Thursday, November 12, 2015

Stop and smell the hibiscus!

Last Sunday, a pleasant and unexpected surprise occurred. I was feeling more tired than usual after putting the girls down. Marc usually covers this part after dinner while I clean up or take a moment on facecrack. I then go up and do the easy part (tuck them in, sing 2 songs and kiss them goodnight). It works for us. That particular Sunday was rough on the husband so I took over. I'll say this. Our kids really get wired and hyper as they get tired. We see the early signs around 5h00pm and things decline fast from there. By 6h00, we call it "the pumpkin hour". If I can manage to get dinner on the table before that, great! A blessing. The truth is, it rarely happens. We usually grind our teeth and count the minutes till bedtime. We're not bad parents, it's just that phase we're in. Right?

It doesn't matter who puts them down or if we do it together, getting the girls ready for bed is the equivalent of herding cats! The "get undressed and put on you PJs" followed by the "brush your teeth" routine is just so mind numbing. Every. Freaking. Night. That's 2920 nights of practice with our 8 year old!! Yet she and her sister always act as if it's their first time! It's like Groundhog Day again, and again, and again! So we repeat, raise the voice, physically guide them, remind them of what's going on, rinse and repeat till they stop straying or goof off and end up between bedsheets.

I don't know where his expression comes from but Marc usually confirms the accomplished mission by saying: "The girls are planted!" Like I said, I usually leave this to him. He has stronger nerves and Seargeant Bé (that's me), isn't pretty.

Back to Sunday, I'm getting to the point here. The girls were hyper and us adults were drained. It was still sounding like a zoo when I left their bedroom as I dragged my feet into mine. My plan was to resist the bed, recover for a minute, change into cocooning clothes, maybe grab a book and escape into a world of deep ocean, ragged island, secret passages and pirate treasure. Unfortunately, an annoying voice inside my head was nagging about the messy bathroom, piled up laundry, neglected dishes... You know the drill. I was sensing the pressure. Tension was rising. I just sat in my chair in a corner of our room (the only uncluttered one at the time), with my eyes closed and took a moment before deciding on my next move. I should specify that this corner, when tidy, is like my personal oasis. When sitting there I'm surrounded by plants that don't fit anywhere else, there is also a vintage pole lamp, a bit of artwork, a side table and lots of books. A cozy nook!

So there I was, zoning out, eyes still shut. When I opened my eyes, to my surprise, this beautiful red flower was staring at me right in the face and somehow went unnoticed! It came from my hibiscus who had seen better days during the summer. A gift from my father.

Stunned, I just sat there and stared at the beautiful bloom for a while. I even smiled. How could I not? My hibiscus was recovering from a bug infestation, it had lost so many leaves since the indoor transition and was slowly healing in our room. This flower was far from subtle. Not only it was repaying me for the care I gave, it was a sign (as clear as daylight), telling me to chill the fuck out (pardon my French). I studied it in the low light and eventually felt relaxed. From there I moved on to more comfortable clothes, went downstairs to join my husband on a cluttered couch and watched what we considered a fun flick before heading to bed. I guess that was my moment to stop and smell the roses. To enjoy what I had (quiet time with my guy) instead of stressing over obligations and building resentment. Plenty of time for that later! I just hope my tree reminds me more often.

Also, hibiscus don't smell but they sure are pretty! Here it is in it's full bloom the morning after. Such a gift! :)

Monday, November 09, 2015

Kale histoire! A true story.

Thanks to Serious Eats, something exciting happened here a few nights ago with… KALE! It's been 3+ days since my tasty discovery but I hesitated to share here because: 1) The kale bandwagon… 2) That old kale bandwagon… :\ and 3) Kale-pocalypse from blizzard 2015! To me that day was a great source of entertainment and a point of no return. It's been really hard to take this mighty green (or the people who preach about it), seriously. Truth is, I was puzzled by the phenomenon for the last 5 years but it's a blur and the kale-pocalypse is way funnier to remember.

I should be clear though. I don't dislike the vegetable but oh how I loathe the trend and with the years, this annoyance just got bigger. I tried to warm up to it but I felt like I was drowning in a tidal wave of food blogs and magazines that just kept shoving more recipes down our throats and so… I became more irritated. This trend gave birth to an army of well intentioned bloggers, food stylists and cooks who pushed mediocre recipes in the name of the mighty cruciferous green (a few of them need to get their tastebuds checked). There are some great recipes out there, yes, but it's hard to navigate through the bad ones (especially when the focus is on aesthetics and less on flavours). I'm not bitter! ;) Also, how many kale chips can one eat! Edible doesn't always equal "tasty" and almost anything taste great if you add enough olive oil and salt to it. This leafy green has great qualities but it's not going to turn your plate into a "clean" lean dish just because it's the main ingredient (the few times I ate kale and enjoyed it, calories were definitely high). 

Okay, so now that I got this off my chest, let me tell you how this "Kale, Parmesan, and Fried Egg Tartine" blew me away! :D <--Worth a happy face here because HOLY CRAP, DID I ENJOY THIS! There. I said it. I munched and moaned with pleasure while eating it. It even distracted me from a movie I was watching at the same time (Kingsman: The Secret Service). The kale was definitely the main star here (in my plate, not the movie), and a few other supporting factors helped. Good olive oil, sea salt, quality of the bread, garlic and freshly grated Parmesan with a runny egg on top... They were all very good ingredients and together they made me and my mouth happy (nothing to do with healthy).

Here it is. From Serious Eats and the link to try their recipe. Thanks to them, I can talk about kale and not feel bitter! :)

I didn't buy kale to try this recipe. If that was the case, I probably wouldn't have bothered with it (which I now admit would have been a shame). When I stumbled on this link, I happened to be stuck with quite a bit of kale in my fridge. It was waiting… Looking neglected. I felt the pressure. I needed to get rid of it but also needed time to get over a very disappointing smoothie and a hearty soup I had made. That soup tasted awesome but not because of the kale. In fact, that kale felt like an afterthought and made me wish it wasn't in it in the first place. I considered stir-fry or an other soup to finish that thing but honestly, I didn't care. I just let it sit there. 

That's when the sexy pic above popped on my screen. It totally got my attention even though the word "tartine" in the title left me a bit suspicious. I used that word since childhood for anything spread on top of bread (mainly butter and jam). Reading it in an English title felt... gimmicky. It's just a French term that I'm afraid will be used for that other annoying trend: "toast". I love savoury goods on toasted bread but I'm rolling my eyes over that one too… Digressing. I was more excited about the egg, the parmesan and the awesome crusty, country loaf of bread we had. I was skeptical, of course, but the idea that I could get rid of the kale in an interesting way with all those tantalizing ingredients really appealed to me. I almost skipped the kale for ham and tomato slices instead. It was late, we were hungry and I wasn't feeling like experimenting. I went along with it anyway just to say I tried it and it was simple enough. 

When I read to Marc the instructions: "...broil until kale is wilted and charred" we just both giggled. He could only respond with "Mmm, charred kale, can't wait!" Definitely not a selling point. That said, I'm glad I tried it. Turns out the charred kale was the best part! Maybe charred is too strong of a word. Broiled till brown is a bit better! ;) I just loved the taste. Even Marc enjoyed it, saying it was: "Tasty!" In this concoction anyway. The flavours reminded me of brussels sprouts sautéed till brown in a pan like my mother used to do. No surprise here, since kale is part of the cabbage family. It's called "chou frisé" (curly cabbage) in French.

Now here is my less sexy but tasty version below.

Ugly pictures aside (bad lighting... It was late... In a rush to eat), I strongly recommend it! Our bread slices were big so we used two eggs for each long slice to make a decent meal out of it. I realize now that the recipe said to use 4 slices. Somehow we piled it on with success on just 2!

We were out of lemon juice so I used red wine vinegar to "massage" the kale (with olive oil, salt and pepper). They say to not skimp on the massaging. Apparently it softens the kale so I did just that by squeezing it with my hands as I rubbed the dressing in with my fingers. I wish I was joking. The bonus: It's tasty when you lick your fingers after. The broiling went quite quickly and I would say that our toasted bread was ready a good minute before the time mentioned. Also, for this recipe I think you will get more out of your garlic toast if you generously rub the garlic on the bread "after" it's toasted and still hot. It's like magic, the garlic almost melts away, it glides easily and infuses the bread with it's aroma a lot better than if the bread was cold and soft.

This would rock with poached eggs by the way. One of our eggs was overcooked and it was fine but it allowed me to compare it to the one with a runny yolk. Oh baby... the bites with the runny yolk were by far the best ones! I just remember closing my eyes and taking in all the flavours and textures. A hint of vinegar (used to massage the leaves), mingled with the richness of the egg yolk and nutty kale, the softness right next to the crunchy garlicky toast... I wanted that moment to last for ever! It's easy too get blissful results, when you have good ingredients. Speaking of which, we didn't skimp on the Parmesan. We just finely grated away on top of it all. The pictures suffer from it but who cares my taste buds were happy! As if that wasn't enough, we also sprinkled some roasted garlic hot sauce and for us that was an exciting move. This kale snack, tartine, or whatever you are going to call it, was tasty and satisfying! A winner! Thanks Serious Eats!

I'm not going to preach it. JUST follow this link and TRY IT! Resistance is futile! :)