Cook, Eat, Drink and Be Happy
I’ve been looking through the bible of French gastronomy, Larousse Gastronomique. This book has everything about food and wine, including history and recipes. One of the things that strikes me the most is the precise catagorisation of different varieties of ingredients and detailed descriptions of how to prepare each type. Incredible!
It has a list of French cheese and world cheese, too. I can proudly say that I’ve tried quite many types so I know well but there are still a lot to try. Recently I came across a blog where a woman listed all the French cheese she tried and the number up to date is 221.
I can easily beat her but as my preference is goat cheese and unpasteurised, I don’t think I will try cow’s milk cheese (vache) just for a record. However, the other day I bought pasteurised cow’s milk cheese against my will because I was charmed by the bubbly assistant girl, who helped me find the stinkiest cheese in the shop. As my French was not so good, she tried to speak English, but I insisted on her speaking French so that I could practice my French, plus, even though I might have a trouble with my poor French in a clothing store, I can manage pretty well when it concerns food and wine; the power of culinary language.
I go, pointing with my finger, “Oui, je connais ca, ca, ca ca ….. et celui la, aussi.” Basically, I knew most cheeses she recommended. So I pleaded, “J’adore le fromage au lait CRU et tres FORT!”, trying to pronouce the mucus induced sound of “cru” correctly. RAW milk and STINKY cheese, please~~~!!
Well, in the end, what I got was Galletout (front) and Trou du cru (back). unfortunately, trou du cru was made with pasteurised milk but she promised that it was stinky so I trusted her. It was a bit like Époisses and a nice change from the goat cheese I’d been eating. Galletout, however, was quite pleasant, though not as strong as I’d wished, with nice acidity and creaminess; easy, fresh chevre in this interesting shape and crust. But in the future, I will stick to my usual cheese seller. A fromagerie in an affluent street means more pasteurised milk and vegetarian products these days, it seems.
The book is also a very convenient reference for the names of vegetables, fruit and fish, too, and their nutritional values.
The pretty pink radish I’ve been eating has two types, according to Larousse, radis rond rouge total and radis demi-long a bout blanc. I love the latter, the pink oblong shape with a white tip.
I didn’t know until recently how the French liked radish and eat it for breakfast! It’s called Les Radis Petit Déjeuner, which is eaten with butter, not surprised at all, as they are well-known for their aversion to strong and bitter taste. One thing I don’t see often at markets is rocket salad and I guess the reason is clear. I love rocket leaves, the bitterness that goes well with greasy or fishy taste, refreshing the palate.
Finding different ways of preparing the same vegetable while travelling is really interesting and some of those I’ve met have completely broken down the culinary boundaries. I hate wasting food, so I try to use every bit, whether it be broccoli stem or spinach stalk, but I’ve never seen cooking lettuce! The image of soggy, wilted lettuce doesn’t sound nice, right. Well, maybe you should throw it into the pot instead of the bin from now on.
When I tasted green lettuce in lamb stew, I thought “Yeah, why not? It’s a vegetable just like cabbage.” If the reason for eating lettuce is for fibre, why not cook it instead of eating it raw and cold? My Bordelais insider said his mum used to cook lettuce as it was plentiful in the garden in the old days.
“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” is the principle of my travel; I observe, learn, try to eat and do the local way until I feel confident enough to intervene, and then I start creating balanced ways of my own. Every culture has something to learn from and to improve, and that is why travelling and mixing cultures is so important. The Anglo-Saxons are not very famous for their strong gastronomic culture, however, their endless curiosity and desire to discover new flavours and also the boldness and creativity to mix different flavours together should be credited. Not having a strong gastronomic culture has its own benefits in creating new dishes that suit everyone and anyone, continuously mixing and evolving.
So when I saw the radish leaves being thrown away, I used my culinary knowledge to rescue the fresh green leaves. In Korean cuisine, radish leaves are never wasted. In Australia, also, salad mix sometimes includes radish and beetroot leaves. So as I was having fish that evening, I decided to show off my favourite salad recipe that turns bitter leaves such as rocket and radish leaves into a flavoursome salad that no one can not dislike. It’s a fool-proof recipe across the globe. The recipe is at the end of the post.
The fish simply grilled was called “daurade” or “dorade”, hang on, let me check the book for the English name now. Flick, flick…hmm…it says it is sea bream. I thought it was perch, oops. Sea bream looks like sea bass. How do you tell which is which? I will study my way through the book in the weeks and months to come, learning from the basics.
I was used to eating a whole fish using my fingers, but here fish are always served boned and skined, which is convenient but I miss sucking the meat in the cheek and mellow juice in the head, a bit But last night at a local cheap and cheerful bistro, I was very surprised to see fish served with the head and tail on! The first time ever~! France is changing!
But I ate in the French style, struggling to get as much meat as I could with a knife and fork, not so much fun, but no messy, smelly fingers. I tasted Lillet, very special Bordeaux white wine, which was made famous because of Vesper Martini from the James Bond film, Casino Royale. Its citrus, orange and floral taste was very interesting and refreshing, and I learned of quinine, but I have no idea what it is exactly.
Just for the extra fun, I added some leftover steamed broccoli into the salad and tossed it all in the dressing. My Bordelais former chef was watching, intrigued by the idea of eating radish leaves, maybe nervous at the same time at the thought of eating something new for the first time. In the meantime, he retouched the ginger spicy eggplant dish he made the day before with grated parmesan.
Rule #1. Chefs never eat the same dish two days in a row; always retouch it.
So….he gave two thumbs up to my No Waste Radish Leave Salad, which complemented the fish beautifully.
C’est tres bon!
My secret salad dressing include lemon juice, Dijon mustard, honey, extra-virgin olive oil, grated parmesan cheese, a bit of garlic, and walnuts if you wish.
Oh, it’s so ~~~~~~~~ good. You can add thin slices of pear, so the sweetness and creaminess in the dressing will compensate for the bitterness. If you want to be extravagant, throw in a few thin slices serrano ham or prosciutto. Oh, yum!