You Know It’s Springtime When…

16 05 2011

… You finally get to take the sweaters to the dry cleaners.

… The flowers are in bloom, and the allergies go into overdrive.

… It’s starting to get light out when you go to work in the morning.  (Or maybe that’s just me.)

… The laundry dries in less than a day.

… Heaters, schmeaters!

… You bust out the sandals from the depths of the closet.

… Fresh produce abounds in the market: strawberries, lettuces, radishes, rhubarb, peas…

… Parisian café terraces are constantly full.

… Every food blog on the internet starts posting asparagus recipes.

Here’s mine, a warm herbed asparagus salad with poached eggs, at Girls’ Guide to Paris.  It’s not only great for brunch, but makes a lovely light supper as well.

On this day in 2008: L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon - still one of the best and most memorable dining experiences I’ve had in Paris.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Bringing All The Boys To The Yard

23 05 2009

One of the appliances I miss the most in my Parisian kitchen is my ice cream maker. Ice cream is absolutely one of my favorite things to make – it’s relatively easy and the possibility for mixing and matching flavors is endless. Recently, after receiving rhubarb in my CSA panier and scoring some fragrant, juicy strawberries at the market, I was overcome with the urge to make ice cream. Rich, creamy vanilla ice cream, with a thick swirl of sweet-tart strawberry-rhubarb compote.

Rhubarb and strawberries - before and after

Still on my Nose to Tail kick, I decided to use Justin Piers Gellatly’s base recipe for Ripple Ice Cream, since that was what I was hoping to accomplish.  It’s a pretty straightforward anglaise, with a heavy dose of vanilla (or maybe that was just me, trying to use the vanilla beans I keep buying – it’s a bit of a compulsion).

Steep, Temper, Strain, Chill

But these are the easy parts.  No special equipment is required to cook a custard or bake some fruit.  I had a trick up my sleeve, though, courtesy of the internet’s favorite ice cream guru, David Lebovitz.  Turns out you can make ice cream completely by hand if you have a cold freezer and a little patience.  (Two Lebovitz recipes in one post?  Again?  Yep.)

Churning Ice Cream.  Very.  Slowly.

Here it is after a few hours of freezing with me stirring every 45 minutes or so.  I tried the immersion blender , but it just liquefied what frozen bits there were, thus setting me back an hour or so.  So spatula and whisk it was.  When it was starting to get late and the ice cream was still quite soft, I folded in the cooled strawberry-rhubarb compote anyway.  The result was a more homogeneous ice cream (no swirl to speak of), but really.  It was bedtime.  The next day, I checked the freezer to find the ice cream on the icy side.  Not terribly so, but not the creamy spoonful I’d been dreaming of.  Luckily, it tasted great.  So what does one do with overly hard ice cream?  Make it into a milkshake, of course!  (Here’s where the immersion blender shines.)

Strawberry-Rhubarb Milkshake

It may not be the deliciously marbled red and white scoop I’d originally planned, but it was luscious just the same.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.


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Spring is Here!

3 04 2009

Not that you’d know it from the weather today, but trust me, there have been more sunny days than not this week in Paris.  And last Sunday at the market I bought asparagus, peas, and sweet strawberries!

To celebrate the arrival of spring, I made this risotto with the asparagus and peas.

Early Spring Vegetable Risotto

It tasted as good as it looks.  I also made a fresh fruit tart with the strawberries and the kiwis that I got in my CSA panier (who knew kiwis grew in the Loire valley?).  The meal was a lovely first taste of spring, and made me hungry for more.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Trendy Rhubarb-Apricot Crumble

4 06 2008

Maybe it’s just the season, but it seems like everyone is cooking with rhubarb these days.  Not that I am complaining.  I love the distinct tartness it brings to desserts, making them feel suitable for breakfast, somehow.  It is great in combination with berries or stone fruits, but also makes a refreshing foil to fish dishes.  I bet it would make a decent tamarind substitute, and would add a seasonal zing to barbecue sauce.  Foie gras with caramelized rhubarb?  Camembert with rhubarb compote?  It is one of the ingredients that inspires me the most right now, and I expect to see more of it on restaurant menus in sweet, savory, and palate-cleansing applications.

At any rate, the increasing proliferation of rhubarb at the market has been tempting me, and I’ve been trying to wait until the stalks were good and rosy before buying a bunch to play around with.  When I mentioned to Nick to be on the lookout for good rhubarb, his first reaction was, “So you can make me a crumble?”  How could I let him down?  Besides, I love a good crumble myself.

Top golden, filling bubbly

Searching the internet in an attempt to figure out the approximate proportion of rhubarb to sugar to flour or cornstarch was ultimately an exercise in frustration.  Trying to reconcile grams (my scale) and cups (the recipes) can be, well, trying.  I ended up just winging it, as I so often do these days.  But I think it’s making me a better cook in the long run. 

The apricots were a last-minute addition, as I noticed that the ones I had bought a few days before were ripening swiftly, so into the mix they went.  It turned out to be a good flavor combination – less expected than strawberries with rhubarb, the apricots gave the filling a subtle, musky sweetness which married nicely with the bright tartness of the rhubarb.  If I’d had any cream in the house, I might have done something wacky like infusing it with the apricot kernels to make crème anglaise, but then I just would have been frustrated that I don’t have an ice cream maker here.

Recipe after the jump.  (Yes, it’s done by weight.)

Read the rest of this entry »





Easter Dinner

27 03 2008

You would think that after such a rich brunch, we would want something light for dinner.  And you would be wrong.  Like I said, the lack of Wii significantly increased the amount of time spent cooking this Easter.  So we planned a fabulous dinner for ourselves.  I asked Nick to try to recreate the celeriac-Roquefort soup he made for Thanksgiving, since both ingredients are cheap and plentiful here.  I found a recipe for a roasted beet and carrot salad on the Cook’s Illustrated website that I wanted to try, given that, as Clotilde of Chocolate and Zucchini pointed out, beets are on their way out of season.  I have never been a big fan of beets, but I continue to try them in different forms, hoping to find one that I enjoy.  Nick put it quite well when he said, “I keep thinking that I’m going to grow up and like beets all of a sudden.”  For the main dish, lamb seemed to be an obvious choice.  But how to cook it?  Given the recent influx of spring vegetables at the market, I decided on a navarin, a traditional French lamb stew with spring vegetables.  I perused a few recipes, but in the end, just made it up as I went along.

Unfortunately, because the camera was on the fritz for most of the day, few pictures were taken.  However, I did manage to get one good shot of each dish.  So without further ado, I present to you the soup.

Celeriac-Roquefort Soup

As you can see, it’s a puréed soup.  What you can’t see is how magically the piquancy of the Roquefort complements the mellow, vegetal, nuttiness of the celeriac.  Hazelnuts were a natural choice for garnish, both enhancing the flavor of the soup and providing a nice crunch for contrast.  The watercress I threw on there because it looked pretty and I had some out anyway, for the salad.  But the fresh, peppery bite of the greens added another dimension to the soup, highlighting the contribution of the Roquefort.  Speaking of the salad…

Salad of Roasted Beets and Carrots with Watercress

It was a beautiful sight to behold.  The deep reddish-purple of the beets next to the nearly burnt orange (for all you Texas fans out there) of the carrots and the vibrant green of the watercress made for a truly stunning tableau.  And really easy to make.  I simply cut the vegetables into batons, tossed them in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and stuck them in the oven for half an hour or so.  They could have gone even longer, but we were getting hungry.  While they roasted, I made a fairly strong vinaigrette with cider vinegar, shallots, honey, salt, pepper, and olive oil.  When the beets and carrots were cooked through, I dumped them into a large bowl, tossed them with the vinaigrette, and added the watercress.  Easy-peasy.

On to the pièce de résistance: spring lamb stew (or, as they call it here, navarin d’agneau).

Read the rest of this entry »





Spring Pasta Supper

25 03 2008

Now that it is officially springtime (Paris in the spring being more cloudy and rainy than not, so far), new fruits and vegetables are beginning to show up at the market.  The pumpkins, oranges, and pears are slowly but surely being replaced by peas, spring onions, and Garriguettes (amazingly fragrant French strawberries).  Nearly every stand at the market is now carrying fava beans, which I thought would make a perfect meat-free dinner for Good Friday.  To say that fava beans are time-consuming to prepare is true, but misses the point.  If you have some good music or good company, the time spent shelling and peeling goes by quickly, and the reward is totally worth it.

Fava beans

First you have to take the beans out of their pods, which have a foamy padding on the inside to protect the fragile beans – looks comfy!  From these pods, I ended up with this many beans:

Shelled Favas

They look ready to cook at this point, but no, each bean must be stripped of its bitter, pale green skin.  This task is made a little easier by blanching the beans first.  I got a large pot of water boiling and added the beans.  After a minute or two (just long enough to soften and loosen the skins a bit) I drained them and ran them under cold water to stop the cooking and cool them off enough to handle.  Then I began peeling.  It may seem to be a tedious task, but I didn’t mind, I just kept my iPod rocking and my eyes on the prize.  And here they are, all ready to go, for real this time:

Peeled Favas

Because it takes so much time to get so few usable beans, I decided to stretch them out in a pasta dish with tomatoes and goat cheese.  I boiled some pasta and added the favas for the last couple minutes to heat them through.  After draining I returned the pasta and beans to the pot and gently stirred in some halved cherry tomatoes and crumbled fresh goat cheese.  This needs something else, I thought, but what?  Then I remembered how the mint at the market smelled so delicious that I had to buy it – if mint and peas are a match made in heaven, why not fava beans?  Into the pot went the freshly chopped mint, along with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and freshly ground pepper.

Fava Pasta

Other than the fava bean prep, this was a really quick meal to put together.  As predicted, the mint and fava beans complemented each other beautifully, with the goat cheese and tomatoes lending their support in a non-scene-stealing way.  I make variations of this dish all summer long, and I love the way the goat cheese melts and coats the pasta with a tangy, creamy sauce.  And it was nice to have something light before our upcoming Easter gluttony-fest.  (Don’t worry, you’ll see.)








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