Monday, June 29, 2009

Apricot Pecan Tart

Last week Christophe's grandmother gave us a crate full of apricots and we accepted gratefully. But what in the heck do we do with an entire crate of apricots? Again, wishing I had a restaurant to bake for!

The apricots lucky enough not to have been eaten already, patiently waited this past week to participate in some kind of delicious dessert. Today was their special day. Since I was thinking about baking for the old restaurant, I decided to pull out my chocolate covered pastry book (accidentally dropped it in a flourless chocolate cake batter), that consists of recipes I have collected over the years. I knew exactly what I wanted to make when I pulled out the book...Chef Terry's Tart Batter. This recipe can be made with lots of different kinds of fruit and can be the filling to a tart dough or you could bake it in a baking dish without the tart dough. It's a great recipe to accentuate really ripe fruit. I chose to make a real tart with the tart dough, only because I can buy flaky, buttery tart dough at the store. It costs 2€ and it's already rolled out. So I will admit that it is rare that I make tart or quiche dough nowadays. It tastes just as good from the grocery store, no joke.
Apricot Pecan Tart
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon almond extract
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup chopped toasted pecans or almonds
  • 15 medium sized apricots or enough of another fruit to fill a 9-inch pie dish
  • 1 store bought tart dough
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease or parchment paper a 9-inch tart dish.

Blind bake the tart dough. Once the dough is cooled, remove the dried beans or rice.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the first seven ingredients. The flour may clump up so you will have to strain the batter through a sieve before baking. Halve the apricots and remove pits. Arrange them in the tart dough as you like. Sprinkle the chopped nuts over the apricots. Strain the batter over the fruit and nuts. Bake tart 20-30minutes until firm and golden. Serve at room temperature...with vanilla ice cream!

To talk about Chef Terry quickly. He used to be our chef at the old restaurant and we worked side by side everyday. He is amazingly talented and we exchanged recipes all the time. He actually gave me a lot more than I gave him, but whatever. Now he has taken over the restaurant from us, creating eclectic menus from Asia to France to South America. If you are ever in Tallahassee or are living in Tallahassee, please check it out.

Sage Restaurant
3534 Maclay Blvd.
Tallahassee, FL 32308
Join Sage on Facebook soon!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

"C'est la France"

Every time we are invited for lunch with our friends, I feel like I am on a Food Network show. The setting, the people and of course, the food! No, we do not have any cameras filming us, besides my little Canon that I keep with me at all times, but we could definitely be filmed for a show I would name, "C'est la France". Enough about my crazy ideas and on to more important, the way the French lunch.

We arrived at noon with a bottle of Pic St Loup, a red wine from the Southern Rhone Valley. Greeted by our good friend Aurélie with the traditional French hello of kisses on the cheek, we were then led to the table where the apéritif was being served. The French always have an apéro, the short version of the word apéritif, before starting a meal. It is to help stimulate your appetite and prepare you for a meal of no less than three courses. An apéro can be juice, I guess if you are pregnant or something, but it mostly consists of wine, pastis or beer. Today we had Viognier, a white wine from our region around Vienne. The Viognier was served alongside a simple platter of crudité, a raw vegetable platter, with a creamy yogurt dipping sauce. After two bottles of wine, a few beers, some juice (Emilie just had a baby) and some great conversation, it was time to for the first course to begin.

Today the menu was simple, delicious and all homemade. Aurélie definitely out did herself on "C'est la France"!
Fresh pasta (homemade) with bolognaise sauce
Bowls of gruyère cheese
Mixed field greens with balsamic vinaigrette
Cheese course: St Félicien, St Marcellin & Comté
Crusty baguette from our village bakery (we can walk there!)
Homemade cherry sorbet
Genépi, Vieille Prune & Calvados (digestive liqueurs)
Another espresso
We sat around the table eating, drinking, chatting and watching passing clouds in the deep blue sky. The lunch was coming to an end and it was FIVE O'CLOCK! This is the part that makes the lunch so French. Note if you are in France and invited to lunch, make no other plans for the day. Sometimes it goes on so long, like with my French family, that you stay for dinner too! Being around the table with friends and family has created some of the best memories of my life. Thank you to my French friends that have helped me integrate into my new life in France. Without them, the days wouldn't be as fulfilling and tasty!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Uzés... a town less traveled

Uzès is a small town on the edge of the Languedoc Roussillon region, 30 minutes west of Avignon. Rich in architecture and religious history, Uzès could be visited over and over again and never get old. The small town is also home of one of the most beautiful markets in the South of France. Note that I do not say Provence because Uzès is not in the region Provence. I know there are a thousand markets in France and everyone claims to have the best, but I honestly think this is one of the best and biggest in the area. It sprawls throughout the cobble stone streets of Uzès, but the main market is in the Place aux Herbes which is what makes it so magical. If you have only visited the Place aux Herbes during the market, it is well worth it to go back on an off market day and sit in one of the outdoor cafés and take it all in. It is the vision people have of the South of France and you will be living it!

The Wednesday morning market in Uzès displays many produits du terroirs, regional products and specialties. Cheese, olives, wine, olive oil, fruit, bread, herbs and so much more. The other day I found a creamy goat cheese, produced in Uzès, that made me want to pop open a bottle of red wine immediately, even though it was only 10am. In France, no time is too early wine, which is one thing I love about living here! If you are heading out for a day of discovery, I would definitely recommend stopping by the market to pick up the goods for a picnic. There are picnic spots at almost every tourist attraction in the area or you could stop on a back road in the middle of sunflowers and vineyards. A must do while visiting Uzès!

The Saturday morning market is a grocery store, department store and florist all wrapped in one. You can find clothes, jewelry, linens, pottery, flowers, plants and all the produits du terroirs. You can spend hours wandering the streets filled with market vendors so get there early to give yourself enough time and to avoid the main crowds.

Besides the markets, there are numerous restaurants, wine bars and outdoor cafés to discover. Uzès is touristic, but less than the villages in Provence that only come alive in the summer when the tourists arrive. Uzès lives year round, buzzing with tourists and locals, including many expat English and Americans. If you love Provence, I promise you will love Uzès and everything it has to offer.

Uzès is in the Gard(30) department of the Languedoc Roussillon region, which seems to be less traveled than it's neighboring Vaucluse(84) department in the Provence region...or at least for now.

Uzès Market: open all year round with July and August being it's busiest months
Wednesday Market 8am-12pm: foodies who prefer a less crowded market
Saturday Market 8am-1pm: there is something for everyone, but get there early if you don't
like being a human sandwich

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

First Wine Adventure=Success!

We have officially broken in our new business, "A Taste of France Tours", with a Wine Adventure in Châteauneuf du Pape! Not only did everything run smoothly and right on time, but our clients were fun, helpful and perfect for our first tour.

The day started with breakfast, Mimosas and croissants, in front of the village church in Masmolène. Soon after our luxury bus arrived, we hopped on and started for the vineyards of Châteauneuf du Pape. Throughout the ride, Christophe explained the history and geography of the region, including maps of the Rhone Valley. We were glad to get that part in before the wine tasting began and while we still had the guests attention! The first winery was Château La Gardine, a 15th century winery owned by the Brunel family. Marie-Odile Brunel greeted us and took us on an intimate tour of the winery, including the barrel room and bottling room, explaining the wine making process in Châteauneuf du Pape. A wine tasting of six different wines followed in the elegant tasting room.

Next we had a French style pique-nique overlooking vineyards at Château Mont Redon. Local meats and cheeses, juicy ripe tomatoes and bright orange apricots from the Uzès market, crusty baguette and of course, lots of wine was the spread for our picnic. Delicious, but we eagerly awaited the next winery to get out of the hot sun. Château Mont Redon was the next winery visit. Much shorter visit, lots of pictures and wines our guests appreciated and even purchased. We even got to try the house Marc, which is a brandy distilled from the material remaining in the wine press after grape pressing.

Château La Nerthe was the last winery we visited. We had a short introduction on the beautiful terrace of the chateau and then got to visit the wine cellars. The winery features what is alleged to be the oldest stone fermentation tank in France. We tasted their regular cuvées as well as the superb Cuvée des Cadettes. We even tasted a bonus bottle, a 1994 Clos de Beauvenir. There are only 600 bottles left at the estate.

The guests were happy, we were happy and it was time to get back home. The day was over and we felt successful with our mission: teaching our guests about the region, trying wines they did not know, and making everyone feel comfortable throughout the tour. We hope everyone enjoyed the day as much as we did!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Gâteau au Cerises

Cherries, cherries, everywhere! Every year at the beginning of summer, the cherry trees produce millions of dark red, juicy cherries. The problem is that the trees produce fruit faster than we can eat it. Cherries from a neighbor, a local farmer, Christophe's grandmother and friends! It's kind of like a dream come true.

Remembering how difficult they were to find and how expensive they were to buy when we had the restaurant in Florida, makes this seem unfair. Now I am only baking for two and I can't keep up! Here is variation on a staple recipe in most French homes.

Yogurt Cake with Cherries

  • 3-4 cups ripe cherries, pitted and stemmed
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil or olive oil
  • 2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • a pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 10 inch cake pan and line bottom with parchment paper. Pit and stem cherries.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together yogurt, sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla. In another mixing bowl, blend the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the liquid ingredients to dry and whisk until blended. Place the prepared cherries in the greased cake pan and pour batter to cover cherries evenly. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a knife comes out clean. Serve warm or room temperature.