Saturday, September 27, 2014

Coconut Cream Dreams: Part Un

Have you ever tasted something so utterly delicious that you wonder why on earth you haven't eaten more of it during the course of your life?  Or, another thought that just occurred to me, maybe, just maybe, your tastebuds have been in training for that particular dish or meal.  Would it be as good if you had access to it anytime anywhere?  I dare say it would not. Would this special treat become a lovely gustatory memory if you could have it any time your little heart desired?  Would the second time be as unforgettable as the first?  All good questions and worth pondering, n'est-ce pas?

This summer, I took a trip out to the mid-west with the World's Best In-Laws.  Sister-in-Law and Parents-in-Law and I flew from RDU to Minneapolis (I had no idea an airport could be so spread out) then on to Rapid City, South Dakota.  We rented a car and then drove south to Crawford, Nebraska. The Ex-Ex and his family are from Nebraska.  Cattle ranchers.  They moved to North Carolina when the Ex-Ex was going into 7th grade.  I was the trip's chauffeur.  The In-Laws hadn't been back to Nebraska in a few years.  It was Father-in-Law's 60th high school reunion and Sioux County fair weekend.  I am always up for an adventure and I hadn't been back in over 10 years.

For lunch one day, Aunt Linda wanted to go out and about and she suggested lunch at the High Plains Homestead's Drifter Cookshack.  It is out in the middle of nowhere but a lovely nowhere.  I am a mountain girl but the prairies out in the northwest corner of Nebraska are breathtakingly beautiful to me.

Could this have to do with all the westerns I watched as a little girl with Daddy Tommy?  John Wayne?  Clint Eastwood?  Well, maybe.  It is unchanged country where ranchers still try to make a decent living under the hot summer sun and snow covered winters, completely at the mercy of the whims of the weather.  Father-in-Law was so happy to see bales and bales and bales of hay and fields of clover.  He spotted them from the air as we were getting ready to land in Rapid City.  He sat up front with me in the rented Jeep and I was so glad to be with him.

Back to lunch.  There weren't many choices on the menu.  Not that there needed to be.  The Cookshack is small, decorated with lots of cool stuff, and was slowly starting to fill up with hungry eaters when we arrived. Aunt Linda is a pie lover and asked about the day's selection.

She was told that there were only a couple of pieces left so we all agreed that they should be brought to our table immediately.   I ordered an Indian Fry Bread Taco Salad.  Freshly made fry bread.  It was very good.

I polished it off.  I could have ordered the infamous Coffee Burger and shared it with the entire table, but good sense prevailed and I decided against it.

(Unfortunately I think it is really hard to read.  Sorry.)  Suffice it to say that it is a legend out around Harrison and Crawford, Nebraska, having been the speciality of Sioux Sundries, now closed, for years.

Even though the pie was sitting in front of me, just waiting for my fork to cut into it, I resisted until I finished my salad.  And here is the pie that dreams are made of...

I enjoyed it while Mr. Buffalo watched from on high.  I ate my fair share of buffalo while out there but not that day.  He seemed okay with me eating salad.

I shared the pie with whomever wanted a bite.  I really did.  There was also a slice of strawberry cheesecake-like pie, but it just didn't hold a candle to the coconut cream.

This was the best meal of the trip and watching the In-Laws share a meal with family they rarely get to see did my heart so much good.  I just wish that the Ex-Ex, Son 1 and Son 2, Brothers-in-Law and Nephew could have been there, too.  Like in the old days during our family vacations out there.
Here's the lunch gang--

After lunch, I wandered around to take photos.

Oui, wild sunflowers were in bloom everywhere.

The Pie Lady is also an artist.  I met her and bought some of her notecards.

This photo I took just for you, Uncle Rod.

The infamous jackalope.  You sure had fun in 1984 with the Appalachian Mountain girl who married into the family and made her first trip west of east Tennessee to visit.  We missed you at lunch!

It was so much fun to spend time with Aunt Barbara and Uncle Dick and the first, second, and third (does that even exist?) cousins from North Dakota.  Sabrina and her babies.  Granddad Alan.

Brother-in-Law and Nephew did come join us for part of the stay.  It was fun joining in on their photographic adventures.

Brother-in-Law is working on a photo montage of me...  I look rather very scary. He is calling it Where's The Pie Smile.

Last, but certainly not least, since the whole clan wouldn't exist without them, I dedicate this blog post to Grandma and Granddad.  We miss you.  And I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Stay tuned for a recipe and Part Deux of Coconut Cream Dreams.

Bon appétit, Nebraska and all the In-Laws!  Thanks for a wonderful trip.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Why we cook

Today, I was reminded of a YouTube video I recently saw.  Two young men from Raleigh, NC accepted Chris Rosati's BIGG challenge and prepared dinner for some very deserving local women. Chris has ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease.  He graduated from Durham Academy and has made it his quest to spread kindness and happiness.  He is guy behind the Great Krispy Kreme Heist. You  may have seen him on CBS.
The video is so touching.  It is why we cook.  To bring pleasure to others.  But these young men took it to a whole different level.  It is inspiring beyond words.  Have your tissues ready.

Bon appétit!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Gourmands/Gourmets in training

Je vous présente ma classe 8B.  Here are the little darlings in my 8B class this year.  They are taking French 2.  I taught them last year in French 7 and some of them were in my 6th grade class for students new to our school.  They have to put up with me, a morning person, either first or second period every day (we have a crazy rotating schedule).  But they handle it well, for the most part, and don't growl at me very often.
This is a crew of cookers and eaters.  We have already tried macarons, those wonderful little almond flour French sensations, four times and school has been is session for only one month.
First, we sampled Parisian Macarons made by ER, using a Martha Stewart recipe-

Beautiful and tasty.

Next up, lovely little pink macarons made by MH, using a recipe from I Love Macarons by Hisako Ogita.  MH said she visited Sur La Table and bought a macaron-making kit.  I have a silicon baking mat I purchased at Galeries Lafayette in Rouen a couple of years ago, but I honestly prefer parchment paper.  Maybe I just need more practice with it, though.  The little circles are drawn on it so it is easier to make them the same size.  (How about someone come up with parchment paper with the circles drawn on it??  Maybe I will email the company about that...)

And last, but by no means least, chocolate macarons from LK and AC.  On the same day, no less.

AC's have a chocolate ganache filling (you can never go wrong with that).  LK prepared hers with the help of a pastry chef employed by her parents.  In Durham, her parents are well-known to us eaters.  They own Watts Grocery, Sage and Swift and Hummingbird Bakery.  Chefs par excellence.  I asked LK if her mom's pastry chef would give me a lesson and I am now signed up to take a macaron-making class in October.  Arles Lucy has signed up, too.

Notice how they all managed to get "feet" on their cookies.  Not necessarily an easy task, mes amis.  I have failed at it more than once.

Another day, KC brought in little chocolate cakes for us to sample.  (One of my new 6th graders brought in truffles the same day, so they were photographed together.  I will save the truffle recipe for another day!). 

If you need "real food" to serve before the dessert course, we have also sampled cassoulet, a wonderful dish that I ate in Carcassonne while on sabbatical in 2008.  LJ treated us to that.  

The little darlings reminded me that I can cook for them anytime I wish, too.  Maybe I will soon to repay them for their generosity!

Parisian Macarons

1 1/4 c. powdered sugar + 1 tsp
1 c. finely ground and blanched almonds
6 Tbsp. egg whites (~3 eggs)
1/4 c. granulated sugar
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350F.
Whisk together confectioners' sugar and ground almonds.
In a mixer, whip egg whites with salt on medium speed until foamy.
Increase speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar.
Continue to whip until stiff, glossy peaks form.
Fold in confectioners' sugar until completely incorporated.
Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Set aside.
Fit a pastry bad with a 3/8-inch #4 round tip and fill with batter.
Pipe i-inch discs onto prepared baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between cookies.
Let batter spread out and dry at room temperature.  (Drop the baking sheets on the counter a few times to get the air out of the cookies.)
A soft skin will form on the tops of the macarons after about 15 minutes.
Bake, with oven door slightly open, until the macaron surface is dry ~15 minutes.
Remove baking sheet to wire rack, let macarons cool, then peel off parchment.
Use immediately or store in an airtight container.
Turn macarons so their flat bottoms face up.
Pipe ~ 1 tsp. filling on half of the cookies and then make sandwiches.
Refrigerate for 1 hour.

3 large egg whites
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. (two sticks)  unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into pieces

Whisk egg whites and sugar in electric mixer until stiff and shiny (3-5 minutes).
Add butter, 1 piece at a time and continue mixing until butter is incorporated.
Cover and refrigerate.  Bring to room temperature before stirring/spreading.

I Love Macarons

2/3 cup almond meal or ground almonds
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 large egg whites, room temperature and preferably aged up to 3 days
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 280ºF, and position 2 racks in the lower section of the oven. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. If you have time, draw 1-inch circles on the back of each sheet, spacing the circles at least 1/2-inch apart.
  2. If your almond meal is very coarse, grind it with the powdered sugar in a food processor until fine. Sift the almond meal-powdered sugar mixture twice through a mesh sieve.
  3. Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a hand mixer), and begin to beat on medium-high. When the eggs are frothy, gradually add granulated sugar 1 tablespoon at a time until fully incorporated. Continue to beat the egg white mixture until glossy and stiff peaks form when you lift the beaters. Gently stir in the vanilla extract. Be careful to not overbeat the meringue (e.g., the meringue takes on a clumpy texture).
  4. Add half of the sifted almond mixture, and gently fold it into the meringue using a flexible silicone spatula. Lift from the bottom, up around the sides, and toward the middle, being careful to not overagitate the meringue and lose too much air. Once the almond mixture is predominantly incorporated, add the second half and repeat the folding motion.
  5. When the almond mixture is just incorporated, you will need to transform the batter into the appropriate texture. Using the flat of the spatula, "punch" down into the center of the batter, then scrape more batter from the sides to the center, and punch again. You will need to repeat this 10-15 times (or more, depending on your arm strength and the beginning texture of your batter) until the batter slowly and continuously drips back into the bowl when you scoop it up with the spatula. Think of the consistency of molten lava. For the best results, punch the batter a few times, check the consistency, then punch a few more times, etc. Do not make the batter too runny or the macarons won't rise as they should, and you could end up with oil stains on the surface.
  6. Pour batter into a pastry bag fitted with a 0.4-inch tip. In a pinch, you can also use a gallon-size Ziploc bag: just snip a teeny bit from one of the bottom corners. Twist and clip the top of the bag to avoid overflow. On your prepared baking sheets, pipe out 1-inch rounds in the circles you drew (remember to draw the circles on the back side of your parchment to avoid ink or pencil stains on your macarons!).
  7. Holding the baking sheet in both hands, rap each baking sheet firmly on the counter two or three times. This smooths out the tops and helps form the "pied" or frilly foot on the bottoms of the macarons. Allow the piped macarons to dry, uncovered, for at least 15 minutes. The macarons should form a very thin, smooth crust where, if you tap it lightly with your finger, the batter will not stick to your finger. If after 15 minutes, the batter is still sticky, let it dry longer. This may take up to an hour on humid days.
  8. Place both baking sheets in the oven and bake for 15-18 minutes. After the first 2 minutes, open the oven to allow any excess humidity to escape. Halfway through, swap oven racks and rotate the sheets for even baking. The macarons are done when they are baked all the way through and the shells are just hard. Take care to not underbake (insides will still be mushy) or overbake (tops will begin to brown). Remove them from the oven, and cool on baking sheet placed on a wire rack.
  9. When fully cooled, assemble the macarons with your choice of filling. The assembled macarons can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Basic Buttercream Filling

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Just like the basic macaron recipe, the basic buttercream filling recipe can be customized with endless flavors and colors. But don't stop at buttercream! Try jams and preserves (or even Nutella!) straight out of the jar, or whip up a quick chocolate ganache for a decadent spin on the macaron.
1.     Cut butter into pieces, and mash with a spatula until the consistency resembles mayonnaise.
2.     In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks, then add the granulated sugar, and whisk until the mixture lightens to an off-white and you can no longer see the granules of sugar. Add the milk, and whisk to combine.
3.     Pour the egg mixture into a small saucepan, and heat over low heat, whisking frequently to ensure that the mixture does not curdle or scorch. Cook until the mixture becomes thick and custardy, like pudding.
4.     Pour the egg mixture back into its bowl, and whisk constantly until it returns to room temperature. Whisk in the butter in three batches, add the vanilla, and stir until smooth and all ingredients are fully combined. Pipe or spread onto one macaron half and sandwich between the other.

Natalie's Melting Chocolate Cakes
makes 12

200 g (7oz/ scant 3/4 c.) butter, cubed
200 g (7 oz/ 1 1/3 c. dark (bittersweet) chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), broken into pieces
200 g (7 oz/scant 3/4 c) castor sugar (superfine sugar)
4 eggs
1 tsp plain all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 180˚C (350 F˚/gas mark 4).
Place the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir until the chocolate has melted.  Transfer to a large mixing bowl with the sugar, stir with a wooden spoon and leave to cool a little while.
Add the eggs to the chocolate mixture, one at a time, stirring well after each addition.  Finally, stir in the flour and mix well.
Pour the cake batter into 12 mini-loaf pans (or prepared muffin tins) and bake for 12-15 minutes until the centres are set but still a little wobbly.  Turn the oven off but leave the cakes inside for another 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
You can store these covered, in the fridge, for up to 2-3 days.  Take out 30 minutes before serving.

Easy Crockpot Cassoulet
serves 6

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs, coarsely chopped
1/4 lb. cooked smoked sausage, such as kielbasa or spicier andouille, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp. black pepper
4 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. water
3 cans (15 oz each) great northern beans, rinsed and drained
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion to hot oil and cook, stirring, until onion is tender, about 4 minutes.  Stir in chicken, sausage, garlic, thyme and pepper.  Cook 5-8 minutes, or until chicken and sausage are browned.  Stir in tomato paste and water.  Transfer to slow cooker.  Stir beans into the chicken mixture.  Cover and cook on LOW heat for 4-6 hours.  Before serving, sprinkle the chopped parsley over cassoulet.  (You could put it under the broiler for a few minutes before serving- without the parsley- to get a crust on the top- the way it was served in Carcassonne.)

When I am Chez Fanny, she serves me cassoulet.  And, of course, in France you can find seriously good duck cassoulet in a can from Castelnaudary, a lovely spot in Languedoc known as the world capital for this specialty.  

Bon appétit to all cookers and eaters, young and old alike!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Classroom skits à la française

La Brune and her Chinese take-out from China Palace, April 2014

l to r:  the Ex-Ex, Moonpie, La Brune, Mlle de Tavel, Arles Lucy, and IronWoman

For the past four years, I've had an exchange program with La Brune, pictured above.  Sadly, it isn't going to happen this school year.  I am pretty sure that I am in mourning.  School is back in session for me, it starts this week for La Brune, and I am signing students up for the spring trip to France. I've been looking through photos from last spring's exchange and came upon some forgotten video footage that I filmed with my iPad.  My 7th graders end the year with a unit about food, bien sûr, and La Brune, Mlle de Tavel and Moonpie put on a skit for them.  I am not sure that the kiddies understood as much of the French as I would have liked, but it is clear that they understood enough to giggle.  You can hear me giggle as La Brune discusses catching frogs in the pond and how she prepares them.  Most foreign language teachers are pretty good actors-- we have to be.  I just spent more than a few minutes extracting the video from my iPad, uploading it to YouTube and trying to remember how to embed video on the blog.  (I hope that some of you out there have missed new posts.  I took the summer off to hang out with family in various places, read, see movies, cook-- my usual ways to goof off, rest and relax.  I'm back, though, with photos and stories to tell.  And recipes to share, of course!  Keep coming back, please, s'il vous plaît!)

Au Resto 

Bon appétit, mes amies françaises!  Merci et à bientôt, j'espère!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A month of gourmandise

Gourmandise: nf fondness for food; delicacies
Gourmand, gourmande: adj fond of eating; nmf hearty eater

I love this French word.  I admit to being a bit worried the first time I was described as une gourmande.  I was associating it with gluttony, which doesn't sound so pretty.  One of the seven deadly sins and all that.  It conjures up an image of a fellow too rotund to push away from the table.  Now I realize that it is a compliment.  Or at least it sounds like a compliment when translated by Webster's New French Dictionary.

June was a great month for eating, which I am indeed fond of.  I found quite a few delicacies to dine upon.

I am actually going to start the ball rolling with a mini-celebration at the end of May for the BFF's birthday.  Foster's for Côtes du Rhône rosé and cheese straws.  The girl loves her some cheese straws. Bon anniversaire, mon amie!

Then along came Atlantic Beach Lemon Pie, a treat concocted by Bill Smith, chef at Crook's Corner, a restaurant in the Boro as my buddy Señor calls Carrboro, NC.  The pie was baked up by Dr. Latin, a colleague-friend at school.  The recipe was featured in a recent edition of Our State magazine and evidently we both drooled over it.  I dog-eared the page and she actually made it and brought me a slice to celebrate the end of the school year.  (You can't see it, but there is sea salt sprinkled on top...)

Can I get a chorus of School's out for the summer?  No, not forever for me yet, but for a couple of months.  Watch the video, if you can stand Alice Cooper and his bad make-up.  Johnny Depp is playing guitar on this live version.

Back to the food.  Next up to the plate-- pickle chips and beer at Bull City Burger and Brewery.  I dream about these things.  Pretzel-coated house made dill pickles with an aioli dipping sauce.

The BFF and I drove to Charlotte for a baby shower for my pretend daughter Mata Hari.  I love this girlie dearly.  She is my French teaching dean of students protegée and now she is expecting and due to give birth within the week.  Bon courage, ma chère.

The cute cake (it was really good, too)-

Next in the June line-up, a weekend trip to Milwaukee with Sister Moo.  An all expenses paid trip to see the unveiling and world debut of Bombardier Recreational Products' newest baby.  I was her VIP SP Guest.  (I got to hear quite a bit of French spoken since the company was founded by a Québecois and the company is headquartered in Valcourt.)

The star of the show--

Let's just say that this baby makes boats go really fast.  We were treated to an afternoon of rides on various boats on Lake Michigan (lake temperature 38˚F-- no swimming or falling in!).  900 HP of Evinrude on this one.  Oh yes, it went really, really fast.  Hang on to your life jackets, ladies.  Moo and I even skipped lunch so that we could ride more.  It was well worth it.

We didn't skip an afternoon Leinenkugel Summer Shandy, though, at a little outdoor bar facing the Milwaukee River.  I am quite proud of myself for introducing Moo to this summer beer.  M. Pastis introduced me to a beer-lemonade drink when I was in France in the summer of 2010.  Yum.  (Not Guinness, just served in that glass.)

We strolled along one of the downtown streets and found The Spice House.

Here's my haul.  Was it worth getting patted down at the airport because I had suspicious looking herbs in my carry-on?  Oh yeah, you'd better believe it.

I also came home with their catalogue for reference and future ordering.

I wish we had a store like this in Durham.

Lunch one day was a catered affair at the Hilton downtown Milwaukee.  Great chicken and potato salad.

Brownies and lemon bars for dessert.  Don't they look sweet all cuddled up next to each other?

Moo and I decided to go to a local seafood restaurant for dinner (using our generous prepaid Visa cards from BRP).

What a great weekend spent with my baby sister.

Tomatoes from the Durham Farmers Market.  'Mater sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner, anyone?

A major baking binge (the Ex-Ex's new term for my fits of baking), producing blueberry scones and assorted cookies.  In my defense, if it pleases the court, Sons #1 and #2 were home and that means that the maternal instinct to make things with butter, sugar and vanilla kicks into high gear.

And then it was off to Asheville for a little mini family vacation and the wedding of our nephew. Rocky's Chicken Shack is evidently a local favorite and where Son #1, now a resident of Asheville, wanted us to have lunch.   We started off with fried macaroni and cheese balls.  We are in the south, y'all.  The first bite was followed by a "You could make these, Mom."  And I am sure I will try.  Really good.

Make my chicken tenders not too spicy with mustard greens and mac and cheese on the side, please. No, it is not possible to overdose on homemade baked macaroni and cheese.

The Thirsty Monk features a local beer every Wednesday and you get to keep the glass.  We met some reps from Catawba Brewing Company (one bought Son #2 a beer) and I thoroughly enjoyed their White Zombie.  And how about a pint of bacon to go with that?  No need for dinner that evening.

Let me tell you, Asheville is an eater's and drinker's paradise.  It was not that way back in the '70's when we used to head over there for date night.  Pizza Hut on Tunnel Road was as good as it got back in those days.  Fast food or pizza wasn't much of big deal yet in our neck of the woods and we thought that a night out with a pizza was heavenly.  (It still is, but more about that later in the post and it doesn't involve Pizza Hut anymore.)

Breakfast at Sunny Point Café - not your typical Southern biscuit... kind of brioche-y is the only way I know to describe it.

Chocolate mousse at French Broad Chocolate Lounge-- chocolate and caramel whipped up and layered.  (Someday, I am going to get to the bottom of the name of that river.)

Hmmm... Asheville or Paris?  Where exactly was I?

I've added Bouchon to my to-do list for the next visit.  French comfort food.

Son #1 lives in a lovely spot.  This is the view from his living room window.  I like to think he has a bit of mountain blood running through his veins.  Certainly enough to enjoy sunsets such as this one.  (My camera doesn't do it justice, unfortunately.)

 A more traditional Southern biscuit at Biscuit Head.  With eggs sunny side up and grits with chèvre.  And really good coffee.

My dad used to call biscuits catheads.  The Sons pronounced that weird.  But evidently he was not the only one.  I was more than happy to read this.  It just happened to be our order's marker.  Coincidence?

Upon the return home, IronWoman and I went to a rosé dinner at Four Square here in Durham.  She shares my love for the Drink Pink way of life involving dry rosé wine.  This was a big splurge for me and my budget but worth every penny.  The wine was made possible by Hope Valley Bottle Shop. Drew, the owner, sat at our table.

The meal and wines were divine.

Duck meatballs with an orange glaze to begin, served with Pierre-Marie Chermette Les Griottes Beaujolais Rosé from Burgundy '13.

Prodigal Farm's Hunkadora Goat Cheese with strawberry and yellow tomato gazpacho.  Wow!  Served with Elk Cove Pinot Noir Rosé, Willamette Valley '13.  (This course was my favorite. I could have stopped there and had a second bowl and been a very happy girl.  Way to go, Shane, Dave and Kathryn!)  I love happy goats that give the milk to make the delicious cheese.  Give a listen to Kathryn on their website talking about the cheese.

We moved on to Jerked Mahi Mahi served with Champagne Grognet Rosé, Marne NV (non-vintage).

Then Columbia River King Salmon with fried okra, summer vegetable salad, and truffled sweet corn coulis.  Two rosés accompanied this course.  Ptujska Klet Pullus Pinot Grigio, Slovenia '13 and Clos Cibonne Tibouren Cru Classé, Côtes de Provence '12.

And yes, dessert, too.  Roasted Jalapeño Tart with peaches and brown butter almonds served with Bel Star Cuvée Rosé, Italy NV.  (It used to be called Prosecco but can no longer be called that due to a change in Italian wine laws.)  It is made from the galera grape and the bubbles are just right.

And last, but surely not least, two lunches at Pompieri Pizza.  Yes, two in one week.  I went down to help Seth out a bit with some French translation and he paid me in lunch.  The BFF suggested salaprese.  The first bite of that was one of those When Harry Met Sally moments.  "I'll have what she's having."  Chills ran up my spine.  I kid you not.

Description first.

Voilà.  The star of the show, ladies and gentlemen.

Then a couple of slices of the Veggie Pizza of the day, featuring fresh green beans and corn.

I took the leftover slices home.  Son #1 looked at it skeptically.  I just told him to hush and try it.  It was gone in a flash and he conceded that it was pretty delicious.  There is hope, my friends.

When Arles Lucy phoned up a couple of days later, I invited her to lunch.  I wanted to share that Pompieri goodness with her.  Yep, I ordered the same thing and she ordered it, too.  I think the story of our "moment" with the salaprese has now been used with customers at Pompieri.
My Favorite Parisien texted while we were having lunch. He was in Nîmes with an ACIS group and thought of moi.  So, we sent him a photo of us.  We miss you!

So, that concludes the month of June.  May July be just as delicious.

Bill Smith's Atlantic Beach Pie

This is a newer version of a pie that is commonly served at seafood restaurants on the North Carolina coast. Chef Bill Smith has been serving it at Crook's Corner and at special events for about a year. He calls it the easiest recipe in the world.
Makes one pie
For the crust:
1 1/2 sleeves of saltine crackers
1/3 to 1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
For the filling:
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup lemon or lime juice or a mix of the two
Fresh whipped cream and coarse sea salt for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Crush the crackers finely, but not to dust. You can use a food processor or your hands. Add the sugar, then knead in the butter until the crumbs hold together like dough. Press into an 8 inch pie pan. Chill for 15 minutes, then bake for 18 minutes or until the crust colors a little.
While the crust is cooling (it doesn't need to be cold), beat the egg yolks into the milk, then beat in the citrus juice. It is important to completely combine these ingredients. Pour into the shell and bake for 16 minutes until the filling has set. The pie needs to be completely cold to be sliced. Serve with fresh whipped cream and a sprinkling of sea salt.
Bon appétit to summer eating and drinking and to all the amazing cooks, chefs, cheese makers, brewers and winemakers who make it all possible!  And to those who clean up after the eaters and drinkers. Merci, y'all!