Sweet Roasted Tomatoes

So plane travels used to be for watching crappy-yet-oh-so-distracting movies, stuffing your face with horrible-yet-oh-so-distracting food, while drinking your tomato juice. Bref, planes used to be your own little space, where one could do all the horrible stuff one is not supposed to do past the age of, say, 12.

But here I am, with my new MacBook Air, a flawless wi-fi connection, low-calorie vegetables dips and organic roasted almonds. Where is the fun all gone?  So I have no choice but respecting my newborn healthy resolution and catching up on my blog.

And what a better topic than tomatoes to combine all the issues at stake here:

  1. Like the vast majority of the population, I drink tomato juice only when flying;
  2. In case you hadn’t noticed, tomatoes are healthy. Because it is a vegetable (oh, sorry, a fruit), it is light and you can eat a lot of them. Also, it has a lot of vitamin C;
  3. And it is definitely one of my must-haves. Fits into my blog.

The only problem I have is that tomatoes are tasteless. I mean, not in general. Just lately. And this dates back to before I moved to this wonderful country. Yes, even in my douce France, good tomatoes are difficult to find. Usually rare and expensive. And the sad thing is, one tends to forget the taste of good tomatoes after a while.

Luckily for you, I found a nice solution. Nice nice nice. Very happy about it. Granted, it certainly does not replace a nice ripe juicy tasty tomato. But it certainly does the trick. I roast them: put them whole in the oven (250F), on a baking sheet, with a little drizzle of olive oil, thyme, salt & pepper.   For two hours. Or longer if you want. Let them cool a little, peel them, get rid of the seeds. And there you go. Nice tomatoes, to use in salads, sauces, gaspachos, whatever you like.

Granted, this does not make a tomato juicy tasty and fresh. It tastes different. And this does not prevent you from selecting organic tomatoes, and decent looking ones. But still. It works well in the following salads I tried:

  1. Tomatoes + roasted peppers* + mozzarella di buffala + scallions + basil + salt + pepper + olive oil + balsamic vinegar;
  2. Tomatoes + roasted peppers + potatoes (be careful, don’t cook them too much or it will turn out mushy) + salt + pepper + pitted black olives + scallions + parsley + olive oil + balsamic vinegar;

* One day I will have to spread my love of roasted peppers too. Red roasted pepper, that is.

Bonne Fete Maman

Maman

I am not a very good daughter. I rarely call my mum. I write a blog in English. I am not a good sister or aunty either actually. I regularly forget my sisters’, nephews’ and niece’s birthdays (except for Delphine, but that’s also because she was born exactly 6 years and 364 days before me – I am that selfish).

And I feel guilty, often. And all the fuss in this country around Mothers Day revived the guilt, big time. In France, mother’s day is not that big of a deal. You just call your mother, tell her “Happy Mother’s Day” and you’re done. Here it is an entirely different level. And although I know that this is more of a commercial attempt to make you buy stuff for your mother and make you spend money to make the economy better and Obama happier, still, I am under the influence.

So: Maman – Joyeuse Fete – Happy Mother’s day. I know, I am way past deadline in this country. As a matter of fact, I am way, way past deadline in France as well (Mother’s day was on June 7). Blame it on my free-lance job.

So, as a belated present, I thought I would share a recipe my mother sent me recently. Because not only is my mother my mother but she also happens to be a great cook. So here it is. In French. I haven’t tried it yet but it looks yummy and easy, my favorites. Very versatile too. As we discussed at length with my mother, you can use strawberries instead (and why not use basil instead of mint, that would be nice too. I will report back when I try it. Very summery. Very chocolaty. Comfort food with a healthy twist. Healthy food with a decadent twist.

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Sloppy Blogger on a Diet

Because I am almost as fat as my cat

Because I am almost as fat as my cat

Has it ever happened to you to get this phone call or email from a close friend of yours? And of course you want to reply right away but, for so many reasons (i.e. you are supposed to be revamping that resume and after the two hours you spent on facebook/twitter and the rest you cannot possibly spend yet another 5 minutes to answer your friend and have to delve right into that resume revamping of yours). And then time goes by and the more you wait and the less you dare to reply, imagining all the excuses you will have to come up with to explain why you did not answer earlier.

Please tell me I am not the only one. Please tell me you’ve done that before, too. Because this is the only excuse I can come up with for not posting earlier. I am a sloppy friend. Therefore I am a sloppy blogger. That’s my theory.

Don’t get me wrong. I did not just vanish. I did have a job for quite a while (and as a matter of fact, I still have a job). Free-lance. For real. And I was even very very busy. Working late at night and on week-ends even. Busy busy busy bee. And granted, for maybe a month or so I did NOT have time to write, nor would have I any subject to write about. Did not cook. Did not go to any restaurants whatsoever. The only dishes I could think of were:

  1. Mac & Cheese / pates au fromage
  2. Hamburgers
  3. Fromage fromage cheese queso

(Tells a lot about the essential element of MY comfort food favorite ingredient – FAT).

HOWEVER, this does not explain why I did not write in the past three weeks. No valid reason whatsoever. Except the dreaded idea that I will have to explain myself to my numerous, increasing, loyal readership base* why I did not write. I just couldn’t write as if nothing happen.

I am a sloppy friend, therefore I am a sloppy blogger. That’s my only explanation.

So now that I explained myself – albeit poorly – back to business. Mind you, I cannot guarantee that this is not going to happen again. Because I do hope that, at some point, I will find a job. I mean a full-time job. And when I do, no doubt I will find other excuses. So I am, and will continue to be, a sloppy blogger. Sadly. And for that, I apologize, again.

The good thing is that this little break gave me renewed ideas, and need, to blog and talk about food. Why? Given the aforementioned diet I followed for quite a while, it is getting increasingly difficult for me to deny the extra pounds I gained. To the same extent, it has become increasingly difficult to ignore Florent’s views on the latter.

But why – will you say –  would you want to think about food, write about food AND cook when on a diet? For several reasons:

  1. First and foremost, there is absolutely no way whatsoever that being on a diet for me will mean: no restaurants, Special Ks for breakfast, lunch and an apple for dinner – or the whole carrot/ginger juice diet for two weeks. I would die. No kidding.
  2. I want to be able to taste food, good food. And yes, yes vegetables and fruits can be darn good. But so does a jolly good foie gras, with apple & fennel tart tatin from Get Fresh (had one last night, a delish). So does a runny-smelly Saint-Nectaire from Auvergne (I would die for some right now).

So, I figured. I have to come up with a plan. And my plan is to think about food even more, to cook as much as I can. And to go to restaurants, too. My my my why she lost her mind – you will think. Well, I hope not. For the sake of my marriage.

Here’s the plan: have you ever noticed that when you go to a very good restaurant, usually a fancy one, portions are not that big. And you (well I) get this scary feeling that I won’t have enough to eat. And then you eat and it’s so good and no you’re not hungry anymore. So I have this theory: when you eat flavorful food, you don’t eat as much.

So my plan, is to eat as best as I can. In moderate proportions, of course. Because yet another thing that I have noticed (I know, this free-lance gig of mine got me super clever), is that when you ARE hungry. Like truly hungry. Food tastes better.

So, I am planning to write posts on the latter (and I will try to deliver on this one, unlike the comfort food – or asparagus ones**). The following topics will be tackled:

  1. How to find flavorful ingredients in this country (the United States of America), or, at least, how to make the most of these not-so-flavorful ingredients you bought?
  2. Restaurants on a diet. Planning on writing even better reviews of even better restaurants. Special Dedicace to Cafe Select. This is our new hangout and we love it for real.
  3. And hopefully some good recipes as well. To eat moderately. Because no, I won’t be using no-fat milk to make mashed potatoes. This is gross.

* sorry mother, sisters and Florent. I know I disappointed you. Once again.
**sorry mother, sisters and Florent. I know I disappointed you. Once again.

Alexandre is coming to town

Chilling out at Johnson's

Chilling out at Johnson's

So Fabrice came to New York and left and it went very well thank you. And now Alexandre is coming. Which was discussed at length when Fabrice was in town. See, Alexandre is a different animal. To my greatest despair, Alexandre doesn’t eat. Or worse yet, eating is only a purely physical need in his mind. Also, he doesn’t read blog. That’s a principle (I was shocked to learn this from Fabrice and need an explanation on this one).

Don’t get me wrong, Alexandre is a very dear friend of mine. And also of Florent & Fabrice. Hence I feel safe to say that us three were the ideal combination to design the perfect four-day stay for Alexandre in New York (and it’d better be, perfect, as it took us 2 whole years and a lot of gentle reminder on my part and pushy harassment on Florent’s part to convince him).

Eating yummy smoked beef sandwiches @ Char

Eating yummy smoked beef sandwiches @ Char

Now that you know what Alexandre dislikes, let’s go over what alex likes:

  • Beer. Cheap.
  • Happy Hour. Because it usually is synonymous to cheap beer;
  • Rockn’roll r&n b and rap, un peu;
  • Hype. But not in an obvious way. More in the “discover the hype before anyone else does” kind of way. Think  Williamsburg meets Cobble Hill and they have a drink on the Gowanus Canal.
  • Habits. He likes to go to the same places and get to know the owners.
  • Night. Alex doesn’t really understands why God created days. He thought he should have gone for nights all along.
Sweet Cocktails @ Clover Club

Sweet Cocktails @ Clover Club

So I guess you have a better picture now. Here is the dilemma: find cheap beer spots varied enough to give Alexandre a good selection of Brooklyn/Lower Manhattan sweet spots AND make him to come back and see us again.

We will start by the Gate if the sun is shining. This way he ‘ll get an idea of park slope’s real values. Hopefully there won’t be too many kids. We/I Might eat a burger at Bonnie’s Grill (I’ll escape the Gate if I have to). For after dinner (or rather post-apero, pre-cocktail hours) we’ll try Brooklyn Social. Nice cocktails. And, if the bartender is nicer than last time, Alex might even be able to listen to the wonderful juke box selection he will have put together.

On Friday, we will be heading to Barette to fulfill Alex’s needs of a Happy Hour (2 pints for the price of one ($ 5to6) from 4 to 7pm). I know, we’ll need to get there early – Lovely terrace, lovely Prospect Heights crowd. And then we’ll move two blocks down to Soda.

Alex will drink $1 wisky shots @ char 4, while I try again their lamb sausage. Very nice. Clover Club will be our late

Drinking $1 whisky shots @ Char 4

Drinking $1 whisky shots @ Char 4

night hang out. Very nice cocktails, but @ $10-15 each, we might have to put Alex to bed before then.

Then, we have a very special plan for the week-end. We will HAVE to venture to the LES and try Welcome to the Johnson’s. $1.75 a beer & nice juke box. What else can you ask for? Also, they tend to attract a lot of cute 20-something arts students who are a real pleasure for my aging eyes. Very refreshing. And perfect for Alex’s hungry eyes. At some point we will have to check out BKLYN YARD and see what’s happening (although we may have to bring our own beers). Dancing in silence with your headphones by the somewhat rusty & smelly Gowanus Canal. It doesn’t get any cooler.

(all photos courtesy of Fabrice – Merci Fabrice)

Thank you Heavenly Housewife

The Award

The Award

So I received an award from The Lovely Heavenly Housewife. And I was very flattered. Yes indeed. First because I received an award. And Second because I love what Heavenly Housewife makes and feels flattered that she would think I am worthy of an award.

The award comes with a mission:  it is now my duty to give the award to 10 blogs recently discovered and which I love. So here is my selection:

1. Quatre Cinquieme, my recession buddy. Because I love the blog and am also very fond of the fine lady behind it. You go Alice;

2. Arts &Lemons. Because I love her pictures and the combination of artsy stuff and food. And it has the word lemon in the title. Enough said.

3. The Lunch Box Project: becaude i love the lovely drawings, and dream that one day one of my recipes will be worthy of a drawing. I know, I shouldn’t admit it. And I know, this is not kikely to happen if I continue to go to restaurants instead of cooking;

4. Omnomicum. Because I fell in love with her pancakes (which I discovered thanks to a beautiful drawing of the Lunch Box Project). Now I can’t see a pancake without thinking of her multicolor pancakes.

5. anna the red’s bento factory. Because I love playing with food, but would be utterly incapable of making these kind of things. Also I am reading Oishinbo and am fascinated by Japanese cooking. I am more and more that us Occidentals are just a bunch of barbarians who butcher food. Fish especially. The funny part is, I don’t even know Japanese cuisine that well.

6. The Dustjacket Attic. She has cool music and sweet pictures.

7. Colloquial Cooking. Because she’s French and lives in the US, like me. And swears like me. And had me convinced there could actually be better hot dogs than others.

8. Angela’s Food Love. She is an eggplant-shy like me.

9. Godful Food. Among other things, I relate to her ne rien gacher philosophy (although I think she is way too young to cook & write this well).

10. Heavenly Housewife. I am pretty sure nominating the blog who nominates you defeats the purpose of the whole thing. But it would have been on my list anyway. So.

Rosewater, Park Slope – Do’s and Dont’s

IMG_0440

Go to Rosewater:

  • For dinner;
  • For the entrees. Florent’s roast chicken with fingerling potatoes, cipollini onions and watercress ($21) was the highlight: very moist chicken, and I liked the crispiness and bitterness of watercress, balancing the overall sweetness of the dish. My sauteed fluke with trumpet royale mushroom, baby bok ckoy, beluga lentils, meyer lemon aoli ($23) was also very good. Fluke cooked to – almost – perfection (but I am a perfectionist); I liked the sauce a lot – although would not call it an aioli (but that’s because my father was the only one to make aioli).  Our friend’s lightly smoked duck breast, poached rhubarb, grilled ramps, arugula, blood orange ($25) was, according to him, good although he could not quite taste the rhubarb. Which is a shame, I will agree. I stayed clear from his dish because of the ramps. I am traumatized;
  • If you like chicken (see above);
  • If you like desserts. Especially the caramelized brioche. So on the comfort side of food;
  • If you like brioche (see above);
  • For the ingredients, in general. It is particularly nice to see a chef paying so much attention to freshness and taste;
  • For the service: they offered us our deserts because we waited so long;
  • If you like free desserts (see above);
  • If you are only slightly mildly hurt by the nasty rampant recession. Bill was $174 with tips (there were 4 of us and I am a good tipper). Included a nice $43 Hautes-Cotes de Beaune, Domaine Rollin 2006. So more on the high end of the scale for Park Slope.

Don’t go to Rosewater:

  • For brunch – unless you have the appetite of a bird (so not my case);
  • If you are in a hurry. We got there at 7 on a Sunday night (without reservation) and left the table at 10:30. Got seated at 7:30. Had almost finished our bottle when the entrees got there;
  • If you have not reserved (see above);
  • If you are in a hurry and want to eat duck breast (they told us the bird was responsible for the wait);
  • If you are broke (see above);

Thank you.

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So Fabrice is in Town

Nice steak & nice booze @ Jean-Claude

Good company, nice food & nice booze - Jean-Claude, NYC

Yes, he actually managed to overcome his fear of the swine flu. Good for him (and for us of course). Sadly we haven’t been able to visit all the places we wanted to take him to (yet). Typical, you will say: you have everything all planned out, and bim, Florent and Fabrice find more important stuff to do on their own. I actually  hardly saw them yesterday – apparently they had a video conference to attend to in the media room. When I tried to sneak into the room they had their headphones on and the Play Station was on. Weird. Also it was pretty noisy – sounded like a kung-fu battle with a metallic voice saying “YOU LOSE” once in a while. They told me not to worry. But I still worried a little.

That said, we did go out a little bit: I was disappointed by our Get Fresh brunch on Saturday, sadly: I could swear they did not serve as many pancakes as before. My scrambled eggs with heirloom beans and potatoes were not runny enough for me*. A bit dry.

Fabrice’s first reflex upon arrival was to drink a beer. Weird, I know. But the guy lives in Brussels after all. So we went to the Gate. Where else? And, since the weather was pretty nice last Friday we craved for Latin American flavors. So we went to Playa. Not much to say: the kind of restaurant where the food tastes AMAZING when you’ve had a lot of margharitas and beer before. But not so good when you go back there sober.

A nice discovery was Jean-Claude, in the city. I know, I know, a bit tacky to bring your French friend to a French restaurant in NYC (when the guy is only craving for burgers and various iterations of New American cuisine; whatever that means). But I must say I was really impressed by the quality of the meat there, both the lamb loin AND hanger steack: cooked to perfection, and nice gratin dauphinois. Good friends, good meat, and good service (for a French restaurant).

All in all, a nice start. We still have a lot of grounds to cover. It might prove even more difficult with the new swine flu surge. I had to convince Fabrice to get out of the apartment this morning. And that a mask with a pig groin is not (yet) trendy in NYC. We did manage to go to Root Hill for lunch though. And had a nice grilled cheese with bacon and tomato. I think Fabrice would agree that this could qualify as comfort food. Croque-Monsieur a l’americaine, quoi.

*Soon, I’ll write a post about scrambled eggs. And eggs in general actually. For there is one thing I don’t understand here, and it is the fear of eating runny eggs. Let me be clear, to me, scrambled eggs, soft boiled eggs, fried eggs are only good IF they are runny. The best being of course the oeufs a la coque. More on this later.



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