Strawberry rhubarb apple tart recipe

The other day, as we were enjoying a family dinner, my husband spotted a recipe book on the table and started to look through it as we were eating. (It happened to be the amazing and ever so appetizing Small Plates & Sweet Treats by Cannelle et Vanille’s creator, Aran Goyoaga). As we were eating, we started to get excited about the many recipes we were going to make off that book.

“You’re really turning into a Frenchman. Talking about food while eating”, my mother commented.

Indeed this is something French people love to do. Talk about food while eating food. Going on and on about it in fact!

I realized that unknowingly, the French are actually practicing mindful eating.

“Focus on the task at hand”, our teachers, or mothers, or grandmothers said. I guess this was another way to ask us to be mindful. To be in the moment with whatever we were doing.

This has been something I’ve been very consciously practicing with Pablo. Trying to stay away from outside distractions while at the table whenever possible. So while I do occasionally indulge Pablo with a small toy if he’s particularly tired and impatient at dinner time, I try as much as possible to keep our family engaged with our meal, with each other in conversation about our day, with the food we are eating (or will be eating), the cooking of it, the shape, flavor, color, texture of it. A lot of playfulness can arise with the “crunch crunch” of the butter lettuce, the fun of making a mini-kebab by prickling a piece of tomato with a piece of hearts of palm on the fork, or Pablo’s new favorite game, calling every item on the dinner table “Monsieur” : Monsieur Patate, Monsieur Radis, Monsieur Pain (Mr Bread) etc. (Yes, barely bearable cuteness ensues.)

I remember reading about mindful eating in Karen Le Billon’s book, French Kids Eat Everything, as one of her strategies to convert her picky eaters. It’s not about hiding broccoli in some pasta or baked good, or trying to distract our children into eating well, or rushing through meals to get them over with. It’s about showing them that eating is a pleasure.

And to find that out, you’ve got to pay attention while you eat.

Pay attention to how the food feels, how it tastes. Be mind and body (aren’t our best, happiest or most fulfilling moments in life when we are engaged both mind and body?). I remember how she described making a game of eating a chocolate mousse as slowly as possible, as a family, and talking about the experience together. What a clever idea to get kids engaged in the wonderful, vastly underestimated, communal, cultural and pleasurable experience that is the family meal.

Beyond easy and quick recipes, convenience and logistics, beyond calories and “healthy eating”, making cooking and eating about connection and pleasure, vs obligation and nutrition, is the core of this education of taste journey I’ve been documenting here. A journey that makes our life so much richer, each and every day.

Sharing today a seasonal variation to the French classic tarte aux pommes. It’s the first year I am experimenting cooking with rhubarb and its lovely flavor. This is really two recipes in one: one for the compote, which can be made on its own. But should you have a couple of apples lying around, the tart is a delicious way to put them to good use. Basil goes surprisingly well with strawberry and rhubarb, and adding it to the spelt crust was a fun, and successful, experiment.

Strawberry rhubarb apple tart on basil spelt crust

Serves 6-8

Prep time: 45 mn
Cook time: 15 mn + 35 mn

Age for babies: The compote by itself is great for a baby from 5 months on, though be sure not to use honey for a baby under 12 months. Add just a sprinkle of sugar. What you don’t use within a couple of days can be frozen for a couple of months (individual serving containers make it easier).
The tart can be given in small pieces (as long as no honey was used) from 8-10 months.



For the strawberry rhubarb compote

Yields about 2 cups.

2-3 stalks of rhubarb
1-2 cups of strawberries
2 tbsp of sugar (or honey)
1 tsp lemon juice

Peel the rhubarb by making a diagonal incision at the top and pulling off the stringy part. Repeat from both end, until all strings are gone (you will be taking off the pink part.)

Then cut the rhubarb in small pieces, place in a bowl with half the sugar (or honey), and let macerate at least 15 minutes. (The rhubarb with produce some juice in that time).

In the meantime, wash and cut the strawberries.

In a pan, place the rhubarb and its juice, strawberries, remaining sugar or honey and lemon juice. Cook over medium high heat for about 15-20 minutes, stirring often.

Mix in food processor or blender until very smooth. Pour through a fine mesh strainer, pressing with a spatula, for added smoothness.

For the basil spelt crust

1 cup (150g) spelt flour
5 tbsp (75g) butter, softened and cut up
4-5 large leaves of basil, minced
1.5 tbsp ice water
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp sugar
pinch of salt

In a bowl, mix the flour, minced basil, sugar and salt.

Pour the dry ingredients on a work surface. With your hands, work the soft butter into the flour mixture, by rubbing your hands together, until you get a sandy texture. Then place the flour/butter mixture in a circle with a whole in the middle.  Place the egg yolk and water in the middle, and mix with your hands until you obtain a ball of dough.

Then fraise the dough: flatten the ball into a rectangle (of sorts), and with the heel of your hand, press the dough, little by little, onto the work surface. This is very simple (and therapeutic!), but a picture is worth a thousand words on this one, so you can get a visual here. Do it a couple of times.

Wrap in plastic and place in the fridge for 10 minutes.

To put it all together

2 apples
4-5 oz rhubarb strawberry compote
2-3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp butter +  for mold 

Preheat the oven at 375°F.

Butter a tart pan (preferably with removable bottom).

Roll dough onto a lightly floured surface so it’s slightly bigger than your pan.
Press the dough into the pan, pressing the sides with your thumb.

Spoon and spread the compote over the dough.

Peel and core the apples, reserve the peel. Slice them thinly. Gently place the apple slices on top of the compote, in a circular motion around the pie pan (I can never do this perfectly by the way, there’s always an odd piece of apple that doesn’t fit!)

Sprinkle with a bit of sugar, and add a few bits of butter throughout.

Place in oven for about 30-35 minutes, until the apples are soft.

While it’s in the oven, boil 1/2 cup of water with the apple peel and sugar for about 10/12 minutes.

When you bring the tart out of the oven, brush some of that syrup over the apples for a nice gloss.

Let cool and eat warm, or cold.

A creamy mushroom tartine recipe

The warmer weather is upon us in Southern California, and this has revived one of the fondest summer traditions of my childhood: being able to eat outside. Raised in Normandy with many, many days of grey and rain (admittedly accountable for the amazing grass and thus, very healthy cows producing amazing cream and cheeses), I grew up valuing and savoring every second of sunny and warmer days. Meals savored outside felt like a joyous celebration of the end of the dreary tunnel that winter in Northern France can be. It felt like a rebirth, like one could finally fill one’s lungs with a deep breath of fresh air. To sit down, feeling the sun on my back, listening to the sounds of the world out there, and eat a simple crudités salad, dipping bread in its vinaigrette… what a way to commune and connect with loved ones, with oneself, to slow down, take time.

To take our  time. The very opposite of losing or wasting time. For being in the moment is the best possible use of our time. Cooking, eating are golden opportunities for us, to reclaim time.

The other night, after a long day of cooking and preparations for Pablo’s birthday picnic, a day of people in a small kitchen, ovens going and stifling heat in the house, I suddenly felt the walls around me. I peered out the window to the garden, and just the thought of eating in the quiet dusk outside made me feel relieved, calm, like a sigh, an exhale. When we eat indoors, our meals are lovely, we take our time, we bond, we laugh and savor together, but everyday life is still there, around us, lurking. The cleaning, organizing that has yet to be done. The objects around us remind us of the past, sad or happy. Photos of lost ones. Gifts from the estranged. Images of past voyages. (Though this is the burden of adulthood, as young children do not (and cannot) project in this way. They are wired to be fully in the moment. There’s too much fascination in the present to bother about the rest. Yet.)

In contrast, when we eat outside, I glance at my herbs and strawberries in becoming, and I feel surrounded by the present and the future, by inner and outer growth and ripening. The descending light makes our other senses more attentive to the world around us: the smell of sundown, of the neighbors barbecuing; the song of the tireless mockingbird, of a firetruck in the distance, of an airplane going to a faraway land; the sensation of a passing evening breeze on the skin; the flavors on our plates.

I don’t know much about what the future holds, but I do know we shall be savoring most of our meals outside for the next few months (and cooking them outside too whenever possible).

So should the weather show some clemency wherever you live, I wish you many meaningful, mindful, delightful meals outside, precious celebrations of the timeless here and now.

I have become a big fan of “tartines” in the past few months, simple open-faced sandwiches. They are as scrumptious as easy to make, and ever so versatile. It is such fun to experiment with the ingredients and different combinations. It allows us to think with our palate. They make a lovely lunch, along with a salad. Children and grown-ups can eat with their fingers. And indeed with this one tartine I’m sharing today, all our fingers were thoroughly licked. Hope you enjoy!

And scroll down for our upcoming week’s menu… 🙂

Mushroom comté prosciutto tartine

Adapted from Petit Larousse des Recettes aux Légumes du Potager by Valérie Lhomme

Makes 4 tartines

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Age for babies: 12 months and up, they will most likely eat the components of the tartine with their fingers, which is fine.

1 lb mushrooms

1 sprig of thyme

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp coconut oil

2 tbsp crème fraîche (or heavy cream)

3.5 oz grated comté cheese (or pecorino, manchego, gruyere, any flavorful hard cheese or your liking)

4 thick slice of good country bread

4 slices of prosciutto (San Daniele is very good and not too salty)

4 pinches of nutmeg

Salt & pepper

Clean the mushrooms, cut off the tip of the foot, and slice. Wash the thyme and remove the leaves from the stem.

In a pan over high heat, melt the butter and coconut oil, and toss in the mushrooms. Cook over high heat for about 5 minutes, then add the thyme leaves, a pinch of salt and pepper, and continue cooking over medium heat for another five minutes.

Drain the mushrooms. In a bowl, whisk the crème fraîche and add in the mushrooms, gently stir to combine and set aside.

Preheat the oven at 450°F

Toast the bread slices lightly. Place a slice of prosciutto on top of each slice. Add some creamy mushrooms, some grated cheese, a pinch of nutmeg, and place in the oven for 5 minutes, until cheese is melted.

Cod & Brussels sprouts in garlic cream… & planting seeds for the pleasure of eating well

I was talking to the mom of a 12-month-old boy the other day, and
as we were casually chatting about germs and toddlers putting everything in their
mouth, I mentioned that the old French remedy pediatricians would give to moms
50 years ago in France, was to feed their babies blue cheese, Roquefort and the
like, to boost their immune system and help them with digestion. (I have
certainly followed that advice, and gave Pablo blue cheese fairly early on,
probably around 10 months. Pablo loved its strong flavor.) She was very
surprised at the idea, so I marvelled at how children have such open minds about
flavors and textures at that age, and you can get them to try a wide variety
of foods.

She responded something like, “Yeah, and then at 4 years old it’s
all over, they don’t want to eat anything anymore.”

This isn’t the first time I encounter this sort of attitude,
and have heard the same type of comment from moms of grown-ups, “Yeah sure,
you’re happy your kid is eating vegetables etc, but it’s not going to last,
you’ll see.”

I dare say this attitude bugs me to no end. I guess it does because the subtext I’m hearing is, “Just give up on it now, it’s no use offering your kid a wide
variety of foods because he may reject it all down the road.”

And my answer would be: isn’t it worth it to offer babies
and children good real foods, even if
they taste it and enjoy it just once? Even supposing (and I don’t even believe that
supposition to be valid) that tomorrow, Pablo starts rejecting every single
vegetable or food he eats now, he has been eating good, real, flavorful and
balanced foods for the past 18 months, and those 18 months are completely
worthwhile. It’s not lost or wasted. The enjoyment, the positive food
experience, the introduction of colors, textures, flavors, scents, all that is
in his brain somewhere, it’s a seed that is planted and will somehow grow and
takes its course.

It would be almost like saying there’s no point in playing
with your infant or showing him things because later on, he may be
completely disinterested in these same things and not even remember them.

A few months ago, I blogged about my friends at Gopher Springs Farm, and their desire to grow quality sustainable foods from the soil
up, making the best possible compost to get the richest possible soil to
plant seeds in and let them grow, their roots strong, fulfilled.

It’s kind of the same thing here. We know in child
development the first three years are so crucial in every aspect, how we relate
to our babies, how they learn, how the type of attachment we create during that
time will define them in many ways. And I believe this applies to food and the
education of taste. Those first couple of years of life, exposing them to a
wide variety of real foods, getting them engaged,
interested in the eating
experience in all its sensory glory, showing them the excitement of trying
something new, nurturing their open-mindedness about flavor and textures, sharing
meals with them as an opportunity to be in the moment and focused on the pleasure
of eating and doing so in each other’s company… All these things make up this
rich soil, this crucial foundation in their mind and their body. It’s planting the seeds of a life of balanced,
enjoyable eating. It’s never too late to start the education of taste, it can be done at 1 or 6 or 50, but if you have the opportunity to start early, why not do it?

I don’t even think it is true that all children start to
reject all “good” foods at 3 or 4 or 12. That is definitely not the case for
most French children (including myself), who are expected to eat “everything” – and they do,
mostly (Karen Le Billon explains this in detail in her aptly named French Kids Eat Everything.)
Yes, neophobia (the fear of new foods, an interesting scientific study on it here) can be common among
toddlers, but it usually dissipates by age four. A couple of thoughts on that:

1/ If a child does have this fear of new foods, this is the
time for a parent to hang in there and keep offering and gently challenging the
child to eat good balanced foods, finding fun playful ways to do it, and certainly
not the time to throw in the towel and just give in to the pasta/cheerio diet.


2/ If you expose your infant/young toddler to a wide
variety of foods and vegetables on a regular basis before age 2, these foods
won’t be new to them and not so scary.

I also suspect one of the biggest culprits for toddlers and
young children not eating well is the snacking on demand throughout the day…
I was asked recently how come Pablo eats so well during meals, and part of the
reason is that when he comes to the table, he’s hungry. His body knows he’s not going to be snacking 1 or 2 hours
later, so he eats well. And he enjoys the meal all the more.

Should Pablo go through a more resistant phase, where he
doesn’t embrace all foods as enthusiastically as he does now, I will consider
it exactly as that: a phase. I will certainly not label him as “resistant” and
give up on his education of taste altogether. I will keep challenging him and
offering him new foods, good foods, keep engaging him. Because the seeds we
plant when they’re infants and toddlers, need to be nurtured so they may grow
strong. We don’t just give up on them at the first sign of resistance.  The education of taste is an ongoing, lifelong process.

I guess the other aspect of this “what’s the use?” attitude
that bugs me, is that it feels like putting the blame on the child. “The child
is resistant.” “The child won’t eat vegetables.” “The child refuses.” I don’t think
that’s fair. I believe in the old saying, “There is no such thing as a bad
student, only a bad teacher.” It’s up to us as parents to keep offering, to
model balanced eating habits, to make it possible for our children to keep
experiencing the pleasure and fulfillment that sharing a good meal of real foods, give their body and soul.

All right, all done rambling on. The recipe I’m sharing here is one of those “Really!? You’re feeding that to your kid?” recipes… Yes. Fish with Brussels sprouts and garlic cream, cooked in a parcel… Do not shiver, just try it. If you have never liked Brussels sprouts, this dish might make you a convert.

Cooking them this way takes away the bitterness, and those caraway seeds you might have had sitting on your spice rack for years (as was my case) will find their true calling here (they go well with all types of cabbages).  As for the garlic cream, it makes the whole thing simply scrumptious.

I talked about the benefits of cooking in parcels before. It is very playful for kids, Pablo is always excited to be getting a cadeau (present) for dinner, the excitement when you unwrap it, the fun of pouring the sauce over it, of having your own little mystery package. You couldn’t sugarcoat it any better than that… (sans sugar, that is).

Parcels of black cod & Brussels sprouts in garlic cream

Adapted from Petit Larousse des Recettes aux Légumes du Potager by Valérie Lhomme

 

Serves 4

Age for babies: 8-10 months, if necessary, mix it into a puree (you could mix the cod/Brussels sprouts and a head of baked garlic adding formula milk to desired consistency)

Prep time: 20 mn

Cook time: 35 mn

4 thin slices of pancetta

4 pinches of caraway seeds

Preheat the oven at 350°F.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Grossly quarter the Brussels sprouts and wash them. Plunge them in the boiling water for two minutes, drain them and cool them off under cold running water. Set them aside on a kitchen towel.

Wrap the garlic cloves (unpeeled) in parchment paper and bake them for 15 minutes.

Remove the skin and mash them with a fork. Combine with the heavy cream in a small saucepan and set aside.

Cut the cod into four pieces, and cut 4 squares of parchment papers.

On each square of paper, place a bed of Brussels sprouts, a piece of black cod and a slice of pancetta on top. Sprinkle with pepper and some caraway seeds.

Wrap the parcels hermetically, tying each end with kitchen string.  (Note: you can make these ahead of time and keep them in the fridge until ready to bake)

Place the four parcels directly on the bottom of the oven and bake 10-12 minutes.

Place the saucepan with the garlic and cream over low heat. Add a sprinkle of salt and some pepper. Bring to a low simmer.

Place each parcel on a plate, open it and pour the cream of garlic over the fish.

Asparagus, arugula, avocado soup recipe

Last weekend, I went foraging, for the first time in my
life. And I think I fell in love. There I was, with a new group of people, in the woods, learning about a completely new topic. I felt so alive.

This was the
perfect symbiosis of nature and cooking. And you probably have gathered by now
how much I love cooking. Perhaps I can share a little bit here about my love of nature.

Not to be overly dramatic, but the love of nature might have
saved my life, many years ago. 

When I was 16, I had what you might call a crisis of faith.
Faith in life. In its value. I was a cerebral kid, who spent a big amount of
time in my own head. My head was my space, for better or for worse. And so not
so surprisingly, at 16, I reached the very cerebral conclusion that one should
live only as a deliberate act, provided one could find something worth living
for. Something that could justify going on living when everything around seemed
hopeless and dark.

And I had come up with nothing. Everything that might make
life worth living seemed either inaccessible or inauthentic. And so I was
coming close to the inevitable conclusion: I had no business going on living.

Then, there was a trip to the United States. A backpacking trip
with a group of other teens, traveling across the country.

And there was the Grand Canyon.
The day I flew over the Grand Canyon,
the overwhelming beauty and immensity of it, I thought for the first time: this is worth living for. Seeing this.

So this land, this
beautiful land, now my land, gave me
a reason to live when I needed one.

As I spent more and more time in the United States (I ended up actually working at
the Grand Canyon for a few summers before
moving here), my love of nature became less cerebral and more real. It got me
out of my head and grounded me. Ever since, it has made me feel like I belong
on earth. I love to seek it out as much as I can, whether it’s hiking through Yellowstone, or going camping, or simply eating outside.

And now, there’s foraging.
I mean, what’s not to love: you go hike in the woods, learn about wild
edible plants, learn how to cook them or how to use them in your cooking.  (And it will be so great to take Pablo
foraging when he’s a bit more of a functional hiker :-))

I am so thankful to my good friend Linda for introducing me
to Pascal Baudar and Mia Wasilevich this weekend, the lovely and talented couple who guided our
foraging experience. (If you are in the LA area, definitely check these guys out.)
Pascal Baudar, a Belgian man who has lived in the US for many years and a forager for
the past 13 years (he forages for chefs too!), had black fingers, from
harvesting thousands of black walnuts, he explained. How I love hands who tell a
story.

He guided us down a trail and talked (among many things) about green, red and
black currants, elderflowers and berries, wild peaches, wild fig leaves, mugwort,
thistle and chickweed. I munched on wild mustard flowers that taste like broccoli,
smelled white sage and sage brush.

What better way to commune with nature than to actually eat it? Its flavors open up every one of your tastebuds at once. Nature as a tastebud opener. I like that. Next time, I can’t wait to forage wild spinach,
wild radishes and watercress.

After our walk, Mia, a very talented wild food chef (more
about her right here) had prepared some treats for us: roasted potatoes with her foothill spice blend made with local wild aromatic
plants. Wild spinach empanadas. Nectarines roasted inside a wild fig leaf. And a wild watercress gazpacho with wild watercress flowers (picture below), that tasted like a cool running creek at dawn. And there was Pascal’s fermented white sage lemonade and wild mugwort beer too…      

I plan on experimenting first with fermented sage lemonade
and elderflower syrup, recipes I will be sharing with you here soon (should they be
successful, that is ;-))  

I have so much
to learn it makes me feel young.

So if culinary hiking sounds like something you would enjoy,
I highly recommend you give foraging a try! And if you have gone foraging,
please tell me all about it! What have you made? What have you found?

It’s such an appropriate metaphor for life too. Let us spend
less time in our heads and more time in the real world. Let’s forage the good
stuff out of life, for it is so flavorful…

In the meantime, I leave you with this lovely & seasonal asparagus wild arugula soup, nicely
complemented by some wild mustard flowers foraged by yours truly. 

Asparagus, wild arugula & avocado soup with wild mustard flowers

Barely adapted from Small Plates and Sweet Treats by Aran Goyoaga

Serves about 4 generous bowls

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Age for babies: Without the crabmeat (just the soup), 6-8 months.

2 tbsp coconut oil

1 shallot

2 cloves of garlic

1 bunch of green asparagus

3/4 tsp salt

3 cups vegetable stock

2 cups (about 2 oz) wild arugula

1 avocado

4 oz crabmeat (optional)

2 tbsp sheep’s milk yogurt

Foraged wild mustard flowers (optional)

Mince the shallot and garlic. Cut off the tough ends of the asparagus, and dice them. Peel, pit and dice the avocado.

Heat the coconut oil in a large pot of medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic and asparagus with 1/4 tsp salt, stir, and cook for about 3 minutes (do not brown).

Add the vegetable stock, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 5-6 minutes, until the asparagus are tender.

Add the arugula and cook for another minute. Remove pot from heat. 

Pour mixture in the blender, add the avocado and remaining 1/2 tsp salt. Blend thoroughly, until very smooth. 

You can serve hot or chilled, topped with some crab meat, a swirl of yogurt, and a few wild mustard flowers on top.