One Last Wintry Soup

21 03 2013

Lately, I’ve been working on clearing out the stockpile of root vegetables from the CSA in my refrigerator.  I turned a backlog of potatoes, turnips, black radishes, parsnips, and leeks into a lovely vegetarian tartiflette (or veggiflette, as it was dubbed around here).  I’ve got plans for the approximately five kilos of carrots – I’m going to make this lentil hummus and serve it with a mountain of carrot sticks for a party this weekend.  I’d been meaning to make this Jerusalem artichoke soup for a while – I remembered that I had once made one with a little miso and that it was delightful – and then I got a box of shiitake mushrooms and their fate was sealed with the topinambours.

I glanced at Robuchon’s recipe for topinambour soup, and he suggested caramelizing a bit of honey with them before adding the liquid.  I thought a touch of sweetness sounded right, but I only have really strong, unique-flavored honeys at the moment, and I didn’t want to muddle the flavor too much.  A flash of inspiration hit me, surely by way of my dear friend Hannah: maple syrup!  I think it hit just the right note.

topinambour-shiitakesoup

It is probably one of the healthiest things I’ve made all winter – with so much flavor from the topinambours and the shiitakes, and a velvety texture from the potatoes (yeah, I snuck some potatoes in there, too… and some leeks) it didn’t even need a drop of cream to finish it off, just a sprinkling of wonderful meaty mushrooms.

In slightly related news, I am pleased as punch to announce my participation in Ann Mah’s fun and helpful Tuesday Dinner series on her blog.  I shared one of my favorite clean-out-the-vegetable-drawer recipes, a mouthwatering spicy Indian dal.

Now here’s to warmer days and spring vegetables!

Sunchoke Soup with Miso and Shiitake

Earthy, hearty, and oh-so-healthy, this soup warms chilly nights. If you wanted to serve it with poached eggs or grilled tofu to up the protein content, well, I think that would be a lovely idea. Jerusalem artichokes are also known as sunchokes or, in France, topinambours.

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 medium leeks, cleaned and sliced
1½ lbs. / 700 g Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed clean and cut into chunks
3 small potatoes, scrubbed and roughly diced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. miso
2 tsp. maple syrup
1½ quarts / 1½ liters water

1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil or other neutral oil
9 oz. / 250 g shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
splash of sherry
splash of soy sauce

  1. Melt the butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and a pinch of salt and pepper and cook until softened. Add the Jerusalem artichokes and potatoes, season again, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to brown. Add the miso and maple syrup and stir to coat the vegetables evenly. Pour in the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the Jerusalem artichokes and potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil, then the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms release their water, the water evaporates, and the mushrooms begin to brown. Deglaze the pan with a splash each of sherry and soy sauce, and continue cooking until the liquid has once more evaporated. Scrape half the mushrooms into the soup pot and save the rest for garnish. For the most mushroom flavor, pour about ½ cup / 120 ml water into the skillet and scrape up all the brown fond from the bottom of the pan. Tip this into the soup pot as well.
  3. When the vegetables are soft, purée the soup, either in batches in a traditional blender or directly in the pot with an immersion blender. (You know which way I go.) If it’s thicker than you want, thin it out with a little water. Taste and adjust the seasoning, and serve piping hot with a few of the reserved mushrooms spooned on top.

Serves 4-6.

On this day in 2008: Baking Extravaganza, Act III (in which I make molten chocolate cakes in a toaster oven)

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Easy Cheesy

27 02 2013

Like we did last year, Nick and I have again given up cooking meat at home for Lent.  Since all Catholics know that fish isn’t meat, our omega-3 levels are rising as we incorporate more fish into our diet.  But what is a meatless couple supposed to do with a jar of homemade olive salad, leftover from a Mardi Gras party?  In a flash of brilliance it hit me.

before the oozing mess

Olive salad tuna melts!  I ran to the shop downstairs for supplies, picking up cans of tuna, two kinds of cheese (emmenthal and mozzarella) and Poilâne bread.  The beauty of using olive salad in your tuna is that you don’t even need to chop an onion, and you can use a lot less mayonnaise than usual.  I made these twice last week, and I expect to see them on the regular weeknight rotation for a while.  But truly, I would eat this no matter the dietary restriction, because a hot, crunchy, melty sandwich with tangy, savory bits of olive inside appeals year-round.

On this day in 2008: Fauchon, or, I May Have a Problem

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Seasonal Cooking, Holiday Baking

26 12 2012

Happy Boxing Day, everyone!  I hope you’ve already had a lovely long weekend with family and friends, and that you’ll have a few more occasions to celebrate the end of this year, the Winter Solstice, or anything else that gives you a chance to eat and drink with your loved ones.

I feel like I haven’t been doing as much cooking as I normally do this time of year – in lieu of planning elaborate meals, I’ve been focused on relaxing and reflecting, simmering big pots of stew to be eaten over several days.  Oh, I’ve baked some cookies and whipped up some eggnog, but instead of my customary Christmas foie gras, I got a capon roast from the butcher, neatly tied with a chestnut-and-liver-sausage filling.  All I had to do was sear it on the stove and let it finish roasting in the oven for a nearly effortless Christmas Eve meal.

And yet, that doesn’t mean I haven’t scored some hits all the same.  I’ve been noodling around with the McCormick Flavor Forecast, and found a couple of great ways to incorporate my very favorite of their proposed flavor combinations: Cider, Sage, and Molasses.  Of all the options, this one seemed to me the most supremely seasonal, with its earthy-herbal sage, bittersweet molasses, and tangy apple cider.  I toyed around with some pear cider ideas, but the apple ideas came out on top.

So I have two recipes to share with you today. One a lentil salad – we ate it once with pan-fried sausages, and finished it off with our capon roast on Christmas Eve; the other an indulgent bar cookie whose touch of sage and dark molasses make it distinctly grown-up (there are plenty of other cookies for the kids, anyway).

Here’s to a year-end filled with love, happiness, and delectable eats!

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A Jerk or a Chicken?

6 05 2012

Between getting an iPad for Christmas and a smartphone for my birthday, somehow I feel less connected than ever.  (Oh, yeah, and I opened a restaurant, too.  It’s going well, which means it’s been keeping me very busy.  I’ll link to a few of my favorite reviews at the end of this post.) Seriously, though, does anyone else have this problem?  I almost never even turn on my computer anymore, to the point that I nearly forgot my password just now – fortunately, my fingers remembered where to go before I consciously knew what I was typing.  I mean, my phone notifies me immediately if I have an email, and if it’s something I want to respond to in any kind of depth, I leave it unread until I can get to the computer, because I hate typing on either of the aforementioned devices*. The vicious cycle continues until I have twenty-some messages that need attention and I feel so stressed about it that I just try to ignore all incoming email. First world problems, I know.  Speaking of, my wine glass is empty.  If you’ll pardon me while I go get a refill of La Beille’s delightful Macabeu

Like how I did that? Just started up again as though it hasn’t been almost 4 1/2 months since I so much as laid a keystroke on this blog of mine?  I’ve missed it.  I wanted to write something about our New Year’s menu, but I was on vacation, soaking up the moments with family and friends in anticipation of a very busy year to come.  And then I came back and the Busy happened.  More than I ever expected.  I worked 12-14 hour days for what seemed like forever, though it was probably only three weeks or so.  Then I got an assistant, which helped reduce my hours per day to a more reasonable 9-10.  But I was still working seven days a week.  I kept telling myself that as soon as I got a day off, I would write something for the blog.  I literally had one full day off between January 6 and March 24.  Blogging didn’t happen. Since then, I’ve gotten another part-time assistant, and I now have Sundays off.  They are usually spent going to the market, a museum or movie, cleaning the apartment, cooking something nice to eat, and winding down with a book, magazine, or maybe an episode or two of Boardwalk Empire (how nice that Steve Buscemi gets to be the badass for once).

Today, for example, I baked some apple muffins for breakfast, cooked up some spicy Spanish mussels – I couldn’t help but to punch it up with a little smoked paprika, which was great because the mussels themselves could have been better- for lunch, and am planning a homey meatloaf for dinner.  But few pictures get taken, even if I am taking note of the recipes.  Last week, however, I whipped up a jerk chicken recipe that I just had to document.  The sauce/marinade was so easy, and the dinner in general so effortless and mostly pantry-based, I needed to share it with the world.

I hope you like it as much as we did, and that it helps you through your own busy days.

Jerk Chicken

Fast, easy, and spicy, this recipe reminds me of the week I spent in Jamaica many years ago. And who couldn’t use a little island getaway every now and then?

3 hot peppers (ideally Scotch bonnet, but I used some skinny ones from North Africa, and they were good too)
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 large shallot or ½ a small red onion
2 large spring onions or 4-6 green onions, chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 Tbsp. allspice berries, crushed
2” / 5 cm piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
2 tsp. coarse salt
juice of ½ an orange

2 chicken leg quarters, or 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

1. Purée the peppers, garlic, shallot, spring onions, thyme, allspice, ginger, salt, and orange juice to a paste. I used my immersion blender, as I always do, but you could also use a food processor or a regular blender.

2. Score the skin of the chicken with a sharp knife and slather on the jerk sauce, reserving some for dipping later, if desired. Rub the sauce all over the chicken and leave to marinate in the fridge 1-24 hours (I did this around noon for dinner at eightish).

3. Heat your broiler to 395 F / 200 C. When it’s nice and hot, place the chicken on a rack over a sheet pan or roasting pan (line the pan with foil first to reduce messy clean-up) and broil 12-15 minutes, flipping the chicken over about halfway through the cooking time, until the skin is browned and crisp, the marinade is fragrant, and a thermometer inserted in the thickest part reads 165 F / 74 C.

4. Serve immediately with lime-cilantro quinoa (recipe follows).

Serves 2.

Lime-Cilantro Quinoa

This recipe spawned in my brain as a rice dish. It turned out I had no “regular” rice in the cupboard (I did have Thai, Basmati, Korean, and wild rices, but none of them seemed right), but I did have a box of quinoa. The flavors harmonized beautifully. Pardon the volume-only measures in this recipe – it’s still the way I cook grains.

2/3 cup quinoa
splash of neutral cooking oil (e.g. sunflower, grapeseed…)
1½ cups water
big pinch of coarse sea salt
1 clove garlic, minced
½ bunch cilantro, chopped
zest and juice of 1 lime
pinch of sugar (optional)
freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the quinoa and cook, stirring, until the grains are coated with oil and just starting to get toasty.

2. Pour in the water, add the salt and garlic, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, until the quinoa has absorbed the liquid, about 15 minutes.

3. Fluff with a fork, and mix in the cilantro and lime zest and juice. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary with sugar, salt, and pepper.

Serves 2.

* * * * *

And now for the Blend reviews, if you’re interested.

In English: Alec Lobrano, Lindsey from Lost in Cheeseland (a burger hound if ever I knew one), Barbra Austin for Girls’ Guide to Paris, and Ann Mah.

In French: Le Fooding (as far as I know, my first mention by name in French food press – I was very, VERY excited to read this one), My Little Paris (names us Best Burger in Paris, resulting in our being completely slammed for weeks afterwards), Pascale from C’est moi qui l’ai fait!, and GQ France.

In print: An article by Clotilde Dusoulier of Chocolate & Zucchini in the March 2012 issue of Metropolitan (the Eurostar magazine), and a blurb by Adrian Moore for the May 2012 Monocle.

*And yet, I have become pathetically dependent on auto-correct to put spaces between words for me. I know I can’t be the only one… right?

p.s. What’s that post title about, anyway? Well, after such a long absence from blogging, I feel like a jerk for neglecting this space for so long, even if I do have some very valid excuses, and I’m also afraid I’ll have no readers left, which makes me a chicken.  And less inclined to write.  Yet another vicious cycle.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Super Natural Every Day

15 11 2011

…Or most of them, anyway.

I was delighted to receive the news, several weeks ago, that I had won a copy of Super Natural Every Day from The Kitchen Illiterate.  Since receiving the book, I’ve been cooking from it quite a bit, as well as finding myself inspired by it while doing my food shopping.  (“Yellow split peas?  I think there are a couple of recipes for those in that new book!” “I should probably be keeping quinoa and bulghur on hand…” “How could we possibly be out of miso?  To the Japanese store, posthaste!” Sometimes I talk to myself in an old-timey fashion.)

I’ve made mention of the book a few times on Seasonal Market Menus, my other blog devoted to CSA eating and menu planning, because the recipes are great for using whatever vegetables you happen to have around, given a few pantry staples.  I certainly haven’t followed any of the recipes to the letter, but that doesn’t stop them from being a fantastic source of inspiration.  Like this soda bread:

soda bread from Super Natural Every Day

I’d never really considered soda bread as a legitimate thing before, but Heidi’s photos convinced me to give it a try.  I substituted leftover pickle brine for half of the buttermilk in the recipe, to no ill effect.  The dough was delightfully springy, and any rye bread that doesn’t insist on caraway is a good thing in my book.  It baked up nice and crusty, with a slightly biscuity or scone-like texture in the crumb.  The bread resisted staling longer than a yeast bread would, which is good because the loaf was huge.  We ate it for almost a week, and then I took the remaining half and turned it into some of the crunchiest croutons I’ve ever made.

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An Ice Cream Dessert for Fall

11 11 2011

photo by Nick

Treacle toffee ice cream, spiced hot toddy poached pear, speculoos.

The ice cream comes from Beyond Nose to Tail, and I’ve been wanting to make it since getting the book two and a half years ago.  The pear, poached in what basically amounted to a hot toddy (in part because I ran out of sugar – here’s to happy accidents) with whole cinnamon, allspice, clove, black pepper, and star anise, makes a marvelous accompaniment.  And who doesn’t love a crisp speculoos cookie?

On this day in 2010: Céleri Remoulade (a narrative recipe)





Masaledar Chholay

5 11 2011

Or, Chickpeas in Spicy Tomato Gravy.  Yes, folks, it’s the first weekend of the month, which means it’s Currypalooza time!  I got to choose again this time around, and I picked this recipe, from a feature in Food and Wine about Sanjeev Kapoor.

masaledar chholay

Masaledar Chholay is a Punjabi dish, from a cuisine which I am beginning to learn tends to contain a paste of blended garlic, ginger, and chilis.  (Sorry, that sentence was terrible.  I’m a little burned out at the moment.  The new job is great so far, but much more mentally taxing than the old one.)  It’s a simple dish to put together, and comes largely from pantry staples: canned chickpeas and tomatoes, fresh onions, ginger, garlic, chilis, and cilantro, and a handful of not-very-exotic spices.  Cooking it up, Nick and I both agreed that the flavor was a little flat.  A squeeze of lime juice set things right.

Chickpeas in spicy tomato gravy, spinach simmered in yogurt, kolmino patio, rice

I served it with yogurt-simmered spinach (sort of a cheater’s saag paneer), kolmino patio (yet another hit from Miss Masala – spicy sweet-and-sour shrimp), and basmati rice.  The most colorful place settings possible completed the scene.

To see a couple more takes on the dish, check out the other Currypalooza posts at more please by Margie and Sage Trifle.

And with that, I wish you a great weekend!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Maman’s Homesick Pie

24 10 2011

One of the perks of writing a blog is that occasionally, you get offers to receive review copies of books.  Generally these books have topics related to those of the blog, and writing a review is optional, but considering that a) free book! and b) free post topic!, it’s really a win-win situation.

Out this month, Maman’s Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen, is a delightful read.  The author, Donia Bijan, was chef at Palo Alto’s L’Amie Donia for ten years.  Before that, she studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris (under the same directrice as Julia Child!), gaining an internship at Fauchon and stagiare work at several of France’s starred restaurants.

Maman's Homesick Pie

The book outlines her journey from childhood in pre-revolutionary Iran to exile in the United States to France and finally making a home in the Bay Area.  Bijan’s mother, who sounds like an incredible woman, supports her daughter through the trials and tribulations of leaving loved ones, moving to new countries, and learning to cook.  The storytelling is warm and sympathetic.  Best of all, the recipes sprinkled throughout – two per chapter – are mouthwatering and make sense in the context of the story.  One of my pet peeves with these food memoirs that seem to be popping up everywhere these days is that the recipes feel like they’re just plopped in there with no rhyme or reason.  That is not the case with Maman’s Homesick Pie.  Each one belongs, from the simple childhood memories of Cardamom Tea, Pomegranate Granita, and Saffron Yogurt Rice with Chicken and eggplant to dutifully practiced French classics such as Duck à l’Orange, Ratatouille, and Rabbit with Mustard.

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On Spice Blends

16 10 2011

Spice blends.  Simply put, I don’t use them.  I much prefer to make my own combinations instead of relying on commercial blends for chili, curry, pie, and so on.

My spice rack

Here are my spice racks.  They hold, in theory, the spices I use most often.  I also have two 2-liter size plastic bins in my pantry, both of them stuffed with esoteric spices.  And then there’s half a shelf of jars, too, filled with spices bought in bulk at Asian, Indian, and Latin shops.  I’m not saying you need to devote as much of your precious kitchen space to spice storage as I do – for one thing, if I had a spice grinder I could stop keeping stuff like cinnamon and coriander in both whole and powdered form – but it’s worth stocking a few basic spices, which can then be combined in any number of ways.

This post is inspired by a good friend of mine who recently spent the better part of the day scouring American stores in Paris in hopes of finding a jar of McCormick’s chili powder.  (They do make chili powder in France, but too often it inexplicably contains curry spices, which is just plain weird.)  I tried to convince her that spicing chili was not all that complicated given ground chilis, cumin, and some fresh garlic, but she remained unsure.  It got me to thinking that I really don’t buy pre-blended spices at all  (I make an exception for garam masala, though when my current stash runs out, I probably won’t buy more, instead mixing up my own), and haven’t for quite some time.

I’ve always been fascinated with spices.  As a child, I used to peruse the row of Spice Islands jars my parents kept lined up on the kitchen counter, imagining the myriad of magical flavor combinations within.  When I started cooking a little for myself (mostly eggs and ramen, often together) I would pick and choose my favorites to add to my concoctions, in hopes that I might discover some heretofore unknown deliciousness.  Doubtless I killed more than one plate of scrambled eggs with one too many dashes of Old Hickory Smoked Salt, but I did learn that thyme and eggs were wonderful together.  That seasoning the ramen broth myself with soy sauce and garlic powder was way better than that mystery spice packet.  That if you’re cooking taco meat, and you’re out of taco seasoning, you can read the ingredients on the burrito seasoning (which you obviously can’t use directly, because it was for burritos) and approximate what might be in that taco seasoning.

My comfort level with individual spices, then, has been a long process.  I don’t expect everyone to be able to do it overnight, so here are a few guidelines for some common spice blends.  I’ll list the ingredients from most to least prominent, and leave it up to you to determine which ratios work best for you.  I also recommend, instead of mixing the spices first and adding them all at once, to add each spice to the dish individually and taste as you go.  If you’re the meticulous type, you can keep detailed notes of what you’ve added, or take the more organic route, winging it as you go.  And don’t forget the salt.

Chili Powder: ground chilis (I tend to keep several varieties around, and use them in combination), fresh chilis, fresh garlic or garlic powder, ground cumin, dried oregano or thyme.  Optional: cinnamon, epazote, cloves, cocoa powder.

Curry Powder: (the big ones): ground turmeric, black and white pepper, cardamom, cumin, coriander seed, cinnamon, ground or fresh ginger; (use in lesser quantities): cloves, cayenne, mace or nutmeg, fennel seed, bay leaf, fenugreek, mustard seeds, asafoetida.

Apple Pie Spice: ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger, ground cloves, maybe allspice.

Pumpkin Pie Spice: ground cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, ground cloves.  Optional: allspice, black pepper.

Pickling Spice: (use whole) mustard seed, coriander seed, chili flake, fresh garlic, bay leaf, fresh dill or parsley.

Mulling Spices: (for cider or wine, use whole) cinnamon, cloves, allspice, star anise, orange peel, black peppercorns.

Old Bay Seasoning: celery seed, paprika, black pepper, cayenne, bay leaf, mustard powder, ground allspice, ground mace.

Seasoned Salt: (in addition to the salt) fresh garlic or garlic powder, celery seed, onion powder (or just put onions in whatever you’re cooking), paprika, white pepper, turmeric.

Lemon Pepper: (this one should be obvious) lemon zest, black pepper.

Whole spices, toasted and then ground, will offer the biggest flavor, but pre-ground are fine, too (except for nutmeg, which you should always grate fresh).

If I’ve left out your favorite spice blend, let me know in the comments, and I’ll do my best to help you out.

On this day in 2010: Worthwhile French Beers: Val’Aisne Blonde

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Burger Bar – A Book and an Announcement

11 10 2011

First, the announcement.

A week ago today, I gave my notice at work.  (You may already have seen this if you’re a friend of mine on Facebook, or if you read Lindsey’s blog, Lost in Cheeseland, where I’m the subject of her Franco File Friday interview this week.  And if you’re new here from Lindsey’s place, welcome!  Make yourself comfortable.)

You may remember, back in June, I mentioned a career dilemma I was having.  It was mostly resolved by July, which was a relief, but it’s been hard keeping it under my hat this long.  I’m so excited that I can finally tell you all what I’ve been up to.

Starting in November, I will be the executive pastry chef for a  brand new gourmet hamburger restaurant called Blend.  We’re hoping to open in late November or early December, so I get to spend most of the month of November working on getting the place up and running, testing recipes, and finalizing the menu.  I don’t think I need to tell you how awesome that is.  You can keep up to date on our progress by liking Blend’s Facebook page, if you’re so inclined.

“Why does a hamburger restaurant need a pastry chef, anyway?” you may be wondering.   Well, I’ll be keeping busy baking handmade buns and signature desserts, as well as developing new recipes for weekly specials that highlight seasonal changes.  Any extra time and energy I have will be funneled into salads, condiments, and best of all, developing the beer list!  The way I see it, this job is nothing short of defending the best parts of the American culinary tradition in France.  I can’t wait to get started.

And now, the book.  Lent to me by my soon-to-be boss, Burger Bar is something of a mirror image of what we’re doing.  Hubert Keller, a French chef, opened a now-iconic burger restaurant in Las Vegas, and the book shares some of his best recipes, from burgers to shakes.

There’s a very clever dessert burger, with a doughnut bun, strawberry tomatoes, kiwi lettuce, and so on.  I’ll probably never make it, but it delights me that it exists.  What I will be making are the condiments (piquillo pepper ketchup?  don’t mind if I do.) and the deceptively simple sides.  I can’t wait to try the panisse recipe – they’re a specialty of Southeastern France, like fried polenta sticks, only made with chickpea flour.  And I can tell you from experience that the oven fries, featuring unpeeled red potatoes and duck fat, are as delicious as they are easy to make.

before

after

All that, and then there’s the burgers themselves.  The flavor combinations range from classic to eclectic, with influences from cuisines all over the globe.  There’s even a little section about beverage pairings, and the photos are gorgeous, too.  My only complaint is that there aren’t any recipes for buns.  (Hey, a girl’s gotta do her research, you know?)

On this day in 2010: Luxury Leftovers – includes a recipe for Smoky Herbed Bread Pudding, which you should definitely try.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.








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