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veggie


Our new Brooklyn friends kindly gave us their share of a local CSA last weekend. The Red Hook community farm which supplies the Red Hook CSA is run by the non-profit Added Value in a community that needed a little help in the fresh produce area. Read about it here….

Our share included fresh green tomatillos nicely nestled in their papery husks. These aren’t something that appear on the typical Paris menu and I really had never handled one before .  The tomatillo is a staple of Mexican cuisine mainly used for salsa verde and is part of the nightshade family which, while related to the tomato family, is not part of it.

I decided to husk them and roast them in a little olive oil  for about 45 minutes with a few cloves of (Red Hook) garlic and an onion.
Result – a rough and ready cold ‘jam’ spiked with sweet roasted garlic to spread on a piece of cheddar…

 

Last year, while discussing an upcoming trip to Lebanon with a Paris friend, I waxed lyrical about Lebanese food and how I had discovered a great website and cookbook author Anissa Helou. It transpired that he knew Mme. Helou, having met her at a food symposium and they had kept in touch. He put me in contact with her and she very kindly sent me a list of her favourite Beirut food destinations.  Thrilled, we embarked on our trip clutching a printout of her recommendations. I had her book Modern Mezze and now I have been to Lebanon a couple of times it has really come to life for me.  It’s a concise repetoire of classic mezze detailing how to go about making the dishes that make up standard middle eastern fare giving a litle background and explanation for each one.

Falafel are the go-to middle eastern food as far as most western palates are concerned yet I’m guessing most of us assume they’re all made from fried chickpeas and a little tahini and that’s that. I was surprised to learn that Eygptian falafel are the original and they are made only with fava beans while Syrian and Lebanese ones contain chickpeas as well.

I opted to bake these so that they would be easier to digest for an 11 month old. Frying them is undoubtedly better – crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

PS: Garbanzo or chickpea? Wikipedia discusses….

Note: Ideally use dried beans and soak them overnight in cold water with 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda. However, canned beans will do, just drain them well.

Recipe taken from Anissa Helou’s Modern Mezze

Ingredients

  • 100gr chickpeas
  • 200gr broad beans/fava beans
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 50gr coriander sprigs
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely ground pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (if using dried beans)
  • sea salt

Making

Drain the beans and rinse them well. Put them in a food processor, add the rest of the ingredients and process until they form a fine paste. Transfer to a large bowl, season and allow to chill in the fridge for 30 minutes or so.

Pinch off enough mixture to form small balls and do so until you have 20-25.

If frying heat vegetale oil to about 5 cm depth and when bubbling hot drop the balls in for 3-4 minutes until golden brown and crispy. If baking place on a baking tray in a preheated oven (375 degrees F) and bake for about 20 – 25 minutes.

Mop off the excess fat and serve hot or cold with a tahini dip.

In Paris variations of ‘caviar d’aubergine’ are becoming ubiquitous. Any kind of aubergine dip is pretty amazing so the more the merrier. Traveling around Lebanon and Jordan recently meant a lot of it was consumed so I figured it was time to start working out what all the different mezze were and how they could be made at home.  The cuisine of the Levant is a favourite of mine. Its nutty, spicy flavours along with an approach to eating that is truly Mediterranean being wonderfully family oriented lazy, lengthy grazing.

A middle eastern favourite dished up  in one way or another from Greece to Israel to Beirut, moutabal is most often served as one of many cold mezze. Commonly referred to as Baba ghanoush, in Syria and Jordan this is almost always called moutabal and baba ghanoush is an aubergine salad not the smoky creamy sesame infused dip that is moutabal. In most other middle eastern countries it’s baba ghanoush. Many menus will have both listed to add to the confusion. Baba ghanoush is actually a salad of roasted aubergine flesh with lemon juice , tomato, hot peppers, garlic and onion.

The key to the moutabal flavour is  chargrilling the aubergines until the skin is about to fall off – otherwise you miss the amazing smoky flavour characteristic of this staple mezze. Nonetheless even oven roasting the aubergines will get you a garlic spiked dip that’s a great alternative to cheese and crackers…


Ingredients

  • 2 medium/small aubergines
  • 1/2 clove garlic (crushed)
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 250gr (2 small tubs) plain yogurt

Making

Roast the aubergines in tinfoil (prick them all over beforehand) for at least an hour until soft and mushy. Let them cool then take off as much of the skin as you can. While they’re cooling mix the tahini, yogurt and garlic together with the oil. Take the cooled aubergines and with the skins off mash the flesh up as best you can giving it a swirl with a hand mixer if necessary but no need to make it a puree. Mix in with you yogurt mix and add salt to taste.  Serve with warm flatbreads.

To make baba ghanoush, add one finely chopped tomato, hot green pepper and onion to the roasted aubergine flesh and stir in. Crush 2 garlic cloves with a teaspoon of salt and add to 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 of lemon juice. Stir the liquid into the vegetables with a tablespoon of finely chopped fresh mint and garnish with parsley to serve.

(Cookbooks and references – ‘Modern Mezze’, Anissa Helou/’Classic Lebanese Cuisine’, Kamal Al-Faqih/’The Petra Kitchen’, Jordan)

December is here, root vegetables reign, and the pomegranate is back until end of January. Fast, after work suppers are hard to manage without relying on fast food or processed produce. Keep a few staples in the kitchen to back you up for when you feel like a healthy supper that doesn’t taste like a trip down diet lane. Dried algae are an affordable way of nutritionally boosting your dishes. Seaweeds are an excellent source of minerals in general and are easily added to soups, vegetables and stews.

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Plus seaweed helps render pulses and beans more digestible. Just add a little to them as they are cooking.

An all-in-one bowl of smoky goodness – this veggie bowl is simple, filling and fast. One of my pantry staples has become a Mexican chipotle powder from the London Borough market that’s pretty fiery but a great way of livening up a lentil stew without adding fatty bacon or pancetta à la version française.

Extremely low in fat and high in fibre yet behaves like a potato, the celery root (celeriac) has a lot going for it nutritionally with a strong taste that is great for soups, purées or for making healthy chips.  Looking like a cross between a radish, a turnip and a potato, it’s a bit of an ugly duckling root vegetable that can stand up to cooking holding it’s shape and flavour well.

In this bowl the chipotle is nicely absorbed by the celeriac and the eventual sprinkling of feta at the end combats the strong flavours and adds a touch of cool creaminess.

Kombu, edible Japanese seaweed, is extensively used in and it can be traced back to the year 797. One of its benefits is to render pulses and beans more digestible. Often it is cultivated locally too, the kombu I use is from western France.

The feta is a nice creamy salty cooling factor that is best added at the last moment.

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Ingredients

1 cup yellow lentils

1 cup chopped fresh celeriac

1 diced shallot

1 organic stock cube (optional)

Scant ½ teaspoon of chipotle powder

3 cups water

1 or 2 strands of kombu seaweed (optional)

1 teaspoon nut oil

2 tablespoons crumbled feta

Making

Peel and chop the celery root/celeriac. Heat the nut oil and lightly sauté the shallot before adding the lentils and the celeriac to the hot pan.

Add the chipotle powder and ensure the lentils and celeriac are well coated in the oil and the smoky powder.  If using, add the stock cube here, crumbling it slightly. The flavours will infuse here in the heat.

Then add the water, add the kombu, bringing everything to the boil, stirring well.  Then reduce the heat and simmer for about 35-40 minutes.

Serve with the feta crumbled on top.

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Halve, smear with olive oil and salt and grill for twenty minutes to half an hour until squishy…

Mustard seeds and white pepper. Root vegetables, topinambour, parsnip, potato, pumpkin, carrot, white radish…..

For future reference and restaurant translations – topinambour is a Jerusalem artichoke. Who knew?

But here it’s the white pepper that deserves a little attention. Not much used it would seem perhaps because it is thought it is just the bland cousin of the black peppercorn. Not so. Check it out. White pepper is pungent to the point that it reminds some of cow manure. Sorry. But think about it. Nostalgia pushes me to keep it in the pantry. My paternal grandmother kept it on the kitchen table for every meal time it seemed. The white powder made me sneeze and reinforced my already strong addiction to mashed turnip and green cabbage, the staples she presented us with most times dusted with white pepper and mashed with butter.

They’re only vegetables, they’re banal, they’re rooty, they’re brute and earthy and don’t cost very much but behind their seemingly ordinary demeanor lies bowls of warming chunks spiked with just a few simple flavours some of which will have been lying around your kitchen forgotten.

Slowly braised vegetables in brown mustard seeds and white pepper

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Ingredients

1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1 teaspoon white pepper, turmeric
1 stock cube preferably msg free and low in salt


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Choose your vegetables - use  sweet potato, plain potato, pumpkin, cabbage, white radish, kale,red cabbage, onions, whatever you have. Chop into rough chunks. If using potato finely slice them so they can cook easily. You’ll need a wide deep pan if you have a lot of veg.
Making

First allow a little oil or butter to heat. I use nut oil with a little butter. Toast 1 teaspoon of brown mustard seeds and add a good half teaspoon of white pepper – seasoning your pan. Slowly add the vegetables in no particular order.  Keep the heat high for a couple of minutes and toss everything around letting them coat in the oily spices. Add a teaspoon of  turmeric to the mix.

If you have one on hand dissolve a stock cube in a little hot water – preferably one free of MSG and too much salt. Add this to the pan.
Let the veg absorb a little of the stock then add 2 cups of cold water. Bring to the boil then lower the heat and let simmer until much of the water has been absorbed. No need to boil the vegetables to death, keep a little bite, don’t let anything get mushy.

The result is a chunky veggie dish great as a side or alone and the white pepper really stands out…

I’ve loved parsnips since I was little. They came only a close second to my beloved turnip. Turnip and white pepper evokes Sunday roasts at my grandmother’s and even as a little girl sneezing her way through clouds of the ubiquitous white pepper that she liked to use on all root vegetables passing through her care, I knew these flavours would stay with me.
parsnips

Knobbly, pale, if not a little sad looking, these carrot cousins are the best friend of Parmesan, garlic and all things spicy. Parsnips make great soup and elsewhere on these pages you’ll find a curried parsnip soup that’s pretty good. They’re also good as a parmesan chip, see this recipe for roasted parmesan baked parsnips from the great Delia…

Eaten since ancient times and referred to in Greek and Roman literature, parsnips were believed to be an aphrodisiac by the Romans. They’re sweet, high in fiber, a good source of potassium, folate, starch and low in fat. So don’t wait; get out the fashionable Microplane peeler you got for Christmas out and start peeling, chopping and par-boiling.

Frost is necessary for parsnips to grow well so they don’t grow much in hot climates. They’re a trusted winter roast food, a Sunday lunch staple and the best “peas & carrots” substitute when you’ve run out of peas… parsnip mash.jpg

This parsnip mash is easy.

Take several parsnips – you’ll need quite a few per person as they lose a bit in the peeling. Peel them and chop them before bringing to the boil and simmering until cooked. You can eat them al dente or squishy as you wish. They can also be eaten raw but that’s just going too far. Drain them of their cooking water before they get mushy and add a half teaspoon of crushed garlic. Mix well and mash until chunky but not quite purée. Mix in, while still over the heat, plenty of black pepper, a little salt and lots of grated parmesan and serve as is or as a side. So good on a wintry evening.

Use a good parmesan reggiano, as it makes all the difference with it’s salty bite makes a good contrast for the slightly sweet soft parsnip.

Feta in this is good but it’s not quite right. A good goat cheese and less of it is better, or perhaps a nice crumbly ricotta. Nonetheless, a good combination. Slightly sweet, salty, soft and crunchy, the combination works. A little honey goes a long way cooked into the quinoa and complements the beet and the cheese. Gomasio, the nutty sesame salt owes its roots to Japan and is addictive and delicious with beetroot.  On the subject of flavoured salt, I recently made a nice discovery in the form of Goumanyat on 3 Rue Charles François Dupuis near the Marais. You have to ring the buzzer to be let into this épicerie fine for reasons unbeknown to me. Apparently to sell fine spices, saffron and good wine these days you need to vet your potential clientèle before they can be allowed to enter the premises. Anyway, they sell a wide range of flavoured sea salts among other delights. I bought a lightly smoked salt with sweet piment. It’s like adding a few drops of an evening of Andalusian tapas, more specifically, a good chorizo without actually consuming any, to your cooking…..

DSC_0548Ingredients

1 small chopped cooked beetroot
(either precooked or already roasted, as you wish)
1 cup quinoa

2 cups cold water
1 teaspoon gomasio

3 tablespoons goat cheese

1 tablespoon honey
1 quarter clove garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds for sprinkling

Making

If using pre-cooked beetroot then ensure it’s chopped or sliced finely and put it in the oven for the time it takes to cook the quinoa. About 15 or 20 minutes. Heat a little olive oil in a pan and slowly toss around the chopped garlic. Don’t let it burn, keep the heat low. Then toss in the quinoa and quickly stir so it doesn’t stick. Allow the grains to toast a little and savour the nutty smell. Add the honey making a well in the center of the quinoa so the honey hits the hot pan and dissolves coating the grains and absorbing the garlic. Continue to stir over the heat for a few minutes. Then add 2 cups of cold water. Stir and bring to a boil then bring down the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Once most of the water is absorbed, take the quinoa off the heat, take the beetroot out of the oven and grab  a small round bowl and a plate. Spoon some cheese over the bottom of the bowl packing it in, then layer it with beetroot finishing with the quinoa. Quickly up end the bowl onto the plate, remove the bowl and serve sprinkled with gomasio and black sesame seeds.
(Note : This really only serves one person)

The season starts around now and culminates with a jeweled flourish in January. A great source of vitamin C, the pomegranate is worthy of being designated a Pomegranitessuper food, a symbol of fertility and a pretty sweet contribution to cooking. From the city of Granada in Spain, renamed by the Moors to Botticelli’s ‘Our lady of the Pomegranate’ painting, the pomegranate has a rich and varied history around the world and plays a part in the symbolism and liturgy of the worlds main religions. The legends and myths surrounding the seeds are endless and too detailed to go into here. The seeds are perfect for salads and soups and the juice is perfect for cocktails and sauces for poultry and game. Pomegranate molasses are used in many sauces including muhammara. To make the juice, cut the pomegranate in half and sink the fruit into a bowl of water. Remove the seeds while the fruit is submerged so the peel and membrane float to the top to be discarded. Then press the seeds either in a food processor or an old fashioned juice press. To make molasses, just bring the juice to the boil on your stove with lemon juice and sugar simmering until you get the required consistency.

On a recent trip to the south west of China, our hosts in the Shaxi valley offered us pomegranates after dinner each night which we consumed while engrossed in incomprehensible soap operas. They were fresh, crunchy and reminded me that I wanted to experiment with them in the kitchen once I got back to Paris.

Pomegranate sauce

This simple sauce with yogurt and garlic and a touch of mint goes well with grilled lamb, green beans or perhaps as a dip. Otherwise, add the seeds to couscous, to rice, quinoa and to salads.DSC_0526

Ingredients

the seeds of 2 pomegranates
1 half of a clove of garlic
some roughly chopped fresh mint leaves
150 gr Greek or plain yogurt

Making

De-seed the pomegranates by cutting in half and freeing the seeds from the membrane
chop the garlic into a paste with a little salt and add to the yogurt, add the seeds and the mint, roughly mashing the seeds a little to release the juices.

Serve chilled.

Afterthought of the day.

Pomegranate “Pilav” : chop a little garlic and add to a hot pan, then add the seeds of one pomegranate with a little water (a tablespoon), stir quickly at a high heat for a few minutes, add a little turmeric and brown sugar (1 tablespoon), then add one cup of quinoa.

Bring to the boil, then simmer until the quinoa is cooked. Serve with a little crème fraiche stirred in while piping hot and 1 tablepoon of shoyu or tamari sauce.

Delicious all in a bowl supper, use rice, millet, couscous or any other grain you prefer and adjust cooking times accordingly.

The bane of my life as I try rather unsuccessfully to grow them in the kitchen, tomatoes are one of my favourite foods and were one of the main reasons I moved to Rome after university. Tomatoes are one thing but Italian tomatoes are quite another. They are all seemingly imperfectly perfectly imperfect if you know what I mean. That is not even to get on to the subject of the Sicilian tomato, a wondrous creature that is inexplicably delicious. However in most other countries, the tomato is also one of the most difficult to find in a natural state. Everything on sale in cities now is in a weird state of perfection, shiny, polished, not so much as a blemish in sight. They also remain in this perfect state for an unnaturally long period. Makes you wonder how they do it….
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Anyway. That’s it. Today we give it up for the humble tomato – so many forms, so many recipes. Cherry, heirloom, beef, roma…. Even tomato ketchup has its benefits in the shape of the lycopenes and antioxidants that are the result of cooking and processing fresh tomatoes. Just watch out for the other additives. Also, you would also need to eat a whole bottle of ketchup a day to actually reap these benefits so perhaps a few fresh tomatoes is the better option:)

Quick bruschetta la Romana

A good starter or finger food for when large numbers of people invade.

Ingredients

10 (depends on numbers) large ripe tomatoes (roma or plum are good) at room temperature
handful of fresh basil
2 cloves garlic
a teaspoon of sea salt
6-7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 loaf of yesterdays bread (chunky country bread that will make broad slices not baguette or anything finely sliced – this is rough stuff!)

Making

Roughly chop the tomatoes on a board that will allow you to keep the juices, throw all the tomatoes in a large bowl. Crush the garlic and add this with the salt, the olive oil and the basil to the tomatoes. Mix it all and allow to sit while you slice the bread into thick slices and toast or grill on both sides.

You can rub the grilled slices of bread with garlic at this point or just allow the garlicky tomato mixture to work its magic!

Serve at room temperature sprinkled with fresh basil. Either serve already spread on the toast or allow guests to spoon it over the bread themselves.

Tip: never refridgerate tomatoes! They lose their taste.