All posts filed under: Europe

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Salad Niçoise

There’s nothing like a mid-winter picnic, especially if Salad Niçoise is part of the equation. The other day my daughter asked if we could eat dinner outside. It was sunny, the temperature in the mid-sixties. My answer? Most definitely. We bundled up – each in a cozy sweater – and set up our colorful spread on the scraggly winter landscape. For the Salad Niçoise, I piled on delicately steamed French beans, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, and everything deliciously funky: Tuna, olives, capers and a few anchovies (for salty chew). A handful of crackers with cheese completed dinner (though a hunk of crusty bread would be nice, too). My husband flashed us all back to his “Mr Picky” days as he struggled to down one solitary anchovy. He did the work but remains unconvinced of their merits. My daughter escaped the challenge since she’s a self-proclaimed vegetarian, focusing her efforts instead on the vegetables and cheese (for protein). As for myself, I ate everything. While we enjoyed our meal, the sun sunk behind our neighbors’ rooftop (taking the warmth with it). Our fingers gradually chilled until we …

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Kir Impérial

In honor of Valentine’s Day – and being one month away from the release of my new memoir (Eeee!!) – I went to the “way back” machine and dug up what I consider to be the most romantic of all French drinks: a Kir Impérial. There are only two things you need to know about Kir Impérial. #1 It bubbles. #2. It tastes like love. But… since I’m a front row kind of gal… The Story Behind Kir Once upon a time the Kir was actually called “vin blanc cassis” – which just means “white wine currants.” According to Larousse Gastronomique, this was a specialty drink from Burgundy, France. It mixed two of the region’s best drinks: an Aligoté wine (dry white wine) and cassis (black currant liqueur). After World War II everything changed. A priest, who helped 5,000 people escape a prisoners of war camp, was knighted and elected as the mayor of Dijon. He always served vin blanc de cassis during official meetings and celebrations, in part because there was a red wine shortage. His name was – you guessed it – Felix …

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A Polish lunch that’ll clean out your fridge

Whether your child is in a growth spurt or you just need a meal to satisfy you longer than the 20 minutes it takes to eat it, Polish comfort food is the answer. We ate ours back on December 23rd, three hours before locking up the house and flying to spend 11 days with more than a dozen family members (First stop: Cape Charles Virginia, to see one of my brothers and sisters, and their kids. Second stop: Martinsburg, West Viriginia for our cousin’s wedding and most of Keith’s family). In large part, this hurried meal was the kind of “cleaning out the fridge” and “pantry upkeep” situation I engage in every time I travel. It started because the potatoes threatened to grow legs and walk off while we were away.  In the fridge, I had a link of kielbasa sausage and package of fresh sauerkraut with imminent expiration dates, plus some carrots and Brussels sprouts that I just knew would be despondent upon our return. I pan-fried the vegetables and sausage while the potatoes boiled. As the components came together on our trays …

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Feast of the 7 Fishes | Linguine with Baccalà Sauce

A lump of salt cod (baccalà) just might be everything. To use the tough, leathery fillet – more hide than flesh – the cod must first be soaked in fresh clean water. Gradually the salt leaks into the water and clouds it. A change of water, then more salt comes out. Several more water changes. A couple of days go by. The cod becomes soft. Mild. Tender. Italians know: these steps cannot be skipped or the meal will be ruined. I find myself sifting around for meaning this year. Did you notice that Christmas came with Halloween and Thanksgiving was just a speed bump on the road to black Friday (which actually began before the dishes were done or the meal had settled)?  With all the fuss happening earlier and earlier in the year, the excitement of Christmas feels dilute. But as I sit with this idea, restless in my desire to make the holidays special, I realize dilution – as with salt cod – can be a benefit. As the holiday season leeches into the stores earlier, becoming increasingly consumer-based, it …

French Around the World Lunch

Ava’s French Lunch

One of my favorite food memories from France was going out for couscous with my guardians. I was a wide-eyed teenager, happy to sit around a fragrant pot of stewed veggies and eat until my stomach ballooned. My favorite part was how the broth saturated the couscous, forming an unctuous gravy. The strong North African influence not only made its way into the restaurants  of Paris, but also into the home cooking – as I soon learned, couscous also makes a great base for ratatouille. Today I’ve combined my basic ratatouille recipe with plain couscous for Ava’s Around the World Lunch. Since ratatouille is often served room temperature, no microwaves will be needed at lunchtime. Perfect! To complete the meal? A miniature wheel of Brie and the cutest little pear you ever saw are shameless appeals to my daughter’s preference for anything “cute” (Which worked perfectly – I hear they were the first things to disappear at lunchtime). Tips: While Brie is one of the more mild French cheeses, sensitive eaters may want to swap the brie for a wedge of “Laughing Cow” …

Nordic Around the World Lunch

Ava’s Nordic Lunch

Ah, winter. This week I took inspiration from the chill in the air and went Nordic with Ava’s Around the World Lunch (Nordic simply means the cultural part of Northern Europe that includes Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The Nordic menu is quite simple and can be assembled in about five minutes. For Ava’s main meal, I went Danish: A few slices of dark rye bread smeared with a bit of butter are topped with a translucent slice of smoked salmon. Two smaller slices of bread were topped with cheese – use any mild cheese you like, especially Jalsberg which comes from Norway. Essentially simple Smørrebrød, these open-faced sandwiches include other common toppers such as sliced cucumbers and radishes – which she can eat on their own or turn them into toppers – finger food like this is perfect my kindergartner. Dessert was a few raspberries and a squeezable tube of blueberry skyr, an Icelandic-style yogurt known for being super low in sugar and high in protein (a.k.a. my five-year old won’t have a post-lunch energy crash). Ava was SO excited about the Siggi’s – I have a feeling they’re going into the …

Maltese November Bone Cookies Recipe

Maltese Bone Cookies with Marzipan Marrow

This month we’re celebrating the most anatomically correct cookie there ever was – one whose astounding details should make it a favorite with medical students everywhere, and one who would be well placed at every white coat graduation buffet. The origins of this beautiful cookie are far humbler than you might think – November Bones hail from the small island nation of Malta, in the Mediterranean Sea. Why November Bones? Forget dress up and trick-or-treating; most people in the island nation of Malta skip right over Halloween in favor of All Saints and All Souls Days, two feast days that honor the dead (these more reverent holidays are not about vampires and zombies, but about taking time to honor cherished family members who have passed on). On November 1st and 2nd the graves are cleaned and decorated, but it’s the November Bones (a.k.a. l-għadam tal-mejtin) that stretch the holiday well beyond the two days (they’re sold all month long in many bakeries). Anatomy of a Cookie Usually cookies are just a “shape it and bake it” operation, but November Bones could come straight from a …

Around the World Lunch: Greece

Ava’s Greek Lunch

For this edition of Ava’s Around the World Lunch we’re heading to Greece with mezze. If you play your cards right, the flavors of Greece can be in your child’s lunch box in less than five minutes. Quick-Fix Secret Tucked away in my pantry is my greatest quick-fix secret: stuffed grape leaves, a.k.a. dolma.  Sure, I’ve been known to make dolma. I happen to LOVE making them. But sometimes I’m in a hurry and need to grab something quick for my daughter’s lunch. While I’ve found dolma at grocery store salad bars, I don’t always think far enough ahead to grab some. Thankfully our local Middle Eastern market sells dolma in cans for $3.99. There’s well over a dozen in each can. While not the same as homemade, they still have the same great pop of lemon and rich olive oil. They’re great to have around for hectic mornings!  Serve with pitted olives and a little tomato sauce for dipping, just like the do in Greece. Is it Greek without Spanakopita? I don’t know, but I don’t want to find out. This is another recipe you …

Cold soup recipes from around the world.

Chill out with 7 cold soups from around the world

A few things have changed since the early days of this blog (namely the photography), but one thing is certain: I love a good, chilled soup in the summer. Here are seven awesome cold soup recipes from around the world that aren’t gazpacho – because, my goodness, there are other cold soups besides gazpacho! So, without further ado, summer’s almost over – let’s skip the heat and chill out. 1. Mul Naengmyeon | Korea [Recipe] This Korean recipe is the most recent addition to our collection – a soup so cold, it is actually served with ice. It’s claim to fame? The balance of flavor between earthy buckwheat noodles spicy cucumber, sweet Asian pear, and tart vinegar. The best part? This soup is DIY, so everyone can add exactly what they like (and leave out the rest) – perfect for picky eaters who want to stovetop travel to Korea! 2. Rye Bread Soup with Homemade Rhubarb Raisins | Iceland [Recipe]   A soup made with bread? Yup. It’s thick, heavy on the rye, and just odd enough to get …

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Homemade Balsamic Figs | Entertaining the Italian way

A daydream worth dreaming

Cobblestone alleys flanked by weathered walls. Hilltop churches. Sunlight warm on fig trees and grapevines.  This is the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy.

Deep in the cellars there’s Parmesan, balsamic, and prosciutto aging. They slumber in the dim recesses, the nuttiness and salt growing bolder, rounder. Waiting for the perfect moment to shine.

Swedish girl wearing a Midsummer crown. Photo by Bengt Nyman.

22 Campfire & Scandinavian Recipes to celebrate Midsummer’s Night

Midsummer’s Eve – the longest day of the year – is celebrated in dozens of countries with huge bonfires, maypole dancing, and glorious food. In Scandinavia, the sun never fully sets. But even if night falls where you live, you can still celebrate. To get into the spirit, simply drop out of big city chaos and into nature. This is a time to make flower crowns, swim in clear streams, sing hymns, and laugh more than is wise. Some say Midsummer is also a time for love. After long, dark winter the cheerful sun naturally warms hearts. One famous Swedish proverb states: “Midsummer Night is not long but it sets many cradles rocking.” It is also said that, if a woman is to pick seven flowers in silence and places them under her pillow on Midsummer Night, she will dream about her one true love. For me – already fully in love and married with a child – the main purpose of Midsummer is to enjoy the light with my family. Camping is a fantastic way to do …

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Go Global with 8 Edible Hiding Spots for your Easter Eggs

An Easter Tradition Easter Eggs are a thing in our house. We dye them. We decorate them. We gobble them up in two’s (it’s funny how a purple or green shell can make an ordinary egg taste eggstraordinary). When I was little Mom hid these boiled treats in the yard and, after we found them we ate them, still-warm from the sun. Today plastic eggs have taken over – probably because of one too many tummy aches after an overly hot Easter. But the kids don’t seem to notice; they scramble to collect these plastic shells, cracking them open to reveal stickers, coins, and candy. Each year the plastic eggs become more elaborate. Now they aren’t simply eggs, they’re monkeys or giraffes, baseballs or footballs. It’s fun, yes, but also starting to feel a bit… gimmicky. In the spirit of getting back to basics – to those real Easter Eggs of my childhood, I considered safe ways I could “hide” eggs for my daughter to find. Since it was 84F last week I knew the back yard …