Monday, February 25, 2013

A Favorite Winter Food

One of my favorite winter foods is Celery Root, also known as Celeriac.  It’s sometimes hard to find, and you might not know what it is when you first see it.  But if you find it, try it.  High in fiber, potassium, magnesium and B6, it’s not at all starchy, and so a great low-glycemic alternative to potatoes.  My “old” French cookbook says céleri root is “very healthy, light, and can be served raw in salads or cooked with various accompaniments.” I often use it in a potato gratin to average down the starch of the potato.  Celery root or “céleri-rave” is a different variety of celery than the one you see in the U.S. supermarkets with the pale fibrous stalks with green tops cut off.  In France you can also buy céleri-branche, by the stalk or by the half-stalk, but the branches will be very green and have all the leaves on top.  I know it’s hard to love the look of celery root…it’s a knobby root and not very “sexy” as far as veggies go…but give it a try if you can find it~


I used two celery roots from Chino Farm in the salad last week for the San Diego Herb Club; I showed the group how to cut the tender green shoots off and chop them finely and add to the salad greens; it’s as good or better than many herbs.  If you don’t use the greens in a salad, toss the tops into your stock pot.


Use a knife to pare the celery root skin; you can use a peeler but it will take much longer.  I toss the peel into the stock pot or compost.  The roots from Chino Farm are much smaller than the ones you will find in France or other farms, but that’s sort of the focus of the farm; small and tender. 


For salads, I use a standard hand-grater, the one that has four sides; usually I grate this raw for a little crunch, right into the salad and toss with dressing; today I use the root to make a celery root remoulade.  Start with the grated root.


Drop the grated root into boiling water for 30 seconds and no more…this will make it a little more tender, but keep a bit of texture.


Some folks like to use store-bought mayonnaise, but I made some fresh, with an egg yolk and lemon juice and olive oil…..


And lastly, add in a few spoons of Maille mustard~


In the end, you will have a yellow mayonnaise that will coat a spoon….of which the old cookbook says ”there is nothing better, but more costly”…more costly than store-bought mayo perhaps, but I agree, I’d take scratch-mayo any day~


Today I tossed the celery root with the mayonnaise and served it in egg cups.  You just need a little taste of this to cut your appetite just a little and warm up your palette for the rest of the meal.  In the olden days, les hors-d’oeuvre were a way for the household to use up the bits of what was left in the kitchen and curb the appetite for the main dishes.  So just a little taste is enough~


Though I liked the egg cups, for parties I’d use a little bit of contrast with a tiny leaf of radicchio to hold the grated celery root. I’ll have more to tell you about this dish after the upcoming trip to Paris~ 


And if you don’t want to use the celery root for appetizers, try it in julienne or cubes or a variation of those….


Today I used the thick slices of celery root with a whole roasted chicken.  It makes a nice change from potato, and a beautiful complement to carrots, especially when I serve it in a nice oval copper dish~

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Love to hear from you if you can find celery root in your area….

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

San Diego Herb Club

Today I was the guest speaker for a meeting of the San Diego Herb Club, at the invitation of one of my farmers market friends, Barbara.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, and I was given a broad mandate as to subject matter. The group is into serious gardening as well as cooking, culture and fine living.  These ladies have traveled extensively, had they seen it all?  Let me see what I can come up with that will fresh and fun… start, a kir royale: Champagne or sparkling wine with a liqueur.  Today we used the crème de Pêche de Vigne that comes from the best of the best, Briottet in Dijon.  It was a big hit, not to mention delicious~


The ladies had their regular meeting while I prepared a last-minute addition to the menu, the Gruyere gougères or cheese puffs that I love so much.  I gave everyone a copy of the recipe, and then they enjoyed several batches.


Before I tell you about the event, I want to tell you that I walked in to Barbara’s home and went gaw~ there are not many homes I walk into and say “I could live here”…but this was definitely one, love love love her kitchen, starting with the dual Gaggenau ovens with side-opening doors and the beautiful counters, cabinetry, and display of English culinary antiques~


I brought a pumpkin soup with crusty crouton garnish, all heated up in a copper faitout of course~


We also made a wonderful salad of Chino Farm greens, vinaigrette made with Maille fine de Dijon mustard from Beaune that everyone loved, and celery root, also from Chino.  I took the group on a recipe tour through a few cookbooks I had brought…discussing celery root, gougères and a few other interesting topics….


We also had puff pastry apple tarte and divided up a series of French seed packets; and discussed the full range of celery.  Who know celery and seeds could be so exciting??!~


Barbara’s home is definitely photo-worthy, and it makes me miss my Anglophile days…..why didn’t I buy more when I lived in London?  I’m hoping she will let me come back and do a special photo session on her home and her collections and pine furniture for publication.  You would love to see all of her home!


Many thanks to Barbara and the San Diego Herb Club for having me today.  I made so many wonderful new friends, and I look forward to circling back with many of you.  Let’s do this again soon!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Nancy Singleton Hachisu at Chino Farm

I try to never miss a book signing at the 50 acre Rancho Santa Fe farm known by its signage as The Vegetable Shop and among the foodies of the world as Chino Farm.  Started in 1952 by Hatsuyo and Junzo Chino, the farm is today run by the four siblings Tom (with his wife Nina), Kay, Fred and Frank.  I notice just a little more abundance on the days of book signings, so Sunday’s the offering of edible nasturtiums was just a little larger than usual, and picture perfect~


It’s a regular stop for me on Sundays, and week after week, the salad greens, root vegetables, citrus, beans and squash are perfect, and perfectly arranged.  It’s no wonder Chino Farm has developed such a loyal following…the quality is the best you will find anywhere in the world, with a focus on the most tender, baby vegetables and exotic varieties. There is no category for this Farm, it’s in a class all by itself.


On Sunday we went to a signing for the cookbook Japanese Farm Food by Nancy Singleton Hachisu.  Behind the farm stand there were a few Japanese-indigo covered tables offering a few samples of side dishes~


all simply labeled and accented by perfectly fresh citrus from the farm~


The morning was rather cold and with a slight drizzle of rain, uncharacteristic for Southern California.  It’s funny to look back on my pics….this one says it all: a long long line of foodies waiting in the rain for their books to be signed, with an occasional flash of impatience, but when you got to the table and could talk to the author herself, you couldn’t help but break a great big smile~


One of the wonderful aspects of Chino Farm events is the elegant and organic simplicity…just what I love….here a Japanese indigo covers the table, along with a rice bucket of fresh citrus.  It’s all that is needed…


Oh wait, a revision…I added a glass of the locally-brewed, coffee-infused stout that we drank along with Nancy’s samples~


And on another table, more citrus in a perfect Japanese lacquer bowl; it was a wonderful nod to the Chino family as well as the book~


At last, after the wait in line and a bit of food and drink, we had our book signed with a wonderfully personal message from Nancy~


The book itself is gorgeous; I love the indigo cloth binding on the book~


But inside, the book is as full as stories and anecdotes of Nancy’s life in Northern Japan as it is full of recipes and photos.  I spent a summer in the Tokyo area at the same time that Nancy came to Japan, and while it may be a bit of a stretch, I am impressed with the similarities between France and Japan: while the cultures are leagues apart, they both appreciate fine, fresh ingredients, communing over a meal, reverence for traditions, family life, the love of appropriate formality, textiles and basketry~


I find the combination of the Chino Family background with the French nuances (are those from Alice Waters?) to be fascinating; you can find many French varieties of vegetables and squash, not to mention strawberries, at Chino Farm.   There are also many wonderful Japanese yams at the Farm…..many which can be adapted using Nancy’s recipes~


I love this book and can’t wait to start to try some of the recipes, that is, after I read Nancy’s stories of life on a Japanese farm….


I am inspired by Nancy and her book….look for some recipes from me soon, and if you are in the area, be sure to stop by for the next event at Chino Farm~

Saturday, February 9, 2013

P’tite Valentine

I love this statue, which sits in a pocket-sized park in Beaune.  In summer its white stone is perfectly offset by the green leaves of the trees above. But on this particular winter day, the trees are bare and so the branches frame Cupid perfectly as he reaches for an arrow in his quiver.  The slight blush of the evening sky was incredible, as if someone had taken a paintbrush to it….as soon as I viewed the image I thought it would be perfect for a little Valentine~


Meanwhile back in California, today I brought home a little gift, from me to me with love.  It’s something I have wanted for a long time, and will use on the trip to Paris, so that was my excuse to buy….a tripod!  I’m imagining photos of the Eiffel Tower at dusk, and the light trails of the cars going down the Champs-Elysees…..ah, can’t wait…..there will be lots of experimenting before then, but for now, I’m testing it out on some food shots, like the chocolate-dipped berries set on camellia petals which I’ll bring to the market tomorrow for a pre-Valentine’s day treat~    


I’m a pretty steady hand with my photos, though I have to be sure that I don’t have too much coffee before a shoot.  I’m really happy with the tripod after just a few photos though; they are perfectly crisp.  This last week has been super busy with lots of writing and editing and collaboration for Rêve.  It’s taking shape, and it will be great!  Have a great Valentine’s week~ 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Mon Rêve

What are your dreams?

For the last 25 years, from the first time I saw Paris, I have wanted to spend time in France, and in my wildest dreams, perhaps have a home there.  In recent years, through my blog and other publications, I have wanted to write about France, photograph it and talk about about all of the colorful people I have met and the beautiful places I have seen, not to mention the centuries of history behind France and it’s people. 


Being in France and living the French lifestyle is my dream, one that is shared by millions of others around the world. There are few cultures and languages that inspire so many daydreams and drive a seemingly endless thirst for a country’s style and substance. Why do we find France and all things French so intoxicating? The answer is as complex and varied as the people and landscape of France.


It seems incredible to say, but for twenty years I have been traveling around France on a regular basis.   While living in Paris, I spent almost every weekend discovering another corner of the country with my boyfriend, as he mercilessly corrected my French and explained the subtleties of France.  A voyage to Italy, or Spain or Germany?  Never happened over the course of several years, there was always more to see in France.  And since returning to the US, guess where I go for vacation?  My sister asked me once “Why do you always go to France for vacation?”  What could I say but “Because I LOVE it.”  I’ve been all over Europe and to parts of Asia; I’ve lived in London and Tokyo and Stockholm.  There is something that continues to pull me to France.  What is it exactly?  I’ll try to come up with a good answer for you on that! 


Since starting my blog, I’ve continued to have the idea that I wanted to write a book or a series of books on France.  Actually, the idea for a book started 20 years earlier, when I used to regale my friends in New York with tales of what I was seeing and doing in Paris.  You need to write a book, they all said!  That was before I got interested in French cooking and photography.


For the last few years, I have been toying with the idea of writing a book.  After a few delays and distractions, I’ve decided that I must do this; not one but a series of books.  But do I want to go on this adventure alone?  And might readers be bored with a single voice?


I decided very early on that I wanted to share this journey with some really excellent ladies, and like a bouquet that contains a variety of shades, the finished product will be better and we’ll have a lot more fun if it’s not just me.


And so while I am taking the lead on this project, I have invited two women to join me, two women who also have a lot to say about France: Laura Ingalls Gunn from Décor to Adore and Elizabeth Eiffel from Eiffel Tells.  Laura has lived in Germany and Greece for many years and has already been to Brittany, Paris and Beaune with me, and as an Interior Designer is our French furniture expert.  And Elizabeth, as many of you know, is an Australian photographer and raconteuse par excellence and is renovating her home in Burgundy known as My French Folly.  

I have given the name of Rêve to this book series, and it will be a celebration of the patchwork of people and culture and terrain that is France.  Rêve means dream in French, and I chose this name because France and all things French really are my dream, and one that I mentioned is also shared by so many others.  Through this series we want to give you a completely authentic view of France and explore some places and themes.  You will see photos and content that you have never seen on our blogs, and it will give us a chance to explain France to you in our unique voices in more detail than we can on our blogs.  We will produce four volumes in 2013 of approximately 200 pages each of photos and text.  Mostly photos; lots and lots of big beautiful photos that will look fantastic on your iPad or Kindle or computer.  We have an exciting agenda for 2013, travelling to Burgundy, Brittany and probably Marrakech, and will also devote one volume just to Antiques & Antique Shopping. We’ll visit a 50-year collector in Brittany and see a large home in Burgundy that is filled to the rafters with antiques and collectibles, also from about 50 years of careful collecting.  We’ll travel to the shows in the South with a veteran shopper, so you can see what it’s like to navigate the antique markets, in photos and video.  I’ll have commentary that will be very informed and I think you’ll find interesting. 

But for now, we will start at the beginning, at the place that most people (including me) start to discover France, which is of course, Paris. 


Laura and I (along with my friend Raquel) are going to Paris for nine days in April and will publish Rêve Volume I: Paris as an e-book on May 1.  I am VERY excited about this volume!  We will be touring some of my favorite places: my favorite little museums, the best perfume houses, hippest wine bars, and see Paris underground, in addition to my favorite day trips outside of Paris, including the lovely Château de Chantilly.  We will visit my favorite open air food markets as well as the Clignancourt Flea.  There will be some interesting background on the history of Paris, as well as plenty of street scenes, updates on what’s new, and any other interesting subjects which come our way.

Best of all, as an e-book we can keep the price affordable.  Each volume can be purchased separately for $6 or you may purchase the 2013 series for $20.  Those of you who pre-subscribe will receive the e-book in your email boxes a week before the official release.  There is a button at the top of my blog now for purchase.

Please also take a preview of some of the images and things that you will see in the 2013 series by visiting the Rêve Blog HERE

We hope you will come along with us on our journey through France this year; It will be fun, it will be informative, and it will be beautiful!!