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.)


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

Goûter (4pm snack) – Apricot

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


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

Goûter - Peach

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


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)


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

Goûter - Nectarine

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


Lunch OUT

Goûter - Donut peach

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


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

Goûter - Chocolate pudding

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)


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

Goûter - Nectarine

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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