a very merry foodstuffs gift guide (second annual!)

bonjour mes amis! christmas is coming fast and i’m trying to cross as many names off my gift list as possible this week. while i’ve found some adorable gifts here in paris, i couldn’t help but reminisce on my foodie gift guide of last christmas’ past. so here it is! back and brand new with more foodie gifts than your stomach can imagine.

hand-picked by me, these gifts are all food-related and all quite adorable. if you’ve got a cozy friend or mushball of a family member, this list is a good place to start.

so go ahead, start shopping! 

1. blueberry muffin ornament by anthropologie

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better yet, gift this with some homemade blueberry muffins! buy hereanthropologie.com

2. avocado baby booties by uncommon goods

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it’s important to start them early. buy here: uncommongoods.com

3. al dente relaxed tee by reformation

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i know you have a friend who loves pasta. buy here: reformation.com

4. cherry socks by happy socks

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i’m known for my colorful socks in the kitchen. these are a sure bet to your co-worker’s heart. buy here: happysocks.com

5. pretzel necklace by food52

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leave it to my old employer to sell an adorably chic ! pretzel ! necklace. this might have to pass as a gift to yourself. buy here: food52.com

6. dachshund double oven mitt by anthropologie

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for the food *and* dog lover in your life, this oven mitt is a must. buy here: anthropologie.com

7. paris pâtisseries watercolor print by jessie kanelos weiner

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inspired by a handful of the most famous french pastry chefs in the world, this print is a true francophile favorite. buy here: etsy.com

8. gigantic donut pool float by bigmouth inc.81FoC4gH+zL._SX569_

summer is always right around the corner. buy here: amazon.com

9. old fashioned christmas card by yellow daisy paper co.il_fullxfull.1380366465_t64m_540x

tight on cash this holiday season? spread some cheer with a funny card. buy here: yellowdaisypaperco.com

and last but surely not least, one of my favorite’s from last year’s list:

10.  béchamel: le cordon bleu collector’s bear by le cordon bleu

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the cutest stuffed-animal for your dog to rip to pieces this holiday season. bye béchamel!! buy herecordonbleu-boutique.com

all photography by credited shops. 

thanksgiving in paris!

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hall of mirrors at versailles (galerie des glaces)

hi friends!! happy post-turkey week. i hope you and yours had a great holiday. i am a very lucky lady because my whole family came to paris last week to join me for thanksgiving. what a treat it was!

we ate, laughed, drank good wine, ate some more, and on and on. it was the best. i also finally saw versailles! yes, it has taken me over a year and a couple months to get there but boy was it special. and not crowded! i would definitely recommend heading there in the offseason — no lines, space to take your photos, and easy sitting at the restaurants surrounding the beautiful gardens.

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brunch at l’espadon, ritz hotel paris

while my family was here, we celebrated my big brother rob’s engagement (!! yay rob and megan!), made a very special visit to the ritz hotel for brunch, and checked out a number of cool spots. frenchie bar à vins (where my bestie liz works), the smiths bakery in saint germain, and le progrès in montmartre were some of our favorite places we visited. put them to the top of your list for your next trip!

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thanksgiving shopping at a french produce market

above everything, it was just wonderful to spend the holiday week with my family. my french friends at work and pretty much every french person i bumped into smiled widely at me as i told stories of ordering my turkey (known as dinde in french), and visiting the french markets to pick up thanksgiving ingredients. as we collected our turkey on thanksgiving morning, the butcher wished us “bon thanksgiving!

while i made a homemade apple caramel pie, we picked up pumpkin and pecan pies from the cutest american bakery in paris: stoney clove bakery. they were great! and the pie crust on the pecan pie was particularly flaky and buttery. my favorite type of pie tbh.

*p.s. if you ever plan on spending thanksgiving in paris, i would highly recommend picking up a turkey from boucherie le foll in saint germain. place your order in advance!

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anyways, now that turkey week has come and gone and i’ve successfully eaten multiple portions of leftover turkey soup, i’m in need of something a bit lighter to kick off the week. enter one of my favorite go-to’s, roasted eggplant. i added fresh moroccan medjool dates that i found at the grocery store to this version, as well as toasted hazelnuts, goat cheese, mint, and sumac. quick and straight-forward, this recipe will help you make room for the many, many christmas cookies that are coming your way this holiday season.

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r o a s t e d   e g g p l a n t   w i t h   m e d j o o l   d a t e s,  m i n t,  a n d   g o a t  c h e e s e

fixings

roasted eggplant

one large eggplant, cut in 4

1 teaspoon cumin

1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) extra-virgin olive oil, the best you can find

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon pepper

assembly

1 cup whole hazelnuts, cut in half

1 cup goat cheese

bundle or packet of fresh mint

1 teaspoon sumac and more olive oil for flavoring

directions

roasted eggplant

  1. preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit/180 degrees celsius.
  2. mix all the spices and olive oil together, cover eggplant slices in mixture (skins and flesh!). and finish with drizzling a bit more olive oil on top.
  3. bake eggplant for 20-25 minutes in oven. check halfway through and add a bit more olive oil if the eggplant seems dry.
  4. enjoy! spices in this recipe are quite flexible. some additional ones i like to throw in are thyme, red pepper flakes, and a squeeze of lemon at the end.

assembly

  1. toast halved hazelnuts on medium heat in a fry-pan until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
  2. finely chop mint until it reaches a paste-y texture and consistency, add olive oil and sumac to mint and mix in a side bowl.
  3. pull goat cheese apart into morsels. top roasted eggplant with dates, mint, hazelnuts, and goat cheese. drizzle with olive oil to finish.

quick roasted eggplant + august snapshots!

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my roasted eggplant with farro, pine nuts, fresh tomatoes, ricotta, and lemon

cuckoo! happy almost end of summer and who am i kidding that is not something to be happy about. i am writing to you from a coffeeshop in my parisian neighborhood of pigalle where the windows are open and it is cool enough that i am reaching for my sweater. sad!!!

to mourn the loss of summer, i am recapping a bit of my august here. sun! beach! fresh veggies! basically drinking olive oil every night for dinner!

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biarritz’s plage du port vieux

i am fresh off a trip to biarritz, an idyllic beach town in french basque country (pays basque). oh how i wish i could’ve spent more than 48 hours there! i started my trip with ice cream for dinner and that basically sums up my behavior on this vacay. a #TreatYoSelf attitude was definitely fully embraced. highlights were my long run along the beach boardwalk, a visit with my travel bud liz to les halles, biarritz’s large indoor-outdoor market, and spending a whole day jumping in and out of the ocean! i’ve listed some of my favorite spots so you can bookmark them if you ever get the chance to visit biarritz!

les halles halles de biarritz, place sobradiel

eden rock café 2-4 espl. du port vieux

le surfing 9 boulevard du prince de galles

comptoir du foie gras 1 rue du ctre

hat shopping in biarritz

other than my biarritz getaway, i’ve been working my little tushy off for most of august. i’ve perfected my butter piping for the tartines i make every weekend and who would think that one day i’d be thrilled about piping butter! the things that come out of my mouth these days are starting to make me giggle. in the photo you can see the apricot version of our tartines at the ritz, served with apricots soaked in their syrup, toasted almonds, and verveine.

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apricot tartines at les week-ends de l’espadon

after long workdays, i’ve been coming home and winding down with a bit of low-stress cooking. lately i’ve been putting roasted eggplant in everything and i thought i’d share my simple recipe. from farro bowls to pasta to just all by itself, roasted eggplant is a great summer to fall transition staple.

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pasta night at home with roasted eggplant and tomatoes


q u i c k   r o a s t e d   e g g p l a n t

fixings

one large eggplant, cut in 4

1 teaspoon cumin

1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) extra-virgin olive oil, the best you can find

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon pepper

directions

  1. preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit/180 degrees celsius.
  2. mix all the spices and olive oil together, cover eggplant slices in mixture (skins and flesh!). and finish with drizzling a bit more olive oil on top.
  3. bake eggplant for 20-25 minutes in oven. check halfway through and add a bit more olive oil if the eggplant seems dry.
  4. enjoy! spices in this recipe are quite flexible. some additional ones i like to throw in are thyme, red pepper flakes, and a squeeze of lemon at the end.

o t h e r   s t u f f 

a fabulous meme.

what are your favorite flowers to buy for your house/apartment/just for fun?

strawberry mint jam

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oof has it been hot out or what !! i don’t know about you but these past couple of weeks in paris have been broilingly warm. (i just made up a new word! broilingly!) and as expected, there is no air-conditioning in paris. this is something i actually like for the most part but at a certain point, i. need. air. very grateful for cold showers!

despite the heat, i’ve been doing the most and getting up to all sorts of things in paris and beyond. i celebrated the world cup win, rang in my birthday at frenchie bar à vins, welcomed a quick visit from my dear friend bridget, and took a trip to hamburg to see my lovely friend greta. july was good to me.

i realized last month that i was running out of my favorite strawberry jam that i picked up in lille, france at fromagerie philippe olivier. i actually wrote about this shop in an earlier post! encouraged by all the cherry chutney i’ve been making at work each week, i decided to make my own strawberry jam and boy is it easy. i’d made jam in the past and remember thinking it was easy then too but it wasn’t until i started testing for this strawberry mint recipe that i was reminded how quickly jam comes together.

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before we go any further, i must let you know that i’ve *technically* betrayed you with my titling of this recipe. for true jam experts, this recipe is actually a preserve. for more on the differences between jams, jellies, and preserves, bon appetit has a great write-up! and for most others (the unfussy types), this here is a jam recipe.

strawberry jam is one of my favorite things to eat in the morning time. whether it’s spread on a warm baguette like you see here or piled on top of yogurt, it always adds a kick of sugar to your morning. and it doesn’t stop there! as i’m typing, i’m actually eating a snack of ricotta cheese topped with this strawberry jam, olive oil, salt, and pine nuts. just divine! if i were you i’d write down that recipe as well because it’s perfect for an your apéro hour, light dessert, or snacktime.

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a few bites on the cooking of this jam:

  • jams, preserves, jellies, etc. require pectin for the thickening of the fruit. in my recipe, the pectin comes naturally from lemon. if you prefer a thicker jam, i’d recommend using a prepared pectin like pomono’s.
  • canning is a big topic of conversation when it comes to jams. see this handy guide for all the do’s and don’t’s.

s t r a w b e r r y   m i n t   j a m

fixings

1 part strawberries, halved or quartered

2/3 part granulated sugar

1/2 lemon, juiced

4 mint leaves, whole

for one 11oz jar, i used 2.25 cups/450 grams strawberries, and 1.5 cups/300 grams granulated sugar

directions

  1. mix all ingredients together (note: don’t mix in the full 1/2 lemon, just it’s juice) and bring to a boil.
  2. boil on medium-high for 15-20 minutes, until your jam coats a wooden spoon. once the spoon is completely coated and the jam has a thick, syrupy consistency. take off heat and remove the mint leaves with tongs. load jam into your canning jar.

o t h e r   s t u f f 

wondering where i got the beautiful baguette to eat with this jam? it’s from my new favorite neighborhood bakery, mamiche! a must for your next visit to paris.

one of my favorite vintage shops in paris

i’m heading to biarritz (france’s basque country) in two weeks. any recos??


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post67 // foodstuffs presents: how to pick crab 🦀

while back in the states, i spent most of my time at my family’s home on the chesapeake bay in maryland. oh am i lucky! we swam in the bay, sunbathed in the hot hot weather (aka jumping in and out of the water to cool down), ate my favorite maryland cookies, and most importantly, picked crab!!

picking crab is one of my family’s favorite summer activities at the bay. anyone who has come to visit our house knows that we love crab feasts and if you join our table, you’re going to learn how to eat crab. so come and watch my table side tutorial and learn how to pick maryland blue crab. you’ll be ready for the bay in no time! 


and in other, non-crabby news:

i met molly yeh in paris!! what a wonderful day we had. i’d actually met molly before at the food52 hq but it was so fun to bop around paris with her. read what she had to say about her paris trip and the awesome ice cream we ate!! 

i moved to a new apartment in paris. full debrief on my new neighborhood, pigalle, to come as it’s filled with so much great food. definitely put the Rue de Martyrs on your list for places to visit when you’re in paris!

#spagoals

i haven’t seen this movie in a while and i think it’s about time for a re-watch😂


photography and videography by catherine o’donnell/foodstuffs.blog with the fourth photo in the video by sean matheson/sonofmath.com

post66 // foodstuffs turns 1!

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hi guys and gals! today i’m celebrating something a lil’ special: foodstuffs’ first birthday! it was one year ago today that i launched this blog and i’m feeling quite nostalgic for all the fun i’ve had with it in the past year.

from launch day where i announced my big move to paris (and made some julia child croissants) to explaining french wine and all my incredible travels around europe this year (paris! london! amsterdam! normandy! lille!), this blog has been an incredible platform for me to share, cook, bake, and learn.

to celebrate what a year it’s been, i rounded up my reader’s top ten favorite foodstuffs recipes! and fittingly, the number one spot was narrowly clinched by a great recipe for celebrating, birthday sprinkle cake!


foodstuffs top 10 recipes of all time

  1. birthday sprinkle cake

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what’s more fun than making a cake and tossing sprinkles on it to celebrate? absolutely nothing (especially on your own birthday). inspired by christina tosi of milk bar and molly yeh of funfetti cake-dom, this cake is now a birthday staple in my kitchen. snag the recipe here!

2. dark chocolate chip cookiesIMG_1761

warm chocolate chip cookies are one of life’s best pleasures. amp up your standard recipe with dark chocolate chips and dark brown sugar like i do here for a richer, even tastier cookie. after posting this recipe, i received a lot of texts declaring just how good this recipe truly is. (*heart melts*) snag the recipe here!

3. avocado shrimp rollsfullsizeoutput_cc6

if one recipe could speak summer, this is it. after a big family party with leftover shrimp cocktail, i put the little shrimpies to use as the center of this roll. with easy-to-buy ingredients such as avocado, herbs, and mayo (don’t forget the potato chips!), this recipe is a simple lunch or dinner on a hot summer day. snag the recipe here!

4. homemade bagelsfullsizeoutput_b0c

want a fresh bagel in the morning? do you live in new york city? if you answered yes first and no second, this how-to is for you. and don’t be intimidated! this recipe is fool-proof. snag the recipe here!

5. fairground peanutsVersion 2

candied nuts are one of the best food gifts out there. you’ll see them more in the colder months but don’t underestimate their addictingly crunchy texture that’s perfect for your next dinner party’s aperitif hour. snag the recipe here!

6. saturday pancakes

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a go-to pancake recipe for weekend mornings is pretty necessary in my book. enter my easy pancakes, adapted from a classic martha stewart recipe. you’re ready for the weekend! snag the recipe here!

7. ricotta and tomato tartfullsizeoutput_fb0

tomato season is *almost* upon us so it’s time to get familiar with this recipe and add it to your repertoire. fresh ingredients are key to this dish so make sure you choose wisely at the farmers market or grocery store. snag the recipe here!

8. french crêpesfullsizeoutput_b2c

my crêpe-making skills have come a long way since this first post. maybe it’s time for a reboot? in the meantime, this recipe is a great place to start. and know that you can find the best crêpes in paris at breizh café and the best in france in the brittany region! snag the recipe here!

9. salted butterscotch apple pieIMG_1615

i made my own butterscotch! coupled with an all-butter pie crust and apple fruit compote, you’ve got pie perfection. this recipe also has a latticing how-to for pie decorating so it’s truly worth the read! snag the recipe here!

10. homemade french friesfullsizeoutput_c0d

humans and canines were big fans of this recipe. it’s always refreshing to learn what goes into something you eat at restaurants all the time. and for what it’s worth, french fries are very good in france as well! snag the recipe here!


so what’s next for foodstuffs??

i’m looking forward to more recipe creation in the year to come, much of which will be inspired by all the technical recipes and skills i learned while studying at cordon bleu.

and the kicker is that i’ll be working out of paris! i’ve just accepted a pastry externship at the ritz paris. “thrilled” is an understatement of my feelings right now. much like culinary school, i’ll be blogging about my experience over the next 6 months there. so stay tuned!


and last but not least, in this week’s other stuff:

the absolute cutest pajamas i’ve ever seen

just purchased a couple backdrops from these guys. looking forward to putting them to use!

this just got me. happy belated father’s day💛

oh and i have a new instagram handle! make sure you’re following @catherinekatemargaret

post65 // strawberry tart

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it’s officially strawberry season !!! well maybe not “officially,” but the strawberries are out and about here in paris and i’ve received news that they are springing up stateside as well.

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the dutiful strawberry happens to be one of my favorite fruits to use in desserts. watch out if you’re baking with me in the summertime, i sneak them into everything! (example a and example b.) last week, i decided to use them in a cake i baked for one of my first “clients” — yes, i got paid! i made a fraisier, a french cake with strawberry layers on the outside, genoise sponge cake as the base and pastry cream and more strawberries filling the middle. it’s called a fraisier because “fraise” means strawberry in french. the fraisier is usually topped with a thick layer of marzipan (almond paste) on top but i decided to forego this in order to let the strawberries truly shine.

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in this week’s recipe, i adapted the fraisier to a tart base and added in a thick layer of strawberry jam to the bottom of the tart. one thing i’ve learned in pastry school is that a surprise layer inside a cake or tart is a really fun way to jazz up a dessert. also when someone cuts into the dessert, they’ll see these different layers and colors, which can be super appealing to a customer.

if you’re like me and keep leftover pie crust in the freezer, go ahead and defrost it straight away! if not, i’ve listed my classic pie crust in the bottom for you to start on. it’s easy peasy!

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the actual assembly of this tart was super fun and i bounced around a lot of ideas for layering the strawberries before i landed on this one. it’s simple and makes a statement — that’s a twofer i’m always a fan of.

i opted for a “rustic” pie crust but if you’d like to shape or microplane your crust to make it perfect, go for it! i just liked the look of something not too fussy.

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and in this week’s other stuff! 


strawberry tart

fixings

pie crust (for a 9-inch tart ring, you will have leftover):

2½ cups ap (all-purpose) flour // 320 grams

1 teaspoon salt // 6 grams

1 tablespoon sugar // 12 grams

1 cup (2 sticks) well-chilled unsalted butter // 225 grams

extra butter or oil to prep pan

pastry cream

1½ cups milk // 360 grams

4 medium-sized or 3 large-sized egg yolks

3/4 cup sugar // 120 grams

2 tablespoons cornstarch // 24 grams

2 tablespoons flour // 24 grams

1/3 cup butter // 80 grams

1 cup beans for blind bake

assembly

1/4 cup good-quality strawberry jam // 80 grams

basket of strawberries (at least 20 small to medium-sized)

directions

crust (adapted from Kate Lebo’s, Pie School):

  1. preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. fill a spouted liquid measuring cup with about 3/4 cups of water, plop in some ice cubes, and place it in the freezer while you prep the following steps.
  3. in a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, and salt. drop 1-tablespoon pieces of butter into the flour and toss the fat with the flour to evenly distribute it.
  4. place your palms up and curl your fingers back to scoop up the flour and fat. rub, rub, rub it between your thumb and fingers, letting it fall back into the bowl after rubbing. make sure you reach into the bottom and around the sides of the bowl to incorporate all the flour into the fat, until the mixture is slightly yellow, slightly damp. it should be chunky—mostly cherry-size pieces, the smaller bits resembling coarse cornmeal.
  5. take the water out of the freezer. pour it (slowly!) in a steady thin stream around the bowl for about 5 seconds. toss to distribute the moisture. as you add a bit more water and toss, the dough will become a bit shaggy and slightly tacky to the touch. press a small bit of the mixture together and toss it gently in the air. if it breaks apart when you catch it, add more water, toss to distribute the moisture, and test again. if the dough ball keeps its shape, it’s done.
  6. split the dough into 2 and form each ball into a thick disk using your palms and thumbs. wrap both disks in plastic wrap. refrigerate for 30 minutes to 3 days before rolling.
  7. butter or oil the tart pan. once rested, take the crust out of the fridge and roll to fit your tart or pie pan. use the rolling pin to run along the top of the tart pan in order to remove excess dough from the sides.
  8. layer a sheet of tin foil on the crust. pour the beans or rice onto the tin foil to prep the crust for par-baking.
  9. bake the crust for 5 minutes at 425 degrees, then lower the heat to 375 degrees and bake for 15 more minutes. warning: these cooking times may vary from oven to oven so just keep watch on your tart!

pastry cream (while your crust is baking!):

  1. whisk together egg yolks and sugar while putting milk onto boil. combine egg yolks with dry components: cornstarch, flour, sugar.
  2. once milk reaches a boil, pour gently over the other ingredients while whisking. transfer all ingredients back to pot and heat together until thickened and bloopy. take off heat and add the butter. mix well and transfer to the fridge to cool down. (this can be done up to 3 days ahead of time.)

assembly:

  1. while tart is cooling (in fridge, freezer, or just at room-temp), hull strawberries and cut to ~1/2cm thick slices. for reference, i got about 4 slices out of each medium-sized strawberry.
  2. once tart is cool, fill bottom with a thin layer of strawberry jam. follow with a thick layer of pastry cream, spiraling from the inside out. make sure to fill any gaps with extra pastry cream.
  3. layering the strawbs: organize your strawberries from large to small before putting them on the tart. start by placing strawberries along edge of the tart. once the first row is complete around the tart, add a second layer that staggers the first. repeat until you fill the entire tart, leaving just a small hole in the middle to plop three strawberries in for garnish. voilà!
  4. store tart in a sealed container in fridge. it should keep for up to 3 days depending on when you made your pastry cream.