Countrybread with panfried strawberries and basil…and apron fun!

Can we ever get enough of strawberries? Of course not! Right off the vine, directly out of the basket, sliced with cream, sorbet, panacotta, tarts, salads…every which way. And as a lunch with fresh country bread, goats cheese  and basil? Simply delicious.

Suggestions:

  • The strawberries can be used fresh instead of sautéed, o cut and marinated in some white balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. Add a bit of olive oil to the marinade and use as a vinaigrette.
  • Use some soft cottage cheese instead of the goats cheese with freshly chopped chives and basil the and salt and pepper mixed into the cottage cheese.
  • Omit the cheese completely and make a sandwich of fresh strawberries, basil, chopped chives and add a drizzle of maple syrup.
  • Another version could be to top the bread with strawberries and lastly add some goats cheese, put under the gril for two to three minutes and add the basil and a drizzle of honey just before serving.
  • Use other sliced fruit in season instead of the strawberries.

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We stopped our restoration here at Coin Perdu for a day of fun. With aprons. And three delightful, playful models. They chopped and chirped, giggled and grated, peeled and pestered,  mocked and mixed, all the while performing with an apron chosen from the heap. So.. can an apron be fun? Judge for yourself…

 

I grew up seeing my mother in her apron every day. While she was doing her morning’s work; the washing, ironing, cleaning, kitchen work, she faithfully wore her apron. And after lunch, it would be removed until dinner time, when preparing dinner and cleaning up would demand an apron again.

Unlike those days, when aprons at home were more of a necessity to protect the small wardrobe of clothes, we have a multitude of aprons today for adding to that special ambiance of an occasion or activity. It partially serves to also  show our domain of expertise as well as our our fun loving side. But some habits haven’t changes over the years…the butcher still wears his butcher’s apron/outfit, the boulanger(baker) is still clearly recognized by his apron, the fishmonger wears his proudly, the blacksmith is never without his leather aprons, the “garcon” serving your “panache” at the bar wears his with French  flair… an apron is there for our barbecues and for our kitchens , our gardens,  for playgrounds, yes, it is fun equally for men, women and children.

So, do you have a fun loving side…?


à bientôt

Ronelle


Ginger broccoli salad…and edible flowers.

A salad is something that can be eaten at any time…mealtimes or snack times and even those times you feel like eating out of boredom. Go for a salad. It is safe. It is my ultimate favorite dish, summer through winter.

In our home we are always stocked to the brim with ingredients for a salad. Vegetables, greens, leaves, nuts and seeds, dried fruits, cheeses, flowers and herbs, essential oils, but even more so… an interesting vinaigrette and little “addition” to prevent a salad from becoming boring.

This time… a salad with broccoli and preserved ginger, a pungent ginger vinaigrette and a scattering of dried edible flowers for some interest.

Suggestions:

  • Use a mix of broccoli and cauliflowers florets.
  • Use broccolini instead of broccoli.
  • Omit the ginger and use a firm fruit in season. Use some juice or pulp of the same fruit in the vinaigrette.
  • Try different herbal/flower teas or infusions as a base for a vinaigrette.
  • Use fresh flowers instead of dry dried ones.
  • Add some fried bacon pieces or thin strips of pancetta for a salty addition.
  • Serve the broccoli still warm for a salad with more substance and sprinkle the dried flowers just before serving.
  • Marinate the broccoli in the vinaigrette for 15-30 minutes before serving at room temperature.

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…and edible flowers:

Nothing can be easier than making your own dried flowers to use in vinaigrette, salads, and sauces and any other food decoration, with only one rule to keep in mind: make sure the flowers are edible! sometimes the leaves can be used, but not the flowers or vice versa. Make sure you’re not allergic to some flower or pollen. Don’t use flowers from florists which may  be sprayed with pesticides. Your own garden or nature is the place to gather your flowers. Whether you’re in summer or winter, you can always find some flowers around you to use in your foods and of course, so much the better, because you DO eat seasonal don’t you?

We all use herbs in our salads, dried and fresh and they are familiar to us. A few lesser known flowers for a vinaigrette are marigolds, lawn daisies, dandelions, pansies, clover, hibiscus, cornflower, mallow, zinnia, tulips, phlox, day lilies, begonia, gardenia, lilacs, magnolias, fuchsias…

and of course, the well known violets, nasturtiums, borage, lavender, sages, sunflowers,roses, camomile, marguerites, geraniums, honeysuckle, poppies, courgette…

I’m showing a few that I’m drying now which are in season:

I pick my flowers when I dead head them…snip off the drying ones. Pick them during midday, wash them, let dry.  I then use a scissors to cut the flowers off right behind the petals, as to keep only the softer tips of the petals. I mostly use only the petals of the flowers to dry, except for the small lawn daisy which looks very cute scattered on a salad or sorbet. To keep its daisy shape, I let them dry face down with a little pressure to keep them open . The harder and tougher stems aren’t always enjoyable in a salad or sauce, so make sure all hard stems are removed.  Spread the petals on a large tray, covered with a absorbing paper or kitchen towel. Leave in a dark, cool and dry place. The petals dry very quickly and can then be stored separately in small glass containers to use on different occasions and with different dishes. Store in cool dark spot.

…lawn daisy (paquerette)

…pansies(pensees)

…dandelions(pissenlit)…

…marigold(souci)…

…clover(trefle)…

When you’re not in the mood for drying your own flowers, you can run off to the organic store or any herbalist where you will find interesting tea infusions and herbal infusions which you can buy.

…hibiscus…

…mallow(mauve)…

…cornflower(bleuet)

à la prochaine!

Ronelle

Asparagus with balsamic sauce…and a brocante in Collonges la rouge.

In the spirit of this perfect spring , enjoying fresh asparagus with a balsamic  sauce, topped with a poached egg  fresh from my chickens,  is a sin easily forgiven. It is a popular spring dish and with a twist here and there, you can enjoy it several times and each time have something different on your plate. (see suggestions below)

Suggestions:

  • Stem or boil the asparagus instead of sauteing in oil if you want to cut down on fat.  Make a vinaigrette of olive oil and lemon juice and balsamic and drizzle when served.
  • If the asparagus are too thick, cut in half.
  • Use wild asparagus.
  • Use thin green string beans instead.
  • Instead of a poached egg, a soft boiled egg can be used.
  • Chop a hard boiled egg finely, sprinkle on the asparagus and top off with a dollop of mayonnaise and fresh herbs, instead of the poached egg.
  • Instead of balsamic vinegar, make a reduction of white wine and a few saffron strands: Remove the asparagus from the pan, add about 150 ml white wine, 1 tsp of white balsamic to the pan along with a few strands of saffron, let simmer until syrupy and drizzle over the asparagus.
  • Use dry roasted almond flakes instead of pine nuts.

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…and a brocante at Collonges la rouge.

Elsewhere it may be cold and rainy, but here in Correze, France, it seems we have skipped spring and jumped straight into summer. Browsing the brocante in Collonge la rouge this past Easter weekend, couldn’t have been more perfect, The brocantes are starting off with full force and every weekend one can pick and choose between several. I prefer the small town, more informal ones with jovial, hearty conversations and laid back country side ambiance.

Collonges la Rouge  counts as one of “The most beautiful villages of France” and is a charming little 800’s village with its rustic red stone. In a next post I’ll show and tell more about it.

We can never do it any other way..always  start off with a coffee!

…Wooden farm furniture at the brocante…

…and two sketchers…not buying, only observing…

…and Scruffy is keeping an eye from down below…

…bottles I would love to have, but can’t afford…

…and ditto for this beautiful white and black Gien pot…extremely expensive…

…such nice milk glass vases…

…and finally I found lovely lace curtains for the barn door at Coin Perdu…

àla prochaine!

ronelle

Asparagus with poppy vinaigrette and a confused chicken.

I always keep in mind something a great chef once told me:  “Asparagus are at their best until June 22”. This is my perfect excuse to luxuriate in  asparagus morning noon and night. By June 22 I then cross the finish line and can’t look an asparagus straight on. But for now, I am still running the course!

Suggestions:

  • Instead of making a vinaigrette…simple drizzle the asparagus with some oil and vinegar and sprinkle with salt an pepper just before serving.
  • Add a little bundel of sprouted seeds for some crunch and good health.
  • Use some green beans instead of aspaaragus.
  • The same can be done with purple or white asparagus, but be sure to cook them long enough to avoid struggling with stringy asparagus.
  • Green asparagus don’t need to be peeled, only break them at the ends(they will break easily at the most vulnerable point)  and rinse.
  • Boil them in only enough water to cover the end parts  and halfway up the asparagus. The top leafy parts must cook in the steam of the water, or else you will eb stick with mushy asparagus or without any tops.
  • Don’t overcook asparagus, they need to by JUST tender and still have some bite.
  • Serve them immediately if served on their own. If served in a salad, they can stand a while.
  • this recipe could be finished off with a perfectly  poached egg on top of the asparagus, my ultimate favorite way of enjoying asparagus!
  • Use nigella seeds or mustard seeds or poppy seeds instead of the black lava crystals(from Hawaii) and sprinkle only a little fleur de sel.

I fly violently out of bed, hit my hand hard agains the bedside table,  instantly feeling the pain in tears. Simultaneoulsy the two cats screech off the bed, run into each other and dive for cover. A shrill squawk just outside the window,  like that of a disorientated rooster, have us all in shock. In a haze of pain and confusion, I make it down the stairs, all the while fearing my chickens are hurt; my two eight weeks old poulettes,  who conversate in dainty chirping twitters, much like young débutantes giggling on their first public appearance. Very girly. Very excited.

Ah non! There it goes again! The false shriek. We soar down the last two stairs, anxious to see what affaire is stirring outside.

There they are. Petronella and Stephanie. Happily sitting on my chair in the shade of the big umbrella. Ecstatic to see me, they storm closer in a flurry of chirps and feathers,  look eagerly  into my eyes and wait for our usual intelligent conversations.

But first I pour a strong morning coffee, just to suddenly hear a blasting shriek again, right behind me.  The cats dart off  to safety leaving me standing there alone and barefoot in my pyjamas, hand bruised and aching, staring dumbfounded at  my two grinning poulettes…could it be that I have a gay chicken….or have I been duped?


…à la prochaine!…