Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Rome, the Last Surgery, and Soup Season

I've been absent.  Bad me.  I know.  I guess that means we've been busy.  September was Vince's birthday and our anniversary and he took me on a lovely weekend trip to Rome.  I think it might take the prize of most beautiful city I've seen.  And I'm just getting started in Europe.  What other treasures there must be to see!  Around every corner in Rome, there is another beautiful plaza, or fountain, or building, or any combination of those.  Truly a recommended destination.
Vatican Museum Ceiling by Raphael

Even if you're not Catholic, don't skip the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel is but a speck of the grandeur... we didn't even photograph it.  The popes have been collecting artwork and having famous people (Raphael and Michelangelo) paint their ceilings since Catholicism began.  The buildings themselves are works of art and are filled with millions of artifacts: from the most well preserved Egyptian mummies I've ever seen to Salvador Dali and Paul Klee paintings.  Plus, St. Peters Basilica is one of the most impressive, awe inspiring, and peaceful  places I've been to.  With it's towering domes, beautifully carved gilded ceilings, giant statues, and intimate temples in every nook and cranny, I felt the same peace there as when I was in a Jain temple in India with some lovely praying ladies.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Dry July... and August -- A cruel cruel summer in Paris.

There's this bizarre thing that French people do every year in July and August.  It's called vacation.  For a MONTH.  The minimum vacation allowance here is 5 weeks.  If you're salaried, since the work week is 35 hours, you get an extra 2 or so weeks.  For those of you who are bad with numbers, that makes 7 weeks of vacation per year... and now you know why were're here.  Many companies close for the entire month of August, so like it or not, you're taking vacation. Which can suck if you'd like to go to any vacation-y type place.  You end up in a crowded, traffic jammed, hot 'paradise' full of Parisians.  We've heard stories about Corsica, one of the beautiful islands we visited back in June.  Didn't seem like something I wanted to do.  Plus, here I was thinking Paris would be so much better without all the Parisians.  Which is partly true.  The only problem is that all our friends who live here are on vacation, and the people who run the bakeries, coffee shops, restaurants, bars and your favorite local store are all out of town.  It's such a phenomenon that there are blog posts about it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ewww Beets! Easy Peasy Salad.

Remember when your mom opened a can of beets, or a bag of frozen brussel sprouts, heated it up, and put that shit on your plate.  You were like "ewwww.  I'm not eating that.  Gross".  I do.  More often than not though, we had fresh vegetables from the garden, and I thank my lucky stars for that, because now I love vegetables.  Especially beets and brussel sprouts. If they're fresh, and well prepared, they are one of my favorite things.
I also have a strange obsession with beet greens.  I know... but they're so good and tender and flavorful, and they don't leave that film on your teeth like spinach does.  Plus, they have preeetttyy red stems.  Sadly fresh beets are difficult to find here in Paris.  For some bizarre reason, they're sold cooked, even at the farmers markets, and they look like blobs of black red gunk. So when I see them fresh with greens on, I buy in bulk.  That leaves me with lots of actual beets, so I make this lovely roasted beet salad with orange and shallot dressing.  It's heavenly, and healthy.
I also have a special way of cooking my beets.  I don't remember where I got the recipe, but it's no fail, awesomeness.  Many of the recipes I've read call for cooking them, then removing the skin.  I've heard horror stories about this.  Kitchen towels stained forever, hands burned, the skin never actually coming off, of the beets at least...  I think I even tried it once a long time ago and had all those problems.  Here's the fail-safe way.  

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Why Paris is great, and other such problems

The Pantheon

Seriously, have you seen a more beautiful city?  I haven't, and I've traveled the world.  Ok, you're right, I've seen almost none of Europe.  But still.

Notre Dame
Notre Dame

Monday, July 9, 2012

Black Monday/Blue Monday

Église de la Sainte-Trinité

We're tightening belts around here, so I haven't been buying the usual heirloom summer tomatoes at the the Saturday organic market, nor being inspired by the other beautiful food there.  I didn't even make it to the market this weekend.  We did a treasure hunt on Saturday, organized by the Paris city hall.  Good times, for me at least.  I understood about a third of the puns, and followed Vince and his friend around Paris admiring all the beautiful buildings (mostly in the rain), while they tried to figure out where the next turn was.  So much fun.  But that means the fridge is empty of its usual abundance of fresh veggies, so here I am on Monday, in search of inspiration. 

Mondays in Paris are always the hardest day for me... the poor privileged housewife.  Any medium to small business that is open at least one day on the weekend is closed on Monday.  That includes the local street of awesomeness, Rue de Poteau, with it's cheese shops, charcuterie, and outdoor veggie stalls.  All shuttered.  I thought, perhaps it would be a good day to explore a farmers market in another neighborhood, so I checked Paris.fr for farmers markets on Monday and there are exactly 2, both at least a 40 minute metro ride across town.  Not happening today.  I'll have to come up with something else. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

My Love Hate Relationship with the Boucherie

Kosher Boucherie in my eclectic hood.
I'm throwing a little party this weekend.  We do a few every year.  One is always in the summer.... must celebrate the long days.  This summer it's fiesta night.  Not because it's an especially summery theme, just because I miss Mexican food like crazy, and tomatoes and avocados are in season, so I can make good guacamole and salsa.  I hope it goes over well.  The french are known for being afraid of spicy food.  I'm not making habanero salsa or anything, but I was able to find some lovely jalapenos in my eclectic neighborhood and dammit, I'm going to use them.

Right, I'm also going to try to make carnitas properly.  It can't be that hard.  I've made the cajun version (smothered pork shoulder) and the southern version (pulled pork) so now I just have to make the mexican version.  Strangely, many call for using orange juice... I wonder if there is some chemical reaction that makes the meat more tender and juicy, 'cause carnitas sure don't taste like oranges.'  Where's Alton Brown when you need him?!  

So I went to the boucherie.  I got a whole pork shoulder (about 4 lbs) bone included, and the first thing he asked me was if I wanted to have the bone removed, and how I would like it chopped.  Well thank you, Monsieur Boucher, I don't mind if you do.  I used to do microbiology.  I once worked in a food safety division of the USDA.  Meat, and its associated bacteria freak me out.  I wear gloves sometimes, when I touch meat.  It's weird, freaky, whatever you'd like to call it, I know.  So I LOVE it when the butcher cuts the meat for me.  It saves me the step of sterilization of cutting board and knives, and anything that came in contact with said raw meat.  The nice butcher then wraps it all up and puts it in a lovely plastic bag, takes my money, gives me change, and all without washing his dirty meaty gross hands yet.  >nose crinkling, eye squeezing, cringe<  Just one of the lovely things here that make me have to look the other way.  

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Nature and Nourishment in Corsica

We decided to go on an extended weekend in Corsica.  It's not far, only about an hour and a half plane ride from Paris, it has mountains, and 1,000km of coastline (around 620 miles).  Hello... Hiking and beaches = paradise for this 'Parisian'!

It's been occupied since before time    -really- since BCE and hence has changed hands umpteen times. Normally, you would expect fish on every restaurant menu on an island in the middle of the Mediterranean sea, but since the locals wanted nothing to do with these changes in allegiance, they took to the hills and learned how to live off the land not the sea.  Fortunately for all of us, they stayed there, and to this day make fantastic cheeses and charcuterie.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Summer Candy

Blue Bottle
I religiously visited the Ferry Building farmers market in San Francisco every Saturday morning.  Waking up, grabbing a cup of coffee at the wonderful Blue Bottle directly across the street from my old apartment, and walking all the way there.  My attendance was especially frequent in the summertime when there were fresh sweet amazing tomatoes, cucumbers, mint, basil, and my favorite part.... candy!  It came in the form of white nectarines.  I would lovingly pick 6 big juicy wonderful candy nectarines, one to go with my plain yogurt every morning, until there was no more candy at the market.  It was always one of my favorite things about summer, it NEVER got old!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Next Up

Welcome to Paris
I guess we never really finished blogs for the trip.  There was more in Japan.  Nara, Kyoto, Nagasaki.  Maybe one day we'll post about them. Vince got really sick in Japan, then we made it to France, started eating again, visiting with family and friends, and getting reacquainted with our new world.  Then I promptly broke the shit out of my arm.  After which I had endless doctors appointments, pain and suffering, tiredness, haziness, and general malaise for almost 6 months.  It's amazing how constant pain affects a person.  You don't realize you're in pain, or that the pain makes you tired and lethargic, until you're all better.   Now I have all this energy, and the neurons are almost firing properly again.  Phew.  I'm glad that's done with.  Sorry to all of you who had to put up with me.