Semilla Kitchen Team
The French have an original expression for describing restaurants they are particularly fond of. They call them coups de coeur–heartthrobs. Paris by Mouth (a site I use repeatedly when in the City of Light for terrific restaurant, wine, and pastry reviews) even goes so far as to put a bright pink heart by the names of establishments they deem worthy of this honor. Semilla, a popular eatery located in the St Germain area on the Left Bank is my newest heartthrob. (It’s also the recipient of one of those little pink hearts from Paris by Mouth!).
My husband and I have dined in this lively bistro four times this year, twice during our Continue reading
My husband and I have left Paris with our son and his family to spend a few days on the northern coast of Brittany. We’ve rented a house with an incredible view of the Atlantic, marveling each time we gaze at the ocean through its picture windows. Although the sun has been out almost every day, brisk winds have kept us from spending time on the pristine beaches.
Boucherie (the butcher’s)
So, we’ve turned to cooking instead, taking advantage of the many marchés and food stores in the area. Huge artichokes (a specialty of Brittany), plump cherries, juicy peaches, and sweet melons are temptingly displayed, and, of course, there’s plenty of seafood—oysters, mussels, crab, lobsters, cod, and monkfish, caught fresh and sold the same day. We’re enjoying Bordier butter (one of France’s most celebrated butters and another specialty of the region) as well as local cider.
Bordier Smoked Salt Butter
We’ve bought chicken, sausages, and beef for grilling, and fresh white fish fillets for sautéing. And for sides we’ve made simple salads and a special curried rice scented with crème fraîche and summer herbs. In fact, this golden-hued rice has been so versatile that we’ve paired it with our entrees for the past three days. Continue reading
I have some exciting news to share! My Big Book of Backyard Cooking will be featured across a variety of e-book retailers for $3.99 (and at many of these for much less)! during the month of July. Chronicle Books, runs a special monthly online event called Chronicle Eye Candy. For a very limited space they choose only a few e-books to be sold at greatly reduced prices, and The Big Book of Backyard Cooking is a selection for July.
It’s a perfect time to feature Backyard Cooking as this is the 10th anniversary of its publication. My students tell me that they use this collection that is filled with over 250 recipes devoted to easy, mouthwatering dishes over and over again during the summer.
Favorites include Lamb Chops with Roquefort, Figs and Rosemary, Chili-rubbed Sirloins with Guacamole Salsa, and Goat-cheese Stuffed Turkey Burgers. Among the seasonal sides, you’ll find Corn on the Cob with Lime Butter, Vidalia Onion Rings with Rosemary, and Sesame and Ginger Cole Slaw. Sweet endings showcase Daiquiri Cheesecake, Lemon Pecan Cake with Lemon Sauce, Caramel Almond Squares, and Chocolate Mint Brownies.
Backyard Cooking as its name implies is a big book so what could be better than an e-book copy that is available with a quick click. To whet your appetite, I’m including the recipe for the Chicken with Mango, Tomato, and Kiwi Salsa featured on the cover.
You can order the book from the following e-retailers: Kindle, Nook, Apple iBookstore, Google Play, Kobo, or Bookshout
What I love about cooking in France is that the French are real sticklers for using seasonal ingredients. There’s no way you’d see asparagus in their groceries in the winter. (In my supermarkets at home, sadly I don’t have to look hard to find non-local asparagus from Chile displayed throughout the cold weather months.) In Paris bundles of the long, sleek spears appear only in late spring and early summer. And what a glorious scene they make— verdant-hued stalks, tender, petite wild asparagus, and snowy- hued white varieties take center stage at les primeurs (produce stores).
Since arriving several weeks ago, I’ve taken advantage of this bounty. At first, I used the stalks as a side to sautéed lamb chops or roast chicken, but then I got more imaginative and included them in a delicious brodo. Continue reading
The first thing I do when I arrive in the City of Light is to get out my rolling cart and head for the organic farmers’ market called Le Marché Bio. We had barely unpacked our bags when we headed to it a couple of Sundays ago. There in all their glory were the jewels of the farmers’ hard work—gorgeous little peas, strawberries that were red all the way through and decadently juicy, cherries so sweet they needed no embellishing, countless bouquets of fresh herbs, and stately artichokes—just possibly my favorite late spring vegetable!
Artichokes in France usually appear in two varieties: the small to medium ones are tinged with purple and call artichauts violets and the others, the incredibly large variety, are artichauts de Bretagne (from Brittany). I couldn’t resist and popped four of the latter in my bag to serve at a small dinner the next night.
My husband never met a burger he didn’t like, so what would be better to serve this dad of many years on June 15th than a hamburger decked out with all his favorite trimmings! He loves bold, vibrant food so I’ve been working on a version prepared with lean grass fed patties scented with a spicy mix of chili powder, cumin, and cayenne pepper. Instead of the usual cheddar or Colby, I’ve opted for Mahon, a Spanish cheese that melts lusciously into a smooth cover for the burgers. Avocado wedges tossed in lime juice, sliced red onions, plus some easy-to-make chipotle mayo will round out the garnishes.
Even though we are in Paris where the French are also preparing to celebrate “la fête des pères” this Sunday, I can find the makings for America’s quintessential sandwich without Continue reading
At Irene’s in the Quarter
Recently my husband and I were lucky enough to visit New Orleans for several days. No strangers to the Crescent City, we both spent our childhood visiting Louisiana’s most celebrated town and graduated from Tulane. However, we had not been back to NOLA since hurricane Katrina, and wondered how we would find the city after such devastation. We were thrilled to discover that New Orleans was thriving and vibrant once again. And nowhere was this more evident than in the city’s restaurant scene.
From the time our plane touched down at Louis Armstrong Airport, we began our food
Crispy soft shell crabs at Irene’s
odyssey. Friends met us and whisked us to Irene’s, an Italian restaurant in the French Quarter favored by locals. My spouse raved about oysters baked in their shells with Parmesan and pimentons, and adored soft shell crabs with toasted almonds and lemon.
For lunch one day we went to Commander’s Palace in the gorgeous Garden District, and feasted on more fish. Lightly sautéed Black Drum (a moist, white fish) garnished with fried leeks and crème brûlées creatively topped with fleurs de lys (the city’s official logo) fashioned with powdered sugar were memorable.
Pêche’s rustic interior
Our best meal though was at Pêche Seafood Grill, a bustling new restaurant in the city’s warehouse district. Owned by the same group that founded Cochon Restaurant near by, the eatery won two Beard awards this year (Best chef South and Best New Restaurant) and it’s easy to see why. The food prepared with local Continue reading
My son, a consummate griller, has mentioned more than once a recipe he loves for grilled chicken wings flavored with apricot and lime. “Mom,” he has pleaded, “You’ve got to try this marinade. It’s sweet, tart, hot, and spicy all at the same time!” So when it finally got warm enough this spring to pull out our grill, I asked for the recipe. I tried it with chicken wings, and they were delicious, but, being a curious cook, I kept thinking of other ways to use the delectable marinade.
On a whim, I substituted salmon fillets for the chicken, and was thrilled with the results. The salmon needed far less time to marinate than the wings, and cooked more quickly as well. Best of all, though, the flavors melded beautifully with the fish. Apricot jam adds a sweet note, while lime juice and zest provide tartness. Ginger, garlic, and a hit of sriracha contribute heat, and soy sauce, a salty accent. Continue reading
During a quick visit to The Big Apple last week, my husband and I had dinner at Uncle Boon’s, a new Thai and Rotisserie Grill downtown in Nolita. It took several tries to book, since this modest-sized restaurant sets aside only a few reservations, encouraging walk-ins instead. I persevered on line, booking a table for two, and hit the jackpot! Cozy and unpretentious, Uncle Boon’s delivered tempting dishes with bold, multi-layered flavors.
Crispy Frog Legs with Noodles, Lemongrass and Thai Herbs Salad
I started with a sautéed chopped lamb salad with cucumbers, mint, shallots, and chiles, a dish with plenty of heat, My spouse tried crispy frog legs served over glass noodles garnished with a lemongrass and Thai herb salad. Both were delicious. For mains my boneless beef short ribs were fork tender and extra spicy. But, definitely, the winning dish of the evening was my husband’s roasted duck leg served in a sublime soy anise broth along with a caramelized tangerine and a steamed duck egg. (I went to sleep dreaming about that beautifully seasoned broth!)
Roasted Duck Leg in Soy Anise Broth
Years ago as a fledging syndicated columnist, I created a delectable genoise cake with pineapple rum buttercream icing. I didn’t worry for a minute that this dessert called for a hefty 3 sticks of butter and that it included multiple steps. Since this gateau has remained a personal favorite, I recently gave the recipe a facelift for Mother’s Day, reducing the butter, and streamlining the directions.
Genoise (from French for Genoese referring to Genoa) is the name of a sponge cake made with eggs, sugar, and vanilla. These ingredients are warmed over a pan of simmering water, then beaten in an electric mixer for several minutes until they have tripled in volume. Flour and melted butter are folded in next. When baked, this style of cake is golden and feathery light. For my genoise, I created an extra special buttercream icing with fresh pineapple. To make it, a pineapple sugar syrup is gradually beaten into egg yolks and then bits of softened butter are whipped in until the mixture is silken smooth. A touch of dark rum adds even more flavor. Continue reading