About

"The reluctant Francophile..."

My husband Jack has always wanted to live in Paris and learn French. I thought it would be good for him to achieve his life time dream. Hence, we moved to Paris in 2008. My first year was difficult. I started "missives" to relieve some stress and chronicle my life so friends back in the US could read what I am experiencing. I currently write about my food and travel experiences, which is my passion.

It is definitely a challenge to live here, but each year it gets easier, and quite enjoyable, in large part because I value friendships over locale. I have a love/hate relationship with Paris as do most Parisians, mais La vie est belle (but life is good)!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Cantine California -- Restaurant Review


46 Rue Turbigo
Phone: 09 81-15-53-13
Metro: Arts et Métier
Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses) Note: Does not include beverages

1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)

  3.5 - stars...............................................................€........................................................... 1 - Bell


This restaurant has been open for just a little over a week. They are the same owners who opened up the "Cantine California" food truck  , and along with "Le Camion qui Fume"  with great success and started the whole food truck movement in Paris. Hats off to both of them.

My best friend has already gone a couple of times, and each time has given input to the staff, after all he is from Southern California, and they know a thing or two about Mexican food.  There's a couple of things he shared with me about this restaurant, and in my own review with you that I wanted to share.

First of all, spicy food is not appreciated or even much liked for the average French palate. Their philosophy being, why add spice to mask the flavor of the food?  My argument back has always been, why mask good food with lots of sauce or creme? My point is, given the right amount of spice or sauce, it can enhance and bring out of the flavors of food, n'est-ce pas?



I went with a friend who also owns a Mexican restaurant in the 8eme. He always likes to test other restaurants similar to his. I have yet to find a really good taco bar or restaurant that serves tacos as we know them in California. The restaurant is very new, very modern with clean lines and not kitschy or excessive. The bar and kitchen are open, so you can actually see the activity around you. It's a nice and airy open restaurant.



We perused the menu. They have a very simple menu of burgers and tacos. Being that we came here specifically for the tacos, we decided to get all 3: fish, carnitas, and chicken.  When I think of tacos I assume they will be wrapped in corn tortillas, not so in France. Corn is considered animal food and the French palate does not like corn tortillas for the taste nor the texture. So, my best friend told me ahead of time to specifically ask for corn tortillas.



We started out with their margaritas. I like them salted. Although the margaritas were very good, I found them to be too tart. But that's a personal preference, because my best friend, who always likes to test margaritas, said they were excellent at 6€ a glass. They were the best he's had in Paris for the price point.







As for the tacos, my favorite were the fish tacos. The one flaw I found, I don't believe the tortillas were heated e.g., steamed, and it tasted like they came right out of the package because they kept ripping. The fish tacos were nice and crispy with a moist interior and topped with their creamy coleslaw, made it a hit.  Note, my best friend gave them input a week earlier stating that the coleslaw could've been creamier, so they were. The carnitas were good, but my friend thought they might've been a little too sweet. And, the chicken was not very exciting.





We liked the fish tacos so much, we ordered two more.  Unfortunately, we forgot to mention we wanted them with corn tortillas and they came with flour tortillas. You can definitely taste the difference. Just remember you must repeat that you want corn tortillas.  The only other thing I missed was hot salsa for the tacos, instead we got "Valentino" a bottled hot sauce, which was good, but it would've been really nice with salsa. According to my best friend, they did have a tomato salsa when he was there, so I have to assume they ran out.



Overall, I thought the restaurant was definitely above average. Prices were excellent. I have yet to try their hamburgers and will do so on our next visit, because I plan on going again. The staff are incredibly nice. I complimented one wait staff that her English was excellent, she said she was from NYC, just like the "Pace Picante" commercial, boy was I embarrassed. Then I met one one of the kitchen workers and he's from SF and not too far from our home there. The manager and co-owner, Michael lived in Atlanta for 5-years.

They are off to a good start. They have a couple of kinks to iron out, but this is going to be a hit. They're very receptive to feedback, so share your thoughts.  My only fear is that they might "Frenchify" as many have done so before them. So, I encourage you to go before it gets too popular; I know it will be a big hit and success!




Thursday, April 17, 2014

Le Verre Moutarde -- Restaurant review


145 Rue de Saussure, 17eme
Tel: 01-42-27-35-55
Open: Monday-Friday
Web: www.leverremoutarde.com
Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses) Note: Does not include beverages

1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)

  3.5 - stars...............................................................€€*........................................................... 3 - Bell

*Note: Ordering from their regular menu is expensive, and would rate it a €€

I had never been to this restaurant before, but had heard about it from my dear friend. So off we trotted to the 17eme, which is quite a schlep from where we live in the left bank, but I'm always willing to travel far and beyond for any new adventure.  This restaurant has become so popular of late that they actually have to turn people away. 

Once you enter you'll notice it's an extremely whimsical restaurant. There are collections of "cartoon" character glasses, paintings done in a cartoon motif, and your name written on the table letting you know the table is reserved for you, and you only. 








They have a lunch special which is extremely reasonable. You got an entrée, plat and dessert for 14.90€. The lunch special changes daily.

In fact, as we entered the restaurant, they immediately asked if we wanted a glass of their house wine, which of course we did. I had the rosé, and the 3-others had a burgundy.










For whatever reason, we did not order from the pre-fixe lunch menu. We chose from their regular menu which was quite extensive. The menu came 2-sided with an English version as well as in French. Interestingly we were the only English speakers in the tiny restaurant.







ENTRÉES:

Three of us had the "marrow and snails on an open sandwich, malabar pepper". It's beautifully presented. It's more like a large crostini. It was beautifully topped with the snails and rounds of bone marrow. Being that I'm not French, I picked it up with my hands and ate it like a pizza, but realized, doing so, the topping fell off. So I later succumbed and used a fork and knife.  The escargot, true to its nature was wonderfully garlicky and the bone marrow, also true to its nature was extremely rich and fatty. I found that adding a dab of mustard, which this restaurant is named after, cut the fat down and added an extra dimension and flavor profile. I loved the dish. 




One person had the "caviar of eggplant with cilantro".  It tasted like a "baba ghanoush", but not as thick. It was surrounded by a mild light pureed tomato, topped with spaghetti of turnips.  The dish was nice, simple as well as refreshing. 




PLAT:


Two of us had the "braised veal rib, mushroom waffles with reduced gravy".  It was a nice sized piece of veal. I was actually quite surprised, that they didn't ask us how we wanted our veal cooked, so when it arrived it was actually cooked well done. For me it's OK, I would rather err on the well done side then the raw side, since my stomach cannot handle raw meat. I found the texture of the meat great, but I did find the sauce a tad, tad too salty. It was topped with some spaghetti daikon.The waffle, surprisingly stayed crisp and crunchy, just the way I like it, but I really did not taste the mushroom.  None-the-less, the waffles were delicious. A good dish with some minor flaws!



One person had the "vegetarian plate". I was surprised they had a vegetarian dish, this is not typical for Paris. With that said, I was expecting to see a salad. However, it was a warm platter of vegetables, with mostly asparagus and some of the au jus. The dish was composed very nicely, and was also served with mushroom waffles.  They were blanched vegetables not al-dente, but just a little beyond that. They were good and simple, but nothing out of the ordinary. 




Lastly, one person had the "roasted tuna filet with white asparagus with a virgin sauce", Another wonderful presentation. For me the tuna was cooked perfectly. it was well cooked on the outside and rare in the middle. It was very moist. What turned out to be "virgin" sauce was actually vinegar. The vinegar was tart, but I happen to like tart flavors with seafood. For me this was a good dish. 







DESSERTS:



I opted not to have dessert, nor cheese, but two had a taste of the home-made "nougat ice cream caramel".  I have to say it was delicious. Very "ying-yang", you had the smoothest of the ice cream, which I was very light and creamy, and the crunchiness of the nougats. It also came accompanied with a caramel wafer, which was nice and crispy. This dish was a hit. 








One person had the "creme brulée with pink pralines". I love desserts, but I have to say this was my least favorite. First of all, the brulée was more creamy in texture and more like a mouse than an egg custard. And, I found the pink pralines a turn off. The color was not natural, nor was it visually appealing. It tasted like pure sugar.  So, of all the dishes we had today, this was my least favorite. 






SUMMARY:

Overall, I have to say that this restaurant was definitely above average. The service is excellent, decor is quirky, but fun. It's a small restaurant, maybe it can accommodate 20-25 people at most, but when it fills up, it gets extremely noisy.  

 Their dishes were all over the board. Some were excellent, some average, and some were misses. They did have some minor flaws in the veal dish, but the creme brulée was really off-putting for me.  For 4 of us the bill came to almost 220€, I suppose if we just ordered the pre-fixe it would not have been as pricey. We did however, have wines before our lunch, a bottle of Arjolle, a 48CL of their house rosé, and a bottle of their house burgundy and 3-coffees.  Surprisingly, we were offered free degustif of armagnac and plum brandy. Would I come back, "porquoi pas" (why not).





Thursday, April 3, 2014

Postiche -- Restaurant Review



64 Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau
75001 Paris, France
Tel: 
01 42 36 14 90
Metro: Les Halles
Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses) Note: Does not include beverages

1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)


  3 - stars................................................................€................................................................. 2 - Bell

There's a whole other place in the 1er arrondissement that I haven't really explored. A friend invited us for a lunch, and I was excited about going since it's a few doors down from one of my favorite wine bars "O-Chateau".  It's a relatively small restaurant, but they do have sitting upstairs. My guess is that they could easily accommodate 30 people. 





They have a special lunch menu for 15€ for an entrée + plat or a plat + dessert. These were all very, very reasonable prices, and they didn't have an extensive selection, but as most know, I prefer a small menu done right, then lots of items done poorly. 











ENTRÉES:

Two us got the "Salad au lard, oeuf poache et noix" (Salad with bacon, poached eggs and nuts).  The salad was good. The eggs perfectly poached and the bacon was nice and crispy like I like it!  As salads go, this was a very good salad, but nothing out of the ordinary. 










One person got the "Velouté de potiron" (Cream of pumpkin soup), I'm not a big fan of pumpkin soup, so I deferred to our companion.  He stated it was good, but a bit too thick and because pumpkin really doesn't have much flavor, he said it could've used more spices, but overall he thought it was a good dish!


PLATS:

Three of us had the "Filet de haddock poché, lait de coco aux agrumes" (Poached haddock fillet, coconut milk with citrus).  The haddock was "dried and salted" which is a normal way to preserve haddock. So, it was re-constituted. At first bite I thought, wow this is salty; however, mixing it with the accompanying mashed potatoes, vegetables and scooping it up the sauce with a hint of coconut flavoring and citrus, it was quite tasty and enjoyable. So, overall, this was also a good dish, but nothing extraordinary. 






One friend had the "Saumon gravlax, creme aux herbes fraiche" (Gravlax salmon, creme fraiche with herbs).  It was a simple, good dish and it was served with a nice salad of different greens! It was good.





DESSERTS:


As usual, I got the cheese plate. This was one of my favorite cheeses "Saint Marcellin". Normally the cheese is served at room temperature, so that it sort of melts in your mouth. Unfortunately, the cheese was served a little too cold for my liking, but I still loved the cheese.





Two had the "Soupe de clémentines à l'anis" (Clementine soup with anise).  Slices of clementines with an accompanying broth of anise. They thought the flavors combined well and both loved this dessert!





SUMMARY: 



This is a good place to go for lunch. The food is by no means extraordinary, but what they do serve is done very well. And, for the price you can't beat it. With 2-bottles of  "Ventous", 2-glasses of sauvignon blanc, 2-coffees and a brandy, our bill came to 77€ per couple or 38.50€ per person!

Would I go back, sure, porquoi pas? It's good food for a reasonable price.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Le Colimaçon -- Restaurant Review


44 Rue Vielle du Temple
Tel: 06-27-18-08-07
Web: www.le-colimacon.fr
Metro: Line 1 Hôtel de Ville

Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)

1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)

  4.5 - Star..............................................................€€................................................................. 2 - Bell

I have to be honest, I normally do not like eating in "Le Marais" (3eme & 4eme), since I find it geared towards the tourist and oftentimes the food is pre-made and not good.  But in celebration of our friend's return to Paris, I searched for a restaurant in the Marais since it was a Sunday and a fun day just to window shop. This area is the only shopping area open in Paris on a Sunday.  I came across this restaurant and the menu looked good so I made reservations through "La Fourchette" .  

The restaurant is small, although there are also seats upstairs.  Originally we were given a table by the stairs, so I asked if we could transfer by the window and they accommodated us. There is a huge black-board with the menu listed. It was quite extensive.




First order of the day were apéros. They had these house apéros made with a specially fermented white wine and mint. It looked like "mojitos", but we were pleasantly surprised how refreshing they were and not overly sweet as most mojitos are in Paris. So, this was a good start.

As we were perusing the wine, the waiter took his time to describe wine we were interested in.  In fact, he asked what range we would like to pay, and even had us taste different wines and gave us a quick lessons on the nuances of the different wines.  We got the sancerre blanc at 35€. Our wait person also spent alot of time describing the menu to us, and gave us his recommendations.

ENTRÉES:  


Two of us ordered an entrée.  I ordered the "Morilles a la crème" (Morel mushrooms in cream).  It was served in a small cooper pot.   This was a very, very tasty first course.  Our waiter told us that the morels were sourced locally. They were covered with a lot of cream. Although extremely tasty with all the cream, I found it a tad too rich for my taste, but I did enjoy it none-the-less. Not recommended for those who are lactose-intolerant.






One ordered the "Tartare Imperial de Mers et son duo d’argumes" (tartare of fish served with two types of citrus).  This was a beautifully presented dish. It was also quite delicious, very fresh and had the perfect balance of the fattiness of the salmon and the citrus. It was a hit and I can see it being a summer staple. 





Plats:

I ordered the "Cuisse de lapin farcie aux pleurottes foie gras, lard" (Rabbit leg stuffed with foie gras oyster mushrooms, bacon).  I found this interesting as I don't normally like to eat rabbit because I find them very "boney", and usually masked with lots of cream. This intrigued me because it was roasted and boneless.  The stuffed legs were delicious and quite tender. The oyster mushrooms with the bacon brought it to a whole new level. And, it wasn't full of cream, the sauce was light and delicious. The salad had a nice citrus touch to cut down on some of the fattiness. The accompanied mashed potatoes were nothing special, but overall the rabbit was delicious and I certainly would order it again.


Our friend ordered the "Filet de boeuf façon Rossini" (Fillet of beef Rossini).  He ordered it "à point", medium rare. It was topped with a few bits of foie gras and the dish was absolutely delicious.  It was accompanied by a pan roasted scalloped potatoes with almonds that were absolutely delicious. It was crispy on the exterior and tender sweet on the inside.  Overall, this whole dish with the potato dish was very good. 





Lastly our friend ordered the "Filet de Bar et sauce aux deux agrumes" (Sea bass with two citrus sauces).  This was actually the simplest of the 3-dishes we ordered. The fish was very moist and the citrus sauce was very mild. The accompanying carrots with haricot vert was extremely sweet and tasty. Another winner.




We opted not to have dessert since we were all so full. We did, however, order some coffee.

SUMMARY:

Although it's in a very busy tourist area in the Marais, what a great find. I was prepared to dislike the food, since I've never had a good dining experience until now in that area and go there primarily for salads, felafel or pizzas.  The service is beyond excellent. They like speaking English, especially our wait person who wanted to practice, which was fine with us.  He took time to describe the dishes as well as the different wine options.

I would highly recommend this restaurant. We gave the food an overall 4, but with the outstanding service we gave it an additional 0.5, one of my highest ratings. For 3 people, a bottle of wine and coffees, our bill came to 47€ per person!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Chameleon -- Restaurant Review


70, rue René Boulanger 75010 Paris 
Tél. : 01 42 08 99 41
http://www.chameleonrestaurant.fr/
Metro: Line 4 or 8 (Strasbourg St. Denis)
Rating Standards: 5-Stars = Extraordinary; 4-Stars = Excellent; 3-Stars = Average; 2-Stars = Fair; 1-Star = Poor
€ = Inexpensive: 30€ and under; €€ = Moderate: 31€-49€; €€€ = Expensive: €50 -75; €€€€ = Very Expensive: more than €76 (prices based on minimum 2-courses)

1-Bell = Pleasantly quiet (less than 65 decibels); 2-Bells = Can talk easily (65-70); 3-Bells = Talking normally gets difficult (70-75); 4-Bells = Can talk only in raised voices (75-80); BOMB = Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)

  4 - Star..............................................................€€............................................................2 - Bell

This restaurant is located in the 10eme arrondissement, a lively working class neighborhood that is very active with young people.   We truly were able to find a gem in this part of town. Once you step into Chameleon the first thing you notice is the spaciousness.  The tables were not all crammed together, so even though there may be alot of people, because of the spaciousness you can speak to and hear your dinner companions.  The tables were covered with white linen, linen napkins and every table accoutrement was perfect placed. And, amazingly they had a 'full bar,' but I stuck with wine.




This is the working epicenter of the restaurant with a wine and cocktail bar situated in front of a very open kitchen. So, if you wanted you can watch them prepare your food.







The menu was quite simple. You had a selection of 3-entrées, 3-plats, and 3 desserts. I actually prefer a smaller menu for a couple a reasons: #1 it's easier to make a selection, #2 it's a sign they only do a few things, presumably doing them well. And, the menu had a nice variety despite the smaller selection. Lunch menu changes daily, whereas the dinner menu changes weekly.

ENTRÉES



Two of us had the "Poitrine de cochon" (pork belly) -- I love pork belly and they made this right. It was sweet, juicy and luscious. Typically, they brine the pork to keep it moist and it can be very, very salty if not rinsed properly. This was not the case, it was not at all salty and had a nice balance of sugar as a result of the lacquering. It was accompanied by a squash and dandelion greens. Overall, an excellent dish. 




One person had the "Asperges vertes rôties au beurre d’algues, ventrêche kintoa et parmesan"
(green asparagus roasted with algae butter, Basque bacon, parmesan); our companion  said it was her favorite dish of the evening. I had a bite of it, and it was cooked well accompanied by little bits of salty, smoky bacon, which enhanced the sweetness of the asparagus. Another hit!

One person had the "Bonite oignons pailles crémeux, pousses de moutarde et chou kale" (bonito, yellow onion crémeux, mustard sprouts & kale cabbage)He liked the dish, but did not like accompanying onion sauce, it had almost a generic brown "gravy" taste, such as those bought in a bottle in the US.  I had a taste of the fish, and it was cooked to my liking, crispy on the outside and moist and rare on the inside, and the accompanying vegetables were delicious. Now if they can only fix that sauce!





PLATS:

I had the "Pigeon de Mesquer choux verts, pleurotes fumées, piquillos' (Mesquer’s pigeon, green cabbage, smoked oyster mushrooms, piquillos).  As typical, there's not much meat on a pigeon, but what there was, was delicious, albeit extremely salty for my palate. However, one of our guest liked the saltiness. If you're hungry, or adverse to alot of salt, this is not the dish for you! I would rate it just OK!







One person had the "Selle d’agneau
condiment dattes et citron confit, cébettes grillées et carottes colorées confites" 
(saddle of lamb, dates & lemon confit condiment, grilled spring onions, confites colored carrots). I had a bite of it and it was delicious, moist and perfectly cooked. And, the accompanying turnips with the grilled green onions just enhanced the meat perfectly. This was a winner.








And, two got the "Saint-Pierre navet boule d’or, betteraves de couleurs, chutney pommes gingembre" (John Dorry fish filets, golden turnips & colored beets, apple ginger chutney). A very simply cooked fish, sometimes the most difficult thing to cook are the most simplelist dishes, but they did it right.  It came with turnips, the turnips had a nice taste but slightly on the bitter side.






DESSERTS:




As usual I had the plate of cheese. There was a real nice collection of 2-chevres, a comte and a tomme de savoie cheese. As I always say, you can't go wrong with cheese in France. 








Two people got the "Pamplemousse corse 
crémeux pamplemousse, cédrat de Sicile confit, meringue corsican" (grapefruit crémeux, sicilian citron confit, meringue). On arrival, it was not what they expected at all In fact, the meringue was a large "vacherin"  (baked egg white cups) filled with a marshmallow type of cream and some dried fruit candy. It was a bit disappointing. 






One person had the "Cheesecake 
mangue, mélisse, granité citron vert"
(cheesecake with mango, lemon balm, lime granita).  Now this cake will definitely fool you. First of all it's not an "American" cheesecake. It was their interpretation of a cheesecake made with what tasted like  "fromage blanc".  One complaint about the dish, was that it was not sweet enough for a dessert. So, if you're craving for an American style cheese cake, this is not for you. It's a miss unless you like sour, not very sweet desserts!


SUMMARY:

Overall the entrées and plats were great, with only 2-minor, minor misses being the sauce on the bonito fish and my pigeon being way too salty.  With the exception of the cheese plate, the desserts need some work.  The cheesecake needs to be called something else and perhaps made sweeter. And, the pamplemoose needs to be described that it comes with a vacherin not a meringue, I for one am not a fan of vacherin. The service is excellent, and the menu comes with an english translation. 

Would we go out of our way to come back? absolutely.  With a bottle of Samur and a pichet of rosé our bill came to 93€ per couple!







Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Randy's Easy fruit tart -- Recipe



Randy's Easy fruit tart

With spring here and summer fast approaching, I resurrected an old recipe that I concocted for a quick dessert that can be varied by what fruits are in season, or what you prefer. I prefer the Easy Bake butter crust in French known as sablé, but if you don’t want to hassle with baking use the graham cracker crust, recipe to follow:

Tart pan:
I like to use an 12 or 13-inch removable bottom tart pan, preferably non-stick. 

No-Bake crust: 
1 3/4 graham crackers
1/4 - 1/2 cup ground nuts (your choice and optional)
1/2 cup melted butter
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
Simply mix the ingredients and press into a tart pan.  Let it cool before filling. You can even refrigerate it to facilitate the cooling!

Easy Baked butter crust
1 1/3 cup flour
1-stick butter melted (8 ounces)
1-egg yolk
3-tbs sugar
A pinch of salt (about 1/8 teaspoon)
1/4 cup finely ground nuts (your choice and optional)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
I prefer to use a food processor.  Place flour in food processor, slowly pulse in melted butter, then the egg yolk, sugar, salt, nuts and cinnamon if so desired. Immediately press it into a tart pan. Place in refrigerator for a minimum of half-an-hour! In the meantime, preheat oven to 375ºF. Once crust is cooled remove from refrigerator and, bake in the oven for 30-45 minutes, until lightly browned. Let tart shell cool at room temperature before filling.

Note: you can use store-bought crust, but remember to "dock" (prick) crust before baking to prevent puffing!

Filling: 
Use your favorite lemon curd recipe, or pastry cream. For the tart pictured above, I used a 'no bake' cream cheese filling, which is an easy, easy base to make and can be flavored with a myriad of different extracts, e.g., vanilla, almond, mint etc:

1.5 packages of cream cheese (room temperature)
1/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt (1/8 teaspoon)
1-cup whipped cream
1/2 teaspoon of extract of your choice. Use an extract flavor that will enhance the fruit. For example, I normally like using a lemon or orange extract for strawberries and kiwis, but for blueberries, I like to use almond extract. 


Fruit: 
You can select the fruit of your choice (e.g., strawberries, plums, grapes, raspberries, melons etc). Fresh fruit in season is always best.

Glaze: 
¼ cup Apricot jelly or Grape jelly melted with 1 tbs of water, microwave for 10 seconds and blend well. Note:  jelly works best, but if you use a fruit jam, strain it before glazing.

Instructions:
Using a mixer, mix cream cheese sugar and salt on medium speed until creamy. Then slowly add whipped cream and extract, increase speed to medium high until the mixture is nice and fluffy, like frosting, but firmer.  Spread into cooled tart shell  and smooth out surface until even. Arrange fruit on top of filling as you like, use your imagination. With a pastry brush, glaze with melted jam. 

It's important that you chill this well before serving, minimum 2-3 hours. You can actually make this dessert a day ahead. 

Once chilled. Loosen bottom of pan and remove. You can easily slide the tart onto a serving dish! 

A variation, top with toasted nuts






Monday, March 17, 2014

Randy's Filipino fried lumpia -- Recipe

Randy's Filipino Lumpia

This is one of my most requested recipes. There are so, so, many ways to prepare lumpias.  It is believed lumpia, as well as all Asian egg rolls, originated in China. Everyone has their own version. For example in the Philippines the skin wrapper is much, much thinner, almost as thin as a filo dough, where as the Vietnamese use rice paper, and the Chinese version uses a much thicker wrapper. The fillings can be as varied as your taste.  I too vary it from time to time, depending on what’s available.

So this recipe is more of a guideline that you can alter by omitting or substituting any of the ingredients. For example, I have friends that are vegetarians, so simply omit any animal protein, and use vegetarian oyster sauce.

The key is to have your  "mis-en-place" ready and set to go, because there will be a lot of prep work, mostly chopping, but the cooking process is relatively easy. You will definitely need a wok for preparing the filling and/or frying the lumpias later.

"mis-en-place"

 Creating the “mis-en-place”, try to cut the following into uniform sizes:

  •  40-wrappers. You can use any wrapper you prefer. I prefer the wafer thin Filipino version, but if it’s unavailable, use what’s available. It should be defrosted in the refrigerator overnight if it was previously frozen. Once thawed, keep it covered under a damp kitchen towel to keep it moist and pliable. Also, they will have stuck together, so they all need to be separated. If you are using Vietnamese rice paper, it must first be softened with water.
For the adventurous who would like to make their own lumpia wrapper, check out this video. "making home made lumpia wrappers"
  •       1-2 tablespoons of cooking oil, I use peanut oil
  •       1-cup chopped yellow onions
  •       1-tablespoon garlic
  •      ½ tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  •       ½ teaspoon turmeric powder (optional)
  •       1-cup carrots chopped or julienne
  •       1-cup green string beans chopped or julienne
  •       1-cup chopped, and cubed mushrooms. Your choice. I used dried shitake mushrooms that I’ve reconstituted.
  •       ½-medium sized cabbage (your choice of cabbage, but not purple), shredded
  •       1-4 stalks green onions, chopped or julienne
  •       2-3 cups bean sprouts
  •       1-tight handful of chopped cilantro, you can use just the leafs or both the leafs and the stem, your choice
  •       1-egg white and 1 tablespoon of water for an egg wash glue
  •       1-2 cups of oil for frying, any oil except strong oils such as olive oil. I used peanut oil


Flavoring:
  •       ¼ cup of oyster sauce
  •      3-tablespoons sweet Thai chili sauce, (this can now be sold at most grocery stores in the Asian section), substitute with catchup and chilies if you can not find this
  •       1-teaspoon dried red chili flakes (use less or more depending on how spicy you want it)
  •       Salt and pepper to taste 




 
Protein:
This can be omitted if you are vegetarian, or substitute it with firm tofu.  You can use any protein you wish shredded or ground. I used pork, but if you keep kosher, you can use chicken or beef and omit the shrimp.
  •       1-lb ground pork
  •      1-cup shelled shrimp, e.g., bay shrimp.
  
PROCEDURE:
Heat a wok on a medium-high stove, then add the oil. Once it starts to slightly smoke, add your yellow onions and continue to chow, until the onions are translucent. Then add the garlic, ginger, red chili flakes, and the turmeric if you choose to use it.

NOTE: I add turmeric and ginger into as many dishes as I can, because of the health benefits of these spices! But they can easily be omitted!

Now add the ground pork, continue “chowing” until the pork is cooked, once cooked add the oyster sauce and sweet chili sauce. Mix well, then add carrots and continue to cook until the carrots are “al dente”. Then add string beans, mushrooms, and shredded cabbage.  Lastly add bean sprouts and green onions, and cilantro, incorporate it well, but it’s not necessary to continue cooking it, turn off the wok, the residual heat will slightly cook the remaining ingredients. Adjust for seasoning by adding salt or pepper to taste.

Note: the filling must be cooled to facilitate wrapping. Once cooled, place it in a colander to remove the accumulated liquid, you can keep the liquid for e.g., soups.

Now onto wrapping the lumpia. It’s fairly simple, it’s easier to see how it’s done rather than me trying to explain it. Prepare your “egg white glue” by simply beating in a small bowl the egg whites with a tablespoon of water.

Please refer to this video.


Once wrapped you’re ready to fry them. You can also at this point freeze them for later use, and fry them directly from the freezer.



Frying:

You can use a wok, a frying pan, or an electric deep fryer. You just need enough oil to cover ¾ of the lumpia when immersed in the oil.  Heat up oil until it comes to about 350-375F. Fry it for approximately 3-5 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove the lumpias and drain them with a paper towel. If you are frying them directly from the freezer, they may need to be cooked a little longer.

And, they’re ready to eat. Serve them with a dipping sauce of your choice. I like making a small dipping sauce of rice vinegar, chilies, fish sauce, and lime with a touch of sugar.

Bon appétit and Happy Cooking!