29 May 2010

Red Snapper with Citrus Sauce

Spring in Wisconsin began in March this year, and the lilacs and flowering crab have already come and gone. The bridal wreath, which usually graces our lawn and the park across the street on the anniversary of D-Day, is falling petal by petal like so many white crosses on the green meadows of Normandy.

We bravely and confidently put our flowers and herbs out in early May and fired up the Weber grill weeks ago.

It took years, but I have come to understand the mystique of the grill (how do men figure this out first?). It's fire, primordial and even magical, a whiff of pungent aroma from applewood chips tossed on the coals.

It took three trips to the fish market this morning to buy red snapper. My husband tried on his 7 a.m. bagel run and I tried again at 8:45 a.m. on my way to the first outdoor farm market of the season.

"The truck isn't here yet," said the bespectacled woman behind the counter (who really knows her customer service). "But I'm getting red snapper."

Finally at 10:30 I nabbed a pound of it, just enough for two.

Late in the afternoon, with a crispy and mineral-y bottle of Alsatian Riesling well underway, I washed and dried the fish and rubbed it with Cyprus salt flakes and pepper. While my husband prepped the grill, I baked potatoes, roasted red peppers, and prepared the sauce: One tablespoon honey mustard, three tablespoons of honey, three tablespoons lemon juice, one tablespoon lime juice and two chopped-up slices each of lime and tangerine. I tasted the sauce adding a bit more of this and a bit more of that.

I carmelised a small, sweet onion in a dash of olive oil and tossed in the sauce, reducing it and then glazing the grilled fish before serving. The recipe was inspired by this one.

Tender. Sweet. Even a little nutty. And tangy from the sauce. We'll do it again, unless red snapper becomes a casualty of this heinous tragedy in the gulf.

Because of our warm spring, my CSA box was full today, with lettuce, kale, radishes, rhubarb and all manner of herbs. I bought organic eggs, too, but passed on the whitefish. Maybe next time.

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

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.