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

Soup Making with Young Cooks!

Brodo with Spring Peas, Pancetta, and Mint Several days ago two young women, both seniors at Amherst College where my husband teaches, emailed that they had some free time the following week to come and cook with me in my kitchen. Stellar students as well as passionate foodies, they had, during their four years of taking rigorous courses at the college, often found extra hours to cook and, of course, to sample recipes with me. This would be the last time before graduation for us to be in the kitchen together, so I picked some special dishes, including a soup with spring peas, mint, and pancetta.

To prepare the dish we made a rich but quickly assembled broth and then added orecchiette (small ear-shaped pasta), fresh peas, snow peas, and chopped bibb lettuce to the simmering liquid. The brodo was garnished with crispy bits of pancetta, fresh mint, and a sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano. From our first sips, we all adorned this soup with its Continue reading

Simply Delicious Crab Quesadillas

Crab and Tomato Quesadillas 1 3648x2736Recently, while going through some old files, I came across a recipe of mine for crab and tomato quesadillas. I hadn’t made these pan-fried tortilla sandwiches in years, but the ingredients sounded as delectable today as they did over a decade ago.

Flour tortillas were spread with a mixture of grated Jack cheese and cream cheese scented with citrus accents of orange and lemon. Then, a colorful mélange of crabmeat, diced tomatoes, and chopped green onions was added before the tortillas were folded in half and cooked on the stove top.

I tweaked the recipe slightly, replacing the lemon and orange seasonings with the more assertive flavor of lime. And instead of  Monterrey Jack, I used Mahon, a delicious slightly sharp Spanish cheese. I also experimented with both whole wheat and regular flour tortillas, and found that each worked well. Continue reading

A Scrumptious Dessert for Splurging!

Butterscotch Pot de Creme 2 2909x2736 2909x2736It doesn’t happen often, but on rare occasions, I sample a dessert so delectable that I abandon all healthy eating guidelines, and just indulge. That was the case a few weeks ago when I was in Washington, DC, and ate at Ripple. (See last week’s post for more on that terrific restaurant). The Butterscotch Pots de Crème on the dessert menu sounded so tempting with their garnishes of cinnamon-scented cream and bits of toffee that I promptly ordered one. To describe this confection as addictive would be an understatement. I intended to take only a few bites, but in less than 5 minutes the little ramekin was licked (or should I say spooned) clean. Continue reading

Two Great Restaurants in Washington, DC

Recently, I’ve visited our nation’s capital three times, and on each occasion, I’ve been stunned by the number of interesting restaurants the city boasts. In March I was in Washington for the annual meeting of the International Association of Culinary Professionals, a group of food lovers par excellence! A bonus of the conference was that the local DC members compiled a list for the attendees of their top 50 favorite eateries in the area. The restaurants sounded so varied and tempting that I found myself wishing for a longer stay. China Chilcano and Ripple, two places I tried, were definite winners!

My friend and Rizzoli editor, Caitlin Lefflel, picked China Chilcano—the two-month old brainchild of celebrated chef, José Andrés, whose restaurant empire started with Jaleo, a famous Washington tapas institution. China Chilcano, however, features Peruvian cuisine. We went for drinks and appetizers, and looking at the menu, I was amazed to learn that the dishes included both Chinese and Japanese accents, the result of settlers from those countries to Peru in the 19th century. Our group of three started with pisco sours, a divine drink made with a clear, grappa-type liquor, lime, egg whites, and bitters. We also sampled a variation infused with an essence of purple corn. Paper-thin fried plantain and taro root chips served with a sauce for dipping made a great accompaniment as did a beautiful Japanese-inspired potato creation topped with crab, tobiko (roe), spicy mayo, cucumber, and avocado. A stirfry of rice and noodles infused with vegetables was another temptation. Continue reading

A Serendipitous Spring Pasta Dish

Pappardelle, Peas, Pea Shoots, Serano 1 3648x2736This past week my friend and longtime assistant, Emily Bell, traveled to New England from Ohio for a week of marathon cooking with me, testing recipes for a new cookbook.
Each day we made our way to the supermarket to purchase groceries, carefully checking off the items on our list. On one such visit to the local Whole Foods, we noticed some gorgeous pea shoots, and then spotted some shelled peas in the produce section. Both were so appealing and such great harbingers of spring that we put them in the cart.Serrano Ham and Snow Pea Shoots from Whole F 1 3431x2298 A few aisles away we found packages of sliced Serrano, Spain’s contribution to the world’s ham repertoire.Those three discoveries sparked an idea for a delicious pasta dish.

We cooked pappardelle al dente, adding the fresh peas during the last few minutes so that both finished cooking at the same time. Melted butter, fresh lemon zest, and crème fraîche were then stirred into the pasta along with a little Parmesan cheese. Oh, and the Serrano ham– we julienned the slices and quickly sautéed them to use as a garnish. Continue reading