The legend of the artichoke

The legend goes that Zeus, king of the gods, came down from Mt. Olympus to visit his brother, Poseidon, near the sea. As he looked out across the sparkling waters of the Aegean, his vision fell upon a beautiful young woman standing barefoot on the grey stones that stretched out along the shoreline of the island, Kinaros. She stared back across the sea, eyes like fire, unfazed by his formidable divinity. Their gaze locked in what can only be called, An Embrace of Fate.

What Zeus wants, Zeus gets. At that moment he wanted nothing more intensely than this mortal, with eyes that burned with vitality and a face like a flower, upturned toward the sun. She was named Cynara, for the island she called home.

Zeus, being a cunning séducteur, approached Cynara in all his glory and promised her the sky and the moon if she would agree to be his lover. She refused. He promised her all the flowers in the fields above the sea. Still, she declined. Then, drawing back into himself as if to stir up that FOMO we humans find so powerful, he made one last offer, something she couldn’t possibly resist. Zeus would grant Cynara the gift of goddess-hood, lifting her mortal soul from the dirt and stone of this earth if, in return, she would live always near him in the home of the gods upon Mt. Olympus – his mistress in an affair that would last an eternity, so long as Hera, his wife (and sister), was well occupied.

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Clafoutis aux Framboises

There’s nothing that encapsulates the feeling of summer for me like a fresh raspberry. Each berry contains within it all the sunshine, light and floral sweetness of a summer afternoon. At my childhood home there was a split rail fence along which grew a long row of raspberry bushes. Starting in early July, my brother and I would wake up early and run out to the fence to pick the raspberries that had ripened overnight. It was a race – us against the birds – and we often lost, but when we would find a ripe, untouched berry, the reward was more than worth the effort. To this day, the taste of fresh raspberries brings me right back to those childhood summers.

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Gâteau Basque

My goal for this online space has always been to make it an inspiring and relaxing place, a bit like an an oasis for those who visit. I try to keep it light and up beat, as notes of levity are becoming scarce in this world rife with negativity. However, bad things happen to everyone, and we are no exception. “When it rains, it pours,” they say, and the past few weeks have felt as if we’re stuck in monsoon season.

On Friday, one of our dogs (Nandor) received an alarming diagnosis. While I won’t get into too much detail here, his condition is serious but can be treated; however, he will require several rounds of different medications, a couple hospitalizations, and he will need to be kept very calm and still throughout his treatment period, spanning 120 days. This, along with several other recent events, has me feeling like a dark cloud has settled over our home. Like the blog, I always try to keep my emotions and headspace very calm and zen-like. My response to stress or to circumstances that feel as if life is spiraling out of control, is to pause, take a few deep breaths to refocus, then react with grace, one step at a time.

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14 French Recipes to Welcome Spring

There’s a certain hum of excitement as spring approaches. Because of our long, snowy winters here in Colorado, the arrival of spring is always a little delayed, but over the past few weeks I’ve noticed that the quiet of winter has been replaced by the sounds of life. It starts before dawn as I rise early to make the coffee. I can hear the birds through the closed and locked windows singing to each other in the darkness and beckoning me to slide the glass open and see what all the fuss is about. Out in the potager, the chives are always the first to emerge, blooming in brilliant purple plumes that are covered in bees of all shapes and sizes. Soon the sugar peas will bloom on the garden fence. The chickens are laying again – with each egg, the noisy fanfare of celebration. Farmer’s markets are finally opening up again here, with the first asparagus, tiny strawberries, baby lettuces, radishes and turnips. I think it’s safe to say that spring is finally here.

This spring feels like butterflies of anticipation leading up to an imminent party. Tiny flowers, like traces of confetti, signaling a grand celebration. For the occasion, I wanted to revisit some of my favourite spring recipes. These are the dishes I look forward to making when the days get long and warm and the earth awakens from her quiet hibernation. After a dark winter, these bright, fresh recipes are more welcome than ever.

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PAIRING: Llama 2018 Malbec + Barbacoa Burritos

Barbacoa is a traditional method of cooking meat over fire – the early origins of our modern day barbecuing. It originated in the Caribbean and in Mexico, where whole sheep or goats, and sometimes a cow’s head were cooked low and slow in holes dug in the ground and covered in thick layers of leaves. This closed-environment method of cooking created a gentle, moist heat that can be closely replicated by using a slow cooker. Barbacoa eventually spread north into the United States where it evolved into our much beloved Southern BBQ.

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Orecchiette with Broccoli

I like to think that when I’m old, I will be able to look back on my life and see a succession of Sundays, like pearls strung together on a necklace. A highlight reel consisting of the meals we ate and the people with whom they were shared. Sunday is, after all, my favourite day, the highlight of my week, a day dedicated entirely to family and food, when meal preparations start early in the day and dinner lasts long into the evening. We spend almost every Sunday with family, a tradition that’s as old as I can remember. As a girl, our Sundays were spent with my grandparents; my grandmother in the kitchen standing over a simmering pot, my grandfather in his vast garden, tending or harvesting the vegetables that would eventually make it onto our plates and into our stomachs. As kids, we flitted carefree between the two, picking up the basics of cooking and gardening simply by observance of both.

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Roasted Sausages with Sweet Potatoes and Mandarin Oranges

The “sheet pan dinner” bandwagon is roaring through sites like Pinterest, Facebook and even the newspaper, and I have to admit I’ve jumped on board. During the week I love the simplicity of cooking everything together in one pan and letting the oven do the majority of the work while I focus on setting the table and pouring a glass of wine. With that said, I take issue with the newest trend – “Dump Dinners”.

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Elouan 2017 Pinot Noir + Braised Beef Shanks

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve shared a wine review. My family and I have all been fighting what seems like a never-ending cold. I finally felt a little more like myself this past weekend, so we opened a bottle of Elouan 2017 Oregon Pinot Noir. This Pinot Noir is made with grapes grown in the temperate climate and fertile soil of the Oregon coast. Pinot Noir grapes thrive in cooler temperatures. With a long growing season and the gentle sunlight that’s plentiful in the higher latitudes, Oregon provides the ideal growing conditions for these delicate grapes. In crafting this wine, the winemaker sought to reinvent Oregon Pinot Noir. By sourcing and blending fruit from three distinct terroirs along the coastline from North to South, each selected for the unique characteristics of the grapes they produce, the winemaker created a wine that has incredible depth of flavour and vibrancy while maintaining the purity and bright acidity for which Oregon Pinots are famous.

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Croque-Monsieur

The Croque-Monsieur sandwich is classic French bistro fare. This past Monday I made these sandwiches for my husband and myself. They’re so decadent and delicious, and it was such a treat to have a long and lazy lunch in the middle of a busy work day (the perks of working from home). I had a few slices of sweet brioche leftover from a batch of weekend French toast. The bread is layered with a nutmeg-rich béchamel sauce, slices of ham, shredded gruyère and Dijon mustard. The sandwiches are topped with more béchamel and a sprinkle of thyme, then baked until golden and oozing. The sweet and savory combination is out of this world! I absolutely love gruyère cheese and every time I use it to make a gratin or French onion soup, I save a bit just so that I can make these sandwiches later in the week. 

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A Valentine’s Day Prelude

I’ve been in a Valentine’s mood for the last few weeks. Ever since hearts and cupids started showing up in the stores right after New Years, Valentine’s Day has been playing like a love song in the back of my mind. I even impulsively bought a Valentine’s day mask and heart shaped pendant the other day and I have Nat King Cole’s “L-O-V-E” on repeat in the kitchen. It’s funny because Valentine’s Day was never my favourite holiday. I looked at it as just another excuse for the kids to eat way too much candy. Maybe it’s the Covid quarantines, on and off lockdowns, and the fact that, through forced confinement, our family has grown even closer this past year, but this February I’m all about the hearts, roses, sweet treats, LOVE and yes, even the candy. Really, I can’t wait for a reason to celebrate. Are you feeling the same?

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