Tuesday dinner with Olivier Cappaert of Excuse My French | Ann Mah

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Tuesday dinner with Excuse My French

By Ann | January 8, 2013

tart 2

I’m in Paris for the month and I’ve got France on my mind. French food, like this savory tomato and spinach tart. But also French boiler maintenance, French homeowner’s associations, French property taxes — in other words, all the administrative details of life made complicated by the Kafka-esque French bureaucracy. Thank goodness for Olivier Cappaert and his company, Excuse My French, which helps expats in France solve their administrative woes.

Olivier lives in Normandy with his American wife, Jenny Beaumont (who happens to be my awesome web advisor). He travels frequently to Paris to help expats negotiate visa questions, vehicle registration, consumer rights, offer certified translation and more. I like to think of him as the “Fonctionnaire Whisperer” because he has a magic touch of always finding exactly the right person and charming them into being helpful. Today, I’m thrilled to welcome Olivier, share a few photos from his life in dreamy Normandy and learn more about his Tuesday routine à la française watching le foot and eating savory tarts!

normandie

apéro

“Before dinner time, whether it is Tuesday or Saturday, my wife and I always meet up around 6:30 pm for the apéritif on the couches around the coffee table,” says Olivier. “We really love that ritual. It’s the ideal place close to the wooden stove where in the winter, chilly spring and wet fall I light a fire to go with our cheering. We usually enjoy the aperitif with grilled salty pistachios and some dry sausage (Rosette de Lyon) that always puts us in shape for the dinner to come. Sometimes Jenny adds boiled eggs with her amazing mayonnaise. Green and black olives are also welcome but we try to vary the ingredients except for the pistachios as I am addicted to them.”

tart

“If Tuesday football Champion’s League is on, I usually prepare for myself some fresh pastas, easy to cook. A ricotta spinach mix needs to be boiled for 5 minutes max. Then, once in a plate, I add fresh basil, olive oil, powder garlic, pepper and organic ultra-levure that I sprinkle on the top to give a crispy taste to the whole dish. I usually wait for the game to begin to start eating at the same time to get this double pleasure inside the palette and in the eyes to see my team win the game. I call it FooFood or double F.”

“When it comes to something more difficult to make than pastas, I let it all into my wife’s hands for the dinner preparation. Then, I could be surprised by a handmade tart whether it’s a tomato and mustard one, a spinach egg and broccoli, a lardon courgettes or even a leek tart. I love them all anyway. That’s why my wife is the best tart maker in the whole universe and the best cook. Far better than my own mom and I know what I mean by saying that!”

pâte shell

tranche

Spinach and tomato pie
Recipe by Jenny Beaumont, appreciated by Olivier Cappaert

Note from Ann: Loaded with vegetables — and without any cheese — this savory tart is quite virtuous (perfect for January good intentions). I enjoyed the clean flavors of the unadorned spinach and tomatoes, but you could add a bit of shredded parmesan or Gruyère for some extra richness. I used a store-bought pure butter crust, but next time I’d like to try it with this whole wheat olive oil pastry.

1 Herta pie crust (“I prefer flaky,” says Jenny. “Or homemade — but that’s not fast, is it?”)
Fresh or frozen spinach, to shallowly cover a tart mold or pie dish (I used about 1/3 lb., defrosted and squeezed of liquid)
2 tomatoes
2 eggs
Splash of milk
Lots of pepper, salt to taste

Preheat oven to 180°C/ 360°F. Chop up the tomatoes and soften them in a large pan with the defrosted spinach and a bit of water to keep from sticking. Load on the pepper. “You can add salt too,” says Jenny. “Though I don’t usually with this one, no particular reason.” When soft (don’t overcook), take off heat. Beat the two eggs with a bit of milk. Lay out the dough in a pie tin, a give it a good go round with a fork. Spread the spinach-tomato mixture evenly in over the pie crust, then pour over egg mixture, also making sure it spreads evenly into the veggies. Pop into the oven for 20-25 minutes. Let cool for 5-10 before eating.

Other pie variations we do a lot: bacon/courgettes, tomato/mustard (mustard olive oil sauce with herbs spread under uncooked sliced tomatoes laid out in the pie crust), leeks. Great with a side of simple green salad. The best part is there are usually leftovers for the lunch the next day!

norman sky

A final note from Olivier:

“I’d like to add something essential to me,” he says. “For any meal I eat in my life, I always end it with a square of black chocolate mixed with almond or hazelnut. On Saturday evening, I also authorize myself into a shot or two of Zubrowska vodka, which is for me the best vodka ever with its bison herb inside the bottle. I sometimes pour it over a small portion of sorbet citron to digest and feel comfortable and keep a flat stomach after dinner. This dessert is also well known in France under the name of “Colonel,” eaten by people enduring long family meals who wanted to take the afternoon slow and digest the enormous feast.

“I realized we can just eat anything we want without being in trouble of putting on weight. The secret is to walk every day for half an hour (fast walk) and when it comes to food to eat well but with small portions. It is for me the best diet ever. Eat anything but small.”

spinach tomato tart

Learn more about Olivier at his website, or in this interview with Lost in Cheeseland.

Topics: Tuesday dinner | 21 Comments »

21 Responses to “Tuesday dinner with Excuse My French”

  1. Purabi Naha Says:
    January 8th, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    This pie is looking delicious! I loved the spinach, as it makes this dish healthy and colourful!!

  2. Lindsey Says:
    January 8th, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    Olivier and Jenny have basically served up my favorite meal EVER. Love what Olivier is doing (ie rescuing us!) and can’t wait to see more from this series!

  3. Jenny Beaumont Says:
    January 8th, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    Yay! Thanks for this great article, Ann, and for the mentions :)

    My big savory pie discovery this winter has been Pumpkin-leek…an amazing combination! Can’t wait to grow pumpkins and other squash this year!

    xx
    -jennyb

  4. k_sam Says:
    January 8th, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    I can’t wait to try this out – and what wise words from Olivier! I also love the “fonctionnaire whisper” – it is *the* perfect name for him!

  5. kristen @thekaleproject Says:
    January 8th, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    Delish! Tarts are a great meal for a weeknight. And I’m sure an olive oil tart crust would be a great addition – I no longer use butter in mine once I realized how easy an olive oil one is. I’ve loved reading more from Olivier & Jenny as well!

  6. Karene Says:
    January 8th, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    I love this post and the recipe! Can’t wait to try it. Thank you to Ann, Olivier, and Jenny!

  7. Andi Says:
    January 8th, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    I am not a fan of pizza, there is usually too much cheese and a lot of the meats give me a migraine, but I love the sauce and the toppings and for me that is always tomato – so I love the idea of just making a tomato pie! Bravo!

  8. Camille Says:
    January 8th, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    I love that whole wheat-olive oil crust, but had forgotten about it – thanks for the reminder. And thanks for the delicious glimpse into Jenny and Olivier’s home!

  9. CK Says:
    January 8th, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    What great tips on so many fronts. And I’m looking forward to having the “colonel” dessert sometime. Thank you for sharing all this!

  10. katy Says:
    January 8th, 2013 at 8:40 pm

    I don’t know why everything French just seems so much better and infinitely more romantic, but it does. Love the tart recipe and really like the sound of the nightly apéritif; this is a ritual that I could happily adopt.

  11. Karin P Says:
    January 8th, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    So nice to get to know Jenny and Olivier a little better!I mostly know Jenny from her excellent tweets and Facebook posts. What a cool couple! This was really fun to read, and the recipe sounds delicious. I like that it is cheese-free.

    Thanks for another great installment of Tuesday Dinner, and oh, I love the expression “fonctionnaire whisperer”, too. A very-much-needed service in France!

  12. Shannon Says:
    January 9th, 2013 at 1:01 am

    I think I may be just a little bit in love with Olivier.

  13. Mardi (eat. live. travel. write) Says:
    January 9th, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    I WISH Excuse my French had been around in say, 1995 when I was wading through that bureucracy myself! What a great intro to Olivier (and I didn’t realise he was Jenny’s husband!) and a fabulous meal with a great “diet plan” to boot!
    PS: very jealous of your month in Paris, even though it’s full of paperasse!

  14. Jill Colonna Says:
    January 9th, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    Bonne Année to you, Ann. Love this post and Olivier’s way of life – he has it sussed, eh? Fabulous tart (although I’m always tempted to add cheese so you’ve tempted me to leave it out for once..)
    Enjoy your time here in spite of the paperwork. It’s true that it’s rather a burden but with Olivier around, who can complain?

  15. Ann Says:
    January 9th, 2013 at 8:45 pm

    Purabi — Thanks for stopping by! Yes, there’s so much spinach in this quiche, even Popeye would be satisfied!

    Lindsey — Don’t you just want to move into Olivier and Jenny’s attic? I do.

    Jenny — Pumpkin-leek quiche? You’re going to have to come over for Tuesday Dinner again soon!

    K Sam — Yes, I love Olivier’s advice. Especially the part about the daily square of chocolate :)

    Kristen — I’m not sure if I could ever truly eliminate pâte brisée from my life, but I always feel very virtuous after making an olive oil crust.

    Karene — Thanks! If you try the recipe, I hope you’ll let me know how it turns out!

    Andi — Doesn’t Jenny’s tomato-mustard tart sound scrumptious? I can’t wait for tomato season again.

  16. Ann Says:
    January 9th, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    Camille — You were the one who introduced me to the recipe! I’m glad I could bring it back full circle.

    Katy — I know, especially a nightly apéritif next to a wood stove! Note to self: Find a house with a wood stove…

    Karin P — Thank you for your sweet message — so nice to hear from you! Yes, the tart is deliciously cheese-free — and I bet you could even make a sort of frittata version without a crust, too!

    Shannon — He had me at “a shot or two of vodka.”

    Mardi — Yes! Jenny and Olivier are a wonderful couple and I can vouch for Olivier’s helpfulness. Now that he’s started his business, you have no excuse NOT to move back to France! ;)

    Jill Colonna — Happy new year to you! Honestly, I was a little skeptical about the lack of cheese in the recipe, but my tight trousers convinced me I should give it a go, and the tart turned out so light and fresh, I’m glad I did!

  17. Betty Says:
    January 10th, 2013 at 12:17 am

    Tomorrow night!

  18. Loulou in France Says:
    January 10th, 2013 at 8:39 am

    The “Fonctionnaire Whisperer” couldn’t be a better way to describe Olivier! This tart looks perfect, though I might add a bit of cheese :) and I like Jenny’s suggestion of pumpkin and leek tart as well.
    Good luck with your paperwork, Ann!

  19. thyme (sarah) Says:
    January 10th, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    Oh gosh Ann…Normandy. The entire region was a complete delight to our family when we travelled through a few years back. The lush green and rolling hills with all of those apple farms was enchanting. Have a wonderful month of the good life and good food!

  20. jeanne Says:
    January 11th, 2013 at 3:47 am

    This tart looks delicious and I loved Olivier’s final notes. I believe in a daily square of dark chocolate too. I also believe in the eat anything you like but in moderation theory. It sounds like Olivier really knows how to live. Thanks for sharing. Hope you are having a wonderful time in Paris.

  21. Jenny Beaumont Says:
    January 14th, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    Oh yeah, when pumpkins are back in season (and maybe I’ve grown my own??) you’re definitely invited over (or I can do a house call ;)).

    But no, you don’t want to move into the attic…unless you like hanging with the mulots. Luckily, we do have a guest room.

    Thanks for all the lovely comments everyone! Glad if you’re enjoying the recipe and the peek into our petite vie…

    And Shannon, yes, it’s hard not to be. I’ve been smitten since day 1 ;)

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