Zucchini and Tomato Gratin- A Delicious Summer Side

When in France, one of my delights is cooking vegetables. With each season the French look forward to the arrival of fresh produce, and always use it imaginatively. Take for example the talented host who served my husband and me a delicious dish of baked veal slices topped with a beautiful asparagus sauce, or the creative restaurant chef who paired roasted eggplant cubes with fresh orange segments and then topped them with thin slices of dried goat cheese.

My own seasonal creations are far simpler since our rented apartment has a small kitchen. Zucchini (courgettes) and tomatoes are bountiful at the near-by fruit and vegetable stands, so I bought both to make a summer gratin.

A tian, a type of Provencal gratin prepared by baking layers of vegetables in a shallow dish Continue reading

A Parisian Fresh Pea Soup Perfect for Late Spring

When I spotted fresh shelled green peas in two of my local supermarkets recently, I was at once reminded of a pea soup I had sampled in Paris late last spring at Le St. Joseph, a restaurant located on the outskirts of the city, but definitely worth the cab ride. When the creamy, celadon green soup arrived at the table, it was garnished with a fine dice of snowy white feta and with crisp, golden mini- croutons. One sip of this delicious, verdant potage, and I was smitten. I polished off the bowl in less than 5 minutes.

Fast forward a year to those fresh peas nestled among the sugar snaps and snow peas at the grocery. I picked up several packages to create a facsimile of the Parisian original. Sautéed leeks and tarragon make fine partners to the peas, which are simmered for a few minutes in stock, and then pureed. Some half-and- half adds a smooth finishing touch, but it is the simple garnishes that truly distinguish this dish. I sliced a block of feta into fine Continue reading

Angelina’s Parisian Hot Chocolate for Valentine

Last month in Paris, I met a friend in the late afternoon for hot chocolate at Angelina’s, one of Paris’ most celebrated tearooms. Even though the line to get into to the famous salon took more than half an hour to pass through, the ethereal rich dark chocolate was definitely worth the wait. This month as Valentine’s Day approaches I’ve decided to reproduce the French hot chocolate stateside.

Served in a small pitcher along with a bowl of whipped cream, this French hot chocolate with its silky texture and intense chocolate flavor has been my favorite for years. I first discovered it on a trip to The City of Light back in the 80s. During that visit, I went to Angelina’s several days in a row to sip cups of the concoction while trying to unearth the recipe. A waitress finally revealed that the drink was made with chocolate bars that were broken into 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!”

 

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 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!