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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Galette des Rois aux Pommes

I meant to make this Galette des Rois on Wednesday for Epiphany but we were so glued to the news of the unrest in Washington DC that I completely forgot. Yesterday morning I woke up in a bit of a panic at my blunder and made one right away.

Galette des Rois is a lovely French tradition that brings the holidays to a sweet close. The cake is served on the 12th day of Christmas (Epiphany) to represent the visit of the three wise men to baby Jesus. Yesterday may have been the 13th day of Christmas (better late than never!), but I quickly whipped together this one using store-bought puff pastry and, for the fève, a (very clean) coin which I wrapped in aluminum foil. The tradition, which goes back to Roman times, dictates that a fève – a little trinket or small, porcelain nativity figurine – is hidden in the filling of the cake before baking. Whoever finds it is crowned King or Queen for the day. As the name suggests, a dry fava bean was originally used; however, last year I baked a real bean into the cake and it was never found. (!!) I’m always on the hunt for antique porcelain fèves but so far haven’t had any luck finding them in the US. Last night, Eva was the lucky fève finder. Her first order of business as Queen was to play a board game with me. 

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White Asparagus with Vinaigrette

I often write about visiting my aunt and uncle’s farm when I was a child and how, every spring, we would forage for wild asparagus near the stream on the edge of the apple orchard.  When I moved to Europe at 18 I was enthralled by the assortment and variety of asparagus available.  The only asparagus I had ever known was that wild and wiry green variety that grew beneath the apple trees.  At the markets in Pisa there were crates full of milky white asparagus, thick stalks of green asparagus with purple tips, and even a sweet variety that was entirely purple from tip to toe.  How much fun I had learning to cook with them all! Continue reading “White Asparagus with Vinaigrette”