For any of you who have ever lived abroad you know there is just something about it that is…. well, wonderful. It is something I can’t quite describe or put into words, but I certainly loved all of the time I spent in Europe. My first trip to Europe was the summer after I finished my first year of university. My roommate & I decided we would take five weeks & backpack through Europe. It was an enormous adventure for both of us but a great experience & one that I am now glad I did in my early twenties. I’ve also traveled twice to Italy on battlefield tours…. yes, battlefield tours. (Did you miss the part in my bio that says I like tanks? Well, that stems from my love of military history & the fact I have two degrees in military history. The battlefield tours make a little more sense now, don’t they?)
In anycase, Italy is amazing… Sicily even more so. I fell in love. The trips were amazing not only for the fact we were literally tracing the steps of the Canadian Army (which really is the only way to truly understand what transpired) but also for the food & the wine. Fresh pasta, thin crust, wood fired pizza, seafood like you wouldn’t believe…. do I need to continue? In one word… FANTASTIC! If you are ever uninspired by food take a trip to Europe. I think it is almost impossible to come back without totally falling in love with food again. But this is not about Italy or Italian food. This is about France.
I have also spent a summer in France, living & working in Normandy (it was that military history stuff again!). And it was during my time in France that I met Celine, who is now one of my dearest friends.
I have known Celine for over seven years now & am thankful that we have become such good friends. Even though we live far apart now (we are at least in the same country now) our lives seem to somehow run a parallel course & we certainly depend on each other to get through the ups & downs of life.
While living in Normandy, however, Celine & I loved to spend our evenings in her tiny shoebox apartment cooking up a storm & laughing while sipping some (usually cheap) French wine.
Those were some of the best nights of the summer & ones that the two of us will cherish forever, of this I am certain. We were constantly experimenting & coming up new recipes to try. If you saw Celine’s tiny place (we cooked at my place occasionally but Celine did have the better kitchen) & our limited cooking implements you might be surprised by what we managed to whip up. Our repitoire certainly increased when Celine bought an oven (which was about the size of most microwaves). We made pizza (with rice for the crust – sounds strange, I know, but it was actually quite good), pasta with lardons (aka BACON) & creme fraiche was one of our favourites, as was Normandy Chicken (recipe to follow sometime soon). I even managed to turn out a couple of apple pies thanks to Celine’s oven. Plus, we even pulled off a dinner party for about 9 people in her tiny place (Celine, please forgive me for the photo!).
But cooking is what made that tiny apartment & the dreary grey days of that particular Normandy summer bearable. As I am typing this I am thinking of so many recipes that I brought back from France that I want to share with you. But that’s for another day…The recipe today is actually not even one from France… but it is one that I made for Celine, when we had the opportunity to cook together in Canada many years ago & one that she has requested. I look forward to the next time that we can see each other… hopefully for longer than our last visit & hopefully we have our husbands in tow! Whenever we do manage to get together, however, I know there will be, as always, lots of good food, good wine & laughter! For you my dear friend, I hope you (& your sister-in-law) enjoy this!
Balsamic Glazed Pear, Pecans & Onions in Brie
1 lb Brie Cheese (one small wheel)
1 tbsp butter
1 onion, peeled & sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pear, cored & chopped
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp each salt & pepper
1/4 cup toasted chopped pecans
Slice Brie in half to make two layers. Heat butter in skillet set over medium heat. Add onion & garlic. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until softened. Increase heat to medium-high. Add pear. Cook, tossing for 2-3 minutes or until beginning to brown. Sprinkle with brown sugar & cook, stirring, until well browned. Stir in balsamic vinegar & cook for one minute. Taste & add salt & pepper as needed. Stir in nuts.
Place one layer of Brie on a platter, cut side up. Spoon pear mixture over Brie & replace top of cheese. Serve with crackers and/or thinly sliced baguette. Recipe can easily be doubled. Use additional filling as garnish (optional).