november markets of réalmont

there was a brief and lovely period where i worked on a chateau 
in lautrec, france. 
some mornings, over breakfast of tea, hot bread and cream honey,
my host, paul,  would ask us
if we wanted to go to the market with him that day.
of course, the answer was always yes and i got to see 
some lovely markets in the local villages.
 one afternoon, he brings us to réalmont:
paul does his shopping, picking up various vegetables and the like.
i explore the market with molly, the other volunteer from the chateau.
we pop into some shops, sift through the market stalls.
buy some trinkets, maybe a croissant
or a bit of bread.
christmas decorations are beginning
 to creep out. i see little wooden toys, trains and tops.
there are stunning displays of charcuterie, cheeses, 
seasonal vegetables...
i buy a bouquet of ail rose, a blushing, fragrant
garlic that comes directly from lautrec. 
the long stems are braided together, 
and i know it will make a good gift for lisa 
when i return to montpellier. 
(way better than ham chips)
there are stalls hawking clothes, of course. mostly cheap,
flimsy things, with garish swirls and odd colour combinations...
watches, random housewares....and then more food.
after we look around, we meet paul for a coffee.
we sit outside, listening to teenage buskers on the guitar,
friends greeting each other, talking, laughing.
everybody knows eachother.
i sip my coffee, eat my croissant, wrap my scarf a bit tighter.
the air crackles with early november. smoky and crisp.
this, i think, might be the life for me. 
a small community, fresh food, old buildings,
and a dramatic autumn. 

plus...look at the size and colour of those mushrooms.


i'm back...and i brought cupcakes!

so it's been three months. no biggie. i really am going to try and post more in the next 5 weeks or so. this is my favourite time of year for cooking...

anyway, here is a nice treat. coffee walnut cupcakes! 
okay, and i'll be honest. i piped like, three of these before getting lazy and just frosting them with a spatula.
these are inspired by a trip to edinburgh, scotland. 

my friend georgia and i were lucky enough to go during the festival fringe and stay with floss, a wonderful friend of georgia's! we spent a large chunk of time seeing plays and being typical festival goers, but floss knew the in and outs of edinburgh and brought us to lots of great local places...a concert at an underground pub, a polish vodka bar...(had cherry almond vodka...fantastic)
floss worked at the queen anne restaurant at the edinburgh castle and one morning, we made plans to visit her there. such a good decision. the castle grounds are dramatic and haunting, and the view is spectacular! 
we walked around for a bit, then spotted floss' restaurant and went off to get lunch! georgia ordered fish pie, and i ordered:
...can you guess? haha, it's haggis! look how cute it is! the other layers are turnips and potatoes, which in scotland are referred to as neeps and tatties.
okay, this was my first haggis experience and i loved it. i have to admit, i was a little nervous on the walk over there...but it's deep,  savory, and a little spicy. and with the creamy root veggies to mix it with...it's good. and warming. and considering how startlingly cold edinburgh was in august, i'm sure it fares quite well once this time of year rolls in.
by the way: for those of you who are vegetarians and still want to try this scottish classic upon visiting, you will very easily be able to find a vegetarian version with nuts and beans, which i've heard is really good. perhaps if i make it up there again, i will try it...
anyway, after our meal we decided to order a pot of tea and some cakes. i ordered coffee walnut cake, which apparently is quite popular in the united kingdom, but i had never heard of it!

 (check out our "reserved" sign. so vip.)
so the other day, i made coffee walnut cupcakes! nigella lawson had a recipe in nigella kitchen and i just switched it into cupcakes. 
this is a snap to make, and you may even already have all these ingredients on hand. 
as a five year old girl in my art class says, it's "easy peasy lemon squeezy."

 coffee walnut cupcakes 
adapted from nigella kitchen

For the cake:
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1 cup plus 2 tsp superfine sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups flour
4 tsp instant espresso powder, or about 2 tsp instant coffee mixed with 1 tbsp boiling water
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
4 eggs
1-2 tbsp milk

For the frosting:
3 1/4 cups powdered sugar
2/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 tsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water
 Heat oven to 350 F. Line 2 cupcake tins with cupcake liners, or grease and powder well.

Put walnuts and sugar in the food processor and combine to a sandy powder. Add the butter, flour, coffee, baking powder and soda, eggs and combine until smooth. Add milk, little by little, until the batter has loosened up a bit- you don't need to use all of it. 
Divide the mixture between all the cups, slide into the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes. 
Once cooked, remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Meanwhile, make the buttercream! Combine the butter and sugar, and then add the hot strong coffee. Mix until a smooth, creamy consistency.
Once the cupcakes are completely cool, frost. And feel free to garnish with walnuts! It was my favourite part!


a weekend in new york city

Guys. If you knew how many posts I began and then never got around to finishing...
So, I have been incredibly busy planning... I'm leaving Boston in four months (from tomorrow!)  and then the country in five...and I don't know when I'll be back! I just (FINALLY) got my Australian visa granted, the first leg of my flight out there is booked, and I'm just halfway to my financial goal so the ball is really rolling now...
It's so exciting, but I feel like all I do is work, look at flights, stress about money and...
go on random weekend trips!
taaaa daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa:

A weekend in New York City!

Taco truck in Astoria.  We had this quesadilla type thing that BLEW MY MIND. The dough was made with corn, and it was thick and fluffy and both sweet and savory.  Inside was queso fresco, carne asado, salsa verde and vegetables. 
(Bottom row, second to right)
It was one of the best things i've ever eaten. It was so spicy that my nose was running.
Smorgasburg in Brooklyn.
Fantastic food market held on weekends in Williamsburg. 
It's a part of Brooklyn Flea, which is also great fun.
We ate:
Teriyaki balls!
Apparently, this is a take of Japanese street food.
Essentially, it's a pancake-type batter cooked in a cast-iron skillet with 
lots of holes in it (sort of like a big metal egg carton.)
The batter is poured in, and then filled with a bit of meat.
Once cooked, they're topped with 
almonds, mayo, panko and teriyaki sauce.
Sounds like a bit of an odd combo, and I guess it was, but it was
so good.
I didn't want it to be over. 
Brown butter and bacon ice cream sandwiched between two cookies?
Only in New York. Which is probably for the best, for my sake.
Chelsea market.
I'd never been before!
I love bakeries.

More soon. It's hard to post recipes when all I eat these days is bread
and cheese, or tomatoes, corn and avocado mixed together.
But I have some ideas. A recipe soon.



December in London. Rustling trees, sweeping gray skies.
Warm golden light spilling from the windows around me.
The wind was strong, cutting through my coat.
My leggings had holes in the knees.
Leaves scuttled past me and the sky darkened as time slunk into early evening.
And I was feeling pensive, uncertain. It happens.
And suddenly, I looked up, and there this was. 
I can't help but find signs in things, whether it's a playing card pressed into the sidewalk,
seeing an animal out of context, or, well, an entire building telling me
not to worry.
Thank you, Tate Modern.
Everything is going to be alright. 


greek lamb with grilled tomato and halloumi cheese

I wake up from my nap, and I'm in Greece.
What a strange feeling.
After 6 months in Israel, Lisa came to meet me and after a couple weeks of travel,
we flew to Kos. The plan is to hop around some of the Dodecanese islands for 10 days
or so, and then fly back to Montpellier. We spent last night at the Ben Gurion 
airport in Tel Aviv and arrived in Kos bedraggled, struggly messes.
It's also raining. Didn't expect that. 
It took us at least an hour to find our hostel. Once arrived, we immediately
collapsed onto our beds and, now, a few hours later,
we're awake and ready to explore Kos.
The air is damp and cool from the rain and it gives Kos Town a
 raw, clean beauty.
Still, I hope the sun shines brighter tomorrow.
 We wander a bit, following our noses until we find a little restaurant
on some random side street. I order lamb, Lisa has moussaka and we
split a plate of dolmades in an egg lemon sauce.
We order tap water but the waiter says we'd better not, 
and gives us bottled water on the house.
The lamb comes with fries, creamy tzakiki and rice.

I am not exaggerating when I say that I have never tasted lamb like this.
It's...sweet. But savory. Tender and nuanced with flavor.
I am positively bowled over.
So is Lisa:
Now THAT is a happy face.
Yeah. I like Greece.

Greek lamb with tomatoes, cheese and tzaziki
Halloumi cheese is hard to find, and a bit expensive, but it
is entirely worth it. It's a cheese from Cyprus that has a uniquely
firm texture, which lends it to grilling, frying, baking, etc. I also love
the flavor- salty,  but not as strong as feta. I suppose
you could use mozzarella, but it just wouldn't be the same!

For the lamb:
4 lamb shoulder blade chops
2 fat cloves of garlic
1/2 lemon
Olive oil
A handful of fresh oregano, chopped
A sprig of rosemary, stripped
A bit of salt and pepper, to taste.

For the cheese and tomatoes:
1 ripe tomato, sliced thickly
1 block of halloumi cheese, sliced thickly
Olive oil
Fresh oregano to garnish

For the tzaziki:
1 cup Greek yogourt
A handful of dill, chopped
One smallish cucumber, chopped 
Fresh mint, optional 

First, deal with the lamb. Combine all ingredients in a large container and rub all over the chops with your hands. If there are any little openings, be sure to get some garlic in there! Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

On a big piece of aluminum foil, arrange your cheese and tomato slices. Drizzle over some nice olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper and fresh oregano. 
 Then, make a parcel with the edges of the foil. It should look a bit like a longish tent.

Fire up your grill! I would add the cheese and tomato parcel first. Cook the lamb chops about 4 minutes on each side, or however you like it. 

While everything is grilling, combine your tzaziki ingredients. It's really about taste, so take a nibble and see if you want more dill, or some salt.
Such an easy meal and it's so pleasing. Be sure to serve with lots of lemon wedges.

I used to eat lamb shoulder steak ALL THE TIME in college because it was so cheap and delicious! This was when I was dreaming of/planning to go to France and I always made them in my little apartment kitchen with walnut oil, rosemary and garlic. 
And for some reason, I always tend to eat this with zucchini.
Καλή όρεξη! 


bastille day in montpellier

morning: a giant macaron, tarte citron and caramel ice cream cake
for another big day on july 14th; lisa's birthday!
also: those little yellow things are NOT tomatoes. they are actually
tiny apricots. we bought a big sack of them without actually
asking, tasting, or looking for a sign telling us what they were
because, well, they looked like tomatoes. 
nope. apricots. tart, squishy, actually quite addictive apricots.
you can never have too many flags...

 potluck picnic on the esplanade just outside of the place de la comédie
our landlords, french "parents", and dear friends jean-marie and claire
with anna and me. they made a gorgeous birthday dinner for lisa!
olives, champagne, cauliflower soup (pictured below), a
fruit and salmon salad with indian spices, and a cake that
absolutely took my breath away...

the birthday girl with her cake of ladyfingers, peaches and cream.
happy birthday to my dear friend lisa, and happy bastille day to
all of my lovely french friends! (and francophiles everywhere...)
bonne fête!