One 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.)
For 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
Last 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
The 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.
For 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
Amuse-bouches at Louis
Soup of summer squash with Cucumber Granità at Louis
Interior at Louis
Warm chocolate cake with arugula ice cream at Louis
Salmon with roasted radishes and charred brioche crumbs
Duck with baby beets and black currnts
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.
Scrambled eggs with truffles at Truffe
Pâté with truffle filling at Truffe
Napkin at Truffe
The bar at Truffe
Menu cover at Truffe
Ravioli with truffels at Truffe
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
Though 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.
Peppers drying on a wall outside store in St Jean de Luz
In front of the Bilbao Guggenheim
Fried mild green peppers in San Sebastian
Tapas restaurant in San Sebastian
Inside the Bilbao Guggenheim
Hilltown village of Sare in France
Coast line at Biarritz
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
My 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!
Melon with Pernod and Mint
Guests sampling the food
The professor congratulating his students
Students and parents listening to the “professor”
Cheeses witih sage and cherries
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
A few weeks ago, my husband and I would have told you that our social life had been at less than zero. Unending snows, frigid temperatures, and ice-coated roads kept us and others indoors in January, Februa Continue reading
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
Recently, 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