Monday, May 24, 2010

To market to market

I've been living in and out of Bucharest (Romania) for the past three weeks but more on that later. Its warm in Paris. Warm means picnics and markets. And I love going to markets. There are always people, noise, and, of course, food! I used to go to the Union Square farmer's market in NYC a lot. The markets can't really call them farmer's markets. It's not actual farmers for the most part but guys who buy everything wholesale and then sell it. Sure there's a few local purveyors here and there but, for the most part, its people just selling things bought at wholesale prices. There are two ladies who sell lettuce at Marche d'Aligre and I don't know if they are from some farm or buy their lettuce wholesale but for some reason I really like buying from them. 

They just wrap the lettuce up in paper and give it to you. They're super efficient. And I think I prefer the Marche d'Aligre to the one at Richard Lenoir (Bastille). It's open both days of the weekend, it's mainly produce and it's generally cheaper. I like the top half of the area on the east side of the covered Beauveau market. These vendors always seem to have the most and the best. I also like how you can try almost anything before buying, although this week I somehow got sucked into buying €1.20 worth of overripe, starchy peas and now I don't know what to do with them. But I guess it's remedied by the strawberries and tomatoes I got. Finally good strawberries! I've been looking for them for a h-wile. My market bounty:

And of course, is a weekend really a weekend without something sweet? I finally got to stop by blé sucré (literal translation: sweet wheat). 

Apparently (according to David Lebovitz), they have the best Madeleines in Paris. And a damn good Kouing Aman. Didn't try the Kouing Aman but the Madeleines were pretty good, just not my favorite. That still goes to Eric Kayser.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Roses are red

Aren't these gorgeous?!

JP (who I heart mucho) got me flowers! Porque you ask? Well apparently one day he was fiddling around with the time function on excel (this is what he does in his down time at work I guess) and had a smart idea. "Hey lemme figure out when our 1,000 day anniversary is!". And so, on that day, I got these. That day was today (or yesterday? But the florist couldn't deliver then because it was a holiday in France. A holiday during which I was, of course, at work for half the day).

It was drizzling outside and they arrived with all these drops of rain and I was just scared that they'd wilt during the day! But no, its thankfully alive. Apparently the internet site suggested the following message: "Let this bouquet of flowers be a messenger of our love". Oh please. Blah. Too sappy for me. But JP being JP wrote some cute (and less sappy) stuff. Including how he hopes we'll reach 10,000 days.

Now, JP - did you use excel to do the math on that? That is over 24 years. There'd be little Mexican Russian babies running around, are you kidding me?! Well they wouldn't be babies, they'd be waaaay older. I'd be almost 50! That's nuts! Be careful what you wish for... :P Anyhow, I'm trailing as usual.

Starving at work with no fresh food in my apartment, I turned to my pantry (and copious amounts of dairy products in the fridge). Et voila! It totally hit the spot. I rarely want pasta but I was looking for something quick, easy, comforting and with tons of flavor. I'm writing the recipe for 2, but, of course, I made it for one (where's my Cooking for One book JL?)

Pantry Spaghetti with Creme Fraiche

1/4 box of spaghetti (or however much 2 ppl eat)
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes (depending how spicy you like it)
1/2 medium white onion, chopped
1/4 cup creme fraiche
Handful of breadcrumbs

Put a pot of salted water to boil. Once boiling, add spaghetti.

Meanwhile, put a small pan on low heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil, the red pepper flakes, garlic and onion, and sautee gently for 5 minutes, until the garlic and onions are starting to brown a little. Add the creme fraiche and let simmer for a minute or two. Take off heat.

Once the spaghetti is done, put the pan with the creme fraiche sauce back on low heat, and add the cooked spaghetti until it is evenly coated with the sauce.

Put into a bowl, top with breadcrumbs and eat. So simple, so good.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Breakfast in America

Sometimes, you just really want a taste of home. I read articles about where to get American or Asian or Mexican food in Paris (usually on NYT) and then the reader commentary with someone saying "Why would I want to eat that food when I'm in Paris? You should eat French food when you're there!" 

Well first of all, do you eat American food all the time when you're in America? I don't think so. Maybe if you're a tourist then yes, you should try out the cuisine of the country. But what about all of us that are far from home and just want a taste of it? I read those NYT articles for the French food in Paris and the American food in Paris and the Asian food in Paris and the Mexican food in Paris and whatever else kind of Paris stuff they throw at me. People somehow tend to forget that sometimes, its not all about them. Whew, trailed off there for a second.

Anyhow, brunched at Breakfast in America (2 blocks from my fabulously tiny apartment), an American-style diner with endless cups of coffee, omelettes, french toast, pancakes, bacon and bagels and even Philadelphia cream cheese. An hour and a half wait later, I get these:

Strawberry white chocolate chip pancakes. I usually don't order pancakes because I'm generally not a big fan. And I actually ordered a Mexican skirt steak taco salad but they were out. But these pancakes were so good and totally hit the spot. That griddle must be really well-seasoned for it to produce these perfect huge fluffy pancakes. Now I know where to go to get my American-food fix.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Spicy crispy crunchy snacks

I've made roasted chickpeas so many times before, always throwing whatever spices I had on hand into the mix. Today I decided to be more focused and go Indian - garam masala. And of course some cayenne pepper. And some smoked Maldon sea salt for good measure. It's a perfect crunchy snack - high in fiber, low in fat, easy to eat out of hand and quite filling. They turned out pretty darn tasty, even though my oven isn't an oven. Its really a microwave with a built-in convection oven feature. I started eating them and before I knew it, the whole pan was empty (that might not have been as healthy). Next time, I'll either go sweet (cinnamon, cloves, lemon) or Mexican (chile peppers, lime, cilantro). You can probably guess which one I'm leaning towards.

Roasted chickpeas

1 can chickpeas, drained rinsed and dried
1 tbsp olive oil
Spices (I like some curry powder / garam masala, with cayenne pepper...but you can do whatever including garlic powder, paprika, fennel, oregano, marjoram, thyme...)

Pre-heat oven to 450F

In a bowl, combine chickpeas with the olive oil, a few shakes of whatever spices you want, and salt. Toss until everything is uniformly coated. Taste and adjust spices as needed.

Spread out in a single layer on a foil-lined cookie sheet (or whatever metallic oven-proof vessel you have...I used a tart pan). Roast in oven for 15 minutes, shake the pan, and roast for 5 - 10 minutes more, depending of whether you want them on the chewier or crunchier side.

If you're adding fresh herbs or lime / lemon juice, add them after you take the chickenpeas out of the oven. Try not to eat all of them at once, like I did...

Sunday, May 02, 2010

May day

Being a perpetual returner, I needed to go and return some clothes I bought. But I completely forgot it was May 1st and didn't realize everything would be closed. That hindered my returning-abilities but at least the Marche des Enfants Rouges was open. I've been really awful lately and needed to get some salad leaves in me. On the way there, I stopped by Hure, a bakery which I'd heard has fantastic savory mini-breads. I wanted to get the Reblochon-Lardons (essentially cheese and bacon) but they had run out, so I settled for the Lardons.  

It was so ridiculously good. Imagine a soft, mini ciabatta stuffed with bacon bits and all the dough being infused with that smoky flavor. Wow. I need to go back and try some other ones (they had merguez, chevre, tomato mozzarella, among others), but it will be hard to resist the bacon. Thankfully it's a 10, rather than a 5 minute walk from me, else I'd be in even more trouble.

Also, on May Day, they sell one of my favorite flowers of all time everywhere - Lily of the Valley! Most people buy a stem or two; I got a whole bouquet. 

The smell is super intoxicating. Either that, or lilacs, are going to be my wedding bouquet. I also like snow drops but those wilt super fast. Yes, I'm planning ahead. That and that my food will be served family-style. Moving on.

I also stopped by my butcher where I attempted to explain that I wanted hanger steak by pointing to my chest (hanger steak "hangs" from a cow's diaphragm). They figured out what I wanted and asked how many people its for cause I only wanted half of it. I had to confess and say one. So sad. So so sad. Steak is not something you should eat by yourself. Chicken, fine. Veal, ok. Even ground beef. But not steak. Anyhow, I rubbed some TJs taco mix seasoning I had on hand and threw it on a hot cast iron skillet. The result:

Mmmm. Really good meat. The seasoning was good but a little too much cumin for me. Maybe something a little simpler next time. Regardless, I ate it all.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

American sugar

Have I ever said how much I love my best friends back in NYC? No? Well there. I'm saying it now. They are the most awesomest friends anyone could ask for. First, for my going away, they procrastinated and spent a hung-over morning finishing a scrapbook for me before brunch. And not just any scrapbook, a RECIPE scrapbook! Speaking of which, I need to go find it and make something. I shed a few tears when they gave it to me during brunch. I'm really an emotional wreck at heart. Sigh.

And now, I get this!

Many of the contents have already been pilfered by yours truly during the work day including a twix bar, raisinets and welchs fruit snacks. And asian gummies were left in my desk drawer at work. And I'm making my way through the rest of these at an unhealthy pace of koala bears and mini asian snacks last night. But fear not! Salad this weekend. Muchas gracias a mis amigos!

On a random note, I had trouble typing this entry because this is what my keyboard currently looks like. 

Last weekend I happened to open the shades because it was so nice and sunny outside and had a mirror in front of my computer (make-up! very important!). And then I saw smoke rising and thought my computer was going to explode. But no, it was the sun hitting my mirror and then reflecting on my keyboard. I guess ants really do die a painful death when kids burn them with magnifying glasses. I know my keys did...