Wednesday, December 31, 2008


HOLIDAY GIFT TIME (all wrapped up & somewhere to go!)

Who doesn’t love to receive scrumptious, homemade gifts for the holidays? Well, maybe we are still a bit too stuffed from our festive meals, the refrigerator still a bit too overloaded with leftovers to really appreciate the goodness, the love put into gifts from the kitchen. But this is the perfect way to share old family heirloom recipes as well as to offer a bit of ourselves.

This kind of gift giving in France is quite easy for an American. Any of my reliable staples, both the everyday and the seasonal, are considered exotic foreign delicacies by the gourmet-minded French. From banana bread to chocolate chip cookies or gingerbread men, I can give the gift of the most traditional yet simplest goodies to heartfelt delight and thanks.

Saturday, December 27, 2008



Mascarpone, elegant, creamy and ethereal, just barely sweetened, a hint of Amaretto. Coffee-drenched biscuits, the whole dusted with dark, bitter cocoa powder. This is the way to this Mother’s Heart!

Mamma Mia! My son rarely leaves me speechless, I do assure you. But his TIRAMISU, fit for a King (or in this case, Queen), is so amazing, so utterly outrageously delicious, that a spoonful silences me completely, only allowing groans of joy to pass between my lips.

Thursday, December 25, 2008



Italian Week continues…. As does Hanukkah!

Italy is an extremely traditional country. Families still live on top of one another, sharing costs, babysitting duty, cases of tomatoes for the summer sauce-making ritual. Holidays, especially religious holidays, are made much of and are elaborate family affairs laden with tradition. Each city, each region pulls out all the stops, food shops and markets fill up with goodies, windows are decorated and, of course, bakeries fill their showcases with special treats found only at that time of year : Pan dei morti (Dead Man's Bread), also known as Ossi dei Morti (Dead Man’s Bones) on All Saint's Day, Cenci and Chiacchiere (or Chatterboxes, indicating the noise made while crunching them) and even Bugie ("Fibs") during Carnival, Frittelle on Saint Ambrose's Day and the list goes on and on.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008



Okay, okay, that's a bit over the top, a little too Batman circa 1968, but in all honesty it is what came to mind while I was searching for a catchy post title. I have wanted to make these delectable treats for a long time; I even bought the aluminum cannoli tube molds years ago with that in mind. And they really are something to get a little nuts about!

Cannolis are deep-fried dough cylinders filled with a sweetened ricotta cheese cream laced with grated chocolate and studded with any number of candied fruits : orange peel, angelica, or even cherries. Similar to it’s sister Cassata, cannolis are the most famous of Sicilian desserts.

INTERLUDE on the half shell

Sunday is the day we go hand-in-hand to the market, and this time of year it is festive : stalls filled with oysters and lobsters, Boudin Blanc and pomegranites piled high, smoked salmon and scallops glistening, nuts and candied fruits and Bûche de Nöel in mouth-watering arrays.

My husband surprised me by buying a dozen oysters

which he then complimented with an order of Choucroute - Hot Sour Kraut with a selection of Alsacian sausages.

Sunday, December 21, 2008



When the moon hits your eye like a pie!  It has become the Italian-American specialty, available in every city and town, from the family-owned pizza parlor to the national chains. Thick or thin, chewy or crispy, Chicago-style or New York, from vegetarian to pepperoni to curried chicken with pineapple to pears smothered in chocolate sauce, we have made pizza our own cultural experience!

Weekends at our house mean homemade pizza. After living in Italy, we are pretty much purists : tomato sauce, olives, spicy sausage or bresaola, mozzarella and grilled vegetables or rucola. Though the whole final mess is horrendous to face, flour everywhere, spots of sauce smearing the work surface, I love the pleasure of kneading dough, patting it with olive oil and watching it rise. Satisfaction indeed! Hand slicing the cheese, popping it in the oven, then serving the husband and kids in front of a good movie.

Sunday, December 14, 2008



Before we were married, my soon-to-be husband took me and my sister on a road trip, from Paris to Dieppe, to walk on on the beach and then eat Moules Frites in a traditional little sea-side bistro. Ah, those were the days of our care-free youth and simple pleasures, when I was new to this country and JP loved to introduce me to his France. He loves the sea, rambling in the surf with his dog, a “flash of happiness in an often desolate world” as he so astutely put it.

Friday, December 12, 2008



Fetish (fet -ish) n. 1. an object worshipped by primitive peoples who believe it to have magical powers or to be inhabited by a spirit. 2. anything to which foolishly excessive respect or devotion is given. 3. an object arousing erotic feeling. *

CHOCOLATE, certainly an object worshipped by many, not all of whom are primitive, and some of whom would absolutely extoll its magical powers. I have friends and known others, fools or not, who flaunt an excessive devotion to this “food of the gods”, willing to forgo most other pleasures for this sacred delicacy. And as a true fetish, many have laid claim to its reputation as an aphrodisiac, seducing a lover with a drizzle of warm chocolate sauce or a box tied up in gold ribbon....



BLANQUETTE is just a fancy name for stew; meat, traditionally veal, sometimes lamb, chicken or fish, long-simmered in water until tender, often with herbs and vegetables tossed in, and bound together with a rich roux or with cream and eggs, seasoned to taste. My Larousse Gatronomique indicates that at one time this dish was the crème de la crème of French Bourgeois cooking. It has since trickled down the social ladder to find itself a Sunday Lunch mainstay of the average French family.

Sunday lunch at my in-laws. For years we went fairly often to join them around any one of a number of traditional plats : pot au feu, poulet frites, ham and endives in bechamel and, of course, the classic veal Blanquette. These hot, hearty dishes were filling enough for the peasants before they returned to the fields, but maybe a bit too heavy for us as the most we would do for the rest of the day is loll around the livingroom in front of the tv. But all in all, they leave behind memories of cozy winter days and lazy summers, family get-togethers and special occasions.

Monday, December 8, 2008



The most elegant of desserts, nothing is more impressive or festive as that oh so divine delicacy French Profiteroles. Perfect, tiny puff shells, light as air, filled with just a scoop of creamy, cold vanilla ice cream with a decadent whirl of warm, dark chocolate sauce atop.

Friday, December 5, 2008



Nothing is simpler than coffee cake. Simple to make and simple in its very essence. It starts with a no-frills, not-too-sweet cake, like the moister version of a muffin, the perfect base for the sugary, crunchy streusel topping. Lots of brown sugar and cinnamon, of course, held together with flour and lots of rich butter. From there, let your imagination run wild. Tickle your taste buds with sharp, tangy cranberries or soothe your soul with chocolate and nuts, that homiest of comfort foods.

CONFESSIONS : You Are What You Eat !

Growing up in Satellite Beach, Florida (“Where Progress Prevails”)...... the 1960’s and 70’s, far from the glamour and culinary delicacies of a more cosmopolitan world, I was really gastronomically sheltered. We grew up in the shadow of the rockets of NASA where dining seemed to have been reinvented for the Space Age : this was the era of the packaged, the canned, the frozen and the freeze-dried; we were the Hamburger Helper, Cap’n Crunch, Ding Dong, Slim Jim and Spaghetti O’s generation. We lived at the dawn of the Meal-in-a-Kit Boom, where a good homemade meal consisted of a can of tuna and a box of noodles enhanced with a can of cream of mushroom soup and topped with crushed potato chips. Rip open the box and blend whatever mystery contents came out with hamburger. TV dinners, boxed macaroni-and-cheese, canned soup were the old stand-bys and very special treats to us kids. The 60’s was gadget cooking at its best - Shake & Bake, Great Shakes, Shake-a-Puddin’, Jiffy Pop (there was a whole lot of shakin’ goin’ on). This was the time when parents and kids alike glorified and reveled in the modernization of the kitchen culture.

Monday, December 1, 2008



Oh, and it did. I’ve taken a bit of time off to deal with some of those big, fat, sour suckers. And after getting rid of all the bad, moldy, squishy ones, maybe heaving a couple at the wall and watching them explode with a satisfying *SPLAT* just to relieve a bit of my stress, I decided that lemonade would just not do the trick! I turn those bright, sunshine-yellow babies into something sweet and tasty. Who doesn’t absolutely love that sour-sweet taste sensation that is a Lemon Tart? There are quite a number of recipes out there for good lemon pies, but I came across this one in my French cookbook Desserts published by Marabout (a translation of the original Sweet Food published in Australia) which was a birthday gift from Clem. It is oh so lemony, very creamy and so simple, without all the fuss of a meringue topping or cookie crust. And we all love it.


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