Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

Even though today is Halloween, it feels as if it has already come and gone since we celebrated it at school on Thursday. These are the Spanish teachers I am surrounded by at school.  (No, I am not Señor Tomatina in the photo...)
 One of my students, Steve Earkel here--
kept asking me who I was.  I finally just said "A redhead."  That seemed to satisfy him so I let it go at that.  Some of the older guys at school said I looked like Ann Margaret.  My students would have no idea who she is.  I just wore my red wig because I didn't know what else to do...  I know, lazy.
We didn't have school on Friday.  It is the end of the quarter and the teachers used Friday to work on grades and progress reports (and finally get to the post office to mail penpal letters to France and to make a trip to Costco where somehow my keys got locked in the car and AAA had to come rescue me because the Ex-Ex had the spare and he was in Charlotte-- I am telling on myself here).  C'est la vie.
Anyway, high school-age son and his girlfriend found a perfect pumpkin a couple of weeks ago and it has been sitting on the porch by the front door.
He needs to be carved at some point today, although I do not anticipate any trick-or-treaters.  We had none last year.  That makes me sad.  I think of all the costumes I made for my guys over the years-  the Duke Blue Devil, Batman, Power Rangers, Robin Hood...  No doubt high school-age son will head over to Franklin Street tonight, but he'll probably dash out the door before I have time to even take a photo.
In 2008, when I was living in Arles, Chef Érick found a pumpkin for me to carve.  His two boys had never made a jack o'lantern so I thought it was high time they did.  (Ok, I needed to do this for me, too... even though they are half American.)  Jonas and I carved him, put a candle in him, lit it up and we did actually have one little boy and his dad come by and ring the doorbell.  I had a stash of candy, just in case, (as I will break down and have here tonight, just in case).  Jonas and Leo were not sad that they got all the leftovers. They leave Halloween to us Americans and don't really celebrate.
The week before, we'd been to the Cévennes Mountains to visit Richard and Nadine who took us to the Apple and Onion Festival in Le Vigan.  The onions from there are quite famous.  We bought a box to make onion soup.
Among all the goodies there, I saw some pumpkins.
Interesting looking specimens, n'est-ce pas?

These are from a market in Arles--

One of my favorite recipes from Chef Érick's collection is Tian de Potimarron.  I plan to make this one today in honor of Halloween.  Potimarron is a bit different from our usual pumpkin here in North Carolina.  It is a darker orange and denser.  I found a small one that sort of looks like it at Harris Teeter and chopped it up.  We'll see how it turns out.
This is one we made at Thanksgiving 2008 when the Goolsby clan came to visit.  We had quite a feast!

Tian de Potimarron / Baked Squash

1/2 c. olive oil
3 slices bacon, cut in 1/4 in. short strips
2 onions, minced
3 lb. (1 1/2 kilo) squash, peeled, sliced and cut into 3/4 in. cubes
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
Grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp. honey

Pour enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a large deep frying pan.  Heat the pan to medium high and add the bacon and onions.  Sauté until the onions are sweated and the bacon is cooked.  Add the squash and remaining oil.  Cook over a medium flame, allowing them to slightly brown, for about 15 minutes.  They should start to become tender.
Remove the squash from the flame, fold in the bay leaves, minced garlic, and nutmeg.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Transfer to a baking dish (that is what a tian is, the baking dish) and place in the oven at 400F/200C.  Let bake for 30 minutes or until tender.  When just about done, drizzle the honey over the top and return to the oven to bake for about another 10 minutes or until the honey caramelizes.

Bon appétit, Halloween et le potimarron!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

October's Herald-Sun article

Overwhelmed by memories of meals past...

Bon appétit to all who contributed to this article--  Wine Authorities, Grove Winery, Pat and Joan Fox, Saxapahaw General Store, my 6th grade French class, Seth Gross, Jason Sholtz, Bull McCabe's, John Spicer, Helga and Tim MacAller at Four Leaf Farms, the Durham Farmers' Market and last, but not least, my research Partner, the Ex-Ex, lover of cheeseburgers.

Monday, October 25, 2010

What's cooking, kids?

Today was a food day in my middle school world.  And what a food day it was.  I was given the task of creating something with the green tomatoes weighing down the vines in our GRO Club garden.

Friday morning, I casually mentioned to my co-sponsor that it would be a shame to waste all those beautiful tomatoes...  So she called me up on her way home from school and suggested that I make something with them for the kids in the club on Monday.  On Sunday, I headed over to school, scissors in hand, to cut some and make salsa.  Kids like salsa and chips, right?  And yes they did.  It was a huge hit today.  Thank goodness.
She had planned to make something with the broccoli.
The bees love what is left of the basil (I dodged them and cut a few leaves to use in my chicken recipe for dinner).
What other treats were in store for me today?  My C period French class are quite the little gourmands, I've discovered.  Three treats were on tap today.
The first was a box of vanilla and chocolate macarons from Trader Joe's brought in by Nicolas.
Non, he didn't make them himself, but he is researching the history of this little delicacy and I will share recipes in case anyone wants to make them at home.
Number 2 was a tray of pains aux chocolat prepared by Noëlle.  She explained how she made them and then we are sampled them.  Her great discovery was the difference when the croissant is brushed with egg white before baking.  She definitely liked the appearance of the brushed ones best, she reported.  I discovered this at the age of 49-- she is way ahead of me.  (Oh, how I longed for a cup of coffee from Foster's Market, but there was no time for that malheureusement.)

Next came Olivier's tarte aux pommes.
It was delicious.  Oui, vraiment délicieuse.  And just as we were getting ready for this treat, the candidate interviewing today for middle school director came in to observe my class.  I admit that I was a bit nervous.  No verb conjugating going on.  No deep discussions of The Little Prince.  We'd already covered Le Mot du Jour (la fête- holiday, in case you are curious) and we hadn't gotten around to checking homework and speaking French.  No, just Olivier explaining how he made the crust, sliced the apples just so and baked his tartes.  He made two.  This is a jeune homme who tends to be a bit quiet in class.  But he sure can bake.
Merci, mes élèves.  I intend to use all of this when I make a presentation at next week's NCAIS conference in Charlotte.  My session is called "Get them cooking!"  If today is any indication, I think I am making great progress, n'est-ce pas?

Fresh Tomato Salsa
(from Favorite Recipes with Herbs by Dawn J. Ranck and Phyllis Pellman Good, 1997, Good Books)

4 large plum tomatoes (I used 2 plums and 2 green tomatoes)
1/4 c. chopped scallions
1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano (or 1 tsp. dried)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. minced jalapeno pepper, or to taste (I didn't use this for the kids)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. fresh lime juice
Sea salt, to taste
Fresh black pepper, to taste

Cut the red tomatoes in half lengthwise and remove seeds.  Cut halves into 1/4-inch pieces.  (The green tomatoes do not need to be seeded, just chopped.)  Place in bowl.
Add remaining ingredients.  Cover loosely and let stand at room temperature for 4 hours before serving.

Makes 2 cups

Bon appétit, mes jeunes gourmands!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Go Duke!

This has nothing to do with eating-- unless you count popcorn and Coke as food.  My buddy Timmy D. gave the Ex-Ex and me tickets to Game 1 of the Duke University Blue Devils 2010-2011 basketball season.  Game 1 after winning the NCAA Division 1 Championship last winter.  We had planned to go to a movie, even though I am fighting a cold/sore throat, I cannot bear to stay inside when there are things to do and people to see.  And Duke basketball to watch.  No, I do not know any of the players personally-- unless you count the fact that high school-age son guarded Ryan Kelly when he was at Ravenscroft.  But Coach K and I go way back...
Even farther back than this photo.  Really.  He came to Duke the same year I came to Durham Academy.   31 years ago.  Ah oui, mes amis.  Hard to believe, but there are those of us who find a good thing and stick with it.  Durham Academy for me
(Mon dieu bon dieu, go ahead, google something and see what you get... I googled Durham Academy logo and the things that popped up... mug shots, a picture of me as the Sabbatical Chef, photos of students, a photo of Matt Damon - I need to investigate that one!)
And Duke for Coach K
The score of Game 1 was 141-68.
Tomorrow will bring green tomato salsa made from the green tomatoes that are left in the GRO Club garden and grading tests.  But what a beautiful day it was in Durham, NC today.  Fall is the most magnificent season in North Carolina.  It is just what God intended for the world to look like and the weather to be like.  Brilliant oranges, yellows, reds and a Carolina blue sky without a cloud in sight.  Very cool mornings and evenings and just enough sun in the afternoon to make you wish you were wearing one less layer of clothing.

Bon appétit, Duke and North Carolina!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fromage from France

I think that I have already stated that in my next life I want to be David Lebovitz.  He is my food hero.  I read his blog faithfully now and have even been brave enough to try a few recipes, all of which have been fantastic.
I ordered his latest book from Amazon, but have resisted the temptation to dive right into it.  (It is hidden away in the drawer of my night table until I finish The Perfectionist...)  I am already certain that I will be as green as the shop on the cover.  Jealousy will do that to you.  It's my favorite shade of green, at least!
David's latest post is all about brie cheese.  If you are a cheese-lover, click on the link and read all about it.  And then subscribe to David's blog.  It is such a treat, with photos that look good enough to eat.

A nice warm, crusty baguette and a room temperature wedge of brie...  ahhhh.  How  many days until my next trip to France??

Bon appétit, le fromage brie!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Finally Fall

There are many signs just in the past couple of weeks here in piedmont NC that fall has arrived at long last.  No more 95 degree days.  Cool nights.  Not much in the way of changing leaves yet, but I will wait and hope that the extremely dry summer didn't rob us of the brilliant colors we usually enjoy in late October.
Beautiful blue skies.
Days filled with middle schoolers and all that brings.
A handful of candy corn offered by a 7th grade girl just because.
The last flowers in the GRO garden.
The last fruits and vegetables.
Will they ripen before frost?
Or before the critters eat them?
One ripe, one broken from the vine while trying to re-stake the vines still heavy with fruit.
A nice red from the Rhône Valley on a cool evening.  This one enjoyed at Saxapahaw General Store with dear friends last Saturday evening.
I don't usually order dessert, but couldn't resist this one when Joanie put it in front of me.  A homemade Peppermint Patty.

And yes, Antonio, a Peppermint Patty is also a Peanuts character!

I plan to find some lamb and make Carbonade de mouton, a lamb stew, this weekend.  I posted about it almost exactly two years ago from Arles...

Bon appétit, l'automne!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Show your pink

I have a really difficult time passing up any item of clothing that is pink.  So... today I added a new pink scarf to my collection.  I strolled by a display of pink at Belk's and couldn't resist.  October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Belk is donating a portion of the sales for certain items to breast cancer research.  I can't wait to wear it tomorrow!  It is hard to have a bad day when you are wearing pink, in my opinion.  Even when the sales lady asks if you qualify for the senior citizen discount.  True.  She was at least my age so I couldn't hold her age against her.  When I said "No, ma'am, not yet,"  she just shrugged and said that these days you just can't tell.
Now for some more pink--
Estée Lauder is also getting into the mood with a portion of the sales of their special pink lipsticks in a pretty pink case going towards research.  (EL's new perfume, Sensuous, smells really delicious, too.)
Wine Authorities donates a portion of the sale of each bottle of rosé to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
Here is my personal favorite.

Drink pink, wear pink, think pink!  And donate to help find a cure.
Random pink pictures ...
Pink hollyhocks at Annie's lavender farm-
Pink flamingos on display at A Southern Season--

Pretty, but I prefer the real pink thing in the Camargue...
A pink zinnia from the GRO Garden at school--

And a street performer in Paris in a pink shirt (thank you, Bassil family)--

Mildred the Mixer and I (I am wearing a pink t-shirt) spent the evening making cookies for a dear friend's funeral tomorrow. It felt good to pull her out of the cupboard and crank her up.  Butter, sugar, vanilla, chocolate chips... ahhhh.  I talked to Mama Mildred, too, while making them.  Even better.  I decided on chocolate chip at the suggestion of high-school-age-son.  He says they are his favorite.  I made two batches, one with just chocolate chips

and the other with dried cherries added.
Check this one out.  Do you see a face?  I do.  I didn't even notice it until I downloaded it to my computer.  He looks happy, don't you think?

Warm cookies straight from the oven...  a little bit of heaven.

Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes about 4 dozen

2 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
11.5 oz. chocolate chips
6 oz. dried cherries

Preheat oven to 375F.
Combine flours, baking soda and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
Cream butter, sugars and vanilla until smooth.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Gradually add flour mixture to creamed mixture.  Stir in chocolate chips and cherries.
Drop by teaspoonful onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake 9 minutes for a softer cookie or up to 11 minutes for a more well-done cookie.

You can add nuts, if you wish.  White chocolate chips can be substituted.  Use the basic recipe and add in whatever you have in the cupboard.

Bon appétit, Arthur Cogswell.  I will miss seeing your smiling face at our parties and talking to you about your adventures in La Belle France.  Rest in peace.