vendredi 25 juin 2010

Macaroni and Cheese

On a recent visit to France, my father and brother thoughtfully brought a third member of the family with them—a block of extra-sharp Wisconsin cheddar. The gift was greatly appreciated. Being Americans and Wisconsinites, you could say that melted cheddar runs in our blood.

French people, pretending they know everything anybody ever needs to know about cheese, snub their noses and purse their lips at this suspiciously colored, pleasantly odored, non-runny susbstance; “That’s not cheese.”

I tell them, “Hey—just because it’s orange doesn’t mean it’s not real cheese.” More cheddar and crackers for me—they can have their smelly camembert.

But you can trick a French person into liking cheddar by making it into a sauce. Specifically, in the supreme American specialty Mac N’ Cheese. That is, if you're willing to share your precious cheddar that was smuggled across customs from the US. It'd take more than one cheese fondue, in my opinion, to make up for that.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

1 (8-ounce) package dried elbow macaroni or favorite pasta (about 2 1/4 cups, uncooked)
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon whole-grain Dijon mustard
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
1 (8-ounce) package shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (about 2 cups)

Topping (optional):
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Cook pasta, drain and set aside. Melt butter in a large heavy saucepan over low heat; add flour, stirring until smooth. Cook 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Turn heat to medium; gradually whisk in milk, and cook over medium heat, stirring or whisking constantly until thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in pasta, mustard, and next 4 ingredients, stirring just until cheese begins to melt.
3. Pour pasta mixture into a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with more grated Cheddar. If desired, top with fresh breadcrumbs, and drizzle evenly with melted butter.
4. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 25 minutes or until bubbly and golden. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

mercredi 16 juin 2010

Soupe aux fèves, à la syrienne

L’autre soir j’ai eu le plaisir de gouter à quelques plats de la cuisine syrienne, grâce à Safi, un ami syrien. Le meilleur était une soupe aux fèves—pourtant je le dis avec de la difficulté, voit que tous les plats étaient excellents.

Les épices sont indispensables à la soupe et les salades, ainsi que le fromage syrien, qui est sec et très salé.

Prenez un verre d’Arak suite à votre repas ; c’est un alcool fort avec un gout d’anis qui ressemble au Pastis.

Soupe aux fèves :
- Prendre une boîte de fèves…
- Avant de chauffer le contenu, écraser de l’ail (2-3 gousses) et les chauffer ensemble jusqu’au bouillonnement.
- Ajouter une bonne quantité de cumin (mélanger pour voir si la couleur du cumin domine)
- Ajouter de la harissa et du piment moulu (mélanger aussi)
- Un citron
- De la Tahina (pas indispensable et la quantité est au choix, moi je mets une grande cuillère)
- Juste avant de servir, verser plutot beaucoup d’huile d’olive sur la soupe

La salade qui l’accompagne :
- 2 tomates (à couper en très petits morceaux)
- Un oignon (à couper en très petits morceaux)
- Beaucoup de cumin sur l’ensemble (les tomates et l’oignon)
- Assez de sel
- Demi-citron
- de l’huile de l’olive
- Du concombre mariné (pas indispensable)

Salade aux olives (servir avec du Hommos et des sandwiches de fromage)
- Demi-tomate coupée en très petite morceaux
- Des olives coupées en petite morceaux
- Du piment moulu sur l’ensemble
- Beaucoup de thym
- Assez de citron (moins qu'un demi-citron)
- Un peu d’huile d’olive
- Concombre mariné (pas indispensable)

vendredi 11 juin 2010

Pan Bagnat

Pan Bagnat is a speciality of Nice but is found in pretty much any boulangerie (bakery) in France. It’s a tuna sandwich with a vegetables based off of the classic salad Niçoise.

Hollow out a baguette or a round loaf. Fill one hollow with canned tuna packed in water or tomato sauce (as in the picture).

Add lettuce, thinly sliced red onions, thinly sliced green pepper, sliced hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, and olives. You can add a few anchovies if you like them.

For the sauce, drizzle on balsamic vinegar and olive oil, with or without mustard.

If you added all the ingredients I mentioned, the sandwich will be stuffed to bursting. Squash it down hard or put it under a weight for a few minutes. Then proceed to transfer the stuffing from sandwich to belly.

dimanche 6 juin 2010

Radishes with salt and butter

Summer in France means eating outside on the terrace, a bowl of pink and white radishes on the table, accompanied by a pat of butter and a sprinkle of salt.

Eat the radishes raw with your fingers, softening their bite with a bit of sweet butter and salt. Perfectly refreshing for a small snack--and so cute too!

samedi 5 juin 2010


Chartreuse is both a green-yellow font color and a French herbal liquor of the same hue. The liquor came first, first distilled in the early 17th century, and all of the world’s current supply originates from La Grande-Chartreuse, a monastery in the Chartreuse mountain range in the French Alps, about 20 km north of my house.

Chartreuse is the most famous product that comes from Grenoble itself, and we are proud and hardy Chartreuse drinkers, despite the 55% alcohol content and ‘particular’ plant taste. There are two kinds of Chartreuse, green and yellow, the yellow being less strong and much sweeter. Both kinds are made from a combination of plants (130 different plants for the green), and the recipes are TOP-SECRET. That’s not top-secret in the way that Coca-cola’s recipe is top-secret. Supposedly, only 2 monks at La Grande-Chartreuse know the recipe, and they collect and sort the plants themselves, transport the plants to the distillery in Voiron where the liquor is fabricated, and regulate the temperature and aging of the liquor held in the cellars. Meaning that the production of all the Chartreuse sold in over 100 countries the world over is entirely in the hands of two monks from Grenoble. If that doesn’t make for a special liquor, I don’t know what does.

Fascinated by this story of reclusive woodland monks and their zealously guarded secret brew, I had plenty of questions for the poor tour guide at the Chartreuse distillery. What is the difference between green and yellow Chartreuse? How long is it aged? Are all the plants from the region? How much money do the monks make?

Each time I got, “I don’t know, Madame. The recipe is unknown.” Perhaps a strategic marketing tactic on the part of the monks, as this made me even more fascinated by the shimmery green liquor and I ended up buying a bottle in the gift shop.

Even without the story behind it, Chartreuse is a delicious liquor. It’s a beautiful color, is quite strong, and the taste is distinctive and fresh. It’s best served on its own, so chilled that it smokes, over a single ice cube.

But if you have a taste for a cocktail, try one of these:

Green Chaud
This is a popular alternative to hot chocolate on the slopes in the Alps. Add a shot of Green Chartreuse to your hot chocolate.

Orangina Chartreuse

1 part Green Chartreuse
1 part vodka
3 parts Orangina

Shake the glass a bit before serving to create foam.

Chartreuse Tonic

1 part Green Chartreuse
4 parts tonic water
lemon slice garnish