Food & Recipes

Raclette Pizza because baby, it’s gettin’ cold outside

Raclette may be France’s best kept secret. At least I had never heard of it before I married into a French family. But it was destined that I would love this winter dish because I love potatoes so much I consider them a meal even when they have no supporting cast. Even when I am sick and nothing else sounds good, potatoes will save me. Or ice cream. But that’s another post.

So when I was introduced to this dish at R.’s grandparents’ home one wintery evening, you can understand it was love at first sight. Raclette is actually a very humble meal: boiled potatoes are served and kept warm in a bowl on top of a raclette machine which is, basically, a tabletop broiler with individual little trays each person can fill up with raclette cheese, which can be plain or have pepper or spices in it, and what ever other goodies they like (cured meats and ham are usually on the table, too) and then warm it under the broiler. When the cheese is melted and bubbling you pour it out on top of your potatoes and the whole thing will disappear from your plate instantly. Magic. With potatoes.

I knew I couldn’t wait a whole year to have another raclette and since we don’t have a machine (or a place to store it – Parisian apartment!) I have made a gratin version in the chez nous in the winter. But in search of cooler weather comfort food last week, I put the raclette formula together with another of our favorites: pizza. I’m just going to say this because I don’t think you really need to know anything else: thinly sliced potatoes, coppa, melty raclette cheese, creme fraiche, and chives. Shall we?

Raclette Pizza

Serves 2

– 1/2 pizza dough (recipe follows)

– 1/4 lb. fingering potatoes, sliced very thinly preferable on a mandolin

– 5 slices raclette cheese*

– 5 slices coppa

– 1/2 c. creme fraiche

– a small handful of chopped chives

– olive oil

– salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven on its highest setting with a metal baking sheet inside turned upside down. Baking the pizza on a preheated sheet will give it a nice crispy bottom and turning the tray over makes it very easy to slide the pizza right off and onto a cutting board.

2. Lightly flour the counter and your hands and start flattening out the pizza dough from the center until it is roughly 5 or 6 inches by 8 inches. You can make it round or rectangular as you like; mine are rectangular to fit the shape of my baking sheet. Once the baking sheet is very hot, remove it from the oven and place it on a heat safe surface. Drizzle the sheet with olive oil and place your pizza dough on it, stretching it gently to about 7 inches by 10 inches. Lay out the coppa slices on the dough followed by the potato slices, slightly overlapping until the pizza is covered. Drizzle the potatoes and crust edges with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Finish with the raclette cheese torn over the top.

3. Carefully put the baking tray back in the oven and bake until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbling, about 25 minutes. When it is done, gently slide it onto a counting board and let it cool for just a minute or two before putting dollops of creme fraiche over the top and sprinkling with the chopped chives. You can serve some French cornichon pickles on the side to be extra authentic.

Pizza Dough

-2 1/2 c. all purpose flour

– 1 package dry yeat

– 1 c. warm water (105 – 115°F)

– 1 tbsp. salt

– 1 tsp. sugar

– 2 tbsp. olive oil

1. Mix the warm water, yeast, and sugar together and set aside to bloom for 5 minutes.

2. Mix the flour and salt in a bowl and form a deep well in the center. Pour the yeast mixture and the oil in and slowly start incorporating the flour into the wet ingredients with a fork until all the flour has been mixed in. Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and knead until the dough is silky and smooth, about 5 to 10 minutes.

3. Put it back in the bowl and cover with a tea towel. Let rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size. I push this sometimes by putting it in a warm oven and using it in 30 or 45 minutes.

4. Divide the dough in two for the recipe above. It freezes beautifully if you need to. Done!

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

Bursts of Living and a Roasted Vegetable and Chevre Tart with Herb Salad

I crave interesting flavor. I think I always have because I was the kid that didn’t buy lunch at school and came with a bag packed with such exotic things as tabbouleh and who loved lobster before she could walk. (Actually, that last one may be because I am a Mainer, but still.) There are days when I just need something that is complex but not fussy, something that you taste and know that you are alive. Those little bursts of flavor, of living.

Herbs do that for me. Amazing little leaves with such a wide variety of character. And I use them everywhere I can. In the herbed gnudi with parsley, dill, and chives below, in pureed soups of chervil, or tarragon, basil, and mint mixed into a quinoa, tomato, and feta salad. Mixing them in unexpected combinations makes the possibilities endless and I find that leafy herbs play nicely together and woody herbs, likewise, play nicely together. Of course, you wan always taste them before adding.

One of my go-to recipes for summer is a wonderful tart of tomatoes and goat cheese in a flaky pastry. It’s always refreshing and never disappoints. When the weather went into an end of summer hot streak, I pulled the fresh summer vegetables we had from the fridge and roasted them simply. I knew they’d be a perfect variation on that summer favorite. But I wanted it to stand out even more and served it with a lightly dressed salad of fresh herbs on top. It was perfect. Everyone can help themselves to how ever much of the salad they like, if they are adventurous and want a lot like me, or if they want a little less like R. This is exuberant summer in a tart.

Roasted Vegetable and Chevre Tart with Herb Salad

Serves 6

For the Pastry:

1 1/4 c. flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary or chives

8 tbsp. cold butter, cut into smaller pieces

4-5 tbsp. ice water

  1. Place the butter, flour, salt, and minced herb in a bowl and cut the ingredients together with a pastry cutter or with the tips of your fingers. Work until just combined and add the ice water one tbsp at a time, mixing gently with a fork, until the mixture comes together and doesn’t crumble when you pinch a piece together between thumb and index finger. Gather gently into a ball and flatten into a disk. Place on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill.

For the Filling:

1 small eggplant, washed and sliced into 1/4″ thick slices

1 small zucchini, washed and sliced into 14/” thick slices

1 red bell pepper, washed, seeded, and sliced into 6 pieces lengthwise

2 small heirloom tomatoes, washed and sliced in half lengthwise

3 tbsp. olive oil

200 g / 7 oz. fresh soft goat cheese

 sea salt and freshly ground pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F/220°C. Place the vegetables , tomatoes cut side up, on a roasting pan. Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil, using more if necessary but don’t drench the eggplant, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast them in the oven until them are golden and soft, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  2. Turn the oven heat down to 375°F/190°C. Remove pastry from the fridge and set onto a well floured work surface. With a rolling pin, roll pastry into a circle about 1/4″ thick. Gently fold the dough in half and lay over half of a 9″ removable bottom tart pan. Unfold the dough to cover the pan, fit the dough down into the pan, and trim off any excess around the edges. Prick the bottom of the pastry all over with a fork.
  3. Crumble the goat cheese into the tart crust, making sure to distribute it evenly across the bottom of the pan.
  4. Bake the tart shell in the oven until golden, about 30 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven.
  5. Arrange the roasted vegetables over the top of the tart shell.

For the Herb Salad:

1 1/2 c. mixed fresh herbs, such as chervil, dill, and chives, washed

1 tbsp. olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

  1. Prepare the herbs but chopping to large pieces, the size of baby lettuce leaves. Place them in a bowl and lightly dress with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste, tossing gently with you fingertips to coat the herbs.
  2. Pile the salad in the center of the roasted vegetable tart and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

xo,

A.

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Art, Food & Recipes, Life, Paris

Marché Photo of the Week

Everyone was so happy at the marché this weekend! One of those visits when you think “This is why I love coming to this marché.” You see, we don’t go to the easiest market to get to. There is one just a block up the boulevard and another just past the grocery store that both stretch on for ages. And they are fine but we once went to the marché just on the other side of the périphérique, the boundary between Paris and suburb which, after all, is very close to your apartment, and it hooked us. There we found our vegetable guy who is the farmer himself. There is my herb lady who always has the best herbs and micro and baby greens and the other farmer who has the heirloom varieties and the different colors of carrots, radishes, and tomatoes. The Italian stand with the pancetta with bits of peppercorn throughout and the baker and family with the best bread we have found in the whole city. Now we go every weekend we can and always come home saying how strange it is to go 10 minutes and be in what feels like a smaller village, not Paris. Here’s what we got this week:

– Cresson de Terre (Perhaps American or Land Cress in English? Anyone know?)

– Unpasteurized Buffalo Mozzerella

– Beets

– Celery

– Little Yellow Onions

– Cucumber

– Zucchini

– Eggplant

– Campari Tomatoes

– Sage

– Red and Green Sweet Peppers

– ‘Master’ Bread

– Thyme

– Felino Sausage

– Mint

And here are some of the dishes all that will go into:

Eggplant & Tomato Tartines with Mozzarella – Lieu sur Lit de Cresson – Roasted Root Vegetable Salad with Manchago & Herbed Croutons

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The weekend was as beautiful as the weather people predicted and we tried to take advantage of Paris Design Week and Les Journées du Patrimoine as much as we could. I loved these colorful ladies we found on a back wall near Arts et Métiers.

How was your weekend? And what is on your menu this week?

xo,

A.

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Life, Loving, Styling

Shelves & Loving

I’ve been playing around with the glorious wall of shelves we put up months ago and am just now finally get somewhere with the styling of them. Sometimes you just have to live with it for a while. Now I’ve got a little list of things I’m on the look-out for to flesh them out. But I love this rock that I dragged home from Ardèche one year. It’s so sculptural! (My poor husband, every trip with me seems to involve dragging home some amazing rocks/sticks/pieces of bark/shells/flowers…)

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A couple things that have been haunting my brain this week:

  • I don’t care at all that it is a trend, I love these and I need one! (But I probably need a big apartment first)
  • The Frenchman came home one day after a trying work day and needed a “comforting film”. I knew just what to watch. Yup, that is a comfort film in our house. In fact, it is the comfort film.
  • I just discovered these and they are just blowing my mind. They are so beautiful and the variations (scroll through for a few slides) are all so unique.

T.G.I.F!

xo,

A.

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