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Friday, April 22, 2016

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

Step Up Your Summer in France and Spain with C'est si Bon!

Start Your Own Adventure in Taste Now! 

A huge gift of working with Teen-Chefs is keeping in touch with them, and answering the question where are they now? Today we're going to meet Elijah!

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 mérijanne. 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 purée 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 Légumes 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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