A French Cherry Tart for July 4th!

A couple of summers ago during a visit to the Basque country in the southwest of France, I tasted a rich, double-crusted butter tart that encased a delicious cherry filling. One bite of this confection and I was in heaven. Although I have thought about that tart every time cherries have come into season, only recently did I try to reproduce it. After several attempts I arrived at a close facsimile, and think it would make a glorious finale to a July 4th celebration!

Although I sampled an individual tart, the following recipe is prepared in a 9-inch tart pan so that it easily serves eight. The secret to its success lies in preparing an extra short, extra buttery crust (like a shortbread one). I even replaced some of the flour in the dough with ground almonds for added flavor. The bottom crust is broken into pieces and simply patted into the pan. Then a filling of fresh cherries and cherry preserves accented with Amaretto, is added. The top crust is rolled out between sheets of parchment and patted atop the filling. Continue reading

Depending on Which Chèvre You Choose…

Chèvres at my local shopFor those of you planning to make the Cherry Tomato and Radish Salad in Orange Vinaigrette with Whipped Chèvre featured  on Monday, I realized after I penned the post that the amount of milk called for when whisking the chèvre could vary depending on the firmness of the goat cheese. I used a creamy, but somewhat firm chèvre from my local cheese shop (see photo above!) and it easily needed almost 2/3 cup of milk to get it to a nice whipped consistency.  Softer goat cheeses like Chavrie (which I mentioned in the post) will need as little as 2 tablespoons of milk. I’ve made these notes on the recipe so be sure to check out the revised version here.

It’s been in the 90s every day this week–tomorrow we might be lucky and it will reach only into the 80s! Happy cooking everyone!

 

 

 

 

Cooking in Paris When the Temperatures Soar

Tomato and Radish Salad with Whipped ChevreMonday (Lundi)                High 95
Tuesday (Mardi)                High 97
Wednesday (Mercredi)     High 97
Thursday (Jeudi)               High 97

When I looked at the weather app on my phone this morning, the temperatures above are what I saw. Paris is having a “canicule”—a heat wave! It certainly determined what I wanted to cook this week. No turning on the oven–salads and chilled soups will be on the menu instead.

A salad that I tasted recently at a fabulous Left Bank restaurant, Le Bon Saint Pourçain, was the inspiration for our lunch today. The image of halved cherry tomatoes, paper thin shavings of radish, and sliced red onion served with whipped chèvre was still dancing around in my head. The cool refreshing flavors as well as the vivid colors of this dish were appealing, but I also appreciated that all the ingredients were seasonable, and readily available in my neighborhood markets. Continue reading

A Light Supper “au Balcon” in Paris

Supper food on the rue Cler balconyOn a warm, balmy Parisian night earlier this week, my husband and I decided to eat al fresco, so we set a small table on the apartment’s narrow balcony. Since we had enjoyed a robust lunch earlier, we wanted a light supper and found inspiration from the vegetables and fruits displayed in the local markets of our neighborhood.

I bought large Brittany artichokes (they measure close to 5 inches across!), bunches of fresh mint and chives, plus a couple of Cavaillon melons (those extra sweet little cantaloupes from Provence). I also picked up juicy apricots and cherries as well as figs.

At home I turned to some favorite recipes to prepare my cache. The artichokes were cooked in a big pot of boiling water and served with melted butter scented with lemon, mint, and chives. Some readers might remember this dish from one of my blogs of several years ago when I used the artichokes as a first course. This time they became the main course. You’ll find the recipe here. As a side, I made Melon with Pernod and Mint, a starter that has been in my repertoire more than 20 years. I tweaked the directions slightly and offered the chilled cantaloupe slices as a fruit salad rather than an appetizer. You’ll find that recipe below.

Glasses of rosé, a crusty baguette, some sliced saucissons (sausages), plus Roquefort and an aged chèvre paired with apricots, cherries, and figs completed our “dîner au balcon!”

 

What to Grill for the Big Holiday Weekend

Grilled Chicken Thighs with Tomato Avocado SalsaFor much of this coming holiday weekend, my husband and I will be caught up in reunion events at Amherst College where he teaches. There will be tent parties with catered food as classes of alums gather to reconnect, many receptions, plus scores of interesting seminars and talks. But by Sunday the festivities will have wound down, and that’s when I plan to pull out the grill and start cooking!

I’ve been tweaking a recipe for Grilled Chicken Thighs with Tomato and Avocado Salsa for several days now, and finally have the seasonings and timings fine-tuned. Exceptionally easy and inexpensive (if you’re serving a crowd), this chicken entree takes less than an hour to assemble plus some marinating time, and then about 25 minutes atop the coals. Why thighs instead of breasts? Because the dark meat stands up to grilling beautifully, and doesn’t dry out as quickly as does the white flesh.

Marinated simply in lime juice and olive oil along with coarse salt and red pepper flakes, Continue reading

Surprising Rhubarb for a Mother’s Day Dessert

Rhubarb and Strawberry Crumble with Mascarpone Whipped CreamLast Saturday when I arrived at my local farmers’ market in our small New England town, the crop that captured my attention was rhubarb. Resting regally on a folding table at one of my favorite stands were bundles of deep red and pale green stalks. I quickly picked up three bunches, knowing that the following week I needed rhubarb for a dessert in one of my cooking classes.

Although typically treated as a fruit, rhubarb is actually a plant with a tartness that requires a complement of sugar. The dessert I had planned was a warm rhubarb and strawberry crumble (which calls for both white and brown sugars); it takes only 20 minutes to assemble and then about half an hour in the oven. For the filling sliced rhubarb and strawberries are dusted with sugar and aromatic spices including cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. A traditional topping of flour, oats, brown sugar, and nuts (I used sliced almonds) Continue reading

A Simply Delicious Spring Salad from Across The Ocean

Edamame, Pea, and Avocados in Spicy Sesame DressingLast month while in London on spring break, my husband and I opted for a quick lunch one day at one of the many Prêt à Manger fast food restaurants located throughout the city. After a few bites of a simple but unusual salad, I pulled out my phone and starting taking photos. My spouse looked on, surprised that I was snapping shots in this popular eatery, not exactly a foodie destination.

The dish that caught my eye was a salad prepared with edamame, peas, and diced avocado tossed with cilantro sprigs and dressed in a spicy sesame dressing. The taste was light yet satisfying, and the varied verdant hues of the ingredients gave the dish visual heft.

Back home, I devoted a morning to trying to reproduce the recipe and came up with a close facsimile. The sesame dressing assembled with both rice vinegar and lemon juice for tart notes, gets some heat from red pepper flakes and a hit of saltiness from soy sauce.

Three cups of loosely packed cilantro sprigs replace lettuce greens in this dish, and can be cleaned several hours ahead and refrigerated.

Pair this spring green salad with grilled chicken or lamb, roasted salmon fillets, or pan-seared scallops for dinner or serve it with soup for a light lunch or supper.

 

 

Last Minute Easter Lunch!

Lamb Chops with Black Pepper:Pecorino ButterThis year–for the first time in more than a decade–we’ll be empty nesters on Easter Sunday! As it turns out this holiday coincides with our grandkids’ spring break so most of our clan will be away. Instead of cooking for six, I’m planning a menu for two.

Although ham was the star of Easter meals when I was growing up in the South, I’m a huge fan of lamb, and came up with the idea for grilled lamb chops topped with dollops of Pecorino/black pepper butter.

The topping is an “easy-to-put together” blending of softened sweet butter, grated Pecorino and Parmesan cheeses, plus a generous accent of coarse black pepper. The butter takes only minutes to assemble and can be prepared a couple of days ahead. At serving time the chops need less than 10 minutes on an outdoor or stovetop grill. Peas Continue reading

Always Choose Chocolate!

Dark Chocolate Caramel Cake“If in doubt, choose chocolate,” has always been my mantra. So when my husband and I host a supper at our house next week for his class at Amherst College, guess what the the dessert will be!  Definitely a chocolate creation, and in this case a rich dark chocolate caramel cake.

What makes this luscious single-layered confection unique is that the batter is studded with caramel candies that soften and blend into the dark chocolate mixture while baking.The recipe is based on one I spotted several years ago in a French magazine, but in the original version the candies were laid atop the batter. After baking the cake several times, I discovered that submerging the caramels so that they are completely covered produced a richer, more interesting texture. Continue reading

A Thirty-Minute Supper for the Chilly Beginning of Spring

Grilled Sausages, Savoy Cabbage and Bacon, Apples with Caraway SeedsLooking at my calendar I notice that this is the first day of spring, but peering out my window I view mounds of snow in our yard while the thermometer hovers in the 40s. So, as much as I am ready for a seasonal change, it’s still cold here in New England, and I’m craving foods to stave off the chill.

Grilled sausages served with pan-sautéed cabbage and bacon plus apple wedges sautéed in butter with caraway seeds is just the sort of no-fuss menu I love in this blustery weather. For the sausages choose a favorite cooked one (I always opt for kielbasa) and slice it into 3- to 4- inch lengths before grilling in a stove top grill pan or skillet until lightly charred. The two side dishes featured here, though, are the real stars of this meal. Each calls for only three primary ingredients and takes only minutes to prep and cook. Continue reading