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Archive for the ‘seasonal’ Category

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Le Marché Nocturne. The summer night markets in French villages, specifically those in the Southwest or Gascon countryside, are something to behold. Next to endless fields of sunflowers, they are one of my favorite things and I try to cram as many into my few short weeks as possible. In fact, these are things I heavily consider in the timing of my visits each year. Nearly every summer evening in July and August, village squares transform into big parties with music, cheap but delicious wine and booths manned with the neighborhood producteurs selling the delicious local specialties. The offerings vary by village but could be platters of melon, local cheeses, bread, duck confit, oysters, big vats of snails, frites (always frites), pastries, grilled sausages and maybe one of my favorites, duck hearts and gizzards slowly cooked in duck fat. We are in duck country after all. The best strategy is to go with several friends so one can stake out a spot at the long tables, one can grab the wine and the rest of the group can scatter to the various booths to assemble a meal. Everyone meets back at the table for a most enjoyable night. It’s really fantastic and I highly recommend you seek them out.

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There is a particular dish that calls to me this time of year. Maybe it’s all the summers I’ve spent in the French countryside, but a stuffed vegetable just says late summer to me, especially a stuffed round zucchini. Courgette farcie, I really love the sound of that. Bring out the olives, the cheese, the simple grilled meats or sausages, and most importantly, the big pitcher of cold, cold rosé. Round up the glasses, circle up the chairs, put the big platter of stuffed roasted vegetables in the center of the table as my French friends do and dig in.

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Three things signal the height of summer produce like nothing else: sweet corn, tomatoes and peaches. Three of my very favorite things. That they all show up about the same time around here is an opportunity for rejoicing. This is when the summer BBQ season really peaks, when pie crusts get rolling and a regular dinner around here is nothing more than 2 or 3 ears of corn with butter, salt and pepper. I eat an ungodly amount of corn in these few short weeks.

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Man, oh man, it’s hot. It’s hot everywhere. I know it’s summer and it’s supposed to be warm but every year it just slaps me in the face when I’m the least prepared. I grew up in Arizona; you think I’d be acclimated. No way. Living in the Midwest has made me soft, temperature-wise, to both the heat and the cold. I’ve become a typically Midwesterner whiny weather baby. How unoriginal. When it’s this hot, I don’t feel like eating and I certainly don’t feel like cooking.

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Eton Mess. Sounds delicious, doesn’t it? Oh those Brits. Makes you wonder what they were thinking when they named things like Spotted Dick, Jam Roly Poly and Stargazey Pie. So let me tell you about “Eton Mess”. It’s a delightful traditional English dessert said to have originated in the 19th century at the hoity toity British boarding school and is traditionally served on June 4th at the annual cricket game against the rival Harrow School. It always contains ripe fresh strawberries, whipped cream and meringue bits all sort of folded together or if you’re fancy, layered parfait style, in a bowl or cup. The strawberry juices run into the cream, which soaks into the crunchy meringue bits making one delicious mess of a dessert.

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Does anyone need another recipe for apple pie? Maybe. Hell, I’ve got three of them on this blog, each one a little different. Guess it depends on what you’re looking for but I think that there’s always room for another. I’ve covered the bases – classic, amped up with salted caramel and even fancy in a French inspired tart. But what about an apple pie that was completely packed with pure apple flavor, holding nothing back? Scoot over and make some room; there’s a new addition to the line up.

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Winter is coming. Seems obvious and though I’m having a hard time truly accepting this fact, I came face-to-face with the inevitable. It snowed on Halloween. Oh joy. It was a light dusting in the morning followed by that particularly awful mix of cold slightly frozen rain, huge traffic delays and everyone generally acting like an idiot. At the end of my two hour commute home I saw a few determined trick-or-treaters on the streets. Good for you kids, good for you. I hope you took home loads of treats for simply braving that mess.

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