Friday, May 16, 2008

Immediate self gratification

Am I the only one who finds this macaron from Pierre Hermé obscenely large? Like a Big Mac, but more cream. The macarons from Hermé are admittedly delicious, bit on the baroque side in terms of flavours and composition. My favourite come from Sadaharu Aoki, the salty umeboshi is fantabulous. So much so that I never get a chance to photograph them. They go straight from the hand of the nice Japanese ladies at the shop, into the plastic sac, and into my mouth.

And a chibouste* from our local bakery Secco, who never fails to please.

* From what I can gather it is a type of dessert cream concoction invented by the same fellow who made up the St. Honoré. The cream resembles the meringue of lemon meringue pies, but has milk in it. Apparently very difficult to master, amateurs beware.

Stuffed to the gills

Our apartment is tiny, which would make our very small kitchen miniscule, or on good days "quit intimate". The only counter space is on the fridge, storage space has been maxed out with our recent addition of shelves and hook/rod system, and there will be barely enough space for the day we can afford an oven. Living without an oven or proper heat elements has been a tough adjustment. I have had to deal with cooking with hot plates and let me tell you it's been a challenge. From trial and error I have learned that it is not a good idea to prepare paella, nor risotto, or use any cooking utensil larger than 15 centimetres, or 6 inches, in diameter on said plates. The things I have prepared with a low level of frustration have been couscous (just the grains), pasta, and tiny batches of sauce. I have also been steaming vegetables like it's going out of style.

One day I decided to make a Korean crepe called pa-jon, a common snack served in bars, restaurants, and streetside. It uses a batter comprised of flour, eggs, water and salt, followed by a wide option of savoury ingredients which are added after pouring the batter into a medium hot pan. I started with making tiny blini sized crepes with chives, carrots, zucchini, and shrimp. Then, because it was taking forever and it was 10pm, I became impatient and threw everything into the batter and created epic frisbee sized pa-jon. Obviously not as good (they were mushier), but still consumed heartily by B and I.


Jon Batter (makes 2 cups)

1 c Flour
1/4 c Glutinous Rice Flour
1 Egg, beaten
1 c Water, approx.
1/2 tsp. Salt

Combine all to create a smooth batter.

For a cup of batter one can add the following:

2 scallions
1/2 cup fresh oysters
8 medium rehydrated dried mushrooms
15 medium shrimps peeled and deveined
grated carrots
grated zucchini
thinly sliced red or green peppers

If using scallions add to batter. Heat skillet to medium high. Add vegetable oil, then when it is well heated add 2 large tbsp of batter. Press filling of choice into batter, adding about 1 tbsp of additional batter afterward to bind everything together on uncooked side. When the cooking side is golden, flip over and cook until the other side is golden too.

These tasty crepes are usually served with a soya sauce dip. Usually I mix together some soya sauce, with a little bit of sesame seed oil and cider vinegar to taste. Typically one adds garlic, more finely chopped scallions, and toasted sesame seeds to the mix.

Serve with a well chilled crispy beer.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Glorious spring

Where did April go to and how is it that May is half over? There were a lot of good post ideas floating around but I suppose I got carried away with the spring. April in Paris really is everything it's touted to be, I highly recommend. But here we are in May and it's still glorious and staying indoors is almost a crime. Which is why getting out and about town to discover the city is more tempting than ever.

Getting around town on a bike is the one thing that I revel in without reservation. Mayor Bertrand Delanoë struck gold with a business arrangement in which JCDecaux, an ad agency, provided financing for a public bike rental system in exchange for a large tranche of on-street advertising. Hence the birth of the endlessly popular Vélib. In addition to a cornucopia of public bikes throughout the city , there are also more and more dedicated and protected bike lanes. In the past number of years the mayor has been reducing car lanes and increasing those for public transportation. Cycling around town has never been so much fun.

Visiting the urban gardens by Palais de Tokyo before grabbing some bikes.

B breaking into the urban gardens.

Example of protected and lushly landscaped bike lane, and one that is more urban.

Crossing the fabulous Pont Bir-Hakeim.

And at the end of the day you can park your Vélib at any Vélib station and take one long look at the sky by the Seine before heading home, or starting up the evening!

As a final note, I would like to add that it is indeed possible to cycle around town in minidresses and high heels, eschewing the standard defensive gear so sadly required in North America. No bike helmets or lycra here! This site gives a pretty good sense of what the bike culture in Paris looks like.