A sweet custard recipe

“How was your week?”, people ask. But are they ready for an honest, full answer?

Because for me, it was…

A busy week. Made of work deadlines, toddler activities, juggling writing, cooking, photographing between bath times, meal times and nap times.

A grateful week, for the precious help of my mother and support of good friends.

A stressful, anxious week, with the anticipation of big life changes and all the daunting effort, work and energy they require.

A flavorful week, rich with the bounty of summer produce and local farmers.

A hopeful week, with faith in the fruits of difficult decisions and doing our best in the present.

A sad week, for the helplessness felt in the face of the struggle, pain and suffering of loved ones.

An inspiring week, with lots of ideas and connections, things to express, to explore.

A tired, humbling week, longing for sleep and rest, a reality check that my brain and body cannot function non-stop.

A joyful week, of reaping other fruits, the things Pablo has learned without my teaching, the awe and wonder of watching grow what I sowed. A spontaneous thank you, or gesture to share food, a rythm or a song, a new skill, a desire to help, a willingness to try new things, a wish to connect with others, and sprouts of empathy in his demeanor.

Such are our weeks and lives, aren’t they? Never just one thing. They are in our image, complex, mixed, impossible to define. Therein lies their beauty. They can’t be labeled, or dismissed for being one thing, these nuggets, these increments of our lives.

So with the acknowledgement of last week, ready or not, we begin a new one. With a sweet treat, and a menu, to get us on our way…

It has been a while since I’ve shared our weekly menu, and a while since I shared a dessert recipe, so I shall fix that with one post. Crème Caramel, which is basically a cold caramel custard, is a classic dessert in France. You can easily find it already-made in the yogurt section of any supermarket. All schools offer it once in a while for dessert to children (you know, French schools serving a daily four course lunch to children and all). It is a combination of such simple ingredients (milk, eggs, sugar), makes a great sweet treat.
And then I came across the photo of a verrine (pretty edible things presented in a glass, basically) on a French website, and decided to simplify it greatly to create an easy, yet delicious and crowd-pleasing dessert perfect for a summer (or any season really) afternoon, or for a dinner party.

Smoked tea infused crème caramel, & a verrine of shortbread cookie, stone fruit, yogurt, and smoked caramel custard

For the crème caramel:

Makes 4-6 ramekins, depending on size (lower, shallow ramekins tend to set better)

Age for babies: 12 months and up with the honey, in very small quantity.  I gave this to Pablo for the first time at 27 months (and it was love at first taste!)

2 cups of whole milk

1 vanilla bean (or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)

3 eggs

3 tbsp honey (heat it up to make it liquidy if needed)

In a pan, combine the milk and vanilla (if using a bean, scrape the seeds off into the milk, and put the bean in the milk as well). Bring to a slow boil, cover, and remove from heat. Let the vanilla infuse for 5-10 minutes.

Preheat the oven at 400°F.

Pour the hot caramel into the bottom of the ramekins, just enough to coat the bottom. It will harden and cool quickly. (*Note that I was able to keep this caramel covered in the fridge for a couple of months. I just reheated in the microwave to liquify).

Then, whisk the eggs in a bowl, add the honey and whisk until combined.

Remove the vanilla bean from the milk, (strain the milk through a fine mesh if desired), and pour the hot milk over the eggs, all at once, and whisk vigorously for a minute or so.

Pour the milk/egg mixture over the caramel in the ramekins.

Place the ramekins in a baking dish, and pour some hot water in the dish, so it goes up about 3/4 of the way up the sides of the ramekins.

Place in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until set. You will know when you tap on your baking dish, and the middle of the custards is no longer liquid (though it will giggle a little.)

Remove from the oven and the hot water bath, and let cool. Then place in the fridge for 1 hour or more.

When ready to serve, place a plate on top of the ramekins, hold on to both and turn the plate over, shaking gently until you hear the soft “schlug” of the custard coming off the ramekin. Lift the ramekin, and pour the leftover caramel at the bottom of the ramekin over the custard.

For the verrine:

Age for babies: Omitting the crème caramel, I would give this as an afternoon snack for example from 8-10 months (yogurt, cookie, fruit mixed together and set to rest for 1 hr, so the yogurt softens the cookie).

1 plain shortbread cookie

1 spoonful of plain (full fat if possible) Greek yogurt (this one is by far the best I’ve had in the US, by the way)

1 spoonful of European style, plain yogurt, with cream on top preferably

Seasonal fruit of choice: here I used plum and nectarine 

1 bite or two of crème caramel

In a small bowl, mix together the Greek yogurt and regular yogurt with some of the cream on top.

At the bottom of a glass, break/crumble the shortbread cookie.

Add the yogurt, the cut up fruit on top, and then a spoonful of the crème caramel.

Note: You can make these ahead and leave them in the fridge until ready to serve. It gives the yogurt time to imbibe the cookie, which makes the whole thing even more scrumptious!!

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.

Easy Shrimp & lime recipe

Oh the guilt, of this week spent away from this space. Alas, I didn’t make my mid-week recipe post… 🙁 Work has been overwhelming, and I am actually pretty grateful I was able to keep up with our planned menu (By the way, if you want to have a look at some of the recipes I try during the week and our other adventures in food, join me on Instagram, I will be sharing even more now that we set the clock forward… later daylight = prettier pictures!)

I am working on a longer post for this mid-week, but in the meantime, I’ll replace some of my talking with some listening! (Always a good thing.) I would love to hear your thoughts on these (I’ll start…)

What is one of your favorite recipe/post from this blog?

What food blogs do you love?

So many. Check out some of the blogs on my Blog Love column on the right!

What recipe you’ve never tried, would you love to finally make?

Puff pastry, popovers, homemade cheese.

How much time do you spend cooking on a typical weekday (for all meals)?

60-90 minutes

Besides the week’s menu (scroll down for that), I wanted to share this very easy and delicious shrimp recipe found in a family cooking magazine I got while queuing at a French supermarket during my last visit there (it was advertised as: “Our best recipes for less than 1 euro per person!”)

Hope you enjoy!

Sautéed shrimp with lime & coconut rice

From the French magazine “Best of Gourmand”

Serves 3

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time : 35 minutes

Age for babies: 12 months and up

12-15 large shrimp (depending on size)

1 lime

1 rosemary sprig

1 sprig of lemon thyme

2 cups vegetable broth

1 1/2 cup of rice of choice (I used Jasmine)

1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk

2 tbsp sunflower oil (coconut oil would be good too, I think!)

A few drops of sesame oil

Salt & pepper

Rinse the rice. In a large pot, sauté the rice with 1 tbsp of oil, until translucent. Pour the broth over it, and cook over medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed. Then add the coconut milk little by little, stirring constantly, until absorbed. (By then, rice should be tender. If not, add a tbsp or two of hot water or coconut milk, until rice is tender.) Add salt & pepper to taste, stir and cover to keep warm.

Wash and dry the lime, slice them. Wash and dry the herbs, and pick the leaves off the stems.

In a frying pan, heat the remaining sunflower oil and sesame oil. Add the shrimp, lime slices, rosemary and lemon thyme leaves, and cook over high heat, stirring often, about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle with salt & pepper.

Serve immediately, over the coconut rice.

A black bean bisque, and our weekly menu

Do you plan your weekly meals too? Do you think it would make your life easier? Would you try it for even a couple of times a week?

I wanted to share this very easy soup which can be served hot or cold. Perfect for a busy night. We had some leftover, so we enjoyed it hot the first night, and chilled the next day. Delicious either way.

Wishing you a summery, flavorful week. Scroll down past the recipe for our week’s menu!

Cilantro black bean bisque, with goat cheese toast

Serves 4

Prep time: 20 min

Cook time: 15 min

Age for babies: 8-10 months

1 tbsp coconut oil

1 large shallot

1 clove of garlic

2 tsp dried oregano

1 can of black beans

1/2 tsp cumin

1 1/2 cups vegetable broth

1 tbsp sherry vinegar

5-6 sprigs of fresh cilantro

Optional garnish if served hot:

1 toasted slice of bread

Finely chop the shallot and garlic. Melt the coconut oil in a skillet. Add the shallot, garlic, oregano and cumin and cook over medium heat until the shallot is translucent (don’t let it brown), about 8 minutes.

Rinse the black beans.

Add the beans to the shallot mixture, and stir to coat the beans. Add the broth and cook for about 15 minutes on medium low.

Pour into your blender, add the vinegar and cilantro (leaves only), and whirl for a good long while, until very smooth.

Serve HOT:

Pour into 4 bowls.

Toast 4 slices of bread, spread some creamy goat cheese on top, and gently deposit on top of the soup.

OR COLD:

Let cool completely and chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or overnight. Give it another whirl in the blender before serving with some crumbled goat cheese on top.
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: Comté, Port Salut (cow cheese), and a lot of goat cheese these days, thanks to my collaboration with Vermont Creamery and the Kids & Kids campaign. I’m happy to have a continuing “goat cheese series” of recipes, so look for that in the coming weeks! 
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).


MONDAY

Lunch – OUT at Le Pain Quotidien.

Goûter (4pm snack) – Donut peach or plum

Dinner
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Authentic Greek salad
Main course: Chicken basquaise (with all the summer vegetables!)

TUESDAY

Lunch
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Chickpea feta cilantro salad
Main course: Beef patty, butter lettuce with fresh herbs

Goûter – Strawberry rhubarb compote

Dinner
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Corn soup*
Main course: Cauliflower stuffed peppers from Food Loves Writing

WEDNESDAY

Lunch
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Grated carrots French-style

Main courseQuails eggs en cocotte with smoked salmon, leek and zucchini from La Tartine Gourmande

Goûter – Apricots

Dinner
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Lentil shallot salad
Main course: Braised fennel with saffron and tomato from Green Kitchen Stories

THURSDAY – Happy Fourth!

Lunch
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Cold zucchini with mint vinaigrette
Main course: Avocado sardine tartine

Goûter – A special treat, this lovely peach gratin soufflé

Dinner
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Watermelon Gazpacho with crumbled Feta
Main course: Oven-roasted ribs and blue potatoes (to cover the red, white and blue! ;-))

FRIDAY

Lunch

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Roasted apricots & burrata salad
Main course: Ham with cucumber fennel slaw

Goûter – Cherries

Dinner 
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Artichoke bottoms with green parsley sauce
Main course: Soft boiled egg with mouillettes of Vanilla Bean Blog’s delightful cardamom flatbread

SATURDAY

Lunch
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Eggplant caviar*
Main course: Leek Feta Quiche


Goûter – Watermelon fig granita from Fig & Fauna

Dinner
Appetizer / Finger Foods: Endive, blue cheese salad
Main course: Clams in fennel shallot broth from Cannelle & Vanille

Pastel Romanesco salad

With much excitement (because we get excited about such things…), our CSA basket brought us a couple of heads of Romanesco broccoli last week. This Madonna-reminiscent bright green vegetable is somewhere between broccoli and cauliflower, with a very subtle flavor and pleasant texture, soft and crunchy at the same time.

Its vivid beauty inspired me to improvise something colorful and fresh for lunch, in the way of this salad, which I am sharing with you today, along with the week’s menu (scroll down below the recipe for it.)

Wishing you a wonderful, fragrant week.

Romanesco purple potato smoked salmon salad

Serves 4

Age for babies: 8-10 months (Romanesco florets make a great finger food)

Prep time: 15 min

Cook time: 25 min

1 head of Romanesco broccoli, florets separated and washed

4-5 purple potatoes

4 slices of smoked salmon

Fresh dill

Half a lemon

Dressing:

1 shallot, finely minced

A few sprigs of fresh dill

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

5 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp hazelnut oil

1 tsp mustard

Salt & pepper

Place whole blue potatoes in a pot of cold salted water. Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium and cook until tender, about 15 minutes depending on their size.

Bring another large pot of water to a boil.

Meanwhile, separate the Romanesco florets and wash them.

Cook the Romanesco florets in boiling water for about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.

Let potatoes and Romanesco cool down to lukewarm.

Combine all the ingredients of the dressing.

Peel potatoes and slice. Place potatoes and florets in a bowl, sprinkle with fresh dill, pour dressing and mix well (but gently).

Serve in salad plates or bowl, adding small pieces of smoked salmon on top, and some more dill if desired. Drizzle lightly with lemon.