Archive for the 'Life' Category

The Gastronomique Tour: Week 2 – Switzerland

The second and final week of my tour lands me in Switzerland to sample some of its delicacies (food and drink), and more importantly, visit w/ my cousins, some of whom I haven’t seen since 2004. My home base was Delemont, the town where my mom grew up and where most of my cousins still live. It’s close to the Alsace region of France so we visited a couple of beautiful towns just across the border – Kaysersberg and Colmar. Other stops were Lucerne (famous for its covered bridge), Vercorin and Grimentz (two alpine villages in the Valais region). Grimentz is one of the best preserved Swiss alpine villages in that region. 

One of my cousins introduced me to Damassine, a delicious eau de vie made from damson plums. It quickly became one of my favorite after dinner drinks, having a great aroma and flavor in addition to aiding in the digestion of wonderful meals. One evening we sautéed 2 types of local fresh trout purchased at the Delemont farmers market and of course we finished the meal w/ a bit of cheese and Damassine!

While in Vercorin, my cousin prepared a tradition meal called Assiette Valaisanne, which typically is a platter loaded w/ local cured meats, local cheeses, butter, thin slices of a dense rye bread called seigle, sliced fruit, nuts, cornichons and tomato wedges. This is served w/ wines produced regionally. It makes a delicious meal. Click here for an example.

It was hunting season while I was in Switzerland, so most restaurants offered seasonal dishes made w/ fresh game meat. I was fortunate to sample some venison and chamois prepare a couple of different ways during some of our meals out. One chef slowly braised chamois for 18 hours and served it w/ local mushrooms, spaetzle, seasonal vegetables and fruit. Another preparation was a roulade of venison breast stuffed w/ ground venison and served w/ red cabbage and spaetzle. Both were delicious!

When in Switzerland, I always hope to eat Raclette (a Swiss specialty). It’s one of my favorite ways to eat cheese. A picture is worth a thousand words as you will see in the photos of the Raclette lunch we ate at a cousin’s home one day.

I hope you enjoy these choice photos as much as I enjoyed my short time in Switzerland!

P1010958 Kaysersberg

P1010975

P1010985 Vineyards in Alsace

P1010986 Colmar (aka – “Little Venice”)

P1010988

P1020031 Very slow braised chamois at L’Etoile in Moutier

P1020038 After dinner at L’Etoile

P1020051 Lucerne

P1020061

P1020095 Delemont (my mom grew up in the building on the right – her dad’s bakery was on the bottom level)

P1020101 One of the many colorful fountains in Delemont

P1020148 Delemont farmers market

P1020130 Our trouts for the evening are the filets on the right

P1020143 Mushrooms galore

P1020209 Downtown Delemont

P1020213 Waiting for the Raclette

P1020217

P1020214 Yum!

P1020281 Vercorin

P1020280

P1020305

P1020250 Grimentz

P1020249

P1020264

P1020269 Our lunch spot in Grimentz

P1020276 On the menu…

P1020271 Veggie lasagna

P1020272 Braised venison

P1020273 Venison roulade

Au revior et a bientot j’espere!

Bruno

The Gastronomique Tour: Part 1, Week 1- Southwestern France

How do I edit a fantastic 2 week vacation during which I snapped 670 photos?… Not easily!

To sum it up, seeing family I hadn’t visited since 2004 was so enjoyable I wish I had more time to be w/ them. I definitely won’t let so much time pass before my next visit.

My first stop was Southwestern France. I landed in Bordeaux and spent the first week exploring the region surrounding Agen, the city where my brother and his wife live. This region is filled w/ great food and beautiful countryside which encompasses many well preserved medieval villages.

This post and the ones to follow will provide a visual taste of my experiences…

P1010639 Agen’s organic farmers market

P1010637

P1010638

P1010640

P1010661 Gavaudun

P1010683 Biron

P1010691

P1010712 Monpazier

P1010732 Bonaguil

P1010739 Rocamadour

P1010785

P1010839 Foie gras museum

P1010843

P1010875

P1010873 Josephine Baker’s old house (Chateau des Milandes)

P1010881 Beynac

P1010917

P1010885

 

P1010919 Our picnic spot (Roque – Gageac)

P1010920 Decadent picnic food

P1010922

A bientot!

Bruno

 

Can You Spot the Goldfinches?

A pair of goldfinches stop by in my yard from time to time to snack on the zinnias. They’re beautiful and fun to watch as the pull the petals off the flowers to get to the seeds. I was drinking my morning cups of coffee the other day and spotted them in action through the kitchen window. Can you spot them? The female is a bit more difficult to see in the photos but she’s there! (click the pics to enlarge for easier spotting)

Goldfinches1

Goldfinches2

Goldfinches3

Goldfinches4

Happy Birding!

Bruno

Pistachio Gelato & Pistachio Brittle

This post is in memory of my dad who loved pistachio gelato. I remember being in Venice w/ him at a gelateria, and even w/ so many flavors to choose from, he of course picked pistachio! So here you go papa. With love, your son.

This recipe is based on one from Martha Stewart w/ a few variations. The main variations are: 1) I used six egg yolks, compared to Martha’s five, to give my gelato additional richness; and 2) My version leaves in the ground pistachios for a boost of flavor and a nice textural element. I’m guessing that Martha strained out the pistachios to get a smoother, more elegant finished product, much like many French sauce recipes require removing bits of shallots or mushrooms prior to serving for that very reason.

I made the pistachio brittle to use as a garnish because I think it’s fun to eat and delicious too! The brittle reminded me of a funny and true story: My childhood dentist would sometimes have a bowl of peanut brittle sitting on the table in her waiting room. I don’t know if she was just being nice to her sugar loving clients, or guaranteeing return business to fill all the cavities this created!

Pistachio Gelato (recipe adapted from Martha Stewart)

Ingredients:

1/2 pound pistachios (unsalted and shelled)

1 quart half & half

6 egg yolks

2/3 cup sugar

Procedure:

1) Coarsely chop pistachios in food processor.

2) Place pistachios in a heavy pot w/ the half & half  and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, cover w/ lid and let mixture steep for 2 hours.

3) Strain pistachios from mixture using a fine mesh sieve, pressing down firmly on solids. Reserve pistachios.

4) Return half & half to pot and scald, then remove from heat.

5) In a metal bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar until mixture becomes smooth and pale yellow.

6) Very slowly whisk half & half into egg/sugar mixture so as not to curdle the mixture.

7) Place bowl w/ mixture over a pot of simmering water, stirring continuously w/ a heat resistant spatula until mixture coats the back of a metal spoon (do not let mixture exceed 170 degrees F to prevent curdling), then quickly place bowl in an ice bath to stop the cooking process and promote rapid cooling.

8) Stir in reserved pistachios and chill in fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.

9) Churn mixture in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

10) Pour gelato into a 2 quart plastic container then place a piece of parchment paper cut to size on the surface of gelato (this will reduce air exposure and prevent ice crystals from forming on the surface of the gelato), seal container and freeze until firm.

Yield: Approx. 1 1/2 quarts

 

Pistachio Brittle

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup pistachios (shelled and unsalted)

3 1/2 tablespoons water

Procedure:

1) Put sugar and water in a heavy bottomed pot and boil until light amber in color (333 – 335 degrees F on a candy thermometer), brushing inside of pot w/ water occasionally to prevent crystals from forming; stir in pistachios.

2) Quickly pour onto a baking sheet lined w/ parchment paper and let cool.

3) Break brittle into large pieces and store in an airtight plastic container, placing a piece of parchment paper between each layer.

 

Happy cooking…

Bruno

Providing Unconditional Love…

That’s the feeling I get from my furry friends and good food… not just on Valentine’s Day, but every day of the year!

heart soup1

 

truffles and brie1 feb 5 2012

Cheers…

Bruno

 

First Signs of Spring

crocus1

Thank God, because I definitely need some inspiration!

Bruno

Let It Snow!

Santa delivered us a beautiful snow for Christmas! These are pictures of my garden taken from my kitchen window this morning. Looking forward to greener days in the garden next year, but at the moment I’m enjoying this beautiful, relaxing and lazy day!

Christmas garden2 2010

Christmas garden1 2010

Happy Christmas and may 2011 bring you health, joy and great meals enjoyed w/ your friends and family!

Bruno

Carrot Gelato w/ Roasted Hazelnuts & Rum Soaked Raisins

carrot gelato1

For LiveSTRONG Day – A tribute to all those living w/ cancer. Barbara of Winos and Foodies is once again hosting A Taste of Yellow to support LiveSTRONG Day and to raise awareness of cancer issues worldwide. She’s asking food bloggers to cook up something yellow as a way of showing support for this cause and for sharing their cancer related stories if they have one.

My contribution to A Taste of  Yellow 2009 is this carrot gelato which is orangish yellow but it’s the thought and effort that counts – For LiveSTRONG Day – A tribute to all those living w/ cancer.

Carrot Gelato w/ Roasted Hazelnuts & Rum Soaked Raisins

Ingredients:

1 cup grated carrots (packed tightly)

3/4 cup roasted hazelnuts (skins removed)

1/2 cup raisins (soaked in dark rum)

1 cup sugar

1 quart half & half

6 large egg yolks

Procedure:

1) Puree carrots in food processor w/ a small amount of half & half

2) Place rum soaked raisins in a small pot and heat to burn off alcohol

3) In a metal bowl, whisk egg yolks and  sugar until mixture becomes smooth and pale yellow

4) Place half & half in a heavy pot and heat until scalded 

5) Very slowly add warm half & half to egg/sugar mixture so as not to curdle the mixture

6) Place bowl w/ mixture over a pot of simmering water, stirring continuously until mixture coats the back of a metal spoon (do not let mixture exceed 170 degrees F to prevent curdling), then quickly place bowl in an ice bath to stop the cooking process and promote rapid cooling

7) Stir carrot puree into cooling mixture

8) Once cool, refrigerate mixture for at least 4 hours or overnight

9) Churn mixture in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions, adding raisins and hazelnuts when mixture begins to thicken
10) Pour gelato into a 2 quart plastic container and quickly stir to evenly distribute the raisins and hazelnuts
11) Place a piece of parchment paper cut to size on the surface of  gelato (this will reduce air exposure and prevent ice crystals from forming on the surface of the gelato), seal container and freeze until firm
Yield: Approx. 1 1/2 quarts 

 Stay STRONG!

 Bruno

Veggie Garden Update

I now realize a lot can happen in a garden in a short amount of time. When I arrived back in town last weekend I noticed that my zucchini plant had rotted from all the rain we had while I was gone. I’m not sure how to avoid this next year. Veteran gardeners, any suggestions?

Also, my tomato plants have become so loaded down w/ fruit that the stakes I’m using this year are having trouble supporting the plants. Solution – I used twine to tie the stakes to the fence for added support. Next year I think I will use tomato cages to contain the plants more effectively. I harvested my first ripe Lemon Boy tomato and it was delicious!! The heirloom tomato plants are loaded, but no ripe ones yet.

Much to my surprise, the broccoli plants (one of my favorite vegetables) are still producing so there’s no need to buy any at the grocery store this week! My first butternut squash has grown so tremendously that I may be making a home grown butternut squash dish next week!

My orange bell pepper plant died and my other bell pepper plant has yet to start producing. The hot banana pepper plant dropped the only fruit it had on it and no new fruit is appearing. Possibly this due to their location in the garden – the plants are being crowded out and overshadowed by the gargantuan tomato plants! Lesson learned for next year – better plant placement and spacing according to potential size and height (how was I supposed to know how big or little things would get… after all, I’m a novice). Veteran gardeners please don’t hesitate to share your knowledge… I would love to hear your pearls of wisdom!

July 17th photos:

First Lemon Boy; more broccoli; baby butternut

Heirlooms; lone banana pepper; more Lemon Boys

July 27th photos:

Rigged tomatoes; yet more broccoli; rotten zucchini

Adolescent butternut; newborn butternut; thriving zinnias

Happy gardening…

Bruno

My First Veggie Garden

Two years in the making, but well worth the effort…

In the summer of 2006 I put up a retaining wall to keep the ivy from taking over a corner of my yard. I then tried to kill it w/ regular Roundup but the ivy won that battle. The following spring I mixed a batch of extra strong Roundup. It took 3 or 4 applications but the ivy lost this time! Fast forward to 2008… It was an exceptionally rainy and cool spring in St. Louis so the planting of my garden was delayed by a few weeks. I had a brief window of opportunity in mid-May to get my plants in the ground, and I do mean brief! As I was getting the trenches finished for the asparagus it started raining again, but I pushed on and was able to finish. The weather remained cool and wet until early June. As a result, my plants didn’t prosper very well. The tomato plants were dropping their flowers, the squash plants remained small, the bell pepper plants were wimpy and the asparagus struggled to pop out of the dirt! I thought I was doing something wrong, but as the weather became drier and warmer things started happening – the broccoli ripened, the tomatoes started appearing, the asparagus ferned out, the squash has gone crazy (so much I’ve had to cut back the leaves so they wouldn’t block out the sun for the other plants!), and my wimpy bell pepper plants are starting to get bigger and flower. The zucchini is flowering like crazy but is not producing much fruit yet. As you can see in the photos, two of the zucchinis rotted before ripening. I don’t know why, so if any of you veteran gardeners have any answers please share them w/ me.

Below is a photographic chronology:

yard-before1.jpgyard-after2.jpg

June 2006

garden1.jpggarden2.jpg

June 8th, 2008

veggie-garden1.jpgveggie-garden2.jpgveggie-garden3.jpg

June 22, 2008

garden-july08-1.jpggarden-july08-2.jpggarden-july08-3.jpg

July 4, 2008

garden-july08-4.jpggarden-july08-5.jpggarden-july08-6.jpg

Broccoli; Lemon Boy tomato; zucchini

garden-july08-7.jpggarden-july08-8.jpggarden-july08-9.jpg

Hot banana peppers; butternut squash flower; herbs

Things are looking good, and the broccoli and first banana peppers were delicious!! I will keep you posted as the summer progresses.

Ciao for now…

Bruno