Thursday, September 30, 2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Direction Zurich

Picnic at Lake Geneva in Montreaux on the way to Zurich.

It's day 1 of our vacation in Switzerland. 25 degrees celcius on September 11. We were lucky with the weather indeed.

We are visiting with my dear aunt Sai and uncle George in Zurich. How wonderful to have family on the same continent!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Le Cheesecake

When I was living in Grenoble 10 years ago, the only place to find chocolate chip cookies North American style was this one particular bakery that wasn't doing the usual French patisserie type baked goods. Muffins and donuts were non-existent then. These days you can find these items easily in many chained patisseries.

The French call shortbread type cookies 'les biscuits', and good old American chocolate chip cookies 'ah, les cookies !' (yes, though they love their French pastries, everybody seems to have a soft spot for les cookies). And besides les cookies that are popular everywhere I take them to, 'ah, le cheesecake !' seems to also be another marvelous anglophone invention among the French.

My Francophone friend Mylène from Québec confirmed that in Québec, they call the cheesecake 'gâteau au fromage' (as well as in my French cookbooks), and chocolate chip cookies 'biscuits aux brisures de chocolat'. But each time I introduce my cheesecake as 'gâteau au fromage', the French would invariably say, 'ah, le cheesecake !', and no less with 'ah, les cookies !'

Personally I think cheesecake should have another name altogether. Not so much because creamcheese is not really cheese to me. But with its name with the inconvenient word 'cheese', I can't get Yannick to have a bite, eventhough tiramisù with its Italian creamcheese type cheese in the name of mascarpone, he doesn't seem to mind at all!

The cheesecake I make in France doesn't taste the same as back in Canada because the creamcheese here is different from the usual Philadelphia. But it's delicious nonetheless, in a different way.

I always want to try new recipes, acquire new techniques, learn new things, etc. and today did I ever learn a few things. First I had decided to make my popular French onion tart on a large scale because I needed a lot of it. Instead of making it in a tart pan as usual, I had the bright idea of tripling the recipe and making it in a large cookie sheet. After slicing 4.5 pounds of onions (I bet most people haven't done that!) and tears streaming and eyes and nose burning, and then trying to squeeze all the onions (and that was only twice the amount the recipe) into my largest frying pan and picking up bits and pieces off the floor every time I flipped the spatula (really got a good workout for my biceps by the way), I scaled the tripling to doubling the recipe.

Rolling the pie crust large enough for the cookie sheet wasn't an easy task either. In fact it became an impossible task for me. Now the floor wasn't only littered with onion bits but also flour and pie dough. In the end I abandonned the idea and went back to make the tarts in two regular tart pans. The bright idea wasn't a bright idea after all. Many lessons learned here, but most importantly, I will never make more than one batch of this recipe at a time ever ever again!

And by the way, if I wasn't sure before, cutting onions is now undoubtdedly at the top of my list of least favourite tasks in the kitchen.

I also made a cheesecake, and this too I needed a lot of, and this too, I had some adventure with and learned a lesson or two. I increased the recipe and made it in a regtangular 9*13 inch pan to be cut into squares. I ignored to bake it in bath water which I normally would do. And of course it had too big (really really big) crack to ignore. To repair this, I decided to cover it with mascarpone cream. But I was out of eggs and I remembered seeing eggless tiramisù recipes where whipped cream was used instead of whipped egg whites.

Now I really shouldn't be telling people that I don't know how to make whipped cream, but for once I have a story to tell so here we go. It took a real long while of beating the cream with the electric hand beater before anything started to happen. Slowly the volume started to increase. Now, if I were to keep beating at it, it would eventually turn itself into whipped cream, right? Right! It eventually got a little bigger in volume. And right before my eyes, it escalated into a weirder and weirder state (which I found out later this phenomenon is called curdling). So instead of whipped cream, it looked like I had butter (I was told it was butter) in a puddle of milk. Well, butter is a really really lovely thing. But not when what you need is whipped cream!

I'll skip telling you this next part because it was even more embarassing that what had just happened. Fast forward to the happy ending (after all this babbling, I should have fast forwarded sooner, shouldn't I?), I covered it with some delicious homemade apricot spread that our friend Fabrice and Ania had made and given us. So after all these adventures, I congratulated myself for having made a cracked cheesecake that needed mending that I am sure in the end turned out better than a perfect cheesecake without the topping otherwise.

Here's the original recipe for a 6.5 inch springform pan.

PS. If you know why what was supposed to be whipped cream went weird, please tell me in the comment section.

Le Cheesecake

Ingredients :
Crust :
130 grams speculoos
2 tablespoons butter

Filling :
2 eggs
2 pots yogurt (250 ml)
300 grams St. Moret cheese
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Grind speculoos and mix with melted butter. Press into greased pan and bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes.
2. Blend the filling ingredients and pour it over the baked crust.
3. Bake in bath water for about 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Bon appetit!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Weekend at La Roque sur Cèze

Late Friday afternoon we headed south to a small medieval village called La Roque sur Cèze to catch the last bit of summer.

We stayed at the cottage of our friend Marie-Claude. Each morning we were greeted by these two goats wandering about.

Some snapshots from around the village from our evening walk.

Some snapshots of other towns we visited not far from La Roque.

And of the historic monastery Chartreuse de Valbonne and Chateau (castle) Grignan.

And of a vineyard.

And of Yannick and Rung.

Friday, September 3, 2010

4 years

Is Paris the most romantic city in the world? Let me confirm. Yes yes yes!

Four years ago today I arrived in Paris to meet Yannick for the first time after some months of internet flirting (I was living in Victoria and he was living in Lyon). The last time I saw him it was four years prior.

This was taken in Lyon in October 2002, our first picture of us together. We were young and innocent (ha!)

2006. Four years later, we decided that we were in love...

2007 during our vacation together in Provence in an otherwise long distance relationship.

2008. Engaged and living together in Victoria. This picture was taken during our vacation in Thailand.

2009 during our trip to my sister Saifone and Mikey's wedding in Bangkok. We had planned to have a double wedding with them but we postponed because of our relocation project. We had decided to move back to France to make it our permanent home. Yannick moved 7 months before me and at this time we conducted our romance long distance again.

2010. Our new life together in Lyon.

Four years have gone by quickly and we have packed in a lot of things. My longest relationship, and his too. A celebration is in order! Later on this month we are returning to Paris for the first time after our romantic rendez-vous there 4 years ago, but today we are heading south for a few days to enjoy the last days of the summer.

Happy anniversary!

Femme Amoureuse

And in French...

Un de mes poèmes préférés d'un de mes poètes préférés.

Femme Amoureuse
un poème de Rainer Maria Rilke
traduit par Rung

Voici ma fenêtre. Si doucement je viens
de me réveiller.
J'ai pensé que je floterrais.
A quelle distance attient-elle ma vie,
et où commence-t-elle la nuit ?

J'ai pu penser que tout était
calme autour de moi;
transparent comme l'intensité
d'un cristal, assombrie, muette.

Je pouvais garder même les étoiles en moi;
si immense mon coeur me semble, si volontairement
il le laisse repartir.

Celui que je commençais peut-être à aimer, peut-être à tenir.
Comme quelque chose d'étrange, d'inimaginable,
mon destin me regarde dans les yeux.

Pour quoi, alors, est-ce que je me suis étirée
sous cet infini,
exsudant le parfum comme un pré,
balancée de-ci de-là,

appellant. Et apeurée
que quelqu'un entendra l'appel
et sera destiné à disparaître
dans une autre vie.

Woman in Love

This is one of my favourite poems by one of my favourite poets.

Woman In Love
by Rainer Maria Rilke

That is my window. Just now
I have so softly wakened.
I thought that I would float.
How far does my life reach,
and where does the night begin

I could think that everything
was still me all around;
transparent like a crystal's
depths, darkened, mute.

I could keep even the stars
within me; so immense
my heart seems to me; so willingly
it let him go again.

whom I began perhaps to love, perhaps to hold.
Like something strange, undreamt-of,
my fate now gazes at me.

For what, then, am I stretched out
beneath this endlessness,
exuding fragrance like a meadow,
swayed this way and that,

calling out and frightened
that someone will hear the call,
and destined to disappear
inside some other life.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Turtle Oat Squares

I baked these turtle oat squares yesterday for a kick-off pot-luck/BBQ evening organized by the International Christian Community of Lyon. It was our first time there.

There must have been around 40 people. A lot of them were Americans, but there were also other nationals as well. They were very friendly in a very North American way with lots of personal questions and exchanges of stories. I love watching the children playing, running around, being excited about desserts, and switching back and forth so naturally betweeen French and English.

This recipe comes from the cookbook Company's Coming for Christmas. The squares taste similar to an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie with caramel.

PS. Shouldn't there be some peanuts in something turtly?

Turtle Oat Squares Recipe

Ingredients :
1 cup butter or hard margarine
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups quick cooking rolled oats
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups caramel sundae topping
1/4 cup all purpose flour

1. Melt butter with vanilla in large saucepan.
2. Add rolled oats, 2 cups flour, brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Stir well. Press 2/3 in ungreased 9 x 13 inch pan.
3. Sprinkle with chocolate chips.
4. Stir butterscotch sauce and 1/4 cup flour together. Drizzle over chocolate chips. Sprinkle with remaining 1/3 rolled oat mixture.

Bon appetit!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

At Jean-Luc and Gisèle's

Yesterday Jean-Luc and Gisèle invited us to have lunch with their family in their home in the countryside about 20 minutes by car from Lyon. But as usual, we ended up staying the whole afternoon, and having a late dinner with them too.

Aside Jean-Luc and Gisèle and their four children, Jean Luc's mother and sister were also there, as well as Gisèle's parents and Pauline's boyfriend.

In the photos, in blue that's Gisèle, then Yannick and the youngest son Valentin, Jean-Luc's mother, Pauline and her boyfriend, and Annick, Jean-Luc's sister.

Marion, Camille, and Pauline. One thing I notice about the many French girls that I have met, they are natural, very at ease with themselves and full of confidence and charm.

We started with the apéro (drinks and pre-meal nibblies). Here we have bouchon au thon (tuna cork), pesto and cheese pinwheels, cheddar biscuits, and salmon rolls.

Gisèle's mother is originally from Liban. Gisèle is a wonderful cook and she loves cooking very much too. Here she prepared some Libanese dishes for the entrée (first course), roasted sweet peppers, rice in grapevine leaves, hummus, and cucumber in yogurt and herbs.

For the main course we had a seafood casserole with rice. Then this was followed by goat cheese.

And three desserts! A mirabelle (a kind of plums) tart, lemon tart, and raspberry tiramisù. I had a piece of each. So delicious!

Jean-Luc and Marion.

Jean-Luc seemed to really enjoy catching flies. He spent a lot of time amusing himself with this. Gisèle's parents smoking away while listening to musical performances.

This is one musical family. Jean-Luc plays the cello, Gisèle plays the piano, Marion plays the violin, Camille plays the accordion and flute. Gisèle's mother is an accomplished violinist. At their place, there is always music playing and singing. And I bring my music and spend some time at the piano.

Their hospitality touches me deeply. And after a day with such wonderful company and great food, and playing and listening to live music, I always come home with a heart full of joy and happiness.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


I love a clear blue cloudless sky. But I also love watching the clouds. Their movements, their formations, their infinite shades-- I find all these utterly beautiful and mesmerizing.

I have to thank Andrew for these photos. We made a pact last week to take some photos each day.

I am grateful to Andrew for much more than these photos. He has been a most reliable friend, always there when you need a friend.

And here's to Andrew and all my wonderful friends, one of my favourite poems.

On friendship by Kahlil Gibran

Your friend is your needs answered.
He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.
And he is your board and your fireside.
For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.

When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the "nay" in your own mind, nor do you withhold the "ay."
And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart;
For without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unacclaimed.
When you part from your friend, you grieve not;
For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.
And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.
For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught.

And let your best be for your friend.
If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also.
For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill?
Seek him always with hours to live.
For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness.
And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.
For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Italian Egg Biscuits

I am playing with recipes to recreate this packaged cookie called iced taralli that I used to eat regularly in Victoria. What?! Packaged cookies?! Regularly?!


There was always access to it, a few packages on supply at home, one or two in the desk's drawer at the office, in the purse (you do have emergency essentials in your purse, don't you?) I first discovered this, of all places, at London's Drugs (a chained drugstore in Canada). And for my friends who don't live in North America, don't worry, I don't do drugs. A drugstore is not a place where they sell drugs. It's like a pharmacy. But more! Aside your regular medication, you'd also find toiletries, and a whole lot of other things like socks and bras, pots and pans, canned fish and chocolate. And if luck is on your side, you'd also find this taralli!

I really love the summer in Lyon as opposed to the cool summer in Victoria where there are very few days of sunshine. And I can actually wear summer clothes INDOOR! The warm season is long and we can spend a lot more hours outside. Yesterday evening we had dinner at our friends Vincent and Gaël's where we sat out on the terrace until close to midnight.

Vincent grilled duck meats, sausages, prawns and pork on the barbeque, and Gaël made a caprese and a Greek salad. I made a tiramisù (recipe here) as well as these Italian egg biscuits. They stayed in oven ranging from 10 to 30 minutes and they all turned out good in different stages of softness. The ones that baked longer became crispier and more like the iced taralli I was hoping to replicate.

Italian Egg Biscuits Recipe

Ingredients :
Biscuits :
¾ cup of sugar
½ cup butter, melted
2 large eggs
¼ cup milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 ¾ cups of flour
2 ½ teaspoons of baking powder
¼ teaspoon of salt

Glaze :
1 cup confectioners sugar
4-5 teaspoons of lemon juice
colored sprinkles

1. Beat butter and sugar together until blended, then beat in eggs, milk, and vanilla.
2. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.
3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.
4. Bake at 325 degrees F, from 10 - 25 minutes depending on how crunchy you want your biscuits to be.
5. Transfer biscuits to a cooling rack and allow them to cool for 10-15 minutes.
6. To make the glaze, whisk together the confectioners sugar and lemon juice in a bowl.
7. Drizzle the glaze over the egg biscuits and sprinkle with sprinkles before the glaze hardens.

Bon appetit!