Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Americanos in the Kitchen

I have a special place in my heart for food trucks. Malanga Girl is probably at least one part burrito due to the intense and irrepressible cravings I felt in early pregnancy for the Calexico Food Truck on Wooster Street. I had this funny notion that everyone at the office would somehow catch on to the fact that I was pregnant because I was going out for several burritos per week. Now, in retrospect, I realize they probably just blamed my expanding waist line on the burrito addiction.

In any event, the appearance of a taco truck run by a real, live Californian at my local farmers' market was fairly exciting. My order today of tacos de carnitas comes just on the tail end of having finally tracked down a place that sells canned black beans in Paris. (I don't have it in me to make black beans from scratch, sorry to say.) At 4, 50 Euros per can, I was still pondering whether I should save them for a special occasion. So, it was extra exciting to see that my tacos were served with a generous side of black beans today. Not red beans or refried beans, but good, old-fashioned black beans how I like them. Brought to me by a Californian.

Incidentally, I finally located the canned black beans at an emporium of American products called The Real McCoy.  Lest you think I'm thinking of changing the expression to "as American as black beans," I'll leave you with the simple yet delicious apple pie recipe I picked up from a Monoprix circular a few weeks ago. It has been a big hit in our house and I just made it again tonight. My amazing assistant, Malanga Girl, suggested the addition of cinnamon to the original recipe. Genius!

1 box of puff pastry
3-4 apples
70 g butter
sliced almonds (I used about 1/3 cup)
2 tablespoons honey
Cinnamon (to taste)

- Peel the apples and slice
- Put the puff pastry in a pie mold
- Place the apples on the puff pastry
- Bake for 20 minutes (the recipe didn't specify a temperature, the box of puff pastry suggested 210 degrees Celsius, I am still fiddling with the temperature).
- In the meantime, melt the butter, add the almonds and the 2 Tablespoons of honey. Add cinnamon to mixture. Pour on baked pie and put back in oven for 4-5 minutes.
Note that the French are very opposed to serving desserts like this with ice cream, but in the privacy of our own home, we quite enjoyed the pie with some vanilla ice cream.

Friday, June 15, 2012

I'm Here for the Food

Two book projects down and now I can focus on the real task at hand: eating my way through Paris. I’ve been visiting the various farmers’ markets since winter, but there’s a special charm to them in spring. The colors of the fruits and vegetables are more vibrant, the selection is wider, the taste of everything is just a little bit sweeter. And, what warms my heart even more than my stomach: I now engage in friendly chit-chat with the vendors I’ve gotten to know over the last few months. There’s the Portuguese fruit vendor (his selection is pictured above), who reminds me that a “fraise” in Portuguese is “morango” and generally indulges me with a fun mix of French and Portuguese as he scoops my cherries into the brown paper sack. There’s the cheese vendor who didn’t laugh at me when I thought the “roquette” called for in my Provencal lasagna recipe was a type of cheese. (It’s not, it’s a green leaf. ) His “brie moeux” is divine, especially on a piece of fresh bread with some basil leaves and a slice or two of rosette (a salami-like cured meat). There’s the spice vendor from whom I have bought ras-el-hanout, herbes de Provence, sesame seeds, and, my latest swoon-worthy discovery, Orange blossom water. I often open the bottle just to take an endorphin-boosting sniff. This same spice vendor welcomed my father enthusiastically to the market when we strolled through together on a recent spring day. How could I not have a special affection for him now?

As much as I love my local vendors, I do cheat on them occasionally. Last Friday, I went over to the market on Place Monge, in the 5th arrondissement, just a few steps from Hemingway’s old haunts in Paris. It felt a bit like being on vacation. I limited myself to purchasing things I could tote around all day, like a jar of honey and a big bulb of fennel, but I took it all in just the same. Then I strolled over to Rue Mouffetard and bought a stack of books to make up for the fresh meats and fish I didn’t purchase at Place Monge. I’m funny like that. But really, aren’t books and food equally necessary? Speaking of, I have another thing to look forward to this summer, besides the expanding selection of fruits and veggies. I can finally read whatever I want now that my translation projects are done. Now that deserves indulging in some kind of celebratory meal!