meta name="p:domain_verify" content="8b08da541f8a920e6 Marie Z Johnston: 2011

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Marché Maubert and a Turducken Tale

The holidays for an ex-pat are a confusing time of year.  Not only do you miss family and friends who are miles and several time zones away, you also long for some familiar element or essential ingredient that's simply not available where you happen to be celebrating.  It's doubly so if one also happens to be Franco-American (or Italian/Dutch/Asian/Hindi/whatever - American) with one foot in each country.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Abundant Fall Chantrelles make for Great Omelettes

The brilliant, golden Girolles are unmistakable in the market place
Fall back in California is marked by the arrival of pumpkins at the local farmers markets. One of the first clues that fall has indeed arrived in Paris is the appearance of Girolles (what we English speakers call Chantrelles) in the marchées.  Oh sure, there have been plenty of Lithuanian, Russian and Polish Girolles up till now, but it is the arrival of the FRENCH, brilliant orange, Girolle that marks the change of season.

A golden brown exterior with a soft, gooey interior is exactly what makes a great omlette
Which brings me to Omelettes. There is really nothing that highlights the subtle, meaty, earthy, nutty flavor of Girolles like an omelette.  Simple!  You say... not so fast.  There is a world of difference between an old school French omelette and what passes for an omelette these days. I should know, my mother was "Janine the Omelette Queen"!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Biarritz: Three days (and nights)

Bayonne ham, assorted meats, puree de piment d'Espelette and Sangrilla make a fine late lunch
It is a quick trip to the South West coast of France, an easy escape from Paris when you’ve had your fill of the weather, the pavement or the ongoing, gloomy economic news. A friend and I hopped aboard  the TGV (train of great speed) from Montparnasse at 10am; by 3:15pm we were sitting down to a late lunch with an ocean breeze and ringside view of the Bay of Biscay.
The lighthouse and palatial Hotel built by Napolean 3 and Eugenie in the distance.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Easy Pie Crust Recipe and Where Did September Go?

Fall plums cut in half then drizzled with caramelized vanilla sugar, butter & lemon juice.
The trees are turning colors, going from lush green to shades of brown and rust - very dramatic indeed against the bright blue skies we've been enjoying lately. Paris is once again full of people, a not so gradual change from August when the streets were empty, lingering in the park or on a cafe terrace was a solitary activity and riding a Velib across town didn't feel like taking your life in your hands.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Marché 'BIO' Raspail & Tomato Tarte

Tomato, Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Tarte Tatin
A few weeks ago there was a photo in the New York Times of the most amazing looking Tomato Tarte. Naturally, the only reasonable thing to do was drop everything and seek out heirloom cherry tomatoes (known in France, though not to me, as 'cocktail tomatoes'). It happened to be Sunday, and there is no better place to search for these multi colored, generally tasty, very sweet beauties than the Marché 'Bio' Raspail.

Sundays in August are practically spacious at Marché Raspail!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

When Community Goes Global

I was all set to post about an organic farmer's market in Paris, heirloom tomatoes and a scrumptious Tomato Tatin recipe.  But then one of my favorite blogs, Eating Rules, 'pinged' my inbox and everything changed. 

Heirloom Tomato Tatin

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Marchés of Paris by Days of the Week: The Short List

Marché  "Bio"  Raspail
Living in Paris (where there are over 80 roving and permanent markets) with it's  'embarrassment of riches' when it comes to farmer's markets, I still tend to return to the same 5 or 6 out of habit and/or convenience... which isn’t exactly the point, now is it? But after giving it some thought, it became clear I do that because I know which market is where on what day.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Lobster on the Coast of Maine

Life has a way of being serendipitous when you least expect it.  

View of the harbor at low tide off Langodon Road
While on the East Coast for a 'college tour', my two daughters and I zigged off course (exchanging a college 'rendez-vous' for 4 nights on the coast of Maine). We did, in fact, make a couple of accidental discoveries - acquiring, for starters, a particular obsession that we were not at all in search of. 

Goose Rocks Beach, Maine
What we were in pursuit of was a few relaxing days by the shore. 

Perfectly cooked, straight off the grill.  No bibs needed, thank you.
What we found was lobster.  Lots and lots of delicious lobster. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Heel of the Boot, Italy

I have always had a secret crush on Italy.  Not Florence or Rome mind you, but rather the Italy of olive tree covered rolling hillsides and crystal clear, turquoise seas along an undeveloped coastline.  Someplace where friendly tratorias serve fish right out of the sea and salads straight from the local campagna.  Where the vino bianco is as local as the clientele, and no one, but no one, speaks decent English... if any at all.  Hah! You say.  Dream on.  Well, guess what?

The plates disappeared as fast as the three guys shucking could shuck.
Paradise can be found just north of Gallipoli in the Gulf of Taranto on the Ionian Sea
Heading to lunch  - this busy spot has it's own small fishing boat and offers only the daily catch

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Wild Asparagus & Morels on May Day

It's been a wild month. To California (lots of heavy lifting and oodles of family there) then home to Paris for a whole new round of packing and moving as my daughter and I prepare to return to the building of my childhood on Rue des Entrepreneurs.  The contractor is nearly done, so I'm very optimistic. Okay, so I'm holding my breath just a tiny bit.

Wild Asparagus, 2 bunches for 12 Euros, enough for 5 people
In my absence, not only did the days grow MUCH longer, but Spring arrived in Paris and WOW! is it ever reflected at the markets.  My trusty neighborhood marché, Grenelle, was busier than I'd seen it in months, (guess Parisians don't enjoy shopping outdoors in cold weather either) there were rolling cart traffic jams and long, long lines. So, when I noticed no line at my regular wild mushroom guy, along with wild asparagus and one last little basket of Morels - did I hesitate?  Non, pas moi.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Marche d'Aligre and a Mango Salsa recipe

There are some markets that call to your spirit like a wild jungle beat - Marche d'Aligre is one such place. Situated in the lively 12th arrondisement, it is one of the oldest markets in Paris.  My love affair with this market and it's neighborhood began last summer.  It's high time I shared it with you...

Approaching the Marché via the Rue d'Aligre

Monday, March 28, 2011

Poached Rhubarb with Mint Sugar

My dear friend Susan from Carmel Valley is in Paris for a few weeks which presents a terrific opportunity to do a lot of walking, re-visiting some great spots in Paris as well as exploring new places we are curious to discover.  Susan has been here many times, so mercifully, these re-visits don't include the usual suspects (Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, etc) which also means we get to skip those long lines that have returned to Paris along with the  marvelous Spring weather.

Poached Rhubarb with Mint Sugar and that other thing...

Talking Susan into going to one of my favorite markets in the 12th was easy, as was roaming the side streets in this interesting and artisanal neighborhood. 

Inside La Gazzetta at lunch, before the crowds arrived

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Barcelona - Day 2

If someone were to ask, I would say that the most important piece of advise for anyone traveling to Barcelona is: DO NOT eat breakfast at your hotel.  Beat it out of there, head to the nearest covered mercado and slide onto a stool at the busiest cafe you can find. 

Coffee in process at the Universal

Monday, March 14, 2011

Barcelona by the Sea

It's been a busy month. A very busy month.  Walls coming down, tile going up. Time spent in trains, planes and yes, automobiles.  Lots of miles, lots of photos, but no writing.  I was just too busy using my left hand to pick up my fork. Especially in Barcelona, Spain.

Stuffed roast peppers, chicken empanada and tomato rubbed bread
Barcelona is a confused city.  I was there about 15 years ago, before the post Olympics 'Renaissance' (ie: the demolition of entire older neighborhoods) and the building of high-rise, pastel colored, apartment complexes began.


Many of these projects have been abandoned mid construction and so they sit, fenced, with their cranes inactive, waiting for the economy to improve. Historic neighborhoods have been impacted as well; their lively streets scarred by abandoned, yet still fabulous buildings with the ground and first floor windows all bricked up. 


The upper floor windows gape, randomly open, giving a view into crumbling ceilings while pigeons fly happily in an out.  It is odd indeed, yet the spirit of the people is lively and the food remains glorious.

A market stand featuring only pork products

Monday, February 7, 2011

Live (Crab) from Monterey

Returning to the Monterey Peninsula is a mixed blessing.  Usually, I'm going back for some sort of work that involves lots of heavy lifting at our family house in Carmel by the Sea, the charming town where I was born and raised.  When traveling there during an 'R' month, I'm happily leaving oysters behind in Paris to find live Dungeness crab straight off the day boat in Moss Landing.

Fresh crab on a bed of paparadelle pasta & zucchini ribbons with yellow curry sauce

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mad for Eggs - Mayonnaise

I have two women friends who are simply mad for Oeufs Mayonnaise... a dish I never much paid attention to since my year in French boarding school where it was often featured as the entrée... plainly put: I just didn't get it. Lately I've taken a different view of the venerable dish.  As Julia (yes, that Julia) puts it "this makes a nice little something with which to start a meal" she found that it seems to make everything more festive.  

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Arugula and Speck - Pasta for a Rainy Day

Simple, quick and delicious
When an Italian produce vendor at my Sunday market suggested trying his favorite pasta dish using arugula as the main ingredient, it was hard to resist.  That was last winter. Since then, this dish has become a family favorite and it couldn't be simpler. It's also what I whipped up today when my daughter and her two hungry friends came home, in the rain, for lunch.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Oysters... I mean Huitres

Fines de Claires #4
Some people don't much care about the "R" month rule, but for me, oyster season begins mid October and lasts until March.

By the time the New Year arrives Oysters are everywhere in Paris; cafes serve them, fish mongers sell them and the growers have arrived in full force at the farmers markets.  Fines de Claires, Belons, Creuses and Omahas (just to name a few) are available in about 5 sizes for you enjoy out or to take home either opened on little tin platters or unopened if you know how.  With my oyster loving family in town, we decided to dive into the 'open it yourself' mode committing to two small wooden crates of about 4 dozen each which I stored on my snowy terrace.

Now (about 100 oysters later) seems like an excellent time to give a little lesson on how to crack these hard to get at delicacies. After all, by my count there are still 3 good months of oyster eating ahead of us.