By Mélanie, on Sunday, May 24, 2009


It’s funny how I tend to digress. I started to write a post about the freshly harvested green onions I bought at the farmers market last week. From that, I went to the fact that I don’t go enough to the market in Paris. Then to a panegyric of the quiet life in Montmorency, where I spend the week-end. I almost finished with childhood memories of our summers in the garden! So glad I stopped there!

Yes, the principal idea was to tell you how I love the farmers market. I really feel lucky to be able to enjoy a life in Paris, with so many things to see, streets to walk in, little shops to be surprised with, building fronts to suddenly notice…


And yet, I have access to the freshest produces from surrounding areas. I love to wander in the aisles, admiring the colorful displays, bright red tomatoes against green asparagus and purple artichokes. I see curious children, asking lots of questions to their parents, wanting to know more, to taste the cheeses, the saucisson. Or the olives, why not? Apparently I ate them by the dozen as a kid, in my stroller!
I see people passionate about their job (because it’s so difficult, I can’t imagine anyone not passionate doing this…).


All of this makes me feel as lucky and happy as the sensation of a sunray on my skin. Actually, I even realize that my memories of the farmers market are imbued with sunshine, while I know I had my rainbow open all the time…

Le rosier et le ciel

With all this beautiful array of products, it was very difficult to resist. I had not planned the week’s menus, and I was tempted by everything. The green onions seemed so fresh, and with their sweet taste, they offer just what my palate needs!
I was totally smitten with Deb’s idea to caramelize them with balsamic vinegar. I mean, she does that with cippolne, but what could go wrong with green onions cooking in a syrupy glaze made of vinegar, sugar and tomatoes? They were tender to the tooth, and the vinegar adds a slight tang which makes them completely addictive. I already made them 3 times in less than a month.

IMG_0017Green onions with balsamic glaze

Add to that some juicy tomatoes, ripe to perfection, and crispy slices of pancetta or bacon, and I guaranty you’ll feel happy too!


Balsamic caramelized onions salad
For 4

For the onions
1 bunch green onions
5 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp ketchup
1/2 tsp salt

1 small head of lettuce
8 slices pancetta or bacon
4 tomatoes
4 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

Prepare onions : trimm root ends and cut off the dark green tops. Peel and discard the first layer.
Sauté bacon in large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Keep drippings in skillet and add onions; sauté until light golden brown on all sides, about 5 minutes.
Add vinegar, ketchup, salt and water and bring to a boil. Cook onions 10 more minutes. The sauce should be slightly sirupy. If liquid dissipates too quickly, add a little more water.
Remove from saute pan and allow to cool.

Cut the tomatoes in small dices. Transfer to a bowl with the lettuce and the onions. Sprinkle with bacon.
Whisk olive oil with the balsamic vinegar remaining and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over salad and garnish with rosemary.

Salade aux petits oignons caramélisés
Pour 4 personnes

Pour les oignons
1 botte de petits oignons nouveaux
5 grandes cuillères à soupe de vinaigre balsamique (8 cl)
3 cuillères à soupe d'eau
1 cuillère à soupe de ketchup
1 pincée de sel

1 petite laitue, lavée
8 tranches de pancetta (ou de lard)
4 tomates
4 cuillères d'huile d'olive
1 pincée de sel
1 branche de romarin

Faites griller la pancetta à sec dans une poêle sur feu vif jusqu'à ce que les tranches se recroquevillent, environ 4 minutes de chaque coté, pour qu'elle soit croustillante.
Pendant ce temps, épluchez les oignons, en ne gardant que la partie blanche, et en retirant la 1ère couche de peau. Vous pouvez garder une partie de la tige verte pour servir avec une salade, des pâtes, etc...
Retirez les tranches de pancetta pour les égouttez dans du sopalin, mais laissez la graisse dans la poêle. Ajoutez-y les oignons et faites les dorer quelques minutes.
Ajoutez ensuite le vinaigre balsamique, l'eau, le ketchup et le sel et portez à ébullition. Laissez cuire environ 10 minutes, jusqu'à ce que la sauce soit un peu sirupeuse et adhère aux oignons. Si elle s'évapore trop rapidement, rajoutez un peu d'eau.
Retirez de la plaque de cuisson et laissez refroidir.

Coupez les tomates en dés.
Dans un grand saladier, mélangez les feuilles de salade, les tomates, les oignons, et parsemez de petits morceaux de pancetta.
Emulsionnez (mélanger très rapidement) le vinaigre balsamique qui avait servi à la cuisson avec l'huile et le sel et versez cette sauce sur la salade. Décorez avec le romarin et servez.
La suite, please

Unanimity for the carrot

By Mélanie, on Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Jubiläums-Blog-Event XLV - Dessertbuffet (Abgabeschluss 19. Mai 09)

The theme chosen by Zorra for her monthly blog event is dessert buffet. I thought first cupcakes were a good way to participate for the first time...


I had some serious doubts before baking these cupcakes. Oh, not about the fact that I would like them. No, I'm not anymore the little girl who inevitably said to her grandmother "Kuchen mit Mohren?? Beurk. I mag doch keine Gemüse." ("A cake with carrots? Sounds disgusting. I don't even like vegetables" And yes, this is German, hence the simplified phrase construction I only was able to use...and still am). I've become a lot more curious (and I've learned to enjoy vegetables, but that's another story), and a cake with carrots sounded strange enough for me to try!

It was 8 years ago. I was working in the bakery of a restaurant in Wisconsin. My main task was to prepare the donuts, and the cookies to sell, but we also prepared 2 different types of cake for dessert : chocolate cake with a chocolate mousse and buttercream frosting, and carrot cake with a cream cheese and pineapple frosting.


I remember that working with food all day, in a room at 100°F, really did spoil my appetite. So even though I could eat whatever I wanted in the restaurant, I did not really take advantage of it. But before leaving, I had to try the cake...

Of course, I loved it. The cake was moist and slightly spicy, with a hint of ginger and cinnamon. The sweet frosting was even better, and I loved the freshness the pineapple brought to it. My grandmother was so right!

So now, I try to convert the one doubting. Carrot cakes are more and more popular in France, so it becomes an easier task. But cupcakes don't have such a good reputation : lots of cream / frosting and multiple colors tend to scare people away. It's amazing how different a bakery window is in the US and in France. With my all-American cupcakes, would I have any success?

Well, it turns out, these cupcakes unite the national preferences and bring them together! My colleagues (French and Romanian) loved them. My parents (French and German) and grand parents (add Belgium to the pool) loved them. Even my Italian family, who was visiting last week, loved them.


Will you add some nationalities to the list? Tell me...

Carrot Cupcakes
Adapted from Garrett, on Simply Recipes
The frosting being by nature very sweet, I cut down the sugar in the cake. If you like it sweeter, the original recipe calls for 2 cups. I also removed the cinnamon because one of my tester doesn't like it, but you could use it instead of tonka.

1 pound carrots
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 orange zest
1/2 vanilla bean
1 cup oil
3 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground tonka bean

For the frosting
1/2 cup butter, softened
8 oz Philadelphia cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Peel and grate the carrots.
Mix carrots, buttermilk, oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla seeds and orange zest together.
Fold the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cardamom, and tonka in one addition into the carrot mixture, being sure not to overmix*.
Scoop into cupcake papers about 1/2 to 3/4 full and bake for 19-21 minutes at 350F. The baking time depends on your muffin size. The big ones in the pictures were in the oven for 20 minutes, but the little ones were done after 12 minutes of baking. Allow to cool before frosting.

Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Sift powdered sugar into the bowl and beat until smooth. The sieve is important to avoid any lump.
Fill a pastry bag with the frosting. Holding pastry bag vertically over cakes, pipe frosting on top of every cupcake (touching top of cake) to resemble soft-serve ice cream. If desired, decorate with colored sprinkles.
Here's a link for an "how to" frost cupcakes.
Keep in the fridge until serving.

* When the flour is exposed to liquids and stirred around, the gluten (protein) in the flour starts to develop into a network that will give the cake its structure. An excessive mixing of the dough will therefore make baked goods tough and "rubbery".
So when a recipe instructs you not to overmix, what it means is that you should just do the minimum amount of mixing necessary to make a uniform dough.

Cupcakes aux carottes
Adapté de Garrett, sur Simply Recipes
J'ai utilisé de la fève tonka car certaines personnes n'aiment pas la cannelle, mais si ce n'est pas votre cas, je vous recommande de l'utiliser à la place de la tonka (plus difficile à trouver en plus...).

400g de carottes
300g de sucre
12,5 cl de lait
1 cuillère à café de jus de citron
le zeste d'une demi orange
les graines d'une demi gousse de vanille
25cl d'huile végétale
3 oeufs
375g de farine
1/2 sachet de levure
1 pincée de sel
1 cuillère à café de cardamome moulue
1 cuillère à café de fève tonka râpée

Pour le glaçage
250g de fromage à tartiner (type St Moret), à température ambiante
100g de beurre ramolli
100g de sucre glace

Préchauffez le four à 180°.

Epluchez et râpez les carottes.
Versez le lait et le jus de citron dans un petit récipient et laissez à température ambiante pendant 10 minutes. Cela sert comme substitut au lait fermenté.
Battez les oeufs, le lait fermenté, l'huile, le sucre, les carottes, les graines de vanille et le zeste d'orange pendant 2 minutes.
Ajoutez d'un coup la farine, la levure, le sel et les épices à travers un tamis. Incorporez le tout au batteur, en faisant attention à ne pas mélanger trop longtemps*.

Versez l'appareil dans les moules à cupcakes, et faites cuire environ 20 minutes (selon la taille des moules).
Laissez refroidir avant d'appliquer le glaçage.

Pour le glaçage :

Battez le beurre ramolli avec le fromage, jusqu'à ce qu'il soit bien souple. Ajoutez ensuite le sucre, en le passant à travers un tamis pour éviter tout grumeau.
Décorez vos cupcakes avec le glaçage (avec une poche à douille ou tout simplement une spatule).
Conservez au frigo jusqu'au moment de servir.

* Lorsque la farine est ajoutée à des ingrédients liquides et mélangée, le gluten qu'elle contient développe une sorte de réseau collant et élastique. C'est ce réseau qui permet d'obtenir la texture du gâteau. Si la pâte est trop mélangée, on aura des gâteaux et muffins caoutchouteux ou une pâte brisée dure à cause du gluten qui aura pris trop de "force".
La suite, please