It has been almost a month since we moved to Paris from Hanoi. Our charming (and by that I do mean small, lol) temporary apartment is a second floor walk up on Rue de la Tour in the 16th District. We have been exploring our new neighborhood with S giving me direction (as I do not speak French - yet!) to and from the nearest weekly green markets, grocery stores, butchery, cheesery (love that place!) etc. I now feel comfortable enough to try a home cooked meal…now the challenging part…our kitchen. I have had many small and functionally challenged studio apartments when I lived in Atlanta, Ga. and this kitchen certainly brings me back to those days. This kitchen is tucked under the eves between the living room and bedroom and features: a 2 burner cook top (no oven), a microwave and a little refrigerator which sits under the counter top between the sink and the bar. Recently I of been following a cooking blog “Big Girls, Small Kitchen” and have found a lot of inspiration there so I am putting on my “big girl pants” trying out this new kitchen. Note: I have noticed that prep time takes a bit longer than normal since I have a hard time finding a spot to put chopped up ingredients, being organized and working in steps is how I am going to go at this. These recipes are my own and are easy to make with seasonal produce in addition to things I found in my cupboard.
Step 1: Spice Rub on the chops
4 pork chops
Apply your favorite Spice Rub, sea salt and freshly ground pepper to both sides of meat, I used Ras el Hanout which includes: red chili, cinnamon, grey pepper, garlic, ginger, mustard, nutmeg, cloves, paprika
Rewrap in butchers paper and let rest in the refrigerator while you are assembling everything else.
We (that is a royal we as in I asked S to actually cook the chops, he he) cooked the chops last after everything else was finished .
Place chops in a dry non-stick skillet on high heat to begin with to brown both sides then continue cooking on medium heat until the centers are no longer pink. Approximately 10-15 min. depending on the thickness of the chops.
Step 2: Home made salad dressing
Make my favorite “go to” summer Lemon Caper Salad Dressing …. light garlicky citrus based with some capers thrown in. I am making this second so the flavors will have time to blend before serving.
2 cloves of garlic mashed through sea salt with mortar and pestle
Add zest and juice of one good sized lemon and olive oil to the same bowl you used to crush the garlic
Throw in a couple of teaspoons of capers
Pour into a small jar and let sit until ready to use
This dressing will keep for a week in the refrigerator.
Step 3: The Ratatouille
- 2 medium eggplants
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 green bell pepper
- 2 medium shallots
- 4-5 cloves garlic
- sea salt
- 3-4 T olive oil
- fresh basil
- fresh Italian parsley
- splash of white wine
- 2 cans of diced tomatoes w/ juices
- additional salt and pepper to taste
- freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional topping on finished Ratatouilli)
Slice and dice eggplant sprinkle with sea salt and let sit of to the side while you prep the rest of the veggies. I read somewhere that the salt draws out any bitterness that the eggplant may have. I pat the water that is extracted from the eggplant with a paper towel before adding it to the pot.
De-seed, slice and chop red and green peppers and put aside (separate from the eggplant)
Roughly chop shallots, I do not worry about making them into perfect pieces but slice and then chop to roughly even sized pieces. Peel slice and chop the garlic in the same way. An easy way to peel garlic is to place a clove on your cutting board then using the broad side of your chopping knife smash it with the palm of your hand. The papery skin pops right off the garlic and any little bits are easily removed with your fingers. I have always had fun with this slightly brutal method for peeling garlic and find it therapeutic, lol!
Add 3-4 T olive oil to a large enough pan to hold all ingredients over medium heat. Sauté garlic and shallots until they are translucent and soft. Add your chopped peppers and continue to sauté. Using a paper towel pat any moister off the diced eggplant and add to the pot. Stir and cook over medium heat until the veggies begin to soften. Add the two cans of tomatoes with juice. Cover, turn down the heat to low and simmer stirring occasionally until the veggies have cooked down, approx. 20 min.
Chop basil and parsley and add to pot during the last few minutes of cooking along with a splash of wine (I love to have a glass of wine while I cook so I usually add a splash of whatever I happen to be drinking). Salt and pepper to taste. Stir, cover, taste (just to make sure it’s really good) turn off the heat and let rest on the back burner until you are ready to serve.
In my petite kitchen I am now washing all the dishes I used putting this together while I make the couscous.As I mentioned before I asked S to cook the pork chops which are ready to go since I did the spice rub in Step 1 and sitting in the refrigerator.
I have a glass of wine, toss the salad and relax while he is doing this… Voila….dinner is served!