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Where to Eat in Big Sur

Where to Eat in Big Sur // FoodNouveau.com

Note: This post is published in partnership with Expedia Canada and Food Bloggers of Canada. All recommendations and opinions are my own.

I had long wanted to go on a road trip on the California coast, perhaps ever since peeking through the box containing my mom’s slides of when she had done so with her friends while in her 20s. I have always admired her moxie: she took that amazing trip at a time when it was not that common for women to embark on such adventures. And it was an ambitious expedition too: along with two friends, she drove from Quebec, to Vancouver, California, Death Valley, Salt Lake City, Yellowstone, and then back to Quebec. All in all, it was a one-month and 9,700-mile itinerary. That’s an impressive roadtrip if I’ve ever seen one!

But I was not as adventurous as my mom was as a teenager, and I was way too introverted to leave on a backpacking type of trip. When I finally caught the travel bug in my early twenties, there were so many places I wanted to see. The California road trip was still on my mind, but it moved down the list, after Paris, Italy, and several other destinations that felt more exotic.

The Big Sur coast in California // FoodNouveau.com

When my good friend Melanie recently got married in Northern California, I felt like it was at last time to indulge in that teenaged dream of mine. I was pregnant, and it was to be one of our last vacations before the baby was born. We decided to rent—what else—a convertible and to make our way down scenic Pacific Coast Highway 1. The nine-day itinerary would take us from San Francisco through Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Big Sur, San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach, Santa Barbara, Malibu, Santa Monica, and finally, Los Angeles.

Bixby Bridge, an 80-year-old architectural feat in Big Sur, California // FoodNouveau.com
Bixby Bridge, an 80-year-old architectural feat.
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Asparagus, Soft-Boiled Egg, and Dukkah Tartine

If you live in a northern climate, you know the gleeful feeling that comes with seeing the first seasonal crops appear on market stands. Asparagus are among the first of a long line of vegetables and fruits that are to follow over the summer, which is why every year, starting late May, I dutifully watch for their arrival. The seasonal crisp stalks are so fresh they’re almost sweet, so one of my favorite ways to enjoy them is thinly bias-cut and tossed into a salad. This year I decided to pair them with Middle-Eastern flavors and a quintessential partner, the egg. Served in a toasted slice of bread, it’s an elegant brunch dish, or a simple lunch you should enjoy with a glass of white wine.

Asparagus and Soft-Boiled Egg Tartine // FoodNouveau.com

Serves 2

2 eggs
2 thick slices of country loaf bread
2 tbsp [30 ml] hummus
8 oz [225 g] thick asparagus stalks, tough ends discarded
1 tbsp [15 ml] extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp [5 ml] freshly squeezed lemon juice
Finely grated zest of a half-lemon
A pinch of fleur de sel, or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp [30 ml] slivered almonds, lightly toasted
Dukkah (see note)

Prepare the soft-boiled eggs: Set a small bowl with water and ice close to the stove. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Carefully drop the eggs into the boiling water, lower the heat, and simmer for exactly 6 minutes. Fish the eggs out of the water with a slotted spoon and drop them into a bowl of ice water. Leave them in for at least 5 minutes to stop the cooking process and cool down the eggs. Keep the eggs in their shells in the fridge until ready to serve. You can prepare the eggs a day or two in advance, but they will be best if served room temperature. If you boiled the eggs in advance, take them out of the fridge 15-30 minutes before you plan on serving them.

To shell the eggs, very carefully roll one between the palm of your hand and a cutting board, so the shell cracks in a few places (apply very little pressure to avoid smashing the egg!) Peel the shell off the egg, and then rinse the egg under cold water to remove any leftover bits of shell that could still be sticking. Reserve.

Make the asparagus salad: Very thinly slice the asparagus stalks on a bias. Put into a bowl, and add the extra-virgin olive oil, the lemon juice and zest, some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss well, taste, and adjust seasoning if needed. Add the slivered almonds and mix well.

Assemble the tartines: Toast or grill the slices of bread, then place each slice on an individual serving plate. Spread some hummus onto each slice, then top with the asparagus salad. Cut each soft-boiled egg in half and set two halves on each tartine. Sprinkle liberally with dukkah. Serve immediately.

Note: Dukkah (sometimes spelled dukka, or duqqa) is a Middle-Eastern mixture of nuts and spices that typically contains almonds, hazelnuts, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and sesame seeds. It is traditionally enjoyed as a snack or an appetizer by dipping a piece of bread into olive oil, then into the dukka mixture. It’s also delicious sprinkled on salads, meats, and fish. Dukkah is sold in specialty grocery stores, but it’s also easy to make it at home.

Recipe Credit: Marie Asselin. The recipe was previously published in French by Fou des foodies.

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Black Olive and Arugula Israeli Couscous Salad with Roasted Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette

Ever heard of Israeli couscous? This “couscous”—in fact a pasta made with wheat flour—is a wonderfully versatile foundation on which to build tasty warm or cold dishes. Also called Jerusalem or pearl couscous, the chewy pasta absorbs surrounding flavors without ever losing its shape and texture or clumping together, possibly making it the ultimate ingredient for prepare-ahead salads. In this recipe, the beads soak in the rich roasted tomato dressing and elegantly mingle with crunchy cucumbers, pungent black olives, earthy parsley, and peppery arugula. It’s a bright and gorgeous salad: one that screams for you to put together a picnic on a warm summer day. Bring along a bottle of rosé wine from Provence, and you’re in for a treat!

Black Olives and Arugula Israeli Couscous Salad with Roasted Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette // FoodNouveau.com

Makes 4 side-dish portions

For the roasted cherry tomatoes
2 cups (about 12 oz) [500 ml/340 g] cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp [15 ml] extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, left unpeeled
½ tsp [2.5 ml] sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the vinaigrette
2 tbsp [30 ml] extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp [30 ml] water
1 tbsp [15 ml] white balsamic vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
1 tbsp [15 ml] freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ tsp [2.5 ml] sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the couscous
1 tbsp [15 ml] olive oil
1 cup [250 ml] Israeli (or Jerusalem, or pearl) couscous
1 ¾ cups [425 ml] water
¼ cup [60 ml] Kalamata black olives, pitted and chopped
½ cup [125 ml] Lebanese cucumbers (or English cucumbers), diced
¼ cup [60 ml] chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 handfuls arugula (rocket) leaves
1 tsp [5 ml] chopped fresh thyme leaves

To roast the cherry tomatoes: Preheat the oven to 300°F [150°C]. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Halve the cherry tomatoes and place in a mixing bowl. Add the olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper and mix carefully to coat the tomatoes without crushing them. Spread on a single layer on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Tuck the unpeeled garlic clove in-between the tomatoes and roast in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes, or until they have shrunk in size and are slightly shriveled around the edges. Let cool completely in the pan.

To make the vinaigrette: Once the roasted cherry tomatoes are completely cool, place half the tomatoes, the peeled roasted garlic clove (it will be very soft now), and all the vinaigrette ingredients in a tall measuring cup. Puree with a hand blender until you reach a smooth and silky consistency (you can also do this in a blender). Reserve.

To make the couscous: Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the Israeli couscous and stir until the beads are toasted and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the water. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the couscous is al dente (soft with a bite). Note: You might need to use more or less water, depending on the brand of Israeli couscous you’re using. Please refer to the manufacturer instructions. If you taste the couscous and you feel it’s done but there’s still water in the pan, drain it. Let the cooked couscous cool completely.

In a large mixing bowl, toss the couscous, black olives, and diced cucumber together. Add a few tablespoons of dressing and toss to distribute the dressing evenly. Add the parsley, arugula, thyme leaves and reserved roasted cherry tomatoes. Toss carefully just to mix the ingredients together. Taste, adjust seasoning, and add more dressing if needed. You can alternatively serve the extra dressing in a jar so your guests can add more to taste.

Serve immediately. If making the salad in advance, keep the arugula out and toss it into the salad just before serving.

Recipe Credit: Inspired by a recipe by Deb Perelman, Smitten Kitchen

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Visiting Paris with a Baby

Place des Vosges, one of the best picnic spots in Paris // FoodNouveau.com

Last year, we went on a trip to Paris with our then-7-month-old baby. It was a long trip to undertake, but we wanted to quickly get some practice at travelling as a family and Paris seemed like the perfect place to do so. And guess what—we actually enjoyed the vacation. Travelling abroad with an infant is a big (huge!) project, but it’s totally doable if you plan ahead.

Before leaving, I had tons of questions so I did a lot of research. I came back feeling like we successfully passed a crash course in family travel, so I thought it would be useful to share my experience. Here’s the post I wish I had read before I left for Paris—with advice that will be useful for any other European destination.

Please note that I am NOT sponsored by any of the companies I recommend below. I’m just a nerd when it comes to travel planning and I thought that my experience might be useful to other parents too.

Jardin des Tuileries, a huge, kid-friendly park in Paris // FoodNouveau.com
Jardin des Tuileries, a huge, kid-friendly park in Paris.

What to Bring

It’s hard to travel light with a baby, but keep in mind that in Paris, you’ll find everything you’re used to buying at home. You can keep luggage weight under control by bringing the minimum number of diapers and wipes and buy formula, purees, and snacks on site. The range of products offered is just as wide as it is in North America, if not wider.
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Chocolate and Hazelnut Pots de Crème

Company is coming, and you want to serve dessert. You don’t feel like embarking on a time-consuming baking project, yet you don’t want to serve anything ready-made. Think making an impressive dessert in 15 minutes is mission impossible? Well, think again. Make these pots de crème once, and they will become a classic. Your guests will swoon over the silky texture, the rich flavor, and the indulgent nature of this quick and easy dessert. What’s more, they will ask you to make “those amazing pots de crème” again when they return to your home for another meal. You will become renowned for these; in fact, they will do wonders for your culinary reputation. It’s the little black dress of desserts: just whip it and forget it. But do make sure you carefully keep the recipe a secret so nobody knows you actually spent the afternoon sipping cocktails.

Chocolate and Hazelnut Pots de Crème // FoodNouveau.com

Chocolate and Hazelnut Pots de Crème

Serves 6

3.5 oz [100 g] dark chocolate, chopped
½ cup [125 ml] hazelnut spread (such as Nutella, see notes)
¼ cup [60 ml] granulated sugar
1 tsp [5 ml] cornstarch
4 egg yolks
1 cup [250 ml] milk
1 cup [250 ml] heavy cream

To serve (optional):
Toasted and chopped hazelnuts
Whipped cream
Fresh fruits, such as raspberries, cherries, strawberries, apricots, figs, or pears (see notes)

In a large bowl, add the chopped dark chocolate and hazelnut spread. Reserve.

In a saucepan off the heat, whisk the sugar and cornstarch together. Whisk in the egg yolks. Add the milk and cream and mix thoroughly. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil, mixing constantly and scraping down the sides and bottom of the pan so the mixture doesn’t stick. Once the mixture boils (it won’t take more than a minute or two), bring the heat down to a minimum and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it has thickened to a custard consistency.

Pour through a sieve and into the bowl containing the chopped chocolate and hazelnut spread. Let sit for a minute, then whisk until smooth.

Pour into 6 glasses or bowls (½ cup [125 ml] capacity). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours, or until the cream has completely cooled down.

Top with whipped cream, fresh fruits, and toasted hazelnuts, if desired. The assembled pots de crème can keep for 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator. Take them out to room temperature 15 to 30 minutes before serving.

Chocolate and Hazelnut Pots de Crème // FoodNouveau.com

Notes:

  • If you don’t have hazelnut spread on hand, substitute 2.5 oz [70 g] dark or milk chocolate.
  • Use whatever fruit is perfectly ripe and on season. Larger fruits can be cut in slivers or diced; I like to pour half the chocolate cream, add some fruits, pour the rest of the mixture over, then top with more fruit once the cream is cool. It makes for a fresh surprise while enjoying the dessert!

Recipe Credit: Adapted from Ricardo Magazine.

Download this recipe in PDF format - Food Nouveau