26 October 2009

View and Review : Divine, Heavenly Chocolate Recipes

The devoted bloggers over at BloggerAid...Changing the Face of Famine are always coming up with wonderful new initiatives, and recently they've launched the View and Review program, in which agreements were reached to partner cookbook publishers with BloggerAid and to offer members participation in book and product reviews. I, of course, immediatly signed up, very excited about the prospect of getting free cookbooks, testing new recipes and then telling you about it!

Then, when I finally got my first one, I got sick! So... while I meant to test at least 3 or 4 recipes before writing, I only got to test 2. I did however, read quite a few of the recipes AND drool over -- er, I mean, look at -- all the pictures. My other quick caveat is that Divine: Heavenly Chocolate Recipes, published by Absolute Press, is a recipe book that's supposed to accompany Divine chocolate (a fair-trade farmer-owned chocolate company "with a heart"), which unfortunately is not distributed in France. I did buy organic fair-trade chocolate products to test their recipes, but I'm sure they would've been better with the chocolate for which they were written!

Divine has a great introduction with the story of Divine chocolate, the meanings of the Adinkra symbols on their products, as well as helpful tips about working with chocolate. The cookbook is very well presented. The recipes are laid out in a way that is easy to read at a glance. You can quickly see if the recipe is a complicated or simple and whether or not it appeals to you. There are a wide ranges of recipes from cookies to brownies to cheesecakes to drinks and even a small savory section with a couple recipes that would be great for the holidays. Also all the oven temperatures are in Celcius, Fahrenheit and gas mark -- very useful for those of us straddling systems!

Considering that, I was surprised that author seems to assume that we all have every modern convenience. I would have liked to have seen alternative methods proposed for those without a food mixer or other amenities.

I tested both the Butterscotch Swirl Brownies and the Honey Chocolate Madeleines and both times had some trouble with the batter (again, possibly because I didn't have the right chocolate). When I tried to swirl the chocolate into the brownies, it mostly ended up mixing in in some places and staying on top in others, making the texture a little mushy once cooked. (Though still yummy of course.)

I didn't quite master the Honey Chocolate Madeleine batter either, which never became thick at the beginning, like it was supposed to, and the end result tasted good but had a texture more like cakey brownies than like madeleines.

Still, there are quite a few delicious-looking recipes still to try (White Chocolate Cookies Studded with Cranberries, Toasted Pecan Shortbreads, Lemon and Chocolate Tart...) and I know some guinea pigs who will be happy to test until I get the batter just right!

A big thank you to Absolute Press and View and Review for letting me test this cookbook!

19 October 2009

Seasonal Food and World Food Day

So, I missed World Food Day this year. I've been sick and run down with things to do and I started to lose the train of them a few days ago (just in time for World Food Day). But better late than never, as they say, so I'll tell you about it anyway...

World Food Day is a day set aside by the World Food Programme to focus on issues of hunger and famine with this year's theme being "Achieving Food Security in Times of Crisis". We are also encouraged to focus on what we can do personally to prevent hunger in the world and in our communities.

Last year, a couple of amazing bloggers came up with the idea of creating a network devoted to working on the issue. Bloggeraid Changing the Face of Famine supports the World Food Programme and particularly the School Meals Programme, and to this end we've been writing a cookbook -- which is almost finished! (Stayed tuned because you'll all be encouraged to buy it when it comes out for sale on Amazon :-)) In the meantime, bloggeraid has created a partnership with The Cookbook People, whose cookbook software helps you create and print your own family cookbook. They have generously agreed to donate $20 to the School Meals Programme when a member mentions them on her/his blog. It was the least I could do.

As I was feeling sad for not having cooked something hearty and inexpensive and posted it for Oct. 16, I realized that I actually had -- in my guest posts for Seasonal Market Menus. In my CSA, I get cheap, local and seasonal vegetables and cook with them every week. So, although the meals are separate from the World Food Day chat, you should head over and check out Potato, Peppers and Greens Frittata, Insalata Caprese and How I Learned to Like Swiss Chard.

Also to look forward to: as part of the Bloggeraid View and Review initiative, I will soon be critiquing Divine: Heavenly Chocolate Recipes with a Heart...

13 October 2009

Seasonal Market Menus

This week I am guest-posting on Croquecamille's baby blog, Seasonal Market Menus. Every week, Camille posts the content of her CSA with a few menu ideas and then later beautiful pictures and descriptions of what she's made with her seasonal ingredients. If you want to know more about what was in my CSA this week and what I'm doing with it, head on over!

Cette semaine, je suis invitée sur le bébé blog de Croquecamille, Seasonal Market Menus. Toutes les semaines, Camille télécharge une photo de son panier bio avec des idées de recette et plus tard dans la semaine, nous avons droit à des photos et descriptions de repas délicieux qu'elle a fait avec ses ingrédients de saison. Si vous voulez voir mon panier complet de la semaine et ce que j'en fais, c'est là que cela se passe !

06 October 2009

Golden Curry

After a short spell of beautiful fall weather, the rain has settled in here, as have seasonal colds (D. was in bed all weekend and I'm feeling sniffly). The days are getting shorter, and I've been craving warm and comforting foods.

Après quelques belles journées d'automne, la pluie est enfin arrivée, ainsi que les rhumes du changement de saison (D. a dû passer le week-end au lit et je commence à me moucher aussi). Les jours sont plus courts et j'ai envie de bons plats chauds et réconfortants.

Adoptee Nicola to the rescue!! When it's pouring rain, like it is today, one needs incentive to get out of bed, ideally a phone call from Irina Brook asking me to star in her next play. Failing that, the postman ringing with a package is the next best thing, especially when that package contains the Golden Curry mix Nic used to make her mouth-watering Japanese Beef Curry.

Quand il pleut des cordes, comme aujourd'hui, j'ai envie de me blottir sous la couette et de rester au lit. Il faudrait quelque chose de très important pour me faire sortir, idéalement un coup de fil d'Irina Brook qui me propose un rôle dans sa prochaine pièce. A défaut, le mieux c'est de recevoir un colis venu de l'autre côté de la Manche qui contient le mélange Golden Curry que Nicola de Lemon and Cheese a utilisé pour faire son Curry de boeuf japonais.

I made the curry right away and the taste was wonderful. Just the kind of warm and comforting I was looking for, spicy but not too hot (especially good for D. who doesn't do well with super spice) and full of flavor. Good thing Nic put the recipe on her blog because my Japanese is little on the weak side and I couldn't have read a thing on the package if I tried! The best part is that there's still plenty of mix for future curries! If you're someplace where you can get your hands on Golden Curry, or you know someone nice enough to send you some, you should go for it, and check out the curry recipe here. I made mine with beef, carrots, peppers and potatoes. Yummy!

J'ai testé le curry le plus rapidement possible et c'était délicieux. Chaud et réconfortant, exactement ce que je cherchais. C'était bien épicé mais mais pas trop relevé (parfait pour D. qui n'aime pas les plats trop piquants). Heureusement, Nic a mis la recette sur son blog car sur l'emballage tout est en japonais et je n'aurais pas compris comment faire ! J'ai fait le mien au boeuf, carottes, poivrons et pommes de terre. Miam !

02 October 2009

Le garlic bread n'est pas français

In English here.

Tout a commencé avec cette cafetière :

Aux Etats-Unis j'ai appris à appeler ceci un French press (cafetière française). Imaginez ma surprise quand j'arrive en France et qu'on me parle d'une cafétière italienne ! Ah bon ? Mais cela ne vient pas de chez vous ? (Peut-être les deux pays ont raison, car cela a été crée en France, mais avec l'aide d'un Italien selon cette histoire...)

Ce genre de confusion culturelle arrive tout le temps -- les French fries, qui ne sont pas du tout French, l'oeil américan que n'importe qui peut avoir -- et surtout dans le monde des gourmands. Par exemple, ce que vous appelez une crème anglaise a pour nous un goût de French vanilla. Votre sauce américaine a été inventée par un cuisiner français. Notre French dressing est une vinaigrette que l'on peut acheter au supermarché américain, amis dont je n'ai jamais vu la trace en France (c'est rouge/orange et souvent fait avec du ketchup ou de la purée de tomates). Ne parlons même pas des stéréotypes (les Américains ne mangent pas tout le temps des hamburgers, tout comme les Français ne passent pas leur temps à gober des escargots et cuisses de grenouilles).

Parfois, même ces expressions montrent une hostilité ancienne : quand vous "filez à l'anglais", les Anglais take a French leave. Comme ça, on rejette la faute sur son voisin ? Mais je ne me mêle pas de ces histoires...

Je préfère vous parler de garlic bread (pain à l'ail). Quand j'étais à Londres il y a deux semaines, j'ai appris que selon les Anglais, les Français adorent le garlic bread. Sauf que je n'en ai jamais vu en France ! Pourtant, c'est délicieux et encore mieux avec du French bread (une baguette, comme vous dites)...

Pour 2 personnes

1/2 baguette
1 gousse d'ail, hachée
20g de beurre

1 c.s. de sauce tomates/pesto
1 c.c. d'herbes fraîches

Préchauffer la four à 190ºC.

Ouvrir la baguette (comme si vous alliez la couper en deux, mais sans la couper complètement). Etaler le beurre des deux côtés. Saupoudrer d'ail hachée et étaler la sauce tomates/pesto de l'autre. Ajouter les herbes si vous en utilisez.

Fermer la baguette et entourer de papier alu. Mettre au four 7 minutes, avant de passer sous le grill 2 minutes pour la toaster. Couper en tranches et servir chaud.

Garlic Bread Is Not French

En français ici.

It all started with this coffee pot:

I have always called it a French press. Imagine my surprise when I got to France and heard it called a cafétière italienne! Is it French or Italian?? (Apparently it was invented by some old French man on a hill with an Italian friend according to this story - but that's besides the point.)

The point is: this kind of cultural mix up happens all the time, like with French fries, invented in Belgium, and French dressing, a commercial sauce in the US often made with ketchup that I've never seen in France. Of course English-speakers are not the only culprits. The French have a sauce américain used on crustaceans that was invented by a French chef and contains shallots, cognac, white wine, lots of butter and a number of other ingredients Americans rarely cook with. They'll talk about an observant person having l'oeil américain (the American eye) no matter what his or her nationality, and despite the fact the expression orginally referred to American Indians, not people who stand when they hear the Star-Spangled Banner.

Sometimes it goes both ways: what the French call crème anglaise, tastes to us like French vanilla. My absolute favorite example of this is the fact that leaving a party without saying goodbye can in French be called filer à l'anglaise (rushing out English style), and, in England, "taking a French leave" - with each culture pining this rudeness on the other. But that's a old war that I'm going to stay out of.

I'd rather talk to you about garlic bread. Despite general wisdom in England, garlic bread is not French. Most French people have never even heard of it, quite a shame in my opinion, especially since it's particularly good made with French bread (which really does come from France).

For 2 people

1/2 baguette (French bread)
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 - 1 1/2 Tbsp butter

1 Tbsp sauce of your choice (tomato/pesto/etc)
1 Tbsp fresh herbs

Preheat oven to 375ºF/190ºC.

Split the baguette in half without cutting all the way through. Spread butter on both sides. Sprinkle garlic on one side and the sauce of your choice on the other (or sprinkle with herbs).

Close bread and wrap in aluminum foil. Bake about 7 minutes before taking off the foil and putting in the broiler 1-2 minutes to toast the bread. Cut into slices and serve warm.