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


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.



Food & Recipes, Life

Sancerre Afternoons and A Cake with Hazelnut Flour

I have another recipe from our trip to the Sancerre region to share. Something a little sweet this time. It started with one of my favorite stops when we visit R.’s grandparents: the nearby oil mill. Just in the next town over, we always make a stop in the little shop and mill run by just two people. They process hazelnuts and walnuts, shelled and brought in by locals in exchange for a relative quantity of oil, on the original old stone table and mill wheel in a cramped room with only one window and an old guardian dog. When they are producing toasted (traditional) walnut oil by heating the nuts then grinding them, the smell is divine.

R.’s grandmother uses the toasted walnut oil in her signature vinaigrettes but I always get one of each oil (hazelnut and walnut) and use them on anything that seems willing: salads and tartines, even risotto with blue cheese and apples – divine. And when we were back for this trip, my stock was very low and I was eager to visit the mill for some new bottles. But this visit, while I was investigating the oils, pottery, and knives offered in the little shop (the room next to the mill room) I came across little bags of hazelnut and walnut flours. “We are trying to use the nuts completely,” the owner explained to me, “so we grind the nuts further into flours, now.”

Before she even explained I had picked out one of each and was greedily trying to decide if it would be enough. “The toasted walnuts are too dry after pressing to be used for flour,” she went on, motioning to dark brown pressed blocks of the toasted walnut grindings, “but the untoasted hazelnuts and walnuts have enough moisture left to make very good flours.” I couldn’t wait to try them out. She pulled out five or six copies of recipes for cakes and breads but my mind was dreaming up too many possibilities to try them first. I’ll have to get back to those some one of these days.

As the afternoon went on, we traversed the hills of vineyards stopping at every beautiful spot we came across but the path always leads to Sancerre. Perched on a steep hill overlooking all those rolling hills, Sancerre is an ancient town that serves as a hub for the nearby villages. R.’s father and uncles went to high school here as did his grandparents. The stones are thick with his family’s history. We park near the top and walk the steep streets to the center of town and poke around the same little path, here the well lit from below the ferns growing on its sides, here the church, here the bookstore, everywhere wine shops. But, especially in the fall and winter when the sun fades early on and the air cools quickly, what the two of us always want is a cosy café with tea and maybe something little sweet. Something to warm us for the ride back to the farmhouse. But Sancerre sleeps early in the off season and we don’t usually find what we are looking for.

When we got back to Paris, I considered what to try first with my flours. I feel the need to use them carefully until I can get back and get more (read: hoard them)! But with some deep colored plums waiting to be finished, I knew what I’d love to try first: a cake. The kind of treat that we might like to have with a cup of tea after an afternoon of exploring the vineyards. Something full of flavor and just a little sweet. So here is that little cake for the cool afternoons of autumn made with the flour of the season’s nuts: Brandy Roasted Plum & Hazelnut Cake.

Brandy Roasted Plum & Hazelnut Cake

makes one 6″ cake

7 plums

1 tbsp. brandy

90 g / 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature

1/3 c. lightly packed brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 c. hazelnut flour

1/2 c. all purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/3 c. buttermilk

1/2 tsp. demerara sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/ 425°F. Cut the plums in half lengthwise, remove the pits, and lay them face up in a baking dish. Sprinkle the brandy over them and roast until juicy, 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

2. Cut a piece of parchment to fit the bottom of the 6″ cake pan. Butter the pan and lay the parchment on the bottom then flour the pan. Preheat the oven, or reduce the heat from the roasting, to 170°C / 325°F.

3. In a mixing bowl beat the butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer until light. Add the egg and beat well until combined and fluffy. Fold in the flours and baking powder until starting to combine then add the buttermilk and fold until all ingredients are just combined.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and tap gently to level the batter. Arrange the cooled, roasted plums on top of the batter then sprinkle them with the demerara sugar. Bake until a tester comes out clean when inserted into the center, about 25 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes then remove to finish cooling on a rack. Have a slice with a cup of afternoon tea.