french

Tarte Noire (chocolate tart)




When I was traveling, people were always asking me where I was from, and whenever I said "I'm from Texas," there was always some spark of recognition and excitement. 
Saying you are from Texas is not like saying you are from North Dakota. 
Or Wisconsin. 
It's just not. 
It was the best when someone who happened to be French asked, because their eyes would light up and they'd say something like, "OH! TEXAZZZ!" Before making finger guns and asking me about horses and cowboys and Chuck Norris. 


So while I was so far away from home, I fell in love with the with the pie-making, porch-sitting, beer-drinking, no bullshit, music-loving, Tex-Mex-eating, lonestar, cowgirl, wildflower piece of myself. 
A piece of me I didn't even know I had. 
I fell in love with the vastness and vulgarity of Texas from a thousand miles away. 

The poet Charles Bukowski wrote: 

“Texas women are always
healthy, and besides that she’s
cleaned my refrigerator, my sink,
the bathroom, and she cooks and
feeds me healthy foods
and washes the dishes
too.”

And I know and love this now as well. 

I am home now. 


I've been lying in the hammock some, drinking pots of coffee, walking the dog. 
And then, on Tuesday, suddenly, I was ready to be in the kitchen again. 
The first time I actually felt like being in the kitchen in over a year. 


So I baked a chocolate tart. Which was not Texan at all, but French--because the world is topsy turvy like that sometimes, and it is possible to crave Tex-Mex when in France and French food when back in Texas. 

And while I pressed the tart dough into the pan, I thought about Paris. 
I thought about Paris, and how the only real way to understand a city, is to walk through it. 
But mostly I thought about all the people, who made the past few months a sort of miracle. 


Roberto told me, that if you want to cook, you have to cook with "the love." 
And that it's cooking with "the love" that gives food the real flavor. 

So I thought about Paris. And I thought about Texas. 
But mostly, I thought about you.

This tart is one of the best I've ever, ever made. 


xoxo


Tarte Noire (chocolate tart)
from Dorie Greenspan's From My Home to Yours 

Another thing, is that this tart is stupidly simple, and very, very sexy. Even if you can barely bake, this tart is unbelievably doable, if a bit time consuming. Additionally, for the chocolate ganache, it is imperative that you use the highest quality baking chocolate. 

For the Filling

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature

1 9-inch tart shell made with Sweet Tart Dough (recipe below)

Put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and have a whisk or a rubber spatula at hand. 
Bring the cream to a boil, then pour half of it over the chocolate and let it sit for 30 seonds. Working with the whisk or spatula, very gently stir the chocolate and cream together in small circles, starting at the center of teh bowl and working your way out in increasingly larger concentric circles. Pour in the remainder of the cream and blend it into the chocolate, using the same circular motion. When the ganache is smooth and shiny, stir in the butter piece by piece. Don't stir the ganache any more than you must to blend the ingredients-- the less you work it, the darker, smoother and shinier it will be. (The ganache can be used now, refrigerated or even frozen for later.)
Pour the ganache into the crust and, holding the pan with both hands, gently turn the pan from side to side to even the ganache. 
Refrigerate the tart for 30 minutes to set the ganache, then remove the tart from the fridge and keep it at room temperature until serving time. 


Sweet Tart Dough 

NB: Don't roll the tart dough out, simply press it into the pan and save yourself much time and angst. 

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confections' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk

Put the flour, confectioners' sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in-- you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses-- about 10 seconds each-- until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Just before you reach this stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change-- heads up. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing. 


To press the dough into the pan: Butter a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press teh dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan, using all but one little piece of dough, which you should save in the refrigerator to patch any cracks after the crust is baked. Don't be too heavy handed, press the crust in so that the edges of the pieces cling to one another, but not so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking. 

To fully bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 F. 
Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. (Since you froze the crust, you can bake it without weights.) Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed press it down gently with the back of a spoon. Bake for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. (Watch it though, to make sure it doesn't get too golden brown.) 

Almost Fudge Gateau

Dear one,

I'm in France, and I just drank a beer, and ate a crepe. 
Everything, intrinsically, by default of simply being, is beautiful.
I'm in Paris for several weeks, and am then cruising around Europe, for the next few months. 
Mostly alone. 
I'd be out of my mind excited, if I weren't so terrified. 
Doing what you want and being autonomous, it's amazing and necessary. 



And fucking scary. 

I've been spending a lot of time in my head and walking and looking at people.
I feel very quiet. 

Something I want to address: 

We are all aware, that this being a "food blog" is mainly a shameless charade that allows me to write about myself and growing up and love, etc. 
Because, somehow, this tiny space went from windy exposition about cake, to much windier exposition about things like feelings.
And I want to acknowledge this, only because, I'm going to be traveling, and I don't know if I can always promise you recipes, or that stories will tie back to the table, or that the state of things can be summed up in a few words that conclude with a flavor.
 I don't know if I can promise that.

However, I do promise to be hungry, if only for you. 
I promise that I will write you more, and soon. 


This is a cake I baked right before I left Austin. It's mostly chocolate and eggs. It is, apparently, a very French cake.

And finally, because it is long overdue, I want to thank you, you strangers who find me here again and again. The surprise, that anyone cares to return to this URL, it humbles me. 
Whoever you are, you're magic. 
And for my beloved family and for my tribe of beautiful people, thank you for all the hand holding and letter writing and sweet mornings and afternoons and nights and tequila and twinkling light.  
There are not words enough in this language to convey my gratitude. 

I love you. 

You make me feel fearless. 


XOXO



Almost Fudge Gateau

from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

5 large eggs
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup sugar
5 tablespoons unslated butter, cut into chunks
2 tablespoons coffee or water
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of salt

For Glaze (optional) 
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 heavy cream
2 teaspoons light corn syrup

Center a rack in th eoven and preheat to 350 degrees F. 
Butter a 9-inch springform pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, butter the paper, dust the inside of the plan with flour and tap out the excess. Place the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or on a silicone mat. 
Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a mixer bowl or other large bowl and the yolks in a small bowl. 
Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and add the chocolate, sugar, butter and coffee. Stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are melted; the sugar may still be grainy, and that’s fine. Transfer the bowl to the counter and let the mixture sit for 3 minutes. 
Using a rubber spatula, stir in the yolks one by one, then fold in the flour. 
Working with the whisk attachment of the mixer, or a hand mixer, beat the egg whites with the pinch of salt until they hold firm but glossy peaks. using the spatula, stir about one quarter of teh beaten whites into the batter, then gently fold in the rest. Scrape the batter into the pan and jiggle the pan from side to side a couple of times to even the batter. 
Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the cake has risen evenly (it might rise around the edges and you’ll think it’s done, but give it a few minutes more, and the center will puff too) and the top has firmed (it will probably be cracked) and doesn’t shimmy when tapped; a thin knife inserted into the center should come out just slightly streaked with chocolate. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let the cake rest for 5 to 10 minutes. 
Run a blunt knife gently around the edges of the cake and remove teh sides of the pan. Carefully turn the cake over onto a rack and remove the pan bottom and the parchment paper. Invert the cake onto another rack and cool to room temperature right side up. As the cake cools, it may sink. 

To make OPTIONAL glaze:
First, turn the cooled cake over onto another rack so you’ll be glazing the flat bottom, and place the rack over a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper to catch any drips. 
Put the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl. 
Melt the chocolate over a pan of simmering water or in a microwave oven-- cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir very gently with a rubber spatula until the mixture is smooth and shiny. Stir in the corn syrup. Pour the glaze over the cake and smooth the top with a long metal icing spatula. Don’t worry if the glaze drips unevenly down the sides of the cake-- it will just add to its charms. (Sidenote: This is why I love Dorie. She’s all about the charms of cake related imperfection.) Allow the glaze to set at room temperature, or if you’re impatient, slip the cake into the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. If the glaze dulls in the fridge, just give it a little gentle heat from a hairdryer. 

Marie-Helene's Apple Rum Cake



So I was talking to my dear friend the other day about this new life of mine and she said, "So what have you been up to?"

And after a long pause I said, "I have no idea." 





And it's true.
I spend a lot of time wandering around. 
I sleep and I eat. I haven't accomplished anything major. I write papers sometimes. I talk to strangers who might become friends. And I sit on a blanket at night and look at clouds, and pretend to work. But mostly I just sit and think and dream.





I have discovered something about myself. I'm not really afraid of people. I mean, sometimes I am of course. And everyone has those moments. But in general, I'm way more outgoing than I ever thought I was. Which is really, really great. I feel like I'm finally growing into myself. Which is glorious. 




Other things. 
This cake. 
Is.
Exquisite. 
I mean,
DIVINE. 
Really. 





I think it's the rum. 






Marie-Helene's Apple Cake
from Around My French Table: More than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan


This is so simple it's really a crime not to make it right this second. 


3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
4 large apples
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons dark rum
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and cooled


Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Generously butter an 8-inch springform pan. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper or nothing if you're lazy like me.
Whisky the flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl. 
Peel the apples, cut them in half, and remove the cores. Cut the apples into 1-to-2-inch chunks. 
In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until they're foamy. Pour in the sugar and whisk for a minute or so to blend. Whisk in the rum and vanilla. Whisk in half the flour and the remaining butter, mixing gently after each addition so that you have a smooth, rather thick batter. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in the apples, turning the fruit so that it's coated with batter. Scrape the mix into the pan and poke it around a little with the spatula so it's evenish. 
Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean; the cake may pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 5 minutes.
Carefully run a blunt knife around the edges of the cake and remove the sides of the springform pan. (Open the springform slowly, and before it's fully opened, make sure there aren't any apples stuck to it.) Allow the cake to cool until it is just slightly warm or at room temperature. If you want to remove the cake from the bottom of the springform pan, wait until the cake is almost cooled, then run a long spatula between the cake and the pan, cover the top of the cake with a piece of parchment or wax paper and invert it onto the rack. Carefully remove the bottom of the pan and turn the cake over onto a serving dish. 

Tilapia a la Provencale



I woke up the other morning with a sick feeling in my stomach.

I'm facing a lot of decisions in my life right now, decisions about where I want to go and what I want to do, and it's just this incredibly dreadful feeling, this responsibility for myself and my future. And I know I'm being illogical. I'm not even 18 yet, and the choices I make right now probably won't haunt me for the rest of my life. But I'm just not a very logical person.

Anyways, it took me most of the morning get the shaky, worried feeling out of my body. I ate a lovely breakfast. I cleaned. I took a shower that lasted about half an hour. (It was a glorious, glorious shower.) I tried to draw and read, things that usually calm me down. But I just couldn't. I couldn't focus.


So I made Tilapia au Provencal. There is something about the rhythm of cooking that is so comforting. As I pan fried the fish, chopped tomatoes and looked for olives in the wilderness that is my refrigerator, I felt my anxiety drift away like plumes of steam.


And you know what else? This tasted wonderful. It's a french recipe: Lightly panfried fish, that is then baked and tossed into a bright tomato sauce. At the risk of being morbid, I would like to request that my final meal have lots of tomato sauce. Tomato sauce cures all ills.

And then I went and had a beautiful day.


Tilapia a la Provencale
adapted from I Know How to Cook by Ginette Mathiot

The beauty of this kind of recipe is that it leaves lots of room for improvisation. The original recipe suggested using salt cod, but this would be lovely with any white fish. Salmon would be interesting... I forgot the onion and instead added bok choy and spicy olives and peppers. It's your life. Do what you want.

3 tablespoons oil
3 1/2 ounces onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic
1 pound 2 ounces tomatoes, coarsely chopped
Generous 1 cup black olives
2 tablespoons chopped parsely
pepper
1 pound 2 ounces tilapia filets

Preheat oven to 500 F.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a pan, lightly cook fish, about one minute on each side, or until the fish begins to look less pink and more white. Remove from pan and place in a baking dish. Roast in oven for 5-7 minutes, until fish is cooked through. (It's difficult to explain doneness. Just trust yourself, also because most ovens run at slightly different temperatures, you may want to check fish sooner or later, depending on the fickleness of your oven.) Remove from oven. In the meantime, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in pan. Add the garlic, onion and tomatoes. Cook over low heat and stir occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Add olives, parsley, season with pepper and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Flake the cooked tilapia and add it to the pan. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes, then serve.