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
Sadly, this year’s peach crops in Massachusetts were lost because of bad weather, so I’ve purchased ones that have arrived in our local markets from other parts of the country.
I’ve used them in smoothies or as garnishes for grilled meats, and added slices to my morning cereal bowl. But, my favorite creation has been to feature them in a glorious French tart.
Prepared with an extra-rich pastry dough (the recipe for which was shared by talented baker and caterer, Barb Morse), the tart shell is pre-baked and then filled with sliced peaches coated in a thickened peach puree mixture scented subtly with cardamom.
Peach Tart ready to go in the oven in its pre-baked pastry shell.
Once baked, it is best to let the tart stand a while at room temperature so that the juices have a chance to cool and thicken. Then you can slice this confection easily and gild the lily by garnishing each serving with a dollop of crème fraîche and a drizzle of rosé syrup. The latter is made by simply reducing leftover rosé (plentiful around our house in the summer!) with sugar. Nothing says summer like a peach dessert! Continue reading
When it comes to food, Valentine’s day might just be my favorite holiday, for, like countless other gourmands, I am a bona fide chocoholic. I keep extra dark chocolate bars in my cupboards, breaking off squares for a “fix” after weeknight meals. My eye zeroes in on the word “chocolate” on any dessert menu. And, for my latest book, Soup Nights, over a third of the recipes in the desert chapter are prepared with some type of chocolate.
One such dessert, Chocolate Cashew Brownies with Chocolate Crème Fraîche Glaze, is what I am making for Valentine this year. Rich and decadent, these confections are prepared with semisweet chocolate, plenty of butter, and a touch of crème fraîche. And, in place of more traditional nuts (think almonds, pecans, walnuts), these call for cashews. The recipe is my version of one for French brownies that I spotted in France a few years ago. Continue reading
As 2016 arrived, my husband and I rang in the new year with good friends here in Pairs where I cooked a meal in the tiny but efficient kitchen of our apartment rental. Of course, since I’ve spent the entire last year working on Soup Nights (to be published this fall) I included a soup in the menu, and chose a long time favorite.
Broccoli soup with Curried Crème Fraiche is so versatile that you can serve it any season of the year. It’s a snap to assemble, takes only 15 minutes to simmer atop the stove, and is light yet totally satisfying. I buy packaged broccoli florets (a big time saver), sauté them with chopped leeks, and then simmer them in chicken broth until tender. The vegetables are then pureed and seasoned with a hint of cayenne pepper. However, it’s the crème fraîche scented with curry powder that is the secret to this dish’s vibrant flavor. The cream is swirled into the puréed mixture and also used as a garnish. Continue reading
This summer while my family spent ten days in Brittany, I was lucky enough to meet a Breton woman named Manou Gorin. the contact person for the house we had rented. Trim, petite, and charming, this grand’mère (French grandmother) became an instant friend when we discovered that we shared a love of cooking. She brought us treats such as coconut crème caramel as well as crêpes with salted caramel sauce, and gladly shared some of her Breton recipes. One in particular, for lobsters roasted with Pernod and crème fraîche, caught my attention.
She explained that she halved the shellfish (while alive!), and arranged the halves on a baking sheet. The lobsters were topped with pats of butter, sprinkled with cayenne, and then roasted in a very hot oven. Finishing touches included pouring a little flamed Pernod (an anise-scented liqueur) over the fish, then topping them with small dollops of crème fraîche. I couldn’t bring myself to do in lobsters by plunging a knife into them, so I substituted thick salmon fillets instead, and loved the results.
Whole Foods in Hadley, Massachusetts
It’s a common, catchy little phrase that I hear all the time from my friends and students. “Whole Foods means whole paycheck” they exclaim after expeditions to our local WF where irresistible produce, fish, and meats often have hefty price tags.
An inveterate grocery shopper (I’m in supermarkets at least 3 to 4 times a week!), I’m aware that many things do cost more in this food emporium, but there are bargains too tucked among the shelves. Listed below are six items I routinely put in my cart. All are of excellent quality and a terrific value.
And speaking of non-monetary value, my local Whole Foods rates high for me on the service scale. Last week I asked a stocker where the peeled and cubed butternut squash was. She quickly explained that it was early in the season and that the store hadn’t begun to display packages of peeled and cut fall squashes. Then she continued, “Just go pick out a squash and I’ll take it in the back and prep it for you!” That little extra service is a bargain too! Continue reading
According to the calendar, spring officially arrived several weeks ago, but you’d never know it from our weather here in New England. Yes, we had a few days where the temperature actually reached into the fifties, but mostly it’s been damp and cold, and no one is rushing to put away their winter gear.
Even though it’s still hovering in the low forties outside, I’m tired of winter cooking and ready to spring forward in my kitchen. This week, for instance, I made an ethereally smooth asparagus and leek soup, lightened it with lemon-scented crème fraîche, then added a sprinkle of snipped chives.
The soup turned out to be ideal for this transitional time of the year. Continue reading