31 August 2012

Frugal French Friday: Easy Ratatouille

It's ratatouille time! It's ratatouille time!

Who doesn't love this classic Niçoise dish, made with eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers and tomatoes? It's great with pasta, rice, a baguette and even an omelet. I've paired it with potatoes, too.

It requires some preparation, but once the slicing and dicing is over, this stove-top version is done in one hour.

Which was great for me. Because I'm finishing up some projects at the office and tying up loose ends, I'm short of time just now.

That does not stop me from eating well and eating locally. I'm proud to say that 99 percent of this dish was made with locally-grown ingredients. Olive oil is not produced in northern Wisconsin or Upper Michigan.

The vegetables come from the farm market and the herbs and one of the peppers are from my own garden. Generally I prefer to serve my ratatouille over rice from the Camargue, but I had none so I served it as a side dish with this tarte.

If you read French, you may find this link fun to read. Here's another ratatouille option, and yet another one that I absolutely adore and drool on my keyboard every time I look at it. Here is another beautiful post that has the same effect on me.

Cost: The total cost of this dish was approximately $8, since I bought everything at the farm market. I managed four servings out of it so that's only $2 per person per meal. Serving it over rice adds only pennies. Ratatouille is one of the best bargains around, and it's comfort food, too.

Wine pairing: A Cotes de Rhone or a Roija are generally recommended with ratatouille.

27 August 2012

France: Late Summer in the Lot

Autumn seems to be sneaking in early this year, with splashes of scarlet and saffron already tinting the maple trees along the river and the bay. Warm days and cool nights bring out the beauty in Wisconsin's sugar maples. Last week, visitors from San Francisco, on their way back home after spending time back east told me New England's colors were already showing.

I love the colors of fall, and recently augmented my cool-weather wardrobe with sweaters the color of paprika and pumpkin. No more business suits for me after Sept. 28

Meanwhile I wanted to share some late summer scenes from The Lot Valley in France. Late summer, with its hints of glories to come, is as lovely as fall.

 Entering our little village west of Cahors.

Display of bulk spices at the Cahors market.

Grapes at the market in Cahors.

A field near Flottes, Pradines, on a lazy Sunday in September.

Driving into Albas, west of Cahors, on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

La Roque-Gageac, up in the Dordogne, which was still green and warm.

 Roof tiles in the afternoon sun, Caillac.

The neighbor's dog visited often, and stayed on our last afternoon, consoling me.

26 August 2012

Leek-Olive Tart with Pave d'Affinois & Parmesan Cheese

It all started when I bought a small brick of creamy Pave d'Affinois cheese (see photo below) at the Italian market across the river. This creamy relative to Brie is heavenly, with a light grassiness and a hint of green apple.

I could have spread it on a slice of baguette, but I wanted something a bit more complex. But not complicated.

A Google search brought me to this recipe from Martha Stewart and I captivated by the rustic look of the tart. I had all the ingredients, save for the leeks, but I was pretty sure I could buy those from the Immerfrost Farm growers at the Saturday farm market.

I love these guys, and most of the other vendors. They know what I want. One of the vendors saves her odd-shaped vegetables for me. She knows I think vegetables are people. More on that one some other time.

I followed the recipe almost exactly, but followed the reviewers' suggestions and sliced my leeks differently. It was easier to eat this way. I'd suggest cutting back on the salt used on the leeks, too, as the Mediterranean olives I used provided plenty of salty flavor. As you all know, I am liberal with herbes de Provence, so I added a dash of that, too.

The thyme came from my own garden, but other than that, only the leeks were local. I would like to report that I made my own puff pastry, but I cannot tell a lie. It's on my to-do list for rewirement. Only 22 more work days!

Since I trimmed the cheese brick before melting the cheese on the tarte, I suspect it will turn up in a soup recipe sometime down the line. With Pave d'Affinois, the rind is edible.

Meanwhile, the tart was perfect for breakfast, too.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

25 August 2012

At the Market: Stuffing Tomatoes

I was so eager to see what Immerfrost Farm had in store for me today, I barely gave them time to unpack.

The growers did not let me down. What they had were these wonderful stuffing tomatoes. Because I've got another recipe to make today, I'm going to ponder the filling for a while.

My online research indicates these tomatoes keep well in the refrigerator, so I've got some time to come up with a recipe for filling, maybe even two.

I'd like your suggestions. What would you do?

See my on-the-spot photo of the tomatoes here.

22 August 2012

Eggplant for Comfort

Much of this week I am off work because the Search and Screen Committee is interviewing candidates for my job. I want to make myself scarce because it's a small office and I'd feel like a definite fifth wheel.

Who am I kidding? It's really a bittersweet thing, choosing to leave one's job to tend to family obligations, and let's face it, get a break from the 50-hour work week that comes with being head of a non-profit organization in a relatively small community.

I don't want to be there.

I don't want to be here.

On the other hand, it's late summer and the landscape is slowly gilding itself with signs of autumn's color extravaganza. The crickets are singing. Kids are getting ready to go back to school and everything is a bit more peaceful than it was a month ago.

After the middle of August, it's like that. It's relaxing to be home at this time of year, and it makes me think of my annual August stay at Grandma Annie's house.

Which makes me want comfort food.

I sliced two Asian eggplant and layered them in a small, greased baking dish. I sprinkled with fleur de sel and herbes de Provence and then layered a thinly sliced tomato from my garden on top. I baked in a 350-oven for about an hour, sprinkling Parmesan cheese on top for the last 10-15 minutes of baking.

Simple. To some people, not blog worthy. To me, wonderful.

What do you do with eggplant?

20 August 2012

At the Market: Indigo Rose Tomatoes

Some things are meant to be enjoyed all by themselves.

Indigo Rose tomatoes are among them.

They look likes small plums. But bite into one and it's juicier than a plum could ever be. And it's just about as sweet.

The flavor is supercharged tomato. The juice dribbles down your chin, so wear a bib.

The Immerfrost Farm growers are spoiling me with their great produce and imaginative displays. My palate, always discriminating when it comes to tomatoes, is downright snobbish now.

I might never buy a grocery store tomato again. Ever. Even in dead of winter.

It just wouldn't be the same.

16 August 2012

At the Market: The Doctor is Green and He's a Tomato

I'm like a kid in a candy store when I go to a farm market. I can feel my adrenaline pumping. I get butterflies in my stomach. Doesn't matter if I'm in France or back home.

I love discovering new things. New things to eat, especially.

So when of the growers at Immerfrost Farm showed me this little green guy and said, "Here try this!" I had to buy it. Problem is, I bought only one. Silly me.

This is the first tomato that tastes like wine. It is complex. I mean, it has an initial note, a mouthfeel and a finish. And the flavor mellows once the tomato has been sliced or burst open with a bite. My first thought was that it had a grassy taste. I thought I tasted corn, too. Then there was something funny, something nice happening to my mouth. The flavors were evolving.

I've experienced this with wine and good coffee. But never with a tomato. The tiny piece I allowed my husband to taste had the same affect on him.

Can you fall in love with a tomato? I guess so.

It turns out this little guy, Green Doctor's Frosted, is only three years old. I'm robbing the cradle, so to speak.

These tomatoes are like candy. Most cherry or grape tomatoes are - all that sweet tartness concentrated in a small package. The "frosted" part apparently refers to this tomato's grape-like appearance.

Read more about this wonderful little tomato here. And here.

15 August 2012

Eggplant Persillade with Aged Goat Cheese with Fenugreek

Our nights are cooler now, and the quilts are out again. But our days are warm and sun-drenched and we've been lucky enough to have sporadic rainfall this summer. It really has been a lovely summer up here on what many people are now calling the North Coast, that is, the raggedy line of shore that marks the southern side of Lake Superior and the northern side of Lake Michigan. July was hot, but August has been heavenly.

I bought Asian eggplant at the market this week, and looked for a simple recipe that would bring out its gentle flavor, which is as comforting to me as Grandma Annie's mashed potatoes.

I also wanted to showcase something from my herb garden. I found this Julia Child recipe for eggplant persillade, and a modified version of it now joins the blogosphere cavalcade of JC recipes marking her 100th birthday. (That's not entirely correct; it was already in the blogosphere.)

Persillade is a parsley-based sauce or mixture made with oil and seasonings. Here's how to pronounce it.

Most versions of the recipe suggest serving it over spaghetti squash but when served as a side dish, it's more in keeping with my culinary goal this week of eating vegetables in rather simple form.

I did not peel my organically-grown eggplant and I sliced rather than diced it. So I'm not sure,  if strictly speaking, it's Julia's recipe. (I'm really struggling with the whole purist thing.)

Sprinkling it with Parmesan cheese is optional. I had none (must get to the store!) so I tried it with LaClare Farm's Evalon, an aged goat cheese made here in Wisconsin. We sampled had it last summer and loved it. The version I bought is laced with fenugreek, a plant that is herb, spice and vegetable.

Eggplant from the farm market, parsley from my garden, cheese from my state. What better way to salute Julia!

I have one eggplant growing in my garden. If it survives the hungry critters who roam my yard at all hours of the day, looking for more ways to annoy me, I'll feature a dish with that later in the season.

14 August 2012

Pineapple Tomato Tartine with Cucumbers, Cream Cheese and Chives

These days I need a good breakfast to nudge me out the door in the morning. The days are dragging, and I'm really looking forward to not having to leave the house every day for a job that no longer fits.  I gave it five years, but it's time for someone else to steer the ship.

(Apparently announcing your retirement brings out the best and worst in the people around you. It starts rumors, too. I've been fingered as the new editor of the paper and hired to do public relations work for a funeral home. Wow. Who knew?)

In truth, I'm going to devote my time to resurrecting the small communications business I once operated. Writing and public relations are what I do best. Or so people tell me.

I have a long to-do list, starting with creating an office for myself in our upstairs library. This room, with its built-in bookshelves and window seat used to look out on an ancient maple tree. In fall, the room seemed fired with the scarlet of the sugar maple. The tree had to come down last November and the room has lost some of its charm. But I'm painting it pumpkin with creamy woodwork, looking for a new area rug, and hanging some of my copper-hued prints on the walls.

My kitchen needs attention - lots of it. I jokingly call it a "French" kitchen because it's not much larger than the tiny kitchens of Paris. But the truth is, I have always had a vision of what a French kitchen means: An old cupboard, copper, tiles, lace curtains, worn wooden surfaces (well, we have the latter).  Finally, we'll have time for some DIY projects.

These plans sustain me. So does a good breakfast. I started the week with a pineapple tomato tartine. The tomato came from the growers at Immerfrost Farm, who seem to be introducing lots of new produce to our area. This sweet, fleshy tomato is a meal in itself. The exterior is red and yellow while the interior is yellow with red streaks and relatively few seeds.


To make this tartine, you will need:

  • 2 slices of whole-grain bread
  • 2 teaspoons butter (OK, you know I use Smart Balance)
  • 1 heaping Tablespoon cream cheese
  • 5-6 thin slices cucumber
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced onion, fresh or dried
  • 1/4 teaspoons chives, cut, or dill, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons mayonaisse
  • 2 thick slices pineapple or any other beefsteak tomato

Toast and butter the bread, slathering on cream cheese.  Layer on the cucumbers, adding onion and either chives or dill; top with mayo. Add the tomato slices last. A few sprinkles of sea salt help move the flavor forward, as this is a mildish tomato.

Wow. I liked this even better than this tartine.

That's the pineapple tomato below. Next to a small green one the growers urged me to try.

13 August 2012

Patty Pan Squash with Shallots, Thyme and Wisconsin Cheese

My husband is pretty much a purist about everything, and although I did not start out that way, I am learning, especially as I further my education in culinary matters, that being a purist isn't necessarily a bad thing. One of my goals this summer, especially as the farm markets are flooded with produce, is to taste vegetables in their purest, simplest form.

I'm also trying to create better, healthier and tastier meals. With retirement from my full-time job only seven weeks away, I'm really looking forward to more time in the kitchen. It's one of the things that has kept me going this summer as the weeks seemed to stretch out interminably.

Some of my experiments have been flops. If there is one thing I have learned while struggling to create a true "French kitchen" is that food preparation deserves my full attention. More often than not, when something flops, I have been distracted by a phone call or an e-mail.

In searching for ways to cook and enjoy patty pan squash, that little flying-saucer shaped squash that I only discovered as an adult, I did not find a plethora of recipes. Most seemed bland. This is a pretty but boring squash to begin with - I wanted enough flavor to coax out its natural taste, but I also wanted something interesting.

I ran across a lot of recipes that added thyme, easy enough to do when you have an herb garden, and a few that included basil. I opted for shallots and thyme, with a grated topping of Wisconsin cheese. I found I had a fair amount of dessert cheese on hand, cheese curds made with beer (hey, this is Wisconsin!) and some taco cheese but no Asiago or Parmesan. I had a small heel of cheese with tomato and garlic from a Wisconsin cheesemaker, so I used that.

Here are the ingredients you will need:
  • 2 large patty pan squash
  • 2 large shallots
  • three tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • dash ground thyme
  • about a half Tablespoon of fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated cheese (I recommend Asiago)
Peel and slice the shallots into thin slices. Slice the patty pan whichever way you like - I find it easier to slice it vertically. Slices should be about 1/4 inch thick. 

Warm the olive oil in a skillet under medium heat and begin to brown the shallots. Once the shallots begin to turn golden-brown, add the patty pan, and season with ground thyme and salt and pepper, just slightly. 

Once the patty pan is slightly browned, remove it from the pan, along with the shallots and place in a small baking pan, adding fresh thyme and grating cheese on top. Bake at 350 for about 20-30 minutes, checking often to make sure the cheese topping does not get too dark or even burn.

I think this one's a keeper. It needed a bit more salt and pepper than I started out with, but the shallots and cheese gave it a slight tanginess, tempered by the thyme. I'll be more heavy handed with the thyme next time, too.

This was a meal in itself. The ends of the patty pan were frozen along with yesterday's squash and will find their way into the stockpot come September.

12 August 2012

Baked Yellow Crookneck Squash with Brown Sugar, Cinnamon and Thyme

I read somewhere that of all the summer squash varieties, yellow crookneck squash is the most like the heavier, deeper-flavored fall varieties.

There was something delicate about the two small crooknecks that I purchased today that made me want to prepare something very simple that would enhance, but not disguise their equally delicate flavor.

And yet, I wanted something a little different. Something that would celebrate flavor.

These little guys always remind me of geese. I would treat a young goose with a certain delicacy, and so it was with my little yellow squashes.

I cut the squash in two pieces, using a melon baller to remove the seeds and stringy flesh that always accompanies seeds. I created a rub, using cinnamon, brown sugar, sea salt and a light-handed dash of pepper, and used it to flavor the exposed flesh of the squash. I placed about two teaspoons of butter in each little half and baked them incovered in a preheated, 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes. Then I added some fresh German thyme, and continued baking for another 15-minutes.

The squash was really sweet, and the thyme, which seems to be the herb most often paired with crookneck, added a subtle, almost perfume-y touch. All very delicate - the way I hoped it would be.

08 August 2012

Apple-Prune Crisp with Salty Nut Topping

About a month or so ago, at the zenith of this summer's prolonged heat spell, I created a widget on my iGoogle page: Days until signs of fall.

Those of you who have been with me for a while know how much I love late summer. It is a season in between, the best of two glorious months, Sweltering July and Shimmering September. For every two or three warm days, there is one like today: Gray and cool with hints of more days to come.

(I rhapsodize about this every year.)

My iGoogle widget was set for Aug. 8, not a lucky guess, but an educated estimate. I pay great attention to the harbingers of seasonal shifts. Both the cicadas and the crickets were early this year, but the first truly cool day was right on target.

To celebrate, I baked Apple-Prune Crisp, inspired by this recipe on Epicurious.

I made a few changes, based on Epicurious reader comments.
  • To cut down on too much sweetness, I drizzled lemon juice on the already-tart apples.
  • I cut down on the amount of sugar by about a third.
  • I used almond meal flour, instead of all-purpose flour.
  • I had no hazelnuts, but I did have pecans, peanuts and mixed nuts with cinnamon. I used these and added sea salt to the topping. I like a blend of sweet and salty.
I followed the other directions closely, even to the point of enjoying it with ice cream. Sweet, but not too sweet, with a definite salty balance. More crumble than crisp, but still crunchy and delicious.

While it was baking, I stood on the side porch, the old service entrance where the stove vent is located. The air was filled with the faint aroma of woodsmoke - Neighbor Jerry? - and sweetness.

Yes. This is it.

07 August 2012

Zucchini Stuffed with Eggplant and Peppers

Between mid-2010 and mid-2011, my husband endured two surgeries for two life-threatening conditions while I underwent physical therapy and medication for a painful and debilitating injury.

We lived our life as normally as we could, but we tired easily. During this time, we moved my mother to an assisted living facility. There was emotional as well as physical pain to deal with. Frankly, comfort food helped us cope.

We prepared old favorites like roast beef, meat loaf, roasted chicken, burgers and sloppy joes. Good food, certainly, but not always the best for you on a daily basis.

We have come through the fire, and we look at life much differently now. We are happy with less. Nothing rattles us too much, and we both have more patience.

And, one hopes, more wisdom.

We still enjoy comfort food, but we are trying to eat healthier, fresher foods and fortunately, that's easy to do in summer, especially this one. We had a warm March, giving local growers a head start, followed by a typical April and slightly warmer May. It's been warm now since early June, and we've managed to escape the most of the drought that's hurting crops to the south.

Zucchini abounds, as it usually does, and peppers seem to be flourishing this year. Tomatoes are holding their own. Eggplant, maybe not so much.

I had the makings for ratatouille. Only I don't make it. I made Zucchini Stuffed with Eggplant and Peppers instead.
Here's what you need:

  • 1 small red pepper, roasted
  • 3 average-size zucchini, hollowed out with a melon baller
  • sea salt and pepper
  • butter
  • herbes de Provence 
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 2/3 cup eggplant, cubed
  • 1/2 cup green pepper, cubed
  • 1-2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 2/3 cup grated cheese to melt on top 

Preheat oven to 350.

Trim red pepper. Cut into one-inch strips and drizzle with oil, roasting for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Set aside when finished; allow to cool.

While pepper is roasting, chop onion, eggplant and green pepper and into small cubes. Sauté lightly. I added small chunks of seasoned chicken sausage; this is optional. Cover and set aside.

Pour olive oil into skillet and add minced garlic, cooking under moderate heat until garlic begins to turn gold. Add the other vegetables, stirring frequently. Cut the red pepper into small squares and add it to the skillet mix. I did not skin mine; I think this is a matter of preference.

Meanwhile, using a knife and a melon baller or grapefruit spoon, hollow out 2-3 zucchini so they look like little canoes (as my husband observed as he watched). Mine were rather average in size, but you could do this with one Monster Zucchini. Season the hollowed-out part of the "canoes" with a dab of butter, salt, pepper and a dash of herbes de Provence.

Partially cook the zucchini, covered, in a microwave. I cooked them for a total of about 5 minutes, testing frequently. The zucchini must remain firm throughout.

Once the zucchini is semi-cooked and the filling is lightly sauteed, allow both to cool slightly to make handling easier. Stuff the filling into the hollowed out zucchini, placing in a shallow baking dish.

(I had some of the mixture left over, and that's what I ate while my zucchini baked.)

Cover with foil and bake for 30-50 minutes, testing frequently. Do not allow the zucchini to get mushy.

Sprinkle with grated cheese before removing from the oven, and give the cheese a chance to melt before removing from the oven.

Total comfort food! And pretty darned healthy, too. The zucchini was bland enough to make you feel good and seasoned enough to be interested.

06 August 2012

Tomato Tartines for Breakfast

We live in a late-19th century home on a slight ridge near a river and a wetland. We have lots of trees on our little hill. As a result, our property is also home to rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks. We've had frequent deer, bear, muskrat, turkey, porcupine, raccoon and fox sightings as well, and yet we live less than a mile from downtown. Most of the time, I love this crazy neighborhood with its mix of very old and newer homes, and think of my yard with its motley crew of critters as the peaceable kingdom.

But I'm pretty sure it's those sneaky squirrels who are enjoying my garden this summer. They have an odd ritual: Eat half the tomato, squash or other vegetable and then leave the rest on the deck or porch steps. They do this all the time. I know they like to position themselves on a hard surface when they eat, and I don't blame them. It's a lot easier that way. But I swear, sometimes they just do this to get to me. It's sort of a "Nah nah nah nah nah, I'm eating your harvest!" Or maybe it's some weird kind of offering, a sign of affection. I'm not really sure.

It is discouraging, but fortunately, I have ample access to tomatoes at area farm stands and farm markets, and the local Italian market makes a great effort to offer local and regional produce. And when tomatoes are in season, I have them for breakfast.

Tomato tartines! Breakfast doesn't get any easier or tastier. Here's my technique:
  • Toast two pieces of Udi's Gluten-Free Whole Grain Bread and then slather them with Smart Balance; you can add a bit of cream cheese, too, and sprinkle on minced onions. Or dill.
  • Cut two thick slices of tomato and place atop the bread. Spread with mayonnaise.
  • Then add Parmesan cheese, or, in the case above, cheese with garlic and sun-dried tomatoes. Zap in the microwave until the cheese melts.
I was in a hurry (it was, after all, Monday) or I'd have gone outside to pick some fresh basil. Bacon bits are a nice addition, too. In the past, I have topped the tartines with salmon and capers, too, or black olives. 

How do you make tomato sandwiches? True sandwiches or open faced tartines? Here's an open-faced version that sounds good. Or, try a more classic sandwich approach.

Here are some ideas from other tomato lovers. But I want to hear from you!

(Thanks to Christine and Kalyn for whetting my appetite.)

05 August 2012

Green Pepper, Cucumber and Tomato Salad with Onion and Cumin

By my estimate, our Saturday night meal was 90 percent local. And it tasted of summer.

The red potatoes I roasted came from the farm market. I have a favorite recipe for those, and it never fails me. The herbs de Provence aren't necessarily actually from Provence - I've been known to make my own.

The salad - green peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and onion - came from local sources. I shopped at both farm markets - Wisconsin and Michigan growers were equally represented.

The salt, I am not ashamed to say, was coarse Peruvian pink salt. I mean it's not like I used a lot of it. But a girl has to indulge herself once in a while. Some women buy nail polish, I buy exotic salts and seasonings.

We don't grow lemons here. I have no idea where it came from; I didn't bother to look. I should do this, right? Oh, well.

The red wine vinegar came from my pantry. I didn't make it, but I am looking forward to having time to make flavored vinegar this winter. See yesterday's photo for inspiration.

The salad comes from a Rachael Ray recipe, which you will find here. The only thing I did differently was add cucumber, something one of the cooks who reviewed the recipe suggested.

The salad is tart and tasty. It was the perfection counterpoint to our herby potatoes and pepper-y steak.

It truly tasted of of the garden. And it tasted of my lovely little community, with its easy access to beach, river, and backroads lined with family farms.

Since I'm trying to ease myself into Phase One of the South Beach Diet, my old standby when I need to take off a few pounds, this salad works for me. If you want to do the same, skip the potatoes, as Kalyn would say!

04 August 2012

Introducing...Frugal French Fridays and BlogHer 2013

Blogging about food from my little corner of Wisconsin-almost-Michigan is a continual challenge. For one thing, our growing season is short and fresh, locally-grown produce is generally only available five months a year.

Since becoming a blogger and spending more time in France, I've come to appreciate the importance of fresh ingredients, something my chef father and my grandmother understood but somehow failed to thoroughly impart to me, perhaps because my mother, who brags about not caring about food, likes to open cans for supper. She was the spoiler.

Then I left Madison and the proximity of the legendary Dane County Farm Market. What culinary culture shock! When we moved back to our hometown in the mid-90s, there was not one restaurant that emphasized fresh and healthy. We'd plan an evening out, and drive around looking for a place that wasn't all steaks and burgers and fried stuff. And then go home and make popcorn.

Finally a restaurant specializing in fresh, from-scratch food opened in an old house near the harbor in the late 1990s: Apricot-chicken salad in pita pockets! Portabella mushroom sandwiches! Vegetable stir fries! Soon others began to add locally grown, fresh produce to their menus. Then came a French restaurant and bakery, and the chefs routinely visited local markets and farm stands. That was the Big Turning Point.

Within a year or two several young chefs trained at culinary institutes in larger cities came along and bingo! We were off. Now our community even has a winery.

At the same time, Farmer Lucy took a town with no farm market and through hard work and year-round determination, created an outdoor market from nothing. There was a tough year or two when the city kicked the farmers out of the park by charging them a weekly fee. Fortunately, a sympathetic local merchant loaned the growers his parking lot and the interior of his antiques mall in winter, and bingo again! We were cooking with locally=grown and raised food.

Now we're working to revive the other farm market in our community, which has its own challenges.

But our community is not based on food, so there are few local food makers to purchase additional items from. So I try to eat regionally.

Then there is my own blogger voice. It probably has limited appeal. I'm not a twenty- or even thirty-something blogger. I don't get fashionably snarky and I don't generally use the word "meh" to describe my lack of enthusiasm for something. I like to talk about my grandmother instead. Age has mellowed my sarcasm. I might not be that fun to read. (I do, I am proud to say, have some wonderful blogger friends who have been with me for six years now.)

Now that "rewirement" is so close I can touch it, it's time to take this whole blogging thing seriously. So I've been thinking a lot. And I'm ready to reveal one new change to French Kitchen in America.

Beginning September 1, my Friday post will focus on Frugal French. It might be a low-cost version of a French favorite. It might be a French provincial dish that doesn't cost much to prepare. It might be a dish I conjure up with seasonal ingredients. At any rate, it will be fun, and I invite you to join me for Friday Frugal French Fridays.

Meanwhile, because I want to win a pass to next year's BogHer conference, I'm telling you about this competition. For doing so, my name goes in the hat. Yours can, too.

01 August 2012

At the Market: Produce, Artfully Displayed

The  market in old Cahors is truly a community event where news, gossip and political opinions are exchanged. It's held in the cathedral square but spills over into side streets. Here the streets are narrow and meandering. The market teems with life.

Our own market is not that busy yet, and in its 6th year, not so well established. But the produce is also artfully displayed:

Fresh Onions
Red and Purple Potatoes, with Tomatoes
Peppers, Beets, Onions and Cabbage