Monday, February 25, 2013

Great grandma's chicken, bread soup

As English chef Rowley Leigh says: 
"Soups are an exercise in minimalism."  What you leave out may say more than what you put in. 

All of my married life I have heard of Monsieur's great grandmother's soup from southern Italy. Hers was made with stale bread instead of bespoke croutons and so could be called a peasant bread soup. 

Yesterday, we tried making some with our supply of chicken stock. 

Making chicken stock has become a tradition for us.  It's always comforting to have the fumes of the simmering broth carried through the house. What we don't use during the week, we freeze for the future.   In this way we get upwards of three meals out of our bio chickens ( let's face it they are expensive). Sometimes the second day is a curry or a stir fry, from leftover chicken.   The third day may be a risotto or polenta made with the broth we have brought to a rich concentration. 

  Concocting this soup was so easy it almost made itself.  Monsieur remembered that there was escarole in it , sautéed in garlic.  And because we had some carrots and green beans, we put those in too( in the photo they have sunk to the bottom).  The mushrooms were an afterthought but I imagine "bis-nonna" would have approved.

For the croutons, we used "Poilane" (see previous post)rye bread, simply toasted but I might have buttered and grilled them in pan or oven.  

Because we de-fatted the broth, we put in plenty of parmesan and served some prosciutto on the side.  As for spice" just a little salt and some pepperincino flakes. 

"A proper peasant soup is a meal, not the first course of a banquet." 

Our simple soup did not lack interest nor satiety value, and we were pleased with its subtle flavors.

  Next time I would not de-fat the broth quite as much and I will butter the croutons.

  Hmmm,  there is a whole culture of Italian peasant soups to try with additions of chick peas, pasta,rice or bread.  But the best ones have evolved out of poverty not out of a sense of artistic minimalism that over-rides some culinary creations today.

 This soup takes us back to simplicity and purity: just a nourishing broth for these cold Lenten days.    


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

St Paul de Vence : From the archive

  We have been having quite cold days and nights.  It is 5C now at noon, which I believe is about 41 degrees Fahrenheit .  This is cold for us in Nice.   I know its 8C in Seattle, 2C in London and Durham, 4C in New York City, and 7C in Eugene but this is chilly for the Cote d'Azur.

 However,  the thing is that the sun is shining almost every day here.  So it's my kinda weather.

With a bit of nip in the air, I am indoors looking through some summer pictures from my archive .

  My oldest brother, Roge is coming to see me at the end of March and so I am looking at what might be coming up at the Foundation Maeght , a possible local attraction to show him.    If there is something interesting at the Maeght that might be his only chance to get to St. Paul with me.   Those of us who live here often find that trips to tourist towns have lost their appeal ( unless there is a new twist or side trip that's new).  So take a good look, Roge.

Valley of Vence

Mediaeval town of ST Paul de Vence in distance

Traditional paving made of local river stones from the Var River

Cemetery for St Paul de Vence

By the way, It looks like the German artist, Gloria Friedman, who lives in France,  will be at the Gallery at the end of March.  Her offerings look interesting.  Here is a sampling.


Photo: Didier Plowy CMN Paris

Gloria Friedman ,Photo:

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Canary Melon

I cut open the Canary melon when it was this color

.....But this color on the inside
       My sweet husband often brings me sweet treats like a bower bird brings a silvery beetle casing to line the bower for his lady.  Last week Monsieur brought me a Canary melon.  And this is what I found out by searching the wondrous web.                                      

The Canary melon is a  Casaba type variety also known as Spanish melon, Juan Canary, Jaune des Canaries and Amarillo. It is a member of the Cucumis melo var inodoras family, referred to as winter melons, known as those that mature in late summer. 

The single greatest advantage that winter melons have over summer melon varieties is that they have a long post-vine shelf-life, allowing them to be stored longer and to be shipped to markets thousands of miles away. 

The Canary melon is oval-shaped, with a smooth skin. When the melon is ripe, its hard rind turns bright yellow, it develops a corrugated look and a slightly waxy feel and its flesh will be pale ivory in color. The texture of the flesh is notably succulent, almost wet and semi firm, similar to a ripe pear. Within the flesh, the fruit bears a dry salmon-orange seed cavity.

 The melon possesses flavors both tangy and mildly sweet.  Only choose Canary melons which are bright yellow (no green coloring on the skin) as these signal that they are mature and ready to eat. 

Melons harvested before maturity are considered to be of inferior quality as they will never reach the same level of true ripeness off the vine. 

 The melon was green when we got it.  And I am afraid that I cut it before it was "jaune, jaune"...yellow enough.  I saw some at the outdoor market yesterday that were almost neon in the saturation of their yellow skin. 

 On ours, the flesh was not white inside.   The taste was sweet but un-impressive.   I suspect that melons harvested before maturity will never obtain that "je ne sais quoi" melon-y tang either.   Better to buy local. 

Now ya know and so do I.  


Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Anglican Church: Nice

One of the most meditative or mood provoking spaces open to the public in Nice is the Anglican Church on Rue de la Buffa.

This is one of the few churches still open all week to those who want to pass some time alone, in meditation or prayer.

While waiting for an appointment today I stopped by the sanctuary for 40 minutes or so to take in the stillness and listen to the recorded medieval chants being played.

As you can see from the picture from their site and my photo here, this is a traditional church.  It has  just been completely restored as an historic Nicoise site... having been built between 1860-1862. And they did a beautiful job. You can read about the restoration in the narthex. 

  There are three different styles of stained glass windows in the church and they date from different periods.   The windows above the Altar were added in 1920  and  were made in te famous Atelier Lorin at Chartres  They depict the Agony in the garden, the Crucifixion and the Entombment. 

 But the most charming windows for me are on the south side.  Their jewel colors speak to me even more than the stories they describe. 

Today I was not alone in the space.  The first visitor who entered was a 30ish man dressed in ragged jeans and Tee shirt, perhaps from one of the Eastern bloc countries.  He carried a tall, open can of beer.  He glanced at me and proceeded a few seats farther where he seated himself and began fiddling with the contents of his pockets. He did not appear to interact with his surroundings and after about 10 minutes and a few more sips of beer, he left.

The second visitor entered through a side door with a battered briefcase a few minutes later.  He was a man in his 60s , difficult to guess his nationality.  He came into the space and walked a careful , well memorized circuit. He crossed to the Altar and ritualistically touched the brass eagle lectern and the stone corner near the organ cage. 
 His routine seemed choreographed, with lots of hands-on caresses of objects and stone.  After several rounds, where he seemed even to blow out some votive candles,  he crossed to a selected pew near the back and removed his jacket. 

 Then surprising me, he passed within a meter of my pew to a table  where he slowly and meticulously folded his jacket into a rectangle, all the while ignoring my presence.
Thus satisfied , he returned to his selected pew and lay the jacket carefully like a pillow and stretched out for a nap.
During this visit,  all the emotions from suspicion to sympathy, amazement and amusement passed through my clearing center. 
 I got to take a look at my judgment process.  

That is what churches do to me .....  bring on conflicting sensations...
and perhaps that is as good a reason as any for their existence.  

Some are really wonderful to sit in.   I keep coming back to sit in this one.