Dimanche (That Means Sunday)

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Welcome to this edition of Dimanche (That Means Sunday), a roundup of things that caught my eye this past week.

I was sitting at home earlier this week working at my kitchen table when I saw on Twitter that Notre Dame Cathedral was burning. I immediately started checking trustworthy news sources to get information. I was horrified as I watched the roof go up in flames, with smoke puffing and billowing into the sky. I looked at photos of people in Paris watching the same sight from the streets. The mixture of horror, shock, sadness, and disbelief on their faces registered strongly with me.

My mind immediately went to the first time I visited Notre Dame in 2008. I was studying abroad in central France and I went to Paris for the first time with a group of friends in my program. The two girls I was traveling with didn’t want to go see Notre Dame because they’d already been before, but I convinced them to make a repeat trip. I wanted to see the magnificent structure for myself.

I vividly remember walking through Notre Dame. Even though I was surrounded by throngs of tourists, peace pervaded almost every corner of the cathedral. The lights were dim and somber but light flooded through stained glass windows. Flames from candles flickered in the darkness. I’m not a religious person now and I wasn’t at the time, but I remember feeling something deeply spiritual. I was moved almost to the point of tears.

I also felt deeply entrenched in history. The 850-year-old cathedral has weathered so many chapters in French history. The past is sometimes difficult to define and even more difficult to reckon with, but in the cathedral more than 10 years ago, I felt like it converged peacefully in one room. Perhaps the cathedral is impermeable to the past. It stands, wise and grandiose, watching as life changes around it.

The fire destroyed parts of the cathedral but luckily, it’s still standing. Of course, this doesn’t preclude future damage. Work needs to be redone to rebuild the cathedral and try to prevent a similar episode. But I can breathe a little easier knowing that Notre Dame is safe, watching over Paris in its altered state.

Without further ado, here is Dimanche:

As I mentioned before, I was horrified when I saw the fire at Notre Dame earlier this week. I followed coverage about the incident and I’ve chosen a few articles that do a good job summarizing the news, history, and reactions. The always erudite Pauline Bock from New Statesman wrote this piece about Notre Dame as a symbol of French identity. This title of this story from The New York Times, “Why Notre-Dame Was a Tinderbox,” felt insensitive and jarring but the interactive graphic that follows is impressive. A Condé Nast Traveler piece from a Parisian food blogger resonated with me. It includes quotes from locals about their reactions to the fire. Finally, this Washington Post article gives more information about the fire and plans for rebuilding the cathedral.

On a happier note… It’s almost strawberry season and I’m pretty excited about it. I can’t wait to make these cornbread pancakes with strawberry compote. I’m going to devote one day this spring to canning strawberry compote and jam. Stay tuned. Get the pancake recipe from The Kitchn.

I’d highly recommend making a personal cheeseboard at least once in your adult life. I did last night and it was so satisfying. Mine had salami from Salume Beddu, local honeycomb that a colleague of mine who is a beekeeper gave me, Brie, goat cheese, crackers, and apples. I got the cheeseboard itself on sale here54636C01-7306-4E35-9212-ACB4A47AD6FF

Speaking of honeycomb… I used some to make these lemon ricotta honeycomb pancakes this morning. Stay tuned for the recipe later this week on the blog!758D3A07-84BF-483B-A395-7D0CB68C6E78

I get very defensive when people insult Jane Austen. I’ve been rereading some of her books recently and I read Northanger Abbey for the first time earlier this month. I enjoyed this article about her subtly subversive language. Read more about Austen and her writing in this JSTOR Daily blog post.

Personalized shampoo is a thing now, apparently. In an age where more and more products are being customized, personalized shampoo is available to customers who want products to cater to their individual desires. The part in the article about the custom makeup is insane. Read more about it in this Wall Street Journal piece.

I enjoyed these tips for aspiring bakers. A food writer talks about how her time working at a local bakery made her a better baker. Check out her tips in this Food52 story.

French Chef Ludo Lefebvre serves about 216 escargots daily at both his restaurants in Los Angeles. That’s a lot of snails. The escargots are imported from Lefebvre’s native Burgundy. Read more about it in this Los Angeles Times article.

Last but certainly not least, Yotam Ottolenghi has a new hip hop song about him. British artist Loyle Carner, a food lover and Ottolenghi fan, wrote the song about the TV chef and cookbook author after an interaction he had while reading Ottolenghi’s cookbook Jerusalem on a train. Get more information in this Eater story.

Enjoy your week! Here’s a song to get you started.

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Buttermilk Buckwheat Waffles

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I made these buttermilk buckwheat waffles for breakfast last weekend and I’m still thinking about them a week later. Light and fluffy on the inside, crispy on the outside, hearty and slightly sweet, they’re perfect for weekend breakfast or brunch.

I decided to make the waffles because I found a bag of buckwheat flour in my fridge from a few months ago. I also hadn’t used my waffle maker in a while so I figured, why not break it out of the closet? I slept late on Sunday and then motivated myself enough to get up and make the waffles.

It’s important to note that these waffles aren’t super sweet on their own. They’re basically a good canvas for whatever you want to put on top. I poured on lots of maple syrup and added banana slices, but you could also get creative and put almond butter or peanut butter and jam, or even stewed or fresh berries. Next time I might make a berry compote to put on top.

A key to making the waffles crisp on the outside is cooking them longer than the waffle maker suggests. Once the green light goes on indicating that they’re done, wait a couple minutes until almost all the steam subsides. Then you can take them out.

You can keep the waffles warm and crispy by preheating the oven to 200 degrees F beforehand and putting the waffles in once they’re done. Make sure they’re in a single layer though. If they overlap, they might get a little soggy.

Also, the word “buckwheat” might freak a lot of people out. The flour is actually pretty subtle. When you pair it with the buttermilk it creates a batter that’s tangy and slightly tart. That’s why it’s important to put lots of sweet toppings on the waffle to balance the flavors in the dish.

Here’s a song to get you started on your buckwheat waffle journey.

Buttermilk Buckwheat Waffles

Ingredients

1 cup buckwheat flour
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of ground cardamom
1 1/4 cups buttermilk, shaken
1/4 cup melted butter
1 large egg
banana slices and maple syrup for serving

Directions

Preheat your waffle iron. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F and stick a baking sheet inside. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom in a medium bowl. Whisk the buttermilk, melted butter, and egg in another medium bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until the batter is smooth with a few small lumps.

Let the batter sit for 10 minutes (if you can). Five minutes is also fine but the longer the batter sits, the better your waffles will turn out. Pour the batter into your waffle iron and cook a little longer than the iron indicates. You want almost no steam coming out of the iron before you remove the waffle. Lift the waffle out of the iron and place on the baking sheet in the oven. Repeat this process until you use up all the batter.

Serve with banana slices and maple syrup. Enjoy!

 

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Golden Coconut Broth Bowls from The First Mess

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When I saw this recipe for golden coconut broth bowls on The First Mess the other day, I knew I had to make it.

In the blog post, Laura from The First Mess talks about how she made the soup on a cold spring day. As it happened, Sunday was very cold and rainy (and apparently, snowy?) in St. Louis, so this soup was the perfect thing to make. I lounged around most of the day and summoned my energy to get up and make soup later.

This soup centers on the coconut milk broth, which is tangy, slightly sweet, and spicy from turmeric. It’s light and filling all at once, it’s warming, and the ginger will temporarily cure any spring allergy or cold symptoms you’re experiencing. I hesitate to call it a magic elixir, but it is.

It’s also a good vehicle for anything you want to put on top. Laura puts quinoa in the bowls in her blog post, but I realized at the last minute that I was out of quinoa so I used cooked farro instead. I followed her recommendation and used roasted broccoli, though, which was a good addition. I’d recommend preparing your toppings ahead of time to make the soup cooking process as stress-free as possible. I was trying to juggle everything at once and it worked, but just barely.

The best part about this soup is the tofu. I almost can’t believe I’m writing those words because normally, tofu is my least favorite ingredient in a vegetarian or vegan soup. In this case, though, it really shines. It’s crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, and it packs a lot of flavor because you season it generously with salt and pepper. Now that I have this tofu recipe, I’m going to use it again and again to prepare tofu for other dishes.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did. It’s perfect for chilly spring days or nights, or whenever you need something warming and healthful.

Here’s a song to get you started on your golden coconut broth bowl journey.

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Dimanche (That Means Sunday)

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Welcome to this edition of Dimanche (That Means Sunday), a roundup of things that caught my eye this past week.

This week was the first one that really felt like spring in St. Louis. I enjoyed it by getting outside more, hiking, and going to the first farmers’ market of the season. Then today, it devolved into winter again. I had to turn my heater on and as I write this post, I’m curled up in a blanket on my chair with a cup of tea, watching my windows fog up.

Spring in the Midwest can be an infuriating thing. You can’t depend on the weather to be warm so you have to dress for two, or sometimes three seasons at once, and every now and again, you’re hit with snow or freezing rain. You want to believe that the first day above 70 degrees means an end to winter, but year after year, you realize that this will never happen.

Still, there are a lot of things to love about a Midwestern spring. The season unfolds slowly so you have more time to appreciate everything that’s blossoming and growing. There’s a palpable excitement and relief when most of the cold days are over and you have warm ones again. You might even feel more inclined to treat yourself because you’ve survived a Midwestern winter, so you deserve an extra ice cream cone, a tall glass of lemonade, or whatever else beckons spring. I’ve been trying to focus on these simple pleasures instead of getting irritated at back-and-forth weather.

I hope wherever you are, you can find ways to enjoy spring. I’m not going to lie: I feel bad for you if you’re in Maine and stuck in the snow, but maybe you’ve also found ways to enjoy that. I think we can all agree that the best part about spring, or “spring” as many would call it, is that eventually, it will come.

Without further ado, here is Dimanche:

As I mentioned before, I went to Tower Grove Farmers’ Market for the first time this season on Saturday and I had a great time. The market is one of my favorite places in the city to get fresh produce and artisanal goods. If you’re in St. Louis and you stop by on Saturday morning, I’d highly recommend getting a pastry from Prioritized Pastries and a bouquet of flowers from Urban Buds3D46D624-0232-428F-85D1-F919CF2F37199827DF1D-852A-4645-8326-34CA9E6EA060

I love this Q&A with Priya Krishna, author of a new cookbook, “Indian-ish.” Reading the interview makes me want to get back into Indian cooking. I like what Krishna said about using whole spices and slowly adding layers to Indian food as you cook. Read more about her cookbook and cooking tips in this Food & Wine article.

This old but good April Fool’s story deserves some attention. I meant to post it last week but I wrote about my friend’s new restaurant, Bulrush, instead. I respect the LA Times for its satire and I hope that New Yorkers will be humbled by it. Realistically, they probably won’t be. Still, beyond the joke it’s important to note that New York isn’t the best food city in the country. Check out the story in the LA Times.

Speaking of Bulrush… I have it on good authority that Bulrush, a new foraging-focused restaurant from Chef Rob Connoley, will open this week in St. Louis. Get a behind-the-scenes look at the restaurant in one of my latest blog posts.

I made buckwheat waffles this morning for breakfast to soothe myself during this cold spell. It worked. I’d highly recommend making a bunch of them and freezing whatever you don’t eat so you can quickly toast them in the morning for breakfast. Stay tuned for the recipe on the blog later this week!EAA6C57E-AF1B-41A9-8AF9-BDC0577E153C

Ultra-premium ice cream is getting more and more expensive, and it’s taking over grocery stores’ frozen aisles. I perpetuate this trend by buying $8 pints of ice cream because I think it tastes really good, but I can see why some people would find this unreasonable. Still, this Eater story gives a good rundown of the situation and what goes into making “super-artisanal” ice cream. Read the article for more information.

In case you missed it, St. Louis is a food lover’s dream. The food scene in town has been growing steadily for the past decade and has reached a high point in recent years. Check out this blog post from HEC-TV for more about the city’s burgeoning food scene.

Last but certainly not least, I really want to try a Nanaimo bar. I’d never heard of the treat until I read this New York Times‘ story. I’m not sure how I feel about it being called the “Kardashian of Canadian desserts,” but it sounds good enough to try anyway. Read more about Nanaimo bars in this NYT piece.

Enjoy your week! Here’s a song to get you started.

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Herbed Tomato Tart

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One of my best party tricks is buying frozen puff pastry, letting it thaw, and organizing cut fruit or vegetables on top. It looks impressive like you spent hours working on it, but it couldn’t be easier to make.

In the case of this herbed tomato tart, I decided to top it with mozzarella and feta cheese, tomatoes, chopped rosemary and basil, and garlic. The latter was a surprise because I usually reduce or omit garlic in recipes. I’m very sensitive to it. But in this case, it hides under the cheese and it’s subtle, so garlic lovers could even add another clove or two.

A word to the wise about baking puff pastry for this tart: It takes two steps. First, you have to bake the crust in the oven until it gets slightly golden brown and puffy. You’ll take it out of the oven and panic because it will be extremely puffed, and you need it to collapse to put the cheese and toppings on it. Don’t panic, though, because it will deflate after a few minutes. Don’t rush the process. Once the crust is more or less level, you can add the garlic, cheese, tomatoes, and herbs.

This tart is a good vehicle for anything you want to put on top. If you’re not a tomato fan, or you can’t find any good ones this time of year, you could always switch up the cheese and put mushrooms or roasted broccoli on top. The same is true with the herbs. I used rosemary and basil because those are two of my favorite herbs, but thyme would work well, too. You could even do a smoked salmon, crème fraîche version with dill.

Make this tart as soon as possible. It’s easy, delicious, and the leftovers taste great for days.

Here’s a song to get you started on your herbed tomato tart journey.

Herbed Tomato Tart

Ingredients

2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 pint assorted grape tomatoes, halved
3/4 tsp salt, divided
1 14-oz package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed (I used Dufour)
1 8-oz package shredded mozzarella cheese
4 oz crumbled feta cheese
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup finely chopped assorted fresh herbs (I used rosemary and basil)
1 Tbsp olive oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place your sliced tomatoes in a single layer over paper towels. Sprinkle with half a teaspoon of salt and let them sit for at least 30 minutes. Pat them dry.

Roll out your puff pastry into a 14-inch square. Fold in the edges to form a border. Carefully place your puff pastry on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until light golden brown.

Wait for the puff pastry to deflate and then top with the cheese, garlic, and tomatoes in a single layer. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Drizzle with olive oil.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese melts and is bubbly. Enjoy!

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Bulrush

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Bulrush Chef Rob Connoley (center), Sous Chef Justin Bell (left), and Beverage Director Chris Voll.

A couple years ago after I moved back to St. Louis from Washington, D.C., I took a long lunch break and went to check out a new restaurant in town called Squatter’s Café. It was generating some buzz and I wanted to see what it was all about.

I arrived on a colder-than-usual fall afternoon and met Chef Rob Connoley and Sous Chef Justin Bell. Connoley, a St. Louis native and James Beard Award-nominated chef, had recently returned to the Midwest from New Mexico, where he’d opened a foraging-focused restaurant to much critical acclaim. Maybe it was the fact that Connoley and I were both back in the Midwest after a long hiatus, or maybe it was his clear passion for food and cooking, but whatever the reason, I immediately felt a bond with him. I trusted his vision as a chef and I was not disappointed.

That first day at Squatter’s, I ordered a beet salad. It wasn’t just any beet salad; Connoley and Bell put the goat cheese and yogurt inside the beets, so it was a surprise when you cut into the vegetable. The tangy and sour flavors were complimented with candied nuts, shallots, and a side of homemade sunflower seed bread. Everything was fresh and everything had its place on the plate. It was almost too pretty to eat.

I learned through the course of that meal and many to follow that Connoley was focused on foraging. His was an all-consuming curiosity, which he indulged through trips to rural Missouri. He also released a foraging cookbook upon his homecoming to St. Louis. Ultimately, Connoley told me at one point, he wanted to open a restaurant that centered on foraging with a menu that highlighted old, perhaps mostly-forgotten recipes from the Ozark region, a place where he and Bell spent their childhoods. In the meantime, he would refine his vision at Squatter’s.

Now, a couple years later, Connoley is getting ready to unveil his foraging-focused restaurant, Bulrush. It’s been a long time coming, as Connoley, Bell, and Bulrush Beverage Director Chris Voll can attest to, as well as legions of fans eager to try Connoley’s Ozark-inspired cuisine. Connoley gave me a sneak peak of the restaurant today and walked me through some of his plans for the space and the food.

For those of you unfamiliar with Ozark cuisine, it’s a sub-genre of Southern cooking that uses traditional foraged ingredients and wild game. Those foraged ingredients show up in the food and the drinks. For example, foraged flowers and herbs are infused into syrups for cocktails and other libations.

When you first walk into the Bulrush space, there are small barrels on the counter of the bar with fermented vinegars and glass containers along the wall with preserved ingredients. Cookbooks line three shelves along one wall of the bar room, which seats 40. The bar itself includes purse hooks under the table (a feature that pleased Bell’s wife, he told me as I toured the space), and even outlets where one could charge their phones or other electronic devices, if one is so inclined. Simple yet tasteful glassware adorns the counters.

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The dining room next door has a decidedly different vibe, with one wall of exposed brick and the others darker and more muted. One wall of wooden slats between the bar and dining room lets in natural light. A seating area surrounds a small kitchen, where Connoley and Bell plan to do the cooking and chat with guests. The vibe is purposely minimalist, in keeping with Scandinavian design, Connoley said, but he still wanted to add pops of color to brighten the space.

One wall between the dining room and bar accomplishes this goal. Originally, the wall was supposed to be bright orange, the color of a ripe persimmon, but Connoley pointed out that wild persimmons evoke more than just an orange color. He and his team ended up filling up giant horse syringes and squirting paint on to the wall (see the wall in the first photo of this post). It was a labor-intensive process but one that added necessary jolts of color. It’s a work of art in itself.

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I didn’t get a chance to sample food today because Bulrush isn’t officially open yet. A liquor license and health inspection are pending, but Connoley and his team expect to have those completed by the end of this coming week, he said. If all goes to plan, he will open Bulrush to the media next Sunday and then open to the public after that.

Fans of Squatter’s Café will be happy to hear that some of the dishes on the Bulrush menu will be similar to those at the café. Foraged ingredients will be showcased and menus will reflect the seasons.

Many diners will have never sampled Ozark cuisine before their meal at Bulrush, which makes the restaurant’s opening doubly exciting. Connoley told me that he doesn’t intend for the food to be “educational.” Instead, he hopes that guests will come, enjoy the cooking, and ask questions if they want. Or better yet, they won’t ask any questions at all. Then, hours later, he’ll see a post on social media or online about the food or the experience that shows the guest noticed something he didn’t expect them to pick up on, or perhaps didn’t notice himself.

Honest, traditional cooking and pleasure in food and dining will be the name of the game at Bulrush. I can’t wait to see what Connoley and his team have in store at the restaurant. 

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Sheet Pan Gnocchi

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I don’t know about you, but some of my favorite meals are ones that come together in one pot or pan. Cue: This sheet pan gnocchi.

I found the recipe a while ago but I kept putting off making it, not because I didn’t want to but because there were a lot of other dishes (mostly baking-related) on my radar. Yesterday night, I stopped procrastinating and finally got down to business.

This sheet pan gnocchi is one of the easiest and most delicious things you can make on a weeknight. It literally comes together on one pan, so setup and cleanup is minimal, and it bakes quickly so you have a meal in less than 30 minutes.

Some of you might be weirded out by baking gnocchi. I’ll admit that I was put off by it, mostly because I’ve only seen gnocchi boiled or fried. I wondered how they would turn out in the oven with no prior cooking.

The answer is, they were little potato clouds of joy. They were soft on the inside but crispy on the outside, and they absorbed all the herbs and spices I put on top. They mixed well with the soft, juicy bell peppers and caramelized red onion. I have leftovers sitting in the fridge right  now and writing this description is making me hungry.

If you’re not a fan of gnocchi but you like all the other elements in this dish, you could always throw the veggies and herbs on a sheet pan, bake them according to the recipe’s directions, and then toss them with some freshly-cooked pasta. Or you could get creative and double the recipe and serve extra veggies over quinoa or farro.

For those of you using cauliflower gnocchi (apparently that’s a thing?), this recipe from How Sweet Eats gives you some good tips. I used regular potato gnocchi, but I might try the recipe again with cauliflower gnocchi for a low-carb option.

Here’s a song to get you started on your sheet pan gnocchi journey.

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