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Dancing Tomatoes

French Holidays and Weird Season

We focused on eggplant for this first video of the week because they are still so beautiful AND I made a discovery.  Find the long, snaky purple eggplant often referred to as Chinese or Japanese or Asian eggplant (Solanum melangena) and follow the video to make this amazing appetizer.  You’ll be amazed.

Holiday. Rush. Dessert.

Since the holidays, with their attendant rush of family and friends, is soon upon us, I’m thinking about desserts for entertaining. Is there anything more impressive, and better to dip a spoon into, than a warm chocolate souffle? No, and the one featured in our video goes a step further. It’s a Double Chocolate Souffle. Take a look!

Will I Ever Learn?

I’ve lived in France for thirty years, and for thirty years I’m surprised every single time by the French holidays. Take today, for example. I had a zillion errands to run, all of them involving things like getting my dose of raw milk salted butter, finding basil oil to use in a recipe, restocking my supply of organic lemons, picking up my favorite Indian snacks from the neighborhood I call Sri Lanka, and making sure I had all the ingredients necessary for a spate of recipe testing. So, I prepared myself – which involved putting on shoes and a coat and scarf – and out I went.

Empty Streets

Oddly, the streets were empty, the sidewalks more so. I passed the butcher shop I’ve fallen in love with because the young butcher – he’s, maybe, 25? – stocks local meat from small farms. His sandwich board said, “Open all day on the November 11” and I thought, how nice that he’s giving us notice. I walk on, my goal being the essential oil store which is one of these French shops I love, where spiritualism, health, and that inimitable French sense of how to cure everything with an essential oil collide. The lights were off, the door closed. I took out my phone. Good lord, it’s today. November 11 is here, both Armistice and Veteran’s Day.

Business Not As Usual

This means that business is not as usual. And that’s why all the clothing, accessory, and coffee roasters were closed. It wasn’t that it was lunchtime. It is a holiday.

Except for food shops. And that’s what I love about France. Because come hell or high water, or Sunday mornings or holidays, French food shops stay open. The prevailing ideology is that people need to eat, and they need to eat delicious things like hand-made pates and sausages, gorgeous meats and poultry, crisp, buttery pastries and gooey fruit tarts, artisanal cheeses and raw milk, lightly salted butter.

So Much to Love in France

There is so much to love in France (though don’t think life here is always paradisiac because there are a few things not to love), and high on my list is that food shops stay open when other shops close. I bless the butchers, fishmongers, patissiers/ères, boulangers/ères, fromagers/ères who toil for us all, and wish them unbounded wealth and honor. Because without them, this country wouldn’t be France at all.

PLAT DU JOUR, the cooking course, will help you become the chef and cook you always wanted to be, with clear instruction, focus on seasonal ingredients and traditional French recipes.

So Much to Love in France

I know I’m not alone in keeping the multitude of French holidays straight because several of my expat friends have the same problem. But it doesn’t really matter because no matter the day or the occasion, there is always the assurance of eating well!

Bon Appétit, and enjoy visiting the Pastry Course!

EGGPLANT AND HERB APPETIZERS

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup; 60ml olive oil
  • 1 very long eggplant, called Japanese or Asian eggplant, or 2 shorter ones, trimmed, cut into -1/2 inch (1.25cm) thick lozenges
  • Fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper or cayenne
  • 1 cup; 10g mixed herbs such as fennel fronds flat-leaf parsley, mint, tarragon
  • 1 large clove garlic de-germed, diced

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 425F (220C).
  • Using a pastry brush, brush a steel baking sheet thoroughly with oil.
  • Lay the lozenges of eggplant on the oiled baking sheet, and lightly brush each piece of eggplant with oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Place the eggplant in the center of the pre-heated oven and bake until the eggplant begins to soften, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven. If the eggplant slices are soft and golden on one side, transfer them to a serving platter. If they need more cooking, flip them, and continue cooking until they are tender through, another 5 minutes or so.
  • Transfer the cooked eggplant to a serving platter, in one layer.
  • Mince the herbs and the garlic and transfer to a bowl. Add the remaining olive oil. If there isn’t enough oil to generously cover the herbs, add a bit more oil.
  • Anoint each eggplant slice with a mixture of herbs and oil, evenly dividing the mixture among the slices. Season with salt and serve.

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE SOUFFLES - SOUFFLES AU DOUBLE CHOCOLAT

Ingredients

  • 5 ounces; 150g bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chopped
  • 1/4 cup; (60ml) whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons plus 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1-1/3 ounces;40g coarsely chopped pieces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate or 1/3 cup chocolate chips

Instructions

  • Butter six 4-ounce ramekins or 6-ounce custard cups. Place them on a baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • In a large mixing bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt the chocolate with the milk. Remove from heat and whisk in 3 tablespoons of sugar, egg yolks, and the vanilla. Let stand at room temperature.
  • In a clean, separate bowl, whip the egg whites until they are foamy and begin to hold their shape when the whisk is lifted. Gradually whip in the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar until the whites hold soft, droopy peaks.
  • Fold the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Fill the ramekins or custard cups halfway with the soufflé mixture. Sprinkle in the pieces of chopped chocolate. Add the remaining batter, filling the soufflé dishes almost to the top.
  • Bake for about 14 minutes, until the soufflés are firm, yet jiggly when nudged.
  • Remove from oven and serve immediately with pitchers of icy-cold crème anglaise.
  • Makes 6 individual soufflés

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