Sunday, October 4, 2015

What I've been reading

Isn't this a beautiful book?  My friend Virginia Jones took the cover photo.  Virginia and I are internet/Facebook friends.  But I honestly feel as if I know her and that we have sipped wine in a Parisian café together.  Maybe someday...

I loved this book.  I bought it because of Virginia's photo, but a book about Paris?  How could I go wrong?  It is a wonderful story of families, secrets, and starting over.  In Paris.

A couple of nights ago, I finished The Memory Thief  by Emily Colin.  Another great read.  It is on my Kindle.  I get daily book deals from BookBub.  That's where I discovered this one.  Another story that is hard to put down.  Set in Colorado and North Carolina, it is about death, dealing with loss, and picking up the pieces.  With an eerie twist to it.  The title says it all.

I zipped through two of Laura Florand's novels-- All For You first.  Chocolate, hunky Frenchmen, allowing love to happen through past hurt.  A Wish Upon Jasmine second.  Perfume, the south of France, and more handsome Frenchmen.  Cousins.  Lots of romance, of course.

Lisette's List by Susan Vreeland about love and art in Paris and the south of France.  Set back in the day with Marc Chagall and his wife as minor characters.  I am a huge Chagall fan.  A print of this painting, The Betrothed and the Eiffel Towel, hangs behind my desk at school (Merci, Mme Verte)--

And there is lots of talk of food in it, too.  Provençal specialities.

I read, Murder in Nice, the sixth novel in the series by Susan Kiernan-Lewis, starring Maggie Newberry.  In this one, Maggie sets out to help solve the murder of a high school friend as she struggles with motherhood and leaving her husband and baby for sleuthing.

Paris, He Said by Christine Sneed is another good, quick read.  Young twenty-something falls for older handsome wealthy Frenchman and moves to Paris to be with him.  She has to figure out who she is along the way and if she can be truly happy with him and his lifestyle.

I hadn't read a John Grisham novel in ages and a friend recently lent me Gray Mountain.  I couldn't put it down.  My grandfather worked at one time as a coal miner and I can identify with people in small towns in the Appalachian Mountains.  This one features a hotshot NYC lawyer who loses her job in the 2008 recession and takes a job in a clinic in a small town in Virginia doing pro bono work.  Murder, nasty coal companies, and small town people dying from black lung make for an interesting story.

Comfort Me With Apples by Ruth Reichl is a book I will never forget.  This is the second installment of her memoir.  She definitely is up there in the food world, but this book makes her so human.  Tender At The Bone is her first memoir.  Ruth was editor of Gourmet magazine.  She is going to be at Fearrington Village, not far from chez moi, with McIntyre Books on October 15.  A lunch time appearance, though, on a school day.  I suppose I will be lunching with 7th graders instead.  Big sigh.

At the moment, I am reading David Lebovitz' The Sweet Life in Paris.  I admit to being a fan and to being perhaps a touch envious that he lives and bakes in Paris.  He is a rock star.  IMHO.  He tells stories of his move to Paris after working for Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in California.  I recently was given a copy of his latest book, My Paris Kitchen, and I drool over it, too.

On my to-read list:  
  • Coco Chanel by Justine Picardie
  • Married Sex: A Love Story by Jesse Kornbluth (HeadButler-- I follow him faithfully)
  • Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir by Frances Mayes (she now lives in nearby Hillsborough, not Tuscany!)
  • The Queen's Lover by Vanora Bennett about Catherine de Valois and French royal intrigue
  • Transforming Paris: The Life and Labors of Baron Haussmann by David P. Jordan given to me by the mom of a former student
  • And I really need to get back to and finish Metronome by Lorànt Deutsch-- I actually have two copies of it, one of which is illustrated, given to me by two of my favorite Frenchies.  It is the story of Paris told by métro stops.  The pictures are amazing.  This fellow is a genius.
My favorite saint/martyr, Saint Denis, and his namesake basilica, are featured.  My Favorite Parisien took me there, along with my group of students, a few years ago.  It was my first visit.  I still get chills thinking of seeing Louis XVII's heart in a glass jar.  So cool.

I read a lot.  It has always been my (guilty) pleasure and escape.  If you have any recommendations, send them on!

Merci to M. Lebovitz and Mme Thérèse Pellas for today's recipe.  Can you stand another recipe for chocolate cake?  My Paris, Je t'aime Club meets tomorrow.  Eight 8th graders planning an imaginary trip to Paris (not imaginary for 22 of them come March!), watching videos of La Ville Lumière, etc. The cake will be their treat.

Gâteau Thérèse
Chocolate Cake
 makes 8-10 servings

9 ounces (250 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
8 tablespoons (120 g) unsalted butter
1/3 cup (65 g) sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
2 tablespoons flour
Pinch of salt

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F (180˚C).  Butter a 9-inch (23-cm) loaf pan and line the bottom with a strip of parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl set over a pan of simmering water, heat the chocolate and butter together just until melted and smooth.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in half the sugar, then the egg yolks, and the flour. (You don't need to measure the half-quantity of sugar exactly.  Just pretend you're a Frenchwoman cooking in her home kitchen and don't worry about it.)
  4. Using an electric mixer or a whisk, begin whipping the egg whites with the salt.  Keep whipping until they start to form soft, droopy peaks.  Gradually whip in the remaining sugar until the whites are smooth and hold their shape when the whisk is lifted.
  5. Use a rubber spatula to fold one-third of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then fold in the remaining egg whites just until the mixture is smooth and no visible white streaks remain.
  6. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan, smooth the tip, and bake for 35 minutes, just until the cake feels slightly firm in the center.  Do not overbake.
  7. Let the cake cool in the pan before serving.
Storage:  The cake can be stored for up to three days.  Madame Pellas keeps it in her cabinet, but you may wish to put it under a cake dome.  It can be frozen, well wrapped in plastic, for up to one month.

Bon appétit to all readers out there!  Read on!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Migraines (and chocolate cake)

What do migraines and chocolate cake have in common?  Absolutely nothing, rien du tout.  But this week, I have suffered through a migraine.  I do not have them often, but as anyone who does have migraine headaches knows, you will do anything, anything at all, to get rid of one as quickly as possible.  Exedrin Migraine is my first go-to.  Sometimes that cuts it off before it gets too bad.  It's a mixture of caffeine, aspirin, and acetaminophen.  If the headache comes on full-blown, a dark room and sleep are in order.  This week, those two remedies didn't do the job.  What do I do when I don't know what else to do?  Google.  One of my advisees last year found a remedy for his mom involving limes so I decided to try to find that.  Instead, I came up with lemon juice, hot water and Himalayan salt.  Oui, I do actually have pink Himalayan salt in my cupboard.  Remember, I worked with a French chef in Provence for eight months.  Salt is his idea of a gift.  I can still see the absoute delight on his face when my Arles 6 group came down to cook our last night before heading on to Aix-en-Provence.  Chef Érick had placed a bag of Camargue salt at everyone's place at the work space along with the evening's recipes.  I have about six different types of salt in my house.  (I replenish my supplies when I go back to France. This makes for heavy suitcases, but it is well worth it.)  

I drank the salty, lemon hot water and it really did seem to take the edge off.  I made it through the school week, along with a school-wide Homecoming pep rally. (Games cancelled due to Hurricane Joaquin)  My middle school director suggested sacrificing chickens, but I drew the line at that.  Too messy.  I didn't make it to the alumni BBQ last night, but am hoping to make it to the party tonight.  I love seeing my former students.  I decided that maybe a massage would help.  Carly at Massage Envy worked me over.  I slept well, but this morning the headache has moved over to the left side of my head.  I am back to the lemon salt water.  I did slice up a lime and rub it on my forehead (thanks, JD!) and I have rubbed Provence lavender oil into my temple.

I am now kind of sticky, but I smell good.

Going back to bed hasn't figured into my Saturday morning plans.  Washing clothes, sweeping up cat food (my cats are really messy eaters-- for some strange reason they take the food out of the bowl sometimes), and putting away dishes needed to be done.  Then I got to thinking about the chocolate cake that Senora made this week.  She makes birthday cakes for members of the middle school foreign language department.  She is the kindest, most thoughtful person I know.  And a fabulous baker.  So, I assembled the necessary ingredients and set about making my Migraine Chocolate Cake.  My head still aches, but my kitchen smells good.

It just came out of the oven.  Senora's cake, pictured at the top, with one bite gone, has a Nutella glaze on it.  She didn't use as much sugar as the recipe calls for, tested it on her husband, and decided it needed a little something-something.  Nutella to the rescue.

Mme M gave me a box of really good cocoa powder during my last visit to her home in Montépilloy, France.  Using the best possible ingredients when baking is important.  Merci, mon amie!

Many thanks to Senora and Yammie's Noshery for the recipe.  Yammie calls it Secretly Healthy Chocolate Cake.

Migraine Chocolate Cake

1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (I put in one full teaspoon- chocolate and cinnamon are a great combo)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2/3 cup applesauce
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup shredded zucchini (I used carrots because I didn't have zucchini on hand)
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional-- I did not use them)

Preheat oven to 350˚F.
Combine flours, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cocoa powder, and salt.  Stir with a whisk until well mixed.
Add applesauce, egg, vanilla and zucchini/carrots and mix just until combined.  The batter is very thick.
Spoon into well greased and floured bundt pan.  Bake 30-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Glaze (if desired):
1/4 cup powdered sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon milk, drizzled over warm cake.
A few tablespoons warmed up Nutella drizzled over  warm cake.
Or dust with powdered sugar.
Or serve with whipped cream or ice cream.
Or serve plain.  Maybe with a cup of coffee or cold milk?

Bon appétit et bon samedi to all from rainy, soggy, will we ever see the sun again North Carolina...