Monthly Archives: June 2009

Laduree Macarons….heaven?


Yesterday marked our 4th day in Paris. We’d kept ourselves busy – walking to the Invalides, Louvre, Centre Pompidou, Opera, Place de la Concorde, Champs Elysee…etc. But we hadn’t yet found the time to go to Laduree for some of the best-known macarons in Paris (or anywhere, really). We were already at the Champs Elysee when we decided it was macarons-time, so we headed down to the Place de la Concorde, and made a left down the Rue Royale…with the impressive Madelaine church in front of us. The window decorations at Laduree are intricate and ornate, fitting very well with the style of their tea room and pastries in general.

We chose a box of 8 macarons…but got a 9th one thrown in (for free, I think!). From the long picture, left to right, the flavors included: Salted Caramel, Fruits Rouge, Cassis Violettes, Chocolate, Coconut, Lemon, Mint, Vanilla, and Dark Chocolate. My favorites were Cassis, Mint and Vanilla…and Coconut. The consensus was that all of the macarons were incredibly flavorful. Mint, especially, is always a surprise because it has a distinctly minty taste without any chocolate, which is how people usually taste mint. All were delicious. Our friends visiting Paris with us could not wait to compare with Pierre Herme’s macarons…and neither can I!

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Paris here we come!


Tomorrow, Trevor and I finally leave for our long-awaited trip to Paris. We are so excited! This trip has been in the works since last summer (at least!), so our anticipation has been building up for quite a while! And to top it all off, we’ll be spending our first 5 days in Paris with two of our very good friends from San Diego. We rarely get to see them, so having them all to ourselves for 5 days straight will be quite a treat!

While we’re there, I’ll be posting food-related photos to fraises et tartines. I’ll also try to post some general photos and updates to the Olsen Family blog that I signed up for a while back, knowing that we would want a family blog someday, but left parked in cyberspace until now.

So, since this is a food blog, after all, I’m posting a “Foodie Top 10” for you.

Foodie Top 10: Things I’m looking forward to about Paris

10. Being totally jet-lagged, waking up at 5am, and walking down to the corner boulangerie to pick up a piping hot baguette and croissants for breakfast.
9. Going to the farmer’s market to buy some melon and asking for one “for today” and having the farmer choose a perfectly ripe melon.
8. Espresso at every corner.
7. Taking a picnic of baguette and rillettes to the Jardin de Luxembourg.
6. Nutella crêpes from the St. Michel crêpe stand.
5. Falafel for Sunday lunch in the Marais.
4. The incredible dairy section at any grocery store.
3. Being mesmerized by the selection at the cheese shop down the street from us. And then asking for a camembert, “bien prêt” (meaning, “ready,” which for a camembert means “soft & flavorful”).
2. Looking at, taking photos of, and eating delicious pastries, but especially…
1. …Macarons from Pierre Hermé and Ladurée!

Some Pierre Hermé treats from our last trip:


Petits Pots de Creme au Chocolat

Sometimes there’s nothing better in life than simple pleasures. You know, those winter days where you do nothing other than sit in front of the fireplace with a good book and a cup of tea. Or in the springtime, going on a hike through newly green hills, or going for a really good early morning run in the summertime, or listening to raindrops in the fall. This tends to be the attitude I take toward food as well. Sometimes I get caught up in a desire to create an intricate & complicated birthday cake (see below), but for the most part, this blog is about simple food.

A few days ago, my husband and I were invited to have dinner with some good friends at their house. I offered to bring dessert, and in the back of my mind planned to bring Crème Brûlée so that I could try out my newest cooking toy (a kitchen torch!). However, when I measured out my whipping cream, I only had 1 cup. All of the recipes I could find called for 2 cups, so I could either go to the store and buy more cream, or think of a different dessert idea. I opted for the latter, because I was too lazy to go out and didn’t particularly want something with 2 cups of cream in it. I checked the recipe for Pots de Creme au Chocolat, and happily, found that it calls for 1 cup of cream and 1 cup of milk. Yay! I was sold.

I used Martha Stewart’s recipe from her website. I pretty much followed it word for word, except that instead of bittersweet chocolate I used semi-sweet, and instead of using 2 tsp of vanilla extract, I used 1 tsp of vanilla extract and 1 tsp of vanilla paste. I had never made Pot de Creme au Chocolat, so I didn’t know what was in store for me (and the rest of the dinner crew). Wow. The dish went well beyond my expectations. It was creamy, chocolaty, and just the right balance of sweetness. From the very first bite, I was reminded of how good simple food can be. Simply delicious.

Quiche of all kinds

It seems only appropriate that a quasi-French food blog would discuss the makings of a quiche at some point or another. And this is as good a time as any, especially given that quiche seems to be the food theme of my week. My husband and I are in our final countdown before our trip to Paris right now. We leave on Friday! In the midst of making preparations for this long-awaited trip, I’ve also been trying to catch up with friends whom I’ve been neglecting due to grad school craziness. Whether I was hosting a meal, or bringing part of a meal over to someone else’s house, quiche was the perfect companion to a fresh spring salad, or assortment of seasonal fruit.

The best thing about quiche is that it will adapt to what you have in your fridge. When I made my first quiche of the week, I had some leeks, onions and tomatoes. I didn’t have the traditional gruyère cheese, but had some goat cheese and shredded parmesan. So I used those instead. Before making the second quiche of the week, I had no veggies in my fridge, so I went to the farmer’s market to pick something up. The button mushrooms appealed to me the most, so I made a mushroom quiche with parmesan cheese. Classic (with a little parmesan twist…since I still had no gruyère at home).

Another key to a good quiche is the crust. You want the right balance of flakiness without falling apart. I used to always make my pâte brisée in my food processor, because it’s quick and easy. Recently though, I’ve started making it by hand, and have really noticed a difference in the resulting pâte. Plus, the food processor is a pain to clean, especially when used to make anything sticky or doughy. Washing a bowl is much simpler.


Pâte brisée:

Ingredients:
1 ½ cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 egg yolk
½ cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
5 Tbsp water

Directions:
Place the flour in a medium bowl and create a “well” in the middle of the flour. In the well, add the salt, egg yolk and butter. Mix with your fingers until the butter is incorporated, but make sure not to over mix it. Then add the water and quickly work it into your dough. Again, be sure not to overmix, because this will make the dough elastic and take away from the flakiness of the crust. Cover the pâte in plastic wrap and chill it in the refrigerator for an hour. When you’re ready to make your quiche, roll out the dough and mold it into your tart dish. Then return it to the refrigerator while you prepare the quiche ingredients.

Quiche of all kinds:

Directions for Quiche:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Prep your quiche ingredients by sauteeing them until they’re soft. If you use a vegetable that releases liquid after sauteeing, make sure to strain the vegetable well before adding it to the quiche. Too much liquid will affect the consistency of the egg in your quiche. Use a paper towel to soak up liquid for vegetables that release a lot of liquid when cooked (like spinach and mushrooms).

Scatter prepared vegetables (and/or meats…ham or bacon is commonly used in quiche) in the bottom of the prepared crust. Next, in a medium bowl, mix 5 eggs, ½ cup of creme fraiche, and ½ cup of whole milk. Add salt & pepper to taste. Then pour the egg mixture over the vegetables.
Next scatter a handful or so of cheese over the quiche. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top of the quiche is lightly browned. Allow the quiche to sit out of the oven for 5-10 minutes before serving it so that the egg can settle. Slice and enjoy. Quiche can easily be reheated the next day, and often is even better when reheated!