Thursday, July 22, 2010

lamb, chicken and cake

Sounds like a well balanced meal, eh?

They're actually three different meals and those three meals pretty much describe our lives: cook, then eat. With some occasional games/knitting/road trips thrown in.

 Here we have lamb steak (we split one, hence the unnatural shape of the meat) with some more experimental fries. These fries were first blanched in the salt water (I have a recipe written up if anyone is daring enough to try), then we sprayed them with cider vinegar, dried them with a hair dryer then fried them...twice. I know it sounds like a long task but what we're finding is that since the potatoes are already cooked early on, the final fries go extremely fast (think 1-2 minutes per fry) and it actually seems to be much less messy.

I don't know what this looks like but I know what it is: the ever delicious Coq au Vin (or in our case, Coq au Riesling). You really can't see the coq (literal translation = rooster, but we just used chicken), and you really really can't see the rice underneath but it was delicious. And, I have no clue how we made it. It just sort of happened.

And here is my first ever cake (cake) salé (savory, or salted). We had heard of the mythical cake salé in passing from friends who have lived here longer, but what really spurred this concoction was a New York Times article. While you can put any savory flavorings in a cake salé, ours is filled with black and green olives, compté cheese and lardons (bacon bits). It smelled heavenly and I had the hardest time keeping my hands off of it before dinner. Thankfully, it is now safely wrapped in plastic wrap while I have a lump of yummy curry sitting in my stomach taking away the urge to cut a slice. We will only know tomorrow if it is any good (and if so, I will certainly share the recipe) when we embark on another road trip, this time to Lyon and with companions.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Indestructable Camera

Margherita and Eleonora  (the girls I teach English to) have been gone now for quite a few weeks, back to their house in Italy for the summer vacation. I miss them. I miss having fun with some little girls a couple of times a week and I miss having a "job".

A month ago, however, I was singing a different tune. As is the case with any school aged kid (I experienced it from 5-17), that month before summer vacation is torture! This is even more true for students in France who are stuck in their hot and sticky classrooms until the beginning of July. I think it's  safe to say that nothing of any worth is accomplished in those last few weeks before freedom sets in. This rule applies both to school work and to English lessons alike.

That last month of English lessons were spent taking lots of trips to the Jardin Botanique

Painting lots of fingernails and toenails

And passing over my indestructible camera so they could take silly pictures of themselves and their things
This is Eleonora

And one of her many prized possessions.

And this is Margherita

 And this is her prized possession.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mangé à Notre Maison: Cold Summer Borscht

After my sister, Borscht is my favorite thing that came out of my parents' 3 week long stay in Russia. And while I love, love, LOVE the hardy, beefy version that was served to them by their host, I really only ever want to eat that when it's cold and snowy. I suppose that's why the recipe comes form Siberia.

But it's not cold and snowy at the moment, it's 90º and sunny. So here's my light (and vegetarian) summer version of their Birobidzhan Borscht.

Summer Borscht

yield: 6 bowls 

1 onion, thinly sliced
1 T vegetable oil
4 c vegetable stock
2 c water
1 3/4 lb raw beets, peeled, halved, then sliced into thin half moons
1 garlic clove, mashed with a pinch of salt
2 T tomato paste
2 t apple cider vinegar
Salt and black pepper to taste

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot over medium/low heat and add in the onions. Stir the onions occasionally until they have softened and are translucent (no browning).
  2. Add the stock, water, beets, garlic clove and tomato paste to the pot and stir to incorporate the garlic and tomato paste.
  3. Simmer the soup until the beets are tender* but not falling apart, 30-45 minutes.
  4. Add in the cider vinegar then taste and season as needed with salt and black pepper.
  5. Eat the soup warm or chilled overnight with a dollop of sour cream (or crème fraîche, if you happen to live in France), chopped chives and more fresh black pepper.

* If you would like this soup to be even more quick cooking, you could  grate the beets.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

All Around Bastille Day

First of all, I'd like to thank you all for the great responses on the past post. Despite it taking awhile to come around to the flavor and texture we really had a great time experimenting with such a strange (to us) piece of meat. We really loved reading all the comments but it occurred to me that with the comments on facebook we will never be able to read the posts and comments together in the future. So, if you have a comment of any sort to leave, just click at the bottom of the post where it says "0 comments" (or "2 comments" or whatever) to leave us your thoughts, experiences, or whatever, regarding the post. This way, when we are re-living our European experience in 20 years or 40 years (assuming we still use computers in 40 years), we can see all of your wonderful words attached to each post. Public Service Announcement: End!

Oh Wait! I have one more announcement. If you aren't one of the lucky ones connected to me on Facebook, then you haven't seen my completely updated Facebook photo album containing all of the summer's madness. You can view that by clicking HERE.

Now on to an update:

I would like to make it known that 99% of the time, despite what my profession of choice may imply, Michael and I are in the kitchen together making dinner (or the occasional dessert) in tandem. This happened to be a very rare time where I asked Michael to make the tortillas without me and somewhere along the line (thanks to a confusing recipe) we ended up having to make 4x the amount of tortillas we would normally make. Ah well, there are worse things in this world than a surplus of tortillas.

Have I mentioned to y'all that we really enjoy our westward view? (And can you tell I've spent some time recently with a Texan?)

Last Saturday we made our first mini-trip to Nancy in search of Les Soldes (the national bi-yearly sales here in France). We found some great deals and some beautiful views,

Especially in their beautiful Place Stanislas. I do have to say, however, that in the long standing argument of Metz vs. Nancy, I have to side with the beautiful winding streets of Metz. It's just more quaint.

Later that night we went out to dinner with Janice and Jeramy to a lovely Italian restaurant called La Toscane.

And after dinner (sorry for the blurriness) we walked town to a park along the Moselle river to see a truly incredible light show on a pond. The show was really wonderful, even if we were harassed a bit by smokers and bugs.

The show consisted of probably 20 or 30 different fountains lit up in all colors and set to music.

The coolest part thought was the movie; they turned on a misting fountain that a projector showed a film on. The city of Metz apparently does this every year with a new theme. This year's theme was following Graoully (the legendary dragon of Metz who was known to occasionally eat the city's inhabitants) on an art walk (they had to fit the Centre Pompidou in there somewhere). 

The show lasted a good half hour but here is a short clip that I shot with our digital camera (the quality isn't great, but it works). The first few seconds are a bit dark but it gets better and gives you a good idea of what went on.

We had been planning a small BBQ on the lake for Bastille day but our plans were thwarted when a sudden change change in weather. Within 20 minutes the temperature dropped from about about 90º to maybe 75º and a killer windstorm kicked up (it had been windy all day, but nothing like this).

Granted, the wind was bad, but this littering of branches seemed a little extreme. We found out later that the groundskeepers had just pruned the trees the previous week.

This, however, was not the doing of the groundskeepers.

Because of the sudden weather change (and because the thought of our tiny grill filled with hot coals flying over in the wind was not a pleasant one) we moved our cook-out in. Apparently our salt grinder is interesting.

And after a very enjoyable cook-in with some Aloes friends a few of us headed out to find a good view of the fireworks. Which, thanks to the wind (that had died down a good hour prior, thank you very much!) were canceled.

This is attempt #1 at making sad faces for the canceled fireworks.

attempt #2?


Kyle and Chen's attempt #1

Ok, that's better.

Some people just aren't meant to be sad.

Here's yet another beautiful view of the lake and GTL. If only I lived one floor up I think I could sell some pictures to the school and make some money. Sadly, the clouds brought none of the rain that we so desperately need. Thanks to those years in Pittsburgh, I now get depressed when we have no rain.

And to finish up this week's update I'll give you a little teaser of a recipe I hope to post for tomorrow. It's a yummy cold borscht that I made by drastically altering the hardy, cold weather version that my parents brought back with them after adopting my sister from Russia.

Friday, July 16, 2010

"Special" Tacos

Over the weekend we tried something new. I'm talking really new, as in: I never even though of trying this before moving to France, unlike foie gras, escargot, and the like. No, it wasn't until moving here that we realized that cow tongue (yes, you read that right) is a viable dinner option.

So, in the spirit of not totally grossing out and running loyal readers out my blogging world, I am just going to forewarn you that if you are the least bit squeamish and think that looking at pictures of cooked, peeled and cut-up beef tongue might scare you away from future posts, do not continue reading after the jump.

*Edit: I realize now that I wasn't very clear in the title but "Special" tacos is what my mother wrote in a wall post on Facebook probably because she was too grossed out to write what they actually were.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Minty Lemonade

Walking around the grocery store the other day I noticed some Minute Maid lemonade with a hint of mint and though to myself, "Well, isn't that a good idea?". "Lemonade" as we Americains know it does not really exist here in France. What does exist is delicious, don't get me wrong; Loriana is the major producer (which can be bought in US supermarkets) of what is essentially sparkly water with a hint of lemon, which I love at times but doesn't hit the spot and cool you off quite like the intense lemony jolt of lemonade back home (Newman's Own, anyone? Yum!). Anyway, here is the rundown, without pictures (you try taking a pretty drink picture without ice!), on how to make this refreshing summer drink with a twist!

Minty Lemonade

1 part lemon juice 
1 part mint simple syrup (instructions below)
2 parts water

Mix together and chill. 

Mint Simple Syrup

1 part sugar
1 part water
1 handful of mint leaves

Mix everything together in either a sauce pan or a microwave safe measuring cup, making sure to "muddle" the mint in with the sugar a bit just to break it up. Bring to a boil and mix together to dissolve all the sugar. Strain out the mint leaves before using in the lemonade.

If you want some hard numbers to go by, here's an example for a recycled 2L jug:

2 cups lemon juice
2 cups simple syrup (1 1/3 c sugar and 1 1/3 c water and the mint)
4 cups water

And at the suggestion of a friend, we've using this [yummy on it's own] lemonade as a mixer with gin. Talk about beating the 96º heat!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

July! Already?

What July means to me:
  1. We have lived in France for almost 1 year.
  2. We only have 5 months left in France to do everything we want to do!
  3. We only have 5 months until we get to see (or at least be in the same country as) all (with the exception of those staying in France) of you!
  4. We need to start looking for jobs (eek!). 
And now, on to the update:

Last Saturday we...

 ...made a nectarine pie...

...loaded up our minute grill...

...and had a picnic on the lake...

...with Leah and Kyle (and Sarah, but she came after the picture-taking).
It was great fun!

Then on Sunday we:

 Whipped up some of my dad's super-secret-special-chicken-wing-sauce,

Slapped it on some wings,

And had a ourselves a feast (don't worry, that's only half the fries) complete with the most amazing french fries ever. They were blanched in a saltwater brine before frying meaning the salty goodness went throughout these impossibly crispy fries. 

Oh, and we played frisbee on the lake then used the frisbee to forage for cherries.

On Wednesday Leah and I went over to visit Janice and the girls.

We sat on the couch and made Kimber smile an evil smile.

I let Kimber take a picture all by herself (I love having an indestructible camera!).

Leah made faces at Katelyn (or Katelyn made faces at Leah, I'm not sure which).

Kimber "ate" dinnner (Janice, maybe you should buy a dog?).

And Katelyn made some sweet faces at me.

On Thursday we drove to Luxembourg...

...where they spell some product names differently?

And where I can buy cream cheese for these yummy sourdough babies.

On Friday we had a baby/momma/friend get together in the blessed air conditioning at GTL (it was 94ºF)

Vicki and Lorraine are on the left, Janice and Katelyn are in the middle and Rajasree and Shraddha are on the right. All three babies were born within 2 weeks of each other.

We had a great time eating chocolate chip cookies and some amazing samosas (thanks to Rajasree's mom)

And we played "pass the baby" with Shraddha and

And Katelyn (that's Satya, Shraddha's dad and Rajasree's husband)

While Lorriane blissfully slept through it all, until she got hungry, that is. 

And later that day the bean plant came down. It needed more sun :-(

On Saturday (another 94º day)

We enjoyed lots of gazpacho (more cold veggie soup, I know, I'm obsessed) and cold beer.

And our first and last French 4th of July started off with a hometown favorite

The tomato, sprout and gouda (it should be  meunster, I know) bagel melt.

And later that day we went to Janice and Jeramy's house for a dueling grills BBQ

And while the boys grilled in the heat and the smoke...

...and boy there was smoke!...

...we stayed inside with the babies in their newly installed air conditioning!

 Then we ate an American feast

And played some intense board games.

It was, as always, a great night with great friends. Thanks so much for hosting us Dickersons!

And finally, yesterday

We ate cheeseburger flavored chips that, seriously tasted like cheeseburgers!

And we experimented with a new spaghetti and meatball recipe which was so good I believe it will now be our go-to recipe.