When in France, one of my delights is cooking vegetables. With each season the French look forward to the arrival of fresh produce, and always use it imaginatively. Take for example the talented host who served my husband and me a delicious dish of baked veal slices topped with a beautiful asparagus sauce, or the creative restaurant chef who paired roasted eggplant cubes with fresh orange segments and then topped them with thin slices of dried goat cheese.
My own seasonal creations are far simpler since our rented apartment has a small kitchen. Zucchini (courgettes) and tomatoes are bountiful at the near-by fruit and vegetable stands, so I bought both to make a summer gratin.
A tian, a type of Provencal gratin prepared by baking layers of vegetables in a shallow dish Continue reading
Photo by Rob Dumitrescu
Recently on a Saturday morning young friends in Paris suggested that we get together for dinner that evening at their apartment. They had a toddler and no baby sitter, but wanted to entertain. Together we decided to buy most of the dishes—an easy task in this city that boasts tempting food specialty shops in every neighborhood. I volunteered to bring purchased appetizers and a simple homemade dessert, while our pals chose to oversee the main course. The dinner was not only delicious, but also stress-free.
For openers, my spouse and I arrived with fresh marinated artichokes, thinly sliced herbed ham, stuffed olives, and a slice of pâté. Roast chicken, ratatouille, and a salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, and feta followed. But we lingered longest over the dessert of juicy sliced peaches and plump raspberries served with a bowl of crème fraiche scented with honey and minced ginger. It took less than a half hour to assemble from start to finish, and Continue reading
After arriving in Paris last week, I couldn’t wait to make a foray to the local food markets in our Left Bank neighborhood. I marveled at the produce displayed by the fruit and vegetable vendors. Baskets of strawberries were so ripe that they were red all the way through. Golden apricots were soft when touched and ready for eating. Asparagus—green and white, slender and plump—were also tempting. But the bin that caught my eye was filled with dark, luscious figs. When I squeezed them gently in my hand, they were so tender that I needed real will power not to take a bite.
I bought a bunch, and came home to make a pizza that featured figs as part of the Continue reading
When I spotted fresh shelled green peas in two of my local supermarkets recently, I was at once reminded of a pea soup I had sampled in Paris late last spring at Le St. Joseph, a restaurant located on the outskirts of the city, but definitely worth the cab ride. When the creamy, celadon green soup arrived at the table, it was garnished with a fine dice of snowy white feta and with crisp, golden mini- croutons. One sip of this delicious, verdant potage, and I was smitten. I polished off the bowl in less than 5 minutes.
Fast forward a year to those fresh peas nestled among the sugar snaps and snow peas at the grocery. I picked up several packages to create a facsimile of the Parisian original. Sautéed leeks and tarragon make fine partners to the peas, which are simmered for a few minutes in stock, and then pureed. Some half-and- half adds a smooth finishing touch, but it is the simple garnishes that truly distinguish this dish. I sliced a block of feta into fine Continue reading
The Pioneer Valley where I live in western Massachusetts makes its claim to fame when the asparagus season opens in May. Farmlands, dotting the region’s landscape, yield all manner of crops, but none is more anticipated than asparagus. In fact, our community is so celebrated for its handsome stalks that it is often referred to as Asparagus Valley.
I love to partake in this incredible harvest, so when signs appear in our markets for “native” asparagus, I pick up several bunches to cook every way imaginable. This past week, for example, I pulled out a recipe for asparagus and mushroom tarts that I created several years ago. (A reader of this blog reminded me of the dish recently, saying that it had become a family favorite.)
These tarts take only a short time to assemble since they are prepared with purchased puff Continue reading
When it comes to dessert chocolate and caramel are two of my favorite flavors. Truth be told, chocolate almost always edges out caramel, but not these past few weeks. Early last month as host of my book club, I included some caramel almond squares as a sweet treat for my fellow readers. The group ate them with abandon, even asking to take extras home for their spouses and partners. Then a few days later, on a rainy night, my husband and I invited out- of-town friends for a last-minute, take-out Mexican supper at our house. I baked the caramel squares again, and once more watched as they and their two sons helped themselves to seconds and even thirds.
Several nights in a row, I found myself headed to our kitchen for a midnight snack that included one of these shortbread bars topped with a mixture of toasted almonds nestled in Continue reading
Earlier this month when it was my turn to host book club, I was at a loss for what to serve. We always have a generous offering of seasonal appetizers and sweets, but this year in New England spring has brought cold temperatures and even snow to us. Finally, I came up with a menu: a hearty and savory Gorgonzola cheesecake garnished with grapes, apple slices, and crisp crackers, plus a creamy fresh crab dip with orange-scented toasts, and caramel almond squares accompanied by a bowl of berries and whipped cream.
The crab dip, my nod to warmer weather, was a big hit with my fellow readers. Its creaminess comes from cream cheese whipped with Parmesan, and then seasoned with spring accents of tarragon and chives, plus a hefty citrus note of orange. Served atop Continue reading
There was no glazed ham, roast leg of lamb, or grilled beef tenderloin at our Easter table this year. Instead Mike, my son and co-chef, and I agreed on an untraditional main course. Chicken cutlets, prepared Wiener schnitzel style, were our choice and turned out to be a big success with our family.
The suggestion was my idea since our clan included two teenagers with picky taste buds. I felt certain they would like the crispy coating on the chicken. Wiener Schnitzel (“Viennese cutlet”) is a classic dish prepared with thin veal slices that are dredged in flour, then dipped in beaten eggs, and coated with bread crumbs before a quick sautéing. For my version, I Continue reading
Although the calendar declares that spring officially got under way this week, you wouldn’t know it by the weather in New England. Predictions of snow have been the constant refrain of our weather forecasters, and even though our town has received only light snowfalls, it still feels like winter here.
I’ve countered the cold by cooking spring dishes. Although not local yet, bunches of asparagus and fresh peas have been on display in our markets—an inspiration for cooks to transition from one season to the next. One main course that I’ve prepared several times is a risotto studded with slices of asparagus and peas, and topped with sautéed sea scallops. At last count I had made it three times this month for my husband and me!
Risotto requires your undivided attention. Prepared by stirring simmering stock into a Continue reading
A few weeks ago my cooking pal, Barbara Morse, and I gave a class titled The Art of the Crepe. It had been years since either of us had given such a course, but we were betting that there was a new generation of cooks who had never made crepes. Our gamble certainly paid off. Every seat was filled and our students—both young and older—were all enthusiastic about an evening devoted to making light and airy French pancakes.
We included a tip sheet explaining that either a classic French 7-to 8- inch iron crepe pan or a nonstick skillet of similar size would work. A long, metal spatula for turning crepes in the pan, and a quarter-cup measure rounded out our utensil recommendations.
We explained that it’s best to let the batter rest before using, and that when cooking Continue reading