Bourride

Bourride is a Mediterranean fish dish bathed in a sauce infused with garlic and inflected with hints of orange and sunshine. If you’ve been to the French Riviera you may have had the luck to encounter it. Elsewhere there’s little chance you would have run into this undeservedly lesser known cousin of bouillabaisse. I’ve rarely seen it in restaurants in Paris. Which is why, shortly after tasting it for the first time, I learned how to make it.

Bourride / Bourride

The star of bourride is aïoli, aka garlic mayonnaise. Unlike a normal mayonnaise, aïoli consists only of egg yolks, garlic and olive oil — no mustard, no lemon juice. The first step in making the dish is to create a fragrant broth that includes a strip of dried orange peel. While the broth is cooking, you make the aïoli and cut up some veggies — carrots and finocchio — as well as the fish. But which fish?

There are probably as many recipes for bourride as there are chefs in Provence. Some use monkfish (lotte), which has the considerable advantage of holding together nicely when it is boiled. But any firm, white-fleshed fish may be used. In the photo above, I used cod.

To complete the dish, the veggies are sautéed in olive oil, simmered until nearly tender in the broth, and then the fish is added. Aïoli is swirled in at the end, with an extra yolk added to thicken the sauce. Serve and prepare for applause.

Because of the delicate chemistry of the sauce, bourride must be served immediately upon preparation. Which raises the question of what to serve as a first course. My recommendation would be to offer hors d’oeuvres during cocktail hour — something that may be eaten before moving to the table, like parmesan apéritif chips, a savory cake with walnuts and roquefort or chicken liver pâté on toast. Then, while your guests are enjoying themselves, you can disappear to the kitchen and finish the dish.

Following up, you could serve a salad of tender leaves (mesclun), with cheese during or after, and a fruity dessert, for example poires au caramel (caramelized pears). And a good bourride deserves a good wine, from the region if possible, such as a chilled white from Cassis or  rosé from Bandol. Bon appétit! And…

Happy cooking.

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Oeufs au caviar rouge

Stuffed eggs topped with red caviar make a simple yet elegant dish that’s perfect for special occasions. Do I hear New Year’s Eve, anyone? Or brunch on the morning after? Most French takes on this dish call for the eggs to be scrambled. This recipe, with hard-boiled eggs, has a more Russian flavor. In the old days, Russians often served the eggs topped with black caviar — but with the sturgeon now an endangered species, red caviar is used instead.

Oeufs au caviar rouge / Eggs topped with red caviar

The recipe is a breeze. You boil the eggs, halve them, remove the yolks and mash them with cream, lemon juice, chives, salt and pepper. You then return them to their whites, topping each egg with a spoonful of caviar. The result is both tasty and beautiful to behold.

On occasions like New Year’s Eve, the eggs may be served as part of an hors d’oeuvre spread. They would marry well with Russian-style gravalax, which is also incredibly easy to make but needs to marinate for 24 hours before being served. On the morning after, you could also pair them with blini, cucumbers in cream, tarama, salmon terrine or any other brunch dish of your choice.

This is my last post of 2021, so I’d like to use the occasion to thank you for your support. The coming year will bring the 10th anniversary of The Everyday French Chef, a milestone I could not have imagined reaching when I started writing this blog back in 2012.

Happy New Year, dear readers! And… happy cooking!!

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Côte de boeuf

If you’d like to serve something different this holiday season, why not consider côte de boeuf? A bone-in rib of beef that is served as steak, and not as a roast, côte de boeuf is a popular cut is France. It is ultratender, flavorful and easy to prepare. If you can convince your butcher to cut the meat as the French do, then this elegant dish would make a lovely centerpiece to a festive meal, perhaps accompanied, as shown here, by a cauliflower gratin.

Côte de boeuf / Rib of beef
Gratin de chou-fleur / Cauliflower gratin

The French tend to celebrate not just New Year’s but also Christmas on the eve, gathering with family or friends for an exceptional meal. A typical festive evening might start with champagne and amuse-bouches (‘palate ticklers’), such as gougères. The guests then move to the table for an opulent succession of dishes — perhaps oysters or foie gras, followed by a sumptuous main dish, assorted cheeses and a gala dessert. If you’re looking for suggestions, different variations on this theme may be viewed under Holiday Menus.

Birds often feature as the main dish. Over the years, I have posted recipes for roast duck, goose, turkey, partridge, pigeon and quail — as well as fish/seafood dishes and vegetarian/vegan options. This year I wanted to try something different, hence rib of beef.

A côte de boeuf is the equivalent of an American ribeye steak, with the bone included. It is prepared in two stages. First the meat is pan-seared to seal in the juices. It is then roasted for a relatively short time in a very hot oven, allowed to rest briefly and sliced off the bone. Nothing is added until the very end, when the meat is salted and peppered. When buying the rib pictured here, I asked Marie Pacaud, who presides over the excellent Boucherie du Marais, whether to rub the meat with garlic. I received the French equivalent of fuhgeddaboudit: the Gallic shrug. ‘That would distort the flavor,’ she said drily.

A single côte de boeuf will typically serve 4-6 people. Restaurants sometimes propose it as a dish for one or two, but it would take a gargantuan appetite to finish off an entire rib, especially at an elegant meal with many other dishes involved. Side dishes for côte de boeuf range from potatoes — roasted with rosemary, gratinée or French fried — to veggie purées (for example, of celeriac, finocchio or sweet potatoes), green beans and/or salad.

Cauliflower gratin is another option. Ultra-simple to prepare, it marries steamed cauliflower flowerets with cream, garlic and grated cheese, baked together until bubbly and golden. Prepared in this way, the humble cauliflower becomes an elegant side dish — or could feature as the star of a vegetarian meal. When serving rib of beef this week, I paired the gratin with a watercress salad.

This is my penultimate post of 2021, a year that has proved challenging for all of us. Although I usually post on Fridays, my next recipe will come on Thursday, December 3o, to give you time to shop for ingredients if you choose to serve it on New Year’s Eve or the day after. In the meantime, here’s wishing you a happy, healthy Christmas. And…

Happy cooking!

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Risotto aux champignons sauvages

This unusual wild mushroom risotto is the creation of John O’Shea, the brilliant young British chef who presides over the kitchen at JJ Beaumarchais, a restaurant downstairs from my apartment. It is unusual first because instead of rice it uses épeautre, known in English variously as spelt or einkorn wheat, and second because, unlike most risottos, the ingredients are cooked separately and combined only just before serving.

Risotto aux champignons sauvages / Wild mushroom risotto

There’s also secret ingredient that lends a certain — and fabulous — je ne sais quoi. I couldn’t identify it when I first tasted this risotto in early November. But I knew I had to have the recipe, which John was kind enough to share. And in case you’re already worrying about where to find épeautre, not to panic. He assures me that this dish may also be made with a traditional risotto rice, such as Arborio or Carnaroli.

So, here’s how he does it. First, he makes a broth, such as homemade chicken broth or, for vegetarians, homemade vegetable broth. Then he simmers the rice or épeautre in the broth until it is al dente. The next step is to clean the mushrooms. And, you might well ask, which mushrooms? John uses a combination — whatever is available in season — and he throws in some standard mushrooms as well.

I made the dish three times last month, using a different combination of mushrooms each time. Pictured at right are four types I’ve tried. Going clockwise from the top left, they are in French, chanterelles, pleurotes, shitake and girolles. This may be a bit confusing, because what the French call girolles are called ‘chanterelles’ in English. But it doesn’t matter because you can use whatever is available in your area. I have also used the papery black mushrooms called trompettes de la mort (‘trumpets of death’), which despite their scary name are not poisonous and are indeed very popular over here.

To return to the recipe, the mushrooms are sautéd in olive oil until they give up and reabsorb their juices, with shallot and garlic added along the way. When everything is tender, the pan is deglazed with — wait for it, here comes the secret ingredient — white vermouth, such as Martini Blanc or Noilly Prat. As most risottos call for dry white wine, not vermouth, I might have balked at the idea had I not tasted the finished product before making it at home. Well, dear reader, the vermouth leaves a shadow of flavor that is frankly divine when married with the rustic grain and mushrooms.

As a finishing touch, John adds cream to the mushrooms and then combines them with the grain. He adds grated parmesan and a little chopped parsley, et voilà. That’s it.

I have served this risotto as a main course, preceded by smoked salmon and followed by salad and cheese, and as a side dish, in one case with roast chicken and in the other, at a more elaborate dinner, with rolled roast of duck and puréed cabbage (coming soon), preceded by dandelion salad with bacon and with walnut tart for dessert. However you may choose to serve the risotto, I can assure you your guests will appreciate it.

Happy cooking.

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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.

Posted in 6. Poultry | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

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.

Posted in 5. Fish and Shellfish | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

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