By Ann | January 8, 2013
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 counselor). 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!
“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.”
“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!”
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)
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!
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.”
By Ann | January 2, 2013
Happy new year!
We have gone from this:
Bonne année, bonne santé, plein de bonnes choses pour 2013!
By Ann | December 20, 2012
Earlier this week, I had dinner with a friend who is a teacher. It was Monday, the first day of school after the Connecticut tragedy, and we talked a little bit about how the news had affected her class of sixth graders. She told us about the project she’d assigned: to perform 28 acts of kindness — one for each person lost — to record them on a list. As she talked, I realized that was something I, too, wanted to do, to honor life by spreading kindness, to keep a list to remember. Dear friends, will you join me? It can be the smallest gesture, like giving up your seat on the metro to someone who’s carrying a lot of bags, or holding the door for a dad pushing a stroller. It can be anonymous, like treating the person in line behind you at the coffee shop. It will probably take a few weeks to complete. I’ve already started my list and while I don’t plan on posting it here, I find myself thinking about it when I’m out, searching for opportunities to brighten someone else’s day.
Chers amis, I wish you a restful, peaceful week. And, if your holiday allows for some relaxing internet surfing, here are a few links to explore…
–Are you guys watching the TV soap, Nashville? This fall, I’ve fallen for its big hair, flashy costumes, whirlpool melodrama — and catchy country music. Even the New York Times agrees that the songs are “showstoppers.” All the performers are great, but the two real-life sisters who play Connie Britton’s young kids are amazing. They’re called Lennon and Maisy and they sing and play all their own music, like in this song from the show, or this awesome acapella and percussion number from their Youtube channel.
–The Obamas’ dog, Bo, admires the White House Christmas decorations in this adorable video. Also, I loved watching the White House pastry chefs recreate the structure in white chocolate (though Bo is strangely absent…).
–I loved reading about the holiday traditions of Asian-American families in this blog post from Pat Tanumihardja, author of The Asian Grandmother’s Cookbook. In my Chinese-American family, we always make sticky rice stuffing with chasiu, boiled peanuts and chestnuts. Yum!
–And finally — one year (but not this year) I would like to make a bûche de Noël, the traditional French Christmas dessert. If you’re feeling up to the task, Saveur offers a step-by-step guide to creating a cake that resembles a log, decorated with meringue mushrooms. Or, if you’re lazy (like me) here are some pretty photos to admire.
As for me, I’m off to California tomorrow to spend Christmas with my family. I’ll check in while I’m there, but in the meantime I’m sending you wishes for love and peace.
By Ann | December 18, 2012
Amid the longest days of winter — indeed, amid days that feel darker than usual — it seems more important than ever to gather with the people we love to eat something good once a day, to find comfort in food and recipes through passed generations. Perhaps no one understands this better than Patricia Tanumihardja, who collected the wisdom and recipes of dozens of grannies for her book, The Asian Grandmother’s Cookbook. Today, Pat shares her quick cooking tips and a beautiful recipe for Thai basil pork (or turkey, or chicken, etc).
Pat lives in Seattle with her son, Isaac (he loves the satay of his Oma, or grandma), where she balances her writing career with life as a mom and military wife. “We moved back to Seattle so that we could be closer to family while my husband is deployed to Afghanistan,” she says. “In this photo (above) are my parents, my sister-in-law, nephews, sister and brother-in-law. My brother is taking the photo. My mom is the queen of the kitchen. I owe my cooking genes and skills to her.”
On life as a single mom:
It can be a little hectic, especially since my husband is away! I’m rushing to put dinner on the table by 6 or 6:30 p.m. with a little munchkin hanging off my leg. Unlike my college days when I would sometimes eat cereal and milk for dinner, I tend to be a little more conscious about what I put on the dinner table these days because of my son.
Her pantry and fridge wouldn’t be complete without:
–Anchovies, garlic and lemons with pasta.
–Eggs are great for omelets, pasta Carbonara, and egg salad sandwiches.
–Crushed tomatoes for pastas, rice and soup.
–Frozen peas and carrots for instant veggies. To make boxed mac-and-cheese a more “balanced” meal (I buy an organic brand under the delusion they’re tastier and healthier), I mix frozen peas into it.
–Shrimp makes for a quick cooking protein that goes with rice, pasta and noodles.
–Bacon injects flavor into just about any dish!
–And sometimes we have frozen pizza.
On her favorite kitchen appliance:
I utilize my oven a lot! I marinate meats the day (or several days) before and when I come home I pop the meat in the oven. While that’s cooking, I’ll make the side dishes. And I usually have a little time to relax with my toddler before dinner.
On making dinner appear, presto change-oh:
Save the roast meat from above and use it in other dishes the rest of the week. Do prep work on the weekends. Peel and cut carrots, cut broccoli into florets, etc. and bag them. Then you can pull them out during the week and save time. Somehow, if I rummage hard enough in the fridge I can almost always find some leftovers that I can cobble together to make a meal. Of course, I always do the sniff test.
Thai basil pork
From Pat Tanumihardja
Serves 4 to 6 as part of a family-style meal
Note from Ann: I loved this dish, so bright and fragrant with the flavors of Southeast Asia. I took a tip from Pat and used ground chicken to make this dish a little lighter. And — full confession — instead of fish sauce, I used the juice of a fresh lime. “Ground pork is usually paired with holy basil,” Pat says. ”However, Thai sweet basil is much easier to find in Asian markets in America and makes a worthy stand-in. If all else fails, substitute with any basil or a mixture of basil and mint for a bright, refreshing flavor. If you can’t find Thai chilies, substitute with 4 to 6 serranos or jalapeños, cut into large slivers.”
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 pounds ground pork
1 1/2 cups packed fresh holy basil or Thai basil leaves
6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3 small shallots (or 1/2 small onion), cut into thin slices (1/2 cup)
6 red Thai chilies, cut into rounds (or to taste)
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar
Dash white pepper or freshly ground black pepper (optional)
Preheat a 14-inch wok or 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Swirl in oil to coat the bottom of the wok and heat for 10 to 15 seconds until oil thins out and starts to shimmer. Stir in garlic and shallots. Stir 15 to 20 seconds, until garlic is light golden and fragrant.
Add pork, breaking it up with the edge of your spatula. Stir-fry until meat has just lost its blush, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium. Throw in chilies. Sprinkle oyster, fish and soy sauces and sugar, and toss to mix well. Add basil and stir until leaves are wilted and pork is cooked through, about half to 1 minute. Don’t overcook the pork.
Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with pepper. Serve hot with steamed rice.
Pat’s beautiful blog is a trove of information on Asian cooking — including many other quick recipes (check out her fried rice and shrimp in black bean sauce) — while her book, The Asian Grandmother’s Cookbook, would make a lovely holiday gift.
(Non-food photos courtesy of Pat Tanumihardja.)
By Ann | December 14, 2012
At first I feared it meant something when I landed in New York City at shift change hour, that hellacious five o’clock period when all the taxis go off duty and you can’t hail a cab for love or money. As I wandered along Third Avenue in the gathering darkness, walking first one way and than the other, I had a sinking realization: the shopfronts had changed so much I couldn’t tell if I was heading north or south. I was walking west along 14th street, or was it east? Down along 2nd avenue, or was it up? The East Village, ten years ago my beloved home, felt strange, crowded with young people clad in ironic outfits from the Salvation Army. I felt foreign, I felt lost. I felt like my hair was too clean. I felt old.
After 45 minutes of hunting for a cab, I finally made it to Brooklyn, where I described my Third Avenue disorientation to a friend. “New York is like riding a bicycle. You’ll get it back,” she told me. I didn’t believe her. After so many years away, I knew New York had moved on without me. At some point, I’d made a choice — Paris or New York? — and I’d chosen Paris. I still loved New York, city of my youthful literary dreams, the place that taught me how to be comfortable in my own skin, the town where I’d met my best friends and, eventually, my husband. But New York was no longer mine. I couldn’t claim it.
Though my knowledge of the city’s restaurants had once been encyclopedic, now I had to rely on the suggestions of friends. Thanks to them, I discovered new favorites like sweet Buvette, a petit salon de thé in the West Village that’s like a fresh-faced American au pair in Paris, where a friend and I lingered over a mushroom croque monsieur and pot of mint tea. I stopped by Dorie Greenspan’s tiny, elegant cookie boutique, Beurre and Sel, to buy Christmas pressies and one oversized world peace cookie just for me. I moaned over Momofuku Milk Bar’s crack pie, and their compost cookie, and the corn cookie, and the bacon-cream-cheese-stuffed bagel bomb, and marveled at their staff’s chirpy, sincerely friendly helpfulness. A friend and I waited over an hour for a table at Mission Chinese, but we were underwhelmed by their modish take on Chinese food — perhaps because we’d lived in Beijing too long, or maybe the food was too spicy, or probably we should have ordered more meat (though I agree with another friend who deemed bacon a “culinary crutch”). I loved madcap Eataly, like a three-ring circus of all the best Italian foods: sausages, and hams, and cheeses, oh my! And I lost my heart to Alimentari e Vineria — or, rather, to their spaghetti carbonara, the crisped guanciale, the al dente pasta, the warmth of black pepper seeping across the sauce of creamy egg yolks — I felt transported to Rome, which is, after all, what New York does best: transport. Or transform. Or maybe both.
And you know what? After a few days of meetings and meals and reunions a funny thing happened. Staying in an apartment exchange in the East Village, just blocks away from my first New York apartment, I kept running into someone I knew: Me. Perhaps the city had moved on but I realized that a part of me was still there, drinking coffee from an oversized cup on Avenue A, hustling onto the crosstown bus at rush hour, tucking into a dark bar to sip vodka gimlets. The memories of my twenties ran on a loop in my head: the nights — sometimes lonely — the days — sometimes hungover — the suffocation of August in Alphabet City, the neon sign of the burrito restaurant that I couldn’t afford, the corner at 13th and 2nd where my husband and I first kissed, the bar where we sat and watched the snow fall before making angels in Washington Square Park. Turn right and you’re heading east, left and you’re heading west. I knew it without thinking. I knew it like it was mine.
I felt so comfortable in New York that at first I was a little guilty, like I was cheating on Paris. But my husband — who joined me for a weekend of bagels, books and movies at Film Forum — reminded me that the two are not in competition. They are, rather, like the yin and yang, the two halves of my personality: the appreciation of lingering meals versus the part of me that craves a to do list and a pen to cross things off. Or perhaps that’s too penny Freud. Maybe they are just two cities I love, two sets of streets that I’ve strolled at 3am, two places soaked with so many memories that I will always know them and they will always know me. Two places on the list of places we call home, an open list that expands and grows.
By Ann | December 11, 2012
Sometimes, more than anything, it’s the idea of grocery shopping that kills my desire to cook dinner, the unbearable thought of stopping in one more place, of engaging in one more transaction, of lugging one more bag home. But this week I am excited to share a pasta pantry meal for Tuesday dinner, a bold recipe for spicy spaghetti with caramelized onions, anchovies and tuna from cookbook author Maria Speck.
The dish is from Maria’s beautiful book, Ancient Grains for Modern Meals, a collection of recipes that focuses on whole grains like barley, farro, polenta and wheat berries, to name a few. Maria is Greek and she grew up in Germany and as a result her food is full of twists — both bright, heart-healthy and Mediterranean as well as nourishing, Old World and cozy. This is a not just a book for the health-conscious — though there are plenty of healthy choices — nor for vegetarians — though there are several vegan-adaptable recipes among the meaty — nor for the gluten-free, though it strikes me that Maria’s grain salads, soups and stews would be satisfying for the flourless, while her polenta-crusted artichoke tart is a revelation for anyone who loves quiche — which, surely, is everyone, n’est-ce pas? This is a book for living well and eating more whole grains because they’re delicious. I love my copy so much I’m buying another to give away at Christmas (dear mother-in-law, pretend you never read that!).
I first met Maria when she generously shared her aforementioned artichoke tart recipe with this blog, and I’ve loved getting to know her via email and Twitter. Based in Boston, she balances work as a writer, journalist and cooking teacher with a life of bread-baking, gardening and Greek yogurt at home with her husband. Today, I’m delighted to reveal her quick cooking tips!
On making up time in the kitchen:
Like so many of us I spend a lot of time in front of the computer, forgetting the world around me, including dinner. When I finally get into the kitchen, I’m usually starved—which means dinner has to be on the table fast. But I love simple meals. I am very happy with an Indian-spiced red lentil soup — ready in 20 minutes — served with baguette. Or a grain salad, thrown together with leftover vegetables, some feta or goat cheese, maybe dried fruit and nuts.
On relaxing by cooking:
Weeknights are often very casual in my house—except when I’m testing new recipes for an article or a book. I am a lazy cook but I almost never feel like not cooking. I find preparing a meal relaxing—it puts a border between my often crazy-busy workday and the evening.
On the importance of a well-supplied kitchen:
I feel equipped to cook up a storm on the fly. You’re hungry? I’m ready! It gives me peace of mind—my husband thinks I must have been a squirrel in a previous life.
She always stocks up on…
–Beans, herring, tuna, olives, nuts, and pasta in all shapes and forms.
–Did I mention at least a dozen different grains and beans, including whole wheat couscous and bulgur which cook up in no time?
–In my fridge four kinds of cheese are normal, three types of yogurt, cream, butter, smoked salmon or blue fish—you name it!
–Even my fruit and vegetable drawer are never completely empty. Homemade whole grain bread (always in the freezer!), cheese, butter, sun-dried tomatoes, dolma (stuffed vine leaves), and whatever else I can locate, especially radishes.
Cook large, be creative:
I’ve learned from my Greek mom to never cook small amounts of anything. Make a large pot of staples ahead, be it lentils, dried beans, brown rice, millet or wheat berries. I often do this on weekends. They can become hearty soups and salads during the week just by adding a few sautéed or roasted vegetables — whatever is in season — plus herbs and spices. Sometimes I add a pan-fried chicken breast, salmon, or grill some tofu under the broiler. And if I run out of ideas, I make vegetarian burgers from these nourishing staples, just like my Greek grandma, by adding cheese, eggs, herbs and spices. First class finger food—what’s not to love?
On pasta for all seasons:
A simple pasta dish is one of the great last-minute meals I always can do. In the summer, I might just chop up fresh herbs and garlic, add olive oil and Parmesan – voilà, dinner! In the winter, my spicy whole wheat spaghetti with caramelized onions, anchovies and tuna hits the spot.
Spicy spaghetti with caramelized onions, anchovies and tuna
From Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck
Note from Ann: I’m not usually a fan of canned fish, but there is something deeply savory and satisfying about this pasta’s contrast of bold, briny, oceany flavors with sweet cooked onions. And happily — since I’m always wary of reheating fish — these leftovers are actually delicious cold, like a pasta salad eaten beach-side in Positano. “I use tuna only as an accent here,” says Maria. “By all means, open two cans if you like more fish on your fork.”
3/4 lb/340 g whole wheat spaghetti
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (2-oz/60-g) can oil-packed anchovies, drained, 1 tablespoon of the oil reserved, filets chopped
1 lb/454 g red onions (I used one gigantic), peeled and thinly sliced into rings
1 cup chopped green onions (about 7), the dark green tops chopped finely and reserved separately
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 (6-oz/170 g) can oil-packed tuna, drained
1/2 cup oil-packed black olives, pitted and chopped
3 tablespoons capers, plus 2 tablespoons of their marinating liquid
Bring a large pot of water to boil and add the pasta. Cook until al dente, according to package.
Heat the olive and anchovy oils in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sliced red onion and cook, stirring frequently until it starts to caramelize and brown at the edges, about 5-7 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the green onions, garlic, and red chili flakes to taste. Push the vegetables to the sides of the pan and add the anchovies to the center of the skillet. Cook, pressing on the filets with a wooden spoon until they disintegrate, about 1 minute. Add the tuna, olives, capers and their liquid; stir to combine and cook until heated through. Taste and adjust seasoning (note from Ann: I needed much less salt because of all the salty components).
Drain the pasta, reserving 3/4 cup cooking liquid. In the pot (or if your skillet is large enough) combine the pasta with the onion-tuna mixture and 1/2 cup of pasta cooking liquid. Toss to combine, adding dashes of cooking liquid to loosen the pasta, if necessary. Sprinkle with the finely chopped green onion tops and serve immediately.
(All non-pasta photos, courtesy of Maria Speck.)
By Ann | December 6, 2012
Greetings from New York City! The skies are so blue, the sun so bright, the food so delicious, the reunions with old friends so sweet. Yesterday morning I found myself on the L train at rush hour, squeezed into a car with all the commuting Williamsburg hipsters. There was so much vintage clothing, it smelled like the Salvation Army.
By Ann | December 4, 2012
The last Tuesday dinner I had in Paris was at La Table d’Aki, a 16-seat bijou of a restaurant near the Boulevard St-Germain. This is “French food cooked by a Japanese chef,” the chef/owner Akihiro Horokoshi told me. Every bite was exquisite. You can read more about my meal in the Bites column of the New York Times, and I also wanted to share some photos with you, too. (Click on any photo for a full slideshow.)
P.S. I’m traveling in New York this week — I’ve exchanged apartments with Amy of God, I Love Paris. (She is the Cameron Diaz to my Kate Winslet — or is it vice versa?) I’ll be back soon with an update on my trip and more Tuesday dinner next week!
By Ann | November 30, 2012
The minute I saw the recipe online, I knew it was the pie I wanted to make for Thanksgiving. It had cheddar cheese worked into the crust, a savory contrast against the apples. It had a crumbly, buttery streusel topping studded with walnuts. And, wowzer of wowzers, it had chilies tossed into the fruit for a brilliant, zingy, heat-seeking high note. This was apple pie to impress, to devastate.
My dad and I made the pie together on the Wednesday before the holiday. We were cooking dinner at the same time (spaghetti bolognese with a side of garlic-chili broccoli) so we lingered over the apples, chilled the crust between swipes of the rolling pin, allowed the chilies to fully release their power before adding another, and then another. We slid the pie into the oven and ate our supper as it baked. When the timer dinged, it emerged all bubbly, golden and fragrant.
There could have been a happy ending to this story. We could have cooled the pie and then cut slices of it, my father, mother, husband and I. We could have tucked in and relished it, analyzed it, savored it. Instead we wrapped it in tin foil and left it on the sideboard overnight.
Thanksgiving day dawned bright and balmy. And harried. Six o’clock in the morning found me running around with wet hair shoving clothes into a duffle bag and duffle bags onto a luggage cart, rushing to get on the road to New York before traffic hit. The (superior) apple pie went into a bag with a couple of store-bought (inferior) pies, which we trundled towards the front door.
I heard it hit before I saw it, a sickening clunk of butter, apples, cheese and sugar followed by the shatter of the pie dish. The pie lay crumpled on the ground, embedded with shards of ceramic. Its exposed underside revealed a flaky crust streaked with cheese, the apples smelled sweetly cinnamoned, a puddle of juice seeped from its crumbs. We couldn’t even take a second to mourn its demise. A wad of paper towels and a plastic bag later, I sent the pie down the trash chute to crash four floors below into the dumpster. We flipped the lights, locked the door behind us, hurried onto the highway for the seven-hour drive north.
That evening we ate (inferior) pumpkin and pecan pies, as well as my pumpkin cheesecake, which survived to reign over all the other desserts. But the memory of the lost apple pie haunted me. I needed redemption. Back in Washington on Sunday, I bought apples, chilies and cheese to bake another pie. But when I got home, I remembered I no longer had a pie plate. I ordered one immediately, but thanks to Cyber Monday madness, it hasn’t even shipped yet. It’ll probably arrive sometime in February. In the meantime, here’s the superior apple pie recipe so you can bake your own. Please, help me find redemption vicariously through you.
Apple green-chili pie
Adapted from the New York Times
For the crust:
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
For the filling:
5 apples, peeled and sliced (I used a combination of Granny Smith and Honeycrisp)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1-2 chilies (I used serrano)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cornstarch
For the streusel topping:
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 cup pine nuts (or walnuts)
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted
In a mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt. Add the cubed butter and rub into the flour with clean fingertips, until the fat has been mostly combined into the flour and a few pea-sized lumps remain. Stir in the cheddar cheese. Add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture just comes together in a almost-crumbly dough. Gather into a ball, flatten into a disk, wrap loosely in plastic and chill for one hour, preferably overnight.
To make the filling, in a large bowl combine the apples, lemon juice, sugar, spices and salt. Finely chop one chili and stir it in. Taste a slice or two of apple and add another minced chili if desired. Stir the cornstarch into the fruit.
Roll out the dough between two sheets of plastic into a circle, about 11 inches in diameter. Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate and turn the edges under, pinching them to make a pretty zig-zagged rim. Freeze until ready to fill the pie.
Make the streusel topping by combining the flour, pine nuts (or walnuts) and sugar. Drizzle the melted butter on top and stir into the dry ingredients until crumbly.
With a slotted spoon or kitchen tongs, lift the apple slices from their released juices and pile them into the pie crust. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the apple liquid on top of the fruit. Sprinkle the streusel on top. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 30 minutes, until the juices bubble and the crust is golden. Cool slightly and eat as soon as possible, before pie-tastrophe strikes.
By Ann | November 27, 2012
I don’t know about you, but after a holiday weekend that included Thanksgiving with all the trimmings, Chinese food, New York pizza AND bagels, I’m ready for something a little lighter. Thankfully, Kristin Espinasse from the blog French Word-a-Day – and author of Blossoming in Provence — has come to the rescue with a simple Mediterranean meal of oven-roasted fish and potatoes.
Like so many among her legions of fans, I first discovered Kristin’s blog while daydreaming about France. At the time I lived in smog-choked Beijing where, every afternoon, I would stare out my office window and gaze at a grey sky tinged green. The sunshine and blue skies and lavender fields of Provence seemed very far away, but Kristin’s blog took me there, if only for a moment. Her stories — laced with French words — made me feel like I could speak French, even though, at the time, I couldn’t. In that smoky, open-plan office, I never imagined that I would one day live in France, or that Kristin and I would become friends. But fast forward five years and there we were on the terrasse of her Côte du Rhône farmhouse, forks and knives poised above a beautiful plate of fresh fish, both us chatting in French with Kristin’s lovely mother-in-law.
I’m so thrilled to welcome Kristin today, to learn more about her new home — a spectacular seaside region, near Cassis — to reveal her tips for cooking for her winemaker husband, Jean-Marc, and two teenage kids, and — bien sûr — to share a few photos of everyone’s favorite Golden Retrievers, Smokey and Braise!
On a regular old Tuesday night “chez les Espi”:
Tuesday is the night to manger en famille or eat together as a family. We’ll sit down at 8:30, even if, more and more, I am trying to sell my family on American dining hours (6pm would be great, but the reality is the kids are returning from school and grabbing a quick goûter, or snack, before heading to their rooms to study — or to pretend to be studying…)
On saving time in the kitchen:
When making the ubiquitous dinner salad (the French enjoy mono salads à la lettuce leaf only), make the vinegar and oil dressing directly in the salad bowl. No need to wash an extra bowl.
On what she eats when she doesn’t feel like cooking:
On “those” nights, I might declare a chacun pour soi! – each to his own! — arrangement. The kids (Jackie is 15 and Max, 17) enjoy foraging through the fridge and cupboards for whatever strikes their fancy: charcuterie, cheese, some bread and, with any luck, fruit! The risk is when they (or we…) opt for a bowl of cereal — though these days I’ve banned Chocopops!
On her favorite pantry (and fridge) staples:
–Instant couscous (ready in a minute–everyone loves it).
–Green beans (makes for a nutritious omelet).
–Angel-hair pasta and Roquefort (my husband whips up a delicious spaghetti Roquefort in minutes (one package Roquefort + one small carton of cream (a small tub of sour cream works just as well). Melt the Roquefort over low heat, along with the cream. Add pepper to taste. And, Jean-Marc says, accompany with a Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
–Canned lentils (I buy the kind cooked with carrots and onions. Salmon and lentils are such a delicious combination!).
On her favorite fast recipe:
Living near Bandol, on the Mediterranean sea, we are fortunate to have daurade, or sea bream. It is my favorite meal that my mother-in-law makes — I especially love how the lemon slices — layered through the dish — are caramelized. Is this possible? Isn’t that something onions do? The following daurade recipe is relatively fast and easy — and always made au pif (without precise weights and measurements)… so here goes!
From Kristin Espinasse
Note from Ann: I have to admit that a busy holiday weekend meant I didn’t have the chance to test this recipe like I usually do. But I have eaten Kristi’s roasted fish and can vouch for its delicious and beautiful simplicity — it’s especially good with a gleaming thread of grass-green extra virgin olive oil drizzled on top. Jean-Marc suggests pouring a fresh Cassis white along side it.
Slice up a few potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and lemons (leave the skin on). Layer this in an oiled casserole dish. Add salt, pepper, herbes de Provence and olive oil to taste. Next, rinse the fish and pat it dry. Add olive oil, salt and more of the herbes. Set the daurade on top of the potato layers. Bake in a preheated oven (around 355-360 degrees Fahrenheit/ 180 degrees Celsius) for 30 minutes (or until the potatoes are soft). You might need to start cooking the potatoes first and add the fish later, to avoid over-cooking it. Don’t be afraid to cook fish! Just open the oven after 20 or so minutes and poke your fork or knife in the side. If the skin comes away easily from the bone, it’s ready!
Note from Kristin: I buy the daurade on sale and freeze it. It is just as delicious as the day’s catch! Also, you can stuff the inside of the fish with sliced onion, lemon, bell peppers, and/or fennel. My mother-in-law loves to use fennel, which she collects from the fields while out for a walk. The tall wild flowers are beautiful to see. Bon appetit!
The Golden mother-son duo, Smokey and Braise, hope you like this dish!
(Center photos from Kristin Espinasse.)