dimanche 24 juin 2007

Craquer has several meanings in French. The first literal meaning is to crack, break. But it also has two other senses.

To craquez à cause de: because of something, you just can't take it anymore. ex/ I am about to loose my marbles because of the train strike.

To craquez pour: for something, you can't resist, ex/ I must eat a lot of Nutella.
So I bought this cute little recipe a few weeks ago. It has 30 different Tiramisu recipes in it, some with fruits, or chocolate, or different liqueurs. I have decided to try and make a different one each week.
Week 1: Attempt to make "Tiramisu of Macarons and Raspberries"
Step 1: Search all over for macarons, in several different stores. Decide that since the book is split up into sections according to type of biscuits used ("spoon" biscuits, madeleines, rose biscuits of Reims, gingerbread, macarons, and other biscuits) it would be okay to substitute madeleines for the macarons.
Step 2: Laugh at the directions which say total preparation time: 5 minutes. Are they joking? I can't even assemble all of the ingredients in my kitchen and put the water on to boil in 5 minutes.
Step 3: Attempt to make the raspberry syrup with frozen raspberries and watch as it comes out way too liquidy.
Step 4: Mix together the mascarpone (which was found at the third store) with the three egg yolks and cream. Beat it together and marvel at how it doesn't become firm like the book says it will.
Step 5: Layer everything in the pan. Instead of being nice defined layers, it all just kinda mushes together.
Step 6: Sigh and vow to do better next week.
(Total time: about 45 minutes)
Lessons learned: Try not to substitute stuff. Use the correct cream.

Week 2: Attempt to make "Belle-Hélène Tiramisu" (chocolate and pears)
Step 1: Search all over creation for Amaretto. Shopkeepers have no idea what you are talking about. Amaretto! Amaretto! The Italian liqueur for Tiramisu! Heck, I am American and even I have heard of it before!
Step 2: Search for a different recipe that doesn't require Amaretto.
Step 3: Buy the ingredients for "Bananas and Passion Fruit Tiramisu".
Step 4: What the heck is passion fruit nectar? Syrup? Liqueur? Extract? No clue. Decide to skip the passion fruit.
Step 5: Finally find Amaretto (hint: Disarrono) at the 4th store. Go back to original plan.
Step 6: Haul all the ingredients over to in-laws because you are having dinner there.
Step 7: Forget all about that solemn vow you made last time that you would always try a recipe out on CMH before serving it to others.
Step 8: With MIL's help, finally make something resembling the recipe. It helps to have the right cream too. However, cream is still not firm and is yellow instead of white.
(Total time: again, about 45 minutes, with two of us working)
Lessons learned: It is very hard to cook in someone else's kitchen. Just use whipped cream next time. (Forgetting solemn vow made previous week to not substitute ingredients).

Result: Turned out not too bad. Think next time I will use pear liqueur.

Picture below: What it is supposed to look like. Now, I know that pictures in recipe books are 99.5% unreproducable, but I would like to think that one day I might be able to get my Tiramisu's to be less runny and more layered.
Up next week: Banana Tiramisu, with or without nectar de fruit de la passion.

Can someone please share with me the secret to getting the crème liquid to do what it is supposed to do?

vendredi 22 juin 2007

Due to my earlier than necessary arrival in Aubagne each morning, I have spend my strike mornings in a cafe near the bar, called appropriate CAFE I HATE THE SNCF. No, actually it is the Cafe Locomotive. I go in each morning, and by now the serveuse knows me so well, she just asks the usual? Yep. I always order a Café au lait, grand. I sit there, drink my coffee, read the paper, and take much needed bathroom breaks for half an hour before the next stage in getting to work. Cost: 2.50€. It is a regular cafe, with blaring MTV and smoky area. She is very nice, such as the time I totally forgot my money, and she told me I could bring it the next day. The next day, she said I didn't have to pay it. (though I did). It is the one part of Strike days that I don't mind so much.

Apparently, according to the guide books, if you want to blend in as a true French and not some hick tourist, you are supposed to call it a crème instead of a café au lait. Why? I don't know. The minute I open my mouth to order the coffee, whether I say crème or cafe olay, they know I am not French. Ah well.

I would like a Cafy Olay please.
jeudi 21 juin 2007
So, after a whole month of NOT being on strike, the SNCF (national train company) decided enough was enough and went back on strike again.

Why? because the new president, Sarkozy, wants to pass a law mandating a minimum service for commuters when the public transportation is on strike, and require that they give 48 hour advance notice that they will strike? So the SNCFs response? STRIKE!

I was coming back home on Tuesday evening, and at the first stop the train just sits there for about 30 minutes. No explanations. No announcements. No "We are sorry, but we are experiencing technical difficulties" or "We have to wait while the track up ahead clears." Nothing. I was so frustrated and hot and tired after a long day of work, I just started crying on the train. Not big boohoos, but a quiet sniffling in my corner (nobody else in my area). I probably would have cried more, but I didn't want to look too pathetic.

Crying BECAUSE of public transportation is a new and exciting experience. Crying ON public transportation I have done before. Just broke up with a guy, or don't want to go back to a certain military school after vacation, things like that. But tears of frustration are new.

The news said that they have been on strike 40 days in the past 3 months. Fantastic. So now I am back to getting up even earlier to take an earlier train. The train to come back at night, which is supposed to leave at 6:49 is now often 30 minutes late. Thanks for adding an extra hour to my 12 hour days SNCF! Still lovin' ya and so glad I paid for a monthly pass!

(Top picture, Marseille Blancarde station. Notice the time)

(Middle picture, tried to take a picture of the board with all the Trains Supprimé)

(Bottom picture, Aubagne station 7 a.m.)
dimanche 17 juin 2007

The Cheese Monster was not too thrilled when the CMH informed her, the night before, that they would have to get up at 7 am Sunday morning in order to be in Pelissane by 9 so that the CMH could referree the soccer game for karate day. So on the sacred day of croissants, they got up and went to a day of karatiness.

------------------------------------------------------------I spent the morning with his parents while he referreed the soccer game, then he came and fetched me and we went to the party. The lavender is now in bloom, making the countryside quite beautiful.

The party was in a big field near Pelissane, with a small cabanon that has been turned into a dance floor- every year around Christmas time they have a smoky eardrum-blasting party that we turn up for the obligatory hellos.
Yesterday it wasn't too hot, which I suppose was a good thing since there wasn't a ton of shade. We had drinks, olives and peanuts, and waited for the paella to finish cooking while rugrats ran around.

It was finally time to eat around 3, after all the kids had eaten first.

Confession- I don't really like paella. I prefer to know what meat I am eating. I picked out some suspicious bits and gave them to Alain. Along with baguettes, cheese, and wine we had coffee and peaches. We left around 4 to drive back to Marseille.

Boursin cheese is a cheese the CMH introduced her to in the US. It is rather expensive, in the US, about 6$ if I remember correctly.
Here it is about half that, being as it isn't imported.

From Wikipedia:
"Boursin Cheese is a soft creamy cheese available in a variety of flavors. Its flavor and texture is somewhat similar to American cream cheese.
Boursin cheese was first produced in 1957 by François Boursin in Normandy. Boursin is a trademark - Boursin cheese is produced exclusively by the Boursin company, a subsidiary of Unilever."
Dang. I want a cheese named after me. What kind of cheese are you eating? Some Megan. How does it taste? Ah, rather blond.
Hmm, or perhaps bitter, like smelly socks, and slightly moldy.

The different varieties from the Boursin website:
Boursin Garlic & Fine Herbs
The welcome addition to any cheese platter, made with cow's milk and cream, garlic, salt, pepper, parsley and chives. Boursin Garlic & Fine Herbs is an ideal cheese to enjoy as an appetizer or aperitif.
(The basic flavor, good for spreading on any bread)
Boursin Pepper
This flavored fresh cheese is characterized by the lively black pepper that gives it a distinctively spirited taste.
(Haven't tried this one)
Boursin Shallot & Chive
This addition to the Boursin family is distinguished by the sublime blend of savory shallot and delectable chive flavors with Boursin's authentic Gournay Cheese base.
(Brought this once to a potluck at work in the US. One of the guys liked it so much, he sent out a general email asking who had brought it and where he could find it. I don't really like this flavor personally.)

Boursin Fig, Raisin & Nut
This unique combination of popular flavors delivers a sweet and savory taste that opens a whole new world of ways to enjoy Boursin.
(Haven't tried this one.)

Boursin Light Garlic & Fine Herbs
Based on the original, Boursin® Light has 78% less fat and 64% fewer calories then regular Gournay Cheese, so patrons can indulge at any time.
(Haven't tried this one either. I think Light cheese is outlawed in France.)

Here in France there is also "Noisettes et Noix" Hazelnuts and nuts (very good) and Cranberry and Pepper. Hmm... Interesting

I love this part of the website:
"When your guests ask what variety of cheese you're serving, dazzle them by casually mentioning that Boursin® is authentic All Natural Gournay Cheese."

Are you dazzled now? You had better be.
(PS. The title is from an advertising campaign of theirs, Some bread, some wine, some boursin.)

All in all, four cheeses.

mercredi 13 juin 2007

We (okay, Alain) have now built the piece of furniture that the sink will sit on using blue boards that are made especially for building walls and stuff. This is what he used to build the small wall in the shower stall (which is to hide the pipes behind). It will be tiled afterwards. He also placed the rock tiles and filled them in with the white joint. The part under the shower, where you can see the old tiles, will be covered.
Our neighbor next door told us that one of our neighbors (she didn't specify who but I am guessing it is the ones that live beneath us) mentioned to her in passing that he will be glad when we finish our bathroom. Really? What a shocker! Because I for one LOVE spending every weekend on it and going for four months without a shower and now without a sink. In fact, I wish it would take longer, I love it so much. And while we are on the topic, I can't wait for your dog to die, but we all have crosses that we must bear.
dimanche 10 juin 2007

For the latest in my cheese installment (I know you all were waiting with baited breath) I present to you a Corsican cheese. We bought it from a shop that makes ravioli, gnocci, etc. and has specialty cheese.

This one is covered in Herbs de Provence (from Wikipedia)

Herbes de Provence (Provençal herbs) are a mixture of dried herbs from
Provence invented in the 1970's.
The mixture typically contains rosemary, marjoram, basil, bay leaf, thyme, and sometimes lavender flowers and other herbs. The proportions vary by manufacturer. Thyme usually dominates the taste produced by the herb mixture.
Herbes de Provence are mostly used to flavour grilled foods such as fish and meat, as well as vegetable stews. The mixture can be added to foods before or during cooking
or mixed with cooking oil prior to cooking so as to infuse the flavour into the cooked food. They are rarely added after cooking is complete.
Herbes de Provence are often sold in larger bags than other herbs, and the price in
Provence is considerably lower than other herbs.
Provençal cuisine has traditionally used many herbs, which were often characterized collectively as "herbes de Provence", but not in standard combinations, and not sold as a mixture:
...the famous mixtures of herbes de Provence... were unknown to my Provençal grandmothers, who used, individually and with discernment, thyme, rosemary and savory gathered in the countryside.

I didn't really like the cheese as much as I thought I would. Sorry for the blurry picture, it was before I discovered Macro mode. Anyway, if you want cheese that tastes like a mouthful of grass, go right ahead. I normally like Herbs de Provence, but they should be an added oomph, not a WHOA! We have a large bag of them that I use occasionally, mostly on meat. It was a present from his grandmother, who insists on telling me things like how to make my own pasta and tomato sauce, like I am really going to do that. I am sure that it tastes much better and that you can tell the difference, but for me, it just isn't worth the time and burnt tomatos. Anyway, back to the cheese- I give it one Cheese.

samedi 9 juin 2007
We spent Saturday afternoon at the Community Center in Rognes, where Alain teaches karate once a week during the school year. They were having a demonstration of karate, which mostly means little kids doing stuff and their parents filming it. Next week is the final karate competition for the area, which Alain has to help referee, and the next day is the end-of-the-year paella picnic (for more on paella, go here), along with games and sports.
I tried taking karate for about six months. I was whiter than white belt, and didn't much like being in the 6 year old division. Doing the katas (series of movements) was okay, but I didn't like the competitions. Had enough of that doing boxing and wrestling at VMI thanks. Also, Alain didn't appreciate that every time he got punched in the stomach, I shrieked. Here is a little video clip of Alain doing turn jump kicks. (yes, that is the official Japanese name).
mardi 5 juin 2007

Yep, Nutella is EVIL. You casually go to the store one day and buy a medium-sized pot and the next thing you know you are thinking to yourself "MUST. COAT. EVERY. INCH. OF. MY. INTESTINAL. TRACK. WITH. THIS"

I knew of Nutella before moving to France, but only in the small sizes. I didn't expect to see the huge barrels they roll out in the grocery stores around Christmas. It is really good on crepes, as well as banana and nutella tortillas.

Nutella falls into "Best not to buy in the first place" category for me.

French people really like to eat it for breakfast on biscottes.

There are commercials trying to convince moms to buy it to feed their kids because kids need energy! Now in the US there is plenty of junk-food and plenty of junk-food advertising, but it is rare to come across an ad for chocolate hazelnut spread touted as health food to moms, not children.
dimanche 3 juin 2007

With the shower officially usable, we decided to start the next phase, namely, the entire rest of the bathroom. We have removed the radiator in the bathroom, which consisted of lots of tar-black grudge shooting all over our wall and floor, removing the sink and discovering the nice surprise underneath, and removing the wall tiles that were behind the sink. We only removed about half of all the tiles still left to be removed last night. We figured the neighbors wouldn't like it too much at 8 pm. Sunday morning isn't much better, but they are going to have to deal.
(under the sink --->)

This (bang) is (bang) payback (bang) for (bang) your (bang) damn (bang) dog (bang)!

So next we have to finish removing the tiles. Redo the wall where the radiator was. Build the small wall to cover the pipes. Build the piece of furniture for the sink. Put the new floor tiles we bought. Tile everything. Put the sink in place. Repaint. Replace light switches (move it to the outside of the bathroom), plugs, and light fixture.

No problem. Should be done by Christmas. Until then, brushing our teeth in the kitchen sink. Below, picture of the sink we bought (bowl only, not the rest of the furniture).

vendredi 1 juin 2007

I bought this cheese from the local supermarket Casino, in the specialty cheese section. I looked at it, then carefully looked at the others of this type. They were all like this, so I figured that it must be how it is supposed to be sold/eaten.

Now, usually I prefer my WALLS mold covered, but I suppose the cheese will have to do.

I brought it home (I think it was about 2€, maybe a little more). The packaging didn't say anything like "Scrape off mold before eating or you will die" and Alain didn't recoil in horror, so we went at it. It tastes pretty much like any other chevre, goat cheese.

The brand is "Le Petit Chevrot" The small baby goat. Hmm. Now, I am pretty sure that baby goats don't give milk and I hope against hope it isn't MADE of baby goats. It also states that it is from unpasteurized milk (lait cru). When combined with the mold, I am sure it would be outlawed in the US, but we are still alive and kicking. (and bleating for some reason).

All in all, a good cheese.

I give it 3.5 cheeses (out of 5)

Tasted good and points for originality, but didn't really make me feel I was eating something special.

Blog Archive


Favorite Posts