27 January 2011

Winter at the Sacre Coeur and Endive, Blue Cheese, Pomegranate Salad

Everyone I know in Paris is tired right now, the have-to-drag-oneself-out-of-bed-in-the-morning kind of tired. Usually this is a February attitude, but it seems to have come a bit early this year. I blame this sort of lagging gloom on the lack of sunlight. A few bright rays on our faces would do all of us a world of good. It's no coincidence that my doctor gives everyone a prescription for vitamin D in the winter, no matter what you go see her for.

But besides vitamin D, what to do for the gray-sky doldrums? The best cure I know for dreariness is to go on a search for beauty. (Tea over at Tea and Cookies puts this into practice regularly in her series Stalking Wonder.) So, I decided if it was going to be gray all winter, then I had better start looking for the beauty in gray skies.

As Dorothy Gale from Kansas says, "if I ever go looking for my heart's desire, I won't look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with." So my camera and I set out to find beauty in our own backyard (so to speak - I don't have a back yard, so I'm counting Montmartre).

The Sacre Coeur is probably my favorite monument in Paris. I go by it pretty much every day, and every day it seems different. I swear it changes with the weather. When it's sunny and the sky is blue, it seems to shine out white and proud. These days, it's as sober as the sky, imposing, dark and full of secrets.

I came up the back way and strolled in the park behind the church, which in the summer is full of old people sitting in the shade of the wisteria, young people tanning on the grass, and children playing in the fountain. Today it was deserted. There's something very restful about an empty park, and its sleeping trees. I even found a tiny bit of winter color.

When I was done soaking that in, I followed the sound of a horse drawn carriage to the front of the Sacre Coeur. Really, I'm not kidding. I thought I was hearing things, and when I caught up with it and found it was being driven by a man dressed in bear suit, I thought I was seeing things. I'm sorry I didn't get a picture. The front of the Sacre Coeur is always overrun with tourists, no matter what the season and it was a bit of a shock after the emptiness of the back streets, but there is an amazing view of Paris. Gray, winter-y Paris.

Of course, the other way to combat the winter doldrums is to eat colorful food. You can even pretend its summer and have festive salads, which is what I did when I got home. This endive-pomegranate-blue cheese salad was just perfect for a mood-lifter. I think pomegranate seeds are just perfect for winter salads, not only for their red color and bursting sweet taste, but also because you can pretend you're Persephone thanks to whose love of pomegranate seeds (according to the ancient Greeks), we got into all this winter trouble in the first place!

Ingredients (approx per person):

1 large or 2 small endives
2 Tbsp pomegranate seeds
1 Tbsp blue cheese
2 strips of bacon, fried until crispy (you can leave this out if you're vegetarian, but if you're not, it adds a nice smoky flavor that I highly recommend)
your favorite vinaigrette

Mix it all together in the proportions you like best and enjoy while contemplating the beauty of gray!

16 January 2011

Pancake Accessories for Christmas

My sister the master baker and I had a conversation when she came to visit about kitchen stores. We both agreed that they are full of one-use gadgets that we would never buy, but that we secretly think about and covet once we leave the store. Our example was the one-egg frying pan. You can easily cook one egg in any frying pan, something you are sure to say when you are ridiculing the item in the store. But then in the morning when you are cooking your one egg and it's spreading all over and you're trying to pull it back together with a spatula, you think "if only I had a one-egg frying pan..." Has anyone else had that experience? Are there one-use items you secretly covet?

Being a thoughtful person with a very good memory and a sense of humor, my sister went to a cooking store for my Christmas presents and bought me three one-use items I would never allow myself to buy, including a one-egg frying pan. The other two were a pancake pen and Star Wars pancake molds. Who needs those?? No one. And yet...

The Star Wars molds are pretty much what you'd expect. They allow you to put pancake Yodas and Darth Vadors and Storm Troopers on your plate, smother them with maple syrup and chow down. Unfortunately they don't actually make the best pancakes. You have to spread the batter very evenly to work and so you miss out on that dense and mushy fat center that poured pancakes often have. Um, but did I mention you get to eat Yoda?!

The pancake pen, on the other hand, is going to change my life (or at least the way I make pancakes). It's large enough to fit an entire batch of batter. You just pour the batter in and squirt out however much batter you want, in whatever form you want into the heated pan. Plus, it stores the batter extremely easily. You can just stick the bottle in the door of the refrigerator and pull it out any time you want a pancake. (No, they're not paying me to say this. I just loved it!)

I should mention that I also received a beautiful mortar and pestle from my parents that is not a silly gift at all and will also change my life in the kitchen. I can wait to make Indian food with fresh-ground spices! Did you all get anything fun for the kitchen these holidays?

01 January 2011

Happy New Year from Edgar and Marcel

Cat mastermind Edgar here.
And Marcel!
Yes, and Marcel. We've been busy tearing the apartment apart while D. and Hopie are on vacation. See, we wanted to do a holiday post, but Hopie thought she was being smart when she took her computer home with her for vacation so we couldn't get at it. Of course, she forgot she'd be too tired and jet-lagged when she got home to pay close attention to us. And besides we're cats. The rules don't apply to us.
Show them Edgar!
Right. For example, Hopie and D. have a rule 'don't go on the table'. Here's what I think of that rule:

At Christmas time they have even more rules like 'don't play with the silly Christmas bush'...

Right, and 'don't eat the hors-d'oeuvres or drink port':

But of course the best part of our mastermind plot is that we are so cute.
Very cute, and pettable. Did I mention I'm pettable?
So even though you couldn't say we were good this year, we still got this awesome toy for Christmas that looks like a bird:

Oooh, ooh, I want to play. I hope Hopie wakes up soon.
Let's go walk on her head.
Yeah and open the curtains. I know how to do that now. It's great!

So this year, don't forget to play.
Be curious about new things. Take risks. Plot some mischief.
Chase your dreams tirelessly.

And pet your cat (or someone else's).
Or me. You can come pet me!


Weekend Cat Blogging is being hosted by Scrappycat, Smudge, Patchouli and Coco over at Sidewalk Shoes! They say Happy New Year too!