Tomates farcies à la crème de ricotta (Tomatoes stuffed with ricotta cream)

It’s that time of year again—the markets are brimming with end of summer produce: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, and a rich assortment of melons. Oh my. What to do with this rich bounty?  In an earlier post I wrote about the marvelous tomatoes stuffed à la Marie Tèrèse that I swooned over at a restaurant… Continue reading Tomates farcies à la crème de ricotta (Tomatoes stuffed with ricotta cream)

From the Cold Atlantic, Warmth for Lent

  Lent is upon us, and my weekly Shoprite flyer has a whole page dedicated to fish under the banner, “Lenten Seafood.” The specials make the weekly abstaining from “flesh meat” (Church language, not mine!) on Fridays rather more festive than the Church may have intended. But here we are, the original Meatless Weekday upon… Continue reading From the Cold Atlantic, Warmth for Lent

Choucroute Garnie: French Cuisine for the Super Bowl

“French cuisine” and “Super Bowl”? Look, if we can embrace Mexican and Italian and the Earl of Sandwich, I submit that Choucroute garnie is the perfect entrée for French food to join the Super Bowl party. Choucroute garnie simply means “dressed sauerkraut.”  It is one of the traditional dishes from Alsace, a region in Northeast… Continue reading Choucroute Garnie: French Cuisine for the Super Bowl

Turkey with a “French twist”

If you are staring at the turkey defrosting in your refrigerator and wondering if there is something you can do to make it a little bit different this year, try some of these techniques from Cuisine Actuelle magazine to give it a French twist.  The turkeys in the recipe are much smaller than our plump… Continue reading Turkey with a “French twist”

Flamiche picarde aux poireaux

In the spirit of Armistice Day let’s turn our attention to Northern France, where much of the fighting of The Great War took place. The trenches of World War One sprawled across the fields of Champagne, Alsace, Lorraine, Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardie, the defensive line protecting Paris. The cuisine of the north is much less familiar… Continue reading Flamiche picarde aux poireaux

One hundred years ago

It’s Veteran’s Day, originally Armistice Day, when the slaughter of the First World War ended—at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. One hundred years ago today, however, that war was just beginning, 106 days in. A brief history: In 1914 Europe was a Gordian Knot of alliances and treaties, empires and cousins… Continue reading One hundred years ago

Le Tour de France: Chess on Wheels

Whew!  I just finished the 9th stage of the Tour de Franceand really worked up a sweat.  Okay, maybe I didn’t literally ride 170 kilometers across the hills and mountains of Lorraine and Alsace. But I do speed along with them on my stationary bike.  Today I sprinted the last 15kms to the finish line.… Continue reading Le Tour de France: Chess on Wheels

La Vie du Château—Cooking in France with Mary

Last summer a few friends rented a farmhouse on the grounds of Château de la Barbée in France’s Loire Valley. I joined them as the unofficial chef, preparing most of our dinners during our two-week stay. One day the proprietress of the chateau asked if I would like to cook dinner with her. (Never, ever pass… Continue reading La Vie du Château—Cooking in France with Mary

In France, the Best Food is Found at Home: New York Times

In France, the best food in found at home.

Don’t take my word for it. I have the weight of The New York Times on my side. In today’s Travel section, Ann Mah writes in “Tasting France Through 5 Signature Dishes” about the regional cooking of France. She believes, as I do, that the best dishes are found not in Parisian restaurants, but in the home. She quotes John Baxter, an Australian writer and author of The Perfect Meal: In Search of the Lost Tastes of France, who notes that many Parisian restaurants use frozen or industrially prepared ingredients. In his opinion:

In the provinces, the food is made with local ingredients and it’s labor intensive—all the things restaurants don’t want. This is one reason why people should and do eat outside of Paris.”

Perfect Meal John Baxter

Enjoying the food prepared at home is one of the things most people miss when they travel to France on vacation. The markets are filled with beautiful produce, the freshest of meats and fish, piles of breads and cheeses, and herbs, olives, and regional specialties. In the Dordogne there is duck confit, in the Loire Valley, charcuteries and rillettes, and in the Drome, just north of Provence, there is Nyons and its olives.

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There are many cooking schools in the French countryside, where you can learn to make traditional French food. But few offer the opportunity to experience home cooking—at home. Last summer I met an American woman who has been living in France for more than 30 years. She and her husband own a chateau in the Pays de la Loire. We were renting their farmhouse.

Notre cottage

After a few glasses of wine one evening we invited them to dinner at our/their farmhouse (I cook nearly every dinner when we go to France—go figure). Mary suggested that we cook together. After a successful Coq au Vin and Mousse au Chocolat we began to explore the idea of opening a cooking vacation program in their chateau, where people could stay and cook and eat and see the local sites.

We worked on this idea throughout the winter and voila, La Vie du Chateau was born. I will write more about this venture in future posts, but you can take a virtual tour now at www.lavieduchateau.com. It’s the next best thing to being there, but being there is better.

La Vie home page horiz (1003x481)

P.S.  If you book a program at La Vie du Chateau this year you’ll receive a 15% discount if you mention No No Julia. My friends and followers should get some reward, don’t you agree?

A Cassoulet for All Seasons

I started writing this in January, when temperatures were dipping low and I was itching for something hearty and soul-satisfying.  The perfect answer to those cravings was cassoulet, the slow-cooked meat and bean casserole that hails from the South of France.  It is April now.  I am still making cassoulet.  And, much to my delight,… Continue reading A Cassoulet for All Seasons