Life

Sancerre in the Fall – Fields of Golden Vines

É in the country | egg & dart blog

Hello again! It seems I haven’t mastered the working/being a mama with baby at home/having a life balance yet. Has anyone? Ha! But that seems like a post for another day. I wanted to pop in with a couple glimpses of the beautiful Sancerre region of France I took this weekend because, well, how could I not share this?!

Sancerre Autumn | egg & dart blog Creek adventuring with Papa | egg & dart blog

We went for what felt like a super short visit to R’s grandparents because usually we get to take advantage of a long weekend at this time of year as November 1st (All Soul’s Day) is still a work holiday for a lot of French people but this year both Halloween and All Soul’s fell on the weekend. Dart! But we had two frankly balmy (near 70°F!) days and we tried to soak up those views as much as possible.

Sancerre Autumn | egg & dart blog Sancerre Autumn | egg & dart blog

We also climbed to the attic and investigated some of R’s old toys for É which was so sweet – like opening a time capsule that, I’m sure, feels like it was just yesterday for both of us. This little guy was quickly adopted and I love his glowing red wheels with the pumpkins in this shot.

Sancerre Autumn | egg & dart blog Sancerre Autumn | egg & dart blog Sancerre Autumn | egg & dart blog

Despite it being only two days, we managed to squeeze in a bit of adventuring an visiting new-to-me places and seeing them in another light for R. The country roads – I don’t even know how to resist wanting to see what is just around every bend!

Sancerre Autumn | egg & dart blog

Sunday afternoon ended on the hillside among the vineyards looking back at the town of Sancerre as the evening’s shadow swept over it. It changes so fast at that time of day but for a few brief minutes, the fields turned an almost iridescent violet that I would have loved to drink in for a while. I only caught the tail end of it here.

Sancerre Autumn | egg & dart blog

There are even more images over on instagram because of course I couldn’t help from overgramming.

Here’s to November! I can’t believe it is here. But I’m trying to get myself into the holiday season gear because here it comes!!

xo,

A.

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Food & Recipes, Life

Finding Lunch with a Tartine

The past two weeks have felt busier than usual as I’ve been trying to push ahead on a big work project. I’m finally starting to feel like I’m making headway and I hope next week things will even out a bit and I’ll have more time to shoot (I miss having a camera in my hand!). But there has been a small recent breakthrough in my kitchen nonetheless. You see, for all my love of taste and meals, I’m very bad at feeding myself at lunchtime. I work from home and it’s so easy to forget as you’re running in every direction chasing after details. Or sometimes I look into the fridge and I can’t seem to think of something quick and wonderful to eat. But I finally found a winning combination, something endlessly adaptable, and so traditional in France that I’m at a loss for why I never thought of it before.
Tartines. A slice of beautiful crusty bread and lovely layers on top. It may sound very much like a sandwich with only one slice of bread, and it is, but somehow, it’s so much more elegant. So, here is the tartine that I’ve made five times in the past week or so, including once this past weekend when I effectively disproved both of his theories that he doesn’t like mixing fruit with savory nor does he like balsamic to the Frenchman (he loved it): Warm Coppa, Apple, and Cheddar Tartine topped with greens with the perfect balsamic dressing. It’s warm, bursting with flavor and so quick. And if you’re anything like me and you have to leave it at the table after a few bites to go pull the cat from the closet where he is hunting plastic bags, it will still be delicious when you get back and it has cooled down. So, enjoy lunch.

 

Warm Coppa, Apple, & Cheddar Tartine

makes 2 for one person

2 slices of lovely crusty bread*

1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard

4 slices of coppa

1/2  medium sized tart apple, very thinly sliced

1/2 cup grated extra sharp cheddar cheese

one handful mixed baby salad leaves

balsamic dressing (recipe below)

Turn the broiler of your oven on to heat and place a rack in the top third of the oven. Spread a very thin layer of mustard on each slice of bread and place it on a parchment lined baking sheet. Top each slice with 2 slices of coppa, half the apple slices, and half the cheese. Place this under the broiler until the cheese is melted and golden, 3 or 4 minutes. Don’t leave it alone, it can go from perfect to burnt in seconds.

Remove from the oven and let cool while you prepare the dressing. Transfer to a plate and top each half with a bunch of salad greens and drizzle with the dressing to taste.

* The amount of toppings you will need for each tartine will, of course, vary if you have particularly small or large slices of bread.

Perfect Balsamic Dressing

makes enough for several salads, to keep you going all week!

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

4 tbsp. walnut or extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard

salt and pepper to taste

Combine the ingredients in a jar, cover with the lid, and shake it up, baby.

xo,

A.

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Life

Weekend Walk

We had a nice long weekend (but we want another!): Thursday through Sunday. Thursday morning, we bundled the Bug into his carrier and the three of us headed to Orléans for an escape. We managed to pack quite a bit into the four days including a viewing of Skyfall (oh how I love this film), a visit to a chateau I’ve always wanted to see, and a quick sunset walk near the Loire. I’ll share my pictures from the chateau later in the week but for now I wanted to show you a bit of what we saw on our walk.

Living in the city, I miss the amazing beauty of abundant and wild nature and found myself strangling behind on the path to breath it in, listen to the grasses and leaves, wish them goodnight, be stunned by their secrets. It must be the time of year, when there seems to be more dark than sunlight in a day, that I am being drawn more and more to those quiet moments, just before the light disappears completely, when all those grasses, leaves, trees, and vines are spilling with silent magic.

Have you ever noticed? See how flowers hold the light in there centers for a few more moments after the light is gone. Magic.

happy Monday.

xo,

A.

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Food & Recipes

The Rain and Light, the In Between Season

I come from a place where the autumn season is full of vivid colors against a bright blue sky and crisp sea air. But Paris has a very different style when it comes to this season. The summer ends and the gray and rain begin. It sounds all doom and gloom but there are days of beautiful sun, days when we blink because our eyes had gotten used to the gray, we just have to survive days upon days of drizzle to enjoy them. It isn’t an easy change for me and sometimes I catch myself starting to dread what has always been my favorite season.

But there are graces. Vivid potimarron squashes and fresh hazelnuts and walnuts start to appear on marché tables. Figs and Muscat grapes and wild mushrooms. While I was making my shopping list for the week, I found myself finally getting excited about these flavors, the evidence that the season was changing, and I wanted some wild mushrooms. The days of rain sprinkled with beautiful clear days are surely good for their numbers. Something to get excited about.

The rain and our poor feet that were tired of getting soaked kept us from the market Sunday. Anyway, you know I have to work on emptying my fridge! But I was anxious to grab some mushrooms at the market on Wednesday because I knew just what I wanted to do with them. A galette with earthy chard and creamy goat’s cheese to accent the mushrooms. And a crust with hazelnut flour? It could only be good to have all these seasonal flavors together.

As I waited my turn at the marché, looking at every kind of mushroom on the table and trying to decide on the best ones, I spotted some heirloom tomatoes on the back table. Not many of them, but beautiful black ones and green zebras. They are the very last I thought. For this season in transition, mushrooms and heirloom tomatoes side-by-side. Just for a little while. So I couldn’t resist them. Who knows exactly how long until they are ready again next summer. So here is our dinner for a season fading into another. For getting excited for Autumn. Wild Mushroom, Swiss Chard, and Chevre Galette. Rather nice with a simple heirloom salad for a friend.

Wild Mushroom, Swiss Chard & Chevre Galette

for the pastry:

3/4 c. all purpose flour

1/2 c. hazelnut flour (or replace with same of all-purpose)

8 tbsp / 115g cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks

1 tsp. sea salt

4 – 5 tbsp. ice water

for the galette:

1/2 pound swiss chard or spinach, well washed and stems removed

2 shallots, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 pound mixed wild mushrooms, brushed clean with a dry brush and large ones cut into thick slices

3 oz. / 90 g chevre (semi-aged, not the fresh creamy kind)

olive oil

butter

parsley to serve

1. To make the pastry, gather the butter, flours, and salt in a bowl or a food processor. Cut the butter into the flour until combined and the mixture resembles wet sand. Add the ice water, one tablespoon at a time, mixing just enough for the dough to come together and form a ball. Gently form the dough into a disk on a floured plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

2. In a sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and add the shallots. Sauté until they are softened and becoming translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds until it is fragrant. Add the chard and cover the pan until the chard has wilted. Remove the cover and continue to sauté until the extra liquid in the pan has evaporated.  Transfer the chard mixture to a colander, press with the back of a spoon to squeeze out any excessive moisture and then leave to cool.

3. Wipe out the pan and heat again over medium-high heat. Add enough butter to just coat the bottom of the pan and add some of the mushrooms in a single layer. Don’t overcrowd the pan, you can cook the mushrooms in several batches. Resist the urge to move the mushrooms around and let them cook until golden, 3 – 4 minutes, then flip them to do the same to the other side. Remove the mushrooms to a dish and continue in this manner until all the mushrooms are sautéed and golden, adding a bit more butter as needed. Once they are finished, toss with a little salt and pepper to taste.

4. Remove the pastry dough from the fridge and, on a piece of baking parchment, roll into a roughly 12 inch circle. Spread the chard evenly around the center of the circle, leaving enough of a border to fold up. Crumble 2 oz. / 60 g of the chevre over the chard. Add the mushrooms on top, slightly heaped in the center. Crumble the last 1 oz. / 30 g of chevre around the top. Gently bring up the sides of the pastry, gently pinching to close where it overlaps itself.
Slide the galette onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180° C / 350° F.

5. Bake the galette until the crust and filling are starting to turn golden on the edges, 30 – 45 minutes.  Serve warm or room temperature, sprinkled with chopped parsley.

xo,

A.

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Food & Recipes, Life

Sancerre Vineyards and a Taste of Tradition

Last weekend we escaped. Escaped Paris for the countryside surrounding R.’s grandparents’ farmhouse. They live in the Sancerre region in the center of France. It is a beautiful place and I was especially excited to get there at this time of year when the vineyards are being harvested and the light is golden. I could spend weeks exploring and taking photographs out there. “Tell me when you want to stop.” R. said as we took off in the car to climb the hills and enjoy the views. I tried not to tell him to stop every few feet. It seems I could photograph vineyards all day.

Last year we made a visit at the end of October and the leaves had burst into reds, oranges, and golds and not many grapes were left after the harvest but we were early this year and everything was wearing a vibrant green and thick clumps of grapes clung on the vines. The rolling landscape is blanketed with that green everywhere you look. No slope seems too small for planting. It is a rich landscape.

The garden and farmyard back in the grandparents’ village are rich too and we are fed abundantly from their production when we visit. “Pace yourself.” I warned my parents on their first visit. But you have to experience it to believe me. R.’s grandmother cooks traditional French meals that she prepared in years past for all the workers on the farm when it was still in operation. A starter, soup or vegetable salad,  main dish, often a roast, a green salad, cheese, fruit, dessert – this is how it goes and it is all so good that it’s very hard to be sage (wise) and not take too much from each course. I often joke to R. that he’ll have to roll me home.

While he doesn’t run a farm anymore, R.’s grandfather keeps three garden plots in the backyard and spread around town. He grows tomatoes and lettuce, potatoes and chard, squashes, including some American varieties from their trips to New England, zucchini and leeks. Leeks which are left in the ground through the winter, pulled up when needed in the kitchen, and tied to a stake with string to dangle in the stream and defrost. I love that.

On this trip, we had a traditional starter with lunch on Sunday and I would have been happy with only that: Leeks Vinaigrette. It’s a perfect and simple little meal with a dressing of local walnut oil and minced shallots and parsley. Served with hard-boiled eggs, it is a filling lunch. When we got home I called R.’s grandmother and asked her, “How do you make poireau vinaigrette?” “It’s so simple,” she said “and good isn’t it? I just had some for lunch.” So here is the recipe, so you can have a taste of French country meals, the flavor of our visits to the Sancerre region, for lunch, too.

Leeks Vinaigrette

serves 4

5 medium sized leeks, dark greens trimmed

1 shallot, minced

1 handful curly parsley, chopped

4 hard-boiled eggs

1 small handful chives, chopped

6 tbsp. walnut oil

6 tbsp. sunflower oil

2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

1. Fill a big pasta pot with water and bring to a boil. Salt the water. To prepare the leeks: slice the root end off very close to the roots. If you cut too much off, the individual leaves will not stay together but will all separate. Cut each leek in half lengthwise and then each half in half again. If you have tiny leeks, you can simply cut them in half and not bother quartering them. Rinse them thoroughly under cold running water making sure to get all the grit out from between the outermost leaves.

2. Once the water has come to a boil, put the leeks in the water bending them gently to fit inside the pot. Allow to gently boil for 30 to 40 minutes until they are tender throughout. Remove them from the water and let them drain and cool throughly in a colander.

3. Slice the hard-boiled eggs in half and arrange them on a plate then sprinkle with the chopped chives.

4. To make the vinaigrette, combine the walnut and sunflower oils, the vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste in a small jar, cover with a lid, and shake well to emulsify.

5.  Serve the leeks warm or at room temperature sprinkled with the shallot and parsley and with the eggs on the side. You may have leftover vinaigrette but that is never a bad thing.

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