Spicy Rice Cakes, Korean Style Dukbokki

 Tubular shaped rice cakes with fresh vegetables.

Tubular shaped rice cakes with fresh vegetables.

I've been gluten free for a few months now.  In the beginning it was just part of my detox, dry January phase but now it's become a habit.    I've naturally reverted back to eating Asian food, so these days it's been rice over pasta—although I did buy a pack of gluten free pasta from Barilla the other day and I was pleasantly surprised by it!

Being gluten free has taught me to distinguish between which ingredients contain gluten or not.  Avoiding gluten has been relatively simple for me as most of the gluten free grains and other starch containing foods make regular appearances in my diet anyhow with the likes of rice, quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat.

I'm discovering more of my favorite foods that are gluten free with a wee bit of adjustments made to them such as in this Korean spicy rice cake dish, dukbokki.

 

 Korean style dukbokki

Korean style dukbokki

At times I am stumped by a product that has gluten in it like the gochuchang sauce I had on hand.  The sauce is pretty much the star of this dish otherwise I would have turned it into a Chinese stir fry dish with some other replacement sauce.  Disappointed with a raging craving, it was determined that I had to make my own gochujang sauce.   With luck on my side and some research it turned out to be pretty easy for me to whip up a homemade version of the sauce and I was able to enjoy this dish without gluten. 

A lot of the ready-made Asian sauces contain gluten or MSG so I've been on the hunt down for MSG free and/or gluten free sauces in Paris—organic would be nice too.  Anything I have found comes from the U.S. and costs a pretty penny for delivery.  So if anyone has any leads in Paris, please do let me know...

Spicy Rice Cakes, Korean Style Dukbokki

INGREDIENTS//Serves 3-4

• 400 ml or 1.5 cups dashi, katsuobushi dashi, or water
• 500 grams rice cake
• 1 carrot, matchsticks
• 1 zucchini, matchsticks
• 150 grams cabbage, chopped
• 100 grams Shimeji mushrooms

Sauce:

2 tablespoons gochujang (fermented red pepper paste)
1.5 tablespoons brown sugar
1.5 tablespoon tamari sauce or soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced

INSTRUCTIONS

In a large pan, bring your dashi broth to boiling point.

Lower the heat to medium, add the sauce and stir until it all disolves into the broth.

While the broth is boiling, add the rice cakes and let it cook for about 5 minutes.

Continue to stir from time to time so that it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.

Then add all the vegetables: carrots, zucchini, cabbage, mushrooms.

Cover the pan with a lid and let it cook for an extra 5 minutes or until it has softened.  Remember to keep stirring the rice cakes from time to time.  The vegetables should be cooked through but still retain a bit of crunch.

Garnish with some scallion and serve while hot.


NOTE

I used the tubular shaped rice cakes from the refrigerated section of the Asian supermarket which took about 10-12 minutes cooking time.

Cooking time depends on the type of rice cakes you use.  They can be purchased fresh, refrigerated, or frozen and they come in tubular shapes and sliced disc shapes.


 

 

 

Tricolored Tian With Provençal Vegetables

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Today is Fête des Voisins —just think block party!  It's an official date of celebrating and having a convivial moment with your neighbors.  It's B.Y.O.B. and potluck.  It was started up by a Parisian group of friends to strengthen neighborly relationships, to reinforce proximity, create solidarity amongst neighbors, and to mobilize them against loneliness and exclusion.

These people are still partying nineteen years later as an official association.  With funding and sponsorship they have been able to help neighbors in difficulty; festive Christmas parties are held for those who don't have family near them, assistance is offered to disabled or elderly people, day care may be available to parents in need.

It's quite an organized event and it's a nice reminder to us city folks that we do live in a community... and that it is actually nice to have a chat with your neighbors.  If no one is taking the initiative to throw a Fête des Voisins in your buidling just go to your local town hall and inquire about it.    The town hall in each arrondissement offers Fête des Voisins posters to display in your residence so that your neighbors can't say they forgot about it.  T-shirts are also given out to the organizers of the event.

We just have to keep our fingers crossed and hope that the rain stays out of the way.   Our building loves a party and we usually spill out onto the pathway way past our bedtime. 

Come on out now and show some neighborly love!
 

Tricolored Tian With Provençal Vegetables

INGREDIENTS//Serves 2-4

• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 small onion, diced
• 1 eggplant, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
• 1 zucchini, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
• 2 tomatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
• 2 sprigs thyme
• black pepper and sea salt, adjust accordingly
• 3 tablespoons olive oil

PREPARATION

Choose the vegetables with approximately the same diameter in size.  Then wash and slice them into rounds.

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat your oven to 220° Celsius (approx. 425°F).

In an earthenware dish or baking dish add your minced garlic and diced onion.  Mix it up with a splash of olive oil and place it in the oven for 8-10 minutes.  You'll see the garlic sizzling and the onion sweating.

Take it out of the oven and let it cool slightly, then alternately lay your vegetables following a pattern of an escargot shell.  Start from the edge of the baking dish and continue the pattern until you reach the center.  If you have a rectangular dish just line them up in rows.

Generously sprinkle your choice of herbs (I used thyme this time), some sea salt, and black pepper.

Drizzle olive oil all over the vegetables.

Place it in the oven to bake at 220° C for 30 minutes and then cover the vegetables with a sheet of aluminum and place it back in the oven to back for another 15 minutes at 175° C (350° F).  The vegetables should be slightly roasted on the outside and tender on the inside.

Let it cool and serve at room temperature.


NOTE

The amount of vegetables I used above fit a 7 inch round (17.5 cm) earthenware dish.

Rainbow Fresh Spring Rolls

Ingredients for a colorful fresh spring roll.

 Rice paper wraps filled with raw vegetables.

Rice paper wraps filled with raw vegetables.

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I love Vietnamese fresh spring rolls, also known as summer rolls.  Rice paper wraps offer another gluten free wrap option.  Be sure to double check the ingredient list as not every rice paper wrap is gluten free if you are looking for this option.

Just like nori for making sushi maki, rice paper wrap can be used to roll up anything you can think of.  My kids like to make their own and they can get very creative with it;  imagine a fresh fruit coulis drizzled over it—blueberry to be precise.  I am kindly reminded by them that I a missing a spectrum of blues, indigos, and violets for it to called a rainbow.

Here's a blend of my veggie fruit wrap.  It's a light starter and a pretty bite size treat for everyone.

Rainbow Rolls

INGREDIENTS

• 1 carrot
• 1 red pepper
• 1 mango
• 1 cucumber
• 1 avocado
• A handful of mint leaves
• Rice paper , 22 cm

PREPARATION

Cut and slice your vegetables into thin strips.   Place them into separate bowls.

INSTRUCTIONS

Prepare a pan filled with a half inch of warm water.    Take a piece of rice paper and place it in the pan of water, flipping it quickly so that both sides are wet and then place it on a flat work space (I use a silicone or wooden chopping board).  Use your fingers to rub in the water and to flatten out the rice paper.

Place your sliced vegetables about a a third up of the rice paper and leaving an inch and a half on the sides.  Then line up two or three pieces of mint leaves next to it and another line of avocado so that you will have 3 rows neatly lined up next to each other. 

Start from the bottom and roll up into your first line of vegetables, tuck in the sides of the rice paper and continue to roll up.

Using a sharp knife cut the rolls in half and then in thirds.  Line them up on a tray and serve immediately.  You can also plastic wrap it and place it in the fridge to serve later.

NOTE

You don't want your rice paper to be too wet otherwise it will tear. Give it a give dip on both sides and quickly take it out as it will continue to absorb the water once it is placed on your flat work space.

Practice makes perfect.  Keep your rolls tight when rolling and make sure not to overstuff your rolls. 





 

 

Eggplant Rolls

 Eggplant Rolls on a bed of arugula.

Eggplant Rolls on a bed of arugula.

Spring break has begun in Paris.  For those sticking around in Paris we are blessed to see and feel the sun for many days in a row now.   Sidewalk cafés are once again full of life but they usually are even with the tiniest bit of sunshine out.

My family has gone off to the south of France and I find myself twiddling my thumbs after days off on my own—four days to be exact!  I watched the entire season of Big Little White Lies (I stayed up til 3 a.m.).  So as you see, I do have my OCD moments but usually in the kitchen and not in front of the telly.   I also managed to squeeze in two films, some light reading, evenings out with friends, and two very long, peaceful runs along the canal, topped off with a light yoga routine.

I was conjuring up what I could do next, thus the twiddling of the thumbs.  That's energy zapping you know, so off to the fridge I went.  I panicked when I saw two large eggplants in sight —for what's a girl to do with two nights left on her own with two large eggplants?   The fridge had to be emptied since I would be off to the south of France for the long weekend to join my family and the thought of waste just boils me right up.  

The original intent was to make fried eggplants for the whole family.  Fried eggplants minus the family equals fried eggplants for one!  Ooh, now that just screams out heart attack to me.   I decided otherwise.   Let's just say I got the eggplant rolling—literally!

 

Eggplant Rolls

INGREDIENTS//Yields 14-16 rolls

• 2 eggplants, peeled and sliced (1/4 inch)
• 250 grams ricotta cheese
• 50 grams parmesan cheese, grated
• 1 egg, whole
• Fresh basil, finely chopped
• salt and pepper, adjust accordingly
• 1 cup (225 grams) tomato sauce
• salt and pepper, adjust accordingly

INSTRUCTIONS

Rinse the eggplant, cut off the ends, and peel the skin off length-wise in alternating stripes with skin and no skin.

Use a mandoline or a sharp knife to cut the eggplant in 1/4 inch slices.

Brush the slices with olive oil and place them on a baking sheet. 

Place it in a pre-heated oven at 200° celsius ( approx. 390°F°) for 8-9 minutes or until golden.  Take it out and let it cool.

Prepare your filling by combining the ricotta, parmesan, and egg.  Mix well.

Stir in the fresh basil and add some salt and pepper.

Set it aside.

Take out your baking dish and spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of the dish.

You can start your rolling process by taking a spoonful of filling and placing it at the wider end of the eggplant.

Roll up the eggplant as tight as possible and place it in the baking dish.   Line them up alongside of each other as you continue to roll the rest of the eggplant slices.

Top off with some tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese.

Place it in a pre-heated oven to 175° celsius (approx. 350° F) and let it bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese melts and has a golden color.

 

 

 

 

 

Vegetarian Homemade Dashi

 Steeped Kombu

Steeped Kombu

Dashi is the base of many Japanese dishes.  Found in many noodle soup bases and dips; one of my favorite Japanese noodle dish is zaru soba, the cold buckwheat noodles dipped into tsuyu sauce—such a hot-weather treat.  I've learned to make my own dashi over the years recalling how my mum did it when I was a kid.  Mostly, I remember eating the kombu (dried kelp) after it was pulled out of the stock and laid aside.  Maybe it was intended for the trash bin but it always ended up in my stomach.  I've always loved the taste of the sea and maybe that's where it began...in the kitchen.

 Kombu Dashi Stock

Kombu Dashi Stock

This is a great vegetarian stock.  It is a light broth that is rich in glutamates, thus producing more umami (pleasant savory taste) flavors.  If you buy the packaged dashi which sells in powdered or granule form, and also packaged like tea sachets, they usually contain MSG.   So if you are allergic to MSG or just wince at the acronyms, you can whip it up at home naturally in large stock and freeze it for future use.   Just so you know MSG is synthesized to replicate the naturally occurring glutamates in kombu, so it's a synthesized flavor enhancer. 

 Kombu, dried bonito flakes, dried shiitake mushrooms, and small dried fish are other elements to making dashi.  The kombu used alone is the most basic dashi and a great vegetarian option.  Stay tuned for the next post on how to make katsuobushi dashi which is a fish-based dashi.

Homemade Dashi
 

INGREDIENTS//Yields approx. 1 liter

•  1 piece kombu (about 12 inches long)
•  1 liter water

PREPARATION

In a medium size glass mixing bowl, steep your kombu in the water and put it in the fridge overnight.  You can cut it down to fit your bowl.

INSTRUCTIONS

Take your bowl of steeped kombu and transfer it into a medium size pot along with the water.

On medium heat, simmer the kombu until boiling point.

Quickly fish out the kombu (set it aside for a second stock) and turn down the heat.

Turn off the heat and let it cool down.

Refigerate the stock in a tightly sealed container for use up to four days to a week. 

NOTE

The kombu can be used again (right away) after the first stock to make a second stock referred to as niban dashi.  The first stock is called ichiban dashi.




 

Roasted Baby Artichoke With Parmesan

Roasted Baby Artichoke With Parmesan

INGREDIENTS//Serves 2

• 6 fresh baby artichokes
• 1 lemon
• 1 tsp crushed garlic
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• 30g grated parmesan

INSTRUCTIONS

Prepare a bowl of water and lemon juice on the side enough to hold the baby artichokes. 

Cut off the spiky top bit of the baby artichoke and part of the stem.  Make sure to remove bottom and outer leaves and to leave a bit at the base.  The best thing about the baby artichoke is that you can eat everything inside—yes, even the choke as opposed to the ones in large artichokes. 

Cut each artichoke in half lengthwise and toss in the water lemon juice mixture.  This keeps the color of the artichoke from turning brown quickly. 

Drain the baby artichokes and put them in a steamer for about 15 minutes.  This gets them soft and tender.   Stab a fork in to do a quick check.

Take them out and place the steamed baby artichokes in a bowl, adding the olive oil, crushed garlic, some salt, pepper and lemon juice. 

Toss it all together and then place them on a baking sheet cut side up . 

Sprinkle some parmesan cheese on the baby artichokes and pop them in the oven at 210°C for about 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.  Thisgives them that slight crispness.

Kohlrabi Nori Omelette

Kohlrabi.jpg

It's been so rainy, dreary, and cold in Paris.  Thankfully these vibrant veggies vitalize my mind and body.  Can you spot the kohlrabi?  It's the round, stout bulb with the longs stems protruding out of it.

I tasted kohlrabi only a few years ago at a German friend's home.  We got home from a very hot and exhausting day at the park with the kids full of dirt, hunger and thirst.  She quickly dropped all her things, washed her hands and grabbed an odd-looking vegetable from her countertop that I had seen in markets before but never knew what to do with them, nor did I know what it was called.  She simply used a sharp knife to cut away it's thick skin and then sliced a piece, sprinkled some salt on it and handed it over to me to eat.  Wow, it was juicy and crisp!

KohlrabiFritter.jpg

Kohlrabi can be eaten raw or cooked.  This was supposed to be a fritter dish that flopped "in the making of".  It turned out to be more of an omelette instead.  It's a mistake but a good one to be discovered!

Kolhrabi Nori Omelette

INGREDIENTS

• 1 small kohlrabi, matchstick slices
• 1/2 cup shredded nori
• 1 egg
• 2 tablespoon panko
• pinch of salt
• pinch of white pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

In a medium size mixing bowl, add your kohlrabi, egg, panko bread crumbs and the nori. 

Sprinkle a touch of salt and white pepper and whisk to combine all ingredients.

Pour mixture into a skillet and cook until the egg turns golden brown. 

Slide it onto a plate and serve. 

NOTE

I cut mine up into squares so that they were little bite size pieces.  They are great as kids snacks and appetizers.

Watercress Salad and Cilantro Dressing

A colorful diet is a healthful diet.  Orignally I was looking for jicama to add to this salad.  It was supposed to be a jicama watercress salad with mango slices except that I couldn't find it nearby.  My brain still thinks we are in San Diego but being back in Paris, this meant I'd have to find a specialty Mexican store (not near me).  Popular in Mexican cuisine, jicama has also spread to find itself cultivated in Asia.  Ding!  So off I went to my local Asian stores in search of jicama.  Well, I didn't quite find the jicama, nor was there a ripe mango ready for me, but I did wind up with a bunch of fresh nèfles (very similar to the loquats of Asia).  

Upon arriving at home I was greeted by Lady Jo and was handed a basket of organic veggies.  She was on duty call at her local organic co-op and got dibs on the veggies left behind.  Now, just so you know, I fully support the "No Veggies Left Behind" act and accepted the vegetables gracefully.  I eyed the big beetrootfor that would feed me for at least a weekand whipped out my mandoline to get working on it.  So this is how a dish begins to transforms itself, jicama replaced by beet root and mangos by nèfles.  Ooh, what else can I use on my mandoline since I have it out ahhh...yes, carrots... then a little bit of this, and a little bit of that...

Watercress Salad and Cilantro Dressing

INGREDIENTS//Serves 4-6

• 1 bunch watercress
• 2 carrots, julienned
• 1 medium beetroot, julienned
• 1 cup loquats (neflè), cut into bite-size pieces; mango is also a good substitution.
• Handful of sunflower seeds and linseeds (flaxseeds)

Dressing

• 1 bunch coriander (cilantro)
• 1 shallot
• 1/2 lime, juiced
• 1/2 inch of ginger, fresh and grated
• 1 clove garlic
• 1 Thai chili, cut a piece according to your spice level
• 1 1/2 tablespoon tamari sauce (or soy sauce)
• 1/2 teaspoon honey (optional)
• 2 tablespoons sesame oil
• 1 tablespoon vegetable or canonla oil

INSTRUCTIONS

Rinse the watercress and put it in your salad spinner.

Prepare a medium size bowl.  Separate and discard the stalks from the leaves, keeping just the thin, top bit of the stalks attached to the leaves.

With your mandoline, prepared your carrots and beetroot and set them aside.

Cut your fruit into bite size pieces.

Prepare your dressing by combing all the ingredients into a food processor.

Process until smooth.

In a salad bowl, add your watercress and pour in the dressing.

Toss together so that the watercress is drenched in the dressing, and then add in the rest of the ingredients.

Sprinkle some sunflower seeds and linseeds (flaxseeds) over your salad before serving.


 

Ratatouille Quesadilla

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I just got back from San Diego, where I was paying a visit to meet my newborn niece, Sabine.  Unbiased of course, she is gorgeous.  Her nickname is "Bean" because that's what came out of her older sister's mouth when she was all of one year old trying to pronounce "Sabine".   Ever since she started out as a 'lil bean in her mama's belly, she's been referred to as "Bean".

Bean has that baby smell that I quickly got addicted to.  Every early morning, 6 a.m. to be precise, I would wake up and head to the kitchen: to find her, hold her, press my nose against her head and then inhale her baby scent.  If you are wondering why the kitchen, it's because my brother-in-law has started his day and mine (bless his heart) with a whole other scent, the coffee dropJapanese style drip.  He has his tools in order: grinder, scale, and drip filter,

This is how my mornings played out until I got over my jet lag: rise and shine at 6 a.m. soon became rise and snooze til 9 a.m.  Although I still had Bean's baby scent to look forward to, gone was the aroma of the other bean the coffee beanMy brother-in-law was long gone and off to work.

Besides sniffing Bean's head and drinking coffee from the drip, I did eat a lot of Mexican food.  Afterall, San Diego is just next door.  I thought I knew it all from my days milling about at Mexican family soccer games in some Brooklyn park, where I could eat freshly made tortillas and salsa off their portable, makeshift grills right out of the backs and trunks of their cars, and buy Tecate beers straight from their coolers, all for two dollars.  Apparently not.
 

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I discovered an ingredient called hominy that I'll have to search for in Paris.  Once I find it, I'm keen on making a fish based or vegetarian based pozole which I'll share with you in the future.  As for now, I have French Provençale ratatouille leftovers that I've converted into a Mexican quesadilla dish.  Olé!

Ratatouille Quesadilla

INGREDIENTS//Serves 4

•  1 x 400 gram tin of red kidney beans or other bean of preference
• 1 shallot, chopped
• 1 tablespoon cumin
• 1 teaspoon chili powder
• 150 grams of emmental cheese
• 2 cups ratatouille or any vegetable filling
• 1/2 bunch fresh coriander (cilantro)
• 2 large flour tortillas
• Dallop of sour cream or crème fraîche

INSTRUCTIONS

Add some cooking oil in a pan and cook the shallots over medium heat until they have softened. 

Add the tin of beans and stir.

Throw in your spices: cumin, chili powder.   Stir it up a bit.

Then transfer it to a small mixing bowl and mash it up with a fork or a masher.

Since I had ratatouille left over, you can choose any combination of vegetables; just cook it beforehand.   My kids love this with spinach, so I simply steam the spinach.

Lay out your tortilla and spread half of it with the bean mash, and the other half with your vegetable filling of choice.  Be careful not to add too much filling otherwise it will fall out.  Try to keep it thinly spread.  Sprinkle some coriander over the cheese.

Grab two to three handfuls of cheese and spread over the beans.

Place it on a large cooking pan over medium heat and cook until the bottom of the tortilla warms up and starts to speckle up golden brown.

Using a spatula, fold the quesadilla in half.  Press down on the quesadilla with the back side of the spatula and cook until the whole side is golden brown and then flip and repeat.

Transfer to a cutting board and cut them into wedges.

Serve along witha dallop of sour cream or crème fraîche (depending on which country you live in) and garnish with coriandre.


 

Chickpea Sweet Corn Veggie Power Patty

When it comes to serving a veggie patty chez moi, I have to dress it up for my husband.  He's been raised a true carnivore and he's ambivalent towards words like "veggie patty".  It's not that he doesn't like his veggies, he does; he just doesn't need them to be meat replacements.  So no interpretations needed for a burger at ours.  I just serve him the whole veggie plate experience.  There's sustenance to these power patties and they go great on a salad and keep you nourished for hours.  

Veggie patties are wonderful since you can mix any veggies you want in it along with any spices, beans, grains, or tofu, and usually some breadcrumbs and nuts.  I played around and grounded whole oats to use as my binder.  This replaced the breadcrumbs.  This recipe is just one of many that you can conjure up in your own magic mixing bowl. 

Chickpea Sweet Corn Carrot Veggie Patty

BAKE TIME

Total bake time is 20 minutes at 200° C (390° F). 
10 minutes per side.

INGREDIENTS//yields 12 medium size patties or 16 small patties

• 3 cups chickpeas (2 x 400 gram tinned chickpeas)
• 2 teaspoon cumin
• 2 teaspoon paprika
• 3 clove garlic, minced
• 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
• 2 cups sweet corn (15 oz tin or 425 ml tin)
• 1 carrot, grated (optional)
• 50 grams of almonds, finely chopped
• 1/2 bunch of fresh flat parsley, finely chopped
• 1 shallot, chopped
• 100 grams of roasted kasha (buckwheat) groats, blended into crumbs
• 50 grams whole oats, blended into flour
• 200 grams feta cheese (optional)
• Salt (adjust according to taste)

PREPARATION

Blend your whole oats and almonds separately and put it in aside.
In a food processor, finely chop your parsley and shallot.  Lay it aside in small bowl.

INSTRUCTIONS

In a small size pan, heat up some cooking oil, and cook the grated carrots until softened.  Then set it aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl add the chickpeas and mash by hand using a masher making sure no whole pieces are left.  Mash until soft but with some coarse texture left in it.

Mix in your spices: cumin, paprika, chili powder, garlic.

Add the sweet corn and the cooled cooked carrots.  Combine together.

Add the blended oats.

Crumble the feta cheese and add it into the mix (optional).

Stir in the almonds, shallots, and the parsley.

Add salt according to taste.

Scoop the mixture with wet hands to form your patties.

Using a basting brush, slightly brush the sides of the patty with olive oil.

Pre-heat your oven and line your baking tray with parchment paper.

Coat your patty lightly in the blended roasted kasha and place on the baking tray.

Put it in the oven and bake at 200°C for 20 minutes.


NOTE

I did have some dried herb called ache de montagne on hand so I crumpled some up for seasoning.  It happened to be one of those seasonal herbs added into an organic basket from the local farmers.  I did some research and it's called lovage in English.  It has an unsubtle taste, much like celery. 

 

Tzaziki


INGREDIENTS

• 1/2 English cucumber (long green ones), deseeded and grated (preferably organic so you can keep the skin on)
• 150 grams of Greek yogurt
• 1/4 clove garlic, crushed and minced
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1/2 tablesoon lemon juice
•  1 tablespoon chives, diced
•  Salt (according to taste)

INSTRUCTIONS

If you are using an organic cucumber there is no need to peel it.  However, with a conventional cucumber I usually peel the skin off.  Halve the cucumber lengthwise.  Take a teaspoon and scrape out the seeds. 

Grate the cucumber using the large hole of a box grater.

Salt the deseeded and grated cucumber and let sit for 15 minutes so that the water comes out of it. 

Mix the garlic, olive oil and lemon juice into the yogurt.  Stir well. 

Squeeze the excess water out of the cucumbers using your hand or a cheesecloth and then add the cucumbers into the yogurt mix.

Add the chives and salt to taste.
 

Tarte aux Épinards

This is one of my first, self-impressed French dishes I have ever made.  I learned it from ma belle-mère—yep, my mother-in-law— that's how we address our mother-in-laws in France.  It can be so ironic for many, but I got lucky; I truly do have a belle-mère. 

The kids call her "Mamie Jacotte", an affectionate term rather than the literal translation, "grand-mère";  Jacotte is shortened from Jacqueline.  She's not only a fantastic belle-mère and grand-mère, but a wonderful cook.  I have picked up many of her tips and recipes in cooking and this is just one of many. 

Ma belle-mère makes simple and intricate dishes.  I usually opt for the former recipes.

Tarte aux Épinards

• 1 puff pastry
• 500 grams spinach, frozen or 700 grams of spinach, fresh
• 1 clove garlic, minced and sauté
• 4 eggs
• 4 heaping tablespoons crème fraîche
• 100 grams of emmental cheese
• a pinch of nutmeg
• Salt and pepper according to taste

INSTRUCTIONS//serves 4-6

Take your tart or quiche pan (around 10 inches in diameter, 1-1/2 to 2 inches deep or 25 cm in diameter, 4 cm deep) and roll out the puff pastry and place it into the pan.  Press the pastry into the sides of the pan. 

Use a fork to poke some holes into the bottom of the puff pastry to release any trapped air and to keep it from puffing up when baking. 

Once your oven is pre-heated at 190° C (375°F), place it in the oven to bake for around 10 minutes or until the puff pastry changes color to a golden brown.   This step is called blind baking; It partially cooks the pastry dough to prevent a soggy crust.  Check often during the duration of this time so that if you catch your pastry puffing up, just slide it out of the oven, take a fork to poke more holes and press the pastry back down into place, and place back into the oven.  Some people use ceramic beans or dried beans to keep the pastry from puffing up. 

Take it out of the oven and place the spinach filling inside.

Spinach Filling:

If you are using frozen spinach, cook it down on low heat until it thaws.  Drain out the excess liquid.  If you are using fresh spinach, begin with the the next step.

Sauté your garlic in a pan with a half tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. 

Then add your spinach and toss it around with the garlic.  Sauté for a couple of minutes and add some salt.  With fresh spinach, sauté and then cover the pan with a lid to let cook for 5-10 minutes or until wilted.  It should be a nice, saturated green.  With a pair of tongs, take out the cooked spinach and place it in a bowl and leave it aside to cool down.  Push down with the pair of tongs or a fork to get rid of excess liquid.

In a medium size mixing bowl, beat in 4 whole eggs.

Add your heaping dallops of crème fraîche and mix.

Stir in the emmental cheese.

Then a pinch of nutmeg, some salt and pepper according to taste.

Mix the spinach in with the egg, crème fraîche, cheese batter.  Stir until the spinach is evenly mixed in.

Pour this mixture into your blind baked puff pastry and place it in the oven for 40-45 minutes at 190° C (375° F).
 

NOTE

I have used both fresh and frozen spinach for this recipe.  It just depends on what I have in my fridge.  In France, I buy the frozen spinanch with their stems (épinards en branche).  If I use fresh spinach I trim the thicker part of the stems and keep an inch or two below the leaf.  You can also use 125 grams of yogurt to replace the crème fraîche.