Friday, October 16, 2015

Simple French Food: Recipes and Hints

As a part of my tribute to simple cooking, I am re-publishing our own recipes from years ago. I realized that the "search" feature on Blogger does not work for posts older than one year. So, here are my favorites again: 

What to eat with your beautifully cooked chicken: (those instructions below)? How about green beans, or maybe zuccini? Here is a simple way to cook up a vegetable
(our favorite is green beans) so that sometimes, even the hardest to convince will ask for a second helping.

Canned green beans (the thinner the better)
Garlic (not garlic powder, the real thing, please) 1 clover per can of green beans
Olive oil

Open can of green beans (we need 3 for our family), drain and rinse. Press garlic with garlic press, or dice real small-like. Heat olive oil and butter together (I never measure, maybe 2 T of each for 3 cans of beans.) Add garlic and beans and stir gently. Heat on medium a minute or two, then lower flame to lowest setting and let simmer while you enjoy a glass of red wine or Perrier with a splash of juice with your beloved. Enjoy!

P.S. Zucchini works the same way, only you will need to wash, peel and slice it first. Broccoli or cauliflower are great too...use your imagination!


As I wait for the fries to be done frying and the boys to finish grilling the hamburgers, I thought about how our favorite (though naughty) meal is also a very simple one to make from real food. It is so simple that I have time to jot this down while it is all cooking. Here is my top secret recipe for hamburgers, and my French husband's recipe for French fries (of course).

For the hamburgers; start with good ingredients, you'll have a delicious outcome.
1-1.5 lbs. hamburger from an anti-body free, hormone-free cow
1 fresh farm egg
1 small onion, diced fine
salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients, (with hands works the best, wear rubber gloves if you're squeamish), form into balls, squish down into flat patties, cook over grill, charcoal or indoor.

FRENCH FRIES (for real)

5-6 potatoes
vegetable oil

Wash and peel potatoes. Dice into 1/2" cubes, they are a lot quicker and easier to cook than long ones. Fry in hot oil until done. Salt and serve.

Bon appetit!


1 chicken

First: find the chicken. You will not find this bird in your local supermarket. Seek out a farmer, either at the farmer's market, through a co-op or through word of mouth.

Believe me, if you have only ever eaten grocery store poultry your whole life, this may be a pivotal experience in your existence. There will be no going back, and there will be no danger of recall either. These chickens have lived a good life, run around and eaten like chickens should, they will not taste the same. Now buy your chicken, ask if it has been dressed (it's innards removed and most likely stuffed back neatly inside) and bring it home. If it is frozen, it may require overnight unthawing.

Now reach in and remove the neat little package of heart, liver, gizzards. Fry them up if you like them, feed them to your dog or chop them up for dressing, it's up to you.

As for the bird; rinse it off, put it into a 9X13 or maybe smaller casserole dish, salt and pepper it inside and out. Add a little water to the bottom of the dish and put in into a 350 degree oven. If it is less than 5 pounds, it will need about 1 1/2 hours to cook. If it is over, it may need 2 hours. You know it is finished when you tilt the bird and the juice no longer runs reddish, or the legs fall off the sides, either will do.

Every half hour or so, baste it with its own juice (I don't own a baster, I just use a tablespoon and spoon it over the top.) Add water as needed to keep a little in the bottom of the dish. Bon appetit!


A summer staple in Southern France. Easy to prepare, keeps well, everyone seems to like it.

Rice, we like to use Basmati, but use your favorite. 11/2 cups (uncooked) for 5-6 people;
cook according to directions on package.
Vinagrette: 6 T olive oil
2 T vinegar (red wine or white wine or apple cider or balsamic)
salt and pepper to taste
1 shallot, minced

Toss cooled rice with vinagrette, add any or all of the following:

Hard boiled eggs
Tomatoes, cherry or diced
Cocktail onions
Pickles, chopped
Peppers, red or green
Whatever else sounds good.

Bon appetit!


This will taste like the best, creamiest tomato soup you have ever served, but it really contains an extra ingredient that makes it that way, just don't tell anyone until after they've tasted it.

3-4 potatoes, the smaller, the more1 can pumpkin (15 oz.)
1 can diced tomatoes (28 oz.)
(optional: bouillon, 1 large cube or 1 T)
heavy whipping cream for garnish (do not whip)

Peel, rinse, and cut potatoes into 4-5 pieces. Boil until tender, save enough water to cover the potatoes, discard the rest. Add bouillon, salt, tomatoes and pumpkin, heat and let simmer, very low heat, for 10 minutes or so. Mix in a blender until completely pureed. Serve in bowls, drizzle with a cream design (you could try initials or a picture.)

It was a perfect evening for our annual Martinmas pilgrimage around the dark neighborhood. It was cool, but not cold and it was neither windy nor raining, for the first time in our history of celebrating the feast day of St.Martin. Dinner was improve upon pasta and veggies (see below).
St.Martin is the patron saint of France. He was a warm-hearted Roman soldier who gave half his cloak to a freezing beggar one night. He dreamed that same night that the poor man had really been Jesus. This was the miracle that completed his conversion to Christianity. He preached for years and years all over Gaul and became a well-loved bishop. There are tiny towns all over the French countryside named after St.Martin. Oddly enough, it is in Germany that this feast day is the most celebrated.

The children and I love this special day. We usually read the story of St.Martin and sometimes act it out during the day and make our lanterns. Then, after sunset, we venture out bringing light to the dark night. This year's lanterns (tin cans) are the result of many years of experimentation. The beautiful paper lanterns of years past never held up to the absolutely atrocious weather we have always had, not to mention constantly requiring re-lighting of the candles. The candles this year are beeswax ones the kids rolled themselves. Last year, the yarn on the can quickly burnt from the flame, so we gave wire a try this time. The first three lanterns were done with wire someone salvaged from a notebook. When we ran out of that we used floral wire. The only relighting we needed to do was when a little one dropped a lantern a time or two.

After a simple dinner of pasta (made with butter and a little heavy whipping cream to make it nice and smooth, sprinkled with Parmesan), carrots (grated and tossed with a white wine/olive oil vinegrette*), and ham, dessert was yogurt (plain with a little sugar and berries), we bundled up and lit out lanterns. Out we ventured to light up the darkness with our tiny flames. It was very dark. We live on a street without lights. The mood was so very quiet and reverent and maybe lonely, that it made us want to sing. Someone began a Christmas carol, because we don't know any Martinmas songs. Everyone joined in singing softly. It was still loud enough that if the neighbors didn't already think we were nuts, it was probably established now. There are times when we sing loudly, I like to think it is when everyone is safely at work and can't hear us, but this was a special, quiet time in the dark.

Lily spent the most time on her lantern, preparing and painting it the day before, pounding the holes in and decorating it later. Alienor was very proud to have the lantern whose flame burned the longest. We walked all the way down to the woods a few blocks away and into them to see how dark they really were at night. On the way home, the candles began going out one by one, but Alienor coaxed and encouraged hers to last until we returned. She did it, it lasted, all the way to the house, through teeth-brushing and even past official bedtime (we know because she came down to check.) It was a happy, cozy night, all in all.

* Vinegrette: mix 3-4T olive oil (extra virgin, first press) with 1T white wine vinegar, salt and pepper, stir/ whisk vigorously, pour over salad, toss.


 Happy Post-Thanksgiving Day to the Americans here and abroad. I hope each and every one of you was privileged with a lovely family dinner...and all the holiday entails. Now what to do with the leftovers? Turkey is easy; freeze it and feed it to the kids in sandwiches for the next three weeks, but the dressing won't keep. Here is my recipe for both dressing and a dish to make today special.

Portabella Stuffing Stuffed Mushrooms

You will need: large portabella mushrooms
1c celery chopped
1c onion diced
1c mushrooms (any kind) chopped
8 cups bread crumbs
1/2 c broth (1T Vegetarian Better than Bouillon + 1/2 c water)
poultry seasoning
olive oil

Sauté celery, onion and mushroom in olive oil until tender. Add poultry seasoning, add to bread crumbs, toss, moisten with broth, salt and pepper to taste. That's it, you have the most delicious stuffing my family has ever tasted, so they tell me, either because they want me to do the turkey again or because it's true, flattery will get you everywhere.

Rinse the portabella mushrooms, pat dry, brush bottoms with olive oil, stuff with warm stuffing (warm up if using leftovers). Grill or cook in frying pan until tender. Bon appetit, enjoy!


Our daily bread; this is the one I make almost every day. I use a bread machine, but you can knead it by hand, I'll give the directions for that method too. It is simply perfect warm with butter to be eaten with your soup.

1 3/4 c very warm water1-2 T olive oil
1 T salt
1 T yeast
2 c whole wheat flour
2 c unbleached white flour
(optional; 3 T honey)

If you are using a bread machine: put yeast into warm water, stir, add a pinch of sugar or honey to proof yeast. Wait until yeast bubbles, add olive oil and salt, (and optional honey). Pour into machine. Add the flour on top of liquid ingredients, set bread machine to "rapid" cycle. Tip; return in one minute with a spatula to scrape sides of machine down to the bottom to avoid the "dried out flour on the sides" dilemma many machines will cause on this cycle. When done, follow directions in last paragraph.

Alternatively: set the machine to the "dough" cycle. Remove after an hour, place in oiled bread pan, or make small balls and set them on an oiled cookie sheet or a stone pizza dish. Place in cold oven, set it to warm to 370, bake for 30-40 minutes, less for buns. 

By hand; follow to just before adding the flour. Place liquid in a large mixing bowl. Add in flour cup by cup, up to three cups, stirring vigorously until you can stir no more, then begin to knead on a floured surface. When you have a nice, elastic, smooth dough, place it in a greased bread pan or form it into a ball and put it on a cookie sheet. Cover with a damp towel, put in a warm place and let rise for an hour. Place in cold oven, set it to warm to 370, bake for 45-60 minutes. Done when you can hear a hollow sound when you tap the loaf.

Remove to a wire cooling rack and let cool a little while before slicing, enjoy!

Quiche may be for you the only word you know in French or a favorite dish you remember from the eighties. In France, it is a perennial favorite and considered "quick cuisine". Let me share with you my composite recipe, based on collected recipes from expert quiche makers over the years.


One pie crust, see below for recipe, or pick one up at the grocery store if you are pressed for time.

5-6 eggs
1 cup cheese (Swiss if your family will eat it, to be authentic, cheddar if they really won't)
1/4 cup fresh chives, chopped
1 pint of heavy whipping cream
1 cup diced prosciutto or diced thick-sliced bacon if you can't find the prosciutto
Pinch of nutmeg
Dash of salt
Substitutes for prosciutto: salmon, ham, use your imagination!

Grease a pie pan with butter or oil. Unroll pie crust in pan. Fry the prosciutto, no oil necessary. Alternately, cook the salmon or substitute. Beat eggs, add cream, salt, nutmeg, chives and prosciutto. Pour into pie crust. Bake at 325 for an hour, can be served hot at home or cold at the beach, enjoy!

Pie Crust

1 cup flour

4 T butter

ice cold water

2 t sea salt

Measure out the flour and salt, pour into a large mixing bowl. Cut butter into dry ingredients with a pastry cutter until you have a grainy texture. (If you don't own a pastry cutter, go invest the $2.99 to get one, it changed my pie-making life!) Add, tablespoon by tablespoon, ice-cold water until the mix forms into a dough you can roll into a ball, it will be less than 1 cup of water.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough into a round form, larger than the pie tin by 2" all around. Fold into four, unfold gently, without stretching, into the pie dish.

This is a recipe that all of my children over five know how to make, easy and delicious.
3 leeks
3 potatoes
1 large or 2 small bouillon cubes or 1T "Better than Bouillon" any flavor
salt, pepper

Fill a 3-4 quart pot with water, add salt, heat to boil
Cut leeks lengthwise and chop into 1/2 inch slices, soak, wash, rinse, repeat until all sand and dirt is gone (2-3 times).
Wash and peel potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes.
Put both into pot, add bouillon, bring to boil then lower flame to simmer for 30 minutes.

Once soup is finished, you may add pepper, if desired. It can be served as is, or pureed in a blender. Some kids prefer it pureed and served with a straw, it goes down faster when it's new.

Variations: add any other vegetables, a hamhock for non-vegetarians. Pierre's grandmother adds beans (Great Northern), carrots and angel hair pasta (the short variety).

If you are planning to eat a chicken that week, plan the soup for the next day. Chicken soup recipe for tomorrow.

Serve with a loaf of bread. And it would be a shame to forget the red wine.


Once upon a time, I had a fantastic recipe for a soup that the whole family loved. Everywhere this soup was brought, it made taste buds happy. And I could bring it anywhere; it was vegetarian! Then, the cooking website I always found it on no longer had it there; just like that. I searched through every single option offered on every food and recipe network/website and blog available; nowhere. So I had to re-make it up, and it took me this long. Tonight, after months of it turning out "OK," I tasted it; success? I think so...I had my mate and taste-tester with no compunctions about telling me; "eh, so-so," try it too. His verdict: "Success!" So I will share it, below. It's more or less my millionth attempt to get it right.
Do everything exactly as I say and it will turn out to be a treat, I promise. But tell me you substituted skim milk for the cream or celery salt or chili powder for the real things and all bets are off.  Bon appetit!

Millionth Vegetarian Clam Chowder

Oyster mushrooms (10 oz. fresh) (1.5 oz. dried)
4 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup chopped celery stick
1T Better than Bouillon (vegetable flavor) (or for a non-vegetarian, delicious version: beef)
2-3 red potatoes
1 cup frozen corn
1/4 of a dried chipotle pepper
1 1/2 c whole whipping cream
1/2-1 sheet of dried seaweed, ripped to tiny shreds 

For fresh mushrooms: chop and saute in olive oil with chopped celery and minced garlic until tender; 5 minutes. (For dried, see below.) Continue to simmer for 20 minutes or so to reduce. Boil a quart of water.

Add bouillon to boiling water. Add potatoes and mushroom mix. Cook 10 minutes. Add corn and chipotle pepper. Adjust salt to taste. When corn is hot (5 minutes or so), add the whipping cream and seaweed. Warm through and serve hot. 

For dried mushrooms: soak for 20-30 minutes (you can use the broth you've made with the bouillon.) Remove from water with a slotted spoon and add to the pan with the olive oil. 

Serve with a chilled Chardonnay or a dry Riesling. Homemade bread or a nice, crisp baguette goes well with it too. Now I'm making myself cry. If you find that baguette, drop one off here on your way home, will you? Enjoy!


  1. Mmmm, sounds great! I loved the soup recipe too. So simple and easy. I always use my grater to quickly shred my garlic. You know those four sided things with different blades/openings on each side? work grate (great) on ginger and garlic.

  2. Oooh...the zucchini sounds especially good!

  3. Hi Marlis,

    Glad you liked the soup recipe and thank you for the grater idea for garlic. I used a very unsatisfactory little garlic mill for years, it got the job done, but I hated washing it, it bit!

    Ever since I discovered my wonderful little garlic press, I have never turned back, funny that my mother-in-law still prefers the mill. (I gave her a press years ago, she still has it, it's in great condition. To each his own.)

    I am going to try out my grater on ginger, I had never thought of it.

  4. Hi Tammy,

    Such compliments from such an accomplished cook, thank you! I am encouraged.



Thank you for stopping by. I am always happy to hear from you! Please leave a comment and let me know how you feel about a post or add advice, anecdotes, etc. of your own.