One day at a time

lotta love.jpg

Today a very dear friend of mine taught me a very valuable lesson. She probably won’t take credit for it. That’s just how she is. We have taught together for 30+ years.  We can finish each other’s sentences. Kind of like an old married couple. We sponsor a club for 7th and 8th grade girls at our school. Our pet project this year is helping decorate rooms in homeless shelters with A Lotta Love, an organization started by Lotta Sjoelin. We decorated a room in February and have been raising money to decorate another one. We have taken up money at basketball games, sold concessions, had neighborhood lemonade, popsicle, and bake sales and today we sold coffee, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, granola bars, popsicles, and Gatorade at a lacrosse tournament. Fund-raising isn’t easy, especially on a 90˚ day. Our girls are very busy with their own activities and families, but they passionately believe in this cause. One 8th grade girlie said “I love lacrosse and I love fundraisers- what a great day!” That made me realize that I needed to stop internally complaining about giving up my morning and my frustrations with trying to raise money. (It wasn’t totally internal– I complained to Dear Friend…) That was one lesson that I needed to learn. Stop complaining. Period.

Dear Friend and I were discussing health issues today while at the lacrosse tournament. We are almost the same age. She never lets me forget that I am 3 months older. She has recently been diagnosed with thyroid issues and I have been dealing with the same for about 12 years or so. If you have a normal thyroid you are lucky. This butterfly-shaped gland in your neck affects an awful lot of the body’s functions, including:

  • Breathing
  • Heart rate
  • Central and peripheral nervous systems
  • Body weight
  • Muscle strength
  • Body temperature
  • Cholesterol levels

Mine was hyperactive when I was first diagnosed. I was exhausted all the time, my hair was falling out, I had heart palpitations, and my nails were very brittle. My hands were very shaky and I was either freezing cold or sweating. (The BFF actually forced me to make a doctor’s appointment even though just the thought of picking up the phone and calling made me tired.) It came on quite suddenly since I always ask my doctor to test for it when I have a physical exam. My mom and both sisters have thyroid issues. I thought that I had escaped it and even felt quite smug about it. Big mistake. I started seeing an endocrinologist and we tried to regulate it with medication, but that only worked for a little while. I decided to swallow a dose of radioactive iodine to gradually kill my gland. I now take a daily dose of Synthroid to keep me from suffering from hypothyroidism. Finding the proper dose is tricky. The levels of T3 and T4 are measured by a blood test and what are considered “normal” levels vary from doctor to doctor. I have learned to trust how I feel and push for the dosage of Synthroid that makes me feel the most “normal.” (I also check my comb every morning for hair loss.)

Dear Friend commented today that perhaps having an overactive thyroid isn’t a bad thing. Yes, she did. And the reason is that an overactive gland can help you control your weight because it revs up your metabolism. But it has other, much more serious side effects, including heart problems. I gave her my honest opinion and told her that she needs to get the thyroid under control. Period. Mine only caused me to lose weight when I suffered from a thyroid “storm.” She then told me that she is trying to go carb-free for the day in order to eat more healthily. We later had this text conversation–

Me: Every time I want a cookie today I am going to think of you. To keep me honest.

DF: You’ve got to have something better to think about that that! We’ll work on it together… but remember, it’s no carbs just for today! I can’t last more than that.

Me: One day at a time.

DF: Amen, sister.

Me: My new motto!

DF: Works for me!

Today’s recipe is one I tried about a month ago. If you are giving up carbs for one day, leave out the pasta. This is really good and easy. Pesto and Parmesan cheese are two of my weaknesses. I also added roasted chicken, torn into bite-sized pieces to make it a non-vegetarian dish for the Ex-Ex. Grilled andouille sausage cut into bite-sized pieces would also be really good.

roasted vegs with ravioli

Ravioli with Roasted Vegetables

from Jaclyn Bell of cookingclassy.com

serves 6

2 medium zucchini, ends trimmed, sliced into half moons

2 medium yellow squash, ends trimmed, sliced into half moons

1 red bell pepper, diced into 3/4-inch squares

1/2 large red onion, diced into 3/4-inch squares

8 oz button mushrooms, sliced thick

2 Tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 (10.5 oz) package of grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 cups fresh baby spinach

1 (20 oz) package refrigerated cheese ravioli

2/3-cup pesto

Finely shredded Parmesan cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 425˚F.
  2. Place zucchini, squash, bell pepper, onion and mushrooms on a rimmed 18×13-inch baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Roast 10 minutes, then remove from oven. Add tomatoes and garlic to pan, and toss. Roast 10-15 minutes longer or until vegetables are tender. Add spinach to pan and toss. Roast 1 minute longer or until spinach has wilted.
  3. Cook ravioli according to package directions; drain. Pour ravioli into a large bowl. Stir in roasted vegetables and pesto (I let everyone add their own pesto after serving). Season with salt and pepper to taste then toss to evenly coat. Serve warm topped with cheese.

Bon appétit. Remember– one day at a time. Every day is a new day. A chance to start again. 

42 years and counting

My life in middle school.

4 personal years  (1968-1972) + 38 teaching years (1980-present) = 42 years spent in middle school.

Oh yea. Really. And there is rarely a dull moment. Take today for instance. I gave my 8th graders an assignment to use their vocabulary for homes and neighborhoods.

You have been offered a two-month summer internship in Paris. 
Choose where you will work and what your job will be.  
  • Arrondissement
  • Address
  • Name of place and your job
You will make 1600 euros a month.  You and your roommate are looking for an apartment to rent.  You must stay within your budget.  A single person can expect to spend 1200-1800 euros per month to live (food, rent, transportation, miscellaneous expenses) in Paris.
I gave them tasks to complete, a website en français for appartements. They had to devise a budget, find an apartment, tell me how they were going to get to work every day, tell me about the layout and furnishings in the apartment, etc. They could put their presentations in Google slides, PowerPoint, etc. I have an Apple TV in my classroom so that they can project on the screen from their iPads. for their classmates. The presentation must be en français, bien sûr. French 8 at my school is a high school level French 2 course. Presentations began today. Some of the little darlings are going to starve because they did not budget nearly enough money for food in Paris. I want to share one of the presentations. So, with their permission, I give you two of my jeunes hommes...
Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 4.17.49 PM
Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 4.24.06 PM
Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 4.26.01 PM.png
Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 4.26.53 PM
Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 4.27.53 PM
Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 4.28.43 PM
Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 4.29.36 PM
Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 4.30.22 PM
Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 4.31.09 PM
Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 4.31.55 PM
Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 4.32.59 PM
Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 4.33.42 PM
Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 4.35.28 PM
Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 4.37.17 PM
Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 4.38.29 PM
Screen Shot 2018-05-08 at 4.39.13 PM
Pretty impressive, n’est-ce pas? I think they learned something. And they made me laugh. In May no less.
How about some mushroom-shrimp risotto for dinner? Not French, but delicious. Mlle M and I made this for dinner a couple of weeks ago. The BFF was invited to come eat with us because she loves this dish. She couldn’t make it, though. Tant pis. Next time.
risotto
Simple Risotto
This is a basic recipe.  I added a cup of frozen green peas, some sautéed mushrooms and sautéed shrimp, 1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, and 1/2 c. dry white wine.
approximately 3 cups of risotto

1 c. uncooked arborio rice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 c. chopped onion
4-5 c. chicken or vegetable broth, heated to simmering
Salt and pepper, to taste, if desired

Sauté onion in oil and butter for 3 minutes.  Add rice, stirring to coat with oil/butter for about 2 minutes. Stir in one cup of broth and wine, if using.  Continue cooking and stirring until liquid is absorbed. Gradually stir in remaining hot broth 1/2 cup at a time (I use a ladle), cooking and stirring until liquid is absorbed before adding the next cup. When rice is almost done, add whatever ingredients you wish– sautéed mushrooms, vegetables, shrimp, etc. and continue cooking until rice is tender but not mushy.

Bon appétit tout le monde! Good luck to all my colleagues out there. The end is in sight. I am counting down the Mondays. Hang on to your sense of humor. Goodness knows we need it right now.

The right place at the right time

JLAP

It has only been a little over a month since I returned from France. It was an amazing trip with my co-chaperone and 13 of my eighth grade students. While planning the trip, I discovered that there would be a guided tour in English at the Mémorial de la Shoah. My students and I discuss the Holocaust and La Rafle, the round-up of the Jews in Paris in July of 1942. I show them the movie Sarah’s Key, based on the novel by Tatiana de Rosnay. I have had the pleasure of meeting Mme de Rosnay twice, once by design, once purely by chance. Being in the right place at the right time. In front of the Paris Hôtel de Ville during a rally for women in 2013. She was the guest of honor. All of the women were on motorcycles, including Mme de Rosnay.

tatiana

I’ve been to the Mémorial de la Shoah several times in the past few years. While in Paris in January of this year, I decided to visit Drancy, the site of one of the deportation camps used during the Holocaust. I have read stories of women who survived the camps or who were hidden children during the Holocaust. I have also read fictionalized accounts of the occupation of France by the Nazis such as All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. My high school French teacher, Mme Christiane Roze Buchanan, lived in occupied France.

IG

On this particular March Sunday afternoon, I arrived with my crew in time for one young lady, who became a Bat Mitzvah in November of 2018, to make a presentation about the Mémorial. (I ask all of the students to sign up for one of the places we will visit and prepare a short presentation about it.) We also had time to take a look at the Wall of Names before our guided tour began (see first two photos). We found a place to sit inside the Mémorial to wait on our guide. There weren’t many places to sit and when another woman came over to join our group, I gave one young man a look that meant “Get up and give your seat to this woman. Now.” He read me well and got up. This woman struck up a conversation with the students she was sitting next to– Where are you from? Why are you in Paris? What have you seen so far? Then the tour began and we took a two-hour journey through the history of anti-semitism and anti-Judaism in France. The tour ended in a relatively small room, with just a few glass benches, and black and white photos of children on the walls. Photos of children taken from their families during the Holocaust. By this time, I was in tears. Just thinking of having my children or granddaughter taken from me is almost more than I can stand. As I sat there, I heard a voice behind me say in French to the guide “J’étais un enfant caché.” I was a hidden child. The voice came from the woman who had joined our tour. The guide asked her in French if she would be willing to share her story. The right place at the right time.

(I am taking this from Monique’s bio- she tells the story much better than I could.)

monique's book

A “hidden child” of the Holocaust taken in France in 1942, Monique Saigal dedicates the new edition of her book to her grandmother Rivka Leiba pictured on the cover, gassed at Auschwitz September 30th, 1942. A month earlier, on August 24th fearing for Monique’s life she threw her on a train carrying non-Jewish children whose fathers like Monique’s had died. An organization called “the house of the prisoners” helped war widows by sending their children to spend a one month vacation with a host family in Southwest France. Scared and alone, Monique arrived at the train station but there was no one to pick her up. However, a young lady Jacqueline Baleste, waiting for a little boy who did not come off the train, saw the little girl with no name-tag crying in the corner. She embraced her and brought her home where Monique lived with the Baleste family for 8 years in a small village. She was baptized and raised Catholic for fear of surrounding Nazis in this occupied zone.

monique photo

After she spoke with the group, Monique gave me a postcard-sized card with her bio. And her email address. I attempted to wipe away my tears and hugged her. Later that evening, I emailed Monique to thank her for sharing her story with us. She quickly emailed back and told me that she would be happy to meet us and share more of her story if we had the time. We settled on a time, she came to our hotel with her power point presentation on her computer, and told us more of her story. Several of my students bought a copy of her book. When she ran out of copies, she told me that she would send some more to me as soon as she got back to California. (She was in Paris to visit her uncle, her mother’s brother.)

monique's inscription

Monique’s book, French Heroines, 1940-1945, available in both French and English, contains the stories of women “who are little known yet who stand out because of their extraordinary courage during the German occupation in World War II, when they risked their lives, engaging in clandestine activities to overcome the Nazis.” There are eighteen stories because in Hebrew “chai” or the number 18 stands for life. I read these eighteen stories and have even reread most of them because their acts of bravery seem unbelievable to someone who spends most of her time worrying about “first world problems.”  I want to believe that I would have been one of those brave women. But I hope that I never have to find out the limits of my bravery and courage.

Merci, Monique. I will never forget our chance encounter. Thank you for being so very brave. God bless your grandmother and the Baleste family.

The right place at the right time. How very fortunate I am.

As I read about the people who were starving during the war, I realized that although my family didn’t have very much money when I was growing up, Mama Mildred always managed to put food on the table for her four children. I made a very simple soup today and I will pass that recipe on. My recipes such as this one are always a guess-timate, as we say in English. Soups do not have to be exact. That’s probably one of the reasons I enjoy creating them. Someone left a bag of Wegman’s Salt Potatoes in the faculty lounge this week and I claimed them. A 5-pound bag of potatoes with a small bag of salt inside. Go figure!

soup

Potato Sausage Soup

Andouille sausage, cut in bite-sized pieces

1 medium or large onion, diced

Minced garlic, optional

Olive oil

Thin-skinned potatoes, scrubbed (and peeled, if you wish), cut into bite-sized pieces

Chicken stock or broth (you could also use vegetable stock or even water)

Herbs (I used Weber’s Roasted Garlic and Herb Seasoning)

Salt and pepper, if desired

In a heavy bottomed pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Brown the sausage on both sides. Remove to a bowl and set aside.

Using the same pot and oil, sauté the onions until soft. If using minced garlic, add it at the end, for about 2 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon.

Put the potatoes in the pot with the onions. Cover the potatoes with chicken stock, broth or water. Add back the sausage. Sprinkle in herbs. Stir. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender. Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed.

Bon appétit to heroes from all walks of life. Big and small. Rich and poor. Old and young. Jewish, Catholic, Protestant or non-believers. And all in-between. To all who perform intentional and/or random acts of kindness in this world. And remember, everyone has a story. We just need to open our hearts and ears and listen. Really listen.

 

Sweet (and savory) memories

I’ve been MIA from my dear sweet blog. January brought the passing of my mom’s dear sweet husband and that of my dear sweet father-in-law. I still catch myself not believing that they are gone from us. February brought a three-day trip to Washington, DC and the usual whirlwind of classes, lesson plans and the like and the serious last minute preparations for the annual France Trip with my eighth graders. And now, that has come and gone as well. Thus the cartoon. In this post, I am going to focus on the delicious aspects of that trip. I hope you are hungry!

The 2018 Paris Delicious List

#1 Goat cheese crème brûlée eaten in a little restaurant near the Panthéon (listed on the menu as crème brûlée de chèvre cendré, oignons confits); the goat cheese salad I also had was noteworthy.

 

 

#2  Steak-frites and the “sauce” Charmélcia at Bistro Régent, our last dinner, near the Gare St. Lazare train station (all you can eat fries and bibb lettuce-vinaigrette salad included with your steak, duck or salmon- the only entrées on the menu)

#3  Hachis parmentier (think Shepard’s Pie) served at Odile’s apartment- we ate at the homes of Parisians through VizEat. Odile also gives cooking lessons in her home. The butternut squash soup with crème fraîche and riz au lait she served for dessert were also amazing.

 

 

#4  My darling Pierre Hermé’s creations- I tried a take on the Paris-Brest dessert from his new shop 86 Champs (a joint venture on the Champs-Élysées with L’Occitane but as much as I love that shop I only had eyes for Pierre)

 

I also had (at least one) macaron…

#5  German-style hot dog from  Le Stube– I would never have found this one on my own. Leave it to Bertrand Tour Guide to take us here. We got our dogs to go and ate them in the park at Palais Royal. Pique-nique!

#6  Rillettes de canard in a small café near the Marché d’Aligre— AP, my co-chaperone wouldn’t agree, but I love rillettes- slow-cooked meat similar to pâté- this one made from duck, eaten on bread with little cornichons. Another Bertrand find.

#7  My cheese plate (I often eat cheese instead of dessert) from the cafeteria/restaurant on the top floor of Galeries Lafayette; we sat next to the ladies from the Chanel counter in their cute t-shirts; the view of Paris (not of the Chanel ladies) was pretty spectacular too– la Tour Eiffel and le Grand Palais

 

Okay, full disclosure here– AP and I later opted for (and shared) an éclair made by Christophe Adam- after we shopped and before we took off on more walking adventures–we needed our strength, you know. The “food court” in the Galeries Lafayette Maison building is pretty spectacular as well. Pierre Hermé has a spot here, too.

 

 

 

#8  My daily half baguette spread with demi-sel butter and jam at our hotel- nothing fancy, but what a great way to start the day. They have a fancy coffee machine now- no more little pots of strong coffee and warm milk- but the coffee is really good and it’s much easier on the women who take such good care of us at breakfast.

#9  Mint tea and pastries at the Grand Mosquée de Paris– oui, another Bertrand idea. We took the kiddos to the Jardin des Plantes (zoo, dinosaurs, park) and as our little afternoon pause-café we ducked into the tea room for a treat; a first for me! The glass of sweet mint tea was amazing.

#10  Galette (savory crêpe made with buckwheat flour) of ham, cheese and an egg in the Marais for lunch- a lovely Sunday morning treat

We had eating adventures outside of Paris– Normandy, Senlis, Versailles– but I will leave that for another day. Today’s project is to try to duplicate the goat cheese crème brûlée. I have already made the hachis parmentier. It was not as good as Odile’s… but I will keep trying. The Ex-Ex and Niece liked it and gave it a thumb’s up.

Hachis Parmentier 
recipe from Genius Kitchen

SC’s notes: I did not use instant potatoes (quelle horreur!) nor did I add tomatoes. Odile said she used a bit of tomato paste so I did the same. She added mascarpone to her potatoes (I should have) and most importantly, she used leftover beef stew for the meat. I didn’t happen to have any in my refrigerator (beef stew doesn’t last long here) so I substituted the best ground beef I could find. I will keep working on the recipe, but this is a good base. Garlic mashed potatoes would be good as well. I sprinkled some gruyère cheese on the top of the potatoes before putting it in the oven. I think that next time I will bake it 15 minutes longer.

READY IN:

40mins

SERVES:

8

INGREDIENTS

  • onions, chopped
  • garlic cloves, minced (or pressed)
  • 1tablespoon butter
  • tablespoons olive oil
  • tomatoes, chopped
  • 1-1⁄2 lbs lean ground beef
  • tablespoon herbes de provence (or other herbs to your taste)
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1egg yolk
  • tablespoons parmesan cheese
  • 4 -5cups mashed potatoes (instant is fine)
  • 3⁄4 cup gruyere cheese, grated (can also use emmental or similar)
  1. In a large frying pan, cook the onions & garlic in the butter & olive oil on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, ground beef, herbs, salt & pepper. Cook until the meat is browned thoroughly. Turn off heat & add egg yolk & Parmesan cheese, stirring to mix completely.
  2. Spread the meat in the bottom of a lightly oiled oven proof dish (a 9×13 would be perfect). Spread the potatoes on top of the meat mixture. And finish by sprinkling the grated cheese on top.
  3. Bake in 400 deg oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted & the potatoes lightly browned.
 
Bon appétit, mes amis. Please keep reading! I promise to keep blogging, through good times and sad ones. Make good food and feed people. That’s a sure way to be have good times.

Snow Day 2018

So, I want everyone to know that I just got up off the sofa, out from under this amazing blanket (a late Christmas gift from an 8th grade girlie and her mom), put on my clogs, and braved the cold- 24˚F- to take a couple of photos for you. I am brave like that. Teaching the kiddos yesterday, after a two-week break, was exhausting. Hahaha

I love this holly-type bush/tree just outside my door.

 

The Ex-Ex is already out driving around in it. He went to check the roads so he can tell his coaches that their will be no coaching going on today. He also went to fetch my computer charging cord because I didn’t believe it would really snow and left it on my desk. He likes to put the Jeep in 4-wheel drive and go exploring. Pas moi.

You can see his foot prints.

He did ask me to sweep the steps clear of snow if the spirit moves me. Hey, I did get up early and take a shower and put on my favorite sweatpants. I am not a total bum. And those steps might get swept in a bit. On ne sait jamais.

I have stuff to do right here on this sofa. Write this blog. Listen to some music while I type away. Right now, my very talented friend James Green is playing Dan Fogelberg’s Same Old Lang Syne on his saxophone. I have a thing for sad songs and this is one of my favorites. Listen. James has his own YouTube channel in case you want to hear more.

And then if you want to listen to Dan sing it, here you go.

I also need to grade some pen pal letters that my students wrote before the break. I am going to hand deliver them to Mme M next week. I will indeed tuck them inside my suitcase and take them across the ocean. Oui, off to Paris next week. Just a tiny bit excited.

For three glorious days, I will be a guest of ACIS, spend some time with other teachers, wander the streets of the City of Light with Betrand, my tour manager and our tour guide next week. Then I will have three more glorious days solo. I have some trip scouting to do for the March student trip. A few places to check out in advance. I buy postcards of places and works of art that the kiddos will see to hand out to them so that they can prepare short presentations they will share with their fellow travelers during the trip. Last year, Bertrand and I came up with the idea of asking each of them to photograph their favorite work of art in the Musée d’Orsay (yes, you can now take photos in there without a long lecture from a guard). We also asked them to be prepared to tell us the name, artist and why the piece “spoke” to them. Later that day, we sat on steps near the École Militaire, if memory serves me correct, and everyone, including the adults, took turns. Definitely one of the highlights of the trip for me.

What else do I need to do today? Finish a project for Seth and Luke at Bull City Burger and Brewery. A table and “curtain” for beer-tastings. I am their resident seamstress.

I am currently reading a biography of Hadley Richardson, the first Mrs. Ernest Hemingway. It is Paris Without End: The True Story of Hemingway’s First Wife by Gioia Diliberto. (It’s on Amazon Kindle for $1.99 today. I get nothing from Amazon for posting that, BTW. I have a Kindle app on my iPad and read a lot that way.) Sofa-reading under the new blanket seems like a nice way to spend some time on a cold day. I enjoyed The Paris Wife by Paula McLain a couple of years ago and decided to read more about Hadley.

Sister-in-Law sent photos a week or so ago of French onion soup that she made in her crockpot. Needless to say, I have been craving it since. (Dare I ask the Ex-Ex to stop at the grocery store on his way home to pick up onions and beef stock?? I usually have both but the cupboards are a bit bare right now.)

 

S-in-L and I also discussed the recipe when we were together during New Year’s. This is one of my very favorite dishes. It is also probably the first thing I will eat when I hit the streets of Paris. Last year, I found a café near my hotel and ate a bowl of soup, sipped a glass of Côtes-du-Rhône, and watched a man delicately devour un hamburger-frites with a knife and fork. I wish that I could have videoed that feat. Hamburgers are the rage in Paris. I hear that there is also a hamburger food truck roaming around.

Anyway, revenons à notre soupe. Sister-in-Law is very clever and has her favorite recipes in Evernote and sent it to me. I use Evernote for my class assignments. It is so easy and user friendly. Using for recipes would mean that I could easily bring up a recipe on my phone while at the grocery store. Smart, right?  Here you go.

How to make French Onion Soup in the slow cooker
from the Kitchn.

I haven’t tried it, but S-in-L and her husband raved about it. She cut the recipe in two since there are only two of them.

Serves 6 to 8

What You Need

Ingredients

  • pounds yellow onions, peeled, sliced, and cut into quarter-moons
  • tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • tablespoons olive oil
  • teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 cups reduced-sodium beef broth
  • tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • tablespoons brandy (optional)
  • To Serve
  • 4 to 6 toasted baguette slices per bowl
  • 1/3 cup grated Gruyère cheese per bowl (1 1/3 to 2 cups total)
  • Chopped shallot or fresh onion (optional)
  • Equipment
  • Cutting board and chef’s knife
  • 5-quart or larger slow cooker
  • Wooden spoon
  • Oven-safe soup bowls
  • Rimmed baking sheet

Instructions

  1. Season the onions. Place the onions in a 5-quart or larger slow cooker. Stir in the butter, oil, salt, and a generous amount of pepper.
  2. Cook on LOW for 12 hours. Cover and cook on the LOW setting overnight until the onions should be dark golden-brown and soft, 12 hours or overnight.
  3. Add the broth and vinegar. Stir in the broth and vinegar.
  4. Cook for LOW 6 to 8 hours. Cover and continue cooking on the LOW setting for 6 to 8 hours. This is flexible; as long as your slow cooker holds moisture well (wrap a towel over the lid if quite a lot of steam escapes), you can cook the soup for hours. Longer cooking will only intensify the flavors. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed, and stir in the brandy if using.
  5. Portion the soup into oven-safe bowls. Arrange a rack in the upper third of the oven and heat to 350°F. Ladle the soup and onions into oven-safe soup bowls and place the bowls on a rimmed baking sheet.
  6. Top with toast and shredded cheese. Top each bowl with a slice of toast and a generous quantity of shredded Gruyère cheese, about 1/3 cup per bowl.
  7. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes. Bake until the cheese is completely melted, 20 to 30 minutes.
  8. Broil for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the oven to broil. Broil until the cheese is bubbling and browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. Serve with chopped fresh shallot or onion if desired.

Recipe Notes

Adjusting Consistency & Thickness: When I have made this, the soup has always been just the right consistency. But if yours seems a little thin or watery, you can quickly finish it off on the stovetop by simmering gently in a saucepan for 15 minutes or until the broth has reduced a little.

Bon appétit and Happy Snow Day to all! Stay warm and toasty. Eat something tasty. Listen to some music. Read a good book.

Black diamonds

This is a trip back in time. Back to December 4, 2008, to be exact. I am not sure why I woke up thinking about this adventure while I was on sabbatical. Coincidence? Who knows. But what I do know is that once I pulled up this blog entry, I was transported back to the woods on a chilly day, two Frenchmen, a dog and me. Unfortunately for me, I haven’t had a truffle since I came home in 2008. Big sigh…

Enjoy. Bon appétit! Merci, René, Sonny et Érick. Je vous aime.

Yesterday I fell in love with a man, his dog and a mountain. After last Friday’s truffle market in Carpentras, Chef Érick and I were invited to have lunch with René, pictured above, and Françoise, his wife, at their home in Isle sur la Sorgue in the Vaucluse. René called on Tuesday of this week to confirm that we were coming. He asked me if I am afraid of walking in the mountains. He did not know he was talking to a mountain girl. And then he told me not to wear my high heels. Since I do not own any, that would be easy enough. He also reminded me that we needed to get there early. So, I dressed warmly, lacing up my tennis shoes, and we set out around 10:00 am. Isle sur la Sorgue is about an hour’s drive from Arles. We drove through fog for about 30 minutes and after it lifted, we could see Mont Ventoux in the distance, covered with snow.

When we arrived in the town well-known for its antique shops, Érick pulled off to the side of the road to phone René because he was unsure of how to find his house. René gave him directions and said he would come find us on his bicycle if we got lost. We set out again and, sure enough, at the turn to his neighborhood, there sat René on his vélo. We followed him home. We were greeted by the barking of Sonny, his white lab. Françoise had prepared a feast for us. We ate shrimp, paté de fois gras and smoked salmon on toast and radishes as appetizers. Then Françoise made omelets with truffles for the next course. René brought out a bottle of red Côtes du Ventoux wine and uncorked it. The omelets were followed by endives baked with ham and cheese with truffles sprinkled inside. Lunch conversation consisted of René telling me about his teaching days at the nearby high school and Érick instructing Françoise on the proper way to prepare truffles. He told her that truffles should not be cooked. They should be added to a dish after it has been cooked. Heating them causes them to lose their flavor. Françoise seemed very grateful for the advice. We had cheese, a little dish of ice cream and coffee before setting out on our adventure. Françoise elected not to go (probably because she had so many dishes to wash…) and she lent me her boots. René loaded Sonny into the truck and off we went.

I really had no idea what to expect. I did have a vague recollection of oak trees and roots after reading Peter Mayle’s books. We parked by the side of the road and found a little path up the mountain where René owns property and where he does his hunting. I followed behind René and Sonny, keeping a bit of distance between us so as not to distract her. I learned to walk in the grass or on the moss, not on the dirt path. Lesson #1: leave no tracks for others to see. Lesson #2: whisper so that your voice doesn’t carry. Others are probably around, hunting for truffles, too, poaching most likely. It is still a bit early in the truffle-hunting season and I had been warned not to expect too much. So, it was a pleasant surprise when Sonny started digging about 10 minutes into our walk. As soon as she begins to dig, René hurries over and scoots her out of the way. She has no interest in eating the truffle, however. I had read about hunting with pigs, but pigs like to eat the truffles. We did see lots of places where wild boar, sangliers, had beat us to the treasure. Once René finds the diamant noir, or black diamond as they are known in France, he rewards Sonny with several dog treats from the little bag he keeps in his pocket. He tells her what a great dog she is and pets her. It is obvious that he loves her dearly and she is fiercely loyal to him. She decided that she kind of liked me, but I think it was because I was wearing Françoise’s boots, to be truthful.

René then checks out his treasure, smelling it and carefully rubbing some of the dirt away in order to see if it is a good one. He can tell immediately if it is too wet or too dry. If so, it will not fetch much at the market. There are stories of fake smell being added to the truffles, lead pellets being inserted into them to make them weigh more, poachers who steal from the property owners, and so on. This seems to be a business based on trust, however, and René is a man of his word. He taught high school for about 30 years and loved it. He has hunted truffles for over 40 years. He took great pleasure in showing me how he goes about it. I am deeply grateful to him for the lesson.

We spent about two hours following Sonny’s nose and a little path up the mountain. René remembers where he has had success in the past and guides the dog towards those places. She, however, is guided by her nose and her knowledge that a treat awaits her should she find a truffle. We came out of the woods with 11 truffles of various sizes. René even let me dig one up. He carries a small screwdriver in his pocket for this purpose. He places his truffles in a small white plastic sack. His jacket has lots of pockets to hold all the tools of his trade.

At first glance, I thought his René’s mountain resembled the Appalachian Mountains, my home. However, once we started climbing up the path, I realized there was not very much resemblance at all. Snail shells are scattered everywhere. A wall made of stones winds up the mountain, built from the flat rocks that are found everywhere. Small stones huts, bories, are hidden away, built long ago by shepherds as shelters while they tended their flocks of sheep. I ventured into one of them, admittedly not very far as it was very dark and I am not too fond of spiders, even French ones. The oak trees are not large ones, as I had expected. They are small and different from any I have ever seen.

All in all, it was one of the best days of my life. René is a master storyteller and continued to tell me stories after we returned to his house. He pulled out his scales, a basic set, nothing fancy or digital for the truffle hunters here in the Vaucluse, and weighed the week’s findings, coming to almost a kilo or 2.2 pounds. He gave me two small ones. I just ate one of them grated on top of fresh pasta. To really get a taste of a fresh truffle, take a small piece of bread, dip it in olive oil, grate the truffle on top and sprinkle it with coarse sea salt. Heavenly. In one week’s time, I have become addicted to truffles. I just had dinner and am already thinking about tomorrow’s lunch. I plan to make an omelet from the fresh eggs we just bought, add some cheese while it is cooking and then grate my last truffle on top. I only have nine days to savor as much of Provence as possible, after all!

Here is the dish we made last week, after the market in Carpentras. This recipe is courtesy of Madeleine Vedel.

Bon appétit!

Fresh Pasta with Walnut Sauce and Truffles (or Mushrooms)

Pâtes Fraîches aux Champignons Sauvage avec un Sauce aux Noix –

Fresh Wild Mushroom Pasta with Walnut Sauce

This is rightly a recipe for the fall, but it can be made all year round with a stash of dried mushrooms.  The walnut sauce is a classic preparation that dates back to the time of the Etruscans. Walnuts are particularly present in the Cévennes, the hills of the Gard in Languedoc, just an hour or so from Arles. Fresh pasta is really quite easy to make. Anyone who’s made bread a few times, can easily start making pasta. From start to finish, this recipe can be on the table in an hour after a bit of practice.

Ingredients for the Pasta :

If served as a main course, one egg per person, if served as a side dish, then one egg per 2 people.

One cup (100-150g) flour to one whole egg.

Pinch of salt

Dried mushrooms ground to a powder – 1/4 cup to 4 cups of flour (30g to 450g) if you are not using truffles

For the Sauce :

300 grams of walnuts (this is about 2 cups chopped walnuts)

2 garlic cloves (good sized)

1/2 cup of olive oil (120ml)– not too bitter, extra-virgin cold pressed.

Salt to taste

A few fresh mint leaves (optional, or another herb you like…)

Grated cheese – we like a young sheep tome, or pecorino. A mild parmesan is fine, too.

For the pasta:

On a smooth work surface, such as a large counter space or marble slab, pile your flour in a well, in the middle of the well put your mushroom powder and your pinch of salt and your eggs. With your hands, gradually incorporate as much flour as the eggs are thirsty. If there is a bit of flour left over, you can add a tablespoon or so of water, as needed. You need to work the dough for at least 10 minutes, kneading it and stretching it, till it is smooth to the touch. Put aside covered to rest for 30 minutes.

Either with a pasta machine or by hand, continue rolling and folding the pasta dough. With the machine I pass a portion of the dough through, fold it in three and pass it again, always on the largest setting. I continue this at least 7 times, if not more, till the dough is very smooth and elastic and does not seem brittle and cracks stop appearing. When the dough is ready, then you can either roll out by hand, turning the dough in every direction, gradually increasing its elasticity and thinning it out, the pros use a bit of gravity letting the dough hang off the counter as then roll. Or, alternatively, use the pasta machine and gradually reduce the size of the setting to the desired thickness.

When the dough is the thickness you desire, cut it as you please, in large long noodles, in triangles, in thinner spaghetti lengths… to your preference. Lay the prepared pasta on floured cloths, – you can layer these – and let dry till you are ready to put them into the salted boiling water.

For the sauce :

In a mortar and pestle, grind your garlic cloves and walnuts to a fine paste, add the olive oil as you work to make it easier to form the paste, if you are adding the mint leaves, do so now, and salt to taste.

When your pasta is done, save some of the pasta water to add to the walnut sauce to lengthen it and thicken it. Toss the pasta with the walnut sauce, grate the cheese on top, and serve. If you are using truffles, grate them on top of the pasta, sauce and cheese.

Have fresh bread ready in order to wipe your plate clean so that you do not waste one bit of the sauce or truffles!

Casseroles and cakes

mushrooms

When there is a death in the family of a friend, Southerners head to the kitchen. We don an apron and heat up the oven. We get out the cast iron skillet, casserole dishes and cake pans. We need to feel useful and we know that there will be people who need to be fed. Maybe it’s the same in the Midwest or North, but I have only lived in the South. I remember once when a Bell relative died and my cousin from Raleigh came for the funeral. Maybe my Uncle Buck? We were maybe in the fifth grade? Anyway, she and I ate a whole loaf of white bread, toasted, with butter and jam. Grandma Christine was a jelly/jam lover of the first order so we had many choices. We sat at the kitchen table, where the toaster was always plugged in. I have no idea why we chose toast because I am sure that there were a lot of “real” things to eat in that kitchen.

This past week, the BFF’s mother-in-law passed away. Sweet T’s mama. We’ve been friends for 26 years so I met Eleanor early on in the friendship. I remember driving over one summer day to pick up their Son #1 to come to play with our Son #1. Those two became fast friends on their first day of Pre-K. Anyway, the BFF had forgotten to tell Eleanor that I would be coming and she wouldn’t let me have her grandson. There was no use arguing. She was not going to let him leave without written permission. So, I loaded up a tearful 5 year old and his 10 month old brother into the mini-van and went home. The BFF and I had a good laugh over it at the end of the day. Just the thought of me actually kidnapping another boy to add to my collection was hilarious and not at all believable in the least.

Sweet T is a creative, talented man. He wrote his mama’s obituary. It is my all-time favorite. I’ve promised him that if he will write mine that I will cook for him until we are both called to great beauty parlor in the sky. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

You were the world’s best son, Sweet T. I hope that my boys take care of me the way you did Eleanor.

wo0141164-1_20171127

Eleanor Daniels King

May 21, 1926 – November 26, 2017

Eleanor would like to inform everyone that King’s Beauty Shop is now officially CLOSED… stating, “It has truly been an honor and a pleasure to have helped make the world a prettier place by washing, cutting, setting, styling, and coloring the hair of so many wonderful women (and even a few men from time to time) in and around my second home, Durham NC.” 

So now, after 73 glorious years as a self-employed Beautician in the Bull City, she recently received a call — sort of an offer she couldn’t refuse — to travel to a wondrous place where she can “catch up on all the latest” with all of her Customers, Family and Friends who have gone before her… and there have been many. As she would say, “It’s impossible to do somebody’s hair for 40 years and not become a friend — even the ones that aggravate you.”

Eleanor Grey Daniels King was born in Orange County in 1926, when the average life expectancy for women in the US was 58 years old. She was the second child, but the first girl, for Rainey Samuel Daniels and Lola Harris Daniels. Raised on a farm, she quickly learned that “Without hard work, nothing grows but weeds.” And while she was a good ol’ country girl at heart, the big city lights were also calling her.

Right after High School graduation, Eleanor moved to Durham to attend Beauty College in 1944. And by the end of the year, she graduated as one of the top hairdressers of her class… and the rest is history.

Sure, she’s had her ups and downs, but to borrow a line from the movie, Steel Magnolias (one of her all-time favorites); “…my personal tragedy will not interfere with my ability to do good hair.” And that’s the way she rolled. She didn’t have time to stop and feel sorry for herself. She had her Customers, and they were depending on her, regardless of how she felt or what she was going through personally.

She’s also seen Customers come and go, but she was most proud of her “Regulars” — the ones that came to get beautiful again every week or so, year after year. But as her “Regulars” would one-by-one leave this earth, she would simply pack up her “Beauty Bag” and head off to the Funeral Home for one last “touch-up” (I still don’t know how she did that). 

And yet, with all that dedication to her Customers, she still found time to be the best Mom in the whole world.

But, now it’s time for her to put away her appointment book and finally close up shop here on earth. Eleanor, you done good, girl. 

Eleanor was preceded in death by her father, her mother, her older brother Wayne Daniels, her brother-in-law Cecil Isley, and her niece, Sheila. She is survived by her only son, Tracy King and his wife Martha, of Durham, NC, and 3 Grandsons who were her pride and joy – David King (and Lexi) of Wilmington, NC, James King of Greensboro, NC and Andrew King of Raleigh, NC. Eleanor is also survived by her younger brother Richard Daniels and his wife Bonnie, of Mebane NC, her younger sister Raynelle Isley, of Elon NC, and 10 nieces and nephews, Linda, Larry, Sam, Mike, Kay, Dianne, Kenneth, Deborah, Randy, and Rick.

There will be a graveside service for all of Eleanor’s Customers, Family and Friends on Wednesday, November 29th at 2:00pm at the Lebanon United Methodist Church cemetery, located down the road behind the church at 6101 Lebanon Road in Mebane, NC. Eleanor is returning home, to be buried on land that her father donated to the church many, many moons ago.

I decided to make one of my favorite casseroles. And a pound cake. We are in the South, after all.

pound cake

Chicken (or Turkey) Tetrazzini

adapted from Culinary Hill

Ingredients

For the topping:

  • 4 slices high-quality sandwich bread torn into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons butter melted

For the filling:

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • pound spaghetti broken into thirds
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 16 ounces sliced white mushrooms
  • 2 onions finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 cups cooked chicken or turkey cut into 1/2 inch pieces (I used a supermarket rotisserie chicken)
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas

Instructions

 To make the topping:
In a food processor, process the bread and butter until coarsely ground, about 6 pulses. Set aside. (You can also just tear it into small pieces and mix in the melted butter.)

To make the casserole:

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees.

  2. In a large pot or Dutch oven, bring 4 quarts water and 1 tablespoon salt to boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain well, keeping in colander, and toss with olive oil.

  3. Return same pot to medium-high heat and melt butter until foaming. Add mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until the mushrooms have released most of their liquid, about 7 to 10 minutes.

  4. Add onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, thyme, and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

  5. Stir in flour and cook until golden, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Whisk in broth and half and half.

  6. Bring to a simmer and continue to whisk until sauce thickens, about 1 minute longer. Remove from heat and whisk in Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  7. To the pot with sauce, add pasta, turkey/chicken and frozen peas, stirring to combine. Pour into a 13-inch by 9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with crumb topping.

  8. Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping has browned, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Recipe Notes

Adapted from The Cook’s Country Cookbook.

tetrazinni

Bon appétit to all, especially to Sweet T, the BFF and their boys. Thinking of you and am always ready to tie on the apron to keep you fed. Much love. Rest in peace, Eleanor. I hope you meet my Grandma Christine. I think that the two of you would get on quite well. I don’t know if you were a Jim Nabors fan like she was, but I can picture the three of you having lunch. With a big slice of pie or pound cake and a cup of coffee for dessert. And maybe a song.

What’s your favorite recipe?

Thanksgiving card

(Carlton Cards)

I found this card to send to my turkeys in SP since I will not be with them for Thanksgiving. Too funny. I miss those turkeys. I will visit them soon. I promise.

Today’s question of the day… “What’s your favorite recipe, madame?” Asked by one of my 6th graders after she told me that she had read some of my blog entries over the weekend. She is new to my school and a sweetheart. My favorite food/recipe/dish depends totally on the day/hour/minute that I am asked. If I had to decide on my last meal on earth at this very second, it would change by tomorrow morning. However, I did my best to answer LZ. Since it is (almost) Thanksgiving, I would have to vote for Dorie Greenspan’s Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good. I plan to make it for my small crew in just a couple of days. Of course, I might change my mind…

stuffed pumpkincheese thyme nutmeg

It really is delicious.

It was fun to reread the post with the recipe. From November 2010. Can it really be seven years since that post? And funny thing is… I am waiting for the BFF to stop by tonight, too. Her mother-in-law is in hospice and I wanted to make something for her husband to eat whenever he gets to come home from being with his mama. Nothing fancy. Just chicken-pasta-vegetable soup. I hope it helps his aching heart. We are never ready to lose a loved one.

The best part of making soup? You can add whatever you want, as much or as little as you want, throw it all in a pot and voilà. Dinner is served. With lots of leftovers.

The Sabbatical Chef’s Chicken Soup

Olive oil – about 2 Tbsp.

1 onion, diced

4 stalks celery, chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)

8 cups chicken broth

8 oz. pasta (elbows or whatever you want) or you could add rice instead

1 rotisserie chicken, meat pulled off the bone, chopped/shredded

1 bag frozen mixed vegetables

Torn baby spinach leaves, optional

Seasonings- salt, pepper, herbes de Provence, etc.

Parmesan cheese, for garnish, if desired

In a large pot/Dutch oven, sauté the onion, celery and garlic (if using) in olive oil until soft. Add the chicken broth and water, if needed, and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 2-3 minutes less than the cooking time on the package. Add the chicken and frozen vegetables. Season to taste. Bring to a second boil. Reduce heat. Add more water or chicken broth, if needed. Add spinach leaves. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Taste and add more seasonings, if needed/desired. Serve with grated Parmesan, if desired. (Spinach and Parmesan added at the suggestion of my lifelong across-the-creek neighbor Ms. Mary!)

soup

Bon appétit and Happy Thanksgiving Week. Hold your loved ones near. Tell them how much you love them. Feed them good food. One of the highest forms of love, in my opinion. Keep asking questions, LZ!

 

 

Random thoughts on a chilly November night

helmet

It’s Veteran’s Day. Armistice Day in France. The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. I have visited the site of the signing of the Armistice, the replica of the train car tucked away into the forest near Compiègne in northern France. The original one was burned by Hitler. Merci, Ghislaine. Thank you to all who have and continue to put their lives on the line so that I can be free to do whatever I please whenever I please with whomever I please.

1386858046

It’s hard to believe that is almost Thanksgiving. It seems that once we survive Halloween in the middle school that the year is almost over.

I am a lucky Gramma! Miss K came to visit me in my classroom one day.

K in my class

I have a sparkly Eiffel Tower that fascinates her.

The Ex-Ex and I have had the opportunity to babysit a few times recently. So much fun!

k with bow

The intensity of the love that I feel for her surprises me every time I see her.

School is keeping me busier than I ever imagined it would at this stage of my career. If Son #1 and Son #2 were still at home I am not sure they would ever get fed. Luckily, the Ex-Ex can fend for himself. Curriculum mapping brought a two-day workshop in Atlanta, though. With an amazing meal at Miller Union. Our waiter was amazing. The oysters were amazing. The field peas were amazing. And the colleagues I shared the meal with were amazing.

“Steven Satterfield’s menu shows off the best of the South’s okra, field peas, turnips and tomatoes in a style that would make Alice Waters weak in the knees. Perfect for a date night or lunch at the counter, where one can explore an innovative wine list with pours by the glass.”     – The New York Times, 2016

The farm egg baked in celery cream was amazing. After the amazing pork roast with polenta, there was no room for dessert. I know. Kind of shocking.

Last week, Arles Lucy and I had a date for Pompieri Pizza‘s Sierra Nevada Beer Dinner. I tend to choose wine over beer, but the pairings between the food prepared by Chef Joe and the beer were perfect. I enjoyed every sip. I took lots of photos and a few notes.

Beer cheese bites, scallops, duck, duck, duck, ribs with a ginger soy glaze, dark chocolate parfait… Pale Ale, Nooner, Torpedo, Porter, Narwhal.

yo and me

To quote Arles Lucy when the chocolate parfait was placed before her:

“I don’t know whether to pray over this or not.”  Eat, pray or love?

The BFF asked Tom to do her nails in Sierra Nevada’s colors for the occasion.

nails

This one is for you, too, Best Sister-in-Law, since you told me the Porter is your favorite. Next time we come to visit, we need to take a field trip to visit Sierra Nevada’s Mills River facility. Ok?

Since it seems that all I do is eat, I might as well include the recent France 2017 reunion dinner. Each year, I offer a Sabbatical Chef dinner as part of our school auction and for the past two years the same family has bought it and we’ve had a France trip reunion. Two daughters down and two to go! Here’s part of the crew–

2017

It was a great trip. I miss these kiddos. They are all off being freshman now. We laughed a lot looking at photos of the trip.

looking at photos

KR was still doing her trip duty and photographing our every move! Merci beaucoup!

We made cheese fondue and had Fanny’s Mousse au chocolat with locally made macarons for dessert. And to any Frenchies reading this… I apologize. Yes, the kiddos were actually dipping those cheese puffs into the delicious melted Gruyère and Emmental fondue. Teenagers.

a and k

My co-chaperones love their dessert. And the guy in the back, licking the mousse bowl? Master of the House caught on camera.

The Ex-Ex and I attended the Celebration of Life for a former student. Chris Rosati passed away after living for several years with ALS. And the service was indeed a celebration. He planned it himself. I’ve been listening to his playlist for the past week and reflecting on kindness and how to keep his motto alive– Be kind and worry less.  Thank you, Chris, for the lessons you taught us. And for the Cheerwine and Krispy Kreme glazed donuts.

cr

Life continues to be good. I am blessed with a wonderful family, many friends, a job I love and beautiful fall weather here in North Carolina. As Thanksgiving comes galloping towards me, I realize just how lucky I am.

Cheese Fondue

  • 1/2 pound Emmentaler, grated
  • 1/2 pound Le Gruyère, grated
  • 1 package of Emmi Fondue Original (optional, I used it on the advice of the very helpful guy at Whole Foods, Durham- he also helped me choose the wine)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 1/2 cup white wine such as a Chenin Blanc (I used The Holy Snail, a French Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 2 loaves bread with thick crust, cut into 1-inch cubes
Combine cheeses with flour in a medium bowl and set aside. Rub the inside of the fondue pot with garlic. Heat wine in fondue pot over medium heat until warm. Add lemon juice. Add cheese mixture gradually, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until melted and cheese-wine mixture has the consistency of a creamy sauce. Open package of Emmi Fondue and add, stirring well to mix. Add pepper and nutmeg. Bring to boil. Adjust flame of burner so fondue continues bubbling lightly. Serve with bread cubes.
**Granny Smith apples are really good as well. Pears, maybe? Boiled potatoes for a raclette-type taste. Cheese puffs?
**Can be served with slices of ham and small pickles, if you wish.
sunflowers
Bon appétit, family and friends far and wide. Happy November. Live like you were dying. And to shamelessly steal, once again, from Sean Dietrich— Life is a gift. And people are beautiful. 
playlist

 

 

Your Loving Vincent

When I first read about Loving Vincent, I was afraid that it would not come to Durham, NC. My fears were confirmed when I started seeing lists of cities where it would be playing on the film’s website and Facebook page. No Durham. The closest city listed was Fayetteville. Arles Lucy and I were ready to plan a road trip. Then, about a month ago, I saw that it would indeed come to our lovely downtown Carolina Theatre. I have now seen the movie twice, once with the Ex-Ex and once with my crew of girlfriends who have been to France with me. It is playing in Durham for an extra week so I may see it a third time. It IS that good, mes amis. If you have read my previous posts about Vincent (April 2014, May 2010, May 2010, November 2011) then you already know that I love him very much. Maybe a bit obsessively.

A team of 125 artists spent 6 years bringing Vincent’s paintings to life in 65,000 frames. The film is completely animated, with the scenes based on his paintings in color and the flashbacks to scenes of his life in black and white. The story comes to life as Armand Roulin, son of Postman Joseph Roulin of Arles, travels from Arles to Paris to give a letter to Theo, Vincent’s brother, a year after Vincent’s death. The letter had been found when Vincent’s landlord in Arles was cleaning out Vincent’s rooms in the Yellow House. However, upon finding Père Tanguy, Armand discovers that Theo died only six months after his brother. By this time, Armand wants to learn more about the last six weeks of Vincent’s life.

Vincent was a prolific letter writer. According to Mark Roskill in The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh, 670 of the letters Vincent wrote to Theo have survived to present day. The letters were gathered, transcribed and edited by Theo’s widow, Vincent’s sister-in-law, so that they could be published. The first batch of them was published only three years after Vincent’s death, in 1893. Johanna “Jo” van Gogh-Bonger spent years bringing the letters to light and was also instrumental in Vincent’s rise to fame as an artist. She inherited around 200 of his paintings upon the death of Theo and was seemingly relentless in her push to have Vincent’s talent recognized. Merci, madame.

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has put together a touching tribute to Vincent and Theo. The museum’s website is very well done. Someday, I hope to visit it in person. In Noord Brabants Museum in Den Bosch (an hour from Amsterdam), there is an exhibit about Loving Vincent that will run until January 28, 2018. Paintings from the movie are on display. I believe that they will then be sold.

Without giving too much away in case you haven’t seen the film yet, let’s just say that the final scene with Roulin and his son is my favorite. Vincent was shot on July 27, my birthday. One scene in the movie revealed that July 27, 1890 was a Sunday. July 27, 1958 was also a Sunday. Perhaps my love for Vincent is fate.

image description
CBS This Morning recently paid tribute to the film.
This clip from Dr. Who pays hommage to Vincent and allows him to hear praise for his work while standing in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.
It is written that Vincent did not eat well or very much. He gave away most of what he had during his stint as a missionary. One of his early paintings, The Potato Eaters, 1885, is dark and somber. He often forgot to eat, I imagine, as he painted for hours on end. According to Biography.com:
Vincent van Gogh completed more than 2,100 works, consisting of 860 oil paintings and more than 1,300 watercolors, drawings and sketches. Several of his paintings now rank among the most expensive in the world; “Irises” sold for a record $53.9 million, and his “Portrait of Dr. Gachet” sold for $82.5 million.
Over the course of 10 years, van Gogh created more than 43 self-portraits as both paintings and drawings. “I am looking for a deeper likeness than that obtained by a photographer,” he wrote to his sister. “People say, and I am willing to believe it, that it is hard to know yourself. But it is not easy to paint yourself, either. The portraits painted by Rembrandt are more than a view of nature, they are more like a revelation,” he later wrote to his brother. The works are now displayed in museums around the world, including in Washington, D.C., Paris, New York and Amsterdam.
vincent's eyes
Some believe that Wheatfield with Crows, July 1890, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, was Vincent’s last painting. I’ve walked through that field on the way to Vincent’s grave in Auvers-sur-Oise.
wheatfield
No story of mine about Vincent would be complete with this one, Starry Night over the Rhône, painted in Arles, September 1888, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
starry rhone
What would Vincent eat? Here is a recipe I hope that he would have liked. Potato soup was a staple in the Bell-Gillespie household when I was growing up. There is nothing fancy about it, but it is delicious.
Leek and Potato Soup
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped (or 1-2 more leeks, if you prefer)
2 garlic cloves, split, germ removed and thinly sliced
(I also add 2 stalks of celery, chopped)
Salt and freshly ground white pepper (black pepper is fine)
3 leeks, white and light green parts only, split lengthwise, washed, and thinly sliced
2 large Idaho (russet) potatoes (I doubled this- Dorie calls for only one potato), peeled and cubed
6 thyme sprigs
2 sage leaves
4 cups chicken broth (or water but the broth gives it a richer taste)
3 cups whole milk
Optional toppings:
Minced parsley, sage, tarragon or marjoram, or a combination
Snipped fresh chives
Grated Parmesan, Gruyère or cheddar cheese
Croutons
Crispy bacon, crumbled
Corn kernels
Truffle oil
Melt the butter in a Dutch oven or soup pot over low heat. Add the onion and garlic and stir until they are coated with butter, season with salt and pepper, cover and cook for about 10 minutes, until the onion is soft but not colored.
Add the remaining ingredients, along with a little more salt, increase the heat, and bring to a boil. As soon as the soup bubbles, turn the heat to low, mostly cover the pot, and simmer gently for 30-40 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. Taste the soup and season generously with salt and pepper.
You can ladle the soup into warmed bowls and serve as is, mash the vegetables lightly with the  back of a spoon, or puree the soup through a food mill or with a blender (regular or immersion), or a food processor. (I leave mine with the potatoes in chunks.) If desired, garnish with the toppings of your choice.
You could also chill it and turn it into Vichyssoise, a fancy name for cold potato soup, which was invented in 1917 by French chef Louis Diat who ran the kitchens at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York City, according to Dorie.
Bon appétit and thank you, BreakThru Films, Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman and all the artists who re-created Vincent’s paintings. Thank you as well to all of my friends and students who have been to Paris and Arles with me and who have paid tribute to Vincent with me. In Vincent’s words:
Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well.
Je t’aime, Vincent.