Something else – by Heart

It’s not food but can you blame me? My dad recently had some old family footage transferred and he gave it to me to play with. I found this, cut it together, found this song(!) and voila. I had to share it here. It’s not cooking by heart, but it’s certainly from the heart. The comedian and dancer is my paternal grandmother’s sister’s daughter, Ruthie (Pearl’s sister Ettie’s daughter). I think that makes her my second cousin. This silly strip tease captures a certain humor of my family, and of its era. The footage was shot in the early 50s when Ruthie’s husband Abe Mazlish got a camera and fooled around shooting 8mm footage of family occasions and vacations to Atlantic City or the Jersey shore. Ruthie is in her 90s now and lives, as she always has, in New Jersey.

More cooking, playing and creating by heart to come.

French Baguettes

My guy, Paul, is a lover of bread. In particular, he loves a good baguette. Through him, I have been initiated into a life of baguette enthusiasm.  A good baguette is dark and crusty on the outside, fluffy and light on the inside. That seems simple enough, most baguettes should fit that description vaguely, but there is a scale within that description. In France we found that the artisanal handmade loaves are usually best and everything else is, well, not best.

In France, bakeries prepare baguettes and other breads daily, usually preparing a morning batch and an evening batch in order to provide the freshest loaves all day long. In order to stock the shelves with the freshest breads when the shop opens at 6a, Boulanger William Courderot begins his day at 1am. When we arrived to meet him at 5am, he was well into his daily routine. Each day, Courderot rolls out 600 traditional baguettes and each day they fly off the shelf.

There are many types of baguettes. The hand rolled ones are usually called tradition or l’ancienne, they are made in the old French way. You can literally taste the love with which they are made. This is why I advise you to steer clear of the standard machine made baguettes! They are usually lighter in color, less crispy. They are longer and more uniform, there is no trace of flour on the finished crust, and they are maybe 10 cents cheaper. I’m not sure why anybody buys them.

In the states, it’s getting more and more possible to find quality bread but it’s still always fun to see what you can do yourself. When we were in France, I made a pact to learn how to make a good baguette by baking them daily. But after a couple of sad attempts, I gave in to the fact that everywhere I looked I saw perfect baguettes for €1 or less. I was in the land of incredible baguettes and I wasn’t about to waste time and empty calories on bad ones! It takes a lot of patience to come up with a method that works for you in your setting. It’s tough for a recipe to account for the moisture or dryness of the air in your environment. Consumer ovens just don’t get as hot as industrial ones. But have no fear, Julia Child is here! Julia offers a thorough recipe with helpful pictures in her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1, and you can see her recipe sans photos here.

One useful tip I can offer to fresh bread lovers: the best way to keep baguettes and other breads fresh and tasty is to wrap them in aluminum foil and freeze. If you have a big country loaf, cut it into smaller more manageable meal-size pieces and wrap each piece separately. When you want to eat some bread, place it in the oven or toaster oven at 350°F for about 10-15 minutes. When you can easily squeeze the baguette in your hand (with a glove of course), remove the foil, turn off the oven and put the bread back in the oven for another 5 minutes or so to crisp it up. Enjoy!

William Courderot’s French Baguette

Ingredients

1 kg farine / ~7 cups flour

650 g eau / ~3 cups water

20 g sel / ~3.5 tsp salt

20 g levure / ~5 tsp yeast

Method

Mix all ingredients in kitchenaid or cuisinart mixer until smooth. Let rest for an hour and a half.

Flour prep area and separate dough into three equal pieces. Generously flour a linen cloth. Gently fold the dough over itself and roll while pushing the dough outwards until it becomes a long snake. Notice how little Courderot handles the dough as he forms it into baguettes. Don’t handle the dough more than you have to. Place the baguettes on your floured linen cloth, cradling each loaf in fabric so they don’t touch one another. Leave to rest for one hour.

Preheat oven to 550°F (or as high as your oven will go).

Use a new razor blade or very sharp knife to score the bread with evenly distributed diagonal marks, about 4-5 scores per loaf. Fill a cast iron pan with ice water and place it on the bottom rack of your oven. This helps keep a good amount of moisture in the oven while the bread bakes. Place the baguettes in the oven for 20-30minutes or until they are crusty and brown. When they’re done, let them cool on a rack for 10 minutes or so before you break bread.

Tarte á la Tomate

Let me introduce to you my mother in law, Mrs. Brigitte Helzer, who is a ninja in the kitchen. In her home, it’s hard not to be aware of what she’s preparing because it always smells incredible. When Mama B gets in the zone, the flavors of France come alive in her kitchen. Brigitte was born in Ribeauville, a small village in Alsace, France. She moved to the US at age 7 but grew up in a culturally French home. She developed a love of French cuisine and in turn, she inspired a love of French food in her two boys, Paul and Johnny. And since I married into Helzer family, I have been introduced to a whole new culinary world too.

Meals at the Helzer’s are notorious among friends for good reason. They are completely and deliciously insane. Brigitte does most of the preparations; and John chooses wine(s) from his cellar to best compliment the meal. Making it to the end of one of these meals without passing out is a feat. It’s like running a marathon except at the end you realize you haven’t exercised at all and you’re a little more rotund. To give you an idea: a meal at the Helzer’s might begin with an appetizer accompanied by an aperitif, perhaps Tarte á la Tomate and a glass of a Burgundy. Shortly thereafter, dinner might be scalloped veal with lemon sauce, rice, braised endives and salad, served with an Italian Barbera d’Asti. Then the infamous cheese course (that is served ‘only when the kids are home’), sometimes 10+ cheeses, including a variety of cow, goat and sheep’s milk cheeses, domestic and imported, served with a Bordeaux, and a roquefort cheese, with which Port wine is optional. All of this followed of course by dessert. John or Brigitte might prepare a seasonal fruit tarte, or why not a variety of individual portioned tartes? Eau de Vie, a genre of French digestifs, emerge from the cupboard. Kirsch, Quetsch and Poire Williams, are among favorites in the Helzer household. At this point, you struggle to roll a slightly rounder version of yourself away from the table to start clean up. We literally ate all of this the day we recorded this recipe.

I admire Brigitte’s facility with cooking. I realize her know-how came over time so there is hope for me yet! What I have gleaned is that Brigitte has learned to listen to her culinary gut feelings. She magically knows when things have been cooked to perfection. When I ask her how she knows, she’s vague and nonchalant. It’s killer! All I can do is remind myself that the moral of the story is keep on studying recipes and cooking by heart and if I’m lucky, then in time my kitchen intuition might develop into something like hers.

Tarte á la Tomate Recipe

Savory Dough Ingredients (this dough can be used for any savory pie or tart):

2 cups flour

¼ tsp salt

1½ stick unsalted butter

1/3 cup ice water (may need a little more if the air is really dry)

Tarte ingredients:

4 tomatoes

3 tbsp Dijon mustard (contrary to what’s shown in the video)

1 cup grated cheese (emmental, gruyere and parmesan)

1 tsp fresh chopped oregano

1 tbsp olive oil

fleur de sel

Method:

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Prepare the dough. Combine flour, salt and butter in cuisinart or bowl. Add ice water slowly while pulsing in cuisinart until it gets clumpy. Gather the dough together, being careful not to over handle it (if overworked it won’t be light and flaky). Cover in saran wrap and if you have the time, let it rest in the fridge for 20-30min (or longer if you want to prepare the dough ahead of time, allowing it to return to room temp before working with it). Prick a few holes in the dough to prevent it from puffing up. Cook it for about 10 min at 450°F or until it begins to brown.

Spread mustard onto the dough. Brigitte prefers the dish with dijon. She feels the grainy mustard can overwhelm the dish. But I like it both ways. Layer half of the combination of gruyere, emmental and parmesan cheeses. Then layer your sliced tomatoes and top with another layer of cheese. Cook it for about 20 min at 450°F. The crust needs to be “golden to brown” and the cheese should be nice and melted and almost browned and crusty.

Sprinkle the finished tarte with fleur de sel, fresh oregano, and drizzle with olive oil. Serve warm or cold.

Let us know how it goes!

Music: Margie by Billy Banks and His Rhythmakers

*This recipe was featured in the FrenchEntrée.com Gastrozone to celebrate 100 issues of FrenchEntrée magazine

Au Cœur du Jura

Au Cœur du Jura directly translates to “at the heart of Jura,” which is exactly what this cheese shop has become for us. More importantly, we have become fans of owner, Ema, at Au Cœur du Jura. Her shop is a small but well stocked crémerie and fromagerie, located in the covered market in the small city of Dole. While spending the past couple of months here in Jura, in eastern France, we’ve fallen in love with a few fantastic locally celebrated and locally produced fromages.

Comté is the most celebrated and well-known of all Jura cheeses. Jura is, afterall, a part of the Franche-Comté. It’s a firm cheese. As comté ages, it becomes stronger, more salty, sharper. You can buy it as young as 4 months old, up to 2 years old. Ema cut into a well-aged round for us. Together, we tasted small pieces of the fresh round, she smiled “it sings, doesn’t it?”

Morbier is another Jura cheese that we’ve come to relish. From the look of it, you might think it’s a real stinky cheese, but the blue line through it has nothing to do with mold. Back in the day, after they made comté, they’d take the leftover curds and use ash to keep the curds overnight until they’d add more milk. The layer of ash is what gives the cheese it’s distinctive blue line. Ash is still used now, but as an aesthetic choice, based on the old tradition. It’s a creamy semi-soft cheese that is rich and creamy with a touch of sourness or bitterness at the end.

There are many many types of tomme, made with goat milk, sheep milk and of course cow milk. The tomme unique to this area is simply called Tomme du Jura and it is a cow milk cheese. (One thing I learned in buying cheese, is unless otherwise marked, all cheeses are made with cow milk.) After making heavier, creamy cheeses, the leftover skim milk was historically used to make tomme. The result is a light, smooth cheese. It’s flavor is mild and milky, with hints of brine. In terms of texture, it’s not as hard as comté, not as soft as morbier. Tommes are fun to try because they are always different. It seems like everybody makes or sells a version of tomme around here.

So if you make your way to Dole, please pop into the covered market and say hi to Ema. (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday before noon to see the place really bustling.)

Thank you, Ema, for being so friendly to us from day one and for supplying us with such fantastic fromage. You kept us coming back for more and we hope to see you again.

Parmentier de Joue de Boeuf

Parmentier de Joue de Boeuf is French favorite, simple to prepare as well as wonderfully rich and delicious. I am a big fan of braising things, in wine, bouillon, tomatoes, or a combination. Meats and veggies become mouth wateringly tender and rich with flavor. So I was excited to learn that Chef Gilles Beauvais at Bouchon “Le Grévy” wanted to prepare this braised beef dish with us.

Bouchon “Le Grévy” is a bistro in Dole, Jura where Beauvais serves traditional French dishes with a little twist. In this dish, he braises beef jowl. I realize that in the states, beef jowl isn’t a particularly common ingredient. In this recipe, the chef suggests you can use beef ribs. I think any good braising meat will do the trick. The meat will become very very tender and easily shredded. To form a small pie, you might use a disposable cup, cutting out the bottom so it’s just a ring. The broiler in a toaster oven is a good way to melt the cheese on top.

Et voila, bon appétit!

Merci beaucoup, Chef Gilles! Et merci pour l’introduction, Francoise! En plus, merci Charlie Hunter & Leon Parker for The Last Time from the album Duo.

A little backstory:

In early May, Paul and I made our way to Choisey, France, where our friend Micaela’s friend Louis has family. Not only does Louis have family here but Louis’ family has a house. More than a house, a chateau. Louis’ family has Chateau de Parthey, where Louis’ grandmother, Madame Maitre de Tarragon, age 98, resides.

Here, we are resting our weary heads for some time, taking care of Madame Maitre every Saturday-Monday morning. Monday through Friday, we are free as birds, with a car too! But how would we fill our time?, we wondered. Luckily, along with a massive home, we were introduced to Francoise, a friend of Madame Maitre, who became immediately like an agent for us and for Cooking by Heart.

Upon learning that we wanted to make videos about food, Francoise went right to work, calling her contacts and arranging meetings. Within a week she had us meeting with two local chefs and a baker. One of these meetings was with Chef Gilles Beauvais.

Stay tuned for a few more authentic French recipes!

On Deck

This week we shot two new Cooking by Heart pieces with local masters in downtown Dole, France!

One with locally celebrated Chef Gilles Beauvais at his very popular bistro, Bouchon le Grevy.

The other with Boulangier (Baker) William Courderot at his family’s bakery where the baguettes fly off the shelf all day everyday.

Stay tuned!

Gnocchi & Spinach Sauce

Folks. I am very happy about this piece. It’s very different than Cooking by Heart videos we’ve made in the past and I think you’ll enjoy it. This piece documents the gnocchi recipe of an Italian friend of Dominique Sarthe.  The spinach sauce was invented deep in the mind cogs of Domi’s husband, Cyril Sarthe.

Paul and I met the Sarthe’s in their hometown of Cassagnabere-Tournas, France, where we spent the month of March WWOOFing on their farm. Being that it was early spring, we planted everything from tomatoes to eggplants to squashes, spinach, lettuces, corn, leeks, basil, parsley, potatoes even peanuts. We harvested radishes, leeks, carrots, turnips, parsnips, celery, arugula, and spinach. It was wonderful to eat veggies that were so incredibly fresh. (WWOOFing is a great way to travel cheap – we work about 5 hours/day for room and board. See our travel blog here.) Luckily for us, Domi and Cyril know about good food. Before farming, they had another life as owners of a pizzeria near Toulouse. Now they live about an hour and a half south of Toulouse, in an old farmhouse that’s nestled into the rolling hills that dominate the area.  On a clear day, you can see the Pyrenees in the distance; it’s gorgeous. The Spanish border is about 2 hours away.

I should preface this story with the fact that Paul and I came to France speaking very little French. By very little, I mean we took a 101 class at Idlewild Bookstore in NY that met once a week for about 2 months. However, on March 1, we arrived at the nearby train station of Boussens where we first laid eyes on Cyril Sarthe. Bonjour was about all we could muster. Everything else came out all messed up. All we could do was smile. The drive was well a bit uncomfortable. Cyril drove home and we dragged our heavy backpacks up to the room that would be our bedroom. Cyril managed to convey to us that Domi would be home soon. It was a Thursday evening; she was at tango class. (what!?)

When Domi got home, she was all dolled up in her tango best and full of energy. Dinner preparations began. Cyril toasted pinenuts and crushed them in a wooden mortar and pestle. Domi boiled water for some fresh pasta and minced garlic. The nuts and garlic were mixed with basil they had preserved in olive oil from last summer. A bit of salt and voila. Handfuls of pasta topped with fresh pesto and handfuls of salad topped with nutritional yeast and vinaigrette made from sunflower oil and homemade cider vinegar.

Our conversation was limited and difficult. But we found ways to communicate. And each day, we could communicate a little more, and some days were impossible and some days were not so bad, but we learned a good deal, trial by fire style. We shared every meal with Domi and Cyril, we slept across the hall, we shared the same bathroom, shower, everything. We spent a lot of time together. And it was tough sometimes. But in the end, it was probably the best thing for our French and we all got to know each other well.

Domi and Cyril work hard. They are certified organic farmers who live almost entirely off their plot of land – with a few exceptions like coffee and chocolate. They’ve got a couple of pigs, chickens, ducks, rabbits, and sheep. They also have two doggies and five cats, but not for eating. Domi sells their veggies and homemade products like canned tomatoes and apple juice at the market each Saturday in Muret. And each Wednesday evening, clients would stop by to pick up veggie baskets as part of a CSA (called an AMAP here). We would spend Tuesday and Wednesday preparing for the CSA; Thursday and Friday preparing for Saturday’s market. There was always work to be done.

It was maybe three weeks in, when we started talking about what recipe we could document. Domi and Cyril liked this one because they each prepare a piece of it and it’s one of their favorites. The music is by Django Reinhart, who I know they both love, and the track is called Honeysuckle Rose. Hope you enjoy!

 

Merci beaucoup, Domi et Cyril! xxo

France

As you may or may not know…Paul and I have embarked on a journey in France, WWOOFing and otherwise traveling, for one year. You can see our adventures on our French Adventure blog: Play Big Ball. Generally, we work 4-5 hours each day, starting at a reasonable hour, 8 or 9a. We’ve been on the road for almost two months now, and we’ve had a wide variety of experiences that are insanely different from anything we would have or could have experienced in NYC.  The impetus behind this trip is fairly simple. I wanted to live in another country for a year. Paul wanted to learn French. Et voilá, here we are! I won’t say it’s been easy, but it’s definitely been educational. And most importantly, we are both glad we are here doing this.

While we do this, Cooking by Heart is evolving. We worked at our first farm for one month in Cassagnabere, an extremely small village south of Toulouse. It is beautiful there and we soaked it in while we struggled, really struggled, with our first host couple, Domi and Cyril, to communicate even the simplest ideas between us. I won’t get into it too much right now, but we eventually shot a cooking video with the two of them, but this video will be sans dialogue. I think you will have a nice feeling for the place. So please stay tuned for Domi & Cyril Sarthe’s recipe for Gnocci with Spinach Sauce.

xxo <3

Potato Latkes & Applesauce

Are you ready to witness a top notch Chanukah recipe passed from one generation to the next? That’s how we do! It was a special treat to shoot with  NY chef, teacher and cookbook author Peter Berley and his daughter Emma Jean at Peter’s teaching kitchen on the North Fork of Long Island. For those of you who are not familiar with latkes, you don’t know what you are missing! They are also known as potato pancakes, they taste incredible with applesauce, but it is also very common for folks to eat them with sour cream or even a bit of both. You can serve them on their own for a snack or as a side dish with dinner. They are delicious.

Peter Berley’s beautiful new teaching kitchen in Jamesport, NY

Like Emma Jean and Peter himself, I grew up glopping lots of applesauce onto my latkes so I am excited to have learned how to make applesauce from scratch! Latkes are a fried food but Peter has found a way of keeping them from being heavy. His latkes are light, fluffy and crunchy all at once. I’ve seen other recipes that call for 1/2 inch of oil or more but I think Peter’s shallow fry, or pan fry, is the way to go. There are many latke recipes out there, but this one may take the cake. I had the pleasure of sampling the goods and they were the best. I could have eaten ten.

You can make the applesauce and latkes simulaneously. Get your apples cooking first, then you’ll have plenty of time to prep your latkes. Before you begin frying latkes, mill your apples so your latkes can be served up hot and fresh as possible. Peter also suggests turnip latkes or adding a bit of grated carrot, or chopped scallion or chives to the mix. Have fun, experiment and let us know what you think!

Applesauce:

(makes about 2 quarts)

Ingredients :
5 pounds red apples (cortlands are best but can also use
McCoons, Empires, Galas or others)

Method:
1. Wash the apples. Halve core and slice into 2 inch chunks (do not peel them!)
2. Place the apples in a heavy pot and bring to a simmer over high heat, give
them a few stirs to prevent scorching.
3. Lower the heat and cover the pot. Cook gently until they turn soft and juicy,
about 30-40 minutes.
4. Puree the apples in a hand cranked food mill.
5. Serve alone, atop latkes or any way you like!

Notes on Applesauce:
If an apple (or pear) is on it’s way out, getting soft or over ripe, it’s a good time to sauce it.
When making applesauce, use a heavy pot – in a thin one, apples will burn before they sauce.
In addition to the pink color the skins provide, Peter keeps the skin on his apples for the pectin, which is just under the skin of apples. Pectin has a thickening effect on the sauce.
You can add cinnamon once the apples are cooked, but that doesn’t go so well with latkes.
Your applesauce will keep for 1-2 weeks in the fridge without any preserving method.

Potato Latkes

(makes 10-12 latkes)

Ingredients:
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated
1 cup onion, coarsely grated
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
fresh ground black pepper
1 cup ( or more ) vegetable oil or shmaltz

Method:
1. Fill a large bowl with cold water.
2. As you grate the potatoes and onions transfer them to the water (this prevents them from turning
brown).
3. Drain the potatoes & onion mixture and place in a large to a clean towel. Ring out as much water as
you can. You can also do this by hand in batches.
4. Transfer the potato-onion mixture to a large bowl and stir in the beaten egg, salt and pepper to taste.
5. Heat a large skillet with 4 tablespoons of oil until hot but not smoking.
6. Fill a 1/2 cup measuring cup with potato mixture and press out excess liquid back into the bowl.
Add the mixture to the pan and flatten into a 3 inch round with a spatula.
7. Fry 3-4 pancakes at a time or whatever amount will fit comfortably in the pan without overcrowding it.
Cook until golden brown on each side. Drain the pancakes on brown paper. Season with a little salt.
8. Serve immediately or drain on a wire rack and keep warm in a 300 degree oven.

Notes on Latkes:
For this recipe, do not use extra virgin olive oil. Extra light pure olive oil, safflower or canola oil are best.
Once pan is hot, keep flame low.
You can make the grated potato mixture a day ahead. Keep it in the fridge with plastic directly on the grated mixture so no air gets to it.
If preparing latkes for a crowd, you can keep them in warm oven around 200.
If you are vegan, can use flour instead of egg to help bind the latkes.

 

Thank you Emma Jean and Peter! And as usual, thank you Sintalentos, Trokon Nagbe, and Mister Helzer. And thank you Momma and Pops Helzer for lending us the car so we could shoot this piece! Also merci, Domi et Cyril, pour le pomme et le pomme de terre ;). As for music credits: Meg’s Shopping Spree (Take Without Giving) and The Fall of Benson Mining by Sven Libaek; Something Elated by Broke for Free; Kolomeiko by Tres Tristes Tangos; Leno by Vlada Tomova Balkan Tales.

Sneak Preview: Peter Berley

We recently shot an episode of Cooking by Heart with chef, teacher, father and award-winning cookbook author, Peter Berley, and his daughter Emma. We had the honor of being the first film crew to shoot at Peter’s newly established “My North Fork Kitchen,” where he recently began offering wonderfully intimate cooking classes in his incredible new kitchen. Here’s a promo piece we put together while we were there.

PS. Look out because soon I’ll be posting Peter & Emma cooking latkes & applesauce by heart and it’s going to be delectable!