Best Bites from March in France
One of my goals for 2021 was to cook something exciting and original at least three times per week. It's quite a défi (challenge), and I'm not quite there yet, but I'm still proud of some of the recipes I've made during March. Plus, I've tried some delicious dishes from local restaurants in Mulhouse and Colmar! Without further ado, here are my Best Bites from this month in France, in chronological order. Read on for food porn and cooking inspo.
1. Tex-Mex one-pot
Is anything better than when someone you love cooks for you? Tuesdays are a long day for me, with one of my most difficult classes, and my boyfriend Ju had a Tex-Mex one-pot dinner ready and waiting for me when I got home. It was loaded with plenty of cheddar, avocado, corn, and more – Mexican is one of my favorite cuisines, and this (albeit Americanized and Frenchified) version made me think of home.
2. Homemade focaccia & Bill's spaghetti and meatballs
I haven't seen my family in person in over a year, and I woke up one morning craving spaghetti and meatballs like my Grandmom and step-dad make (it's not a very common dish here in France). So, I called home for the recipe and set off on my own meatball journey. To accompany the dish, I decided to make focaccia from Claire Saffitz's cookbook, Dessert Person. Despite accidentally locking myself out of the house for 45 minutes with the Kitchen Aid on high, the focaccia (plain and tomato-garlic toppings) turned out perfectly.
3. Thai tea bubble tea
I have been searching for boba in Mulhouse ever since I arrived, and perhaps I haven't been looking hard enough, because I eventually discovered it on the menu of Chili Thai, a restaurant I had been to several times already. Back home in Narberth, PA, Coco Thai is one of my family's favorite spots, and I excitedly slurp down their Thai tea every time we visit. Imagine my joy when I saw Thai tea bubble tea in the wild in France!
4. Evi Evane's moussaka, spanakopita and mastiha cocktails
I have wonderful memories from several summers spent in Greece with my sister and amazing aunts, so I decided this week to try to recreate some of my favorite Greek flavors. First, a revisited moussaka that reminded me of my time as an intern at Très très bon, where I edited a social media video featuring this very same recipe. Plus, crispy, baked spanakopita triangles filled with feta and spinach, and mastiha cocktails with mint, guava sparking water and lime. (Mastiha is a very herbal, sweet liqueur made from tree resin – I always say it tastes like carrots.) I offered a bottle to Ju back in 2019, when we first met, and he finally got up the nerve to drink it. Yamas!
5. Chocolate hazelnut cookies
Even in the time of COVID, I like to sometimes bring little snacks in for small groups of my students when they succeed (for example, using 60 linking words in a 10-minute speaking activity!). So, I decided to make some cookies inspired by ones I'd recently tasted at Le Nid. They were soft, not too sweet, with melty chocolate and toasted hazelnuts studded throughout. Safe to say they didn't last long.
6. Cinnamon roll & iced coffee
As you can imagine, there's no Cinnabon in France. This doesn't necessarily bother me, as I'm not the biggest fan of Cinnabon, but I do miss a good quality cinnamon roll. I've made them myself, and they turned out perfectly, but I jumped at the chance to try one (along with an iced latte!) from a trendy café in Mulhouse called 7VB Café on a sunny spring day. I'm weird – I prefer the outside, more baked parts rather than the gooey inside, and to me, their rendition was ideal (especially lathered with cream cheese icing).
7. Homemade bagels & bagel sandwiches
The only real bagel shop in Mulhouse is called Bagelstein – I've never tried it, but I don't really have high hopes, as it's a big French chain. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands, using this recipe, which was relatively easy. If you know me, you know that I have a tendency to bake late at night, and this time was no different. Next time, I'll be more generous with the toppings (blue poppy seeds and toasted sesame seeds) and maybe double the recipe to have bigger bagel bois. In any case, they were divine topped with scrambled eggs, bacon, cheese and avocado the next morning.
8. Boulettes à la menthe, semoule, carottes
Finally, to celebrate getting my carte de séjour from the préfecture in Colmar after six months of agony, I stopped at a cute restaurant near the Parc du Champ de Mars called Le Comptoir des Saisons for a tasty take-out lunch. The meatballs flavored with mint were extra tender, and the accompanying sweet roasted carrots and fluffy semoule made for a very tasty meal (although it would have been even better with a sauce).
Welcome back to the series in my blog where I link to an important article about food that I believe everyone should read. Getting educated is the first step (again, of many!) to making the food world a more equitable place. I welcome suggestions in the comments!
THIS WEEK'S READ:
This week, learn about the plight of students in France, including many from precarious backgrounds, who are suffering from hunger and whose situations have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Lindsey Tramuta of @lostncheeseland wrote about what chefs are doing to help: Students Are Starving in France; Chefs Are Trying to Help