Polenta-crusted lamb recipe

I am a big fan of Dr Dan Siegel when it comes to child psychology. His book, Parenting from the Inside Out, was the first parenting book I read (before I got pregnant), and the foundation for everything else. He has a series of short videos online, and in one of them (you can watch it here), he describes the daily elements of a healthy mind for a child, which also apply to adults. Here they are in no particular order:

  • Sleep
  • Focus time
  • Play time, experience novelty and fun
  • Down time, calm/quiet, to recharge the mind
  • Connection time (with others and the earth, with generosity and gratitude)
  • Physical time, where we move our bodies
  • Time in, or reflection time, where we reflect on our whole emotional state, on how we feel inside ourselves.

It struck me as I jotted down this list, how a few of those get chucked out the window or neglected in our adult lives. I have often found myself with a few minutes of down time, feeling like I should be doing something, as if that time was wasted (and as a result of this antsiness, it is in fact wasted. Instead of letting my mind recharge, I burden it further with guilt and anxiety.)

This balance, which thankfully I am able to nurture fairly successfully in Pablo’s life, has been harder to find for myself, but having this list written out in my office, and on the fridge, is a great reminder. I noticed some of these can happen simultaneously, such as connection time and down time, or play and physical time, or play and focus time.

Of course, being the food lover and blogger that I am, I couldn’t help but think of the many many opportunities the kitchen and the table give us to practice these on a daily basis (sleep aside 😉

Looking at a recipe, separating an egg yolk from the white, thickening a sauce, shelling peas… focus.

Kneading bread, making butter, planting and picking… physical.

Having a picnic, dipping a piece of bread in a soft boiled egg, making watermelon balls with a scooper, experimenting with new flavors… play.

Washing dishes, peeling carrots, chopping rosemary and garlic… brain recharge, and time in.

Sitting down for a meal with loved ones, eating outside with the smells and sounds of nature, cooking over a fire, talking about the food we eat, eat mindfully and slowly… connection, and time in.

I suppose you get my drift here: cook good food and have family meals. It’s good for the body. And it’s good for the brain too. 🙂

So about this meal I’m sharing here…

… it starts with a morning of foraging (physical time, connection with nature) and learning to make wild mustard (more on that very soon!) and picking some sweet white clover (play time), which our foraging guide Pascal tells me will “rock my world” with sauteed potatoes. O how I love world-rocking food tips!

I stop at the store with Pablo and we bond with our favorite butcher Jamel who knows Pablo on a first name basis. Pablo chooses the orange cherry tomatoes he likes. We secretly taste an olive at the olive bar together. Love. Connection.

I get home and review my recipe. My mom starts the potatoes, I start the polenta. Connection, focus. Mix the flour, beat the egg. “This was a good day”, I think to myself. “I feel grounded, in the moment.” Quick time in. Dipping the chops, play; frying the chops, focus; photographing the chops, focus, play, physical given the odd contortions đŸ˜‰ Pablo wants to take pictures too, and does a mini-puppet show while I take some shots, connection.

Sitting down in the backyard to eat a great meal together. Watching Pablo gnaw on the bone, freely dance around the backyard after the meal. Breathing. Connection. Down time. Recharge.

Writing this post at my laptop, thinking of how humanly rich,beautiful (and dare I say, cerebrally nutritious?) this day was, and how perfectly balanced, how I need more days like this, and less days of deadlines, exhaustion and stress. Time in. 

Even when I struggle to post to this blog as often as I plan (which may just have to happen this week again as we’re going camping this weekend…), this space gives me this precious time which otherwise falls by the wayside in the face of busy life, time to reflect, to check in with myself. That those reflections should interest other souls such as yourselves, kind readers, is a gift I had never expected. Reading and perhaps at times, relating to my ramblings, hopefully gives you a little time in, too.

I always knew cooking, eating and food blogging were good for my body and soul. But if it’s good for my brain too then… I shall keep coming back.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this very balanced meal, in more ways than one.

Polenta-crusted lamb chops with herbed potatoes

(Inspired by Idées futées pour inviter by Larousse Cuisine & Cie)

4 servings

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

Age for babies: You could crust ground lamb patty with polenta for a 8-10 months old, potatoes and polenta are also great for 8-10 months old. A great way to introduce the flavor of rosemary, as it gets nicely absorbed by the polenta.

8 small double lamb chops (2 chops together, especially if you like them rare or pink, take individual chops if you like more well done)
4 tbsp spelt flour
salt & pepper
2 sprigs of rosemary
1 cup of polenta (I used this one which cooks very quickly)
4 cups of vegetable broth
1 cu p light coconut milk (You could just use 5 cups of broth, or mix broth and water, or regular milk. The coconut milk adds a nice subtle flavor though)
1 egg
3-4 tbsp olive oil

6-7 medium pink potatoes
3 tbsp duck fat (coconut oil and butter would do great too here)
Fresh rosemary, parsley or other fresh herb of choice (we used some wild sweet white clover I foraged that day, delicious!)

Start with the potatoes:

Wash and slice the potatoes (being organic, we left the skin on). Dry them well to avoid splattering.

Heat the duck fat over medium high, and add the potatoes. Cook, stirring often, until they turn golden. When they do, add salt, pepper, and the chopped herbs, and stir.

Lower heat to medium and cover. Cook until tender, about 10-15 minutes, shaking the pan or stirring once in a while. When done, keep covered and warm until ready to serve.

Then the polenta: 

(Check cook times depending on the kind you get).
In a medium pot, heat the broth and coconut milk over medium heat.

Meanwhile, remove the stems from the rosemary leaves and chop them finely.

When it barely simmers, add the polenta gradually while stirring until it thickens a bit. With the polenta I used, it was about 1-2 minutes.

Remove from heat, and stir in the rosemary. Taste the polenta and add salt so it tastes just right to your tastebuds. Cover and set aside.

(*Note that I’ve also obtained good results just adding the polenta and cold liquids to the pan at the same time, and heating on medium, stirring often. Also, for the crusting of the lamb chops, you will need fairly thin polenta, so this is double the amount of liquid recommended for “regular” polenta as indicated on the package. It should be the consistency of a cream of mushroom type soup, or slightly thicker. You could also use the prepackaged organic polenta – in the shape of a fat sausage – that I’ve seen available at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Then heat over medium with enough liquid to obtain desired consistency.)

Now the chops:

In a shallow plate, combine the flour with a pinch of salt and pepper.

In another, pour about half the polenta (reserve the rest to serve as a side, use more if needed). In another, lightly beat the egg.

Take each lamb chop, dip them first in the flour on all sides, then in the egg, then in the polenta.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, and pan-fry the lamb chops on medium high, until crust is crispy golden on all sides. You may want to use a splatter screen, as the wet polenta will make the oil splatter quite a bit. We like them on the rare side, so it only took about 5-7 minutes for us. (Lower to medium-low once the crust is golden and continue cooking if you like it more done.)

Serve on a plate with some potatoes, a side of polenta, and romaine or butter lettuce in vinaigrette for some greens.

I love to wrap a bite of potato inside a lettuce leaf! The perfect bite 🙂 Pablo agrees.

Salmon-wrapped leeks au gratin… and 7 reasons why Pablo loves good food

Steering away from my philosophical ramblings a bit here… onto parenting ramblings! As Pablo is hitting that challenging age of the “terrible twos”, which actually are known to start around 18 months, I wanted to give a little recap on where he’s at with his “education of taste” so far.

Generally speaking, he’s at the stage where we hear a whole lot of “non” (French style of course!) throughout the day, there’s a lot of testing of boundaries, of button-pushing, a lot of curiosity about how far a power struggle can really go… A fascinating process really, especially if you look at it like a scientist making chemistry experiments. That seems to be the way Pablo looks at it, intrigued at what he can do, what he can get away with, what power he can have over others (annoying them, making them upset, or happy, etc.) That being said, that power can be scary to a toddler, so that’s when those reassuring boundaries come in.

A recent challenge was when Pablo discovered one of his many superpowers: taking off his bib in the middle of the meal. I had originally established a rule that we must wear a bib and sit in the high chair to eat. When he discovered I was annoyed when he was taking off his bib, he started doing it repeatedly, very early in the meal, and would push me into a power struggle. I fell in that trap a couple of times, and then realized the error of my way. A power struggle was making the situation worse, AND it was ruining my meal (a sacrilege to the French!) as I would get upset. And he wouldn’t eat anymore anyway. So I thought, OK, just go with a simple, calm consequence. So the next time he took off his bib mid-meal, I said nonchalantly, “Ok, you are done with eating? Fine by me.” (If he’s hungry, he’ll eat better at the next meal…) And I let him leave the table, while we continued to eat our meal. The first couple of times I did this, he was pretty surprised, and hung out near us, trying to get our attention. After about 4 times, he stopped taking of his bib during the meal. Now, at the end of the meal, he points to it saying “maman” with his sweet voice and signing “please”, to ask if he can take off his bib, I ask him if he’s finished eating, and if he’s not, we go on with the meal. If he is, so be it. Let me tell you I was relieved this worked! I guess both Pablo and I learned a valuable lesson on that one…

The really good thing here though, is that Pablo remains an excellent eater, happily eating lots of different vegetables (and other foods) at every meal. He has not focalized his testing and resistance to boundaries over the actual food he eats. And I do think that is, at least in part, because of the “toolbox” of strategies I’ve followed since day one of solid foods (around 4 1/2 months), and some of the positive food associations I have tried to nurture. So I wanted to share some of those strategies here, in case someone might find them useful… In no particular order:

1. Variety, novelty, curiosity

Introducing as many different kinds of foods, vegetables, herbs and spices from the very start. By 18 months, there were very few things Pablo hadn’t already eaten. Also trying new foods has become a habit for him, nothing unusual about it (we still try new dishes on a regular basis). I always make sure he tries, and I make tasting something new playful and fun, by being silly with it, telling him it will tickle his mouth (and his curiosity, and hopefully his fancy!). The point is to make it an exciting fun experience.

2. No assumptions, keep the faith

When he seems to reject a food (spitting it out), I remain nonchalant about it, and reoffer it several times over the following weeks, confident that he will most likely enjoy it eventually. There’s nothing so far he has consistently rejected. I have noticed many times it’s not that he doesn’t like the food, but rather that he feels like eating something else on his plate. And sometimes he will chew a food, and then spit it out, which tells me he probably likes the taste, but is unfamiliar with the texture. (This happened with endive salad, he used to chew and spit. But instead of concluding he didn’t like it, I kept giving him a few pieces when we would eat them, and he now swallows the whole thing. Took him a while to become familiar and comfortable with the texture.)

3. No “one more for Mommy”

I have made a big effort to avoid any emotional association to food, except that it’s a pleasurable sharing experience. I try not to offer him food to comfort him, or reward him in any way. Also we try to never imply that he should eat to please us (if we did, what happens the day he specifically wants to displease us?), hence the no “one more for mommy” rule. Trying to remember that young children are in tune with their body and what it needs, if we let them listen to their body – which also led to…

4. Baby’s boss… of his body

Letting him decide when he’s had enough (and letting him feed himself as much as possible). I offer a variety, he chooses how much he wants to eat, as I always feel confident that he can make up for a lighter meal at the next meal. I found he really enjoys having a couple of different things on his plate, and pick one, then another, discerning the difference. Probably helps build a positive association between food and a feeling of independence and self-confidence, too.

5. Eating together

We do eat together as a family 95% of the time, and we all eat the same thing (following the French four-course meal format). Eating is a time of togetherness, another positive association.

6. Food for the senses

Keeping eating, cooking, and food in general, playful, introducing fun rituals, letting him touch food with his hands and explore it in a sensory way (taste, smell, touch, even hear: the crunch of an endive or the pschh of chicken browning in olive oil). Within reason of course.

7. “Non, non” to snacking

No snacking. Pablo eats 4 meals a day, 3 + 1 afternoon snack. It doesn’t even occur to him to ask me for a snack, since he’s never had them. He is fine hanging from 8 to 12 or 1pm, and then until 4-5 pm, then 7:15pm. This insures that he has a healthy appetite when we sit down to eat.

So… Pablo’s “non” have not (perhaps yet?) landed on the food. We shall see how things evolve, Pablo may very well start refusing to eat anything but pickles, or noodles, at 2 or 3. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, though I am committed to stand by my strategies above to get me through it.

Now, one of the new dishes we tried recently, is this recipe found in a French cooking magazine grabbed while waiting in line at a French supermarket last September.  The cover intrigued me, “Our best recipes, for less than 1 Euro per person”. It turned out to be a great resource for delicious, easy and affordable family recipes. I blogged about their savory herb custard a few weeks ago. These salmon-wrapped leeks were really delicious and an original variation on the classic baked endives and ham.

I hope you get a chance to try it, and in the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts, anecdotes and your own strategies to help your children eat well…

Salmon wrapped leeks au gratin

Adapted from Best Of Gourmand Magazine

Serves 4

Prep time: 25 mn
Cook time: 35 mn

Age for babies: 10-12 months, cut up in very small pieces.

8 slices of smoked salmon
8 medium leeks
1 stem of fresh dill
3.5 oz grated Swiss cheese
2 tbsp butter

For the béchamel sauce:
3 tbsp butter
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp flour
1 pinch of ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper

Wash the leeks, and cut the green part, leaving only the whites. Make an incision lengthwise to wash them while keeping their shape. Steam for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the bĂ©chamel: In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the flour and stir to obtain a “roux” (brown mixture). Pour the cold milk, then the heavy cream and bring to avoid, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Preheat the oven at 400°F. Wrap each leek in a slice of smoked salmon.

Place the salmon wrapped leeks in a buttered baking dish. Pour the béchamel sauce over them.

Sprinkle with the Swiss cheese, and bake for about 15 minutes.

Wash the dill, remove the stem. Sprinkle over the gratin when it comes out of the oven. Serve hot.

Sunchoke gratin dauphinois recipe

It took parenting and cooking to teach me how to live my life.

This sentence could very well be a description for this blog. That’s what I’ve been wanting to share here: parenting, cooking, life (and a French touch). Not necessarily in that order. Their connection never ceases to amaze me.

What I mean by that, is that the meaning meat of life, the secret to happiness and fulfillment, the secret to no-regret-living, is to live for, and by, the journey. Or the process. (Journey’s a pretty word for process, really.) Or at least, I’m pretty sure it’s a big part of it.

And as life would have it, parenting and cooking are
both process-oriented experiences. In fact, they
are experiences that only work if you
focus on their process, if you’re able to enjoy their process. If you’re able
to trust their process

Through both, I am learning to let go of expectations, to be
present in the moment, to nurture instead of control. For both, I am finding that learning
from others and trusting one’s own instincts is not contradictory, but complementary.
Thanks to both, I am learning to be attuned to myself and to the world.

I’ve been struggling to write for many years. Wanting to, and
yet finding it excruciating, or myself incapable of it. But I see now writing
is much like cooking and parenting. It’s all about the process too. The end result,
well… it’s not what matters most. And it shouldn’t be the motivation for it. If it is, it comes out shallow, inauthentic, mediocre. Just like cooking to impress. And how absurd – and damaging – would it be to have a child only for the picture-perfect lawyer or doctor we would like him to become?

We must live for living’s sake, cook for cooking’s sake, eat for eating’s sake, write for writing’s sake, and nurture for nurturing’s sake. A thing that is an end in itself, is always worthwhile.

So I am writing,
here, finally. Perhaps I couldn’t write before I learned that lesson. Parenting
and cooking might have just made a writer out of me. How wonderfully and
poetically surprising life can be, when our minds are open enough to take it in.

I could bitch about how I wish I learned these things earlier
in life. And I do sometimes. But to heck with hindsight, it was just part of my journey to learn it this way. And the onslaught of spring is making me feel optimistic. The jasmine has burst out into the night air, heavy enough to carry the mockingbird’s relentless nocturnal song of seduction. (I can hear him in the darkness as I’m writing these words.) So I wanted to say it: I am grateful for this unforeseen revelation,
this new understanding of life. I’m just so glad about it. And when one is glad,
one should say it. Or write it. Share it, in short.

Or cook it. And can I just say gratins are a perfect way to
share gladness?

I have blogged about sunchokes before, we have enjoyed many
sunchoke soups this winter, simple ones and fancy ones, and I recently cooked
them in a gratin for the first time. This is a twist on the classic French potato
gratin. A very tasty twist indeed. I hope you enjoy!

Sunchoke gratin dauphinois

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

Serves 4

Prep time: 30 mn
Cook time: 65 mn

Age for babies: 10-12 months

2 lbs sunchokes (try to get larger ones that are not too quirky shaped, for ease of peeling and slicing)
1 1/4 cup whole milk
1 bay leaf
1 whole garlic clove
4 tbsp butter
1 1/4 cup heavy cream (or crĂšme fraĂźche)
2 eggs
2 pinches of ground nutmeg
3.5 oz of grated Swiss cheese (Comté is a good one. Manchego works well too, or other flavorful hard cheese)
Salt & pepper

Peel the sunchokes, putting them in cold water as you go. Then slice them either by hand or with a mandoline or with the slicing accessory of your food processor.

Preheat the oven at 350°F.

In a medium pot, bring the milk and bay leaf to a low boil, remove from heat, cover and let cool to lukewarm.

Peel the garlic clove. Rub your baking dish with 2 tbsp of butter, and rub the bottom of the dish with the garlic clove.

Lightly beat the eggs in a small bowl. Remove the bay leaf from the milk. Whisk in the cream, the eggs, the nutmeg, and salt and pepper.

Place one layer of sunchoke slices in the baking dish, pour some of the milk/cream mixture on top, sprinkle with cheese, then add another layer of sunchokes, pour the rest of the milk/cream mixture and sprinkle the rest of the cheese (do one more layer of each if needed). Top with small dabs of butter, and bake for 1 hour.

Check if the sunchokes are done with a knife, should go in easily, like for a potato.

We have served this as a side dish with a roasted chicken, or a duck stew. Or it can be savored on its own with an endive salad.

Chard ribs au gratin recipe

So here it is, Food Day. I have been debating what recipe to
share on this festive occasion. Or should I say, on this educational health-oriented
day? Should it be something fun? Or something healthy? What if I told you my hope
is that, when you read “Chard ribs au gratin”, you will forget how healthy or good
for you it might be, and think, “Oh how fun and delicious!”? Therein lies the topic
of this post. And perhaps of my blog as well, and one of the most fundamental
differences between the French take on food, and the American take.

Food Day is an awesome initiative (more info on it here), self-defined
as a nationwide celebration and a movement for healthy, affordable, and sustainable
food. I’m so glad they described it first as a celebration of food, but it does
have a definite, and admirable focus on health and nutrition. Out of curiosity,
I went on the French website for “La Semaine du GoĂ»t”, the French version of Food
except it’s a full week and the literal translation is “Week of Flavor”. Here’s
how they describe their main objectives (in that order):

The education of taste, of consumers, and children in

The diversity of flavors

Transparent and educational information on food products,
their origins, the means of
production, and their specificity

Raise awareness about professions and know-how in the food

The pleasure of savoring food

Encourage food behaviors and consumption that fit with a
durable, balanced lifestyle

Notice how the word “health” isn’t mentioned once?

I was chatting with a French friend last week,
about the challenges of finding the time and motivation to exercise (one of my biggest challenges at the moment!). He was telling
me every time he tried to exercise as a “duty” or obligation, doing an activity he didn’t enjoy doing,
it never lasted longer than a couple of weeks. He was only able to exercise regularly
over a long period of time, making it a true habit, when he found something
he really loved doing, something that gave him pleasure (in his case, spinning and hiking).

A few days later, I heard on NPR a discussion on whether or
not to ban energy and caffeinated drinks for children. And an expert mentioned that
educating children about how bad those beverages are for them, did very little to
deter them
from consuming those beverages. In short, children don’t really care if something is good or bad
for them. In fact, something “bad’ might have the opposite effect on some children, and motivate
them even more to have it! (And vice versa for “good for you” items).

Then I remembered the study Karen Le Billon mentions in her
book and blog on different cultures and their view of food. When shown a picture
of a chocolate cake and asked what it made them think of, most Americans responded,
“calories”, “guilt”. Most French responded, “celebration”, “pleasure” (while the
rate of obesity is much lower in France, and children consume a lot
more vegetables than in other countries).

You probably have figured out by now where I’m going with
 I contend that pleasure, fun and enjoyment are very powerful forces for durable behavior changes, while restrictions, a sense of duty, obligation and guilt are a sure bet to excess and rebellion.

Talking to children explicitly about health and nutrition concepts can be helpful,
but I think it’s limited. First you can only do it when kids are at least 3 or 4. But teaching kids about food and
balance can start much much earlier, and in a much more fundamental, visceral way in those formative first three years (that’s not to say it can’t be learned also later on, and even as an adult. The brain is very malleable and adaptable that way!) I really think the concept of “good for you” is extremely abstract to children and young people. Perhaps it requires a grasp of your own mortality to understand it. It just isn’t an good motivator. Pleasure, fun and enjoyment are the best, most durable, efficient tools
to help kids build healthy eating habits and have a balanced diet.
(Interestingly, the French always seem to emphasize “balanced nutrition” over “healthy nutrition”.)

The point is not to ban chocolate cake and other so-called “unhealthy”
treats all together (which may lead to binging and making that food all the more attractive for being “forbidden”). Those foods are not so unhealthy if had once in a while.
It’s all about finding balance, and making healthy foods a source of fun and pleasure, by nurturing, developing and educating children’s tastes and palates.

So I say let’s not hide vegetables with sweets (forget the apricot
banana spinach pouches!), and show our kids how delicious vegetables can be. Because
they really are. Let’s not say, “Eat your broccoli because it’s good for you”, but
“eat these rib chards au gratin because they’re yummy. They taste good, and they’re
colorful and fun.”

Introducing the fun component is pretty
easy with children, especially babies and toddlers, they can be so curious and open-minded. Here are some of the ways
I’ve tried to wire-connect “fun-pleasure” with “(good) food” for Pablo:

– By example. We really enjoy planning, shopping for, cooking
and eating our meals, we talk about it, we get excited about it. He definitely feeds
off on that.

– By letting him play with his food (within reason). Especially
from 8 months on, letting him experience food in a sensual, tactile way, different
textures, colors. I let him eat with his fingers to nurture an interest for what’s
in his plate, and a discerning palate. Now he’s starting to find that eating with a fork and spoon is very fun too. Phew!

– By nurturing his sense of smell, getting him to smell herbs,
dishes, produce, fruits. Smell is a huge part of the sense of taste. I get all
excited about smelling a cheese or bread, and so he does too

– By having him participate in growing some things we eat. I
mostly have herbs for now, but plan on doing much more gardening of veggies with
him as I learn more about gardening myself.

– Talking to him about the origins of food, and taking him
to the countryside to see it, or show him in books. He knows apples, pears, oranges
come from trees. He knows milk comes from cows, fish from the sea, etc.

– By having him help with simple kitchen tasks. He had a
blast recently shelling peas and fava beans, tasting them raw.

– Using fun family food rituals (from my childhood, or new made-up ones)

– Talking to him about what foods feel like in his
mouth. If he tastes something very tangy, we do the “tickle in the mouth head
dance”, he giggles and asks for more

Do you have other ways to make food fun and enjoyable? Let me know in the comments!
I’m always looking for new ideas.

So I leave you with this dish from Southern
France, which caught my eye a few months ago. I love
the look of rainbow chards, but never quite knew what to do with the colorful ribs.
This is definitely a good example of making something that is healthy and looks
pretty, but doesn’t taste like much on its own, taste delicious.

Chards ribs au gratin

Adapted from La bonne cuisine du Comté de Nice by Jacques Médecin

Serves about 4 as a side dish

Prep time: 5 mn + 10 mn
Cook time: 1 hr + 5-7 mn

Age for babies: 8-10 months, makes a good finger food cut up in small pieces (it’s very soft when cooked)

1 bunch of rainbow chards
1 onion (peeled, left whole)
3 garlic cloves
1 small bunch of Italian parsley
1/2 bay leaf
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 sprig of rosemary
1 anchovy fillet
2 tbsp flour
Olive oil
Grated cheese of choice
Salt & pepper

In a large pot, put 2 quarts of water with 1 garlic clove (whole), the onion. Tie together (or place in a small cloth bag) 1/2 of parsley, bay leaf, rosemary, and thyme, and add it in. Bring to a boil and simmer on low heat for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, “peel” the ribs. First separate the ribs from the leaves. (Recipes abound for chard leaves, you can boil the leaves for about 10 minutes in a large pot of water, drain well and eat either hot, creamed, or cold with vinaigrette, or you could try the rainbow chards cod brandade I blogged about.)

An optional step is to take the strings out of the ribs, as follows: take the stem, break it so the hollow part goes inward, and as you pull, you will see the strings, remove them with a small knife. Keep doing this every few inches on the stems to remove most of the strings. See the picture above to get a visual on this.

If you choose not to do that, just cut up the ribs in 2-3 inch pieces.

Then finely chop the remaining parsley and set aside. Mince the 2 remaining garlic cloves.

Put the rib pieces in the broth for 10 minutes, and drain. Discard the onion and herbs.

With a mortar and pestle, grind together the minced garlic and anchovy fillet.

In a small saucepan, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil with 2 tbsp of flour, stir with a wooden spoon until you obtain a “roux” (brown mixture). Add the garlic/anchovy paste and 4 tbsp of minced parsley. Mix well.  Add 2 ladles of the broth used to cook the ribs, and let simmer on low heat, stirring often, until you get a thick sauce.

Place the ribs in a baking dish, pour the sauce over them, and sprinkle a bit of grated cheese (Swiss or Parmesan).

Broil for 5-7 minutes, until golden on top.

Celeriac sunchoke soup

There’s something magical about soup. Something about finding a perfect osmosis of ingredients. About creating such an interesting dish, in color, in texture, in flavor, such a delicate dish from the rough fruits of the earth. The French word “veloutĂ©” for soups says it all (basically a soup that’s blended and smooth). It means “velvety“. How inviting. Sensual even. 

In more practical considerations, it is such a great way to start a meal, it makes the perfect vegetable first course, so easy to make, and convenient (you can make ahead, freeze). Yet you can get really creative with the combinations, with the accompaniments, from crĂšme fraĂŻche or heavy cream, to coconut cream to pesto. Infinite possibilities. It has been quite the fun food for Pablo as he has learned to drink from his bowl. And a perfect way to introduce new flavors, new vegetables. (With the warm season, I’ll be making more and more cold soups as well.) 
So sometimes I share poetry, sometimes inner ramblings, sometimes parenting thoughts. And sometimes, I like to share lists. Because they’re kind of useful, right? So I’d love to share 10 soups we’ve really enjoyed recently. Nine + 1 recipe here. In no particular order.

… and this celeriac sunchoke soup recipe I’m sharing today.

Do you have any great soup recipes or links to share? Please do so in the comments! Let’s form a soup exchange! 🙂

Hope you have a lovely week, scroll down further for Pablo’s menu this week…

Celeriac sunchoke soup with cilantro hazelnut pesto

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Age for babies: 6 months and up (skipping the pesto at first).

1 shallot, minced

1 tbsp butter

1 celery root, peeled, cut up

1 pound of sunchokes, peeled, cut up

6 cups of water

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

Handful of fresh cilantro

3 tbsp of hazelnut oil

In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook over medium heat until translucent (don’t let them brown).

Add the water, celery root, sunchokes, salt and pepper, bring to a simmer, cover and cook over medium low for about 20-25 mn, until the vegetables are tender. 

Puree the soup with an immersion blender or in a blender until very smooth.

Put the cilantro and hazelnut oil in a small food processor and pulse until cilantro is finely chopped. 

Pour the soup in bowls, and with a small spoon, stir in some of the cilantro pesto. Add additional salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Cheeses of the week: Following French tradition, I always offer a little bit of cheese at the end of every meal, between the main course and dessert. Rotation this week: Brie de Meaux, Goat brie, Petit Basque (sheep).

DessertsAt lunch, I offer a fruit yogurt (or plain yogurt with fresh fruit), but at night, I prefer sticking to plain yogurt (regular homemade* whole milk, sheep’s milk, goat’s milk and Greek yogurt for extra protein) to avoid too much sugar before bedtime.

If you would like a particular recipe on the menu, feel free to contact me! (I marked with a * the recipes that will be the topic of upcoming posts).


Appetizer / Finger Foods: Cucumber in creamy tarragon yogurt sauce
Main course: Ham & hard boiled egg (one of the pink ones from Easter :-)),  flageolets beans French-style (leftover from Easter lunch!)

GoĂ»ter (4pm snack) – Chocolate pudding

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Butternut leek fennel soup
Main course: Buttermilk-brined chicken thighs, fingerling potatoes


Appetizer / Finger Foods: Boiled leeks with vinaigrette
Main course: Mushroom prosciutto Comté cheese tartine*

GoĂ»ter – Pear-blueberry compote

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Green bean, cauliflower, tomato salad
Main course: Bison patty and creamy rosemary carrots baked in parcel*


Appetizer / Finger Foods: Grated carrots French-style
Main course: Trying this harvest (sweet potato, chards, onion) tart recipe found on Food Loves Writing

GoĂ»ter – Apple-mint compote

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Spring pea salad
Main course: Albacore with avocado and cilantro, baked in a parcel*


Appetizer / Finger Foods: Leftover grated carrots French-style
Main course: Sardines, baby bok choy puree

GoĂ»ter – Mango compote

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Artichokes with vinaigrette
Main course: Oven roasted mustard pork tenderloin, peas & carrots jardiniĂšre


We’ll see what good things we find to eat! Perhaps urchin and oysters at the San Diego Farmer’s Market?