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

A Parisian Leek and Potato Soup is Perfect for a Supper Bowl Supper!

A few weeks ago in Paris I sampled a delicious leek and potato soup at a Left Bank restaurant called Les Sellae. Although potato soup cooked with leeks is a classic winter offering in France, the inventive chefs had enhanced their version with contemporary touches by finishing the potage with swirls of Taleggio cream plus sprinkles of crispy speck (an Italian deli meat similar to prosciutto) and fresh dill. I tried recreating the soup with good results in Paris, and once home in New England prepared it again with a few tweaks. As I took sips of this hearty, warming soup, I had a Eureka moment when I realized that it would be perfect to serve for The Super Bowl this coming Sunday!

The soup takes about 45 minutes start to finish, and can be prepared a day ahead. I replaced the speck with prosciutto and sautéed the julienned slices several hours ahead. For the Taleggio cream, I simply melted bits of the tangy Italian cheese in simmering cream at serving time.

To round out the menu, add a salad of mixed greens tossed in a lemon and shallot dressing, a warm crispy baguette, and a bowl of pears, grapes, or apples served with your favorite homemade cookies.

 

A French Risotto for Cold Weather Days in Paris

What I love about the French is their willingness to absorb the best of other cuisines—whether specialty dishes or ingredients–into their own culture’s cooking. Today, it’s not uncommon to see lemongrass, yuzu, or burrata featured on Parisian menus. And, the French have their own versions of such all-American favorites as hamburgers, cheesecakes, and crumbles. Creative interpretations of gazpacho and risotto abound as well. In fact, I made my own version of risotto with French accents this past week!

For Winter Risotto with Chanterelles and Pancetta, I sautéed those golden, trumpet-shaped fungi along with brown mushrooms and shallots, then seasoned the mix with fresh rosemary. This risotto, prepared traditionally with arborio rice and simmering stock, took 15 to 20 minutes to cook, but was worth the effort. When done, the sautéed mushrooms Continue reading

A Light Supper in Paris To Start the New Year

Since our arrival in Paris last week, my husband and I have eaten with little attention to calories. We’ve swooned over slices of silken-smooth foie gras and rich, cream-laden soups. We’ve sampled perfectly roasted duck, fork-tender braised lamb, and tried cheeses from every corner of France. And, we’ve finished meals with decadent desserts, including the French New Year’s favorite, gâteau des rois (the kings’ cake). After these indulgences, we needed to change to lighter fare, if only briefly! So, inspired by the many green grocers on our street, I made a bountiful main course salad served with pan-seared salmon fillets.

For the salad I chose a trio of bitter greens, including radicchio, frisée, and Belgian endive, and balanced them with some milder mixed lettuces. Slices from a juicy pear added a Continue reading

A Delicious Hazelnut Tart for Christmas Dinner

Although I am not hosting Christmas dinner this year, I am helping cook it with my son, who has decided that herb-rubbed and roasted beef tenderloin served with creamy mashed potatoes and root vegetables will anchor the menu. We haven’t discussed desserts yet, but I know what I am going to suggest– a scrumptious hazelnut and coffee tart that can be baked a day ahead. And, it is also easily transportable by car.

I first sampled this special tart a few weeks ago when my friend, Sigi Schutz, served it at a dinner. One bite and I was smitten. Of course, I asked for the recipe, and was surprised to learn how simple it was to prepare. She didn’t specify ingredients for the crust so I used a favorite dough of mine, first baking it blind (without the filling) as she directed. For the filling, Continue reading

Camembert Stuffed with Dates and Walnuts Starts the Party on a Snowy Night

The week before Thanksgiving my husband and I hosted our annual dinner for his freshman class at Amherst College. This year along with worrying about getting food cooked for fifteen, I was also concerned about the weather. Forecasters were predicting a hearty snowfall for the night of our party. Since we live two miles from campus, we were keeping our fingers crossed that the storm would start later than expected.

Luck went our way with the students arriving around 6, and no snow in sight. For appetizers I had set out a wheel of Camembert, halved and stuffed with chopped Medjool dates, dried apricots, and toasted walnuts, all scented with orange zest. Toasted baguettes slices and apple wedges made fine canvases for the stuffed cheese. A big dish of rigatoni baked with a spicy tomato sauce, a salad of mixed greens and shaved fennel tossed with lemon and olive oil, and a basket of warm artisan breads followed. Still, no snow.

But when the desserts–pumpkin brownies served with vanilla ice cream and caramel Continue reading