Monday, February 27, 2012

Les Oscars

Okay, yes, I know. This is not a photo of last night's Academy Awards. It is Wheel of Fortune and Vanna White. The really big deal is that the Ex-Ex and I have a brand new TV. Oui, we have entered the 21st century with a plasma HD one with more channels that we will ever watch. Our sons are proud. And a bit shocked, I guess, that we finally did it. (Tiny Bubbles In The Wine, by the way)
I can't believe I did it, but I actually stayed up past my bedtime on a school night to watch the Oscars. For once, I had seen several of the films up for Best Picture... Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Help, and The Artist. (Some years I haven't seen any of them.). I loved each movie, each for a different reason. But I fell in love with both Midnight in Paris and The Artist. I was very pleased with the final outcome. Woody Allen and Midnight won for Best Screenplay and The Artist won Best Picture. Jean Dujardin est charmant, n'est-ce pas? Magnifique! Formidable! Merveilleux!
Oh, and I still haven't figured out which French gros mot he uttered...

Bon appétit, Oscar et Jean!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Practice is important

Okay, this time before heading across the Atlantic, I am practicing!! Go me! When in France last month ( yes, I love saying that... Makes me sound like some hip and happening jet setter which I obviously am not or I wouldn't say hip and happening, would I?), I tried to post but could not figure out how to insert a photo. And I think my blog would be very boring without photos. So, google to the rescue, as always. I googled how to insert a photo into a blog post on an iPad and found answers and a solution. In the form of a $2.99 app called BlogPress. Therefore, you can see the above photos of my French hair straightener ( which I do not not use because my hair is too straight any way, but the girlies and Arles Lucy need it, so they say. I wish I had curls... The grass is always greener, isn't it?) and my electrical do- dads. Now, I have to figure out to make this darling iPad stop auto-correcting my French...

Bon appetit, BlogPress and Google!!
Where are the accents?? Au secours!!

My poor neglected little blog

How can I ever apologize to my lovely blog for neglecting her for so long?
Would chocolat do the trick?
This bar came to me (as a bribe, peut-être?) from Astérix, one of my advisees, on the way up to Washington, DC.  Probably in hopes of keeping me from nagging him too much.  Or maybe it was a thank you gift from his mom.  Thank you for taking him away for three days.  Doesn't matter because it is the best chocolate I have put in my chocolate-loving mouth in a very long time.  What's not to love about chocolat noir et fleur de sel??  I would share my last bites.
This sign was in the ladies room at the Newseum in DC.  I have never threatened to behead a 7th grader.  Honestly, I haven't.  (And yes, I always have my camera with me.  You just never know...)

Or how about a bowl of Teresa Lust's Polenta Stew that I finally got around to making?
The Ex-Ex liked the stew but the melted cheese in the bottom kind of aggravated him.  Is he human??  How can anyone get aggravated with melted, gooey mozzarella and provolone?
Or maybe a pain au chocolat given to me by Arles Lucy as a please-forgive-me-for-forgetting-the-meeting gift? 

It is was from La Farm Bakery and well, I guess it's too late to share it anyway.  It is long gone.
Bite #1...
Okay, how about a cupcake from Georgetown Cupcake?
Oh yes, I did eat one-- the pink one with the chocolate design on top!  Here's the middle--
My DC small group met with Ann McDaniel at the Washington Post.  We had a chance to tour the newsroom, ask her questions, and have lunch in the board room.  I sat where Melinda Gates sits during meetings, by the way.  Ann provided a fabulous lunch of salad, pizza, fruit salad, cookies, and cupcakes.  (I managed to spew my lemonade all over me and the lovely board room table by disregarding the fact that it was carbonated and slightly shaking it right before opening.  And then I dropped my camera while photographing the cupcake middle.  What a klutz I am.  What's the French word for that, I wonder?)
Or, my little blog, how about a cute pair of rain boots to keep our feet dry and warm next week in case it rains in Paris?  I like the ones with the fleur-de-lys on them, don't you?

Ah oui, this time next week we shall be roaming the streets of Paris...  with Arles Lucy, Thierry, and our 20 eighth graders.  Are we packed yet?  Of course not, but we will be Wednesday morning.
Okay, then, my last idea for today... a glass of champagne? 
Best chilled and shared with friends? 
Am I forgiven yet? 
S'il te plaît?
I promise to be better and not ignore you for so long in the future.  D'accord?

Stew and Polenta
(from Pass the Polenta by Teresa Lust)
Serves 4

For the stew:

2 pounds chuck roast or other stewing meat, trimmed and cut into chunks
2-3 Tbsp oil or rendered fat from the meat
1 large onion, cut into thick crescents
4-5 small cloves garlic, peeled and slivered
1 bay leaf
1 good pinch each of oregano, thyme, and rosemary (I used my herbes de provence)
1 glass of red wine (I was sipping from a California Zinfandel while cooking so I used that)
16-ounce jar of canned tomatoes, roughly cut, including their liquid
2-3 stalks of celery, including their leaves, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
Quartered mushrooms, 1 cup or so, optional
1 turnip, peeled and sliced, optional
Salt and pepper to taste
**Note:  It's best to make sure everything is cut bite-sized and will fit in a spoon.  It's easier for the eaters this way.

Dredge the pieces of meat in flour.  Heat the oil or fat in a heavy stewpot.  Add the meat and cook over medium heat until the pieces are browned on all sides.  Stir in the onion, garlic, bay leaf, and herbs, and continue cooking until the onion is translucent.  Add the wine and tomatoes, and let the stew simmer slowly, covered, for about two hours.  Check the pot occasionally and add water if the liquid has evaporated.  Toward the end of the cooking time, stir in the remaining vegetables and continue braising gently until the vegetables are tender.  Season with salt and pepper.  Can be made ahead and reheated.

For the polenta:

1 cup polenta (coarsely ground cornmeal)
4 cups cold water (you can substitute 1 cup stock or milk for part of the water)
Salt and pepper
A few handfuls freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Stir water, polenta, and 1 teaspoon salt together in a heavy saucepan.  Place over a low flame and stir slowly with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom and sides of the pot to keep the polenta from sticking.  Cook until the mixture thickens and pulls cleanly away from the sides of the pot, and the cornmeal feels tender on the tongue, 30-40 minutes.  Stir in the cheese.  Add freshly ground pepper and more salt, if needed, to taste.

To assemble and serve at table:

Put thin slices of mozzarella, provolone, and Gorgonzola cheeses on a serving plate-- 8 ounces of cheese, total, is ample.  Gruyère, fontina or Roquefort work well in this dish, too.  Place the cheese plate on the table, along with the pot of stew and the dish of polenta.  Diners serve themselves by spooning a mound of polenta onto their plate, followed by slices of the assorted cheeses and spoonfuls of stew.

Bon appétit, Sabbatical Chef Blog!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Rooster Week

A friend showed this to me today and man, do I know how that rooster feels.  (My apologies to the photographer-- I would give you credit if I knew who you were).  Now, I certainly hope I look better than he does.  I haven't  lost my hair and goodness knows I haven't lost any weight.  But ever have days when you feel pulled in 16 different directions?  I've felt like that since returning from France.  I haven't even kept up with my blog stats and I can be a bit obsessive about that, trust me.  Here is a list of the things I have going...
  • 7th grade class trip to DC in less that two weeks
  • 8th grade trip to France in less than a month
  • Arrival of the 28 French students and teachers in less than 2 months
  • National French Exam orders (I am the NC test coordinator)
  • Summer trip to France for six- Travels with my BFF, we are calling it- 3 days in Paris, 7 in Provence
  • The usual daily teaching and advising duties that keep me here from 7:30 am- 5:00 pm
Now, don't get me wrong.  I love my job.  Today is dress like a teacher day and several girls are here in black dresses, black tights, and scarves. 

I have fun with my students and pray that some French is sinking into their still-developing brains.  I love all the things I am involved in.  I wish that I had more time to do me-stuff-- go for a daily walk, write on this blog or work on my imaginary novel, finish Kristin's new book, Blossoming in Provence, cook up something delicious (in my kitchen at this very minute, I have all the ingredients for Teresa Lust's Polenta Stew recipe waiting for me to put them to good use), and so on and so on. 
Now I am just making myself tired so I will stop!
By the way, did you know that the rooster is the symbol of France?  Ah oui, c'est vrai.  Latin for rooster: gallus, Latin for inhabitant of Gaul, the former name of France:  Gallus; throw in Middle Ages, Christian symbol, the Renaissance, Charlemagne, mascot, Le Coq Sportif, and Cocorico.
This is Footix, mascot of the 1998 World Cup which was held in Paris and won by the Roosters French.
Ok, ça suffit pour aujourd'hui!  History lesson over.  Two more classes and study hall to go before I get home to that stew recipe.

Bon appétit. les Gaulois!