Sunday, May 30, 2010


Saturday evening's dinner was at The Q Shack on University Drive in Durham.  The un-ex suggested it and he did not have to ask twice.  It had been quite a while since I was there.  North Carolina is well-known for its 'que.  I like the slaw right on my sandwich, not on the side. The cabbage in the slaw was nice and crunchy and the dressing was just right, not too sweet or mayonnaise-y.  I chose creamed spinach for my side.  It is one of my favorites... and I continue to search for the perfect recipe to make at home, but without success yet.  I think I am the only one in my house who likes it, but that doesn't stop me from trying new recipes periodically.  The Q Shack's was delicious, with little bits of onions peeking through the spinach.  And who could eat BBQ without hot hushpuppies?  Pas moi.  I admit to dipping them in the spinach, too.
The un-ex had a sandwich, too, but he chose macaroni and cheese for his side dish.
We all love mac and cheese around here.  I make it a couple of times a month for the eaters.
We sat outside at one of the big picnic tables.  There are rolls of paper towels on the tables (eating BBQ can be messy business) and the condiments are kept in beer six-pack cartons.  Our beverage of choice was iced tea.  It's pretty sweet, just the way my guys like it.  I mix it half and half with the unsweetened stuff.
People-watching tends to be one of our favorite activities.  The un-ex spotted some folks arriving with their own loaf of white bread.  I didn't see it.  They sat down inside with their BBQ and made their own sandwiches.  I should've gone back inside to spy... you know, pretending to get more tea or to go to the bathroom.  I could have at least found out what kind of bread they preferred!  A missed opportunity.  Dang.
While on sabbatical in France, Chef Dorette and I made a Southern dinner for our French friends.  They were very skeptical about American food.  Our hushpuppies were the hit of the night, though, at least for Didier.  I can't remember what we used in place of cornmeal-- good luck finding that in France!  Rice flour maybe? There was usually a variety of flours in the bin in that kitchen.  Chef Érick requested egg nog (in the middle of August!) and it, too, was quite popular.  Jack Daniels is available down at the Monoprix in Place Lamartine, in case you need some the next time you are in Arles.

Hushpuppies with Country Ham and Remoulade Sauce
(from the Culinary Institute of New Orleans by way of C'est si Bon! and Dorette Snover)

1 c. cornmeal
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 egg
3/4 c. milk
Dash of red pepper
Handful of fried lardons (bacon will do)
Handful of fried okra, if you wish
1/2 c. green onions (tops, chopped)

Mix cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar and salt together well.  Combine egg, milk, pepper, onion tops and onion.  Add to flour mixture and stir well.  Heat oil to 375F.  Drop batter by spoonfuls into deep-fryer and cook until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels.

Remoulade Sauce

1/2 c. each mayonnaise and creole mustard (Zatarain's or whole-grain country-style Dijon)
1/4 c. green pepper, diced finely
1/2 lemon, squeezed
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp. paprika

Blend ingredients and set aside until ready to serve, if less than an hour.  If longer, refrigerate.

Bon appétit, my Arles gang!  Come to NC and try some BBQ!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Lavender is in bloom!

I discovered Sunshine Lavender Farm last year, thanks to a friend who had met Annie at the Hillsborough Farmers' Market.  I checked out her website and signed up for e-news.  Last June, I went to the annual Lavender Harvest Celebration at the farm.  I was curious to see how lavender could be grown here in North Carolina.  We had a wonderful day there, taking lots of photos while touring the farm,

eating Maple View Farm lavender ice cream made with Annie's culinary lavender,
learning about the drying process,

and making lavender sachets.
This year's celebration is June 5 and 6.  If you click on the Sunshine Lavender Farm link above and sign up for e-news and event updates, Annie will send you an e-vite to next weekend's event.  There is no entry fee, she just needs to know how many to plan for (and how much ice cream to order!!).  You can take your quilt or a chair, and your camera or paints (painting lavender en plein air...I wish).   There is a $5 charge for fresh lavender or crafts.  There will be lavender lemonade and food for sale, if you wish to picnic.  Lavender lotions, soaps and other wonderful items are for sale (cash or checks only).
Thank goodness there is no charge for smelling the lavender.  I'd go broke!

Here's a note Annie sent me--

A lot of the lavender will be at its peak next weekend.

There will be cooking demonstrations on the grill, sampling with lavender and other herbs.

The farm tour has been extended to 2 hours since they are popular, lots of questions, and so much to see and do. Lots of "how - to" demonstrations this year.

The Chocolate Lavender ice cream is back by popular demand.

The gardens all over the farm have been transformed to include more edibles like lingonberries, cranberries, and blueberries within the landscaping and the kitchen garden has so many raised beds for veggies, that I have sown a couple of rows of heirloom cotton! Arkansas Green Lint and Nankeen (a brown or copper). Grown only by slaves before 1860, colored cotton is now a natural way to gain color without chemicals or dyes. Not really sure what I will do with it, just trying it out. I read once that every gardener should know how difficult a task it is to grow and pick cotton by hand. Imagine the days before the cotton gin ...

Anyway, always a story to tell!

Annie's Lemon Lavender Butter Cookies 
(makes 6 1/2 dozen) 

1 Tbsp. lavender florets
1- 3/4 c. sugar, divided
1 lb. butter, softened
1/4 c. lemon juice
1 large egg
6 c. all-purpose flour
Garnish:  fresh lavender sprigs
Process lavender florets and 1/4 c. sugar in food processor until blended.
Beat butter at medium speed with electric mixer until creamy.  Gradually add remaining 1- 1/2 c. sugar, beating well.  Add lemon juice and egg, beating until blended.
Gradually add flour and lavender mixture, beating until blended.
Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on lightly greased baking sheets (**my note-- I line my baking sheets with parchment paper).  Flatten slightly with bottom of a glass dipped in sugar.
Bake at 350F for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool on wire racks. 
Garnish, if desired.

Bon appétit, Sunshine Lavender Farm and Annie!  See you next weekend!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bon anniversaire, BFF!

Oui, it is the BFF's big day.  I have only been able to catch a quick glimpse of her because I am teaching and she is selling houses.  This working thing does indeed get in the way of our fun sometimes.  But... I guess we have to work so that we can afford to have some fun once in a while, n'est-ce pas?  We will celebrate appropriately tomorrow.  C'est promis!
Salamanzar's wife is evidently a cupcake maker par excellence.  Since I am the BFF, I got one of these heavenly chocolate delicacies.  I did not eat it delicately, however.  Pas possible.  And I did need a chocolate fix.  Merci, Madame Cupcake.
I found the perfect birthday card for BFF.  But there is a story behind it.
In September 2008, about halfway through my sabbatical, the BFF and Lucy #1 came to visit.  We met in Rome.  (They came to visit  me in Paris and Arles in 2007.)  We had a fabulous time seeing all the sights in Rome before taking the train to Florence.  We stayed in the Hotel California, near the Duomo.  (I was a bit nervous about that, but it turned out just fine, obviously, since I am here to write about it!  I do love that song, though.)  The BFF had made all the arrangements, so I just felt as if I was along for the ride.  A welcome change from being the trip planner.
We saw so many beautiful sights...
(I had to include the kissing couple!  How Italian is that?)
I am sure that Douglas, our guide in Tuscany, would wish you Buon Compleanno if he were here, BFF.
Back to the story.
The BFF bought tickets for us to visit the Galleria dell'Accademia while in Florence.  The main attraction in this gallery is Michelangelo's David, carved in the early 1500's.
This is an amazing work of art, standing 17 feet high.  Michelangelo's attention to detail is incredible.  I wonder what it would be like to be able to take a piece of marble and create something so magnificent.  The BFF fell in love with it.  She took this photo even though it was forbidden... Lucy #1 and I were supposed to distract the woman guarding it.  Yeah, right.  It must have worked, though, because she got this picture without getting thrown out of the museum.
There is also a replica of it in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence.

I hear that there is another replica in Marseille.  Malheureusement, we didn't see it when we were there.  Guess we will just have to go back.
So, imagine my delight when I found the perfect birthday card for her!  At Target, no less.
Would Michelangelo approve?  I sure hope so!

I am not sure if this is the recipe Mme Cupcake used, but until I get a chance to ask her, I'll go with this one.  It sounds heavenly. It is from Chocolate & Zucchini, Clothilde Dusoulier's website, which I love.  She found the recipe in Trish Deseine's Je Veux du Chocolat.  One reader made cupcakes from it.

Gâteau au chocolat fondant de Nathalie / Melt-in-your-mouth Chocolate Cake

To quote Clothilde:  "I have no idea who this Nathalie person is, but if her cake is anything to judge her by, can we please be friends?"
200 g (2 sticks minus 1 Tbsp) butter
200 g (7 oz) dark chocolate
200 g (1 c.) sugar
4 eggs
1 rounded Tbsp flour

** Note:  Like all dark chocolate cakes, this cake is best made a day ahead (or at least in the morning if you serve it for dinner).

Pre-heat your oven to 180C (350F).  Line an 8-inch round cake pan with parchment paper (no need to if you're using a non-stick pan).
Melt together the butter with the chocolate (in a double-boiler or in the microwave slowly and for just a few seconds at a time, blending with a spoon between each pass).  Transfer into a medium mixing bowl.  Add in the sugar, stir with a wooden spoon and let cool a little.  Add in the eggs one by one, mixing well after each addition. Finally, add in the flour and mix well.
Pour the dough into the pan and put into the oven to bake for 25-30 minutes, until the center is set but still a little wobbly.  Turn the oven off but leave the cake inside for another ten minutes, then put the pan on a cooling rack on the counter to cool completely.  Cover with plastic wrap, refrigerate and take it out about an hour before serving.

Bon appétit, BFF, et bon anniversaire!!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


The school year will be over in just a few days.  I have 12 seventh grade advisees and we had our little end-of-year celebration today.  I made cupcakes.  You just can't go wrong with them.  Kids love them.  Cupcakes have become very chic.  A friend served them at her daughter's wedding reception.  They were beautiful.
I added green sprinkles to these since our school colors are green and white.
I tried a new recipe.  I wasn't sure how they would taste considering they fell after coming out of the oven.  But what the heck, I decided.  Fill up the hole in the middle with the cream cheese frosting.  They were all consumed at lunch today.  Definitely a good sign.  When I asked for feedback, one of the girlies said they tasted like sugar cookie cupcakes.  That works for me!

Oops!!!  Mon dieu.  After rereading the recipe and typing this, I realize that I put baking soda in the batter instead of baking powder.  Guess that's why I had the hole.  Making cupcakes past my bedtime might not be a good idea...

Vanilla Cupcakes
(makes 12)

1 1/2 sticks (12 Tbsp) softened butter
1 c. sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. warm water
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Adjust over rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400F.  Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.
Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Starting and ending with an egg, alternate adding eggs and flour, beating until each is thoroughly incorporated.  Beat in water and vanilla until just incorporated.
Spoon batter into liners.  Bake until fully cooked and golden, 15-17 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Allow them to cool for a few minutes and then place on wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
(enough for 12 cupcakes)

4 Tbsp. softened butter
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
3/4-1 c. confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. vanilla (or other flavoring)

Beat butter and cream cheese until smooth and fluffy.  Beat in 3/4 c. confectioners' sugar; add more (up to 1 cup), if desired.  Add vanilla or flavoring of choice.

Bon appétit, 2009-2010 school year!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Life happens

My sister gave this photo to me for Christmas.   It is of my brother, my sister and me in about 1962 or 1963.  My other sister is missing.  (She was probably screaming and pulling on my mom's legs while she was trying to take the picture...  I do seem to remember a picture of her sitting in the yard crying, actually.)
I got the news this weekend that my little brother is very sick.  Screamer sister called to tell me Friday night.  To keep my mind off of it until I could talk to my mom, I cleaned bathrooms on Saturday.  We have three very clean ones now.  Then I cleaned the upstairs and the un-ex did the downstairs.  I talked to mom after she saw my brother and his doctor.   I hear she is a little bit mad at me because I made her cry.  Sorry, mama.  My mom is the strongest person I know.  She is amazing.  She has spent her entire life looking after others-- four children born in four years, my grandparents, both her parents and my dad's, she worked in a rest home taking care of patients, she nursed my dad through his four year bout with cancer, and she has helped raise grandchildren and now great grandchildren.  Now she will take care of my brother when he is discharged from the hospital and needs dialysis.  She remarried a few years ago and she and her husband live with the screamer sister,  who can always make me laugh.  I love them dearly.
The un-ex took me the bookstore to find summer reading books and just let me be quiet.  There are times when I talk so much that I make myself tired.  And there are other times when I just want to withdraw and need silence.
While we were out, the BFF came by the house.  High school-age son let her in and she left treats in my refrigerator.

Dolly Mama Sea Turtles...
and a bottle of FRV 100 by Jean-Paul Brun.

It is a vin mousseux, a sparkly pink wine, from Beaujolais made from 100% Gamay grapes.  If you say the name in French it sounds like effervescent--  eff-err-vey-sen.  Very creative, n'est-ce pas?  She knew that would make me laugh.  Both of those treasures came from the Wine Authorities.  Salamanzar is my dealer of choice.
Today, I talked to my mom and sister again after they visited my brother.  He is doing a little better.  I have some Harlan Coben novels to send to him tomorrow.
I also made a blueberry tart.  Baking makes me feel better.

Bon appétit, little brother, and merci, un-ex and BFF.

A May Friday Night

Just where was I last Friday night?  When you look at this photo you might be tempted to think I was in France.  Mais non, I was in beautiful downtown Durham at the American Tobacco campus.  Durham used to be very well known for making cigarettes.

When I first moved here, 30 years ago, if the wind was blowing just right I could smell tobacco when standing outside my classroom.  The buildings are now being converted into office space and restaurants.
In the summer, there are free outdoor concerts.  Friday night's offering was one I was not going to miss.  The un-ex and I drove downtown, found a parking space near the Durham Bulls Athletic Park (we call it the DBAP), set up our lawn chairs very near the front of the stage and went to Tyler's for drinks and appetizers.
Tyler's is famous for its beer selection... the beer menu is more like a book than anything else.
We chose hummus with vegetables and pita bread...

and fried calamari.
I do not know much about beer, but I discovered that Blanche de Chambly (the umbrella above) is a beer made in Québec.  I didn't try it.  Maybe next time...
After finishing our hors d'oeuvres, we headed back to our chairs.  The concert began promptly at 6:00 pm.  The lawn had filled up completely in our absence and there was standing room only all around the stage and lawn.

Mike Cross took the stage to loud applause by the eager audience.
I have been a fan since my college days at Appalachian State University.  I spent my summers working as a waitress at Eseeola Lodge in Linville, NC, at the foot of Grandfather Mountain.  Mike came every summer to give a concert around the time of the Highland Games held at Grandfather.  PB Scotts, in Blowing Rock, was a domed building with a bar and a stage.  I heard some great music there back in the day.  That is where I heard Mike for the first time.
A few years later, he and his wife, Cindy, enrolled their son at my school.  He played for our annual benefit auction, an event I had never attended until that year.  Mike also gave a concert for the faculty, just to thank us.  At the end of that concert, I gathered my nerve and introduced myself for the first time.  I have no idea what I said, but I am sure I behaved like a school girl with a crush.  Mike is from the Appalachian Mountains, just as I am, and he is a storyteller par excellence.  He plays a mean fiddle, as well as the guitar.
When his son came to seventh grade, I was so disappointed that he was not in my advisory group.  What on earth was the 6th grade team thinking??  He wrote a song called Big Food Chain for the 7th grade Science teacher, and she plays it every year when she teaches that unit.  The kids tell me that she even sings it for them.  And she also never lets me forget that he wrote a song just for her.  It is from his album At Large in The World.   "... we're born, we live, we die and we're all food for one another."
My favorite song is Carolina Calling.  He tells the story that he and Cindy were touring in California and he was missing North Carolina when all of a sudden a light went off in his head and he sat down and wrote the song.  That song is on his album Irregular Guy released in 1993.
It was a wonderful evening-- beautiful weather, with lots of friends in the audience, even a couple next to us we hadn't seen in years.  And it ended with a big hug from Mike!  The un-ex says I could be his Courtney Cox (if you watched MTV back when they really showed music videos and you saw Bruce Springsteen's Dancing in the Dark video, you know what I am talking about!).
Bon appétit, Mike and Cindy!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Keep it simple, and bon appétit!

My May article is in the Durham Herald-Sun today.  This is the photo I chose to use, at the Un-Ex's suggestion.  I took it at Arles Lucy's house one afternoon.  It is one of my very favorite pictures.  The colors are beautiful.  She is an artiste.

Bon appétit, M. Bellamy and the Herald-Sun!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Vincent 2

In Les Baux de Provence, there is a place called La Cathédrale d'Images, an underground stone quarry.  For 31 years, it has been used to project audiovisual masterpieces.  In 2008, I went to see Van Gogh.  I brought home a program.
The cover of the program is made up of small pieces of his paintings put together.

Projected on the huge walls of this quarry were Vincent's paintings from his time in Provence and Auvers-sur-Oise, the period considered to be his best.
This visual feast was set to music.
I bought the CD and I listen to it often while working at my desk.  I can close my eyes and see the swirls and bright colors projected on the stones.  It was a near religious experience.
The Van Gogh spectacle was put together by Régis Prévot, an author and film maker.
The Cathédrale d'Images website:

I've just read about a theory put forth by two German art historians, Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans.  They claim that Gauguin cut off Vincent's ear with a sword.  Gauguin was supposedly an excellent swordsman and the two argued on December 23, 1888, with Gauguin threatening to leave the yellow house.  This made Vincent very unhappy, his dream of establishing an artists' colony in Provence dying.  The historians claim that Vincent was "infatuated" with Gauguin.  Supposedly Gauguin drew his sword, cut off Vincent's ear, Vincent took it to a nearby brothel to give to a prostitute/friend, Vincent returned to the yellow house, Gauguin threw his sword in the Rhône and then spent the night at a hotel.  The art historians say that Vincent and Gauguin made a secret pact not to tell anyone what really happened so that Gauguin would not get into trouble.  Vincent's brother, Théo, was Gauguin's art dealer, to further complicate the relationship.  From all that has been written, by both Vincent and Gauguin in their letters, as well as by historians, theirs was a volatile relationship.  Who really cut off that ear?

Vincent painted The Potato Eaters in 1885 while living in the Netherlands.  He wanted to paint peasants eating with the same hands they used to work the land.
Quite different from the sunflowers and his bedroom in Arles.
In honor of this painting, though, I will post my favorite potato recipe.

Gratin Dauphinois

2 1/2 lbs. potatoes (russets work well)
1 c. milk, whole or 2%
1 c. half and half
1 1/2 tsp. salt
Ground nutmeg, to taste
1 clove garlic, sliced lengthwise
3 Tbsp. finely chopped chives (optional)
1/4 c. heavy cream
5 oz. grated Emmental or Gruyère cheese

Peel potatoes.  Slice thinly and evenly, about 1/8 inch thickness.
Combine potatoes, milk, half and half, salt and nutmeg in saucepan.  Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat and simmer 8 minutes, stirring and scraping the pot to prevent potatoes from sticking and milk from scorching.  Milk will gradually thicken.
Preheat oven to 425F.  Rub bottom and sides of baking dish with cut sides of garlic.
Transfer half of the potatoes into the baking dish, sprinkle with chives, if using, sprinkle with half the cheese, and drizzle with half the cream.  Add the rest of the potatoes, pour cooking milk over them, drizzle with the remaining cream and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
Bake 35-40 minutes, until bubbly on the edges and browned on top.
Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Bon appétit, Vincent and the Potato Eaters!


Look at this magnificent cake that two 8th grade girlies made for our end-of-the-year cookout and dance Friday night.  These are the same two girlies who made a special cake for the 120th birthday party we had for the Eiffel Tower earlier this school year.

They have mastered fondant, in my humble opinion.
They also made this one for Friday night--

I admit that I ate a piece of cake before I ate my hamburger.  And it was délicieux.
Bravo, girlies!
Another girlie told me about a website she found and we checked it out today at lunch:

All about cakes!  And written with a sense of humor.  A great combination, n'est-ce pas?
What is there not to love about cake?  I've promised a pound cake to one of the BFF's clients.  She just sold him his first house.  That is definitely something to celebrate.  In the South, pound cake is generally the cake of choice for just about anything-- potlucks, picnics, visiting a sick friend, taking food to a friend who has lost a loved one, Sunday dinner, a gift for the preacher, etc.  Just about everyone who bakes has his/her own pound cake recipe, so there are many to choose from if you feel the need to stir one up.  By the way, it is called pound cake because the first ones were made with a pound each of butter, sugar, eggs and flour.  Buttermilk can be substituted for regular milk.  Vanilla or almond flavoring can be used.  I've had good lemon pound cake, too, as well as chocolate.  There is no fruit or anything else added to the batter, though, in the true Southern style.  Glazes are often used.  A slice of pound cake and a hot cup of coffee... 
I've had this pound cake recipe for many years.  There was an elderly lady, Dailey, who lived near me when I was growing up in Spruce Pine.  She lived alone and sometimes, if she wasn't feeling well, I would go over and stay the night with her.  (One night I watched Helter Skelter, the made-for-TV movie about the Manson murders after she had gone to bed.  I do not think I slept a wink that night.)  Anyway, Dailey found out quickly that I love pound cake and she always had some on hand for me.  (Usually stored in the freezer... frozen pound cake is really good...)  I am so glad that I asked her to write down the recipe for me before she died.  I don't have a daughter to pass it on to and the sons aren't that interested in cooking -- yet.  Maybe someday?

**I have been chastised by a friend who reads the blog...  and rightfully so.  I thought long and hard before using Dailey's recipe for the blog exactly as she gave it to me approximately 35 years ago.  Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats and oil products have generated a lot of controversy.  Many health conscious people will allow nothing containing them in their diet.  Period.  They are not natural substances.  I do not even pretend to understand the science behind it all, but I believe the experts.  (I just bought a copy of On Food and Cooking:  The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee and plan to read it after grading exams in June.  The above friend recommended it to me and promises that I will be able to understand it.)  Therefore, I am striking Crisco from the recipe.  For the past several years, I have used only butter when I make pound cake or cookies or scones or whatever.  But when I when was growing up in the mountains of North Carolina, Crisco was a staple in our cupboard. (And there is probably some in my own cupboard right now, way back in the back, to be perfectly honest.) If you want a quality product, use quality ingredients.  Buy the best and healthiest ingredients that you can afford in your cooking and baking.  Read labels.  And then eat your pound cake and enjoy it!!

Dailey's Pound Cake

2 sticks butter, softened
1/2 c. Crisco
2 1/2 c. sugar
5 eggs, room temperature
3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda 
1 c. milk
1 Tbsp. rum flavoring
1 c. pecans, chopped

Cream the butter, Crisco and sugar.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Mix flour, salt and baking soda.  Add this to the creamed mixture, alternating with the milk, until all is added.  Add rum flavoring and beat until smooth.
Grease and flour tube pan.  Put pecans in the bottom.  Put batter in pan by spoonfuls.  Bake one hour at 225F and one hour at 300F.  (DO NOT preheat the oven when making a pound cake.)

1 stick butter
1 c. brown sugar  (do not pack)
1/4 c. water
1 Tbsp. rum flavoring

Put all the ingredients in a pot and cook 3 minutes, stirring.  Pour this over the cake after it is out of the pan and on the serving plate, while it is still warm.

Bon appétit, cakemakers everywhere!
Merci, Salamanzar!