A Delicious Tomato Soup for This Changing Weather

I think of this time of the year as transitional—not quite the end of summer, but not exactly fall either. Here in New England since September arrived, we’ve seen the thermometer reach a sweltering 90 degrees and just as quickly watched it drop to the chilly 50s. As a cook, the challenge is obvious. What I want is dishes that are just as tempting for those lingering hot, humid days as well as for the cool, crisp ones that hint at autumn.

The following recipe for a creamy tomato soup scented with goat cheese and garnished with tarragon easily bridges both these weather extremes. It can be prepared with the last Continue reading

Creamy Corn Gratin—A Tried and True Classic for Labor Day Cookouts

For my husband’s birthday earlier this summer, I prepared a menu of his favorites—steamed lobsters, heirloom tomatoes drizzled with vinaigrette, and a golden corn gratin. Although the lobsters were the star of the meal, the following day my spouse complimented the corn dish more than once. He liked it so much that I am planning to serve the gratin again over the long holiday weekend.

A sauté of fresh corn kernels and chopped leeks, combined with a savory custard of eggs and Half and Half, as well as a generous addition of grated Gruyere cheese formed the foundation of this classic recipe. When baked the top was firm with golden touches of Continue reading

A Serendipitous Summer Salad Becomes a Favorite

After a long morning of prepping for a cooking class scheduled the following day, my two assistants and I were wondering what to have for lunch. Looking in the fridge we spotted some limes and lemons, a large bunch of cilantro, a couple of ears of corn, and a bag of leftover salad greens. On the kitchen counter we noticed a ripe avocado and a bowl of multi-hued cherry tomatoes. It didn’t take us long to decide we could make a salad with our cache. What we weren’t expecting was for this impromptu creation to be so memorable!

We whisked lime and lemon juices with olive oil for a simple citrus vinaigrette, and for the salad we began by sautéing corn kernels scraped from the cobs. When lightly browned, we combined the golden morsels with halved cherry tomatoes and diced avocado. Since we had only a handful of salad greens, we used a generous amount of torn cilantro sprigs as a substitute. The substantial hit of cilantro’s assertive flavor turned out to be the secret to this salad’s delicious taste.

We piled the salad high on plates and dusted them with some coarsely grated hard-boiled egg. We also added a sprinkle of Mahon cheese, but the latter can be optional. The salad has become such a favorite that we’ve had it three more times for lunch on work days. Now each of us is planning to use it for summer suppers as a side to grilled mains such as chicken, lamb, or shrimp!

 

Glorious Beef Tenderloin with Aioli Anchors a Summer Meal!

This summer one of my most popular cooking classes featured a Provencal menu. Along with a fig and mint pizza, I included a beef tenderloin rubbed with herbes de Provence, that was then roasted and served with homemade aioli, Provence’s celebrated garlic mayo. Haricots verts scented with orange peel and poached summer cherries for dessert rounded out the menu.

The glorious fillet of beef was definitely the winning dish. I discovered that many students, although they loved this cut of meat (which is expensive), were unfamiliar with how to cook it, and were searching for a fail-safe method to prepare it.

Nothing could be simpler than the recipe featured here and in that class. A tenderloin, Continue reading

Summer Tiramisu Instead of Traditional Birthday Cake!

For my husband’s birthday celebration last week, he requested tiramisu instead of a traditional birthday cake. He didn’t have in mind classic tiramisu, the Italian specialty assembled with coffee-flavored ladyfingers and mascarpone. No! He specifically was longing for a delectable summer version he had sampled recently in France.

In Paris last month, at a dinner hosted by our French friends, Brigitte and Guy Bizot, he had discovered Brigitte’s tiramisu d’été, a multi-layered creation prepared with ladyfingers dipped in kirsch and cane syrup (rather than espresso), kirsch-scented mascarpone cream, and juicy strawberries and raspberries. One bite, and he swooned over this glorious dessert that easily serves 10.

At home a few weeks later, I pulled out the French recipe my friend had shared with me, Continue reading

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 Summer Pizza for Lunch in Paris

After arriving in Paris last week, I couldn’t wait to make a foray to the local food markets in our Left Bank neighborhood. I marveled at the produce displayed by the fruit and vegetable vendors. Baskets of strawberries were so ripe that they were red all the way through. Golden apricots were soft when touched and ready for eating. Asparagus—green and white, slender and plump—were also tempting. But the bin that caught my eye was filled with dark, luscious figs. When I squeezed them gently in my hand, they were so tender that I needed real will power not to take a bite.

I bought a bunch, and came home to make a pizza that featured figs as part of the Continue reading

What to Do With All That Late Season Zucchini

Zucchini with sauteed onion and tomato topping ready to go in the oven.

√ Make them into soups (corn and zucchini chowder; zucchini Vichyssoise)
√ Use them in vegetable gratins (ratatouille; corn and zucchini pudding)
√ Use them in salad (tomato, chickpea and zucchini)
√ Add them to pasta (linguine, zucchini, garlic, capers, pine nuts)
√ Turn them into a savory tart (zucchini, bacon, goat cheese tart)
√ Turn them into a relish (zucchini and sweet red pepper relish)

Those are just a few ways I use zucchini, that ubiquitous late summer crop that arrives in farmers’ markets and groceries this time of year. For the past few weeks, though, I’ve prepared this versatile vegetable in a new mode inspired by my June stay in Paris. In France’s capital I noticed that chefs were preparing the squash by halving the zucchini lengthwise, then adding imaginative toppings and roasting them. At one Left Bank restaurant (Racines des Prés in the 7th), zucchini halves were mounded with black olives, crumbled feta, and chopped hardboiled eggs and then offered as a first course.

Inspired by these Parisian samplings, I created the following recipe. For my version the Continue reading

Salad for Supper from Cape Cod

Grilled Peach and Fig Salad with Arugula, Burrat, and ProsciuttoEarlier this month, I posted a photo on Facebook of a striking grilled peach and fig salad that I had sampled during a visit to Cape Cod. The dish, which was served as an opener at Del Mar, a restaurant in Chatham known for its creative cooking, attracted more comments than usual from my friends. Many asked for the recipe, so over the past few days I’ve spent time trying to reproduce the fresh and subtle flavors of the original. After several attempts, I think the following version is close to the original.

At the restaurant, sliced peaches and figs, as well as slim honeydew melon wedges were seared over a wood fire, but at home I used a stovetop grill pan. (A good, heavy skillet would also work.) I combined these colorful fruits with arugula and pieces of cream filled burrata, all dressed in a balsamic honey vinaigrette. Thin prosciutto slices shaped into rolls, and toasted pecans made fine finishing touches. Continue reading

A French Cherry Tart for July 4th!

A couple of summers ago during a visit to the Basque country in the southwest of France, I tasted a rich, double-crusted butter tart that encased a delicious cherry filling. One bite of this confection and I was in heaven. Although I have thought about that tart every time cherries have come into season, only recently did I try to reproduce it. After several attempts I arrived at a close facsimile, and think it would make a glorious finale to a July 4th celebration!

Although I sampled an individual tart, the following recipe is prepared in a 9-inch tart pan so that it easily serves eight. The secret to its success lies in preparing an extra short, extra buttery crust (like a shortbread one). I even replaced some of the flour in the dough with ground almonds for added flavor. The bottom crust is broken into pieces and simply patted into the pan. Then a filling of fresh cherries and cherry preserves accented with Amaretto, is added. The top crust is rolled out between sheets of parchment and patted atop the filling. Continue reading