Farewell to Fall

This fall was one of the most beautiful I can remember.  We didn't get our typical stormy November until about two weeks ago so we were able to savor all the different-colored leaves on the trees for much longer than usual.  I hope winter is as beautiful.


Les Baux de Provence

The day my mother and I ventured up to Les Baux it was stormy, windy, and wet.  By the time we parked our car at the bottom of the town and began walking up the hill, the wind was so strong I thought it was going to pick me up and throw me down the jagged cliffs.  The town is small and peaceful.  We lit a candle for our loved ones in the old stone church.  Rain or shine, Les Baux is a beautiful town worth seeing.


Thanksgiving Reflections

This year's Thanksgiving was very low-key and small but special.  It was the first year where I contributed a significant amount of cooking to the meal and it felt great.  I started the day before by preparing a gluten-free stuffing for M.  We didn't want him to miss out on all the traditional dishes.  The moment I smell celery and onion being cooked in butter, it feels like the holidays.  We had all our traditional foods this year--turkey and gravy of course, cranberry sauce AND cranberry relish, mashed potatoes, creamed onions, garlicky green beans, sweet potatoes, Pepperidge Farm stuffing, gluten-free stuffing made from Udi's bread, crackers and garlic & herb cheese, sparkling cider, and wine.  I made a gluten-free apple pie (using a store-bought crust) and a pumpkin pie from scratch.  After dinner, we ate pie around the fireplace in the living room while the rain poured in buckets on the roof.


Winter in St. Remy de Provence

I loved the town of St. Remy.  As we were there in winter, we got to enjoy more of a local flavor of the town, since most visitors come during the warm months.  The main road just outside town is flanked by plane trees on both sides-- it was such a sight, I wish I had taken a picture.  We happened to be in town on the day of the market so we took in all the fresh produce, olives, cheeses, herbs, spices, and other goods.  We made sure to visit the famous chocolate shop, Joel Durand, for my brother, the chocolat connaisseur.  The shop featured a wonderful array of flavors from Szechwan pepper to clove and lemon.  The Earl Grey chocolate was spectacular, even for a sour candy kind of gal like myself.  We then got trapped in a downpour and headed to a cafe for a long, drawn-out hot chocolate while we waited for the rain to let up.  During a brief window of dry skies, we went into a shop devoted to selling umbrellas.  It was a wonderful French experience as the shopkeeper was very serious about helping us select the most beautiful, sturdy umbrella (which cost a pretty penny I might add).  I was so sad to leave it on a train to Belgium a month later.  St. Remy had wonderful little boutiques where we found pretty locally-made ceramic dishes to take back home.  We drove back to our mas on the same plane-tree lined road we came in on, this time under the night sky.  It was as though we had stepped inside a Van Gogh painting.


Harbor Illumination in Hull, MA

This past July, I was fortunate enough to be in Hull, MA during the annual Harbor Illumination.  It is a beautiful ceremony and the orange summer sky provided a magical setting.  We walked down to the A Street Pier and saw the ceremony commence with a row boat holding a bagpiper playing haunting music as it came closer to shore.  As soon as darkness fell, flares simultaneously lit up the entire shoreline from the Spinnaker Island Bridge to the A Street Pier where we were standing.  Anyone could be a volunteer flare lighter and could also purchase a flare in honor of a person or event.  The proceeds from the flare purchases went towards the restoration of the Point Allerton Coast Guard Station's building in Hull.


Santon Museum in Fontaine de Vaucluse

 I highly encourage you to visit the Santon museum in Fontaine de Vaucluse.  Santons are a rich Provenรงal tradition that started with the French revolution.  In 1789, churches became state property and in 1792 the National Assembly decided to close them all.  With this act, the people were no longer able to enter churches and missed seeing nativity scenes at Christmastime.  And so people in Provence began to make santon figurines in their homes since they were forbidden.  The reason they were so small was that they were easy to hide as being caught could result in the guillotine.  Santons got their name because the first figurines were saints.  As time went on, the santons grew in size and now there is a wide variety.  Today there are about 100 santon makers in Provence.  They represent not just nativity scenes, but the people of the villages, and the old trades and occupations.  The museum can be found at Place de la colonne in Fontaine de Vaucluse.  Tel : +33(0)4 90 20 20 83 


Fall Soups

When the days start to get shorter and colder, there's nothing like sitting down at the table to have a big bowl of soup.  As a kid it was often beef stew or spicy Moroccan soup.  One of my favorite soups is roasted corn poblano chowder.  I particularly like to eat it in the fall and winter months because it's hearty with big chunks of potatoes and also has a tiny kick of heat to warm you up on those cold nights.  I love the fact that it's easy to throw together since the ingredients are often something I have in the pantry.  It's very straightforward and always a crowd-pleaser.  It works great for a lunch get-together because you can prepare it ahead of time and just reheat it.     

Roasted Corn Poblano Chowder, slightly tweaked from The Whole Foods Market Cookbook
(Serves 6-8)
2 tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour (This is for the roux, but you can leave it out if you're GF)
6 cups chicken stock (The original recipe calls for vegetable stock which you can use if you're vegetarian)
1 cup milk and 1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 pounds red potatoes, unpeeled and diced
3 medium poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, and finely diced (I also use serranos)
1 (16-oz) package frozen corn
1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers
salt to taste
cayenne pepper to taste

In large pot, melt butter over medium-high heat.  Add garlic, celery, and onion.  Cook until onion is translucent about 5 minutes.  Reduce heat to low; stir in the flour to make a roux.  Cook over low heat, stirring often, for 5 minutes (don't let flour scorch.)  Turn heat to high and slowly whisk in the stock, stirring constantly to prevent lumps.
Add the milk and bring soup to a rolling simmer, then simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often.  Add the potatoes, chiles, corn, and roasted peppers.  Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.  Add salt and cayenne pepper.


Taco Tuesday

Rabbit!  Rabbit!  Last month, we were on a taco kick--chicken tacos, fish tacos--you name it.  
Here's our loose recipe for healthy chicken tacos.

Chicken Tacos
Serves ~4
Poach chicken (about 2 boneless, skinless breasts), then shred it into small pieces with your fingers
Put chicken, sour cream, and salsa (recipe below) in a corn tortilla.  
Eat and enjoy!

1 pint cherry tomatoes chopped finely
1/2 bunch chopped cilantro
juice from 1/2 of a squeezed lime
1-2 serrano peppers chopped finely