Showing posts with label Paris. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Paris. Show all posts

24 November 2007

Kitchen Tools: Essential for a Kitchen Dominatrix

I bought a new whip in Paris.

Really, it's a ball whisk, a relatively new tool which features weighted, vibrating balls on stainless steel rods. This arrangement promises to provide good results with less effort. (I certainly support the notion of less effort.) So far, it has lived up to its promises. Restraint is key: Don't overdo it with this utensil.

It was during our pilgrimage to E. Dehillerin, that dusty commercial cathedral to the art of the kitchen, that I found my new weapon. Actually, it was Kim, the charming salesman who led me to it, after he found me a copper bowl for egg whites.

The ball whisk is excellent for whipping little clumps of flour into submission in any pan or bowl. The balls allow you to reach the insides of pans, the dark little places where the bottoms and sides meet, a feat that is difficult to perform with a wire whisk. To read more, click here.

(As Kim pointed out, the ball whisk can also be used as a scalp massage tool. It feels pretty good.)

When I packed our suitcases, I carefully wrapped the whisk in its original paper and attached the receipt from Dehillerin. Just in case someone rifling through my luggage thought it was a sex toy. You never know about these things.

The whisk got its first real workout when I made Bearnaise sauce for my Chateaubriand on Thanksgiving. It performed admirably.

You don't have to go to Paris to buy one, although I recommend it. You can buy a ball whisk from many online sources.

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23 November 2007

Paris: Shopping in the Village St. Paul

Each year on the day after Thanksgiving, I congratulate myself on the wisdom of avoiding the hordes of shoppers who throng to the mall, the stand-alone stores, and our charming little downtown. I support shopping locally, I always have, but I am not a masochist. Most years, I've worked on this day, and when I did not work, it was because we were traveling.

This year I am home. In the kitchen. Making sense of leftovers and attending to residual cleaning chores.

In my mind, I am, of course, shopping in Paris. Given any place in that lovely, layered city to schlep from store to store, I am pretty certain it would be the Village St. Paul. Tucked away behind the hulking Baroque church of St. Paul-St. Louis and just west of Rue St. Paul, this labyrinth of small and quiet shops is seldom crowded.

To reach the warren of shops you must enter through small, inviting alleys. Inside are courtyards lined with antique stores, tiny artisan ateliers and gift shops. Nothing shoddy here, no little Eiffel Tower key chains. At one shop owned by a Scandinavian, I purchased a small ceramic bowl for a friend's birthday.

It was quiet the Saturday we visited and quiet again the weekday when we returned. Many of the shops were closed,perhaps because it was only mid-spring or perhaps because they had not flourished here.

Something about the Village St. Paul reminds me of the little country shopping centers of Wisconsin's Door County, nearly abandoned in the off-season but bustling during high tourist season.

But according to the book, Quiet Corners of Paris, St. Paul Village is routinely quiet. How sad, because it is a lovely little place, an oasis just steps from teeming Rue St. Antoine.

There are many other quiet spots in Paris and many places to shop. The Village St. Paul is both.

It is worth a visit, near some wonderful bakeries and cafés and very close to one of my favorite bookstores, The Red Wheelbarrow. My husband and I were quite taken with the place and I think on our next visit, we will spend more time there, perhaps grabbing a ubiquitous sandwiche jambon from a nearby bakery and finding a secluded place to share it. But that is a full 300 days in the future (yes, the next countdown has now begun).

Where are you today? In the kitchen or in a store?

24 August 2007

Paris: On the Cheap

I cannot tell you how much I wanted this raspberry confection in the window at LeNotre near the Bastille one dreary morning in May.

I craved it. I could taste it. I wanted to consume it.

Eating it - posessing it - would have brightened my day considerably.

But it was 40 euros, and it was a big. I should have bought a smaller dessert, which was about 7 euros. But even that is hard for me to do, as my frugality gene rears its practical head regularly when we are on the road.

The way I see it, you never know when you will need every extra penny you have. So: No frivolous purchases.

My husband and I often split desserts. We want a taste, not the whole thing. This saves us both money and calories, not to mention carbs, fat, salt and other things that are bad for you but good tasting.

We restrain ourselves, shooting photos instead.

I'm not sure if I am entirely happy being so darned prudent and frugal.

22 August 2007

Paris: The Quality of Light

Before you actually travel to Paris, you may have been there.

You might have imagined, as I did, quays wrapped in light evening fog or gritty neighborhoods of cheap shops and trinket stores. You might have yearned to see Paris come alive in the morning with delivery trucks blocking narrow streets and outdoor vendors already hawking their edibles in street markets.

I did. I imagined all this, based on photos and stories and books. And then I experienced it all first hand.

I was never disappointed. Paris fails to disappoint, time after time.

Much of my early vision of Paris was fashioned by magazine ads for such perfumes as "L'Air du Temps" and "L'Heure Bleu," which inevitably featured pale photographs of the Seine and Notre Dame or Pont Neuf. My teen-aged imagination took flight, and a vision of Paris was formed.

It was palpable. I could smell it and taste it, too.

Eventually, I saw it for myself. And I photographed it.

I love the photo above for the way it captures the watercolor quality of the light over Ile St. Louis and Ile de la Cité at 6 p.m. Our feet were aching, and we stopped to rest on precarious seats above Quay d'Orleans.

It is an ordinary picture of an ordinary moment. And yet because it met my expectations, I wanted to savor it.

And so I did.

Those of you who post here know exactly what I mean. You've experienced this too, if not in Paris, then somewhere else.

Where and when did you have your "Yes, this is it" moment?

Paris: A Still Life by an Open Window

I am always intrigued with the composition of food in photographs and paintings.

This fascination goes back to childhood, when I spent winter Sunday afternoons armed with a bag of oranges and my parents' coffee table books, which usually focused on travel and history.

One book of black-and-white photos combined both, and in it was a feature on Colonial Williamsburg. There was a photo of fresh on a windowsill warmed by the lambent late-afternoon sun that always intrigued me.

They were root vegetables, I believe, and it seemed to me that they were waiting to be prepared for some deep and rich and earthy-tasting supper dish.

Poring over these books gave me a taste for home decorating or “shelter” books, especially those involving kitchens. I am always interested in the choice of food props. Bread, onions and artichokes? Berries, cheese and lemonade? Who decides? How do they decide? Do they look at kitchen color and come up with a contrast?

I remember looking hungrily at a fall table decorated with bittersweet. Atop the table were pewter tankards, probably filled with hard cider, a loaf of rustic bread, a hunk or two of cheese, and a bowl of apples.

It seemed like a fine fall meal to me.

When I was 16 years old, we piled into the car with Grandma Annie on an October afternoon and visited my grandfather’s sister, Annie’s sister-in-law, who lived on an 1870s-era farmstead 30 miles into the country.

Before we left, Frances prepared an impromptu meal of ham, cheese, rolls, applesauce and cold milk. This humble meal has remained a favorite of mine on busy fall weekends.

In Paris, we had a kitchen window that looked out on an airshaft. Just before 5:30 p.m., the light was right for food photography. I shot this photo of a baguette and some aromatic Pont L’Eveque cheese with a bottle of wine after a long afternoon in the Marais. I like the way the shadows add depth to the food.

It tasted wonderful, too.

15 August 2007

Financiers Pistache

Financiers Pistache, Paris 2007

A decade ago when I started sampling French patisseries, I was hard-pressed to find recipes for some of my favorites, and I did not have a vast supply of French cookbooks I have since acquired.  I've updated this post from 2007 to include recipes: 

Buying our first baguette on our last trip to Paris, I spied a tray of pistachio financiers and felt my willpower melt away. I have always loved the color and flavor of pistachios. I bought two of them and carried them back to our cozy apartment.

We loved their intense color and flavor.

And thus began my pistachio obsession which hit its peak in Paris. I liked asking for them. Fee-non-see-ay pee-stash may not roll trippingly off the tongue, but it is fun to say. I only wish I had taken more photos of them.

Here are several recipes, published a few years after I wrote this post:

Why not make a rich financier pistache part of your Mardi Gras celebration?

13 August 2007

A Place Tucked Away

There is nothing quite as intriguing as a place tucked away behind something else or deep within a neighborhood. Perhaps it is an unexpected find, like the glass studio my husband and I recently found in an old industrial district along the water, or the jazz club hidden behind a warehouse in a nearby town known for its belching smoke stacks and tough neighborhoods.

Whenever possible, we eschew main streets for alleys and twisting passages, at least when we have the good luck to be walking in Paris, or some other French city. It is an urban form of shunpiking and usually leads to charming surprises.

The tiny bistro above is just north of Notre Dame Cathedral on Ile de la Citie, just yards from the spot where Heloise met Abelard. We were on our way to meet Richard Nahem of Eye Prefer Paris that early evening in May and did not have time to stop.

"We'll come back," we promised ourselves, but we never did. We will - I hope - in 2008.

Another place tucked away is St. Paul Village, sandwiched between Rue St. Antoine and the Seine in the Marais. Passages and alleyways and courtyards are filled with shops, many of them purveyors of antiques of one sort or another, or objets d'art. High tourist season was not yet upon us, and many of the shops were still closed or just opening for the season. It reminded me of Door County in November, quiet but still alluring.

Since my husband and I are both film buffs, as well as Francophiles, we just had to search out "Le Grand Colbert," a restaurant tucked behind the Palais Royale and made famous in the movie "Something's Got to Give," with Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson.

What is your favorite tucked-away find anywhere?

06 July 2007

Tomatoes Stuffed with Italian Sausage

Ah Paris! Already more than a month in the past, it now seems like a dream.

On our last day, we noticed sausage-stuffed tomatoes at the Mediterranean deli across the street. We had plenty of food left, and although they looked delicious, my frugality once again maintained the upper hand.

I passed, thinking I could make them back in Wisconsin.

Tonight, the end of a sunny and breezy high summer day, I did just that. The result was July’s equivalent of a September favorite, stuffed green peppers.

Sausage-Stuffed Tomatoes

  • 5-6 large tomatoes
  • ½ pound spicy Italian sausage
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons green pepper, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • dash herbes de Provence
  • Pinch fleur de sel
  • Dash pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Slice off the tops of the tomatoes. Gently remove the pulp, juice and seeds.

Brown sausage in olive oil, breaking into small pieces with wooden spatula. When sausage is brown, remove it and set aside. Add garlic, onion and pepper and cook until tender. Add sausage, thyme and herbs and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes. You may want to add a bit of tomato sauce or leftover spaghetti sauce for color.

Place tomatoes in lightly greased backing dish. Fill with sausage mixture. If there is some left over, place this in the dish, too.

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. After about 15 minutes, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

I served this with French bread and an off-brand white shiraz that was peppery and berrylike on the tongue and oakey at the finish.

29 June 2007

Copper Bowls from E. Dehillerin

The day we visited E. Dehillerin was sunny and mild with a barely perceptible mist in the air. I was a bit apprehensive, having heard how snooty the sales staff could be. Would they turn their noses up at my Wisconsin-accented French?

Founded in 1820, E. Dehillerin wears the patina of its age well. It is everything it is reputed to be: Cluttered and cramped and a bit dusty.

No matter. Here is where the serious cook finds serious tools for the kitchen.

Dehillerin is best known for its copper and our mission was to buy a copper bowl for whipping egg whites.

Egg whites whipped in a copper bowl are more stable than those beaten in a glass bowl, thanks to copper ions, which migrate from the bowl to the egg whites. It will take longer, but the result is high-quality foam.

As we entered Dehillerin, we were met by Kim, a charming man of about 45 who knows his stuff and sells it. Our conversation was half in French and half in English, as it often is in France. We talked of Julia Child and chefs and the properties of copper. My husband, whose vocabulary grows with each trip, joined in.

We explored the basement, at Kim’s suggestion, and found all manner of kettles and pans and boilers and pots that would not fit in our suitcases. But, oh, how lovely they would be in my kitchen!

The basement is a place of mystery, with a blocked off set of stairs in one corner and a dark sub-basement crawl space filled with boxes. Descending the stairs, I felt as if I were moving down through time. Imagine the hundreds of chefs, long forgotten, who had done the same!

We followed our trip to Dehillerin with a visit to the park atop the former site of Les Halles., a hop on the westbound No. 69 bus, and a shopping spree on Rue Cler.

It was the perfect Paris day.

The trick to navigating E. Dehillerin, I believe, is to know what you want and to know something about the store and its specialties.

As we left, Kim predicted we would return. Of course we will. Always.

16 June 2007

Paris: The Bakery Under the Eiffel Tower

Grandma Annie was fond of bakeries and - as family legend goes - spent her first paycheck as a young dressmaker on sweets.

In her later years, she shopped at different bakeries - our town had nearly a dozen at one time - for different specialties, this one for its white bread, that one for its cakes, another for its pastries.

How she would have loved the choices in Paris. I imagine her, a small-town woman of French Canadian heritage, wild eyed and enthusiastic about Parisian offerings. I wish she could have seen Paris. I wonder if she ever dreamed about it. . .

We have sampled the goods at about 8 Parisian patisseries, and have always been satisfied.

But the croissants from F. Fegueux, the bakery less than a block north of the Eiffel Tower, have us craving more. They were soft and moist and flaky with a touch of sweetness on the top crust, equally good with ham and cheese, egg salad, or jams and jellies.

We scarfed them down too quickly to take photos. But we also loved the baguettes, and often split the three-Euro sandwhiche jambom for lunch.

The desserts were equally good, and I will share photos in future posts.

This place may be one of the best-kept secrets in Paris. Can you add another? Or share information about a good bakery in your town?

09 June 2007

Paris: Rue du Cherche Midi

I did not want to visit Rue du Cherche Midi in the rain.

Any street with a name that implies a yearning for the sunny south requires a visit when the sun is shining. Alas, it was rarely shining when we visited Paris.

So it was a cloudless day (and one of our last in Paris) when we strolled down this narrow street, which is quieter than I imagined. It was mid-afternoon and the market on nearby Boulevard Raspail had just closed.

I wanted to buy a loaf of the famous Poilane bread, but since it was nearly our last day in Paris, my French frugality gene got the better of me and I decided to wait until our next visit. We already had a fresh baguette waiting in our tiny kitchen and more shopping to do, so it seemed prudent.

But I did take a few photographs. I was enchanted with the boutiques along Cherche Midi; the clothing in the windows really spoke to me (and now I understand why the French use the term “faire du leche vitrine,” which means to lick the windows, for the process we call window shopping).

“I have to go lick the windows,” I told my husband when he sauntered on and I wanted to linger.

Pretty things in windows (which always include food in Paris) are the stuff of dreams. We cannot always afford them. But they give us something to yearn for.

Sometimes a taste (or a lick) offers more long-term satisfaction than a whole meal.

Note: I've heard several explanations for the charming name of this equally charming street. The one I like best is "seeking the mid-day sun." It is my understanding the street got its name from a sundial on a building there.

07 June 2007

Paris: Rue Buffon

This post has nothing to do with food but everything to do with feelings.

In Paris, you walk a lot. That does relate to food, because we found that you can eat almost anything you want and not gain weight if you walk. Paris, it turns out, is the most perfect kind of diet there is.

One of the streets we walked down a week or so ago was unpretentious Rue Buffon, which runs along the east side of the lovely Jardin des Plantes.

The sky was leaden that day and the light was that pale gray color that makes you think of a delicate watercolor painting of spring. It seemed to bounce off the gray and tan buildings of this humble little street.

Somehow I sensed a sadness on Rue Buffon. We began at the southern end and made our way north to the spot near Place Valhubert where you can catch the westbound No. 63 bus.

I took photos because the light intrigued me. So did the buildings, which seemed almost abandoned. When we came to a plaque on a school building, I stopped to read it.

And then I understood. The plaque honored the memories of Jewish school children who were sent to death camps. I need not say much here: You can certainly visualize the images that conjured up for me. I said a silent prayer for the children of Rue Buffon.

I will not forget them, those long-gone children. They have become for me an inextricable part of a layered and beautiful city where sunny days are like a carnival and where rainy days are melancholy.

Such richness Paris offers. I feel so lucky to have tasted those riches, both the happy and the sad.

29 May 2007

Paris: Food Shopping On Rue Cler

Shopping on Rue Cler is everything it is reputed to be: A medley of aromas and a cacophony of sounds.

It is a rich experience.

Most of the vendors are friendly, some sing as they work, others unabashedly hawk their products. They tease one another but are respectful with customers.

French merchants keep careful track of their customers’ place in line, and try to wait on them in the order in which they have queued.

The fresh produce is perfection, and must fresher and tastier than anything I’ve found in my town. The cheese is aromatic, so is the fish and seafood.

We took a liking to fresh sausage on our last trip and have gone through several kilograms of it (back to lean meat when we get home). The hard salami is equally tasty, and we became regular customers at both Davoli and Roger.

Rue Cler has both a LeaderPrice and a FranPrix for basics like paper towels, toilet paper and items that come in jars. There is another supermarket around the corner on Avenue de la Motte Piquet.

I like French supermarkets. For one thing, the products are about half the cost of similar items at home, even when you translate euros into dollars.

Secondly, the house brands are generally high quality, something you do not necessarily find in the U.S., not in my town where choices are limited.

I like the mix of businesses on Rue Cler.

What I don’t like is the long trek over several busy streets, especially after a day (or even before) of walking around. After a week, it became a chore to drag the little cart over cobblestones. Perhaps we just have not acquired the knack.

We were happy to find larger FranPrix on Avenue de la Bourdonnais. It is a straight shot from our flat.

There are also several traituers nearby, one that sells Asian food and another that specializes in Mediterranean food. Our block has several Italian restaurants and two bakeries. When your feet are tired (which is always the case in Paris) and you are too hungry to cook, there is always a sandwiche jambonto purchase for just a few euros. You can add cheese, onions, tomatoes and pickles if you larder is well stocked.

Really, eating in Paris need not be expensive, if you cook most of your meals yourself.

I am not suggesting you abandon the experience of sitting in a café. It is the best way to people watch in a city that is rich in everything, including people.

22 May 2007

Cooking in Paris: French Toast with Nicoise Lemon and Vanilla Syrup

2207: After nearly five days in Paris, I hold fast to my theory that food tastes better here.

It is not a cockamamie theory. The explanation is simple. The French value good food. Good food needs the best ingredients. And that is what you find here. (At a far better price than in Wisconsin, I might add.)

We took the little cart to Rue Cler on Saturday and made the rounds. Salami from Davoli La Maison Du Jambon. Pork sausage from Boucherie Roger. Pont d’Eveque cheese from La Fermette. Fresh produce from Les Quartres Saison and necessities from Leader Price and FranPrix.

Even the cheapest items were a good value. My husband found a serviceable bottle of Bordeaux for fewer than two euros. We bought a pricier bottle of white Bordeaux from Magda Traiteur on Rue de Monttessuy last night.

To date, in my American kitchen in France (our flat is owned by an American), I have made salami sandwiches, salads, grilled cheese-and-sausage sandwiches, sausage and peppers and sausage and fettuccini — simple fare, to be sure. It all tasted better here.

Maybe you need to be very relaxed to make good food. I think that’s part of the equation. But the other part is that the ingredients are the best I can afford.

I feel better cooking here, even though the kitchen is smaller (and not very conducive to good food photos).

But I am not telling you anything you don’t already know if you have cooked in Paris.

And if you haven’t, you must. You really must. It is much more economical and certainly healthier on both figure and wallet than eating out all the time.

French Toast with Nicoise Lemon and Vanilla Syrup
  • 8 thick slices day-old baguette
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon sweet butter
  • ¼ cup vanilla syrup
Whip together eggs, cream, sugar, salt and lemon zest. Soak baguette slices for about 2 minutes. Lightly toast in skillet until golden brown. Serve with syrup; top with more lemon zest and powdered sugar, if you have some (I did not).

The second photo is taken from Rue de General Camou, in front of the American Library in Paris.

As Elouise put it, “I absolutely adore Paris!”

19 May 2007

Eating in Paris: Embarrassing Travel Moments

Jet lagged, lacking proper sleep, at 8:30 p.m. on the day we landed in Paris, we could not figure out how to get past the inner lobby door of our apartment building. We remembered the digicode, and successfully opened the outer door, but we’d forgotten that the inner door opened with the little plastic wand on our key chain.

(Never mind that this is how we open doors at the university where I teach journalism. On our first night in Paris we simply could not think.)

After numerous attempts at using the front digicode to enter the inner door, I said I’d go out in search of help. What kind of help, I had no idea. But I went to a café around the corner where the maitre d’ (or perhaps the owner) seemed friendly when I passed by earlier in the evening. He listened and went in search of someone who knew someone in the building. By some divine intervention, a waiter did know someone. He called his friend and the friend came downstairs to show my exhausted husband how to get inside.

Meanwhile, I found some friendly American women to talk to. It’s true, the 7th is filled with Americans. On our first night in town, that was comforting indeed.

The following night, we went to the café for an early supper. Simple but filling bistro fare, a bottle of wine we liked and crème brulee for my husband and profiteroles for me.

The waiter was all smiles and gave us extra attention. The maitre d’ inquired about our visit, and it was well worth the 60 euros we spent there.

There may be fancier places to eat in this neighborhood. But we were treated kindly at this one.

Au revoir until Tuesday.

21 March 2007

A Mystery, a Memento and a Spring Salad

Among my father’s mementoes of World War II is a yellowed and tattered calling card.

My mother always believed it held the names of the people with whom my father might have stayed while in Paris in August 1944; it certainly must have been a couple he befriended, as he was friendly and charming as a young man.

The last time my husband and I went to Paris, my mother could not put her hands on the card and did not recall the address. But my niece has a WWII project and together they were rifling through the family archives.

The card reads “Mme. and Mr. Pierre Harel.” It gives their address as 23, Avenue Foch in Vincennes-Seine.

Thanks to Google maps, I found such an address near (but not in) Vincennes, one in Paris and about five other Avenue Fochs in Ile de France.

I will never know, unless I chance upon a 1944 phone book, which one it was.

I do know that American writer Henry Adams stayed at 23 Avenue Foch in Paris. (Thanks to Google, I know that.)

But I don’t know who the Harels were or what the card means. (The card is pictured above set against one of my father’s toques, in a box for a quarter century now, still neatly starched but growing fragile.)

I was pondering this mystery as I prepared a simple salad today. It was cool and damp outside and I could hear the lilting songs of finches and other birds as I worked. Spring!

It’s mid-week and I’m trying not to overspend on groceries. So tossing something together from odds and ends was my intention. I made a Caesar Salad from leftover red leaf Romaine and butter lettuce and then topped it with roasted asparagus.

Very simple, very springy. I ate it with a hunk of jack cheese rolled in chives and dill.

My father once told me you could make a meal of anything if you were inventive. He could do that, and his hands were deft as he invented something for us.

"You will never be hungry if you learn this," he told me.

Once when his combat engineer unit was hungry, they scrounged for dried vegetables in a barn, somewhere in France perhaps or in Germany. My father liked to retell those stories and relished the challenge of making a meal from very little.

14 January 2007

Lemony Green Tea Muffins

Sharing a street address with the ancient house of Isaac Laffémas is The Tea Caddy.

The tearoom has been there since 1928, the year lovely Square Viviani was developed. The Tea Caddy was opened by an English woman who, according to the tearoom Web site, “turned it into a little corner of England.”

Surely by now it is part and parcel of Paris.

The day we visited the area in 2005, I was so intent on taking a photo of my husband in the park, that I overlooked The Tea Caddy. It wasn’t until I read a novel with a pivotal scene in the tearoom that a respondent chord rang out in my brain. The novel was forgettable, but the tearoom was not. It was still there, buried in my subconscious. I am sure we will visit the area again in May.

I thought of that tearoom as I baked Lemony Green-Tea Muffins this gray Sunday afternoon.

  • 1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar or fructose
  • 1 tablespoon matcha or loose green tea, ground with mortar and pestle
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup lemon yogurt
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350. Place 12 muffin cups in muffin tin.

Blend flour, sugar, tea, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Whisk together yogurt, egg white, oil, lemon zest and lemon juice in another bowl. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients. When batter is blended, spoon into muffin cups. Bake 15-25 minutes, checking frequently. When muffins become firm and begin to brown, brush with butter. Allow to bake one more minute then remove from oven.

These muffins smelled heavenly when I took them from the oven. It’s a light aroma, sweet and herby.

The taste is layered, something I have not experienced in a muffin. First you taste the lemon, but there is a distinct aftertaste of tea. At first I thought I’d use lemon curd on these, but after sampling them, I chose unsalted butter so the taste would come through. This is a very complex little muffin.

Note: To ramp up the lemon taste, I used Celestial Seasoning’s Lemon Zinger Green Tea. But you could use any kind of green tea.

To read a delightful post on Paris tearooms, visit Carol at Paris Breakfasts.

Paris: The Blue Door

"So where is this door in Paris anyway?" asked a reader in an e-mail. "You never did tell us."

Back on Dec. 10, I featured a little quiz involving the photo at right. "A Sun-Dappeled Door in Paris," I called it. I said I would send a gift (the gift was a package of wild rice) to the first person who could identify the location of the door which was near a charming Paris park. Well, Paris is dotted with charming parks, so that wan't much of a clue.

Here's the story behind the door: It is located at 14 Rue St. Julien le Pauvre, just across the street from Square Viviani on the Left Bank within the shadow of Notre Dame Cathedral. As you are walking down the street toward Notre Dame, the door is on your left. It stands out for its beauty and its carving of a reclining woman holding the scales of justice.

According to Leonard Pitt's "Walks Through Paris," the door leads to a house once owned by Isaac Laffémas (1584-1687), chief of police under Cardinal Richelieu, who perhaps better known as "The Cardinal's Hangman." Laffémas' house dates back to the 14th century. Its cellars were used to house prisoners in 1783 when other prison cells were full.

What has this got to to with food, you ask? Not much, except Park René Viviani was very green the spring day we took photographs there, and the green of spring brings to mind many culinary options, one of which will be posted later today. There is a tea shop near St. Julien le Pauvre, so you can bet the recipe will involve tea.

Park René Viviani was created in 1928, on the site of former annexes of Hotel Dieu. To see the street as it looked like before the park was built, watch "The Temptress," a 1926 melodrama starring Greta Garbo.

10 December 2006

A Sun-Dappled Door

It's mild but dark in Wisconsin today.

We are making chili, because for me that is part and parcel of mid-December. That is the time my grandmother always made her chili, and I would be the one called upon to make the chili run, trotting (or trudging) seven blocks away to her house. I liked these trips because they gave me time to imagine and dream. When I got to her house there was always a sweet treat offered and she usually included more than chili in the package she sent home with me.

The dark day may conjure up pleasant memories, but I prefer my days bright. Doesn't the sun-dappled door here look inviting? It's in Paris, near a park and a church or two (isn't everything?).

The first person to correctly name the park, will get a package of wild rice in time for Christmas (or New Year's at the very latest). The contest ends Friday, Dec. 15.

Wild rice was an important part of the diet of the early tribes who settled in my hometown. It's not really a rice, but a coarse annual grass, Zizania Acquatica. It grew in shallow marshes and along the shores and streams. I will be providing recipes made with wild rice later this week.