Category Archives: french

Leek tart


Let’s get back to some food blogging, shall we? This spring and summer, we’ve received a lot of leeks from our CSA. I absolutely love it when we get leeks because they’re so versatile (and usually expensive at the grocery store). I use them in smooth soups often, but lately I’ve been into leek tarts. They are very quick and easy to make, but look fancy. You can make the components ahead of time and assemble and bake at the last minute, making this a perfect party food. I’ve even gotten the stamp of approval from an 8 year old boy- the ultimate taste tester. 

Leek tart recipe:

Ingredients for 1 Leek Tart:
– White and light green part from 3 leeks
– 4 tablespoons of butter
– Salt & pepper to taste
– 1 sheet of puff pastry dough 
Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Thinly slice the leeks and wash them well. Make sure to separate the layers of leek as much as you can with your hands so that all the dirt washes out. Strain water out with a sieve.
2. Heat a heavy-bottomed pan (I use cast iron) to medium-low heat. Melt the butter and add the leeks. The most important thing about making this tart is to allow the leeks to cook very slowly. Leeks, like onions and garlic, are notorious for burning easily and you need to make sure to prevent this from happening. They should slowly “melt” so keep the heat fairly low and be patient. Stir often. 
3. While the leeks are cooking, remove your sheet up puff pastry dough from the freezer. Butter a tart pan and when the dough is defrosted enough (but not too soft), roll it out so that it’s just slightly thinner than how it comes in the package. I use a tart pan like this one, so once I get the dough in and molded to the sides, I just use the metal edge to cut the dough off. 
4. Season the leeks with salt and pepper to your taste. You can also add some dried rosemary (chopped) or dried thyme if you’d like. Once they are soft, put them in your prepared tart pan and spread them evenly. 

5. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 30 minutes. I start checking after 25. The tart is ready when the puff pastry dough is golden. Allow the tart to cool a little bit before removing it from the tart pan. This is nice served with a salad for lunch, or as part of a buffet at a party. Enjoy!

Making Fromage Blanc

I’m never really sure how to describe fromage blanc to my American friends. Literally, it’s “white cheese,” but that’s not quite the full picture. The consistency is similar to yogurt, although fromage blanc is creamier. It’s slightly less tart than most yogurt and thicker. There’s a subtle taste of cheese, but I don’t really consider it a soft cheese, like I would goat cheese. You usually serve fromage blanc with fruit for dessert (kind of like yogurt…only not quite. Again, tough to describe it). 
Anyway, it’s delicious. That’s the take home message. 
Since you can’t find it here in the US, I’ve taken to making my own (something else to DIY…yipee!). Unlike making your own yogurt, you can’t use fromage blanc from your previous batch to inoculate your next batch. You have to use a new packet of fromage blanc starter cultures each time you make it. But, one packet of fromage blanc cultures inoculates 1 gallon of milk. You lose some from straining, but you still get a lot of fromage blanc out of it. 
I get my cultures for all my cheesy creations from New England Cheesemaking Supply Company. Someday maybe I’ll be lucky enough to take a workshop from “Ricki the Cheese Queen,” but New England is just a bit too far from California to jaunt over to learn how to make cheese. Bummer. 
So, to make fromage blanc, you need a packet of fromage blanc starter culture and a gallon of milk (whole milk or 2% is good. You can use non-fat, but it wont be as good). You’ll also need a big pot with a cover, a cheese thermometer, a ladle, a colander, a large bowl and butter muslin
Once you’ve assembled your equipment and ingredients, make sure everything is very clean. This is important anytime you’re making cultured or fermented foods. 
Next, pour the entire gallon of milk into the pot. 

Heat it over low-medium heat to 86 degrees (in the picture, the thermometer had already cooled back down…don’t refer to the picture. 86 degrees is what you want). 

Mix in your fromage blanc starter culture.

Cover the pot, set it aside, and wait 12 hours. I always get this started at night before heading to bed.

The next morning, the fromage blanc will look like this. The milk has thickened up and separated from the sides of the pot.

This kind of colander is perfect for straining fromage blanc because it fits right inside my large bowl, which supports the bottom of the butter muslin over a large surface area and facilitates drainage.

Put the colander in your bowl.

Cover the bowl with butter muslin.

Ladle the cultured milk into the butter muslin.

This is halfway through ladling. A lot of the whey has mixed back into the curds, but that’s okay. It will drain out soon enough.

Now put the bowl in the refrigerator. Periodically remove it to drain out the whey at the bottom of the bowl. Early on, you need to do this every few minutes. After 15 or so minutes, you’ll be able to only check on it every 30 minutes or so. It will need to drain for 3-6 hours (depending on the kind of milk you used. I find that less fat= faster drainage, because there are less curds).

You’re almost done! I used 2% milk for this batch and it ended up draining a bit too much, which resulted in a not-smooth-enough-for-my-french-blood fromage blanc. I just threw it into my mixer with the whisk attachment. I whipped it on medium speed and added a bit of milk to help smooth it out.

Here is the finished fromage blanc! Serve with whatever fruit suits your fancy.

Note: This post brought to you by Bastille Day. Because what Bastille Day would be complete without a tasty French dessert like fromage blanc?

Happy Bastille Day!!

Pierre Herme- beyond the macaron

Ahh Pierre Herme. There is no doubt that he is king of the macaron as I’ve already blogged about once during this trip. I never really venture away from macarons when I go to Herme, because my time in Paris is always so limited (as are funds dedicated to luxury pastries) and I know they will never disappoint me.

My parents, though, rarely go for macarons and instead prefer his “verrines.” These are small glasses filled with different layers of gelatins, creams and compotes. So, for Trevor’s last night here, they treated us to verrines from Pierre Herme. Oh my am I in trouble.

Herme is famous for combining unusual flavors that actually work together. In this verrine, he combined citrus, strawberry and wasabi. Unusual, right? Wasabi in a dessert was not something I had tried before. I’ve seen it used in other savory dishes (besides sushi), but never in a sweet. Well, not surprisingly given Herme’s reputation, it worked. The biggest surprise about the wasabi was that there was no heat. Just essence. You knew immediately upon tasting that it was there, but you didn’t get a rush of wasabi heat in your nose. I was seriously impressed.

So, for a rundown of each layer, here is what we decided as we savored our verrines…

The bottom layer was some sort of citrus gelatin. It was very tart and refreshing.
The next layer was a strawberry compote. The sweetness worked to lessen the tartness of the citrus. 

The following layer was a wasabi cream. Like I said above, no heat, just essence. Very interesting and very delicious. 

On top were miniature “pates de fruits” (soft strawberry candy) and wasabi-coated cookies, with a glazed strawberry on the top. 

Pierre Herme has been called the “Picasso of pastry” and once again he has created art for both the eyes and palate.

Creperie des Cannettes

Trevor left to go back home on Wednesday. We had 3 great weeks in France, but now he’s back at work. The day before he left, I asked him what he wanted to eat for lunch. My parents were going to babysit Quentin, so we had a lunch to ourselves. 
Trevor decided to go to our favorite creperie in Paris one last time- La creperie des Canettes. The name descriptively includes the street name, Rue des Canettes, so that you can never forget how to get there. The place is small and unassuming, although it’s clear that word has gotten around that they make great crepes, because it’s filled with both locals and tourists whenever we go. 
Part of the reason Trevor wanted to go back was that the last time we went on this trip, he ordered a non-traditional crepe, with tomatoes and olive oil and some other stuff that doesn’t usually go in a crepe. He was unimpressed and wanted to get a “real” crepe before leaving. In France, savory crepes always have ham, cheese or egg, or all of the above. Preferably all of the above. These are appropriately called “crepe complete,” and they are awesome. The crepe itself is always made with buckwheat flour when used for savory purposes.
Normally I’m pretty shy about taking photos in a restaurant, but I decided to bite the bullet this time for the sake of my readers.  
Une crepe complete, with a pat of butter on top and hard apple cider to drink.

For dessert, I had what I always get at Creperie des Canetttes- a salted caramel crepe. They make their salted caramel in house and it.is.AMAZING. The picture doesn’t really do it justice, but here you go anyway. I am going to have to try to recreate this at home. Soon.

So there you have it. If you’re ever in Paris, go to Creperie des Canettes. And really, don’t overthink crepes. They are best when they’re simple. Egg, cheese and ham. Enjoy!

Visiting the south of France

Last week, we went on an adventure to the south of France. Quentin had his first ride on the train, which he took to like a champ. The ride was supposed to take 5 hours, but turned into 7 hours because of various delays along the way. Nevertheless, he did awesome and the people sitting near us on the train gave him lots of compliments for being so “sage.”

We arrived in Cannes on May 16th. What we didn’t know was that the Cannes Film Festival was starting on that day, so the city was a total mad house. We overheard some people trying to rent a car that there were no more cars available to rent in all of the Cote d’Azur. Wowza.

The idea behind heading to the south of France was to get some relaxing time in the sun, instead of spending our whole vacation in Paris. Apparently, the weather had other plans for us, but it was a nice time all the same.

The first day was the nicest. We spent it doing things like this:

That was a lovely day! The spring in the south of France is normally very nice, like in the pictures above. We just happened to choose to go when it rained almost the entire 5 days we were there. And when it rains in France, it rains. It’s not like in California when it rains for 20 (maybe 45) minutes and then stops for a couple hours. It was pretty non-stop rain. So, the rest of our time there was spent doing things like this:

Oh, and eating and drinking wine. Those are always good things to do when it’s raining. Too bad we didn’t get to enjoy the beach and splash in the water more, but it was still a very nice respite from the city.

The perfect meal: Confit de Canard and Macarons

We’re still in Paris. Trevor is here for about one more week, and I have 2 more weeks. While we’re here, there are a couple things that we always have to eat. There are the usual suspects- cheese, bread, pastries…and then there are a few lesser known delicacies like Confit de Canard and macarons.

Confit de Canard is much more delicious than it sounds when you describe it in English. Basically, it’s duck legs, preserved in rendered duck fat, which you then pan fry and serve with potatoes sauteed in some of the extra rendered duck fat. I promise, it’s totally, amazingly, delicious.

Macarons are probably easier for everyone to get excited about. They are the fanciest oreo you’ve ever tasted. The cookies are a kind of almond-based meringue and they are filled with something creamy and delicious. They come in delicate flavors like fresh mint, salted caramel, rose, jasmine, rose vanilla, passion fruit…all of the possible colors and flavors make my head spin!  I have a bit of an obsession them, as I’ve already written about eating them here, here and here; and I’ve written about making them here and here. Unfortunately, the macarons you can find in even the best bakeries in the US do not compare to those you can get here, so we get our fill when we come to Paris.

Last night, we decided to live it up and have them both.  I documented the entire meal for your viewing pleasure.

Confit de Canard with Sauteed Potatoes.
Macarons from Pierre Herme (arguably the best in Paris)
Fresh mint- I love how much these taste like real mint
Chocolate Caramel- good, but not my favorite. I prefer the more delicate flavors
Rose Vanilla- The flavor was very good and delicate. But the filling was a little too firm for my preference.
Jasmine- Very subtle flavor. Almost too subtle, but still one that I will get again.
Salted Caramel- Hands down, one of my favorites. The flavor of the caramel is so pronounced, while the filling is soft and delicate. Amazing.
Rose- Also one of my very favorites. I never imagined a cookie that tastes like a flower would be so wonderful. This one is perfection.
Aaaaand, gone. If you’re wondering why the knife is there, it’s because Trevor and I always buy 6 different macarons and cut them in half. That way we get to try a good variety of flavors.

Baby’s first trip to France!

I wrote on the Fraises et Tartines facebook page that I probably would not be posting much for right now because of our computer issues. I’m still having problems with my laptop randomly shutting down, but so far this morning, things seem to be okay. So I’ll take advantage to brag share about our trip to France. See, the name Fraises et Tartines did not come about just because food blogs with French names sound more delicious. It was also because I am, in fact, French American. I grew up in the States, but spoke French before English (*gasp*). I spent most of my summers in France visiting friends and family, so it’s very exciting to me to share a first trip to France with my son.

One of the first things we did was take him to the Jardin du Luxembourg. This is the spot where I said my first full sentence, according to my mom. “Veux pousser bateau avec baguette” (or, “Want to push boat with stick”). Fast forward about 20 years, and this was also a favorite spot for a picnic with friends when I was studying in Paris. There’s a bakery near the park that has a “formule” (or, “menu”) at lunchtime. 1 simple baguette sandwich + pastry + drink for 6 Euros and 30 cents. The simple sandwich is half of a fresh baguette with ham and butter, and the pastry I chose was a lemon meringue tarte. For about $7. Add a little sun and people watching and you’ve got yourself my ideal Sunday picnic.

Here are some pictures from the beginning of our trip. I’ll try to post more soon.

Jardin du Luxembourg on a beautiful day.

Wearing his newest hat, made by momma.
Jet lag is hard. “I’m supposed to be in bed right now, but the sun is out.”

In the summer, this fountain is filled with little sailboats that kids push around with sticks.        Hence my request as a young one.
     We went on a beautifully sunny day, which has been rare in Paris recently. We weren’t the only ones taking advantage!

Rocks! Are these food too?

I wanted Quentin to have a little ground beef, so we asked the butcher for a baby-sized portion. This is what we got. Perfect!

             The dairy section of the grocery store in France is my absolute favorite.                                 Quentin seems to like it too.

Jet lagged baby. This is the first time I’ve been able to get a picture of him sleeping without waking him up. He was pretty zonked at the beginning. 

Making Red Wine Vinegar


Red wine vinegar is one of my favorite pantry staples. Growing up, my mom often used a simple red wine vinegar and olive oil vinaigrette to dress our salads. This is usually how dinner would end- with a simple lettuce salad tossed with vinaigrette. I can’t say these were my favorite when I was young, but I quickly grew to appreciate the refreshing ritual of ending a meal this way. Plus, I fell totally in love with red wine vinegar.

When I moved out of the house, I soon began identifying as a “foodie.” This made me think that I had to buy my red wine vinegar at gourmet food stores. I generally don’t mind paying a little more for quality, especially if it’s something that will last a long time in my pantry and that we will enjoy many times. However, anytime there is something that I can DIY, I am all over it! Turns out, red wine vinegar is quite easy to make and the results of my first batch were wonderful.

It helped that, for my birthday, my parents gave me a beautiful vinegar crock from Clay Coyote. The crock is definitely useful, but you can make vinegar without buying a special vessel for it. A large glass ice tea jar covered with cheese cloth will probably work, as long as you keep it in a dark place.

My vinegar crock, lightly covered with cheesecloth

The crock came with a top that holds the cheesecloth down, and has a hole in the top to allow for airflow

In my research for how to make vinegar, I found a wonderful article from Sunset magazine that outlines the ingredients and steps for making red wine vinegar.

Really, there’s no reason for me to go through the steps here since you can just follow the guide provided by Sunset. I’ll just add this- once you get past the initial stage of starting your mother culture, you can be pretty lax about when to add more wine. Maybe that isn’t “good vinegar mothering” advice, but mine seems to be doing fine, even though I don’t necessarily add more wine every week. I follow the vinegar’s lead. If I can smell the vinegar while I’m washing dishes (the crock is right next to the kitchen sink), I know it’s time to add more wine (or ready to be bottled). Before bottling, I just taste to make sure it’s vinegary enough for me. Then, I boil some old vinegar bottles that I saved from store-bought vinegar, let them cool, and bottle my vinegar.

By the way, other reasons to make your own vinegar (other than it being really cool to DIY!) are the health benefits you get from the probiotics. Just like yogurt, unpasteurized vinegar has good bacteria in it. To read more about that, check out Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. It’s full of information on the benefits of fermented foods, plus tons of recipes.

Boiling bottles- the canning jar was a perfect fit for doing this.
Simple as that! We’ve been enjoying the vinegar for a few weeks and it’s fantastic.

Creme Caramel

Creme Caramel is one of the very popular desserts that you might make for a family night treat in France. Some people liken it to flan, but I take issue with comparing it to flan because most people hate flan. Creme Caramel is awesome. In order to educate myself of the differences between the two, I did a little googling and found out that flan typically is made with lots of sugar (a cup in most recipes), condensed milk, evaporated milk and/or heavy cream, vanilla extract and eggs. Creme Caramel has much less sugar, real whole milk, a vanilla bean or vanilla sugar and eggs. So eggs are the common denominator. They really are different, though. So even if you hate flan, you must give creme caramel a chance.

Creme Caramel: (Printable recipe here)

Ingredients:

For the caramel:
3 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp water

For the creme:
2 cups whole milk
1 pinch of salt
4 Tbsp sugar
1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla sugar
4 eggs

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. To make the caramel, combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat on medium-high heat. Resist the urge to stir right away. Once the sugar starts to become golden, stir in any clumps of sugar that remain. They should melt in the caramel. Once all of the sugar is caramelized, remove from heat and pour into 4 ramekins. (Note, in the picture I thought I might be able to get 6 creme caramels out of my recipe. I was wrong…just go with 4).


2. To make the creme, combine the milk, salt and sugar in a medium pot. Heat until the milk just starts boiling.


3. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs.

4. Once the milk starts to boil, pour a small amount of hot milk into the eggs making sure you never stop whisking. If you do, you run the risk of cooking the eggs and ruining the smooth consistency of your creme. This is probably the hardest part of making creme caramel (and it’s not that hard, promise). Slowly add more and more hot milk, continuing to whisk the whole time.

5. Strain the mixture with a sieve and pour it into the ramekins. Place the ramekins in a bain marie (you can use any sort of cake pan filled partway up with cool water). Bake for 30-40 minutes. You know they are done when the centers just quiver a tiny bit. Allow to cool completely before serving.


Paleo Meal Part Deux

You might remember my account in a previous post about our friends who follow a paleo diet. The word “diet” doesn’t really do it justice though, since this is no short-term eating plan for our friends, but more of a lifestyle. In short, the paleo philosophy is to eat as our hunter/gatherer ancestors would have- meat, vegetables, nuts, some fruit (in season), occasional honey, but no grains, legumes, sugar (really no processed food of any kind). If you want to read more about it, and our friend Richard’s 60-lb weight loss, check out his blog- http://freetheanimal.com/ .

Whenever we have these friends over for dinner, they are quick to emphasize that “paleo is not a religion” and I don’t have to adhere to it when preparing the meal. I appreciate their flexibility and may someday decide to make a not-completely-paleo meal, but so far it has been fun to menu-plan and think of creative ways to make a paleo meal. Honestly it really isn’t such a far cry from how we already eat, since a big part of the philosophy is essentially elimination of processed foods. The biggest challenge is usually dessert, since sugar and flour are out. Last time, I made a raspberry tart with a crust made from coconut flour, almond meal, butter and dates. This time, the meal consisted of a mushroom souffle*, porc a la moutarde, fingerling potato “coins,” and a blackberry mousse for dessert. I wish I could say the meal was a compete success, but it definitely wasn’t my proudest moment in the kitchen. The mushroom souffle was tasty, but didn’t rise as much as I would have liked and the pork was extremely tough. Luckily, the potatoes were tasty and the mustard sauce almost redeemed the tough pork. Needless to say, I hope to have a “redo” with these friends in the near future. The pictures turned out well, though, so I think I’ll post those anyway! And as for the berry mousse, that recipe is coming soon. Also coming soon is a post about the delicious paella meal my friend Anton and I made together for our “Spanish” evening.

Cooking the destined-to-be-tough-pork
Fingerling potato coins

Mushroom souffle

Porc a la moutarde– will need to try again someday…without guests

* I realize there are accents missing from some of the French words in this post. I tried to put them in but Blogger freaked out and told me I had html errors. Rather than spend hours pulling out my hair trying to fix this, I decided to omit them.