I hope you had a chance to wind down on this lovely Wednesday evening. It’s a beautiful night here in Orlando. A starry sky and a shiny moon are towering over us, yet very few people notice. Overlook the cold and lift your head up. You’ll be amazed. There is beauty all around for those keeping watch.
This is round two of couscous salad. Different flavors are waiting to be tried. Make this your side dish or appetizer this week. You’ll be very pleased. This couscous salad is tasty and fragrant, with a multitude of textures and flavors. It combines the sweet mint and raisins and the crunchy almonds with the pungent cinnamon and clove. Ready in less than 15 minutes, this delicious salad can be stored and served over several days.
Couscous Salad with Almonds and Raisins
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon butter
1 cup instant couscous
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dash ground clove
8 mint leaves, stemmed and chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
½ tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Confectioner’s sugar (optional)
Bring the water to a boil. Stir in the salt, butter, and couscous. Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand 5 minutes.
Fluff the couscous with a fork and add the raisins, almonds,cinnamon, ground clove and mint. In another bowl, whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice. Gently incorporate the liquid mixture into the couscous, season with salt and pepper to taste, and toss.
Chill the salad and serve in small bowls, plates, or dessert cups. If you wish, garnish with confectioner’s sugar and mint leaves before serving.
Beside reading books like this one, meditating, visiting blogs that inspire me such as this one and this one, and browsing sites like this one; I like to go to the Farmer’s market to soak up the sun and the freshness of the produce and atmosphere. These are essential ways for me to recharge at the end of the week.
Last Saturday, I spent my morning at the Winter Park Farmer’s Market located in downtown Winter Park on New England Avenue. It is a charming weekly market that takes place every Saturday on the grounds of what is during the week the Winter Park Historical Museum. Winter Park is a quaint town nestled north of Orlando, with a splendid tree canopy and bricked streets. It is rich with history and is home to the notable Rollins College. It has seen many celebrities come and go since its establishment, over a century ago, as a winter resort for wealthy snowbirds.
Pure local honey
Luscious, luscious flora
fauna in metamorphosis
Aged cheese with an ashy crust
Irene’s French baked goods
If you live near or ever visit Orlando, FL, be sure to stop at the Winter Park Farmer’s Market for a fresh lemonade, a warm petit pain au chocolat, and plenty of other culinary fun in the sun.
200 West New England Avenue
Winter Park, FL 32789-4226
I watched a French movie lately that I just can’t keep quiet about. Having told the story to at least a dozen people, I thought I would let you know about it, dear reader, in the event you’re a fan of French humor. Last weekend, my friend, Violette, who is originally from Lille suggested we go see Bienvenue Chez Les Ch’tis, a comedy highlighting the cultural and linguistic differences of the ch’tis or ch’timis, the people of Northern France—where V. is from—who speak a patois (a dialect) that their compatriots from other regions often cannot understand.
V. and I sat in the back row of the tiered chairs in the main lobby of the Alliance Française. We giggled the entire time, like two teenage girls unable to control their laughter despite the teacher’s obvious disapproval, as we commented on every other scene in the silence of the room, ignoring the rest of the audience; her explaining patois words, and me laughing for the second time after I understood the scene a little better. By the end of the movie, though, I was able to understand with much more ease—especially after getting used to the c being pronounced sh, and the ch pronounced k as in “mershi” for merci and “kien” for chien.
The movie was preceded by un diner à la fortune du pot, a potluck dinner for which I had made des galettes de sarrasin, buckwheat crêpes. After the crêpes were ready, Maya, John and I all had a taste by devouring a crêpe each. Well, that left us with five or six crêpes at the most, which I thought were too few to take to an event where at least fifteen to twenty people were going to be present. V. and I promised to each make something to nibble on with coffee when we meet after work the following week. As we sat in the drafty terrace of a dimly lit café, chatting about everything and nothing, we simultaneously opened the crinkly foil to unveil two quintessential French specialties. V. made a galette des rois and I made the same galettes de sarrasin I promised her the week before.
Crêpes are probably one of the very first desserts I’ve made. My mother made them quite often, but I must admit that I have not had buckwheat crêpes until I moved to the US, where I had them at a small family-owned French restaurant in Sarasota. They served them for lunch with ground beef or chicken. Buckwheat crêpes are often made with savory fillings. Their nutty flavor goes well with all types of cheeses, especially strong ones. I made mine sweet, with a simple filling of sliced bananas and a generous drizzle of honey. They came out thin but not paper thin, with a beautiful lacy trim and freckled surface. They were just adorable—if crêpes can be described as such. Even V., my French food expert friend thought they were.
Buckwheat Crêpes Recipe
Violette and I made our coffee treats slightly out of season. La galette des rois is made by the French during Epiphany, which has just passed. Buckwheat crêpes are made for Mardi Gras, which isn’t here yet. It is coming up, though; and it wouldn’t hurt to have the recipe a little bit beforehand.
Makes 8 to 10 crêpes
½ cup buckwheat flour
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 pinches sugar
1 tablespoon canola oil
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon unsalted butter, divided
In a medium bowl, combine the flours, salt and sugar. Add the eggs, oil, vanilla extract and milk. Whisk energetically until the batter is well combined and shiny. Cover and refrigerate overnight or at least a few hours (I refrigerated mine for about 2 hours).
Remove the batter from the fridge and give it a brisk whisk. Heat a crêpe pan or small non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Melt a small amount (about 1/8 teaspoon) of butter and spread it on the surface of the skillet using a brush or silicon spatula. Pour a small ladle of batter into the pan and spread it evenly by moving the pan lightly to obtain a nice circular shape, and fry the crêpe for about 1 minute before turning it over using a spatula. Cook the other side for about 30 seconds.
Repeat the same operation to make the rest of the crêpes.
Drizzle the crêpe with honey. Add the sliced bananas. Fold the crêpe and drizzle with more honey.
Quenching thirsts. Dispensing smiles. Passing the trade down from father to son.
When it comes to fish, I prefer it fried. Frying complements the fish taste so well, making it taste milder yet preserving all its particularity and flavor. Pause a minute; imagine the last time you burst the crunch of a fried chunk of cod in your mouth, then savored the white, buttery flesh. I am confident this image will get you running to the nearest fish market to grab the freshest fish you can find, dip it in gooey batter, and fry it to crispy deliciousness.
I remember the amazing fritures de poisson I enjoyed at small, quaint restaurants along the Mediterranean coast of Morocco, or while vacationing in Marbella or Torremolinos. It was some of the best fish I’ve ever had. My brother used to own a seafood restaurant called Le Dauphin when I was a child (my brother is 14 years older than I am). It didn’t serve dolphin—despite its name—but every other fish you can think of, prepared with the utmost skill. I particularly remember how delicious their calamari a la plancha was.
There are two secrets to great fried fish: batter and frying technique. The batter I used here is remotely inspired from a tempura I saw on Foodnetwork. As for the frying technique, it’s the one I’ve learned from my mother who liked to repeat to me that the oil has to be hot, very hot and that I should heat the pan first before adding the oil.
Makes 6 to 8 tacos
1 cup cake flour
½ cup corn starch
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup cold water
Canola oil, for frying
1 pound cod fillet, cut into 1 to 2-inch chunks
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tomato, diced
1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Prepare the batter by mixing the flour, corn starch, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Add the egg and cold water and whisk briskly until well combined.
Heat a medium pan over medium high heat. When it’s hot, add the oil and let it heat well. Season the cod with salt and pepper. Dip the cod in the batter, and fry it until golden and crispy, 3 to 5 minutes per side.
In a small bowl, nix the tomato with the onion, cilantro, lemon juice and olive oil. Spoon out one or two tablespoons of the tomato salad in the tacos, then top with the fried cod. If you wish, you can add some tartar sauce on the fish.
As you know, dear reader, I just made ras el hanout last week. To my great pleasure—and displeasure—most of it is already gone. I only had one fourth of a cup to begin with, which might sound like plenty to some, but to a spice girl like me (no connection to The Spice Girls, even though I wish), who is generous and indubitably liberal when it comes to flavoring food, it is but a sample, a pinch of the mounds she wishes she had.
Spice Girl! Hmm, I like that. I think it should be my new nickname. My sobriquet since I was a child has been sissi: a cute, girl next door, glamourless term of endearment. I don’t know why it stuck with me or how it started. My family has always been fond of nicknames, lovingly and unbashingly calling everybody a name with little or no relation to their real one. Spice Girl is more fitting for me now, considering my new sexy kitchen diva status. So, feel free, dear reader, to call me Spice Girl as a token of our growing familiarity.
My chicken with ras el hanout came out just the way I wanted it: grilled to a golden perfection with burned, crusty tips, but still moist with juices dripping from the skewers onto the plate, and a heady aroma that travels through backyard fences, urging even those neighbors who never bothered to say hello before to stretch their arm up, over the fence and through the bushy bougainvillea to waive at me.
I love real food, with real flavors. Food that marinates, roasts, smells and sizzles. Enjoy these brochettes as they go through all the steps of this process. If possible, let the chicken marinate several hours or overnight. But if you’re in a hurry and can’t wait to grill it—like it’s happened to me many times before—don’t you worry, it will still taste delicious.
Brochettes with Ras El Hanout, Lemon and Garlic
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 lemon, freshly squeezed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon ras el hanout
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Fresh chopped parsley, for garnish
In a large bowl, combine the chicken, garlic, lemon, olive oil, ras el hanout, salt and pepper. Mix well to blend. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator, 2 to 4 hours.
Place the chicken on skewers. Heat the grill. Place chicken skewers on hot grill and cook, 5 minutes per side. Garnish with chopped parsley.
I am very pleased to say that I contributed with a post on Kichenscoop. Having been a reader and fan of this blog for a long time, I feel privileged to appear on it. Check my post as well as other delicious recipes by the lovely Beverly and Alicia.
The weekend is upon us, and we need to treat ourselves to a luxury breakfast after a long and laborious week. My brioche dough is already resting in the refrigerator, gaining some embonpoint; and I am ecstatic about tomorrow’s breakfast. I am planning to treat myself to an equally exciting drink. It is a drink that I have named OCA. After all, popular drinks everywhere have abbreviations, acronyms or nicknames. This one is very popular in my family, so, I thought it was deserving of an acronym. When you love something so much that you plan to have it regularly, it is only wise to shorten it somehow, just like you do with people you love. It saves energy, and, well, it sounds hip, I think. If it is OK to say Cup of Joe or OJ, then why not call this drink OCA. It makes it sound as part of the family.
1 cup chopped carrots
1 small apple, cored, peeled and chopped
3 cups orange juice
Place the carrots, apple and orange juice in a blender container and blend until very smooth. Enjoy it on its own or with a dash of cinnamon.
Ras el hanout or “top of the shop” is a spice mix that is made of the finest spices a spice merchant has. It varies slightly, here and there, from shop to shop and from region to region, but generally consists of the same base ingredients. A ras el hanout from a Marrakesh souk in the South of Morocco is sure to be spicier and bolder than one from Tangiers in the North. This one is full of flavor with a mild kick, which makes it sit somewhere in the middle. Ras el hanout makes any meat, tagine or vegetable stew taste fabulous.
Imagine. Imagine yourself in a souk. Imagine the mysterious alleys. The centuries-old remparts. Imagine the filtered light. The earth colors. Imagine the intoxicating smells. Imagine adventure.
Ras el hanout
Makes about ¼ cup
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon paprika powder
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Mix all the spices together and store in an airtight plastic bag.
I just finished watching Julie and Julia and loved every bit of it. I smiled the whole time as Julie reminded me so much of myself. Like her, blogging takes so much of my time and I often wonder if my posts have too much information for comfort. I go back and read, and wonder how in the world I wrote what I wrote. Then I go on a blogging strike that lasts an entire 24 hours before my waters become clear and calm again, and I get back to business. I’m accumulating more and more “pearls” (aka gaffes) with every post. Soon, I will have enough to make necklaces for generations of granddaughters to come.
As if I weren’t already spending too much time in front of the computer; reading blogs, writing blogs and checking everyone’s updates on Facebook and Flickr, I also joined Twitter yesterday. Discouraged by John, I’ve resisted Twitter for a long time until, well, I couldn’t anymore. I am so excited about Twitter. I’ve always thought it was for teenagers only, so now that I’m a member, I feel ten years younger and massively cooler. Stay tuned for some “twitteresque” fun.
I’ve been debating whether I should call this a salmon salad or a salmon dip. I had this preparation as a sandwich for lunch, and snacked on the rest with crackers all afternoon. Similarly to a tuna salad, there are so many ways it can be enjoyed. Being an all-time tuna salad fan, I have eaten it every possible and imaginable way: on a sandwich, on crackers, mixed with greens, with a tomato and onion salad, on deviled eggs, and by the spoon (my favorite of all). Salmon salad will please all tuna lovers in addition to surprising them with a gorgeous salmon color and softer texture. The Worcestershire and tomato sauce mixed with the creamy mayo and fresh lemon juice taste terrific with the fish, giving it a very zesty flavor.
Serve it for lunch as for brunch accompanied by fresh fruit, a mimosa and a delicious strawberry muffin or peach yogurt brulée for dessert. When you’re all finished and ecstatic about the meal you’ve just had, send a prayer my way.
1 (15-ounce) can red sockeye salmon
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoon tomato sauce or ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup finely diced celery
2 tablespoons chopped dill
1 hard-boiled egg, chopped (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Drain the salmon. Bone, skin and flake the salmon chunks.add the mayonnaise, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, diced celery , dill and hard-boiled egg. Season with salt and pepper and mix well to combine. Serve on sandwich rolls, English muffins or crackers.
I don’t normally post on Sundays, but I just couldn’t wait. The recent catastrophe that struck Haiti is, unfortunately, of horrific dimensions. We all can help. We all must help. Please consider donating to one of the organizations helping Haiti, like this one or this one.
While money is important in a circumstance like this, please remember to also keep the people of Haiti in your prayers and offer a comforting word or gesture to anyone you know from there who might have lost a family member or friend due to this tragedy. The people of Haiti are wonderful and strong. They have sufferred many catastrophes and inclement conditions. I am confident it was for a purpose, and better days are ahead.
Many bloggers are remembering Haiti in their posts. It is a wonderful thing, especially for us food bloggers who foster the comforts and pleasures of life to remember those less fortunate. It would be great if everyone with a website, blog or any kind of audience encouraged remembering and helping Haiti in these difficult moments.