cakes, prose, woes -- the photos, food & thoughts of a french-speaking seattle-native in brazil

In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it. -AB
In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Tapioca à la Coconut -ensuite- Eggs & a Zucchini

Salty Cod Catering: Easter Sunday Brunch
Oh that blessed Easter Bunny. The rodent equivalent of Santa Claus, was the tale ever meant to be literal--a giant rabbit? Many figurative stories have found themselves literally transformed around times of holiday. It's the sugar and wine. History has shown us that one should not read under such conditions. Regardless, any bunny, whether a large rodent, a mother, neighbor, brother, or friend desiring to bestow upon me the gift of chocolate and painted eggs is welcome on my secular celebration of the Christian Easter holiday. Easter, like Christmas, is a celebration in honor of family and friends, for what else is there to honor. Easter brunch is in its third year tradition--static only is the mimosa, the menu changes on the tide. This annee for the dual-hosting of Sunday brunch chez Tartar (upon request to be elevated from simply "T"), I proffer coconut tapioca with a fruit rouge compote, and zucchinis stuffed with a honey mustard salad of egg, eggplant, and petite pois.

Saturday morning--Tartar and I rendez-vous chez Starbucks with myriad spring issues of culinary magazines such as Elle à Table, Saveurs, and Regal to plan the menu in our fictitious catering state of mind. I still drink Americanos. We discuss limits, that being the microwave size oven--rack of lamb is out. The guests will number 6~7, the food will be light (no fois gras), Tartar will provide the Parisian basics: cheeses, tapenades, crustiants as well as a small poulet roti. Me--no basics. The culinary buzz this season is wrapped around coconut and green. Elle featured an article on a coconut flavored tapioca pudding. Idea one set--tapioca and coconut. Make it work. Vert vert vert: spinach purees, spring peas, and lentils are partout. While perusing through Saveurs, my eyes caught sight of small round zucchinis stuffed with an herbed fromage frais. Idea two--stuffed round zucchinis. We'll make it work.

Stuffed Zucchinis. We must have an egg salad. Egg salad stuffed zucchinis. Why not--egg, egg, egg plant, touché. I did not buy mayonnaise. I give thee the Salty Cod mayonnaise-less Easter Egg salad:

Ingredients: 6 round zucchinis. 1 large eggplant. Dozen hardboiled eggs. 1.5 cup frozen peas. 50g(+) spicy honey mustard. Salt. Pepper. table spoon green anise seeds. Laurier (bay leaves, crushed). Oil to sautée vegetables.
Method: Hard boil eggs. Slice the tops off of the zucchinis and gut with a spoon, save the caps. In a skillet, lightly sautee the gutted zucchini (sliced) and eggplant with salt, pepper, anise seeds, and bay leaves. Let cool. Mix together frozen peas with the zucchini, eggplant, and remaining oil in skillet. Chop eggs. Add eggs, mustard, and additional salt if needed. Stuff spoonfuls of salad into gutted zucchini, replace caps and arrange in empty egg cartons to just make it look oh so precious.

The one "must" at the brunch was and always will be mimosas, a relatively unknown cocktail in France. The four present Americans knew the concoction quite well, while to the Martiniquean and Brazilian it proved to be a first. Excellent. Mango-orange juice was a nice twist on the classic orange juice-champaign combination I must say though. (Mimosa means Something About a Cow in Portuguese. chouette! the other new word today: o queijo---fromage.)

Food yes yes, food is fine, but there are desserts. Tartar and I split the desert menu: she the lemon tarte, and I the tapioca. Coconut milk tapioca--are there two better things in the culinary world (ok marzipan, and mangos, and of course bacalhau, but anyways) tapioca is a grain gift from the gods--it is sans gluten. A miracle pearl that provides delicate pleasure to pudding and pies, and a soft sweat taste to pastries, cakes, and breads in place of wheat flour. Long live the tapioca pearl. This pudding: purely coconut--no vanilas or almond extracts or what have you, just the coconut. To accompany the pudding--which i decided to do egg-less to avoid the curse of cooked egg clumps--is a fruit rouge compote sauce. Id est strawberries and raspberries. Very easter. The presentation: over and hour at BHV (Bazarre Hotel de Ville, big department store) to find the perfect container. Terrine glasses are out of the question for a traveling foodie to aqcuire. Round bowls are undesirable to photograph, and glass infringes on the 50lbs checked luggage weight limit. Plastic. Square--and a lid. Chouette.

Note on my ego to brag about: when D, with a surprised look of "you know tapioca!?" (Brazilians don't think Americans eat tapioca. I knew this already from my Brasilian) asked where it was gasped when i pointed to the box on the table: "we eat that? I thought it was the centerpiece decoration!" Ah yes more more! I eat it up as my head inflates. hehe.

Tapioca au lait de la noix de coco: (I doubled to feed 6)
ingredients: 2.5 cups milk. 1.5 cups coconut milk (and the cream in the can). 3 tbsp tapioca pearls. 4 tbsp sugar.
Method: Bring milk to boil, add tapioca. Stir for 15~20 minutes. Add sugar, and coconut milk. Return to boil, reduce heat and stir at a simmer for 10 minutes. Cool.
Fruit sauce: In a skillet over low heat simmer 2 cups chopped strawberries and raspberries. Add .5 cups sugar, and simmer until reduced. Cool, poor in clear cube (bowl or individual pudding dishes or verine glasses) layer cooled tapioca on top, and refrigerate 2 hours. To serve pile on rasperries, and serve with light cigarette cookies or twists.

The brunch went well. Bordeaux graciously accompanied the mimosas. Touché. C brought a fruit salad of kiwi banana, apple, and golden raisin--only missing the mango. Martinique brought flowers. S brought her pretty face. D the chocolate--and some little chocolate eggs his mammie sent him from Brazil. Mmmmm--and his ipod. Chouette. Bresilien musique at an easter brunch in Paris with mango-orange mimosas--c'est la vie. C'est ma vie. Glad to have you a part of it.

Páscoa muito Feliz!
A bientôt

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Take Me Fishing

Tea Fishing for the Month of MetalThis is my entry for Click: The Photo Event March theme Metal.
By regulation entries must be linked and posted to the blog. So therefore you all are aware that this is my first entry. Chouette!

Here are the other ones I was thinking about. But they seemed a little too crowded. Do you agree? Don't we love and yet at the same time hate making decisions.

A bientôt

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Eat exigeTalk: l'Assiette et la Tête

The Art of Table Conversation
What is the correct table etiquette; how much is too much talk? Should one focus on the plate or on the surroundings? Is a meal soley for the purpose of nourishment? This, as most concepts in life, depends on location, localizaçãol, localização, localização. Most cultures vary in the "proper way to pass a meal." In most of Asia a meal is passed in silence, according proper respect to the items being consumed. While in other areas of the world--alright the west--meals are often lively, loud, perhaps accompanied by music and or television. For many families table time is the sole moment of the day when all are assembled, procuring naturally an opportunity for needed conversation.

The verb to eat--every living organic creature, by the laws of nature, is forced to obey the need of nourishment. Plants eat, ants eat, cod fish eat, pigs eat---but do humans eat? No. Humans do not eat. Humans have, to their own desire, own decorum, adapted (ok elevated) all forms of natural necessety to something other than basic organic instinct. You are human, you are aware of the list. Relate the senses--nothing is basal. Nothing. The area of nourishment is no different.

Writer and (Philosophe) Michel Jeanneret explains in his "La conversation a table" {La gourmandise sous haute surveillance, La Gourmandise. Delices d'un peche, Paris, 1993} that it is the art of table conversation, the combination of rational thought and discourse paired with alimentation that separates human dinner table from the animal watering hole. Take a look, mes amis, it's worth a thought.

Note: this is my translation; not a professional.

Politeness does not merely imply a maintaining of allure, for it also involves, if not depends, on the elegance and timing of speech. It's proper usage in the world is passed through a combination of recognized manners and table etiquette as well as an etiquette of speech.

Take conversation as a minute, yet delicate refinery, it's exaltation is necessary, and for the company seated around the table, it's demand is crucial: dialog accompanies meals in a sensory dimension, where a diner risks participation in rational thought through conversation. This is a mark solely of man. Animals gorge in silence, but humans,--humans eat, or rather nourish the body and the mind simultaneously through the event that is "supper time." Lively discourse plays a role, to some degree, parallel to what is prepared in the kitchen: like a sophisticated sauce, conversation marks the contribution art and human culture have bestowed on a subject otherwise belonging solely to the realm of nature--instinct of nature compels nourishment, but accompanied conversation is it's elevation to that of an action purely only as an accession for man.

Dialog brings to the diners what gluttony tends to isolate. It therefore matters that each person seated around the table feels at ease and participates in the conversation. One should avoid the vices of "chattiness," monopolization of the floor, hoarding all eyes and attention, and as well the inverse of the extreme, that of curt brevity that often douses the flame of discourse, relinquishing the members of party to a void icy silence.

Good conversation rubs out differences, erases rank, and overcomes inhibition. The topic of conversation will be chosen by consequence in accordance with the competence and taste of all members involved. There will be laughter, but not derision, the mind will be forced to stimulation, but not overwhelmed. A topic of debate that is too serious will risk a division in the group. It is not meant that philosophy should be banned from the dining room, but rather that it be kept in its proper state----water in wine----which is to address current affairs and to put up with each individual opinion--overzealous know-it-alls discourage others, which takes from the richness of the feast.

An essential aspect of lively table conversation is to speak of everything and of nothing--to pass freely from one subject to another without remorse or haunt. The variety of themes and tones will prevent those who wish to confiscate the conversation; giving each diner a right, or moreover a desire to express oneself. It is safe to say then that the mouth should always be occupied by something more than merely tasting, chewing, and swallowing.

A meal is more than digestion; it is a combination between what is on the plate and what is in the head. C'est l'assiette et la tête.

A bientôt

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Montréal Po{R}ker Pies

Celebrity Poker Showdown: Antoine Saint-Exupéry, Nicolas Sarkozy, Christophe Colombus, Samuel Beckett, and little miss Martha Stewart. Je me couche (I sleep), is how they play--folding with every non-advantageous hand---that is at least until a couple of drinks have been poured. The French play it safe, nous sommes serieux ici! cry the Las Vegas professionals as they sip pastis instead of Budweiser, snack on chévre and truffles instead of chips and pretzels, and kiss their lucky football (soccer) jerseys for luck: it's the southern Marseilles boys here versus the PSG groupies. As tough as they think they are playing an American game with five euro high stakes, playing poker with the French is, well, French. All the more to love. I am the the sole jouer who plays the bluff. Though caution is to a degree an excellent virtue in life to attend to, it is a plague in the poker game of the French, causing the smoky Sunday afternoon matches to endure indefinitely, scratching away at the evening hours until fatigue spurs on the impulse to "all in" on a 3 and a 6 off-suit. je me couche, je me couche already!

The eyebrows have, and will continue to be raised. I am not daunted by those that are raised on your own face, as akin to yours mine are as well piked. Sunday poker group? Yes, images can come to mind, perhaps mafia images with guns and prostitutes, or retired businessmen in velvet robes smoking cigars and sipping brandy, me; I think of Ricky, Ethel, Lucy, and Fred. I suppose I have some splaining to do.

I am not a poker addict, not in the least, but my friends are. And as they play poker every week, so be it--I play poker every week at Sarkozy's apartment just outside Paris to the northeast. Beautiful view of La Defense, I must say is the 7th floor. Yes it may be a boys game, ladies are in the minority, (count em: one) but I do it for the company, the conversation (no English, which is after all my reason for living in Paris) and of course, above all else, it's a reason to COOK! (Ma raison d'etre). It is an all-French evening, that is except for the American (me) and the music which has lately turned South to America, Portuguese flavor that is, thanks to Exupéry and moi as the unrelenting DJ duo. They smoke and drink an awful too much. Saint-Exupéry how many have you rolled now? You are going to make yourself ill. Oy, as my lungs are being indirectly blackened, there is a want for food, and this crowd being chefs, waiters, and restaurateurs (you see the sort I hang out with) it can not just be a bag of sheeps (chips). What to bake for a French poker game. What. Recalling the season finale challenge on Top Chef Season II--catering the poker match--one recalls that utensils are out, anything viscous is out (Beckett spills something every week without fail) and anything too sweet is out. As I am a snob, anything packaged is out as well. What is in then? Hmmmm Columbus has a fondness for his memories of his school exchange in Quebec. My family is French Canadian. The only real French Canadian recipe we claim is meat pie. Albeit Montreal mini pork pies it is then. Shuffle up and deal.

Montréal Meat Pie.
I've personally attempted this recipe at least twice on my own, both times while either on the phone or email with my aunt who owns the family recipe. This time--yes, I could send an email, but baking something twice, it sticks in your head. As such, a general idea is all thats needed to produce a shadow recipe, and as a shadow, therefore, it is not a blasphemy to personalize the recipe, just a bit. Shopping for specific ingredients: my favorite activity in Paris. Pre-made pie crust, easy, carrefour. Onions, garlic, spices, also easy, carrefour. Ground pork--damn you carrefour. Dear Salty Cod reader, I will now tell you of the story of the mademoiselle living in Paris for a near 7 months, who claiming to be a food connoisseur, had yet to purchase meat at a boucherie. What can I say, for there is nothing to be said. Not finding ground pork at the supermarkets (does it exist in France?) the fork was to either put the groceries back on the shelf and buy a pineapple as comfort food for defeat, or go to the butcher. What is there to be afraid of at a boucherie? Nothing. Exactly. I go. No pineapple.

Arrondissements in Paris are designed so technically one would never have to leave le sien (one's own). Little supermarkets, the post, the bank, the cheese shop, the wine shop, the meat shop, the flower shop, the foisgras shop; everything in walking distance from the back door. Mine, 16e Auteuil, is just that, the perfect upscale, quiet, and charming retiree-white-dog-owning community of that classic old Paris-snob stereotype. I will show you around personally when we are next in Paris together. On y va au Boucherie D'Auteuil--my virgin meat shop.

I am always nervous opening my mouth in the non-tourist areas, I am not ashamed at being a foreigner, but in Paris there is always that fear that they might not be happy that you are a foreigner. I am not sure where that irrational fear came from. But I get over it after the first 10 seconds. (Though buying a knee-brace for running at a pharmacie let me tell you...quel nightmare. I can speak French, but I do not know ev-er-y word in the damn language.)

Mademoiselle, je vous ecoute
. Erm, oui, je cherche porc haché (where did that word come from! score one for my French!) Porc haché? Uh, (ok maybe that wasn't right afterall) oui, pork, comme hamburger, c'est... Oh non non je comprends. Vous voulez combien de kilos? Kilos? erm, (I am still an idiot with metric, how much is a kilo?) uh, comme-ci (make gestures with hands to show amount) je ferai un tarte, donc... d'accord. He measures and grinds it, Ca va? Comme-ci? Parfait! Mais, actuellement, un peu plus (and I pronounced the s, bravo me!) Plus? d'accord. He hacks off another chunk and grinds it. Merci! I pay the other man, and leave. Au revoir! Au revoir! he yells a couple times as I leave. Oh! Au revoir! He was cute, the butcher that is.

It is evident that the Salty Cod is not Kosher friendly, as there seems to be exuberant mentioning of pork, pig, ham, etc. I apologize to the readers of the Jewish faith. The boucherie experience placed me in an awfully good mood (now you know how to make me happy) racing home (not exactly, I have long legs so my walk just happens to be fast) I decided to cook the meat that night and construct the pies the following day, as they are better that way. But store in air tight container. Use packaging tape if necessary. This is where I would cough if we were sharing this story orally. Cook the pork, add spices and yadda yadda, there are Canadian meat pie recipes allover the internet. I added my secret ingredient--anise seeds. Anise is my Salty Cod signature épice. No baked good is complete without either anise or cloves. *note, don't over stuff the pies, they will burst at the seams. Also--for small pies one needs a lot less meat than would be needed for a big pie. As such there will be a larger amount left over than is actually in the pies. Freeze it. That is an order.

As slices from a large pie must be eaten with a fork, the traditional family method had to be vetoed and replaced by little pies akin to a pot-pocket, or individual mince meat pie. For one reason or another the word papillote repetitiously stirs in my thoughts, though it mean paper, or tinfoil, like a curler frill, something is pushing me to call them papillotes. Circles or squares both suffice, the use of a beer glass to roll the dough and cut pastry circles was my "learn to adapt" method. Again, microwave-size oven, only 4 may cook at a time. The result: small savory buttery pies that are easy to handle and eat.

These pies prompt me to memories of my family. Poker as well. Lucy attempts to join the "boys night" as always to Ricky's dismay, by getting in on the poker game (well wait, what was Ethel doing there then?) I've seen every Lucy episode. I love that Cuban. Yes, it was me who filled the tivo box last summer with Lucy recordings. My mum is the only one who will watch them with me. Here's to yee, and to the episode in the hotel next to the train tracks that made the beds fly accross the room. Here's to run-on sentences. And here's to me' dad, with whom my evenings in front of the tv watching Celebrity Poker Showdown instilled in me the only poker training and skills I have to this date. That episode with the cast from West Wing was quite a thriller. Here's to Texas Hold Em' and my French poker pals, as I did in fact win 10euros last week. Here's to Montréal Meat Pies, my friends, and here's to you, for as always I wish you could be here with me to have a taste.

A bientôt

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Gastronomic Ink-slinging

Calamari in the eyes of collegiatesIt is no secret that I am not a chef, but rather a logophile keen on chronicling gastronomy, travels, history, life--alright I just like to write. My dream, as is represented by the concept of the Salty Cod is to someday own a bakery. But until that day I will write, and so will others.

For your culinary pleasure, I propose a glance or two at Gonzaga University's Charter, a quarterly publication of academic and creative writing connected by an appointed theme. The first edition of the 2007-2008 academic year themed FOOD is finally available online, with articles ranging from psychological analysis of comfort food to food in politics. Take a moment to see food from the perspective of non-culinarians, the bookish type to be exact. Gonzaga here may claim some amazing young talent. Maybe if you look hard enough you might see a piece (or two) by someone you recognize.

The second and third editions of this years Charter, Death and Information, are not online yet--but stay tuned. Last years editions can be accessed in the side bar of the Charter web page (Travel, Archetypes, Language, and Machines.)

Food Charter Introduction by Editor Anne Pauw: Food consumes us. It affects almost every aspect of our lives –– enriching our souls, sustaining our bodies, transforming our world and filling our minds...

It's no Bourdain I'll tell you that, but entertaining none the less.
Visit Gonzaga Charter

A bientôt