Sunday, April 11, 2021

Looking the other way

Here's another look at our flowering prunus tree from the other side, looking east toward the house. The big forsythia is on the left.

Where's Tasha? Can you find her in the photo?

We're heading into the second week of our new confinement (lockdown). It's not really affecting us much. We're used to being more or less homebodies, just venturing out for food and wine. We're lucky to have the vineyards out back to walk in with Tasha. I'm thinking I'll go to the Saint-Aignan Saturday market next weekend to see if the vendors have asparagus. It's been chilly, so the crop may be late this year.

We're working on emptying our old chest freezer so we can retire it before it breaks down. We're finding several UFOs (Unidentified Frozen Objects) in the bottom. We thaw them out and try to figure out what they are. A few days ago we found some vegetable soup that we made in 2014. It was fine and we ate it up. I also found a bag of blueberries that I picked back in 2015. I made a blueberry cake with some of them yesterday. I'm hopeful that we can empty the freezer by June. Then we'll use it for a storage bin in the garage until we can get rid of it. Our "new" freezer is an upright with drawers. Much easier to deal with, more difficult to lose things in the bottom.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Ornamental plum

This is an ornamental (flowering, no fruit) variety of prunus. I don't know which; it was here when we moved in. It produces these pink flowers every spring. The tree is healthy, but it needs to be pruned, especially a couple of branches on the bottom where I bump my head when I mow under it.

You can see a branch of the tall Christmas tree on the upper right. Just behind the prunus are the two forsythia shrubs. The short, round shrub on the left will be covered in purple flowers later this spring, and the taller shrub behind it is a white-flowered deutzia.

My only complaint about the tree is that we can't see it from the house. There's a huge fir tree blocking the view. It was a live Christmas tree that the previous owner planted when her granddaughter was small. Originally there were two Christmas trees. We had one of them removed (it was sickly) the first year we lived here. The second one has probably doubled in height since then. I'd like to have it removed, too, but we're busy dealing with the dead and dying trees around the property. Since this one is relatively healthy, its removal is not a priority.

Thankfully, I can get decent shots of the prunus from other angles.

Friday, April 09, 2021

It's almost time

The lilac bush outside the southwestern corner of our house is getting ready to bloom. While there are some blooms every year, the variety is one that flowers every other year. This is a flowering year. I'll take more photos as the flowers open up.

Lots of flowers this year. They're on the verge of opening.

The lilac is competing with the ornamental prunus farther back in the yard. Its purple blossoms are pretty much open now and it looks nice. I didn't think to take a photo yesterday while the sun was shining. I'll try to get one today. It's overcast.

I got a big section of the lawn cut yesterday, the west forty. I plan to cut the south forty today, along with the strips outside the hedges. It'll depend on how soon the predicted rain starts. The north forty is still a mess, littered with the branches of the birch tree that fell in December. So the primroses are getting a reprieve for the time being.

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Snacks

While researching recipes that use chick peas (garbanzo beans) last week, I came upon one for roasting them as a snack. We had some dried chick peas in the pantry for a while and decided it was time to use them. Ken cooked them, and there were quite a few; more than we needed for the North African chakchouka he made just over a week ago.

Four flavors of toasted chick peas. A tasty snack!

The recipe is simple: rinse and dry the chick peas (the recipe calls for canned garbanzos), coat them lightly with olive oil, and put them in a single layer on a lined baking sheet in a hot oven until they're crispy. It took about ten minutes in a 220ºC (about 425ºF) convection oven. Once they cooled a little, I separated them into four bowls for different seasonings. I flavored the first bowl with just salt, the other three bowls got salt and hot smoked paprika, ground fenugreek, or ground cumin. They were really good and we ate half of them the first day. The roasted garbanzos get soft rather quickly, so on the second day I combined all the flavors and crisped them up in the toaster oven before we finished them.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Easter lunch: dessert

You might remember that, last summer, a nearby friend invited me to come pick figs from her very productive fig tree. Fresh, ripe figs are delicious and we ate a lot of them various ways. But we couldn't eat all  I picked before they went bad, so I trimmed the stems and froze them whole for later.

Amandine de figues, baked and ready to serve.

While a batch of figs thawed, I made and blind-baked a pâte brisée (short crust) and assembled the ingredients for an amandine filling, namely ground almonds, all-purpose flour, butter, sugar, and eggs. I spread the filling into the crust, pressed the whole figs into it, and baked it for about thirty minutes.

The mise en place, gathering the ingredients. I blind-baked the crust using parchment paper and ceramic pie weights.

I often cut the amount of sugar that a recipe calls for in half. This tart was no exception. I find that most things don't need to be that sweet and, without the full amount of sugar, the taste of the fruit is front and center and not masked by too much sweetness. The tart was delicious and we had dessert for three days!

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Easter lunch: the main course

Our plat principal (main course) on Sunday was rabbit. It's a dish called lapin en gibelotte, a kind of fricasee or stew made simply with smoky bacon, aromatic vegetables, mushrooms, and wine. And a whole rabbit, of course.

The browned rabbit pieces, herbs, and vegetables, just before the marinade was added.

Ken cut up the rabbit then marinated it in a dry rosé wine along with herbs (leek tops, celery tops, parsley, bay leaves, and thyme), garlic, and carrots. After a couple of hours, he strained the rabbit pieces and browned them, then added the marinade to the pan and let it simmer until the meat was tender. At the end of the cooking, he added the sauteed lardons (smoky bacon) and mushrooms, then thickened the sauce with a beurre manié (a mixture of flour and softened butter) and, voilà, lunch was served.

The stew is served! I didn't take a picture of the mashed potatoes.

We ate mashed potatoes along side and drank a local 2020 gamay. I don't remember exactly when our tradition of eating rabbit on Easter began. It must have been in the mid-eighties. We've been doing it one way or another ever since. The gibelotte is a favorite dish, but we also like lapin à la moutarde (roasted rabbit in Dijon mustard). One year we made an Asian style rabbit stir-fry. It was good, but we've only done that once. Next up: dessert.

Monday, April 05, 2021

Easter lunch: the appetizer

We started with a local specialty, pâté de Pâques, also known as pâté Berrichon, named for the Berry province where it's most commonly made. We didn't make this ourselves. This one comes from the poultry vendor at the local markets, but they're also available in local boulangeries (bakeries) and charcuteries (delis) this time of year.

A serving of pâté de Pâques (Easter pâté).

It's made with flavored pork sausage meat and hard-boiled eggs baked into a flaky pastry crust. It can be quite rich, given that the crust is made with a lot of butter. We split this portion in two for our appetizer. Ken drank a Montbazillac from down near Bergerac, I enjoyed a local sparkling wine. Next up: the main course.