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Monday, February 20, 2017

Meet the Team of Taste: Cook with Erick!

Chef Erick Snover working with kid-chefs at C'est si Bon! Cooking School

Curious? Visit our page for Taste the Adventure for Teens in North Carolina, Gascony and Barcelona! And Taste the Adventure for Families in Gascony. 

Here's a little behind the scenes story of the Taste the Adventure Team.

It’s spring and sweet sights abound. The red chickens, that my son, Erick helped bring back to C'est si Bon! last summer, run out of their coop and scratch beneath the sweet pink blooming Daphne Odora, eager for bugs and new green sprouts.

Erick Snover, Taste Promoter

And so are we, eager, to shout about changes, new sprouts, and delicious dishes, and of course that means fermented natto. 

Ok.  But natto? Must we?  

My son, Erick, is a professional chef, 2nd generation kitchen critter (a phrase he coined) with specialties like Kaiseki and high-end Japanese cuisine. 

Before service he breaks-down a hamachi (Japanese amberjack fish) in a time-lapse blur of scales and sharp thin blades, sliding his knife between glistening skin and bones, perfectly portioning the fish, while simultaneously twirling miragai, making mignonette out of shiso, and curing a little tofu, on the side. 

During the evening service, his knife dances and sings to the hungry sushi bar devotees delivering beautiful moments. 

In between orders Erick speaks another language, leading his crew. His watch words are wakame and arame. And natto. 

His hands speak too, hands that he always reminds me that God gave him to use, and create delicious tastes like bacon dashi miso soup, black cod with sikyo miso and charred green onion puree, rock shrimp and egg noodles in tomato and lemongrass broth.

I admire and love watching him artfully craft sushi, and teach his staff. I hope still, that maybe one day if I watch enough, my fingers won't stick to the rice, and fumble a hand-roll into a, well, a natto so beautiful thing. Erick makes it look easy, which is part of the art, and skilled technique.

Sato sushi timelapse test from Christian Schneider on Vimeo.

But back to natto

Now at first glance, natto, fermented soy beans, looks rather unappetizing. 

See Natto. Love Natto. Eat Natto.  

Erick showed me how amazing natto tastes.  And now I seek out natto. 

Erick teaches me Japanese knife techniques. He’s so fast that I always ask, please, one more time? He shares books about the sea, and fishing, and it thrills me, and scares me to hear his fish stories. 

One of our favorite haunts, Asian Grocery Stores like H-Mart, where once I led him and his brother Jaryd, to skip down the aisles, and delight at hysterical packaging, wild flavors and messages, steal looks into the backroom where families rolled dumplings together, and offered hot lunches to their staff, it was a truly magic Natto-land. Now I walk through Li-Ming Asian Mart and text Erick photos, and ask, do you know this fermented rice? 

At the CIA, I always loved the old world techniques – sauce-making among them, and weekend trips into NYC to Chinatown. In Colorado I was a private chef for the silly rich, and in NC I spoke on NPR about coffee and turkey, and got our first flock of chickens. Learned about growing rhubarb, before school we picked sugar snap peas from the new garden by the mailbox. I changed my whisks frequently from Mom to private chef to food stylist to cooking school teacher and back to Mom again.

As far back as I could remember Erick had been attracted to the kitchen. And a fast and eager learner. 

At five months old his eyes opened in surprise, his mouth full of rice in NYC Chinatown.

At two he ran into Mekong’s kitchen in Colorado Springs, where the owner, Dang, lifted him up to safely watch Vietnamese shrimp and pork eggrolls, cha gio, get lowered into bubbling oil.

At five he politely (!!) told me there were way too many onions in the clam chowder I had made. :) 

On his tenth birthday he ate civet de canard at Marie-Claude Gracia’s auberge, La Belle Gasconne in Gascony, where now we hold Taste the Adventure for Teens and Families.

At twelve he slurped ramen noodles and grilled moonfish while watching tuna being auctioned off at the Suisan fish market in Hilo, Hawaii.

At fifteen he was a curly haired teenager bringing home bags of carrots and potatoes to practice knife skills, Julie and Julia style, after his shift in the banquet kitchen at the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill.

Then just as quickly as Hurricane Fran blew through Chapel Hill, and birthed C’est si Bon Cooking School, so Erick grew up and out of our kitchen, and plunged headlong into the restaurant kitchen world and became an Executive Sushi Chef in Vail, Colorado. He has his own tale, and many tales, to tell about being a kitchen critter. 

In the 15 years since he stepped into the professional kitchen, we’ve returned many times as a family to the “home” kitchen, which isn’t always in our NC home. Whether crafting Thanksgiving, or simply reunion type extravaganzas in France or Colorado, cooking is our family’s medium to communicate. Sharing our worlds. Making delicious food joins our worlds, making them a little bigger, and closer. And a lot tastier.

He had returned from Japan and was considering a change. I just stood still and listened. The tables had turned over completely. He had traveled in many ways and paths, and was teaching me things. He had become a teacher. Even now this knowledge fills me with admiration. And a terrifying thrill. 

Erick asked me what I thought about expanding Taste the Adventure Programs for Teens and Families. And working together. Teaching together.

This spring we’ve taken Taste to Boston, Manhattan, Scarsdale, Pasadena, LA, Atlanta, Boca, Washington DC and Maryland and Philadelphia. and next week to San Francisco, where I hope to cook with Erick, and Jaryd, my youngest son, who loves chocolate and mochi and nacatamales. 

But that's another story. 

My son, Erick, is a professional chef, 2nd generation kitchen critter (a phrase he coined) with specialties like Kaiseki and high-end Japanese cuisine. 

And a teacher. 

Out of the window the light brown and dusty red cardinals gather twigs and build their nests in the azalea bushes. Soon, they’ll lay eggs and new little red birds will fly out into the world again.

Please Join us for Taste the Adventure for Teens in North Carolina, Gascony and Barcelona! And Taste the Adventure for Families in Gascony. 

From our Family to Yours. Enjoy making Goi Cuon, Summer Rolls

These are so wonderful in the heat of the summer. They require no further cooking beyond cooking the shrimp and the noodles, which can be done ahead of time if you prefer. The flavors are so light, with the flavors of fresh herbs and seasonal vegetables. Some of our most memorable rolls came from the ad lib combination of mangoes and a sweet palette of peppers with cucumbers.  The peanut sauce is our favorite. Serve with iced jasmine tea and a pale green honeydew melon accented with orange flower water, nuoc hoa, and lime juice.

It’s O.K. to prepare these a couple hours in advance, cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and kept at room temperature until needed.

Makes 16 rolls or 8 servings

For the rolls:
1 pack of large round rice paper
1/2 pound rice vermicelli
16 large shrimp, deveined, cooked and peeled, and sliced in half lengthwise
1 head green or red leaf lettuce
1 cucumber, peeled into ribbons
2 carrots, peeled into ribbons
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
one bunch each fresh mint, basil, and cilantro

For the peanut sauce:
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 teaspoon garlic chili paste
2 tablespoons apricot preserves
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 cup hoisin sauce

Combine all the peanut sauce ingredients in a small bowl using a whisk. Serve in individual bowls garnished with chopped peanuts and sliced chiles if desired.

In a medium size saucepot cook the vermicelli according to package directions.  Drain and set aside on a plate to cool before rolling the spring rolls. 

Assemble all the ingredients above when ready to wrap the rolls. 

Have a wide bowl of warm water available to moisten the rice papers. 

Work with only 2 sheets of rice paper at a time, keeping the remaining sheets covered with a damp cloth to prevent curling.  Immerse each sheet individually into the warm water. Quickly remove and spread out on a clean counter top.  The rice paper will become pliable within seconds. 

Lay one piece of lettuce over the bottom third of the rice paper.  On the lettuce, place approximately 1 tablespoon of the cooked noodles, 1 shrimp sliced in half, 1 tablespoon each of the shredded carrot and cucumber, plus a few bean sprouts, several mint leaves and fresh basil.  

Roll up the paper halfway into a cylinder. Fold both sides of the paper over the filling. Keep rolling the paper into a cylinder to seal.  Place the rolls on a plate covered with a damp towel so they will stay moist until you fill the remaining wrappers. 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Teen-Chef Alumni of C'est si Bon! Series: Meet Maya!

What a joy to work with Teen-Chefs, and follow their journeys; let's find out where are they now?

Read the first  post of the series, where we launched the Teen Tours in Provence back in 2004 and the second post where we meet Nora.  - she does work in leather-crafting and enjoys Viking Historical Re-enactments.

Thirdly we met Elijah, now a data analyst in Madison Wisconsin.

We'd love for you to join us! We have some last minute travel opportunities for teens this summer, in C'est si Bon!'s newest Culinary Travel Program for Teens: Taste the Adventure. 

And now let me introduce you to Maya, who from the get go was a bubbly ray of sunshine, delighted in the details and complexities of the culinary arts and has been quite the busy lady in the years since she joined C'est si Bon! in Paris, Provence, (a research respite to) a farm and chateau in  the Loire, and Tuscany.

"Hi Dorette! I think back to those summers a lot and how special and exciting they were."

Maya, it was such an honor to share the buttery layers of croissants, lavender ice cream, wild boar of Tuscany, honking geese of the Loire, crusty loaves of Pain Poilane, with you!

Maya, now! in San Fran!

Maya and her boyfriend, Andrew, who loves her Sunday suppers! 

Maya, then, in Paris. 

Maya and Emily at the Ritz Escoffier Ecole de la Cuisine in Paris, 2007

more scenes from Ritz Escoffier Ecole de la Cuisine in Paris

Emily working on the haricot! (The beans!) 

Maya enjoying our "lessons" in Paris 

Daryl, Maya, and Dorette at Chateau du Pin in the Loire 

Favorite dish, that's a hard one! But quite possibly the Lavender Ice Cream we made in Provence.

Weekdays I go for easy chicken or fish recipes, so I've committed every Sunday to a special dinner. My boyfriend is pleased with this decision haha.

I love love swordfish. My 'go to' (more of a summer thing) is seared (I only have a cast iron) or grilled swordfish with EVOO Salt and Pepper, a 'fun' salsa, and black rice (which i have come to really like). I don't have an exact recipe but roughly:

Maya's Fun Salsa

1 avocado diced
1/2 red onion chopped
2 mangos (not overly ripe) diced
1 bunch scallions
2 T cilantro
s/p to taste
2 ears grilled corn (if in season)
a splash of evoo

May I contribute a more serious swordfish recipe? I have only made it once but really loved it. My dad sent it to me, I think its Mario Batali.

Maya, Merci beaucoup for spending time catching us up on what's cooking with you!

Swordfish Involtini alla Siciliana from Mario Batali

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for garnish
1/2 cup whole Gaeta olives
1/4 cup salt-packed capers, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon hot red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1/4 cup currants
1 1/2 cups basic tomato sauce, recipe follows
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 to 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 oranges, zested
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped, plus extra for garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 pound piece of swordfish, cut into 4 (1/3-inch-thick) slices by your fishmonger

String or toothpicks

Fresh oregano leaves, torn
Fennel fronds, for garnish

Basic tomato sauce:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Spanish onion, 1/4-inch dice
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tablespoon dried
1/2 medium carrot, finely grated
2 (28-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand and juices reserved

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a 12-inch ovenproof skillet, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the olives, capers, red pepper flakes, pine nuts and currants. Stir in the tomatoes and wine. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, orange zest, parsley, the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and salt and pepper, and mix well.
Season each piece of fish with salt and pepper and place flat on a work surface. Spread the breadcrumb mixture evenly across each of the fish pieces and carefully roll each like a jelly roll, securing each roll with string or with toothpicks. Place the rolls in the skillet with the sauce. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until cooked through, about 10 to 12 minutes.
Place 1 roll on each of 4 warmed dinner plates, spoon some of the sauce over each, and garnish with chopped parsley, torn oregano, fennel fronds and olive oil.

Basic tomato sauce:
In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot and cook 5 minutes more, until the carrot is quite soft. Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until as thick as hot cereal. Season with salt and serve. This sauce holds 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 6.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Drink With Me: Drinking in Danger with Kykeon

(Welcome to Drinking in Danger, Part Two of our Fermented Beverage Series, go here to read Part One, Mead All About It. I'll be writing a follow-up to that as we check on our bees and their survival during Winter Storm 2017.) 

Where is your favorite watering hole for innovative cocktails? 

Artisanal cocktails?

And what about house-distilled spirits?

Do you like a bit of  ......  danger shaken and stirred in? 

Such cocktails (without any danger) are a raging big business, witness Dandelyan Wyld Tea in London, with Elderflower Compressed Cucumber, Burnt Herb Cream, Rocket Sandwiches. 

And then there's Green Russell in Denver with their Johnny Two Fingers cocktail which mixes Russell’s 10 year bourbon, aperol, leopold bros blackberry, mint, lemon, and salted green tea.

Surely there is a similar bar near you. Where do you like to go? 

Such botanical cocktails are a delicious and actually an ancient notion, that combines, or can convince herbs, twigs, and sticks into fermenting and bubbling, to bring about an atmosphere of conviviality. 

Enter Kykeon, our ancient cocktail, which in Greek means to stir or to mix. 

Kykeon was connected to ancient rites of Persephone and Demeter at Eleusis. This held a certain je nais se quois of danger, intrigue, and elusive preparations. The preparations of Kykeon was shrouded in secrecy and participants were sworn under penalty of death to not reveal the result of participating in such symposiums where the purpose was beyond the mere imbibing of alcohol. 

What happens at Eleusis stays at Eleusis. 

(Please don't twist my mint leaves. I am not saying London or Denver's well known establishments are producing dangerous cocktails.)  

Kykeon, could be called a cocktail of wine, honey, onion, grated goat cheese, and mainly fermented barley water. This concoction is described by Homer in the Iliad. Kykeon is an elixir cloaked in mystery, the Eleusinan Mysteries, to be specific. I mentioned this to my friend and one-time neighbor, Colbey Emmerson Reid, the CIC Director at Poole College at NC State, partner in cocktail-ing, and co-writer of a book about cocktails and religion, called Fallen Angel. She and I got together to bring Kykeon out of the mists of time, and into the kitchen at C'est si Bon! 

(Click on the link in the caption to read more about Dr. Reid's work.) 


Colbey Emmerson Reid, Creating a Kykeon Cocktail. 

Kykeon Cocktail with Mint and Tarragon

Muddling About with Herbs

Colbey and her co-author, Shannon McRae, are working on a book called Fallen Angel: The Consumption of Religion in American Cocktail Culture. An article of that same name was published in Material Religions: The Journal of Art, Objects, and Belief.  

Here is a link to a PDF and HTML copy of the article.

However, please be warned, we did not use grated goat cheese in any of our Kykeon cocktails. Yet.  

The recipes take a few steps and days to create, so before you cocktail, sprout the grain and then ferment the resulting sprouted grain into your fizzy elixir called rejuvelac. 

Sprouting the grain.
In a 1 quart jar place 1/2 cup of grain and cover with water. Soak for 12 hours and rinse and drain, turning the jar on its side. Keep up this rinsing and draining and turning  for about 3 days or until you see the white sprout emerge. When the sprout is the same size as the grain itself, its ready to make into the fermented grain water.  

Make the fermented grain water called Rejuvelac. 
Place a handful of the sprouted grain in another clean quart jar, and fill with water. Cover with either another screened sprouting lid or a rubber-banded piece of cheesecloth, and let sit at room temperature. The fermentation will benefit from the wild yeasts in your kitchen, which will be there in abundance if you are a bread baker! In winter it can take some time to ferment, but in warmer days it can happen in as little as 6-8 hours. I myself have never had any problems with sprouting and food-borne illness, but do take precautions - this is not the kind of danger you should be feeling when creating this cocktail!

(Use the rest of the sprouted grain in another recipe. As a note, the sprouted grain can be used in the Whole 30 diet because it is considered a vegetable not a grain!)

Kykeon Cocktails

Fermented Red Fife Water with Mint and Tarragon
For this recipe you can use whole wheat berries, hulled barley, or hull-less barley, all of which are whole grains still containing the germ. I sprouted a special variety of wheat called red fife for this ancient version of the drink. Grown in upstate New York, it was as authentic as I could then find. But I do believe I have seen locally grown wheat and milled flour at the Carrboro Farmer's Market. 

makes about 1 quart of fermented wheat, red fife variety, water

1 cup red fife wheat, sprouted
8 cups water
1 cup fresh yellow flowering tarragon
1 bunch fresh mint
Japanese buckwheat honey, to taste

Strain the water from the grain into a large bowl. Reserve the sprouted wheat for another use. 

Put the tarragon and mint in the mortar and pestle. Bruise the mint and tarragon leaves by mashing them with wooden spoon or a cocktail muddler. This will bring out the flavorful herb oils. Put the bruised leaves in the wheat water, pushing them under as best you can and allow it to steep for about five minutes. Taste and if you want it the herb flavor to be stronger, let the leaves steep longer.

Strain the wheat water into a pitcher, and add Japanese buckwheat honey to taste, stirring until it dissolves completely. then chill in the refrigerator for several hours until completely cold. 

Serve over ice, with a yellow tarragon flower to garnish.

Red Fife Wheat in a jar with water

Red Fife Wheat in a jar with water

Red Fife Wheat, Hard Red Spring Berries from 
Champlain Valley Milling in Westport, NY

Kykeon with Orange and Bay Leaves
makes about 1 quart

We changed the original recipe from christopher hirsheimer and melissa hamilton, because they cook the barley – but for kykeon you cannot make the cocktail without fermented barley water from the sprouted barley. Ain't no bones about it, it’s the very reason that Kykeon exists! 

Be sure that your lavender, fennel, oranges and lemons are all organic.The raw sugar gives a different flavor than the honey in the previous cocktail. Save the sprouted wheat for another use, salads or breads.

1 cup red fife wheat, sprouted and covered with 8 cups water
6 oranges
2 lemons
1 tablespoon raw sugar
1 sprig flowering lavender
2 fronds of fresh fennel
3 bay leaves

Use a vegetable peeler to thinly peel just the colored part of the rind from three of the oranges and one of the lemons. Please, no white pith, it's is bitter. If you find some strips of rind with pith, scrape it off with a knife. Next, juice all of the fruit.

Muddle the lavender and fennel and bay leaves.

Strain the fermented wheat water into a pitcher. Add the citrus rinds and the fruit juice, and the muddled herbs to the pitcher and stir. taste the barley water to see if it needs any sugar. depending on how sweet your oranges are, it may not.

Add raw sugar to taste and stir with a long spoon until it is completely dissolved. chill the pitcher in the refrigerator for several hours until it is completely cold. serve over ice accompanied by a slice of orange.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Cooking Life: Mead All About It

Welcome to Mead All About It, Part One of our Fermented Beverage Series. Go here to read Part Two, Drinking in Danger. 

My husband, Rich, the beekeeper of C'est si Bon! came back yesterday from checking on his hives. "They'll have enough honey to get through the winter."

(Look for an update on their survival of Winter Storm 2017.)

Rich's Bee Suit

That's awesome news! See below for two recipes great to pair with your mead tasting. 

Though its hard to think we won't get to taste the good stuff, by extracting their honey, its far more important to keep the bees well fed with the honey they worked hard to make. It's a complicated issue but basically its about bee preservation.

Connected to the bees is certainly one the oldest fermented beverages known, and one of the most delicious, better known as Mead.

Our "mead to know" level has recently increased. We began years ago with a mead class given by Starrlight Mead, which we visited recently again in preparation for a Taste the Adventure in North Carolina week next summer. 

We've journeyed with our oldest son, Erick, deep into the Colorado Rockies near Pallisades and had our mouths tickled by the fermented mountain honey at Meadery of the Rockies.  

Then, last week as part of Thanksgiving in Asheville, we got to taste mead made with, yes, Avocado Honey. Many more meads are currently in the R & D phase with Wehrloom Honey out of of Robbinsville, NC.

Here's a few other drizzles of info.

Did you know that a mazer is a mead-maker?
Mead was first made by Egyptians and was mentioned in Beowolf.  

But you want to be a mazer, and make your own Mead? Where can you find honey? There are different kinds of mead, but all are made with honey, water and yeast. 

Wildflower honey is used quite often. But might you also consider Butterbean Honey? Bamboo Honey or Radish Honey?Nope, neither had I. But the folks at Beefolks have. And you can order bulk honey from them. 
Just want to nab a few bottles?

Sam's Quik Stop - lots of mead!

Want to also taste?

Starrlight Mead in Pittsboro. Want to make mead? 

Supplies available at the Fifth Season in Carrboro

You'll mead a tutorial on yeast. 
What? All yeast isn't the same? Mead-makers use a wine-makers yeast. Also you'll need to learn about residual sugar and what kind of mead you want to make. Good mead is not really, sweet. Really. 

Class with Starrlight Mead at Eno River

Tasting Tutorial with Starrlight Mead

How to Actually Make Mead. Oh boy. Carboy. 

Two recipes to accompany your flight of mead! 

Barcelona Brittle with Smoked Paprika and Black Pepper Chocolate!

Salade Frisee Lardon with Crispy Duck Confit and Sesame Dressing!

Come back for Part Two of Our Fermented Beverage Series

Friday, April 22, 2016

Teen-Chef Alumni of C'est si Bon! Series: Elijah

A huge gift of working with Teen-Chefs is keeping in touch with them, and answering the question where are they now?

Read the first  post of the series, a bit of the background of how we began with Teen Tours in Provence. Then, please read about Nora and Maya. If intrigued I invite you to join us and Taste the Adventure.

Elijah came to C'est si Bon! from Madison, Wisconsin for a Provence teen tour back in 2006. I have had the good fortune of seeing and catching up with him, recently! He was in Chapel Hill in March to visit his girlfriend, Margo, a UNC Med School student who also house sits for us from time to time. We had a super lovely time going out for lunch at Pizzaria Mercato in Carrboro and then we grilled up some giant fish at the house and reminisced and caught up.

Elijah and Margo, 2016

In 2006 Elijah was adventurous, flexible, a little kooky, loved Provence and Arles, and they him, so much that he returned to Provence for an internship during the summer of 2007 and he also ventured to Chapel Hill and was an intern in C'est si Bon!'s Kid-Chef program for a couple of weeks.

His interests then included eggplant tian, dance, running, theater, and baguettes, but that is simplifying things way too much. Now Elijah was working on his PhD in data analysis regarding astronomy, travels to intergalactic conferences (not exactly...) and determines such quantifiable things as dust and galaxies. He said he uses Python code to do this and patiently explained it to me at Mercato as I looked on in amazement. I was mulling over how I felt the same when my youngest son, Jaryd, tells me all about how he also uses Python code to "rig" a character.

Now that is not enough, on the side Elijah works on projects using data to predict where an Airbnb user will book next. I am glad he is doing this work, because maybe at last someone can tell me where I am going! Included in his other hobbies are woodworking and from time to time he delves into brewing barleywine.

Sweet basil for the grilled fish we made.

Of Elijah's variety of woodworking projects, I am lucky enough to give a home to one magnificent chopping block!

Of his seemingly diverse interests he says - "The common theme amongst all of my endeavors however, is the attention to quality."

Here is Elijah's pre-Provence trip questionnaire in 2006 - we and all the teens answered the questions and then shared the results to get a sense of who we all were!

Hi Dorette,

I found some time to answer your questions!

What languages do you already speak? Where have you traveled?

-I'm learning French and I've been to Ireland

How do you feel about trying new food and new dishes? Are you concerned about foods you haven’t tried but may experience on the trip?

-I love to try new things every day to get more variety in my diet and see what I like so I'm not always obligated to the same food.

Favorite foods now? Favorite baking? Favorite chefs? Do you watch Food TV?

-Right now, baguettes are the best thing in the world to bake and to eat. My favorite chef is Alton Brown and yes I do watch the food network

Tell us a little about the foods of your region. What is your region, what is happening there? If you have moved or originate from a different locale, please share a bit of both.

-For a few years of my childhood in Maine, we mostly ate lobster and cold water fish. Once we moved to Wisconsin, we began eating a lot of corn during the season and plenty of cheese and milk. There's not a lot going on around here, we have an occasional tornado, but nothing more exciting.

How do you prepare for traveling? Do you take care of your own passport or do your parents handle that for you?
-I throw together my baggage the night before and get on the plane while my parents take care of the rest.

How do you feel about bouillabaisse, zuppa de pesce, wild boar, and rabbit?

-I've never heard of bouillabaisee or zuppa de pesce, but it sounds exciting and I can't wait to try new flavors and textures.

Your favorite childhood memory?

-Running through the woods on a rainy day when I was about 7. It was pouring and the trees were beautiful

What do you want most or hope most to learn while on the Provence trip or the Tuscan trip this summer?
What and when French people eat. How they make it mostly. The French know how to cook and I'm looking forward to bringing their knowledge home.

Do you enjoy walks? Prefer city landscape or countryside?

-I'm not much of a lone walker but when I go with somebody it's fine. I don't prefer one over the either, the city brings you plenty of things to think about like: what is that guy going to do? how long did that building take to construct? where's that car going? and it keeps your mind busy. but the countryside is often beautiful, so you can't go wrong there.

What are you reading lately?

-Catch 22, cookbooks, and Great Expectations

Elijah and Maya working on the mussels

Elijah, Maya, Brita, Chef Erick, and Madeleine in the Arles kitchen

Elijah, Brita, Stephanie, and others working on garlic

Provencale lunch after a hike along the Calanques

Getting ready to make pistou with genoese basil

Elijah and Filou, Provencal poodle pooch

Elijah and sunflowers near St Remy
One of Elijah's long-held interests remains, bread! Here is one of his current faves, a no-knead sourdough bread from his blog on a variety of topics.

Merci, Elijah, for spending time with us today and yesterday! We wish you safe travels and hope to see you and Margo soon! 

Eggplant Papeton - Papeton d’Aubergine 
From my colleagues, Madeleine Hill Vedel and Erick Vedel

Another name for the eggplant in Provencal is the mĂ©rijanne. tremendously abundant and with so many varieties on the markets of Provence. large and purple, round and violet, egg-shaped and white, tiny and dark maroon. the legend goes that this dish was first prepared for the pope during his time in Avignon in the 15th century. he apparently told his cook that he preferred the food he was served in Italy, from whence he came. the next day, the cook served him a molded dish shaped like the pope’s hat, and when queried, told the pope that it was a papeton (the word for pope in french is ‘pape’).

We can also make a variation of this dish with zucchini.

serves 5-6 persons

preparation time: 10 minutes

cooking time for the eggplant 40 minutes;

cooking time for the papeton 45 minutes - 1 hour

for the papeton

4 eggplant (or 5-6 zucchini)

2 bay leaves

5 eggs

pinch of salt

dribble of olive oil

for the coulis :

5 tomatoes peeled and chopped (the best tomatoes you can find, st. pierres, or vine tomatoes, or ideally, fresh and deep red from your garden)

4 garlic cloves

juice from 1/2 a lemon

a pinch of fine salt

2 tbsp fresh chopped basil

1-2 tbsp olive oil

coarse sea salt to taste

poke the eggplant with a fork and bake whole in the oven for 45 minutes or till a wooden spoon can press it down – till the inside pulp is fully cooked. if using zucchini, peel first and then steam till very tender. (you can also simmer or steam your eggplant with the skins on till tender, and then purĂ©e it).

meantime, start your sauce. peel the tomatoes over a stove top flame one by one. this removes only the thinnest outer skin, and leaves all the rich and flavorful flesh from just under the skin intact. once chopped, move them cup by cup into a heavy mortar and pestle and crush them to a pulp.

prepare the garlic: on a small plate, squeeze the lemon juice, sprinkle the pinch of fine salt, take a sharp pronged fork and place the prongs flat on the plate, take a peeled garlic clove (the larger the easier to handle) and scrape it back and forth on the tips of the prongs. you will produce a fine puree that will be lightly cured by the acid of the lemon juice, ideal for cold sauces and salad dressings.

mix together the tomato pulp, the garlic puree, the chopped basil, the olive oil, and the sea salt to taste. place the sauce in the freezer to chill before serving.

remove your eggplant from the oven, let cool a bit till you can handle them, remove the pulp from inside the skins, discard the skins. mash the puree till smooth. (do likewise with the steamed zucchini). then place in a colander to drain excess liquid.

mix the eggs in a bowl with the pinch of salt, add the eggplant (or zucchini) puree. to speed up the cooking process, use a large omelette pan, well greased with olive oil, and “pre-cook” your eggs and eggplant mixture till the texture of very wet scrambled eggs (about 3 minutes, with constant stirring and turning). then put this still soft mixture in a well-greased/non-stick loaf pan (or simply line it with tin foil, dribbling the olive oil on the foil), placed in a water bath of its own, lay 4-5 bay leaves along the bottom and sides of the dish, then pour in the eggplant and egg mixture. place in the oven and bake till browned on top and solid, about 45 minutes - 1 hour.

to serve : remove from its mold and place on an oval or long serving platter and slice. accompany with the cold tomato coulis.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Teen-Chef Alumni of C'est si Bon! Series: Nora!

This is the beginning of our Teen-Chef Alumni Series where we catch up with Teens who have gone with us on various Culinary Travel Adventures, both in North Carolina and abroad in France and Italy, and learn where are they now?

Please visit the post on Elijah and Maya.

Learn more about our current programs in Gascony this summer, 2017, Taste the Adventure. If you are a Teen Chef (all grown up now!) who has been with us, and want to get back in touch, please write me dorette at

Nora was in her teens, and with us for our first Teens in Provence, back in 2005, with our Co-leaders, Madeline and Erick Vedel at Ecole de la Cuisine Provencale.  Madeleine is up to marvelous foibles herself; "French-trained in cheese making and goat herding, developing farm projects in the US, making award-winning cheeses, collaborating with fantastic colleagues, and re-learning how to live in America & be American with my two (very French) teen-age sons."   Read her post about l'affinage in Nimes, France.

Nora, Then. With Madeleine Vedel, making hazelnut chocolate tarts.

Nora, Now.

All of a sudden we're up to now, and it's been a such a pleasure to catch up with Nora.

"I've been quite busy doing lots of different things; leather working crafts, working on farms in the summer, and doing Viking Age Living History in my free time."

Did you say Viking?

"Viking age dishes are usually combinations of fish, lamb, barley or oats, tubers, and fresh herbs like cilantro and mint. They would roast meat by building a fire around a whole animal in a pit."

When she's not doing leather and farm working, she participates with Viking events in North America, the best ones being in Quebec.

For more info and inspiration visit Nora's site at 

Many viking folks she knows are aiming for trips to Viking Markets in Europe; in Denmark, Germany, and Poland.

Nora's leather key chains for an Event

Beautiful Viking Gloves made by Nora"The thumb pieces on the sides of the gloves are free-floating, to provide protection with flexibility. The palms of the gloves are a soft oil-tan leather, very comfy and movable, and easily replaceable if they get damaged."

Simple Summer Dishes 

Camping, Hobbit Style

Hobbit Style Kitchen

Enjoying the sunshine!

"My favorite dish from Provence was definitely the stuffed zucchini, I still make it all the time (usually I stuff it with rice, meat, and maybe cheese). We also do cherry clafoutis quite often." 

Nora, thank you for spending some time with us! We hope you'll keep us posted on your further adventures, and come visit us in NC if you can. 

Stay tuned, who will be up next? Cary, Stephanie, Sarah, Claire, Becca, or ??

Here is the stuffed zucchini we did in Provence

Les LĂ©gumes Farcis - Stuffed Vegetables

As Nora says, we learned this dish from Madeleine and Erick Vedel in Arles. The traditional vegetables that we stuffed were tomatoes, bell peppers and zucchini/courgettes. However, you can also stuff onions or mushroom caps or eggplant. This is one of those dishes that can be a side dish of a big meal, or the main course, even a one-dish dinner that pleases well and covers all the bases.

makes 6 servings

for the vegetables
6 tomatoes
3 zucchini/courgettes
3 bell peppers

for the stuffing
50 grams (1/3 cup) cooked rice
200 grams ground meat (turkey/pork/veal or a mixture of any 2)
2 garlic cloves crushed and minced
2 large slices of bread soaked in water
one bouquet fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup olive oil

Cut the tops of the tomatoes and put aside for later use. Remove the seeds and juice from the tomatoes, dumping them into the stuffing bowl. Cut the bell peppers in 2 lengthwise and remove and toss the seeds. Slice a millimeter or 3 off each of the bell peppers and chop finely to add to the stuffing. Cut the zucchini/courgettes in 2 lengthwise and core the center with a spoon, adding the center - chopped - to the stuffing. Place the vegetable halves in oven safe platters, open side up.

Take your stuffing bowl, now filled with the chopped bits of all the vegetables you¹re stuffing, and add the ground meat, the chopped garlic, the chopped parsley, the cooked rice, the soaked and strained bread, the salt and pepper. Mix well and then spoon into the vegetables, leaving the peppers for last as they consume the most stuffing.

Dribble the olive oil over the vegetables, pour a little water in the bottom of the platter(s) and place in the oven at 180c (375f) for an hour and 15 minutes.
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