Caprice Grilled Veggies

When we were in London, I had this massive craving for Italian food. What can I say? We took a walk through Kensington and every other restaurant had an old world-sounding Italian name…and I just wanted ravioli. So the last day before we left for Paris, I demanded Italian food! Unfortunately for that craving, we were near King’s Cross, where we needed to catch our train, and where there is almost nothing around. We wandered down to the British Library (closed) and I started to get really irritated at the distinct lack of ravioli and then we happened across this Mediterranean place called Caprice. Oh my gosh. Caprice.

As I perused the menu for vegetarian options, disappointed by the lack of ravioli, a couple walking out told me that the grilled mixed vegetable plate was heavenly. I wasn’t convinced…”mixed vegetables” doesn’t really call anything exciting to mind. But  we were tired of walking so I gave in.

Holy crap was that mixed veggie plate good. I practically hugged the waitress it was so good. I literally talked about it for the next week of our trip, while we were in France, no less! Maybe I had just forgotten how grilling something instantly makes it delicious…also I didn’t know what halloumi was,or I would never have hesitated. If YOU don’t know what halloumi is, I highly suggest you go find out. Seriously. Grill it up with these veggies. Right away.

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Tomato-Almond Pesto

Tomatoes are in season! They are giving off this wonderful tomato-y smell that you just know is full of tomato-y flavor.

So what better to do with these ripe, red tomatoes than showcase them in a pesto?

Words cannot describe how fresh and delicious this pasta is. The flavors of the produce are really showcased since the pesto is raw…which also means it retains all of its nutrients! The toasted nuts add a soft crunch (yes, I know that is an oxymoron) to the sauce, and the basil and garlic  will fill your kitchen with such a wonderful smell…

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Cream Scones

So when Dave and I were in London, we took high tea at Harrod’s. We stood at the entrance to one of their many restaurants for 5 minutes, studying the menu, before we realized that the tea service included scones and clotted cream. Sold!

Before this trip, I basically refused to drink tea. I called it “weak water.” But I wanted to be proper, so I ordered a pot of jasmine tea and then waited anxiously for the tea caddy to arrive. When it did, it was full of tiny tea sandwiches, raisin scones, and British-style finger pastries.

I patiently picked all of the raisins out of my scone so that I could properly enjoy a scone slathered with clotted cream.

Oh my Lord. Clotted cream is good stuff. Too bad it’s so hard to find unpasteurized cream in the States, because I would just love to have a supply of clotted cream at my beck and call whenever I want it.

So this week, my sister-in-law get together was a tea party. And since I can’t stop thinking about tea at Harrod’s and cream scones, I decided to whip up a batch and bring them to tea. I even went to 3 grocery stores to track down pre-made clotted cream. The scones were delicate and sweet and buttery, and together with the clotted cream, they were simply divine.

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Salad of the Week: Fiesta Salad

France was wonderful. And I fully intend to keep bringing you French treats throughout the summer. But I would also like to fit back into my pants…hence, the post-France diet. The plan: make a humongous amount of salad once or twice a week, store it in individual containers, and have a ready-made, healthy salad waiting for me at lunch every day! Even if you didn’t eat nothing but macarons and croissants for 2 weeks, going on a high-veggie diet is always good for you (and your summer clothes)!

The first salad is a result of several whim purchases…which I realized tied together rather well once I got home. In fact, just add rice and beans and you will practically have a Chipotle salad here. I’m calling it a Fiesta salad, since the sum of the ingredients vaguely reminds me of Mexican food.

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Butter Pecan Ice Cream

Did you know that July is National Ice Cream Month? Start celebrating!

I have always been curious about butter pecan ice cream. When I was a kid, the name just sounded gross…who wants butter in their ice cream, anyway? But as I’ve gotten older, I learned that sweet and salty can go well together, and–the most significant fact of all–not all butter is salted!

I put butter pecan ice cream out of my mind for a long time…I mean, what good is ice cream if it’s not dark chocolate and filled with fudge and chocolate chunks, anyway? Thankfully, my taste buds grew out of their singular focus on chocolate just a little, enough to let in things like caramel and vanilla. So when I found this recipe for butter pecan ice cream, with a butterscotch custard base, I was intrigued. And boy am I glad I tried this ice cream!

The flavor is creamy and mild, but more complex than your average store-brand butter pecan (which is usually just vanilla ice cream with pecans). You simply must try this, I promise you won’t regret it. Heck, if you don’t have an ice cream maker, give me an excuse to make this again and come over with a giant bowl and a spoon!

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Mocha Macarons

One word: Ladurée. If you have never been to this Paris pâtissier and sampled their famed macarons, then you don’t know what you are missing. I went in thinking, “I am going to try a real macaron!” and left with a box of 8…oops. My favorite was the vanilla, which is weird considering that I am normally a chocolate person, but the flavor was so rich and smooth, it was like heaven. Ladurée offers about 20 different flavors…and I managed to snap a (grainy) picture before they got my attention and told me photos weren’t allowed (which, honestly, was a common refrain and the only thing that could be construed as “rude” that I experienced from the Parisiens).

The macarons I can make don’t even come close to being as awesome as the ones I ate in Paris. Don’t get me wrong, they are super tasty, but I am still working on the consistency. I don’t know why, but something I do must be a liiittle bit off (or maybe the world is too humid here?), since my macarons never look quite like the pictures in the blogs I consult. The feet on my macarons are wider than the shells, and the cookies themselves end up being a little chewier than they should. I don’t claim to be a macaron guru.

But, practice makes perfect, right? And what yummy practice it is!

As I said, my macarons aren’t the prettiest…Ladurée would never sell a macaron whose colors clashed the way mine do. But the espresso shell and the soft chocolate of the frosting are delicious together. I highly encourage you to give French macarons a try, even if it takes a few attempts to get it right!

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Artichokes and Hollandaise

Well between readjusting to normal life, unpacking, and going to work, I didn’t write one post last week!

But all that is over…prepare for a French delight: hollandaise sauce. I was inspired to try this during our stay in Fontainebleau, though not because I tasted it during our adventures. That’s right. I brought Julie and Julia with me to watch while I was in France, and this was one of the first dishes showcased in the movie. A bit pathetic…but I promise to share some of the awesome foods I ate in France just as soon as I get them right.

I have long been curious about artichokes. I mean, they are just so weird-looking, and I am under the distinct impression that almost no one serves them at home. What better way to investigate than by whipping up a buttery, tangy sauce to dip the petals in?

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Leek Tart a.k.a. baking quiche in France!

Macarons. Beautiful fresh veg from the local market. Pain au chocolat. Comté and dijon on a baguette. Crème au chocolat with an espresso. Wine at lunch. Crème brulée. Hot chèvre. Croissants.

Good grief. Food in France is an art…and I gained 5 pounds during the week my husband and I spent there, because everything was too delicious to pass up!

But I have to tell you a secret. Even though Paris was wonderful–full of well-known monuments, tourists, and boulangeries–my favorite time in France was when Dave and I visited his brother in Fontainebleau, a little town about 40 minutes outside the city. Dan described it as the ideal French provincial experience, and almost every second of our time there was perfect.

On our last afternoon in Fontainebleau, we were invited to join the local pastor’s family for dinner, and Dan suggested we bring a quiche (which can also be called a “tart” in France). We got a huge leek from the marché, fresh French eggs, and beautiful chèvre. I got the privilege of making the crust for the tart (because even in France, where pastry reigns, a homemade pie crust is a thing of beauty).

For those of you that fear making pie crust, please set aside your worries and give it a try! I promise promise it is not as challenging as it seems, and you will never want to eat the cardboard crusts from the grocery store again. Homemade pie crust is flaky and flavorful, and it really takes minimal effort.

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