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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Cooking Life: Mead All About It

Welcome to Mead All About It, Part One of our Fermented Beverage Series. 

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."


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, May 20, 2016

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

What a joy to work with Teen-Chefs, and follow their journeys; then to 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: Figs, Foie Gras, and Falconry. 

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
Salt

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.

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 seeing who they are and what they are up to now. Read the first  post of the series, where we launched the Teen Tours in Provence and the second post where we meet Nora.  Please also take a peek at C'est si Bon!'s newest Culinary Travel Program for Teens: Figs, Foie Gras, and Falconry. 

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 he made this absolutely beautiful chopping block for me! From time to time he delves into brewing barleywine.



Sweet basil for the grilled fish we made

Elijah makes a variety of woodworking projects, and I am lucky enough to give a home to one! A 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. Learn more about our current programs in Gascony this summer, 2016.  Figs, Foie Gras and Falconry. 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 cestsibon.net.

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 2016, and it's been a such a pleasure to catch up with her.

"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 www.noraevett.com. 

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.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Teen-Chef Alumni Series: Provence! and a New Teen Culinary Immersion Program

As we gear up for this summers' Teen Culinary Immersion Program: Figs Foie Gras and Falconry in Gascony, I thought it would be fun to introduce you to the Teens who joined C'est si Bon! for previous trips to Provence, Paris, Tuscany, the Loire, and Carolina on My Plate, and see where they are now. 

First up is Provence 2005. I want to extend so much gratitude to my colleagues Madeleine and Erick Vedel whose bed and breakfast in Arles, Ecole de la Cuisine Provencale, was our home and cooking school for the duration of the tours from 2005-2008.

Also it is imperative to thank Aileen Randall, my faithful assistant for many years who never faltered, never said she was tired, and who made traveling a breeze, ever flexible, even more fun, and possible to understand all the French around me, and not just guess, as hilarious as that could be. It is a real gift to see her lovely daughter, Stephanie, all "growed up" now, as they say. But more on that soon.

Here is the first group at Le Baux just after a hike, and before our chocolate class with Joel Durand in St. Remy de Provence. Joel now has shops in Paris and Tokyo. His chocolates are legendary, and steeped with the flavors of Provence; olive, lavender, and rose. He was always super, friendly, easygoing, and talented to work with. 



At the rocky outcropping, Les Baux de Provence, looking out over the ruined castle and the village. Front row left to right. - Nora, Claire, Cary, Dorette, and behind us is Sam, Stephanie, Sarah, Becca, Peter, my assistant Aileen, Alexander, and Claudine. 

I am excited to share what they've been up to since 2005!  

Our Provence itineraries varied with visits to Chateau d'If off the coast of Marseille where the Count of Monte Cristo escaped; as well as getting up very early to visit the Fassy Boulangerie about a 20 minute drive from Arles.

If the weather cooperated we always rode the beautiful white horses of the Camargue.

Besides the white horses, the Camargue produces salt, and since 1988, red rice. Surprisingly enough you don't hear too much about the Riz Rouge of the Camargue outside of this region. I looked for a place to order it (go to igourmet and order 12 ounces for 5.99) and learned that it has earned PDI certification, which means Protected Geographic Indication. I also read that they export 90 percent of it, but I have my doubts. And why wouldn't they want to keep it for themselves. I have included a recipe below for stuffed Pintade or Guinea Hen which uses this unusual rice.

We hope to work in a little pony riding through King Henri's forest which is just above the petite village of Poudenas in the "other South" of France this summer. 

If you don't have the chance to ride them yourself, the next best thing is to read
"White Horses Over France." 

Author, Robin Hanbury-Tenison, and hsi wife, Luella. 
This book is an excellent adventure of food and two lovely horses Tiki and Thibert by noted author, Robin-Hanbury-Tenison - president of Survival International and described as an explorer with a conscience. His first wife was a noted cookery writer, Marika Hanbury-Tenison, who also wrote about her adventures with Robin. Here is a brief excerpt that exemplifies how life unfolds in Provence -- and also in Gascony!

"As the main course was being served hopelessly rich and irresistible confit d'oie stuffed with foie gras and truffles. Raymond came and coughed apologetically behind my chair. When I stopped eating, he said "Vos chevaux vous attendant, Monsieur Tenison."

At first I thought I was wanted on the telephone by someone.

Then, as we all looked up, we saw that Thibert and Tiki were standing outside the French windows in the rain under the horse chestnut tree among the tables and chairs, looking in at us. I still cannot fully understand how they did it, but they had escaped from their field, and made their way along the dangerous main road and over the busy bridge, down the lane leading to the hotel in order to be near us.

Their pleasure when we ran out to catch them was evident and they wickered appreciatively as we petted them and give them lumps of coffee sugar. They must've been lonely."




Provencale Guinea Hen, Pintade, with Camarguese Rice and Tomato Caper Sauce

This recipe was first developed by Teen-Chef, Anne, for the last night competition in Arles in 2008.
I admit it's hard to find pintade, but you can order on-line from Joyce Farms in Winston-Salem North Carolina.

one guinea hen: about 2.5-3 pounds

for the farcie, the stuffing:
50 grams black olives, pitted
50 grams green olives, pitted
50 grams dried tomatoes, follow directions if they need to be desalted
1 1/2 cups of cooked red rice of the camargue
1 bunch of parsley
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp of ground green anise, you can also use fennel pollen

Desalt the dried tomatoes in cold water for 6 hours, changing the water 4 times, rinse them and dry then in a clean towel. chop them finely. Finely also chop the olives. chop the parsley. mix these ingredients with the cooked rice; add the green anise and mix it all well. Add the beaten egg to the stuffing. Mix well.

Heat the oven to 375.


White horses walking out to the Camargue. Claire, Penelope, Cary, Sam, Becca, Sarah, Peter, and Dorette



Becca leading the way. Sarah, followed by Peter.

Dorette with the reins. Peter on horseback. Nora talking to him. Could one of these horses be Tiki or Thibert? 



Sam, Claire, Sarah, and Norah


Riding the white horses out towards the rice paddies. 

Stuff the guinea hen with the farcie, and sew the opening closed with a large needle and string.

Roast in a hot oven for 65 minutes or until the internal temp is 165. let the pintade rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing, and arranging on a platter.

Aha, the perfect amount of time to make the sauce!

for the sauce
2 tablespoons + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 scallions, thinly sliced
¼ cup green garlic, thinly sliced
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 cup capers, rinsed and chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup white wine

Heat a sauce pan on over medium heat, melt butter and when sizzling, add the scallions and green garlic. Sauté till they start to stick to the pan, deglaze with the wine. add the tomatoes, capers, thyme, parsley, zest and juice. cook to desired consistency. taste and correct seasoning, if necessary. Add last tablespoon butter to the sauce and swirl. Serve in a sauceboat and pass with the stuffed guinea hen.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Travel with Me: I was Really Very Nervous to Meet the Apricot Tree



I thought I'd talk a little bit about the different trees in the my upcoming novel, The Way of Psomi, and today let me trace the journey in 2006 to the apricot tree in Provence during one of C'est si Bon!'s Teen Culinary Tours with my assistant Aileen Randall, to Madeline and Erick Vedel's Ecole de la Cuisine Provence in Arles. 

The apricot tree belonged - or more correctly - lived on Sophie's land.

Sophie was Madeleine's, and many others as well, beekeeper, and mistress of honey. She sold the honey from her bees in the Arles market. Sophie was vivacious with dark hair, smooth skin, wiry, and strong. A bit wild like you would expect of someone who lives in a house in the middle of the bees and apricots and dogs and cats.

Sophie's house was set in the woods, far away from everything. We bounced down a long unpaved road. This was magic. This was typical. This was Provence.

Lunch with the Teens included Sophie's Green Beans with Mint and Honey Garlic Vinaigrette  and discussions over "what was happening to the bees."

Madeleine and Aileen had discussed the details in French with Sophie, details of heading out to see the tree. They figured it all out. But while they talked I had to figure out a way not to see the tree, not to go through with it, because this was going to be very weird. This apricot tree could never be all that I had imagined. I felt really crazy, to even think about not seeing the tree that I had wanted to see. Turned out it was so close. It wasn't something that would happen years from now. Has something you wanted been presented to you and then you back away from it?

This just wasn't the right time to visit the apricot tree. Summer. Right after lunch. Anyone could see that. But when, my little voice nagged, just when would the right time be?

Sophie, Madeleine and I left the honey house and walked. I scanned the field. Or was it a grove? What do you call the place where apricot trees live? Whatever logic and reason that had been present, left me. I expected the tree to leap out, or glow from a distance. Wasn't that reasonable?

There it is.

Where?

Right there.

Couldn't be. It was such a well, very, petite tree. Unassuming, and innocent. Quiet. Oh.

I had so many emotions. At this point in my work, 2006, the apricot tee was a mother figure in the story. I was nervous. I was scared. I wasn't prepared. But I had wanted this. I had hoped for it, but when faced with the actuality of it, I wanted to push it off. What was that about? I had so long imagined it. Written about it. It was very different in reality. 

So. Much. Better. 

Why, bonjour, Abricot. Ca va? I sighed and walked over to touch her branches.




Olives growing near Sophie's. 


Sweet little apricot tree near Sophie's


Approaching Sophie's Bee House



Plating the salad. 



Becca, Sarah, Claire, Peter, Cary, and Stephanie. 
Maybe anchovies aren't for everyone. 



Penelope heading for the piquenique table.




Gilbert, Erick, Sophie, Penelope, Sam, Moi, Claudine


Discussing the plight of bees in Provence. 




Apres dejeuner, Siesta pour le chien,




Sophie, Peter, Becca, and Cary



Bees and their Flowers



A little history nearby


Honey Glazed Goat's Cheese with Spiced Apricot Compote
1 goat's cheese camembert, cut into quarters
4 slices of brioche
4 tablespoons local honey

600 g ready-to-eat dried apricots
4 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons muscadet
zest of 1 orange
2 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks

Wash the apricots in warm water and place in a heavy pan with the remaining compote ingredients. cook over a low heat until the apricots have plumped up and the liquid has reduced to a syrup.

Toast the brioche and keep warm.

Place the quarters of goat cheese on a ceramic baking platter and spoon over the honey and grill until the cheese bubbles. to serve, place the goat's cheese on top of the brioche, spoon over the compote and drizzle the plate with the apricot syrup.

Sophies Green Beans with Mint and Honey Garlic Vinaigrette 
1 kilo (2.2 lbs) green beans, ends trimmed, and halved on the bias
1 bunch of fresh mint
honey garlic vinaigrette
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey vinegar
(or cider vinegar with a teaspoon of mild honey)
2 minced garlic cloves

salt and pepper to taste

Garnishes
½ cup fried prosciutto, onions, or anchovies, chopped

Ready a large bowl with ice water, and bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Mince garlic and then whisk remaining vinaigrette ingredients together in the bottom of a deep platter or decorative salad bowl you will use for serving. taste and adjust.

Decide about the garnishes, and take the necessary steps.

When hot, add your beans to the boiling water with some of the mint leaves. after a minute or two, remove beans with a bamboo skimmer and plunge into the ice water to shock and stop cooking.

When cooled, drain beans well and toss in the bowl with your vinaigrette.

Snip more fresh mint leaves onto the beans. and add your garnishes, toss and serve.

May be warm or cold.

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