Papalo Scallops & Corn

Papalo Scallops & Corn


When Miles (my younger son) came into the kitchen and asked quite intrigued: “What is that smell?” I pointed to the Papalo bunch sitting next to the sink.

Papalo is a native South American plant, also known as Papaloquite or porophyllum ruderale or macrocephalum. Its name comes from papalotl, —butterfly in Nahuatl and interesting (to me) in French butterfly is papillon!— The first time I encountered papalo was at a flea market Upstate New-York. A Mexican vendor was getting ready to sell Guarachas*—a dish I wouldn’t mind getting more info on. The women were setting up while the men were all sitting down having lunch. I noticed them picking leaves from the middle of the table and eating little bites with their grilled meat and tortillas.


I ordered a Guaracha, I had to ask for the leaves as I wasn’t automatically given some. The lady was a bit surprised as she explained — nicely — that gringos didn’t usually care much for it. She was delighted I would try it as it was the way to eat this dish. It was love at “first bite!”; the grilled meat seasoned with lime, the green salsa, the Mexican cheese all topping a homemade corn tortilla —that looked to have had some beans worked into the dough, and the little bite of papalo to make it a truly “gastrorgasmic” moment. Papalo’s taste is condensed, pungent and close to be an entrancing flavor. It must be used appropriately and parsimoniously.

Harold from Carral FarmA few weeks ago I got some papalo from Harold, owner of Carral Farm and a regular vendor at the Bay Ridge Greenmarket. He also gave me some suggestion on how to use it and recommended to also get some  Anaheim peppers. I picked up a pound of fresh scallops at American Seafood (read previous blog on scallops here and here). And this is the recipe I will share with you today:

Scallops With Sautéed Corn and Papalo (for 3)


1 lb of fresh scallops
2 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 lime juice
kernels of 2 fresh ears of corn
1/4 cup red bell peppers
1/4 cup sweet onions
1/8 cup green Anaheim peppers
9 leaves of fresh papalo
2 Tbsp brandy or Lillet
1 dollop butter at room temperature

Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil and 1 Tbsp of butter in a stainless still or cast iron frying pan.


Sear scallops delicately  in the pan or about 3 minutes or so per side —it will depend how thick they are. Do not overcook them. Keep them warm between two plates and reserve until ready to serve.

While the scallops are cooking, sautée all the vegetables (with only 3 leaves of papalo chopped) lightly with olive oil or/and butter (see picture above to see size of veggies).

Déglaze the pan with some brandy or Lillet.  Add lime juice  and retrieve all the juice that have deposited in the scallop plate.

monter sauce

Add a dollop of soft butter and when only ready to serve  “monter la sauce au beurre” —that is to swirl in, until completely melted, a dollop of room temperature unsalted butter; it will give your sauce a velvety texture and a rich flavor. We have done it before, right? Add salt & pepper to taste and voilà!

*The guaraches turned out to be huaraches. See comments below and huraches blog.

Lost in Pepper!

Lost in Pepper!

Mushroom Salad

All I wanted to do was post a quick recipe for Labor Day:
A raw mushroom salad marinated with pink & green peppercorns. Little did I know! I took the photo a week ago, the ‘shrooms are long gone but I am still marinating in pepper!

pink peppercorn

First, I confirmed that green pepper is the unripe Piper nigrum or black pepper that is mostly cultivated in Madagascar. Then I looked into pink peppercorn Schinus terebinthifolius: a faux poivre – a fake pepper. Originally from South America the Baies Roses plant is today cultivated on Reunion Island. And the last thing I was going to look into the Dictionnaire Universel de Cuisine et d’Hygiène Alimentaire” by J. Favre — & there (re)appears the fascinating Monsieur Pierre Poivre.  Oui! le poivre, pepper in French, was named after Pierre Poivre.  In English that would be Mr. Peter Pepper. He was also known as Peter Piper or le missionaire des épices — the missionary of spices!

Pierre Poivre

Pierre Poivre was born in Lyon (France) in 1719 (where he also died in 1786). After studying botany and Latin he was sent to Paris to enter the Seminaire des Missions Etrangères (Foreign Mission Seminary) to become a priest. He thought his vocation was to evangelize the Far East —little did he know.  Before getting ordained he was sent on an initiatory voyage to China. The trip was more than eventful: it coincided with the Jesuits been kicked out of the country. He was arrested & sent to prison. In order to plead his case he learned Chinese. He was brilliant and officials ended up granting him permission to visit the country.  His taste for adventure put a serious damper to his religious vocation. He visited many places among them Cochin China (Vietnam), Macau, Canton and was totally fascinated by their botany, agriculture and commerce. In 1745 he had to return to France to get ordained but fate struck again. The English attacked the ship he was on, a cannonball hit his wrist and amputation of his forearm was inevitable once he landed on Batavia Island (Indonesia) where the Dutch helped him out. That ended his priesthood carrier and more sadly his painting carrier —though I haven’t yet found any samples of his work, he had the reputation of being an excellent painter. While recovering on Batavia Island, he studied the native plants and the idea came to him that the French should grow their own spices in order to bypass the Dutch monopoly.

Bourbon Islands

And that’s exactly what he did in 1767 when he became Intendant  des Isles de France et de Bourbon — the French colonies situated in the Indian Ocean south of Madagascar today called Mauritius & Réunion. One of his claims to fame was to transfer spice trees from the Dutch Indies (pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and many others) to the French colonies. Pierre Poivre was associated with the physiocrats (physis, nature, kratein, rule). The physiocrats are regarded as proto-French revolutionaries; they proposed to benefit agriculture by implementing a system of economic freedom. Poivre was against slavery and he is considered one of the first environmentalists who created and implemented the first environmental laws. Fear of climate change was already a concern and linked to deforestation. If you want to know more about the historic of environmental concerns read this Harvard Seminar on Environmental Values by Professor Richard H. Grove here.
Pierre Poivre married Françoise Robin, who was about 30 years younger than he,  and they had two daughters. It is interesting to note that nine years after Pierre Poivre passed away, Françoise Robin Poivre remarried Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours, who was the one who coined the term physiocrat —The du Pont family fled France for the USA during the revolution where Éleuthère Irenée du Pont, her second husband’s son, established the gunpowder manufacturer E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company. Today Dupont is the second largest chemical company in the world.
Pierre Poivre's Book

Pierre Poivre wrote an extensive memoir:  “Voyage d’un philosophe ou Observations sur les moeurs ou les arts des peuples d’Afriques, de l’Asie et de l’Amérique” filled with acute observations, pertinent information and political & naturalist perspectives. As I stated above, Poivre is still regarded today as the avant-garde of environmentalism and his texts are still studied  —see Richard H. Grove article for more details.
In 1984 I visited Les Jardins de Pamplemouse on Mauritius Island.
Since then the garden that was constructed by Pierre Poivre was renamed SSR Botanical Garden. I remember the visit fondly, though at that time I had more scattered interests and didn’t pay enough attention.  I should still have pictures and recipe somewhere in storage and am tempted to go dig them out, even if they belong to a segment of my “romantic” life I don’t care much revisiting.
o be continued? Will see!

Meanwhile there is the recipe that you can adjust to your own taste:

green peppercorn1 lb of very fresh button/white mushrooms
1 lemon (juice)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoon pink peppercorns
2 teaspoon green peppercorns
—dry or in can. If you use the canned ones you can add 1 teaspo0n of the vinegar they marinate in.
1/2 cup roughly chopped parsley
Salt & ….pepper? just a dash!

Prepare your marinade with all ingredients except the parsley.
Clean & cut the mushrooms in quarters (top only, use bottom in a sauce.)
Toss the mushrooms  in the marinade.
Save in the fridge for up to 48 hours.
Toss in parsley before serving.
Garnish with a sprig of parsley and a few pink peppercorns

Pyrenean Fast Food!

Pyrenean Fast Food!


The other evening we fell into an aperitif trapère! We stopped at our favorite local bar-restaurant “Le Faisant Doré” to meet my brother Jean-Louis to have an apéritif (before dinner drink) before making our way back up to the montains with our good friends Peter Cockelberg and his wife Delphine Grave for dinner. The one drink turned out to be a round per person. Jean-Louis was already sitting there with his 2 good buddies, that made a total of 7!  Thanks god I was drinking small ballons de rosé & managed to skip a few. It is always one of my great pleasure to hang out with my bro, he is the funniest and the most entertaining guy. Not really a politically correctest dude, but I adore him and put up with his most salacious & sarcastic comments!

Anyhow we safely returned to the mountains and managed to cook dinner in a flash. Again, no time to wait for the fire to make enough embers to slowly cook the beautiful slab of veal from chez Jammes. I pulled out my frying pan and cooked it all on the open fire.

Tranche de Veau Sauce à l’Ail et au Basilic
Pan fried veal with basil & garlic cream sauce
Tomates Provençales
Pan fried tomatoes with persillade


Render enough fatback (see previous blog) to lightly coat the pan and cook the meat medium. Reserve and keep covered in a hollow dish.

In the same pan render a little more fatback add the tomatoes cut in half or quartered, depending on their size. Add the persillade when the tomatoes are almost done, sauté a few minutes and reserve.


Still in the same pan, add some brandy and flambé. Add the juices that have rendered in the meat dish. Add one cup of heavy cream, the garlic and let boil on the fire. Once the cream starts thickening add the freshly (at the last minute or it will darken) chopped basil. Boil a few more seconds, add salt, pepper and some ground piment d’Espelette (see last blog). Pour the sauce over the meat and voilà! Eat and lick your plate!

Veal Tomates

Encore des Sardines!

Encore des Sardines!


Encore des sardines! First came the sardine tartine blog, were I mentioned that King Henri IV loved sardines and introduced them to the court; then came the sardine paté at the 5c café performance; and on  Friday our friend Claire arrived from Brittany with a boxed set of a 6 cans Saint-Georges sardines “La Reserve” 2006.  Like wine, great sardines improve with time. Sardines millesimées, or vintage sardines, can be kept for up to 10 years.  Cans need to be turned over every 6 months so they are equally bathed in oil.  I decided not to wait 7 years to try them as I am too curious &  have never had “vintage” sardines before.
Claire and her family are true sardine aficionados so I knew it was going to be good. In fact it was a crescendo of goodness.  It started out when pulling up the tin ring and discovering the silvery little fishes perfectly aligned while resting in fragrant & subtle golden extra virgin olive oil. Then the smell trapped in the can quickly revealed a fresh ocean breeze.  So inviting!  My daughter-in-law prepared some spiced pita bread, and it proved to be a perfect support, though I grabbed my first vintage sardine with my fingers and put it whole in my mouth. The dainty fish flesh sent out 3D emotions to my neurons, and these were indeed the best sardines I ever had. I sure will not make sardines paté with these — too good, too beautiful to do anything to them but eat them whole.
A word about the can factory:
La Belle Iloise is a family affair. The company was created in 1932 by Georges Hilliet, thus the naming of the sardines: Saint Georges. His grandson Bernard Hilliet is still running the factory and his daughter is scheduled to continue the tradition and take over the operations in a few years. The factory is located in Quiberon. They operate their own retail stores and that is why they were able to survive. When mass distribution set  in, they decided to cut out the middle man and operate their own stores.  They have several of them where they sell their various products. I have tried only the sardines but according to Claire it is all good. All this info is available on their (french only) website.

We ate the sardines while watching the soccer game USA-Brasil. USA lost honorably but for me the sardines where definitely the highlight of the day. Joseph (my elder son) complemented the special sardines with a pleasant iced cold Lalande chardonnay from Gascony.  We ate 2 cans, I gave one to Joseph and will save the other 3 for a couple of years. Stay tuned — I’ll report. Meanwhile: vive les sardines!
DSCN3464saint george sardines

From Salad to Memories

From Salad to Memories


It takes 3 people to make a good salad:
A miser to pour the vinegar
A wise woman to add the spices/condiments
A genius to dispense the oil

At my family hotel salad was never served as a main course, rarely as a first course, occasionally as an appetizer. The “traditional” salad course came after the entree and before the cheese course. It was mostly Boston lettuce dressed with a vinaigrette prepared with mustard, wine vinegar, peanut oil, salt & pepper, sometimes adorned with a few walnuts. Though once a week the crudités cart was on the menu as an appetizer course. The double deck cart carried a dozen of brown rectangular, low rimmed glazed earthenware individual dishes. They were filled with sliced tomatoes, grated carrots, celery remoulade, potato salad, slices of salamis, sardines, herring, artichoke hearts, champignons à la grèque, asparagus, hearts of palm, just to name a few. The cart was brought to the table were the waitress/waiter would neatly arrange the customer’s choice on a plate. I have fond memories of the cart because it was my first job helping out in the dining room.
I was around 6 years old, when Cecile, the sweet, wonderful and ever so caring head waitress —who had been working for my family since my father was a child—
took me under her wing. I begged for the full waitress outfit and she gave it to me:  the apron, the collard, the cuffs, and even the headdress! I was so excited; I wish I had a picture. Anyhow, Cecile sent me with the cart to the tables to present diners with their choices, she would show up few minutes later to  plate. Very soon Cecile let me handle the cart all by myself. I loved it and so did the guests. I could count it has my first food performance.
So buying large the cart was a rolling version of today’s salad bar and at the same time a salade composée or mixed salad.
The first mixed salad I recall seeing on the menu is Salade Niçoise -tomatoes, black olives, tuna, onions and hard-boiled eggs. Here I should specify that I am talking about the pensionnaires’ menu (the residents’) as we called them. The family hotel was in the spa town of Luchon where people came to treat respiratory and rheumatism problems. La cure, the cure, lasted 3 weeks and clients price included breakfast, lunch, dinner and lodging called pension complete. At that time the hotel was registered 4 starts and the menus were always 5 to 6 courses meal: hors d’oeuvres (appetizer), entrée (first course), plat de résitance (main course or entree),salad , cheese, dessert. The plateau de fromages, the cheese tray, was usually on the lunch menu and the salad on the dinner menu.

Hotel Poste et Golf around 1965
Hotel Poste et Golf circa 1965

My grandfather was the menu master, but once a while my mother would get to work on them and that’s when the salade Niçoise appeared on the menu! Neither my father nor my grandfather cared much for salad. In their mind the crudités cart was already a stretch and salade composée had no place on the menu. I can still hear my grand-father telling my mother:
(that is my mother) our customers are not rabbits! Why in hell do you want to give them so much salad? “
She would shrug her shoulders and wait for the next opportunity to sneak one on the menu!  I called her to check how close my memories matched hers —frequently they don’t!— but in this case it did. She added that she was the one who had the carts built. Family memories will be continued another time; meanwhile there is my salad!

I roasted 2 big chicken breasts with bone in. I basted the breast with olive oil, garlic, salt & pepper and roasted them slowly so they stayed juicy.  Chicken can be served warm or cold, I prefer it cold on my greens. I dressed read lettuce with my usual simple salad dressing using rice vinegar -I would have used apple cider vinegar but I was out. Then the picture is pretty explicit: I sliced ½ a Mutsu apple (I ate the other half), cut up a few ribs of celery, sprinkled the whole thing with extra virgin olive oil and lots of fresh ground pepper. Voilà! I debated weather of not adding cheese, and I didn’t, though fresh goat cheese would have been nice. Enjoy the refreshing and palatable combination of the textures and make your own combination.