It took me a long time to get to Paris…I was supposed to arrive as a student, breathless and excited at 17. Instead, I arrived breathless and excited at 28 because we almost missed getting off of the train since we lost track of time and had only 4 rushed minutes to gather our things and hop off. We were having so much fun we didn’t noticed that we’d arrived…talk about breathless!
By now, I have been to Paris many times…but every time is special and different. I am so blessed that we have come so many times as a family and enjoyed many Sunday suppers. This time we were welcomed as friends at the hotel where we always stay, Relais St. Germaine. We joked with the concierge and the waiters at the bistro located in the hotel, Le Comptoir which is our favorite for the food, service, people watching and (best of all) the proximity to our room.
By now, they know that Dana speaks French, I speak a tiny bit, and Jeff prefers to let us speak for him. In France, they like things to be predictable, and we are.
By now, we know where our favorite places are and how to get there…the Museums, the Seine, the Tuileries, Luxembourg Gardens, shops, galleries, bistros, the streets, narrow and crooked or vast and tree lined.
But now, I know that this will probably be our last visit for a long time. We start to think about saying a mental goodbye… and then we stop, we know that we HAVE to come back…maybe not as frequently as in the last few years, but we WILL return, because this city has become part of the best of our lives.
So, this is my tribute to a city that I’ve grown to love….and that I will always return to breathless and excited.
Do you remember the commercial with naturalist Euell Gibbons that began, “Ever eat a pine tree? Some parts are edible.”? I can’t remember exactly what product the commercial was hawking, but I do know that’s how it began. I could use a similar opening line for this post. “Ever eat a violet? “No,” you say? Well, I’m here to tell you that you can and you can eat other edible flowers as well.
I have a special place in my garden for violets because I love them so! This area is not sprayed with anything toxic and it is not fertilized. What grows in this special spot is totally natural, so I feel very good about serving these little purple lovelies on my salads in the springtime to surprise my family and friends when they come for Sunday supper.
There are many flowers that are edible. I bet that many of you have eaten squash blossoms, but did you know that you can snack on nasturtiums, pansies and roses? The first time I experienced flowers as an ingredient in a salad was when I lived in California. It’s a beautiful addition that I have added to salads ever since.
I was reminded of this salad while strolling in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris and seeing violets peeking out from their long winter’s rest. Violets are some of the first flowers to greet the spring with their tiny faces turning toward the sun. Their sweet nectar is a perfect addition to tender leaves of Bibb lettuce, bright orange slices and delicate herbs.
As much as I love extra virgin olive oil, I find that it is too heavy for this salad, so I use grape seed oil instead. I also have lightened the flavor further by using champagne vinegar. Please remember that I use wild violets that have not been sprayed with insecticide or fertilizer.
Make it special, make it Sunday!
Spring Salad with Bibb Lettuce, Oranges, Herbs and Violets
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
A simple, pretty salad perfect for spring!
2 heads of Bibb lettuce, washed and dried
1 orange, peeled with a knife and sliced into clean segments
A few dozen violets or other edible flowers such as nasturtiums or pansies
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon fresh herbs such as tarragon, thyme or marjoram, snipped
1/2 cup of grape seed oil
Salt and white pepper to taste
In a small bowl whisk vinegar,orange juice, salt, pepper and herbs together, slowly add the grape seed oil while you continue to whisk.
Compose lettuce and orange slices on plates. Drizzle with vinaigrette and garnish with violets.
Every morning in Paris we set off to our makeshift studio in the 6th arrondissement by strolling down boulevards lined with budding chestnut trees glowing in the bright spring sun as sidewalks were being freshly scrubbed and shopkeepers were setting out their wares. This walk to work put smiles on our faces every single morning. We realized how lucky we were to be working in Paris! Sometimes I just wanted to pinch myself to make sure it was real. Luckily, work was finished by late afternoon and we got a chance to meander the streets doing what we love…taking pictures and eating! Along the way, we popped into shops, bistros and cafes.
Down a curving street with a romantic name, Rue de Reine (street of the queen) was a restaurant that we kept returning to, Fish La Boissonierie. Fish is a friendly, neighborhood place owned by Drew Harré and Juan Sanchez who opened the famous and original Cosi, which is across the street.
During our visits, Jeff and I ordered several different entrees, but Dana always ordered the same thing because she loved it so..the French lentil salad. That salad inspired what you see here. I never did get the recipe, but I tasted it and I (hopefully) replicated it here. I’ve found that quite a lot of French cooking is about letting the simple, subtle flavor of great ingredients shine through without a lot of pretense. I think that’s why this salad was so perfect as an entree for Dana.
She would just have this salad with slice after slice of their warm hearth baked bread, fresh from the stone ovens across the street at Cosi. You could serve this as a light entree, or as a starter salad. Now that the days are longer and the temperature is rising, it might be what you’d like to serve on the porch in the spring for Sunday supper for your family and friends.
If possible, make this salad using French green lentils, also called Lentilles du Puy. They cost a bit more, but I love their nutty, peppery taste. I also make sure to soak my lentils for a couple of hours then rinse them thoroughly. I find that this seems to eliminate any stomach distress that sometimes occurs with legumes.
Update: Tonight I made this and topped the entree portion with roasted tarragon chicken…drizzled the vinaigrette over the whole thing…dinner in a dish!
Make it special make it Sunday!
Warm, French Lentil Salad with Carrots and Arugula
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 - 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
A simple salad that can serve as an entree or side salad.
4 ounces French lentils
1 cup water
4 average carrots
12 - 16 stems of arugula
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Please note: This recipe is for a side salad. If you want to serve this as an entree, please double the recipe.
Carefully sort through the lentils to make sure that there are no pebbles or bits that need to be removed. Rinse, then cover lentils with an inch of water and let soak for 2 - 4 hours. Rinse again.
Add water and slowly simmer lentils till they are tender, but not mushy (about 15 - 20 minutes). Most of the water should be absorbed by the lentils, if not, drain them and put them in a bowl. Please note: Do not add salt while they are cooking because it tends to toughen the lentils.
While the lentils are simmering, make the vinaigrette. In a bowl, whisk the Dijon mustard and lemon juice together and slowly whisk in olive oil, add salt and pepper to taste.
Wash and trim carrots, then slice. (I used a mandoline to get these long narrow strips, but if you don't have a mandoline, you can cut them in thin slices with a vegetable peeler). Put the carrots in a bowl filled with cold water to keep them fresh. Wash and dry arugula.
Toss the lentils with 1/2 of the vinaigrette and spoon them onto 4 plates. Top with the carrots (that have been drained) and arugula. Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over each of the salads. I like to serve this salad with the lentils warm or at room temperature.
When the tender buds start to peak out from their long sleep covered with a blanket of frozen earth and twittering birds return to flowering trees, I always hope that it’s not a tease and that winter winds will not bring us one last dusting of freezing white. This year has been a strange one for Chicago…we have had relief from the normal frigid and snowy winter, but at what price? We have had little snow and barely any winter weather in the Midwest. I’m hoping that we will not pay for this in August! Even though Paris has been colder than Chicago (can you believe that?) both cities are now enjoying spring, the magical time of renewal.
In my family, lamb was the chosen food of spring…we used to call it our Spring Lamb. Other folks might be having ham or roast beef, but we would celebrate the season with lamb.
So, as I take you through this journey with me, I have to meld my two inspirations of the moment….Paris and my Irish heritage. I think that they come together quite well in this recipe. The French would call this Carre d’Agneau, but I call it provencial rack of lamb. It’s an easy, tasty preparation that will leave you lots of time to be with your family and friends for a special Sunday supper. Pair it with a my Fresh Watercress Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette, Easy Asparagus, and maybe even my French Chocolate Pot de Creme for dessert and you will sit down to a fine spring meal.
Thank you for taking the time to visit and thank you for cherishing your family and friends this Sunday!
French Rack of Lamb Recipe
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
An easy, savory main course, with fresh herbs and Dijon mustard, perfect for a celebration or holiday!
2 Racks of lamb approximately 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds each (ask your butcher to trim the excess fat and to "French" them for you, and they will remove a bit of meat to show the bones for a better presentation, as shown in photo)
1/2 cup French Old Style Whole Grain Dijon mustard (I used the brand Maille for this recipe)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoon fresh thyme (leaves removed from stem)
2 Tablespoon fresh rosemary (removed from stem and snipped into pieces)
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
A few sprigs of fresh herbs for garnish
Preheat oven to 425 degrees (make sure that your oven rack is in the center of the oven).
Mix the mustard and olive oil together to form a paste.
Salt and pepper the lamb.
Spread the mustard paste on the top of the lamb racks, and sprinkle with herbs.
Roast in oven for approximately 25 - 30 minutes or until meat thermometer reads 130. Take racks out and let rest for 5 minutes. The racks will rise in internal temperature to 140 which will be medium-rare.
Slice and place on platter, add garnish and sprinkle with a few more fresh herbs.
Make it special, make it Sunday.
I left the room for a minute after we were finished shooting the pics for the blog and this is what I came back to! I think that this says just how good this recipe is….
I once saw a sign in a pastry shop that said, “Life’s uncertain, eat dessert first”. Maybe that’s why when I sit down at a bistro, I always peak at the dessert section right away, just to make sure that they have my favorite, pot de creme. Pot de creme is not the only dessert that I order, but it’s definitely my favorite bistro treat.
This creamy confection is a dessert for chocolate lovers, and not for folks on a diet. The intense, dark chocolate is only made lighter by adding the whipped cream topping!
I thought that this recipe would be perfect for the Monthly Mingle titled April in Paris that Jamie (Life’s a Feast) is sponsoring this month. Monthly Mingle is a great get together of posts from bloggers around the world that was started by Metta (What’s for Lunch Honey?).
I have to say, that this is not the easy “blender” version, but it’s not the difficult “bake in a water bath” version either. It takes a bit of whisking and stirring, but I think that the result is well worth it, especially on Sunday when I take extra time to make something special for my family and friends.
I realize that many of you do not have access to fancy chocolate such as Valrhona, so I made this version with what is realistic to find at your market. If you do have access to gourmet chocolate, please go ahead and use it in this recipe.
I also know that some of you might not have a bain-marie or (double boiler), so do as I do. I take a large stock pot and fill it about 1/4 with water. Take a large stainless steel bowl and place it in the pot so that the rim of the bowl sits on the edge of the pot (you don’t want the bowl floating around in the pot). You now can melt the chocolate slowly over simmering water very easily. I actually like it better than a double boiler because it’s very easy to whisk the custard into the chocolate. The chocolate also stays warm this way and does not start to harden like it would if you just melted the chocolate in the microwave.
So, don’t be intimidated by this dessert, it’s really not hard to make something delicious and special for your Sunday supper.
Classic French Chocolate Pot de Creme Recipe
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
A rich, chocolate dessert perfect for true chocolate lovers!
6 ounces dark chocolate (I used Ghirardelli Premium Baking Bar with 60% cacao - bittersweet chocolate)
1/3 cup cocoa (I used Droste)
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
2 large egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
Melt the dark chocolate and cocoa together in either a bain-marie, double boiler, or my preferred method, a large stainless bowl over a stock pot.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, heat the cream and milk together until it is scalding (almost to a boil). Remove from heat. Whisk the cream/milk mixture very slowly into the eggs and sugar. You want to slowly warm the eggs to that they don't cook quickly. Add all of the cream/milk mixture to bowl to incorporate with egg mixture.
Then pour mixture back into the large saucepan. Bring to a simmer and stir constantly with a wooden spoon for about 5 minutes or until the mixture coats the back of the spoon.
Slowly whisk the custard mixture into the melted chocolate.
Pour into 4 individual serving containers.
Cover immediately with plastic wrap so that a film does not form on the top.
Let cool for 10 minutes then refrigerate for a least an hour. May be made days ahead.
Serve with whipped cream and shaved chocolate, if desired.