Tuesday, September 29, 2009
(As you well know, I have been in Florida for almost 2 weeks. I thought that I would be able to continue merrily posting on my blog during my stay but have found it impossible; unfriendly kitchen environment, lack of supplies and, to top it all off, uncontrollable camera and lighting conditions. What to do? I have been so very lucky with the friends I have made through food blogging, warm, wonderful people. Through this family tragedy, I have been supported and loved, cared for and kept entertained by a group on Twitter, and one tight-knit group we've become. So I wasn't really surprised when a couple of sisters offered to help. Hilda of the amazingly wonderful blog Saffron & Blueberry was one who offered to guest post for me. Besides being a fabulous cook and baker and incredible photographer, she is a caring, giving, generous person, helpful and serious, smart and wickedly funny. I am truly honored that she is my guest poster today. Thank you, darling Hilda.)
Before I start, I just want to say how honored I am that Jamie is letting me guest post for her while she's away, and warning you fine folks reading this that I'm no Jamie when it comes to putting words together. Continue at your own peril.
Sometimes, when you're very focused and have a laser-sharp mind which you take full advantage of by planning and executing things in the morning or the middle of the day when it may be at its best, you can actually do something only once and have it come out perfectly. As I have no idea who I'm talking about with that description other than not me, the marbled yogurt, coconut and chocolate cake in this post was not made once, but twice, and not one but seven coconuts were acquired to get there. How did this come about you wonder? Gosh I'm so glad you asked, because I'm about to tell you.
First, does anyone here (or at least anyone here of American origin) not know the song "Coconut" by Harry Nilsson? See, I have a 6 month-old baby, known on my blog as Baby Saffron, and since I've been playing all sorts of music for her for the last couple of months, I've dug out the song Coconut because it's a funny, repetitive song which I personally enjoy listening to and singing along with (and yes you grammar nazis out there, I am ending all these sentences with prepositions, but I'm the one who has to live with that, not you). The song starts with "Brother bought a coconut, he bought it for a dime," then goes on to talk about his sister and her lime, etc.... Ever since I played it in the car a few weeks ago, I've been mildly obsessed with making something with coconut, particularly as my husband -hereafter affectionately referred to as A.- had just purchased a couple of them. Well, stuff happens, and I didn't make anything with those coconuts. They were simply consumed and more coconuts were purchased. Finally, when it became clear that Jamie was serious about my guest posting, I decided I had to bake something to do a proper post for her.
Enter fall. Although the weather's been very weird for the transition from summer to fall here in London, and we've had a fair share of very warm days which is just bizarre at this time -and most of the rest- of the year, we're now headed into the truly bone-chilling cold I'm used to, which means baking less fruity and more chocolate-laden things for me. So something with chocolate. I don't remember now how I came up with yogurt cake but it's a French treat, the first cake you usually learn to make as a child because it's so simple, and can be altered in an infinite number of ways to suit your fancy. I searched around for a decent-looking recipe, since they are always given in ratios centered around the measuring device, an individual tub of yogurt found in French supermarkets. I found a couple of recipes which looked only semi-satisfactory, so ended up making my own off of two different recipes as you'll see.
So, the recipe having been more or less decided upon, I had A. open the latest two coconuts he'd purchased which had, let's be frank, been sitting on the kitchen counter for a while (a while = euphemism here). I wasn't surprised to find that they were no longer usable and promptly sent A. out to purchase two more. The two further coconuts are brought home, split open and, people, they are salty(!) what?? By then, it's late on Sunday night and I send A. out again to see if there's anywhere at all he can possibly get any more coconuts...Coconut Mission Fail. So I am condemned to wait until Monday morning, when A. goes to three different stores and comes home with five coconuts. Yes, 5. Just in case. You never know.
He splits three of them open for me, bringing us to a total of seven coconuts opened for this project, and joy of joys, they are good. Hallelujah! At which point, I make the cake late last night and forget to put the grated coconut in it. I know what you're thinking, I was thinking it too, and then so did A. when 3 minutes after layering the two halves of the batter into the pan and putting it in the oven, I realized what I'd done and told him. And THAT is how Jamie comes by two yogurt, coconut and chocolate cakes instead of one. I opened the oven door and sprinkled coconut on the first cake, then promptly proceeded to make a second batter, with the coconut in it.
I like both of them, though the one with the incorporated coconut is a bit sweeter and more moist, but I would say that if you like your cake to be a bit sweet you'll probably want to add more sugar, as I am finding myself on the less sweet end of things right now and these cakes are just barely sweet without the coconut and barely sweet with it. Just perfect for me with a bit of honeyed milk or tea, or some hot chocolate.
Marbled Yogurt, Coconut and Chocolate Cake
adapted from recipes by Lauriane Andre here & Clotilde Dusoulier here
For a 1L = 1Qt loaf pan
- 185ml (3/4 cup) whole milk yogurt or 1 1/2 tubs of yogurt which you then you use to measure out the rest of the ingredients (yep it's that simple)
- 100g (1/2 cup) sugar or 1 yogurt tub (you really should add more sugar if you like cakes that are at least a bit sweet, trust me on this)
- 125g (1 cup) flour or 2 yogurt tubs
- 60g (1/2 cup) cornstarch or 1 yogurt tub
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda (optional)
- 60g melted and slightly cooled butter (or about half a yogurt tub)
- 3 eggs
- 120g (1 cup) grated coconut or 1 yogurt tub
- 1 teaspoon vanilla or other extract of your choice if you choose to flavor the coconut half of the cake with something more
- 80g (3 oz.) dark chocolate
- Turn the oven on to 190° C (375° F).
- Grease and flour a loaf pan.
- In a large bowl, mix the yogurt and sugar.
- In a separate smaller bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and baking soda if using.
- Add the blended dry ingredients to the yogurt and sugar mixture in the large bowl.
- Continue adding the ingredients in the order listed: the butter, the eggs one at a time until just combined.
- Now separate the batter in two, pouring half into another bowl.
- Melt the chocolate in the microwave or on a double-boiler (one pan on top of another filled with water).
- Add the grated coconut and any other flavorings you choose (e.g. vanilla) to the first half of the batter.
- Add the melted chocolate to the second half of the batter.
- Alternating the two halves, pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean. Let stand for five-ten minutes, and transfer onto a rack to cool.
Take a bigger bite ...
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Life is truly a feast, a huge smorgasbord spread out before us, as far as the eye can see, a multitude of good things free for the taking. Some foods tempt us with an alluring aroma, the scent wafting up from the plate and swirling around our head, or arranged on the plate gorgeous to look at, delectable treats promising a moment of utter pleasure. We stand before the spread, plate in hand, hovering over each and every morsel, wanting to taste, savor, enjoy, knowing full well that we must pick and choose, understanding that there is too much on the table for any one person to rationally, sanely enjoy. We are so hungry, so excited, ready to grab, live life to the fullest.
Some things are sweet like a huge dessert buffet covered with cakes and bonbons, chocolate fountains and dainty petit fours graced with swags and shiny glazes, filled with smooth creams or dazzling us with spun sugar beauty. Life can be oh so sweet, babies born, summer vacations in the sunshine, running barefoot on the beach, snuggling up in socks and sweaters in front of a blazing fire, sharing laughter and secrets with best friends. We lick our fingers and sigh, contented, blissfully wishing that we could return to this ambrosial banquet every morning and feast only on what makes us truly happy.
Yet as we walk along the edge of this luscious feast and glance at one offering after the other trying to decide, we know that although we have visions of joyous festivity and living forever on the good things life has to offer, we know deep in our souls that we can’t always stand at the dessert bar. We have to admit that the feast that is life is not always laden with candy and cakes and, fork poised above each dish, we must take our chances, risk the bad in order to taste the good.
Some things are sour, popped into our mouth, lips pucker and we jump back in surprise, the tart not quite balanced out with enough sweet, the fall not cushioned with enough whipped cream; friendships gone sour, saying good bye, hopes of good report cards fluttering off in the breeze as we pull the card out of the envelope, being pushed around by the less than kind, the less than sweet. Yet tangy we like, tangy is good, that sweet and sour combination that makes our taste buds dance, our hearts sing in joy, a shindig with music and laughter, lemon meringue pie and those sour balls and Jolly Ranchers that dad always brought home.
Or spicy, hot and exotic, hinting at far off lands and hidden mysteries, excitement and adventure. Although our eyes may water, these are tears mingled with pleasure, hands clapping as we look for more, trips to foreign countries only dreamed of, the hot rush of love at first sight, gobbled up like so many curries and tagines, deep-fried accras and seafood creole over rice.
Savory, salty, like seawater washing over us, it could be warm and soothing like hot pretzels eaten on the boardwalk or a crockpot full of steaming homemade stew, comforting us on a rainy day. But it could be cold, the waves pounding on the beach, clouds rushing through the sky, foretelling a storm. We dive below the surface and come up choking on a mouthful of salty water like so many tears, the darkness wrapping around us as we struggle for breath, the salty taste lingering as we paddle towards the shore. Nothing drastic, nothing we won’t forget once we light the bonfire, the salty taste of roasting sausages bringing the smiles back.
Sometimes we bite into a delicacy that looks promising only to discover too late the bitterness hidden under the pretty aspect, wrapping of golden pastry, the lovely arrangement on the serving platter. Eyes watering, we desperately grab a napkin thinking only to spit it out, banish it from our memory as quickly as we get rid of the bad taste in our mouth, hoping no one is watching. Or dry, bone dry and brittle, turning to ashes in our mouth, wishing that we had never even come. We wonder at how we could have been taken in, who could have played such a nasty trick, our heart breaking with sadness, yet furious at being burned, at being tempted by the scrumptious first course, only to push our plate away from us in disgust or in anger and hurt.
All we can hope for is that the bitter is mingled with the sweet, a sad smile on our lips, happy memories making the bitter ones easier to swallow, the sweet taste lingering on. Life is bittersweet.
Michael S Schler
April 9, 1957 - September 15, 2009
Take a bigger bite ...
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Push came to shove and we did it. What we didn’t dare do on our own, we did together. There is indeed power in numbers no matter how many try to prove that wrong. An international affair if I ever saw one. Governments could learn from us.
It started as nervous chatter on twitter and turned into a bit of a dare. Deeba of Passionate about Baking (and truly she is) had never made French macarons, that tender, delicate beauty of a délice, light as air cookie shell made of ground almonds, powdered sugar and meringue, sandwiched around a luscious, creamy filling. Need I say that the prospect was so daunting that it terrified her. Enter Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen, Hilda of Saffron & Blueberry and Meeta of What’s For Lunch, Honey? and me and the twitter conversation twirled and whirled around macarons. Deeba eventually came up with the delicious idea of us all making macarons in our own kitchens in one coordinated effort, alone but together, encouraging, supporting, asking and answering each other’s questions, a huge international communal kitchen, girlfriends baking together over the waves, a virtual cook-along. And she named me Leader of the Pack.
I considered myself pretty much a mac virgin. I had made them once before with Marie who had made Pierre Hermé’s macarons a few times already. But I had never made them alone and never in my own kitchen. So I gathered together my courage, put on my Mac Hat and dove in. Never one to shy away from a challenge and not wanting to let Deeba down (heaven forbid!), I weighed, sifted, whipped and folded. I lined, piped, waited and baked. I melted and stirred a luxurious dark chocolate ganache filling. And came up with, dare I say, perfect macarons? Ever so humbly I proclaimed my Mac Success with only the gentlest of crowing and strutting and the challenge was on. I posted my Violet Macarons and Deeba and I twittered and invited all mac virgins to jump aboard the Mac Express.
Throwing caution to the wind, many other girlfriends, food bloggers one and all, threw the proverbial dish towel into the ring and climbed in (am I mixing my metaphors with as much ease as I mix my whites?). We set a two week time limit, offered a couple of simple recipes, lots of tips and we were off!
Me first! For my second attempt – and I would have been so embarrassed if, after all my crowing, my second macs had fallen flat – I used another of Helen of Tartelette’s recipes. Coffee macarons. I doubled the quantity espresso powder I added to the mix – the batter tasted like the best coffee ice cream! and, once again, turned out wonderful macs. I do believe that I have such success because 1) I adore whipping egg whites, 2) I convinced myself to trust my instincts and not think at all (some smart alecs may claim that this is too easy for me! Ha ha!) and 3) I live in France ☺
And here is the round up of results one and all: some perfect, some less so, some disasters, yet there are a few lessons that we have learned:
1) we loved doing this project, this challenge, together and had so much fun!
2) it was so much easier finding the courage and carrying through on the challenge when we had each other, working together, cheering each other on, helping each other along. Laughing at failures and funny-looking results, screaming Hip Hip Hooray with each success.
3) we have each and every one of us been bitten by the Mac Bug and our baking fingers itch to do it again, reaching for the stars and getting better, more perfect macs with each attempt.
4) Macs, no matter how they look, feet or no feet, gorgeously domed or flat as a pancake, smooth, lovely shell or cracked and broken, macs always taste fabulous and are just perfect with a cup of coffee.
This, we can confidently say, was the first but will most definitely not be the last!
Deeba of Passionate About Baking
Hilda of Saffron & Blueberry
Meeta of What’s for Lunch, Honey?
Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen
Finla of My Kitchen Treasures
Ilva of Lucullian Delights
Rachael of La Fuji Mama
Barbara of Barbara Bakes
Deborah of Italian Food Forever
Megan of A Sweet Spoonful
Ria of Ria’s Collection
Renee of Flamingo Musings
And last, but never least, our valiant Denise of Chez Us (who posted her wonderful mac results with much aplomb without, and I repeat, without eating an entire bowl of chocolate ganache!)
And we all deserve the blue ribbon!
Take a bigger bite ...
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
I don’t lay claim to queen-like qualities, even if I do believe that I was Madame de Pompadour in a former life (long story and yes I know she was not a Queen, only a mistress… but what power!), but I often say “Let them eat cake”. Nothing in the fridge? Eat cake! Nothing for dinner? Eat cake! Whether the best of times or the worst of times, there is always cake in this house. My shopping carts are always filled to bursting with bags of flour, boxes of sugar, sachets of yeast and baking powder. Bottles of vanilla extract and maple syrup line my pantry shelves next to the colored sprinkles and cocoa powder. Plastic containers carefully stacked are packed with bars of baking chocolate and dark brown sugar, nuts and chocolate chips. Dozens of eggs and sticks of butter take up too much room in my refrigerator. But food? Food, as in lunch and dinner, food? Sometimes but not always. Off with ye to the market if ye be hungry…
Well, maybe I do harbor princess-like tendencies. I crave luxury and want to be pampered. Bubble baths and flutes of champagne, boxes of chocolates and help in the house, someone else to walk the dog and wash the dishes. The blending, stirring of cake batter is true luxury, so silky and smooth. I want my home filled with the scent of cinnamon and chocolate, the warmth of a hot oven. I love the sensuality of kneading soft, sweet dough and rolling it out, shaping it and filling it with mounds of caramelized fruit or showers of cinnamon-sugar and chocolate chips. Spreading frosting is a guilty little pleasure, sometimes the reason behind the making of the cake, swirling and swagging sensuously.
The mood strikes and I wander the house, tapping on bedroom doors, blocking the tv screen with my body, and announce my desire to bake a cake. What flavor shall it be? Husband asks “Isn’t there already enough to eat?” Older son shrugs his shoulders and, if pressed, turns on me and claims abuse “You bake too much. We can’t and don’t want to eat everything you bake!” or else he rolls his eyes and says “Why do you even ask? Just bake it and you know I’ll eat it!” Younger son chastises me for even considering making anything other than the 3 cakes he knows and loves. And if I press, maybe suggesting a new recipe or hite layers instead of chocolate, he’ll turn on me and say “well, how about if I just say that I won’t eat it at all! Okay? I won’t eat any of it! So you make what you’ll eat!” Princess or not, those around me do not give me the adulation I deserve.
But some of my wonderful food blogger friends have! (Oh, just joking!). I have made a dense, fudgy chocolate cake with our favorite chocolate buttercream frosting and I would love to share this cake with at least two of you who have recently honored me (and my queenly service to the world of food bloggers – see the royal wave?) with awards.
Rebecca of Chow and Chatter has presented me with the Meme Award. I have recently gotten to know Rebecca and not only does she have great recipes on her blog – so many exotic recipes, foreign cuisines, all so easy to prepare (and healthy to boot) – and a beautiful daughter, but she is such a wonderful, lovely person and I now consider her a great friend. I am honored that she presented me with this award.
The requirement for this award is to list 7 things about your personality and then pass the award on to 7 other bloggers. Funny thing is, when I read Rebecca’s list about her personality, I was struck by how much alike we are! No wonder we get along so well! So here goes:
1. I am a great friend and the one people turn to for a shoulder, an ear, advice or a kind word. I go out of my way for my friends. My husband once told me that maybe my role in life was “to be lovely for others”. Friends and family are the most important thing to me.
2. I get itchy every few years to move. I crave new places and new situations, discovering new cultures. I fall into place quickly and adapt. And I need to keep moving.
3. I procrastinate. I put things off until I can’t anymore, whether mailing out gifts, making a doctor’s appointment, anything and everything. Keeping a blog has helped me in this respect. I’ve learned a little bit how to get things done on time.
4. I worry. About everything.
5. I am funny in my own odd way. As serious as I often am when need be, I love to joke and tease – you may have noticed that on comments I’ve left on blogs – and love to laugh and hope others laugh with me and don’t misread my odd, dry sense of humor. I also deal with hurt and sadness with humor; that is a family trait.
6. I am overly sensitive, taking too many things personally. When husband wants to tease me or force me to look at things a bit clearer, he says “Oh, I’m sure so-and-so hates you!” On the flip side, I am too naïve and trusting, always believing the best in people even when they are blatantly bad, I still try and believe.
7. I am friendly and love nothing more than breaking down barriers, false societal codes, etc. I love to talk with people and have the knack of getting people to let down their hair, open up and start talking about what they have locked up inside, or making them laugh and become friendly and familiar even when it isn’t their way.
I would now like to pass on this award to some great friends and fabulous food bloggers:
Nanette aka Ms Gourmet of Gourmet Worrier
Rachael of La Fuji Mama
Barbara of Barbara Bakes
Meeta of What’s For Lunch, Honey?
Mary of One Perfect Bite
Deb of Italian Food Forever
Renee of Flamingo Musings
Sophie of Sophie’s Foodiefiles awarded me the One Lovely Blog Award. I love Sophie’s blog. She, too, has wonderful, creative food and recipes on her blog that you must check out. She does have One Lovely Blog and I am thrilled that she thought to pass this award on to me.
I would like to give the One Lovely Blog Award to two food bloggers – and friends – who both indeed have very lovely blogs: incredible recipes and stunning photography. So worth a trip to visit their blogs.
Deeba of Passionate about Baking
Mowie of Mowielicious
This is truly the icing on the food blogging cake!
So back to the grind, back to trying to convince my men that one more slice of cake is good for them, better than bread, or when I proclaim that dense, dark and chocolate will soothe the soul, lift the spirits, and keep away the maddening crowd. I know that sometimes they want off with my head when they are clamoring for a meal and all I offer is a slice of something sweet, my loyal subjects no longer quite so loyal when they find me aproned, sweeps of flour kissing my cheek, licking dabs of chocolate from my dainty fingers. They do not smile when I inform them that with a little patience they can indeed have their cake and eat it, too.
I have two favorite chocolate cake recipes, one light and airy, smooth and silky, the other dense and incredibly moist, decadent to the point of sinful. I decided to turn to my King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion and try a Devil’s Food Cake. It came out wonderfully dense and chewy, a delightful change to my others. As you can see, the baking was uneven, the results of an oven much too small, so I had to continually flip and switch the cakes around. Next time I will bake one layer at a time to avoid this. But even if it looks uneven it came out delicious. Eating this cake I tasted no difference. It was wonderful.
I frosted the cake with a double quantity of our favorite easy chocolate buttercream.
DEVIL’S FOOD CAKE
Makes a double-layer 9” cake or triple layer 8” cake or a 9 x 13” sheet cake
12 Tbs (1 ½ sticks, 175 g) unsalted butter softened to room temperature
1 ¾ cups (350 g) sugar
½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp baking soda
2 tsps vanilla
2 cups (240 g) flour
¾ cup (65 g) cocoa powder
4 large eggs
1 ½ cups (375 ml) milk
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter and line the baking pans.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the softened butter, the sugar, salt, baking soda and the vanilla until fluffy, about 5 minutes. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and cocoa making sure no lumps remain, sifting if need be.
Beat in the eggs to the butter mixture, one egg at a time, beating well after each addition. Slowly blend 1/3 of the flour mixture into the creamed mixture, then half the milk and so on until all the dry ingredients and the milk have been beaten in., scraping the sides as needed.
Divide the batter evenly between the pans and smooth.
Bake the cakes in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes (a bit longer for the sheet pan, a bit shorter for the 8” pans) until set in the center and the sides of the cake just begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.
Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before turning out onto cooling racks. Cool completely before frosting.
Take a bigger bite ...
Saturday, September 12, 2009
We have all experienced a tragedy of some sort in our life, accident, illness, death, whether parent or child, sibling or friend, even ourself. Watching someone we love suffer leaves us feeling helpless, lost, our greatest desire wanting to reach out and help, wanting to ease their pain and suffering, change the course of time and events, make it all go away. The first experience I had with illness was at the tender age of 10, tiptoeing into the hospital room where my grandfather would live out his final weeks, this serious, intelligent, awe-inspiring man, wasting away from cancer. The air was heavy with sadness, yet the adults were laughing, joking, offering food as was – and is – the way of our family. Keep it light, make them laugh, ease the suffering for just a few minutes.
My next experience, close up and personal, was in college; my darling, wonderful friend and roommate had been diagnosed with bone cancer when still a girl, yet she made the decision to never give up, never give in. She fought hard, following the rules, taking care of herself, working hard. I remember her telling me that after a long period of recession the cancer was back and had inched its way into her lungs, remember sitting with her while she received chemo; as tired as she was from the treatment, she joked, chattered away, made us laugh, tried to cheer us up, lighten our own burden of sadness and helplessness. She talked about her impending marriage, her college diploma, her plans.
And she survived. She won her battle and now, 25 years later, still married to the same wonderful man, she shows me pictures of her 3 gorgeous children, college age themselves. A truly happy ending.
Through these experiences and the others I have lived – and am living – through, my father’s illness and my brother’s, my father-in-law’s and a friend’s, I have learned that there are so many ways to help, as helpless as we often feel: a kind word to make them smile, a hug to let them know they are loved, a home-baked cake or a weekend visit, the telling of a story as we hold their hand, these are the things that we can offer.
And there are other ways to help in a much larger way, and Barbara, the wonderful foodie behind the blog Winos & Foodies and a cancer survivor herself, created and hosts the Livestrong (LiveSTRONG) Taste of Yellow Event for food bloggers around the globe. As Barbara explains it herself : "LiveSTRONG With A Taste Of Yellow is my way of supporting the Lance Armstrong Foundation by raising awareness of cancer issues world wide. It is a way for all food and wine bloggers to share their stories. The happy and the sad, the struggles and the triumphs. If you are lucky and have not been touched by cancer you are still welcome to participate." Food bloggers are invited to prepare a dish or drink that contains a yellow food, the color of the Livestrong bracelet, and send the link over to Barbara’s blog by September 13 (tho I think she told me she extended the date, but check with her).
As my heart is torn out by my brother’s illness, I know that life goes on and if all of us chip in, join together, maybe we can make a difference through awareness and support, and we can pray and hope that research goes on, cures can be found, the weight on people’s shoulders can be lightened just a little by our actions. Thank you, Barbara, for your courage and your terrific work. I am proud to participate.
For Barbara’s Taste for Yellow event, I have prepared a complete yet very light meal for the waning days of summer: A mixed vegetable Taboulé served simply with hard-boiled eggs and a luscious Flan aux Mirabelles, an extremely quick, easy recipe for two.
TABOULE for as many or as few as you please
This is a “play it by ear” recipe, never the same twice. The traditional recipe has the dry semolina (couscous grains) soaked in the lemon juice, olive oil and the juice from chopped tomatoes over night. After many years of doing it this way, I decided that soaking the couscous grains in boiling water for 7 minutes and then flavoring the pre-cooked grains was quicker and gave the same delicious results. I also began, over the years, adding more and more vegetables, cheese, whatever I was in the mood for. The couscous is a blank backdrop that welcomes any combination. Here is what I did this time, making enough Taboulé for the 4 of us to eat over two days.
17 oz (500 g) medium-grain semolina for couscous prepared according to the package*
3 – 5 lemons
3 Tbs olive oil
20 – 25 fresh mint leaves, rinsed lightly if necessary, pat dry and chopped
1 yellow onion or the equivalent in small white onions
Ripe, juicy tomatoes
1 red pepper
2 small zucchini
1 jar artichokes in oil, drained
1 small can sweet corn, drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Hard-boiled eggs, 1 per person or as desired
* using equal amounts water to couscous, bring the water to the boil with salt and either olive oil or butter, stir in the grains, cover the pot and remove from the heat. Allow to sit for 5 – 7 minutes, then fluff the grains up with a wooden spoon or fork.
Prepare the semolina grains for couscous according to the package. Place in a large mixing/serving bowl.
Roast, peel and coarsely chop the red pepper. Slice the zucchini, spread the slices on a baking sheet, brush lightly with olive oil and grill. Chop the grilled zucchini into bite-sized pieces.
Coarsely chop the tomatoes, as many as you like, reserving the juice. Chop the onions and the mint leaves.
Squeeze 3 of the lemons and add to the couscous with the 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Taste to see if it is lemony enough, adding more lemon juice until it reaches the flavor level that you like.
Add the prepared red pepper and grilled zucchini, the chopped tomatoes and the juice, the chopped onion, the corn and the artichokes, sliced smaller if you prefer, and the chopped fresh mint leaves. Lightly salt and give a generous grinding of black pepper. Stir until well combined.
I decided to add a small block of feta cheese for the tanginess and chopped it coarsely. Stir it in.
Taste and add more of anything you want: more lemon juice, more chopped mint, more tomatoes or other vegetables as you please. If I add greens, like fresh green beans, I blanch them first until crisp/tender.
Serve with the hard-boiled eggs.
FLAN AUX MIRABELLES for two
This is a wonderful recipe, so quick, easy and delicious, that is just for 2, but can easily be doubled. In the winter, I make this with prunes, first soaking the prunes in warm water for 30 minutes. In the summer, I often make this with fresh, ripe apricots, placing half an apricot (or two halves if small), cut side up, in the center of each ramekin before adding the flan batter. It would also be wonderful using any fresh berry.
1 large egg
1 oz (30 g) flour
1 Tbs + 1 tsp (20 g) sugar
7/8 cup (200 ml) low-fat milk
3 ½ oz (100 g) fruit *
Butter to grease the ramekins
Sugar or cinnamon sugar for the fruit, if desired, and for sprinkling on the flan
For Taste of Yellow, I wanted to use mirabelles, the tiny, sweet yellow plums, and decided to flash cook them with a teaspoon of cinnamon sugar, just lightly caramelizing them. I added a splash of water to the pan and stirred gently for just about a minute before removing them from the heat.
For the flan:
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter 2 or 3 ramekins (with the addition of fruit and the shallowness of my ramekins, the recipe filled 3 ramekins).
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg and the sugar until thick and creamy. Add the flour and whisk for a minute or two. It should be thick.
Heat the milk just until warm. Pour the warm milk slowly onto the egg mixture, whisking constantly.
Divide the fruit between the individual buttered ramekins (if using prunes, drain and pat the prunes fry first, removing the pits. Pour the flan batter over the fruit.
Bake the flan for 20 minutes. Carefully open the oven and pull out the rack (I placed the ramekins on a baking sheet) and sprinkle the top of each flan with sugar or cinnamon-sugar. Push back into the oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes until golden brown around the edges and set in the center.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
The flan are best eaten warm (not hot) or room temperature so they remain creamy.
Take a bigger bite ...