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

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 Perfect Side Dish for Labor Day Cooking

Corn, Tomato, and Chard PudddingFreshly picked sweet corn, juicy tomatoes of varying lineages, bunches of leafy greens, slender pods of okra, fragrant herbs. Those are just some of the end-of-summer temptations  at my local farmers’ market this time of the year. Often they serve as inspiration for the side dishes I prepare at home.

One recent creation, prepared with such purchases, was a delicious corn, tomato, and chard gratin. I sautéed corn kernels with leeks and julienned chard, then combined them with a savory custard of Half-and-Half, eggs, and grated white cheddar. This mixture was poured into a casserole pan, then topped with sliced tomatoes and another sprinkle of cheese. When baked the gratin was a lovely contrast of flavors with the sweetness of the corn and tomatoes countering the hint of slightly bitter chard. Continue reading

Summer Party with Champagne, Rosé, and Appetizers

Before summer ended, my husband and I decided to host a last minute-party for our friends. We agreed that champagne (my favorite drink any time of the year) and rosé (his default wine of the season) would anchor the gathering along with appetizers made with the season’s fresh fruits and vegetables. While my spouse tended to the libations, I concentrated on the food.

The glorious produce and herbs that abound this time of year provided me with inspiration. Homemade aïoli served with haricots verts, heirloom cherry tomatoes, and sliced fennel was a colorful creation. An avocado pâté garnished with tomato salsa and chips, and a tray of cheeses and fresh figs were set out as well. Chicken wings seasoned with lime juice, apricot jam, and cilantro, plus mini-lobster rolls, and slices of cantaloupe marinated in a mint and Pernod syrup completed the offerings.

The latter was one of the most popular and definitely one of the easiest dishes. After the Continue reading

Peaches, Cream, and Rosé Combined in a Summer Tart!

IMG_5674Sadly, this year’s peach crops in Massachusetts were lost because of bad weather, so I’ve purchased ones that have arrived in our local markets from other parts of the country.
I’ve used them in smoothies or as garnishes for grilled meats, and added slices to my morning cereal bowl. But, my favorite creation has been to feature them in a glorious French tart.

Prepared with an extra-rich pastry dough (the recipe for which was shared by talented baker and caterer, Barb Morse), the tart shell is pre-baked and then filled with sliced peaches coated in a thickened peach puree mixture scented subtly with cardamom.

IMG_5654

Peach Tart ready to go in the oven in its pre-baked pastry shell.

Once baked, it is best to let the tart stand a while at room temperature so that the juices have a chance to cool and thicken. Then you can slice this confection easily and gild the lily by garnishing each serving with a dollop of crème fraîche and a drizzle of rosé syrup. The latter is made by simply reducing leftover rosé (plentiful around our house in the summer!) with sugar. Nothing says summer like a peach dessert! Continue reading

Cooking from the Farmers’ Market Back Home

Tomato and Chickpea Soup with Yogurt and Mint 1 3648x2736As soon as we arrived home last week, after a long stay in France, I started stocking our empty fridge and cupboards. Several trips to local supermarkets took care of the basics, but it was at our weekly farmers’ market that I found gorgeous summer vegetables, freshly baked loaves of bread, and locally crafted yogurt.

Honest-to-goodness tomatoes, deep red, juicy, and packed with flavor, were the first thing that caught my eye. They would be perfect to use for a summer tomato and chickpea soup—a dish I had created for my new book, Soup Nights.

The tomatoes need only to be chopped and seeded, then simmered slowly with chickpeas in a cumin-scented broth. Lemon, yogurt, and mint all contribute cooling accents to this soup. I used chicken broth for my version, but vegetarians can sub the quick-and-easy vegetable stock recipe that is also included. Continue reading

Fabulous Warm Peach Dessert in 45 minutes!

Individual Peach Clafoutis 1 3648x2736-001The peaches this year in New England have been exceptional! I can’t remember a recent summer when this fruit has been more bountiful or had such juicy, flavorful flesh. Farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and grocery stores in our small town have all proudly displayed bins—of both yellow and white—ripe enough for eating on the spot. As a result, I have been bringing home bagfuls of the fuzzy orbs and using them in various ways.

One of my favorite creations has been a recipe for individual peach clafoutis (pronounced CLA FU TEA), a specialty of the Limousin, an area in south central France. It is one of the simplest yet most delicious French desserts a home cook can prepare. Traditionally, it is made with cherries that are covered with a rich pancake-style batter, then baked. My version, however, calls for fresh sliced peaches scented with hints of cardamom, ginger, and cinnamon. When baked the batter rises just slightly above the sides of the pan and then falls like a soufflé as it rests. Continue reading

Fresh Corn Stars in a Delicious Summer Risotto

Corn Risotto with Sauteed Mushrooms 1 3616x2577Earlier this month on a picture-perfect summer evening, my husband and I and a good friend ate outside on the terrace of Amherst’s Lord Jeffrey Inn. Our group of three looked at the interesting menu, and surprisingly all ordered the corn risotto as our main course. (If you knew what a carnivore my spouse, Ron, is, you’d be as stunned as I that he by-passed the handsome steak offering for this vegetable main course.). The waitress assured us that we wouldn’t be disappointed, and she was right.

The chef had made a delicious risotto by cooking arborio rice (the classic short, starchy grain used for this Northern Italian specialty) in simmering stock along with fresh corn kernels. As garnishes he had topped each serving with a spoonful of pickled piquillo peppers and some sautéed hen mushrooms. One bite and we were all smitten.

At home, I couldn’t get the dish out of my mind, and set out to create my own version. I sautéed chopped shallots in butter, along with corn and rice. Then for the next 20 minutes I slowly added ladlefuls of simmering broth to the pot, stirring constantly until each addition was absorbed before ladling in more. Continue reading

Reinventing the Classic Tuna Sandwich

Tuna, Hummus, Kalamatas on Multi-Grain 1 3648x2736For the past few months, I’ve spent hours in the kitchen with my talented assistants working on a new soup book. Not only have we tested countless brodos, bisques, gazpachos, and potages, we’ve been creating sandwiches to serve alongside them.

One special creation—a tuna salad combo prepared with hummus, kalamatas, and cucumbers—got high marks from the book’s testers. For the dressing, I replaced much of the mayonnaise in the usual versions with hummus, and seasoned the salad with lemon, cumin, and a touch of mint. Other additions included the classic duo of chopped onions and celery.

This new tuna mixture is delicious on toasted multi-grain slices, but you could serve it just Continue reading

A Twist On A Classic

BLT Soup 1  1824x1368I can’t remember a year when the tomato crops have been better. Heirlooms in myriad varieties, red, yellow and orange cherry and grape tomatoes, as well as field tomatoes (or what I call just plain old summer tomatoes) are having a heyday in western New England this summer. They started appearing in August and are still going strong—so strong that I have been using them creatively week after week in recipes like the simple BLT Soup featured here.

After making countless BLT sandwiches, I decided to try the popular trio in a soup and loved the results. Nothing could have been easier. After frying a few bacon slices until crisp, I used a small amount of the drippings to sauté chopped onion, garlic, and fresh tomatoes, and then simmered this mélange in chicken stock and fresh orange juice. Seasonings of basil and cayenne pepper rounded out the flavors. When done, the soup was pureed to a crimson smoothness.