Tuesday, May 18, 2010

So long France

My trip through France is coming to its end and after five days in Paris, two in Bordeaux, three in Toulouse, and four in Nice I can say that traveling through France can be a comfortable challenge. Many questions remain unanswered; why did we have to switch trains twice on what was supposed to be a direct trip? Why don't French boys notice cute American/Canadian girls? Why is it so cold and rainy in May? Why did that person just cut me in line?

Despite several questions and uncertainties, I also learned a few invaluable lessons in France, which I will be happy to share with you.

Lesson #1: The French are strong believers in DIY, especially in restaurants.

The two steak tartares that I got arrived at the table with a smattering of condiments, sauces and chopped seasonings. Apparently it was my job, not the chef's, to turn this mound of raw meat into something delectable. Picture it, a hefty patty of raw ground beef with an egg yolk on top counting on me to make it something other than, as my friend so eloquently put it "a raw hamburger." Imagine her dissapointment when she was also expected to season her own Bloody Mary, which raises another question, what do bartenders in France do if they expect us to make our own drinks?

Lesson #2: French supermarkets are superior to our American ones, a good meal is never more than a few packages and a bottle of wine away.

After several long dinners at brasseries, we decided that a dinner at home was in order and so we walked into the Carrefour, picked up a package of jambon, a selection of goat and sheep cheeses, fresh bread, olives and some mache. With a dessert of macarons from La Duree, this simple dinner in Paris was certainly one of my favorites.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Cherry Almond Bars

There are days when it feels like falling off the face of the earth would be fantastic, like when exams are bogging you down, or when you're cold and rain battered, or when you just don't feel like getting out of bed. Then there are times when it may seem like you've fallen off the face of the earth, but in reality you're in the better half of the earth and that blog that you so consistently keep up with becomes as distant a memory as the continent across the ocean. I am currently of the latter category and although I have missed posting here, overall my travels through France have distracted me enough to eliminate any guilt I may feel about my short-term lack of dedication. Although I plan to indulge you all with stories and photos of my culinary excursions here in France, in the meantime allow me to whet your appetite with something less exciting than a trip to France, but certainly more exciting than your average dessert.
cherry almond bars
I made these bars when I was in the midst of my final finals and munching on them was an ideal distraction from what felt like endless days of studying. When I first saw this recipe I was inspired by the focus on fruit and nuts with what seemed like just a touch of sweet butteriness from a shortbread crust. Also, I liked that it used jam rather than fresh fruit because as much as I wish it were prime time for market goods, summer fruits still need a bit more time and the jam ensured that these bars didn't lack any of the fruity flavor I love in dessert. That being said, if fruits were at their peak I would certainly make my own compote for these bars rather than using store-bought jam. Regardless of which way you make them the final result should shine with fresh, fruity flavor and satisfy your sweet craving without being coyingly sweet.
cherry almond bars
Although I loved the recipe, the final result was far different than I expected (in the best of ways). The shortbread base, made with confectioners sugar, had a much finer and sandier texture than I am used to. A good change from the ordinary, this allowed the flavors of the fruit and nuts to shine.