Let me start today with extending a huge thank you, and emphasize how much your lovely emails, and comments, here and there, touched us. You make an amazing crowd of generous people; each of your kind thoughts and words brought a wide smile to our lips.
You know, the French are not quite talented at giving hugs — we are actually rather awkward with them, more experienced with the tradition of kissing someone on both cheeks, two or four according to the region (don’t worry, I too get confused) — but if I could just share a large collective hug with all of YOU, I would. That would be a really nice thing, actually. Non ?
So yes, I surely hope that there will be baby recipes coming up in this space — no doubt that I am already inspired. Of course, I am aware that feeding a baby might not be so easy at the beginning. I too remember my early teenager days (oh yes indeed), when I used to be a picky eater at times. Yet, my mum never gave up, or cooked special things for us — and I am glad. Both my palate and my brother’s developed because of her patience, and persistence. I am convinced that this has largely contributed to shape us into becoming two adults loving good food.
So once again, a big thank you to all of you. You are the best.
I woke up because the tip of my nose was cold. P.’s back was turned to me; his heavy breathing made me realized that he was still deep asleep. I sat up in bed and scanned around the room still filled with complete darkness. Could we have forgotten to close a window in the bedroom?
We had, indeed.
But in fact, it did not make a difference. It was only reinforcing the fact that colder temperatures had hit us overnight. I smiled. That meant that the leaves on the trees would change color even faster, something I had secretly been waiting for — fall is definitely a wonderful season around here.
The day was perfect to go out for a walk, especially since our friends Akiko and Pierre were visiting from Paris. (Akiko Ida and Pierre Javelle are amazingly talented food photographers. Do you remember seeing fun food pictures with little characters on them, the very ones that tell wonderful stories, such as firemen on a crème brûlée? These are all their creations.)
“On vous emmène au cimetière Mount Auburn,” I told Akiko after she and I returned from our morning yoga class. “Tu verras, les arbres là-bas sont vraiment très beaux.” (We are taking you to Mount Auburn Cemetery. You will see, trees there are amazingly beautiful.)
Especially at this time of year, when they create a patchwork of vibrant colors so pleasing to the eye.
Mount Auburn Cemetery was founded in 1831 as America’s first landscaped or garden cemetery. The place comprises 175 acres of hills, dells, ponds, woodlands and clearings, with an impressive collection of over 5,000 trees. It feels extremely quiet to walk there, and from the top of Washington tower, you get a panoramic view of the vastness stretching in the distance, with the city as a backdrop.
Despite the chilly air, the sun felt warm as it brushed softly the tip of the trees with its generous light. When we arrived at the top of the tower, it was fairly windy; we knew we would not stay long. But we could not help but admire the explosion of colors spreading in front of our eyes. In a few weeks, I knew it would be even better.
“It’s like following the blossoms during Spring in Japan,” I told A. “Many people come in New England to follow the leaves as they turn color.”
We enjoyed a relaxed walk. We chatted away. We laughed, doing all the nice things friends do together. I was already imagining the hot chocolate we would have once we returned home.
A. and P. could not stay too long in Boston, not leaving much time for me to cook for them, especially since we went out for dinner. Yet I still managed to bake a hazelnut marbled cake which we tasted at breakfast.
“I want the recipe,” A. said after she swallowed the last piece on her plate. “What gives it this color?” she went on.
“C’est la farine de noisettes,” (it’s the hazelnut flour) I said with a smile. I was thrilled she liked it.
The cake felt moist and light, even after we ate a few slices each.
“Il est bien moelleux à cause de la compote de pommes que j’ai ajoutée,” I added. (It’s moist because of the apple stew I put in). Heirloom apples also give it a distinctive taste — the best.”
The weekend was conducive to hearty foods.
I was glad to have prepared a warm dish of mushroom and eggplant lasagna that we enjoyed at lunch, and a nourishing soup which we ate for dinner — both dishes matched the mood of the weekend perfectly.
“Clams in the soup?” P. said once he saw the steaming pot of rich vegetable broth brought to the table. “That’s pretty unusual.”
“Yes. Right. Well, I just felt like eating a hearty soup like this one. I also used curry and added cooked red lentils.”
Toasted tartines of baguette, flavored with olive oil, thyme and melted Manchego cheese accompanied our dish.
“You really like winter squash, don’t you?” P. said after he had his first spoonful.
“Did you notice too?” I answered, laughing heartily.
During the last two weeks, we had been eating all sorts of dishes made with potimarron (red kuri squash), my favorite, and acorn and butternut squashes too. When the season is at its peak, I cannot resist the vivid orange color of these vegetables, and feel inspired to no end.
They really know how to make food look happier.
Never a bad thing.
For the soup:
- 1 lb 2 oz red kuri squash, seeded and diced
- 4 carrots, peeled and diced (5 oz)
- 1 leek, white part only, chopped
- 1 celery branch, chopped
- 1 zucchini (7 oz), cut in pieces
- 3 cups water
- 1/2 cup (3.5 oz) red lentils
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 1 tsp ground curry
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 3/4 + 1/8 cups coconut milk
- A splash white wine
- 20 clams (about 4 to 5 clams per person)
- Chopped parsley
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper
For the tartines:
- Slices of baguette, or a bread of your choice
- Olive oil, to brush
- Fresh thyme, chopped
- Manchego cheese, grated
- In a large pot, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil. Add the shallot, leek and celery. Sweat for 2 minutes, until soft, making sure that the vegetables never brown. Then add the ground cumin and curry, and cook for 1 minute until fragrant.
- Add the rest of the vegetables and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
- Add the water, salt and pepper and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, until all the vegetables are soft.
- Mix the soup. Check the seasoning, and add the coconut milk. Keep warm.
- In the meantime, cook the red lentils (1/2 cup lentils requires 1.5 cups water, plus salt; cook until soft, most of the water will be absorbed; set aside).
- Cook the clams with a splash of white wine on high heat, covered, until they are open; set aside.
- Add the lentils to the soup; mix well.
- To make the tartines, brush slices of baguette (or another rustic bread) with olive oil. Sprinkle with thyme and grated cheese, and place under the broil for a few minutes, to brown slightly.
- Laddle the soup in a bowl. Add the clams and parsley, extra grated Manchego cheese, and serve with the tartines.
Pour la soupe :
- 500 g de potimarron, sans graines, coupé en gros dés
- 4 carottes, pelées et coupées en dés (140 g)
- 1 poireau, partie blanche, haché
- 1 branche de céleri, hachée
- 1 courgette (200 g), coupée en dés
- 750 ml d’eau froide
- 100 g de lentilles corail
- 1 échalote, hachée
- 1 càc de curry en poudre
- 1/2 càc de cumin en poudre
- 200 ml de lait de coco
- Un soupçon de vin blanc
- 20 praires ou coques (environ 4 à 5 par personne)
- Persil haché
- 2 càs d’huile d’olive
- Sel et poivre
Pour les tartines :
- Tranches de baguette, ou un autre bon pain de votre choix
- Huile d’olive
- Thym frais, haché
- Fromage Manchego, râpé
- Dans une grosse cocotte, faites chauffer 2 càs d’huile d’olive. Ajoutez l’échalote, le poireau et le céleri, et faites suer pendant 2 à 3 minutes, sans laisser brunir. Ajoutez le cumin et le curry, et poursuivez la cuisson pendant 1 minute jusqu’à ce que les saveurs se dégagent.
- Ajoutez le reste des légumes, puis continuez la cuisson pendant 5 minutes.
- Ajoutez l’eau, du sel et du poivre, puis faites mijoter à couvert pendant environ 20 minutes, jusqu’à ce que les légumes soient tendres.
- Mixez la soupe. Vérifiez l’assaisonnement et ajoutez le lait de coco. Gardez au chaud.
- En attendant, faites cuire les lentilles corail (1 volume de lentille requiert 3 volumes d’eau, du sel. Cuisez jusqu’à ce que les lentilles soient tendres. L’eau sera pratiquement absorbée; mettez de côté).
- Cuisez les praires avec un soupçon de vin blanc sur feu vif, à couvert, jusqu’à ce qu’elles soient toutes ouvertes; mettez de côté.
- Ajoutez les lentilles à la soupe et mélangez bien.
- Pour faire les tartines, badigeonnez les tranches de pain avec de l’huile d’olive. Ajoutez le thym, et le fromage râpé. Passez sous le gril jusqu’à ce que le fromage soit fondu, et que les tartines soient grillées.
- Versez la soupe dans des assiettes creuses, ou des bols. Ajoutez les praires, du persil frais, et du fromage râpé Manchego. Servez avec les tartines.