Friday, July 31, 2009

a Julie and Julia giveaway…

“Just speak very loudly and quickly, and state your position with utter conviction, as the French do, and you’ll have a marvelous time!”
~ Julia Child, My Life in France

To celebrate my one-year blog anniversary and the opening of the movie “Julie & Julia” next Friday, August 7th I am offering a feasting on…gluten-free pixels giveaway.

An unknown benefactor sent me a lovely paperback copy of the movie tie-in book, My Life in France by Julia Child. Since I already own a well-worn copy of this book, I wanted to offer a copy to one of my food blog readers.

This is one of the books upon which the movie was based.
When Julia Child first arrived in France 1948 with her husband, Paul, she spoke no French, knew nothing about the country itself and didn't know the first thing about cooking.
But as she dove into French culture, buying food at local markets and taking classes at the Cordon Bleu, her life changed forever. Julia's unforgettable story unfolds with the spirit so key to her success as a cook and teacher and writer, brilliantly capturing one of the most endearing American personalities of the last fifty years.

I loved this book when I first read when it was published in 2006, and loved it even more in my re-reads. It tells in Julia’s own words, the story of her years in France where she fell in love with food and found her true calling. There are many wonderful stories in this book that the movie does not cover and any cook would be inspired by her spirit, determination and sheer love of cooking.

How to enter: Just submit a comment to this post sharing your favorite Julia Child memory or a story about a recipe that you cooked from her any of her books or TV shows.
The winning “memory of Julia and her recipes” will be published on my blog and win a copy of this movie tie-in paperback book, My Life in France.

This contest give-away comments closes on 12:00 am CST Friday, August 7, 2009.
You will be able to continue commenting, but any comments after this time will not be included in the give-away.

Winner: The winner will be chosen, by an impartial chef-writer friend of mine (with no input from me) who also has cooked her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
The winner will be announced on Saturday, August 8, 2009.

The winner will then need to e-mail me at and supply their pertinent information to I can send their prize to them.
This contest giveaway is open to all no matter your location in the world.

Get writing and post a comment soon, as you just have a week.
and naturellement...

Bon appétit…!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

drawing from Julia…

"It's a shame to be caught up in something that doesn't make you absolutely tremble with joy." ~ Julia Child

Julia cooking in her tiny Parisian kitchen.
Julia in on the balcony at 81, rue de L’Université. ~ these images by Paul Child

One of my favorite stories in the book “My Life in France” by Julia Child, is the part where she relates how her husband, Paul, a gifted photographer and artist, took many dramatic and beautiful images of her during the time that they live in France.

Paul Child also took many close-up photographs of Julia’s hands as she cut, diced, sliced her way into culinary history. These images were translated into line drawings by the talented illustrator Sidonie Coryn for her premiere cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Julia writes in “My Life in France”:
"Paul and I spent many hours doing a photo sessions…making photographs for the illustrator. We had fun, just the two of us, tinkering with food and camera.”

When the Alfred A. Knopf Company first published Julia’s first cookbook effort in 1961, there was no such thing as splashy full color food-porn images as we have today in our cookbooks. However, these superbly drawn images make this book a true classic masterpiece and now a piece of culinary history.

I bought some beautiful artichokes from my local Italian produce market this morning and I wanted to make Julia’s recipe for Artichauts à la Buerre Fondu au Citron for a light dinner.

I looked in my 1961 copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking for the recipe and I was so very impressed by the detailed illustrations to guide me through this dish. As I read, I thought about how these expertly drawn black line drawings probably had helped thousands of other dedicated cooks prepare this very same dish for nearly 50 years.
What an inspiring way to begin cooking this evening...!

Artichauts à la Buerre Fondu au Citron
(Artichokes with melted butter with Lemon)


2 fresh globe artichokes
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and chilled

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Kosher salt and freshly ground of white pepper to taste.


Trim the artichokes for cooking.
Lay each on its side and cut off about an inch or so off the top, break off the small leaves near the base, and cut off all but an inch of the stem. Snip off the ends of the leaves all around the artichoke with scissors to rid it of any sharp points.
Rinse it well under cold water.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.

Gently boil the artichokes, uncovered, for about half an hour. When the leaves pull out easily and the bottoms are tender when pierced with a knife, they are finished cooking.

While the artichokes are cooking, prepare the lemon butter. Gently reduce the lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a small saucepan. Over low heat, whisk in the chilled butter pieces, one at a time, until your sauce is creamy.

Remove from heat, and serve in warmed ramekins.

The edible parts of each leaf are nearest their base. I scrape the soft pulp against my teeth after dipping in the tangy rich buerre fondu au citron. So when you serve the artichokes, provide a large bowl for the inedible part of the leaves.
I love this dish.

So fresh...
So elegant...
So French...
So Julia...
So simple.
So delicious...

Bon appétit…!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

ice cream Sunday…fresh peach frozen yogurt

“The pleasures of the table, and of life, are infinite -
toujours bon appetit!"
— Julia Child

Yesterday morning I bought two baskets of the most fragrant and beautiful ripe yellow and white peaches from her local Farmer’s Market. When I got home, I dusted off my trusty Cuisinart ICE-20 Frozen Ice Cream maker and popped it’s freeze-bowl in my freezer overnight. I have been waiting for the local fruits to come into their best and these beautiful peaches were destined for ice cream or a frozen yogurt.

Since I had several different containers of different types of fresh yogurts on hand… fresh peach frozen yogurt was on list to make this morning. The peaches sat in their bowl on my vintage kitchen table all night and this morning when I came down my kitchen was filled with their sweet perfume.

fresh peach frozen yogurt

1 cup of Vanilla low Fat Yogurt (I used Traders Point Creamery because it is locally produced without hormones.)

½ cup of plain thick 2% Greek Yogurt (I use Trader Joes’s)

4 medium fragrant ripe Peaches, sliced in cubes. (You can puree the peaches it if you don’t want the chunks but I like the peach chunks. I also catch and peach juice in a bowl as I am slicing the peaches and add it to the mixture.)

1/8 to 1/4 cup of Heavy Cream (I used Country Dairy as it is also locally produced without hormones.)

2 tbsps Sugar OR 2 tbsps Agave Nectar ( I used Agave Nectar)

1 tsp pure Vanilla Extract

After mixing the above ingredients, refrigerate for one hour.

Pour the chilled mixture into your ice cream maker and follow the directions for your particular model. For my Cuisinart ICE-20, I let it mix for 30-40 minutes.

After the delicious mixture has set up, I spoon it from the freezer bowl to a thick plastic freezable container and put into the freezer for several hours until it hardens.

My results were smooth, creamy with a natrual tang from the yogurt and soft sweetness from the peaches and the Agave Nectar. Best of al the taste was fresh, fragrant and each cool spoonful was a precious bit of summer, frozen in time for a moment, then melting on my tongue.

I am really excited about all the new crops of fruits as they come into season.
In that spirit, I hope to bring you a new adventure in making ice cream, sorbet and frozen yogurts every Sunday…so stay tuned.

Friday, July 24, 2009

fast food Friday...Calumet Fisheries

I have been taking some short day trips from my suburban home to discover for myself the fast food eateries that have become urban favorites and legendary places to get great fresh food fast in Chicagoland.

I hope to feature local, the one-of and the stand-alone places where you can get delicious “faster” food perfect for a summer meal on the go.
Places that are a bit gritty and have a history.
Places that my parents and grandparents ate at and enjoyed.
Places that have a reputation and a following of people that appreciate the “real deal” in “real” fast food.

This week, my travels took me to Calumet Fisheries located on the west bank of the Calumet River on east 95th Street just about a mile from Lake Michigan.
When I read the sign in the store: “This is our one and only location. We have no other stores”, I know that I had found my first true candidate for my “fast food Friday” series.

According to their web site historical facts, “in 1948, brothers-in-law Sid Kotlick & Len Toll opened Calumet Fisheries. Their dream was to serve the freshest, tastiest fish on the South Side. 60 Years later, Calumet Fisheries is still run by the Kotlick-Toll family.” I was interested to taste and see if they still served the tastiest fish on the south side.

Calumet Fisheries sits in a part of Chicago that is somewhat less the picturesque. The strictly take-out restaurant is housed in a small, squat white shack-like building with a red shingle roof with signage that fills one wall sits next to entrance to the rust-colored 95th Bridge that is covered with random graffiti. Across the street to the north are the rusted remnants of structures of past industrial glories.

Down the hill behind the shack, across the river is Crowley’s Yacht Yard where you can admire beautiful boats in dry dock and watch the occasional boater in their spiffy new cruisers powering their way up river into Lake Michigan.

Yet after a minute or two of studying the setting, I realized that this unobtrusive fish shack is in a perfect place to do what it wishes to do…serve no frills food with the best taste.

In spite if the gritty industrial setting outside, Calumet Fisheries is clean and pristine in side. When I walked in all I could smell was the wonderful fragrance of really, really fresh fish with a delightful hint of smokiness.

I enjoyed a warm welcome from Carlos Rosas that was more than happy to show me the smokehouse directly out the kitchen door, explain the smoking process, the sources of the fish and seafood and artfully arrange the beautiful smoked salmon, trout and shrimp in the cold display cases so I could photograph them. Merci beaucoup, Carlos…!

As I spoke with Carlos, I noticed that there were many framed photos, posters, magazine covers and news items hung on the walls that documented the history and the fame that Calumet Fisheries has had over the years. The most recent of which was a signed poster from Anthony Bourdain when he was here with his crew filming a spot for “No Reservations” on the Travel Channel.

I found it interesting Calumet Fisheries has been in business since 1928. The building used to be on 92nd Street, but many years ago it was carried three blocks downriver by a scow and now sits at the foot of the 95th Street Bridge. Trivia buffs with note that this is the bridge Dan Aykroyd jumped off at the beginning of “The Blues Brothers” movie.
How cool is that…?

After my tour and a round of many photos, my order was ready.
As there is no seating in this take-out only spot, many customers eat right in front of Calumet Fisheries sitting right on the curb or in their cars to devour the frsh fishie goodness ASAP...!

I took my delicious smelling grub across the 95th Street Bridge to Calumet Park and found a spot to park near Lake Michigan. The brown paper sacked smoked salmon, shrimp and trout and the fried shrimp dinner made for the perfect feast that I set out on the front seat of my car. They were indeed my perfect table setting without a white linen cloth, the smokey sweey fresh fish aroma was as fragrant as from any 4-star joint and the lake kindly provided the perfect ambiance for a seafood meal with a location that would be any restaurant designer’s dream.

The fried shrimp had a crispy cornmeal like coating that was very crunch, well drained and not at all greasy. The crust kept the shrimp inside warm, firm yet creamy and had a slight hint of peppery spice and made each “ca-runchy” bite quite heavenly.

I enjoyed a tasting all of all my smoked items, but decided to re-wrap them and store them in the cooler that I had brought to enjoy later for dinner.

Although I do love my horseradish and tomato based cocktail sauce, I have to say that I enjoyed the thinner hot sauce for dipping that they provied, not only the fried shrimp, but on the smoked shrimp and fish, as well.

As I drove back home, the smokey fishy aroma clung to my finger even though I had washed them with some of my bottled water. It took some will power to stop myself from munching on them as the smell was truly enticing.
The term “finger licking good” may have been made popular by “The Colonel”, but I have to say it fits appropriately for the food from Calumet Fisheries.
I will return very soon for smoked fish, as I am promised smoked chubs and whitefish.

If you are craving wonderfully fresh fish, smoked with the sweetness of cherry wood and white oak, your palate will be richly rewarded for your efforts to arrive at this gritty outpost of real fast food eateries.

I urge you to pay Calumet Fisheries a visit.
In fact…

Calumet Fisheries
3259 E 95th St
Chicago, IL 60617
(773) 933-9855

P.S. My review has been added to the Calumet fisheries page.

I am very grateful for all the views on this post...
I would be happy for your comments to tell me what you think.
Merci beaucoup in advance...!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

foie de veau…approach with abandon…

"Cooking is like love - it should be approached with abandon." ~ Julia Child

I am sorry to be so absent once again…this time it was not at all my choice.
My computer decided to act up and be dead for a few days after several power outages to my area.
Hopefully, now all my computer woes are under control for the time being.
I have had a lot of time to cook, write and read and re-read some fave books.

In anticipation of the August 7th release of the movie “Julie and Julia”, I decided to re-read both books on which the movie was based on two books, Julie and Julia and My Life in France.

These books have both touched and encourage me so much when I first read them in 2006, I wanted to read them again before I saw the movie. For those of you have not seen it, here it the trailer for Julie & Julia: The Movie.

As I sailed through my re-read of Julie and Julia , an entry on page 220 stopped me cold and made me very hungry for a taste of France that Julia did so well…it was when Julie Powell described the results of Julia’s recipe for Foie de Veau à la Moutarde. Julie writes “The crunch of the mustard-spiked crust somehow brings the unctuous smooth richness of the liver into sharp relief. It is like the silky soul of steak.”

I was seduced by Julie’s delicious description, and my food memory of the Foie de Veau that I had eaten at Brasserie Le Grillardin in Paris was suddenly wide wake and begging for another taste of this dish.

As Julia has said…"For land’s sakes, go and cook, girl.”

At that point, I really had no choice but to visit my favorite butcher this afternoon for some liver. He was more than happy to carve a few lovely ½” slices of the calf’s livers that just arrived this morning. In 15 minutes I happily driving back home, humming an Edith Piaf tune and mentally going over the recipe for Foie de Veau à la Moutarde from page 407 of my well-warn copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I also was thinking of what I needed to go to adapt Julia’s recipe a bit so that it was gluten-free.

Foie de Veau à la Moutarde
Calves liver encrusted with mustard, herbs and bread crumbs ~ recipe from
Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Julia writes:

“This is an appealing way to prepare liver. It is sautéed very briefly to brown lightly, then painted with mustard, herbes, rolled in fresh bread crumbs, basted with melted butter and set under a hot broiler to brown the crumbs.

The preliminary sautéing and crumbing may be done several hours in advance of the final cooking, which takes about 5 minutes. For this recipe, the liver is sliced thicker so it will not cook too quickly.”


3 slices of Calf’s Liver cut ½” thick, outside filament removed

kosher Salt

freshly ground White Pepper

½ cup flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Flour)

2 tbsps Butter

1 tbsp Oil (I used Grape Seed oil)

2 tbsps Dijon Mustard

1 tbsp finely minced shallots

2 tbsp finely minced parsley

freshly ground White Pepper

2 cups fine bread crumbs (I made mine from Whole Foods Gluten-Free Sandwich Bread

A heavy skillet

Serves 3

Season the liver with salt and pepper, dredge in flour, and sautée for 1 minute on each side in very hot Oil and 1 tbsp of the Butter. The slices should be very lightly browned and slightly stiffened, but not cooked through. Remove to a dish.

In a small bowl, beat the mustard with the shallots, parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Drop by drop, slowly beat in the liver sautéing fat to make a mayonnaise like cream.
Paint the liver slices with this mixture.

One by one, lay the liver slices in the bread crumbs, pat the adhering crumbs in place and shake off the excess. Transfer liver slices on a plate and refrigerate until ready to serve. I find that this step helps the crust set up and it adheres better through the cooking process.

For service, heat broiler to 500 degrees.
Arrange liver slices on the broiler pan.
Baste them with melted butter.
Place the pan so that it is 2 inches from the broiler heat and brown for a minute or two.
Turn the slices, baste with butter and brown the other side, about 1 minute.

Transfer to a heated platter and serve.

I plated my finished Foie de Veau à la Moutarde on a bed of the French lettuces and a julienne of my newly ripened grape tomatoes that I sprinkled with a touch of homemade sweet Tarragon Vinaigrette.

I agree with every word of Julie Powell’s description.
And for me it was a taste of heaven…a taste of France…
Insert Julia’s voice here…Bon appetit…!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

kitchen tip Tuesday…spinning drier greens

One of my favorite kitchen tools is my salad spinner, especially in the summer months when I grow most of my own lettuces or buy the locally grown beauties at my Farm Market.

After a good rinse and a soak in ice-cold water to clean and crisp them, I drain the lettuces in the sturdy basket provided by my OXO Salad Spinner.

After a spin or two, most of the greens, especially the more delicate micro-greens still need to be blotted well with a paper towel to make them ready to allow salad dressing to cling.
I found that during the blotting process, I sometimes tear some of the tender greens. Not usually a problem for a salad for my own meals, but it can be a bit annoying when I am using the greens to style a food photo or make a lovely presentation for guests.

I now use a two-step method to dry my greens and keep even the most fragile ones whole.

After their bath, I take the greens for an initial whirl in the salad spinner.
For the second spin, I add two or three crumpled paper towels and spin again.

After this second spin, I am rewarded with drier greens, intact and beautiful and ready to grace a salad plate for company or their close-up shot.

Monday, July 13, 2009

bonne journée de bastille...!

Tomorrow is Bastille Day, Fête Nationale in France, and Francophiles everywhere, like myself are celebrating the day from the bottom of our hearts with a happines that perhaps only a crazy Francophile can know.
One way that I am celebrating is by cooking the recipe, "Foie de Veau à la Moutarde” from Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
(I promise to report on that recipe a few days.)

Have a wonderful sun filled day and please go and do something French...

Munch a baguette with luscious rich French butter and crunchy sea salt from the coast of Normandie,

Sniff and sip a gorgeous French wine that you have been saving,

Pretend you are in your favorite café with your favorite waiter telling you the spicy news of the quartier...
(Salut, cher Patrick at Café La Corona...!)

Dab your favorite French perfume on your wrists and neck (and spray it all around your home if you wish),

Tie on your favorite Hermès or Chanel scarf , if only over your black tee and jeans with your Repetto ballerine flats,

Wear your black silk with white piping Chanel pajamas adorned well-worn pearls to bed and dream of Paris,

Watch the Tour de France and cheer your favorite team,

Speak French all day without exception,

Call or email all your friends in France,

Slowly relish a wonderful French cheese or aged saussion,

Cook a new and unusual French recipe, if just for yourself,

Repair to your atelier (studio) and brood, then create something scathingly original,

Savor a decadent and rich dessert (like the Tarte poire créme anglais below)
without regret (if just for today),

Watch your favorite French films all evening
(it will be Amélie, Edith Piaf and Coco Chanel for me),

Sing La Marseillaise

or your favorite French songs loudly and with gusto and not caring who hears you...

And above all…
Be happy in the day…! ! !

Bonne Journée de Bastille...!
Happy Bastille day…!


What ways will you be celebrating Bastille Day…?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

the tomato as art…

Today my new crop of small grape tomatoes wowed me..!

The four plants on my terrace garden produced a bountiful early harvest that I planned to use for salads and oven roast the rest with garlic, basil and olive oil for a side to my grilled pork loin.

But before I sliced and diced these ruby-red perfectly shaped tomatoes, I was inspired to photograph them with some props that I had be anxious to use.
I wanted to show the simple beauty of these elegant fruits in a somewhat different manner. It was a languid, sunny Sunday afternoon and the light in my studio was just right as I set up my favorite glossy black table for a shoot of my favorite fruits.

Tomato culture and history ran through my head as I set up for the shoot.
Thomas Jefferson was a pioneer in tomato culture. He documented planting this relatively unfamiliar vegetable in his kitchen garden from 1809, the first summer of his retirement, until his death in 1826. In his "Notes on the State of Virginia" in 1782, Jefferson noted that tomatoes
were now grown in many Virginia gardens.

A New World species, the first tomatoes grown in Europe were called “love apples” because they were related botanically to the mandrake or “love plant” which was noted in the Bible for its reputed aphrodisiac qualities.

In 1553, Swiss naturalist Konrad Gessner depicted the small-fruited “love apple” in a watercolor, and identified it in Latin as “poma amoris” and “pomme d'amour in French. They are similar to the small-fruit tomatoes that were grown mostly for ornament.

For me, these sweet, brilliant red tomatoes are ideal for adding to salads and sauces or simply snacking as I water my garden. But before I gobbled them down, they were perfect models for a sunny afternoon of photography.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

baby girl Elberta grows up…

Freedom is nothing else but a chance to be better. ~Albert Camus

My first tomato that appeared in my urban-suburban garden one month ago, the heirloom Elberta Girl, has also been the first tomato to fully ripen on the vine on June 29th.
Last year my first tomato was ripe and ready to eat on the 4th of July.
I beat that date by 5 days this year. That is not a huge margin, but it was a seemed like a major victory for my tiny urban-suburban garden after all the work I have done.

Elberta girl will join my Independence Day festivities as part of a salad with my terrace French lettuces and Snap and Snow peas dressed with a soft, light Dijon vinaigrette.

How is your garden growing…?

What are you making to eat this summer weekend…?

The journey is the reward.. ~Taoist saying

My 4th of July celebration has certainly changed this year from what I am used to doing to celebrate this All-American holiday, but I intend to find great joy in the little treasures that surround me.

I wish everyone a great Independence Day from the USA…and I wish you all a wonderful warm and blue-skied summer weekend filled with lush, juicy tomatoes to eat with those you love…!