This past week I taught two hands-on classes titled Paris Spring Cooking. The menu included artichoke soup, scallops with asparagus and peas napped with beurre blanc, and as sides a watercress and orange salad, and crispy rice cakes with Comté cheese. By far the technique that interested my students most was that of making the celebrated French sauce known as beurre blanc.
Beurre blanc (or white butter) is one of the simplest of France’s sauces, yet many cooks have never prepared it. It consists of two simple steps. First you add minced shallots, wine, and vinegar to a good sturdy saucepan. Then, cook the mixture until almost all of the liquid has evaporated. For the second step, you whisk in a tablespoon of cream and begin adding small pieces of softened butter while whisking vigorously. The trick is to never let the butter melt completely, but rather keep it at a sauce-like consistency. When all the butter has been incorporated, the sauce can be transferred in its saucepan to a skillet of warm water to keep it from solidifying. Continue reading
Far more than in the past, I find myself considering my friends’ eating habits when we entertain. Are you gluten-free? Do you eat sugar? Are you vegetarian? are questions I ask routinely. And the most resounding “ yes” I hear is to the last of these. Always deferential, my vegetable-loving pals respond that they don’t expect a special meal, that they’ll be fine enjoying salad and side dishes at dinner. But what fun is that for them! It’s like being invited to the theatre, and saying I’ll be okay seeing only the 2nd and 3rd acts. So, I am always searching for delicious vegetarian main courses to share with my expanding circle of discriminating guests.
Rice with peas, fresh mint, and Pecorino will not disappoint. Here is a beautiful spring entrée prepared with easy- to-find ingredients that is uncomplicated to assemble. You start by making a quick “pea pesto” pureeing peas (fresh or frozen) with pine nuts, mint, and Pecorino.The intensely flavored mixture is then tossed with warm cooked rice. Continue reading
Several days ago two young women, both seniors at Amherst College where my husband teaches, emailed that they had some free time the following week to come and cook with me in my kitchen. Stellar students as well as passionate foodies, they had, during their four years of taking rigorous courses at the college, often found extra hours to cook and, of course, to sample recipes with me. This would be the last time before graduation for us to be in the kitchen together, so I picked some special dishes, including a soup with spring peas, mint, and pancetta.
To prepare the dish we made a rich but quickly assembled broth and then added orecchiette (small ear-shaped pasta), fresh peas, snow peas, and chopped bibb lettuce to the simmering liquid. The brodo was garnished with crispy bits of pancetta, fresh mint, and a sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano. From our first sips, we all adorned this soup with its Continue reading
In Brittany a few weeks ago, my husband and I had just finished gazing at a sweeping view of the Atlantic Ocean from Cap Fréhel (one of the most visited and certainly one of the most gorgeous sites in that region of France) and wanted to have lunch. If we had blinked our eyes as we drove down a narrow country road, we would have missed La Ribote, a small (think 25 seats) restaurant. The menu announced that the cuisine was prepared with local ingredients, and even listed the names of their suppliers, including fisheries and farms. The single waitress waltzed through the room carrying platters of mussels and oysters, but it was the large bowls mounded high with an incredible salad that caught my eye. Continue reading
Will spring ever arrive?” is the question on everyone’s mind in our small New England town. After one of the longest and harshest winters in years, we are desperate for the season of renewal to begin in full force, but temperatures are way below normal and rains seem to be never ending.
There are glimmers of hope— daffodils are blooming, yards have returned to a verdant hue, and in the markets there are stately bundles of asparagus, gorgeous peas, and bunches of tender spring onions, all harbingers of the season (even if not all local). This produce has been heartening and prompted me to cook lighter, vegetable-inspired dishes like spring risotto studded with sliced sugar snaps and fresh peas. Continue reading
Brimming with color and bursting with flavor, this recipe for buttered orzo tossed with peas, fresh mint, and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese makes a delectable spring side dish. Try it as a partner to roasted salmon or chicken, or with grilled lamb chops or sautéed scallops. This recipe works well with frozen peas, but if fresh ones are available, definitely use them. They will need 3 to 4 minutes cooking time while the frozen ones will require only a couple of minutes. Continue reading