Diet Food, My Way

25 08 2011

This week has not gone as planned on the blogging front.  I have a bunch of posts just dying to have their chance in the spotlight, one I even had to stop working to jot down this morning.  But of course I left that notebook at work.  Fortunately, I’ve got one of these “One Meal, One Photo, One Sentence” pictures up my sleeve.

Roasty-roasty

Roasted salmon, risotto made with shrimp stock and roasted zucchini.  This is what I make when I’m trying to eat lighter.  Really.

On this day in 2009: The Land of Chocolate (includes my recipe for premium chocolate ice cream)

Originally published on Croque-Camille.

Advertisements




Just Call Me Little Miss Masala

25 06 2010

Much like the breadbaking question, one might wonder why, living within walking distance of Paris’ most Indian-centric neighborhood, I would feel compelled to cook up an Indian feast of my own.  Well, one reason is that the more esoteric ingredients are much easier to come by.  Another is that you can’t go out every night, and besides, isn’t it nice to have a fridge full of amazing, somehow still-improving leftovers?

The internet seems to be full of little synchronicities.  In this case, my friend Ann also got the craving for home-cooked Indian food, and wrote up her adventures in spice hunting.  Fueling the fire, she also happened to have a giveaway for a new book called Miss Masala: Real Indian Cooking for Busy Living by Mallika Basu. 

Real Indian Cooking for Busy Living

Basu also writes a blog, called Quick Indian Cooking, which I am looking forward to exploring in depth.  The book is thoroughly enjoyable, and after I won Ann’s giveaway, I felt even more inspired to go on my own spice-shopping spree and get cooking.

Read the rest of this entry »





Housewarming Harissa Chicken and Rice

6 05 2010

Moving house always shakes up the routine.  Starting a few weeks before the move, Nick and I tried to concentrate on eating up what we had in the fridge and pantry, to reduce the amount of stuff that had to be packed as much as possible.  I stopped getting the CSA share for a few weeks, and moved into a kitchen where there was no oven (there is now), a half-size fridge (getting replaced with a big one on Saturday, normalement), and two (only two!!!) induction burners, which have taken some getting used to.

Of course the days surrounding the move were fueled mostly by quick meals, some (Restaurant Raviolis) better than others (Subway).  The morning after we moved, breakfast consisted of green tea and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  I’m telling you that because I think it’s hilarious, and because I think that anyone who’s ever moved a kitchen will understand.  For lunch that day we went to L’As du Fallafel, and dinner was at one of our new neighborhood’s sixty kajillion Indian places.  We had some very simple dinners the next couple of nights – tomato sauce with mushrooms over pasta, grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup – but soon the urge to cook came back.

Easy, fresh, and spicy!

It was fueled in part by this recipe for Spicy Citrus Shrimp I saw on The Kitchen Illiterate.  It sounded so easy, quick, and simple, and I’m always looking for excuses to bust out the harissa.  Plus, blood oranges were the weekly special at one of the fruit-and-vegetable shops down the street.  But moving can leave one feeling poor, and shrimp just sounded too rich for my blood.  So chicken it was.  I made a marinade using harissa, blood orange and lemon juice, garlic (my addition), salt, and olive oil.  I made just enough to coat the chicken, plus a little extra for saucy goodness further down the road.  Got some rice going, and grabbed a quick shower while it cooked (oh, the busy lives of Parisian pastry chefs). 

When I came back, cleaned and ready to sauté, I learned something about my new stove: if I try to put two pans on it at once, a) they don’t both fit comfortably, and b) the stove starts pulsing instead of delivering even heat.  I also learned that despite the fact that the control panel goes to 12 (which, by the way, boils a pot of water in under 3 minutes), the maximum total capacity is 20.  That means that if I have one burner on 12, the other can only go up to 8.  Having learned all this in the space of about 30 seconds, I dumped the chicken, sauce and all, in a screaming hot nonstick pan (brand new, because my old one didn’t play well – or at all – with the induction top) and savored the sweet-spicy aromas that came forth.  I added the rice and some baby spinach, stirred it all up, and scooped it into shallow bowls.  Pine nuts and juicy segments of blood orange became garnish.  Nick and I sat down to dinner, accompanied by a glass of something robust and red from the Languedoc, and for the first time since moving, really felt like we were home.

On this day in 2008: An Oasis for Tea

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Remembrance Risotto

2 01 2010

The Christmas goose may be gone, but its memory lives on in the two quarts of stock I made from the carcass.  Périgord month may have gone the way of 2009, and porcini (aka cèpe, another gourmet classic grown in Périgord) season may have wound down for another year – as evidenced by my fruitless search of Paris’ biggest outdoor market a couple of weeks ago – but at least they can be a year-round treat if they’re dried.  The season for fresh peas was so long ago that it’s once again in the near future, but their spirits lie dormant in the freezer, awaiting only a little warmth to bring them back for a meal.

Pea and Porcini Risotto

Throw some short-grained Italian rice into the mix, and these memories become very much a part of the present, as a warming dinner for a cold winter night.

I find the more often I make risotto, the less it seems like a big deal.  In my kitchen repertoire, risotto is edging its way into the “weeknight quickie” category, because really all you need is some stock, rice, and something fresh (or frozen, or dried) to give it personality.  It can serve as a hearty first course, but I like to scoop up a heaping bowl and make it the main event.

One-dish meal.

Happy 2010 to all.  May it bring joy, luck, new discoveries, and delicious memories.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Treasures of the Languedoc

25 11 2009

Sepia tone makes everything look classy.

I couldn’t possibly do Languedoc month without talking about the wine.  There is as much, if not more, acreage in the Languedoc devoted to the growing of grapes and production of wine as in Bordeaux.  Some of my very favorite French wines are from the Languedoc, including Fitou (rare, but if you find a bottle, pick it up, you won’t be sorry), Corbières, and Minervois.  The wines of the region generally use a similar blend of grapes as is used in the Rhône valley, heavy on the Syrah, Mouvèdre, Carignane, and Grenache.  The reds are fruity yet bold, with enough structure to make them worth lingering over, and usually very food-friendly, as well.  The best part?  They’re also some of the least expensive French wines!  Chalk it up to a lack of name recognition, but you really get a lot of bang for your buck when buying wines from the Languedoc.

Another important product of the Languedoc is rice.  The majority of rice grown in France is along the coast of the Languedoc, particularly in the marshy Camargue near the Rhône river delta.  Camargue is also an important source of France’s salt.

Sel Gros de Camargue

I usually use sel gros de Camargue in my cooking, its crystals being roughly the same size as Kosher salt.  It is slightly moist though, which gives me a feeling of indulgence – the stuff feels a lot more expensive than it is (around 1 euro a kilo).  Of course, where there’s salt, there’s fleur de sel.

Fancy finishing salt

Fleur de sel is the crunchy, extra-white “flowers” that form on the top of the regular sea salt crystals under the right conditions.  It’s a great finishing salt – try sprinkling it over a steak or salad just before serving, or even on bread with butter if you don’t have the butter with the salt crystals built in.

And now for an update on the duck confit.  Last week, I rinsed and dried the duck legs while I melted all the duck fat in the house.  There was a minor duck fat-related tragedy when I opened one of my three (!) jars and discovered that mold had sprouted inside.  I set it aside, and to make up for the missing fat – I wanted to make sure the legs would be amply covered in fat as they cooked – I added a bit of lard.  The smell of the garlicky duck as the confit did its thing for three hours was insanely good.  I can’t imagine why anyone would want to make one giant batch of this to save all winter – I wouldn’t mind filling my house with that smell every month.  Or every week, for that matter.

Duck legs, post-confiting

Now the confit, legs, fat, and all, is resting in the bottom of my fridge, waiting for the Thanksgiving hoopla to be over so I can turn it into cassoulet.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.





Another Braised Chicken Dish

5 06 2008

Those who know me know I love a good hearty braise.  I have written about braising on this blog on at least five separate occasions.  It is one of those fundamental cooking techniques wherein you take something cheap and make it taste like a million bucks.  I like to think that I have mastered it to the point where I can mess around with it and know that I’m still going to get good results.  Plus, there are almost always leftovers.  Never a bad thing, in my book.

At the market on Sunday (a glorious sunny morning) I bought some girolles with no set plan for them.  As we wandered along, discussing what we had in the fridge at home (tarragon), and what to buy to complement those things, Nick came up with something that sounded delicious: braised chicken with tarragon and girolles.  I thought that I could work in the fennel bulb I knew was lurking in the bottom of the vegetable drawer, and agreed to the dish, despite the not-at-all-braise-worthy weather.  Since it was so nice out, we decided to put that one off and bought some excellent Norwegian salmon for dinner that night.

Later that afternoon, the sky clouded over and rain began to fall.  Knowing I wouldn’t be able to go to a butcher on Monday, Nick and I went up the street to a butcher shop we had never visited before.  The chickens roasting in the rotisserie outside were some of the best I’ve seen, so we went in to get some cuisses de poulet.  Literally “chicken thighs,” these are inevitably whole chicken leg quarters.  Not a problem, just a bit unwieldy.  At 2 euros a kilo, though, who’s complaining?

So Monday night, which was just as dismal as Sunday afternoon, I began my Spring-y chicken braise.  First step: brown the skin.

Chicken leg quarters, snug and cozy in the Dutch oven

Next step: get the meat out of there to make room for the vegetables.  In this case, diced fennel and onion.  Season with salt and pepper.  Make sure to scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to pick up all the deliciousness residing there.  While the vegetables cook, remove the skin from the chicken.  (This is much easier when you’re just working with thighs.)  It occurred to me at this point that a bit of Dijon mustard would go really well with everything else in the dish, so I plopped in a spoonful of mustard and stirred to make sure it wasn’t going t be in one big lump.  And then it’s time to add the liquid.  I have run out of chicken stock, so I used half water and half white wine, and another good pinch of salt.  Nestle the meat in with the vegetables and liquid, and bring the whole thing up to a simmer.

Tarragon Chicken Braise - before

I also stuffed a couple sprigs of fresh tarragon in there – let’s not forget the inspiration for the dish.  Once it’s simmering, reduce the heat (for me, this means moving the pot to a completely different burner, but that’s my quirky stove), slap the lid on the pot, and leave it alone for an hour and a half or so.  (Longer if you’re braising beef or lamb – yes, it does require a little planning ahead.)

Meanwhile, for this particular braise, I began preparing the mushrooms.  You didn’t forget about those, did you?  Maybe a picture will help:

Read the rest of this entry »








%d bloggers like this: