Fruit & Vegetables

May 27, 2008

Real Women Eat Crustless Quiche: Asparagus & Cheese

Real women eat crustless quiche. If you're wondering what real men eat, there's a very simple answer: whatever is most fattening on the menu plus a side of bacon.

Am I right?

All the men in my life eat like kings without a shred of remorse afterwards. Not fair.

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This crustless quiche is my new favorite party recipe. It's great to bring to a party or serve at your own and it pairs with just about everything.

You can make it for brunch, lunch, or dinner and serve alongside sliced tenderloin, smoked salmon, or tomatoes. It looks pretty on the plate or dramatic, left whole, featured in the middle of a buffet table.

It's effortless to whip up, and most importantly for my friends out there who suffer from Celiac disease, this recipe is GLUTEN FREE.

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The crustless wonder quiche reheats well so it can be made in advance. I also found it to be quite tasty cold at 3 A.M in the morning after the party was over.

Jeez, what else can I say? This could quite possibly be the miracle quiche – the quiche that allows real men to finally unite with real women on the subject of real food.

Besides, finally that bizarre rectangular tart pan will get put to good use.

More recipes like this:
Kalyn's Kitchen Mushroom & Feta Breakfast Casserole
Simply Recipes Cheesy Crustless Quiche
Baking Bites Crustless Spinach, Onion, Feta Quiche
Epicurious Crustless Quiche

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May 16, 2008

In the Soup, Roasted Tomato Soup

The idea of comfort food changes drastically when living 10,000 miles away from home.

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Burritos, oh lordy, I don't even want to tell you what I'd do for a properly made steak burrito with a real margarita. And, just so you know, cocktails count as comfort food according to Wikipedia. Yes, I actually checked on that one.

I know this is heresy, but sometimes I find Big Macs comforting too because I can get them anywhere in the world. (Except that year I lived in Southern India). And in France I can get my Big Mac with a beer too. Why they don't ask me if I want the beer supersized, is a mystery.

But my all time favorite comfort food is tomato soup. Especially with a grilled cheese sandwich that I can dip into the bowl. Or better yet, tomato soup with a tuna melt. I'd probably self-combust out of pure delight if I saw that on the menu here.

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For better or worse, soups are not sold in the can in France. Rather, they are sold by Knorr in powdered form. Sometimes the powdered soup is premixed and put in a box for quicker consumption. I find that most of these just taste like flavored glue.

And speaking of flavored glue, we don't have Campbell's out here. Campbell's doesn't even "taste like homemade" as their labels imply. However, it could be a close second for a person living in a country that doesn't revere tomato soup the way American culture does. Afterall, there are no Renoir paintings of tomato soup cans in the Musée D'Orsay.

Taking the cue from so many French home cooks, I make my own. And my tomato soup is easy and ten times more nourishing then Knorr and Campbell's put together. It also has no cream, butter, high fructose, corn syrup, bizarre thickeners, wheat or wheat derivative, dehydrated vegetables, or reconstituted beef.

I'll slurp to that!

Note: I've roasted two different colors of tomatoes for fun. However, using one type still provides the same happy effect that all good comfort food does.

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May 04, 2008

Prosciutto Wrapped Scallops & Saffron Sweet Potatoes

Scallops are a sweet tasting mild fleshy bivalve that allow for endless recipe variations. They work equally well with both bright citrus flavors and smokey bacon. And somehow their unique flavor doesn't get lost in either one.

I personally get lost in bacon quite easily.

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A word on scallops... in France they come fresh, popped straight from the shell, without any additives. In the States, they are mostly frozen and then thawed. When buying previously frozen scallops make sure to ask if they have additives.

Many frozen scallops have a saline solution (or some weird chemical) added that is supposed to keep them tasting juicy. However, it often ends up steaming the scallops during the cooking process making them difficult to properly sear. The best previously frozen scallops are "dry packed". They sear nicely and taste fresh without any strange milky liquid.

And a word on sweet potatoes...

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They are not yams! They are a distant relative but, were domesticated in the Americas as early as 5000 years ago. They are also not kissing cousins with potatoes either, although probably closer in relation. They come in many different colors: white, orange, and purple. And, they are extremely high in nutritional value.

I came up with the idea for saffron sweet potatoes purée by mistake. I was actually trying to figure out the ingredients to a soup I had at a Spanish restaurant in Paris. But, after tasting the purée, I decided to leave it – super yummy!

The purée has no butter or cream and it is amazingly velvety in texture and rich tasting. The dandelion greens are a nice bitter contrast for the sweet potatoes and the smokiness of the prosciutto goes along with everything. I also made little white sweet potato croutons to scatter around the plate for fun and to add some crispiness.

1 potato, 2 potato, sweet potato, more!

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April 25, 2008

Shrimp Salad in Puff Boats with Roasted Red & Yellow Tomato Coulis

I only went to the market to buy milk. But I came home with 2 pounds each of red and yellow tomatoes, some pea shoots, buckwheat sprouts, and shrimp.

I forgot the milk.

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I hate it when I do that. I'm so A.D.D. in supermarkets. The colors really sidetrack me. This is why people make lists. Stick to the list! I guess I was a little curious to see if tomatoes were starting to taste juicy again. I realize I didn't need to buy 4 pounds to answer that question.

The tomatoes were juicy (Hallelujah!). So I roasted them up with a whole bulb of garlic and puréed them separately to taste their differences. The yellow tomatoes were a bit milder in acid but just as flavorful as the red.

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Originally I thought the roasted tomatoes would make great soup (they did, I'll post that next) but, I also thought they would make a nice rich coulis, a sauce made from puréed and strained vegetables or fruits.

Which led to: tarragon shrimp salad in choux puff boats with my little shoots and sprouts, and a few swirls of red & yellow tomato coulis. Whoo-wee, that all sounds complicated doesn't it? It's not, just a tad time consuming.

Like I've got anything better to do on my days off – tax extension be damned!

I've never used buckwheat sprouts before and they sure have an interesting flavor: a cross between sour grass and wheat grass. Sweet and sour. Pea shoots, on the other hand, taste exactly like pea shoots.

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I hope you enjoy this recipe. If serving a crowd or in need of a dish to take to a party, the choux puff boat can be baked in a Springform 9" cheesecake pan and filled with any salad right before serving. Egg salad, chicken salad – whatever. Then people can scoop it from the boat or cut wedges.

As for the 4 pounds of roasted tomatoes all I can say is they have far more uses than just soup and coulis. They also make great pasta sauce, meat sauce, salsa base, or side dish when served whole. I've left the quantities in tact so you have room to experiment too!

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April 23, 2008

Strawberry Basil Gazpacho with Roasted Shrimp & Parmesan Polenta

Strawberry basil gazpacho is super springtime refreshing. Its salty-sour sweetness really gets the salivary glands going.

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Although gazpacho is traditionally made with tomatoes, vinegar, salt, and olive oil, the tomatoes can be replaced with other fruits. Try strawberries & basil in the Spring when the berries start flooding the markets and melon & mint in the Summertime.

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The hors d'oeuvre that goes alongside the gazpacho is quite a complicated little affair. Lots of little parts to it. Too bad, its eaten in only a few bites!

Cheesy parmesan polenta is cut out into shapes and then toasted and topped with a purée of basil and butterflied wild white shrimp. The plate is garnished with a relish of strawberries, celery, fennel, and bacon. (gotta have the smokiness of the bacon for this). And lastly, a drizzle of basil-chive oil.

I tested this recipe out on a few trusted people (my parents) who aren't afraid to tell me when I've hit the mark or missed completely. I know they doubted the strawberry basil combo in the beginning but, were believers by the end. In fact I got a "delightful!" out of my step-dad who spent a thousand years in the food industry.

This is a first course or amuse bouche, not a main meal, so keep the portions small.

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April 18, 2008

Grapefruit Glazed Scallops with Roasted Beets and Thyme

Gotta love a fruit that doubles as a bowling ball. And one that sounds equally funny in French (pamplemousse) and English (grapefruit). There's certainly nothing grape-like about this puckery citrus and I don't find the texture mousse like at all.

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But, every name has a history and the grapefruit is no exception. According to Wikipedia it was originally documented first in Barbados. It had developed as a hybrid from the even larger citrus bowling ball, pomelo.

Perhaps the French named it pamplemousse because it was a mouse sized pomelo? No. That can't be right.

In the U.S. the fruit was called shaddock or shattuck until the 1800's. Wikipedia gives no reason as to why or how the name was changed to grapefruit, but one can speculate that it's current alias alludes to the grape-like clusters it grows in.

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Regardless, it's a terrificly refreshing fruit.

The idea of this recipe came as I was pondering over what to do with fresh scallops. The egg sack, known as the corail in French, is a beautiful shell pink color. Just about the same color of grapefruit – violà! Inspiration! – grapefruit glazed scallops!

Using grapefruit can be tricky as I found out, because it has a way of over powering everything. Like a bowling ball, it knocks down all the other pins. Some tips: use very small pieces of grapefruit in the garnish so as not to upstage the beets or scallops, and leave out the zest or just add a tiny little piece for decoration.

The glaze is infused with thyme and you can slather it on generously because the grapefruit juice is greatly reduced and has a fabulous sweet tangy flavor without the bite. Also the thyme really brings the dish together.

I seared the scallops with walnut oil and added some to the vinaigrette for the beet garnish. It adds depth and nuttiness – two of my favorite human characteristics, so don't leave them out either.

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April 12, 2008

Assiette de Legumes avec Oeuf Poche

Vegetables. Give me vegetables. If I eat another plate of tripe, boudin noir, or toulouse sausage I'm going to pop.

Here's a bistro classic, Assiette de Légumes avec Oeuf Poché, that satisfies most vegetarians and those of us who strive to eat less offal and more vegetables.

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And, it's dramatic. When you slash the egg yolk it oozes all over the vegetables. I love that. Serve up with some toasted hearty country bread for perfection.

David Lebovitz recently wrote a great post on tips for eating vegetarian in Paris. It's not impossible to eat vegetarian here, even the carnivores like a night off once and awhile. When in need, ask for an "assiette de légumes" or a "plate of vegetables".

Believe it or not, the request is not so unusual. When 3 hour business lunches were the norm, customers would often order an "assiette de légumes" because they had suffered through too many heavy meals during the week.

Of course, you have to ask nicely and make sure you sound apologetic for inconveniencing the kitchen – but normally they will make it. I've been pleasantly surprised, more than a few times, with the results.

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January 07, 2008

Vichyssoise

Vichyssoise soup is a magical combination of puréed leeks and potato served cold. Notice that I wrote 'potato' in the singular. Many recipes call for multiple potatoes which tends to lend itself to a soup of library paste. But, if you were a paste licker in school then go ahead and add them back in. I was a glue sniffer so I never really developed that particular affinity.

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Older than the rivalry between paste eaters and glue sniffers is the historical food fight over the origin of Vichyssoise soup. Is it French or American? I'd like to say it's a fusion, but it was made famous on American soil so I could be persauded to cross the picket line. Normally the soup is said to have been created by Louis Diat, the chef at the Ritz-Carlton in New York City for most of the first half of the 20th century.

In a New Yorker magazine (1950) Diat said:

"In the summer of 1917, when I had been at the Ritz seven years, I reflected upon the potato-and-leek soup of my childhood, which my mother and grandmother used to make. I recalled how, during the summer, my older brother and I used to cool it off by pouring in cold milk, and how delicious it was. I resolved to make something of the sort for the patrons of the Ritz."

Other food fighters say that the French chef Jules Gouffé was first to create the recipe, publishing a version in Royal Cookery (1869) and that Chef Diat must have changed it slightly by serving it cold and therefore calling it his own. OH, WHO CARES?!?!? It's a basic combination that's delicious served hot or cold!!!

I like to serve it up a few different ways. Sometimes I pour it over raw oysters or garnish it with crab meat and crème fraîche. I also tend to serve it luke warm as opposed to cold (sorry Chef D). A few tips to remember: if the leeks are cooked for hours they will loose their beautiful bright green color, cream is really not necessary to give this soup a velvety smoothness so it can be cut out if desired, and the soup should have the consistency of olive oil.

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December 31, 2007

Herb Crusted Standing Rib Roast, Yorkshire Pudding, Brussels Sprouts

I look forward to prime rib for one reason: yorkshire pudding. There's nothing like slicing into a steak that melts in your mouth like butter, but I am partial to the little popovers that soak up all the jus.

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And I refuse to make excuses for enjoying brussels sprouts. If they're not overcooked, they are delicious. Too often people boil the hell out of 'em and then they get that funny smell – you know the one I'm talking about? But, if they are steamed briefly (4-5 min.) and then quickly sautéed in a tiny bit of good ole' fashioned bacon grease, they are absolutely edible!

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So what's the difference between a popover and yorkshire pudding? Not a lot. Except the later is cooked in the pan drippings from the standing rib roast which makes them extra flavorful. These little puffed beauties have to be cooked à la minute, but that's okay because the rib roast has to rest for a good 15-20 minutes anyway. As soon as the roast is being carved, the popovers should be coming out of the oven so it all times out perfectly.

Happy New Years!!!

vichyssoiseVichyssoise with Crab, garnished with Crème Fraîche and Chives



oystersUPOyster and Heirloom Carrot salad with Warm Oyster Vinaigrette



primeribUCHerb Crusted Prime Rib, Yorkshire Pudding, Brussels Sprouts



choccake2Gâteau Chocolate

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December 29, 2007

Oyster Heirloom Carrot Salad with Warm Oyster Vinaigrette

Oysters to me say elegance. To others they say viagra, but I think that's mostly bi-valve fascinated men. In any case, this dish was a lot of fun to prepare, especially the shucking part.

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If you're not shucking the oysters yourself make sure to ask the shucker to reserve some of the oyster liquor for the vinaigrette (bring along a plastic container). I served the oysters on toast, but I think they would have been more glamourous in the shell. Either way, it's a show-stopping first course.

Full New Years Menu:
vichyssoiseVichyssoise with Crab, garnished with Crème Frâiche and Chives


oystersUPHeirloom Carrot & Watermelon Radish Salad, Warm Oyster Vinaigrette, Oysters


primerib2Herb Crusted Prime Rib, Yorkshire Pudding, Brussel Sprouts with Lardon


choccake2Gâteau Chocolat, Crème Anglaise

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December 03, 2007

Poires Rôties Avec Syrop de Vin Rouge

I could layer cake and butter cream frosting clear up to the top of the Eiffel Tower and it would never look as impressive as a pear roasted in red wine syrup. I love fruit desserts. And this one in particular for being so easy and elegant.

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Pear desserts can often be too sweet and that is where the red wine syrup adds a rich earthy acidic counterpoint. It also helps to caramelize the skin of the pear during baking giving it a stained glass look. This effect turns the fruit from a bottom heavy little squat bell to quite the stunning brightly faceted jewel – pear shaped diamonds are always on my holiday list.

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As if homemade diamonds weren't enough reason to make this dish, the practicality of it for entertaining is fabulous. There is no need to peel or core the pears and it can be made ahead of time and kept in a warm place. Simply put the pears in a baking dish, pour the red wine over, sprinkle sugar over pears and wine, bake and baste for 45 minutes. They can stay in a warm oven while dinner is being enjoyed and then served.

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September 28, 2007

Saumons Parfumés Aux Cèdre, Navets à la Nivernaise

That's a really fancy way of attempting to say: salmon grilled on a cedar plank with glazed turnips, carrots, onions and potatoes. I'm sure some one is bound to correct my Franglais, but I couldn't quite figure how to say 'cedar smoked barbecued salmon' in French without the title being a mile long. Technically, in France, when a dish is described as à la nivernaise it means that you're sure to find carrots and onions. I've thrown in some turnips (navets) and potatoes for heartiness.

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This dish is low-cal, high taste, little preparation, and packs a lot of energy. If you signed up for my Chef's Challenge, it will fuel your next work-out! It's raining here in Paris, so I'm afraid my stats aren't so great (excuses, excuses). Cooking the salmon on a cedar plank adds smokiness and dries the outside flesh leaving the inside moist. I brushed a little olive oil over the top for magpie appeal and added a sprinkle of fleur de sel, but that's it!

For the vegetables, it's a one pot dish that can cook while the salmon is grilling. It's best to use baby vegetables and trim the tops of the baby turnips and carrots leaving 1/2" of the stem for that almost-country look. The veggies are simmered in a water, wine, and fresh herb combination. When they're done cooking, the veggies are separated and the liquid reduced. Swirl in some butter – et voilà! – you've got a very tasty glaze to pour over the vegetables. The cooking liquid becomes a tasty broth while simmering all those root vegetables and the flavor concentrates after reduction. It's subtle but tastes fancy!

PS. I'm cooking at a Chateau in Lyon this week, I'll be back next week hopefully with some neat pics and stories about "roughing" it in the paysanne.

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September 02, 2007

Tempura Green Beans & Cod Escabeche

This recipe is in no way shape or form French. Sorry! But, it is good – I promise that at least!

So here's my latest fusion offering: Japanese tempura served up alongside Baja style lime-cilantro marinated fish with Puerto Rican pickled red onions. Typically escabeche is a pickling marinade with cooked seafood added to it. But, I've used it for pickling the onions and the liquid as a dipping sauce for the green beans.

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I've put together a short video (only 4 min) for the tempura. You've got to check it out because I found the cutest Moulinex Minuto deep fryer and I want to show it off! Seriously, I haven't been this excited about a new toy since I bought my first power blender in college. Tempura is super fast to prepare. It took 3 minutes to whip up the batter and 40 seconds to deep fry the green beans.

There are two basic types of tempura batter. One is thin and it works well for vegetables – especially for green beans where you want to see the color show through the batter. For fish I prefer the thicker batter, similar to a beignet batter, where the eggs are separated and the whites whipped up separately and folded back into the mix. This creates a big fluffy crunchy crust when deep fried that goes nice with jumbo prawns.

The fish is marinated in lime juice and cilantro for twenty minutes almost like ceviche but then it is baked or grilled to finish the cooking. I used cod because it looked fresh in the market, but mahi mahi would work better or even halibut. Any firm white fish will do that isn't too thin and doesn't fall apart easily.

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The pink pickling marinade is a melange of cider vinegar, sugar, salt, peppercorns, and bay leaves with a thinly sliced red onion left to soak up the juice. For real escabeche, cooked shrimp or seafood is then added and can be kept up to 2 days in the refrigerator. With the added seafood, it's a refreshing sweet-tart starter or light meal.

After draining the onions, the pickling liquid tasted so good that I decided to skip the traditional tempura dipping sauce and use it instead. Just in case you're not a vinegar fanatic like me, I've included the recipe for the Japanese dipping sauce below.

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August 24, 2007

Salade d'Arugula, Nasturce, et Mûre,

My dream was so strange: I don't know what I was doing making a salad presented three ways for a Top Chef episode. But I remember in my dream I was so fascinated with the colors orange and deep purple that I lost track of the time and didn't finish my dish for the judges.

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The first petit salad was made up of a fan of nectarines and black prince tomatoes with a tiny herb salad next to it and a sprinkle of fleur de sel. Then there was the nastursium, blackberry, and arugula salad which I've pictured above. And last... I can't remember... I know I was making three tiny salads all with similar colors and flavor profiles (whatever a 'flavor profile' is?) plated on a long white rectangular dish. It was elegant, fresh tasting, simple and colorful. If only I could remember the third one...

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I was first introduced to nasturtiums by my Godmother who grew them in between her other garden vegetables. The forest behind her house was filled with tart juicy sweet wild blackberries and she would often send us kids out to pick berries and flowers until we couldn't carry anymore. Then she put everything into one salad bowl be it sweet, bitter, spicy, or sour. I always thought nasturtiums were just good for gardening – they keep pests away from other vegetables – until I tried one. They are sweet with a little bitterness to them, like blackberries. And they're so beautiful. Add some super spicy arugula and you've got a very interesting refreshing salad.

A nasturtium is a South American trailing plant with round leaves and bright orange, yellow, or red edible flowers. The origin of the name is Old English, from Latin, apparently from naris 'nose' + torquere 'to twist'. They don't last too long when picked, so make sure to put the stems in cold water until ready to use.

The recipe is simple: A bagful of spicy wild arugula, some ripe black prince tomatoes, a handful of freshly picked nasturtiums, 5-6 wild blackberries per person, some chopped fresh herbs (chives, basil, parsley, and even a little tarragon) and a red-wine vinaigrette made from 1 part vinegar and 3 parts olive oil. Sprinkle some fleur de sel over top to finish! I always dress my lettuce separate from delicate fruits and veggies so the colors don't mix up before plating.

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August 12, 2007

Hors d'Oeuvres d'Été

My California summer is coming to a close. I fly tomorrow back to Paris. (Sniff, sniff!) It's always hard to leave San Francisco – no more baseball games, Ferry building farmer's markets, long drives down highway one, or friends and family for awhile. I'm sure Paris will be as hot and humid as ever packed with tourists and traveling school groups. Oh well, I hope my windowsill herbs are still alive at least!

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One of the perks of being an old teacher is getting invited over to students' houses for yummy meals. Now most of my students are in college, but their parents still seem to remember me and invite me over when I'm in town. The bruschetta above is Sharon's recipe. Made with tomatoes sun ripened from her garden. Lightly rub crostini with a garlic clove, top with with a melange of tomatoes and sea salt, broil with a little fresh mozzarella, and sprinkle freshly chopped basil over the top. Voilà!

Not wanting to show up empty handed I brought a Greek treat. It's a combo of watermelon and mansouria cheese with a squeeze of lime juice over top and a sprinkle of thinly sliced fresh basil. You get the whole salty, sweet, sour combo which I find refreshing on hot summer nights.

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It's funny seeing old students. When I think of them and all the good times we had putting on musicals and plays or cooking recipes from around the world, I see them as teenagers. But when I come home and meet up with them in person I am reminded that they are now adults. (triple sigh!)

...and that they will soon be of legal drinking age which scares the bejeezus out of me! Maybe I am glad I'm leaving to Paris tomorrow...

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July 28, 2007

Menu de Harry Potter: Soupe de Choux-fleur Violet et Salade Tiède de Boeuf avec Cresson et Tomates Vertes

I finally finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Can you tell? I spotted a magical purple cauliflower in the market yesterday and I just had to have it. I got it home, stared at it for awhile, and then decided to flick my wand and turn it into soup. Not my wand exactly – who needs holly and phoenix feathers when you have a 24cm Global knife?

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Fascinated by the purple color, I did a little research and discovered that it is not dyed or hoaxed or under any sort of spell. The color is caused by presence of the antioxidant anthocyanin, which can also be found in red cabbage and red wine. There were orange cauliflowers at the market too. I discovered these have 25 times the level of Vitamin A compared to the white varieties. Who knew cauliflower could be so vibrant and vitamin rich? Not me.

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Salads sound good to me in hot weather and so does no-fuss preparation, hence the warm beef salad with spicy watercress and witchy heirloom green tomatoes (green zebras). They kind of look like dragon eyes before you slice them up and I love the tart tomato juiciness paired with the salty-sweet beef. It's an interesting and refreshing combination. The watercress just adds a little kick for extra oomph.

The light dinner turned out tasty. The other witches and wizards at the table agreed. I still haven't figured out a proper aperitif. I wanted to make pumpkin juice but I didn't find any in the patch. Butterbeer sounds more appealing – anything with butter in the name sounds good to me.

I know my French friends are eagerly awaiting the le version française. It is amazing to me, but not surprising, how J.K. Rowling has captured the hearts of adults and children throughout the world with her stories.

Felicitations to Madame Rowling for inspiring us world wide!

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July 20, 2007

Fève, Maïs, et Tomate Cerise Salade Chaud

This recipe should really be titled in English because you will never see it in France. Why? Because corn is for pigs! Oui, c'est vrais!

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The one time I found and purchased fresh corn at my local Parisian farmer's market, the vendor gave me four kisses on the cheek instead of the normal two. He was overjoyed that some one was actually buying it. I did notice many raised eyebrows in the line behind me along with a few whispers. Oh well, I'm American, I seem to stir up trouble no matter what I do...

Since I'm home in San Francisco for this month I've been gorging myself on fresh local produce because we don't see a lot of it in Paris. Most of the farmer's markets in Paris are not farmer's selling their fruits and vegetables, but resellers buying the produce from Rungis (the largest super market in the world) and selling it at a premium price. It's even difficult for restaurants to get direct produce deliveries from farmers.

I picked up all my salad ingredients straight from the coastal farms around Pescadero plus a flat of the jucy strawberries and a bag of sugary sweet peas. I left a trail of pea pods and strawberry tops over the mountain and through La Honda just in case I got lost and needed to find my way back.

Fava beans, although a little labor intensive to prep, are worth the effort. They are cheery in color, high in nutritional value, flavorful, and the pods add nitrogen to your compost pile. Farmer's often grow fava beans as rotation crops to boost their soil.

Arguably Italians really have the best recipes for Fava beans, but there are a few traditional French recipes including puree of fava bean soup. I prefer to leave the bean whole because I think their shape is really cute. I like the fatness of the bean with it's little hip curves. Fava beans got back baby!

This recipe is versatile and goes with just about anything barbecued – fish, chicken, meat – whatever! It's bright and cheery and it tastes good.

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July 12, 2007

Storm the Bastille: Carré d'Agneau Mariné Aux Herbes et Ratatouille

Bastille day is just around the corner and instead of letting 'em eat cake why not serve up something a tad more respectable? Rack of lamb for instance with a tasty herb pesto crust and a fashionable side dish of ratatouille. After all, you don't want your head on the platter at the end of the meal. You wouldn't want to insult your guests while they're starving to death with just a plain ol' piece of cheap stale bread. So treat them like the royalty they are...

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Lamb is easy to prepare for a crowd and beautiful presented on plates. The curve of lamb's small thin bones always adds artistic flare. It can be carved table side for added entertainment or plated secretly in the kitchen. Cooked rare to medium-rare, it's sure to provide a revolutionary red to the plates.

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Everyone wants to try ratatouille thanks to the movie, but sadly most ratatouille is like an overcooked vegetable swamp that tastes as awful as it smells. I prefer a quickly cooked eggplant, zucchini, red pepper, and basil melange served up in a tomato cup and topped with a fried basil flag. It's fresh tasting and a perfect compliment for lamb. Use any vegetable trimmings from the ratatouille in the jus for an extra whack! Add some crusty 'cake' to sop up all the drippings or an elegant baguette.

Although many a beheaded beauty preferred sugary sweet french treats as their dernier dîner, a rich dark chocolate final ending is sure to send guests straight to heaven. The idea is not to weigh down the guests during the meal but to give them just enough hope to carry on. Silky pots de crème will make a lasting impression and are simple to prepare ahead of time without extra fuss during the meal.

Besides, unless you have servants or a hired cook, it is deathly important to keep both eyes on the party. Happy Fête National!

For the rack of lamb recipe click on "continue reading Storm the Bastille..." recipe serves 10 people.

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June 15, 2007

Salade de Carmine Braisée à l'Orange et Canard Fumé

I had smoked duck for the first time this weekend at a pizza restaurant of all places! I ordered a wild mushroom pizza with thin slices of smoked duck and it was delicious. I was so impressed with its flavor that I had to do some experimenting...

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Smoked duck is a good substitute for bacon. It's salty and smokey in the same way with an added meaty-woodsy flavor and it's leaner. The baby radicchio is a terrific match for smoked duck and they both pair nicely with the sweetness of orange. I also tried a variation on Eggs Benedict substituting smoked duck for Canadian Bacon (I'll print that recipe next).

Inspired by the old French recipe Duck a l'Orange, I came up with a lighter variation. The smoked duck is quickly pan fried to render the little bit of duck fat on the slices. Then orange juice is added to the pan and reduced. Whole raddiccio is braised lightly in the duck-orange sauce and served alongside the duck slices with some fresh orange segments. Any remaining warm duck-orange sauce is mixed with a little tarragon vinegar and olive oil to create a tangy warm vinaigrette. Add a few herbs et Voilà!

Smoked duck can be served raw too (like smoked salmon or trout) but I like it warm with the fat crisped up. If it's overcooked it will loose it's beautiful red color and some of it's flavor. Duck does not taste good over cooked. Most wild fowl doesnt, for that matter, it turns livery and leathery.

Hope you enjoy this recipe and can find smoked duck slices in the super market!?!? For the recipe click on "Continue Reading Salade de Carmine...."

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June 08, 2007

Dîner d'Anniversaire!

It's not easy always being the older woman. The fear of loosing one's beauty and no longer being attractive feeds insecurity. Not to mention always having to be the mature responsible person in the relationship. But finally my husband has caught up with me in age! Yippeee!!!

Because my hubby is such a sweetie, I prepared a birthday dinner for him with fruit at the forefront. A fruit-a-licious menu! I love to use fruit in unusual ways. I like to barbecue it, roast it, and bake it with spices or condiments normally reserved for savory dishes. I'm sure I get this from my father who likes to salt everything from cantaloupe to watermelon, "Brings out the flavor!" he always says.

Appertif Kir Royal avec le Syrop de Fraise
Raviole d'Ananas Roti aux Chevre, Salade de Lardon
Rôti de Porc Aux Pruneaux et Des Légumes Rôtis
Fromage Bleu Avec du Pain de Figue
Clafouti Aux Cerise
Après Dîner Cognac

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For the roasted ravioli, I sliced paper thin rounds from a whole pineapple. I stuffed two slices with a spoonful of pungent medium-hard goat's cheese and pressed around the edges to form the pasta. Then I brushed a honey-basalmic glaze over the top. Right before serving the raviolis are broiled to caramelize the glaze and melt the cheese slightly. The salad is comprised of mesculen, crispy lardon, and a vinaigrette of olive oil, sherry vinegar, and the warm run-off juices from the broiled pineapple raviolis.

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Nothing could be easier than a pork roast stuffed with prunes. Just stick a long knife or sharp pick through the center of the roast and cram in the prunes. I sear the pork roast on all sides first and then place it in a baking dish with whole new potatoes, sweet potatoes (yes, I'm into pork and sweet potatoes right now!), whole spring onions, and fresh sprigs of rosemary and thyme. Roast everything together et Voilà you have a beautiful main course that allows the time to focus on guests.

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Clafouti is simple to make and it does not contain a lot of sugar or flour. I like to soak the cherries in kirsch for an hour or two before adding them whole. Traditionally the cherries are not pitted for two reasons: it will turn the batter pink and they taste better baked with the pit in. I do advise warning your guests beforehand so no one looses a tooth. Substitute cherries for blanched apricots if desired. For the clafouti recipe see my old post Cherry Clafouti

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The candles didn't stick to well in the clafouti, so I had to substitute some cakes to hold up those heavy, heavy numbers!

For recipes click on "Continue reading Diner Anniversaire!"

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June 04, 2007

Côtelettes de Porc aux épices, Gratin de Patate Douce à l'Orange et au Gingembre

I've never seen sweet potatoes in Paris and when I spotted them today in the Monoprix (French Safeway) there were only two looking forlorn in a basket all by themselves. I had to save them. They're probably not in season. I don't even know if sweet potatoes have a season! I always see them year round back home – that's not saying much though is it?

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I hold patate douce dear to my heart...

Ten years ago when I cooked in SF I used to take the last night train home after dinner service. We always got a free meal with our shift and I would package mine togo and trade the ticket lady, a Southern woman, my dinner for a free ride home. It was a good deal for both of us. The food was hot and delicious and I was poor. One ticket home was the equivalent to one hour's worth of work in those days. (Eeeek! That was a long time ago!!!)

There were always weirdos on the last train out of SF. Lots of drunks and druggies. I learned all the Caltrans code words for 'drunk' or 'jerk' as the conducters would radio back and forth to each other about the passangers. But sometimes, the ticket lady, needing a respite from all the chaos, would sit beside me, eat her free meal, and talk food. She was a soul food specialist and she luuuuuved sweet potatoes like no one I have ever met before. And although she had no desire to go back to the South, I still think she might be persuaded if some one offered a life long supply of sweet potatoes.

Sweet potato pie was her specialty and I still have her recipe – and no, you can't have it – I promised I wouldn't share it with anyone. But she also sang the virtues of sweet potato hash, sweet potatoes mashed, candied sweet potatoes (and yams too), and sweet potato chips. She even liked sweet potato raw. And so do I, but I don't know if you're supposed to eat it that way.

I can't eat a sweet potato today without thinking of her. I'm sure we'll both meet again some day in that sweet potato pie up in the sky. But for now, I'll leave you with a recipe for lightly spiced pork chops served up with some orange-ginger sweet potato hash in her honor.

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June 03, 2007

Salade de Concombre et Radis

I normally don't write about salads. I don't know why not because when I first began cooking I was hired as garde manger at a lovely Italian restaurant in SF (Ristorante Ecco now closed).

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Although Guy Savoy has influenced my cooking today and deepened my love and appreciation of French Cuisine, I always seem to fall back on memories of my first cooking job. Perhaps it is the muscle memory of making salads & starters ingrained forever in my hands that triggers some part of my brain when it craves ruffage. The salads we used to make – so beautiful – piled high with seasonal greens and vegetables. Then lightly dressed with the perfect vinaigrette and accompanied with some sort of cracker, cheese crisp or smoked fish.

Ten years ago in San Francisco special lettuces like baby arugula (rocket) and lolla rosa were not common. Now we don't even think twice when we see either of them on the menu or in the super market. But there was a time when the only options were: romaine, red lettuce, boston lettuce, and iceberg. Funny how the pendulum has swung the opposite way, I haven't seen an iceberg salad in years, and I don't think I'd want to unless it was smothered in Maytag blue with a thick slice of tomato!

This recipe is light and refreshing. Radishes and cucumbers are taking over all the markets in Paris right now and they are delicious on hot days. I love the cooling effect of sweet cucumbers and the kick that the radishes add. Pair them with a little mixed lettuce (frisée, mâche, rocket, radiccio, etc.) and some crumbs of blue cheese for a beautiful first course. The little radish slices always remind me of confetti which just makes the salad a little more festive in my mind.

For recipe click on "continue reading"...

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May 19, 2007

Veau Grillée et Asperges Sauce Maltaise

In honor of the 60th Anniversary of the Cannes film festival I've created a decadent dinner to enjoy at home. Think of it like an Oscar party but French! Pour a glass of champagne and enjoy watching all the televised glitz and glamour while eating grilled veal finished with herb-orange butter and white asparagus topped with sauce maltaise (an orange flavored hollandaise sauce). This recipe is straightforward and elegant. Don't be afraid of the sauce, it's really not difficult...

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Before moving to Paris I had never tasted fresh white asparagus. I had only tried it once from a can and it was stringy, wet, limp, and disgusting. Although I had seen it before in markets, I never attempted to try it because of my previous experience. When I arrived in Paris some friends invited me over for a dinner of filet mignon and white asparagus served with hollandaise sauce. I couldn't believe how sweet the asparagus was and how well it pared with with the creaminess of the sauce. (of course, what doesn't hollandaise sauce taste good on?). This recipe is inspired from that first meal – Thanks Jenny & Stuart!!!


White asparagus has a very short season from April to May. Although the stalks appear white, it is really green asparagus that has been covered with at least 8 inches of mulch to keep sunlight away from the ripening spears. The spears are harvested before their tips grow through the top of the mulch. The base of the stalks tend to be woodier than green asparagus and need to be peeled with a vegetable peeler. If this step is left out, the eating experience will be not-so-nice as fibrous strings will prove difficult to cut and chew.

Sauce maltaise is just a gussied up hollandaise sauce. I prefer to make this the traditional way over the stove, but it can be made in a blender as well. Instead of thinning the egg yolks with water add reduced orange juice with some finely chopped orange zest (1 Tablespoon per egg yolk). The egg yolk and juice is then whisked over an open bainmarie of water until it has tripled in size, lightened in color, and thickened enough to see the bottom of the bowl. Next, remove from heat and slowly drizzle warm (not hot!!!) clarified butter. Reserve in a warm place (it cannot be reheated!) for up to an hour, but preferably just minutes from serving it.

Veal tends to be a sensitive subject in the U.S. because of the way it is raised. I only buy veal that has been allowed to live life outside in the open as opposed to in a crate inhibiting ability to move or stand. I once viewed a baby calf that was raised this way at a dairy farm in Holland and that memory will forever haunt me when I shop for veal at the supermarket. Veal doesn't have to be raised inhumanely to taste tender. The herb-orange butter melts over the top of the veal fillets after grilling to give it a beautiful glaze and delicate flavor.

For recipe press continue reading at bottom of the page...

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November 04, 2006

Pumpkin Soup: Crème de Citrouille

I'm sorry for grossing everyone out with my last post. My mother told me that my blog is getting dark and asked me if I could possibly do something other than meat at the 3-star Parisian restaurant I cook at. I tried to explain that it was a very prestigious position, but she thought salads or pastry would make better reading material. Well, I don't know anything more soul warming than a bowl of pumpkin soup so hopefully this recipe will take away any of the left over heeby jeebies from the baby boar post.

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We serve this at the restaurant in the biggest pumpkin known to mankind. I'm sure the customers are totally surprised when they see it coming to the table. We add white truffle slices and oil to the soup (just a little bit – it's strong!) and mix in an egg yolk right before serving to create the ultimate in luxury soup.

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The recipe below is just the basic, but feel free to experiment with the truffle oil if you can afford it. I was allowed to try a white truffle slice the other day and it was delicious. This truffle grows mostly in Italy typically several inches below ground near the roots of oak and hazelnut trees. It is the second most expensive food in the world running around $3000 per pound for the very best – I was of course told this before being allowed to swallow my ever so thin sliver of truffle.

P1030284.JPGWhat does it taste like? Hmmmm, kind of like soil with yeast and mushrooms with a bit of honey and something kind of gaseous. Sounds delish, eh? The peak season is now so eat up – oh, and don't kill anyone over them, okay? They're not that good....

By the way, this soup doesn't have any cream in it. Typically in France when you see a soup that says crème it means that the vegetable has just been pureed. You can add some cream at the end if desired, but it's not necessary. Click on "Continue reading Pumpkin Soup" for recipe

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August 19, 2006

French Bistro Style Roast Chicken & Roasted Garlic Parsley Potatoes

If I can't make my nephew Bohan eat every bite on his plate, then I'm not doing my job. Let's face it, the toughest customers at every family get together are the ones below the age of five. Happily my most discriminating client ate everything on his plate and then helped mom out too – much to the surprise of both Grandmas who aren't always as successful. Woo-ooo!

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This menu is straight out of the Paris bistros and really is a simple crowd pleaser: roast chicken with jus, roasted parsley potatoes with a little garlic, and glazed carrots. It's hard to mess up roast chicken, but I have some tips on how to insure crispy brown skin, juicy flesh, and create delicious jus from scratch. Click on "continue reading French Bistro Style..." at the bottom of the page for the recipe.

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Okay, Nina is not quite old enough to enjoy roast chicken yet, but she sure is a lively pleasure to have at the dinner table with all her baby talk, cooing, and bubble blowing. Quite the attention stealer actually (sigh!) she did grab for my plate a few times, so maybe she thought it was worth a closer look?

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It was good to be home, even if time went by too fast. Wouldn't want my nephew's and niece's not to know who I am! That would be terrible. If nothing else hopefully they'll remember that I'm the one who can cook good kids meals.

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July 28, 2006

Zucchini Week: Risotto Stuffed Courgette Flowers

I love the delicate flowers of zucchini's. They are really fun to fry in beignet batter or stuff and sauté with risotto. Besides, if you're growing zucchini's right now you probably have more than you know what to do with – so picking a few flowers won't hurt!

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Lobster served with a anise cream sauce and zucchini flower stuffed with lobster risotto

Gently untwist the flower at the top and remove the stamen inside. Then fill the flower with risotto with the aid of a pastry bag. Twist the top of flower back again to form a little risotto pouch and sauté in butter for a few minutes each side. Easy!
Risotto recipe to follow...

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July 22, 2006

Zucchini Week: Fleur de Courgette Beignet

P1020624.JPGDeep fry anything for me and I'm pretty happy! It also happens to be a great way to handle delicate zucchini flowers because they cook quickly and the beignet batter protects their mild flavor without overpowering it. This is a nice accompaniment to cold zucchini soup or just as a starter.

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Handling the flowers requires a little attention. Be careful not to leave them out in heat too much because they will turn brown. If the flowers are twisted closed at the top then carefully untwist and slice gently with a tip of a knife to the base. Peel the petal around the base so there is one long petal left. Throw away the yellow stamen inside. set aside in refrigerator until ready to deep fry.

P1020628.JPGWhen working with hot oil – especially if you don't have a deep fryer – a few cautions must be followed. Always use a pot that has high sides compared to the amount of oil used. You only need enough surface area to allow the food you are deep frying to float around comfortably and cover with oil by about three inches. Never turn the heat on to high. Start with medium heat and use a thermometer to test exact temperature or test with a small amount of batter before turning up the heat to medium high. Let oil cool thoroughly before throwing it away.

I normally use a neutral tasting peanut oil when deep frying because it has a high smoking point. It can take heat without catching on fire like other oil. In fact we use peanut in France in just about everything. You can use olive oil too (not extra virgin, but regular) or vegetable oil too, however the taste can be overpowering for the zucchini flower.

I love these salty crunchy little treats. slice them in thin strips to add a striking garnish to an entée or eat them hot out of the fryer with an ice cold beer.

Recipe to follow....

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July 19, 2006

Zucchini Week: Cold Courgette Soup

Wondering what to do with the kilos of zucchini's that you weren't expecting from that little – now gargantuan – zucchini plant growing in your backyard? This cold soup, adapted from the one I make at Guy Savoy, is perfect as a starter for any blistering hot evening. It's cold, lemony, salty, refreshing, and easy. For the 3-star version with all the trimmings you'll have to come into the restaurant ;-)
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I've always had fun growing zucchini's but I never know how to make use of all of them. Much to my surprise, I'm finding that France has a zillion recipes for these tasty fibrous vegetables. Stay tuned for beignet zucchini flowers, risotto stuffed zucchini flowers, zucchini and garlic matchisticks, and more...
Recipe to follow....

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July 04, 2006

Summertime Gazpacho

It's summertime in Paris and hot, hot, hot! Today was 36˚C / 96˚F with humidity – almost unbearable – unless you've got a terrace to BBQ and three chef friends to come over and help you brave the heat!!! Naturally on our day off we got together to cook.

After a quick trip to to the farmers market we decided that gazpacho or cold tomato soup would be perfect for an entrée. How could we resist with a sign like this....

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We started our BBQ meal off with some ice cold gazpacho. Actually we started our BBQ off with some ice cold Coronas and then had gazpacho.

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The soup is simple to make (less than 6 minutes), refreshing, and a beautiful way to begin any hot summertime meal. I'm a purist when in comes to ingredients and only use ripe juicy tomatoes, sherry vinegar, sea salt, and good quality olive oil for the soup. I like it pleasantly salty and tart balanced with the sweetness of tomato.

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We experimented with some fancy wine glasses first, but then decided they were too much hassle for the terrace. First, fill the bowl or glass with a small salad of cucumber, green pepper, and red onion and pour the gazpacho over right before serving. I added a little brochette of shrimp and mussels too. Other additions could include crab or garlic croutons
Recipe to follow...

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June 19, 2006

Saint Jacque's Heart: Scallops & Artichokes

Paris is wonderful for many reasons, but fresh scallops or Saint Jacques, have to be one of my top ten. It's difficult to get fresh scallops in California and I normally opt for the frozen bag type, but here in glorious Paris every Poissonerrie has scallops overflowing – in the shell, out of the shell, with the pink corail (eggs) or without. Ah, the good life!

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I decided to do a little experiment with big globe artichokes that are flooding the Parisian farmer's markets right now and scallops. Oh yeah, and some bacon too! Both artichokes and scallops can take the smokiness of bacon. In fact, I think it really makes the dish. If you're vegetarian try substituting some thinly sliced black truffles (don't drop the plate – ha ha).

The only tricky part to this recipe is turning the artichoke. Turning is a French thing – it's the process of chiseling a vegetable into a sculpted piece of art. In this case it means to cut off all the leaves and cut around the artichoke leaving a whole heart. We wouldn't dare throw away all those leaves in Northern Cal, home to hundreds of artichoke farms – quel dommage!

Then you cook the heart and scoop out the choke. It's a bit of muscle work, but you're left with a cool little cup for the scallops and it makes for great presentation. Everything else in my recipe is really easy.

Recipe to follow....

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June 10, 2006

Crazy for Couscous

This is one delicious summertime salad that is sure to impress. The couscous starter with shrimp & vanilla oil will steal the show at your next BBQ or fancy sit down dinner. Mis en place can be adusted for chic individual portions or a for a crowd.

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Couscous is a pasta that is made from semolina or, in some regions, from coarsely ground barley or millet. The semolina is sprinkled with water and rolled with the hands to form small pellets. It is labor intensive to make by hand and used to be done by groups of women. Glad we have machines today! It's origins can be traced waaaay back to North Africa and later it's migration to Provence and Brittany around 1359.

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Of course, you don't have to get all fancy with the ring of cucumbers and shrimp on top, but it does give it that je-ne-sais-quoi. Recipe to follow...

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May 18, 2006

Artichokes Deep Fried

It's spring and artichokes are everywhere in Paris. I've seen big globes the size of my head, small purple ones, you name it I've seen it. Artichokes have quite the illustrious past, which makes me happy because now there's at least two of us.

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If you haven't already discovered for yourself, they are an aphrodisiac. That's right! You can put away the bottles of Viagra and eat some chokes instead. Wooo!

According to the site What's Cooking America, which provides excellent food history and basic recipes, ancient Greeks and Romans considered artichokes an aphrodisiac. The artichoke was attributed to aiding in the birth of boys. Later In the 16th century, Catherine de Medici made the artichoke famous. She is said to have introduced them to France when she married King Henry II and was later quoted: "If one of us had eaten artichokes, we would have been pointed out on the street. Today young women are more forward than pages at the court."

The nerve of those women! Going around eating artichokes like that! Tsk, tsk.

Well, us galavanting Cordon Bleu students have artichokes on our upcoming final. Hopefully we'll be able to resist tearing our sexy uniforms off while preparing our pigeon, peas, carrots, and baby chokes. I've been experimenting with baby artichokes and I want to make the most of their beautiful shape. I had considered making a purée, but that just seems criminal – like asking Gisele to wear a full body paper bag – or something like that, you get the idea.

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I found that when frying them at a low temperature until cooked, and deep frying again quickly at a higher temperature forces the petals to open and gives a great crunchy texture to the edible inner leaves. A sprinkle of fleur de sel and a deep fried lemon wedge et viola – Bliss! (recipe to follow)

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I'm using this as my simple garnish (sidedish which contains only one ingredient) but I will serve it with a little bit of tapenade in the center of the choke. This should go nicely with my sweet pea gnocchi, shoestring carrots, amuse bouche of foie gras mousse and confit pigeon leg, and roasted pigeon breast with jus.

P.S. Is that why California provides 90% of the artichokes for the U.S. ? You know, we're a little different on the West Coast...hee, hee ;-)

Artichoke Recipe on next page

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May 17, 2006

Eat Your Peas: Sweet Pea Gnocchi

My final superior examination next week at Le Cordon Bleu. I've been experimenting at home with some of the ingredients, like petit pois, attempting to create original recipes. I'm sure my husband's getting tired of eating the same things over and over although I haven't heard any complaints. I'm waiting for the: Peas and pigeon again? Isn't there anything else at the supermarket? Can't I whisk you away to a three star dinner tonight? (wishful thinking I suppose)

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We are given a list of ingredients and two weeks to prepare our own recipes. Our menu must include two composed side dishes and one simple. The meat, which is Pigeon (oh, joy) can be cooked in any method we desire, as long as it's perfectly rosé. We also need to create a sauce. All this must be completed in four hours – not before or after.

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Ms. Glaze's Sweet Pea Gnocchi served along side filet mignon and tarragon glazed shoestring carrots

One of the ingredients we will be given is 400g of petit pois. I've overheard many students talking about making a purée or a flan, but I want to do something different so I'm making petit pois gnocchi with fresh basil. There are many ways to make gnocchi using ricotta, potato, or choux pastry. I've chosen the potato method but I'm substituting most of the potatoes for peas. It's taken awhile to figure out the measurements and play around with the dough, but it creates the most beautiful tasty bright green dumplings. (Recipe to follow)

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Gnocchi doesn't have to be presented in the normal dumpling or small cylinder shape. It can also be served as an amuse bouche with a little shaved parmesan or tomato confit on top. I got the idea of this little tube from Bea at Tartine Gourmand – clever! It's easy to cook this way because you roll the gnocchi dough up in cling film and press out all the air. Then tie off the ends tight and simmer in water for 7-10 minutes. Cool in an ice water bath, cut to desired length, refrigerate, and reheat before serving with a little olive oil. Or top and bake quickly before serving. Cool, huh? Who knew gnocchi could be so versatile and easy?

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One garnish down, two to go...oh yeah, and that little bird too...I don't want to give away all my secrets just yet, so I'll fill in the details soon.

Ms. Glaze's Sweet Pea Gnocchi Recipe on following page

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May 14, 2006

Private Cooking Class

I had the privilege today of having two famous Paris bloggers over to my house for a little privé cooking session. I can't tell you how honored I was to entertain Maitresse and Gill of Confessions of a Young Woman. Gill emailed me last week and asked if I'd be interested. Of course I said yes! Like there was even an option!!! Luckily for me I had a little assistance from my cooking partner Jamie at Le Cordon Bleu and my husband who is one of the best mixologists I know of.

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I have to admit I was a little nervous at first. Only because there is something voyeuristic about reading other peoples daily posts. Then meeting that person in person, is slightly bizarre at first. Serious deja vu, because you already know about their history. You can talk about people/problems in their lives (boyfriends, family, work etc) like you've known them for years. I have been fascinated with their journeys in Paris, so our cooking session was a great excuse to finally meet in person and swap stories.
So here's what we made based on French cooking techniques:

Spring Menu:
Vegetable Soup Provencal with Pistou
Beef Tournedos with Béarnaise Sauce and turned Artichokes
Tarte au Citron & Tarte aux Poires Frangipane & Tarte aux Frambois et Frangipane

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We started with basic cutting technique (mirepoix, paysanne, brunoise, julienne) for our vegetable soup and moved onto multiple tart variations. We tried our hand at grilling meat, turning artichokes, and making the alltime French classic, bearnaise sauce. Quite an ambitious meal for one day.

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P1010940.JPGMy husband used the simple syrup I had poached the pears in from the Tarte aux Poire et Frangipane, and created a vodka cocktail with mint. It was so refreshing and I'm afraid, a little too drinkable. The essence of lemon, cinnamon, cointreau, and fresh pear in the syrup really created the most sublime spring time cocktail.

We chopped, we grilled, we baked, we laughed, we drank, we ate and ate and ate. Good time had by all...can't wait to do it again...I think next time I'll start the refreshments a little later in the lesson :-)

Vegetable Soup Provencal recipe to follow...

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May 09, 2006

Pays Basque

3 days, 3 gorgeous coastal cities, and 3 unique Basque cultures: Biarritz, Hendaye, San Sebastian...

Forget Nice & Cannes and come to the original Cote d'Azur for surfing, delcious food & pinxtos, fabulous inexpensive wine, and happening nightlife. From Paris catch the TGV to Biarritz and the local trains between cities, each within 18 kilometers of each other.

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Biarritz, prized for it's natural beauty and healing waters, was popularized by Napoleon III who built a palace for his wife Eugenie upon the gorgeous coastline. Now us "little people" can enjoy the same luxury at Eugenie's palace which was converted into the famous Hotel Palais. The hotel is famous for more than just hosting Emperor's and Empresses, it was turned into an American army college after World War II to re-educate war veterans so that they could earn degrees and enter back into American society with new skills.

Biarritz is by no means a sleepy surf town, there is still a glitzy french feel to the seaside cafe's and nightclubs. However, one can easily tell that it's hay day has come and gone. New construction and spa hotels are attempting to bring it back to it's former glory, but I hope it remains as is.

Take the train to Hendaye for a more unique Basque experience. Here, most of the population still speaks Basque, but you can get by with Spanish or French. Our friend's just bought a house by the beach, so we spent the day walking the coastline and the night eating delicious home cooked food: potato tortilla, rabbit stew, cider, Basque wine, jambon – cut from the leg itself (which, they actually have in their house!!!). I was really impressed by the potato tortilla which is also called a Spanish omelet, a mixture of potatoes and eggs. Simple and delicious (recipe to follow)

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If you're a fan of Spanish tapas, then you'll appreciate the Basque version called pinxtos (little pinches) and the tradition of munching from one restaurant to the next in search of the best bite. These little treats run the gamut from baguette slices piled high with crab salad, smoked salmon, and caviar to bites of freshly carved jambon with pimento and melted sheep's cheese. We walked up and down the streets paved with history eating, laughing, drinking, and enjoying each other's company.

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San Sebastian, our final Basque destination, retained all the beauty and glitz of Biarritz (if not more) but had a dominant Spanish influence as opposed to French. Warm people, picture perfect coastline dotted with sail boats and sun worshisers, and the best nightlife of all three places. San Sebastian reminded me of Barcelona but with more places to grab pinxtos and wine. I was also impressed by the age range of the night life. This is place for all ages to enjoy a little stroll down the beach and glass of rioja or sparkling cava (the Spanish version of champagne) at night – it doesn't matter if you're 91 or 19, everyone's strolling about at night and having a good time.

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We returned to rainy Paris by train, disappointed that we weren't able to soak up more sun and fun. Lazily, we watched the sun set through our window and munched tasteless train food dreaming of pinxtos, rioja, cava, warm coastlines, and good friends...we'll be back soon, I'm sure.

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Spanish Potato Tortilla recipe on next page..

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May 04, 2006

Beet Leaf Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette

Every once and a blue moon I come up with something truly unusual and delicious. This spring salad starter was unforgettably tasty and beautiful in color. It matches perfectly with champagne too!

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I happened to come across an unusual offering at my local Parisian farmer's market. At my lettuce guy's stall he had the usual spring bounty: petit pois, tender young carrots, new potatoes, arugula, frisee, small artichokes, red lettuce, etc. But then I spotted a brown bag filled with deep purple leaves. He let me munch one before buying and I was surprised at how sweet the leaves were. Firm texture, almost leathery, with a slightly acidic aftertaste. Who knew you could eat beet leaves!?!

I plated the salad with a strawberry vinaigrette and served ripe melon along side with blended blue cheese covered crostini's. If you're wondering if I've totally lost my mind, then you have just got to try it! I served my guests this starter and we all were surprised (including myself) at how delicious it was and how well it paired with the champagne. We followed with a little surf and turf of fillet and scallops with mango salsa. Yummy!

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Happy May Day!!!
I've started to experiment with fruit in unconventional ways. In the past I've always assumed that fruit was for dessert or the cheese plate, but lately I've been learning how to bring it onto the dinner menu too. Like tandori John Dory with mango & papaya curry or scallops with a salsa of tomato, kiwi, and pineapple.

Recipe to follow...

P.S. No word on my estage at Guy Savoy yet...still waiting...uggh!

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January 15, 2006

Radicchio Rose

Every Parisian thinks that the arrondissment that they live in is the best–including me. I happen to know for certain that the 17th is the very BEST arrondissment with one of the only farmer's markets open seven days a week.

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I go to one produce vendor who sells nothing but gorgeous vegetables. He's so popular that often I have to wait in line just to get a look at what's fresh. Today when I arrived there was the most beautiful radicchio that I have ever seen. Just like a huge rose. I sampled the leaves and they are sweeter than the normal small round purple radicchio but still refreshingly bitter. Can 't wait to make a gorgeous salad of sliced pears, arugula, radicchio, crumbled bleu cheese and champagne vinagrette. Should be delicious...

December 22, 2005

Tarte Aux Pommes, The Video!

I've been receiving a lot of questions about the Tarte Aux Pommes receipe that I posted a while back. So I've decided to put together a short video to demonstrate the techniques used. Let me know if you have any problems or feedback regarding this video. If you like it, I'll do more.

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For the full recipe, go to: Tarte Aux Pomme Recipe

November 16, 2005

Butternut Squash Soup

It’s COLD in Paris! I don’t know what happened to our hot and muggy summer, but it’s definitely soup weather. This is one of my favorite homey soups, I love the bright orange color and the internal warmth it gives. It makes a delicious entree for pork and chicken or it's hearty enough to serve alone. This soup will keep for at least one day (unless you eat it all) and it is EASY to make.
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Ingredients
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
1 golden delicious apple: peeled, cored, and cubed
1 medium Yukon gold potato: peeled and cubed
1 medium yellow onion chopped
4 Tablespoons olive oil
1 litre / 4 cups chicken stock
¼ cup cream (optional)
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Spice options: curry powder to taste (about ½ Tablespoon) with crème fraiche drizzle or fried sage leaves with brown butter drizzle
Instructions
1. In a large pot on medium high heat sauté onions in olive oil until soft and translucent. Then add squash, apple, and potato and cook for 4 minutes until warmed through (but not browned).
2. Add chicken stock and simmer on medium heat until vegetables are soft and break apart easy with a fork (15-20 minutes). Stirring occasionally.
3. Transfer vegetables to a cuisinart or blender and puree. Then add veggies back to broth and mix well.
4. Season with curry powder, salt and pepper and serve with crème fraiche drizzle OR mix ¼ cup cream into soup and serve with chopped sage and brown butter drizzle. (The cream is optional)
For sage topping: fry 3-4 sage leaves in 3 Tablespoons of butter in a small skillet. When sage is crispy, remove and chop. Save butter to drizzle over top of soup with chopped sage.
For curry & crème fraiche topping: mix curry spice in with soup and drizzle crème fraiche over the top or use a fork tines to make a design.
Or try your own favorite toppings: chopped parsely, pumpkin seeds, bacon bits, sour cream, chipotle chiles diced, pinch of nutmeg
This soup goes great with:
1. Roasted beet, goat cheese, and arugula salad with a simple olive oil and champagne vinegar dressing
2. Vinegar chicken: chicken sautéd with red wine, red wine vinegar, & shallots
3. Pork tenderloin with an herb crust or marinated
4. Pinot noir. Why not try a French one? How about a Gevrey-Chambertin 2002 “Vielles Vignes” by Frederic Magnien. frederic-magnien
Serves 4-6 people

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