Tarte aux noix

Walnut tart, a specialty of southwest France, is a favorite of mine in the autumn. The walnut pieces are bathed in a caramel sauce and then baked in a tender tart shell to produce a sweet, chewy confection — comfort food at its finest. This tart would make a nice innovation on Thanksgiving, and could add a festive touch on Christmas or New Years. With the holidays arriving, I wanted to share the recipe with you. There was only one problem…

Tarte aux noix / Walnut tart

…I had never made a walnut tart before. Why bother? The pastry shop at the corner made a luscious version that I could just pick up. I thought about it, though. For years I pestered the pastry chef to share his recipe. He declined. Then he sold the place and it was taken over by vegans, who by the way make delicious bread — but as there is no butter in their pastry, traditional walnut tart is not on the menu. So I turned to a friend.

Julia Watson is a writer, cookbook author and, more recently, a food blogger whom I met in Moscow when we were both posted there in the 1980s. She’s a remarkable cook, and was the first to turn me on to the pleasures of fresh herbs in Georgian cuisine. Although British, she spends a lot of time in southwest France. I tasted her walnut tart somewhere along the line, and when I started thinking about making it for this site, I asked her for the recipe. Which she generously supplied. It had been published some years back in an article she wrote for Gourmet magazine about evening farmers markets in the Dordogne.

Well, dear reader, I followed the instructions and the result was what we call in France a cauchemar en cuisine (the phrase — meaning ‘nightmare in the kitchen’ — was popularized by the chef Philippe Etchebest in his eponymous TV series, in which he rushes to help save the situation for hapless restauranteurs). The problem was the caramel, which is made by boiling up sugar and water. It refused to turn brown. So after boiling it for, say, about 20 minutes, I gave up, continued with the recipe and put the tart in to bake.

Can you imagine the slopes of Mount Etna after a volcanic eruption? This is how my tart came out of the oven, with hills and crannies that looked like solidified lava and were just as hard. I’d made the tart for a dinner party that evening, and my guests gamely agreed to try it. Not too bad, I guess, because they asked for more — although one remarked that he had never before seen a tart that looked like a lunar landscape.

While the tart was still in the oven, bubbling away like a witch’s cauldron, I phoned Julia in a panic. What had I done wrong? ‘Oh,’ she replied, ‘Gourmet changed my recipe in their tasting kitchen. Try using less water.’ Which I did on my second attempt. Success!

Now don’t be daunted by this story. Making a walnut tart is actually quick and remarkably easy, providing you get the proportions right. You begin by making a sweet tart shell (pâte sablée), which doesn’t need to be rolled out — you simply pat it into the tart pan. While the shell is chilling, you toast the walnuts, heat some cream and in a separate pot make the caramel. Once the caramel browns, you pour in the cream — this step is pretty spectacular, because it all boils up like a seething sea of, well, lava. Then you add a little butter, stir in the walnuts, transfer the filling to the shell and pop the tart in the oven.

The tart is best served warm, perhaps with some cream on the side. In the cooler months, it makes a perfect ending to a festive meal.

By the way, another autumn dessert I love is pear clafoutis, which I posted back in 2012, when this site was just getting started. I made it again recently and updated the recipe with a better photo. If you’d like to try it, the recipe is here.

Happy cooking.

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Salade vigneronne

This is one of those French salads with an evocative name where the ingredients vary according to the whim of the chef. Salade vigneronne translates as ‘winemaker’s salad’, and in this version you’ll find tender leaves, walnuts, grapes and garlic in a balsamic vinaigrette, with optional add-ons such as smoked duck breast, dry-cured ham or croutons. It’s a salad I serve often in autumn. But when I surfed the web to see how others do it…

Salade vigneronne / Winemaker’s salad

… I found that others tend to leave out the grapes. Instead they may use dandelion leaves and bacon; arugula, hard-boiled egg and onion; sausage, cheese and pickles (the Alsace version, with no greens)… So is my version truly a salade vigneronne? To my mind, definitely, as vigneronne, according to the Larousse Gastronomique, is a word associated in cuisine with ‘preparations having to do with grapes, the grapevine or autumn dishes’.

Other salads with a range of possible ingredients include salade parisienne, a bistro classic, and salade périgourdine, from the Dordogne region of southwest France. Let’s start with that one. I was thinking of posting a recipe for salade périgourdine this week but dropped the idea because the ingredients are too hard to find outside France. Such as gésiers de canard, or preserved duck giblets. If those aren’t available, one can use shredded confit de canard (preserved duck), foie gras (of duck or goose), dry-cured ham and/or pâté. Then one can add walnuts, croutons, green beans, cherry tomatoes, etc. The author Martin Walker’s recipe for a classic version can be found here.

As for salade parisienne, I’ve been thinking about posting this ‘Paris-style salad’ for quite some time, the problem being that no one can agree on what’s in it. It generally includes ham cubes and cheese (Gruyère, Comté, etc.) on a bed of Boston lettuce (laitue) with a mustard vinaigrette, but after that anything goes. Potatoes? Why not. Hard-boiled eggs? Tomatoes? Green beans? Perhaps. Sliced raw mushrooms? Although I’ve never encountered them in this salad, they feature in various recipes and are said to have given the salad its name — white mushrooms being known in French as ‘champignons de Paris‘. This is apparently because they were cultivated in an abandoned quarry at the southern edge of the city until 1895, when construction of the Paris Métro put an end to that.

Getting back to salade vigneronne, my theory on why there are so many versions is that the name harks back to the tradition of winemakers serving hearty food to the workers they hire in autumn to pick their grapes. Although I’ve never participated in the vendanges (grape harvest), I hear it’s back-breaking work that deserves a substantial lunch. My lighter version of the salad may be served as a starter or as a lunch dish, followed perhaps by some cheese, and with a glass of red alongside. It would also make a nice dish to serve on the upcoming November holidays — Hanukah and Thanksgiving.

Happy cooking.

Meantime, as to what else I’ve been up to in the kitchen, I made a wedding cake this past week. Great fun!

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Poulette au cidre

I was inspired to make this Normandy dish of chicken cooked in hard cider by the late great writer Marguerite Duras. Not that she made it for me, but I did enjoy meals at her house — more on that later. The dish originated as peasant fare for special occasions. The chicken is lightly browned, mushrooms, shallots and bacon are added, and the dish is then stewed in hard cider, with cream added at the end. By the way, Normandy grows a lot of apples.

Poulette au cidre / Normandy chicken in cider

I adapted the recipe from a slim cookbook called La cuisine de Marguerite (Benoît Jacob, 1999) that I was charmed to find at a local bookshop here in Paris a few years back. It features facsimile pages from the notebook where Marguerite Duras jotted down her recipes and photos of the author’s kitchen, and includes dishes like ‘Michèle Muller’s grandmother’s little pâtés for picnics at Saint Marguerite Island and walks by the sea‘.

I was charmed to find it because I have a long personal history with Marguerite Duras, although I never met her. I discovered her work in the summer of 1975, when I was a graduate student spending a year in Paris. She had recently published a book with the writer Xavière Gauthier called Les Parleuses, which translates as The Talkers, although the book is actually about writing — more specifically, about what it means to be a woman writer and how what women have to say and how they say it is different from men’s writing, which many not sound like anything special now but was very brave at the time.

I returned to Ithaca, immersed myself in Marguerite Duras and wrote my master’s thesis on some of her works. By the time I moved back to Paris, I’d had an overdose — I didn’t look at another of her books for years. But fate works in mysterious ways. Much later, after she died, I was introduced by a friend to her son. And one day he had a party at the home outside Paris where Marguerite Duras had lived. At that party, a friend of his from Italy who was staying there for a while asked me to dance. And then he invited me back.

So it was that, over one summer, I spent several magical evenings exchanging stories in the very kitchen where Marguerite Duras had once cooked poulette au cidre. It was in her lush garden that I discovered fresh sage, with its heady odor and wild, musty flavor — you’ll find it in many of the recipes on this site. She had a hammock in the garden, and her kitchen had a homey feel, with teacups hanging beneath a shelf and patterned tiles above the sink. Her garden and kitchen inspired me when, years later, I bought my cottage in Burgundy. I hope you’ll enjoy the dish as much as I do. And…

Happy cooking.

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Ratafia

I discovered the apéritif known as ratafia one summer when the former owners of my cottage in Burgundy paid me a visit. As they admired the changes I’d made inside, I asked them how they had used the grapes growing on a sprawling vine outside. Since the grapes were too sour to eat, I had been leaving them to the birds. But I was sure that previous owners, including those who planted the grapevine in the first place, must have had a better idea.

Ratafia / Ratafia

‘We made ratafia!’ my visitors announced proudly. And they explained how to do it. Crush the grapes, filter the juice and add a glass of strong alcohol such as  marc de Bourgogne or grappa (in a pinch, you can use vodka). Let it sit in a dark place for three weeks, add some sugar and let it sit a week more. Refilter and funnel it into a bottle.

That autumn, when my sour grapes were ripe, I followed these instructions and a month later had a bottle of sweet fortified wine — homemade, and as natural as could be.

Ratafia is usually served chilled at cocktail hour. It can also accompany cured ham, foie gras, cheeses like blue or Roquefort, or dessert. It may be slightly murky, but that’s not a problem. The strong alcohol prevents fermentation, and it will keep for up to a year.

Ratafia is enjoyed across rural France and beyond, and is not always made from grapes. Quinces, raspberries, walnuts, cherry stones, even rose petals are used by home brewers. The word ratafia is said to derive from the Latin rata fiat, meaning ‘the accord is sealed’ — apparently a toast in years gone by. And indeed, ratafia is popular across a swath of land that was once Roman, from Italy to Switzerland, France and Catalonia.

In Burgundy, where grapes are plentiful, making ratafia in the autumn is an annual pastime. And now that I’ve sold my cottage, I make it in Paris. It’s fun, inexpensive and the results are thoroughly enjoyable.

Happy drinking!

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Carpaccio de thon au citron vert

I was inspired to make a carpaccio of tuna the other day after lunching in Montmartre at a place that served a fabulous version infused with Asian flavors. I didn’t think to ask for the recipe, so I had to wing it. In this version, ultrafresh tuna is flavored with a marinade of lime zest, lime juice, sesame oil, ginger and soy sauce, and topped with toasted sesame seeds and cilantro. For a gala touch, I added a sprinkle of trout roe.

Carpaccio de thon au citron vert / Carpaccio of tuna with lime

The restaurant, Che Tango, actually calls its dish ceviche of red tuna. So why, you may well wonder, am I calling mine carpaccio? Both involve raw fish — the difference is in how the fish is cut. In ceviche, which hails from Latin America, the fish is generally diced. In a fish carpaccio — a spinoff of Italy’s famous raw beef dish — it is served thinly sliced.

Carpaccio, which these days can involve meat, fish or veggies, takes its name from the 15th-century Venetian painter Vittore Carpaccio. The dish is said to have been invented in 1950 by Giuseppe Cipriano, the genial owner of the original Harry’s Bar in Venice, who wanted to please a client whose doctor had recommended she eat raw meat. He chose the name after visiting a Carpaccio retrospective that was on in Venice at the time — the color of the paper-thin raw beef resembled the vibrant reds in Carpaccio’s paintings.

With both beef and tuna carpaccio, there’s a trick to obtaining fine slices. Place the meat or fish in the freezer for ten minutes — this firms it up enough for easy slicing. You also, of course, need a very sharp knife, preferably sharpened just before slicing.

Vegetable carpaccios are a more recent entry to the repertoire. Most often seen in Paris is carpaccio de courgettes, in which thinly sliced raw zucchini is sprinkled with olive oil, salt and pepper, and topped with parmesan shavings. In a post on the differences between three raw food dishes — tartare, ceviche and carpaccio — the French chef Roberta Nacmias names carpaccio of porcini mushrooms (cèpes) as the king of veggie carpaccios. To the thinly sliced mushrooms, she says, ‘You add fine slices of white celery and white truffle. Then oil, salt and pepper, without forgetting to be generous with the parmesan’.

This set me wondering — are raw porcinis safe to eat? Research revealed that while many wild mushrooms are toxic when served raw, and some can be fatal, raw porcinis are merely difficult to digest. And indeed, the blogosphere has plenty of recipes for carpaccio de cèpes, often drizzled with hazelnut oil. Sounds great, but I’m not about to risk it.

As for tuna carpaccio, there’s no health risk as long as the fish is very fresh. It’s a light, flavorful dish that may be served on its own at lunchtime, perhaps followed by a green salad, or as the starter of a more elaborate meal. It would pair well with various Asian dishes on this site — Thai duck salad, Vietnamese noodle salad, cockles in satay sauce or lemongrass chicken — or with virtually any fish dish.

Happy cooking!

After writing this post, I called Che Tango to ask about their version of tuna carpaccio — and found that the recipe I came up with was quite similar. Their marinade is made of soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, hot pepper, nuoc mam (Asian fish sauce) and garlic. And they, too, sprinkle the dish with toasted sesame seeds — white and black — and cilantro.

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Tarte chèvre-figues-romarin

Fresh figs marry beautifully with goat cheese and rosemary, so I decided to combine them in a savory tart. I came up with this plan after my downstairs neighbor brought me a bucketful of figs — lush, plump and ultra flavorful — from her vacation place in Sardinia. Although it’s theoretically the height of fig season in France now, too, there’s been a dearth of homegrown figs this year, making me all the more grateful for the gift.

Tarte chèvre-figues-romarin / Goat cheese tart with figs and rosemary

Full disclosure: I actually came up with the idea behind this dish after spotting a similar tart at Picard, the exceptionally good French frozen-food chain. I didn’t buy it, prefering to experiment. And my first try was less than exceptional — I blended the goat cheese with Greek yogurt rather than the more typically French milk and crème fraîche, and the tart was a bit heavy. So I tried again, and came up with a formula for a light, full-flavored tart that my neighbor enjoyed when I brought it to her as a return gift. (I tasted it first.)

On my first go, I made the pastry myself, using the pâte brisée recipe from this site, as pictured at right. I served it to dinner guests as a first course, and the verdict was: too much pastry. So please don’t tell anyone about this, but on my second go I used store-bought savory dough, as pictured above — and it was fine.

This tart may be served as a starter or as a main dish at lunch, perhaps accompanied by a salad of tender leaves. Serve it warm for maximum flavor, and pair it with your favorite wine — a chilled rosé, a subtle red or a spicy white.

Meantime, I just received the latest newsletter from the writer Ann Mah, who’s been living in Hanoi for the past year. Ann’s newsletter comes out once a month, with charming vignettes on food, books and travel — when possible. In this issue, she paints a dire picture of life in Vietnam. Travel is impossible as the country is in strict lockdown. People are allowed out of their homes only to shop for food or go to the hospital — even going out for exercise or dog walking is banned. This month’s newsletter also includes fun facts like how people in other cultures say ‘I love you’ via food. To read more, click here.

The situation in Paris is far better, in fact practically back to normal, with cafés, restaurants, galleries, theaters, cinemas and swimming pools all open to anyone who can provide a vaccination certificate. This is thanks to President Macron’s excellent initiative aimed at boosting vaccination rates to improve collective immunity. The only other way to go out to dinner or a movie is to have a negative test result less than three days old. Tests have been free, but there will be a charge starting in mid-October — the hope being that this will inspire more people to get the vaccine.

It’s hard to believe that we have been masked for a year and a half, and even harder to consider that it’s likely to go on for a while, with experts now saying that the pandemic has become endemic. Thank goodness we can still take pleasure in beautiful food.

At left, the gifts from my neighbor: figs from her fig tree, her homemade fig jam (fabulous!), and a bottle of olive oil pressed from olives grown on her property.

Happy cooking.

Posted in 4a. Savory Tarts and Tartines | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Soupe provençale au basilic

This zingy soup came about thanks to a visit I made to Provence last summer. While staying with friends in St-Rémy during a break between lockdowns, I came across an old cookbook of regional dishes and was intrigued to see a blended potato-leek soup that may be served cold or hot. It looked like something you’d expect to see further north — like a Provençal version of vichyssoise, in which the cream was replaced by pistou.

Soupe provençale au basilic / Provençal soup with pistou

So this is a very different soup than its Provençal sibling, soupe au pistou, which is closer to minestrone with chunky veggies and pasta or beans. But the star ingredient in both is pistou — a blend of basil, garlic and olive oil, like Italy’s pesto minus the parmesan and pine nuts. As a big fan of pistou, I thought the soup sounded promising, so when I got back to Paris I made it. Good, but not great. So I tried again and improvised, adding zucchini to lighten the mix and add flavor. Success.

Served chilled and drizzled with extra pistou, this soup makes a delightful start to a summer meal. And if serving hot, you can bring a bowl of parmesan shavings to the table. They melt into the soup for an extra burst of flavor.

I’m writing this post from England, having come over as soon as the quarantine rules were lifted, and am having a fine time visiting friends and enjoying the local gastronomy. I’m also learning about conditions post-Brexit, some of which are affecting life in the kitchen. It turns out there’s a shortage of chicken due to the absence of the migrant workers who staffed the poultry farms over here. They’ve been sent back to Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and so on. The papers are also predicting a shortage of Christmas turkeys — a disaster given English traditions. And that’s not all. Lettuce is hard to find, presumably for the same reason, and friends report that shelves are bare in some supermarkets and pharmacies due to a lack of truck drivers, many of whom were also foreign.

The good news is that the British are continuing to produce local specialties that one can rarely enjoy in Paris. For example, a spread of potted brown shrimp and crabmeat, delicious on toast; baby peas in their tender pods served with aïoli; lightly spiced Cumberland sausages, quite different from French chipolatas; blackberry-plum cake, which would be impossible to make in France at the moment due to the absence from the market of blackberries; and fabulous local cheeses, such as Kingcott, a creamy blue with a light rind, and Winterdale Shaw, an aged hard cheese that is similar to cheddar.

Meantime I’ve updated the Menus section with everyday and weekend recipes for summer for omnivores, vegetarians and vegans. Enjoy, and see you in September.

Happy cooking.

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Aubergines farcies aux noix

High summer is the time to make and enjoy this dish of roasted eggplant topped with a pungent walnut sauce. Traditionally served as a starter, it also makes a fine side dish or the star of a mezze spread. The walnuts are ground with garlic and fresh cilantro. Red wine vinegar and cayenne add tang, coriander seeds add spice, and celery adds a bit of crunch. It may not exactly be French — but it will have you saying ooh-là-là.

Aubergines farcies aux noix / Eggplant with walnut sauce

I’m posting this recipe in honor of my friend Beatrice, a wonderful cook and a lover of all things eggplant. Beatrice thought it might make an interesting addition to her culinary repertoire. As she already has a book of of 159 eggplant recipes — Essentially Eggplant, by Nina Kehayan — I couldn’t resist the challenge.

The dish is a specialty of Georgia that I first tasted in the ’80s while reporting from the USSR. The occasion was a visit by Margaret Thatcher to Tbilisi, the Georgian capital. I went along and was invited to a gala dinner. The food was spectacular and so was the ambiance — mustachioed men singing Georgian chants as we downed glass after glass of vodka. By the time we finished, everyone felt like dancing.

Thus began my love affair with Georgian cuisine. When I returned from Moscow to Paris, I looked for a Georgian restaurant and came up dry. So I learned to make Georgian dishes myself, helped by two cookbooks — Anya von Bremzen’s wonderful Please to the Table, and Dishes of the Georgian Cuisin (sic), which is basically a pamphlet printed on rough paper in three languages: Georgian, Russian and English.

My version differs from the classical recipe in that the eggplant halves are coated with olive oil and roasted, not fried. This makes for a lighter dish, which is appreciable in hot weather. Using eggplant straight off the vine, you will get a maximum of flavor with relatively little effort for a super healthy dish that is both vegetarian and vegan.

The dish would marry well with the other Georgian recipes on this site — red bean salad with walnuts, chicken with walnuts, green beans with walnuts — or with herbal tomato salad, white bean dip, pomegranate relish, or roasted meat or poultry.

Since last communicating with you I’ve spent a couple of weeks in California, where I had a wonderful time — and enjoyed foods not widely available in France. Sweet corn on the cob, barbecued ribs, lobster roll, a green enchilada (with salsa verde), a proper Caesar salad, my brother’s famous dal — a very nice change of menu. And I have to admit it was also very nice not to cook a single thing while on vacation.

But I’m back in the kitchen now, and have been assembling a line-up of dynamite recipes to post for you in the months ahead. On the list: from Provence, a savory tart with goat cheese, figs and rosemary; from Normandy, chicken cooked in cider and served in a creamy sauce; from Dordogne, a salad with country ham, green beans and foie gras; and from Burgundy, a home-bottled apéritif known as ratafia. At the moment, I’m also longing to make a blackberry tart, and if I can fit that in somewhere, I will.

So… watch this space. And happy cooking.

Posted in 1. Starters | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Paupiettes de veau

Paupiettes de veau, a classic bistro dish, are veal scallops stuffed with a savory meat filling. They are rarely made from scratch in French homes as they can be bought already stuffed from the butcher — and merely need to be braised before serving. But as I discovered, they’re fun to make and easier than one might think. The veal is folder around ground meat flavored with onion, garlic and herbs, then barded with bacon and tied up with string.

Paupiettes de veau / Stuffed veal scallops

The filling is essentially a meatball. A mixture of ground veal and ground pork is generally used in France, but my recipe uses only pork, as ground veal can be hard to find. The best pork to use is high-quality sausage, such as saucisse de Toulouse in France or Italian-style sausages elsewhere. You can simply cut through the sausage casing and extract the filling, which has enough fat to ensure that you get succulent meatballs.

Until I checked, I thought the word paupiettes referred to little birds, and indeed this dish is known in Provence as alouettes sans tête, or ‘headless larks’, and in Belgium, where the meat is braised in beer, as oiseaux sans tête, or ‘headless birds’. But in fact the word is linked to the Italian word polpette, meaning … meatballs.

Preparation of paupiettes de veau begins by pounding the veal scallops to ensure they are thin enough to wrap around the stuffing. Tying them up is simple — it’s like wrapping a birthday present. Once stuffed, the paupiettes are browned on all sides and then braised in white wine or, sometimes, rosé.

From that point on there are many variations. Cream may be added to the sauce, or not. Likewise diced tomatoes or sliced mushooms. A version called paupiettes de veau zingara includes julienned carrots, mushrooms, ham, tongue and truffles(!), in a heady sauce flavored with Madeira.

In bistros, paupiettes are often served with pasta, mashed potatoes or rice. At home, you can be more inventive. Veggie purées marry well. Possibilities include purée of finocchio, carrots, zucchini, celeriac or sweet potatoes. A gratin — of potatoes, zucchini or eggplant — would also go well. So would seasonal veggies, such as green beans in summer or zucchini ribbons, as shown in the photo above (to make them, use a vegetable peeler to cut the ribbons, then steam or blanch for 1 minute only).

This post will most likely be my last for a while, as I am heading to California for vacation later this month. But The Everyday French Chef will be back in August. Until then, here’s wishing you a happy summer and …

Happy cooking!

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Beignets de courgettes

These light and crispy zucchini fritters are a French adaptation of a dish I discovered on a Greek island. Flavored with mint, dill, oregano and grated onion, they make a delightful start to a meal and may also be served at cocktail hour or as part of a mezze spread. Or you can serve them alongside grilled fish, meat, chicken or veggies. They marry extremely well with tzadziki. Add a bottle of chilled rosé, and you’ll feel like you’re in the Cyclades.

Beignets de courgettes / Zucchini fritters

How I came up with the recipe is a tale that deserves to be told. In late May, armed with a vaccination certificate, I flew with a friend from Paris to Athens and took a ferry to Aegina, just over an hour away. The owner of our small hotel directed us to a beachside restaurant that he described as one of the best in town. We weren’t disappointed. (I didn’t take a photo, but if you ever get to Aegina the restaurant is called Taverna Floisvos.)

On our first visit we tried the calamari fritti, with an absolutely delicious Greek salad alongside. On our next visit my friend, Danielle, ordered what the menu called zucchini balls. That didn’t sound terribly appealing, and when they appeared they looked like flattened golf balls. But when I tried one I was amazed — so flavorful, so light! I dallied as the others at our table headed back to the beach, and when the waiter came by I asked for the recipe. Looking bemused, he summoned the owner, who also happened to be the chef.

A good looking Zorba-like man with weathered skin and a guarded smile, the chef/owner eyed me suspiciously at first but warmed up when I got out my phone and showed him this blog. It turned out he’d spent some time in Philadelphia and had little trouble communicating in English. But he was not particularly eager to share his culinary secrets. In fact, when I asked about the ingredients, he demanded that I guess.

Zucchini? Yes, of course. Onion? Yes. The herbs? That was trickier, but between French and Italian I managed to work out what he was trying to say (in Greek). Then came the surprise. Eggs? Absolutely not, he said. No eggs. Just flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. And as for the quantities, he was frustratingly vague.

Nonetheless, when I got back to Paris, I decided to give it a try — encouraged by Danielle, who insisted she had to have more. I decided to experiment on my own before inviting her over. This was a good move, as my first effort proved less than a triumph. The fritters were crisp on the outside but doughy within. Heavy, not light. To my mind, a beaten egg white was essential. So I went online to check my instincts.

It turned out there’s a name for Greek zucchini balls, and it’s a bit of a mouthful: kolokithokeftedes. I looked at various recipes, all of which called for both feta and … eggs. Then I checked some French recipes for beignets de courgettes. 

Now, the word beignets covers a wide range of foods in France. They can can be sweet or savory, as long as they’re deep-fried. On its own, beignets means doughnuts, which come without a hole over here. Then there are beignets d’aubergine (eggplant fritters), beignets de crevettes (French-fried shrimp), beignets de fleurs de courgettes (fried zucchini flowers, fabulous), etc. The batter almost always includes eggs.

So, on my second try with the zucchini fritters, I went with my instinct and folded a beaten egg white into the batter. Success! I made myself some tzadziki (see the bottom of the recipe for tips on how to do this) and had the fritters for lunch. It felt like being back at the beach (at right, a view from the terrace at Marathonas beach, down the road from Aegina town).

Now I just need to invite Danielle over to try some.

Happy cooking.

Posted in 8. Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments