An Early Spring

Hello friends and fellow campers!

Gourmet Girl Denise here from Le Petit Saint Barnabé in the Loire, France. It seems spring has come early here in the Loire. Daffodils are up and sporting their sunny, yellow faces, and my Mirabelle plum tree has bloomed its little heart out and it has been warm enough for bees of many varieties to come out of hibernation and buzz about pollinating all of the beautiful white flowers. Last year when she bloomed the temperature was too low and no pollination occurred as it was too cold for the bees to come out of their hives. And so, alas, no fruit. Needless to say, I am thrilled that this year it was warm enough at bloom time with the sun shining brightly and the temperature topping out at 60 degrees. I see several plum tarts in my future!

This is one of those ‘Be Here Now’ moments in life. I find myself standing under this tree breathing in the honey-scented flowers and listening to the hum of my favorite insect species. There are yellow and black fuzzy bumblers, metallic blue-winged black bees, Italian honey bees, and what I think are German black bees. There are tiny bees that will remain unnamed as I have no idea who they are and bee imposters; flys that disguise themselves as bees. But who cares! They are pollinating the flowers too, as are many lovely butterflies. I breathe in deeply and thank all of these busy little entities for the wonderful job they are doing. It’s good to be alive.

Here’s Milo my fur child enjoying the scent of the flowers. He is still sporting his white winter ruff.

Sadly, this coming weekend’s weather prediction is that it may freeze again, and all of these wonderful creatures will once again retreat into their hives and holes in the wall to escape the cold. I don’t think this will interfere with fruit production since the flowers have been pollinated, but it can’t happen once the fruit has set. That would be a disaster. So cross your fingers!

Meanwhile, it has been a really cold winter, with temperatures well below freezing, and when that happens folks in France get together for a long lunch by the fireside. My friends the Bregeon Boys came over last week with oysters on the half shell and champagne!

For the entrée, I made cannelloni with fresh-made Semolina pasta. I finally got my American Kitchen Aid with pasta attachment out and hooked it up with a current adaptor. It made rolling the pasta so easy.

I stuffed it with a mixture of ricotta cheese, ground veal, spinach, garlic, and fresh herbs. Here the filling is being rolled into the pasta.

I coated the roasting pan with tomato sauce then began laying in the delicate cannelloni. Once they were all in I topped it all off with more tomato sauce and Bechamel sauce. Then into the oven until hot and bubbly. Delicious served with a salad dressed with walnut oil vinaigrette!

For a vegetarian version, you can substitute mushrooms for the meat.

For dessert, I made a flourless chocolate dome cake with whipped cream and raspberry decoration. Yum!

Well, we all needed a nap after that meal! There is nothing more wonderful than enjoying food with friends. Here in the French countryside, we are pretty safe from the dreaded Covid, especially since the government has enforced a 6 pm curfew. We can’t meet up for dinner but that’s not a problem here since the French eat their biggest meal at noon. They don’t understand eating a big meal in the evening. I have had a hard time adjusting to this, but have to admit that it is probably a lot healthier.

Whenever you eat your meals, do keep cooking and sharing your culinary experiences with us. Until next time, enjoy your life and keep experimenting in the kitchen or over a campfire.

All our best,

Denise, Gail, and Lindsey

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