About

"The evolving Francophile..."

My husband Jack has always wanted to live in Paris and learn French. I thought it would be good for him to achieve his life time dream. Hence, we moved to Paris in 2008. My first year was difficult. I started "missives" to relieve some stress and chronicle my life so friends back in the US could read what I am experiencing. I currently write about my food and travel experiences, which is my passion.

It is definitely a challenge to live here, but each year it gets easier, and quite enjoyable, in large part because I value friendships over locale. I have a love/hate relationship with Paris as do most Parisians, mais La vie est belle (but life is good)!

Friday, July 17, 2020

ENGLISH MUFFINS





As some of you may know, I hate to knead, and I don’t have own a stand-mixer, so I prefer using this recipe. Downfall, it's a 2-day process so I have to wait til next day to enjoy them. But then again, you’ll be able to have it for breakfast the next morning.


INGREDIENTS

  • 2 1/2 cups (1-cup all-purpose flour, 00 (Italian/Romanian) or T45 (French tout-usage) and 1-1/2 cups of whole wheat flour). You can replace 50 grams of flour with some oat flour, rye, or spelt etc. But you always have to have a flour that has gluten. All whole wheat works, because it has gluten
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast. If using levain, use 100 grams of freshly fed.
  • Pinch of sugar, about a pinch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cups milk, if vegan use a nut milk or even water
  • 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon butter or oil


DAY BEFORE


I did not take a photo of mixing the dough, but basically mix the flours together with a whisk. DO NOT add salt and yeast on top of each other it may kill the yeast. However, if using levain, you can miss the 2-together.  Atop the yeast add the pinch of sugar to help feed the yeast.

Add the liquid and butter or oil. Make sure if using butter, melt it a little til warm, but not hot. Mix it, with a little liquid at a time. Flour can be different even in hours of the day because of humidity. And, if by chance it seems too shaggy, add more liquid (water) until you get a sticky, tacky dough, but NOT overly wet.

Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for a minimum of 18-hours, on counter

NEXT DAY



Dust your mat or counter assuming. If you have tile counters, I recommend you use a mat or a cutting board. Pour dough onto a mat. Pat down with your floured hands or use a rolling pin if you prefer (I prefer my hands) and flatten to about 1 inch thick. Then using a cookie cutter (I used an old can) and cut into disk, any size you like. Dust a pan covered with paper wrap dusted with cornmeal. Cover with plastic and let it rise a 2nd time for approximately 1-hour.

Note: left over dough re-pat and cut more rounds. Won’t be as pretty, but will taste the same.




In an un-oiled pan at a low to medium-low heat, add the English muffins.





Cover the pan to create steam for about 5-7 minutes (depends on the size of your disk) Check bottom for a light brown color.





Turn over once the bottom is light





Voila, finished product


NOTE: I DO NOT cook the English muffins to well-done, in fact, I cook it til it’s slightly cooked and somewhat a little raw, only because we like our English muffins toasted. If you don’t like toasted English muffins, then cook them longer. If they are a little raw, as I like them, store them, score them for an easy cut and store them in the freezer.

HAPPY COOKING 




Wednesday, July 15, 2020

HIGH ALTITUDE COOKING




As most of you know,  up until January of this year, we had a "get-away" home in the Sierra Nevadas of Lake Tahoe.

During our time there, I taught cooking and ran a now defunct cooking club called, "Serene Lakes Cooking Club."  Residences were located between 5-7,000 feet above sea level in elevation. So cooking at times were challenging.

I wrote this years back, but is still applicable today. So, if you find yourself in any mountain areas in high elevations, especially above 5,000 feet, I hope this information will help.

High altitude cooking

There are different schools of thought on high altitude cooking. Inquiring minds want to know, and here are a few tips that I’ve discovered through trial and error as well as some research I’ve conducted… Of course, they are debatable.

Before we get to the tips, what exactly is the difference?

Boiling point. Water and other liquids evaporate faster and boil at lower temperatures. Hence, liquids boil at 212 degrees F at sea level and at Lake Tahoe at about 198 degrees F. General rule, for every 500 feet of ascent, the boiling point is lowered by 1 degrees F. Wow, if that’s true, does that mean we get "hotter" the further we go up in elevation.

Gases expand at higher altitudes. For example, leavening gases in breads and cakes expand more. Another analogy we can relate to, if you fly or come up to the "mountains" the gases in your body, in particular your stomach, expands. Hence, it needs to be expelled. Use your imagination as to how it’s done?

TIPS:

Cooking utensils.

For some reason, foods cooked at high altitude sticks to cooking pans. My guess is that since pressure is lower, the closer you get to heat source, the hotter it is and liquid heats quicker at the heat source, which could also potentially burn quicker. The liquid temperature is not evenly distributed. I’ve discovered non-stick surfaces work well. I’m not fond of Teflon, but Circulon makes a wonderful product.

Another trick, get rid of those double boilers. General rule, over 5,000 feet above sea level, double boilers are not hot enough to gelatinize starch. Be brave, use direct heat.

Longer cooking time. Have you noticed when you cook pasta or any starch it seems to take forever. You literally can go watch a movie, come back, and it’s still cooking (a little exaggeration, but you get the point). To compensate use about 20% more liquid to counterbalance the quick evaporation.

Another trick I’ve learned, if you’re cooking a dish that requires rice, e.g., Paella, pre-cook the rice to "al dente" stage, than incorporate in the dish and cook til done.

Quick rise. Breads and cakes rise rapidly. Only problem, it may rise quicker, but it isn’t quite cooked; hence, you tend to cook it longer and it dries out. Remember those quick gas expansions I mentioned above, a good solution would be to reduce the ‘proofing’ time. Another solution is to increase the temperature in your oven by 25 degrees F, and also reduce baking time by 20%. And, when using liquids, use cold water, it gives your baking goods strength. We do want them to ‘bake up’ tall and strong.

For recipes using Baking Powder: Break your baking rule. Forget room temperature anything, use cold eggs, and don’t overbeat the eggs. Cold eggs have more substance and strength, and not over beating minimizes the air. Remember the gas rule above. Also, decrease the amount of the baking powder slightly, typically by ¼. No adjustments are needed when using yeast. However, if you’re using eggs/yolks in e.g., tiramisu, beat the hell out of those eggs, you want gas, I mean air in your eggs.


General rule for "Mountain Cooking" - high altitude:
1. reduce baking powder by ¼ tsp
2. reduce sugar for each cup by 1-3 tbsp
3. increase liquid for each cup by 3-4 tbsp

I have also discovered something even simpler, if you can afford it, get a convection oven. The constant circulation of the heat seems to stabilize the pressure a bit. When using a convection oven, I do not alter the recipe.

HAPPY COOKING



Tuesday, July 14, 2020

French FLOUR



EUROPEAN FLOURS AND THEIR EQUIVALENCE 




With the new world we live in, I can no longer review restaurants in Paris. So rather than being idle, I've decided to share my cooking experiences with my readers so when visitors come, or even residents, they will better understand how to translate their cooking with french ingredients.

As with most of us baking has become a hobby. But I had a lot of mishaps, since baking is not my forté. From these mishaps I learned a lot so I thought I'd share them with you.





THIS IS ALL ABOUT FLOUR or in French "FARINE DE BLE"

Since I no longer go out to eat, I thought I’d share with you my cooking findings of experiments that I’ve done while in lock-down.

Although I don't bake bread as much as I used to, because the kilos we're gaining are going straight to our hips, I still bake a small boule for Just Jack maybe once a week.

During my self-imposed quarantine, which I'm still on (I go out maybe once a week), I took the time to learn as much as I could about the different flours in Europe and how they work, with a concentration on French flours.



  • The bran – Found on the outer part of the wheat berry
  • rich in fiber and minerals
  • This is the part that give most flavor to sourdough
  • The endosperm – The inner most part of the wheat berry
  • rich in starch, and made up mostly of carbohydrates and proteins
  • This is the part that is important for gluten development in bread
  • The germ – A small part of the wheat berry
  • rich in vitamins and healthy fats


Very simply put, French flours are graded by how much mineral is left in. The lower the number like T45, the less mineral, whereas the higher number, as in T110 the higher the mineral content. But that doesn’t necessarily correspond to protein amount, which I’ll get into later.

I believe American flours are easier to understand, we don’t have as many different flours at the supermarket shelves as we do here in France.

Here's some basic tips I’ve learned along the way.

1. The one factor that I discovered is that the absorbance of water-to-flour is so different than in US flours. Oftentimes, the flours in France absorb more water quicker and faster, so you actually need less water. I can only advise you to use your memory and remember what your dough felt like when you made the same bread in US. So I recommend you use your hands to “feel the dough." I found going with 65% hydration works well with weak flours (below 10% protein), whereas higher hydration for 11% protein flour (78-80%). But, be forewarned, you will very rarely find anything over 12% protein levels in France.

2. There is no “All-purpose flour” per se, nor “bread flour” as in US; they're usually labeled by types of flour, strength, or mineral content. I have friends that mix equal parts T45 with T55 to make an American version of “all purpose flour."  There is flour called “tout usage” which does mean "all-purpose" but it’s much weaker than the American version, it’s basically a type T45 with a tad more strength, and only a few brands carry them (Carrefour). It’s my go to for desserts.  Hence, when making bread, especially sourdough artisan bread, it's important if you're looking for a "strong white flour" then read the protein level. You could get a T55 which says it's good for bread but the protein level is only at 10% (weak).

3. You’ll see a lot of 00 for pizza dough. And, that’s exactly what it’s used for, pizza. I have used it in place of bread, but it’s not as strong for use with 100% “levain” but works well with commercial yeast, from my experience

4. For grains such as rye, spelt, kasha, teft, bulgar wheat etc., you will not find them at your grocery store. You need to go to the Health-food stores such as Natural.

5. Of course, you can go to the many markets and get flour milled by a farmer. They’re usually sold in bulk, so you’ll need to ask them what the flour is good for.

Well this is about as much as I’ve learned.

Happy Cooking.




Here my favorite sour dough bread recipe to use in France, that I adapted from the “Regular Chef”.  I created a checklist for your convenience

INGREDENTS 
100 grams levain freshly fed and risen (your own favorite sourdough starter)
325 (for 65% hydration) grams water, tepid (75°F)
400 grams T65 (make sure the protein percentage is at minimum 11%)
100 grams Spelt (épeautre en français)
10 grams fine sea salt

MIXING DOUGH

- [ ] Fill a large bowl with 300g of water at about 85°F (~30°C)
- [ ] Add the entire levain (about 100g) to the bowl and stir to disperse it throughout the liquid.
- [ ] Add 400 g of flour, along with 50g of whole wheat flour (mixture), and stir with a dough whisk or by hand, until all flour is completely saturated.
- [ ] Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap, and allow it to rest in a warm environment (about 85°F or 29°C) for 20-40 minutes.
- [ ] While the dough is resting, mix together 25g of water and 10g of salt in a separate bowl or measuring cup.
- [ ] After 20-40 minutes, add the 25g of water and 10g of salt, and incorporate it into the dough by dimpling and folding it in.



BULK RISE

* Transfer the dough to a clear rectangular container, cover, and return it to your warm environment for 25 minutes.
* During the bulk rise phase, we will perform 5 sets of folds, spaced out at 25 minute intervals.
* After the first 25 minutes, take your dough and perform a set of stretch and folds.
- [ ] One S/F 25 minutes
- [ ] Two S/F 25 minutes
- [ ] Third S/F 25 minutes
- [ ] 4th Coil 25 minutes
- [ ] 5th Coil 25 minutes
- [ ] Cover the container, and return it to your warm environment.
- [ ] If you see any large bubbles on the surface of the dough, pop them so they don’t end up in the final bread.
- [ ] The dough should be soft and airy by now, and it should have grown in size by about 20-30% since the beginning of the bulk rise phase.
- [ ] If it doesn’t seem ready yet, you can return the dough to your warm environment for another 25 minutes and perform another set of coil folds, then proceed from there.
- [ ] After the last set of folds, set the dough aside for about 10 minutes to let it relax.

SHAPE Remove your dough onto a lightly floured work surface, with the top of the dough facing down.

You now have one “floured” side of the dough, and one “unfloured” side.
Lightly flour your hands and bench scraper to prevent the dough from sticking.
Make sure your surface doesn’t have too much excess flour on it, then place down one of your dough pieces with the unfloured side facing down.
Use your bench scraper to form the loaf into a taught ball by scooping it from the side as you rotate it a quarter turn, then scrape it back toward yourself.
Repeat that process a few more times until you feel some tension develop on the outer surface and the dough and it maintains its round shape.  Be careful not to over-shape, which can cause the surface to tear.

Again, pop any large bubbles that form on the surface of the dough.

Dust the tops of the loaves with flour, then cover them with a floured kitchen towel and let them rest for about 20-30 minutes

They should flatten, but only slightly if you’ve developed some good tension during the initial shaping.  If they spread out too thin, you can give them another round of shaping, as we just did, to develop some more tension.

Then, let them rest for another 20-30 minutes.

FINAL SHAPE- PLACE IN BENNETON  OR BOWL LINED WITH A KITCHEN TOWEL SPRINKLED WITH FLOUR OR RICE FLOUR AND REFRIDGERATE FOR 12-24 HOURS (OVERNIGHT)

SCORE, BAKE 20 MINUTES WITH LID AT 500F (250C), LOWER TO 450F (230C) REMOVE TOP BAKE ANOTHER 20 MINUTES



Sunday, November 3, 2019

Happy Fall and Winter





We have decided to stay in Palm Springs for the winter. I want to wish everyone well. And, as General MacArthur once said, "I shall Return".  Safe Holidays to all.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Les Ombres Restaurant -- Restaurant Review


27 Quai Branly, 75007
Line 80 Bus (Bosquet/Rapp)
Check website for operating hours and reservations
https://www.lesombres-restaurant.com/fr/
Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-80); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-90); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (90+)

3 - Stars....................................................€€€........................................................ 1 - Bell
       



I've always wanted to go to this restaurant because of the reputed fabulous views of not only the Eiffel tower, but of Paris. The restaurant is actually located where the Branly museum is located. A museum that focuses on ethnic art.

What a beautiful way to walk to the restaurant entrance. "Les Ombres" means "The Shadows". As you enter you pass a little mini-forest of shrubs and trees. Then a large door greets you with a not so friendly concierge, but that's OK. The restaurant is located on the 5th floor.

We really lucked out because it was the first day in a long, long time we actually had good weather. Not too hot and not cold at all.


So, tonight the restaurant was only open on the outside terrace, which was great for us. I have to say it truly is spectacular and even romantic on the terrace. I do recommend that if you don't like the sun, then wear a hat or use lots of sunscreen. The sun will move. So, if you were in the shade one minute, conceivably as the sun moves, you will be directly in the sun. So, to avoid the sun altogether, make a later reservations when the sun goes down. The Eiffel tower was so close, it felt you could touch it.

So, A+ on the views and ambience.

Now onto the food.

They have 2-prix-fixe menus. One for 71€ which included 3-courses from a recommended menu, and one for 98€ which included a glass of champagne and wine pairing. Three of us opted a-la-carte, and one opted for the 71€ prix-fixe menu

Note: I'm only reviewing the dishes I had. The menu is in both French & English


ENTRÉE


Lobster salad and melting eggplant, dressing with Banyuls and olive oil. This was a cold entrée. I have to say what a delicious first course. The lobster meat was perfectly cooked and sweet. They did not skimp on the lobster. Eggplant was a nice accompaniment and the touch of olive oil gave it some freshness. And, the sweet dollops of passion fruit gave a nice sweet/sour component. Overall, an excellent entrée.


















PLATS


Preserved pork belly with honey and soya vegetables in a wok.  Now this was a total disappointment. I like to think of myself as a pork belly connoisseur.  I love pork belly, I've had it pretty much around the world where it is served. But this must've been the fattest pork I've ever had. The ratio of fat to actual meat was about 4-to-1. And, as you can see from the photo (top portion fat), it was a pretty thick cut of pork, albeit mostly fat. But in fairness I have to say that the meat portion was very tasty. It was the fat ratio that was off-putting. I did not like the vegetables at all. They were way overcooked. And, the strangest part of this dish is they used popcorn, YES, popcorn to garnish the dish. I tasted it and some weren't even popped.  This dish was definitely a miss. My advice to them is trim the fat, get rid of the popcorn. And, flash fry the veggies.



DESSERT



Saint-Marcelin from Mme Cantin, and condiments. As usual, I had the cheese. It was a nice creamy cow's milk cheese. Nothing to complain about this cheese or any cheese in France for that matter. You just can't go wrong with cheese in France.



















WINES

BOURGONE ALIGOTE. In my pure enjoyment of the view, I forgot to take a photo of the bottle. But these are the tasting notes of the wine

"Bourgogne aligoté is a delicious white wine that is young, stylish and is a little different. It is pale gold in color and offers a well-balanced taste, and ranges from a fruity bouquet with notes of apple and lemon to a more floral palette. In the mouth, this vibrant wine tickles the taste buds." ~ Bourgogne wines.

It was a great pairing with our dinner.



SUMMARY

I loved, loved, loved, the location, the killer views, the ambiance, and the service. Now onto the food. It started well, the entrée of lobster salad was delicious, but the plat that I had, I just can not forgive them for their amateurish mistake. Trim some of the fat before or after confit'ing it. Don't overcook the vegetables. And, what's up with the popcorn. I'm not watching a movie.

Normally I ask myself the question, would I go back? Unfortunately, it's not a clear answer, and I'd go back for different reasons. If it were e.g., a cold cloudy day for example, with no view and basically you're going for the food, I say, NO. If it's a beautiful warm day with clear skies, the food becomes secondary and the view becomes upfront and center, then I would say, YES. Our friends thought the food was just OK/good. Jack had his entrée of foie gras with rhubarb and it was a hit with him. His plat of mackerel was a miss. Methinks they have a problem with their plat dishes. 

For 1 bottle of water, 2-coupe de champagne, 1-kir, 1-pastis, 2-bottles of white wine, 1 glass of red wine, 1-prix-fixe; three a-la-carte with 3-entrées, 3-plats, 2-desserts our bill came to 426€ for 4-people or 106.50€ per person.

Note: you have to provide credit card for an approval that they will charge your account 320€ if you cancel under 24-hour notice.













Monday, May 20, 2019

O'Bergine -- Restaurant Review


32 Rue Tiquetonne 75002 Paris
Tel: +33 9 71 51 12 72
Metro: Line 4 (Etienne Marcel)
Reservations can be made on La Fourchette (The Fork)
Website: https://obergine-restaurant.business.site/



Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)
1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-80); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-90); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (90+)

4.25  - Stars....................................................€€........................................................ 3 - Bell



I love this neighborhood around Rue Montorgueil. The street is called Rue Tiquetonne and it's about as French quaint as it gets.  We went with some friends and decided we wanted to do something other than traditional french, and this fit the bill.

The name is a play on Irish names, which I thought was very cute.







It's a small quaint modest restaurant, it sits maybe 26-people. The maitre'd, Omer as well as the co-owner was very warm and welcoming.



I spoke to Chef Claude and he's from Lebanon so the cuisine is a fusion of middle-eastern and french. We perused the menu, and it had a limited choice of different dishes.  All are prepared onsite.






















ENTRÉE


Deconstructed hummus. What a great dish. I've never had a deconstructed hummus. It was interesting. We had a traditional hummus made chickpeas, as well as one made with carrots and sweet potatoes. Keep in mind that hummus is made with sesame paste, tahini, so the added sesame gave the dish a nice textural component.

Personally, I would've loved it served with traditional pita bread,  or a Lebanese flatbread, but it was served with french baguette, other than that it was a good start.






PLATS



Filet of sea bream. This was my favorite dish of the evening. The skin was nice and crispy and the fish very, very tender. The accompanying green asparagus, crunchy mushrooms along with the broccoli and carrots as well as zucchini gave the fish a nice healthy balance. Although you would think that the sesame cream tahini sauce would be too much for this dish, it actually gave it some smoothness. A big hit for me.









O'Bergine Farcie.  This is their signature dish known as "Batenjen Mehchiand" rightfully so.  A delicious farcie (stuffed eggplant) with Lebanese spices and citrus.  What came through on this dish was the scented cinnamon, which is typically used in this region of the middle east. It was a beautiful mix of flavors all subtly blended. A hit.







DESSERTS



Crispy angel hair with cream and ice cream. Using noodles or noodle-like pastry is not uncommon in the middle-east or the Maghreb countries, but I've always had it with loads of honey, which I don't particularly care for, because it's too sweet. This dessert although complicated looking was actually quite a simple dessert and was not smothered in honey. It's mascarpone and mozzarella cream nested (literally) between two crispy angel hair noodles topped with vanilla ice cream. Jack liked this dessert not only for the flavors, but also for the different textural component, so it was big hit.













Crème brûlée- A standard version.

Cheesecake au Labneh- A delicious, more like a cake, cheesecake but made with labneh instead of the traditional cream cheese or cottage cheese.

NOTE:
I only reviewed the dishes that I tasted.


SUMMARY


What a great find. Don't be deceived by its size and unpretentious setting, the chef makes some pretty damn good middle-eastern/mediterranean food. I thought all the dishes were excellent. As I mentioned the only thing I thought odd was they did not serve the meal with typical middle-eastern bread such as pita or lebanese mountain bread (khobez).  Would we go back ABSOLUTELY.


For 4-entrées, 4-plats, 3-desserts, 4-glasses of wine, 1-coffee our bill came to 142.50€ or 36€ a person. A very, very reasonable price.