Fabulous Warm Peach Dessert in 45 minutes!

Individual Peach Clafoutis 1 3648x2736-001The peaches this year in New England have been exceptional! I can’t remember a recent summer when this fruit has been more bountiful or had such juicy, flavorful flesh. Farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and grocery stores in our small town have all proudly displayed bins—of both yellow and white—ripe enough for eating on the spot. As a result, I have been bringing home bagfuls of the fuzzy orbs and using them in various ways.

One of my favorite creations has been a recipe for individual peach clafoutis (pronounced CLA FU TEA), a specialty of the Limousin, an area in south central France. It is one of the simplest yet most delicious French desserts a home cook can prepare. Traditionally, it is made with cherries that are covered with a rich pancake-style batter, then baked. My version, however, calls for fresh sliced peaches scented with hints of cardamom, ginger, and cinnamon. When baked the batter rises just slightly above the sides of the pan and then falls like a soufflé as it rests. Continue reading

Fresh Corn Stars in a Delicious Summer Risotto

Corn Risotto with Sauteed Mushrooms 1 3616x2577Earlier this month on a picture-perfect summer evening, my husband and I and a good friend ate outside on the terrace of Amherst’s Lord Jeffrey Inn. Our group of three looked at the interesting menu, and surprisingly all ordered the corn risotto as our main course. (If you knew what a carnivore my spouse, Ron, is, you’d be as stunned as I that he by-passed the handsome steak offering for this vegetable main course.). The waitress assured us that we wouldn’t be disappointed, and she was right.

The chef had made a delicious risotto by cooking arborio rice (the classic short, starchy grain used for this Northern Italian specialty) in simmering stock along with fresh corn kernels. As garnishes he had topped each serving with a spoonful of pickled piquillo peppers and some sautéed hen mushrooms. One bite and we were all smitten.

At home, I couldn’t get the dish out of my mind, and set out to create my own version. I sautéed chopped shallots in butter, along with corn and rice. Then for the next 20 minutes I slowly added ladlefuls of simmering broth to the pot, stirring constantly until each addition was absorbed before ladling in more. Continue reading

Shooting Soup Nights

For the past few weeks I have been obsessed with readying my house for a photo shoot for my newest book, Soup Nights (Rizzoli, fall of 2016). Back in the spring my editor, Caitlin Leffel, and I discussed using the country-like setting of my home as the backdrop for many of the photos in the book, and set a date for the first week in August.

From then on my number of to-do lists multiplied to infinity! I was responsible for assembling a team of cooks to prepare 40 recipes so they were picture perfect, and had to locate countless props (bowls, plates, linens, marble slabs, pieces of slate, honed wood, and more). Barb Pitoniak and Diana Tindall prepared countless recipes for the shoot, while my long-time assistant, Emily Bell, drove a van filled with props from Ohio to Massachusetts to help out.

I also needed to find a professional food stylist in the area and lucked upon Joy Howard. From the New York end, my editor and a talented photographer, Harry Zernike, would be arriving with shooting scripts and lots of exotic photographic equipment.

Lemon Rosemary Cookies on baking rack 1 3648x2736

Although I was prepared for chaos and calamities, the shoot went off without a hitch. The results were beautiful photos–Cucumber Vichyssoise; Mussel Soup with Tomato Saffron Crème; Butternut Squash Soup with Sage Cream; Fennel and Carrot Brodo with Red Quinoa. And others of sides and desserts–Oak Leaf and Apple Salad with Honey Cider Dressing; Lobster BLTs; Ham and Cheese Panini with Apple Slaw; and, Lemon Rosemary Shortbreads.

Those Lemon Rosemary Shortbreads were everyone’s favorite so I’m happy to share the recipe here! Continue reading

Don’t Miss This Summer Bargain!

EyeCandy_July_backyardcooking-3One of my favorite times of year has come around again! Like last year, My Big Book of Backyard Cooking will be featured across a variety of e-book retailers for $.99 (and up) for this month. This is a special event by Chronicle Books called “Chronicle Eye Candy”—a great opportunity for cookbook lovers!

Want to read more about these summer steals? Click here to read my last post (and to find more about My Big Book of Backyard Cooking.)

 

Reinventing the Classic Tuna Sandwich

Tuna, Hummus, Kalamatas on Multi-Grain 1 3648x2736For the past few months, I’ve spent hours in the kitchen with my talented assistants working on a new soup book. Not only have we tested countless brodos, bisques, gazpachos, and potages, we’ve been creating sandwiches to serve alongside them.

One special creation—a tuna salad combo prepared with hummus, kalamatas, and cucumbers—got high marks from the book’s testers. For the dressing, I replaced much of the mayonnaise in the usual versions with hummus, and seasoned the salad with lemon, cumin, and a touch of mint. Other additions included the classic duo of chopped onions and celery.

This new tuna mixture is delicious on toasted multi-grain slices, but you could serve it just Continue reading

What to Eat When It’s Over a 100 Degrees in Paris!

Tomato Gazpacho with Cucumber Granita 1 2960x2220 2960x2220Last week during Paris’ record-breaking heat wave the temperature hit 36° C or about 103°F on Wednesday. I didn’t have to look at the thermometer to know how hot it was in our apartment. When I went to put on eyeliner, the pencil had melted and left wide swaths of brown beneath my eyes. (I looked like a Patriots player on a sunny day!). Cheeses set out to come to room temp were oozing within thirty minutes, and the roses on the dining table were limp after a few hours in our un-air conditioned place.

As it turned out we had invited three American students visiting the City of Light to dinner on that hottest night of the year. So, besides setting up a small fan near the table and opening every window, I prepared a cold menu to avoid turning on the oven. A tomato gazpacho garnished with spoonfuls of icy cold cucumber granità anchored the dinner, followed by an arugula and haricots verts salad topped with chopped hardboiled eggs and sautéed chorizo. Fresh chèvres and a bowl of cherries came next, and a finale of purchased lemon tarts completed the offerings. Continue reading

Last Minute Pan Seared Salmon in a Paris Kitchen

Last Minute Grilled or Pan-Seared Salmon 1 2403x2058 2403x2058The apartment we rent in Paris has a petite kitchen. Counter space is practically non-existent, the fridge is 3/4 size (big for Paris!), and the oven not much larger than a microwave. Amazingly, though, it works beautifully if I keep the menus simple. Dishes like the pan-seared salmon fillets featured here are perfect to prepare in this small space.

Paris Apt Kitchen 1For this recipe salmon fillets are seasoned with an herb and spice rub that includes smoked paprika, thyme, and rosemary. The fillets can rest in the fridge for up to an hour before being quickly pan seared. For sides I drizzled olive oil over a pan of asparagus, seasoned them with salt and pepper, and popped them in the oven to roast for 20 minutes. Basmati rice cooked on the stovetop in a saucepan of water scented with several pinches of turmeric made another colorful garnish. Continue reading

Superb Lunches at Petits Prix

Last week in Paris we met friends for lunch twice, and on both occasions the food was not only delicious, but the prices quite reasonable for the menus we enjoyed. On Wednesday we met Sue and John Talbott at Louis, a small, new Right Bank restaurant headed by talented young chef, Stéphane Pitré. The setting is as contemporary as the exquisite food. Although there are only two menus offered without choices, they are both incredibly creative. At lunch the three-course prix fixe is 32 euros while the six-course one costs 48 euros. Our group ordered two of each.

Things got off to a good start with amuse-bouches presented on a stone block that included a savory Parmesan cookie topped with Camenbert mousse, a verdant cube of herbed brioche, and a savory mustard meringue served with honey. A chilled soup of summer squash topped with icy cold cucumber granità and a sprinkling of caviar, salmon topped with roasted radishes and cherry leaves drizzled with miso vinaigrette, and duck served with miniscule beets and black currants were all delicious. A warm chocolate cake topped with a glossy scoop of arugula (yes, you read that right!) ice cream was a memorable ending, as was a dessert of lime foam with champagne.

 

The next day we continued our midday eating marathon and met our friends, the Porters, at the La Grande Epicerie (food hall) at the Bon Marché. There four of us perched on high Continue reading

Discovering the Basque Country in France and Spain

Sauteed Pork Tenderloin with Piperade 1 3648x2736Though we have been traveling to France for decades, my husband and I had never visited the Basque country. We’d been to Burgundy, Provence, and Brittany, but the southwestern area of France that boasts the glorious Pyrenees and an exquisite coast line on the Atlantic remained unknown to us. So we flew into Paris last week, kept our bags packed, and took off for points southwest with our friends, Harriet and Philippe.

 

En route we stopped by St. Emilion in the verdant wine country, and took a quick tour of Bordeaux. Then we headed for St. Jean de Luz, a charming, old coastal town near the Spanish border. The quaint white-washed houses with their traditional rust or black trim caught our eyes as did the elegant cathedral located in the heart of town, where Louis XIV of France married Marie Thérèse of Spain in 1660. Next we crossed the border to Spain, traveling to Bilbao to see the magnificent Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Gehry. We walked the cobblestoned streets of San Sebastiàn, another town nestled in a protected port. After winding through the mountainous terrain dotted with Basques farms, we had a light lunch in Biarritz, a ritzy resort town, favored by Russian nobility in the late 19th century. It is still redolent of the belle époque. Continue reading

Asparagus in a Starring Role

Grilled Asparagus with Gribiche 2 3648x2736My husband, who has taught at Amherst College for over two decades, is crazy about his students. During their four years at the school, he gets to know these young people well, teaching, advising, and mentoring them throughout their stays. So, when graduation arrives each year, we plan a champagne celebration to honor those he has worked with closely. This past weekend we hosted four students and their families at a fete for 25. Smoked salmon with lemon-scented crème fraîche, capers, and shallots, cantaloupe wedges marinated in a syrup scented with mint and Pernod, a plate of cheeses garnished with sage and plump cherries, goat cheese hazelnut phyllo tartlets, and a platter of grilled asparagus served with a special mayo were on the menu. Although our guests ate everything enthusiastically, hands down the asparagus were the hit of the party!

The recipe for Grilled Asparagus with Gribiche is from The Fat Radish, a new cookbook by Ben Towill and Phil Winser, owners, and Nick Wilber, chef, of the popular NYC restaurant of the same name. Gribiche is a classic French mayonnaise that includes chopped hard-boiled eggs, capers, and pickles. But for their version, this trio simplified the sauce using purchased mayo and seasoning it with grainy mustard, lemon juice, and chives. It took me 10 minutes to prepare this sauce the day before. An hour before our party I cooked the spears in batches on a stovetop grill pan until charred and tender. If you pull out your grill, you’ll be able to cook them even more efficiently. Continue reading