Summer Lunch in Paris of Roasted Cod on a Bed of Vegetables

Recently, my husband and I invited friends to dinner while they were in Paris, but, as it turned out, this couple had only lunch slots free. So, we decided to have a weekend lunch instead. I loved the idea of a mid-day meal, so I planned a simpler menu than I would have for a dinner.

To anchor the menu, I roasted thick cod fillets. Dotted with butter and seasoned generously with salt and cayenne pepper, they needed less than 15 minutes in the oven. Continue reading

Creamy Asparagus Flans for Spring Brunch

Hadley, a neighboring town near Amherst, Massachusetts, where I live, is famous for its asparagus. In late spring, around mid-May, when the crops finally arrive, everyone rushes to buy a bunch. Farmers sell bundles of the handsome spears at outdoor markets and roadside stands, and not to be outdone, our groceries all display the verdant stalks with signs noting that they are LOCAL! Continue reading

Grilled Turkey Burgers with Mango Salsa for Memorial Day

While going through a folder of old recipes recently, I spotted one for curry-scented lamb burgers topped with a simple yogurt sauce plus dollops of mango chutney. I remembered how much I had loved all the vibrant spices in this dish created over a decade ago, and was anxious to make it again–but with a few changes. In place of lamb I decided on turkey (both dark and white meat for a juicy mix), and instead of purchased mango chutney, I would opt for fresh mango salsa.

The new version turned out to be as tempting as the original. The turkey meat benefitted from its spiced layer of seasonings. The mango salsa was, with its accent of lime and punch of heat from a serrano pepper, far better than store-bought chutney. Grilled until slightly charred outside and well done inside, this variation of the burgers was a big hit with Continue reading

A Creamy Potato Gratin Topped with Lamb Chops for Spring

Scalloped potatoes or au gratin potatoes! Who doesn’t like those dishes! Rich and indulgent, both of these potato casseroles are prepared with layers of sliced potatoes baked with cream and/or milk. (They differ only in that the au gratin variety typically has an addition of cheese.) It’s hard to improve on either of these favorites, but recently I spotted a recipe for a French version with a new twist. Lamb chops were set atop a pan of layered potatoes during their last few minutes in the oven. The meat cooked to a rosy hue as the potatoes baked to a golden tenderness.

In that French creation the potatoes were baked with stock and herbs, but with no milk, cream, or cheese. In my mind, I saw the pommes de terre cooked more traditionally with the irresistible trio of dairy ingredients. It took several tries to balance the amount of milk and Continue reading

Coconut Raspberry Parfaits Make a Sweet Ending for My Book Club

The members of my book club love food as much as they do books. So, when it’s my turn to host the group, I spend a little extra time preparing dishes for sampling during the “very important social hour” that precedes our literary discussion. Yesterday, everyone arrived at my house on a glorious spring day (one of a handful so far this season). I had set out a seasonal spread, including a pot of fresh green pea soup with diced feta and tarragon as garnishes, a platter of grilled asparagus spears with a mayonnaise sauce, plus whipped feta with dill surrounded by toasted baguette slices, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers. For a sweet ending there were coconut and raspberry parfaits. True to form, the readers ate with gusto, leaving few leftovers!

Most of the dishes I prepared were favorites I have cooked before, but the coconut and Continue reading

Grilled Flank Steaks with Whipped Feta to Greet Spring

For the past few weeks spring has gradually been making its presence known here in New England. Temperatures reached into the sixties last Saturday, warm enough for us to open our porch. The grass in our yard, blanketed with snow for months, now has a faint verdant hue. And, of course, daylight savings time is offering us longer, light-filled days. All of this has made me eager to change from cold to warm weather cooking.

Recently I couldn’t wait to try a recipe for lemon and garlic grilled flank steak topped with dollops of whipped feta. The dish was a perfect anchor for a simple weeknight meal my husband and I shared. The meat is marinated in a classic mixture of lemon, garlic, and olive oil, but gets a robust herbal accent from a generous amount of fresh chopped dill. When sliced, the rosy pink strips of steak are topped with mounds of creamy whipped Continue reading

Pan Roasted Cod and Vegetables Please a Picky Eater!

When it comes to fish, my husband is definitely a picky eater. Although he likes shell fish, he is not a fan of other seafood. So recently, when I prepared pan roasted cod and vegetables topped with a light but creamy curry sauce, I expected his usual shrug, but instead, he raved about this dish!

The idea for the recipe came about serendipitously. In Paris last summer, we had arranged to meet a friend for lunch at a new restaurant, but when we discovered it was closed, we found a small café nearby. My spouse and friend ordered “steak frites,” but I chose the cod and vegetables in curry sauce. The latter turned out to be a winner—a dish with a Continue reading

A Box of Camembert Becomes a Quick Fondue!

In Paris this past January, I was leafing through a French food magazine when I spotted
a recipe for an unusual cheese fondue. Instead of the traditional version prepared with Gruyère or Emmenthal and served in a fondue pot, this interesting variation was made with a creamy French cheese called Mont d’Or. That round of cheese with its light crinkly skin was heated in the oven in the wooden box  in which it was packaged, until it was melted and oozing. and then served in its container. I barely finished looking at the directions before my mouth watered!

Back home on this side of the Atlantic, I decided to substitute Camembert for Mont d’Or, since the latter is hard to find in the States. I sliced a thin layer from the top of the Camembert, and then with a sharp knife traced a cross pattern on top. Finally, I sprinkled finely minced garlic over the cheese, then drizzled it with white wine as in the Continue reading

Mushroom and Roquefort Tarts are the Favorite Dish on the Menu

Mushroom and Roquefort Puff Pastry Tarts At a recent cooking class featuring a menu of Parisian-inspired dishes, my students were most enthusiastic about the simple first course—individual mushroom and Roquefort tarts. There was a fork-tender veal and tomato ragoût as an entree, a vibrant salad of haricots verts, oranges, and Belgian endive in orange vinaigrette, and for dessert a walnut rum gateau with chocolate icing plus homemade vanilla ice cream. Yet, these simple tarts garnered by far the most attention. Continue reading

A Dark Chocolate Cardamom Cake for Valentine’s Day

If you (like me) are just now thinking of making a special dessert for Valentine’s Day, here’s a recipe for a delicious dark chocolate cake that I first baked more than a decade ago. It is not complicated to prepare, and calls for easily found ingredients at most supermarkets. Each time I’ve served it, I noticed that there are rarely any leftovers.

This flourless confection is assembled with dark bittersweet chocolate, plenty of butter, plus eggs and sugar. What distinguishes this cake from others, though, is a generous Continue reading