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A Dinner in Bannay

Place Napoléon Bonaparte, Fontainebleu
Place Napoléon Bonaparte, Fontainebleu

Having been the successful bidders (at a school fundraising event) for a week at a small cottage in the Loire Valley, we arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport on an unusually steamy July morning.

After a circuitous trek through CDG, and a long wait for our rental car, we headed south toward Bannay, where we would spend two days exploring the far eastern edge of the Loire Valley. At Bella Sera in Fountainbleu, one of three restaurants sharing a piece of Place Napoléon Bonaparte, the Salade du Jour was a perfect lunch for this 105°F day – large wedges of icy cold melon draped in prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, tagliatelle with pesto, and wedges of grapefruit, along with a carafe of the local rosé.   Continue reading “A Dinner in Bannay”

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A Return to Writing

Much has changed since my last post in March of 2012.  Dr. S and I are now married and we are in the process of creating our new home together, in a new town.  Though one of my daughters will finish high school in our former town, saying good-bye to it in spirit and beginning anew in a town a few stops closer to NYC, with a more vibrant downtown (including a hoppin’ Sunday morning farmers’ market) and no unpleasant memories, has been unexpectedly energizing.

That energy, combined with the encouragement and support of Dr. S and a few close friends, has me sitting here at my computer, returning to this blog as a writing practice.  I have so much to share with you – the ups and downs of a family vacation to France, Greta’s continuing development as a cook (though she asked me yesterday whether I would support her if she decided to adopt a vegan diet . . . ), several off-the-beaten-path eating adventures in Italy . . . so much to catching up to do!

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1 Year Anniversary Post!

As I walked to the train yesterday, it occurred to me that the anniversary of my first blog post must be quite near.  And so it is – it’s today!  When I began, I wasn’t completely sure of the direction I would take, but I’ve come to realize that what I like most to write about is the intersection of food and life.  I love to cook, I do love to eat, but it’s when those activities connect with the people and events of my life that the words flow most easily.  So here’s how food connected with the Great Snow Storm of October 2011 . . .

Knowing that the forecast called for snow, and wanting to dive into one of the 29 recipes I had dog-eared in Melissa Clark’s In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite, I decided to make Ale-Steamed Mussels with Garlic and Mustard for Saturday’s lunch.   As snow fell and leaf-filled trees began to bow under the weight, garlic, thyme, and ale steamed through my apartment.  That and a bottle of ale, made a perfect greeting for Dr. S, who had narrowly escaped multiple fender-benders on his trip north.   We sat down to a heaping bowl of mussels, a baguette, a salad of arugula, endive, cranberries, almonds, and Bayley Hazen Blue, and bottles of Anchor Brewing Company’s Liberty Pale Ale.

Out of respect for copyright laws, I’m not going to print Melissa’s recipe here, but I will tell you that where she called for 3 cloves of garlic, I used 6.  3/4 c. of ale?  How about a bottle, can’t really have too much broth!   Shallots?  Damn – forgot those at the store, went with half a sweet onion.   I figured there wasn’t too much you could do to mess up a mussel recipe.  And based on the fact that when lunch was over not a mussel remained and the better part of a baguette had been used to sop up the broth, I’d say there’s at least one person who agrees with me.

Toasted Barley and Sweet Potatoes

In addition to avoiding raisins, best friend Kathleen tries to keep her home leaning toward vegetarianism, something encouraged by her husband since he began reading books such as Eating Animals, Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore’s Dilemma.  Bacon, beef, and eggs do still make an occasional appearance, but overall there’s a great deal of healthy eating going on in their Westchester home.  And so I found myself flipping through Jesse Ziff Cool’s Simply Organic, as I sat at Kathleen’s kitchen table some months ago.  It was a chilly November day, and I was looking for some inspiration for the coming week’s dinners.  What I happened upon was Toasted Barley and Sweet Potatoes.

My daughters both LOVE sweet potatoes, and this looked like a pretty good way to include a whole grain.  The author suggested that it could be turned into a more substantial meal by adding an egg, or leftover chicken or shrimp.  We like it with an egg, as the runny yolk contributes an additional layer of taste to the whole event.

Toasted Barley and Sweet Potatoes

1/2 c. pearl barley

2 Tbs. vegetable oil

1 small onion

2 sweet potatoes, cut into 1/4″ pieces

2 c. vegetable broth

salt & pepper to taste

One egg per diner

Toast the barley in a skillet over low heat until just lightly brown.  Set aside.  Saute the onion in oil until softened.  Add the sweet potato and barley and stir to coat with oil and onion.  Add the vegetable broth, salt and pepper, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover.  Cook until the sweet potato is just tender (you don’t want it too mushy), somewhere in the 20 – 35 minute vicinity, depending on the size of your sweet potato cubes, and the strength of your flame.  Prepare the eggs (“over easy” is usually the way I go, but poached would be lovely, too).  Enjoy!

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