Saturday, May 29, 2010

Strawberry Delight

It's that time of year, when strawberries actually taste like strawberries, and the Union Square market is overflowing with them. Nothing goes better with fresh strawberries than fresh rhubarb and I happen to have a fantastic recipe for a compote involving the two. Spoon it over vanilla ice cream and you get this melted strawberry rhubarb concoction that's to die for.

The measurements are haphazard at best, so you can channel your inner chef and just throw things together without a care in the world. Cut up your strawberries into halves or quarters (whatever you like) and cut the rhubarb into 1/2 inch pieces. Dump them into a pot with 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 c water, letting them simmer over high heat (stirring every once in a while) until the rhubarb becomes soft (you should be able to break it up with a wooden spoon). The timing really depends on how ripe the rhubarb is, so it could take anywhere from 8 - 15 minutes. Let your compote cool a bit and then pop it in the fridge.

I like to serve this dessert in clear glasses so you can see the colors oozing together, savoring the experience with your eyes as well as your stomach.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

All Hail the Kale

I've always wanted to love kale but we've never really met under the right circumstances. It's just so darn large and leafy (and boring). Steamed kale is chewy. Raw kale is awkward. What's an amateur health nut to do?

Cut the kale into friendly, bite-sized pieces, of course! Think coleslaw - thin strips of green goodness without the mayo. I tossed in some black-eyed peas (the food) and parmesan cheese (cut into small chunks) to add texture and protein. A lemon vinaigrette was just the tang it needed (1/4 c lemon juice, 1/2 t salt, 1/4 t pepper - whisk in 1/2 c olive oil). I'm obsessed with my new creation and pretty excited to have found a way to love me some kale!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Vive la France! Dimanche

There's an infamous sutra in the first pada of Patanjali's text which describes our thoughts as either painful or painless (sutra 1.5). I feel most connected to this concept when I'm on vacation, where the bliss of one's arrival is swiftly replaced by the dread of going home. I hadn't really felt the pangs of leaving until Sunday, which is a testament to how much Paris holds my attention in the present moment. I'm so completely and utterly content that nothing exists beyond the splendors of my surroundings. The sights, the smells, the tastes...they cast their spell on me and I'm as bewitched as I was the very first time I discovered a croque madame made with goat cheese.

I can document my trip with sutras the way some might illustrate with postcards. Carrie Owerko discussed sutra 3.1 in a teachers' workshop earlier this week. "Dharana (concentration) is the binding of the mind to one place, object or idea." It's no wonder, given this idea, that I felt so clear, bright and still over those four incredible days. Granted, I was on vacation, so there were no bills (foreign currency to me is like Monopoly money), no responsibilities and no stress. It's a bit like fantasy land, and yet, nothing feels more real to me than being at home in a place and with people who reflect my true image back to a heart that sometimes feels lost. "The seen exists only for the sake of the Seer" (sutra 2.21).

So, how to spend our last day? At the flea market, of course! This time we perused the goods at Marché Vernaison Saint-Ouen de Clignancourt. The prices are more expensive than those at Porte de Vanves, mainly because vendors rent stalls instead of occupying a piece of sidewalk, but you can find great deals on amazing french housewares like linens, china, and classic french bric-a-brac (think big espresso bowls and red-striped dish towels). Billy tells anyone who'll listen about the time I spent two hours pouring over stacks of antique linen sheets in stall 141 only to have the owner remind me "vous pouvez revenir madame". Oh, and I certainly did. I outfitted every bed in our apartment with vintage monogrammed sheets (some might see this as a strange and troubling issue but let's be honest, you're now secretly hoping to score an invite to sleepover). This trip was equally as successful. I shopped victoriously, scoring a tiny silver tray and some serviettes de visages (lintless towels made especially for the face).

Our next stop was a tour through Le Marais, one of the only neighborhoods open on a Sunday. It's the Soho of Paris, only more french (obviously) as evident in the quaint gardens, medieval stone buildings and chic boutiques. I happened upon a great clothing store named Claudie Pierlot where I bought a beautiful navy blue silk dress (those perfect dresses only arrive when you're not looking). A park bench in Place des Vosges provided the perfect place to rest my legs. The hours passed by as we wandered hand-in-hand on this quintessential Parisian Sunday. A late lunch of moules frites hit the spot and signaled our eventual return to Hôtel Verneuil.

Our evening unfolded at Deux Magots for wine and dinner (salade de fromage). We sat outside and soaked in the crisp night air and the buzz of Boulevard Saint Germain. I felt bold in a bright orange dress and stop-you-in-the-street-"I love your shoes" stilettos. It was exactly how I dreamt our last night would be. I wanted to take a piece of this amazing place home with me, but then I remembered that home is where the heart is and I smiled with delight.

"By contentment, supreme joy is gained" (sutra 2.42).


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Vive la France! Samedi

It was a beautiful Saturday in Paris. We savored our breakfast ritual at Café de Flore before we were off to scour Porte de Vanves for treasure! I've been a hunter and gatherer ever since I can remember, thanks entirely to my mother who (bless her heart) would chart our European vacations around the flea market schedules in each town. Porte de Vanves is only a few blocks away from the metro bearing the same name and is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 8am until around 11am. Follow the historic signs, or ask in your best french accent "oooo ey le marshay O pewce?"

Billy has only one firm rule: "If you buy it, you carry it." This, of course, is a joke for a professional like myself as I'm more than capable of getting just about anything home. Once in a while I'll shop with something very specific in mind, but most of the time I let the object find me. Our souls collide and, despite our vastly different histories, we know we were meant to be together. (My soul was drawn to every single painting in the photo below, but my financial karma kept us apart.)

It was a gorgeous day and les puces were out in full force. It's amazing how quickly people connect - gatherer and hunter can chat about the stamp on the back of a spoon, the date of an oil painting or the story of a rug. I met one such lady (Martine of 2 ou 3 Choses) as I fawned over her collection of silver flatware. She was an absolute delight and very excited to share her trucs. Martine is a true yogi, allowing things to come and go, happy to share her spoils (whereas I, on the other hand, simply hoard and have yet to fully grasp sutra II.39).

I learned some interesting trivia regarding French silver - the engravings are placed on the back of each piece (whereas in England they're placed on the front) which explains why, in a good French restaurant, you'll find the silverware face down on the table (so you can see the silver stamps and the engraving)! I just can't get over the fact that there was a time when you had all of your silver engraved and all of your linens monogrammed and I think this explains why I love old things - they have a past which adds great depth to what would otherwise be just an ordinary object. I left Porte de Vanves with a beautiful set of silver-plated flatware, a very old oil painting (a portrait of a woman) and some linen napkins with my initials on them. My heart was as light and happy as it could possibly be.

Our afternoon was perfectly lazy. More baguettes. More aimless wandering. I felt incredibly blessed to be in Paris with no agenda and so grateful to spend this precious time with the person I love most in this world.

Dinner at Brasserie Lipp was tellement bon - roast chicken and french fries! Lipp is a very old, very smart establishment where you can enjoy classic french cuisine. Seeing as it's directly across the street from our beloved breakfast hang-out, our day had truly come full circle.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Vive la France! Vendredi

Our day began as any day should...with croissants and café crème. I swear to God I could eat this every single morning and my heart would be so happy it would surely keep beating despite the high cholesterol. I love how they give you a pitcher of espresso and a pitcher of steamed milk so you can create your own perfect cup of goodness. I sat there with Billy at Café de Flore watching my favorite city welcome the new day. There was a woman sitting nearby wearing Christian Louboutain snakeskin heels and in that moment I couldn't think of anything more amazing than wearing Louboutains to breakfast. Then I ate my pain au chocolat...alas, more amazing.

Our plan for the day was to visit the Rodin Museum and then basically wander the streets of Paris until we got lost. We got to the museum a little too early and so we decided to head across the street towards a huge cathedral to see if we could poke around. Turns out we had landed ourselves at Napoleon's tomb and Les Invalides, which is exactly the way I like to do sightseeing...completely by accident! We picked up des baguettes parisiennes on our way back to Musée Rodin and (I kid you not) it was the most ridiculous bread I've ever eaten. Ridiculous I tell you! That said, I've failed us both by not writing down the name of the bakery and so it seems as though I must return to Paris again so I can eat more of this bread and pass along its creators to you. (I thought I could find the name of the bakery in this photo I took, but all you can see is the name of the flour mill! Still, you get to see the little man making the bread).

It was a gorgeous day and the Rodin Museum was everything I wanted it to be and more. I was inspired by Camille Claudel's pieces which, juxtaposed alongside those of Rodin, clearly conveyed not only her talent but the heartbreak and madness she endured when Rodin left her. (I did a project on Camille Claudel in high school and her work is breathtaking up close). I especially loved her piece, Vertumnus et Pomona (below). We ate our ridiculous sandwiches in le jardin du musée. The gardens were beautiful...lilacs and peonies galore (my favorites)!

Après le dèjeuner we crossed the Seine to visit Merci, the new concept store created by the owners of Bonpoint (a luxury children's clothing company). It was an interesting mèlange of housewares, vintage and luxury clothing and a collection of things you didn't know you needed, like perfume and scotch tape in a rainbow of colors. The space itself was impressive...sun-drenched and airy, with nooks and crannies full of carefully chosen (and extremely creative) inventory. All of their employees wore these perfectly simple red linen aprons which, to my blissful surprise, were for sale! I now look très chic in the kitchen.

It's always around four o'clock when my legs feel like they need to be amputated, so we dragged ourselves back to our hotel where I practiced my trusty travel restorative sequence. Viparita Karani followed by Supta Padangusthasana and Supta Baddha Konasana put the spring back in my step and we galloped off to dinner at Le Petit Prince (près du Panthéon, sur rue de Lanneau). Actually, we didn't gallop. We took a taxi. It was an incredibly cool taxi whose sunroof spanned the length of the car. We could see the rooftops of Paris and all the little gems one tends to miss.

As a true gourmande, I washed down my terrine de fois gras de canard maison with a glass of Bordeaux. Then it was back to Bistro de Paris for tarte aux pommes avec glace vanille. We strolled along the Seine and caught a glimpse of the Louvre at night and I remembered that this is where I belong.