November 23, 2009

White wine mussels and pasta

Yesterday was fantastic. I finally had a day to myself in the house! I woke up with a touch of bronchitis like coughing, thanks to the massive amounts of black mold in our house. We are currently in the process of getting the hockey team to either fix it or move us, as we are all starting to get more and more sick. Ok enough about our mold problem. So we were supposed to go to EATaly yesterday with the roomies, but I didn`t feel up to it. EATaly is this market in Italy were lots of locals bring their goodies like cheese, meats, wines, etc. Obviously I did want to go since I haven't had a thin sliced piece of decent prosciutto since I have been here, but I just didn't think I could handle the bustle and hustle of the Italians when I was feeling a bit under the weather. FP and I opted to stay home.

That morning we bundled up in rain gear to walk the half mile to the store to get some fresh mussels for dinner. The fish guy comes to Briancon every Saturday and Sunday. Well no, he really isn't the fish guy. He is more like the shellfish guy. He brings buckets of oysters, sea urchins, clams, shrimps, and mussels. After buying over a kilo of mussels, we set off towards home and debated exactly how to cook our treasure from the sea.

I spent the afternoon in pure excitement for dinner. After eating lot's of mussels on our trip to Italy, I knew just how good they could be when paired with pasta. Dinner was fabulous and the sauce turned out absolutely perfect. Before we commenced making dinner, I googled the recipe for white wine mussels over pasta. Of course I was flooded with links after clicking search. However, I decided on two and tweaked them to my liking. I also have to honest and say that neither FP or myself have cooked a batch of mussels. Therefore, we were confused as to what was a good mussel, what was a bad mussel, and why are some of them opening?????? After doing some research I was informed how to figure out which mussels to discard and which mussels to keep. So I set to work. At first I was amazed at how dirty these little black guys were! Then I started to resent them for being dirty because it took me a good half hour to get all their ``beards`` off! I also came across more than a few open mussels that were apparently saying ciao! I started a pile in the sink and frequently checked on those little guys to see if they had closed at all. It turns out most of them were still good! After checking and rechecking my mussels, they were ready to get steamed in the pot. Before I steamed them FP and I had the discussion about killing things in hot water, ie lobsters. We also discussed how they make a bit of a sound when they are dying. This kind of freaked me out and made me a little weary to put my live mussels in the pot! But I couldn't see them moving, so it made it a lot easier. However, I am not joking there were a couple mussels that sound like they were squealing in there!!! I had to just grit my teeth and think only of the final product! But everything turned out wonderfully and we had not one mussel that did not open! Obviously the shell fish guy does his job well!

White Wine Mussels

-2-3 lbs mussels (washed and scrubbed)
-3 cloves garlic minced
-1 shallot finely chopped
-touch of cayenne pepper
-2 dried bay leaves
-2 cups dry white wine
-2 T butter
-2 T olive oil
-salt and pepper to taste
-Gf spaghetti or linguine

Scrub Mussels very thoroughly removing any dirt, ``hair``, and other items stuck to the shell. Scrub with either a scrub brush or new sponge. Discard any mussels that appear to have stayed open during the whole cleaning process. Also discard any mussels that have a broken shell. In a deep pot saute garlic in olive oil for about 4-5 min. Add wine and butter, bring to a boil. Start to cook your pasta in another pot as well. Add to wine sauce bay leaves, touch of cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Then add mussels. Stir mussels into the sauce and try to coat all of them. Cover pot and let mussels cook for 5 min. Remove lid after 5 min and stir mussels again, coating them in sauce. After another 5 min. check to see if all mussels have opened. It will take between 10-15 min. for mussels to all cook. Remove any that have remained closed, they are bad. Pour over cooked pasta and bouon appetito!

November 20, 2009

Viva la Mexicana!

I love Mexican food. I seriously love everything about it from the spicy salsa, to the creamy guac, to the succulent fajitas. Really I think I could eat it everyday. And thank goodness that most of it is gluten free. Don't get me wrong. I desperately miss the delicious tender flour tortillas laden with goodies. But at least celiacs have a substitute. The delicious corn tortilla and really thank you Mexicans for creating this wonderful substitution.

Last year we were unable to find corn tortillas. There was an abundance of flour tortillas, but no soft corn tortillas. Instead we were able to find hard taco shells, which I am going to be honest about....I don't really like them. For me they always cut up my mouth and fall all over my plate. AND most importantly you can not use them for fajitas, which is my ultimate favorite Mexican meal. So this year I got a bit more savvy and I brought my own masa harina flour! I had tried last year to create a corn tortilla with corn flour, which I am pretty sure was some sort of polenta flour, and let me just say.... It was a disaster. However, this year I am starting to become a tortilla making pro. OK no, I take that back. FP is becoming a tortilla making pro, I am just in charge of frying them.

The first time we had Mexican food we invited over two French guys from the team. One of which had never tasted the deliciousness of Mexican food and the other claimed his mother made it every now and then. But let me inform you first that French people, or Europeans for that matter, do not know what true Mexican food is like. They have the occasional Mexican restaurant placed around Europe, but it is nothing like the Mexican food you will find in the states. It has bizarre add ins such as wurst and veggies you have never heard of. So when the French guy claimed that his mother creates Mexican masterpieces, I was seriously skeptical! I decided to show them what a real Mexicana dinner was like, complete with guac, mexican rice, homemade pico, and of course fajitas!!! Everyone loved it, although both the French guys concurred that my rice was too spicy. I personally thought it had just the right zing to it and could in fact have used more jalapeno, but they went through glass after glass of water claiming their mouths were on fire. If they thought that was spicy, I have no idea what they would make of Indian food.....But then again many people in Europe aren't used to spicy food. They think a dish with pepper in it is spicy!

The second time I made Mexican food was the other night. It really was a team effort between FP and I. I made the pico, the guac, the dough for the tortillas, and the rice. FP grilled the fajitas and rolled my tortillas out with pure finesse. I am trying to get him to join me for some serious pie making for Thanksgiving next week since his rolling pin skills have become impressive, but I think he may just become MIA for that afternoon!

So if you feel like taking a trip south of the border that does not involve going to taco bell, I suggest making a couple of these delicacies, or why not just make a whole night of it! Put on a sombrero, mix up a Margarita, and salsa around that kitchen cooking up these enticing dishes!

Pico De Gallo

-6 plum tomatoes
-1 small onion diced
-1-2 cloves garlic
-salt and pepper to taste
-1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
-Juice of 1-2 limes

Chop tomatoes and place in a bowl. Add diced onions, you may need more or less that 1 small onion. When I make this I never use real measurements. I just eyeball everything and make it according to how many people will be at dinner. Add garlic, cilantro, lime juice, and salt and pepper. Mix together and let sit in the fridge for about an hour before you serve it. This allows the flavors to marinate together. Try it after a bit and add more lime, salt, or cilantro if needed.


-1 avocado
-2-3 T finely diced tomato
-2-3 tsp. finely diced onion
-1 clove garlic minced
-salt and pepper to taste
-touch of lemon juice

Remove skin of avocado and seed. Whip the avocado with a fork until smooth. Stir in onion, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Whip all ingredients together. Taste and add more salt if needed.


-1-2 limes juiced
-3 T chopped fresh cilantro
-3 cloves garlic minced
-2 T olive oil
-1-2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
-1 tsp. whole coriander crushed
-1 tsp. salt
-1tsp. pepper
-1-2 tsp. cumin
-1 lb chicken breasts

Combine all ingredients together. Marinate chicken for 12-24 hours. Then place breasts on BBQ (make sure BBQ is hot and coals are ready to cook). Cook 7-8 min. on each side or until chicken turns white all the way through. Chicken can also be cooked in a frying pan on stove.

Corn tortillas(makes 7 small tortillas)

-1 cup masa harina flour
-2 cups water
-touch of salt
-touch of lime juice (optional)

Knead ingredients together. Allow dough to rest for 10 min. Roll into 7 equal balls. Place one ball in between two pieces of parchment paper. Press with either a tortilla press or heavy pan. If using a pan, then roll out the tortilla until reaching desired thickness. The tortilla dough will be kind of delicate. If you mess up, knead the dough up and try again. fry for 30 seconds on one side med. heat (no oil in pan). Then fry the other side for 1 min. Flip tortilla back to the first side and cook for another min. or so (until tortilla starts to fluff). Your first tortilla will probably be your trial tortilla. It is ok if you mess up, they still taste good!

Mexican Rice

-2 cups rice
-4 cups water
-1 can crushed tomatoes
-1-2 tsp diced jalapeno (to taste)
-1-2 tsp cumin
-1-2 tsp paprika
-1 cube chicken bouillon
-1/2 cup diced onions
-1 clove garlic minced
-1-2 T butter

Saute garlic and onions in butter. Once they are almost done, add rice and saute for 2-3 more min. Add water, crushed tomatoes, bouillon cube. Bring to a boil. Add cumin, paprika, and jalapeno. Cover and simmer until rice is done and liquid is evaporated.

November 17, 2009

Chinese Takeout please!

So FP and I started talking about what to make for dinner while we were on a walk with Smiley. We deliberated over jambalaya, spring rolls, pork chops, when we finally decided we wanted something Asian. We both remembered that there was some left over fresh ginger in the fridge from the other day when I made Indian food and we hadn't had pork in a while..... ginger pork it is!
I had never made ginger pork before, but I had a fairly good idea of what the recipe might include. I have been acquiring my normal stocked pantry over the past months, so I was quite confident I had everything necessary at home, except pork of course. Last year FP was quite adamant that I had way too many spices on hand. This year, I have been more secretive in my spice acquirement. About every week I bring home a new spice. He really hasn't seemed to notice that the spice rack has grown from 5 spices to about 12 in the past month!

We casually browsed the grocery store for our supplies, which was a nice change from our normal fast past ``family`` grocery time. During our browsing we actually discovered that the store had both maple syrup and peanut butter! Clearly the three of them had not looked hard enough the times before when they stated to me that there was no absolutely no peanut butter or syrup to be found in this town! Sometimes you just have to browse the aisles and look in the exotic imported food section, that is the key! After spending way too much time in the grocery store and also realizing smiley was still in the car (whoops!), we trucked our supplies home.

Last year I cooked quite a bit alone in the kitchen, but this year has been different. FP and I cook a lot together, which I don't mind at all. He takes directions very well and doesn't argue you with my messy ways haha. So after googling a couple recipes and gettin the main idea of what is in ginger pork, I came up with a recipe. FP helped me carry it out along with some homemade fried rice. The ginger pork was amazing and full of ginger! My mom would have loved that FP insisted I use all the ginger we had left, which I thought was way too much! But it came out tangy, zesty, and perfect. In fact I was tempted to put it in take out boxes and write Chinese all over the sides just to feel like I was eating Chinese take out again! But trust me after making this, you won't miss it.

Ginger Pork

-1lb pork (I used chops, but I think loin may be better) cubed or cut into strips
-1/2 cup gf flour blend, I used arrowhead
-1-2 T olive oil
-1/2 cup chicken broth
-1/2 cup water (or 1 cup water w/ half a gf chicken bouillon cube)
-2 T soy sauce
-2 T rice vinegar
-2 green onions chopped
-1/2 cup broccoli
-1 clove garlic minced
-1-2 tsp. white sugar
-fresh grated ginger
-touch of cayenne pepper

Place cubed pork into bag of flour and coat evenly. Add olive oil to skillet. Brown pork over med. high heat in skillet. Remove and set aside. Combine broth, water, vinegar, soy sauce and cayenne. Bring to a boil. Add in green onions, garlic, sugar, broccoli, ginger, and pork. Simmer for 15 min or until pork is tender.

Fried Rice

-4 cups cooked rice
-2-3 T butter
-2 eggs
-1-2 tsp garlic powder
-1 small glove garlic minced
-1-2 T soy sauce
-2 green onions chopped
-1 carrot chopped into small pieces
-1 tomato chopped
-pepper to taste

Add a T of butter to skillet. Saute carrots in butter for 3-5 min. Then add in green onions, garlic, and more butter if needed. Saute for another 2 min. Add eggs and tomato and stir to combine eggs with onions, tomatoes, and carrots. Once egg is almost cooked, add rice. Add rice, 1 T. butter, and soy sauce. Fry at low-med. heat for 5-7 min. Add garlic powder and pepper while frying. Taste after 5 min and add more soy sauce if needed.

November 16, 2009

The best breakfast bread ever!

It's official. I found the secret to gluten free baking.

I finally watched the movie Julie and Julia. I felt both amazed and inspired after the movie! I was amazed that Julia had such an easy time fitting into and most importantly living within the French culture! It was like she really was French! Obviously she has not tried living with three French Canadians, or things may have gone a bit differently for her. She probably would have written a book entitled the key to shepards pie instead of 500+delicious French recipes......No, no I am kidding! The movie also inspired me to embrace the culture here and start cooking with a passion again!

Everyone for the most part is very cautious about their gluten in this house, but at times they lack quite a bit. It is mostly from the fact that they all seem to have the need to eat french bread all the time. Now I loved french bread with serious intensity in my gluten eating days, so I understand the temptation to eat it all the time...and well because we obviously live in France where french bread is made!! So the french bread has become my nemesis. Not only does it throw bread crumbs all over the counter, it secretly places them in grocery sacks, on my fruit, and quite honestly it just leaves a trail of crumbs to follow wherever it goes. I started to hate it with serious rage. Finally after hiding the french bread wrapped in 3 sacks in the back of the pantry, I think everyone got the hint. I have not seen my enemy in this house for one week, but I am sure that I will see it again soon.

OK enough about the vile french bread. I took over the kitchen about a week ago and have never been more happy. I have cooked Indian food complete with homemade mango chutney (which I will write about later), stuffed peppers and apple crumble, etc. The roommate has seemed a bit standoffish when I announce that I am making dinner yet again, but too bad, if he had celiac disease as well, maybe I would be more sympathetic! Although I do allow him a couple days a week of cooking just so I don't create too much tension in this house.

Ok on to baking. Before FP and I went on vacation in Italy a week ago. I made some scones from a box I brought with me. My original plan had been to make cranberry scones, but for some reason the French do not enjoy eating dried cranberries. So I was forced to choose another fruit. After much deliberation at the dried fruit section, I decided on the dates. However it was a huge box of dates. Needless to say I had masses of dates left over. So yesterday I decided to make some bread. I have not made any bread yet since my diagnosis. In fact I have always been a bit afraid when baking, as we all know how disgusting some gluten free baked good are. Well I went against the odds and decided to make some date nut bread. As a child I remember my mom buying these boxed breads that I loved. My favorite kind was date nut bread and I honestly can not tell you the last time I ate that bread until yesterday. I spent quite a bit of time googling for recipes, until I combined the knowledge of a gluten free breakfast bread recipe together with a non gluten free recipe of date nut bread. With a deep breath I undertook the impossible, trying to create a moist gluten free bread. And yes I did it. My not massive amounts of french butter, but sour cream......yes that is right, deliciously rich sour cream. I swear by it now and have used it also in cookies and scones. When my bread had cooled I cut two big slices and spread cream cheese all over one and left the other plain. I took the steaming, sweet smelling pieces of heaven into the bedroom and handed them to my boyfriend who was still in bed. He took a bite and looked at me with astonishment and stated ``oh my god Katherine, this is really really good!`` And trust me, I know when he is lying about my gf food. So we hunkered into bed together and ate the most delicious bread I have tasted in the past year and a half. So please make this bread and pass on the recipe to all those celiacs out there so they too can enjoy a cold morning in bed devouring slice after slice of heaven.

Gluten Free Date Nut Bread

-3/4 cup chopped dates
-3/4 cup liquid (half sour cream, half hot water)
-2 T butter
-1 1/8 cup all purpose gf flour, I used arrowhead blend
-3/4 cup sugar (half white, half raw)
-1/4 cup walnuts for topping
-3/4 tsp. gf baking soda
-pinch of salt
-1 tsp. xantham gum
-1 egg
-3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
-touch of nutmeg
-touch of cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine chopped dates, sour cream, hot water, and butter together in bowl. Let this mixture sit for 5 min. Combine flour, baking soda, xantham gum, nutmeg, salt, and cinnamon. Combine egg and sugar together and beat with a fork for a couple minutes. Add vanilla extract to egg mixture. Combine flour mixture and date mixture together. Stir and carefully add egg mixture. Slowing stir until just combined. Place mixture into greased loaf pan. Sprinkle chopped walnuts onto bread. Bake for 45-50 min. Check occasionally and cover loosely with foil if top is browning too much. Remove from oven once a toothpick comes out clean when placed in bread. Let cool in the loaf pan.

November 14, 2009

Raclette, the epitome of cheese

Raclette involves cheese. Not just your average cheesy masterpiece, but massive amounts of gooey hot stinky delicious cheese. I first experienced raclette 2 years ago when my brother was visiting me in Austria. We traveled across the border to meet up with one of his college friends who lives in Switzerland. After a vigorous day of skiing, his friend insisted that we eat raclette for dinner. He lifted out this very odd looking grill apparatus that you had to plug in. There was also a lot of space between the grill part and the stand. He looked at our baffled faces and explained while laughing that you grill meet and veggies on top and below you melt your raclette cheese in these nifty trays. It was glorious!

Since then I have partaken in many more delicious and obviously nutritious (actually far from it!) raclette evenings. Last year the couple below us has a raclette machine, so for special occasions such as new years, we got everyone together and had a wonderful cheesy dinner. This year is different. The French not only enjoy raclette, they embrace it like it is a long lost cousin. It is a staple of food in this mountain town of Briançon and they eat it with fervor. The first time I experience racletted de francaise was rather different. We had a french couple over that brought their wonderful raclette set and 2 bottles of white wine, not just any white wine, but sweet, sparkling white wine. We were incredibly confused as all of us have always thought that you drink red wine with cheese, naturally. According to the French, red wine is only for dessert cheeses. White wine is what you drink while eating raclette and fondue. Hmm..... They then put the spread on the table of cold cuts, raclette cheese in every flavor possible(they even had white wine flavored raclette cheese?!?!), and potatoes. The French girl beside me attacked the cheese like she hadn't eaten in days. With military preciseness she cut her potato, cold cuts, and cheese into tiny bits that were eaten with perfected French skill. I felt weak beside her and inexperienced. So I attacked my cheese as well. I ate so much that I was miserable, aching with with a cheese filled belly all night long. The next time I had raclette was at another French girl's house. The guys were away that night playing. So we had a little girls night that involved raclette. Again we had cold cuts, potatoes, and a variety of raclette cheeses. The French girl attacked the cheese and even had two trays of cheese going at once under the grill! I was thoroughly impressed. I simply could not compete with her. I knew the French loved their cheese, but this was going above and beyond!

Then last night we had raclette again, but it was a different kind of raclette. It was raclette Montreal style. We had some cheese, but we also had beef, chicken, shrimp, peppers, onions, etc. all to cook on the grill above where you melt you cheese. It was delicious and filling and I did not feel like a disgusting glutton. The French, when told about this sort of raclette, exclaimed to us that this is not real raclette. They were literally disgusted that we would think to put cheese on our shrimp. I had to laugh when I saw the expression on their faces. It was like you might as well put raclette cheese on dog poop, they were literally that disgusted with us. Now I do think the french have one up on us in a lot of their cooking methods and dishes, but I think they are incredibly behind in their raclette techniques. So in conclusion I can say that the French do speak way better French than the French Canadians (don't tell my roommates!), but they really do need to come off their high brie horses for one minute and take note of the way the French Canadians do raclette.