30 July 2015

Drippy... or droppy

Yesterday I wrote about how much our weather has changed over the past week or so. And then I went out for a walk with Callie. I took a lot of watery photos.

Grape leaves, for example.
And grapes.

Little pink flowers.

Dead leaves.
And living ones.

29 July 2015

Les 100 lieux qu'il faut voir

It's amazing how our weather has changed so radically. It now rains every day, and the high temperature is in the high 60s or low 70s F. I'm sleeping under a blanket again. I'm wearing sweatpants around the house instead of bermuda shorts. All the windows in the house are shut. The electric fans have been put away.

The two big rain barrels on the north side of the house are full again. Walks with the dog in the rain are now common, and the dog needs her paws washed after every sortie. The sun rises later and later, and sets earlier and earlier, and since it's cloudy most of the time it's dark in the house when I get up. I'm sleeping later, because by my nature I get up when the sun does.

It just reminds me how you have to take full advantage of every day of nice weather in this French climate. Sometimes you don't get any summer weather at all. This year, we were lucky to have nearly four months of sunshine, from April to July. Maybe we'll get some more in August and September, but it's not something you can count on.

Back to my title: « Les 100 lieux qu'il faut voir » is another French television series that I've found on YouTube. It's a travel series with, because this is France, some food segments too. Mostly it's about the geography and history of different French regions. It's in French, with no subtitles, since it's made for French TV. Here's an episode about our region, La Touraine, featuring Azay-le-Rideau, Chinon, and Amboise, among other subjects.

There are several dozen full 50-minute episodes of "The 100 Places You Must See" here on YouTube. I'm glad people are uploading them. If you are learning French, or trying to keep your French language skills current.... well, you know what I think. Prenez le temps. Faites l'effort. And enjoy.

28 July 2015

Tajine de poulet aux pruneaux et aux pois chiches

A tajine is a Moroccan dish that combines meat or vegetables or both with a spice blend that can include cinnamon, cumin, fenugreek, allspice, cayenne pepper, ground coriander seeds, and even curry leaves. Tajine vegetables are good when they are on the sweet side — sweet potatoes, winter squashes, parsnips, or carrots, for example. Another way to bring sweet flavors to the mix is to use dried fruit in the tajine, including prunes, dried apricots, or almonds. The Moroccan spice blend is called ras el hanout, and it's good if you can find it. Here's a recipe for it.

I made a tajine of chicken with prunes and chickpeas in early July. The process was to cut the chicken in half, sprinkle the halves with the Moroccan spice mix and salt and black pepper, and then brown them in a hot oven. Meanwhile sauté some sliced onions and garlic in vegetable or olive oil in a pan on top of the stove until they are translucent. Add a cup or two of chicken broth and two dozen prunes to the pan and let it come to a simmer.

When the chicken is browned but not yet cooked through, pour the flavored broth and prunes into the roasting pan in the oven and let everything continue cooking for 30 minutes or so at 180ºC (350ºF), until the chicken is pretty much done and the prunes are tender. Add a cup or more of cooked chickpeas and let it cook 10 more minutes longer. As a final touch, sprinkle the dish with toasted sesame seeds and garnish it with some fresh coriander (also called cilantro or chinese parsely) leaves, or another herb like basil or parsley. The chickpeas are starchy so you don't need rice, couscous, or potatoes with this kind of tajine.