Ann Mah - food and travel writer | Ann Mah

Farmer’s market pasta

By Ann | August 27, 2015

Farmer's market pasta, post on www.annmah.net

In theory, I love the Farmer’s Market — all that bright, locally grown fruit and veg, bursting with peak ripeness… ooooh shopping there makes me feel so virtuous. In practice, however, the Farmer’s Market kind of stresses me out. I never make a list or meal-plan before I go, because that seems to defeat the concept of “cooking with the season.” Ten minutes into the market, however, I find I’ve spent an unholy sum of cash with only a sack of small plums and a novelty basket of fresh chick peas to show for it. (Btw — fresh chick peas? Totally not worth it.)

Happily, my friends, I’ve discovered the most wonderful, virtually no-cook meal to make with all the farm-stand produce — and it’s delicious, fast, and low-effort to boot. This pasta recipe combines the best of summer vegetables — tomatoes, corn, zucchini — into a dish that I’ve been making weekly this summer. It’s so easy, I hesitated to write about it here, wondering if it even counted as a recipe. My husband convinced me that it is. It is! Here’s what you do:

Farmer's market pasta -- post on www.annmah.net

In a baking dish, combine tomatoes (cherry, or chunks of heirloom), some zucchini batons, a crushed garlic clove, olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast at 350ºF until the zucchini is tender and the tomatoes have relinquished their juices.

Farmer's market pasta -- post on www.annmah.net

Farmer's market pasta -- post on www.annmah.net

Meanwhile, cut the kernels off an ear of fresh corn. Boil a pot of water, and cook your pasta when the veg has a few more minutes to go. When the other vegetables have cooked, stir in the corn kernels. The vegetables are flexible, by the way, happy to wait on the counter for the pasta to finish cooking.

Farmer's market pasta -- post on www.annmah.net

Drain the pasta — reserve a cup or so of cooking water — and add it directly to the baking dish of vegetables. Stir to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper. You can also stir in a chunk of butter, if you’re feeling devilish. Serve immediately, passing Parmesan at the table.

IMG_1619

You guys, that’s it! (Like I said — not sure if this actually constitutes a recipe.) Like all of summer’s best food, the season itself is really the star. I hope you enjoy the end of it and I’ll see you back here in a couple of weeks!

Topics: A year in a French market: Summer, New York City, Recettes | 3 Comments »

Tiger salad

By Ann | August 18, 2015

Tiger salad / lao hu cai. Recipe and post on www.annmah.net.

I’m not usually one for food trends, but suddenly everyone in New York was talking about fried chicken sandwiches. When I realized that my workspace was a few blocks away from the very source, a friend and I broke for an early lunch — only to find the place closed for the day.

I’m not going lie, I was a little annoyed. Changing the hours without notice? That sort of thing happens all the time in France, but I expected more from New York. Fortunately, the inconvenience led to a happy discovery. Scrabbling around for a quick lunch, we ended up at Xi’an Famous Foods, where the dumplings are plump, rustic, and served without ceremony on styrofoam plates. In an instant, I was transported back to China.

Tiger salad / lao hu cai. Recipe and post on www.annmah.net.

Tiger salad / lao hu cai. Recipe and post on www.annmah.net.

Along with lamb dumplings and spicy cold noodles, we tucked into a fresh pile of “lao hu cai,” or tiger salad. I hadn’t thought about it for years, but this is one of the homestyle Chinese dishes that I loved the most during the four years I lived in Beijing. It combines cilantro for fragrance, slivered bell pepper and cucumber for crunch, scallions and chiles for bite. To the artistic Chinese eye, the different shades of green form stripes that look like a tiger’s coat (hence the name).

Tiger salad / lao hu cai. Recipe and post on www.annmah.net.

Tiger salad / lao hu cai. Recipe and post on www.annmah.net.

Tiger salad / lao hu cai. Recipe and post on www.annmah.net.

It felt so incongruous to be chowing down like a “ge men’r” (that’s Chinese for duder) amongst the tattoo parlors of St Mark’s Place, that when I got back to my desk, I checked out tiger salad on Google. It turns out that in the eight (!) years since I left Beijing, lao hu cai has gone the way of facial hair and become hip. You guys, they’re making it with kale. [Insert crying emoji.]

Anyway. When I got home that night, I seized upon the bunch of cilantro wilting in the bottom drawer of my fridge and proclaimed myself a tiger eater. First, I texted my friend Lee — my former fellow cohort in the Beijing expat magazine trenches — to verify my memory of the salad. Then I started chopping. The result is below. If you try it, the transformation to ge men’r is 100% guaranteed :)

Lao hu cai / tiger salad. Recipe and post on www.annmah.net

Lao hu cai / Tiger salad
Serves four as a side dish

This recipe is a wonderful way to use up large quantities of wilting cilantro. If your herbs are too droopy, completely submerge them in cold water for 10 minutes or so, and they’ll perk right up. When dressing the salad, use the tiniest drops of oil and vinegar — be sparing — you can always add a drop or two more. If you douse the leaves, the salad will turn soggy.

1 bunch cilantro
1/2 green bell pepper
1/2 cucumber
1-2 green onions
1 serrano chile (or to taste)
Sesame oil
Rice wine vinegar
Salt

Remove the tougher stems from the cilantro. Cut the pepper and cucumber into 1/4-inch strips. Thinly sliver the green onions and the chile. Toss the vegetables together. Add a tiny drop of sesame oil and toss so that the leaves look shiny — they should just barely glow. Add a pinch of salt and drops of rice vinegar and sesame oil. Taste and correct seasonings, adding tiny dashes of salt, vinegar, and oil as necessary. Do not overdress!

Topics: Free of gluten, New York City, Recettes | 4 Comments »

Ratatouillaise

By Ann | August 10, 2015

Ratatouille bolognese - post on www.annmah.net

I’m a big believer in traveling via food — fork traveling? — so when my lovely friend Kristin Espinasse posted a photo of a delectable-looking dish of braised meat and summer vegetables, I ran to the market so I could recreate it myself. She called it “ratatouillaise” and it’s a hybrid of that quintessentially summer stew, ratatouille, and Italy’s beloved export, bolognese.

Kristin lives in Provence, which is one of my favorite places, the region where we enjoyed six years of happy holidays, renting the same house in the village of Bonnieux. I used to spend the mornings meal planning and marketing, followed by lunch at a local café, a long, lazy afternoon by the pool, cocktail hour, which edged into cooking dinner, and the joy of touching all that beautiful local produce. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

A few years ago, the house we used to rent was sold, and now Provence is only a memory. I keep a lavender pillow on the bench in my entry hall and when I brush against it, the fragrance is like a time machine, sending me back to the days when vacation meant simply throwing a bathing suit in a bag and hopping on a plane (and not worrying about nap schedules, toddler jet lag, if prune juice is available in France, etc. etc. etc. :)

Ratatouille bolognese - post on www.annmah.net

With the days long and bright, what better way to revisit my beloved Bonnieux with this dish that sings of hot sunshine, cicada calls, and sprigs of thyme springing from garden cracks? Kristin was inspired by a recipe from Yvon Kergal, an artist, bon vivant, and mutual Facebook acquaintance who lives in Le Cannet des Maures. To prepare my version, I first read this article from Felicity Cloake, which explores several ratatouille methods, and then devised my own.

Ratatouille bolognese - post on www.annmah.net

Ratatouille bolognese - post on www.annmah.net

The key to an authentic (exceptional?) ratatouille is that all the different vegetables are cooked separately, then combined and cooked together slowly. Though tedious and time-consuming, Felicity Cloake notes that this makes the difference between “creamy soft vegetables,” with an “intense, almost jammy sauce that sings of the sun,” and “just plain vegetable stew.” So, yes, I scalded the tomatoes, roasted the red peppers, and teased away all the clinging bits of skin.

Ratatouille bolognese - post on www.annmah.net

Ratatouille bolognese - post on www.annmah.net

As Yvon recommended, I peeled the eggplant and courgettes in stripes, then cut them into small tronçons, or chunks. (I did not salt the eggplant because I live on the wild side don’t think it makes a difference.) I sautéed these two vegetables in generous splashes of olive oil before adding them to a Dutch oven.

Ratatouille bolognese - post on www.annmah.net

Ratatouille bolognese - post on www.annmah.net

The dish has two secret (and untraditional) ingredients — a generous drizzle of honey, which heightens the tomatoes — and a dash of something spicy — I used harissa. Herbs, sautéed onions and ground beef join the vegetables in the covered casserole before it’s placed in the oven for a slow simmer. In the photo above, you can see the “raw” state — the vegetables still bright and crunchy. After a couple of hours, they turned soft and creamy, rich with a deep, meaty savor. Paired with couscous, this made a superb Sunday dinner — with leftovers for another weeknight meal (over pasta or soft polenta). The best part? It leaves your house smelling like a summer kitchen in Provence.

Ratatouillaise

Adapted from Yvon Kergal, Kristin Espinasse, and Felicity Cloake

The word “ratatouillaise” is a hybrid of ratatouille and bolognaise (spelled the French way). Kristin says it’s “apparently valid in Scrabble, though no other definition is found.” Whatever the case, it’s synonymous with delicious :)

Serves six

Olive oil
2 red bell peppers
3 onions, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 lb ground beef
2 lbs tomatoes, peeled and diced
2 large zucchini, peeled in stripes, and cut into 1.5-inch chunks
3 small eggplant, peeled in stripes, and cut into 1.5-inch cubes
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon harissa
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper

Cut the red peppers in half and remove the seeds. Line a baking sheet with parchment pepper and arrange the peppers on it. Roast the peppers at 400ºF until their skins have blistered, about 20 minutes. Peel the peppers and slice them into thin strips.

In a large Dutch oven, heat a tablespoon of oil and sauté the onions and garlic until they’ve softened and start to turn golden. Add the ground beef, breaking up the chunks with a wooden spoon. When the meat has cooked, stir in the tomatoes. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. In a (separate) sauté pan, warm a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high flame, and then add the zucchini and a dash of pepper. Don’t overcrowd the pan — cook in batches, if necessary. Sauté the zucchini until gently softened and starting to turn brown, about five minutes. Add the zucchini to the meat mixture. Repeat with the rest of the zucchini, then the eggplant cubes. Add them to the meat mixture. Stir the red pepper strips into the meat mixture, along with the honey, harissa, bay leaf, thyme, oregano, and 1.5 cups of water.

Bring the mixture to a boil on the stove, then cover the pot and place it in the oven. Cook the ratatouillaise in the oven, stirring every half an hour, until the vegetables have collapsed and everything is “bien confit” (well reduced) — about 2.5 hours. If too much liquid remains, uncover the pot for the last 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.

As Yvon says “Voilà , ayé … A vos fourneaux et bon app’ .. Bizzzzzzzzz!”

Ratatouille bolognese -- post on www.annmah.net

P.S. Read more about my love for Provence here.

Topics: A year in a French market: Summer, Free of gluten, Recettes | 24 Comments »

Rustic tomato tart

By Ann | August 3, 2015

Tomato tart / tarte aux tomates. Post and recipe on www.annmah.net

The other day I did The Right Thing, visited my local Greenmarket, and bought a couple of tomatoes. Heirlooms being heirlooms, and New York being New York, they set me back about $8—so I really wanted to use them in a special way. For a few days, they sat on the kitchen counter, growing dangerously sloppy and sweet. And then the weekend rolled around and I finally had time to make a tomato tart.

For years, I’d been eyeing a recipe from the Once Upon a Tart… cookbook, which has some of my favorite recipes for bean salads, cold soups, and cookies. The book sprang from the popular Soho café of the same name, and the authors/owners pay tribute to a French grandmother with a tarte aux tomates à la Provençale. A traditional French tomato tart doesn’t use custard; instead you simply brush pâte brisée with mustard, add a thin layer of grated cheese, and another of sliced tomatoes, before baking in a blistering oven. The result is light, simple, summery.

Tomato tart / tarte aux tomates. Recipe and post on www.annmah.net

Tomato tart/ tarte aux tomatoes. Recipe and post on www.annmah.net

Because I can never leave well enough alone, I noodled around on the internets until I found another tomato tart, this one from David Lebovitz. His version tops the tomatoes with fresh goat cheese, a drizzle of honey, a sprinkle of herbes de Provence. Inspired by both tarts, I decided to go au pif and use the parts of each recipe that I liked best, as well as the ingredients I already had on hand.

This meant pre-baking my crust, draining the sliced tomatoes, using grated Gruyère, and a sprinkle of dried thyme and oregano instead of herbes de Provence. As a final flourish, I drizzled over a slow trickle of honey.

Tomato tart / tarte aux tomatoes. Recipe and post on www.annmah.net.

I had a little scrap of pastry dough leftover, so I rolled it out to create a mini, free-form galette. (I wanted to see if pre-baking the crust was necessary — it’s not.) Everything got popped in a very hot oven until the pastry turned golden, the tomatoes wilted and the juices began to bubble. As it turned out, my mini-galette baked up just as golden and crisp as the other, with the honey melting into a subtle sweetness that made the tomatoes taste like pure sunshine.

Tomato tart / tarte aux tomates

I loved my tomato tart but for one problem — it disappeared way too quickly. And so, a few days later, I made another — this one entirely free-form — using Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for galette dough. Because I didn’t use a tart pan, or prebake the dough, my third tart came together even more quickly than the first, which is good news if you want to eat this in a hurry (and you do! You do!).

Tomato tart / tarte aux tomates. Recipe and post on www.annmah.net.

Tomato tart / tarte aux tomates
Adapted from David Lebovitz and Once Upon a Tart…

Serves 6
Note: Feel free to experiment with different cheeses and herbs — fresh mint and basil would be lovely, for example. The tart tastes best warm or at room temperature, and is very transportable, as I discovered when I trundled it to Brooklyn the next day.

1 recipe pâte brisée (see below)
1-2 large ripe tomatoes
Dijon mustard
1/2 cup grated Gruyère (or another hard cheese)
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
Pepper
1-2 tablespoons honey

Cut the tomatoes into even slices and drain them in a colander. Prepare the tart dough (see below).

Preheat the oven to 425ºF.

When the oven is hot, remove the tart dough from the fridge, and spread a thin layer of mustard over the base of the pastry, leaving a 1 1/2 inch border around the edges. Allow the mustard to dry for a minute or two. Scatter over the cheese, half the herbs, and a grind of black pepper. Arrange the tomatoes, overlapping them slightly. Sprinkle over the rest of the herbs, another grind or two of pepper, and drizzle the honey. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the tomatoes have shriveled and the pastry is golden.

Pâte brisée
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan

1  1/2 cups (200 grams) flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick, 115 grams) butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1/4 cup ice water

Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and use your hands to rub it into the flour, until you’ve broken the butter into pea-sized lumps. Using a fork, stir in 2 tablespoons of ice water. Pinch a bit of dough — it should hold together; it it doesn’t, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Lightly knead the dough until all the water has been incorporated and a dough has formed (I do this right in the mixing bowl). Gather the dough into a ball, flatten it into a disk, and roll it between two sheets of parchment paper to roughly a 12-inch diameter. Place the dough in the fridge to rest while the oven heats.

Tomato tart / tarte aux tomates

Topics: A year in a French market: Summer, Recettes | 24 Comments »

Recipe roundup

By Ann | July 27, 2015

Bucatini all'amatriciana. Post on www.annmah.net.

Oh, hi! I know, I disappeared there for while. Was I on vacation? Nope. I’ve been here in New York, sweating it out on streets that smell like garbage, locked in a routine of métro-boulot-dodo that allowed me to make a great leap forward with my new novel… but offered no time for blogging. But even though I haven’t been able to document my kitchen activity, I have been cooking and discovering some wonderful recipes from ye olde internets. I’ve been wanting share my new favorite recipe links for a while, if only to gather them all in one place so that I can stop Googling every time I want to cook. Ready? Here we go:

Bucatini all’amatriciana
Ever since I discovered how to cook this Roman classic (pictured above), our Saturday family lunches have become so successful. My friend Mike from the blog, Squared Meals, says “this is the first dish that got [his] kids really excited about food” — and if you ever meet his adorable, corkscrew-curled, three-year-old, identical twin girls, they will tell you that their favorite thing to eat is “bucatini.” My method combines Mike’s recipe with the one found in Elizabeth Minchilli’s fantastic book that I keep banging on about, Eating Rome. In complete defiance of Mike and Elizabeth, who both sternly call for guanciale, I use bacon (sorry, guys); once it’s rendered I add a drizzle of olive oil to the pan to sauté the onions. The sauce requires a long simmer until the tomatoes and onions disintegrate, but from there the dish is a snap. I usually serve half the sauce right away, mixed with half a pound of bucatini, and save the rest for a midweek dinner.

Hummus pancakes
These savory pancakes are kind of like a cross between falafel and socca, made from a base of chickpeas and tahini. The recipe comes from the lovely Dorie Greenspan, who suggests serving them as a festive first course, drizzled with tahini mayonnaise and topped with a simple salad. I liked them that way, but I absolutely loved the leftovers as a brown bag lunch. I warmed a couple of pancakes in the office microwave and slid them into a toasted pita with sliced avocado and cheddar. You could make a batch of these for the freezer, and keep them on hand for lunch or dinner emergencies.

DIY Shake Shack burger
It depends on your preferences, but me, I’m a thin-patty, salty, smushy, American cheeseburger kind of girl. Honestly, my heart belongs to In-N-Out, but here in New York, Shake Shack fills the void. Alas,  our outpost is slightly too far for convenient takeout. Well, praise be to the burger gods, this recipe from Smitten Kitchen gives precise steps to make your own “smash-style” burger at home. Friends, I am not exaggerating when I say that this is the best burger that I have ever cooked: savory, with a chewy, rough-textured crust, and a juicy medium-rare center that soaks the bun. It’s so good, I don’t even care that my stove ended up covered in greasy spatter, or that my forearms are still healing from hot oil burns.

Chocolate syrup
IF your almost-two-year-old finally gives up the bottle, only to go on a milk strike, and IF you decide, in all your parenting wisdom, to entice her back to the cow juice by making chocolate milk. But IF you don’t want to give her high-fructose corn syrup — because you’re already feeling plenty guilty about starting her day with chocolate — THEN you MIGHT like Food52’s recipe for homemade chocolate syrup, which is rich and chocolatey, easy to make, calls for ingredients that are probably already in your pantry, and stores well in the fridge. This is all completely hypothetical, of course.

Ancho [insert bean here] tacos
This recipe turns cooked lentils into taco filling, with the addition of a sautéed onion, some hot sauce, and the Post Punk Kitchen’s homemade taco seasoning (which is just a mix of spices you probably have in your cupboard). But the true secret is, you can use any type of bean—I regularly substitute a can of black beans, which I crush in the pan with a potato masher. I also skip the tomato paste, because I never seem to have any on hand. Here’s how I make a fast, healthy, taco dinner: 1) Prepare the beans. 2) Cut up an avocado. Crumble some fresh goat cheese. I don’t even use a serving plate—I simply “arrange” these latter two items on a cutting board. 3) Warm two corn tortillas directly on the gas flame. 4) Dollop 1-2 tablespoons of the bean mixture on the tortillas, add a slice of avocado, some goat cheese, a splash of Cholula hot sauce. 5) Fold and eat. Repeat.

Yeast waffles
After I got a waffle iron for Christmas, I futzed around with a few recipes but once I discovered this one from The Kitchn, I abandoned all others. These crisp waffles have a lovely, round, malty flavor. They’re made from a yeast batter, which rises overnight, so you have to plan in advance, but they’re are worth the extra effort. If you follow the recipe in the link, the waffles will have a chewy, crunchy, dense texture. But one Friday night — after a lively happy hour with friends — I threw this batter together… and accidentally left out an entire cup of flour. The next morning, the batter looked strange and thin, but my dad convinced me to make the waffles anyway. Lo and behold, they turned out remarkably crisp and light — even better than the original recipe! To make the waffles MY way, follow the recipe but use: 2 cups of flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar.

Spicy cilantro-mint chicken kebabs
I’m always looking for recipes that use a great quantity of herbs at once because I buy delicate bunches  for one recipe and they turn black and slimy before I can use them for another. This recipe from Mallika Basu blends cilantro, mint, onion, ginger, garlic, and some other stuff into a spicy pesto-like marinade that she slathers on chicken thighs and drumsticks before baking. But I don’t like dark meat, so I made chicken kebabs. I plunged cubes of chicken breast into the marinade and left them in the fridge all day. That evening, I threaded the cubes onto skewers and cooked them in my grill pan. I’m not sure if it was the high heat, or the long marinade, but it was some of the tenderest, tastiest chicken I’ve eaten in a long time.

What are you cooking this summer?

Topics: Links, New York City, Recettes | 10 Comments »

Five tourist scams in Paris—and how to avoid them

By Ann | July 20, 2015

Top 5 tourist scams in Paris—and how to avoid them

A couple of years ago, my handbag was stolen at an autoroute rest stop in the Ardèche. It happened in an instant: I got up from the table to fetch a napkin, a woman tapped my friend on the shoulder, distracted her with a few scattered dollar bills—poof!—the bag was gone. I lost my passport, cell phone, camera, the keys to the rental car. My pride. The things were quickly replaced. But it took a while for my confidence to return.

Christophe Gadenne of Safety Scouts discusses the top 5 tourist scams in Paris—and how to avoid them

Ever since that incident, I’ve been curious about travel scams. Recently, I spoke to Christophe Gadenne (pictured above), a former Paris policeman and the founder of Safety Scouts, a free web series of short videos aimed at preventing tourist crime and fraud. “Working at a precinct in Paris, I met so many victims,” he said. “I wanted to do something to help them.” He began producing short videos, each one focusing on a specific crime, as a way to educate travelers. “Most tourist scams are surprisingly simple and relatively easy to avoid,” he says. “The best way to detect and avoid them is to be informed about them before someone tries one on you.” Today, he reveals the top five tourist scams in Paris and how to avoid them.

Read the rest of this entry »

Topics: Paris | 10 Comments »

Cheese bourekas

By Ann | June 25, 2015

Cheese bourekas

The other day I made these cheese pastries and Lucy, aged 22 months, actually broke into applause!

I first saw the recipe on my friend Esther’s Instagram feed, and I couldn’t rest until I’d made a batch for myself. They are wickedly delicious and, because they use packaged puff pastry, a snap to whip together.

I used Dufour Classic Puff Pastry dough, purchased at Whole Foods. It’s made with pure butter, astonishingly delicious, and better than any packaged pâte feuilletée I’ve found in France. I found the hardest part of this recipe was cutting the dough into even squares. Make sure everything is well-chilled, and use a piece of trimmed parchment paper as a guide.

You can experiment with the filling, using the cheeses you like, or whatever you have on hand. Esthy’s mixture combines grated mozzarella, parmesan, and American muenster cheese, which is mild, salty, soft and insanely melty (and not to be confused with Alsatian munster, so stinky it sometimes gets its own knife on the cheese board). Combine the cheeses with a beaten egg and top each square of dough with a spoonful of filling. Fold, crimp, brush with beaten egg, sprinkle with sesame seeds and salt flakes, et voilà! After 25 minutes in the oven—during which time the scent of butter will fill your home—you might also burst into applause.

I like to accompany these bourekas with a green salad (to stave off guilt) for a quick and delicious lunch. But if you’re almost two, and you don’t have the molars/palate for lettuce, cherry tomatoes (“may-toes”) are another lovely counterpoint. By the way, leftover cheese pastries make a terrific, celebratory breakfast—just warm them for a few minutes in the oven so that the filling softens and the pastry turns hilariously flaky.

In the family meal trenches, there aren’t a lot of unequivocal hits, but this one is a complete and total WIN.

Cheese bourekas
Adapted from Esther Abramowicz of Cumin, Beet, & Chocolate
Makes 12 small pastries

1 14-oz package puff pastry dough, defrosted overnight in the fridge (look for 100% all-butter pastry)
1/2 cup grated Mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Muenster cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
Salt and pepper
Sesame seeds and/or fleur de sel for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, add the cheeses and one egg, mix until combined. Season with salt and pepper.

Cut the dough into even squares. I used a piece of parchment paper as a guide to make 12 small squares.

In a small dish, beat the second egg. Divide the cheese mixture between the pastry squares, about one tablespoon per square. Seal each boureka by dipping a finger into the beaten egg, and running it around the edges of the square. Fold the edges to form a triangle and use a fork to crimp the sides. Brush with the remaining beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds and fleur de sel, if desired.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until the pastry is golden, and firm and dry to the touch. Do not under bake.

Note: If I have leftover beaten egg, I make it into a small omelette for a cook’s treat!

cheese boureka face

Here’s what happens when you make this recipe.

Topics: Family meals, Kid cookery, New York City | 12 Comments »

Signs of England

By Ann | June 7, 2015

There are so many, many signs in England, I noticed during a recent visit. From sidewalks, to shop windows, to clifftop trails, to, well, anywhere you can post something, no opportunity to offer information goes unseized. “We like to be told what to do,” says my friend, Steve, who hails from central England. Here are some favorite signs from my four-day trip—yes, only four days! And yet so many signs!

golf balls

tea stall

Blatantly ignored by several people eating take-away fish-and-chips.

verges

Points for vocab.

footpah

normally open

iffy

pedestrians

As opposed to other areas? (Steve did not find this sign unusual in any way.)

Bed and Breakfast sign

Topics: England, Voyages | 9 Comments »

Summer book list

By Ann | May 27, 2015

castellemmare-view by Jackie Clark Mancuso

With summer off to a roaring start, I thought I’d share some favorite new books of the season. They’re a mix of fiction and nonfiction, some are written by friends, and many are about food. Any of them would be the perfect companion for a lazy afternoon :)

The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos
This is a novel about half sisters, family secrets, broken hearts, and second chances. It’s about 16-year-old Willow—beautiful, brilliant and sheltered—her much-older half-sister Taisy, who hasn’t been home for 17 years, and their brilliant, imperious jerk of a father, Wilson, who might be nursing a tender hope for a second (or third) chance. I love Marisa’s quirky, lovable characters—and I was completely charmed by this witty, intelligent book, which features (oddly enough) Middlemarch as an apt metaphor!

Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner
I was completely hooked by this novel, which portrays the rags-to-riches tale of designer Gabrielle Chanel, a woman who rose to astonishing heights despite her impoverished childhood, gender, and (often) acrid personality. Christopher’s insights into Coco’s psychology helped me understand some of her decisions, even as I sometimes shook my head in disappointment. Coco made hard choices and they weren’t always right or moral. I think this book would provoke a wonderful book club discussion.

The World on a Plate by Mina Holland
I usually travel to eat, but author Mina Holland does the opposite—she eats to travel. In this collection of essays, she examines global cuisine, swooping across five continents, and including anecdotes, trivia, and recipes. Here are a couple of fun facts I learned from the book:

“Darjeeling black tea is known as the ‘Champagne of teas’ for its fine grapy flavors, which enhance the taste of more or less any given food.”

“Suet has a high melting point, which means that, over the course of a long, slow steaming period, it imparts moistness without making the pudding too dense.”

In a French Kitchen by Susan Herrmann Loomis (on sale June 16)
This is a memoir and cookbook all rolled into one, complete with practical tips, delicious recipes, and real stories from real people. Susan’s anecdotes are funny and charming and she offers a wonderful guide for producing honest, simple, and chic meals, à la française. I especially liked her easy-to-digest lists, which are a mixture of sensible tricks and folklore. For example, here are a few of “Mamie’s Rules for Life”:

“Have a fever? Drink thyme tisane and go to bed.”
“Make dessert first.”
“Add butter to vegetables right before you serve them; then you can really taste it.”

That’s Not English by Erin Moore
“A lifelong Anglophile, Erin Moore was born and raised in Florida, where the sun shines and all the tea is iced.” And so begins the tale of my friend Erin, who moved to London and learned an entirely new language. Her hilarious examination of the seemingly superficial differences between British and American vocabulary opens a can of worms wriggling with historic and cultural differences.

Re Jane by Patricia Park
In this retelling of Jane Eyre, the narrator is a young Korean-American woman finding her way in New York City and Seoul. Funny, moving, and—more than anything—a love letter to Queens, I read it in a gulp and laughed out loud several times.

1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die by Mimi Sheraton
“This book is my autobiography, or at least a very big part of it,” says Mimi Sheraton. After 60 years of writing about food, she has assembled this collection of dishes from around the globe: must-eat mouthfuls to seek and/or dream about. With encyclopedic knowledge, recipes, and helpful addresses, this is an excellent book to inspire (or inform) your next vacation.

hot reads summer 2015

Have you discovered any good books lately? I’m currently reading All the Light We Cannot See.

(Top image from Jackie Clark Mancuso.)

Topics: What to read | 16 Comments »

Tuesday dinner with Jackie Clark Mancuso

By Ann | May 19, 2015

Quick cherry tomato pasta

Artist and author Jackie Clark Mancuso doesn’t fool around in the kitchen. Her recipe for pasta with cherry tomatoes came together so quickly that I actually sat on the couch and read my book before dinner! Today, I’m thrilled to share her delicious, lightening-quick recipe and favorite fast meal ideas.

Jackie Clark Mancuso

Hudson in Provence by Jackie Clark Mancuso

Paris-Chien by Jackie Clark Mancuso

Jackie is the author and illustrator of two darling children’s books. Paris-Chien tells the tale of her adorable Norwich terrier, Hudson, as he adjusts to life as an “expat dog” in France. She continues his adventures in Hudson in Provence (just released!), which sees the young pup summering in the south of France and inspired by the beauty. Though Jackie currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and Hudson, the books were inspired by her Paris sabbatical. Jackie’s drawings are absolutely charming and Hudson is a winning narrator. (Lucy is a HUGE fan!) Today I’m delighted to welcome Jackie and share her quick cooking tips!

On her weeknight routine:
“We’ll have a glass of wine and snack on carrots / olives / pistachios / pâté while we throw together a simple salad or pasta from ingredients we have on hand. We normally follow with cheese. And maybe some fruit in season.”

On food as art:
“I enjoy making a salade composée with leftovers. It might be roasted radicchio, beets, a spoon of burrata or some cubes of feta, a few anchovies, sliced tomatoes. For me it’s painting with food.”

cento sardines by Jackie Clark Mancuso

Three quick salads:
1) Arugula with a can of sardines on top, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.

2) Belgian endive with bleu d’auvergne, dressed with olive oil and champagne vinegar I get from Monsieur Marcel French grocery.

3) Arugula, radicchio, endive with homemade mustard vinaigrette.

On ad-libbing with pasta:
“While the water is boiling, we’ll sauté some garlic in olive oil. Add a pint of halved cherry tomatoes, capers, olives if we have them, tinned anchovies if we’re in the mood. We improvise. This also makes a terrific sauce for pan-roasted fish. Even quicker and just as delicious is cooked pasta topped with fresh breadcrumbs that have been sautéed with minced garlic or anchovies.”

Combine, roast, combine:
“Roast vegetables in the oven with olive oil and salt on a large old cookie sheet. My favorites are radicchio, Brussels sprouts, red and yellow peppers, halved roma tomatoes.”

On cooking for one:
“When I’m dining alone, I eat everything out of bowls, usually in front of the TV. A bowl of granola, a bowl of popcorn, a bowl of ice cream, a bowl of herring in sour cream, a bowl of scrambled eggs sprinkled with leftover anchovy breadcrumbs. Not all at the same meal. But sometimes more than one.”

Her foolproof time-saving cooking tip:
“Make enough to have leftovers. Most dishes taste even better the next day anyway.”

Quick cherry tomato pasta

Pasta with cherry tomatoes
Adapted from a recipe by Jackie Clark Mancuso

Serves 4

“I first fell in love with this pasta when my friend Mari made it for us in San Francisco,” says Jackie. “Adapted from an Alice Waters recipe, it’s best with homegrown or farmer’s market tomatoes and basil. The crunch of the coarse breadcrumbs is essential. I make them quickly in a food processor then hot skillet with just a little olive oil.”

1 pint cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper
1 lb spaghetti
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs, made from a sturdy country loaf
Parmesan cheese for sprinkling (optional)

Slice the tomatoes in half. Cut the basil leaves into a chiffonade. In a large bowl, squish the halved tomatoes with your hands. Stir in the basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and garlic. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Allow this mixture to sit for at least 15 minutes, or up to 2 hours.

Cook the pasta using your usual method, until al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Toast the breadcrumbs, stirring until golden.

When the spaghetti is finished cooking, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Drain and add it to the tomato mixture, tossing together with dashes of the pasta water, if necessary. Taste and adjust seasonings. Remove the crushed garlic clove. Serve sprinkled with toasted fresh breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese, if desired.

Hudson in Provence by Jackie Clark Mancuso

Quick cherry tomato pasta

PS My friend, Kristin, at French Word-a-Day is giving away copies of Paris-Chien and Hudson in Provence! Check out her blog to enter to win HERE.

PPS For a peek at the charming illustrations and story of Hudson in Provence, my friend Heather at Lost in Arles has a gorgeous post HERE.

(Non-pasta images from Jackie Clark Mancuso.)

Topics: Tuesday dinner | 10 Comments »

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