05 April 2010

Kitchen Tools: Rapé Tout

I am a pushover for freshly snipped herbs and freshly grated cheese or onion or nutmeg on whatever I am preparing.

There is a luxury to such things. And they are simple indulgences.

I was shopping in Cahors at a wonderful domicile shop called Choses et Autres, located at 77 Boulevard Leon Gambetta where I found this darling little dish-cum-grater called a rapé tout.

It does indeed grate just about everything, from onion to cheese to carrots.

When I use it, my kitchen is transported to the sunny southwest of France.

And that's a real luxury.

03 April 2010

Chicken-and-Apricot Tagine

Chicken-Apricot Tagine

I sometimes wish my life were a bit less pedestrian. What if I lived in Morocco? Wintered in Antibes? Summered in the Hebrides? What if the food I prepared in my little kitchen were inspired by something other than the thought "I think it might be fun to make a tagine today."

Two weeks ago, I had that thought. You can prepare a tagine in many vessels. But I wanted a real one. I imagined my kitchen redolent with the spices of Northern Africa while meat and vegetables or dried fruit simmered in a clay pot with a tee-pee-like cover.

And so today that was how it was. 

Usually around Easter my appetite demands spicier foods. This tagine recipe (from Epicurious) calls for turmeric and cinnamon and paprika, with saffron for a shot of brilliant color.

Saffron was not something I grew up with: Instead, I discovered it in a rice mix from a short-lived gourmet store in my hometown when I was in college (the first time, before my "gap" years). Only when I brought the mix home did my father tell me he always kept saffron on hand, but used it sparingly. 

Saffron, derived from the crocus, seems like the perfect spice for spring. It supposedly has great medicinal properties, is thought to be cancer suppressing, and - they say - can be an antidepressant.

It is grown in the Mediterranean, including in parts of the Quercy, in the southwest of France, and I have seen it for sale there, and in the markets. 

My tagine, which I slow cooked in my clay vessel, was passable for a first attempt. The chicken was tender, but not as moist as I expected, while the apricots melted in my mouth. I agree with some of the reviewers that the spices and garlic should be stepped up. I did not use cilantro this round, but I will try it again. 


02 April 2010

Spring Night in Paris

Renting an apartment at the foot of the Eiffel Tower - or just about anywhere near a famous attraction in Paris - puts a carnival outside your window.

You can join in the revelry or simply watch the passing parade from your balcony.

On this particular spring night, we were jet lagged and chose the latter approach to savoring Paris at night.

We nibbled on crudités and sipped wine from Provence keeping the windows open to allow the street sound to waft up to our postage-stamp-sized living room.

For me - and I am glad my husband agrees - part of travel is not always being on the go but actually slowing down a bit.

Slow travel? Very slow travel.

I love the color contrasts and the angle of this photo.

Paris, May 2007