Monday, August 29, 2011

A week of vinaigrette

Now that I’m almost completely over the morning sickness (why do they call it morning sickness if it lasts all day?) I’ve been able to get back in the kitchen. Although I was able to sneak back my grandmother’s rupjmaizes ieraugs (Latvian rye-bread starter) from Michigan on our last trip overseas (“excuse me ma’am, why didn’t you declare that gelatinous mass in your checked baggage?”), the bread baking is going to have to wait another month or so. Last week was hot here in Clermont-Ferrand, and although it cooled down considerably this weekend, the kitchen still heats up quickly. 

I've found a few more foods to add to that list I started at the beginning of the year of  foods not easily found here, including corn on the cob (thought of as being animal feed; sweet corn is sold in cans), salad dressings and many of the cheeses I’m used to cooking with (and for those who know of my love for Colby-jack, I’m still searching for anything similar!). Of course I don’t miss the American cheese and cheese whiz so much, but as I haven’t developed a taste for enmetal, which is the commonly used shredded cheese widely available here, I’m still searching for cheeses to use in various recipes. Oh, and kefir. But I had problems finding that in the US.

Lauris and Maksis in Chatenet

As for the salad dressing, we had made do with a pseudo ranch until we returned from the United States with those little ranch dressing mix packets, but I have been craving a change (why is French salad dressing called French if there is no comparable dressing here in France?). I had never made my own salad dressing, but having culinary geniuses among my friends I knew it should be easy and turn out tasty. So, I gave it a go with Emeril’s simple balsamic vinaigrette, and it came out delicious, leaving me wondering why I hadn’t made my own dressing before. And we had a delicious salad dinner.

With the heat wave continuing, I marinated chicken in the dressing, and served it cold over a salad tossed in the same the following night. And the day temperatures were the highest they’d been, a simple pasta salad with the remaining dressing tossed with rotini, red pepper, salami, red onion, and a cheese I’ve been experimenting with that comes in a red casing (don’t remember what it’s called, you could probably substitute provolone).

Lauris and Maksis sharing rocks

The weekend was spent in Chatenet (to read about our first visit, click here), visiting our friends before their long vacation. It turns out this is the ideal time to visit friends; they were busy harvesting the produce from their garden, and what would not keep in the root cellar either had to be eaten or given to visiting friends... As my balcony gardening experiment has completely failed (but that's a whole other post!) I was delighted to lend a hand with harvesting the potatoes, and this eventually resulted in a big bag of potatoes, beets (also called beetroot), carrots, beans, tomatoes, grapes, even a squash accompanying us home to Clermont-Ferrand.

This week will be an adventure in cooking. Not being a big fan of beets I have never prepared any before, but since Roberts's top-ten list of favorite foods includes aukstā zupa (cold beet soup), I have quite a bit of experimenting ahead of me! Wish me luck!


  1. Emeril has another great vinaigrette recipe that is similar but has regular sugar and Dijon mustard in it. I use it all the time. We love it. I'm surprised you had problems finding Kefir here in the US. I see it everywhere especially in places like Whole Foods, Fresh Market and Trader Joes. I also have a friend who makes her own Kefir and says it's super simple. She found some place online to order Kefir starter but can't remember the name of the company. Not sure if they would ship it to France. My guess is probably not but don't know. I too love aukstā zupa and my mom's recipe is awesome. She learned from her mom and then taught me to make it. The hubby and the kids love it too so it goes quickly here. I loved pickled beets as well. Enjoy your bounty!

  2. First, i have to tell you. You look so adorable pregnant! I just look fat...Bla.LOL
    My morning sickness are night sickness and i am not over them yet. Torture. But worth it :)
    I am due Feb 9th. So glad you find me and i love your adventures in France...Super cool!
    Let's keep in touch!
    Bisous bisous
    Isabelle oh following you back of course :)

  3. Oooh... I remember my host family in France always making their own dressing... I wish I remember what was in it...but seemed like mustard, oil, vinegar...who knows what else. But I loved it.
    Also good luck with the beets. I LOVE me some auksta zupa as well, but I have never made it with fresh beets- living in LV it was too easy to just grab a jar of marinated beets off the grocery store shelf.
    Also, I just saw your links page (thanks for adding me!) and saw that you are also following my SIL Marianna. Small world.

  4. Well, the beet adventure has started, and can I say, wow! A labor of love, that's for sure... But thanks all, for your comments!

  5. I have become the queen of making my own salad dressings since I moved here in France. I always make an extra large batch to keep in the fridge just in case. We have some reserve packets of the ranch mix but only keep those for special occasions.

  6. So maybe someone can let me know how long home made dressing is allowed to sit in the fridge?
    Liene: I lived in the middle of nowhere, down south... nearest Whole Foods 3 hours away!
    Isabelle: I hope the nausea ends soon for you! With my first it seemed like it lasted up until the 3rd trimester, I hope this isn't the case for you.
    Marite: hope you check out my post on aukstā zupa, probably will be up tomorrow. Also, can you send me the link to your blog please?
    Barbara: what do you store the dressing in? I like mason jars, easy mixing, but they don't pour well...

  7. Liene, I found out from my friend the name of the company where she buys her Kefir stuff from. Not sure if you can order it or have family in the US order and then ship to you. The website is:

    There is also a FB page - Carys Starfire. If you are interested in making your own Kefir, my friend loves buying starter from this person.

  8. Tānī pirmajā bildē Laurīts izskatās, ka drīz būs gatavs pievienoties slavenam duo Tīss un Delete :)

  9. A lovely post about your ventures into gardening and experiments in the kitchen.
    Thankyou for calling by and taking the time to comment on the Our Garden in August post.

  10. Liene,

    I found your site by searching for a recipe for Latvian Black Bread. I was introduced to it nearly a year ago by a woman (also named Liene) I hosted from Latvia. I'm currently in Riga (visiting her) and I've had a hard time finding a recipe - do you have one you'd be willing to share by any chance? I'm absolutely envious that you have a starter you were able to get from a family member. I'm stocking up on necessary items to hopefully make my own starter when I return to the U.S.

    On a side note - I saw that you mentioned cheeses in France (and missing some types of cheese in the U.S.). Have you tried mimolette?

    Best wishes,


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