“Slow down! And breathe,” P. whispered when he noticed that I was starting to feel agitated. As if I had to do something. Or make something.
It’s funny but it works and I hate to admit it, especially to P. At times, he reminds me to breathe, respirer !
I am still unsure that I know how I feel. How I should feel.
Sometimes, I imagine that the realization of the last six months is going to hit me. Suddenly and unexpectedly. And when it does, it’ll hit me hard on the head. Bang!
Somehow, it started four days ago, after I handed my manuscript to my editor. When my friend S. and I talked about it, she told me that the minute after she had turned in a book manuscript, she had driven home and cried. I didn’t, I told her. But one day later, I was crying too.
I wasn’t sad, mind you. I was simply starting to really relax. And breathe again. And that can be a process that requires time. I was — am — realizing the events of the last few months, one after the other.
These past six months have been a hike, to say the least. There’s been giving birth to our precious baby, winter in Boston with its snow storms, long days and evenings spent behind the stove cooking, and styling and photographing; writing while breastfeeding and changing diapers — and trying to sleep too, whenever I could. There has been styling and photography projects on the side, an inspiring conference where I was lucky to speak, the visits of my parents and P.’s — and the biggest of all, learning to become a mother.
I loved every moment even if it wasn’t always easy. There’s been laughter and tears; joy and discouragement. But when I look back and see the beautiful smiling face of our happy Lulu, what seemed unbearable and difficult vanishes. Pouf ! It’s magical how it works, really.
So yes, I am still amazed to realize that I met my deadline, handing in my manuscript on time last Wednesday. I am not sure how I managed. It’s perhaps a high dose of adrenaline that helped when I needed it, at the right time.
Of course, that does not mean that everything is done with my book. There is still plenty of work ahead for me, with revisions, corrections and testing — I know that! But the book is brought to life, slowly, and I am excited. And while this is happening, I am now officially on vacation. Oh yes! How nice does the word sound when I repeat it out loud a few times, vacances, vacances, vacances, just to make sure that it won’t go away without me.
We are taking Lulu to Europe this summer. She’s going to visit Ireland and France for the first time — we are so proud to be lucky enough to give her this opportunity. I am so eager for her to meet her Irish great-grandmother and cousins; meet more of my relatives in France; play with her grandparents; spend time in my brother’s garden; see the cows, goats and sheep. I’ll show her salads and apple trees and strawberries. She won’t care but that will make me feel warm inside anyhow. We’ll be having picnics by the river, eat lunch under the cherry trees, and walk through the fields. I’ll show her the details of the life that made me a happy young girl growing up in rural France. It might sound cheesy to say, but she is really the best thing I’ve ever done — and that’s coming from a woman who was never sure whether she wanted to have children. I love to rediscover the world through her eyes — like the day when she found out she could make noise by gently running her fingers on the strings of a guitar.
Nature makes wonders.
But with this said, let me share the recipe of this verrine with you, before the rhubarb and strawberry season comes to an end, and you might have to wait until next year again.
I wrote it last year, for the Cuisine Light magazine. It’s a lovely dessert that works perfectly to conclude a dinner with friends. It’s refreshing and sure to please the eye. I thought you might simply enjoy it too.
It’s a dessert to keep handy for a meal during les vacances — or not — if that’s where you are right now.
Note that it uses biscuits roses de Reims which you might find a little difficult to find. If that’s the case, use Champagne biscuits instead, or finely crumbled shortbread or why not, biscotti. Also, I like to work with gelatin sheets because it’s more what I am used to. If you prefer, substitute with gelatin powder. Note that in general, 1/2 teaspoon gelatin powder = 1 gelatin sheet.
Last June, I was pleased to see that Loukoum had enjoyed preparing the dessert. It’s always nice to get feedback.
For the stewed rhubarb:
- 4 sticks of rhubarb, diced (you do not need to peel the rhubarb if it’s young and tender)
- 1/4 cup blond cane sugar
- In a pot, combine the rhubarb and sugar, and bring to a simmer. Cover and let stew until the rhubarb is soft (about 10 minutes). Let cool.
For the lime mousse and fruit:
- 2 limes
- 2 gelatin sheets (about 4 g)
- 2 tablespoons whole milk
- 2 egg yolks
- 4 egg whites
- 1 pinch of salt
- 7 oz mascarpone
- 4 tablespoons blond cane sugar + 1 teaspoon
- 9 oz strawberries, washed, hulled and diced
- A few biscuits roses de Reims, crumbled finely (or champagne biscuits)
- A few unsalted green pistachios, shelled and chopped coarsely
- Soak the gelatin sheets in a large colume of cold water for 5 minutes. Squeeze the sheets between your fingers to remove the excess of water. Heat the milk and add the gelatin sheets so that they dissolve in the milk.
- In a bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until light in color. Add the mascarpone and dissolved gelatin, and mix well.
- Add the lime zest and juice.
- Beat the egg whites to soft peaks with a pinch of salt. When they are almost firm, add 1 teaspoons sugar and continue to beat for 1 minute. Fold the egg whites in the lime-flavored mascarpone.
- To prepare the verrines, have 4 glasses handy. Add 1 good spoonful of rhubarb at the bottom. Add strawberries. Add the rest of the rhubarb and pipe lime mousse on top. Place in the fridge for about 2 to 3 hours.
- When you are ready to serve, sprinkle the biscuits roses de Reims and add a few pistachios.
Pour la compote de rhubarbe :
- 4 bâtons de rhubarbe, pelés et coupés en gros dés
- 50 g de sucre blond de cane
- Mettez la rhubarbe dans une casserole avec le sucre, et faites compoter sur feu doux pendant environ 10 minutes, jusqu’à ce qu’elle soit tendre. Laissez refroidir.
Pour la crème au citron vert et les fruits :
- 2 citrons verts
- 2 feuilles de gélatine alimentaire
- 2 càs de lait
- 2 jaunes d’oeuf
- 4 blancs d’oeuf
- 1 pincée de sel
- 200 g de mascarpone
- 4 càs de sucre fin + 1 càc
- 1 barquette de fraises, lavées et coupées en petits dés
- Quelques biscuits roses de Reims, réduits en poudre (ou des boudoirs)
- Quelques pistaches vertes non salées, décortiquées et hachées
- Faites tremper la gélatine dans un grand volume d’eau froide pendant 5 minutes. Essorez-la et faites la dissoudre dans le lait chauffé.
- Battez les jaunes d’oeuf avec le sucre jusqu’à blanchiment. Ajoutez ensuite la mascarpone et la gélatine.
- Prélevez le zeste des citrons verts, et pressez leur jus. Ajoutez-les à la mascarpone.
- Battez les blancs en neige ferme avec 1 pincée de sel. Quand ils sont presque fermes, ajoutez 1 càc de sucre et battez pendant encore 1 minute. Incorporez délicatement la neige ferme à la crème citronnée.
- Pour assembler vos verrines, placez la moitié de la rhubarbe au fond de 4 petits verres, et recouvrez de fraises (gardez-en pour la décoration). Ajoutez le reste de rhubarbe, puis la crème au citron vert. Mettez au frais pendant 2 à 3 heures pour que la mousse prenne.
- Au moment de servir, saupoudrez de poudre de biscuits roses, de fraises et de pistaches vertes.