Fire & Hopeless French Poem

Fire & Hopeless French Poem

In Bourg d’Oueil we cook most our food in the fireplace. Simmering on the left Pierre’s delicious ratatouille.

A poem in French just finished, and started in Lodève and inspired by  Dr.Thomas Fogarty’s article “ L’espoir est un leurre

L’Espoir Tue

L’espoir est une maladie incontournable et difficilement curable
L’espoir est un miroir qui offre une réflexion floue et idéalisée de mes désirs
L’espoir -tout comme les Belles de Jour- envahit et appauvrit les ressources essentielles à mon développement durable
L’espoir est une fantaisie toxique du futur
L’espoir remplit les vides nécessaires d’une satisfaction synthétique
L’espoir ne préserve ni de la mort ni du tourment
L’espoir pourrait être
devrait être
sera peut-être
Mais il n’est pas

Et oui l’espoir inspire le calme
il promet l’abondance aux riches et même aux pauvres

Sans l’espoir
l’amour du bonheur se détache
Il fait place à une inévitable et inconfortable réalité

Mais c’est bien là, dépouillé de tout artifice
sans prestige
sans séduction
sans échappatoire
–et avec beaucoup moins de consommation

que commence la quête
et s’ouvre la Vie.

©Nicole Peyrafitte- Summer 2008

Asperges/Asparagus (I)

Asperges/Asparagus (I)

An extremely simple, fast and delicious dinner:
Broiled asparagus and pan fried lamb chops.
We are in the midst (here in New York State) of asparagus season and I found beautiful organic ones ($ 4.59 lb / origin New York State) at the Park Slope Food Coop. I bought 1.40 lb and that was enough for two.
I wash the asparagus and cut the stem when it becomes stringy and hard (never more than a 1/3 from the bottom) — which will depend on the quality and the freshness of the kind you purchase. I place them in an oven proof dish big enough to be able to able to toss them easily. I sprinkle them generously with a good pungent olive oil, salt, pepper, the juice of 1/2 a lemon, 1 or 2 cloves of garlic chopped fine. Toss it all very well and place under the BROILER for 10/20 minutes -depending on your boiler. I do toss them every 5 minutes to make sure they cook evenly.

Meanwhile I preheat my cast iron skillet and 5 minutes before removing the asparagus I pan fry my lamb chops –a great source of lamb is d’Artagnan— in a little bit of olive oil, not much is needed because the fat will give you enough grease. I like my lamb rare so about 5/6 minutes on each sides is enough for me. Add salt and pepper to taste.

The simplicity of the preparation will let you taste all the subtle flavors of these ingredients.
Next post I will give more info on asparagus. Bon Appetit!

Chinatown I : Zongzi

Chinatown I : Zongzi

I find food wrapped in leaves very appealing and it is interesting to note that we can find them in many cultures around the globe. It seems they all have one thing in common: the rather blend starch hides something in smaller quantity ans most of the time a good surprise.
A few weeks ago while walking through Chinatown I walked by a lady selling something that looked similar to what I remembered having few years back also in New York Chinatown.
I tried to ask her what was it was. She spoke to me only in Chenise and nedeless to say I couldn’t understand, but buying one of the wrapped leave package from her small portable makeshift stand for $1.25 was possible. I couldn’t wait to eat it but I decided to wait to go home and try to identify it.

The internet investigation revealed that it appeared that I had purchased A Zongzi. They are mostly made for the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival that takes place every year the 5th day of the 5th moon. This year it was June 8th. Mine was wrapped in bamboo leaves and filled with peanuts & pork and but they come with different fillings.

I printed out the name and returned to Chinatown on Wednesday to see if I could confirm my identification. The old lady wasn’t there but a sidewalk cart stand had a pile of them. I showed the lady the print out, –see image of print out above– and she nodded positively

Then she tried to explain something about the position of the threads in chinese, a man came to my rescue and translated that: one one thread at the bottom indicated that it was a peanut zongzi and the other a bean paste zongzi. I got one of each.

At first the sticky rice tasted a little blend and gooey but when you I hit the peanuts and then pork it all comes together. The pork meat tasted very similar to pork confit we make in the South of France. I much prefer the one with peanut than the one with the yellow bean paste. Also I must say that the one purchased at the cart on Wednesday were really mediocre compared to the one I got from the old lady. I had gotten only a peanut one from the old lady and it was delicious, the pork was moist and perfectly salty and what appeared way to much rice and very little meat, dotted with still crunchy boiled peanuts was PERFECT. I also found out they are also called zong in some parts of China.

More on Chinatown soon!

Fava Beans (II)

Fava Beans (II)

It is fava bean season. This wonderful old world legume is believed to have originated in the Orient and was already cultivated by ancient Egyptians. In the South of France fresh fava beans are also eaten raw, just dipped in a little salt. I have chosen a very simple recipe but they can also be prepared mashed, added into soup, or prepared with béchamel sauce. According to some French websites fava bean flour can be used as an additive to regular bread because of its containt of an enzyme called lipoxygenase that among other things whitens the dough.

The bean will need to be released from the pod. One pound per person will provide a good size portion. Note that the pods gets the darker as the beans mature.

If your fava beans are really fresh you will not need to peel them. If the outer skin is whitish you will need to do it, otherwise the skin gets tough.

Mine where fresh enough so I didn’t peel them

I sauteed one small onion in a spoon of olive oil until golden, then I add the fava beans,one teaspoon of kofte spice, 1/2 teaspoon of fresh savory herb, salt & pepper and 1 tablespoon of water. Cover and cook until the beans are tender or about 6 minutes.
Voilà! for today and if you cook any of my dishes or need more info do not hesitate to write to me.

Mousse au Chocolat

Mousse au Chocolat

The tastiest, simplest, fastest & best Mousse au Chocolat.
Yes, there is a valid concern about raw eggs and this is my feeling on the subject:
At my family restaurant-hotel, where I was born & raised in the French Pyrenees, the eggs would be delivered once a week in crates of 24 dz. They were stored in a cool, but non refrigerated room, called “le garde manger”. Roots vegetables, fruits, canned goods, condiments, spices, oils & eggs where also stored there. They were really fresh and then many recipes with raw eggs found their way on the menu: Mayonnaise, Steak Tartare, Mousse au Chocolat and even on the cocktail menu with Porto Flip (weird cocktail made with port, brandy and egg yolk, plus nutmeg). So today I still make recipes with raw eggs but I always make sure of their freshness and origin,  I buy them at the farmers market and let know the farmer I will use them raw.

This recipe today, though very similar to the one we made at the “Hotel Poste & Golf”, was passed on to me by a woman I knew in Albany and she told me that it was a Pierre Franey’s recipe published in his “60 Minute Gourmet” column for the New York Times. I don’t have Franey’s New York Times 60-Minute Gourmet with me, so I can’t check if it is in it.
Speaking of Pierre Franey I met him once in 1990 in San Diego where I lived for a few years. Several celebrity chefs came to town to cook a March of Dime charity dinner. Among them was my Gascon childhood friend Ariane Daguin owner of d’Artagnan, It went to give her a hand to prep & set up her dishes. Pierre Franey was there with his wife, both very kind people, I truly enjoyed the food conversations and he remind me a lot of my grand father chef Joseph Peyrafitte. I am glad this picture survived all my moves.
Moi (Nicole Peyrafitte), Pierre Franey (1921-1996), & Ariane Daguin
Back to the mousse:

Ingredients per person:
1 ounce of very good chocolate (60 to 75% dark great quality chocolate)
1 teaspoon of water
1 egg
And yes! only 3 ingredients.

Melt water + chocolate on the stove in a bowl on a double boiler.
Once the chocolate is melted,remove it from the heat & stir it well.
While it cools down I separate the eggs.
Egg whites in a clean & dry bowl, and the yokes on another one.
Mix the yokes in with the chocolate.
Add a very small inch of salt and beat the egg whites very firm.
Fold half of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate & egg mixture.
Then very gently fold in the second half.
I made it for 5. Pour in individual glass dishes & refrigerated for 4/5 hours minimum.
Can be made the day before.