Tarte Tatin: the Frenchest thing I know how to make

Tarte tatin, post flip.

This is mainly a dessert but obvs should be eaten at all times of day, including for breakfast. It is by far the Frenchest thing I know how to make, but is also incredibly easy, except for the final step of flipping the sizzling creation out of its pan and onto a plate while avoiding scalding sugar juices from giving you third degree burns on your face and arms.

Worth the risk.

The last time I made tarte tatin was two whole summers ago (but I’ll tell you, I think I had it mastered) and now that my pre-emptive nostalgia is setting in I find myself wishing I had more than two hotplates and a microwave to work with so I could make it one last time before I leave. Instead, I’ll share the recipe in hopes that I might avenge my culinary predicament by inspiring more tarte tatins to be cooked elsewhere in the world.

For the benefit of those practicing/learning French here’s the recipe in both French and English (the original recipe was in French). This recipe comes from a book called “Tartes et Salades de Sophie” by Sophie Dudemaine. The French recipe uses weight measurements but I’ve included my google translations of the metric measurements in the English recipe below. Enjoy!!

Pour 6 Personnes

  • 1 pâte brisée ou sablée
  • 1 kg de pommes
  • 200 g de sucre semoule
  • 80 g de beurre (ou margarine)
  • le jus de 1/2 citron
  • [Personnellement je vous conseille de saupoudrer une cuillère de cannelle sur les pommes avant que vous mettiez la pâte, si ça vous intéresse.]

Prenez des pommes plutôt acides comme les granny-smith. Vous pouvez remplacez les pommes par des poires.

Préchauffez le four à 240°C (thermostat 8). Épluchez les pommes, coupez-les en quartiers, ôtez les coeurs et les pépins. Dans une casserole, faites fondre 100g (1/2 tasse) de sucre avec 4 cuillerées à soupe d’eau. Dès que le mélange prend une belle couleur dorée, ajoutez le jus de citron et 40g (1/6 tasse) de beurre.

Mélangez hors du feu et versez dans un moule à manqué ou à tatin préalablement beurré. Disposez les pommes bien serrées dans le fond du moule, face bombée contre le caramel. Parsemez du reste de beurre et saupoudrez du reste de sucre. Recouvrez avec la pâte puis soudez-la à la paroi du moule. Mettez au four pendant 30 minutes environ. Démoulez dès la sortie du four.

Cette tarte se déguste tiède.

——–

Serves 6 people.

  • Shortcrust pastry (pre-made pie crusts would probably work just fine)
  • 1 kg of apples (about 6 large)
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter or margarine
  • juice of half a lemon
  • [Also, throwing some cinnamon on the apples before you put the pastry on is delish if you’re into that sort of thing.]

Choose acidic apples like granny smiths. The apples can also be replaced with pears.

Preheat the oven to 240°C. Peel, core and quarter the apples. In a saucepan, melt 1/2 cup (100g) of sugar with 4 spoonfuls of water. Once the mixture turns a nice golden colour add your lemon juice and 1/6 cup (40g) of butter.

Remove from heat and pour the caramel mixture into a buttered cake pan or tarte tatin pan. Place the apples snuggly together to fill the bottom of the pan with their round sides in the caramel. Pour the rest of the butter and sugar evenly over the apples. Lay the pastry overtop of the apples bringing it to the edges of the pan and tucking it in slightly around the apples. Cook for about 30 minutes. Leave to cool for a few minutes, then very carefully, by placing a plate over the top of the pan, flip the tarte over onto the plate. [Beware of very hot juices!!]

To be served warm or as soon as you can stand it.

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Super Moist Banana Bread (from the microwave)

Author’s Note (June 20, 2017): Thanks to everyone who’s read and commented on this post over the years. Many of you have pointed out that I didn’t give very useful microwave instructions, and you are absolutely right. That was partially an oversight on my part, and also due to the fact that I was using a convection microwave that acted mostly like an oven. Due to some fluke of the internet, this post was linked to in a Buzzfeed list and I’ve gotten more than 20,000 hits because of it. I hadn’t been anticipating anywhere near this much interest in it, otherwise I probably would’ve had someone double check that my instructions were clear! Sorry about any disappointment or confusion. Good luck making banana bread anyway!

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This is my favourite banana bread recipe to date. It makes gorgeously moist and perfectly banana-y bread that can be enjoyed any time of day. Normally I make this in an oven, which I do prefer, but in my apartment in Lyon, sadly, we don’t have an oven. What we have to work with are two hotplates and a microwave that can be tuned to the quasi-functionality of an oven by blending a proportion of grilling and microwaving properties. I was very skeptical. But due to a combination of my own cravings and the tragic discovery that only one or two of my friends here even knew what banana bread was, I concluded that I had to make it. And thus I had to make it work in the microwave. To my great surprise it actually turned out and is fabulous.

A note to hunters of fine vegan (baking) fair: although I haven’t veganed this recipe, there are a bunch of ways you can turn a non-vegan recipe into a plant-borne dream. To replace the eggs, substitute 1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce for each egg, or replace the eggs with a mixture of ground flax seeds and water, a recipe for which you can find here. If you are replacing the egg, try adding a little bit extra baking soda to help the bread rise, because along with binding the ingredients, the egg helps the bread rise (though no guarantees, I haven’t tried that). And of course, you can replace the butter with your choice of butter-like spread, such as Earth Balance, or a regular margarine.

Makes 1 loaf that serves anywhere between one very hungry person to 8 – 10 civilized people enjoying their afternoon tea.

4 or 5 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup butter, melted [75 g]
3/4 – 1 cup sugar [150 – 200 g]
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour [220 g]
Optional tbsp of cinnamon
Optional 1/2 cup nuts (I recommend walnuts) or 2 tbsp poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 350 F. (For the simplicity of this recipe and due to the fact that I have no idea how to describe the functionality of my personal microwave, I’ll assume you have an oven on hand. If not, experiment with a convection setting on your microwave and proceed with caution).

With a wooden spoon, mix melted butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add flour last, mix. Or just throw it all in a bowl and mash it with a potato masher (or the bottom of a glass).

Pour mixture into a buttered 4 x 8 inch loaf pan, or if you don’t have it, a cake pan will suffice. Bake for 45 – 60 minutes. Make sure to check its doneness as the timing may be different. Remove the bread from the pan, cool it on a rack for 5 – 10 minutes (or a plate if you don’t have one) or don’t if you like your nanner bread steaming hot, slice, and serve. Try serving it warm with butter or peanut butter.

P.s. Evidently, I did not post a vegan recipe every day for a week. Luckily (for me) things have picked up in my life and gotten a little busier. I should also make a mental note to stop committing myself to long periods of repetitive activity. I’m really bad at sticking to it. If you were let down by the absence of my posts (I hope for your sake that your life is so good that it was the most disappointing hiccup of your week), I’m sincerely sorry.

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Warm Quinoa Carrot and Avocado Salad and The Edible Woman

To start off my week of vegan recipes I’ve dredged up a blog post I wrote on another blog when I gave up vegetarianism last year. I feel differently now than I did when I wrote it, having concluded in it that my body may have tired of the taste of meat. I can appreciate meat more now, though the same cravings have yet to be satisfied in the way they were in high school. I like to reread this post because it reminds me of what the restrictive vegetarian diet had me feeling like after four years and the surprising lack of cravings I had for meat once I could eat it. Confis de canard, however, is still one of the most delicious things. (Scroll past the recipe to read).

Warm Quinoa Carrot and Avocado Salad

This salad has become my comfort food. It’s warm and snuggly and full of lamb’s lettuce, which is a common thing here unlike in Canada, which is super soft and buttery. I eat this on the regular. I’ve even managed to edge my so-completely-not-vegan friend into liking it. In fact, it might be a gateway salad.

Serves 2 as a main dinner dish

1 cup dry quinoa
1 big bag of lamb’s lettuce or your green du jour
3 medium/large carrots, peeled
1 ripe large avocado
olive oil
lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook up some quinoa (1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water. Throw both in a pot, once boiling turn down to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally for 10-15 minutes or until not crunchy [the overarching goal of grains], adding more water while simmering if not quite cooked).

2. Throw some lamb’s lettuce into two big bowls (my current green fave, though whatever you’ve got will probably work).

3. Scoop 4 or 5 heaping spoonfuls of hot quinoa onto your lamb’s lettuce (do it now so it warms up the lettuce or do it right before eating if you’re not into slightly cooked greens).

4. Shred up three carrots with a fine grater and put on top of your quinoa (I use a grater that people normally reserve for parmesan and it’s pretty great except that it’s broken but normally it would be wonderful and a godsend for your fingers).

5. Cut avocado in half, cube or cut however you like and throw it on top, half on each salad.

6. Douse gingerly with olive oil and vigorously (seriously, don’t be shy) with lemon juice.

7. Nom.

8. Feel great.

The Edible Woman
originally posted June 3, 2011

Things for me have changed quite a bit since we’ve arrived. If you know me, which I’m sure you do since you’re reading my blog, you know that I’ve been a vegetarian for almost four years. I ate fish on and off during that time but felt strongly about my beliefs that if I don’t want to get eaten then why is it fair for me to eat that cow/pig/chicken/(fish?)–they probably didn’t want to get eaten just as much. Only a few days after we arrived in France, however, I decided to eat meat in an effort to experience french culture unfiltered (they love their meat) and to not be a picky eater given that we’re staying in people’s homes and eating at their table. Anyone with a special dietary need knows how burdensome you feel when the cook has to change their dinner plans or make you something else, and eating sides is really no fun.

I have to admit I was kind of hoping I would “need” to give up my vegetarian ways, at least for the summer. Again, if you know me, you also know that I love meat. Some of my close friends sometimes joke about how in high school when I gave up vegetarianism after my second attempt that lasted four months, I came to school the very next day with a sandwich an inch thick with deli meat. So throughout my four years of meatless existence I craved bacon, burgers and chicken strips like a pregnant lady. I would have died for a barbecued sausage on a cornbread bun. Once I had made the decision to eat meat again, looking forward to all of these tastes, that I swore I could remember so clearly even after four years, got me very, very excited. What I found surprised me.

I think the first thing I ate was something with chicken and maybe ham thrown in as an additional feature, not the centre of attention. It was good, but the meat was unnecessary. The first real encounter that would test the true omnivore in any former veggie was the chasse dinner–the hunt dinner–we were attending only a couple days after I turned. This, in true French style, consisted of seven steps: 1. aperitif: before dinner drink (Sembouès soup, a swamp water-like concoction of alcohol made by the mayor), peanuts and chips; 2. fish soup with mussels served, of course, with fresh bread; 3. real crab served on mashed avocado with a small shredded lettuce salad and cream sauce; 4. venison stew, made with venison hunted possibly that very day by the people hosting the dinner; 5. venison steak served with roasted potatoes and veggies; 6. some sort of open-faced apricot and apple pastry dessert; 7. coffee and un digestif: an after dinner drink of armongac, which is a cognac equivalent particular to this region. All of which was served paired with red or white wines and fresh bread over the course of maybe 2 1/2 hours. Aside from the meatiness of this meal there was the challenge of eating it all, because as I’m sure you can imagine, that was a whole lot of food!

What I really tried to observe was my reaction to the venison, the only true alien to my system as I’d been eating fish (though not crab or mussels) for the last year. For many, including my dinner companions, venison seems to be something of a delicacy, a special treat to be appreciated and never turned down. Especially this venison, so fresh and tender. What I found though was that it tasted like tuna–and I know my tuna. I could have totally done without it, completely satisfied with the soup, the avocado (let alone the crab topping) and the bread. But perhaps my meat palette had just lost its good sense.

Since this experience, and it’s been about three weeks, I’ve eaten meat just about every day. And I’ve been waiting for some sort of eureka meal that could live up to how good I remembered meat being. Last night was probably as good as it gets and it came out of a can. We had confis de canard (duck confis), a specialty of this south-west region of France, that cost about 5 euros at the grocery store. It was one of the richest things I’ve ever eaten (the tin had been filled with fat), it was absolutely delicious and I considered whether it was reasonable to mail a can of it to my mom for her birthday back in Canada. It was so good, as good as it gets. But even now my palette and my four-year habit have me asking, even as I take that delicious morcel of duck or treasured slice of perfectly fried bacon into my mouth, what’s the big deal? I keep reflecting on the book, The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood that I just read, which is not about a woman that gets eaten, but who loses her taste for and ability to eat food–meat, then eggs, then even vegetables and fruit–and I can’t help but identify with her. No matter how decisively I accept that duck into my mouth, relishing its taste slowly and observantly, my body has rejected it. It doesn’t want it. And it just might be onto something.

Nearly vegan in the land of cheese

Kale, the vegan signature piece, so far unavailable at my local grocery stores.
Kale, the vegan signature piece, so far unavailable at my local grocery stores.

I went through a phase–we’ll call it August/September–of eating unforeseen amounts of camembert, brie, goat’s cheese, and compté, most often combined with the limited nutrition of white pasta and butter. Cheese was my partner in crime. My dearest friend when I had only few. My lunch, dinner and dessert.

In the beginning of October I finally moved into my own apartment and with it came (half of) my own mini fridge. It was clear that my questionable eating habits had to change (I hadn’t had a vegetable in a solid month and my fruit intake was limited to an apple turnover-type pastry for breakfast).

I didn’t ditch the cheese, not right away. I did branch back into daily salads, yogurt and granola breakfasts, the occasional piece of salmon, fairly balanced dinners, and the occasional overtaking of bread and cheese as an entire meal posing as an after school snack. This was a major improvement that lasted about a month, until I started correlating my feeling gross, lethargic, and unfocused with the timing of granola and yogurt breakfasts and cheese-heavy meals.

After reading Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr last year and many other articles I was pretty convinced that veganism was the healthiest diet a person could adopt (excluding, of course, those vegans in high school who subsisted off of potato chips), I’ve just never gone full throttle into the plant-fueled world. I was vegetarian for four years, up until my first trip to France in May 2011. While there, my ex and I had been staying in people’s homes working for room and board, and I didn’t want to be too picky when we sat down at the table. I came to conclude, after reading Margaret Atwood’s The Edible Woman that what was best for me was flexitarianism (mostly vegetarian save for the occasional meat influence). I’ve pretty well stuck with flexitarianism since. But given my overload on cheese and my flexiveg past, for the last two months I’ve been playing around with flexiveganism (that’s definitely not a real word and may make true-blue vegans everywhere cringe).

And I’m loving it.

The word vegan may have magnetically drawn your cursor dangerously close to the red button on this window, or it may be right up your alley. I would suggest, even to the biggest meat-loving, cheese-mongeing skeptics out there that there’s something worth considering here. Being flexivegan, to me, means that I mostly eat vegan; while at home I make vegan dishes almost all of the time, but when I’m over at someone’s house to eat and there’s some non-vegan fair I’ll eat it. Or when I’m in a restaurant and there’s not even a vegetarian option available nevermind cheeseless, I’ll order something with meat. Or if I’m just feeling like indulging in the deliciousness that is French cheese, I will. Being mostly vegan has forced me to put more thought into my meals and I’m finding them rewardingly delicious.

So to jumpstart my blogging (it’s upkeep is in a dire state) I’m going to share a vegan recipe that I love every day for the next week. I hope you’ll give them a chance, meatlovers of the Internet world. I was once one of you.

Smashed Potatoes and Canadian Apple Cinnamon Salad

This isn’t just a food blog but I’ve been pretty jazzed about food lately. Tonight, Ryan and I made dinner for the family. I was in charge of the potatoes and salad, he was in charge of the Curry Chickpea Walnut burgers and the salad dressing. Tonight’s version of the burgers ditched the black beans in favour of the lentils we had, added almond slivers along with the walnuts, lacked cilantro, added dried cranberries and probably doubled the curry. He also used an egg as a binder because Ryan figured the lentils weren’t as good of a binder. We made this a bit on a whim with whatever we had in the cupboard and Ryan dubbed them “Super India Burgers” because somehow it seemed even more Indian with all the extra curry. Not sure how much more Indian they were than the last but they were delicious.

We were very excited to try making Smashed Potatoes. My mom spent the weekend with new friends who introduced her to these fine potatoes and we just had to try them. They are very simple, but with a little bit of presentation they are basically gourmet.

Smashed Potatoes

Makes 4 – 6 servings. I’m really estimating these measurements by the way because we made it up as we went along. So make sure you follow your tastebuds!

  • All the mini red potatoes you can handle (We used about 1.5 kg for four hungry people)
  • ~ 1/2 cup olive oil
  • ~ 1 tbsp chopped basil
  • ~ 1 tbsp chopped garlic (we used powdered garlic, but man, it would’ve been so good with fresh chopped garlic!)
  • ~ 1 tsp salt
  • ~ 1 tsp pepper
  • ~ 1 tsp rosemary
  • Large wooden spoon (a critical utensil).

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and throw all the washed potatoes in until they are quite soft (even though we’re cooking them twice you want them to be easy to mash when they’re done boiling). Once cooked, start preheating the oven to 375°C. Drain the pot and pull out two large baking sheets. Grease with oil if they aren’t nonstick. I used a baking stone so I didn’t need to worry much about burning the bottoms. Going one at a time, place one potato on the baking sheet. Use the wooden spoon, open face down, to gently press the potato into a medallion shape. It should stay pretty whole, which the wooden spoon seems to accomplish. The fork we tried first just destroyed them. Do this for all of the potatoes, keeping them close together to fill the pans.

Now, mix your oil, herbs, and seasonings in a small bowl. If you have a small brush use that to spread the mixture on top of all of your potatoes. If you don’t have a brush, try lightly drizzling the oil mixture evenly on the potatoes. They should be packed pretty close together, so you shouldn’t lose to much of the mixture.

Bake in the oven for 15 – 25 minutes, the longer the crispier. Let cool, serve, and enjoy!

Canadian Apple Cinnamon Salad

Ryan is fantastic at making salad dressings, but really they are so easy to make!

  • Canola oil
  • Olive oil
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Cinnamon
  • Maple syrup
  • Dijon mustard
  • Salt

You can make as much or as little of this dressing as you want, it’s all about ratios and tasting. Even if you’ve never made dressing before, trust your tastebuds but don’t overreact by adding too much of any one thing at once.

The most important thing to get right is your base. Here, we’re using both canola and olive oils. If you only have one you can make this with whichever you have already, but canola’s great here for its light taste.

Pour just over half as much vinegar as you want finished salad dressing into a small bowl. Add a generous squirt of mustard. That’s not too precise but you can always add more later if the taste isn’t right. Add your maples syrup–about twice as much as the mustard. Then add a generous amount of cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Mix very well. Now for the slightly tricky part. When adding your oil you want to emulsify it, which means mix it into one consistency–so the oil and vinegars aren’t separated like they’re naturally inclined to be. Do do this, you want to very, very, very slowly drizzle your oil into the vinegar mixture while madly stirring it with a fork. You’ll be adding quite a bit of oil but stop frequently to check taste and texture. You want the texture to be about the same as any other store-bought vinaigrette.

Add more mustard, maple syrup, salt, and cinnamon for taste. Ok, this seems really complicated but it’s just a bit hard to describe because there are no measurements. Just try it! If you mess it up, it’s usually salvageable.

Serve with whatever salad you desire. We had a simple and delicious spring mix with shredded carrots, dried cranberries, and raw sunflower seeds. Enjoy!

Curry Chickpea Walnut Burgers

This is a delicious and super easy recipe that’s impressed a few meat lovers in my experience. It’s a great veggie/vegan alternative and is so simple to make anyone can do it.

  • 1 can chickpeas, 1/4 mashed, 3/4 whole
  • 1 can black beans, mashed
  • 1 – 1.5 cups walnut pieces
  • ~ 1 tbsp curry powder to taste (I used Masala curry in a recent rendition of these burgers and it was fantastic)
  • 1 handful of cilantro, chopped
  • 2 -3 tbsp whole seed dijon mustard (not sure what this is called really, but I used Maille’s À L’Ancienne)
  • Other spices or herbs to taste (I added a couple of chopped lime leaves, which was delicious)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mash the black beans and about 1/4 of the chickpeas to a paste (this is the burger binder). Add the rest of the ingredients, tasting intermittenly as you add and adjust spices and herbs. The burgers taste pretty much the same before and after cooking, so follow your tastebuds.

I don’t recommend you barbecue these as they can be a little fragile since there’s no egg or other solid binder. So pan frying is better and delicious. Cook with a bit of oil to avoid sticking until browned and warm. Since there’s nothing that actually needs to be cooked just heat to your liking.

These are great with a bit of spicy hummus or mustard on a whole wheat bun. Serves 6 – 8 burgers. Happy summer!