When I was a little girl I obsessed over France. It started with a dream I had of lying on my back in a large bowl cut into the earth that was filled with rows of terraced flowers in various colors—a convex dome of strata. As I lay on my back at the bottom and looked up to see nothing but a mile long circle of the bluest sky, something in my soul knew that I was in France. In junior high I told all of my friends that I wanted to live in Paris one day. In high school, this turned into the French countryside and I changed my name to Quimberlie on homework assignments much to my teachers’ chagrin. In my twenties my future home morphed into a barn somewhere in the South where I could paint all day and drink hard liquor with the old men all night. These fantasies have fallen to the wayside but I still maintain my affinity with the country through my love of its food and carry within my French blood (from my grandmother and her whole side of the family’s lineage of Doucettes) a propensity for the perpetual red lip, dank and stinky cheeses and an earthiness of being that is both sensual and dirty.
One peculiarity of my palate that rings with a decidedly French funk is my love of the frog leg. I used to frequent the bizarre smorgasbord of people that patronizes The Nest in Indian Wells after art gallery openings specifically for the dish, which was the only decent version of it I could find in the Coachella Valley. When I moved to Los Angeles, I was thrilled to eat some buttery, roasted legs at Le Petit Bistro alongside a nicely dressed Roquefort salad. I was even more delighted when, recently, the Cute Gardener bought a bag of them at a meat market and served them up for dinner in a rustic, simply fried style that brought out their frogginess along a plain rice and cabbage side. I found his take superior to the few I’ve tried because they tasted like frog as opposed to chicken, something I am sure will freak some of my readers out just a bit.
As we have had a climax of strawberries over the past few months this, I have had a glorious time choosing a different strawberry recipe every week to make for the CG. For the light and simple frog legs, I decided to make a more complex dessert of strawberry Napoleons, or mille-feuilles as they were originally described in Francois Pierre La Varenne’s Le Cuisinier Francois in 1651. To keep in line with the lightness both the CG and I strive for in summer dining and in maintaining our healthiest hip diameters (of which it is more difficult for me than he to obtain), I chose a pared down recipe, which substituted ricotta for the traditional cream and crisply frail, sugared phyllo dough layers in lieu of heavier pastry. The recipe, by Ann Taylor Pittman in Cooking Light, can be found here.