamb meatballs in coconut milk with quinoa










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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Asparagus & lavender salad, a bad day & an anniversary




























Yesterday was the blog’s 2nd anniversary, and I had a crappy day.

I felt obligated to force the gratitude out, for all the things I’ve learned, all the ways I’ve grown, all the wonderful souls and talents I’ve come across, all the joys I’ve had, thanks to this blog. And I will come to that, because that’s real and true.

I read Tina Payne Bryson’s piece on the parenting of hall of shame, and the fact that while we all sometimes lose it and have awful parenting moments, but remain silent about it, never sharing these times with other parents. Yet this happens to all of us, and bringing it out in the open is sometimes the acknowledgement we need to move on.

Yesterday, the morning plans got screwy, my mind was set on the negative switch, and thinking of this anniversary reminded me of all the things I haven’t found the time to do, the irregularity of my posting schedule as of late, all my shortcomings. Sitting at my laptop to write this post, I found myself browsing other blogs, comparing myself and feeling like everyone else was so much better than I am. A bit later, I started making a summer fruit crostata. I insulted my dough, my rolling pin and my cutting board, got frustrated with sticky dough, and felt just so incompetent and discouraged. It was one of those days. To be ok with those days.
  
T’is a new morning. Two years (and a day) ago, I planted a seed with this blog. It was part of an effort to reclaim my life, to listen to myself, find my voice.
There’s been sun and warmth, drizzles, downpours, fog and mud, frosts and storms, burning droughts and blizzards since then. 
That seed has sprouted, grown, at its nonlinear pace, and is now showing some buds. The prospect of writing a book, of giving consultations, of teaching workshops. The prospect of a whole new direction.

"It’s not just about creativity, it’s about the person you’re becoming while you’re creating." Charlie Peacock  (Thanks to Janet Lansbury for sharing this inspiring quote on FB)

So the blog is where it is, I do my best and will keep at it. But most importantly, I am grateful for the personal growth it has allowed, the internal doors it has opened. The practices it has encouraged me to turn into habits, foundations: taking time in, acknowledging, balancing out in order write; seeing and looking for beauty, learning from others in order to photograph; being in the moment, connected, creating opportunities for connection (to loved ones, to the natural world) and well-being, opportunities for community too, while cooking and enjoying meals of real food.
The integration of these elements have become consistent pillars of my life for the past two years. How thankful I am for that.

I am equally thankful for your loyalty and support, coming back to this space, for your comments, questions and feedback. Whenever my words resonate with you in some way, whenever this blog can be a resource, can be helpful or motivating, it is deeply gratifying and fulfilling. 


Now this salad... was the result of a strange sense-storming. I found these lovely purple asparagus in Seattle. A few days after I returned, I used a few to make an asparagus tart, which we had with a lovely lavender sauerkraut from Brassica & Brine. I guess it was a flavor and color connection... Asparagus salad, lavender dressing.  



I have grown to love the flavor of lavender, lovely in dessert (do you remember the peach lavender custard from a couple of summers ago?), but also in savory dishes. And as our herb and vegetable garden has been thriving, especially our shiso bush, I've been putting shiso in all kinds of salads. Pablo munches on it straight from the plan! The subtle but powerful aura of shiso and lavender seem to open up the senses somehow...   



Herbed asparagus, smoked salmon, new potato salad with lavender dressing

Serves 3-4 people

Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes (simultaneous)

Age for babies: 8-12 months + cut up in very small pieces, you could just do asparagus and potatoes if preferred.


One bunch of purple asparagus (green asparagus will do just fine too!)
A dozen small new potatoes
3-4 small slices of smoked salmon
A few leaves of shiso 
2-3 sprigs of fresh dill

Two options for the dressing:

1. Using lavender infused olive oil (which you could purchase here)
4 tbsp lavender olive oil
2 tbsp regular olive oil (or vegetable oil)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
salt & pepper

2. If you don't have the oil, this dressing is delicious also. Original recipe here.
6 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp dried lavender blossoms
(Blend all ingredients in blender or food processor)

Place the washed potatoes in a pot of salted water, bring to a boil, and keep cooking until the potatoes are just tender (time depends on size of potatoes, mine were quite small, about 15 minutes)

Peel the stems of the asparagus of its outer strings and cut off the tough ends. (Simple tutorial here if you need it).

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus gently and boil for about 20 minutes, until soft.
(We rarely have crunchy asparagus in our household.)

Meanwhile, prepare one of two dressing options above. Wash the herbs and chop them, keeping a few leaves intact for garnish.

When the potatoes are cooked, rinse in cold water and let cool for a while (This can be done a day ahead). Peel them, cut in half or quarters depending on size.

When the asparagus are done, rinse in cold water and let cool for a while. Cut them in bite size pieces.

In a bowl, place the potatoes, chopped herbs and half the dressing, and toss.

In salad plates, place the potatoes, the asparagus, and salmon on top. Place a few leaves of shiso and dill, and drizzle the remaining dressing on top. 

This is good cold, but also delicious if the potatoes and/or asparagus are slightly warm.






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