mardi 21 avril 2015

What soup Doc? Stinging nettle!

My poor non-French people,

Sometimes I wish I was a witch. I often think of these poor ladies, in the middle ages, who were just trying to be a little different, a little freer, and would occasionnally put in they caldron an herb or two they would have found while walking in the forest.

Do you sometimes think of how we got to know what was good to eat or not? Who tried chanterelle first? Is it the same person who took the wild step to go and try a Death-angel mushroom (and discovered a few hours later that maybe it wasn't a good idea?).

Anyway, I would like to take the oportunity to thank the brave lady (because of course, only a woman could be that brave) who decided once that maybe stinging nettle were good to eat. This wonderful witch gave us just one of the best soup ever...

La soupe aux orties

1 bunch fresh stinging nettles
3 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion
1 pound potatoes
salt and pepper

My grand-father was the first to tell me about it. He loved telling stories about WWII, in his very own way. A peasant like his father and grand-father and hundreds of men before him, he basically left his village and his fields only once in his life: to go to war. And years and years after that, the only souvenirs he would share were not about fights or epic battles (or, in his case, and as for most of the French soldiers then, epic and ultra quick defeat), but about his time as a war prisoner in Germany. Good times, if you heard him.

There was the day it had snowed so much that they had to dig a tunnel in the snow to get out of their room. Or this friend who received letters that had different meanings wether you read them straight, or every other line. And then, there was the soupe d'orties.
My grand father the French farmer

"Of course you can eat stinging nettles
", he would say, "we would pick some and add it in the soup in Germany, and it  changed everything!". There they were, the real Frenchmen, trying to add something in the watery broth they were given, to change it in some kind of a magic potion. That's how I saw my grand father at the time: I mean, he was not afraid to eat this terrible weed that never failed to sting my legs and left pimples all over my calves! AND he did it while being prisoner of the Nazis!

Now that I also know how good for health and full of great nutrients stinging nettles are, I just can't help but think that he was some kind of Panoramix the druid who makes the magic soup for the Gauls resisting the Roman invasion, in the beloved French Comic, Asterix...


Singing nettle is now one of my favorite ingredient for soup. I try to cook it whenever I find some, but never dared to make it here in the US  because I did not know if the one that can be found here was edible... Until I saw this beautiful bunch at the Farmers Market.

Now my father is laughing at me because he and his wife pick their stinging nettles htemselves and for free in the French forest, but what can I say, I'm more of a city girl, and what I eat I mostly bought..
IMG_7461 - Version 2
Stinging nettle is awfully good, and non non, it doesn't sting at all. At least not once you cook it. And it's also wonderfully rich in iron, magnesium and calcium. It's great to fight gout, to protect your kidneys, to clear your acne and it's a great... Detox.

There you have it, a French detox soup only a (French and perfect) witch could have invented.
(and yes, it's THAT green!)



How to make it

  •  Put on your gloves  (I promis they won't sting when you eat them but right now, they are dangerous!) and wash the nettle
  • Brown the sliced onion in 2 tablespoons butter, and add the nettle leaves. Cook for 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly.
  • Add the peeled and sliced potatoes,  salt and pepper, and pour 4 cups of water.
  • Cook for 30 minutes over medium heat.
  • Process until smooth, preferably with an immersion blender.
  • At the last minute, you can add a spoon of crème fraîche ("Juste pour le coeur", just for the heart, as my grand mother would say)
 Bon appétit les amis!

vendredi 15 mars 2013!

My poor non French people!
This is the last post here... From now on, I'll tell you French food stories directly there:
Tell me what you think of the new website!


samedi 2 mars 2013

Give them (pineapple) cake!

My dear, poor, non-French people,

As a good, French and perfect girl, I went back home for Christmas this year. 
I wanted to see my family and friends, eat some real good French food of course, but this time I also thought I was on a mission: I had to crack the French and perfect women code for you guys...
What makes us so special? I'm still amazed at the number of books and movies on the subject.

So I spent a few days in Paris, thinking my best friends would have the answer. 
Here they were, running in heels for the next subway while listening to a philosophical radio podcast and texting their "Jules" to pick the kids at the kindergarten because they were going to be stuck in the editing room to finish the documentary they had just directed, trying to find some time to have a glass of Saint Véran with me in between two ballet classes.
So what made them perfect, I asked? "I don't know, you tell me, I have no time for that!"

By the time I took the train to visit my grand-mother in the Loire valley, I was completely desperate.
Then mamie Georgine had me sit at her kitchen table, cooked me dinner, and brought me this.

A simple. Good. Pineapple cake.

My grand mother Georgine is 84, and very, very active. She walks all the time, at least an hour a day, cooks, gardens, cheats at Scrabble and takes care of her "petits vieux", the older people who live in her street. Talk about a French and perfect woman! 
Just like my girlfriends in Paris, my grandmother never has the time for anything. She never had: she used to be a farmer, waking up at dawn to milk the cows, running all day rain or shine to take care of the vineyard or the hens, meanwhile raising three kids, with almost no money at all.

So how did she do it? And still does?
By making it simple.
That's her secret.
No fuss, just plain, good, and easy stuff.
Why bother trying sophisticated things which takes too much time and almost always end up being strange tasting if not totally bland?

She just takes what's in the fridge and in the pantry, and makes a quick, delicious meal that will allow her to spend quality time with the friends and/or family visiting her.

Like this perfect pineapple cake.

7 oz flour

6 tbsp Sunflower oil or 3 oz butter

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

6 oz creme fraiche (or crema mexicana)

3 tea spoon baking powder

1 can of sliced pineapple

Preheat the oven at 300F

  • Whip the eggs with the sugar and a pinch of salt
  • Add the oil, the cream, and the flour
  • Mix very well the batter
  • Pour into a buttered round cake pan.
  • Add the slices of pineapple on top of the batter
  • Put in the oven for 45 minutes

When the cake is done, warm the juice of the can in a pan with 6 tablespoons sugar, and pour it all over the cake.

That's all!

Now you can sit down, chat with whoever is lucky to be at your table, and enjoy being the French and perfect woman you are!

Meanwhile my grand mother must be walking somewhere near the Loire trying to find great wild mushrooms for tonight's dinner, or arguing with my father who doesn't want her to drive 200 miles alone to go to her cousin's 80th birthday party.
Mais quoi! That's the way she is and that's also why I think she is just perfect!

Merci mamie!

Bon appétit les amis

jeudi 14 février 2013

Stop the gachis! Eat some hachis!

My dear, poor, non French people,

I'm so sorry. Désolée, vraiment. But once again, I have to tell you that we French people are superior... You know me, I don't like to brag... It's not my fault if French people always know better! 
Take recycling for example. I find it funny to see all the media attention nowadays on waste and how to not put everything in the garbage bin. Rien de nouveau sous le soleil! (Nothing's new under the sun):  French cooks have been doing it for ages.

My grand-mother Georgine (84 going on 85 and still cooking) is the perfect example. When you've been a farmer all your life, you know how precious a "fruit of the earth" is: you don't throw easily a vegetable you gave time and sweat to make it grow... Especially when you get the miserable wages a retiree farmers' widdow get in France.
"Je jette rien", she always says...  From the water to the leftovers, she never throws anything. I guess she would be very proud of this recipe: stop the gâchis (the waste), eat some Hachis!

Le Hachis Parmentier


2 pounds Meat
2 pounds Potatoes
1 cup milk
4,5 oz of butter
A pinch of grated cheese
Salt, pepper, and Nutmeg


Many French delicacies are actually re-use from leftovers. Hachis Parmentier is one of them: for this one I used the Boeuf Bourguignon leftover I had from last video recipe. But you can also use ground beef meet, or duck confit for example...

This recipe bears the name Parmentier in honour of a great French man: Antoine-Augustin Parmentier.
Right before the French Revolution, this pharmacist discovered the way to prevent the numerous famines that were so recurringly happening in the country: to grow and eat potatoes.

At that time, people were totally disgusted with this strange root that was only fed to the pigs. It was even forbidden to grow any at some point, because it was believed potatoes could cause leprosy!
But Antoine-Augustin Parmentier discovered that it was of a great help to fight disentry, and went on a fight to make it legal and developped all over France.
After many years of lobbying, he managed to convince Louis the XVIth (yes, the one we beheaded, but that's another story). 
But nobody wanted to eat potatoes.
Food for pigs? Non merci!
So they changed its name into "Pomme de terre" : apple of the earth, so romantic!
But non. 
Toujours non... 
So they asked the king to set up a new "potato trend", by wearing a potato flower "à sa boutonnière", at his buttonhole.
So if the King said it, did the French follow? 
Non non non!
They had rather die of hunger than eat it..

And that's when Parmentier showed that he had genius.

He asked the King for a small piece of land North of Paris. He grew potatoes there, and surrounded the field by armed guards, as if what they were protecting was very valuable... 
Parisians grew suddenly very interested in this precious plant, and started to steal it at night when the guards were not looking...

Et voilà!

That's how the love between France and Potato started, and how French Fries were born...

La recette
Preheat the oven at 350°F
Grind the leftover meat of the bourguignon
Boil the potatoes for at least 20 minutes, then peel them and mash them with milk and butter, salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Spread a layer of potato purée in a large casserole dish, then spread the meat
Then spread the rest of the purée on the meat. Add some grated cheese, and hop, au four! To the oven.
Cook for at least 45 minutes.
Et voila!

Now have a piece of this delicious French comfort food... Isn't it great to recycle? Merci encore Mr Parmentier!

Bon appétit les amis!


If you happen to go to Paris, you should visit the Pere Lachaise cemetery. Not because you're a strange and morbid Goth, or a big Jim Morisson fan (Yes, he is buried there, even if some pretend that the casket was smaller than he was): but to go to Mister Parmentier's tomb. 
Notice the wild flowers all around. The gardeners of the cemetery never touch them: they are potato flowers planted by fans all over the world who want to pay him an hommage.

jeudi 24 janvier 2013

Un bonjour de Lyon: Salad for you my friends!

My dear, poor, non French people, 

Ever thought there could be magic in a salad? 
I mean not in that terrible all-washed no-cheese no-croutons no-life "Iceberg" you've been looking at every day at noon, now that you've decided you are going to lose the few pounds that separate you from being "the real you" (or may I say, the real boring you?).

I'm talking vraie salade.
I myself used to hate it. As a kid we would only eat salad after the entree, with a lot of vinegar, and I really didn't care for this sour sour sour moment.

And then I discovered the Salade Lyonnaise

La Salade Lyonnaise


1 salad. Mâche. Dandelions. Frisee. Or even Aragula.

1 egg per person

8 oz sliced bacon (lardons)

3 slices of bread (the older the best)

Mustard. Organic Canola Oil.
Red Vinegar

I hope you poor non-French people know that Lyon, this great French city in the South East of France, is a great place for food. It's by many considered as the capital of gastronomy... 

That's where the French pope of gastronomy lives, Paul Bocuse. An incredible chef who was at the head of a French Revolution: La Nouvelle Cuisine, in the 60's. A real "bon-vivant", who very proudly tells how he's been living with three women at the same time for years... Oh la la, le coq français! But a great chef avant tout. As I'm writing, the best chefs of the world are competing in Lyon to get the best award in the world: le Bocuse d'Or.

I've lived and studied (well tried to) in Lyon, and the least I can say is that it's not only a place for high-end pricey restaurants. It's just a place of amazing food.
The market in itself is "une tuerie" (a killing... like it kills you because it's so good). And the little traditional restaurants "les bouchons" are to die for.

My favorite bouchon, le Café des fédérations

Charcuterie, (Yes, Jesus is a sausage in Lyon), Cheese (St Marcellin je t'aime), and amazing dishes: Quenelles de brochet (pike fish dumplings), Tablier de sapeur (soldier's apron, an amazing dish with tripes), or Cervelle de Canut
(litteraly "Silk workers brains"... actually fromage blanc with shallots and chives)... Aïe Aïe Aïe!

I learned to live and to cook in Lyon. My boyfriend at the time was coming from a family of restaurateurs, and I will always remember his step-father, the moustachy-grumpy-but-friendly Bruno, complaining about how "people didn't know how to make a proper Salade Lyonnaise" any more.
Well I don't know if Bruno would aprove of this one, but this is how I make it.

La recette

Slice the bacon into lardons
(just as I explain in the video)
Cut the bread in small croutons, of about the same size as the lardons.
On a very very hot and non-sticky pan, pour the lardons. When they begin to sweat, add the croutons. 
Let them dance together for as long as they need to caramelize.
Meanwhile put a pan of water to a boil
Add red winegar
Break your egg in a bowl, and gently slide it in the boiling water.
Use your spoon to gather  all the white around the egg, and cook them all for 3 minutes.
Make a vinaigrette (1tsp mustard +1 tsp red wine vinegar + salt + pepper+ 2 tbsp oil)

Mix it with the frisee (or whatever salad you have), add the lardons and the croutons, then the egg...

Et voila!

Bon appétit les amis!!


Promise I'll give you a list of my favorite places in Lyon if you happen to go there! 
Working on a brand new French and perfect website for bientôt!

mardi 15 janvier 2013

A good year and a good soup!

My dear, poor, non French people

Comment ça va?
I'm so happy to write to you again after these terrible Christmas holidays. 
Oh, don't misunderstand me, I have loved going back to France to see my family and friends. But excusez-moi, there's too much good food there! After days and hours of family banquets, foie-gras get-togethers, chocolate éclairs snacks and other "you definitely should take the vol-au-vent AND the tête-de-veau: after all you never get it there", I am so glad to be back THERE, in California! Finies les tentations! 

That's when I get to tell you about the most important Holiday tradition in France. 
It's not Bûche de Noël, it's not marrons glacés nor Chapon roti... (Although all these great dishes are compulsory in any Christmas dinner or NYE Reveillon).

It is crise de foie.
Crise de foie, or litterary "liver crisis" is another part of the French paradox. 
No other country or culture IN THE WORLD suffers from this sickness which only appears once in the year.
Tv news and newspapers make their headlines with it every premier de l'an, the first day of the year... And you can be sure that it's the first thing your butcher or your pharmacist would want to know when you come back from the holidays: "Vous l'avez eue?

So what is it about crise de foie?
It's not a stomachache, it's not a hangover, it's both and it's none... 
Thousands of doctors have tried to convince the French people that it actually doesn't really exist... It's just that we ate and drunk too much during the holiday season. 

But you know how we are. 
We French people like to stand for what we believe.
So we may have a little crise de foi (faith crisis, disbelief) from time to time,  but will always believe in crise de foie
(how strange my mother tongue is... Foie is liver and foi is faith...)
Anyhow, I just wanted to give you my little tip to get better after too much stomach pleasure...
It's not "detox" or raw or anything, it's just good and soothing.

La soupe au chou-fleur


1 cauliflower
1 cup of chicken broth
1 cup of water
1 star anise pod
1 tbsp Tumeric and or Curry

 Wash the cauliflower, cut the green parts
Put in in a pan with the chicken broth and the water
Add the star anise pod.
Put to a boil, and then let it gently cook (on medium) for at least 20 minutes
When the vegetable seems soft (and cooked) enough, mix it
Add the turmeric and/or curry.

Et voilà!

A soup very light in calories but full of récomfort, just for you and your crise de foie les amis!

Bonne année! et Bon appétit!

PS: it's not Cauliflower soup, but you should know that Cabbage soup is a huge pop-culture thing in France... A hit movie from the 70's pretended that the smell of it was able to attract aliens and their UFO's...
La soupe aux choux, with Louis de Funes and Jacques Villeret

jeudi 20 décembre 2012

Boeuf Bourguignon les amis!

My poor non-French people,

It's my pleasure to share with you the new French and Parfait recipe...
Boeuf Bourguignon!
Hope you'll like it beaucoup beaucoup!


1 onion
1 pound beef roast or oxtail or beef cheeks (or all)
4 oz lardons (sliced bacon)
2 carrots, 1 turnip, 2 parsnips

What to do...
Stir the oinion and the lardons, and add the beef
Make sure all the cubes brown on each side
Then add the wine
Salt, pepper, some Laurel…
Put on sim for at least 3 hours…

Et Voilà !