Thursday, April 8, 2010


"Potager" is the name of a cookbook that we received as a house-warming present when we moved into our home.  It is a wonderful book, with the recipes arranged by season, and illustrated with lovely photographs* of mouthwatering dishes. The idea is to cook using ingredients that are in season, fresh - and found locally -preferably, in your own kitchen garden.

I am not a gardener (and we do not have a kitchen garden), nor a super-confident cook. I used to love to make complex dishes and have lots of people over to share them, but somehow, the combination of menopause and "chemo-brain-by-osmosis" has made multi-tasking very difficult for me.

I love, admire and respect French cuisine. Having an exchange student from France staying with us poses certain culinary-intimidation factors. I kept fantasizing about taking Zoe to various local restaurants, sharing our favorites with her. Gregg ruined that fantasy by reminding me that we need to cook and serve what Americans eat, at home, for her. Rats! Foiled again.

Knowing that the French love fresh bread every day, I bought fresh croissants, jam and baguettes for Zoe's breakfast, along with three different kinds of cereal, "just in case." (Though I admire Julia Child, I haven't mastered her bread recipes.) When it turned out that Zoe preferred the croissants, we had a leftover baguette. Have you ever tried to eat a leftover baguette? They quickly come to resemble a baseball bat. The best thing to do is to use the bread in a recipe.
Last night, we served a Northwest specialty: wild salmon, cooked simply with butter and lemon on the barbecue. I made a fresh fruit salad, and used the leftover baguette to make a savory asparagus bread pudding, with a recipe from Potager. I have made this before, several years ago.
Being me, I didn't follow the instructions to the letter, but it turned out well and everyone liked it (I substituted two different cheeses and dried herbs). It needed to bake quite a bit longer than the recipe suggested, but it was delicious, if I do say so. It's substantial enough to be a main course.

I bow to those of you who frequently cook everything from scratch (KBL & Suz, are you still with me?) and tell you that I'm cooking with great humility and a little concern that I may have a "flop" one of these nights. So far, so good - but tonight, Gregg has to attend a function for work, and David has a golf team tournament in another county, so I'm going to take Zoe out for dinner. Thai? American? Italian? We will find out what she prefers.

And a P.S. to yesteryday's post (about the school assembly): they don't have cheerleaders in France. That experience was a first for Zoe!

P.P.S.: I keep speaking to her in French, and then stopping myself - she is here to learn more English! I'm going back and forth between the two languages in my mind. English (Anglais) + French (Francais) = (as we used to say in high school French class) Franglais.

*Photographs from the book Potager.


Meg said...

I'm sooo jealous you have a french exchange student!!!! I love France and the french language, and I always begged my parents to invite a french student to stay with us, but since I have two younger siblings and we don't have an extra room in my house, they always said no. :( I'm especially starved for french this semester since there wasn't room in my schedule to take a class....I keep eavesdropping on french people's conversations :P

Have fun with Zoe, you are so lucky! et moi aussi j'aime parler "franglais" ;)


Anonymous said...

Can I come to stay too?! That bread and butter pudding looks delectable!


Elizabeth said...

That looks so delicious -- I'm giggling a little at your being intimidated by cooking for a French girl. It reminds me (and I think I mentioned it before) of the exchange student we had when I was young -- her amazing sense of style so intimidated me and my sisters, and she was only thirteen!

Angie Muresan said...

This is so sweet, Karen. I often find myself with an eager wish to please my house guests, yet so intimidated by the fact that they are culturally so much more sophisticated than I am.

Busy Bee Suz said...

That dish looks amazing Karen.
I never follow recipes to the letter. And I don't cook every thing from scratch...really, I don't.
We might have pigs in a blanket tonight!!!
I still have never had salmon either.
Can't you do a little herb garden in a container on your deck? You would love having fresh herbs.
So jealous you can speak french...I can barely speak english. :)
Have a blessed Friday!!!

Kay said...

Well, look at it this way.. if you 'flop' in the kitchen, you can always order a pizza. Another American experience. LOL

deb said...

Well, I have to say this is going to be fabulous reading, this experience through your eyes.

and I can't imagine anything you do as anything less than perfect. When my nephew and niece were here from Florence , on separate occasions this past year, they were actually eager to eat what we do. And not at all fussy.

and the thought of the fresh salmon alone.... wow.

AnnDeO said...

You are making my mouth water posting pictures of food... I can't wait until I get my kitchen back have a home-cooked meal... and anything will do as I am not the greatest culinary expert. Glad you are having fun.

Karla said...

The food thing has always been a struggle when we have exchange students too. :) Your meal sounds wonderful! And it sounds like you're having lots of fun.