Saturday, 18 December 2010

In the Kitchen: "Heaven in a Pumpkin"

What could "heaven in a pumpkin" be like? It is my daughter's experience when her good friend came to visit her and prepared "Roast Pumpkin with Cheese Fondue." I imagined the taste and asked her to show me how to prepare it. She found the recipe after searching for "pumpkin fondue".

Serves 4 (main course) or 12 (side dish)
Active time: 25 min
Start to finish: 2 hr

I tweaked the recipe a bit, based on what available ingredients I had. Here is my version.

1 (12-inch) piece of baguette, cut into bite sizes
1 (3-4 lb.) orange pumpkin (a sugar pumpkin variety for baking)
3/4 Cup heavy cream (I used creme fraiche)
1/2 cup reduced-chicken broth (I made mine out of a cup of water + 1 chicken bouillon, brought to a boil and reduced to 3/4 C.)
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 C. blend of coarsely grated Comté, Emmental, and cubed Raclette cheese.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (DO NOT use Olive Oil)

Preheat the oven to 450°F with the rack in the lowest position.

1. Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Lay out cut-up baguette in 1 layer on the baking sheet, and toast in oven until tops are crisp (bread will still be pale), about 7 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.
2. Preparing the pumpkin:
a. Wash the pumpkin thoroughly.
b. Remove top of pumpkin by cutting a circle (3 inches in diameter) around stem.

c. Clean out the fibrous/seed mass by scooping it out with a spoon.

d. Pat the salt/onion flakes blend on the interior wall of the pumpkin.

3. Whisk together cream, broth, nutmeg in a bowl.

4. Mix together cheeses in another bowl.

Assembling the pumpkin:

1. Put a layer of toasted bread in bottom of pumpkin,

2. then cover with about 1 cup cheese and...

add about 1/2 cup of the broth/cream mixture.

Continue layering bread, cheese, and cream mixture until pumpkin is filled to about 1/2 inch from top, using all of cream mixture. Make a mound of cheese at the top.

Cover pumpkin with top and place it in an oiled, round pie-glass-dish.

Using your hand, spread the vegetable oil on the pumpkin shell. The pumpkin can be prepared 2 hours before baking and set aside to chill in the refrigerator.

Place pumpkin at the botom rack of the oven. Bake until pumpkin is tender and filling is puffed, for 45 minutes. Set temperature at 450°F (220°C) for the first 20 minutes,...

then bring it down to 375°F (190°C) for the next 25 minutes. Don't worry if the pumpkin cover moves a little bit.

As the pumpkin roasts, its skin becomes burnished and some parts may blister, while inside, the toasted baguette pieces and the cheese blend plus the broth/cream mixture coalesce into a rich, palatable "fondue." Serve with a scoop of tender pumpkin flesh.

This is how it came out. Heavenly!!! A great comfort food for very cold-weather days.

It was a tasty appetizer for our dinner meal: Coeur de lettuce with onion/mustard vinaigrette and rolled, smoke salmon filled with creme fraiche, chopped onions and capers.

If you have left over meat on the pumpkin shell, scoop it over and spread it at the bottom of a glass-pie dish up to half an inch thick, layer with grilled baguette bite pieces of 1/2 inch squares, cover with a cup or so of the cheese blend, and spoon over the broth/cream mixture. Bake at 375°F for 25 minutes.

Voila! It's a "Roast Pumpkin with Cheese Fondue Casserole."

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Paris: A Christmassy City of Lights, Part 2

A couple of nights ago, we walked up the avenue des Champs-Élysées, corner rue La Boétie, to the Arc de Triomphe and down on the other side of the avenue to the corner at rue Marignan. This section of Paris takes the honors for having the most Christmas lights to brighten up the season.

The Virgin Store, where I once watched a promo performance by Sergio Mendes for the newly released CD "Encanto." At the corner ground level is the Monoprix supermarket, where we went in to grab some ingredients for our dinner.

Right across the corner...where I go for some of my pharmaceutical needs

There was a special entertainment by street actors going on at Sephora - the French emporium for make-up, cologne and other beauty products.

Le Claridge Fraser Suites are fully refurbished and beautifully-styled studio apartments, with one to three bedroom apartments, available for short term apartment lease or for an extended-stay apartment living.

We, then, crossed over to the other side of the street.

The Fouquet Restaurant/hotel at the corner of avenue de George V

Laduree - the original patisserie (pastry shop) that fabricated the French macarons in commercial proportions. You guessed it! we went in to have some of their macarons.

Tara Jarmon is a fashion boutique for women by Parisian-based Canadian fashion designer, Tara Jarmon.

L'Espace Renault showcases the latest line of Renault concept cars, with the occasional display of their professionally-driven race cars.

La Maison de l'Alsace houses all things Alsatian - a restaurant, a tourist office, and a seasonal Alsatian Christmas market on the second floor. As for me, this takes the grand award for the best lit up building on the avenue!

Back to where we started at the corner of rue Marignan, we joyfully walked down and headed home with our bags of groceries, macarons, and all the eye candies we had!

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Paris: A Christmassy City of Lights

Paris is most commonly referred to as the city of lights. For us Christians, we celebrate the birth of the LIGHT OF THE WORLD each Christmas. I wonder if this is the reason that the Christmas season has been turned into a festival of lights. For a Catholic country like France, in the city of Paris, putting up more lights this season is a big part of the Christmas holiday ambiance.

All aglow as night time falls, walking in freezing temperatures around this city becomes a deLIGHTful time as Christmas lights twinkle and brighten trees, the sidewalk, the streets, shop windows, hotel facades, and restaurant roof tops. Here are some of my favorites as I walked from l'avenue de Champs Elysees to the Notre Dame de Paris:
Avenue de Champs Elysees

The Ferris Wheel at Place dela Concorde

Place Vendome, where the Ritz Hotel is located, from which Princess Diana and Dodi al Fayed had driven off from, before the fateful car crash.

On rue Saint-Honoré corner rue Royale

Courtyard at the Westin Hotel, rue Castiglione

Hotel Meurice on rue de Rivoli, behind the Jardin deTuilerie

Hotel de Louvre on rue de Rivoli, right behind the Musee de Louvre

Mac Donald's on rue de Rivoli

Etam and Sephora store facades on rue de Rivoli

BHV department store on rue de Rivoli

Hotel de Ville (city hall) on rue de Rivoli

The parvis of Notre Dame de Paris

May your Christmas celebration be joyously filled with the Light of the World.

Flea Market Finds: Trash or Treasure?

Earlier this afternoon, I invited my daughter, who is visiting for a few days, to come with me to go to another Parisian Christmas market at the Trocadero. Much to our surprise, we came upon a flea market.

All-year round, on specific days of the week, the place to go to for antiques and flea market finds is at the Clignancourt marché, in the 18th Arr. At different times of the year, timed during the holidays, antiquités et la brocante events are organized in different neighborhoods. This Sunday happened to be that day for the 8th Arrondisement, on President Wilson Avenue. We detoured for awhile to see what trash or treasures we could find.

I just got an idea from those 2 paintings hanging in the background...a kind of "dottism," a style I just coined. I am inspired to paint again, to try a different approach, and will be experimenting with this style, soon.

Have you found any treasures, yet? I did in this next table.

I loved the multi-strand pearl necklace that I was holding, with the big bejeweled bow. I asked "Combien, madame? The reply made me take a was 550 euros! So much for that! Besides, I don't even have an occasion to wear it too. LOL

Market events, such as this, are always so well attended. The French and the foreigners rummage through old stacks of pictures and cards, books, clothing, and other little and big things. The traveling merchants set up shop for a day, displaying their goods on tables, in boxes, on shelves, on make-shift wall and hanging systems, and sometimes the things are just laid out on the ground. There were those who walked away with furniture pieces, lighting fixtures, serving pieces, and artworks; while we walked awake with the memory captured in our cameras.

Now we know where to go to look for something old, something useful, or something decorative. And, we need to remember to bring more cash, next time!


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