Monday, July 12, 2010

What's cooking in paris?

It seems that we started a trend with the whole moving out of the dorms and getting an apartment together, because now all the cool kids are doing it. Luckily, (for the time being, at least) everyone is still within walking distance. It took about 15 minutes of walking last night to get to cheap bar (3 euro pints!) below a friend's apartment where we watched the third-place match of the World Cup (yay Germany!), and only 10 minutes of walking to help a friend move in today. Half way through the traditional "thank you for helping me lug my crap up six flights of stairs" lunch and beer that followed, we looked out the window, across terracotta chimney pots and the iron balconies of countless crooked Parisian apartment buildings, to see a zebra balloon leisurely floating by. Bizarre. We decided to interpret it as a good omen.

As for life in my own apartment, well, it rocks. It's nice to have a place that feels like "home" to come home to at the end of the day, and the longer we're here, the luckier I feel to have ended up with the apartment that we did. By far one of the biggest advantages to having our own place is full (and exclusive) access to a kitchen. Gone are the days of eating cereal out of the box in my room, of hauling spices and oil to a shared kitchen everytime I want to cook, or of having to compete with irritating, often drunk students for stove space or dirty utensils.

My most recent project with the apartment has been a flower/herb box for the living room window. Its thriving residents are, from left to right, Lehrman, the Basil plant, Gregory, the pink flower, and Monty, the mint plant. Luhrmann and Gregory were presents from our housewarming party, but they seem to be doing much better in the box now than they did in their previous pots (especially Gregory, who survived a six-story drop after a particularly windy storm blew him off the windowsill).
So far we've used Monty in mojitos, mint juleps and tea, and Luhrmann in a variety of sauces, salads and other dishes. They make the apartment smell lovely, and feel cheery. I even used a few Luhrmann leaves in some scrambled eggs this morning (part of a complete breakfast)

The crab towel above and the trivet below were housewarming gifts from my mother, who wanted to make sure we had a touch of Maryland in the house.
Cherries are currently really cheap (about 3.95 a kilo), so I've been buying a lot of them. Last week I made up a recipe for a cherry/orange clafoutis, shown here cooling on the windowsill:

And again, close-up:
And last but not least, our jackfruit adventure. Since most supermarkets are closed on Sundays, we've taken to heading to Chinatown in the 13th on those days. The markets there have a wide range of exotic produce that we've usually neither seen nor tried before, and we're slowly making our way through it. Some of it is successful (pomelos, for example, which taste like a delicious cross between a grapefruit and a melon, or bok choi, or sprouts) but this particular purchase was a little too strange for my tastes. Known as a jackfruit in English, this spiny green Thai fruit felt like a basketball on the outside, and the inside was full of odd, dried-apricot-sized "kernels" of yellow, slimy, starchy fruit. The fruit had to be carved out of a spongy shell that oozed a glue-like sap--literally, it felt like woodglue when it hit water, and only oil could get it off of our hands and utensils. I bravely swallowed a few pieces but couldn't get into it. Tom froze some and insisted it was better that way (the gooey, stringy texture of the room-temperature jackfruit had been the challenge initially) but I decided to just take his word for it.

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