Moules Frites – I Miss Bretagne/Brittany

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My favorite French meal is moules frites (mussels and fries). The first time I had them was in 2000 when my mother-in-law (not at the time) made them for me and my friend Barbara during our first trip to France. My mother-in-law Marie-Cecile grew up in Bretagne (Brittany in English for some reason) and I love the recipes she has shared with me from France and Morocco. Bretagne is known for it’s moules frites where it is served in almost every restaurant and cafe. Oh, did I forget to mention galette-saucisse is my second favorite French food. I love visiting the farmer’s markets and getting these every time. Since the saucisse is not replicated anywhere outside of Bretagne I can only get the real deal there. Maybe next summer.

While I will never be able to reproduce the tasty moules frites she made when we visited Bretagne every couple of years from the United States, I can try. Now that we live in Europe it is quite easy to find moules in the grocery store. This weekend I decided, since we wouldn’t be visiting Bretagne this summer, I would bring Bretagne to us. I have made moules quite a few times and it is always different. Why, because I don’t go by a specific recipe. A true cook just throws in the ingredients and sees where it leads them. These moules frites were one of my favorites that I have made.

moulehotMaking moules is quite easy really. Fresh moules are always better but the grocery stores ones are also quite good.

First, just before you cook them clean the moules, taking off the beards and seaweed (if they are fresh from the poissonnier/ fishmonger).

Next sautee onions, scallions, shallots, celery, garlic (whatever mixture you want) and herbs like parsley, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves in butter in a very large deep pan. Add liquid – I prefer a white wine and cream – about a cup or so. You can also use broths. Let this simmer for a few minutes. Then add the moules and put the cover on for about 5-10 minutes, mixing them with the liquid and spices, until the moules open up to show that they are cooked.

Now that the moules are done, spoon the moules into your bowl, alongside a bowl of crisp fries and a fresh baguette. Use one of the moule shells to pick out the meat of the moules. It’s kind of like using the shell as tongs.

Oh, if the moule is shut after cooking, don’t eat it. And don’t forget to have an empty bowl next to you to discard the shells.

The liquid on the bottom of your moules is great to sop up with the baguette. I’m drooling just writing this. I hope you enjoy your moules frites. You haven’t lived until you’ve had an authentic moules frites meal and don’t forget the baguette. If you ever get to Bretagne you must try the moules.

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Lamb Chops, Asparagus, Potatoes and Fresh Fruit with a View

Since I have been lax at posting on this blog I decided to share tonight’s dinner with a view. It has been a beautiful day in Luxembourg.

Dinner included grilled lamb chops with Italian spices, asparagus baked in the oven with salt and butter, small potatoes drizzled with olive oil and spices baked in the oven. For dessert we had fresh Melon Charentais and strawberries.

There is nothing like making it from scratch and savoring the results.

While I write this Luca is laughing… He says, “I’m not laughing. I’m just reading it with a crazy voice.” Followed by his cackle, I  swiftly kicked him out of the room… and he continued to cackle as he left. Now I’m laughing too. He has now read it to me three times in a radio-friendly voice.

Massive Cucumber Hides in My Garden

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After being on holiday for 12 days I came back to a very bountiful garden. The tomato plants are thriving, but the slugs decided to munch on my lettuce leaves. As I parted the leaves of my tomato plants to check on slug damage I came across a surprise that had been hiding out. I had to muscle my way in to get it and what to my eyes appears, a massive cucumber that longed to be free. It was a cucumber entrenched in the small, green tomatoes and shrouded by leaves.

Only in Luxembourg… can something like this happen… well not really, but. So, as point of reference I measured it and took pictures of it to scale.

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It’s huge! It measures 11 inches/ 28 cm long, 3.5 inches/8 cm wide and 10.5 inches/25 cm in circumference.

Now I just need to put it to good use today for lunch.

 

Fresh Fig, Goat Cheese and Avocado Salad

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Fresh, fragrant figs are in season and I snagged a few over the weekend in France. Here is my five-minute salad without dressing. The toppings share all the flavor.

Fresh Fig, Goat Cheese and Avocado Salad

Mixed salad greens (Melange de Jeunes Pousses)

Salade de Mâche ( greens I never found in the US)

Alfalfa sprouts

1/2 Avocado sliced

Two fresh figs cut into quarters (Figues)

Soft Goat Cheese with honey (Fromage chevre au miel)

Goji Berries (Baies de Goji)

Pine Nuts (Pignons de pin)

 

 

Fried Sardines the Mediterranean Way

I love sardines but have never had them fresh. Since my husband grew up in Morocco where sardines are abundant I have heard stories and really wanted to try them. When I found fresh sardines during my shopping trip to France this weekend, I thought why not give it a try.

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The fish were whole and needed to be cleaned. I haven’t cleaned fish since my childhood in Minnesota. I am not squeamish so I jumped right in. Sardines are rather small fish but easy to clean. Just insert a knife close to the bottom of the fish belly and cut from one end to the other lengthwise. Pull out the innards with your finger. It’s quite easy. Then take off or leave the head. My family didn’t want to see the eyes so I took the heads off. Now rinse them with water. I also took the bones/spine out of some of them but this is not necessary since the bones are small enough to eat and easily separate off when cooked. Since once again my family is particular I deboned half of them.

I found a recipe from my favorite cookbook, Mediterranean Paleo Cooking by Cailtin Weeks, Nabil Boumrar and Diane Sanfilippo.

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Crispy Fried Sardines

2 pounds sardines

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish

1 cup almond flour

Fine sea salt and ground pepper (I prefer to use Himalayan Pink salt for its healthy minerals)

2 Large eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

up to 2 cups sustainable palm shortening or coconut oil

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  • After cleaning the fish place them on a paper towel to dry.
  • Mix in a bowl coating ingredients: garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, parsley, almond flour and a few pinches of salt and pepper.
  • Heat the palm shortening or coconut oil in a deep skillet. I only used a small amount of coconut oil to cover the bottom but the book suggests it be two inches deep over medium high heat.
  • Dip the sardines in the egg mixture and then dredge through flour mixture, coating both sides of the fish.
  • Add the sardines to the pan and fry until a golden brown, about 2-4 minutes on each side.
  • Drain the sardines on a paper towel and garnish with parsley and served with lemon halves and aoili if you would like.

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The sardines were a hit with the family. I also made Spaghetti Courgette (grated zucchini) lighting sauteed in butter and a Jamaican spice.  Give sardines a try. If you like smelt ( a Minnesota favorite in the north), then you will love sardines.

 

 

 

Container Gardening in it’s Simplest Form

 

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I bought a wooden garden box and starter veggies last week while I was in France.  I thought it was bigger than it ended up being. As I only travel to France from Luxembourg every couple of weeks I knew I needed to find a solution to my poor little veggie starts. I was hoping to find another box for my vegetables yesterday in Luxembourg but apparently they don’t sell them here. Plastic window boxes and pots abound but no wooden garden boxes. So, it’s Sunday, and nothing is open in Europe on Sundays and my poor veggies are wilting in the extreme heat this week.

So, I must come up with a plan. I had been throwing around the idea of using my large compost bags that are for garden waste to plant potatoes. My neighbor in Seattle used something like this for his potatoes. I thought, why not use my grocery bags, which are smaller than the compost bags but the same plastic material.

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So this afternoon I dug out all my grocery bags to see if I could fill them with my veggies. Thankfully I had plenty. There are no plastic or paper bags here in Europe so everyone brings their own bags to the market when they go shopping. And, the best part is that they are very inexpensive, only 50 cents. Each bag fit one 40L bag of soil perfectly.  With the bags only costing 50 cents each and the 40L potting soil only costing €2.39, I paid less than €3 ($3 US) for each container.

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In total I planted six tomato plants, six beet plants, three swiss chard plants and one hot pepper plant.

I also have a very artistic garden that can be mobile as well. Now I just need to replenish my grocery bags with some new ones (the prettier the better) and start my Spinach seedlings.

Simple Salsa for Cinco de Mayo

 

salsa1Salsa is a staple at our house. I was first introduced to true, fresh salsa while visiting Mexico as a teen. What better time to share my recipe of fresh salsa than in celebration of Cinco de Mayo.

Now that we live in Luxembourg it is much, much harder to find Mexican food, let alone a simple salsa. Chips and salsa are almost non-existent here.
I love making my own salsa and I make it almost weekly. It is a simple and healthy snack and doesn’t take a lot of time. The hardest part is finding tomatoes that are ripe and jalapeno peppers are rare here. There are plenty of Italian, Portuguese and Spanish peppers that I sometimes use instead of jalapenos. Nothing beats a spicy, hot Mexican jalapeno but you have to use what you can get locally.

Here is my simple recipe for Salsa. Feel free to change it up and make it to your own taste. My son loves it very spicy so we put plenty of peppers, while my husband loves cilantro. I love lots of garlic. Enjoy the recipe.

Simple Salsa

Three to four medium ripe tomatoes – try different varieties
One small/medium onion – mix it to get a different taste
3-4 large garlic cloves (adjust garlic to your preference)
2 Jalapeno peppers – other peppers work in a pinch and each pepper is a different spice level.
1 small bunch of fresh cilantro – I grown my own on the patio
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoons lime or lemon juice. I prefer lime. Fresh is always better.

 

Here is how simple it is to make salsa.

Gather your fresh ingredients and a food processor. A hand food processors also work well.

Prepare the onions and garlic by peeling and cutting into pieces. Split the peppers and cut the stem off and remove the inner white seeds. You could use the seeds if you want your salsa really, really hot.

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Put onions, garlic, jalapenos and cilantro pieces into the food processor and grate them semi-fine.

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Add lime juice and salt and tomatoes. Tomatoes can be in large chunks. Process the salsa again until it is the consistency you want.

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It’s as simple as that!

Serve it with tortilla chips, in a quesadilla (Luca’s favorite snack) or with guacamole. Salsa is great on almost anything.

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