A Comforting Soup for a Cold Night

Fennel and White Bean Soup with Prosciutto 1 2448x2448At the end of last week we had planned to meet a good friend at a new bistro in Paris. But the tragic events that unfolded between Wednesday and Friday were so unsettling that we all agreed a casual dinner at home was a better idea. When I suggested that we gather for a simple soup and salad supper at our small apartment, our pal was on board immediately and offered to bring dessert.

For the main course, I had in mind a rustic soup prepared by sautéing chopped fennel, onion, and carrots and then simmering those vegetables along with white beans in stock. Short on time, I opted for canned beans, rinsing and draining them well before stirring them into the pot, and was delighted with the results. For extra flavor some chopped fresh rosemary and dry white wine balanced the flavors nicely, while crispy julienned prosciutto and golden homemade croutons made fine garnishes. Continue reading

Ringing in 2015 in Paris!

Scallop and Fennel Tartlets 1 3648x2736This year we’ll be in Paris to ring in 2015, but, rather than dine out in one of the city’s restaurants, we’ll be cooking a meal with our friends, Harriet and Philippe, who live there. Our hosts have decided that after marathon Christmas entertaining, we should follow a simpler philosophy of “buy some, make some” for this special night. And, happily, that’s especially easy to do in France.

Harriet’s local boucher displays gorgeous fowl, completely stuffed and oven ready, which she buys and roasts along with chestnuts and vegetables. Our pals love to purchase oysters, a French tradition at this time of year, and a cache of delectable cheeses. I’ll order a dessert from one of my favorite patisseries, and will volunteer to bring champagne and appetizers. Continue reading

Cooking Smart –A Delicious Soup to Make Ahead

Tomato, Fennel, and Italian Sausage Soup 1 A 3254x2432This fall has seen the coincidental publication of my Sunday Casseroles and When Paris Went Dark—The City of Light During the German Occupation, my husband’s new book. As a consequence, the past two months have been a blur of travel for us. I’ve been to Maine, Boston, and Ohio for book events, and tagged along with my spouse to New York, Washington, and Connecticut for his talks and signings. This chaotic schedule has meant that I’ve had to cook smart, and make plenty of dishes in advance. Soups, it turns out, have been my salvation since they are so easy to do ahead. One of my favorites has been a comforting Italian –style zuppa of tomatoes, fennel, and sausage.

This hearty soup is made by sautéing slices of sweet, fennel-scented Italian sausage along with leeks and then gently simmering the duo in chicken stock and tomatoes. Simple seasonings of basil, red pepper flakes, and garlic round out the robust flavors, while a sprinkle of grated Parmigiano provides a fitting garnish.

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Red Quinoa Is So Cool!

Pan-Seared Scallops with Red Quinoa and Fennel 1Last week we drove into Boston to take advantage of the city’s annual Dine Out Boston. For this event, many of the town’s best restaurants offer $38 three-course menus. We opted for Zebra’s Bistro in the western suburb of Medfield and were joined by our son and his wife, food lovers par excellence. Wontons stuffed with braised short rib on sriracha cole slaw and crispy falafel garnished with beet yogurt were winning starters. Braised lamb stew with homemade pasta was a delectable main, but my favorite dish of the night was pan-seared trout atop a warm red quinoa salad.

I rarely cook with quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah), but this dish made me a convert. An ancient, nutrient-packed grain that is gluten-free, quinoa comes in varied colors (the most common is beige). My red quinoa salad, prepared with small burgundy-hued grains, was a perfect visual foil for coral-tinted trout, and was the inspiration for the recipe that follows. Continue reading

Winning my Husband Over with Delicious Roasted Fish

Baked Fish Fillets with Fennel, Tomatoes, and Basil 1Typically my husband will ask late in the afternoon, “So what’s for dinner?” If red meat happens to be the anchor of our meal, his face lights up, but if I mention that fish is on the menu his disappointment is apparent. A devoted carnivore, he adores grilled steaks and chops, savors any form of lamb, and thinks pulled pork should be at the top of the food pyramid.

This week, though, when I served roasted cod fillets topped with a hearty mélange of sautéed fennel and little red and yellow tomatoes, he changed his mind, eating this simply prepared (and I might add quite healthy!) seafood dish with gusto. The colorful fennel and tomato topping, which takes only about 20 minutes to assemble, can be prepared ahead. At serving time all that is necessary is to arrange thick-cut fish fillets in a baking dish, then spoon the garnish over them. In less than a quarter hour the fish is tender, flaky, and ready for the table.

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Midnight–No Make That Midday and Lunch–in Paris!

I rarely entertain at lunch, but last week in Paris, I planned a midday get together for three friends. The guests—all thoughtful women who lead busy lives in France’s capital—rearranged their schedules to come for a tasting meal to help fine-tune a recipe for my new book, Sunday Casseroles, due out next year.

Baked chicken with fennel and tomatoes was the centerpiece of our menu. Prepared with humble chicken thighs, magically transformed into a delicious, fork-tender entrée as they slowly bake in a casserole with assertive vegetables, this main course was an instant hit with mes amies.

I sautéed herb-seasoned thighs, combined them with carrots, fennel, onions, and tomatoes, then simmered everything in stock, wine, and orange juice. Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients (all of which are easy to find in your local supermarket), because once this dish is assembled, it is placed in the oven for more than an hour of unattended baking. Another bonus is that this casserole can be prepared two days ahead, and it improves in flavor with time! Continue reading

Braised Pork Chops with Fennel and White Beans

Rosemary-rubbed pork chops cooked with fennel in an aromatic mixture of broth, wine, and garlic, and enriched with an addition of cannellini beans make an irresistible main course for cool, crisp autumn evenings. Serve this robust entree with mashed potatoes or buttered noodles. Add a baby romaine salad and a basket of warm crusty peasant bread to round out the menu. Continue reading