Friday, September 29, 2006

Of Seaside Weddings, Art Showings, Carte de Sejour and Suchlike

I invite you to step outside the kitchen today because that’s where I’ve been recently: outside the kitchen. It’s been a busy few weeks.

For those of you who know me and stop in to keep up to date: the visa/carte de sejour process is finally complete. (This announcement is actually worthy of being given an "all caps" emphasis, but for those who do not know the background, the "screaming through cyberspace" may be misunderstood.) only took 11 months and some days (I lost count along the way!) but it is, indeed, finished. I have in my possession my Carte de Sejour...with the worst picture I have ever taken for an official document. The woman taking the picture insisted that if this picture was for an identity card in France, I was not to smile (at least I think that's what she said!) Some of you know the harrowing details of the process on both sides of the ocean through blow-by-blow reports. I can’t relate it any better here than David Lebovitz has done. Another ex-pat (Paris), you’ll find his description quite realistic. It’s good to be able to look back on it with humor – and that he does...exceptionally well.

Along with the completion of my visa process (with multiple trips to Marseille), an opening for an art exposition (my first in France...and well-attended including an appearance by the Cultural Attaché of Aix) of which I was a part with some of my limited edition black and white photographs, and a major step into an intensive course of study for French, there was a wedding. No, surprises you do not know about. It’s a “once-upon-a-time” with a happy ending. Ever wonder what a French wedding is like? Voilá! Take a peek at this one.

Our English Anna met her French Romain in England when Romain was working there for a French company and followed him to France when he returned. They purchased their first home together in the seaside village of La Ciotat. And with this village as a setting, they designed a lovely wedding that was typically French.

Fierce rainstorms the night before the wedding had threatened to put a bit of a damper on the occasion. But by mid-day the skies cleared and the sun shone brilliantly, drying out the damp edges of the morning with a lovely warmth.

The procession began when the bride walked from their apartment to the mairie through the ancient winding streets of the village. (In France, a couple is married in the mairie – City Hall – by city officials. Some choose to participate in an additional religious ceremony in the church, but not necessarily on the same day.) People came out into the street to watch and smiled with approval as the bride passed with attendants and father in tow. Her betrothed awaited her arrival along with the throng of friends and family outside the mairie.

She was accompanied by her proud father into the mairie to join Romain at their seats facing a long table, the kind one might see at school board meetings in the US, raised above the audience on a bit of a dais and spanning the width of the room. In large, square leather chairs, under the sparkling "stars" of recessed lights, the bride, groom and four witnesses sat facing the two officials on the other side of the table and the ceremony began.

There was a lot of French goin’ on and some playful exchanges took place between our couple of the day and the beribboned officials. With a familiar rhythm, the ceremony had them exchanging vows, kisses, rings, more kisses, signatures from the couple and each of the witnesses on official looking documents, another kiss and then "ta daaaahhh!" They were Madame and Monsieur Married Couple - just like that.

They exited the mairie under a canopy of tossed fresh petals and the entire group followed them over to the water’s edge for pictures with the historical port of La Ciotat as a backdrop.

The procession continued to the reception hall on the other side of the village for the champagne toast on the terrace, attended by everyone who had been at the wedding. As the group began to prepare to enter the hall for the “invitation only” sit down dinner and dance, other guests began to peel off and depart for their own evenings elsewhere. This is a common practice in France. The ceremony is followed by a champagne toast to the bride and groom (complete with hors d’oeuvres and laughter and happy mingling) and when the action of the reception begins it is understood that the dinner is for family and invited guests only. Very civilized, dontcha think?!

As guests wandered into the spacious room with windows looking out over the Mediterranean in every direction, they found their places at the beautifully set tables and the dance music started up. Some eager hoofers hit the dance floor right away, including our bride and groom, who entered between columns of well-wishers and danced their way from the entrance (managing to make a few fancy turns on the floor) before finding their places at the table of honor. The burgundy wines (a gift from the groom’s parents who live in that region) accompanied a lovely six-course meal that was timed to take place over several hours. With dancing between each course, I believe this may be a new secret to weight loss: shake-your-tail-feathers dancing as you eat. I told one of my dance partners that this may be the only wedding at which I’ve actually managed to lose weight!

It was close to 1 am and we were approaching the final ritual to the joyous occasion: The presentation of the pièce montée, or croquembouche, a traditional French wedding cake, and the last formal opportunity to toast the new couple. Just after buckets of perfectly chilled champagne were delivered to each table, the piéce montée made its very dramatic entrance.

This tower of profiteroles, a traditional wedding couple balanced atop, had the the addition of a shooting sparkler attached at the front (looking as if a small rocket had landed into the base of the "cake" before its jets had completed firing). It was carried around the dance floor by two servers, one in front, one in back, as if they were transporting royalty on a sedan chair. The lights in the room had been darkened for full effect and it landed on a long table draped with white linen on the dance floor for the couple to slice into before plates of the delicious sweets were served to the rest of the happy well-wishers.

I was one of the first to leave the celebration and that was close to 2 in the morning! Do the French know how to party or what?!?

After a full day of ritual and celebration, our newly wedded couple, champagne bottle in hand, walked back through their village in the hours just before dawn to toast a new sunrise...and I’m guessing settle into the idea of ‘Happily Ever After…’. Wishing you much love and happiness, Anna and Romain…and many more reasons to have rockin’ parties like that!

* Croquembouche comes from the French words “croquant” meaning crunchy and “bouche” for mouth. Often the dessert at French weddings, baptisms or christenings, the croquembouche has its origins on the medieval tables of the French Royalty and Nobility.

Join me next week as I'm headed back into the kitchen in the days ahead. Enough already with the yogurt-on-the-run mode...this girl needs food!


Thursday, September 21, 2006

The ‘Inner Baker’ Stirs from Slumber

There is something about the transition from summer to autumn that brings out my “inner baker”. The light begins to change, softening to something approaching “cozy” and the temperature begins to cool, breathing life back into my neglected oven. As I pass the bookshelf, I hear whispers: recipes for crisps and cobblers and cakes beg me to draw them from their cookbook homes or from the photo album (an attempt to organize a rather offbeat collection) stuffed with recipes. You can set your seasonal watch by my behavior...some internal clock that follows rituals that are decades old at this point. So predictable I can be.

As I review that stash of recipes – old favorites are tucked in alongside tantalizing “try me, try me” newbies that came to be “stuffed” because they looked good to me in some moment in time. These days my decision around what gets chosen is determined by what project is possible in my “little French kitchen”. That was not just a charming catch-phrase to entice readers to amble down beyond the title header…it is a reality!

As I prepared to make my move to France, I rented out the home I owned that had an eat-in kitchen large enough for a small couch, coffee table and another large and comfy chair where friends could sit down comfortably and share cocktails and appetizers while I finished the final stages to the meal for the night. I might have been cooking that meal on a full-sized range with an additional convection oven/microwave overhead with a full-sized refrigerator just within reach. From that kitchen, I moved into a very small cottage to “practice” living in a small space. My frequent travels to France at that point had given me ample opportunity to see what the standard French kitchen was like. I had to see if I could do it. The cottage kitchen had an old range – I’m quite certain it was older than me – and only two of the three burners worked. There was no room for a least, not if I wanted a small refrigerator (something one might see in a college dorm room). The “built in” (even smaller) refrigerator did not work so it became the “cave” for wine storage (and film!). I was motivated by a friend of mine in the Drôme region of France. She lives with her family in a centuries old French farmhouse, when I am in the kitchen with her, there is an instinctual rhythm and dance step one adopts to move about without collision and injury. But that does not impede her in the least from bringing out course after scrumptious course to feed her husband and 3 grown sons and whatever friends and neighbors might be in for lunch or evening meal. Genevieve became my inspriration! And so, having successfully met the challenge in the “cottage kitchen”, I packed up my pots and pans (No, really! They were the first things to be shipped in the relocation process!) and after a couple of furnished ‘nests’ as I found my place in this new life, I landed in the little French kitchen I had practiced for.

French apartments that are listed here as “unfurnished” are referred to in French as “vide”… literal translation: void...and that is pretty much the picture of the state of things: Totally void...which means, there are usually bare light bulbs hanging from the ceiling…and that’s about it. Sinks, toilet...of course, but any and all appliances (and sometimes even cabinetry) are all up to the renter to “furnish”...and then drag around to the next place, I suppose. (Which might explain why people do not move around too much here!)

In the new digs, I’m down to two burners (which was almost a deal-breaker – but the lovely private courtyard for al fresco dining, almost as large as the entire apartment - balanced out the equation), an oven that sits on the counter (very large for American "toaster oven" standards but small for “range-type” fact, I took the smaller of my roasting pans to the store before making the purchase to make sure that it would fit..and it does...just), and a refrigerator that is much smaller than what one might be accustomed to in the US but pretty standard for France. I’ve learned to use the top of the oven as a plate and food warmer as it roasts dinner. I’ve also learned that if I have a pot simmering on one of the burners, something cookin' along in the oven, the light on to be able to see what I’m doing and then happen to turn on the electric tea kettle – or have a laundry going, because my washer is under a counter in the kitchen (!) (and I don’t know why I didn’t learn this lesson the first time because it has happened more than once) - that I will blow a fuse and all life stops until I go down to the cupboard in the building’s entrance to reset the fuses...but somehow – it all works!

As happy as I am to have a kitchen that is larger than many (if not most) kitchens that I’ve seen in centre ville, its petite design does influence what I choose to cook...or in this case, bake. In such a small space, though I’m known to pull a tart out of the oven on a regular basis, I’ve not yet rolled out my own pie dough nor have I figured out how to manage a big batch of cookies from the baking through to the cooling. But as the weather softens, I begin to crave the old standards: the rustic, full-mouthed, belly-warming foods that I imagine might be right at home on a farmhouse table. No fussy frostings and layered confections for this fourchette. No, I’m looking for recipes that will give me the opportunity to use fresh, seasonal ingredients in a process that will take up minimal real estate in this little French kitchen. This cake gets points on every level. A favorite of mine for some years now, not only does it fit in my kitchen plan, I appreciate it even more for how it reflects the changes going on right under my nose.

Surrounded by vineyards as we are here in the Cote de Provence, a sure sign that we are entering harvest season are grapes in the market. They begin to show up in small rustic woven baskets at the tables of the vendors and in no time flat, there are piles of them spilling over in colors from pistachio green to black-purple. And this is the time of year that I pull out my recipe for Grape Cake. In years past, I’ve taken my inspiration for this cake from Patricia Wells’ At Home in Provence. This year, I’ve broken with tradition. As I browsed through, yet again, my various stashes of collected recipes (I’ve been known for cookbooks being my bedtime reading), a new recipe came to my attention.

This one, artistically torn from the magazine, was found among those stuffed in my recipe binder waiting for me to get to "Organize Recipes" on my list of things to do. With a dense crumb more like a coffee-cake in style, it made a nice finish to an afternoon luncheon with friends in the ‘hood.

Although it calls for Beaumes-de-Venise, a sweet, fortified wine that is a specialty of the town it is named after in the Vaucluse, I happened to have been “gifted” with a bottle of a Muscat from Perpignan in the Languedoc-Rousillon region not too very far from here and it worked quite nicely. And though the recipe calls for seedless grapes, I seem to have gotten a bunch with a 50/50 mix. If you don’t mind a “grape nut” crunch, the seeds are no problem. And the added health benefit of the grape seeds in their raw form may just balance out the butter and sugar in this recipe. Well, maybe not...but for god’s sake, it’s cake! As Julia often said, “You don’t eat it every day now do you?” Enjoy! From Bon Appétit, May 1999, I offer a little taste of autumn in the form of…



Olive oil for greasing the pan

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup Beaumes-de-Venise or other Muscat wine
1 1/2 cups red seedless grapes (I used one cup and it was a satisfying amount.)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Brush 10-inch-diameter springform pan with olive oil. Line bottom of pan with parchment; brush parchment with olive oil.

Sift flour and next 3 ingredients into bowl. Whisk 3/4 cup sugar, 6 tablespoons butter and 3 tablespoons oil in large bowl until smooth. Whisk in eggs, both peels and vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with wine in 3 additions each, whisking just until smooth after each addition. Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top. Sprinkle grapes over batter.

Bake cake until top is set, about 20 minutes. Dot top of cake with 2 tablespoons butter; sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over. Bake until golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes longer. Cool in pan on rack 20 minutes. Release pan sides. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. (A dusting of confectioner’s sugar gives it that 'fancy dress' feeling.)
Serves 10.

This would most likely be served with coffee or tea in the US as a dessert, but why not try this with something that would partner quite nicely with the sweet wine: another sweet wine! Jean-Marc Espinasse of French-Wine-A-Day (and an obvious fan of sweet wines!) has offered the following suggestions:

Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise

Muscat de Cap Corse



Sweet Vouvray


Vin de Paille

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Mary Had a Little Lamb...(And I Ordered Right After Her!)

Okay, so perhaps the first time it was just "puppy love," but I can remember the exact moment. It was at Les Deux Garçons in Aix en Provence. I was among many in attendance at a monthly luncheon/lecture program. (Organized by a local businessman, this series brings together ‘Aix-pats’ and Aixoise for lecture/discussion formats on topics ranging from local to global.) The often-interesting presentation is followed by a lively discussion but on this particular day, there was a moment in which the room became a blur. Time seemed to stop. I lost all contact with auditory and visual cues and stepped out of the activity of the luncheon and into the rather profound experience of my first bite of souris d’agneau. We know this as "lamb shanks" and the delicious braised version served at Les Deux Garcons, is my first choice when I attend those monthly luncheons.

To have discovered another even more lovely version at Le Zinc d’Hugo, deeper in the heart of Aix, was like recognizing that you may have been really attracted before, but this time...yup... this time it’s the real thing: you’re in love. Yeah…it was like that. And so of course, as can always be anticipated in the early stages of a love affair, I wanted to see that souris d’agneau more often. I began researching and tweaking recipes to get as close to Zinc’s version as possible. So much "research" was being done, that when I told my sister over the phone one afternoon that I was braising yet another pot of souris d’agneau, her questioning comment (given the frequency of my current activities) revealed her suspicion: "There must be a lot of stubby-legged little lambs running around Provence?!"

Not one to shy away from acknowledging the origins of my food, I go to my local boucherie to choose from the array of fresh meats in the case and hanging in the back. Recently, though, I have aroused some curiosity at this local butcher shop because of my repeated requests for orders from their supply of lovely lamb shanks. What can I say?! I’m in love!

The butcher at the Boucherie du Palais insists that each of my guests have their own "shank", which has resulted in very large portions, indeed. When I balked (ever so slightly, believe me!) at the amount of meat he was suggesting I carry out of that place for three people, with a slight upward toss of his head and an audible ‘sniff’, he mumbled something in my general direction about how it would not "be very pretty" if each person did not have their own shank on the plate….something my butcher at the local organic market in California was never worried about, I can assure you! Lest I become the topic of conversation in the back of the butcher shop during the smoking break, I took his recommendation and carried out several more kilos of lamb than I had anticipated. After all, aside from the fact that serving food in a "not-so-pretty manner" may be a misdemeanor here, the leftovers can easily be transformed into a lamb, olive and mozzarella filled streudel for friends who come in for aperitifs (but that's another post!)

Braised Lamb Shanks in Port Wine Sauce was the star of the evening on a day that was still quite mild. Atop a fig and apricot studded couscous, grilled carrot and zucchini slices rounded out this satisfying meal. As the days grow a bit cooler, it will be served up "family style" with garlic-smashed potatoes. The rich sauce that cooks down during the braising process is as close as I’ve gotten to the "souris of my dreams." (Ain’t love grand?!)

Bon appetit!

Consider these suggestions from Jean-Marc Espinasse at French-Wine-A-Day, for a little something to accompany this dish and really make it "sing"! Given the spicy rub, and depending on your preference of more or less spices, try:

2002 Cornas (minimum spice)

2003 Bandol (average spice)

2000 Vacqueyras (lots of spice)

(Inspired by le Zinc d'Hugo and adapted from Bon Appetit)

For the rub:
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
4 large lamb shanks (about 5 pounds)

For the braising:
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large white onion, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
10 garlic cloves, peeled
3 celery stalks, roughly chopped
1 small leek, white and pale green parts only, cut crosswise into 1 1/2-inch pieces
3 cups ruby Port (It is worth it to use a good port for this sauce.)
4 cups low-salt chicken broth
4 cups beef broth

6 whole cloves
2 whole star anise*
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

Mix coriander, fennel, and peppercorns in heavy small skillet. Toast on medium-high heat until they are releasing their fragrances and beginning to turn slightly darker, about 2 minutes. Transfer to spice grinder; process until finely ground. Rub each shank with 1 rounded teaspoon spice blend. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large wide pot over medium-high heat. Add shanks to pot. Cook until brown on all sides, about 20 minutes. Transfer to large bowl. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to same pot. Add onion and next 3 ingredients; sauté over medium heat until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add remaining spice blend to taste (I only added half of what was left and saved the other half for a rainy day.) and stir 1 minute. Add Port and simmer until liquid is reduced to 2/3 cup, about 15 minutes. Add both broths; boil until liquid is reduced to 3 1/2 cups, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Return shanks to pot. Add cloves, star anise, bay leaves, and crushed red pepper. Cover pot with foil, then lid and place in oven to braise until tender, about 2 hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Uncover and cool slightly. Place in refrigerator until cool, then cover and keep refrigerated. Rewarm in 350°F oven for 20 minutes before serving.)

Place 1 lamb shank on each of 4 plates. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon sauce and vegetables over lamb and serve.

*Star-shaped seed pod available in the spice section of some supermarkets, Asian markets, and specialty foods stores.

Serves 4

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Fish Out of Water

The days here are beginning to show signs of cooling...and then warming...and then a bit of fog to cool the morning...and then warming again in the afternoon. I am squeezing the last bit of bright sunshine out of the lavender skies of Provence before flying headlong into winter...or at least that is the experience of this California Girl! But back in July...well, let me tell you…we were doing some serious roasting - and not of the delicious sort! Fortunate soul that I am, the first week of July found me in Paris, hoping for a bit of a reprieve…but no – it was perhaps the hottest stretch of the summer for that city as well. Paris was included in our warm weather from the south.

I had arrived in the City of Light (Clothing) via the high-speed TGV. The plan was to do some serious museum viewing, café sitting and photo shooting with a friend who had
arrived from Canada. The oppressive heat, a surprise to all, had us spending our first day searching for a hotel with “climatisée”. Francophiles, yes, but still cursed with our North American conditioning…in this case ‘air conditioning’!

Sweaty shoulder to sweaty shoulder, we pressed in with other travelers on stifling metro cars, and then baked in the convection oven of the Paris streets, leaving us drenched and dragging by 11 each morning. (To be honest, I get kind of ‘cranky’ when the weather gets hot. Those who know me know this not-so-charming little fact about me...and now M. knows this about me, too!) Thinking we had reached our “permanent wilt points” by late afternoon, we managed to perk up as the temperatures dropped a bit in the evenings. (Admittedly, helped along by the lovely “climatisée”.)

Sweltering heat aside, the highlights of the brief stay in that wonderful city included the Picasso Museum, watching the semi-final match between France and Portugal for the World Cup at a little brasserie in the Marais (followed by the amazing celebration as people poured into the streets and climbed onto the Bastille monument, flags waving wildly), a brilliant and moving performance in the gardens of the National Archives by the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater (now there is an experience to make an American in Paris proud!) and a bistro dinner that will be remembered for a very long time as we joined forces one evening with M.’s friend, A.

A., another brave, new ex-pat, (Paris from Toronto) had made dinner reservations for us based on a recommendation from some of her new friends in city.

From our meeting place at l’Opera Bastille, we strolled our way to Le Repaire de Cartouche, a bistro in the 11th arrondissement that sits squarely between boulevard des Filles-du-Calvaire and rue Amelot. The milder temperatures made room for appreciation of the evening light – but really, what’s not to appreciate about the summer streets of Paris being washed in a lovely blush of golden-apricot light…then again, perhaps we simply thought everything looked rosier because of the ability to breathe with less effort in the lower temps.

Not being “locals from the ‘hood” and given the enthusiastic recommendation that we were following, imagine our surprise when we walked in the door to an empty restaurant! The wall of silence stopped us from taking another step and revealed the "fish out of water" that we were in that moment. We looked around, looked at one another and stepped back out the door to regroup with a bit of a ‘conference’ before going forward. The elegant menu posted in a glass case near the door seemed to be fitting of the recommendation for the place so we ventured in once again, justifying the emptiness to one another in muffled tones: “Maybe we’re just ‘early’,” came the suggestion, “Or maybe there’s a garden if we keep heading to the back,” prompted another of us, reassuringly. “Maybe the ‘local clientele’ that makes this such a popular place has already left town for the summer,” said the new Local Girl. We tentatively wandered to the back of the room as if we were accompanying Dorothy to the Wizard’s chamber. (These are the kinds of typical behaviors exhibited by some of us ex-pats who are otherwise very capable individuals, known to regularly handle a smorgasbord of social situations with grace and aplomb. Confidence and certainty get a bit scratched up when one is navigating a new country and must pay attention to which familiar social mores can be downloaded into the new life. Some clues will be offered by new friends – each one collected being a small victory in the ongoing “scavenger hunt” that is an immigrant’s assimilation process. Others must simply be learned by direct experience. The cultural knowledge and standard expectations that grease our way in our country of origin become mysteries to be cracked in another.) We followed a narrow staircase that led us into the belly of the beast, a dining room filled with tables of lively earlier arrivals. Settling into our table for the evening (and back into our skins), within 20 minutes the entire place was filled. Wine was ordered, menus were reviewed and we fell into the relaxed and lovely pace of a long dinner - something the French know how to do quite well.

The wine, each meal, (my dessert!) – it was all memorable. And there, in the refuge of the air conditioned dining room, three creative and courageous women, shared life stories, challenges, laughs and hopes reflecting a particular perspective of life in this hexagon that I suspect can only be shared by other “fish-out-of-water.” This is not, by nature, a bad just serves to remind me of my place in the scheme of it all.

Weeks have passed since that trip to Paris and so has the “canicule” (heat wave) that descended upon us this summer. But with evenings still warm enough for dinner al fresco and numerous scheduled commitments not allowing for much time to play in the kitchen recently, my happy memories of that lovely evening in Paris came to life again with the following meal.

A lover of seared ahi for years (California Girls call it ahi...the French call it thon...let's just say it's an "incomplete transition" and humor the new girl in town), I usually serve this particular “fish-out-of-water” with a dipping sauce of Thai chili paste and lots of fresh lime juice. (A curtsy to one of my favorite California foodie friends for that one.) Accompanied by a glass of champagne, seared ahi on its own makes an elegant appetizer. In this case, inspired by Le Repaire de Cartouche, the tuna, dusted with a spicy rub before it briefly hits the grill, is served along with the cool and lemony zucchini salad. Just the thing for one of the Indian Summer days ahead…or when a packed schedule leaves you very little time for cooking.

Note 1: It's always good to have a wine expert at hand and my friend Jean-Marc Espinasse, of French-Wine-A-Day, has made some lovely suggestions for wine. You'll find them listed at the end of the recipes below.

Note 2: I usually use a rub of New Mexico chili powder but had a mélange of spices on hand from a recipe I had made earlier in the week so gave that a try…same principle, just a ‘twist’ in the flavors…a little deeper, kind of quirky.

Note 3: (to self: Bring the industrial strength mandolin back to France from your US ‘stash’ next trip…but maybe not in your carry-on luggage!)

Note 4: The food, wine selection and service at Le Repaire de Cartouche were excellent. It is definitely on my list for a return visit the next chance I have to be in Paris. If you find yourself in the ‘hood, make sure to make a reservation!

Le Repaire de Cartouche
8, boulevard des Filles-du-Calvaire
75011 Paris
tel: 01 47 00 25 86
Metro: Saint-Sébastien Froissart

Bon Appétit!

Seared Ahi with Salad of Marinated Zucchini

4 (6-oounce) fresh tuna fillets
1-3 T. of New Mexico chili powder* (this is what I usually use when I prepare seared tuna, but you can see the previously mentioned ‘mélange’ option below.)
Vegetable oil for pan or grill

1. Heat large skillet, grill pan or grill on high heat.
2. Brush just enough oil onto the cooking surface to prevent sticking.
3. Season the fish fillets top and bottom with the ‘rub’. When the cooking surface is sufficiently hot, sear the tuna for 30 to 45 seconds per side (making one 90º turn mid-way on each side for grill marks.)
4. Remove from heat and slice for serving

This certainly stands alone as an appetizer (with champagne!) or as a light meal when served with the following salad: (If you are feeling brave, add one of these piments langues d'oiseaux or bird’s-tongue peppers for a little added “kick”.)

Salad of Marinated Zucchini

1 lb. zucchini, thinly sliced (preferable to use a mandolin for paper thin slices)
1 large lemon (more or less to taste)
2 garlic cloves, quartered lengthwise
1-2 T. good quality olive oil
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

1. Gently toss sliced zucchini and garlic in lemon juice and olive oil. (Note: use non-reactive bowl when marinating with lemon juice.)
2. Allow zucchini to remain in marinade for 2-6 hours, stirring occasionally.
3. When serving, remove garlic (and bird’s-tongue pepper, if used)
4. Salt and pepper to taste
5. Serve at room temperature

*Melange Spice Blend (for alternate rub):
1 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoons fennel seeds
1 tablespoon black peppercorns

Mix coriander, fennel and peppercorns in heavy small skillet. Toast together on medium-high heat until they release their fragrances and darken slightly…about 2 minutes. Transfer to spice grinder and process into a fine grind. Rub or dust (to your taste) the tuna fillets with a teaspoon of the rub. Grill as directed above.

Wine Suggestions: (Merci bien, Jean-Marc!)
Pouilly Fumé

And with a little more spice:

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