Monday, January 31, 2011

Weekend in Paris

I arrived in Paris on Saturday morning, so I was able to enjoy two days in the city before work began. On Saturday we headed to the St Germain des Pres area, which is adjacent to the Latin quarter. Both have a history of attracting intellectuals, artists, and politicians. This area is home to The Ecole Nationale d’Administration, where many French politicians studied, and  Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, France's leading school for fine arts.

Our first stop was Le Bon Marché department store. Paris department stores are architectural marvels. Note the escalators. I spend more time looking at those details, than the actual merchandise, although the January sales are running through mid February, so there are still deals to be had.

We met a friend from Cape Cod for afternoon tea at Laduree on Rue Bonaparte. Established in 1862,  it's a Parisian institution. This elegant patisserie is famous for its macaroons, which are made daily in flavors of rose, pistachio, chestnut, lemon, raspberry, and more. Not only are they beautiful to look at, they're delicious to eat. I had chicken and spinach salad served in a cucumber round. It was delicious, and a lovely presentation. Followed by a nice sampling of macaroons for dessert as we discussed work, university for my niece and nephew, and a bit about the current political climate in the US and France.

Our last stop in the St Germain was La grande épicerie de Paris, the food market of Le Bon Marché. For me it was simply heaven; aisles of the finest gourmet foods, breads, meats, cheeses, and chocolates all artfully displayed in this beautiful setting. We shopped for our breakfast groceries for the week, and fresh pasta to go with the Daube (the authentic Provencal recipe) that simmered on the stove for dinner.  

Sunday was a day in The Marais. It's one of the oldest districts of Paris, and was originally settled by France's nobility, so it's home to some impressive architectural buildings. After several centuries the nobility moved on to the Faubourg Saint Germain, and the area became a popular destination for Eastern European Jews. There are still food shops, restaurants, and bookstores that support today's thriving Jewish community. It's also filled with art galleries, one of a kind shops, and many great restaurants. The perfect destination on Sunday afternoon for some good food and a leisurely visit to one of the many museums, and attractions, in the area.

For us it was crepes for lunch at Creperie Suzette. I've been there a few times and it's consistently delicious. The chicken, onion, mushroom crepe topped with pesto and creme fraiche was perfection!  Then on to the Voyage en Capitale: Louis Vuitton & Paris exhibition at the Musee Carnavalet. This charming museum, with it's beautiful courtyard, is dedicated to the history of Paris. The courtyard drew me in the first time I walked by in the summer of 2007. It's formal center gardens are surrounded by flowers in the warm months. It's a peaceful place to relax and take a break from the hustle and bustle of the Marais.

Leaving the Marais, we walked in the direction of Ile de la Cite coming up behind Notre Dame. The afternoon sun was casting a rose-like glow on the city so I leave you with this...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Miso Soup with Kabocha Squash

Kabocha, or Japanese winter squash,  looks a bit like a small green pumpkin. You'll have to take a look here to see it in its original state, as I forgot to snap a picture. It has a more nutty flavor than butternut, and it's denser in texture. Similar to the texture of a firm chick pea. I was introduced to Kabocha back in the 80's while learning about macrobiotic cooking. I love the taste, and the deep yellowish gold color:

It's a bit of a pill to peel, but worth the effort. A sharp peeler like this works well. Since I keep forgetting to buy one of those peelers, I use a large kitchen knife. Cut the squash in half, then place the cut side down on your cutting board. Trim the rounded ends (top and bottom) so they're flat, then work your way across taking small thin cuts to remove all the skin. Take a spoon and scrap out the seeds.

I prepped a whole squash, and then used one quarter for some miso soup.  The rest is waiting to be roasted for what will probably be a quinoa and squash combination of some sort. Still working on that, so stay tuned.

Kobocha Miso Soup (organic ingredients, if possible)
1/4 Kabocha squash
3 cups of water
Handful of sliced white onion (cut into crescent shape)
Handful of frozen organic peas
1/4 cup of chopped kale
1 small piece of kombu (sea vegetable)
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp Mellow White Miso

Add the water, salt and kombu to a pan. Bring to a boil and let simmer until the kombu is soft. Chop the squash into 1/2 inch squares, then add to the water with the onion and peas.

Allow to simmer until the squash is soft. About 15 minutes. Add the chopped kale and simmer 3 more minutes. Remove the kombu, and discard. Put the miso paste in a small bowl and add some of the soup broth to it.  Mix until it forms a nice creamy paste.  Add that paste to the soup. Let it simmer  (not boil) for a minute, then serve.

This is the macrobiotic version of miso soup, so it tastes a bit different than what you eat in a Japanese restaurant. It's delicious, good for you, and you'll feel healthier after every bowl. I'm coming off the stomach flu, followed by two hours in the dentist chair, so this was just what I needed. Any fans of Kabocha out there? If so, how are you preparing it?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Coincidental Egg Moment

Yesterday I read a sweet post about Dippy Eggs and Soldiers on the food blog, Kiss My Spatula. The blog is the creation of 'G', who's a clever writer, and an accomplished photographer. The egg preparation she posted was new to me, but as I was soon to learn not for my daughter. This morning I made her two eggs (organic, of course), prepared over easy. She ate the whites, then used the crust of her toast to dip into the yolks.

What a coincidence, her own version of Dippy Eggs and Soldiers. I showed her the post on Kiss my Spatula and she said, "I've heard about those. When I was little I saw a story on PBS Kids about a family who lived on a farm and made them." Which makes sense, since farm fresh eggs are the most delicious you'll ever taste, and best eaten soft-boiled, or over easy. That's why I use organic, or local farm fresh eggs when I can find them. The chickens are raised in a clean and humane environment, fed a healthy and wholesome diet, and allowed to run around and be chickens. 

Growing up we collected the eggs from my great grandmother's chickens, who were certainly free roaming birds, and I remember how delicious they were. Plus, she always gave us a Hershey's chocolate bar (full size) for our effort, so who could say no when she handed you the basket. I'll admit I was a little afraid of those chickens pecking me to death, but happy to report that I came out of the  coop unscathed. So, maybe healthy chickens are happier chickens, and for sure their eggs taste better.

Farmers markets are a great source for finding locally produced eggs, and for my New England followers, I've been eating Pete & Gerry's for years, which can be purchased in the supermarket.

Ally's photo of her breakfast before she dipped.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My Love Affair with Leftovers

Leftovers never go to waste at my house. I have a sister, actually I have three, but one who rarely eats leftovers. Going to dinner at her house is like winning the food lottery for me. She sends me home with a bag full!
Some leftovers are fine to eat in their original state like steak and pizza. Others are more delicious if combined with other leftovers, and when you cook on a regular basis you often have several small containers lurking in the fridge. The other day I found a small portion of Minestrone soup to which I added some of the Pan to Table Tortellini leftover from the night before. I shaved a little ricotta salata cheese on top and voilà...a delicious lunch:

Today I was craving some veggies and grains, so I sauteed some peas, onion, and corn, then added some leftover roasted cauliflower, and a little bit of fresh salsa, chopped kale, and a few handfuls of chick peas that were leftover from the aforementioned Minestrone. Add a few squirts of tamari sauce to the saute, serve over Quinoa, and here's another satisfying dish:

In addition to satiating my palate, I get tremendous satisfaction knowing that I've eaten all the food I've made. There's no waste, and that feels good for a whole host of reasons. Cost is certainly a factor, especially if you buy organic foods as I do. Another, and perhaps more important reason,  is that I feel better when I just take, or buy, what I need and use it wisely. So, take a look in your fridge and see what you can come up with. Would love to hear about your creations.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pan to Table's quick and delicious!

Yes, sometimes I want a quick dinner that tastes great, all the ingredients are of good quality, and they can be purchased at the store. This dish is proof that no matter how tired, lazy, or time challenged you are, you can still put a satisfying meal on the table in less that 30 minutes. It's REAL food, and it got rave reviews at my house last night.

Pan to Table Tortellini (suggestions for a more catchy name are always encouraged)
Here's what you'll need, plus a few more ingredients which are listed below:
2 boxes of Buitoni Whole Wheat Cheese Tortellini
1/2 sweet white onion
1 red pepper
1 cup good quality marina sauce (look near the fresh pasta as the better brands are usually there)
1/2 pint of Cibo Natural Artichoke Lemon Pesto
1/4 cup frozen organic green peas
6 pitted Kalamata olives sliced in half lengthwise
5-6 small tomatoes quartered and peeled

Dice the onion and red pepper, set aside. Slice the olives and measure out the peas, then set those aside.
Add a tbsp of olive oil to a saute pan. Add the onions and pepper. Saute over medium heat until onions start to brown.
Place a pan of water on the stove and heat until it boils. Add a healthy pinch of sea salt, then let it simmer over low heat, covered, while you continue to prepare the sauce.

Add the quartered tomatoes and saute for about 3 minutes. Add the lemon pesto sauce, marinara sauce, frozen peas and olives. I use olives sparingly as I love the flavor, but too many is overpowering and makes your sauce too salty. Let this simmer for 15 minutes.
While the sauce is simmering, bring your pasta water back up to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for about 6 minutes, or to your liking. Using a small strainer, or slotted spoon, take the tortellini right from the pasta water to the sauce. This is the authentic Italian way. The starch from the pasta thickens your sauce a bit:
Gently toss the tortellini into the sauce. Shave ricotta salata cheese over the top, and if you want to keep it simple, bring the pan right to the table and dive in. I served a small green salad on the side, which we like to eat after the pasta as a brush for the tummy. Enjoy!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Avedon and the New American Cafe at the MFA

Yesterday was the last day to see the Richard Avedon fashion photography exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, which a friend invited us to see, and I was so glad that she did. This traveling exhibit was organized by the International Center of Photography in New York City, and featured  an impressive collection of his work spanning from 1944-2000. Included were both photographs and magazine covers from Harper's Bazaar and Vogue, featuring top models such as Suzy Parker, Dovima, Twiggy and Lauren Hutton. 

Although time has run out to see this exhibit, there's still much to see at the MFA with the  recent opening of the new Art of the Americas Wing. This historic renovation is worth a trip into the city. The contemporary structure sits between two existing wings of the museum, and houses collections from North, Central and South Americas. The contrast of architecture is striking, and it does very good job of bridging what some have said were separate and disjointed wings of the original museum. The dramatic glass atrium serves as a central meeting place between the existing museum and the new wing, and features the New American Cafe which serves up some creative and delicious fare. For lunch, Lee and I chose the burger on a brioche bun with fried onions. It was high quality family farm raised beef, nice sharp cheddar, and the brioche was perfection:
Nicholas had the short ribs over wide noodles with mushroom sauce. The beef just melted in your mouth, and it took all of my willpower to keep my hands off his plate. I'd go back just for this dish:
Ally tried the turkey panini with bacon and a fruit inspired mayonnaise served with homemade chips. She was very happy:
And the pièce de résistance was the apple pie with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. We all agreed that we'd never had a flakier pie crust. Oh, to find out the secret to this little gem:
You can review the current exhibitions to plan your day, and be sure to include the New American Cafe as you'll be in for a most pleasant experience.

To learn more about the new wing read Sebastian Smee's piece, Continental Connection,that ran in the Boston Globe this past November.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Minestrone

Yesterday was a soup day. Woke up to a Nor'easter, so it wasn't much of a stretch and Minestrone felt like the right choice. Often referred to as the big soup, or the one with many vegetables and beans, this soup is satisfying during the cold months.

You'll find recipes that vary across the regions of Italy, but it's always some combination of fresh vegetables and a type of cooked beans. Some purists say it should only be made with bean broth, but others use a meat based stock, which I happen to like. For this recipe I used chicken stock and some of the bean broth, or more accurately chick pea broth.  Toss in a handful of al dente pasta just before serving. Top with a sprinkle of Pecorino Romano cheese and mangiare!

My Minestrone
3 stalks of celery
1/2 small white onion
3 carrots
2 medium sized zucchini
2 medium sized yellow squash
1/2 lb mushrooms
1 lg can diced tomatoes
2 cartons of organic chicken broth
2 cups of cooked chick peas
Fresh Basil
1/2 lb of pasta cooked al dente (add to the bowls when serving)

Dice the celery, onion, and carrots then add to your stock pot with about a tbsp of olive oil. Saute for about 5 minutes:

Slice mushrooms, quarter and slice the zucchini and yellow squash, and add to the pot. Cook until the vegetables start to sweat (this should be about 8-10 minutes):


Add the chicken stock and diced tomatoes:

Add the chick peas and 1 and 1/2 cups of that broth. I cooked mine in my pressure cooker, but you could certainly use canned (add the peas and the liquid), although fresh are much tastier. You can also cook chick peas on the stove in a heavy pan which takes about an hour and a half.

Simmer the soup for 1 hour over medium to low heat. Add chopped basil (I cut it with scissors) just before serving. Minestrone is satisfying when served with crusty Italian, or French bread. Enjoy! Anyone else out there making soup?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Snickerdoodles: My simple recipe

We made sugar cookies over the holidays, and I had some cookie dough left over, so I made my simple version of Snickerdoodles.

I used the Best Rolled Sugar Cookies recipe from an earlier post (where you can see how they are made when rolled and decorated), or it can also be found here. For these, I form the dough into small balls then roll in cinnamon sugar, and place on a cookie sheet. I press down the ball with the palm of my hand to flatten it a bit. Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 8-12 minutes, or until just golden brown on the edges. Being a big fan of a plain vanilla cookie, these are quite satisfying, and they're not too sweet. Perfect with a cup of tea, or coffee. As I was savoring one with coffee, I thought coconut might be a nice addition. I would blend the coconut into the dough first, then follow the instructions above.  Enjoy!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Breakfast: Brown Rice Breakfast Medley

So to continue on from yesterday's post, breakfast can really be anything you feel like eating. While a grilled sandwich is an option, I like to balance things out with whole grains and vegetables, so this morning I made a brown rice concoction, medley...I wasn't sure what to call it, but if you'd like to jump start your day on a healthful note, this will do it.

Brown Rice Breakfast Medley

1 small butternut or buttercup squash
1/2 sweet white onion
1 cup of organic frozen peas (substitute any green veggie you'd like)
2-3 cups of cooked brown rice with chick peas
4 organic eggs
Fresh parsley
Fresh chives
Toasted slivered almonds

Miso dressing:
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp seasoned rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp tamari (natural soy sauce)
1 tbsp sweet white miso
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp water

Cut and peel squash, then dice into 1/2 inch cubes. Place in a baking dish and lightly coat with olive oil, and salt and pepper, to taste.


Bake in 375 degree oven until soft and just golden brown.

Lightly roast the slivered almonds. I use my Lodge skillet crepe pan, which works very well.


Saute the chopped onion with 1/2 tbsp of olive oil for a few minutes. Add the frozen peas and continue sauteing for about 15 minutes.

Add the peas and onions, and brown rice with chick peas, to the roasted squash. Combine using a rubber spatula to prevent the squash from breaking up.

Add the toasted almonds.

Scramble 4 eggs, adding fresh parsley and fresh chives.

Cook them in a skillet, until cooked through, but not dry.

Using a rubber spatula break up the eggs, then add to the rice and veggies.

Place the ingredients for the Miso dressing in a small bowl. Whisk until well blended. Pour over the rice medley, and toss gently. Yes, unconventional breakfast for some, but you'll feel great after eating this.

Before breakfast I made apple ginger carrot juice, which was the perfect breakfast aperitif:


Variation: You can eliminate the eggs and serve as a brown rice salad.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Breakfast: Feeding our Children

I'm sure you've heard it said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Well, I think they're all important, but agree that a good hearty breakfast will start the day on the right foot, and it's especially important for our kids to be well fortified before heading off to school. By fortified, I mean with real food, and it doesn't have to be traditional breakfast fare. If they're more apt to go for a bowl a soup, or a sandwich, over an egg and toast, then by all means let them have it. This morning I offered up an egg and toast to my daughter, who does eat this pretty regularly, and I got the response, "that's boring", so I suggested a grilled sandwich:
Bingo! She was game. As I rifled through the fridge, I came up with pepperoni (natural, of course, without nitrates), Cabot cheddar cheese, and a little Trader Joe's Fresh Salsa on an onion roll:
Perhaps I'm stating the obvious here, but be sure to put the salsa between the meat and cheese, to avoid soggy bread syndrome. Melt a little butter then grill slowly, using a cast iron skillet, grille pan, or regular frying pan so it doesn't burn. I use a plate to weight down the sandwich, as I don't have a nifty sandwich press. This ensures optimal cheese meltage...yes, I know this isn't a word, but you get the point. I do believe there is an art to making a sandwich, so attention to the small details will make all the difference.
Enjoy, I know Ally did!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Ratskeller in Munich: Dec 2010

This very famous restaurant is just beneath the "Rathaus" in Marienplatz. My colleagues brought me for dinner and I found the decor charming, and the food was tasty Bavarian fare. We arrived after the crowd, so it was very pleasant and gave me the opportunity to poke around and snap a few pictures.
The service station is lovely:
Love the bread cutter:
And like everything in Germany it's sparkling clean. I thought this little old stove was precious:
As we made our way to our table I couldn't believe the size of this place.
We sat in the Bruno section, which gave us all a chuckle as that's the name of our regional sales VP. I had the braised beef with spaetzle, which was delicious:
I actually had Spaetzle with every meal while in Germany, as I happen to love it. These dumpling like noodles are made by forcing the dough through a sieve, or using a Spätzlepresse.
Let me do a little digging and I'll come back with a good recipe. If my brother happens to read this post maybe he'll be willing to share his. Enjoy!