Thursday, October 15, 2015

On the Move Again

We’re on the move again. I only wish it was on this road to Provence with its beautiful old plane trees that welcome you into Saint-Remy-de-Provence. Don’t I wish, but actually by the time you read this we’ll be on is an interstate that runs through Georgia, taking us to our “what-was” winter home in southwest Florida. That winter home will now become our year-around dwelling. A few weeks ago our house here in the mountains sold and we’re off on a new adventure. This is the first time in almost 30 years that we’ll not own 2 houses.

But there comes a time in your life when you realize it’s time to get off of that merry-go-around full of adventures of owning second homes and simplify and get down to one. It’s not easy to admit you might be getting too old switch homes twice a year, open and close houses for the season, keep up maintenance and bare the expenses and headaches (yes there are headaches along the way) of two houses. But we have come to that stage in our lives.

So we’re off the southwest Florida for good, or at least we’re telling ourselves that. Who knows what life will bring. Meakin is still yearning to buy a petite place in Provence. What - is he crazy? Probably. We’ve both always been a bit crazy and impulsive. This one is in Saint-Remy-de-Provence and would be perfect don't you think?

You would think we would be used to moving. After all, we’ve owned 16 houses (and lived in even more) while we climbed up career ladders. We’ve moved around a lot in our 46 years of marriage. If you count the houses we never lived in but bought with the idea of remodeling and selling, there would be even more. We were flipping houses during the 70’s in the West University and Rice area near downtown Houston before the word “flipping” was invented. But I assure you that no move is easy, no matter whether you’re accustomed to it or not. Now we have the challenge of merging 2 houses and all of their furnishing into one and trust me, that’s not an easy thing to do. We have forty-six years worth of collections and antiques to sort out and decide “does it go or does it stay?”

And worst of all, we’ll be leaving behind family in the mountains. That makes it really, really hard. But they know our ways, they know we’ll return. However, the next time it will be in a vacation rental for a month or so and not buy something again, although the temptation is always there. I can just hear one of us saying, “This house could be so nice (or cute of whatever word we use to convince the other one) if we did this or that to it.” Perhaps when we return to the mountains next year we’ll stay in this adorable cabin near Mirror Lake in Highlands, NC. It looks perfect to me. Maybe it’s for sale……just kidding.

Or maybe next fall we’ll stay in the Trail's Inn cabin, high in the tree tops in Highlands. Who knows where we’ll land.

For now we’ll be trying our best to stay away from those impulses as we jump head first into remodeling our seriously out-of-date Florida kitchen. We’re currently on a kick of converting unattractive laundry rooms into butler’s pantries with more storage as we did in the condo we sold a couple of years ago. That project will also happen at the same time as the kitchen project. But that remodeling will take place most likely next summer.

I’ll think of you when I’m knee deep unpacking the zillions of boxes, re-arranging furniture (poor Meakin), moving pictures about to find just-the-right spot and all of the other decorating joys and frustrations of a new place. The nice part about this house is that it’s in a well established neighborhood with mature trees and close to everything. After living in the mountains with only a Walmart, which is definitely better than nothing that’s for sure, I’m looking forward to “real stores.” Two of my old stomping grounds, Saks Fifth Avenue and Macys, are practically around the corner. I’m not much of a shopper, but I do like nice things. Plus Fresh Market and a wonderful little French bakery owned by a real Frenchman from Lyon are close by and Naples (SW Florida’s version of the wealthy enclave of Palm Beach, only smaller) and its fine dining and shopping, isn’t that far away, so I know we’ll be happy there.

Coincidentally My Carolina Kitchen’s 7th anniversary is this month. Seven years is a long time to blog on a continuous basis, but I’ve enjoyed every minute. I am also so pleased that Meakin and I have gotten the chance to meet quite a few of you and I look forward to the opportunity to meet even more of you.

I know the timing is a bit off, but with all the packing and unpacking that I will be doing, I must take a short break. When I return, we’ll take up where we left off and celebrate the start of My Carolina Kitchen’s 8th year.

See you soon.
Sam & Meakin 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

My Paris Market Cookbook – a book review

My Paris Market Cookbook: A Culinary Tour of French Flavors and Seasonal Recipes, written by fellow blogger Emily Dilling, is a delightful armchair trip to Paris and Emily’s favorite markets. Emily is originally from California, but has called Paris home for the last ten years. She is passionate about food and the people who grow and make it. She runs Paris Paysanne, a blog dedicated to discovering Paris markets and terroir.

The book centers around the various Parisian markets and Emily is an expert there. She knows where the best food markets are, including their addresses. She introduces you to her favorite vendors, local farmers and independent producers in the various arrondissements of Paris. There are also great tips on which vendors have the “best” of what the season has to offer (hint, there’re the ones with the longest lines). I know for a fact from shopping in Provence recently that it is important to get to know the various vendors in the markets. Building a repore with them assures that you’ll get the best of the season. Personally I can’t imagine finding any of these markets on my own, especially in a city the size of Paris.

With Emily’s help you’ll discover other shops you might otherwise miss. She knows where to find a great selection of made-in-France cotton tea towels (you surely don’t want to bring back anything made in China) and pretty French linen napkins and place mats that make great gifts for your friends or for yourself for that matter that are typically found in every kitchen in France.

There’s a new movement in Paris underway to provide Parisians with locally roasted ethically sourced coffee that is available in various coffee shops around the city, some even offering classes on how to make a truly great cup of coffee. One such cafe is Coutume Café in the 7th arrondisssement. I for one would never be able to find it without Emily’s guide.

Whenever we travel to Provence, I always take along a local guide book and it’s not always Rick Steves or Lonely Planet. I can find the Old Port in Marseille or The Palace of the Popes in Avignon on my own. Rather, I take a copy of Patricia Wells’ Provence Cookbook with me. I know that Patricia Wells has the knowledge that only a local possess to guide me to her favorite shops, restaurants, and markets to insure that I find the best that Provence has to offer.

Now I know who to turn to in Paris - Emily Dillings. When I stroll the streets in the City of Lights in search of best-of-the-best local markets and shops, I will have a copy of My Paris Market Cookbook tucked inside my Longchamps tote bag.

The recipes in the book are divided by seasons, which makes perfect sense because in France you’ll only find the foods that are in season sold in the markets. French markets would no more have Cavaillon melons for sale in the winter than they would have butternut squash in the summer. Emily’s recipes are the kind of simple and delightfully delicious seasonal favorites that appeal to me most about French food.

I’ve included three of my favorites, excerpted with permission from My Paris Market Cookbook: A Culinary Tour of French Flavors and Seasonal Recipes by Emily Dilling and photos by Nicholas Ball. Copyright 2015, Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.

We made this dish last week and served it for dinner with a juicy porterhouse steak and tart tossed green salad. Highly recommended.

From My Paris Market Cookbook: A Culinary Tour of French Flavors and Seasonal Recipes by Emily Dilling – serves 4
Courtesy of Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.

The French rarely go overboard with their garlic, but these mushrooms are the exception. This simple side dish is easy to make and flavorful, with a healthy dose of garlic and parsley. Be sure to let your mushrooms cook slowly on low heat, releasing their juices and bringing out their full flavor.

2 pounds (1 kilo) mushrooms (chanterelles, shiitake, or even button mushrooms will work)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper

Under a thin stream of cold water, lightly wash mushrooms and remove their feet. Use a clean dish towel to dry the mushrooms, then cut them into uniform slices, about ¼ inch thick. Heat the olive oil on medium heat and sauté the onion and shallot until transparent, about 3–5 minutes. In the meantime, stir together garlic and parsley in a small bowl. Add mushrooms to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until they have given their juice and then the juice has been cooked off, 3–5 minutes. Add parsley and garlic and cook another 2–3 minutes, before the parsley begins to wilt. Remove from heat, season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.

These baked eggs make a simple entrée for lunch or dinner as well as a delightful egg addition to brunch. Chopped chives add a dash of color to this almost effortless French classic, which is easy to serve in individual ramekins. Emily says this has become a breakfast staple her home, where she uses fresh eggs from the Marché Biologique des Batignolles, page 119, to whip up a breakfast dish that is sure to please and start the day off right.

From My Paris Market Cookbook: A Culinary Tour of French Flavors and Seasonal Recipes by Emily Dilling – serves 4
Courtesy of Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.

For each 3-inch (7½ cm) ramekin:
Butter to coat the inside of the ramekin
1 tablespoon crème fraîche
1 large egg
Generous pinch of grated Gruyère
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped fresh chives to garnish

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Butter the inside of each ramekin. Add crème fraîche, then crack one egg into each ramekin, without breaking the yolk. Top with grated Gruyère and a dash of salt and pepper. Place on middle rack in oven (if making several, place on a baking sheet). Bake for 6–8 minutes, until cheese is melted and eggs are set but not cooked through. The yolk should look glassy and remain still when ramekin is lightly shaken. Sprinkle with chopped chives and serve in ramekin with toasted baguette.

I am very anxious to try Emily’s recipe for socca as soon as I can get my hands on a bag of chickpea flour. We were first introduced to socca a number of years ago when we were visiting friends who had a home just north of the French Riviera area. The second day we were there they took us to the big market in nearby Antibes. We had barely had a chance to look around the stalls when our friend Tony excused himself and returned from a street vendor with a couple of what looked like a wafer thin pancake wrapped in white paper. He thrust them in our hands and said, “Try these. They’re a regional specialty.” It was a bit soft and crunchy at the same time. Ever since that day, I’ve been crazy about socca.  

In Paris, socca can be hard to find; that’s why Emily says there’s always a line at Alain’s stand at Marché des Enfants Rouges, page 10, where the friendly vendor prepares hot-off-the-griddle socca for eager eaters. It is often eaten tapas-style, with deep-fried zucchini flowers and fish. Serve your socca fresh out of the oven, broken into jagged sections that guests can eat with their hands. Fresh ground black pepper is key to this recipe; socca should never be served without being given a few turns of the pepper mill first.

From My Paris Market Cookbook: A Culinary Tour of French Flavors and Seasonal Recipes by Emily Dilling – makes 2 to 3 batches 
Courtesy of Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.

1 cup (150 grams) chickpea flour
1 cup (240 mL) water
2 large pinches of fine sea salt
2½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper
Coarse sea salt (optional)

Whisk together chickpea flour, water, salt, and olive oil in a large bowl. Cover bowl with a dish towel and let sit for at least one hour. Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Once oven is preheated, lightly brush a baking sheet with olive oil. Pour batter into the baking sheet, creating a thin, even layer. Bake for 10–15 minutes or until golden and crispy around the edges. Remove from baking sheet by scraping and breaking socca into jagged pieces with a spatula. Repeat until all the remaining batter is used, combining scraped socca onto one large plate. Top with fresh ground black pepper and coarse sea salt, if using. Serve immediately.

For better viewing, click photos to enlarge.

Disclosure: I was given a copy of My Paris Market Cookbook to review. The opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone. The recipes are excerpted with permission from My Paris Market Cookbook: A Culinary Tour of French Flavors and Seasonal Recipes by Emily Dilling and photos are by Nicholas Ball. Copyright 2015, Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. Thank you Skyhorse Publishing for the opportunity to read and enjoy this great cookbook. You were a pleasure to work with.  

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm and Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday.
Have a great weekend everyone.