Cucumber cups filled with shrimp and goats cheese…and a life around bicyles.

As said before, I’m not fond of cucumber. But it is a handy vegetable to use as a basis for a cold summer soup, or a summer sorbet or as in this case, here in a European winter…a cup with a filling. The combination of shrimp and goat’s cheese , dill and capers, seasons the watery cucumber. And even though cucumber is not in season at the moment, I feel like fresh foods after the heavy holidays.


  • The quantities are only approximate, use to your own taste.
  • The filling can be varied to your taste too.
  • Decorate the skin of the cucumber by scraping shavings off with a peeler, or use a fork or a small lemon scoop to scrape off strips..
  • Use sardines instead of shrimps, or shredded white fish or chopped smoked salmon.
  • Use fromage frais with chopped herbs or diced seasonal vegetables.
  • Add mustard or pesto to ricotta and mix with shredded ham.
  • Consider chopped almonds with a finely chopped chicken filling.
  • Serve with a vinaigrette of your choice.

…a life around bicycles…

Do you remember all the times we got pulled over by the policemen for me carrying you on the handles of my bicycle? “, he asked.

She laughed. “Oh yes! … such fun and carefree, irresponsible years!”

That happened of course in the university years of this couple. They relived these moments while reminiscing over past times and paging through all the old photo albums. They remebered the times when they both grew up in their childhood homes, each with their bicycle, driving to different schools in different towns. Then they met at university and continued cycling everywhere  together…to class, to tennis matches, to university functions, to town, to the movies, to dances, to river picnics. Those years, most of the student population owned bicycles rather than cars. It was cheaper. And easier. And if yours got “borrowed”, you would just “borrow” the next one. Then after a while it got more romantic for the guy to carry his girl in front of him on the bicycle handles…his ox, as his bike was called…that way he could smell her hair waving in his face and have her close to him, and she enjoyed her Titanic-moment in front on the handles, with her guy doing all the pedalling work. So it happened many times that study hours were to be spent at “the dam”.She would ride in front on the handles, carrying their books and he would pedal for death to reach the top of the bridge crossing the rail road track  so they could free down on the other side at an exhilirating speed. Suddenly a siren would honk beside them, forcing them to stop at the foot of the bridge and obediently and humbly they listened to the policemen’s rant about their criminal act of lifting on the bike handles. But when the stern officer of law disappeared in the distance, they continued on their course, unperturbed by the mean little piece of paper in the pocket.  It is just what a student does in a university town. Laws don’t apply to students of course…which is why they carry student cards..

When this guy finally married this girl and entered the professional career world, they continued their cycling ways for a while, until they couldn’t hide behind their student faces any more.the fines started burning a hoole in their pocket, so they decided it would be cheaper for the girl, now a grown-up wife, to pedal her own bike again. Gone were the carefree riding on bicycle handles.

..the first cycles..

When two daughters enriched their lives, the tricycles and bicycles started taking up more and more space in the garage… The young guy was now a father and he trained his girls on thier bikes in the garage where it was safe, thenmoved into the garden andfinally he pedalled beside them to pre school across the big, scary main road. And on their firm demand, he watched them pedal the last two metres to school, where they turned and waved a proud little hand back at him. It continued for many years, and they enjoyed every minute on their bikes… doing their tricks, racing their father, chasing the dog, racing around the pool, falling into the pool…where the safety net proved its worth by allowing only their behinds to get soaking wet.

As young students, the girls too depended on their bicycles to get around and now, as young adults, they race their bicycles up and down mountains and in the challenging traffic of Paris and Toulouse. And the young student-couple of years ago, still ride their bicycles too…of which one is still a black ox and the other a cute pink velo with a basket for fruit and a flask of coffee and two old leather bags for art stuff. And like in their student years, the guy still holds the back line, and although he can’t feel  her hair waving in his face as he did so long ago, he can now appreciate  her cute derriére as she pedals frantically in front of him.

..riding my bicycle..

Bonne 2011 et à la prochaine fois!

Chocolate mousse..and memories of christmas dinners.

Christmas time is chocolat time. A feather light chocolate mousse. The perfect ending to a magical christmas dinner. And in January we’ll go on a diet.

This is a recipe from Chocolate desserts by Pierre Hermé. I’ve been making this mousse for many years and haven’t found a recipe that is so light and delicious as this one…it is a true winner !!


  • This is a basic mousse recipe…add some flavor the your mousse by infusing the milk with grated orange zest, or a tsp of coffee, or a pinch of cardamom, cinnamon, any other Christmas spices.
  • Using milk makes for a lighter mousse, but if you want it richer and creamier, use cream instead of milk. I even go so far as tu use 2 percent milk.
  • The longer the mousse stands, the creamier and denser it becomes, but it is still good. I prefer to make my mousse nothing more than 12 hours in advance…having a beautiful feather light chocolat mousse.
  • It can be kept up to two days in the fridge.
  • Cover the mousse when chilling it in the firdge to prevent it from absorbing other flavors in the fridge.
  • Serve as individual portions in glasses, or scoop quenelles from a glass dish onto a plate.
  • See how to make quenelles.
  • Decorate with chocolate shavings or a touch of edible gold leaf.

…and memories of christmas dinners…

How can we dwell on our past, delight in experiences long ago and not remember past years spent around a christmas table. Always special, however small or simple. Each table has a story of its own…one year a daughter arrived long after midnight from a long and problematic journey, one year there was a last meal with an elegant and fragile neighbor, one year was spent in the company of a crazy crowd of friends , one year delivered an utterly chaotic and catastrophical dinner year was sad with last goodbyes, one year was spent alone and tearful in a strange country…so many christmas dinners, so many stories, so many memories…

May you have great memories of past dinners…whether you were with family or friends, or whether you were alone, or whether they were sad times…whatever the case…they are yours, cherish them, becausethey give you a history. A past.

…à la prochaine fois..


Winter root vegetables with lemon butter..and Toulouse, la ville rose.

Eat seasonal. It is cheap, delicious and it is harmony with the ryhythm of life. Winter root vegetables don’t have to be dull and bleak and tasteless. Steam them, roast them, pan fry them, cut in different shapes, add some separated laeves of brussels sprouts, a few broccoli fleurettes, add some chooped herbs, fry thin strips of leeks, turn them into a puree then scoop balls onto an oven pan and bake in the oven until brown….so many ways to bring colour…and nutrients to winter meals. See suggestions for more .


  • Use other vegetables, but keep in mind the time each cooks and start off with the harde vegetables and add the softer veggies like mushrooms later, like 15 minutes before the end of baking time.
  • Vegetables can also be steamed and use the butter lemon sauce for all the vegetables.
  • Add other herbs of your choice…add towards the end.
  • The butter and lemon juice breaks the bitterness of the brussels sprouts.
  • A browned butter sauce can be used too.
  • Add some chopped walnuts when serving the vegetables or a mixture of chopped parsly and nuts.
  • Serve with any meat or fish dish or serve on its own with pasta.
  • Fry some thinly sliced leeks(in the length) until brown and crispy and place a small handful on the vegetables to finish off when serving.
  • Cut the vegetables in different sizes and shapes…matchsticks, cubes, rounds, curls…and remember to cook acoording to the thickness of the vegetables…ex. carrot curls cook much faster than carrot sticks. sprout leaves and fried leek strips..


…and Toulouse, la ville rose…

One can truly be considered fortunate when you have a daughter living in Paris and another living in Toulouse. Two equally amazing cities, each so unique and different…like the daughters themselves! And still in the theme of December memories, a visit to Toulouse, sleeping over in a quaint Toulouse apartement with the fairie lights of a first christmas tree and fresh foods from the market welcoming us…new memories and experiences enrich my life…those of being loved and spoiled by family.

..toulouse in all her splendor..

..Toulouse in December..

.. Sundays are market days…for all in France and those in Toulouse…as evidenced..

..buying clementines at the marché in toulouse..
..fresh vegetables..
..le marché de dimanche..
..toujours des fleurs..
..browsing the brocante..
..old pampilles(crystals) for lustres (chandeliers)..
..old books, paper, magazines, newpapers..
..a covered head and a bust..


.. and having an outing in winter without pausing for a crêpe au nutella…unheard of!..

..eating crêpe au nutella at the borcante in toulouse..

..and going home…tired, happy and with old glass crystals in a bag..

..going home..

..à la prochaine fois..


Clementine and litchi amuse bouche..and a sous-chef.

Voiçi my very first starter I made in my mother’s house as a child. With a few changes here and there, it is better served now as a small amuse bouche before dinner. It is still very light and fresh and I’m still proud of my very first attempt! The little glasses it is served in (in the photos), are the original glasses from my mother that I used about 40 years ago for my starter of clementines and litchis.  So, les verrines is not something new…it was already a successful concept 40 years ago!


  • Marinate the fruit in the vinaigrette for about an hour, but not longer.
  • Use mandarins or orange segments instead of clementines.
  • Try serving it as a bigger salad by placing the fruit on a bed of salad greens and add some shredded smoked salmon.
  • Can be used as a fruit salad…replace the vinaigrette with a sauce: clementine juice, sugar, a little water, few drops of lemon juice, zest of a clementine…simmer untul reduced to a syrup. Add a few drops of Clementine liqueur just before serving.
  • Replace the raspberries with a small scoop of raspberry sorbet.
..clementines, licthis and old tools from childhood..

…and a sous-chef..

To me, December is a month of remembrance, memories, reflections. Many memories surface during this time…some of which are funny, some sad, some without any particular significance and because memories aren’t always honest, I remember them all as dear, solely because they have brought me to this point where I am today and who I am today.

Christmas was a time in our house where things happened according to my mother’s schedule. She was a formidable woman who had the ability to organize an army into baking cookies. So,  under her hand, Decembers were very busy in our house and all the while she hoaxed me into thinking chores were fun! Baking cookies, cleaning the silver, polishing floors, washing curtains, ironing the Christmas tablecloth, decorating the living room, cooking jams, preparing for holidays…these were the things that filled up our month, with my mother holding the reigns firmly in her hands and me a close step beside her.

..chef et sous-chef..

I was sous-chef from a very young age,  whether it was washing the curtains or cooking a meal or baking the cookies. A very important position…the sous-chef! Without me, how could she have hung the wet heavy curtains  on the line to catch the sun…without me, how could she have polished the silver in time for Christmas,…without me being in charge of the cookiemaker, we would have no coffee cookies for December? It  would be disastrous…scandalous! How would the maizena cookies have jamfilled centres without me? Christmas would be sad and lonely, if I hadn’t had the responsibility of lavishing it in swirls of silver and gold streamers and glitter and shining stars!

It is of course one of the big secrets…the complete confidence of a chef in his/her sous-chef! My mom trusted me with many things, so much so that I was allowed the responsibility for the starter at a big dinner. This was my first ever solo contribution to a dinner.  She also allowed me the key to her dinnerware cabinet where I could choose something for my starter. Such an important position…the sous-chef!

So here I am presenting my first starter, then as a sous-chef in my mother’s kitchen. The only difference is that now I’ve been promoted to chef. I have my own kitchen. And the starter is now served as an amuse bouche.

..May your December memories be as dear as mine!..

..amuse bouche in old childhood glasses..

..à la prochaine..