Summer Fare

Baked Ribs, Fresh Corn, and Fried Taters

It was my birthday no too long ago, and I was really craving some comfort food.  I set my mind on BBQ ribs in the oven, with corn fresh off the cob, and fried taters like my grandmother used to make them.  It's not exactly easy to find ribs.  They're called "travers de porc".  "Côtes de porc" are pork chops.  I asked a friend who's been here longer than I, and she suggested I try the farmer's market at Place Carnot on Wednesday afternoons.  If you've never been to this market I highly recommend it.  Unlike many markets who resell products, here all the products come straight from the farm.  I was really happy to find a female butcher that uses gloves to touch the meat, and not to make change with.  I had already made my plans, before I knew there was a heat wave starting on my birthday.  So I stayed up late the day before to bake the cake, and start the ribs on a slow bake that I left in the oven all night long.  I slathered them with a smokey spice rub that I got from my sister for Christmas.  In the morning I made a quick bbq sauce and caramelized it.  I just wish I'd have remembered to make the ice tea.  

Post by Dori, 21 July 2015

No Bake Cheesecake with Agar-Agar

I promised to find the cheesecake recipe for a cooking workshop I participated in.  Easy right?  Not.  The workshop only lasts 4 hours.  I thought, we can just do a no bake recipe and it'll have enough time to chill if we put it in the freezer.  I settled on a Martha Stewart recipe, and decided to test it with actual fresh cheese, instead of cream cheese.  It was a disaster.  One of the cheeses had started to have a little bit of funky flavor, and it ruined the whole cheesecake.  So I tried it again, with regular cream cheese.  Even after 24 hours it was soupy.  So I called on my pastry chef friend for help.  The answer- Use Gelatin!  Unfortunately gelatin takes at least twice as much time to jell as the workshop actually lasts, and half the people in the group are either vegetarian or muslim.  So I was left with the choice of trying agar-agar, or eating warm cheesecake in the middle of summer.

I'd never used agar-agar, so I took to researching it.  I never could find a plain no bake cheesecake recipe made with agar-agar.  Apparently mango cheesecake dominates in this category.  I also found that a lot of sites give you information that's totally inaccurate, for instance, telling you that you can just substitute agar-agar for gelatin.  Agar-agar is much stronger than gelatin, and you could end up with something more like cheesecake jello if you don't adjust the measurements.  Whereas gelatin isn't supposed to be boiled, agar-agar has to be boiled for 4-5 minutes to activate.  The hot agar-agar is then supposed to be blended into something that's already warm.  Otherwise you can end up with lumps.  Neither can be frozen.  What's great about the agar-agar though, is that it starts to firm up in 15 minutes, even before it cools down, and will stay firm at room temperature.  So on the third try, I finally came up with my own recipe that turned out great.  It's a light summer time cheesecake, that you don't have to turn on the oven for, and you don't have to wait 24 hours for either.

No Bake Cheesecake with Agar-Agar


For the Crust :
50g - ¼ Cup Sugar
125g - ½ Cup Melted Butter
240g - 2 Cups Sablés Anglais crumbs (apx. 16 cookies) McVities brand

For the Filling :
450g - 16 oz. Philadelphia cream cheese
400g - 14 oz. Sweetened Condensed Milk (Lait sucré concentré, a 397g can)
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
2-4 Tbsp. Juice of ½ a lemon
¾ tsp Powdered Agar-agar (1.5 g or half a 3g package)
33cl - 11 oz. Whipping Cream – In France use Elle & Vire,
Crème liquide entière professionnel 35% from Monoprix


Make the Crust :
-Process the sablés anglais into fine crumbs in a food processor.
-In a bowl, mix the cookie crumbs with the sugar, then add the melted butter, and combine.
-Press the mixture firmly and evenly into your pie plate.

Make the Filling :
You need two sauce pans, and electric beater, a whip, a metal strainer, two bowls, a spatula and spoons.

Prepare the ingredients :

-Put the powdered agar-agar in a sauce pan with a cup of water.

-Put the sweetened condensed milk in a second sauce pan.

-Start by whipping the cream. Beat the cold whipping cream with an electric beater until stiff peaks form. Store in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.

-In a second bowl, beat the cream cheese, vanilla, and lemon juice together.

-Start heating the agar-agar, boil for 4-5 minutes. At the same time, heat the sweetened condensed milk on low heat. You may need to whip the agar-agar as it boils so that it's well incorporated.

-Pour the agar-agar into sweetened condensed milk through the strainer. Quickly whip the agar-agar and the sweetened condensed milk together with a whip.

-Immediately after, use electric beaters to incorporate the hot mixture a little bit at a time into the bowl of cheese mixture.

-Fold in the whipped cream with a spatula until it's well incorporated.

-Pour the filling into the crust and refrigerate until completely cooled.

Post by Dori, 9 July 2015

Mexican Finds - Jalapeños and Masa Harina

Masa Harina
This has been the month of serendipitous mexican finds.  First I found 2kilos Masa Harina at Bahadourian for 7€.  You can usually get it at Don Taco, but for 11€.  I made a round of tamales with a chicken and rajas filling, using a corne de boeuf pepper in place of poblanos.  (I already had the corn husks).  Then I made sopes with the left over filling.  Next I made some tortillas, and turned them into chorizo quesadillas.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with masa harina, it's dried corn that is cooked in "limewater" (not actual limes), ground into a paste, then dried into flour.  It's the cooking in limewater that alters the corn in such a way that allows tortillas to be supple.  If you've ever tried to make tortillas, or other mexican corn products with regular corn flour, then you know that it'll just break up.  This is also why the "corn" tortillas you might buy here are strange and tasteless.  They are mostly made of wheat flour with a touch of regular corn flour.  


I was doing some shopping at Bail Distribution.  They distribute high quality fruits and vegetables to restaurants, but also have a retail store.  I found these chiles next to normal Moroccan ones and I asked about them.  Of course, the sales lady has no idea these are not the same kind of chili.  When I insisted these two were not the same thing, and there was no price on those, she asked the manager.  He didn't know either.  I ended up talking to him, I finally I told him, look, I know my chiles, and that is nothing like those moroccan chilies, and if it was what I thought it was, I knew quite a few people who were going to be really happy.  He knew he had jalapeños in jars (didn't realize they're pickled so they don't have the same culinary uses).  Then he says to me, I'm not even sure those are hot… He picked one up and broke it open.  I put my pinkie finger in there and put it in my mouth.  I told him it was hot, but he decided to do it anyway, and did the finger taste test.  I don't think he's going to forget that for a while.  Poor guy!  He came to the conclusion that these peppers were probably a mistake, and they may not get anymore.  I bought a dozen, so if you're quick you might still get some.  I've since made guacamole and salsa with them, and I'm thinking about doing some poppers with the rest of them.  I do think they're jalapeños, but they don't have as strong of a jalapeño taste as the ones I'm use to.  I think that's likely due to the growing conditions.  I was still really happy to get them :)

Post by Dori June 25, 2015


Banana Bars

Back in the 70's people came up with all kinds of recipes that were "healthier" because they had vegetables or fruit in them.  I've been revisiting some of them lately and I'm rather shocked but what we considered healthy at the time.  I still make them occasionally as a sweat treat from my childhood.  My conservative mother had this one book of "hippie" recipes, and the banana bars were our favorite.  It's basically a wetter cookie recipe, where banana replaces a some of the fat and sugar.  Next time I think I'll try reducing the sugars from 2/3 of a cup to 1/2, and see how I like it.

3/4 C butter (170g)
2/3 C sugar (150g)
2/3 C brown sugar (160g)
2 medium mashed bananas (245g)
1 egg 
1 tsp vanilla (7g)
1/2 tsp salt (3g) unless using salted butter
2 tsp baking pwd (7g)
12 oz choco chips (300g)
2 C flour (300g)

Cream butter, egg, sugars, vanilla, bananas, salt
Add half of the flour and baking powder
Add choco chips, mix
Add rest of flour
Spoon into well greased pan 9 x 13
Bake 25 min at 350 F or until done in center

Post by: Dori 22 May 2015

Burger King is Back in Lyon

Burger King has arrived in Lyon! 

The Burger King Confluence restaurant opened the 4th of December, to paltry newspaper reviews. They mentioned that it didn't get the reception that others in Paris had gotten, where there were lines out the door, and that Lyon had prepared for a mass of people that never came.  That was perhaps the case day one at lunch time, it's so not the case now.  My husband and I went Saturday night, the 6th and again on a monday night, the 29th.  The first night, here were 30 some people in line at the door in front of us, and then there was a line inside.  When we did get to the door, there was a nice young man who gave us a menu, and explained the concept of having your burger "your way", by being able to add and subtract whatever you want. The fact that this is a novel concept here, which has to be explained, totally cracks me up.  Heaven help you though if you actually order something with plus or minus anything on your sandwich, because the front line staff doesn't appear to know how to find said burgers by reading the wrapping markings.    

They don't exactly have the same menu here. It appears they've limited themselves to the big sandwiches for now.  I ordered a double bacon cheeseburger without the pickles, and my husband ordered the largest thing on the menu, a triple whopper. Of course making a special order is the fastest way to slow down your food order, and we had a little trouble. To their credit, on our first visit, they remade my burger that had been sitting too long waiting for the other one to show up, and they gave us some free wings to make up for the extra wait. I was fairly surprised. For one, those wings were awesome for a fast food wing. I thought that I'd actually order those in the future.  Second, my bacon cheeseburger was the same diameter as the whopper!  Half way through the meal I heard my husband say something he NEVER EVER says: "Honey, I'm full."  He's a big guy, 6' 3 1/2", with a big appetite, so that's really saying something. This morning he's vowed that he's never going to eat another fast food burger unless it's comes from Burger King. 

On a second visit though, not at the dinner rush, we still had to wait for like 45 minutes before we got our food.  There were only three people in line in front of us.  They had run out of ketchup!  They were reporting "problems" in the kitchen, and the front line staff looked liked they still hadn't figured out how to fill orders.  We actually ordered the wings again and they were a far cry from the first ones we got.  They were small, kind of shriveled and too brown, like as if the fry oil needed to be changed. And on top of that, there was only one drumstick part and five of the smaller parts… I won't be getting those again.  It's safe to say that on our second visit the charm wore off.   

All in all, on the first visit, it was an hour after we got there before we got our food.  When we left there that first night there were 75 people in line outside.  Of course it was Saturday night in the middle of the Fête de Lumière.  If you're headed there, come prepared for a wait. 

Post by Dori 30 Dec 2014

Peanut Butter Pie

Peanut Butter Pie Recipe
Here's my american recipe, at the end I'll tell you how I modified it to do it here in Lyon. I used www.onlineconversion.com to do the conversions. If you have the american measurements though suggest you use those instead, since volume to weight conversions are not an exact science when you don't know the exact mass of what you're converting.

Chocolate Cookie Crumb Crust

2 Cups cookie crumbs 50cl
¼ Cup sugar 50g
½ Cup butter, melted 113g

Blend cookie crumbs and sugar.
Add melted butter, stir.
Press into pie mold, refrigerate while preparing the filling.

Peanut Butter Filling

1 Cup peanut butter 258g
1 “8 ounce”  brick cream cheese 226g
1 Cup sugar 200g
1 Tbsp vanilla 1 cuillère à soupe
2 Tbsp butter (optional) 28g
Blend together well, then add
1 “8 ounce” container of cool whip 226g or 90cl
Pour into crust and refrigerate over night.
Add chocolate shavings if you wish.

Serve cold, or it will not be firm enough to cut.  For my last potluck I put it in the freezer overnight, so it would still be cold come desert time.

So there are four main ingredient issues for making this recipe here in Lyon: the cream cheese, the peanut butter, the cool whip, and the cookie crumbs.

For the Cream cheese, if you don't use Philadelphia, or don't want to pay an arm and a leg for it, there are three french equivalents for cream cheese: the brand name St. Môret, or the generic, “Fromage à tartiner”, and now there is also the “Elle et Vire” brand version of cream cheese called “fromage crème”. I usually get the generic. You have to be a little careful since some of the generics can be a little less consistent than Philadelphia cream cheese. I used a DIA generic brand this year and it turned out fine, just make sure you drain off all the extra liquid.   It was 300g for less than 2 euros.

For the Peanut butter... Lots of places have peanut butter, the only thing is that it is expensive. I like to get my peanut butter from Paris Store, a huge asian supermarket in Vénissieux of all things, the PSP brand Pâte d'Arachide, creamy peanut butter. It's the best deal on peanut butter. It tastes just as good as a brand name peanut butter but costs less than 4 euros for 510g. Usually it costs almost 5 euros for one of those 340g Skippy jars.

For the Cool whip... I've never seen cool whip here, but that's okay with me since I'd rather make my own whip cream anyway. In the US, you just pick up the little carton that says whipping cream, get it really cold, add some powdered sugar if you'd like, and beat it with the beaters until it's whipped, and voila! Only problem is that it doesn't work with the liquid creams you can get here, due to the lower fat content. Heavy whipping cream has 38% fat content, whipping cream has 35%. Crème liquide here, that says its for crème chantilly, or crème fouettée, is only 30% and it won't make a whipped cream that stands up enough not to turn your cream pie totally soupy. I've seen some that are 32%, and get excited, but that still doesn't work.  They also have a thing called “fixe chantilly” (whipped cream stabilizer), that doesn't work either! So I have finally broken down and just get a can of whipped topping. If you can find one with the fat content on the can you'll see that it has a higher fat content. (Darn them! Where did they get that?) To be honest, I don't measure it out, I just eyed it to look like about the right amount.

For the Cookie crumb crust… I use to use “Palets bretons, pur beurre-au chocolat”, from DIA. They come with 8 cookies in a package and it took me about two and a half packages. I found that I was able to crumble these cookies with my fingers, and that made it really easy. However, these handy little cookies use to cost only 0,77€ three years ago and now they're 2,88€.  Since I could think of any possible justification for a 275% price increase, and I hate getting ripped off, this year I just got the cheapest entirely chocolate cookie I could find and blended them in the food processor. They were called “American Cookie”. (So not american, but oh well.) I used two packages and had a little to spare.

by Dori, 24 November 2014

New French Cake Decorating Store - SCRAPCOOKING®

You can find some of their products at various stores around Lyon, but now they have a boutique that carries their whole line of products.  They also have an english version of their website.  You can find them downtown at:

4 rue de Brest
69002, Lyon

Photo from Scrapcooking website

Post by Dori 

18 Sept 2014

Green Tea Ice Cream

A while back, after having some chicken katsu curry, I had this craving for green tea ice cream.  I use to be able to get it at some the asian restaurants I went to when I was living in Portland, Oregon.  Finally I came across it here this summer, right in the middle of Vieux Lyon, at:

Terre adélice
1, place de la Baleine
69005, Lyon

I can't say enough about how good their ice cream is. Over half of their flavors are organic.  They buy as much of their products locally as possible, and use natural ingredients.

Post by Dori       12 Sept. 2014

Banana Vanilla Wafer Pudding

I had never really paid any attention to those little cookies called "langues de chat", until the other day when I was offered some with my coffee.  All of the sudden I realized that they taste almost exactly like a Nilla Wafer.  Put two of them together and you can hardly tell the difference.  I had to make some banana vanilla wafer pudding.  I didn't have a pretty dish to put it in, but that didn't stop me.  The pudding turned out really great.  It reminds me of desert at grandma's house after one of her nice chicken dinners.      

Post by Dori 8 July 2014