back in the swing of things

i haven't really been feeling myself for the last month. more on that later but for now we'll talk about my turnabout.

after returning from my three week stay in the u.s. i decided that i was going to really commit to my life here in lausanne. this was fueled by a number of things. 1. being in cincinnati was good. seeing close friends and spending time with family was all i needed but to be honest the trip gave me a hard lesson in, "out of sight out of mind." obviously i expected the city and the people to continue on without me. i guess i just didn't expect to feel the affects quite so much. i felt incredibly displaced and no longer saw myself fitting into a life there. 2. i figured if i'm going to be living in switzerland for at least another 8 months i should probably act like it. so i made a few promises to myself, stijn, and my dog. i would 1. go for long walks every day, exploring the city while kenya and i get a bit of exercise. 2. i would sit in cafés and order things in french. 3. i would learn french. 4. i would cook more. 5. i would go to a knitting group and meet some crafty swiss folks...

keeping those promises is proving to help my spirits and today alone i accomplished a few of them. we went on a walk to my favorite boulangerie, fleur de pains, where i went inside alone and ordered breakfast in french. as we enjoyed our pastry i had a french lesson: words that sound similar. sans- without, cent- hundred, son- sound, sont- third person present tense of the verb "to be", cinq- 5, seine- major river that runs through paris
now use them all in a sentence: "cinq cent sans-papiers sont sans son sur la seine."

getting back into the swing of things wouldn't be complete without some fun in the kitchen so i made a few favorites, the ever so french, salade niçoise and moelleux au chocolat for dessert. first the salad: buttery lettuce with fresh crisp green beans, tomatoes, shallots, hard boiled eggs, perfectly cooked baby potatoes, olives, capers, and the salad's linchpin, tuna, all dressed up in a simple classic vinaigrette. a word on dressing: french salads are like french women, always stylishly dressed (less is more!) and a classic vinaigrette is salad dressing's little black dress. for salade niçoise you can compile your ingredients however you like. i, always a fan of symmetry, laid the ingredients out in rows on top of lightly dressed lettuce and shallot and finished with an extra drizzle of vinaigrette. the vinaigrette was nothing more than vinegar, olive oil, dijon, salt and pepper.

salade niçoise

i seasoned fresh tuna with salt and pepper and sauteed it for a few minutes but canned tuna packed in oil is just as delicious. side note, ie. a little bragging, there are few things that give me greater pleasure as an amateur chef than the art of a perfectly cooked egg or potato and i must confess, my dear friends, that i nailed both this evening. i may have paused in the kitchen for a little victory dance but that's between the kitchen and i. and while were on the subject of pleasure, the moelleux au chocolat!

moelleux au chocolat

if that isn't enough to have you rushing to the kitchen in search of the necessary ingredients to make your own then i am sure that the simplicity of putting them together will.

moelleux au chocolat à l'orange
makes 2

3.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3/4 stick butter
2 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
1/4 c. sugar
1/3 c. flour
zest of half and orange

preheat oven to 400°F. butter and flour 2 ramekins. in the top of a double broiler, melt the chocolate and butter together. stir until well blended. then let cool to room temperature. in a large bowl whisk the egg yolks and whole eggs together, then beat in the sugar one tbsp. at a time. continue beating until the eggs have tripled in volume and are a pale yellow color. warning: this takes around 10 minutes! if you are lucky enough your loving mate will take over for you when your arm gets tired or if you're really lucky and have a mixer or electric egg beaters it only takes 4 minutes. fold the beaten eggs into the chocolate and gently blend. sprinkle the flour into the chocolate mixture, little by little until well blended. add the orange zest, saving a few strands for decoration. divide batter into prepared ramekins and place uncovered on a baking sheet in the oven. this is a good time to lick the excess batter from the spatula and don't feel ashamed if you park yourself on the ground in front of the oven to watch these babies rise (i did). bake for 15 minutes until batter has puffed up and no longer jiggles. garnish to your liking and enjoy. do not be surprised if your eyes automatically shut and you moan with every spoonful.