Cravings

Puff, flaxseeds and apples

The silence of an early morning provides for an unparalleled broad sense of possibilities. It's one of those delectable moments that seem limitlessly stretched - if only for a flash of time - and freely filled with impromptu ideas, some of which you know from the start you're not likely to turn to reality because too difficult or too extravagant. But ehy, it's that daydream stream of consciousness that matters. It's a habit of calling upon opportunities. And that's the impulse of creativity, to me.

In daily life, one gets so hung up with what people think or say that I often feel the need to compensate. In that sense cooking feels like an intimate discovery. Engaging in the making allows you to grasp the moment like nothing else can.

When cooking is meditative, every step of the way is revelatory. #foodhappiness is never too far.

Here is a rhapsodic preparation made of puff pastry: I love to watch how the layers amplify when cooked, leaving generous air pockets inside. The pastry itself has such reassuring versatility, used for both sweet and savoury dishes. Yesterday I found the most delicious golden apples in an open air market; they looked, crisp, heavenly and irresistible.

Having about 1 hour before heading out to my meetings this morning, shop-bought puff pastry worked just fine.

A flaxseeds apple pie

  • 10 gr. butter to grease
  • 2 whole butter puff pastry blocks
  • 1 lemon, the juice
  • 4 golden delicious apples
  • 6 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 100 ml. eau de vie/grappa/any liqueur will do

Preheat the oven at 180°. Grease a 20 cm cake tin with butter and gently line it with one of the pastry blocks, before blind-baking it for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Place the lemon juice in a medium bowl. Peel, halve, and core the apples. Cut each half into rough chunks. Toss the apples with the lemon juice. Add the sugar, cinnamon, thyme and mix with a wooden spoon to combine evenly.

Heat the liqueur in a pan for a few seconds, then add the apples mix and let simmer gently for about 15 minutes, covered.

Sprinkle the flaxseeds over the lightly blind-baked base of the pie, then smoothly envelop it with the apple mix, making sure to keep the cooking liquid aside.

Cover the apples with the second pastry block, and seal the edges manually as to not let any of the apple chunks ungracefully coming out of the pie. Finally bronze the pie with a brush of the apple's cooking liquid and bake in the oven for 35/40 minutes until crunchily brown. Enjoy at every moment of the day.

Hellishly good puff pastries

There you have it. Here is the face of #foodhappiness. When Martini asked me to create a few recipes in order to transmit the concept of the aperitivo, I embarked on a journey throughout the entire Italian boot in order to convey the sense of warmth, precise casualness and festive improvisation that lies beneath this solemn ritual. As you may know, the Italians have a few things that they take very seriously: food and siestas are capital. I previously introduced you to the joys of both mozzarella and polenta panini making. Now I'm onto springy softness by using puff pastry as my base ingredient. Different versions of puff pastry are reknown in Italy as a form of aperitivo animation. No one in the world could dislike such a combination. The puffiness of the pastry meets the melting tastiness of the pear topped by liquefied stracchino cheese (to be found in any good Italian deli). The tinkling acidity of the lemon zest does the rest. Wanna bet? Just try this out by inviting your friends over to enjoy the cherry trees scented evenings of the upcoming weekend (28° are expected throughout Europe!)

Puff pastries with stracchino cheese and pear (serves 4 hungry for aperitivo)

  • 250 gr. puff pastry
  • 50 gr. fresh unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1/2 ripe Conference pear
  • 100 gr. Stracchino cheese/ fresh goat cheese
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1 organic unwaxed lemon

Pre-heat the oven at 180°. Then, peel off the pear, cut it in half and make sure to get rid of the seed. Next, cut it in tiny dices.

Let the butter melt at low temperature in a small pan, then add the pear dices with the sugar and the rosemary. Let the whole mixture simmer for about 10 minutes.

In the meanwhile, form the individual puff pastries with a coffee cup. Distribute them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.  With a teaspoon, garnish each nibble with the caramelized pear mix.

Let it cook in the oven for 15 minutes. After that time, take the tray out of the oven and gently decorate all the pieces with the cheese. Finally freshly sprinkle with a grater the lemon zest on top of each one of them. Cook for another 5 minutes . Wait a few minutes before serving these cosmicly good savoury pastries with your favourite cocktail .

With love and puff pastry,

Eleonora

Mozzarella panini

You don't really want to cook but you still feel like treating yourself to something utterly delicious? Then mozzarella panini is definitely the answer. At home, when the clock strikes 6 p.m., I can feel an almost tangible excitement inhebriating the air. It's aperitivo time! So here is what we do: we pour ourselves a drink, whatever it's available in the house, usually the wine from last night which hasn't been used to cook the lunch's risotto, and make some soul-satisfying food: little nibbles, most of the time, made of leftovers - that's when those little ingredients looking all gloomy and disoriented in the fridge come back to life and handy at last!

As part of a collaboration I have with Martini, which I've already mentioned here and here, I've developed a series of recipes to go with a well deserved drink before dinner. The mozzarella panini, a crunchy assault on your gluttony, is ready in under 10 minutes and will divert you directly into happy helplessness.

Mozzarella panini (serves 4)

Ingredients for 4 people:

• 4 bocconcini buffalo mozzarella • 1 large organic tomato • 1 bunch of fresh basil • 1/2 courgette • 1 clove of garlic • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil • salt and pepper to taste

Cut the courgette into thin slices. In a pan, heat a tablespoon of oil with the garlic, and sauté the zucchini for 10 minutes over medium heat.

Add a sprinkle of salt and place the cooked courgettes in a small bowl.  Cut each small mozzarella in half as you would with bread to make a sandwich.

Inside, place a slice of tomato, a basil leaf, 4 courgette slices and sprinkle each mozzarella with a tablespoon of oil. Close the sandwich and add salt and pepper to taste.

With love and mozzarella,

Eleonora

History at the table

There's something reassuring about institutions. Their strong identity, their inevitable attachment to traditions. When it comes to restaurants that have been around for longer than a couple of generations, what strikes me is, that beneath a sense of immaculate transparency as of the roots of each dish, there's a strong, familiar attachment to gastronomic history. It is particularly the case when entering Benoit. I already mentioned here the peculiarity of this Alain Ducasse owned parisian brasserie, once a meeting point for butchers and farmers who would mind their business in the early morning on the right side of the Seine, in the famous Halles market, part of a then infamous neighborhood now under hip rise. From après le marché to après le théâtre the distance was little, but the food, just as honest. I was invited to taste the uplifting gorgeousness of the most renowned historical dishes of France at a table elegantly settled in '30s fashion. First came the gougères. These puffy, over-gratifying cheesy pastries are divinely fluff and seat pompously at the side of my course, for the whole meal. Yes I did eat all four of them in a matter of seconds, and yes the watchful maitre de salle noticed it and promptly gave me more. And more. Oops, and more.

gougeres3I indulged in the celebrated Léopold de Rothschild's favourite crayfish soufflé. Light as air, the soufflé is obtained from the blending of yolks and egg whites beaten stiff. The legendary Auguste Escoffier, one of the codifiers of French cuisine, adds a crayfish cream and parmesan, alternating layers of shaved truffles and crayfish tails and some freshly cooked asparagus between each layer. In his memoirs, Escoffier related a story about "Old Baron de Rothschild", who, when having supper at the Grand Hotel de Monte-Carlo, didn't want any asparagus but the 'green ones' ", launching a fashion that spread all the way to London, and prompting producers to put forward the green rather than the white asparagus.

gougeres2Henri IV's wish is as famous as his white plume "If God still gives me life, I will make sure that no ploughman in my Kingdom does not have means to have a chicken in his pot”. Exhausted by decades of religion wars, robbed by armies and looters plying the country, peasants had only the strict minimum, certainly not a chicken in their pot every Sunday. To restore the image of the monarchy, Louis XVIII made Henri IV an icon, and the inventor of the Poule au Pot. This dish became a national emblem and, much to my delight, was sumptuously carved in front of my very eyes.

gougeres4Does the Charlotte take its name from the wife of the King Georges III Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who bore him fifteen children? Historians are puzzled. It was originally a bread crumb and applesauce dessert, when Antonin Carême, the ante-litteram celebrity chef was inspired to create the Charlotte with biscuits, that he called Charlotte à la Parisienne, which later became the Russian Charlotte. He chose to hide the bottom and sides of the mould with finger biscuits and garnish the inside with a Bavarian device composed of gelatine and whipped cream custard. I enjoyed it with pear and chocolate sauce. An impeccable combination for the ending to a splendid meal.

With love and gougères,

Eleonora

Wild saithe fillet stuffed with mortadella

It's away from the church bells ringing, in the secure retreat of a kitchen in Rome that this dish was born. I got to the market late in the morning, so I could get the best bargain before the fishmonger stall would shut down. What's gratifying about this fishy creation is the nutty pistachios contrasting with the crispy mortadella filling.  They say fish is good for you, but for me, it's the indulgent accompaniment with cream and mortadella that makes it excellent. The origins of Mortadella Bologna are to be found in the territories of the ancient Etruscan area (nearby Rome), rich with oak trees that provided piquant acorns to the many local wild pigs. The Bologna Archaeological Museum houses the first evidence of what is claimed to be a producer of mortadella : on a Roman pillar are depicted on the one hand seven grazing piglets and on the other a mortar with a pestle . The mortar was used by the Romans to pound and knead the pork with salt and spices. This suggests that the name of the sausage comes from mortarium. This dish is sweet succulence perfectly combined with salty freshness.

The video below was made in collaboration with a French production. Even though the instructions are in French, it wouldn't hurt to follow the video when making this recipe, especially for the step where the mortadella filling is involved.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1QGRFIribY

Wild saithe fillet stuffed with mortadella Ingredients: (serves 2 people)

  • 100 gr. creamy soft spreadable cheese
  • 30 gr. fresh whipping cream
  • 50 gr. dairy unsalted butter
  • a sprinkle of ground pepper
  • a sprinkle of fine salt
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 50 gr. mortadella Bologna
  • 50 gr. pistachio nut kernels
  • 200 gr. saithe or coley fillet
  • 50 gr. crispy babyleaf salad

In a bowl, place the creamy cheese, add the whipping cream, a hint of salt and the olive oil. Whisk until obtaining a smooth preparation.

Make an incision down the centre of the fish from the head to the tail, then make a cut in order to create a pocket for the filling. It is important that you don't break the fish, so take your time and do this process delicately.

Cut the mortadella into thin slices. Fill the fish with mortadella and cover it. Plant a pic to maintain it still. Dust with the pistachios and add the salt. In a pan, melt the butter and cook the stuffed fish 2 minutes per side. Serve it with bubbles of cream cheese and the salad.

With love and pistachios,

Eleonora

Amaretti biscuits with candied oranges

The amaretti biscuits make for a delicious accompaniment for my morning tea or coffee (lately, I've been trying to alternate the two in order to get the best out of their opposite celebrative worlds). Whether I feel stunned by the lack of sleep given by too much overnight cookbooks reading or with so many deadlines in sight that I can hardly hold my breath, let alone my cup, this biscuit has such a personality, perfectly flavoured with crunchy almonds and, adding my own twist, some candied bloody oranges. These lovely biscuits' rounded shape remind me of a small reversed cup, but it's their cracked surface that calls for an instantaneous, indulging bite. Their crisp and rather crumbly taste can be perfectly mixed with other recipes, too. In fact this biscuit is largely used, in the Italian kitchen, for many recipes ranging from the tortelli di zucca, a special kind of pumpkin ravioli from Mantua through to the polpettone (meatloaf), a comfy food for excellence to the most delightful fruit pies and tarts. Sealed in a glass jar, they are the perfect addition to the cupboard as they can come in handy in the least expected combinations.

Amaretti with candied oranges (serves 8 people)

  • 200 gr. blanched whole almonds
  • 150 gr. caster sugar + 125 gr. for the candied orange
  • 2 large free-range egg whites
  • 1 unwaxed organic orange
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • a pinch of fine salt
  • 40 gr. icing sugar

First of all, follow the procedure to achieve the firmest whipped egg whites: break them, separate the yolks from the whites in two different tea-cups, and place the egg whites inside the fridge. Leave it to rest for at least half an hour.

Next, toast the almonds for 5 minutes in a preheated oven at 200°. In a blender, mix the toasted almonds with the sugar, then sift the whole mixture and put it aside in a large bowl.

To make the candied oranges, follow the method explained in my previous post here. Cut into small cubes the obtained candied oranges.

Then, to avoid splashing of eggs on the kitchen walls, place a bowl deep  in the sink. At this stage, make sure you add a tiny pinch of fine salt before whipping the egg whites until stiff. Next, incorporate little by little with a spatula the egg whites and the candied oranges into the almonds mixture in order to obtain a soft and smooth dough. Cover the mixture with a clean cloth and store it in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

Once past the waiting time, preheat the oven at 170°. It's now time to resume the dough, that will be solidified by now and, with a sharp knife, cut about 50 balls. Get some icing sugar on your hands and prepare the small, rounded balls. Make sure you crush them lightly in the center with your fingers. Lay them on a baking sheet dusted with icing sugar and covered with parchment paper (you can cook in 2 batches).

Bake the biscuits in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes; once you take them out of the oven, let them cool on a wire rack before enjoying them.

With love and amaretti,

Eleonora

Rice pudding with chocolate

In my beginnings, there was the rice pudding. I must have been no more than 3 or 4 years old. The home cooks who showed it to me were absolutely portentous. Women of great size, wearing dresses with floral motifs, their hair pulled back and a predisposition to raw judgment and an excessive use of olive oil. I guess that certain characters should be preserved and protected as monuments of our collective memory. I wonder whether Unesco has ever thought about that. Paying tribute to the last Highlanders of our regional kitchens.   The most delicate and glorious rice pudding comes coated with shortbread in Rome and Tuscany. A constant presence on holiday tables, it's a big round cake, not higher than 3/4 inches and baked in the oven until you get those nice caramelising edges. We are going to go for the lighter version today. Rice cooked in milk enriched with either candied oranges, raisins soaked in Vin Santo or, for the most greedy, small pieces of bitter chocolate. That's what we are aiming for, in the recipe below. This was a video conceived as a result of a collaboration I did for a Parisian production company, hence subtitles are in French. However, images talk for themselves, so if you want to give it a try, you can find the instructions below the video. For all of you gluten-free folks out there, here is a mouthwatering recipe that will drive you crazy. Are you smiling in #foodhappiness swing? Now that's better.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Hw5uuD8t-U

Rice and chocolate (serves 4 people as a snack or dessert)

Ingredients:

  • 150 gr. Carnaroli rice
  • 1/2 vanilla pod
  • 500 ml. fresh whole milk
  • 100 gr. dark chocolate
  • 50 gr. caster sugar
  • 1 unwaxed organic lemon

Grate the lemon in order to obtain its zest. With a sharp knife, split the vanilla in two and collect the seeds. Pour the milk into a saucepan. Add the vanilla, the lemon zest and the sugar. Let it cook at low fire; make sure to turn off the heat before it comes to a boil.

Next, add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon. Cook over medium-low heat for 30 minutes. When the rice is cooked and all the milk will be absorbed, remove the lemon zest and the vanilla altogether. Chop finely the dark chocolate. Place the rice in a small bowl or cup and sprinkle each serving with abundant chocolate.

With love and pudding,

Eleonora

Frittata rolls with courgettes and green sauce

"Ma parla come mangi!" In other words, speak the way you eat. Be simple. Don't be rethoric. In Italy we also use food as a cultural or social paradox. When I was a child, I would be served frittata (i.e. omelette) whenever at home everyone was too tired to cook. As simple as it is (ok, maybe harder than boiling an egg), there were few things at the time that made me happier than my grandmother calling me at the table: "The frittata is done"! Later in life I found out that, figuratively, this phrase is used when some huge mess occurs. Also, the act of "turning the omelette" (a stage of cooking) is associated with an alleged attempt to slip away from a discussion. It turns out, at home I should have watched my plate and watched my mouth, too.

But, nonetheless, a frittata can be so crunchy and delicious that I might as well just roll it. That's what I did for a French video production project. My other videos from this same adventure can be viewed here, here, or here, to name but a few. I love the idea of capturing the moist of the egg with the cirtusy green sauce. If you find watching the video tempting enough, then you'll be even more thrilled at the idea of reproducing it with the instructions below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhvSdfY4GL4

Frittata rolls with courgettes and green sauce

Ingredients for 4 people:

  • 4 fresh free-range eggs
  • 1 courgette
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 50 gr. sundried tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 bunch of fresh parsley
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste

Pour the eggs into a bowl, add the salt, the pepper and the rosemary. Whisk them until fluffy. In a pan, pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil and splash the beaten eggs in. Let the egg dough curdle from 3 to 4 minutes. Repeat the operation on the other side and cook for the last 3 minutes. Place the obtained omelette on a plate.

Cut the courgette into slices. In a pan, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Fry the vegetables at low heat for 15 minutes. In the meanwhile, cut the sundried tomatoes into strips.

Evenly place the slices of courgettes and tomatoes on the omelette. Roll the omelette and cut it into rolls of about 3 cm. each. Mildly prick each roller with a cocktail stick.

For the green sauce, finely chop the parsley and place it in a small bowl. Pour the remaining olive oil in and finally add the lemon juice. Mash the mixture  Add a teaspoon of green sauce on each roll before serving.

With love and eggs,

Eleonora

Chantilly, la crème de la crème

As my great-grandma often put it - less is more - and it does unquestionably apply to the very short train ride (23 minutes only, no joke) that painlessly got me from a Parisian cosmopolitan, hectic dimension to a secular countryside luxurious nest. The culinary most prestigious traditions embrace luxe, calme and volupté in the astounding Auberge du Jeu de Paume. Launched in 2012 in the middle of the historical domaine de Chantilly, the 5 stars retreat looked up to the Michelin sky from its very beginning, having acquired one star over the first year and a second on the next at its famed La Table du Connétable. 

As I arrived, I was welcomed to a room all Toile de Jouy and ornaments which art would resonate with Duc d'Aumale's personal collection, to be found just next door in the imposing Château de Chantilly, which picture gallery is the second most important French pinacothèque after the Louvre. The fifth son of King Louis-Philippe, Henri duc d'Aumale, became the most eligible bachelor of France at the age of 8. He did marry, but for a series of circumstances, amongst which the exhile, that left him widow and childless, this man endowed with military diposition ended up looking after the immense treasure of its domaine all alone. His art collection is today under the protection of the Institut de France (as of the Duke's last wishes) and the trust of the Aga Khan Foundation. I roamed over its corridors to find artworks by Raphael, Watteau, Poussin, Delacroix, to name but a few. The only way to visit the whole outrageous collection is to pass by Chantilly, since one of the the clauses of the legacy, still respected today, expected the artworks never to leave the property.

Chantilly does ring a bell with the most traditional of whipped creams. As reported by François Vatel, the ultimate majordomo of the seventeenth century, there was a certain lady, guest of the Duke and Duchess, who impulsively let out her enthousiasm for the flavoury cream she tasted while a guest at Chantilly. Back at the day it was customary for the aristocracy to be portrayed with monkey features as an act of self-mockery. And it's among these anthropoid cabinets that she whispered the news that would soon become a culinary tradition for the entire world.

While at the Auberge, I enjoyed a unique spa treatment called Les mille et une Chantilly where, after an exfoliating gommage applied with sugar crystals and a chestnuts oil based relaxing massage, I got wrapped in actual Chantilly cream, the epytome of skin hydration, before finishing off with a tasting of the famous cream and some hay flavoured chocolates. It was Poppaea who started the tradition of bathing in milk, Cleopatra who indulged in milk and honey baths daily and ladies of leisure of the caliber of Diane de Poitiers, the mistress of French King Henry II and Pauline, Napoleon's younger sister, who regularly took milk baths in an attempt to keep themselves looking youthful, to such an extent that the servants made a hole in the ceiling above the bath so they could pour milk directly into the tub.

jeu11And here is the original recipe for everyone to replicate at home, delicious on its own or as an accompaniment to cakes or fruits of all kinds.

Crème Chantilly (serves 6 persons)

  • 1/5 lt. double cream
  • 60 gr. caster sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod

Place the cream and the entire vanilla pod in a bowl, then in the fridge overnight. This way the vanilla will incorporate with the cream and the taste. Place the electronic whisk vertically in the cold bowl and play it for about 5 minutes while slowly pouring the sugar in. Once the cream becomes all flaky and fluffy, it's time to serve it.

This year will mark a series of wonderings around France in order to discover the most off the beaten track locations to truly embrace the traditions of this incredible country.

With love and cream Chantilly,

Eleonora

* Pictured above, before the post: "Le Déjeuner d'huîtres" by Jean-François de Troy, then before the recipe, a picture of actress Claudette Colbert in "Sign of the Cross" (1932)

PORT EN BASSIN – The cradle of Normandy Impressionism PART 2

There are the seagulls, the walks along the D-day beaches, the low tide, and then there's Port-en-Bassin, where coquilles Saint-Jacques meet shabby chic. A few weeks ago, I interrupted a tale on this post with a - to be continued - tag. Because half of the pleasure lies in the procrastination. Just like the preparation of a good meal, with several of the ingredients needing to be poached, resting, and rising well ahead of time. normandia1Port-en-Bassin is a small fishermen town, counting 2000 inhabitants only, located in Normandy, precisely in the area where apples abound, leading the way to Calvados ageing. There, I stayed at charming velvety house La Maison Matelot, all sailor motif, grey floors and decorative ring-shaped life savers. As I woke up in the early morning in order to head to the local bakery for my usual breakfast ritual, I couldn't help but grin at myself as I listened to the angelic music diffused around the tiny, stoney streets. The majority of the locals are fishermen, that's probably why the service was slightly slow at the local bar, since there seemed to be a crucial backgammon match going on. So I embraced a slow paced weekend. Just like the fishermen, I waited for the tide to be high again, and waved goodbye to them before finding these Popeye-styled boats all coming back to the port around 10 p.m. That's when the show really started. Hundreds, what am I saying, thousands of kilos of pink, perfectly round coquilles Saint-Jacques waiting to be dispatched and distributed all over Europe. The lucky ones coming from this charming shore are haloed Red Label, a French official guarantee of superior quality. When I was a kid, my grandmother used to let me listen to the rustling of the waves inside sea shells. On a plate, that's the most common way they're cooked there, as told by my good friend Astrid.

Coquilles Saint Jacques, Port-en-Bassin style

  • 16 Saint-Jacques shells
  • 100 gr. unsalted dairy butter
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • a bunch of finely chopped, fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tsp fine salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper

In a pan, melt 50 gr. of butter with the oil at medium heat; once the mixture is well cooked (that is, the butter has melted, looking all white and creamy), cook the coquilles for 2 minutes only on each side, not more, in order to still feel their melting taste. May some molluscs be very thick, cut each one of them in two in the vertical direction, then proceed onto the cooking. Before serving, sprinkle them with half a teaspoon of both salt and ground pepper. At the same time, gently melt in a small pot 50 gr. of butter and eventually add the lemon juice. Pour this mixture into a serving dish and sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley. Serve it while it's hot, along with a wintery soup.

normandia3

With love and coquilles,

Eleonora

A brunch at Semilla

Sunday brunch time is one of those very volatile, very vulnerable moments of the week. Our energy flow is readjusting hence the choice of the meal is crucial to that roaring start of the week. I don't know about you, but when I wake up on the resting day of the week for excellence, the first thing I think of is either a scrumbled, an à la coque, or a benedicte style egg. When in Paris, Semilla is a place for indulging in sweets, freshly squeezed fruit juices, the unmissable sunday roast and, as they call it, all kinds of non egg's options: a lobster club sandwich served with toasted brioche and avocado or a very seasonal beet salad with spelt, fresh cheese and hazelnuts. On the hunt side - it being hunting season, chef Eric Trochon gets an exceptional delivery directly from the hands of his hunters friends - we tried a mouthwatering version of venison burger, moistened with currant juice, served with pak choi (the Chinese version of chard) and the quitessential new potatoes roasted to perfection.

Opened by the will and skills of trio Drew Harré, Jan Sanchez and the chef himself, Eric Trochon, this place, as other excellent ones in town, winks at bistronomie, this phenomenon très à la page that results from the contraction of bistro and gastronomy, applying to those tables combining low prices (with menus worth less than 30€), small team, small places and inventive cuisine made from good and simple products, often orchestrated by chefs trained in academic structures.

Very democratically, and here we go again with patrioctic values such as Liberté & Fraternité, also present à la carte if it wasn't clear enough, the menu comprehends a full list of the producers, often small realities, providing the food and beverages to the house. The wine, in general directly supplied from the grape scented hands of the wine maker himself, can be a Chablis Premier Cru la Forest or a Chateauneuf-du-Pape, both proven to be extraordinarily reassuring tastes.

Last but not least: those of you who know me by now are also well aware of the fact that I love my mascarpone. Either worked in a tiramisu or on a limoncello based cream, you'll know that I'll quickly access to the highest level of #foodhappiness. I reached new heights, though, when tasting the remarkable pears, mascarpone and peacan nuts pie. Powerfully happy before the week's madness.

Restaurant Semilla 54, rue de Seine Paris (75006) TÉL : +33 1 43 54 34 50 MÉTRO : Saint-Germain des Prés, Mabillon, Odéon

With love and peacan nuts,

Eleonora

semilla1

Monday's declarations

What are your perfect Monday resolutions? May I get some time out of the hustle and bustle of my delicious working schedule, here ere are mine:

  • promise to only eat one sweet per day (as if it were easy, living in Paris);
  • get my beauty sleep and make it a plan not to go to bed after midnight for 10 days in order to balance my immune system;
  • practice Yoga Ashtanga/Flow/Bikram at least 4 times without, in the middle of it, finding it irresistible to go test that new recipe I dreamt about last night;
  • reserve those theatre tickets to go see Nos Femmes at Théâtre de Paris;
  • handwrite those letters to the most beautiful friends I've been blessed with;
  • get my heels back on and go back practising some Tango;
  • handmake some Madeleines in full #foodhappiness mode and pay a visit to the permanent collection at Musée Rodin.

With love and madeleines,

Eleonora

 

Shrimp cocktail, the spicy side

I've always been in awe for fish, first of all because it doesn't create as much of a hubbub as meat does (hence it's more convivial), and secondly because, when fresh, I'm personally on a verge of a lust for life. In range of my collaboration with DeliSnacky, which previous videos you can find here and here, I developed this shrimps cocktails recipe, which has then been turned in a video. The pitch is allusive to an antipasti which became popular in Italy over the '80s. This vintage snack is now ready for a comeback, but with a twist: avocado spicyness. The recipe video has got French subtitles, so please refer to the instructions below in order to make it at home.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFVdj8o4esQ

Spicy shrimp cocktail

  • 150 gr mayonnaise
  • 1 fresh unwaxed lemon
  • 1 perfectly ripe avocado
  • a bunch of salad leaves
  • a few drops of Tabasco sauce
  • 36 tiny shrimps

In a bowl, pour the mayonnaise, 5 or 6 Tabasco sauce drops, and the juice of one lemon. Mix well and put aside. Now prepare the avocado by cutting it in tiny dices. Mince the salad with the aid of a knife. Lay it in a big cocktail glass, starting from the salad on the bottom, then the avocado, followed by the shrimps and its sauce on top.

With love and avocado,

Eleonora

Septime, or the temple of gluttony

The wide royal blue door is distinctive of a certain Parisian trait which can be assimilated with a voracious joie de vivre, containing in itself a profound respect for the tradition as well as a versatile step towards the "now" (why looking towards the future when the present can be so captivating). Set in a neo-urban epicurean valley of the senses, no wonder why Septime - a trendy restaurant in the up and coming 11th arrondissement of Paris -  is right in the spotlight these days. I didn't know what exactly to expect as I inspectioned their website before my visit earlier this week; on the desktop, only a logo and an address provided. Poorly described, I thought. Well, I had to change idea: on the contrary, I was in for a treat, because the food, the drinks and the ambiance truly spoke for themselves.

As I entered, I was warmly welcomed by wine expert and restaurant associé Thèo Pourriat, who presented us with a very small list of truly exquisite wines. He emphasized on the personal relationships developed with the vignerons (wine growers), the identification of which I was already introduced to on the other side of the river, at the Ile Saint Louis celebrated cheesemonger. A real fan on fine wines but totally against getting dizzy in the middle of the working day, I also opted for an infusion fait maison. In Septime there's an actual barman dedicated to the making of these restoring potions made to accompany the daily proposed menus. For me, it was orange, clementine, tarragon, pear and Acacia honey, all raw in a boiling pot.

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetThe lunch menu (uncommonly changing on a daily basis), is based on chef Bertrand Grébaut's inventiveness of the moment. I got lucky with a sumptuous Utah Beach (yes, the one of the Normandy D-day) clums soup with gourds and an undescribably refined Xeres vinegar aftertaste. The daikon - oh I dig those radishes -  was deliciously accompanied with mushrooms de la Maure along with exquisite black truffles from the Perigord area (duck and goose products paradise) which I shall absolutely visit soon.

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetHaving recently taken part in the Cabinet de Curiosités of Thomas Herber, with showcases of visual artists, designers and chefs indeed, Grébaut now wants to focus entirely on his Parisian food scene, where he gives work and inspiration to an international, young and food-talented crowd. "There's an Argentinian, an American and a British, but we always speak français in the kitchen, that's mandatory" - explains Grébaut, a patriot at heart as all French admirably are, as I ask him about his producers, his rare food findings (like the radicchio from Treviso in the middle of Paris, a true gem) and his sources of creativity: "Sometimes it's the chromatic scale of a dish that grabs my attention first, but then it's the work on the affiliations to make it enjoyable that I have fun with". And that was, and surely will be again, a truly enjoyable experience.

With love and tarragon,

Eleonora

Flying food ideas

When your taste buds are way above the clouds, your normal sense of taste goes right out of the aeroplane’s window. Now airlines are trying to find ways to get our appetites back on track. So, according to BBC,  airlines have to give in-flight food an extra kick, by salting and spicing it much more than a restaurant on the ground ever would. Often, recipes are modified with additional salt or seasoning to account for the cabin dining atmosphere. The combination of dryness and low pressure reduces the sensitivity of your taste buds to sweet and salty foods by around 30%. Toast is popping up all over. According to USA today, it's one of the hot new tastes of 2015, along with seaweed and chocolate dark enough to resemble a black hole. This was toast as in the flavor of roasted bread, dripping with melted butter and possibly with a light dusting of sugar and cinnamon.

If you’ve ever exercised to lose weight, while reading the Washington Post, there’s a good chance the following thought has crossed your mind: “I worked out so hard. I deserve a treat!” It’s also pretty likely that you indulged post-workout in some food you’d deemed forbidden — or consumed more than usual — and in so doing ate back all the calories you burned.

air2

It’s January and with the New Year, New diet stories are everywhere—and suddenly so is the topic of broth, which is heating up on Forbes. The terms broth, bouillon and consommé are interchangeable, but the broth making news is bone broth or a rich, gelatinous stock made from boiling meat, fish and vegetables which results in a taste and flavor profile that is a far cry from its mass-produced cousins. The current broth boom is linked to the still popular Paleo diet, which lists broth as a staple.

Looking for some recipes? Here is the Huffington Post's list of 9 Vegan Food Hacks That Are The Height Of Inventiveness.

In a 1951 video on good eating habits, Bill races through breakfast, bolts his lunch like a coyote, spends the money he was supposed to buy soup with on candy and pop and has a desultory dinner. Naturally, he is sluggish while playing with his sweet train set. Later, he gets an excruciating stomach ache that can only be cured by a good night's sleep. With the help of the narrator, Bill learns to slow down and savor his meals and also to stay away from the junk food. In these fast paced times, can't we all take a page from Bill's book and slow down?

With love and broth,

Eleonora

New Year's Lasagne resolutions

So back to work for us all. The best thing of this time of the year is that we all still feel pampered by cosy images of a long needed precious time spent with family and friends over these past festivities. All this cheerful togetherness, however, has brought along the other side of the coin, which is tangible enough (talking me sadly through my trousers size), and its removal on top of all our new year's resolutions. Undoubtedly no sacrifice can be fully adopted without an exception to the rule. That's why tonight I'm cooking the healthiest red cabbage based vegan lasagna version. Why, aren't you?

cavolirossi

Red Cabbage Lasagne (serves 6 persons)

  • 1 red cabbage (about 1 kg.)
  • 250 g. carrots
  • 125 g mozzarella cheese
  • 150 g cooked ham
  • 250 g fresh pasta lasagne sheets
  • 50 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 500 ml bechamel sauce
  • 100 g grated Parmesan cheese
  • 30 g dairy butter
  • 6 sage leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the béchamel sauce:

  • 50 gr. dairy butter
  • 50 gr. all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 liter whole milk

Preheat the oven at 180°. Clean the red cabbage, removing the outer leaves (if damaged), then cut it into 4 pieces, wash it under running water and put it to boil in salted boiling water for approximately 10 minutes. Peel the carrots and put them to boil along with the red cabbage for the same amount of time. Once the vegetables aree cooked, drain and allow them to cool, then cut them into smaller pieces and put 2/3 of them in a blender together with 20 ml of oil, a pinch of salt and  some freshly ground pepper. Blend until you get a creamy consistency, if necessary adding 2 or 3 tablespoons of boiling water (preferably that previously used for cooking the vegetables).

Prepare a nice thick bechamel. To start with, heat the milk in a saucepan; apart, melt the butter over low heat, then turn off the heat and add the flour, stirring with a whisk to prevent lumps from forming. Then put it back on low heat and stir until it becomes golden. You will have obtained what the French call roux; flavor the milk with nutmeg and a pinch of salt (you can do these operations even as the last step, when the sauce is ready); then join it gradually to the roux, stirring the whole thing vigorously with a whisk. Cook for 5 minutes on low heat until the sauce thickens and begins to boil.

Now you can compose the lasagna in a pyrex baking dish greased with butter. We start with a thin layer of bechamel sauce, then a sheet of lasagne, and then a layer of red cabbage and carrots cream, another sheet of lasagne, a layer of thin slices of mozzarella, carrots and cabbage, a tsp of oil, still a layer of pasta, one of ham, and so on continuing to alternate layers (each cycle calls for a sprinkle of salt and pepper to taste). Finish off with a layer of red sauce, then sprinkle the grated Parmesan cheese and some butter. Bake for 25 minutes at 180 ° C. Serve the piping hot lasagne garnished with sage leaves.

Happy new year with love and lasagne,

Eleonora

Crisp mascarpone custard with candied oranges and dark chocolate

Maybe you don't want as rich a dessert as you would literally pamper in these upcoming festivities. Nevertheless, it is nice, in light of this brrrr...freezing winter, to come back home to something exquisite to enjoy at the end of an otherwise dull midweek supper before the real Christmas food festival kicks in and your jaw keeps dropping. I must have been about 12 of age when, finally allowed to enter the kitchen (as I explained thoroughly here), I was taught by my grandma how to make the real, authentic, unfussy and let me add, majestic Tiramisù. The major ingredient is the fluffy, richly flavoured mascarpone cheese. Regardless of the season, I love to be inventive using this ingredient with my own recipes. Last week I sipped a good cup of mulled wine (which recipe you can find here), and I told myself, why not enjoying it with a pairing dessert? So here it is, wrapped up in a video recipe. This is a collaboration I conducted with a French video production (you can watch the first episode here), but even if the wording is French, believe me, this cooking video speaks for itself. In case you were wondering about the exact ingredients and execution, you can find them right below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ycGs15r4Xc

Crisp mascarpone custard with candied oranges and dark chocolate (serves 2 persons)

  • 250 gr. mascarpone cheese
  • 125 gr. of room temperature tap water
  • 175 gr. caster sugar
  • 40 gr. dark chocolate
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 4 savoiardi biscuits (or ladyfingers)
  • 100 ml. whole milk
  • 1 unwaxed organic orange
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Cut the orange in four pieces. Remove its pulp, then cut the skin into fine stripes and whitewashthem: immerse them in water, remove them after 2 minutes boiling. Repeat the method for 4 times in a row (this will take out the acidity from the orange's skin). Then, let the orange strips dry on a clean cloth.

In a bowl, mix the egg yolks with 50 gr. of sugar until creamy. Then add the mascarpone cheese and mix gently. Chop the chocolate roughly with a knife, and add it to the mixture.

In a pot, pour the water with the remaining sugar. Incorporate the orange strips and the cinnamon stick. Let cook for 25 minutes at low fire.

Pour the milk in a tiny bowl, then break each biscuits in two and lightly soak them in the milk. Place them at the bottom of a mug, then let half of the mascarpone cheese mixture fall on top of them. Finally, add a few orange slices per serving and sprinkle with some chocolate chips.

With love and candied fruits,

Eleonora

Mind Le Zo(o)

In a time, the late '90s, when sushi in Paris could only be found at fakely high end Japanese restaurants that would even charge an addition for the wasabi sauce, entrepreneur Micael Memmi looked further. He decided to offer Japanese food in an otherwise French-food-only restaurant, Le Zo. And he was the first. Today, at the head of the Il Caffè as well, a chain of five restaurants disseminated around Paris serving Italian dishes fatti in casa, he's dazzling the city of lights.

zo1

I sat down in a room where eastern design meets western contemporary art, and had heart of burrata , beet duo and roasted yellow peppers. I couldn't believe that I found the same taste I did when travelling to my beloved Puglia this last summer on a cold December day in the middle of Paris. I literally melted for the crispy maki asparagus, a crunchy delicious starter. And I clapped my hands as I tasted a good affogato al caffè, which recipe I shared earlier this year with Anne Lataillade, author of the awarded blog Papilles & Pupilles. This guy knows his products, and knew what bistronomie (a contraction between "bistrot" and "gastronomy") is all about much before it was even a trend: "Fusion food is so '90s, we give our customers the possibility to choose whether going for a Japanese, a French or an Italian dish. In each serving, though, you'll find the beating heart of a country". And that's, simply, what my #foodhappiness is all about, too.

Restaurant Le Zo 13, rue Montalivet Paris (75008)

TEL: +33 1 42 65 18 18 SUBWAY: Madeleine, Concorde

Restaurant Il Caffè 5, av. Myron-Herrick Paris (75008)

TEL: +33 1 42 25 02 70 SUBWAY: Miromesnil, Saint-Philippe-du-Roule

 

With love and burrata,

Eleonora

Savoury Tarte Tatin

In case you were in search of  food ideas for this week's dinner time, the answer for you is only a click away. Just sit and enjoy the first extract from my collaboration with Deli'Snacky, a Youtube channel providing plenty of ideas for quick and effective meals! Did you know that the world famous Tarte Tatin, traditionally prepared with apples from Normandy, could also be turned into a savoury option? Well I didn't, until I run out of fresh fruits in my kitchen, and here is what I came up with instead! http://youtu.be/HRoqjgpNOd4?list=UUhmCpJRIGrcFnI-mtMbT4cA

Three Peppers Tarte Tatin

  • 3 peppers (yellow, green and red)
  • 1 red onion
  • 40 gr. pitted black olives
  • 1 puff pastry sheet
  • 30 gr. fresh dairy butter
  • 30 gr. extra virgin olive oil
  • 20 gr. caster sugar
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 40 gr. tap water

Remove the seeds from the peppers. Take a large pan and grill the peppers for about 30 minutes. In the meanwhile cut the onion in dices, and pour the olive in a pan with a little bit of butter. Let everything melt at low flame and eventually add the onions in. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper, then let cook gently for about 15 minutes. Now preheat the oven at 220°.

Once the peppers are ready, get them out of the pan and immediately in a bread bag. This way, the vegetables will naturally transpire and in a matter of minutes it will be far more easy to get rid of their skin. Once the skin is off, cut the peppers into large stripes. Cut the olives in little pieces too.

Warm up the sugar in a pan with half a glass of water, after a few minutes it should caramelise. In the meanwhile, have a cake mold ready and line its base with some parchment paper. Pour the caramelized sugar in the bottom of the mold, then spread the peppers and, on top of them, add the onions and the olives. Cover with the puff pastry sheet. Bite the cake with a fork and cook for 20 minutes in the oven at 220°.

With love and peppers,

Eleonora

(h)Eden(e) in Paris

I can't quite come to terms to the voluptuous beauty of Paris, how can it be so firm, just like a mother who wouldn't accept a "no" as an answer, yet so harmlessly heartbreaking from its roofs up until its roots, that is its islands to me. As a matter of fact the Romans, who won over the Gauls well over 2000 years ago, decided to provide them with the islands of Lutetia ('Île de la Cité and Île Saint Louis) in order for them to be near the water, thus control any forms of commerce. The Romans, on their side, would have kept what is today known as the left bank and that's where and how the Paris, as we know it today, was born. I personally have a soft spot for these 2 floating, somptuous islands in the middle of the city of lights. I love to walk around them, the cold yet gently dry breeze of Paris accompanying my errands. And I love to discover that a legacy is kept alive giving place to evolution even. I'm talking about the oldest Fromagerie in the very heart of Rue Saint Louis en l'Ile, precisely located at number 38. In a place that was once the beating heart and soul of artisanal old Paris, suddenly closed down for the passing away of its owner and cheesemonger charmer, two young entrepreneurs have taken over as of 3 years ago. Experts in the art of selecting epicerie fine, as people call it over here, these twenty something young merchants can suggest the finest food products available on the market. And if you fancy a wine or cheese lesson for that matter, then you're in for a ride, and a treat.

hedene

That's how I came to know the most refinely delicious honey I ever came across. The name of the product alone, Hedene, rings a bell as to a few ethereal concepts: one linked with the first, most perfect garden as told by the Christian tradition and the other connected with hedonism, the argued capacity to live in strict connection to pleasure, as a good friend of Dorian Grey would suggest him at the beginning of the celebrated novel by Oscar Wilde. It appears, there's a honey to accompany any given moment of the day. The texture and smell would change and increase according to the time, season and occasion. Therefore, the acacia would be an interesting alternative to sugar in morning coffees or teas, while a taste of the pine tree would take you straight to a fable involving fairies and magic; to be honest though, the cream of the crop was the Miel Bourdaine, splendid for the festive season. I tasted it with a Comté cheese, which I've been told was produced in the Jura valley, east of France. This scrumptious cheese has been refined in the Charles Arnaud fruitière (a place where milk is processed into cheese).

If you thought that beautiful patterns were limited to textile only, think twice. This teeny tiny deli shop celebrates chocolate by providing the very well wrapped tastes of cocoa beans collected and produced in Saigon (Vietnam). I almost fainted when I had a first bite, luckily it was just before my movie night on my couch, hence I had an excuse I couldn't possibly drop to finish it. No wonder why Marou chocolate has gained many awards for its integrity, in workplace and taste buds alike.

With love, honey, chocolate and cheese,

Eleonora