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I’m still having dreams of the Parisian life we licked for a few days on the way back to LA from Poland. Those chocolate croissants for breakfast in bed, coffee, and I mean COFFEE after the meal (and never during), the loose scarf sitting tight around Jason’s neck and trying hard to make itself home despite his protests…

And the Louvre… We spent a day and a half meandering the hallways, the Royal chambers, and the dim basements of the castle. We could have stayed two weeks, and that would not have been enough. We were armed with a mini computer with headphones dangling from our necks, while a deep, male voice told us about every sculpture we paused in front of, every painting that caught our attention, and hundreds of other exhibits that helped us better understand who we are, and to see that the history really does repeat itself over and over.

Paris was also a meeting point, where we caught up with a bunch of old friends I know from way back, our ole New York days.

Laurent, my buddy, Lolo as we call him behind the scenes, realized he was slowly losing his marbles in the South of France where he was anchored for the past 12 months or so. He felt an itch again, that tickle in his butt that makes him move from one corner of the word to another every so often, and so he packed his backpack and flew himself to Malaysia.

From his most recent report I know he’s getting cozy in Asia. The lifestyle does sound quite appealing, particularly for a single man. Rent and food are cheap. A casual crawl in the swimming pool follows a tropical breakfast. Then there’s time for a massage. The kind one can get on every street corner, apparently. Or at the mall down the street from one’s flat. You know, the Malaysian massage.

Meanwhile, we’re back home, trying to get a grip on our life on this side of the world while fighting that instant nostalgia for Europe, and still not eating meat. Hence, my dish du jour:

ZUCCHINI PANCAKES

4 large zucchinis, washed and grated

1/2 red onion, chopped and sautéed

2 eggs

6-8 tbsp whole-wheat flour

1 tbsp of potato starch

1 tsp baking powder

3/4 cup Fontina cheese, grated

salt and pepper to taste

pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

handful of fresh dill, chopped (What? I’m Polish.)

When sautéing an onion I like to sprinkle it with a nice amount of dried marjoram, and watch the magic happen. The herb hits the hot oil thus releasing an aroma that simply knocks me out, while my socks stand up right next to my feet. I mean it in a GOOD way. That divine smell drifts through the kitchen and out into the courtyard making the wild cats from the hood hold the fire and suspend their everlasting turf wars. One day I shall record their CRYYYING OUUUT LOUDDD at 4 o’clock in the morning, right outside our window, and let that serve as evidence in my case.

The pancakes. Let the onion cool off a tad and then mix all the ingredients in a large bowl, making sure all the flour is evenly incorporated. I can’t really tell you how much flour to use exactly. The consistency of your batter will depend on so many factors, I don’t even know where to begin: how much water your zucchinis brought, how humid the air is in your neck of the wood, the weather, the stock market, global warming, and the current phase of the moon. In other words, test-drive your pancakes. Throw a spoonful on hot oil in your pan, and let it fry for a couple of minutes. Now flip it. Did it fall apart? Then you need more flour. Got it? Great.

What’s there left to say? Good luck! The wild Felis catus will soon be sending you Thank You cards.

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I stumbled upon THIS video on youtube by pure chance and was instantly smitten by Michelle Phan, who put it together. She’s so A.D.O.R.A.B.L.E. that I want to grow my hair back and tangle it with strips of paper bags and then let artificial air gently blow through the construction. Watching the video brought the romance back. I’m fighting the urge to write a letter to my kinfolks back in Poland… on a piece of paper, with a pen, envelope, stamp, candle light, all that jazz.

I also now understand the fascination Laurent has with Asian girls. Is that a racist thing to say? I swear I’m not racist! On the contrary, I like everybody almost evenly. Except from the Gypsies maybe. Kidding. I considered myself one for almost a decade of my life during which time I kept moving from one end of the world to another. (Depending on one’s perspective, one understands, since the Earth is round. Ish.)

The paper curls made me think of a cooking technique I learned in a culinary class we took last year with Jason. The French bake their fish en papillote, meaning “in parchment”. See, a paper curl is “papilot” in Polish, hence the connotation in my head. Cooking using that method is also a great way to satisfy any artistic desires you may sporadically experience, if you’re anything like me. Why, don’t you instantly think SALMON when feeling crafty?

The last time I made it I was simply cleaning out the refrigerator before leaving town for Christmas. All I had left in our icebox were two salmon fillets and a bag of asparagus. I found a few potatoes in a basket as well, one sad tomato, and there’s always garlic somewhere in my kitchen. Enough for a gourmet feast.

See how simple that is. What you need to do first is to take a big sheet of parchment paper, fold it in half and cut out a heart shape, just like this:

Blanch asparagus in boiling salted water for about a minute, shock in ice water, and drain. Spread about a tablespoon worth of butter (only room-temperature butter will make it possible) on one side of the heart close to its center. Place the fillet right on that cream of love and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Top it with minced garlic, a few tomato slices, asparagus, and season again with salt and pepper (just a tad, don’t over-salt it, I beg you).

Preheat the oven to 425°. You’ve reached the CRITICAL point of your craft-making cooking today. Time to close your heart. Time to seal that pocket. Time to fold the folds. Take the loose flap of the cut out heart (the one NOT occupied with salmon et al), fold it over, and start crimping the edges together going from the curvy side down. At the tip leave a small gap open through which you’ll pour 2 tablespoons of white wine into the pocket. Choose the kind you’d enjoy drinking, and never ever, I mean NEVER EVER use cheap wine for cooking. The food WILL taste like the wine. It doesn’t have to be a $50 bottle, but don’t go for the three-buck-chuck either.

Seal the gap, place on a baking sheet, and shove into the hot oven for 15 minutes. In the meantime, melt a tablespoon of butter in a non-stick pan, toss a few small potatoes in, cover and let them cook in their own steam and butter for about 20-30 minutes. At the end, sprinkle with a bunch of chopped fresh dill (that I was lacking), salt, pepper, and serve on the side of your SALMON EN PAPILLOTE.

Life is good, travel expensive, Paris closer than you think.

Bon appetite!

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