Pumpkin-Shrimp Curry {and an Umbra giveaway!}

Pumpkin-Shrimp Curry // FoodNouveau.com

While testing this week’s recipe, I had the chance to play around with new Umbra toys in my kitchen. For those of you who don’t know Umbra, they’re a Canadian company that has grown to become a reference in modern design for the home. Not unlike other well-known European companies, they hire industrial designers to create or reinvent clever accessories, but the good thing is that their creations are super affordable. I have been a fan for many years (I especially like their bathroom collection, because finding cool and beautiful accessories for that room is otherwise impossible very hard), and last week, I had the chance to test some of their newest accessories for the kitchen.

When I cook, I’m a huge fan of doing all the prep in advance. Like in cooking shows, I put every ingredient in a small bowl, ready to be used. I know, it makes for a lot of dishes to wash (just ask E, I can create a mountain of dirty dishes in a few minutes flat), but the system just works for me. This is probably why I fell love with the Bento Cup & Prep Set at first sight. A bamboo cutting board tightly covers a tray that fits five smaller containers, which cleverly double as measuring cups. The tray itself is mounted on rubber pads making the bamboo board a safe and very stable cutting surface. Of course, the fact that the whole set looks like a beautiful Japanese lacquered bento box doesn’t hurt either.

Testing Umbra's Bento Cup & Prep Set // FoodNouveau.com

As I prepped all the ingredients for the curry, I noticed how easy it was to incorporate the Bento system in my routine. I took the smaller trays out and lined them up in front of the cutting board. As I chopped the ingredients, I simply swept each of them in their own container, knowing exactly when I had reached the quantity I needed for the recipe. Because I was prepping in advance, I then stored all the ingredients in the tray, covered it over with the board and put the whole set in the fridge while waiting for E to come home. Now where were the cameras? I was ready to film my cooking show!

Testing out Umbra's Bento Cup & Prep Set // FoodNouveau.com

I’m usually not a fan of allowing new gadgets to enter my kitchen (my drawers are already chock full of them), but when it works, I just can’t resist. I’ve been using the Bento set regularly since; my only regret is that it’s not dishwasher safe, but I assure you, the containers’ smooth surfaces makes them a pinch to wash – otherwise I would’ve given up a long time ago.
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{Book Review} Mastering the Art of French Eating (plus a Q&A with the author and a giveaway!)

Enter to win a copy of Mastering the Art of French Eating, a memoir by Ann Mah // FoodNouveau.com

Ah, France. I have become aware of how fascinating that country is to so many people from around the world since the day I first started my blog. My posts related to French cuisine or tourism always gather more reactions, and so do the Instagram pictures I snap when I’m in Paris. Of course, the reason that I write about France is because I’m a Francophile too. How can a French-Canadian be a Francophile, you might ask? Well, the France bug may bite us even harder because of our history, our mother tongue, and a curiosity to learn where we come from.

To make the wait between each of my trips to my mother country more bearable, I enjoy collecting and reading memoirs written by expats who visited or lived in France for a period of time. The most recent of such tales is Mastering the Art of French Eating, written by food and travel writer Ann Mah. Ann is married to a diplomat, Calvin, and they were assigned to Paris for three years starting in 2008. Paris was Ann and Calvin’s dream post, but unfortunately, their fairy tale was short-lived: they had barely dropped their bags in Paris when Ann’s husband was sent to Iraq for a year. Arriving with the romantic plan of exploring a new city hand-in-hand with her French-speaking husband, Ann suddenly found herself navigating a new culture on her own while trying to keep her worry and loneliness at bay. Where did Ann find her salvation? Why, in food, of course!

Paris on a cloudy day // FoodNouveau.com

For a year, Ann traveled all over France to learn everything about 10 of the country’s most famous culinary specialties, from Brittany’s crêpes and Haute-Savoie’s fondue to Burgundy’s boeuf bourguignon and Provence’s soupe au pistou. In her book, she covers one dish per chapter, providing little known historical information and tales of her adventures in each region, allowing her readers to meet the fascinating characters with whom she crossed paths along the way. Each chapter is also crowned with a recipe, and she makes it possible to recreate each dish at home in an authentic way, even if you’ve never tasted the original before. Ann provides tips for success and even substitutes for ingredients that might be hard to find outside of France.

Intertwined in this culinary tale are touching tidbits of Ann’s evolving life in Paris, from her lonely evenings and long-awaited Skype calls with her husband to cultural blunders (bien sûr), shining a light on a more realistic portrait of diplomatic life. How can one be sad in Paris? The charm of her memoir resides precisely in the heart-wrenching contrast between her dream life in the gorgeous city of lovers and the deep loneliness that she finds herself ironically stuck with shortly after getting there—a solitude she’ll slowly climb out of, one dish at a time.

Mastering the Art of French Eating is a book that every Francophile, food lover, and travel buff should read. Whether you’ve been to France or you’re still dreaming of visiting, whether you’re a French cuisine expert or a complete novice (hey, I won’t blame you if andouillette hasn’t made its way to your plate yet), you’ll be charmed by Ann’s tale and close the book realizing you’ve learned much more than you expected you would.

Mastering the Art of French Eating is out now! Pre-order your copy, or learn more about the book through Ann’s website.

To whet your appetite, I have asked Ann to answer a few questions about her trips to Paris, her favorite dish from the book, and her current life in New York City with her husband and newborn girl. Take note: she even graciously provides us with her favorite addresses in Paris!

Psst… Don’t miss the chance to win one of two copies of Ann’s Mastering the Art of French Eating. The giveaway is now over. Thanks for entering!

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Fragrant Red Lentil and Tomato Soup

Fragrant Red Lentil and Tomato Soup // FoodNouveau.com

Soup is always an easy answer at my house. Don’t feel like cooking? A steaming Asian soup filled with leftover chicken and veggies it is. Not so hungry for lunch? We go for a cup of blended veggie soup with a slice of bread and a piece of cheese. I always try to have a variety of portioned soups in the freezer as I feel they’re the ultimate last minute meal solution. Plus, I never ever feel like I don’t want to eat soup. It’s a sure shot.

This particular soup is one of our favorites. It’s hearty enough to hold you until the next meal, it’s super flavorful and rich tasting, and it freezes wonderfully. If you’re not such a lentil lover, know that red lentils are not only prettier to look at than the green or brown varieties, they also have a creamier texture and a milder taste. This recipe serves 2 to 3, but I always double (or even triple) it. What’s chopping a little more veggies now if your effort’s going to produce a few more delicious, ready-made meals for later?

Serves 2-3

1 tbsp [15 ml] olive oil
1 medium-sized yellow onion, diced
1 tsp [5 ml] ground cumin
½ tsp. [2.5 ml] ground turmeric
½ tsp. [2.5 ml] ground allspice
½ tbsp. [7 ml] finely grated fresh ginger
2½ cups [625 ml] vegetable broth (you can use chicken broth too)
½ cup [125 ml] red lentils
1 large rib celery, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
4 plum tomatoes, chopped (set aside one of the four chopped tomatoes)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the cumin, turmeric, allspice, and ginger and cook, stirring continuously until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the broth, lentils, celery, carrot and 3 of the 4 chopped plum tomatoes. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and let the soup simmer until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.

Add the remaining tomato and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Let the soup simmer until the tomato is heated through, a couple of minutes. Serve sprinkled with fresh coriander leaves, or let the soup cool completely, portion and freeze in airtight plastic containers.

Recipe Credit: Adapted from Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel, Eating Well When You’re Expecting

Download this recipe in PDF format - Food Nouveau

More Hearty Soup Inspiration:

Citrus Mousse with Macerated Strawberries

Citrus Mousse with Macerated Strawberries //  FoodNouveau.com

I’ve never eaten as many strawberries as I have this year. They’re a staple at breakfast, and we’ve been devouring our way through dozens of baskets since late June. Here in Quebec, the height of the strawberry season in early July, but in late August come the “Fall strawberries”, which many consider even more flavorful, sweeter and juicy than their earlier counterparts. It is indeed the case this year, and I’ve been trying as many strawberry-based recipes as possible to make the most of the ruby-red fruit post-breakfast.

I like to enjoy strawberries fresh as opposed to cooked or baked to preserve their juicy nature and delicate texture. This verrine balances the sweetness of the berries with the tanginess of citrus in a flavor combination that can best be described as heavenly. The mousse is airy, not stuffy or heavy, and the maceration process turns the strawberries into flavor bombs. I like to enjoy this mousse with butter cookies, which should generously be dipped in the delicious concoction.

Makes 8 to 10 small verrines.

For the Citrus Mousse
6 large eggs
1 cup [250 ml] granulated sugar
½ tsp [2.5 ml] salt
¾ cup [180 ml] freshly squeezed juice from lemons and limes (I use 2/3 lemon for 1/3 lime, but feel free to play around with the proportions)
Finely grated zest from all the lemons and limes used (grate the zest before squeezing the juice, it’s much easier)
¾ cup [180 ml] heavy cream
1 tsp [5 ml] pure vanilla extract

For the Macerated Strawberries
1 lb [454 g] fresh strawberries, washed, dried and thinly sliced
¼ cup [60 ml] sugar
1 tbsp [15 ml] orange-flavored liqueur (such as Grand Marnier)
1 tsp [5 ml] fresh mint leaves, very finely chopped

To make the mousse: In a non-reactive saucepan, which together 3 eggs, 3 yolks (reserving the 3 remaining whites in a small bowl), ¾ cup [180 ml] sugar, salt, citrus juice and zest. Cook over medium heat while stirring constantly until the mixture thickens like pudding, about 10 minutes.

Pass the citrus curd through a fine mesh strainer into a large mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until it’s cool. (The curd can be made up to 2 days ahead).

To make the strawberries: Mix the berries, sugar, liqueur and mint in a bowl. Let the berries sit for at least 30 minutes so they release some of their juices.

To assemble the verrines: Whip the egg whites and remaining ¼ cup [60 ml] sugar until stiff peaks form.

Add a third of the whipped egg whites to the chilled citrus curd and mix to lighten the texture of the curd. Gently fold the remaining egg whites in.

Whip the heavy cream with the vanilla extract until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the whipped cream into the citrus mousse. Fold until the cream is smoothly incorporated.

Divide the macerated strawberries between the verrines, saving about ½ cup [125 ml] to top each portion. Fill the verrines with citrus mousse, top with the remaining strawberries and top with fresh mint leaves, if desired. Serve immediately or chill until service.

Recipe Credit: Adapted from Zoë François.

Download this recipe in PDF format - Food Nouveau

More Strawberry Inspiration:

Where Has Summer Gone? A Blogging Hiatus and a Big Announcement

Monet's Gardens in Giverny, France // FoodNouveau.com
Snapshots of summer: Monet’s Gardens in Giverny, France

No, you’re not dreaming. It’s been months (!!) since I’ve posted on Food Nouveau! It’s the longest break from blogging that I’ve ever taken, and I’ve been feeling guilty about it every day.

It all started back in May, right after I came back from a trip to Paris with my mom, and I started working long hours on designing and producing the second issue of Quebec City’s food magazine, Fou des Foodies, which was published on June 13th (it’s a free digital magazine— in French—browse it online here!). As anybody who has ever worked on a magazine project will tell you, the last weeks before publication are always crazy. Even when everything goes well, it’s still a lot of work, and I juggled that project with the rest of my freelancing work. As weeks went by, I had to prioritize, and, unfortunately, Food Nouveau was the first to suffer.

Since then, I’ve had trouble getting back into it. With each week that passed, my blog began feeling like an old friend with whom you’ve lost contact for so long that you feel awkward about calling again. So much time has passed—where should I start? Should I pretend like nothing happened?

A narrow backstreet in Paris // FoodNouveau.com
Snapshots of summer: A narrow backstreet in Paris

The lake in front of our chalet in St-Férréol-les-Neiges, an hour out of Quebec City // FoodNouveau.com
Snapshots of summer: The lake in front of our chalet in St-Férréol-les-Neiges, an hour out of Québec City

Back in the spring, I received big (huge!) news too: I’m pregnant! It’s been a long time coming. E and I have been “working” on this project for years, and after high hopes, miscarriages, endless medical tests, and a constant roller coaster of emotions, it looks like we’ll finally be parents. I received a positive pregnancy test in late April while we were on vacation in Saba. For the first few months, I was feeling really stressed, and I quickly realized that worrying about the pregnancy and counting the days until I reached the three-month mark was eating up all of my free time. When I was working, it felt like I was on autopilot, going from one task to the next. Slowly, I lost the will to do the things I used to live for: cooking and writing. Thus, the hiatus.

Mind you, I didn’t spend all summer locked inside, sitting in a corner, doing nothing. I still cooked, but I made much simpler dishes, and I went back to “un-blogworthy” (but oh-so-delicious!) classics. Besides working, I did everything that I usually do, except blogging. Suddenly, thinking about my next post was the least of my worries, and taking pictures of the dishes that I ate in restaurants didn’t seem so important anymore—in fact, quite frankly, it felt liberating. Once, while E and I were enjoying an especially good meal, he asked, “Don’t you want to take pictures?” I realized then and there that I hadn’t even thought about it. I was on blogging vacation!

The beach in Santa Monica, California // FoodNouveau.com
Snapshots of summer: The beach in Santa Monica, California

So slowing down has been feeling really good, but now, it feels like the break has been long enough. This post is my commitment to getting back into the game. Starting next week, new recipes, how-tos, restaurant reviews, and travel posts will make a comeback, and my weekly Edible Cities column will return in September, with fresh, new contributors and even more travel inspiration.

How has your summer been? If you have suggestions or requests for the blog (or pregnancy tips, what have you!), as usual, please don’t hesitate to send me a line! It’ll be my greatest pleasure to hear from you, and it’ll only motivate me to make Food Nouveau a part of my daily routine again.