Sunday, April 28, 2013

A creamy mushroom tartine & an ode to eating outside (+ Pablo's menu too)

The warmer weather is upon us in Southern California, and this has revived one of the fondest summer traditions of my childhood: being able to eat outside. Raised in Normandy with many, many days of grey and rain (admittedly accountable for the amazing grass and thus, very healthy cows producing amazing cream and cheeses), I grew up valuing and savoring every second of sunny and warmer days. Meals savored outside felt like a joyous celebration of the end of the dreary tunnel that winter in Northern France can be. It felt like a rebirth, like one could finally fill one's lungs with a deep breath of fresh air. To sit down, feeling the sun on my back, listening to the sounds of the world out there, and eat a simple crudités salad, dipping bread in its vinaigrette... what a way to commune and connect with loved ones, with oneself, to slow down, take time. 

To take our  time. The very opposite of losing or wasting time. For being in the moment is the best possible use of our time. Cooking, eating are golden opportunities for us, to reclaim time.

The other night, after a long day of cooking and preparations for Pablo's birthday picnic, a day of people in a small kitchen, ovens going and stifling heat in the house, I suddenly felt the walls around me. I peered out the window to the garden, and just the thought of eating in the quiet dusk outside made me feel relieved, calm, like a sigh, an exhale. When we eat indoors, our meals are lovely, we take our time, we bond, we laugh and savor together, but everyday life is still there, around us, lurking. The cleaning, organizing that has yet to be done. The objects around us remind us of the past, sad or happy. Photos of lost ones. Gifts from the estranged. Images of past voyages. (Though this is the burden of adulthood, as young children do not (and cannot) project in this way. They are wired to be fully in the moment. There's too much fascination in the present to bother about the rest. Yet.) 

In contrast, when we eat outside, I glance at my herbs and strawberries in becoming, and I feel surrounded by the present and the future, by inner and outer growth and ripening. The descending light makes our other senses more attentive to the world around us: the smell of sundown, of the neighbors barbecuing; the song of the tireless mockingbird, of a firetruck in the distance, of an airplane going to a faraway land; the sensation of a passing evening breeze on the skin; the flavors on our plates.

I don't know much about what the future holds, but I do know we shall be savoring most of our meals outside for the next few months (and cooking them outside too whenever possible).

So should the weather show some clemency wherever you live, I wish you many meaningful, mindful, delightful meals outside, precious celebrations of the timeless here and now. 

I have become a big fan of "tartines" in the past few months, simple open-faced sandwiches. They are as scrumptious as easy to make, and ever so versatile. It is such fun to experiment with the ingredients and different combinations. It allows us to think with our palate. They make a lovely lunch, along with a salad. Children and grown-ups can eat with their fingers. And indeed with this one tartine I'm sharing today, all our fingers were thoroughly licked. Hope you enjoy!

And scroll down for our upcoming week's menu... :-)

Mushroom comté prosciutto tartine

Adapted from Petit Larousse des Recettes aux Légumes du Potager by Valérie Lhomme

Makes 4 tartines

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

Age for babies: 12 months and up, they will most likely eat the components of the tartine with their fingers, which is fine.

1 lb mushrooms
1 sprig of thyme
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp crème fraîche (or heavy cream)
3.5 oz grated comté cheese (or pecorino, manchego, gruyere, any flavorful hard cheese or your liking)
4 thick slice of good country bread
4 slices of prosciutto (San Daniele is very good and not too salty)
4 pinches of nutmeg
Salt & pepper

Clean the mushrooms, cut off the tip of the foot, and slice. Wash the thyme and remove the leaves from the stem.

In a pan over high heat, melt the butter and coconut oil, and toss in the mushrooms. Cook over high heat for about 5 minutes, then add the thyme leaves, a pinch of salt and pepper, and continue cooking over medium heat for another five minutes. 

Drain the mushrooms. In a bowl, whisk the crème fraîche and add in the mushrooms, gently stir to combine and set aside.

Preheat the oven at 450°F

Toast the bread slices lightly. Place a slice of prosciutto on top of each slice. Add some creamy mushrooms, some grated cheese, a pinch of nutmeg, and place in the oven for 5 minutes, until cheese is melted.

Onto our and Pablo's menu this week...

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: Pont L'Eveque (a classic French cheese Trader Joe's just started to carry, give it a try!) Goat brie, Stilton.

DessertsAt lunch, I offer a fruit yogurt (or plain yogurt with fresh fruit), but at night, I prefer 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.

If you would like a particular recipe on the menu, feel free to contact me! (I marked with a * the recipes that will be the topic of upcoming posts).


Appetizer / Finger Foods: Cooked cold zucchini with mint vinaigrette
Main course: Sardines, creamed spinach

Goûter (4pm snack) – Banana

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Butter lettuce hearts of palm + lots of herbs salad, radishes
Main course: Pan-fried skirt steak with celeriac puree


Appetizer / Finger Foods: Authentic Greek salad
Main course: Ham, simple ratatouille

Goûter - Apple-strawberry compote

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Pan-fried baby artichokes
Main course: Pan-fried Dover sole fillets with coconut milk rice


Appetizer / Finger Foods: Green bean blue potato parsley salad
Main course: Hard boiled egg, peas

Goûter – Strawberry rhubarb compote*

Appetizer / Finger Foods: White asparagus in tarragon yogurt sauce
Main course: Pan-fried veal liver, chards with sesame dressing inspired from this recipe


Appetizer / Finger Foods: Grated carrots French-style
Main course: Smoked salmon, baby bok choy puree

Goûter - Pear-blueberry compote

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Pea, edamame, mint soup from Gourmande in the Kitchen
Main course: Braised ham & endive au gratin (quinoa bechamel)


Appetizer / Finger Foods: Avocado & cherry tomatoes
Main course: Shrimp & lime with quinoa

Goûter - Passion fruit

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Cauliflower, peas, chives salad
Main course: Roasted squabs with raisins & new potatoes


Appetizer / Finger Foods: Warm leeks with vinaigrette
Main course: Dutch oven chicken, pan-fried thyme eggplant

Goûter - Apple

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Quinoa, corn, bell pepper, garbanzo bean salad
Main course: Lamb chops, rosemary creamy carrots in a parcel


Appetizer / Finger Foods: Spring pea salad
Main course: Leftover cold chicken with mustard, broccoli florets

Goûter - Kiwi

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Leek & chive flan
Main course: Mozzarella stuffed radicchio leaves, baked in a parcel*

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  1. Loving this tartine!

    I am also wondering if I could sub asparagus or artichoke for more of a spring-feel. What do you think?

    1. Hi Emily! It's definitely worth a try. I'm thinking warm asparagus in that same cream sauce would work quite nicely, I might have to give that at try myself! The beauty of tartines is that you can really let your tastes and creativity shine :-)

  2. Helene - I am so excited that I stumbled onto your blog while hunting for fresh recipes for my 1 year old daughter today! I have been reading a lot of books about French food culture and am working on becoming a full fledged convert (and bringing my family along with me) to the "French way" of cooking, eating and enjoying food. I am so glad I have your blog now as a reference! I have subscribed now and will be a regular reader - already I've found so many lovely things I'm excited to try and share with my family. Thank you for your passionate take on enjoying food and family - I am excited to know you better through your blog posts!


    1. Hi Andrea! Welcome! Thank you so much for your kind words, so happy if the blog can be helpful! Let me know if you have any questions, or feel free to give me feedback on recipes if you have the time, I always love that! :-) Have a wonderful weekend.

  3. Hi Helene,

    I made this tonight. It was wonderful. Thanks for the idea!



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