Gâteau Basque

Gâteau Basque

Happy Friday!  Believe it or not, today marks the last day of summer vacation for us.  My daughter’s school district began a new school calendar last year and school now starts in early August.  Summer went so fast!  We have a few fun things planned today (lunch at a favorite restaurant and a trip to the Discovery Museum) to mark the occasion.

I am running a week behind on French Fridays with Dorie due to a fun vacation and other out-of-town activities.  I had actually hoped to get this post written before I left for my vacation, but it didn’t work out.

We only have a few desserts left to do, so we have been spreading them out a bit.  The group recently tackled Gâteau Basque, a specialty of the Basque region of France (and I suppose it’s common in the Basque regions of Spain too…).

Gâteau Basque

I am always amazed at the wonderful and different ways to use a few basic ingredients:  flour, butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla.  This time they came together as a soft cookie-like shortbread cake with a sweet filling of cherry jam.

I didn’t get a lot of help eating this one.  My daughter enjoyed her piece quite a bit.  My mother-in-law ate a piece while babysitting (I never heard if she liked it or not).  My husband usually doesn’t consider a dessert without chocolate worth eating, so he didn’t have any.

Good thing I liked this cake!  I loved the buttery, vanilla-y cake layers.  The jam I chose was a little too sweet for my taste, but I enjoyed the mix of flavors.  While the cherry jam is traditional, this would be wonderful with other jams too, particularly apricot or strawberry.

This post participates in French Fridays with Dorie, an online cooking group cooking our way through Dorie Greenspan’s wonderful book Around My French Table.  If you would like to try making Gâteau Basque you can find it in Dorie’s book, or here.


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Provençal Vegetable Soup

Provençal Vegetable Soup

Happy Friday!  Here we are at the last French Fridays with Dorie recipe of July already.  Does anyone else feel like this summer is flying by?

This week we made Provençal Vegetable Soup.  Soup seems like an odd thing to make in the middle of summer, but this one is chock full of summer vegetables.

What vegetables are in this soup?  Here is the long list:  onion, garlic, carrots, potato, green beans, zucchini, tomatoes, and fresh corn.  Add to that some pasta and cannellini beans, then top with pesto, basil, and Parmesan cheese.  For an all-veggie soup, this one is quite hearty!

Provençal Vegetable Soup

I was able to use several herbs and veggies from our garden:  rosemary, potato, tomatoes, and basil.  Even the pesto came from last year’s garden.

Now, we’ve been having some hot weather here in Reno.  We had a couple weeks over 100°, and soup really doesn’t sound appealing when it is that hot out.  Thankfully, early this week we had a patch of cooler weather, and the day I made my soup it was a little cloudy and rainy, with a high of *only* 85°.

We loved this soup!  To me, the pesto really makes the soup.  Even though the corn is non-traditional, we felt that it really added a nice flavor and texture.  This soup is a winner for sure.  Maybe I’ll make it again in the Fall when the weather is a little cooler?

This post participates in French Fridays with Dorie, and online group cooking our way through Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table.  If you would like to try Provençal Vegetable Soup, I highly recommend getting this wonderful book!


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Coddled Eggs with Foie Gras

Coddled Eggs with Foie Gras

Look at me!  I’m posting the correct French Fridays with Dorie recipe on the correct day!  We made one of the “diciest” recipes in the book:  Coddled Eggs with Foie Gras.

Foie gras pâté is not one of the easiest ingredients to come buy.  I didn’t have the time to drive all over town looking for it, so I ordered mine from D’Artagnan.  Because shipping was so expensive (they have to FedEx it overnight) I ordered a few more goodies to maximize the cost:

French Goodies

I can’t wait to try everything!

To make Coddled Eggs with Foie Gras, a few small chunks of foie gras pâté are placed in the bottom of a ramekin.  Carefully break an egg on top and season with salt and white pepper.  Spoon a little cream over each egg, then sprinkle with fresh tarragon and parsley.  Dorie recommends a few slices of black truffle (if you can find/afford them).  I found a foie gras pâté that contained black truffles, so I got the flavor without the expense.

Coddled Eggs

Finally, the ramekins are placed in a large steamer and cooked until the whites are set but the yolks are still runny.  Actually, I didn’t do this.  I really don’t like runny yolks, so I cooked mine a little longer until the yolks were just set.  The end result is basically a decadent version of shirred eggs.

Coddled Eggs with Foie Gras

The verdict?  Very rich, with delicious flavor.  That was my opinion.  My husband would not try it.  He just didn’t like the idea of eating duck liver (he is not even aware of the controversy surrounding the production of foie gras).  So, this was fun to try, and I liked it, but I will not likely be making it again.

Are you interested in finding out how the other FFWD participants liked Coddled Eggs with Foie Gras?  Check it out here!


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Salmon Rillettes

Salmon Rillettes

It’s Friday, and once again I’m going against the grain and posting a make-up recipe instead of the current week’s French Fridays with Dorie pick.

This week’s recipe involves zucchini blossoms.  I am hoping (finger’s crossed!) that my garden will start producing zucchini blossoms very soon.  It’s been a tough year for my vegetable garden.  I am having a big problem with pests eating my sprouts and seedlings.  Of the 24 or so green bean seeds I planted, only two sprouts look like they might survive.  The rest were eaten, sometimes before they even broke through the soil.  My zucchini plants are struggling as well.  It looks like two or three of them have a good chance of surviving.  If you see a zucchini blossom post from me in a few weeks, you will know they survived!

Salmon Rillettes

Instead of skipping this week altogether, I did a make-up from last month instead.  Salmon Rillettes is a delicious spread made from a combination of fresh and smoked salmon.  The fresh salmon is gently poached in white wine, then mashed with the smoked salmon, lemon zest, chopped shallot, lemon juice, and a bit of butter.  After chilling, it’s ready to serve.

Salmon Rillettes

I served Salmon Rillettes for dinner with toasted baguette slices and a nice salad.  I loved it!  Though I served it for dinner, it would be excellent as an appetizer for a dinner party. I had leftovers for lunch on a bagel with cream cheese, and it was quite tasty!

We have made 3 rillettes now (sardine, salmon, and tuna), and this is my favorite.

I found the recipe for Salmon Rillettes on pbs.org.  You can also find in in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table.


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Catching Up…

Happy 4th of July  to my American readers!  Happy Friday to the rest of you!  I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.

This week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe was a delicious sounding tomato recipe.  I did not make it.  In a few weeks we can start harvesting garden tomatoes, so I will wait until then to make this dish.

Instead, I am catching up on some recipes from May and June that I hadn’t gotten to yet.  Actually, I made two of these back in May but just haven’t written about them.  The fish I made this past week.  Let’s get to catching up!

Smoked Salmon Waffles

Smoked Salmon Waffles

Smoked Salmon Waffles are a savory waffle meant to be served as a starter or a snack.  The concept is pretty simple:  basic waffle batter enhanced with smoked salmon, green onions, and chives.

Smoked Salmon Waffles

These were good!  Though they would have been better served as a starter rather than a main dish.  These would be wonderful for brunch!  In fact, the next day I reheated a leftover waffle and put a fried egg on top of it.  Yum!

Pipérade Stir-Fry

Piperade Stir-Fry

Pipérade Stir-Fry is really just a dish inspired by the Basque Pipérade.  Colorful bell peppers are sauteed until tender, then coated with red wine vinegar.  After cooling to room temperature, the peppers are seasoned with thinly sliced red onions, garlic, piment d’Espelette, and salt and pepper.  Dorie suggests these peppers are great with any kind of grilled meat.

Piperade and Steak

I served Pipérade Stir-Fry with our first grilled steaks of the year (remember, I made this back in May).  So delicious!  The peppers really did go well with the grilled beef and we enjoyed this side dish very much.

Skate Halibut with Capers, Cornichons, and Brown Butter Sauce

Halibut with Cornichons and Capers

So, this dish was supposed to be prepared with skate.  I knew there was no way I was finding skate here in Reno, so I decided to see what looked good when I hit the fish counter.  The wild-caught halibut looked good to me!  (Actually, I tried making this dish a week earlier, but got seduced by the fresh and wild Copper River sockeye, and I didn’t want to mask the wonderful flavor with this sauce…)

This is a very quick and easy recipe.  After the fish is cooked in butter on the stove, a sauce is made by browning butter and adding sherry vinegar, grainy French mustard, thinly sliced cornichons, and a few capers.  Spoon it over the fish and eat!

This sauce was wonderful with the halibut.  Don’t be afraid to try this recipe if you can’t find skate.  I am sure it would work with any firm, white fish.

All of these recipes can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s wonderful book Around My French Table.


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Guacamole with Tomatoes and Bell Peppers

Guacamole with Tomatoes and Bell Peppers

Guacamole for French Fridays with Dorie?  Why, yes!  Apparently it is quite common in France, especially Paris.  Who knew?  One thing I have learned through this FFWD journey is that French home cooking is just as “melting pot” as American home cooking.


This was a delicious guacamole recipe.  There were instructions to make it smooth or chunky.  As you can see from the pictures I opted for chunky.  The ingredient list includes lime zest and juice, chopped cilantro, chopped red onion, diced jalapeno, grape tomatoes, diced red bell pepper, and (duh!) avocados.  The only change I made was to use only half the lime juice, which I found to be more than enough.

Guacamole and Chips

We ate most of the guacamole with blue corn tortilla chips, but we saved a bit of it to top beef fajitas for our main course.

Beef Fajitas

The best part about this guacamole was that I made it on the first night of vacation!  Guacamole is always good, but it is even better on vacation.

We stayed for several nights at Lake Almanor in Northeastern California.  The lake was fun, but the highlight of our trip (besides the delicious guacamole) was a day trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park.  The park was beautiful and interesting – a fun time was had by all!

Lake Almanor:

Lake Almanor

Lassen Peak from the “Devastated Area”:

Lassen Peak


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WIP Wednesday: Too Busy To Write Edition

When I started my WIP Wednesday feature last month, my intention was to write an update at least every other week (as long as I had updates to share!).  Well, it’s nearly a month and a half later.  Whoops!  My excuse is not that I haven’t accomplished anything, but rather that I have been so busy with my projects that I haven’t had time to write about them.


Larch is coming along nicely!  This has been a very enjoyable project and I love how the pattern shows off the beautiful yarn so well.  I can’t wait to finish this one!

Larch in Progress

Next month I will be starting another mystery knit-a-long!  This one will be a two color hat.  I chose the following colors of Simplicity.  I used the Pantone Fall 2014 Fashion Color Report for inspiration.

Simplicity Yarn

This is another KAL hosted by Skacel and Michelle Hunter.  For more information about the KAL see:  http://knitpurlhunter.com/kal/uncategorized/july-kal-3/.  If you are interested in participating in a mystery KAL, I highly recommend Michelle’s.  They are very well run and I always learn something new!

Home Improvement

My bedroom project is coming along slowly, but surely.  It is slow-going because this is the first time I have done any of this, and I am learning as I go.  The project also got stopped in it’s tracks due to have my mother visit to help me with a garage sale (she stayed in the room, so I had to make it liveable for her) and the school year ending.

Since I last updated you, I have ripped out the closet doors, washed the walls (a painful process because of leftover wallpaper glue), painted the ceiling, and patched the walls.  I had hoped to have a fun before/after photo of the ceiling and new light fixture for you, but we ran into a snag with the light fixture that requires some research and perhaps a consultation with an electrician.  Trust me, the picture will be more fun when the light fixture is installed!

I made a decision about the closet doors!  They have been removed and will not be replaced.  My sister-in-law, who has young children of her own, convinced me to go doorless.  Thinking about ease-of-use and accessibility for my daughter, this made the most sense.  Here is a photo of the closet right now:

Empty Closet

The white bits are where the original shelf and rod were installed.  I removed those and patched the walls.

Right now I am working on masking the rooms so I can get the walls painted.  I hope to get that done when summer school starts in a couple of weeks.  Then the project will be put on hiatus until the new school year starts in August.

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Crab-Avocado “Ravioli”

Crab-Avocado Salad

I can’t believe it’s been a month since my last post!  Where have I been?  Just busy with life.  Working on my home improvement project (making progress, but not done yet), being an advocate for my daughter’s education, hosting my parents for a visit, and planning and executing a successful garage sale.  Whew, I need a break!

This week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe was the perfect appetizer to make during my parent’s visit.  My Dad and I both have birthdays later this month, so we had a an early birthday party.

So, this appetizer was supposed to look like little “raviolis”, with avocado in place of the pasta.  We were to use a mandoline to thinly slice the whole avocados, pit and all.  After a few successful slices, the pit got jammed in the blade and squished the rest of the avocado.  I could tell that further attempts would just make a big mess.  So I opted to just slice the avocado the traditional way, and make constructed salads.

Crab-Avocado Salad

“Raviolis” or not, this was one delicious appetizer!  The crab meat was seasoned with salt, lime zest and juice, shallot, cilantro, and pistachio oil.  The flavors went wonderfully together.  This was a big hit with everyone!

I have a couple more FFWD recipes that I have made but not blogged about yet.  I hope to catch up on those soon!


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FO: Lady Mary’s Comfort Wrap

Lady Mary's Comfort Wrap

As promised, here is my recently-finished knitting project.  I finished it a couple of weeks ago, but finally got photos taken this weekend.

This was another Downton Abbey-themed mystery knit-a-long like the one I did last year.  Initially I thought I would sit this one out, but then I got caught up in the excitement.  It didn’t help that I found a yarn I fell in love with!

Hand-knit Wrap

The pattern is called a shawl by the designer, but it is shaped more like a wrap.  Luckily I chose my yarn hoping I could wear this as an evening wrap, so the end result is perfect for the use I had in mind!

Lady Mary's Comfort Wrap

It took me extra long to knit this pattern because after I knit almost three quarters of it, I decided to rip it all out and start over.  The finished dimensions were turning out to be VERY long, and I felt that a shorter wrap would be better for me.  It would have hung down to almost my knees.  I am so glad I did this because I am very happy with the finished length.

Long Wrap

I love the lacy details in this wrap.  I have discovered that I enjoy lace knitting quite a bit, though I have only tried simple lace patterns so far.  I will certainly be doing more lace knitting!

The color of this yarn has proven to be very difficult to photograph accurately.  This picture comes the closest:

Malabrigo Silky Merino


Pattern:  Lady Mary’s Comfort Wrap by Kristen Ashbaugh-Helmreich.  It is available as a free download from Jimmy Beans Wool.

Yarn:  Malabrigo Yarn Silky Merino.  I chose the “Cloudy Sky” colorway and used 510 yards.

Additional photos of my shawl and details about changes I made can be found in my Ravelry project.


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Leeks Vinaigrette with Mimosa

Leeks Vinaigrette with Mimosa

My husband took one look at this dish of food and asked, “Is this a French Fridays dish?”.  Definitely not standard fare at our house.  So yes, it is a French Fridays with Dorie dish called Leeks Vinaigrette with Mimosa.

So what is it?  Leeks (the thinner the better) poached until very tender, and generously drizzled with a simple vinaigrette made from walnut oil.  Not only is “mimosa” a champagne cocktail often served for brunch, it is also a garnish of chopped or grated hard-boiled egg.

This was interesting, but we liked it!  The walnut oil vinaigrette was delicious with the soft leeks.  If you have a glut of leeks from your garden or are looking for something unique, give this one a try!

The recipe for Leeks Vinaigrette with Mimosa can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table.


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