I have a weakness for so-called gourmet sections of gift shops and grocery stores. It is possibly linked to my taste for French convenience foods: I am powerless to resist.
I bought this wonderful roasted pepper bruschetta (jar at right) a week of so ago and you can see we've emptied it already. I cut thin slices of baguette, added a bit of Smart Balance and toasted them in my toaster oven. I topped the toasted slices with bruschetta and then Parmesan cheese and slipped them under the broiler for about 40 seconds.
The red pepper relish (left) was $3 cheaper and much sweeter. "A breakfast spread," my husband declared. He was right. I am thinking onion bagels or whole-wheat English muffins. I'd spread with them cream cheese first to temper the sweetness.
I demolished a jar of cornichons in Paris. I ate them with everything. I failed to bring a jar back with me, so I tried this smaller and pricier jar at home. A bit sweeter but still spicy. Maybe this brand will grow on me.
(We always bring jars of this and that home when we travel. We cushion them with bubble wrap, further cocoon them in plastic bags, wrap them in my husband's clean socks and stick them in the sock section of our Pullman case. So far, everything has made it back to Wisconsin in one piece.)
The jar below contained grapefruit marmalade, a gift from my New Zealand friend Fiona, who often posts comments here. Thanks, Fi! This was great - and unusual. I paired it with ricotta or cream cheese, sprinkled with bit of brown sugar, and spread it on English muffins or bran muffins. I even used it as a topping for ice cream but found that adding a bit of sugar was essential.
My penchant for buying jars of things dates back to my early 20s when I befriended a lovely and lonely older woman named Gayle who owned a gourmet shop in my home town. I loved to visit her little shop late in the afternoon. We would talk about this and that, and Gayle's brief career as a model and her marriage that failed and her engagement that ended. She had a quiet, classic style - dark dresses with pearls - and an aura of big city-ness that I tried hard to emulate. We lost touch and a few years later she died.
Like the others who have influenced my life and culinary habits, Gayle lives on when I make saffron rice or brew of cup of a certain brand of tea she liked.
She, too, is part of my French kitchen.