À la Recherche du Pain Perdu

Today your narrator, just like the narrator in Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way, has eaten something that so reminds her of many a lost afternoon.  Can you guess?  It was pain perdu.

Pain perdu translates to lost bread or wasted bread as it is made from yesterday’s now stale remnants.  Though this sweet egg-soaked dish is made in many countries, I think pain perdu is the most poetic of its titles.  French toast seems a misnomer and eggy bread is too infantile for me to want it on my plate–even if it is nursery food.

Proust was the first person to coin the term involuntary memory.  It was the theme of his most prominent work, À la Recherche du Temps Perdu or In Search of Lost Time.   In the famous episode of the madeleine, he writes about flavors and textures summoning memories from decades past.

There is magic in the senses.  There is magic in food.  And sometimes they blur when we remember.  That’s why I wonder if my daughter will come to associate her mother’s pain perdu with rainy days as that’s when I always make it.  Kind of like how the rain reminds me of watching Hannah and Her Sisters for the first time years ago and discovering E.E. Cummings.

“nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands.”

Ingredients:

sliced stale bread

1/3 cup milk per egg is the ratio I use

2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

pinch of salt

*you can also add 1 teaspoon of orange zest per 1/3 cup of milk and egg if you like

a plate of blanched slivered almonds

powdered sugar to dust the toast at the end

butter and syrup for serving

 

Method:

Put the milk, egg, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla bean paste, and salt in a wide shallow dish.

ingredients

Whisk them together until well blended.

egg mixture

Dip your bread slices into the mixture.  Coat both sides then lay one side onto the plate of slivered almonds.

almond dipped

Place the almond side down in a lightly oiled frying pan.  Cook over medium-low heat on both sides.

frying pain perdu

Use a sifter to dust the pain perdu with powdered sugar.  Serve with butter and syrup.

pain perdu

 

And once you’ve finished your pain perdu, be sure to go out for some serious puddle splashing.

about to jumpkitty boots

jumpsplashdouble jump    falling in water  punim   snail

thinking girlHelenafall

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Beet Greens Salad

Some people love beetroot.  I am not one of them.  Though I have always loved a good borscht, I have never loved beets.  In fact there was a time when I wouldn’t even eat them.  Not until I was 25 and my kid sister’s nanny always made them for her–roasted and served with balsamic vinegar, was I able to eat them without grimacing or furtively giving them to the dog under the table.  But what I have always loved are beet greens.  Sweet and delicious and packed full of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and protein.  They’re also really pretty with bright purple veins running throughout.  It’s a shame but most supermarkets sell beetroot without the greens attached.  To get them go to a farmer’s market or just grow them yourself.  You won’t regret it.

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Ingredients:

1 bunch of beet greens, washed and chopped

a bunch of dill, chopped

1/4 cup toasted chopped almonds

the juice of 1 lemon

a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

salt & pepper

 

Method:  Put all the ingredients into a large dish, toss ,and serve.

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Raw Chocolate Truffles

We all know chocolate is the food of the gods.  The Mesoamerican ancients taught us this.  And thank Quetzalcoatl they did because it’s delicious.  Especially raw.  That’s why I’ve been working on a raw truffle recipe so I can enjoy that rich, dark, bitter goodness in its unadulterated form.  That and my toddler adores chocolate.  While I’m not anti-candy in anyway (believe me–there are days I wake up and just want a handful of Sour Patch Kids for breakfast), I do like the idea of her eating raw homemade cacao treats with more frequency than anything manufactured by Cadbury.  Below is my recipe.  Please let me know what you think.

 

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Ingredients:

200 grams of pitted medjool dates

1/2 cup raw cacao powder (plus a little extra for dusting)

1/4 cup raw cacao nibs

1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds (save a few to top the truffles)

2 teaspoons maca powder

2 tablespoons shredded coconut (raw is fantastic but dessicated also works)

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

4 tablespoons light agave syrup

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1/4 teaspoon Maldon sea salt (put a little extra aside for topping the truffles)
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Method:  In a food processor, mix all ingredients until they form a thick paste.  Now roll spoonfuls of the paste into balls.  Lightly dust these truffles in a little cacao powder.  Be sure to knock off the excess.  Then gently roll just the tops in a little sea salt and dip them into the toasted almond slivers.  Set the finished truffles on baking paper and chill them in the fridge.  Serve cold or at room temperature.  I prefer the latter.
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Whole Wheat Israeli Couscous Salad with Turmeric Vinaigrette

Despite being from Los Angeles, I am not a health nut.  Sure I drank juice elixirs laden with spirulina during my teen years, but I did so because they tasted nice.  That and you try ordering juice in Southern California that doesn’t already come with added super foods.  It’s damn near impossible.

My reason for using whole wheat Israeli or pearl couscous as it is also known is not health related.  Though it’s true whole wheat has more fiber and iron than the regular stuff, I really don’t care.  Its nutritional value is just an added bonus.  The reason I use it is because it tastes better.  I love its nutty flavor.  I also prefer its size as I think big grains are better in salads.

Given the grain’s natural nuttiness, I thought the salad should be decidedly nutty.  Which is why I added toasted almonds and hazelnuts.  They’re my favorite nuts but you should use what you like.  Same with the herbs.  Experiment.  Discover a combination you like best.

 

Ingredients:

150 grams whole wheat Israeli or pearl couscous

1/4 cup fresh chopped herbs (dill and flat leaf parsley)

1/4 cup toasted roughly chopped hazelnuts

1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds

1 sweet red Ramiro pepper, diced

Turmeric vinaigrette: 1 tablespoon dijon mustard, 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup cyder vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, salt and pepper to taste

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Method:

First, boil the coucous for about 6 minutes.  Make sure there is still a tiny bit of chew when you take it off.  Strain it and rinse with cold water to prevent further cooking.  Set this aside.

Next, toast your nuts over a low flame.  Sorry, the 9 year old in me can’t stop laughing over that last sentence.  But seriously, toast your nuts over a low flame.  Make sure they do not burn.    You only want them slightly browned.  Generally, I use my nose to tell me when they’re done. The moment you can smell warm hazelnuts and almonds, they’re probably ready.

Now chop your herbs and dice your red pepper.

Add all ingredients to a large bowl and gently mix.  Be sure not to smash your couscous.  Spoon over the vinaigrette.  I do this a tablespoon at a time so as to not get too much dressing on your salad.  A soggy salad is never good.  Season to taste and serve.

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Anjou Pear Cake

Due to a grocery delivery cockup, I recently had an overabundance of pears.  And rather than die like some Medieval monarch from a surfeit of fruit, I decided to bake a cake.  The recipe I used was from BBC’s Good Food and it was perfection.  So light and eggy.  It tasted like a crêpe but almost in the form of a custard.  I served it with Greek yogurt and toasted almonds which balanced the sweetness of the pears beautifully.  I recommend it.

pear cake cross section

mit more schlag mit schlag

Cuckoo for Cocoa Powder Brownies

People say addiction is genetic.  Well both my daughter’s grandmothers are chocoholics.  My husband can take it or leave it.  I like it but prefer pastries or fruit pies.  Or plain old sour gummy candy.  That said, yesterday I made brownies.  When it came time to clean up, I gave in to the great tradition of handing my child the utensils to lick clean.  It was her first real experience with chocolate.  Madness ensued.  She got a crazed look in her eye then ran around like a happy drunk brandishing her whisk in the air.  Today, I’m painting over all the chocolate handprints that didn’t wash off my pale pink walls.  Below is the recipe.  Use with caution or you too might spend the next day repainting your home.

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Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter (1 stick/4oz./113g)

1 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste

2 large eggs

1/3 cup flour

1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds

Method:

Preheat oven to 325F/175C/Gas3.

Line an 8″ square baking tin with foil.  Not just the bottom but also the sides so there’s an overhang.  Coat lightly with nonstick spray or a bit of butter and flour.

Melt  the butter over medium heat and let cool slightly.

Whisk sugar, cocoa, and salt in a bowl.  Pour the butter into the dry ingredients and whisk constantly to blend.

Whisk in vanilla.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating vigorously with each addition.

Finally add the flour and stir until just combined.  Then stir in the almonds should you want them.  I always do.  Be careful not to over mix.

Use a spatula to scrape the batter into your pan and smooth the top.  Bake until the top begins to crack and a toothpick comes out clean.  Approximately 35 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely in the pan.