Best of June

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Paris Courtyard Fountain

• In June, we celebrated Father’s Day with lunch at brasserie La Mascotte, one of our neighborhood favorites, where Maxence shared mussels and fried smelt with his two adoring boys.

• If you’re curious to know what I eat in a day, you can find out over at MindBodyGreen! I am starting a collaboration with this site, which I love, and they’re asking me to cover all kinds of things people want to know about French women’s approach to health, beauty, and lifestyle. If there’s a question you’ve been dying to ask, please let me know and I’ll add it to my list!

• German newspaper Die Zeit also did me the honors this month and featured a few of my recipes around the theme of French picnics. If you want to practice your German, it’s right here.

Related: My Best Picnic Recipes.

• I developed a serious restaurant crush on Pink Mamma, the new restaurant from the trailblazing Big Mamma Group, which just opened in my hood, mere steps from Place Pigalle. Like all restaurants of the group, they serve pizzas and pasta and antipasti, but the star of the show is the meat, which is French and raised by them directly.

I shared a photo of Maxence’s rib steak below, but I confess I didn’t feel like eating meat, so I got the gorgeous caprese salad instead. The place is a total knock-out, especially the top floor under the glass roof, and every detail is carefully chosen, every square inch thoughtfully decorated. Reasonable prices, and not yet as crazy-crowded as the others, so now’s a good time to go!

Pink Mamma

• My former assistant and dear friend Anne interviewed me for her blog, and we had a pretty deep conversation, if you’re curious to know what I discuss with my assistants!

• And this final interview link, in French, which relates more to my podcast on personal development: Bien dans mes pompes. (As an aside, the woman who interviewed me for this went to the same middle school as I did, and we “found” each other again because she now lives a few blocks from me in Montmartre, with same-age kids as I do.)

• The poem I memorized this month is L’Homme heureux possible by Élisabeth Guibert, an 18th-century poet who wrote this surprisingly modern poem:

La vie est un instant, il faut en profiter ;
Rejeter avec soin tout préjugé nuisible,
Croire un Dieu bienfaisant, croire un ami possible
Et connaître le prix du bonheur d’exister ;
Caresser la folie, estimer la sagesse,
Aimer un seul objet, en être un peu jaloux,
Etre toujours fidèle et jamais n’être époux,
Effleurer les talents, les aimer sans faiblesse,
Paraître indifférent sur le mépris des sots,
Avoir le cœur ouvert sur ses propres défauts,
Etre content de soi, mais sans trop le paraître ;
Enfin se croire heureux, c’est le moyen de l’être.

A translation has been published in this great-looking anthology of French Women Poets of Nine Centuries, and you can read it online here: The Happiest Possible Man.

• As part of my Monthly Museum Challenge, I chose the Rodin: The Centennial Exhibition at the Grand Palais. I don’t know very much about scultpure, so this was a great primer for me. At the same time, I am reading the magnificent book Je couche toute nue (“I sleep naked”), which documents the love story between Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin through their letters and journal entries. Such beautiful language! Such romance!

Frantastique

Learn French this summer!

If you have long and leisurely days ahead of you this summer, wouldn’t it be a great time to work on your French? I have partnered with Frantastique, a fun and well-crafted online French course, to offer you your first month free, no strings attached.

The courses are delivered by email daily, you can customize them to your level and preferences, and that one free month should give you a good idea of what it would be like to learn or improve your French for the rest of the year. Ça vous dit ?

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Vegetarian Batch Cooking for Summer: 1-Hour Prep, 6 Meals!

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Vegetarian Batch Cooking for Summer

In addition to planning my menus, I have been doing more and more batch cooking these past few months.

The idea of batch cooking is to block out time one day of the week to prep or cook a bunch of ingredients in advance, which you can draw from and combine for low-effort homemade meals the rest of the week.

It is the shortest path to feeling like a kitchen superhero, saving you brain juice and money along the way.

And today, I am offering you the vegetarian batch cooking plan for summer I’ve created and test-driven with great success: 1 hour of prep work for easy 6 meals on subsequent days.

  • Meal #1: Ratatouille and Rice Bowl — the beauty and simplicity of an in-season roasted ratatouille, served over rice to mop up the juices.
  • Meal #2: Bell Pepper and Chickpea Green Salad — a simple stir-fry of bell peppers, onions, and chickpeas over simply dressed greens drizzled with tahini sauce.
  • Meal #3: Ratatouille Wraps with Eggs and Tahini — inspired by a delicious sandwich from Miznon in Paris!
  • Meal #4: Zucchini Pasta with Olive and Almonds — super easy pasta dish ready in the time it takes to cook the zucchini.
  • Meal #5: Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Olives and Almonds — the same topping brings zest to roasted sweet potatoes.
  • Meal #6: Everything Salad with Avocado and Eggs — turning bits and bobs from the previous meals into a lovely salad so the process is entirely waste-free!

Below you will find:
– A shopping list (of which you can get a free printable) — everything is available from the organic store or supermarket (they cost around 30€ ($34) in my store; your mileage may vary),
– Your instructions for the prep work — allow for about 1 hour of active time, and 1 1/2 hour in total,
– Your instructions for each of the six meals — active time ranges from 5 to 15 minutes, time to table from 10 to 30 minutes,
– Suggestions of variations to adapt the plan to various dietary constraints.

If you’re new to batch cooking, this plan is an easy and lovely way to dip your toes in and see how deliciously freeing it is. If you’re an experienced batch-cook, I hope it provides some ideas to enrich your current practice. And please share your best tips with us!

And if you find this first plan helpful and useful, I will offer you a new one at the start of each new season; let me know how that sounds.

In passing I recommend these French-made glass containers for storing your preparations (I have two sets; they nest perfectly and take up very little room) and this dual kitchen timer to keep track of two preparations at the same time!

Without further ado, here’s your vegetarian batch cooking plan for summer!

Vegetarian Batch Cooking for Summer

This is what you’ll make during the 1-hour prep time.

Your Batch-Cooking Shopping List

Get your free printable shopping list!

For 4 people:

PRODUCE

☐ 4 medium eggplants
☐ 4 medium tomatoes
☐ 6 medium zucchini
☐ 3 red bell pepper
☐ 3 medium onions
☐ 2 cloves garlic
☐ 1 small shallot
☐ 1 large head lettuce or 6 cups mixed salad leaves
☐ 1 kg (2 pounds) sweet potatoes
☐ 2 organic lemons (or 1 lemon, 1 lime)
☐ 2 avocados
☐ 1 small bunch cilantro or flat-leaf parsley

GRAINS/LEGUMES/NUTS

☐ 360 grams (2 cups) rice of your choice
☐ 1 400-gram (15-ounce) jar of chickpeas (or 100 grams or 1/2 cup dried chickpeas)
☐ 350 grams (12 ounces) dried pasta of your choice (short shapes)
☐ 70 grams (1/2 cup) roasted almonds
☐ 90 grams (1/2 cup) black or green pitted olives
☐ 100 grams (1/3 cup) tahini
☐ 4 wheat tortillas or wraps or ready-made buckwheat pancakes

DAIRY/EGGS

☐ 8 large eggs
☐ A block of Parmesan or nutritional yeast

IN YOUR PANTRY

☐ Olive oil
☐ Mixed dried herbs such as herbes de Provence (thyme, rosemary, basil…)
☐ Ground cumin
☐ Sea salt

Prep Work (1 to 1 1/4 hours)

Note: The active prep work should take you 1 to 1 1/4 hours, but the ratatouille will need another 30 to 45 minutes’ roasting beyond that.

First:
☐ Wash: the eggplant, the zucchini, the tomatoes, the bell peppers.
☐ And peel: the onions, the shallot, the garlic.

Make the roasted ratatouille:
☐ Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F).
☐ Cut the eggplant, the tomatoes, and 2 of the zucchini in 2-3-cm (1-inch) cubes.
☐ Put the remaining zucchini in the fridge.
☐ Slice 2 bell peppers into strips (reserve the 1 remaining bell pepper).
☐ Slice 2 of the onions thinly (reserve the 1 remaining onion).
☐ Put the cubed eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini; sliced bell peppers and onions; and the garlic on a rimmed baking sheet.
☐ Drizzle with 60 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon dried herbs and 1 1/2 teaspoon salt.
☐ Toss to coat, cover loosely with foil, and put into the oven.
☐ This will roast for 45 minutes covered, then you will uncover, stir, and roast for another 30 minutes.

While the ratatouille is roasting, you will:
☐ Hard-boil the eggs (this is my method).
☐ Cook the chickpeas if using dried.
☐ Dice the remaining bell pepper and onion finely, and put them in a container with a lid. Combine with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon ground cumin, cover, and put away in the fridge.
☐ Make a simple tahini sauce: simply thin the tahini with the juice of 1/2 the lemon, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and just enough water to make a pourable sauce. Put away in the fridge in a tightly covered container or jar.
☐ Wash the lettuce (or salad leaves) and the herbs, spin them dry, and wrap them up in a clean dishcloth. This you will put in a plastic bag and put away in the fridge.
☐ Scrub the sweet potatoes, let them dry, and put them away somewhere cool and dark.
☐ Chop the almonds roughly and keep in a jar at room temperature.
☐ Chop the shallot finely and the olives roughly, and combine them in a jar or container with the zest of 1 lemon and juice of the remaining half lemon, and 2 tablespoons olive oil.

Note: If you don’t want to use your oven in the summer, you can also cook the ratatouille as a stew in a Dutch oven or slow cooker.

Meal #1: Ratatouille And Rice Bowl

Active time: 5 minutes.
Time-to-table: 15 minutes.

☐ Reheat two-thirds of the ratatouille (reserve one third), cook the rice, chop half of the herbs (reserve the other half).
☐ Serve the ratatouille over the rice and sprinkle with fresh herbs.

Oven-Roasted Ratatouille

Meal #2: Bell Pepper And Chickpea Green Salad

Active time: 10 minutes.
Time-to-table: 10 minutes.

☐ In a skillet, sauté the chopped bell pepper and onions mix with 1 teaspoon salt, until soft, 4 minutes.
☐ Add the drained chickpeas and cook for 2 minutes longer, stirring so everything comes together. If you have leftover rice, add it in as well.
☐ Cut about one third of the salad leaves into ribbons, divide among 4 bowls, and top with warm bell pepper and chickpea mix.
☐ Drizzle with half the tahini sauce (reserve the other half) and serve.

Bell Pepper and Chickpea Green Salad

Meal #3: Ratatouille Wraps With Eggs And Tahini

Active time: 10 minutes.
Time-to-table: 10 minutes.

☐ Reheat the remaining third of the ratatouille and heat the wraps.
☐ Shell 4 of the eggs and roughly chop.
☐ Assemble ratatouille wraps with ratatouille, chopped eggs, and drizzle with tahini sauce.

Ratatouille and Egg Sandwich at Miznon

The Ratatouille and Egg Sandwich from Miznon in Paris that inspired this wrap idea.

Meal #4: Zucchini Pasta With Olive And Almonds

Active time: 10 minutes.
Time-to-table: 15 minutes.

☐ Put salted water to boil in a large saucepan.
☐ Slice the zucchini into thin half-moons.
☐ Put the pasta in the boiling water, boil according to package instructions, and add the zucchini in the last 2 minutes of cooking.
☐ While the pasta is boiling, chop half the remaining herbs and combine them with half the almonds and half the chopped olive mixture.
☐ Grate Parmesan to yield about 1/3 cup of it (or measure the same volume of nutritional yeast).
☐ Drain the pasta and zucchini, return to the pot, drizzle generously with olive oil, and stir.
☐ Divide among 4 bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan and the topping.

Zucchini Pasta with Almonds and Lemon Zest

Meal #5: Roasted Sweet Potatoes With Olives And Almonds

Active time: 15 minutes.
Time-to-table: 30 minutes.

☐ Preheat the oven to 200°C (alternatively you can grill the sweet potatoes if you have an outdoor grill).
☐ Cut the sweet potatoes lengthwise into long wedges of even thickness (4 to 6 per potato depending on size).
☐ Arrange on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and toss to coat.
☐ Put into the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until cooked through and golden.
☐ While the sweet potatoes are roasting, chop the remaining herbs and combine them with the remaining almonds and remaining chopped olive mixture.
☐ Cut another third of the salad leaves into ribbons, and dress lightly with olive oil, a drizzle of lemon juice, and salt.
☐ Divide the sweet potatoes among four plates, sprinkle with the almond and olive topping, and serve with the salad.

Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Black Olives and Almonds

Meal #6: Everything Salad with Avocado and Eggs

Active time: 10 minutes.
Time-to-table: 10 minutes.

☐ Cut the remaining salad leaves into ribbons, and dress lightly with olive oil, a drizzle of lemon juice, and salt.
☐ Take out any leftover bits and pieces from the days before and toss them into the salad: sweet potatoes (dice these first), ratatouille, chickpea mix, olive condiment, cold pasta, tahini sauce, herbs…
☐ Halve the avocados. Shell the remaining eggs and cut them in half.
☐ Divide the salad among plates, and serve with a half-avocado and two half-eggs.

Variations for Different Diets

Vegan:

Meal #3 and 6: Replace the eggs with tofu or tempeh.
Meal #4: Use nutritional yeast, not Parmesan.

Gluten-free:

Meal #3: Choose gluten-free wraps (buckwheat crêpes are gluten-free).
Meal #4: Choose gluten-free pasta.

Dairy-free:

Meal #4: Use nutritional yeast, not Parmesan.

Paleo:

Meal #1: Use cauliflower “rice” in place of the rice.
Meal #2: Use cashews instead of the chickpeas.
Meal #3: To assemble the ratatouille wraps, use collard leaves or other large green leaves (see Gena’s tutorial on green wraps). You can also make one-egg omelets and use those as wraps; hold the hard-boiled eggs then.
Meal #4: Replace the pasta with kelp noodles or other paleo-friendly noodle, or use a spiralizer to make vegetable noodles such as with carrots, daikon radish, jicama…

Don’t forget to grab your free printable shopping list!

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10 Tips for Picking a Paris Restaurant

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Paris Restaurant

Whether you live in Paris or you’re just visiting, chances are you spend a lot of time thinking, reading, talking, and fretting about restaurants.

It’s entirely natural. Paris is an international capital of good food and gastronomy (the birthplace of it, even) so you want to make every meal count, yet you know its 40,000 restaurants are not created equal.

This is fertile ground for FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and its sneaky cousin, FOPTWR (Fear Of Picking The Wrong Restaurant).

So before you make yourself crazy, let me offer you my Ten Paris Restaurant Tips.

Tip #1: Be clear on your wants and needs

This is the most basic thing, but many people skip that part.

Before you go down the rabbit hole of searching for “Best Restaurants in Paris”, take a moment to list (in your mind or on paper) the features you’re looking for. How many people are you eating with and what kind of diners are they? What style of cuisine are you into? What kind of ambiance do you want to spend the night in? What price level do you want to go for? Any food preferences or dietary constraints?

Keep all of those at the forefront of your mind during your search, so you can swiftly brush aside anything that looks kinda cool but isn’t the focus du jour. A huge time saver.

10 Romantic Things to do in Paris

Tip #2: Follow the locals

It is generally more reliable to get recommendations from people who actually live in the city, and can put a restaurant, chef, cuisine, or trend in the context of many more dining experiences. This is not to dismiss the reports of short-term visitors; I myself like to write about my forays in other cities, but I don’t claim expertise and expect my readers to double-check against local sources.

Take the time to identify a few locals (native or not) whose voice and opinions resonate with you, whose dining temperament seems to align with yours, and follow their restaurant adventures. It can be bloggers, magazine columnists, or collective websites; what matters is that there be a consistent viewpoint from one review to the next.

I like to follow friends such as Caroline Mignot, Lindsey Tramuta (author of The New Paris!), and Aaron Ayscough. I get the weekly review from Le Fooding and the My Little Paris newsletter. I use the website Paris by Mouth and keep an eye on Esterelle Payany’s reviews in Télérama and François-Régis Gaudry’s blog at L’Express (he has a TV show on Paris Première and a radio show on France Inter if you can’t get enough of him). I don’t read everything they write (hello, overwhelm!), but when I need fresh recommendations, these are my go-to’s. (For content written in French, Google Translate is your friend!)

I have no use for crowd-sourced review websites: without knowing the people writing and their background, the litany of random opinions is meaningless to me.

Planning a trip to Paris?

I am available to take you on a private walking tour to show you some of my favorite food spots. Please get in touch and I will be happy to provide more details!

Paris Restaurant

Tip #3: If it sounds too good to be true…

Paris is not a cheap city, and generally speaking, the good places aren’t either. Fresh ingredients cooked from scratch, skilled staff, and a pleasant décor you want to sit in, all cost money that the customer has to pay for.

That’s not to say all expensive restaurants are good. Or that you can’t find excellent food in simple, hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Or that you can’t be smart about it and go to the fancy places at lunch on weekdays to get the formule déjeuner. I only suggest that you get a realistic idea of what it costs to run a restaurant in a city like Paris, and judge prices accordingly.

Depending on your budget, it is perhaps better to eat out less frequently, and have memorable experiences when you do. Paris has many options for non-restaurant meals that won’t make you feel cheap or deprived (I should write a post about those, no?).

Tip #4: Know your arrondissements

Paris is a city with two banks (I am Team Right Bank all the way), twenty arrondissements, and many micro-neighborhoods with different atmospheres, personalities, and business costs for restaurateurs. As you research restaurants or hear about places, make a mental note of the areas where they’re located, and try to build an awareness of their particular vibe and style over time. Then you’ll know where to look when you’re seeking that particular vibe or style.

This is also useful if you’re planning to schlep out to the other side of the city to try a new restaurant. If you have a sense of the neighborhood and what else is out there, you can plan your entire evening around it — maybe relax at a local coffee shop in late afternoon, and grab a pre- or post-dinner drink at a cocktail or wine bar close by.

Tip #5: Ask around

If you’re eager to discover new spots, make it a habit to ask people where they like to eat: friends and coworkers, but also the woman who runs that good wine shop, the guy who makes those cool lamps, your hair stylist and your butcher. People love to talk about they favorite restaurants, and it’s a good way to expand your list beyond the neighborhood where you live or you’re staying.

Write it down — you think you’ll remember but you won’t — and take it with a grain of salt. I am endlessly interested in people’s restaurant choices, but I don’t follow them blindly: I put them in the context of (what I perceive to be) that person’s tastes and background, and do a little research to back up the recommendation.

Paris Restaurant

Tip #6: Instagram it out

Once you’ve identified a restaurant that looks like what you’re looking for, try searching for pictures of it on Instagram to confirm it’s your jam.

You can search by Instagram location, variations of the name as a hashtag (e.g. #belordinaire and #lebelordinaire), and look at the official account if there is one. Parisians love to Instagram their restaurant outings, so if you find nothing, or very little, it can be a warning sign — unless the place is brand-new or truly below-the-radar, but those gems don’t stay hidden very long.

Related: 12 Instagram Accounts for Paris Lovers.

Tip #7: Trust your gut

Sometimes you hear about a place over and over again, people rave about it, the chef is a media darling, but for some reason you’re not that drawn to it. That is absolutely fine! No need to explore your reasons or push yourself to go because the New York Times says you simply must. Just like with people, there needs to be chemistry between you and a restaurant; if it’s not there, don’t force it. Plenty more fish in that sea.

Tip #8: Book your table

Wandering around at sunset and just happening upon a quaint little restaurant with the perfect table waiting for you… mostly happens in movies. Paris restaurants are typically small, good restaurants are typically in high demand, and you won’t get far without a reservation.

Depending on the night of the week and the popularity of the restaurant, you’ll have to book your table weeks in advance, or a few days, or sometimes just the day of. In all cases, I recommend you make it a habit to call ahead: not only will you avoid being turned away if the restaurant is full, but you also get better service if they’re expecting you.

Some places don’t take reservations at all. Instead of feeling personally slighted, keep them in mind for those nights when you haven’t made any arrangements. Show up early and take advantage of the wait to catch up with your friends.

Paris Restaurant

Tip #9: Keep a list

Whenever you spend time doing research, when you hear about a new place that you want to try, or someone recommends a favorite spot, keep a note of it. It will save you so much angst next time you want to surprise your special someone, or you’re tasked with choosing the perfect restaurant for so-and-so’s birthday (because you are that person, right?).

It’s also nice to have a shortlist of crowd-pleasing, all-purpose favorites to call upon for last-minute plans, and also to avoid drawing a complete blank when other people ask you for your favorites (see Tip #5).

I am offering you the template I use to keep track of my own favorite restaurants and the ones I want to try. You can access it here as a read-only Google spreadsheet. Hit File > Make a copy… to copy it to your own drive.

Tip #10: Opt out of the rat-staurant race

Unless reviewing restaurant is your bread and butter, having a meal at a restaurant should be more about the actual experience you have at the restaurant than what you make it mean about yourself, or how you plan to portray it later.

Do a little self-check from time to time and make sure you don’t invest too much (ideally: none) of your self-worth in how in-the-know you are about the Paris food scene, how quickly you rush to the newest restaurant, and how eager you are to note in conversation that you knew about it before Le Fooding even did (and actually, you’re the one who tipped them off).

And hey, there is a lot of charm in the early-day excitement of a restaurant that has just opened, but often times there are kinks to iron out. Most places find their groove a few weeks after that, so the late bird gets a better-cooked worm.

Bonus tip for advanced diners: Avoid Saturday nights!

If you have flexibility, you’ll typically have a better dining experience on a weeknight. Saturdays are the busiest, so restaurants are more intent on turning tables and the staff is under more pressure. The ambiance will be more relaxed during the week, and it will be easier to build a rapport with the team; some chefs have even told me that they perceive the weeknight crowd as more savvy. (This is probably a chicken-and-egg situation: if they have more time to chat with their diners, they have a better chance of discovering said savviness.)

Join the conversation!

What’s been your experience picking out restaurants to go to in Paris? How much hand-wringing is usually involved? Do you have your own go-to list? And do you get anguish attacks when you see all the cool restaurants other people seem to be going to? Any tips of your own to add?

Paris Restaurant

All photos in this post by Anne Elder.

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