Sunday, June 12, 2011

livin' easy on the Rue du Sud

Mister and I are not big Francophiles.  That whole trend certainly did not escape us, but it did not endear the French, their culture, food, drink, or diplomatic decisions to us - quite the opposite.  Unfortunately, when Philadelphia was bursting with Love for All Things French, pioneered by a specific demographic of which Mister and I are also not fans, Jacques Chiroc had made some very Anti-American moves, so we felt like the appropriately patriotic thing to do was to ignore their existence as a country.

We did feel like things went a little too far when people started renaming a Belgian invention "Freedom Fries," but all in all, we felt fairly justified avoiding French imports...ironically, including P.Diddy-pimped adult beverages.  This became a little trying as one of my favorite bars hopped on the Frenchie-Train, featuring 6 out of 7 reds from France...  I drank a lot of Shiraz that year.

Once the excitement of the moment had passed, there were still a load of French restaurants and bars that had popped up and managed to stay in business.  I think crepes are funny but Mister will have no part of them, so we'll still never see the inside of Beau Monde.  As fun and intimate as it looks, Bistrot la Minette has entirely too many animals on their menu for us to venture in for a meal.  We were actually invited to dine at Coquette (when it was still open) by the owner, but $17 for a lentil tian was too rich for our Greek-Irish blood, even with the promise of free champagne.  La Croix was fabulous and I have trouble remembering a more pleasurable dining experience (aside from almost every time we go to Horizons), but we cannot afford to go there when not under the cover of my in-laws' relentless generosity. 

Mainly, though, the reason we steer clear of French food is because Mister finds it insulting to his masculinity.

So, it was with a little trepidation that I embarked on a dinner of Provencal Black-Eyed Peas with Asparagus from The Complete Vegan Cookbook, but I really thought it would be a fun dinner to make and I wanted to see if I've had my Herbes de Provence long enough for them to turn gray and lose all flavor and scent (and yes, I do recognize that I should have checked that before I went shopping for ingredients...just in case they were...).


Not only were my Herbes de Provence just fine and quite excited to join the dinner party, but Mister so enjoyed his French dinner that he took a decidedly unFrench portion size for his second helping.  I love plating our dinners.  I always try to make a pretty little bed of the pasta or rice or couscous, in this case, and then artfully swirl the scoop of veggies on top, even trying to shape them into a small pyramid at times.  Then, Mister goes back for seconds and comes back with a travesty of presentation with globs of food all over his bowl or plate. 

Hey, I'm just happy he liked it.  Me?  I loved it, too.  Since we're not in the habit of eating French-inspired flavors, I was a little taken aback by the pungent herb mixture, specifically the crushed rosemary, which is most certainly an acquired taste that I haven't worked very hard at acquiring.  At the last moment, just before stirring in the fresh parsley, you make a tiny little cornstarch/arrowroot slurry and mixed it in to thicken the sauce - I think that really pushed it over the edge in terms of savory pleasantness.  I'm not sure "pleasantness" is a word, but if it is, it's an ugly one.  I just couldn't think of a better way to express it.

Couscous, the base upon which this Provencal ragout was served, has a tendency to continue expanding once it's in your stomach.  This is, of course, enhanced if you got hot while food shopping and ended up drinking three glasses of water before dinner and one with... So, Mister and I were feeling a bit bloated after dinner.  My solution is to get up and move around so I can encourage the couscous to digest and get the heck out of my stomach; Mister takes a more European approach.  He naps with the kitty.

Look at the murder in those eyes!  It's as though he's saying, "Stay away.  He's my Mister.  Mine."  I think he was really just angry that I took a flash picture, actually.

Anyway, tomorrow we have Cousin's wedding and I'm hoping that at least for the hour or so that the wedding is supposed to occur, it can be dry for her outdoor wedding.  However, I am listening to the music of a thunderstorm right now, so I'm afraid the ground might be irreparably soaked by noon tomorrow even if it does stop raining.  I'm sure we'll be hungry for dinner later, though, since the wedding is so early in the day, followed immediately by the reception, so I still anticipate dinner stories, hopefully with a touch of magic interwoven.

That being said, I did shop for the new menu today since I didn't think there would be time tomorrow:

1. Clara's Pasta e Fagioli from The Urban Vegan.  Although Isa's recipe for Pasta e Fagioli is the reigning champ, having stolen the spotlight from this recipe, we must remember that this was the champ for a while for good reason.  I felt an unusual longing for this recipe, so I decided to grab that book off the shelf.  I cannot wait until the new cookbook comes out - there are so many fabulous recipes I can't wait to see in print and reprise!

2. Granada Paella, also from The Urban Vegan.  I figured as long as I was in the cookbook and as long as I loved this recipe so much, I may as well make this delightful recipe again.

3. Veggie Goulash from La Dolce Vegan.  It's been a while since I've played in this cookbook, mainly because I know that every time I open it, I feel compelled to make...

4. Punjabi Peppers and Tofu (also from La Dolce Vegan).  What can I say that I haven't said already?  I could probably cook this every week and not get bored of it.  That's a lot coming from someone who strives to make something different so frequently that she only repeats recipes semi-annually sometimes...

5. Vegetable Biryani, also from La Dolce Vegan.  I've only made this biryani once, but it was easy and tasty, so I figured, why not make it again?

Hopefully, I will have some fun pictures and an entertaining recap from the wedding!  See me tomorrow!  :)

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