31 October 2010

It's Okay Not to be Perfect Grape Syrup

This morning, I did something I'd never done before: I left my apartment in my college sweatshirt (complete with holes I cut in the bottom of the sleeves for my thumbs to make half-mittens - winters are COLD where I went to school) and walked out onto the streets of Paris in it. Okay, so I went to the ATM machine and put my sister in a taxi for the airport, but still. This in a country where people put on their makeup to go to the boulangerie (the distance equivalent of going to the end of the driveway to get the paper in America). I thought "what was I so worried about before? That people would think I was American? I AM American." See, I've been so worried about fitting in for the past few years that I sometimes forget that it's okay to be me. Not perfect, not French, not a morning a person, and all that jazz.

So, in my new-found free to be me-ness, I'm going to admit that this grape syrup wasn't supposed to be grape syrup at all. It was supposed to be grape jelly. After getting grapes in my CSA, I was inspired by Camille's idea on Seasonal Market Menus 10/13. I looked up some jelly recipes and, frankly, it didn't look that hard. I've never made grape jelly before, but there's a first time for everything. (Maybe there still will be a first time for grape jelly, who knows.)

Here's what I did. I washed almost 3 lbs of grapes and boiled them in a pot until they were soft (about 15 minutes). I didn't have a jelly bag, or cheesecloth, so I let the grape pulp strain through a coffee filter for a few hours until the liquid had collected. I measure out the juice (I had 2 1/2 cups), put it in a pot and brought it to a boil. I slowly stirred in 2 1/2 cups white sugar and stirred constantly without letting it boil until the syrup had thickened (again about 15 minutes, maybe a bit less). Then I poured it into clean jars and set aside to cool.

If you try this recipe and get grape jelly from it, tell me how you did it! Also if you've successfully made grape jelly, I want to hear about it.

For now, I'm perfectly happy being me with my fresh grape syrup, which I've been eating on pancakes, over ice cream, in fruit salad... any way I can!

22 October 2010

Harissa Carrot Salad with Feta

In my recent post about Mary Sharp's hot sauce, I was complaining that France does not have any decent hot sauce. French cuisine, while wonderful in many respects, is severely lacking in the spicy department. The French are so resistant to spice that they don't have names for most kinds of hot pepper. In fact, if you ask someone at the market what kind of hot pepper they are selling, they will most likely respond by telling you the color of the pepper (Camille will back me up on this).

A couple do have names: there's the piment d'Espelette, but it comes from the Basque country, which - if you ask the Basque - is hardly part of France, and the pili-pili pepper, a South American pepper, which the French only know about because it's often used in African cooking. That pepper is better known to us as the kind they use in Tabasco sauce. Pili-pili is actually the African name for it, which the French have taken, just as we've taken jalepeño, habanero and many others from our neighbors to the south.

This brings us to the one kind of hot sauce you can easily find in France: harissa. Harissa is a North African chili paste that's common in Algeria and Tunisia (places where lots of French immigrants come from). It's made with different hot peppers and spices depending on the region. When I saw this this Carrot Salad with Harissa Feta and Mint over at Smitten Kitchen I knew it was perfect for the bundles and bundles of carrots that are already starting to grace our CSA and probably won't let up all winter. Don't get me wrong, I like carrots, but even if you're not crazy about them and/or sick of them, this recipe will get you excited about them again!

If you can't find harissa where you are, try using your favorite hot sauce in this recipe.

Harissa Carrot Salad with Feta

5 large carrots (about 1 1/3 lbs or 600g)
5 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp harissa (or to taste)
1 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup of feta (about 100g)

Peel and grate the carrots and put in a large bowl.

In a small frying pan, heat 4 Tbsp olive oil and cook the garlic, cumin, harissa and sugar about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Pour over the carrots with the remaining Tbsp olive oil and mix well. Add the herbs and stir. Leave to infuse for at least an hour and stir in the feta before eating.


12 October 2010

Another Trip and Autumn

Well I've been traveling again. This really is no good for my blog! I don't manage to travel and blog at the same time. I can't imagine what people do who have blogs about traveling. They are far more talented than I. Two of my very good friends from college got married last Friday and I wouldn't have missed it for the world, but heading back to the US so soon did quite a number on me, so while I get back to Paris time and back into the rhythm here, I will just share a few fun photos from out trip.

Despite summer drought leading to muted colors, absolutely nothing beats autumn maple trees

Edward Cullen, this means you!

Took D. apple picking for the first time

Someone in Western, MA is tired of leaf peepers!

But nobody is tired of golden leaves in the afternoon light.

(Thanks to D. for some of the photos)