Mûre

9 July 2011

 

I understand that mûre can mean many things.  It is the fruit you see above, but can also mean mature.  Or ripe.  I’m not sure which one is more eloquent in English, but suppose it depends on the thing to which you are referring.  I think I heard a woman once described as mûre, which could sound nice if the girl has grown up well but perhaps less so if she is already mature?  In any event, the best fruits are always served mûrs.  Perhaps not the best, but the mûres you see above were really not so bad, quite mûres.

Hello from Geneva, by the way, my home for the next few months.  It is not so hot here as it was there – thank God for that – and the food is darned good.  But my photography is still bad.  Taken against that always gorgeous offset of hot asphalt with the wonder of an iPhone, the picture shows how hot it was, I hope?  It was very hot.  I like it here.  And I’m trying to improve my French.

But back there, the tart sat on the kitchen counter next to a broken window while M and I talked.  Fortunately, there were no bugs.  It got all melty, though, and we ate it anyway.  Still tasty, but a fridge might be nice for those of us who are air con averse (or entirely deficient).  I do not plan to be making so many curd-type tarts these days, being of the latter category and in command of only a very small fridge.

I also do not recommend making this tart on any day other than a Saturday.  On Sunday you will feel as though you’ve lost your last day before the week begins, ever tragically, anew.  But Saturday you can take it to some friends in late afternoon, eat it in lieu of supper, and call it a night before the sun has even set.  The dog days of summer need not be so bad.  If it is a Sunday, however, perhaps make only the lime curd, a different version of the crust, scoop some ice cream (maybe basil?) and then strawberries on top of that.  The time may well be ripe, if not mature. read more…

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Brittle

7 March 2011

Brittle (adj.): Hard and sharp.  Showing signs of instability.

There went February.  January, too.  This space’s first birthday has come and gone without note, and I’m afraid to say that I’ve been cooking just about as much as this site suggests, which is to say, not so much.

But there was brittle.  It’s particularly good at Christmastime.  Of course my planning was bad.  And brittle’s really very good at any time.  The somewhat famous stuff they serve here isn’t brittle at all, but it’s that kind of good where you take and take and take and it’s still not quite enough.

I think this is too. read more…

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Happy New Year!

8 January 2011

Merry Christmas!  Happy New Year!  Joyeuse Épiphanie!  And all that.  This site missed them all, of course, though its writer, happily, did not.  There was cold weather and there were airplane rides and train rides and taxi rides and car drives.  People at airports can get awfully mad.  But then we were all there, and there was a chapon at Christmastime.  And a bûche, of course.  As well as some fish, both fresh and smoked.  A few in our party hailed from Toulouse, and they brought along a proper feast of foie gras.  I liked the mi-cuit version with salt best.  There was also a lemon tart, which made no sense at all (I made it.), but it was good for breakfast.

We had chicken from Bresse at the New Year, which we stuffed with truffles, and ate with sage and cream and chestnuts and squash.  I nicked the idea from a place I ate called Gaddi’s once.  At some time in between there was a big and frigid wind, and we all got sick.  I’d heard of something called poulet mistral, named after that wretched wind, but could find no indigenous record of it, so we had roast chicken instead.

This was in northern Provence, by the way, which is a beautiful part of the world when the wind is not busy making you sick, though it does make a tremendous sound.

We had eggs with truffles and brioche toast at the first of the year, and began our feast the night before with endives we caramelized and dry cured ham from San Daniele.  The assault on the stomach was extreme and wonderful.  Though it remains almost certainly my favorite topic of conversation, as well as the ostensible subject of this site, it may also have been beside the point.  Love is the greatest luxury of all, of course; everything else is just a band-aid.  Or so a fortune cookie once said.

Happy New Year, all. read more…

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By virtue of the fact that I own and run this website, I am most likely a geek. But not, perhaps, as geeky as the best of them.  Them, I mean.  Those Boston Brahmin types (in a good way!) who know all about the science of cooking, test recipes they know won’t work so that they can discover still more about the science of cooking, and then reduce things down to simple preparations that anyone with access to any grocery store can make.  Fanciness be damned; Cook’s Illustrated will guide you to great home-cooked food, and they won’t ask where you did the shopping or require a purchase of fennel pollen.  And you can impress your guests with your extensive knowledge of the Maillard effect.  Who doesn’t want to do that?

I would love to do that, except for the fact that I don’t understand science.  So I don’t tend to read too much of Cook’s Illustrated, complacent in a slightly less intelligent approach to dinnertime.  But I do browse it in line at the grocery.  Perhaps in a gift-giving state of mind, a sales clerk gave me the thing, however, so I took it home and set it on the coffee table, where it promptly stayed until it got dusty.  This was in October.  Christmastime means Christmas guests, however, and those mean dusting, which in turn meant that this magazine got picked up again.  And eventually, it got read.  I realize I am probably the last person on earth to come to this realization, but Cook’s Illustrated is really very good!

One of the gems in October’s issue, for example, was a little piece on how to roast carrots so that they wind up sweet and lovely in lieu of becoming squenched up and crunchy, a fate that has befallen carrots in the MF oven at least once before. (And for a dinner party, no less.  It was awful.)  The article does not appear to be available on the interwebs, and Lord knows I cannot remember the explanation, but their method had something to do with allowing the carrots to cook in their own steam a bit before giving them a proper roast.  Apparently cooking in one’s own steam makes some things sweeter, which I think is funny.  Regardless, these carrots were great, requiring only a very small addition—tin foil for the first 15 minutes of cooking—to come out with much prettier and more reliably tasty results.  It was the best Christmas gift I’ve ever gotten in October. read more…

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Pear + almond tart

30 November 2010

Sometimes, things can all go pear-shaped.  Other times, it can happen often.

Thanksgiving did not go the way of that fruit, after all, my last entry’s title notwithstanding.  Actually it was kind of great, and I am still very, very full.

But what’s so wrong with being pear-shaped anyway?  The expression, while vivid—whether to describe the shape of an unfortunate course of events or corporeal distribution—does not do the poor dear justice.  True, pears are bottom-heavy, often lumpy, and never quite so perfect as their more spherical, Eve-inducing brethren.  If they are pretty, you can rest assured that they will not taste good, because at their best, pears are very soft.  They are delicate and they bruise easy.  If handled properly, however, with lots of care and a bit of respect, knowing that they can be somewhat temperamental and that their timing is not always in sync with yours (or at least mine) – if handled in these ways, I think that pears can be and will be and almost always are so, so good.

I like them sliced messily and alone.  They are also good with Roquefort and toasted walnuts.  Perhaps on top of a salad, but the greens are totally beside the point.  If you must cook them, they will roast up nicely.  Of course pears are great with chocolate.  They poach in red wine and will stand up to great spice.  (E.g., My dear friend Lexi made a version that looks truly yummy with star anise in it.)  Oh my.

As with most near-perfect fruits in the world, I tend to think that making a tart of them is a little tart.  But one can only eat so many raw fruits in a season.  And salad’s not so satisfying when it is cold.  So my contribution to Thanksgiving this year was a non-pumpkin dessert.  I don’t know why, but for whatever reason, I was hell-bent on it, to tell the truth.  For no good reason at all I am terrified of canned pumpkin.  And I am equally terrified (though I think with good reason) of real pumpkin, which is watery and horrible and remains best employed as a jack-o-lantern.  So pumpkin pie was out.  As for that other old standby, the only pecan pie I have ever loved was made by a friend who now lives across an ocean.  And lacking her version, I am terrified of pecan pie, too.  I like pecans just fine, but I don’t know what the bottom gooey stuff is made of in pecan pie, and I don’t like pecans when I can’t separate them from that goo.  I am not usually a picky eater.  But I digress.  This was very good, and it was so pretty our hands were all trembling when we tried to take the picture, like such:

With many thanks to David Lebovitz for running such a wonderful website, and hopes that we can all remain blissfully in food comas and leftover land for just a few days longer, before the next set of holidays begins and when things can really go all … quince-shaped? read more…

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Thanksgiving Doom

23 November 2010

Last week a friend and I were discussing the benefits of Thanksgiving over Christmas and its cousins. There is no shopping beyond the grocery store. No need for mind reading or gift giving. No awkward mistletoe to be avoided (or worse, wind up under all alone). No weirdo office parties. No writing of Christmas cards or mass emails or individualized emails like Christmas cards because you don’t want to waste money on stamps, er, are trying to reduce your carbon footprint. Or whatever sounds most correct. There is no stress in Thanksgiving. Only eating.

One must simply buy a turkey—or be invited by someone who buys the turkey—and cook it, without a care in the world over flavor or texture or even cooking because these things are never good in turkeys. And then, if you are the one with the turkey (which I contend is the very best option), you farm out the preparation of the sides, set the table, have a drink (or, depending on your patience with your family, maybe two or three). When people are finished futzing and arriving, you eat. You try not to fight, so perhaps you eat a little quickly. No matter, though. Men will wind up watching football and parades, and you (if you are me) can retreat to quieter parts of the house for a peaceful cup of tea and very long nap.

Or so I thought. Now that the day is upon us, I couldn’t agree with The New York Times more. It is Thanksgiving, and we are doomed. There is turkey which will be cooked by me and of course it will be bad. If I am making the stuffing (and I am making the stuffing) it is always the same stuffing with chestnuts and fennel and pancetta. I am not Italian. I have no Italian family. I have no idea why I have always been making this stuffing with chestnuts and fennel and pancetta but it is mine now, and I don’t want to try another one. But last year it was too fennel-y. The year before that it was too watery. I am the only person who notices these things out loud, but I can feel their criticism, and smushy bread has come to inspire so much stress. Cranberry out of a jar is revolting, and the real thing is so lovely. Or so I think. It is easy to make, but I am the only person who likes or eats it, and always wind up hurt because I am the only one who likes and eats it. Even that tiny bit of effort seems wasted. And pumpkin pie is gross. Pecan pie has always scared me. And people always, always fight. Someone will wind up in tears. God forbid that one be me. Oh help.

Instead of recipes to inspire still more stress, then, I thought the better use of this space might be to leave you with a new-found favorite chicken dish of mine which is flavorful, simple, autumnal. It’s also one for which I’m very, very thankful as its components came to me in the form of a gift. A friend with a CSA doesn’t like turnips. He brought them to me in a big canvas bag with their greens still on, smelling of rich, cold earth. I cooked them on a Sunday afternoon not so long ago. And a meal made with the help of family and friends is something to be very grateful for indeed.

Happy Thanksgiving. read more…

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Some things I made, part II

2 November 2010
Thumbnail image for Some things I made, part II

Sigh.  This can’t become a photo blog because MF can’t (really can’t) take photos.  But as a stopgap measure while things are all a little breathless, here are some things I made. (Above, herbed risotto with a lamb chop + some olives). Risotto pancake with an egg on top (also known as: What To Do [...]

4 comments

Photos-only Fridays – Boozy apple cake

29 October 2010
Thumbnail image for Photos-only Fridays – Boozy apple cake

This cake is more about the apples and the rum than anything else. Yum! Bon appétit et bon weekend!

4 comments

Butternut squash risotto with a prosciutto chip

25 October 2010
Thumbnail image for Butternut squash risotto with a prosciutto chip

I have a mild prejudice against butternut squash risotto.  It’s so… done.  Which is not to say that any dish on this website is completely new-fangled, original, creative, and whatever else.  Or even remotely any of those things.  For the most part, it’s just dinner.  I do love dinner.  But not when it’s so overdone. [...]

5 comments

Photos-only Fridays – Pho Ga

15 October 2010
Thumbnail image for Photos-only Fridays – Pho Ga

Also known as Vietnamese chicken noodle soup. So, so good. Bon appétit et bon weekend!

8 comments

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