Caviar d'Aubergine: An easy, delicious family recipe for you

Eggplant aubergine raindrops gouttes pluie potager garden france
Merci beaucoup for the sweet messages, encouragements, and support you left following the anniversary post. I am fired up for another 16 years of writing and will read your bonne continuations whenever I need a motivational pick-up!

Fun fact: this post will take you 2 minutes and 38 seconds to read to the end. If you were to read it out loud, that would take 4 minutes and one second (stats from, which I use to check my article drafts).

Today's word: la chair

    : flesh, meat, body

avoir la chair de poule = to have goosebumps

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

With so much wind under my wings (thank you again for your notes regarding the 17th year of this journal!), I thought I would simply share (funny, I typed *chair* first time around--the word of the day was on my mind and that is how the French pronounce it!), yes I thought I'd chair or flesh-out the story of a simple meal.

This impromptu dinner happened last night, after Mom and I sat down to déguster a few of the vegetables I'd prepared during the day: some patates douces that needed attention, as well as aubergines that were getting so big and ripe in the potager they would soon go to seed! Fearing sabotage--that weird emotional trance that has us ignoring our opportunities--I grabbed my shears and went to collect the two giant eggplants. A very dear golden retriever, our Smokey, followed along to help....

Smokey golden retriever and eggplant aubergine raindrops france

Cutting open the giant berries (unbelievably eggplant are classified this way!), I was amazed to see how beautiful they were: la chair was firm and bright--only some small seeds that were easily removed with a handy jagged-edged grapefruit spoon. I had in mind to make my mother-in-law's caviar d'aubergine dish, only, skimming her handwritten cahier, I could not find la recette (I did bump into Michèle-France's delicious bananes flambées, and her instructions very much as in the au pif recipe I gave you last week!).

So I did a google search, combining the gist of a few French websites to get exact ingredients for the most basic recipe of eggplant caviar. Here's my simple version, and it was simply delicious over toast--and as an accompaniment to les cuisses de canard (canned, talk about an easy dinner!), and the roasted sweet potatoes (simply halve the patates and sprinkle on olive oil, herbes de provence and salt and pepper on top, then into the four at 350F for 30 minutes).

 Eggplant Caviar

- 2 large eggplants, halved and scored
-2 garlic cloves
- sprigs of rosemary (optional)
- swirls of olive oil, sprinkles of salt, pepper, herbs
- half a lemon
- olive oil to taste (a few tablespoons to a half cup!)

After topping the eggplant halves with olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs, tuck a few sprigs of rosemary and some quartered garlic cloves into the cuts of the scored eggplant. Now turn the eggplant halves face down on a cooking sheet and bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until the eggplant is soft enough to crush inside.

Once cooked, remove only the rosemary, then scoop out the flesh and add to a mixing bowl. I do not have a food processor, but a simple fork was enough to crush and blend the eggplant flesh. Add the juice from half a lemon and olive oil (and more salt and pepper) to taste.

Oh, and what taste! My Mom absolutely loved it, and she is not a fan of eggplant! She actually had seconds and thirds--so you must tenter la recette--give this recipe a shot--and share it with your friends and loved ones. It is wonderful comfort food, too.

It's lunchtime here in France, and so I'm off to reheat and repeat last night's meal. I will try to take a picture and add it to this post. So please check back, and thanks, as always, for reading. I'm so glad you are here. 



P.S. Vocab section coming soon. I'm reheating lunch now for Mom and me..... Update: here's the photo. That's the caviar d'aubergine, on a piece of toast smothered in pan juices (fat) from the duck!:
Eggplant caviar sweet potatoes duck
la chair = flesh
déguster = to taste, savor, eat
la patate douce = sweet potato
une aubergine = eggplant
le cahier = notebook
la recette = recipe
au pif = by guesswork (or by eye-balling it)
tenter = to attempt something

Kristi and jules christmas lights
Photo and caption from my Instagram: I know it is early, and I don't want to stress anybody out...but it was Mom's idea to get a Christmas tree today. Then again, Mom keeps a Christmas tree all year round--dazzling with lights, because, she says, Light is everything! Amen!

Aubergines poivrons pommes slate ardoise
I fell in love with mousse before caviar. In the first case "mousse" was a charming street in Marseilles... and "caviar" was what was waiting for me at the end of that winding road, just a French football field from the sea. (Read the rest of this tender story, from the archives here).

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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Broyer, Pilon + Mousse au Chocolat aux Epices - a spicy dessert to celebrate this word journal's birthday


Thank you for the wonderful profiles you are sending in, in celebration of this word journal's 15th birthday. It is a pleasure and a gift to read about you for a change, and your "bonne continuation" messages have given me an invigorating second wind! If you did not see your comment posted, scroll down to the end of the comments in the previous post and find the tiny "show more comments" link.

I told you I was celebrating this milestone and today's chocolate mousse is a festive way to do so! This is an easy recipe my superhero belle-soeur made for our family lunch in Avignon, chez Jacques (mon beau-frère, who gave us all that popular French yogurt cake recipe). The hardest part about chocolate mousse is the patience you'll need to slowly incorporate the whipped egg whites into the melted chocolate. We've included a video clip to help you to understand la vitesse involved. And you'll hear a slice of Nick Cave's album "Skeleton Trees", which was playing in the background as Cécile (who just saw him in concert in Paris!) made this spicy dessert. (A note about the photo: that's a bottle of beer in the background. In another photo, you will see a wine bottle opener--two objects which have nothing to do with a recipe tuturial for chocolate mousse. Don't worry, neither object belongs to me--and neither belongs in the photo. But it's kind of funny, isn't it? Which reminds me to tell you to just have fun making these recettes, and enjoy collection of our French family and friends recipes in these delicious archives

Today's words are BROYER and le PILON

    => the first means "to crush" or "to grind" and the second is a pestle, in French

AUDIO FILE & Example sentence
Hear Jean-Marc read today's words and the following sentence:

Soundfile for broyer and pilon

Ouvrir les graines de cardamom, les broyer au pilon.
Open the cardamon seeds, grind them with a pestle.


by Kristi Espinasse

My sister-in-law, Cécile, spent the night Saturday so she could help us with a few projects here at our new home in La Ciotat. For one, we needed her welding skills to take out an iron banister along our front porch. Next, we needed her to remove the base of some giant slide-out drawers that belonged to an old bed frame we dismounted (and transformed into a potager or kitchen garden! In this way we avoided having to buy wood to construct a new frame!). 

A bed frame repurposed into vegetable bed

Finally, Cécile helped with our family lunch, by making dessert.  This chocolate mousse was a spicy suite to the most delicious meal (Jacques' longtime love, Mariem, is Moroccan. And Mariem's dear and funny maman made us the best couscous in the whole wide world...marinated lamb, chicken, large slices of long-simmered pumpkin, carrots, zucchini, onion, raisins, and piment all on a bed of grains. After eating the gently-spiced plat principal, the gingerbread-safron aromas lingered in my mouth as I drifted off the the land of Tout Va Bien. (Isn't that where comfort food takes us? To a place called All is Well?) Surrounded by my adopted French and Moroccan family, and the history we've knitted together, was the next best thing to a 1970s Thanksgiving with family in the Arizona desert--only a selection of cheeses didn't follow the main meal, and, afterwards, my sister and I didn't shoot at leftover beer cans with Grandpa's BB gun. (In reality we probably only did this once, and we were in the wide open desert--almost as far off track as this missive has gone....).

I leave you with a recipe as thick and rich as good family memories. Enjoy, and many thanks to my sister-in-law, Cécile, who created this Spicy Chocolate Mousse and who appears in the photo tutorial below (she apologizes for her stained hands, but she welds and hammers in a workshop or atelier every day!). Cécile has a new Facebook page featuring her furniture and other creations. See you over there!

Pour 8 personnes

200 grammes de chocolat noir
200 grams of dark chocolate

6 oeufs
6 eggs

5 sachets de sucre vanillé
5 packets of vanilla sugar (you can use 5 tablespoons of sugar, just add vanilla flavoring)

1 morceau de gingembre
1 piece of ginger

du zeste de citron
some lemon zest

10 graines du cardamom
10 cardamom seeds

un demi verre d'eau
half a glass of water


Melting chocolate in a bain-marie or double boiler

Faire fondre le chocolat au bain-marie
Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie (this is simply a small pan set inside a larger pan filled about halfway with water, which will gently heat the pan of chocolate above it)

Ouvrir les graines de cardamom, les broyer au  pilon
Open the cardamom seeds, grind them with a pestle
Breaking open the cardamom
Pestle to grind the  seeds

Emincer le gingembre et le zeste de citron
Mince the ginger and the lemon peel

Slicing and mincing the ginger and lemon peel

Réserver le tout dans un peu d'eau pour faire ressortir les arômes
Reserve everything in a little water to bring out the aromas

ginger lemon peel cardamom in water

Séparer les oeufs
Separate the eggs (yolks from the egg whites)

Mettre le sucre vanillé avec les jaunes d'oeufs, avec une fourchette battre le tout et incorporer le gingembre citron, cardamom
Put the vanilla sugar with the egg yolks, with a fork beat everything together and incorporate the ginger lemon, cardamom

Monter les blancs en neige (astuce: ajouter un pincée de sel)
Whip up the egg whites (tip: add a bit of salt)

Lorsque le chocolat est fondu, incorporer la préparation avec les jaunes d'oeufs, et rajouter un peu d'eau au besoin pour que cela soit fluide.
When the chocolate is melted, incorporate the preparation with the egg yolks, and add a little water as needed to make it fluid.

Combining the eggyolk preparation with the melted chocolate
Mettre cette preparation dans un plat . Incorporer tout doucement les blancs d'oeufs montés en neige, cuillière par cuillière , l'idée est de faire rentrer de l'air dans la préparation.
Put this preparation in a dish. Slowly stir in the whipped egg whites, spoonful by spoon, the idea is to bring air into the preparation.

Mettre la mousse au frigo plusieurs heures. Si vous êtes pressé, c'est possible de la mettre au congélateur, une heure.
Put the mousse in the fridge for several hours. If you are in a hurry, you can put it in the freezer for an hour.

Spicy chocolate mousse with ginger cardamom lemon peel and verveine or verbena leaves on top

Manger très frais.
Eat it chilled.

Bon appétit - and for more recipes visit the recipe archives...

Cecile tabouret bench
Cécile's benches, tables, mirrors and shelves can be seen in Aix-en-Provence!

Aix'Potentiels is a shop at 9 Rue Fermée in Aix en Provence (check the address, as the boutique may move in the new year).
There are lamps, jewelery with stones and leather, bags, cushions and carpets, candles and ambiance perfumes, sweets for the taste buds, plants, furniture for the interior--mirrors, seating ... and much more!
An expo every month, and especially passionate people!
Open Monday to Saturday from 10h to 19h

Aix'Potentiels, c´est une boutique au 9 rue fermée à Aix en Provence
Ce sont des lampes, des bijoux en pierres et en cuir, des sacs,des coussins et des tapis,des bougies et des parfums d´ambiance, de la reliure des douceurs pour les papilles, des plantes, du mobilier de la décoration d´intérieur des miroirs, des assises... et bien plus encore!
Une expo chaque mois, et surtout des gens passionnés !
Ouvert du lundi au samedi de 10h à 19h

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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La Crève and Chili Basta! Fast and Easy Chili recipe with a Provençal twist

Corsica where the mountains meet the sea

Along with most of the rest of France, j'ai chopé la crève. I wonder how? Did I catch a cold while crammed into a stairwell with other ferry passengers on our way home from The Island of Beauty? Or, as my dentist suggested during a three-part "crowning" series (ma première couronne! I've got one more appointment to go...), did I catch a draft during mi-saison--when even the French don't know how to dress?

As I lie under a pile of blankets, with a sore tooth and a headache, my daughter appeared, having just returned from her job waiting tables (this time at a local campsite canteen). Speaking softly she asked if there was anything I needed. "Je peux t'ammener du thé? Quelque chose à manger?" Can I bring you tea? Or something to eat? Next Jackie informed me, "Tout le monde a la crève. Everybody's got a cold. (And, by the next day she had it too :-(

Then Jean-Marc began complaining of a maux de gorge.... Uh-oh spaghettio! 

Speaking of food, I have not lost my appetite so it must be, as Jackie guessed, la crève and not the dredded grippe, or flu. At the first signs of a sore throat, I wondered whether a hot or spicy soup would help? N'importe! Best to hurry and make something before symptoms got worse and there was nothing to eat in the house! A nourishing bean stew--coupled with fading vegetables from the farmers market--would get our family through the next couple of days.... I only needed to shop for one ingredient (the ground beef), but you may have another substitute (chicken, turkey, cubed porc...) available? Hopefully you have some onions and carrots lying around and a can of kidney beans? You are almost there....

CHILI BASTA (or chili "bye-bye" in bye-bye La Crève!)

350 grams of ground beef

Herbes de Provence (the "Provençal part!)

salt and pepper

2 carrots

2 peppers (I had one yellow, 1 red)

1 red onion

4 cloves of garlic

2 large cans (800 grams each) of tomatoes (mine were whole, in juice)

1 can of kidney beans (800 grams)

1 or 2 Tbsp of SRIRACHA SAUCE

1 tablespoon honey (I used Jean-Marc's vineyard honey)

=> Brown the meat, adding the salt, pepper, and herbes de Provence. Transfer to larger soup pot. Continue frying the rest of the vegetables in oil, either together at once, or, as I did, peppers, the onion and garlic, then carrots....adding them to the soup pot.

=> Add two cans of whole tomatoes and their juice (I broke up the whole tomatoes with my hands). Then add the kidney beans, the honey, and the hot sriracha sauce. Let simmer for an hour (the longer the better). Bon appétit and don't forget to wear a nice écharpe to keep the drafts out and prevent  la crève!

What do you enjoy in your chili? I love to cut up cubes of cheese (I had emmental and delicious comté on hand) to add as a topping--this helps cool down a scalding hot chili.

listen to today's French phrase choper la crève:

Choper la creve

Spicy Chili basta on a bed of Corsican chestnuts or chataignes

Chili Basta on a bed of chataignes harvested in Corsica. Hey, chestnuts would be good in in this chili, too! Next time....

For more recipes, scroll to the end of this post, and look for the "recette/recipe" tag. Many thanks for reading and for those who would like to support this free word journal, it is easy to do so:

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Beaux Arts school in Toulon
Jackie, our 20-year-old daughter, begins her second year at art school. After living in Aix-en-Provence, where she studied design, she will now attend class in Toulon at the historic L'École supérieure d'art et de design Toulon Provence Méditerranée. Wish her bonne chance! (And wish the rest of us bon rétablissement...or "get well soon!")

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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Adieu Mas des Brun: Last dispatch from the vineyard & Ratatouille recipe!

Mas des brun hat cabanon sea view
Goodbye Mas des Brun. Thank you for 5 wonderful years!

FARNIENTE--from the Italian fare (to do) and niente (nothing). Farniente is a new word for me, and an old one when it comes to naming a home (Jean-Marc tells me many French people name their homes farniente). Help us find a name for our new place, submit your suggestion in the comments at the end of this post


Click here to listen to Jean-Marc read the following French words
Nous cherchons un nom pour notre future maison...nous pensons à "Farniente."
We are looking for a name for our future house...we're thinking about "Farniente."



Goodbye Mas des Brun

by Kristi Espinasse

I've just cleared off my desk to type this last dispatch from our former home sweet home. It is quiet here now, only a very dusty house and a few towers of boxes after Jean-Marc's family left, last night.

What a help they were! Jean-Marc's brother, Jacques, arrived, along with Mariem, his "coeur" (as he's called her for years) and her 11-year-old son Farès, who is a smiling participant in anything--even moving! My belle-soeur Cécile joined us, too, for phase one of our déménagement.

Forming a human chain, our family transferred the wood pile to the rented camion and emptied the entire contents of Jean-Marc's wine cellar bottle by bottle, case by case! As an array of dusty bouteilles traveled out of the cave
UP the path in front of our porch, our golden retriever was reminded to sors de là--or move it! 

Demenagement moving rental truck
Our former home. Read about that window above Smokey....

If Smokey is a little displaced so is his unbeknownst-to-him adversaire, Lili--the 12-year-old long-haired chat we've inherited along with our new (1960-built) house in La Ciotat. Though Lili has been entrusted to the neighbors, we all hope she'll just stay put. The question is, after 10 moves, will we stay put too?

Talk to you again soon--from La Ciotat. Meantime, help me answer Cécile's, question: "What will you name your new house?" Submit a name in the comments box below (link at the end of this post).

Mon Coeur = sweetheart
la belle-soeur = sister-in-law, step-sister
le déménagement = move, moving
le camion = truck
une bouteille = bottle
la cave = cellar, wine cellar
sors de là! = move out of the way!

Oven-roasted ratatouille
Batch after batch of oven-roasted ratatouille has sustained us during this move! My favorite way to make it is to chop up all the vegetables listed below and toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper (we ran out of herbs de Provence and won't buy more until we move!). Put the coated veggies on a tray or two and into the oven they go (at 180c or 350F, for one hour). Delicious with a roast chicken, all that leftover sanglier, or tossed in pasta, to name a few incarnations of this wonderful dish.

The veggies you'll need. Let me know if I've left something out...
2 eggplants
2 peppers
2 zucchini
lots of cherry tomatoes, whole or halved
2 carrots will add a wonderful roasted sweetness!
1 onion
1 potato
3 or 4 cloves of garlic

Tip: The more colorful the better. When our curb-side veggie stand had yellow tomatoes, I grabbed them. Ditto for the white eggplant and also the bright purple eggplant. Carrots are not part of the traditional ratatouille, but the color and taste sweetens everything! Do yourself a favor and make this easy dish whenever the ingredients are in season. It is so handy to have on hand, just like its Sicilian counterpart.

Previous recipe: the scrumptious La Tarte Tomate

Up the coast in la ciotat
On Monday we will complete phase 2 of our move, just up the coast to La Ciotat. A bientôt!

Santa maria restaurant-beach in la ciotat
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Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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Eplucher + More about friendship... and Bernard's Courgette Carpaccio!

zucchini courgette parmesan sunflower seed grain de tournesol pata negra iberian ham entree first course
Eplucher is the word of the day. You've got to peel a few zucchinis to make this easy recipe.... 


    :  to peel


Click here to listen to Jean-Marc read the following sentence in French (English translation is above)

Il faut eplucher quelques courgettes pour réaliser cette recette fastoche....


by Kristi Espinasse

One reward of offering to help Bernard in the kitchen was learning a delicious, fast, and easy recipe. "Tu vas voir, c'est très facile," Bernard says, setting up our makeshift production line:  one of us will use the econome to cut ribbons from the courgettes, the other will chop parmesan and toss it over the cut zucchini, into the round metal ring (for an individual serving--this last piece is optional, but it makes a nice presentation once you--Ta-da!--lift the mold).

The hardest part about making Courgette Carpaccio is paying attention when you are an aloof sous-chef whose thoughts are éparpiller, or spread out, like ingredients along a messy counter...I love the messy counter! I love how Bernard is so relaxed about cooking. He seems grateful to have a volunteer. This is awkward. Nah, I'm fitting in. He's still not quite sure if he has all the ingredients. Wow, look at that fridge! He hasn't roasted the sunflowers seeds...Who cares! Food tastes better when made by friends! Uh-oh, I think he's waiting for the cheese crumbles. That's my job!....

"Désolee," I say to Bernard, explaining that I am absent-minded, sur la lune, by nature. What I really want to say to my husband's friend is that I am caught up in a bursting moment. And that is the other reward of helping Bernard in the kitchen, the chance to nouer les liens as they say here or se rapprocher, an area where, like cooking, the more you practice the better you get at it (by that I mean friendship).

I have to quit thinking in terms of "my husband's friends" or Pierre's or Susan's or (you name a friend's) friends. As a longtime expat or a newlywed or an old introvert or a young naval-gazer--whatever your challenge--tende la main d'amitié--reach out your hand and begin to reap the reward of friendship.

This post is dedicated to my husband and all of his friends who have been truly inspiring examples of amitié--and to my friends who truly know the meaning of this well-known citation:

Un ami c'est une personne qui reste dans ta vie malgré la distance et les années. A friend is someone who stays in your life despite the distance and the years.


Bernard's Fresh Zucchini Entrée.

Most recipes in this blog are au pif--by guesswork. I learned this wonderful phrase from my mother-in-law, the best cook on the planet.

To make this delicious entrée, or first course, simply layer the following ingredients (except the Spanish ham, with which you'll place beside the following mound):

- Thinly-sliced zucchini (use a regular  potato peeler or a Vegetable spiralizer
- parmesan (pound cut) - chop and crumble this over the zucchini
- roasted sunflower seeds - sprinkle on top
- swirl of olive oil
- salt and pepper
- Pure Bellota Iberico Ham

To comment on this recipe or story, find the link at the end of this post.

fastoche = easy
désolé(e) = sorry
Tu vas voir = you'll see
très facile = so easy
econome = vegetable peeler
nouer les liens = to bond, to strengthen ties
tendre to main = hold out one's hand
amitié = friendship
au pif = by guesswork

French Harvest Tour

Experience France as it comes alive during the Harvest season!

To celebrate the final tour of our successful 2017 season, France Today Travels are offering $750⁄£580 off per person on our last few places.

This last-minute offer is exclusively available by quoting the code "HGY65."


Bonjour AuRevoir doormat

To order "Bonjour/Au Revoir doormat", click here

une cousinade = family reunion
la belle-mère = mother-in-law (also can mean "step-mother")
la belle-soeur = sister-in-law
le soin = care
le mas = old French country-house/farmhouse
le livreur = delivery man
un agneau = lamb
le pois chiche = chickpea or garbanzo bean
le poulet = chicken
la canicule = heatwav
une cousinade = family reunion
la belle-mère = mother-in-law (also can mean "step-mother")
la belle-soeur = sister-in-law
le soin = care
le mas = old French country-house/farmhouse
le livreur = delivery man
un agneau = lamb
le pois chiche = chickpea or garbanzo bean
le poulet = chicken
la canicule = heatwave

 This type of wash mitt, or gant, is the traditional washcloth in French homes

La ROCHE-POSAY sunscreen is rated top by Consumer Reports

Lisa playing petanque by the old cabanon with glass of wine on the roof in St Cyr-sur-Mer

Over the past week we have had the pleasure of spending time with several young people. Young people make great friends! Here is my husband's godson's girlfriend, Lisa, enjoying a game of pétanque here at our vineyard (we've not moved yet). Lisa is studying theater in Paris and would one day like to open her own theater.

Fred and Jules
And this is Fred, who just turned 90. 90-year-olds make great friends! Keep Fred in your thoughts and prayers, he will begin, now, to receive hospice care. Love you, Fred. You are an inspiration. You began learning French in your 70's, signing up for this blog when it first began and sending me your thoughts and encouragements along the way. I remember when you sent me a very long list of stories (blog posts) be considered for my story compilation. The time you sacrificed for a friend. Mille mercis for being such a great ami!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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♥ Give the amount of your choice

Meetup at our home + French Sloppy Joes (A Sicilian-inspired recipe)

Caponata or french sloppy joe ingredients

Ignore the veggies for a moment and listen up: we're having a wine-tasting here at home on July 11th at 5 pm. Email to reserve your seat. Hope to see you!

Yesterday, Jean-Marc and I quietly celebrated 23 years of marriage (our civil union was in Marseilles, on July 4, 1994.  Read the story and see the steamy picture.)

If I had to do it over again, I would only change one thing: my cooking. I would have spent more time learning how to make soups, multipurpose pestos, and a trusty French cake for all occasions. I would have paid attention in 7th grade Home Economics class. And when my teacher handed me that frightful measuring cup--I would have seen it, instead, as a measure of future happiness for myself and, especially, for others. That saying is true:

Le véritable chemin pour toucher le coeur d'un homme passe par son estomac.

The way to a man's heart is through his stomach--and that means "everyman": male, female, or man's best friend (our dear golden, Smokey, busy licking his chops after enjoying some peau de saumon, says bonjour and bon appétit).

The following recipe was a happy accident (isn't that how all recipes begin?), inspired from our recent cousinade -- the one in Sicily. After returning from Sicily, I was on a mission to make that caponata we'd had at my cousin Laura's birthday. It was so good I made it twice that first week and there were plenty of leftovers. And that is how this sandwich (which quickly became my husband's new favorite) was born!

Kristis french sloppy joes
                           Jimmy's favorite new sandwich!

(Sicilian...but made in France!)

As usual, the recipes on this blog are au pif--all measurements done by guesswork. For this one, chop the following vegetables (into cubes, or similar sizes)...

3 eggplants
2 onions
3 tomatoes
3 stalks of celery
3-6 cloves of garlic

Put all cut vegetables into a large baking dish. Add:

1 cup of green olives
1 small jar (or less) of good capers

Mix in and toss with:

Olive oil to coat all veggies
Half cup of balsamic vinegar
1 or 2 cups tomato coulis
3 or more tablespoons of honey
salt and pepper

Bake at 180C (350F) for one hour (check after 40 minutes, toss veggies). Cooking at an lower temperature, for longer, is better


Hamburger bun (with sesame seeds and the rest)
slices of ham or chicken or other sandwich meat
Mimolette or swiss cheese or something close
lots of caponata (it's a sloppy joe!)

Enjoy this French Sloppy Joe and for all the leftovers, let creativity guide you.... And if you don't want to go to any trouble making caponata, you can always buy some.

Caponata with chopped walnuts ham eggs
Here are some other ways to use the caponata: toasted walnuts on top are delicious! Also on this plate, couscous, goat's cheese, pickles and ham.

Helpful additions:
Le Creuset Baking Dish

Pyrex glass storage container (I use many of these. See my frigo)

Honey from France

Sicilian balsamic vinegar (with figs, perfect!)

A pretty multi-purpose towel to cover your picnic table (after lunch you can use it at the beach!)

French market basket - in case you want to pack your lunch and go...

Caponata strawberries hummus
Homemade hummus, strawberries from the garden and three-peppers grilled in the oven. Go and make some caponata--and bon ap'!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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Miam! Courge Marron Soup (Butternut Squash and Chestnut soup) & We're going to Spain!

"Miam"  is a French word used to designate the appreciation of something, generally a culinary preparation. It is a word that comes from a child's language but one adults use, too, as a part of their appetite. Definition from

Miam est un terme utilisé pour désigner l'appréciation d'une chose, généralement une préparation culinaire. C'est un mot qui provient du langage enfantin mais dont les adultes se servent également pour faire part de leur appétit. Miam-miam! = yum yum!

ECOUTEZ - Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's French word and definition: Download Miam


    by Kristi Espinasse

The first thing I ate when I returned to France, from the Mexican Riviera, was a garden-fresh courge! Before even a pain au chocolat or a slice of comté cheese, I ate that butternut squash and I've eaten two more since. I thought that by eating something grown right in front of our home--by ingesting so many vitamins and minerals from the good French earth--I might be forgiven of all those airport muffins (blueberry, chocolate, pumpkin...) consumed in transit.

Whether airport comfort food or garden comfort food, la nourriture (if you can call airport muffins that) does more than nourish us--it calms or inspires or warms us. Here's a recipe that does all three. Bon appétit!

La Soupe de Courge aux Marrons
Butternut squash and chestnut soup

    Butternut squash
    chestnuts, peeled (find peeled chestnuts here)

    salt and pepper

This is a recipe you will do au pif (by guesswork). Don't worry, it will all work out! Cut up a cup or two of butternut squash, add the same amount (or less, depending on how much you like chestnuts) to the roasting pan (see photo above). Add a small quartered onion (optional) and 2 or 3 garlic cloves. Toss in a few sprigs of parsley and a little celery (optional). Sprinkle paprika, salt and pepper on vegetables. Drizzle olive oil on top and toss all ingredients. Put in the oven at 175C (350F) for 30 or so minutes. Remove from oven and, after it cools, put vegetables in a mixing bowl (or saucepan) with water enough to cover them and a stock cube (or use canned soup stock). Use a handy immersion blender to mix all ingredients into a soup.

I love the rich texture and slight sweetness of this soup--and after a trip, I crave it. It is a good thing there are 5 giant squash remaining in my front garden--because we are going on a road trip tomorrow, and you know what that means...muffins! If there's one thing our family secretly enjoys while traveling, it's all that rest-stop nourishment, aisles and aisles of temptations! (And, arriving home on Sunday, it will be bonjour soup!)

See you next week. And if you would like to follow us on our family road trip to Spain, keep your eye on this Instagram account and bon voyage!


Gâteau Yaourt - everyone in France knows how to make this simple cake, by heart. Do you? Click here

Tarte Tomate. Last of the season's tomatoes? Delicious Tomato pie recipe! Click here.

Metro cuff

When you shop at Amazon via one of the links, below, you help support this free language journal.

PARIS METRO CUFF - Unique bracelet and great gift for those who love Paris. Click here.

TABLECLOTH, Provence-themed - scroll down to the Maison d'Hermine Birdies on a Wire, HERE. I love this one!

FRENCH GROCERIES FROM FRANCE - from Dijon mustard to Provence herbs. CLICK HERE

Beautiful French Kitchen Towels by Garnier-Thiebaut. Order here.

Thank you for reading this word journal. A bientôt!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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Tarte Tomate : that seasonal French recipe you love and have been asking for!

I know this tomato picture is crooked. Just tilt your head and carry on. A good recipe awaits you!

TODAY'S WORD: cocher (ko-shay) verb

  : to check off, to tick (off); to score

cocher la bonne réponse = to check the correct answer


by Kristi Espinasse

(Note: The following story was written in the fall of 2007.)

The kids and I are sitting at the kitchen table, polishing off a tomato tarte. My son insists that this is one of his favorites.

"Tu devrais la faire plus souvent, maman," Max suggests. His sister seconds that, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand and managing to nod at the same time.
"Thanks, Jackie. Use your napkin!" I remind my daughter.

In my brain, I travel over to the "meals" department, where I uncheck the "pot-au-feu" box, and je coche the square that reads "tarte à la tomate". (The first was fade, the second, flavorful.) I'll get the menus right one day. In the meantime, there's nothing like encouragement from your twelve-year-old boy.

...and there's nothing like constructive criticism from your ten-year-old:
"Less mustard next time," Jackie advises, swiping her mouth again.
"Use your napkin!" I repeat, filing away my daughter's tip. She's right about la moutarde.

As I fine-tune my mental menu, checking and unchecking boxes, noting my family's likes and dislikes, I feel a cold, wet nose knocking at my elbow. That would be our dog, Braise (brez), reminding me to tick the "more scraps" box.

"Merci, Braise!" I say, rubbing my wet elbow. "Now won't you use your napkin, too?"

                          *     *     *

Tomato Pie / La Tarte à la Tomate

This recipe comes from a French friend, and not my mother-in-law. Rachel (rah-shel) is also la marraine (godmother) to our daughter. The ingredients and mode d'emploi were huffed and puffed to me during a grueling hike (we'd finished the tomato pie during a rest stop) somewhere near the town of Martigues... or was it Marseilles... or Marignane? Memory fails me, but the recipe is too simple (and too delicious) to forget! Here it is. Enjoy it and share it:

1 store-bought pie crust (here, we use a puff pastry, or "pâte feuilletée")
2 or 3 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
1 cup of shredded Emmental cheese (or Gruyère)
2 or 3 large tomatoes, sliced


Roll out the store-bought crust (if rollable). Make sure the crust base is pre-cooked or the tart may turn out doughey-bottomed... Slather mustard across the dough's surface. Sprinkle cheese over the mustard and set the sliced tomatoes across the top. Add salt, pepper, herbes de Provence and a filet or "swirl" of olive oil to taste. Cook the tomato pie in a 425°F oven for 20 minutes.

*variation: try tapenade (crushed olive spread) in the place of the mustard.

To leave a comment, click here.
French Vocabulary

la tarte = pie; Tu devrais la faire plus souvent, maman = You should make this more often, Mom; le pot-au-feu = boiled beef with vegetables; coche (cocher ) = to check off (box); la tarte (f) à la tomate = tomato pie; fade = (pronounced "fad") bland, insipid; le mode d'emploi = how to, directions; merci = thanks

This one was made with cherry tomatoes! Here are some helpful tools for your tart!

TART PANS! Find a good pie pan for baking a tart. CLICK HERE

APRONS, French-themed - keep the tomatoes in the tart and off of your nice shirt. CLICK HERE.

TABLECLOTH, Provence-themed - scroll down to the Maison d'Hermine Birdies on a Wire, HERE. I love this one!

WORDS IN A FRENCH LIFE book- for the chapter "Casse-Croûte" and for the pleasure of a real French picnic. Buy the book, HERE.


FRENCH GROCERIES FROM FRANCE - from Dijon mustard to Provence herbs. CLICK HERE

Chair with cherry tomatoes

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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Rondelle + Recipe everyone's asking for! My Mother-in-Law's Summer Pizza!

Michèle-France's Pizza d'Ete. Summer Pizza.

TODAY'S WORD: une rondelle

    : slice

Note: rondelle, in this sense, is used for slices of tomato, zucchini, lemon, sausage etc. Careful not to ask for a rondelle de pizza! Instead, ask for une part de pizza.

ECOUTEZ - hear Jean-Marc pronounce today's word and read his mother's recipe.
First, listen to the soundfile, then check the text (in the story below) to test your comprehension.
Download MP3 or Download Rondelle


and Tuscan bread with roasted grapes!
(By Suzanne Dunaway, author of the Rome, At Home recipe book)

No-knead French and other breads in 90 minutes and easy classic Roman dishes in your own kitchen. Click here.


    by Kristi Espinasse

A favorite comfort food of mine is toast--and toast, in French, is pain grillé (think of it, "grilled pain"! No wonder it is so effective!).

My second favorite comfort food (nourriture de soulagement?) is anything my mother-in-law makes.  Lately, I am loving Michèle-France's summertime tart (really a pizza), and she recently posted the recipe on Facebook! For those who missed it, here's the recipe in French and English. Enjoy it and share it!:

Pour vous je donne la recette que j'ai improvisée...
Au lieu de coulis, j'ai mis une sauce avec tomates, ail, oignon, thym sur fond de tarte.
Ensuite, rondelles de courgettes, aubergines, rondelles de tomates, et au dessus quelques olives
Arroser d'un peu d'huile d'olive, du thym parsemé, sel, poivre.
Préchauffer le four. 180C degrés .
Laisser cuire en surveillant la cuisson. Bon appétit. !!!

For you I am offering the recipe I have improvised...
Instead of coulis, I put tomato sauce with garlic, onion, and thyme at the bottom of the tart (pizza dough)
Next, slices of zucchini, eggplant, slices of tomatoes, and a few olives on top.
Drizzle a little olive oil, and sprinkle thyme, salt, pepper on top.
Preheat the oven at 350F.
Keep an eye on it while it cooks. Enjoy!

To leave a comment click here.

Smokey's reading recommendation (ebook, Kindle version here) and a few selected products for summertime. He is also dreaming of baking and his own French baguette pan, to help mold the ideal gallic loaf. A selection of French loaf pans here.

Tour de France Roadmap T-Shirt and don't miss the boxer briefs!  Click here.

Beautiful French Kitchen Towels by Garnier-Thiebaut. Order here.

Espadrilles -  seen them everywhere this time of year -in the south of France and elsewhere! Click here.

Classic Market Basket - I use mine for the beach, the store, for overnight trips... Jean-Marc takes it on his boat (to tote chips and wine). Click here.


Congratulations to our 18-year-old daughter, Jackie, who received her Baccalauréat yesterday! She will go on to university in Aix-en-Provence, continuing her studies in Fashion Design.

Did you know...
International schools following the French Curriculum of education may offer the Baccalauréat (Le Bac) in lieu of or alongside a traditional high school diploma. The Baccalauréat is the traditional school-leaving qualification of French schools. The Baccalauréat is offered in several streams; subjects chosen for the Baccalauréat depend on the stream chosen by the student. (Wikipedia, "High School Diploma")

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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Marianne's Easy Lasagna & favorite French phrase


We returned home last night from our family ski vacation to find poppies blossoming along the railroad tracks in our village. Bonjour Printemps! Are you here to stay?


    "Ça ne mange pas de pain" = it doesn't cost a thing

* literally, "It doesn't eat bread". I heard Jean-Marc say this while we were on our family vacation this week. Since, I've been saying it everyday!, ie:

"Jackie, send your fashion article to France Today or French Provencal magazine"- ça ne mange pas de pain! You've got nothing to lose!

Mas-de-perdrix-rental-provence-franceMAS DE LA PERDRIX
The perfect home to celebrate special occasions with family and friends…
Click here.

Learn how to speak French with Exercises in French Phonetics
Listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word:
Download MP3 or Download Wav

La compassion, la tolerance, le respet pour l'autre... ça ne mange pas de pain.
Compassion, tolerance, respect for others... it doesn't cost a thing.


    by Kristi Espinasse

Home now from a 3-day family getaway to the French Alps, the first thing I want to do--before even unpacking my valise, is to make Marianne's delicious lasagna! I've already been to the store this morning, to get the short list of ingredients for this easy, 6-ingredient recipe!

                      L'Art de vivre en montagne

(Marianne's Easy-Peasy Lasagne)

Twenty-three years ago, sitting at Marianne's convivial dinner table, I would not have thought to ask for the recette. But I've grown up, since, and rearranged my priorities! While I still stare at all the French guests--losing my attention span to daydreaming as my gaze picks up all kinds of inspiration from those seated around the table--I can now punctuate these lapses with pertinent questions, such as, Parle-moi un peu de cet écureuil qui se trouve sur votre mur... or May I have the recipe for this delicious dish? 

Monday night, as I stared at the stuffed squirrel on the chalet's wall, Marianne served up lasagna for thirteen, and Michel, Marianne's husband, explained: "The squirrel came from Alsace...."

I thought to ask Why?, when another, more pressing question came to mind: "Marianne, est-ce que je peux avoir la recette de ce lasagne?" And here, dear readers, is what she answered (my notes and questions are in parenthesis, in case you want to give me any pointers before I go to make this recipe this afternoon!) :

First make an easy bolognaise sauce...
Sauté some onions, add ground beef (around 100 grams or 3.5 ounces per person) and continue to cook, separating the beef with a spatula,  mixing it up with the onions. Add salt and pepper and a can or so of tomatoes (or tomatoe paste). 
Then add cream.... Marianne says she added two cartons of crême fraîche liquide (she held up her hands to give me an idea of the carton size, which I guess is about 8 ounces per carton. This will depend on how much beef you use, so just do it by guesswork, which is my plan! (As for me, I bought 3 small tubs of sour cream. Do you think this will work?) 

Now put down the first layer of lasagna noodles --precooked, directly from package, followed by one layer of the meat/cream sauce and one layer of shredded gruyère cheese. Repeat until you reach the top  of the pan. (Do you line the pan? I think I'll butter it or add sauce first... let me know!) 

Into the oven at 150-180C (300-350F) for 25 minutes... and voilà, fini!


I love the idea of this basic lasagna recipe, which gives me courage to make lasagna for the very first time. With an easy 6-ingredient base, I am free to be creative, adding chopped carrots to sauté along with the onions, or adding nutmeg and a lump of butter to the cream and meat sauce.... I may also add some leftover parmesan along with the shredded cheese. 

What would you add? Let me know this-and any other tips in the comments. I am so excited to finally be making lasagna, as it will be a very practical recipe at harvest time!

Check out these casserole dishes at Amazon.


Everybody had seconds! Thanks, Marianne and Michel! For another easy, quick, and delicious recipe by Marianne, click here.

valise = suitcase
recette = recipe
Parle-moi un peu de cet écureuil qui se trouve sur votre mur... tell me about that (stuffed) squirrel on the wall

SABLET HOME - for high quality vacation rentals in the heart of Provence. Click here for pictures.

FRANCE & MONACO We offer exclusive short-term holiday rental properties throughout France and Monaco. Click here.

YOUR AD HERE. Place an ad in the French Word-A-Day newsletter.

Vacation is over. This morning Max and Antoine are pulling out large stones from the vineyard floor and piling them at the end of the vine row, where an ancient restanque (Provencal stone wall) hints at a new purpose for these heavy rocks.

P.S. Smokey had a blast in the snow, chased tennis balls and ate plenty of snowballs too!

Thanks and see you next week!

Ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue this French word journal, now in its 18th year! If you enjoy these posts and would like to keep this site going, please know your donation makes a difference! A contribution by check (click here) or via PayPal (below) is greatly appreciated. Merci!
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♥ Give $25    
♥ Give the amount of your choice