When the Side Dish is the Star

Broccoli Potato Puree from Paris 1 3718x2885When I am eating out, iIt’s not often that I pay more attention to a side dish than to the main course or dessert. But, during our last week in Paris this January that is exactly what happened. At the left bank Café Varenne on rue du Bac, I ordered a roasted bass with a broccoli and potato puree. It was the fish on the menu that had sounded so delicious, but it was the simple vegetable garnish that grabbed my attention.

The light green puree flecked with bits of verdant broccoli was smooth, light, and perfectly seasoned. When our waiter passed by later, I didn’t waste time asking him how it was prepared. He explained that both cooked yellow-fleshed potatoes and broccoli florets were puréed, and then enriched with a modest amount (for the French!) of crème fraîche and butter. Très facile, I thought! Continue reading

Roasted Cod with Belgian Endives Inspired by a Paris Restaurant

Roasted Cod and Belgian Endive 3 3630x2787Last month in Paris, I booked dinner at Semilla, a favorite Left Bank restaurant of mine. Every dish my husband and I sampled that night was beautifully prepared, but the one that stayed in my mind for days afterward was the roasted cod and Belgian endives.

The dish included fresh turmeric as well as seeds from passion fruit, neither of which was available in my local groceries. So, I made a few adjustments, using ground turmeric as a rub for the fish and replacing the passion fruit with lemon juice. Although not identical, this stateside version rivaled the French one in freshness and in taste. My husband, who is not a fan of pan-roasted fish, actually stopped between mouthfuls to declare the dish a winner. Continue reading

Eating Lighter In Paris

Haricots Verts, Pear, and Shaved Fennel Salad 3 3918x2944Foie Gras, truffles, mushrooms, chestnuts, sausages–you’ll find these winter staples on restaurant menus throughout Paris at this time of year. And, since my husband and I have been eating out almost every night while here, we have indulged far too often in these rich specialties, We’ve savored foie gras and mushroom soup at Prémices in the 9th, tried pan-seared foie gras at Semilla in the 6th, sampled risotto with truffles at Les Fables de la Fontaine in the 6th, sipped cream of lentil and sausage soup at Anicia in the 6th, and enjoyed guinea hen with chestnuts at Le Casse-Noix in the 15th. After that gastronomic tour de force, we needed to lighten up, so for lunch  recently I prepared a slimming yet delicious main course salad.

At the market, I found tiny haricots verts, and then picked up a ripe pear, a Belgian endive, and salad greens. The beans were blanched, the pear thinly sliced, the endive chopped and then all combined with the greens. I dressed this mélange in a refreshing lemon and shallot Continue reading

Three Quick Appetizers for Ringing in 2016 in Paris

Arriving in Paris for our annual winter visit this week, we wondered how we would find the city after a year of devastating events. We unpacked and then walked through our “quartier” happy to see familiar sights. People were busy catching buses and cabs, buying their newspapers, and yes, sipping coffees outdoors in cafes during a spell of mild weather. And, Parisians everywhere were buying their favorite foods to celebrate the new year. I’ll be cooking dinner for friends on New Year’s Eve, so I too was in many of the food shops. The scene at the Grande Epicerie (the incredible grocery store at Le Bon Marché department store) was as frenetic as ever, with shoppers stocking their carts with foie gras and champagne–traditional fare for this season.

As I was planning our menu for December 31, I came across several appetizers perfect for a New Year’s Eve celebration– Pistachio Goat Cheese Grapes, Blue Cheese and Almond Stuffed Dates, and Smoked Salmon with Lemon Crème Fraîche. All are chic enough for this special night, but simple and quick to prepare.

Happy 2016 and may this new year be filled with peace around the world, and with joy and good health for all!

 

A Sublime But Simple Salad from Paris

Mache Salad with Crispy Camembert Croutons 1 3490x2560 3490x2560In Paris last winter I met a friend for lunch on a chilly January day. The right bank bistro we chose was called Clown Bar, the name a clue that it was located near the city’s famous circus, Le Cirque d’Hiver. The landmark restaurant had been recently revitalized by a young team, and its menu reflected this with an offering of new, inventive dishes. One of the first things I spotted on it was a Salade de Mache et Croquettes de Camembert. The waiter explained that it was prepared with tender mache lettuce and garnished with warm crispy Camembert croutons.

Clown Bar Paris 1 3264x2448

The salad tuned out to be my favorite dish among many good ones that day. It was a brilliant pairing, both for its simplicity and for its contrasting textures and tastes. The tender mache lettuce tossed in a vinaigrette made a great counterpoint to the crunch of the fried Camembert. Continue reading

What to Eat When It’s Over a 100 Degrees in Paris!

Tomato Gazpacho with Cucumber Granita 1 2960x2220 2960x2220Last week during Paris’ record-breaking heat wave the temperature hit 36° C or about 103°F on Wednesday. I didn’t have to look at the thermometer to know how hot it was in our apartment. When I went to put on eyeliner, the pencil had melted and left wide swaths of brown beneath my eyes. (I looked like a Patriots player on a sunny day!). Cheeses set out to come to room temp were oozing within thirty minutes, and the roses on the dining table were limp after a few hours in our un-air conditioned place.

As it turned out we had invited three American students visiting the City of Light to dinner on that hottest night of the year. So, besides setting up a small fan near the table and opening every window, I prepared a cold menu to avoid turning on the oven. A tomato gazpacho garnished with spoonfuls of icy cold cucumber granità anchored the dinner, followed by an arugula and haricots verts salad topped with chopped hardboiled eggs and sautéed chorizo. Fresh chèvres and a bowl of cherries came next, and a finale of purchased lemon tarts completed the offerings. Continue reading

Last Minute Pan Seared Salmon in a Paris Kitchen

Last Minute Grilled or Pan-Seared Salmon 1 2403x2058 2403x2058The apartment we rent in Paris has a petite kitchen. Counter space is practically non-existent, the fridge is 3/4 size (big for Paris!), and the oven not much larger than a microwave. Amazingly, though, it works beautifully if I keep the menus simple. Dishes like the pan-seared salmon fillets featured here are perfect to prepare in this small space.

Paris Apt Kitchen 1For this recipe salmon fillets are seasoned with an herb and spice rub that includes smoked paprika, thyme, and rosemary. The fillets can rest in the fridge for up to an hour before being quickly pan seared. For sides I drizzled olive oil over a pan of asparagus, seasoned them with salt and pepper, and popped them in the oven to roast for 20 minutes. Basmati rice cooked on the stovetop in a saucepan of water scented with several pinches of turmeric made another colorful garnish. Continue reading

Superb Lunches at Petits Prix

Last week in Paris we met friends for lunch twice, and on both occasions the food was not only delicious, but the prices quite reasonable for the menus we enjoyed. On Wednesday we met Sue and John Talbott at Louis, a small, new Right Bank restaurant headed by talented young chef, Stéphane Pitré. The setting is as contemporary as the exquisite food. Although there are only two menus offered without choices, they are both incredibly creative. At lunch the three-course prix fixe is 32 euros while the six-course one costs 48 euros. Our group ordered two of each.

Things got off to a good start with amuse-bouches presented on a stone block that included a savory Parmesan cookie topped with Camenbert mousse, a verdant cube of herbed brioche, and a savory mustard meringue served with honey. A chilled soup of summer squash topped with icy cold cucumber granità and a sprinkling of caviar, salmon topped with roasted radishes and cherry leaves drizzled with miso vinaigrette, and duck served with miniscule beets and black currants were all delicious. A warm chocolate cake topped with a glossy scoop of arugula (yes, you read that right!) ice cream was a memorable ending, as was a dessert of lime foam with champagne.

 

The next day we continued our midday eating marathon and met our friends, the Porters, at the La Grande Epicerie (food hall) at the Bon Marché. There four of us perched on high Continue reading

A Restaurant Dish Becomes a Favorite at Home

Sesame Lamb Chops, Shiitakes, Snow Peas 1 3648x2736Every so often a restaurant dish is so good, so inventive, yet so simple that I can’t wait to try it in my own kitchen. The grilled shiiktake mushrooms with sesame oil on the menu at Semilla (one of my favorite Paris restaurants) are such a creation. We’ve dined in this Left Bank place at least a half dozen times in the past year, and on every occasion either my husband or I have ordered them. They arrive, stemmed but left whole, usually a half dozen or so on a small plate. A sprinkling of chives and a few pools of sesame oil are the only garnishes. One bite of the tender fungi scented with fragrant toasted sesame oil and you’d be smitten too.

Shiitakes with Sesame Oil at Semilla

Shiitakes with Sesame Oil at Semilla

During a visit a few weeks ago, I asked our waitress for the recipe, and, smiling, she responded, “Mais c’est très facile!” Then she explained that the shiitakes were seasoned with soy and sesame oil and quickly pan grilled. A few days later I tried them in my petite French kitchen, and discovered that were indeed effortless, and took only a few minutes to prepare.

I decided to expand the recipe by pairing the shiitakes with lamb Continue reading

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