Road Tripping in the Time of Corona: Bring Your Own Food

Needing a summer break at the beach, despite media hype about dirty rest stops and potentially infectious hotel rooms along American highways, our family of four took a 48-hour (4-hour drive with mid-week traffic) trip to the beach in Virginia. As we usually do when we travel, we took all our food with us in the car. The readout: we stopped at several “clean looking” restaurants for bathroom pit stops and the hotel was as clean as could be expected, so, a non-issue. But we did bring all our own food and water. Here’s how we did it.

Example of how the French “Eat In” on the Mediterranean/Cote D’Azur

What To Bring For the Road: A Tale of Two Coolers

Pack a big cooler for the trunk with ice packs and a smaller cooler for the car with lunch and snacks. The small cooler goes between the kids in the back to maintain car seat real estate lines and proper physical distancing. As every mom knows, kids who are close enough to touch elbows don’t last long on car trips. A picnic lunch for a park bench at an outdoor rest stop might consist of already cubed cheese and sausage or ham and chopped raw vegetable sticks. Maybe some chips, if you don’t eat bread, but most chips are made with industrial vegetable seed oils, so read the label before you buy. Canola oil among the ingredients? No. Put it back on the shelf. Safflower oil? Nyet. Soybean or corn oil? Nein! Same goes for any bread you might consume. Check the label. Danke.

Dessert BYOF Ideas

For dessert we travel with chopped fruit (and picks or forks), raisins, peanuts,  and dried prunes, apples, oranges, and homemade date bars (chopped dates, chocolate, nuts and seeds flattened with a rolling pin and cut into squares – no expensive packaging or industry messaging needed.) Pack napkins or paper towels, cutlery, either plastic or real, and an extra trash bag or two. We pack individual water bottles and large refill water bottles, no soda. Ever. Remember your wallet? What about your blood sugar levels? And let’s not kid ourselves about “diet,” sugar-free chemical sodas.

Fruit bouquet received as a gift the day before our road trip

Okay, So Let’s Get To The Meat Of The Meals!

Pack that big cooler with prepared food from home as well as raw and frozen ingredients, preferably organic where possible, voting with your dollar for food and soil not treated with synthetic, hormone-disrupting chemicals. Here are some ideas and what I packed on our trip, besides what I have already mentioned above: Frozen Russian ravioli (pilmeni), grass-fed beef hot dogs, frozen grass-fed ground beef, frozen homemade broth, pork and duck leftovers from various meals (packed in glass Pyrex bowls), along with a small container of duck fat, three cans of tuna, Kerrygold butter, Polyface Farms pastured eggs in the carton, small bottles of avocado oil and olive oil, salt and pepper shakers, half a bulb of garlic, sour cream, macaroni noodles, small container of homemade sauerkraut, several organic tea bags, organic ketchup, in-season cherries, a box of organic mixed greens, whole mushrooms, ice cream (which inevitably melted in the cooler by dinner time), grass-fed milk, and cream (for my tea!)

What?! No Mayo?!

Most store-bought mayonnaise is made with industrial seed oils. So I make my own! It’s so easy you’ll cry: Separate one egg, use the white for scrambled with the other eggs you brought, and whisk the yolk in a measuring cup (which was packed along with the whisk), while slowly adding a third of a cup of avocado oil. Presto! No industrial seed oils here, either. And just enough for those three cans of tuna. (Yes, the eggs are raw. If you are sourcing your eggs from a trusted farmer, you will not get salmonella. Instead, you will be supporting a small farmer while nourishing yourself with real, whole food. A win-win.)

Hello, How Am I Going to Cook All These Meats and Eggs in a Hotel Room?

Easy: Pack a good quality Cuisinart hot plate, the answer to all your eating in problems. Plus, call ahead to get a room with a refrigerator, or else make sure the ice machines are working in the hotel to refill you cooler! We used the hotel microwave only once – to heat up a pork chop because we had run out of pans and to save time. Other items you will need: A small pot and a medium pot, a medium frying pan, one or two small cutting boards, several good cutting knives of different sizes for slicing and paring, four real (unbreakable Corelle-style) plates and bowls, three kitchen towels, a wooden spatula, a small bottle of dish liquid, and a sponge.

Eating In

By eating in, BYOF traveling or not, corona or not, you are saving money, saving time, and eating when and where you want to without making others “serve” you. (Yes, the restaurant industry is huge, but it is overfed, so to speak, while the concept of cooking at home is disproportionately underrated in the US, in my opinion.) Eating in also produces much less waste of resources. Think about carbon footprints of the restaurant supply chain versus a family meal at home. By eating in you are also avoiding the involuntary consumption of inflammatory industrial vegetable seed oils (you know the kind – canola or safflower oil, with the halo around their necks), ubiquitously used in restaurants, from cheapest to glamorous. (Dr. Catherine Shanahan, who wrote the foreword to my book, The Bordeaux Kitchen, goes into the biology of the century-long damage these oils have incurred on Americans in her books, so I won’t go into it here. Look up The Fatburn Fix and Deep Nutrition.) Restaurants rely on cheap oils to remain profitable. The consumer is the one who pays the price in health bills after eating the cheap food. Granted, our family doesn’t eat out (pretty much ever), and I cook daily, even on vacation, but taking your food with you on vacation is doable and definitely healthier (for you and your wallet) than eating out.

But Yes, We Ate Out

The hotel served breakfast: terrible scrambled eggs and alluring, extreme-sugar sausages, along with waffles, bagels, cereal, and OJ, which my kids loaded up on because they don’t get much of these at home. (Sue me.) I made eggs in our frying pan in the room on the second morning. And on the way out of town we stopped for lunch under an outdoor tent to taste the local broiled seafood (no industrial oils, hopefully, in the broiling process). It was mostly worth the wait, though the waitress was stressed with all the tables of tourists like us she had to serve. We thanked her effusively. We had also stopped for Mr. Whippy’s soft serve once or twice and again on the way out of town. It was July, after all.

Mr. Whippy (that’s not my cone…)

Had I Overpacked?

Yes. We did not use the garlic, ground beef, or bit of duck fat, but I used them for a quick dinner upon arrival at home.

Am I Crazy?

No. Well, maybe a little. But this is what we do. (And I am talking about taking pork roasts and containers of fruit on international travel! We learned our lesson with broth, though. TSA will confiscate it.) Yes, there is clean up. Yes, my husband kindly did the dishes in the hotel bathroom sink. Nevertheless, we found we had more good, high quality food, more time to play and read and argue and discuss things, and more time to generally be “on vacation,” rather than having to go out and spend money on low quality, expensive food at every meal. We went home with empty coolers, two souvenir t-shirts, and slight sunburns from all the extra time we had to play in the sun! BYOF!

(These are my own opinions, which is why I am posting them here on my own blog. You may disagree, and that’s okay! Thanks for taking the time to read!)

…And now a little plug for my Etsy store of handmade pastured tallow and lard soaps and creams…

Kitchen Sink Borsch

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Kitchen Sink Borsch

First and foremost, I hope you and your family are well and able to cope in these uncertain times of La Corona.

While on a recent “stocking up” grocery run, I picked up a nice plump red beet that was calling to me from the produce shelves. The beet is mostly what makes the borsch a borsch, as opposed to another kind of soup.

Because it may not be possible to obtain certain ingredients at the moment, I’m calling this version Kitchen Sink Borsch, as you could really put whatever you have into a big pot and boil it. This is much like the French pot au feu – a soup containing all the vegetable, meat and bone remnants from the week, stewed continuously during the week, so as to not waste a single ingredient or leftover: #nowaste !

 

A little side note: I concentrated on Russian Studies at my university and studied Russian in the US, Russia, German, and France, and lived in Kazakhstan for two years. But it wasn’t until I visited a friend in Ukraine while living in Moscow around 2012 that I learned from her lovely mother – a doctor treating and following Chernobyl victims – how to cook Ukrainian borsch. Notice I have not spelled it with a “t” at the end (not sure why this is usually done in English?), because the Cyrillic word borsch – борщ – ends with a kind of “w” looking letter with a tail, making the sound “shch,” as in “fresh cheese.” If a Russian-style soup has potato and cabbage, and no beet, my understanding is that it is usually called “schi.” – щи. (Both words in Russian end in this same letter, but in English, you would not want to put a “t” on the end of the cabbage soup name…!)

 

The ingredients below go into the traditional borsch, and I may have missed a few, but you will get the general idea. I used what we had in the refrigerator at this particular point in time. I used ground beef because that is what we had, but you can use steak or chuck “stew” beef. Chuck cuts from the front quarters of the animal require longer cooking times because they tend to be tougher. Why? From my butcher apprenticeship I learned that since herbivores spend their time bending down eating grass, much of their weight is on the forequarters, building stronger muscles in the front, while loin and steak come from more tender parts of the animal.) That is why stew meat is called stew meat – it needs more time to stew. Chopped small enough, though, you may be able to get away with a shorter cooking time. You can substitute some of the water with bone broth, especially if you do not have a marrow bone. Like butter, lard, tallow and duck fat, I try to keep a few marrow bones in my freezer for uses like this. People joke about how creative the Russians and Ukrainians are with using dill in a dish. I had none available, so I used fresh chopped green onion, but dill really makes your borsch the real deal.

 

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil (or butter)

½ red onion, chopped

½ white onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

3 pinches coarse sea salt

1.5 to 2 pounds ground or chopped beef (80-85% lean, grassfed if possible)

¼ red cabbage, chopped

1 medium carrot, diced

1 large beet, diced

14.5 ounce (115 g) diced tomatoes

6 to 7 cups water (or combination of water and broth)

1 large bay leaf

6 small potatoes, chopped (about 1/2 pound)

1 beef marrow bone

Salt and pepper to taste

Sour cream (called Smetana in Russian), for garnish

Dill or parsley, and/or green onion, chopped, for garnish

 

Instructions

Heat the olive oil or butter and salt in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat, add the salt, and sauté the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent. Add the meat and brown it, stirring frequently. Add the carrot and stir for a few more minutes. Then add the cabbage, beet, tomatoes, potatoes, marrow bone, bay leaf and water.

Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to medium. Cook until the potatoes are soft, at least 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with sour cream, dill, parsley, and/or green onion. To your health — Na zdorovie!

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Inspiration for the New Year 2020 with The Bordeaux Kitchen

Would Julia Child approve of The Bordeaux Kitchen?

I know we are all busy this month, nevertheless, here is the link to my Year End Newsletter with all the fun news and reviews about The Bordeaux Kitchen…..

One new link not in the newsletter is to EPIC Provisions’ IMPACT Journal 2019, which featured my article about a Swiss hunter, Martin Baumann and his dogs. I also had a recipe and photos in the journal — I took up the first 6 pages! Something I love to do is learn from those with very earth-based occupations, like hunters, farmers, vintners and butchers, and this was one of those opportunities to capture in words and photographs what I learned.

Martin Baumann and his dogs

In 2020, I hope to learn more recipes and put them on this blog — wish me luck, as I am not the most reactive online, it takes so much time for each post! Next year I am also considering launching a hand-crafted creams business, as my family and i can only use truly natural ingredients for our skin, and I have been sharing my balms with a few friends who also seem to like them. Stay tuned! Wishing you a healthy holiday season, Tania

Chicken Liver Dip – Sauce aux Foies de Volaille

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CHICKEN LIVER DIP – Sauce aux Foies de Volaille

This recipe is from the book and was also published, along with the photo above, in the EPIC Impact Journal 2018. I though I would share the recipe and photo from the book (below), as a way of posting recipes again, now that The Bordeaux Kitchen book is almost ONE YEAR OLD! As we head into summer, this versatile recipe will be a great way to introduce friends and family to organ meats!

 

I learned this recipe from my good friend and Bordeaux University wine course buddy, Malika Faytout, an organic winemaker in the Bordeaux region of Castillon. She says she still remembers me telling her that first day of class when we met that I was writing a book called The Bordeaux Kitchen, an ancestral French cookbook with a wine chapter and food and wine pairings.

 

We sat next to each other in the first row throughout the academic year, and she ended up being the top student in our class of about 45 students. Luckily, some of her smarts rubbed off on me, and I was able to pass the course, too. Malika had decided to take the wine course to be able to play a more central role in her family’s organic vineyard, Château Lescaneaut, in the Castillon – Côtes de Bordeaux appellation, next to St. Emilion, both of which produce fruity, bold Merlot-based wines, and, as it turns out, a delicious accompaniment to the liver dip!

 

Season: Year-round

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Cooking Time: 12 to 15 minutes

Serves 4

This chicken liver dip recipe is versatile in that you can eat it warmed, room temperature, or chilled, with a variety of raw vegetables, such as a type of romaine leaf (“Paris Island” heirloom variety), as we did, or with endives or on top of lettuce, and with a thicker or thinner consistency. This is a delicious way to eat nutrient-dense chicken livers. This recipe can be halved or doubled, depending on your needs. It can be served as a party dip, an appetizer, or as a meal. When Malika and I made this recipe together, it was spring, so we used local spring garlic-onions (oignon aillé). In the photo here I used the sheath of a green onion. A scallion or peeled clove of garlic may be used instead of green onion.

 

2 tablespoons bacon fat (or duck fat)

15 whole chicken livers (12.5 ounces or 350 g)

1 tablespoon spring onion or garlic, minced

4 pinches of fine sea salt

1/3 cup water

3 teaspoons mustard

4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Fine salt and ground pepper to taste

Fleur de sel for garnish

 

Melt the fat in a medium or large cast iron skillet over medium-high to high heat. Add the chicken livers, green onion (or garlic), and salt. [A reminder that a pinch (une pincée) is using three fingers. For fine salt, fleur de sel, pepper, and spices this turns out to be slightly less than 1/8 teaspoon. For coarser grains of sea salt, it might be slightly more.] Allow the livers to stick a bit to the pan, letting them caramelize a bit, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, stirring occasionally for an additional 7 to 10 minutes, until the livers are cooked through.

 

Remove the livers, allowing them to cool in a bowl for several minutes. Deglaze the pan with1/3 cup water to loosen the caramelized material stuck to the pan, and add this liquid to the bowl of livers.

 

Mix the livers in a food processor, in batches if needed, adding the mustard, vinegar, and olive oil, until you reach the desired consistency. (This step should take about 30 seconds.) To increase the liquid consistency of the sauce, add a bit more water and/or olive oil. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as needed. Top with fleur de sel for garnish. Fleur de sel is often used as a finishing touch, a chef’s secret topping to a savory dish or dessert. The fine, white cubes are pleasing to the eye and delicate on the tongue, and add a subtle crunch.

 

Serve while still warm, chilled, or at room temperature with romaine or endive leaves, with carrot or celery sticks, homemade beet or sweet potato chips. I prefer eating the dip warmed or at room temperature.

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WINE PAIRING TIP Malika’s family and I had their house wine, a flavorful 2012 Château Lescaneaut from the Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux appellation. Another classmate of ours, sommelière Annabelle Nicolle-Beaufils, alternately suggests a dry white Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh Sec, from an area located between Bordeaux and the Pyrénées foothills of Pau more known for its sweet wines, which are also worth a try. Otherwise Annabelle proposes either an effervescent white Muscat from Languedoc-Roussillon or a Champagne. More such wine pairings are suggested in The Bordeaux Kitchen book.

 

March-April 2019 Newsletter

May is around the corner, so before we enter May, here is the March-April 2019 wrap-up…. 

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Highlights include my two Paris events, an homage to Notre Dame, a nomination to the GOURMAND International Cookbook Awards, and the latest press coverage (Paleo Magazine and my article in The Foreign Service Journal: “Ancestral Food Traditions for Modern Foreign Service Life.” )

Next steps for The Bordeaux Kitchen in this VIDEO clip from my book event in Paris…. (video courtesy of my dear friends Patrice Lanquetin and Ralph Brancaccio).

And Upcoming: I will be signing books at Mollat Bookstore’s stand during VINEXPO in May, Monday morning May 13th 10am-12pm and Wednesday afternoon May 15th from 4pm to 6pm — please stop by if you are there! (Below, my American Library in Paris presentation moderator and friend Cynthia Coutu of DelectaBulles and I in front of La Tour Eiffel.)

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January-February 2019 Newsletter

Time is flying, it’s almost March for crying out loud! Here you will find the latest update of The Bordeaux Kitchen Newsletter for January and February.

In this VIDEO clip from my book event in September 2018 (which I just received and wanted to post), Garrett Snyder interviews me about how The Bordeaux Kitchen book came about and how the French Paradox is not a paradox! (Video courtesy of Kevin Concepcion of Now Serving LA.)

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PARIS IN SPRING!

As mentioned in my last post: If you are in or can get to Paris in April, please come to my book presentation (in English) on Wednesday April 3rd, 2019 7:30pm to 9pm at the American Library in Paris!! Address: 10 Rue du Général Camou, 75007 Paris. Book purchase and signing. Free event (with Bordeaux wine and French cheeses, mais oui!)

Happy New Year / December Newsletter & Event Video

It’s a new year, and I have not been able to keep up with blog posts very often, though I update the rest of this blog behind the scenes in all the tabs almost every week (see Press, Events, Praise…)! The newsletter takes a lot of time, so why not post it as a blog entry, with pretty photos, etc., so you know I’m alive and working! Here is the December Newsletter, with details about my book launch event in Bordeaux and links to the previous newsletters on it! And for your viewing pleasure (and laughs), please see below also the video of the last few minutes of my presentation of The Bordeaux Kitchen book at the event in Bordeaux, in French (yikes!)

Bonne Année!

 

PS – SAVE THE DATE: If you are in or can get to Paris in April, please come to my book presentation (in English) on Wednesday April 3rd, 2019 7:30pm to 9pm at the American Library in Paris!! Address: 10 Rue du Général Camou, 75007 Paris. Book purchase and signing. Free event.

Rabbit With Prunes – Lapin aux Pruneaux

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RABBIT WITH PRUNES — Lapin aux Pruneaux

Season: Year Round

Preparation Time: 5 minutes, longer if you are chopping the rabbit or bacon bits yourself

Total Cooking Time: 1 hour 45 minutes

Serves 4 to 5

It’s been a while (2 years!) since I posted a recipe, my goodness! But that is because I have poured everything into The Bordeaux Kitchen book! I have been adding to the other pages at the top of the home page, slowly but surely. Now, for a recipe! This one is not in the book, as I just made it recently with my lovely friend from Nice, France, Joelle Luson. We did Beef Burgundy together, as well as several other recipes, which you will find in the book.

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