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

31 January 2010

Random Black and White Photos of Paris



The top photo is a garden behind Musee Carnavalet. The middle photo is (I think) somewhere in the Latin Quarter while the bottom photo is my husband shooting the Opera Garnier. Can you tell what I am thinking of today?

10 January 2010

Homesick for a Foreign Country

Saturday was a magical day here, cold but full of small gifts. Sunshine and blue sky, the purchase of herbs at a winter farm market, a downy woodpecker in my cedar tree, a trio of pottery pieces at bargain prices at the antique shop, and a surprise gift in the mail.

Sunday was a day of dull gray sky and dissatisfaction. I found myself turning to photos of sunshine and southern France in my iPhoto files. I felt almost a physical craving to be there. Can you become homesick for a foreign country?

The photo above was taken on a sunny day in Caillac, on the north bank of the meandering Lot River. Isn't that a tidy looking building? Apparently is is a clinic for people with drinking problems.

I have long loved the sight of sun warming old red bricks. So of course I loved the sight of sun on terra cotta tiles along the road to Caillac. I would like to be those tiles, caressed by sun of the Midi-Pyrenees. It's not only cold here, but it just started to snow.


I recall being content making salad dressing for our Sunday dinner. We spent the entire day lolling around the pool and patio, knowing we had two full weeks to explore the Lot Valley. Our dinner was chicken cooked with vegetables and wine wine of some sort. It was such a warm and pleasant day, much like the days of our first visit a few springs ago.

In winter I open the blinds early, light candles against the darkness and count the days until spring. The wait is a long one in Northern Wisconsin, and journeys through sunny photographs ease my mind and also fill me with discontent.

20 December 2009

Enter the Season

I liked this photo so much, I wanted to include a version of it in my holiday greeting.

The run up to Christmas is here. This holiday means different things to different people. To me it is a season of introspection, followed by an opportunity for renewal. There is a spiritual element for me, but it may not align with the traditional notions. I believe the meaning behind the symbols of this season are what should resonate in hearts.

Generosity, humility, innocence, kindness are what we should carry with us as we move into the future, or the next phase.

May you enjoy good food, good people and good thoughts as you enter this season.

14 November 2009

The Best of FKIA: Warm Brussels Sprout Salad for Thanksgiving Dinner

I've never been a fan of green bean casserole at Thanksgiving, although for some reason unfathomable to me, it has become a seasonal classic. I'll pass on it this year and make the following dish, which I discovered two years ago.

I buy Brussels sprouts each week; along with broccoli and red pepper they are staples in my crisper. Shallots are also something I almost always keep on hand.

Warm Brussels Sprout and Shallot Salad with Pecans
  • 16-20 large Brussels sprouts
  • 3-4 large shallots
  • tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • tablespoon unsalted butter
  • dash freshly ground pepper
  • dash fleur de sel
Wash and trim Brussels sprouts, removing outer leaves and base. Cut into thin slices. Drizzle with olive oil, toss, and place in a skillet or sauté pan. Brown slightly over medium heat until sprouts are just a bit limp. Remove from pan and set aside, covering to keep warm. Peel and slice shallots; using the same pan, brown shallots slightly in butter. Add pecans. Toss shallots and pecans with Brussels sprouts, adding a dash of fleur de sel and pepper.

I served this with a warm bacon dressing. A cranberry vinaigrette would be nice, too, or a mustard-y oil and vinegar blend.