Food as Pleasure

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Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity. ~Voltaire

Food is a necessity of life. It is also one of life’s greatest pleasures. Good nutrition doesn’t need to be boring. The simplest ingredients, if fresh and of good quality, can be transformed into quick and delicious meals. A salad can be a celebration of a summer garden. Add a few sprigs of asparagus and some green beans drizzled with balsamic vinegar, and your morning egg and toast are elevated into the realms of gourmet fair.

So enjoy the delicious variety of food that is available. Taste of the bounty of the Earth.

Tarte Tatin, inspired by Jacques Pepin

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“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.”

~Carl Sagan

This morning I wanted to make myself a breakfast of some tartines and an egg. However, as I began toasting my tartines I got busy with other things, and I burnt them! Rather than try again, I fried my egg and made myself some toast, which is really just the less sophisticated cousin of the tartine. I enjoyed one slice with the egg right on top, and the other slice I slathered in cream cheese and Bonne Maman mixed fruit jam. An espresso to finish off, and all is right with the world!

Afterwards I turned my attention to making some individual tartes tatins using a recipe that I watched Jacques Pepin make on his show “Fast Food, My Way.”  Some people look to Julia Child for inspiration, while others go to Anthony Bourdain. For me, it’s Jacques Pepin. He makes it easy to conjure up stunning dishes quickly at home. And with his background as a chef in some of the finest restaurants in Paris as well as serving as personal chef to three heads of state, you know his food isn’t lacking in taste!

His recipe for quick tarte tatin is very simple, using bread as the base, rather than making a pastry.  I know! It sounds too easy to be delicious, right? But take my word for it, these little tarts are fantastic!

Begin by peeling and slicing the apples. For mine I took a circular slice out of each apple that would fit nicely in the bottom of miniature ramekins because I wanted to make individual servings, then I chopped the rest up into small pieces.

Sauté the apples in some butter and brown sugar, and sprinkle just a touch of cinnamon over them. Add about half a cup of water to speed up the process of softening the apples. While those are cooking over medium heat, put a little brown sugar in the bottom of each ramekin. When the water has evaporated and the butter and the brown sugar start to caramelize, place an apple ring in each ramekin, and top with the rest of the chopped apples dividing them evenly between the dishes.

At this point cut circles of sliced bread to fit in each ramekin. (If you are not using individual ramekins, simply trim the crust off several slices of bread, enough to cover the top of the apples in your backing dish.) Butter the bread circles, lay them over the apples buttered side up, and place in a preheated 375° oven. Bake 30-35 minutes until the bread is crisp and brown. Immediately invert over serving plates. Drizzle of red berry jam or with a scoop of ice cream. Eat!

“And when you crush an apple with your teeth, say to it in your heart: Your seeds shall live in my body, and the buds of your tomorrow shall blossom in my heart, and your fragrance shall be my breath, and together we shall rejoice through all the seasons.”~Kahlil Gibran

 

Ladurée

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Ahhh,  Ladurée  in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It is as close to Paris as I can get without buying a plane ticket.

Have you ever seen a more beautiful sight? Flaky layers of pastry filled with cream and gorgeous ripe raspberries, not overly sweetened and terribly indulgent. Coffee tastes so much better when poured from a silver carafe, don’t you think?

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It is admittedly a treat when I get to visit Ladurée, and never fails to bring sunshine to the greyest of days. I get happy just looking at their beautiful array of pastries. Each one is as delicious as it looks. And the trademark pastel color scheme brings a sense of whimsy to the atmosphere.

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I am literally spoiled for choice by the vast array sweet creations, but millefeuille au framboise always wins me over. I simply can’t resist those luscious raspberries in their layers of cream. It is a good thing for me that Ladurée is only an occasional treat!

Good food, Good life

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Health food may be good for the conscience but Oreos taste a hell of a lot better. ~Robert Redford

Good taste is important. To eat deliciously is every bit as meaningful as to eat nutritiously. Fortunately, the two are not mutually exclusive.

Recently I made a dish of rice with ground beef and green peas, a dish that I used to make often when the kids were small. At that time it was convenient to have an all in one meal that they all enjoyed, but now it has simply become a family classic.

To make this dish begin by cooking up a batch of white rice. In another pan saute some chopped onions and garlic in olive oil, then add extra lean ground beef along with a teaspoon of cumin, a teaspoon of coriander powder, and salt and pepper to taste. While that is cooking, chop up a handful of parsley and get out some  plain yogurt.

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During the last 4-5 minutes of the meat cooking, add a half cup or so of frozen peas. Now, stir the entire batch of rice and meat together. Serve on plates, topping with a generous amount of chopped parsley and yogurt.

Nutrition never tasted better!

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Pasta with Lui

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My friend Lui invited me over for lunch and asked if I would like to have pasta puttanesca.  In fact, I had never tried it, but knowing that everything Lui makes is delicious, I said, yes, I would love some.

When I arrived, she had ingredients ready and I was able to watch her in action. Lui, a nurse working full time in Riyadh’s King Faisal Specialist Hospital, is the master of quick and nutritious food. She began sauteing chopped garlic in some olive oil and then added anchovies allowing all to become fragrant in the oil. Then came olives and capers, and to save time, a jar of ready made spaghetti sauce. She allowed the sauce to simmer while she cooked the noodles.

Once the noodles were cooked she drained them and mixed them with the sauce, and served our plates. She quickly cut a bit of parsley and sprinkled it on top and we went to eat.

There is nothing more satisfying than sharing a meal with a good friend, and she and I have shared many such meals together. Always grateful, she never fails to thank me for eating with her, nor does she forget to emphasize to me how lucky we are simply for the privilege of having such an abundance of nutritious food available to the two of us.

Oh, and if you are wondering just how good the sauce turned out that day, I think that this photo will answer the question adequately.  🙂

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Lunching in Paris – Nicoise Salad

Untitled design (2) My daughter and I had the good fortune to travel to Paris last fall. It was everything that we had hoped for and more! Rather than book a hotel, we rented an apartment through Airbnb, which was the perfect choice for us. We felt less “touristy” and we were able to enjoy the experience of really “living” in Paris for a few weeks. While we did make a point to go to all of the must see sights, most days we simply explored the neighborhoods around us. We would spend time sitting outside cafes, enjoying coffee and watching people walk by. Some days we would browse through used book stores, or buy pistachio ice cream and eat it in the park. And crepes,,, ahhh the crepes! She always chose nutella and banana, while I chose lemon and sugar. Yum! Then we would pick up a few groceries from the little market around the corner, grab a fresh baguette from our favorite boulangerie, and go home to make dinner.

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One day we stopped for lunch at a cafe that we came across in this little side street. We sat outside, watching people walk by while we enjoyed one of the best meals we had found anywhere. The steak was tender, the risotto was creamy and full of flavor, but the thing that fascinated us was the way they had fried black olives along with the potatoes. It was something new to us, and we took inspiration from it. So the very next day we gathered our ingredients for a nicoise salad, but instead of throwing the olives on top, we would fry them up with the potatoes. We began by frying our little fingerling potatoes in olive oil, along with some black olives. Then we boiled some green beans until they were just crisp tender, and sliced some multi-colored cherry tomatoes in half. Finally, we mixed all of the ingredients together with some tuna, and a simple lemon and oil dressing.

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We arranged lettuce leaves on our plates and piled the nicoise salad in the center, and topped it with boiled egg slices. We sliced up a baguette, and made a pot of tea, using a milk pitcher as we didn’t have a proper teapot. We turned the radio on to our favorite French music station, MFM Radio. Then we sat down to our little dining table to enjoy our creation. Everything tasted wonderful, and we were quite pleased with ourselves. Untitled design (1) This is more than a salad, it is a complete an, light and refreshing meal. The photo cannot show just how delicious this salad really was.

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To put this salad together, you will need the following:

  • 1 can solid white tuna
  • 6-8 new or fingerling potatoes
  • Handful fresh green beans
  • 2 boiled eggs
  • 8 cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 can black olives, drained
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic (3 -4 cloves, finely chopped)
  • Lettuce leaves

For the dressing:

  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Begin by boiling the potatoes for just 3-4 minutes, till barely tender, yet still holding their shape well. Drain them, then slice them in halves, and fry them in a little olive oil, along with the garlic and olives, and a bit of salt and pepper. This will give them loads of flavor for the salad. While the potatoes and olives are frying, boil the green beans till crisp tender, just 3-5 minutes. Drain them well.

Make the dressing by whisking together the lemon juice, olive oil, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust to your liking.

Now combine all of the elements of the salad, along with the dressing, and mix well, but being careful not to make a mess of the tuna or mashing the potatoes. Arrange the lettuce leaves either on a large serving plate, or on individual plates, piling the salad in the center of the leaves. Cut the boiled eggs into quarters, and arrange on top.

Bon appetit!

Love to Eat!

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Food is undoubtedly one of life’s greatest pleasures. There is such variety and so many combinations of flavors. I love to eat! I am passionate about food! Eating is an absolute necessity of life, so how lucky are we that it is something that we can truly enjoy doing?