www.meganjoychapman.com

Author of Lion Heart & Alessio: The Victory Ride Series

Goût de France: Champagne Aperitif and Cured Olive Tapenade (Dairy and Gluten Free)

Champagne Aperitif, Olive Tapenade

Almost always, whenever we dined at a restaurant in France offering a prix fixe menu, a dollop of olive tapenade was served with crusty French bread before the meal. An aperitif, a beverage used to stimulate the appetite, was also encouraged. We never passed up this opportunity to Santé or Cheers, before digging in. My addition of raw walnuts adds another dimension of flavor and texture to this traditional Provençal staple. This recipe is great because it’s easy and can be made ahead. It’s actually better the next day after the flavors have mellowed and married, and it keeps for several weeks in the fridge. A Votre Santé!

Cured Olive Tapenade Ingredients

7 oz. tub of black oil-cured olives (about 1 cup, pits removed)
* Oil-cured olives are usually found in the deli specialty section of the grocery store
1 roasted red pepper (about ¼ cup)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons drained and rinsed capers (tapenades are generally salty so rinsing the capers helps)
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
Juice of 1 lemon (about ¼ cup)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup raw walnuts
¼ cup fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional for extra kick)

*French bread and/or veggies for dipping

Cured Olive Tapenade Instructions

In a food processor, combine all ingredients. Pulse until well combined or desired consistency, scraping the sides with a spatula as needed. Scoop into a decorative bowl and spread on sliced, toasted French bread or raw veggies for a gluten free option (sweet bell peppers are my favorite). Serve with champagne or sparkling cider.

Related Link

How I Scored a Free Dinner and a Castle in France

Read this story from the beginning

Goût de France: Thanks, Mom!

Click here to check out Megan’s educational adventure book for kids ages 8-12!

Goûts de France: Toasting on the TGV (Train a Grande Vitesse)

The TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse)

The TGV (Train a Grande Vitesse)

Fighting jet-lag , I managed to enjoy the 2.5 hour ride from Paris to Avignon on the TGV (train a grande vitesse). We’d booked a Club 4— a booth with reclining seats and fold-down tables. Pretty comfortable and roomy.

While our two friends rested, Chap, my husband and I went up to the second floor lounge to have our first toast in France. The Frenchman behind the counter was a one-man show. He spoke pretty good English and was busy serving up drinks and hot food for the duration of the trip. While Chap ordered us champagne, I grabbed a stool by the window and breathed in the stunning landscapes of the French countryside. It reminded me of Jean Marcs, paintings.

tgv (train a grande vitesse)-Provence landscape window view

Provence Hilltop Painting by Jean Marc

The only thing missing was Vivaldi. Whenever I hear Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, I always picture rolling European hills and bright sweeping landscapes. But the symphony of German and French conversations transpiring around me, along with the steady calming murmur of the train was pretty cool, too. A group of chatty twenty-something Germans were enjoying their cocktails and most likely heading to Provence on holiday. A young French woman had propped her pudgy baby up by the window to keep him entertained. I sat there smiling, teary, and overwhelmed— my lifelong dream of visiting France finally fulfilled.

Chap returned with our champagne. It was hard to believe we were traveling close to 200 mph. As we sped through the Rhone Valley, we caught glimpses of enchanting villas and grand castles. I was afraid to blink and risk missing any of it. It was like racing through an inspiring art exhibit with no time to admire the masterpieces.

tgv (train a grande vitesse)-Provence landscape window view

Provence Poppy Field Painting by Jean Marc

We were a few weeks too early to see the vibrant blooms of lavender fields, but we did spy some rows with hints of purple on the brink of maturity. Red poppies were abundant and looked like French knots embroidered over lush green meadows. Manicured vineyards created rows and shapes that added to the spectacular patchwork.

tgv (train a grande vitesse)-Provence landscape window view

French Countryside

Toasting on the TGV (Train a Grande Vitesse)

French Countryside and the American Dream
Chap and I weren’t taking our trip to France lightly. It was our Ebenezer Stone, a celebration of all that God has done for us throughout our twenty-year journey together. As we sat on the train gazing out the window, we recalled how far we’d come—from grassroots, working two or three jobs at $6/hour to living the American Dream—minus the 2.5 kids of course, but we’re still working on that one.

We struggled from being young and poor together, suffered through annoying health battles, grieved deaths of loved ones, and almost lost our home. Our ride hasn’t been easy. But only by the grace of God and a lot of hard work (in the worst economy of our lifetime) we own a home in Hawaii, have built a successful construction business, published my book, and conquered my dream of going to France.

So Chap and I received our first-time trip to France for what it was—a timely gift and fresh beginning. Clinking our glasses with a triumphant à votre santé! we raised our Ebenezer Stone and toasted to all God has done for us and has yet to do.

What are you toasting today? How about raising your own Ebenezer Stone and celebrating with my Champagne Aperitif and Cured Olive Tapenade?

Samuel took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer—”the stone of help”—for he said, “Up to this point the Lord has helped us! —1 Samuel 7:12, NLT

Read this story from the beginning

Goût de France: Thanks, Mom!

Related Links

How I Scored a Free Dinner and a Castle in France

Champagne Aperitif and Cured Olive Tapenade

Click here to check out Megan’s educational adventure book for kids ages 8-12!

Goûts de France: Duck Wontons with Orange Lime Marmalade (Dairy Free)

Duck Wontons

I always loved eating canard, or duck, as a kid but have shied away from cooking it as an adult. I guess I thought duck was hard to prepare, or maybe it’s because my husband told me he wasn’t a fan. Chicken, like most people, has been our go to bird. But after traveling to France and trying different preparations of duck,my husband was finally won over. So I’ve been experimenting with my old feathered friend and it has become the new star on our dinner table. I even learned to butcher a duck online and amazed how easy it was. My Duck Wontons with Orange Lime Marmalade recipe, is a savory sweet juicy bundle of mouth watering goodness. I’m excited, now, to create more recipes using duck. Bon Appetit!

Orange Lime Marmalade Ingredients

13 oz. jar of orange marmalade (about 1 cup. I use Mediterranean Organic)
Juice of 2 fresh limes (about ½ cup)
Zest of 1 lime (about 1 teaspoon)
2-3 tablespoons of mint, chiffonade
1/8-1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper, to taste

Orange Lime Marmalade Instructions

In a small bowl, mix together the orange marmalade, lime juice, lime zest, mint, and ground red pepper. Set aside.

Duck Wonton Ingredients

2 duck breasts cut into chunks, skin removed
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped
3 green onions, diced
1 package wonton wraps
½ tablespoon cornstarch
½ cup water
½ teaspoon sesame oil (I use Eden Hot Pepper Sesame Oil for an extra kick)
Vegetable oil for frying

Duck Wonton Instructions

In a food processor, add duck breast chunks, soy sauce, chopped garlic, chopped ginger, and chopped green onions. Pulse until the wonton filling is well incorporated and smooth, scraping the sides with a spatula as needed.

In a small bowl, mix together the cornstarch, water, and sesame oil. This is your seal for the wontons.

Keep ½ of your wonton wrappers in the fridge to keep them cool, otherwise they’ll become sticky. Put one teaspoon of the wonton filling from the food processor into the center of the wonton wrap.

Duck Wontons-Step 1

Dip your finger into the cornstarch mixture and moisten the edges of the wrap. Fold over into a triangle and seal.

Duck Wontons-Step 2

Then moistened the tips and pinch them together.

Duck Wontons-Step 3

Place wontons on a baking sheet in a single layer.

Duck Wontons

When you’re done filling and folding the wontons, place the baking sheet in the freezer for about 10 minutes. This will firm them up before frying. You may also choose to freeze them for a later date. Just make sure you cover with plastic wrap.

Line a plate or pan with paper towels to drain excess oil from cooked wontons. Set aside. Heat oil to 375 degrees and fry four wontons at a time for about 4 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through. If you don’t have a fryer, just make sure to use enough oil in the pan to cover the wontons (it may only take 2 minutes to cook on the stove so watch closely). Place cooked wontons on the paper towels to drain. Serve on an elegant dish with Orange Lime Marmalade.

Read this story from the beginning

Goût de France: Thanks, Mom!

Related Link

How I Scored a Free Dinner and a Castle in France

Click here to check out Megan’s educational adventure book for kids ages 8-12!

Goût de France: Thanks, Mom!

Gout de France

Goût de France (Taste of France) is a blog series about my first time traveling to Provence and Paris—a lifelong dream. I’ll be sharing my experience (bon et mauvaise!) with the French culture, including food, fashion, hotspots, and history. And if you’re a foodie like me, keep your eyes peeled for restaurant critiques and inspired recipe remakes—all tried and tested by Mom. But first, I must explain how I became interested in France. . .

Thanks, Mom!

Most of us know the famous quote credited to Julia Child: “Every woman should have a blowtorch.” But my mother always taught me: “Every cook needs a good food processor.” and I agree. It’s my favorite tool in the kitchen. Well, that and my Microplane— another no-fail recommend by Mom.

My mother learned to cook by watching Julia Child on The French Chef and reading Gourmet and Bon Appetit. I couldn’t tell you what our coffee tables looked like, because they were always covered with stacks and stacks of cooking magazines. Mom’s clutter drove everyone crazy, but when she served up her ocean fresh Oysters Rockefeller, savory stuffed crêpes, or on special occasions—Caviar Pie, we let it slide. These were typical dinners at the Hoyt household.

gout de france inspiration-Mom

1986 Mom hosting a Christmas Party

Food Shopping in China Town

One of my favorite things to do as a young girl was to go into China Town in Boston with Mom. She liked to shop there for special ingredients. I’ll never forget looking through the butcher’s window for the first time and seeing rows of duck and pigs feet hanging from the ceiling. “C’mon,” Mom had said to me as she walked into the shop. “I want some pork buns.” Of course we didn’t leave without a couple of feet either. Mom was always up for trying different foods, and we kids and Dad never stuck our nose up at anything. The more unusual, the better.

Shopping Bloomingdales

After a lot of begging and coercing from me, we’d usually hit Bloomies on the way home— my other favorite thing to do as a kid. Mom always said that I looked possessed whenever I entered that store. I was obsessed with Bloomingdales’ upbeat style and tried on everything I could get my hands on. It didn’t matter if it was my size or not. If I liked it, I wanted it. But I’d be in the dressing room so long; Mom would think I’d been kidnapped. On one or more occasions she had to notify customer service to find me. I had a bad habit of wandering off to get more clothes to try on. This usually meant an embarrassing announcement on the overhead speaker, “Megan Hoyt, please report to Customer Service. Your mother’s waiting.”

dreaming France-Megan age 7

Me, age 7, with my infamous
clip-on earrings, shades, and hat.
I’m probably heading to the
grocery store with Mom.

Fashion and Costume Design

My passion for fashion later developed into designing my own clothing. I’d have an idea for an outfit but was never able to find anything comparable in stores. That’s when Mom taught me to sew and helped me alter patterns to fit my unique, sometimes bizarre, designs. I eventually attended Fashion Design School where my dream of visiting Paris and Milan grew stronger –a dream which started as a young girl, ravaging the racks at Bloomingdales and eating duck feet for dinner.

gout de France-Fashion

1991 school project
inspired by a peacock.
I eventually pursued a career
in Costume, as well as,
Freelance Fashion Design.

After thirty years of dreaming about France and longing to experience the food and fashion they’re known for, I recently had the opportunity to visit last spring 2012. My post How I Scored a Free Dinner and Castle in France explains how it all happened.

So thanks, Mom, for teaching me to appreciate fine cuisine, enduring the dressing room dramas, and never stifling my creativity—no matter how embarrassing or bizarre. It was the trips into China Town and Bloomies, sewing classes, and watching you toil away in the kitchen that sparked the first flames, making me the artist I am today.

gout de France duck wonton recipe

The first inspired recipe I’ll be
sharing is my Duck Wontons with
Orange Lime Marmalade. It’s a wink
and nudge to China Town
with a sophisticated French flair.
This one’s for you, Mom!

Related Link

Duck Wontons with Orange Lime Marmalade Recipe

Click here to check out Megan’s educational adventure book for kids ages 8-12!

Subscribe by email