Weekend breakfasts growing up were long, sunny affairs full of possibilities. Mama always made the table pretty, set with flowers, marbles in glass bowls, shells from beach walks, linens, any of our treasures, and always a glass of bright orange juice in the middle of our breakfast plates. The first taste of morning.
We would listen to the radio or put on a favorite morning cd (like above) and my mother and I would putter around in our robes bemoaning my father's unwillingness to stay in his nightclothes all morning. We would open books, contemplate recipes. Sometimes I would be the first one awake and I would choose something special and bake it as quietly as I could, smiling to myself about what a surprise it would be. (I am using the past tense, here, but the truth is that present day visits home are blissfully not at all different from these memories.)
And we had our classics. The books that held our favorite recipes, the books that felt like weekend mornings just having them out. They are some of the dearest additions to my collection of cookbooks as my parents give me my own copies through the years.
One of our very favorite morning visits was this book: The Breakfast Book by (the extraordinary) Marion Cunningham. So many of our classics came from this book and when I received it as a gift from my parents, I read it almost cover to cover for the first time. It is full of wisdom and delicious things but always in the voice of a good friend and mentor who has just poured you a cup of tea or sent you a letter. It's not fussy, it's not grand. It is simple and comforting and, for that, beautiful.
Throughout the book she shares, what I imagine are, her favorite little bits and pieces about breakfast:
Life, within doors, has few pleasanter prospects than a neatly arranged and well-provisioned breakfast table. - Nathaniel Hawthorne
As well as her own wisdom:
(from her Breakfast Table Civility and Deportment rules)
7. Because everyone is defenseless at breakfast, there should be no contentiousness or crossness.
13. And don't answer questions in a saucy manner.
Indeed, as the Frenchman would say.
So when I heard last month that she had passed away, I went back once again to her breakfast book. Flipping to the back, she arranged a delightful collection of breakfast menus by season and by event such as "Thanksgiving Breakfast", "A Day in Bed", and "A Special Day". I had contemplated going back to our all-time favorites for a breakfast in her honor, but when I came to the last menu, I know there was no other choice:
A VERY, VERY SPECIAL BREAKFAST
Fresh Orange Juice Ice
Chocolate Walnut Butter Bread French Toast
So I baked the bread and we devoured the rich French Toast and raised our orange juice glasses to Marion. For her recipes, her work to bring appreciation to real home cooking, and her delightful book on breakfast. How lucky we were to have her at our table weekend mornings.
Chocolate Nut Butter Bread
adapted from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham
(one medium loaf)
I used whatever nuts I had on hand (hazelnuts and walnuts) but I suspect that any nut or combination of nuts would be just as lovely. Marion advices, since the bread is so rich, dipping the slics only briefly in egg for French Toast so they don't absorb very much. I made the toast twice and the second time let it soak which I liked even better because, to me, the egg helped balance the richness.
1/4 c warm water (105 - 115°F)
1/2 package dry yeast
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
2 eggs, room temp
6 tbsp (87g) butter, softened
1/2 c chopped nuts (large pieces)
3 oz (85g) semisweet chocolate, chopped into large pieces
Stir the yeast into the water and left dissolve and foam for 5 minutes.
In a big bowl, beat yeast mixture, flour, sugar, salt, and eggs until well blended. Add the butter in pieces and beat until batter is smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a towel and let rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Gently punch down the dough and fold in the nuts and chocolate pieces until evenly dispersed. Spoon the batter into a 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 3-inch loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes. Wait 5 minutes before turning the loaf out onto a cooling rack and remember, there will be melted chocolate so don't be wearing you white cocktail dress.
To make French Toast, cut loaf into 3/4-inch thick slices. In a soup plate or baking dish, combine 4 eggs and a splash of milk. Soak each side of the slices in the egg until they are moist but not falling apart. Griddle, and devour.
P.S. go easy on the syrup.
There are a couple things about August: 1. It is the month that everyone flees Paris. All of France goes on vacation somewhere else. Shops close for weeks, even pharmacies (although they coordinate so there is always an open one nearby), there are long stretches of quiet empty sidewalk, and there are no afternoon sounds of the kids burning through their late day bursts of energy with their friends because they are all en vacances with family and friends. Even the markets thin way out and big holes are left where vegetable, meat, and cheese stands usually are. Sometimes they are temporarily replaced by random kitchenwares or underwear vendors but there is mostly just open space left where it was once crammed with people. It can be strange (where on earth will I get my basil this week?!) and it can be blissful (do you hear that? me neither! so quiet.)
2. There should be amazing tomatoes in August. Tomatoes that burst just from being held and that melt in your mouth into the most refreshing sweetness. Tomatoes you wait all year for. But this year is bad for the tomato in France. At least in our part of France. My mother-in-law lost all her tomato plants (50 I think) because the endless rain and the cool weather did them in. And I'm finding it hard to find the "tomato of my dreams" (Dad). I have hopes for the beauties in this weekend's finds but we shall see.
3. There are so many short-lived, much-anticipated crops coming into the market that I often over do it. Such was the case last week and I was able to make a shorter list this week because my vegetable drawer is still overflowing.
So, here's what we brought home this week:
clockwise from top left
- Watercress and baby greens (purple frisée? and beet)
- Noire de Crimee, Pineapple, and Cornue des Andes tomatoes
- Reine Claude plums
And, lest you think taking these pictures is easy, Albert has a special message for you:
Thanks for that, Bug.
Look at the crazy summer storm light up there. We had off and on sun yesterday but when the rain did come we were out strolling (bien sûr) and it was pretty gentle.
This week at the marché I was pretty (ridiculously, couldn't-stop-telling-Romain-how-excited-I-was) thrilled to find little French pickling cucumbers. We arrived at the end of the market and I was going crazy hoping the little old lady in line before us wouldn't take them (right. she took none.). So I bought all that the farmer had left! I can't wait to make some cornichons. Adding to my excitement, the Frenchman was interested in what makes a pickle so I let him chose the style of recipe we'll go for (classic French). I so hope there are more next week!
So, here's what we brought home this week:
- coeur de boeuf tomatoes
- new potatoes
- cornichon cucumbers
- a 1/4 of a boule fermier bread
- oak leaf lettuce
- summer squash (found some!)
- cheeses from left: smoked scamorza, fresh chevre, St. Nectaire
There is a Wednesday market, too, where I get extra things I forgot on Sunday and our fruit. The best fruit seller is at the Wednesday market - he never fails! Last week I bought beautiful nectarines and apricots and I'll go back this week to buy absolute tons, they were so good. I see preserving in the very, very near future.
A few weeks ago I had the chance to work with Astrante (a good friend from our knitting group here in Paris) and shot the images for her newest knitting pattern. It was beautiful and clever and knit in gorgeous tones. We all fell in love with it.
I had to ask Astrante if I could share the resulting images when the pattern was ready because they are so lovely and this shawl needs to be on your needles. And now it's time!
Après la Pluie was released this week and is now available for download on Ravelry. Find it here.
And it gets even better: this pattern was created in collaboration with Malabrigo Yarns for their Malabrigo Quickies pattern collection. To celebrate the release, Astrante is having a giveaway for a lucky winner: the pattern (in French) and 12 of her beautiful stitch markers. Just hop over to her blog and tell her what Malabrigo colors you'd knit Après la Pluie in. The giveaway ends July 29th.
Today is the day that one year ago our friends and family came to gather around us.
Today is the day that one year ago I had no idea of what time it was all day, nor did I care.
Today is the day one year ago we flung off our shoes and danced on a barn floor even when it was too hot.
Today is the day one year ago we all gathered around one long table and celebrated as one family.
Today is the day one year ago we were married.
Today is our first wedding anniversary.
We are off celebrating with love.
Have a wonderful start to the week.
All of these photos are from Jennifer Belkus Goodwin of Aphrodite Wedding Photography and you should hire her right now. She is patient, kind, sunny, and so talented. I'll write more about our day and her part in it soon.
Last weekend we headed out to the east of Paris with only a vague idea of finding some place along the Marne River to stroll. When we found a spot, it was lovely and wild and we only crossed one other party of promeneurs on the path between the river and a wheat field bordered by forest.
From a distance, they had been ducking in and out of the plants along the riverbank but as they came closer we could see that they had been collecting a bursting armful of wildflowers. "We left some for you!" they smiled as they crossed by us. So collect our own bursting armful we did.
I arranged most of what we gathered in a soup tureen found at the brocante for 1 euro. The effect ended up being a formal style arrangement that looks decidedly sauvage. I think I love it.
Also, I thought it could be nice to share some things that have been grabbing my attention this week, things I'm loving. Maybe it will become semi-regular? We'll see.
- This styling is making me melt. I want to live in a room like those greens.
- I've just discovered Lauren's blog and I think I've read almost all her archives over lunch and snack breaks. Embarrassing but her work is such a perfect balance of old, new, and livable. Adore.
- Rediscovering this (it's been sooooo long!)
- I need this, a place to go swimming, and the weather for it.
- This demonstration (video at the bottom of the post). Just...woah. I might find it scary. Maybe.
- Also, it you are not already listening to Radiolab, you should be!
Have a beautiful weekend!
p.s. See how the lampshade, print, and catch-all dish in the top photo are all the same color? Drives. me. nuts.