Saturday, April 30, 2011

Asparagus and bacon

I made another asparagus tart, but this time with American-style bacon. It was good, but I think I like it with ham better. For one thing, we only had four strips of bacon left, so there was less meat in the tart than usual.

Each bundle is made by wrapping four cooked asparagus spears with a strip of blanched bacon.

I blanched the bacon strips in water to pre-cook them before wrapping the spears. Then the exposed bits of the bacon got nice and brown and crispy in the oven. The original recipe for the tart called for parma ham or prosciutto to wrap the bundles of asparagus. That was good, but we like the plain ham version that we do now better.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Threatening skies

This sky might look threatening, but it's completely benign. It was Thursday morning's view as I walked Callie through the vineyard. But the news from the US is troubling, with all the storms they've been having in the South. Scary stuff, indeed.

What our sky looked like around eight in the morning on Thursday.

I know that weather is not climate, but you have to think that the warming and general climate change we're experiencing is having an effect on the weather. Sometimes it's heat waves, sometimes it's snowstorms, sometimes it's hurricanes, and sometimes it's tornadoes. And sometimes it's even just normal weather.

I also know that there are more people living in more places where not many people used to live. Couple that with instant media, twenty-four hour news cycles, and the fact that everyone has a camera. The result is that anything and everything is recorded and on television and the internet almost instantly.

So there you go. I know that the few people I know in the areas hit by the recent tornadoes are ok. That's good. It's still scary, though.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Out with the old...

...and in with the new. Roses that is. There are several rose bushes around the house that I dutifully prune each winter. This isn't one of them. I let this one go all winter without pruning it and now it's full of buds and roses. Last year's hips are still visible here and there.

A pink rose is ready to open up next to last year's remains.

I suppose I will trim it back again next winter because it's getting too tall and leggy. But I kind of like the wild look it has right now.

Now that the painting is mostly done, there are plenty of other chores that need tending to. The grass needs cutting. There's a pile of dirt at our neighbors' house that they said we could use to finish filling in our ditch, so we have to go and move it. There are vegetable seedlings that need tending. Then there are the garage and utility room which need their spring cleaning.

And there's lunch to make.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A good time was had by all

Yesterday we had English friends Jean and Nick over for lunch. The weather cooperated beautifully and we were able to spend the whole afternoon out on the deck. We were so busy preparing and serving and eating and drinking that I didn't take any pictures until the cheese course came out.

Clockwise from left: heart-shaped Neufchâtel, St.-Nectaire, tomme blanche, and Valençay.

The meal was darned good, if I do say so myself. We started with Ken's home-made duck breast prosciutto and some saucisson sec. The first course was zucchini balls (grated zucchini, onion, ginger, hot chilis, and kafir lime leaves with chickpea flour formed into balls and deep-fried) served with a spicy curry-style sauce.

The main course was a rabbit and prune stew that Ken made accompanied by my home-made rice-a-roni. After that we had the cheese. Dessert was rhubarb crumble in a tart shell with rhubarb from our garden.

All was happily washed down with a selection of local wines. Great company, great food, great fun!

Monday, April 25, 2011

La pivoine

The peonies in the back yard are starting to bloom now. Each year, when they begin to poke up through the rubble of winter, I know it's time to clean up the flower beds. The plants grow up for a few weeks before producing these large flower buds.

One of the peony buds just about to open.

Then, almost suddenly, the deep red flowers appear. They're of such a dark red color that it's hard to photograph them and capture it well. We have two clumps of pivoine, one of which we moved to a new location in the first years we were here. Now I'm thinking it's time to divide the other larger clump, so I might do that this fall after they die back.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Our neighbor the French guy

The first people we met in our neighborhood eight years ago are an older couple who own the house across the road from us. It's their summer house. Their main house is in Blois, about a forty-five minute drive from us. Bernard and Maryvonne spend July and August here, but also many weekends during the spring and fall. They've been here all week this past week getting the house ready for a big family Easter gathering today.

Bernard doesn't know I took this photo of him working in his yard. I love the straw hat!

Over the winter they had the main room of their house completely redone. New walls, stripped and refinished beams and floor tiles, and new electrics. The guy who did the work actually stayed at the house during the week for the past few months. Now the work is done and they're putting the room back together. It serves as both the living room and dining room.

They both spend a lot of time in their large yard and garden. Bernard sits on his tractor mowing for several hours each week. Maryvonne waters the flowers and herbs and picks raspberries, plums, and red currants through the season. They're both very nice people and have been very welcoming and friendly with us through the years.

Bernard is eighty-one years old this month. Maryvonne is a few years younger. I hope I'm able to get around and do the kinds of things they can do if I'm lucky enough to make it into my eighties!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

It's that time of year again

Asparagus season. April and May are when our local asparagus is in its full glory. The local stuff is white, which means that the shoots are covered with dirt and not allowed to see the sun. They don't develop chlorophyll, and that keeps them from turning green.

The first, and hopefully not the last, asparagus tart of the season.

One of our favorite dishes to make this time of year is the asparagus tart. It's cooked spears of asparagus wrapped in slices of ham and baked in a cheesy egg custard inside a pie shell. Pure heaven!

I got some asparagus from the market last week at five euros a kilo. Then I found some at the supermarket for three-fifty a kilo. And those were just as local, from Châtillon-sur-Cher, not far down the road from us. A much better, and more normal, price in my opinion.

The painting is going well. On Friday I began the top-coat painting by doing all the corners and edges around the doors and moldings. Today I will be rolling the walls proper. I'm hopeful that the first coat will be the last, given how much priming we did. Wish me luck!

Friday, April 22, 2011

You place the flowers in the vase

One of my readers, Ron of Retired in Delaware, recently asked to see a picture of our house. I directed him to the archive category "our house" which includes many photos of the house, but you have to sift through the over two hundred posts to find a shot of the front (sorry, Ron!). So I thought I should just go outside and take a new picture.

Chez nous, 21 April 2011. Soon there will be flowers in the window boxes. Click to maisonify.

This is the house just after eight o'clock on Thursday morning. The morning sun is filtered by the twin red maple trees on the east end of the property. If you've been here, you know that the main living space is on the second floor which is called the first floor in France (because it's the first "floor" above the ground level). The ground level is called the rez-de-chaussée (road level).

On our rez-de-chaussée we have a garage, a utility room, a pantry, and a small entry hall with a wide stair that climbs up to the first floor. There we have a good-sized living/dining room with doors out onto the deck, a kitchen, a bedroom, a den (or second bedroom), a bathroom, and a wc (water closet or toilet).

Last year we had a hole punched in the ceiling and a second stair added up to the attic which we were having finished. The attic is now one large space that we use for our bedroom, tv room, and Ken's office. If you click on the "attic conversion" label in the right-hand column, you can see the transformation of the attic into living space.

So there you have it. And now, one year after we started the attic conversion, we're finishing up the painting on the first floor landing and hall where the new stair is. The old ugly wallpaper is history and the walls look much, much cleaner as you can see in this photo that Ken took this week.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The leaves are here

The vineyard is leafing out! The leaves are small right now, but in another week or so, the vineyard will be a sea of green. It's an amazing time of year. Of course, I think every time of year is amazing, so there you go.

Looking northeast toward our house and the Cher valley just beyond. Over the horizon is the Loire River valley.

The vineyard workers are still out there every day bending the canes down parallel to the wires and fixing them horizontally. That way, the buds along the canes will send shoots up vertically. Ain't spring time grand?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Repeating myself

This is a view that many of you have seen before. It's the rue du Four in Saint-Aignan looking toward the church. I took it on Saturday while I was at the weekly market. This street is just off the main square.

The collégiale in St.-Aignan, just after 10:00am on Saturday morning.

When I look back through the years of this blog, I see a lot of the same stuff, over and over. I suppose I don't get out much. You'd think that living in central France would afford me access to all the exciting destinations that Europe has to offer. In fact, just before I moved here I thought I would be frequently on the road to amazing places in Scandinavia and around the Mediterranean basin snapping breathtaking photos, never the same one twice.

But then reality happened. Living here is like living anywhere. There's a house to maintain, pets to care for, and a garden to grow. It's not easy to get away. There are also financial considerations. The dollar is not worth anything like it was when we arrived here, and that's put a crimp in our budget. The price of heating fuel keeps going up and up. Our appliances are getting older and we need to be ready to replace them. We'll need a new car before too long. Periodic trips home to see family and friends are costly.

That's reality. It's also what we chose when we decided to get out of the rat race and down-size our lives. And guess what? We're both content. We own our modest house, no mortgage. We enjoy growing vegetables and cutting grass. We like our small town and the vineyards and the markets and the seasons. We're happy spending our time at home. No work stress. No commuting.

We will soon begin our ninth year here. Neither one of us has any desire to leave. I don't know how much longer this blogging will go on, but while it does, it will likely continue to be about the same old stuff.

One of my favorite lines from a movie: "I am not repeating myself. I am not repeating myself. Oh, god, I'm repeating myself."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spring radishes

A little over a month ago, I planted radish seeds in the back yard. The first crop is ready for harvesting. We're planning to eat some of these for lunch today with salt, butter, and fresh bread.

Radis roses ready to be harvested. Under the dirt they're white.

I have to get busy and plant some more seeds so that we'll have another crop or two before summer. The lettuces I planted at the same time have been ravaged by slugs, but there are some survivors out there. I'm hoping they'll grow enough so we can eat them.

Meanwhile, collard greens and mustard greens are thriving. And the seedlings (tomato, eggplant, squash, chard, cucumbers, marigolds) that I have under the cold frame are growing into nice plants. Some are ready to be divided into individual pots already. They won't go in the ground for another month yet.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A tower on market day

Saturday morning was brilliantly sunny. I went to the market in Saint-Aignan for the first fresh asparagus of the year and a couple of other things. I parked in the lot along the river and walked into the Place de la Paix where the market is and did my shopping. There weren't too many people and my errands took no time at all. So I decided to walk up through town and around the château before heading back down to the car and home.

A tower on the north-eastern façade of the castle.

I wasn't in the right place relative to the sun for most of the few photos I took and they don't really do the morning views justice. But I liked this shot of one of the towers. It has some unusual checkerboard stone patterns on the upper wall.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Le lilas

The lilac. It's really nice right now. The bush is about four feet high, so it's not a giant yet. We planted it in 2006. This is the third year for flowers, since it blooms every other year. I still can't believe I got one that doesn't flower every year. Ugh.

The lilac is in full bloom. I wish it did this every year. I'm going to have to get another one!

The back yard continues to get worked on. I trimmed the two forsythia bushes back. My research tells me that they should be trimmed in spring, after they flower. So that's what I did. I got the back yard mowed again. The weather remains dry and mild.

I got to the market on Saturday. Asparagus were going for five euros a kilo, so I bought some. Also got some mushrooms from the mushroom lady. It was a pleasant morning, so I walked around a bit and enjoyed the atmosphere.

Ken stayed home and worked on painting some more. It will get done, bit by bit.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Periodic Puppy Pics

Every time I head for the door to go out into the yard, Callie is either there waiting or comes running from where ever she is. She will leap outside and sit down in the grass. If I mentally draw a line from her tail to her snout, then follow that line out into the yard, I will usually find the tennis ball in the grass.

I got the ball, you can't get it!

So I walk out into the yard, pick up the ball and toss it. Callie leaps into action and chases the ball down. She grabs it in her mouth and runs to a spot under a tree and sits down with the ball between her front paws. This is a demonstration of why border collies are good sheep dogs. They run and chase and herd, but have no idea what to do when they get what they're going after.

It's like pulling teeth to get Callie to bring the ball back for another throw. She prefers for me to come to her to get the ball. As I approach, she grips the ball between her paws and grabs it with her teeth. I get my fingers around the ball (while it's still in her mouth) and say, "drop it." I swear, this is her favorite part of the whole exercise. Then I can throw the ball again.

She has me well trained. But once in while we do get into a rhythm and she will, with much coaxing and praise, bring the ball back to me. Twice, maybe three times in a row. Then it's back under the tree in the pose you see here.

Interestingly, I've learned that only real tennis balls (the kind sold in a pressurized can) will do. Any fake "doggy tennis balls" will instantly be torn to shreds. She removes the felt from them and then tears them apart. But she can't get the felt off a real tennis ball. This one's over a year old! Imagine that.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Progress on the hallway

On Thursday we began, in earnest, to complete our attic renovation. What this means is the painting of the stairwell where the wallpaper has been removed. Ken did a great job taking down the remainder of the paper after the attic work was done. I filled in holes and cracks and sanded a bit.

Flowers on a shrub that grows out in the vineyard. I don't know what it's called.

So we started priming the walls. Ken took the section that goes up the new stairs. I worked on the hallway on the main floor. We've got it all nearly primed. We still have the walls along the big stair that goes down to the ground floor to do. But that will be saved for last.

Once we get the upper stairwell and the hallway walls done, we will feel as if we can accomplish anything. That will give us courage to face the big stairwell. It's not as huge a painting job as the attic was, but it's a bit challenging nonetheless. We will get there.

And once this is done, we will have painted every wall in the house since we moved in nearly eight years ago. Well, there's technically one bit of wall we haven't reached, but no one would notice. I hope it's not like painting the Golden Gate Bridge (once you finish you start again at the beginning).

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Le couvreur

The roofer. This guy has been working on our neighbors' house for a week or so now. He's installing Velux windows, those typically French roof windows you see all over the place. We had two put in our house last summer, but not by a professional roofer.

A local roofer installing the second of at least three roof windows on a neighbor's house.

We still don't think our leak problem has been solved. But it hasn't rained much in the last two months so we don't really know. After the next rain, if we still have the water incursion, we will call in a roofer to remove the tiles around the window and see what's going on. This guy is a candidate for the job.

If you don't remember, the drywall around the base of the new windows becomes slightly wet when it rains. The windows themselves are not leaking, but somehow water is getting in under the exterior flanges and wicking into the drywall. No damage yet, except for a little staining. But we'd like this fixed.

Our original contractor has applied some sealant outside, but we're not convinced. Again, we need a good rainstorm to test it out.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

How did this happen?

Out behind our house, just where the the dirt road into the vineyard begins, there is a triangular plot of grass. A small ditch which drains the dirt road into the pond cuts the plot in two. The grass grows tall in this plot; it's only cut a few times a year by the town.

Rogue tulips in the vineyard.

And right smack in the middle are two tulips. One is red, the other yellow. It's just the two of them out there, as if they tried to escape from the garden across the road but couldn't get very far.

Did somebody toss a couple of bulbs over the fence? Could they have come up from seed?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

La dégringolade

We've actually been wearing shorts and tee-shirts for a few days. That's over now, at least for a while. Spring temperatures have come back. That means it's chilled down again. On Sunday, our sunny and warm morning chilled off after noon. A weather system moved in and clouds blew over, cooling things down a bit.

It's been so warm that the dandelions have had time to bloom and go to seed.

It's to be expected this time of year. It's early spring. But like I said before, we got spoiled by the warm weather. Now it's going to feel cold again. Oh well. It's better for doing some of the work outdoors. And we have work to do indoors, too. The hallway still needs to be painted.

And the good news is that summer is still on the way. I hope it's a good summer, and not a cold and wet one. By the way, la dégringolade means the fall (not the season) or the ruin, the descent into badness. The weather people use the term often to mean that the weather's going to get worse.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The wisteria is in bloom

And it's looking pretty good, although it's still a very young plant (five years) and doesn't have the majesty of a mature vine. It will get there one day. In the meantime, we get more and more of this each year:

A section of the wisteria against the house.

I think we've reached the point in spring where we feel we've regained the upper hand in the yard. After winter, everything is such a mess and it's overwhelming; there's so much to do. But after doing a few chores like cutting dead growth back, some weeding and trimming, cutting the grass, burning old stuff, and (this year especially) removing the downed trees, the yard is looking like its old self again.

There is still a lot to do. The vegetable garden still needs tilling before we plant in May. There's still a lot of trimming to do. But it doesn't feel overwhelming any more.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Life's a ditch

You know what I mean. You may remember that our mayor agreed to fill in the ditch that runs along our property between our hedge and the road. Last year, the town came by and dumped some clean fill into most of the ditch. They smoothed it out and it was looking real good. Except for the last dump, which they didn't smooth out.

Part of the hedge along the road and the mostly-filled ditch, looking west. Our back yard is on the right.

Since we were busy with our attic conversion, then our injuries, we weren't able to go out and smooth the dirt pile out. So it over-wintered. A few days ago, Ken went out with the roto-tiller and loosened it up. Yesterday, we went back out with shovels and rakes and hoes and moved the pile of dirt into the ditch, until the dirt ran out.

There are still a few feet of ditch for which we need more dirt; I want it filled in to the point where the fence begins in the above photo. I don't know yet where it will come from. But at least we're almost done. It won't be long before the grass and other plants cover the bare patch over, as they have along the rest of the length of the hedge.

The best part of all is that it will be a lot easier to trim the hedge now that there's no ditch to span.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Les tondeuses

Or "A Tale of Two Lawnmowers." Here they are. The new one (on the left) and the old one (on the right). As you can see, they're pretty much the same mower. The old one has a Briggs & Stratton engine and is bigger. The new one has a Honda engine and is a little smaller.

The two mowers, side by side.

The new one has also done its first tour of the yard, cutting pretty much three-fourths of it in two days. It's working great, and the grass catcher is easier to use that the old one. I'll take the grass catcher off for most of the summer now that the first cut is done. Both mowers have a mulching feature, although the old one lost some internal parts a few years back so it doesn't really mulch very well any more. The new one doesn't have those parts to fall off, but it still mulches, so there's been a design improvement.

I don't know what we'll do with the old machine. It still runs ok, but the auto-traction stopped working. The belt's ok and is turning, but the wheels stopped going. It might be reparable, but we decided that, with all of the old mower's other problems, it was best to get a new one.

Friday, April 08, 2011

It's apple blossom time

Once again. I shudder to think how many apples we will have to pick up off the ground this fall. But that's a long way off right now. For the moment, I'm enjoying the blossoms. There are three apple trees in the photo below. If you look closely, you will also see the new lawnmower and Callie.

A very spring-time view of our yard and garden. There's rhubarb on the lower left. Click to enapple-ate.

I got the new lawnmower on Thursday. Turns out that I bought one very similar to the old one, and from the same place. The old one had a Briggs & Stratton engine, the new one has a Honda engine. But it's essentially the same lawnmower, although it's smaller and lighter. They improved the grass catcher attachment, which is good to use this time of year when the grass is thick and heavy. And overall it works fine.

We also found inner tubes for a few wheels. The tire on the brouette (wheel barrow) went flat last year, as did the little tires on the diable (hand truck). We rely on both of these tools to move things around in the yard, so the flat tires were extremely inconvenient. I thought we'd have to replace both the wheel barrow and the hand truck, but the local mower/tiller/tractor dealer had inner tubes to fit them. So I will soon be trying my hand at changing little tires. Wish me luck.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

The green tulips

I planted these bulbs very soon after we moved into the house. They're not as nice looking as they were the first few years (look here), but they still come up and I like them. They were billed as green tulips, although they are mostly white with some green tint.

The first of the green tulips to open.

Ken and I spent Wednesday doing some shopping. I need a new lawnmower since my eight-year old one is slowly dying. Rather than spending money and time on a repair that may or may not prolong its life, we decided a new one was the best thing. We spent the day going from place to place looking at models and features and prices, and we're pretty much decided on what we want.

We also did some other shopping, including some hardware and food shopping. It was a very productive day.

But there are two more places to check out for the lawnmower, and one of them will have what we want. It's just a matter of deciding. So today I should have the new machine (provided it's in stock). Good thing, too, because the grass is getting pretty thick out there.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

What a tangled web we weave

I'm still processing my photos of the dewy morning we had last week. Well, there were many dewy mornings, but only one when I had the camera. The spider webs out in the vineyard are mostly invisible except for when the dew is heavy at sunrise. Then you get a feeling for just how many spiders there are out there.

A web in the grass at sunrise, laden with dew.

The spiders that spin these classic-style webs are incredible. Sometimes the webs are close to the ground, like this one. But often there are huge circular webs spanning the grape vine rows with long (several feet) support threads. It's amazing to me that the spiders can build these things over and over again.

You know I've been complaining about the overcast lately, but it's not all that serious. We've had some very good weather this spring, and it's getting better. This week in particular, after a string of cool and cloudy days, is shaping up real nice. After seeing some pictures of weather in the US and Canada, I know how lucky we are to live in a temperate climate and not to be dealing with a foot of snow in April.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Stuck in the vineyard with you

This is what I believe to be an acacia (related to the mimosa) tree just beginning to leaf out. There is a stand of them out along the vineyard road. They flank each side of a small stream that drains the vineyard into the river below. It won't be long until they're covered in their characteristic yellow flowers.

Callie heads in one of her favorite directions: down along the row of acacias toward the woods.

My (limited) research shows that there are hundreds if not thousands of species of acacia and mimosa, and I have no clue as to which these around here belong to. But no matter, they're pretty and they don't make us sneeze.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Dandy dew drops

There was a heavy dew on Saturday morning and, aside from Callie getting all wet and muddy, the vineyard was beautiful as the sun came up. The droplets sparkled in the light and little mists formed as they began to evaporate. I saw this dandelion covered in tiny drops of dew.

A fluffy dandelion covered in the tiniest of dew drops. Click to dandify.

The seeds were parted at the top of the flower head and I was treated to this intimate view. I'm certain that once the dew evaporated, the breeze took the seeds and scattered them.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Our local oil field

This is that field of colza (rape) that I told you about last week. It's in the river valley down below our house. Callie and I walk around it on our afternoon walks and have been watching it grow since late winter. Now it's in full bloom and glorious looking.

Beyond the colza field you can see a small vineyard parcel; beyond the woods is the Cher River.

Last year this field was planted in wheat. That's also a beautiful crop as it goes from deep green to brown just before harvest. But this year it's colza, grown for its seeds which are made into oil. In North America it's called canola oil.

We won't be walking this route much longer. As the grape vines around our house bud out, the growers electrify the fencing between the vineyards and the woods to help keep the deer from eating the new shoots. During the fall and winter, the fence is powered down and we can step over it to walk down through the woods. We can still get down there by walking a larger loop and that's fun to do once in a while in summer.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Periodic Puppy Pics

Ah spring! When a young dog's fancy turns to chasing tennis balls. Or cats. I'm not sure what Callie saw out front when I took this picture, but it sure looks like something caught her eye. She's always on the lookout for her brother Bertie, but I don't think that was it.

The trees are getting all leafy again. Thank goodness!

The weather was nice enough a week ago that I set up the table and chairs on the deck. Unfortunately, it hasn't really been warm enough since then to sit out for any length of time, especially when the sun isn't shining. Of course, with a fleece or a sweater on it might be ok, but that's just not the same.

Today is supposed to be very nice, sunny, and warm. We're planning to grill some sausages so I'm hoping to spend some time sitting on the deck. Sipping rosé. Pretending it's summer. Tomorrow it's back to springtime weather: clouds and showers.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Tulip time again

They're blooming now, and it's a show. Ken and I were out and about on Thursday and we passed a house with a yard full of tulips of many colors. It was truly amazing. Neither one of us had his camera, unfortunately. These red ones grow in front of our house.

The tulips are starting to open up now. That board on the right is Bertie's ramp into the garage.

Thursday was an errand day. We had to go to the vet's office to pick up some Frontline (flea and tick preventative) for the "animules." That would be Callie and Bertie. In addition, I got some vermifuge (worm pills). There's no sign of worms right now, but since Bertie had them last year, I figure it's better to keep his system clean than to have to clean it up later.

After that we went to a winery and got twenty liters of red; ten cabernet and ten gamay. That's a little more than two cases of wine. We buy it in bulk and then bottle it at home. Much more economical and ecological than buying bottles.

A single tulip flower.

Next up was a stop at a charcuterie in Meusnes. Ken wanted some sausages to grill this weekend. We bought way more than we planned, but the place does good stuff and it all looked so appetizing. Nothing will go to waste.

After a quick stop at the house of American friends K&J, we came home and ate some coq au vin that Ken had made for lunch. He started on Wednesday by marinating the chicken. Then on Thursday morning he browned it and cooked it in the sauce. We finished it with some mushrooms and served it with pasta. Very tasty.