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in_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-2in_the_kitchen_cecile_moliniein_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-4“In the Kitchen” is a series celebrating the family table––the food we eat, the spaces we inhabit, and the people with whom we share it all. Each edition welcomes a new voice to this conversation on kitchen life and food, and today, I welcome Cécile Molinié, the inspiring creative at Cécile Moli and contributing member of See My Paris. Cécile is the mother to four children and lives in Paris, France, where she cherishes her kitchen as both the center of their family life and the touchpoint to nature. Welcome, Cécile!


I grew up in the French countryside and at a very young age became used to helping my mother grow the vegetable garden, pick the berries, plums or apples. I learned how to preserve some of them for winter and also about the real connection between man and nature. We had a very big kitchen with a view on the garden, and as I loved cooking and found it creative and relaxing after long days at school or in college, I tried a lot of recipes, from the daily ones to the very elaborate ones. I loved it!in_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-13in_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-7 in_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-9 in_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-8When I first moved to Paris to study law more than 20 years ago, space was scarce and the kitchen was very tiny. But there is a story about Parisian kitchens, even in very chic an large classic Parisian apartments. The first time I entered such a beautiful place, I was amazed that the kitchen was isolated from the rest of the apartment, put at the end of a long, dark corridor, close to the back stairway (in French, escalier de service: the staircase used by the maids and cooks to enter the apartments by a back door in the 19th century). Most Parisian apartments are made like this. The kitchen was the place no one should see. The living room, dining room and library were very large and opulent and the kitchen very small. It was the case in the three first places we lived in with my husband and growing family until we finally bought our current apartment six years ago.

It was a big space in a modern building which had been occupied by offices for 40 years and needed a full renovation. The architect and I decided to put the kitchen at the heart of the house, close to the bedrooms, the living room, dining room, with lots of light from the terrace and a place to eat or work at a big table, a place specifically dedicated to cooking. in_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-3in_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-11 in_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-5in_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-12So this is our Parisian kitchen, one that doesn’t look so Parisian in a way! This place is where we all gather for meals or after school for homework or tea time with friends. It is always warm and welcoming. I often take my computer there to work with the kids around me. The kids like to help me cooking when they have time. Little Miss always sets the table with the silver, while the others help me with the vegetables, or the sauce, and of course with the dessert!

I decided to share a typical French dish, La Blanquette de Veau. Even the name is evocative for an English speaking person; blanquette pronounces exactly like blanket.  It is the perfect comfort dish for the cold Autumn and Winter days that all my children love and ask for––the very same one my grandmother cooked when I visited her. The recipe was inspired by the children’s cookbook pictured, one that was mine when I was a child. It is really easy to make. It just takes time to prepare and must be watched. Afterward, I always keep the remaining broth and use it to make a soup for the evening with angel hair pasta or these small letters pasta, very popular in France with the children.in_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-6in_the_kitchen_cecile_molinie-10LA BLANQUETTE DE VEAU (Veal Stew in a White Sauce) 

Serves 6

You need :

  • 1,2 kg (2 ½ pounds) of veal shoulder cut into little cubes
  • 1 shallot, peeled and cut into slices
  • 1 big onion, peeled with the cloves stick
  • 5 cloves
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut lenghtwise
  • 2 leeks mostly the white part (keep one green leaf for the bouquet garni below)
  • 1 bouquet garni (ie : 1 little branch of bay leaves, one of thyme, one green leaf of leek, a few springs of parsley) or at least only the bay leaves ; Tie all the herbs together into the leek leaf.
  • 1 table spoon sea salt
  • ground pepper
  • parsley or chives (optional)
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoon flour
  • ½ cup 100 ml crème fraiche (optional)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 500g white rice

Method :

  • Put the veal pieces in a large pot (cocotte in french) add 2 liters of cold water and bring to a boil.
  • Skim and add all the vegetables, bouquet garni and salt.
  • Add some water to cover everything if necessary
  • Cover, lower the heat and let cook for one hour.
  • When the veal and vegetables are tender, remove the bouquet garni.
  • Let it cool a little bit and leave the meat in the pot and put the broth in a large bowl.
  • Cook the rice
  • Make the roux : melt the butter in a large saucepan, add  the flour, it must get a little beige (not brown), add one or two pinches of salt. Then add, one at a time, 7 to 8 laddles (3 ½ to 4 cups) of broth into the saucepan, stirring constantly between each addition. The broth turns thicker and makes a creamy white sauce.
  • Mix the creme fraiche and egg yolk.
  • Add the creme fraiche and egg yolk mixture to the sauce and stop the heat.
  • Pour this sauce into the cocotte with the meat and vegetables.
  • Sprinkle with parsley or chives if your children like little green things on their food (mine don’t )

Serve immediately with the rice. Bon appétit !


All images and words by Cécile Molinié for Cloistered Away. You can find more of Cécile’s work on Instagram @cecilemoli and @seemyparis.

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Although I often share images or videos of our food and family table, I’m also curious how other families connect around the table. What are other kitchen spaces like and how do they include children in the process? Is there even a process? Wink. What type of meals  do other homes prefer and how do they make time together and experience food? This fall, I’m beginning a new series “In the Kitchen” where I plan to introduce other voices into this conversation on kitchen life and food. Each one will share something a bit different from the next, as location and homes and family life vary, but each will share a recipe or two, something to try in our own home. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

To begin the series, I’m introducing Emily Nelson, a swoon-worthy food blogger at Gather&Dine and a mother of two in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She is a quiet soul with a broad palate and a penchant for whole foods, and I cannot wait to try her Caponata. Welcome, Emily!


in-the-kitchen-emily-nelson-2 in-the-kitchen-emily-nelson-1When we built our house five years ago, I knew I wanted the kitchen to be at the very center of our home since gathering, cooking, and eating together are such important parts of family life.   I spend a lot of my time in the kitchen, and both my children took a natural interest in working alongside me from a very early age.   Pouring, mixing, and kneading were all fun and relatively easy tasks for them when they were young, and I have fond memories of messy afternoon baking sessions together.  More recently we’ve been focusing a bit more on knife skills, and they have a great sense of accomplishment when they see a heaping bowl of vegetables they’ve chopped entirely on their own.  Working together in the kitchen has been a wonderful opportunity to spend quality time with one another.  At the same time, the children build confidence and simultaneously acquire valuable skills to last their lifetimes.

Preparing food together also gives us opportunities to discuss healthy eating habits, which is especially helpful as the children become more independent and capable of making their own food choices.  As a family, we try to eat according to whatever is fresh and seasonal with an overall wholesome and natural approach to food.  While we do not adhere to a vegetarian diet, I do draw a lot of inspiration from various vegetarian cookbooks and blogs.  Both Deborah Madision’s The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and Alice Water’s The Art of Simple Food and have heavily influenced my way of cooking and have been invaluable resources.

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Meal planning once a week helps me to stay organized and minimizes trips to the store.  I find cookbook perusing a delight rather than a chore, and I keep a running list of recipes I want to try.  With my ever-growing list of recipes, I’m never out of ideas when it comes time for my weekly meal planning.  I enjoy experimenting with food so there tends to be a lot of variety in our dinners, but I do try to incorporate at least one favorite and familiar meal on the menu every week.  This helps with building comfort around the table, and also lends to sense of family identity.  Sometimes the kids will join in helping to plan the meals, and Erin Gleeson’s Forest Feast for Kids has been a cookbook they have especially enjoyed.  

We are very intentional about prioritizing our family dinners together.  More and more as the kids have become older, I’m finding that there are numerous activities which can pull us apart at dinnertime.  We try to fight against this as best as we can, and only schedule extracurricular activities during the dinner hour when we absolutely have to.  It’s not easy, but guarding our mealtime together has been a priority nonetheless.  Cooking and eating together has deepened our connections and relationships with each other, and has overall helped us to be a close family.

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This caponata is traditionally served along with some crusty bread, and I think it also goes particularly well with grilled rosemary chicken.   It’s a meal that can please both meat-eaters and vegetarians alike, and is well suited for gatherings of all sorts.  The kids helped with everything from washing and chopping the vegetables to sautéing and garnishing, so this was a family meal in the truest sense.  

CAPONATA

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium eggplant, about 1 pound

1 red bell pepper

1 red onion

4 ripe tomatoes, about 1 pound

2 tablespoons capers, drained

¾ cup green olives, sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted

chopped parsley to garnish

  1. Chop eggplant, red pepper, and onion into ¾-inch pieces.  
  2. Heat oil in large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add eggplant, pepper, and onions and cook until vegetables just begin to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and stir for an additional minute.  
  3. Add tomatoes, olives, capers, vinegar, and salt.  Turn heat to low and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.  We enjoy this when the vegetables are not overly soft, but if you prefer a softer caponata, simmer for an additional 5-10 minutes.
  4. Garnish with pine nuts and a generous handful of parsley.  Serve warm or at room temperature with grilled rosemary chicken and some crusty bread.  

 

GRILLED ROSEMARY CHICKEN

4 chicken breasts, about 2 pounds

¼ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

lemon wedges and rosemary sprigs for garnish, optional

  1. Place chicken between 2 pieces of parchment paper and use a rolling pin to pound the chicken until it reaches an even 1/2 –inch thickness.  
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Add chicken and toss to coat evenly.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  3. Preheat grill to medium high heat.  Grill chicken breasts for 3-5 minutes on each side.  Garnish with lemon wedges and rosemary along with an additional drizzle of olive oil.  

 All images by Emily Nelson for Cloistered Away. You can find more from Emily at Gather&Dine and also on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest

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Sometimes it is easy to look at other people’s pictures or lives and feel that I am somehow missing out. That I don’t have enough. Sometimes things don’t go as I plan, even when I plan well. Sometimes I have to choose to give thanks when I least expect it–even  possibly on the day we commemorate it. For instance, I may have actually taken more time to get dressed for dinner this evening, paying attention to details in a way I wouldn’t typically, only to find myself later wearing a child’s vomit. I arranged candles across the table, preparing the space where the meal my parents lovingly labored over would sit, only to realize that special meals are still meals to children–consumed quickly enough to have dessert with little care for mealtime conversation or decor. Yet still–although perhaps more humbly–I am to give thanks. Not only when everything is perfect or goes as planned, but also when it doesn’t. Maybe in the latter, on these sort of days, the giving of thanks actually feels like a gift. A precious gift. Something hidden within me that I have to retrieve. This evening, I spent a little time this evening remembering, retrieving.  I remembered how thanksgiving restores us, rather than depleting us, how the recounting of gratitude changes our heart. A noble reminder for the day, I think.

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

 

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A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other’s lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.
― Wendell Berry

Most of us here, now treading in collars or stilettos, worked to create this space, this moment. We emptied. We built. We planted. We baked or poured or supplied for what would become a communal mosaic, an evening celebrating (my brother-in-law and friend) Tim.

Lining tables shoulder-to-shoulder, faces aglow, we agree our lives are different because of you. Happy 30th birthday.

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I love this time of year.

The leaves, finally changing colors,

form day’s light

each with unique and separate detail.

“Look at me,” they chorus, and I do.

For they, like the dancer on the stage, have waited patiently

for this moment to be beheld, to enchant.

The trees herald

Fall’s arrival, wafting its relief from our long, hard summer

and we in return celebrate her by spending long days outdoors, adventuring

and nights, snuggling

together

at times with a cup of hot chocolate, others in our warm beds.

It is the season for thanksgiving,

the time when we memorialize Beauty and Goodness and the ways they touch our lives,

even as we’re busy worrying and consuming Want.

But not today.

Today, we gather and break bread together,

offering our thanksgiving like children tossing leaves to the sky,

giddy at the never-ending.

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Because we’re always away from home over Christmas, each year we spend Thanksgiving at home, enjoying Mark’s break from work and our own from schoolwork, and of course, spending time with our friends and family in town. This year, the weather was warm enough we moved our table outdoors and feasted in our backyard. And I do mean feasted. Attempting to take advantage of our fantastic weather, Mark and I had wanted to try camping over Thanksgiving. Of course everything was full. So as a second resort, we set up a tent to camp with the kids in the backyard on Friday night. It turned out to be the coldest night of the year thus far. Naturally. We enjoyed our little adventure — especially the kids. And I admit, it was wonderful to be able to pop inside early Saturday morning to enjoy some warm coffee and eggnog together. It’s a start anyway. Here’s some photos from the weekend.