I’m back after a three-week hiatus from the blog. I was abroad, first back home visiting my family and then for ten days in France, mainly in Paris, with a two-day escape to the Bay of Somme. Here are a few odds and ends from the trip:
- Parisians seem to follow New York politics more than New Yorkers. On multiple occasions, we were asked about our opinion of the new mayor, Bill de Blasio, and about how he was doing.
- You know you have great friends when they surprise you with a birthday dinner at Septime, an incredibly tough-to-get-a-reservation restaurant in Paris that is all the rage among both the French and Americans. How tough is it to get a reservation? They accept them only three weeks in advance and our friend called 22 times in a row (!) as soon as reservations opened until she luckily got an answer. It was well worth it. The meal was fantastic, with fresh ingredients, minimally prepared, letting them shine on the plate.
- French restaurants are making a great comeback. Yes, it’s still a crapshoot if you just duck into any corner bistro, where you are still likely to get food that was prepared in a processing facility, prepackaged, frozen, and then reheated in the microwave of the restaurant. But new places, like Septime, are rejuvenating the Paris food scene. Our new discovery: Le Cotte Rôti (1 Rue de Cotte) in the 12th arrondissement. An unassuming restaurant next to the Marché d’Aligre where we had a three course meal for 39 euros that left us gasping with excitement.
- The Bay of Somme is a spectacular, huge bay in Normandie in the English Channel, that empties daily during low tide. It goes from a vast expanse of water, to a desert-like land that you can walk on for a few hours until the water returns. Just know that if you go towards the end where the old concrete german bunker is lying on its side, like a giant alien spaceship that crash-landed decades ago, you will find yourself shin-deep in black silt that is sticky and stinky. By the time we realized it, we were well in the middle of it and had no choice but to walk through it to get to the other end. I can still smell the putrid odor.
So, in honor of our trip to Paris, where we had the most amazing weather we have ever witnessed in France, I give you today a more savory version of the famous tarte tatin. The dessert is traditionally made with apples that are cooked in caramel and sit on a bed of puff pastry. This version uses tomatoes. It makes a great appetizer or a light summer meal, paired with some good cheese, a green salad, and a glass of ice cold rosé.
Caramelized Tomato Tarte Tatin – From The New York Times
1 14-ounce package all-butter puff pastry
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 red onions, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 cup plus a pinch of sugar
1/2 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1/4 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives
1 1/2 pints (about 1 pound) cherry or grape tomatoes; a mix of colors is nice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
1. Preheat oven to 425° F. Unfold puff pastry sheet and cut into a 10-inch round; chill, covered, until ready to use.
2. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and a pinch of sugar and cook, stirring, until onions are golden and caramelized, 15 to 20 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons water and let cook off, scraping brown bits from bottom of pan. Transfer onions to a bowl.
3. In a clean, ovenproof 9-inch skillet, combine 1/4 cup sugar and 3 tablespoons water. Cook over medium heat, swirling pan gently (do not stir) until sugar melts and turns amber, 5 to 10 minutes. Add vinegar and swirl gently.
4. Sprinkle olives over caramel. Scatter tomatoes over olives, then sprinkle onions on. Season with thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Top with puff pastry round, tucking edges into pan. Cut several long vents in top of pastry.
5. Bake tart until crust is puffed and golden, about 30 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes, then run a knife around pastry to loosen it from pan, and flip tart out onto a serving platter. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.