Monday, September 28, 2009

My first crème brûlée

I sent out a plea for tried and true crème brûlée recipes and Chef Dorette responded first. And, as the brûlée was chilling and Steve was grilling our dinner, I was sitting on the deck leisurely reading the October edition of Our State magazine. I was reading an article about Celebrity Dairy and up popped Dorette's name! I immediately emailed her to see if she knew about it and she didn't. Perhaps I am just so new to this that I can hardly contain my excitement when someone tells me that they've read my newspaper article or this blog. (I did not grab the French teacher at the conference and hug her when she recognized me from my newspaper column, but I sure wanted to. I am proud of my self-restraint!)
Anyway, back to the brûlée... Chef Dorette says she loves this because it marries (my use of the wonderful expression from the French!) two of her favorite flavors, orange and lavender. It was simple to make, just plan ahead so that it has plenty of baking and cooling time. I used cheesecloth to strain it. I baked it in the little pottery dishes I brought home from France. Chef Érick and I bought them in a restaurant supply store, but grocery stores in France sell cheese in them! I plan to pick up a few more in March when I go back. Even though I read this morning that major airlines are now charging up to $50 for a second checked bag to Europe. I have to take a second bag to bring back a few of the things I didn't have room for when I left Arles in December plus the loot that I always manage to collect during my visits to France. C'est la vie, je suppose.
Enough of that. My Crème Brûlée #1 turned out quite well, I am pleased to report. I do not own a really cool blow torch, so my brûlée went under the broiler. (When we made this dessert in Arles, everyone wanted in on using the blow torch!) The broiler worked well, though, giving the nice crunch necessary to this dessert. As I explained to Steve, my trusted eater, it is the contrast between the crunch and the creamy custard that makes this so interesting. Grant, my 17 year old, said he thought he would like it better without the lavender flavor. Alexis, his girlfriend, said she loved it (she couldn't believe that Grant had never tasted crème brûlée before-- have I neglected his tastebuds up to this point?). Jake is coming home tonight from college to wash clothes and I'll see what he says. I enjoyed it tremendously.
Merci, Dorette, my gypsy friend.

Lavender and Orange Crème Brûlée
makes 12

4 c. heavy cream
8 egg yolks
1/2 c. granulated sugar
Zest of 1 orange
Few sprigs of fresh or dried lavender
1 vanilla bean

2 tsp. granulated sugar for each crème brûlée

Slightly crush the orange zest and lavender against the side of a medium saucepan using a wooden spoon. Add the cream and the vanilla bean. Bring just to a simmer; remove from heat and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain vanilla, orange and lavender from the cream.

Preheat oven to 325 F. Adjust the oven rack to center position. Place 12 (4 oz) custard cups onto a baking sheet that has sides.

In a large bowl, beat egg yolks until slightly thickened. Add sugar and whisk until dissolved; mix in warm cream, stirring to mix well. Strain egg mixture into a bowl and skim off any foam which may have formed on top. Pour mixture into custard cups.

Carefully pour hot water (from the tap is fine) into the baking pan to come halfway up the sides of the custard cups. Note: the most common mistake people make in baking a custard is not putting enough water in the hot-water bath. The water should come up to the level of the custard inside the cups. You must protect your custard from the heat.

Bake 45-55 minutes or until set around the edges but still loose in the center. The cooking time will depend largely on the size of the custard cup you are using, but begin checking at a half hour and check back regularly. When the center of the custard is set, it will jiggle a little when shaken, that's when you can remove it from the oven. Remove from oven and leave in the water bath until cooled to room temperature. Remove cups from water bath, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

When ready to serve, sprinkle approximately 2 tsp. of sugar over each crème brûlée. For best results, use a small blow hand-held blow torch. Hold the torch 4-5 inches from the sugar, maintaining a slow and even motion. Stop torching just before the desired degree of doneness is reached, as the sugar will continue to cook for a few seconds after the flame has been removed.

If you don't have a torch, place the crème brûlée 6 inches below the broiler for 4-6 minutes or until sugar bubbles and turns golden brown. Refrigerate crème brûlée at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve within 1 hour, as topping will deteriorate.

Bon appétit!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Three Lucys

Last Sunday I boarded a big chartered bus with Monette, Martha, about 45 other wine enthusiasts and Craig, Mic and Randy from the Wine Authorities to head over to Gibsonville, near Greensboro, and Grove Winery. We filled up our coffee mugs before leaving (made with a French press, no less), grabbed our Guglhupf bags of pastries and scones and were on our way. (Seth couldn't go with us because his wife was in labor... she has since brought a beautiful baby girl into the world. Congratulations!) Not long into the trip, Craig popped an I Love Lucy DVD into the player and we watched two episodes of Lucy, Ricky, Ethel and Fred in Italy. The second one, Bitter Grapes, featured Lucy soaking up local color by stomping grapes and returning to the hotel purple.
Looking to Lucy for inspiration, I had hit a couple of local thrift shops during the week to plan our outfits. I do love dressing up! We wore our flouncy skirts and peasant blouses proudly and were not at all embarrassed by the fact that we were the only ones to come in costume. At our age, we do not embarrass easily!
Upon arriving at Grove, we were given instructions on cutting clusters of grapes from the vine. We then walked across the highway to the eight acres of vines. We worked with the Sangiovese variety, carefully cutting and gently placing the very ripe grapes in lugs. We did not want to break the skins yet and lose any of that lovely juice. We were encouraged to taste the grapes. They were very sweet. After filling all the containers, we carried them to the end of the row and headed back to the winery. We toured the facility, getting a peak into the fermenting reds, with the skins still in the mixture. Craig went to work punching down the cap on one container of fermenting juice. I did not know that winery workers must be very careful about getting enough fresh air due to the high levels of CO2 being released by the fermenting juice. Definitely a job hazard-- imagine passing out and into a large vat of juice and drowning. Quite a way to go, n'est-ce pas?
The next activity was a tasting of Grove's wines. We tasted 2008 Eno River White, a blend of 9 varieties grown in Durham (Where are these vines? I must find grower Jim Ward and check this out.), 2008 Dry Rosé, made from Sangiovese and oak aged, 2007 Sangiovese, Tuscan style, 2006 Norton, Native American fruit, 2008 Tempranillo, estate grown, oak aged, 2007 Nebbiolo, estate grown, Italian grape (this was my favorite and the one I chose to have with my lunch), 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, winemaker Max Lloyd's best vintage estate grown, 16 month oak aged, and 2008 Symphony, a European-style dessert wine.
Lunch followed. We had pre-ordered box lunches and my grilled vegetable sandwich did not disappoint (neither did the brownie!). We sat outside on the patio that was covered in lavender grains from a wedding held there the day before. The sun had warmed the grains and the smell was straight from heaven. Actually, that is indeed what my heaven will smell like. After eating, I strolled around inside the tasting room, looking at the artwork by Kathleen Gwinnett from Burlington, NC that was hanging on the walls. I spotted a small watercolor called "Hidden Garden in Provence" and knew it had to be mine. (Sorry, Max, I decided to spend my wine budget on art instead...) It features a small stone house with lavender growing in the front. For the time being, that will be "my" home in Provence.
After the very civilized lunch and great conversation, the serious work began. Time for grape-stomping. Shoes were removed and we lined up in pairs. After stepping in and out of four different washing, rinsing and sanitizing solutions, we took turns stepping into a small vat where "our" sangiovese grapes were waiting to be crushed by our very own feet. Each of us stomped for 60 seconds with Craig serving as the official timer. We cheered each other on, snapped photos and eagerly awaited our turn. Stepping into the vat of grapes was a very interesting feel on the bottom of my feet. As I stomped and released the juice, it got a little slippery in there and I was very grateful to Mic for holding on so tightly to my hand. No one had fallen and I did not want to be the first. After stepping out, we rinsed off our feet with a hose. Sorry, folks, my feet were not purple. Grape juice, even from red grapes, is not red. (Someone told me there is one variety that does produce a red juice, though.) No stained feet. Our juice was poured into a stainless steel vat and the stems were removed by a group of enthusiastic helpers. When the vat was full, yeasts were discussed and a mixture chosen for our wine. Max poured it in and our Sangiovese juice was on its way to fermenting into a bubbling brew.
On the way home, we proposed possible names for our wine and Foot-Lucy Red was chosen. I am not sure that will be the proper spelling, but I look forward to my bottle of wine! Wonder what dish I will pair with that?
Thanks to the Wine Gurus for organizing such a wonderful day. And a big thanks to Max at Grove Winery for allowing us into his vineyard and winery. I plan to visit again. And when I do, I will buy a bottle this time, Max, I promise. Check out the website from my list of links.
Now, for a food and recipe update...I have emailed Chef Érick for his recipe for Crème Brûlée. I also asked Chef Dorette if she has a tried and true recipe and she sent her favorite. I gave a presentation this weekend at a foreign language teachers' conference in Raleigh on my Sabbatical Chef experience and a Danielle Payton asked me for a recipe (she also lives in Durham and told me she reads my newspaper columns! Another reader!) I will post one as soon as I hear back from my chefs and experiment myself. Mon dieu bon dieu, the research I must do for this blog...
Dorette and I went to dinner this past Tuesday night at Vin Rouge here in Durham. This is one of the restaurants in Ann Prospero's Chefs of the Triangle book. (Ann is at Fearrington this very minute with Colin Bedford talking about her book. Dorette is there, too. I would be there, but I am making Dorette's Orange and Lavender Crème Brûlée (the cream, orange zest and lavender are infusing at the moment). We ate pâté made from pickled lamb's tongue, a caramelized onion and goat cheese tart and boeuf bourguignon (I have craved it since seeing Julie and Julia). We drank a carafe (ok, two, but who is counting?) of red Côtes du Rhône, my personal favorite wine. It was rainy and chilly outside but very warm and toasty inside the restaurant!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Marek the Winemaker

My latest column in the Durham Herald-Sun newspaper is about Marek Wojceichowski, owner and winemaker extraordinaire at Chatham Hill Winery in Morrisville, near RDU airport. Chatham Hill is what is now known as an urban winery. No vines-- the Triangle is not the area to cultivate vinifera vines. But really good wine made right here in our backyard! Marek and his wife, Jill Winkler, own Chatham Hill and have been making wine since 1999. Ten years!
Here's the link to their website:
If you want to read my article, scroll down to The Town is Talking... section and then to the first link The Rise and Fall... I did some research on the wine industry in North Carolina. Very interesting topic!
Ah bon, mes amis, c'est vendredi et le weekend s'approche! I am going home this afternoon to make two of my soon-to-be-famous tomato tarts to take to a middle school faculty party. We are getting together to celebrate the successful beginning of the 2009-10 school year and our survival of Parents' Night last night. (I am lucky-- all of my students' parents are so supportive!)
I've had such great luck the past couple of weeks with cookbooks. I now have my very own copy of Julia's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, my dear friend Alex Goolsby sent me a copy of his favorite French cookbook La Bonne Cuisine (the pictures make me drool... I intend to try the steak au poivre very soon-- my guys love this dish!), my friend Dani Harrell found a 1961 copy of Larousse Gastronomique (English translation) for me at a local thrift shop (it's amazing-- a French cooking encyclopedia!!) and then Ann Propero's Chefs of the Triangle. Wow! Even one of my 7th graders remarked that I have had a very good cookbook week.
I just opened up Larousse to page 655 and found this entry...
Niçoise (A La)- A method of preparing various dishes, all of which have tomatoes among their ingredients. They are usually flavored with garlic. (No kidding! Sans blague!) See MULLET, Red Mullet à la niçoise.
That brings back memories of eating in Old Nice, la vieille ville, at La Table Alziari. What a treat. Pat, Joan, Yolanda and I went there in 2006. Sorry you missed it, Betty. (We will always have our evening shared wining and dining while watching the sunset over the Mediterranean Sea, though, won't we? That shade of pale pink is forever burned into my memory... oh, to have a scarf in that exact color!)
Bon weekend!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A New Food Friend!

This is moi (I've gone back to being a brunette for the time being!) with Ann Prospero. Ann and I became email friends through our mutual friend Dorette Snover of C'est si Bon! fame. I finally got the chance to meet Ann last Sunday at the North Carolina Literary Festival at UNC. She was chosen to read from her new book Chefs of the Triangle: Their Lives, Recipes and Restaurants. Bill Smith of Crook's Corner (I sure hope he shares the recipe for the killer brownies that he brought with him on the back of his bicycle) and Bret Jennings (he brought a green tomato- avocado gazpacho with a real kick) of Elaine's on Franklin were there with her to answer questions about themselves and their restaurants.
The book is fabulous! It is a compilation of area chefs, their stories and one or two of their recipes. I am already on my second reading of it and I am trying to decide which recipe to try first. It reinforces how lucky we are in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area to have such talented chefs and such wonderful restaurants. They all work together and really try to support the local community of farmers. I've already been fortunate enough to have sampled the food at several of the restaurants in the book (Crook's Corner, Piedmont, Nana's, Four Square, Vin Rouge, Pop's, Watts Grocery, Rue Cler, Angus Barn, Second Empire, Herons, Panciuto, Fearrington, and Magnolia Grill-- wow! That's alot!!) and to even have met a couple of the chefs (Bill Smith, Scott Crawford, Aaron Vandermark, Colin Bedford, and Dorette. Alex Gallis went to Durham Academy, but that doesn't really count). They are my "rock stars!"
And thank you, Ann, for such a great tribute to food.
Buy the book (, savor every word and try a recipe. If you are lucky enough to be able to visit one of the restaurants and sample the chef's fare, go for it and then send me your feedback. I'd love to hear about your experiences. Ann's blog, Prospero's Kitchen, is on my list. Check it out!
Maybe this will be my first recipe... I love creamed spinach but have tried several recipes that just didn't have what I was looking for (and since I am not in any way, shape or form a real chef I don't know what I am looking for except I will know when I find it!)...

Chef Matthew Kelly's Recipe for Creamed Spinach
(Vin Rouge Restaurant in Durham)

Serves 6

1 quart half-and-half
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
2 1/2 pounds baby flat-leaf spinach
2 sticks unsalted butter
3/4 c. flour
1 to 2 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
Heavy cream to drizzle

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large pot, bring half-and-half just to a boil. Add garlic, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Working in batches, stir in spinach just until wilted. Continue stirring in more spinach until all 2 1/2 pounds have been incorporated into cream mixture. Remove from heat. Make a roux by melting butter in a sauté pan over medium heat and stirring in flour. Continue stirring until mixture thickens and forms gravy. Remove from heat. Add roux to spinach, return to heat, and bring to a boil. Stir until roux thickens the cream and spinach mixture. Using an immersion blender, lightly pulse until ingredients are just mixed but not puréed. Adjust seasonings. Place spinach in an ovenproof serving container. Sprinkle with Gruyère and drizzle heavy cream on top. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes until cheese is golden brown.

Oh mon dieu. This sounds so good. I got an immersion blender for Christmas from my guys--what a great truc. I love it.

Alors, mes amis, bon appétit!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Queenly Chocolateness

This photo is from a while back when HRH THE Sweet Potato Queen her very own self Jill Connor Browne came to the Regulator Bookshop in Durham to promote her book about the joys of motherhood- The Sweet Potato Queens' Guide to Raising Children for Fun and Profit. If you have never heard of The Sweet Potato Queens you need to educate yourself. Our friend Jill L. initiated us into the cult when the first book, The Sweet Potato Queens' Book of Love, appeared back in 1999. Ten years of SPQ wit and wisdom.
Anyway, I don't have long for this post (Some of you are probably relieved, I know. I have chicken and potatoes covered with some herbes de provence, rosemary, olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper cooking away in the oven and making my house smell heavenly.) The younger son informed me a few minutes ago that he is starving. And, since it is Sunday evening, I have a whole lot of stuff to do to get ready for the school week-- lessons to plan, homework to post on Moodle, papers to grade, etc.
Martha and I went to the Wine Authorities to celebrate the sale of her first house yesterday. Seth was filling us in on the imminent birth of his second child. We were mightily commiserating with his wife, even though she was not there. We do remember the final few days of a pregnancy. We told him that he needed to make her some Chocolate Stuff, a SPQ tried and true recipe. He went on-line and found the recipe and I hear that he made it for her last night. HRH Jill would be quite proud!
This stuff is so good-- go ahead and make it for yourself and see if you don't agree.

Chocolate Stuff
(I will now quote The Sweet Potato Queens' Book of Love pp. 170-171 since I have it open to the chocolate-stained pages that contain the recipe...)

Here's the deal: Beat two eggs with a cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of flour. Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt. In the microwave melt together one stick of real butter (I never use unsalted; I think it tastes flat) and two fairly heaping tablespoons of Hershey's cocoa. Get regular Hershey's in the dark brown box- anything else is different and will screw it up. Dump the butter-cocoa mixture into the other things, and stir it up good. Then add a running-over teaspoon of vanilla. I use real vanilla, but the grocery store kind won't ruin it. Stir that up, too. If you decide to go for nuts, use a whole bunch of pecans, chopped up fine.
Pour the Stuff into a greased loaf pan, set the loaf pan in a pan of water, and stick the whole business in the oven at about 300 degrees. Depending on how your oven cooks, it needs to stay in there for 40 to 50 minutes. You can reach in there and tap on the top of it at 40 minutes. If it seems crunchy, I'd take it out. You can't really undercook it, since it's good raw, but you don't want to overcook it and lose the gooey bottom so crucial to the whole texture experience.

If after reading this and trying Chocolate Stuff you would like to know more about the SPQ, check them out on-line at There are more recipes, too.

Bon appétit!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ciao, Italia!

It's already been a year since our rendez-vous in Rome. This isn't Rome, obviously- it's on the trail in Cinque Terre. The happy hikers, Monette, Martha and moi. What a wonderful trip...
Rome and the gladiators outside the Coliseum- and foolishly forking over 10 euros (or was it 20??) each for the photo op (well, only Martha and I paid- Monette played dumb). Moustachio at the hotel in Rome (at the top of the Spanish Steps, thanks to Martha's Marriott points)-- what a sweetheart he was, bringing us lovely glasses of Italian chianti and pinot grigio at the rooftop terrace bar and telling us about "his" Rome. We had drinks, pretzels and nuts, left to find some dinner, didn't find anywhere we really wanted to eat so we went back to the hotel for more views of Rome at night and another glass (or two) of Moustachio's wine. (Dinner would've cost less...) Actually standing under the Pope's balcony in St. Peter's Square and visiting the Basilica. The Pope wasn't in town-- he had gone to France. Visiting the Forum and Martha's major hot flash- it must've been 100 F that day. Taking the train from Rome to Florence and seeing all the vineyards through the window. Walking by the Duomo on our way to the Hotel California (thanks to The Eagles this made me a bit nervous). Gazing in awe at Michelangelo's David. Oh là là. And Martha sneaking around snapping a photo while the guard wasn't looking. Searching for a restaurant listed in Rick Steve's Italy guidebook and thinking we would never find it (Rick, work on that map of Florence, please??), but we did in time for the first seating of the evening. The day trip to Tuscany- we had a great group on our bus with none other than Douglas for our guide. Can I get another oh là là, ladies? I can finally say San Gimignano (but I couldn't spell it without looking it up-- I just love Google- you can find stuff even if you misspell it!), but I bet I could say it even better after a glass of wine from the winery we visited for lunch. And Cinque Terre. The hike between the five towns. Watching the men carry the baskets of white grapes down the hill from the terraced vineyards. Beautiful, large, bright yellow lemons growing on trees by the side of the trail. Olive trees with their nets strung up to catch the fruit and keep it from hitting the ground. Dinner at the outdoor restaurant where the obnoxious Brit told me that I was talking too loudly about bull fights. (Just for the record, I was not.) Monette very nicely (there is no other way a good Southern girl would do it, of course) putting him in his place before we left. Thanks, Mo! Seafood and mushroom risotto. Sitting on the beach, toasting our trip with wine from the little shop that not only sold it chilled but uncorked it and gave us plastic glasses. The world's best pesto made by someone's grandma that we discovered in the little deli in Monterosso-- my heaven will have that pesto, the freshly sliced cheese, still-warm-from-the-oven crusty loaves of bread and chilled white wine. Roaming around town looking in the little shops, buying postcards and sampling limoncello and the orange liqueur that tasted like creamsicles. And accomplishing all this with none of us speaking more than two words of Italian-- ok, Martha did take a crash course from our friend Daniela (who is Italian) the day before they boarded the plane to cross the Atlantic. Bless Dani's heart- she even drew pictures and sent Martha away with a cheat sheet. The Italians we met were all so friendly and helpful that we didn't really need it. We only had a problem with the young Brit tying to impress his blond date. Oh, yeah, and the guy at the train station in Monterosso who sold us tickets for the France part of our trip which were no good once we crossed the border and got to Nice. But at least he was nice about it!! Running to find the right train in Nice after buying more tickets (I did cut in line... but I did it nicely, smiling and speaking French all the way), thinking we only had 20 minutes until our train left (with way more luggage than was necessary, of course-- and Martha brought me a whole duffel bag of books, something she has sworn she will NEVER do again- not that I would dare ask) only to find out when we climbed aboard the train that it was broken down (thank goodness this happened in a French train station so that I could understand what was being announced over the loud speaker). Sitting in the train station, on the train, waiting and waiting and waiting. Finally giving in and eating our stash of the world's best pesto, bread and cheese. Falling asleep once the train started rolling towards Marseille, only to be jarred awake when the train stopped at about 1 am. Trying tofigure out where we were... we had literally been on trains all day long. We had chosen what is known as the "milk" train, meaning it stopped in every little town along the way. Jumping off the train to search for a sign and finally seeing ARLES. Running back to our car, yelling frantically for Monette and Martha to wake up and throw all our bags off the train. And then looking up to see Chef Érick talking to the conductor and laughing at us as we stumbled down the quai dragging all our stuff. He said that he had told the conductor he was sure there were three sleeping American women on that train and he'd just about decided that he'd be driving to Avignon, the next stop, to fetch us. That is, if we woke up by the time we arrived there.
Thank you, my dear friends, for such a wonderful time. Thank you for visiting me in Europe not once, but twice, in 2007 and 2008. I am very lucky to have such amazing friends and traveling buddies.

Here's a recipe sent to me by Tammy from Arizona. I met her in Arles in the summer of 2007 when she and her husband Chuck came to take a cooking course. We've stayed in touch and she even came to Durham last month and we had lunch. She introduced me to limoncello one evening in Arles. Dani, of the Italian lessons, recently made these cookies for her husband's birthday and brought some to share with me-- delizioso !

Lavender Limoncello Cookies

1/2 c. butter
1 c. granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. dried lavender flowers
2 lemons, zest and juice
1 egg
2 Tbsp. Limoncello liqueur
2 tsp. baking powder
2 c. + all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Blend butter, sugar and lavender.
Add in lemon zest and juice, then egg and Limoncello.
Blend in the 2 cups flour and the baking powder.
Dough should be soft but not oily.
Add more flour by the Tbsp. if needed.
Roll into 2 logs and place in wax paper. Chill 20 minutes.
Slice into 1/2 in. rounds. Makes approximately 30-36.
Bake 10-15 minutes, just until pale gold.

Buono appetito!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Merci, Costco and Julia!

It is finally all mine! The 40th anniversary edition. All 524 recipes, the introduction written by Julia herself, which reads like a mini-autobiography, the story of "Mastering" written by Judith Jones who helped bring the book to life at Knopf, and the famous foreword which begins with "This is a book for the servantless American cook who can be unconcerned with budgets, waistlines, time schedules, children's meals, the parent-chauffeur-den-mother syndrome, or anything else which might interfere with the enjoyment of producing something wonderful to eat."
Alrighty then, let us now analyze that sentence... simple to do really, if you ask me. Broken down, it leaves the vast majority of us totally out of the picture.
--I fit the "servantless" bill. I am quite sure that if I did live in another life, I was someone's cleaning lady. No kidding.
--I am indeed American. I never did pass for French during my six month stay in Provence. Canadian maybe, but French never.
--I am constantly concerned with my budget. We have a son enrolled in a private college. Granted he is getting financial aid, but we are both employed by a school and neither of us are the head of that school. Grateful to have jobs and doubly grateful they are at this particular school. Children practically eat your money. Steve says we'd be rich if we didn't have kids.
--I am usually concerned about my waistline, too. It didn't change sizes while I was in France but has since my return so I am relearning how to control portion sizes and eat only what is really good and what I really want. According to Julia "...I do think the way to a full and healthy life is to adopt the sensible system of small helpings, no seconds, no snacking, and a little bit of everything." That system worked very well for me while living in Provence, working with a very talented chef and being surrounded by such amazing food. I am living proof this system does indeed work.
--Time schedules. Ha. There is never enough of that precious commodity. I continue to juggle spending time with my no-longer-ex, parenting two boys (albeit it 21 and 17), teaching full-time, being president of the state French teachers' organization, hanging out with my BFF, exercising once in a while, supporting my mom as her sisters and various other relatives get older and face health problems, writing my column and this blog, emailing friends, chatting with my colleagues, blahblahblahblah. You get the picture.
--Children's meals. My two boys like the basics. They are a bit suspicious of my new found passion for cooking dangerously. Hopefully, that will change as they get older.
--I am no longer a chauffeur as they both have licenses and vehicles (back to the budget issue). I am not a den mother. I was, at one time, team mom for football, basketball and baseball teams, but that's a thing of the past. Yippee!!
Okay, Mme Child, I think that covers it. However, I refuse to let any of that defeat me. Am I going to cook my way through it? Absolutely not. Julie Powell did that. Go, Julie. Your book is on my top ten list. Will I try Mayonnaise Verte, Soufflé au Fromage, Poulets Grillés à la Diable, Fricadelles de Veau à la Crème, Épinards à la Crème, Chou Rouge à la Limousine, Pâté de Canard en Croûte or Tarte aux Fraises? (I got all those just by randomly flipping through the 684 pages of recipes. I just love the way they sound. I am so lucky to be able to at least say them properly!!) I may never try any of them. Or I may try all of them at some point. Right now, I just look forward to reading the book, letting Julia teach me about the art of French cooking, knowing full well that I will never master it. Being une femme d'un certain âge has its benefits. We no longer feel that we have something to prove. We can do things simply because they please us and no one else. As for me, I am lucky that I do have an eater in my house who is pretty willing to try most anything (within reason, he says)... Whose reason??
Hey, maybe I'll start with this one tonight, after a quick stop at Super Tar-gé on the way home. Pourqoui pas?

Oh! Kudos to Costco for selling the book for $25 instead of $40. Back to the budget thing yet again.

Quiche aux Oignons
(Onion Quiche)
for 4-6 servings

2 lbs. minced onions (about 7 cups)
3 Tb butter
1 Tb oil
1 1/2 Tb flour
2 eggs or 3 yolks
2/3 cup whipping cream
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
2 ounces (1/2 cup) grated Swiss cheese
An 8-in pastry partially cooked pastry shell on a baking sheet
1 Tb butter cut into pea-sized dots

Cook the onions in a heavy skillet with the oil and butter over very low heat, stirring occasionally until they are extremely tender and a golden yellow. This will take about an hour.
Sprinkle with the flour, mix well, and cook slowly for 2 or 3 minutes. Allow to cool slightly.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Beat the eggs or egg yolks in a mixing bowl with the cream and seasonings until blended. Gradually mix in the onions and half the cheese. Check seasoning. Pour into tart shell. Spread on the rest of the cheese and distribute the butter over it. Bake in upper third of preheated oven for 25 to 35 minutes, until the quiche has puffed and browned.

Rosé or a red Côtes du Rhône would go well with this, in my humble opinion.

Bon appétit!