Monthly Archives: July 2010

plum and raspberry clafoutis…

Apparently I am obsessed with all foods French right now, and I have to promise that it has been unintentional. The inspirations have really been generated by the markets. I have never been the type of cook that values the rules of traditional food preparation, or even pretends to know or understand said rules.  French cooking, on the other hand, tends to be rather technical and traditional.  There is a certain facet of French cooking that I love however, when the more methodological elements meet grandma’s kitchen and, voilà! You have rustic elegance at its best.

I have also been re-reading The Sweet Life in Paris, by David Lebovitz. This book is a lovely melting together of autobiography and cookbook.  I found a recipe that I could not resist making and sharing. It features the star fruit of late summer, and they deserve their cameo; plums and raspberries.  And “according to the rules” this dish is to be served with nothing else…as is…no ice cream, no whipped cream, no cookies, cake, or other tasty bites, just warm out of the oven…and you know what? I agree. It is perfect the way it exists naturally.

clafoutis aux pruneaux-framboises…

by Davil Lebovitz

4 tbs salted or unsalted butter, melted, plus more

1 pound firm, ripe plums

1 cup raspberries

3 large eggs

½ cup flour

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ cup plus 2 tbs sugar

1 1/3 cup whole milk

1. Position the rack in the top third of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

2. Liberally butter the bottom and sides of a 2-quart shallow baking dish. Halve the plums, remove the pits, and place them cut side down over the bottom of the baking dish.  If the plums are quite large, cut them into quarters.  Scatter the raspberries over the plums.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until smooth.  Whisk the butter and flour into the eggs until completely smooth, and then add the vanilla.  Whisk in ½ cup sugar, then the milk.

4. Pour the custard mixture over the fruit and bake for 30 minutes.

5. After 30 minutes, slide out the rack that the clafoutis is resting on, and sprinkle 2 tbs of sugar over the top.

6. Continue baking the clafoutis for about 30 more minutes, until the custard feels slightly firm in the center and the top is a nice golden brown.

Serving: Serve warm or a room temperature.  Clafoutis is best served shortly after it is baked. I [the author] prefer it  without any accompaniment, as it is traditionally served.


Mmmmmm…summer.  Tart plums and raspberries and sweet custard, comfortable and homey.

Cook together, toast to each other, and enjoy!


meringues…

In the mood for something French? Make sure you have a nice dry day, no rain, no humidity allowed, and whip these up. They make a wonderful dessert with ice cream, with a dollop of fresh fruit compote, or drizzled with dulce de leche.  They are also the perfect gift, neatly wrapped in parchment paper and secured with a little baker’s string.  These meringues make the world a better place one cookie at a time.

meringues…

2 egg whites, room temperature

pinch of salt

¾ cup fine granulated sugar

¼ tsp vanilla

1/8 tsp cream of tartar (optional) *this will help the peaks stiffen, but the eggs will take care of that on their own, most traditional French recipes do not use cream of tartar.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Begin by separating out the egg whites, and allow them to come to room temperature.  With an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt (and cream of tartar if using) on medium-high speed, until they begin to thicken.  Then slowly add sugar little by little. Add vanilla at the end.  Keep whipping until the mixture forms stiff, glossy peaks, and the mixture holds its shape. If you tip the bowl upside down, the mixture should stay in the bowl.

If you want to flavor your meringues, this is where you can add espresso powder, unsweetened cocoa powder, mini chocolate chips, toasted nuts, etc.  Gently fold these ingredients in with a spatula, careful not to deflate the mixture. However, I like mine plain with a cup of coffee. Their texture is enough for me, crunchy, light, fluffy, and they burst in your mouth.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Gently spoon meringue mixture into a pastry bag, again careful to not deflate the mixture.  Pipe out mixture into little circular peaks, or desired shapes.

Place in oven and bake for approximately 1 ½ hours, or until firm and crisp.  Turn off heat and let meringues cool in the oven for one more hour, with oven door slightly ajar.


Cook together, toast to each other, and enjoy!


ratatouille panini with cilantro pesto…

No dish is more fitting for summer ingredients than a ratatouille.  Sweet summer tomatoes, red peppers, zucchinis, and eggplant all layered together.  At this point in the summer they are all pretty much lined up for you at the farmer’s market.  At first this dish looks rather labor intensive, however it was accomplished over a course of a couple of days.  I would highly recommend making the cilantro pesto a couple days prior to the paninis. One: it develops more flavor over time, and two: you can use it in just about anything: pizza, pasta, sandwiches, mixed vegetables, soups, bruschetta…the list is endless.

cilantro pesto…

1 bunch cilantro

1 ½ cups walnuts, toasted and chopped

1 ½ cups Parmesan cheese, shredded

2 cloves garlic, minced

olive oil (1-1 ½ cups)

salt and pepper to taste

(sometimes I add a little lemon juice or zest depending on what I have in mind for the making…)

Rinse and trim cilantro.  Add cilantro, walnuts, Parmesan cheese, and garlic into a blender.  Add about ½ cup olive oil and begin to blend.  Keep adding olive oil, in a thin stream while blending, until mixture begins to spin freely.  You may need to stop and stir a couple of times.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Although ratatouille is a perfected and classic french dish,  I generally need a little more texture than what casseroles have to offer. However, I just love the flavor profile of a ratatouille and its nod to summer. I started off with a Julia Child classic preparation and then jumped ship completely. I used cilantro pesto in place of basil, and threw everything on some delicious, crusty, francese rolls.

ratatouille panini…

(makes about 2-3 sandwiches)

1 small eggplant, peeled and cut lengthwise

1 large zucchini, cut lengthwise

½ red pepper, sliced lengthwise into strips

½ basket grape tomatoes, cut in half, or whatever tomatoes your market has that looks delicious

¼ yellow onion, thinly sliced

2 small cloves garlic, minced

olive oil

kosher salt

herbes de Provence

mayonnaise

cilantro pesto

Parmesan cheesse, shredded

Mix slices of both zucchini and eggplant with about 1 tsp of kosher salt and let stand in a bowl for approximately 30 minutes.  This will draw out the excess water, and leave all the flavor. Remove from the bowl, and then pat dry with a clean cloth.  Heat frying pan to medium high heat, add about ½ tbs olive oil.  Fry all slices of eggplant and zucchini in a single layer until golden brown and a little crispy, flipping as necessary and remove from pan.  Add a little more olive oil to the pan, and then add peppers, tomatoes, onion, and garlic.  Lightly salt and season gently with herbes de Provence.  Cook until heated thoroughly, but peppers still remain a little crunchy.


Preheat panini iron or a pan, and prepare a weight to press the sandwich.  Cut rolls in half lengthwise and lightly toast. Mix together 2 parts mayonnaise and 1 part cilantro pesto.  Spread mixture on both halves of toasted bread.  Layer eggplant and zucchini and then top with pepper, tomato, and onion mixture.  Top with shredded Parmesan cheese and then last piece of bread.  Place whole sandwich in the panini iron, cook until bread is crispy and cheese is melted.  Serve hot.

Cook together, toast to each other, and enjoy!


gazpacho Andaluz…

Honestly until today, I had not tried my hand at making gazpacho since living in Sevilla, and today I kept thinking why, why, why, did I not do this sooner! So many memories came flooding back of summers in Spain.  The white canvas tarps over winding streets, tinto de veranos, tapas by the Río Gaudalquivir, the cool, colorful, (and clanking) tile floors of our apartment, roof top fiestas con mis compis, and of course gazpacho, cool refreshing gazpacho Andaluz. Aye que rico!

Gazpacho is the perfect seasonal dish, cool and refreshing, sweet summer tomatoes balanced with the heat of the garlic and onion. Most importantly, it requires no heat for preparation.  Today was 95 degrees and humid, and we had some stale sourdough and tomatoes, and the gazpacho just called.  I went with what I knew and what I had in the house, and it tasted just like I remember gazpacho in Sevilla. This is not Mc gazpacho either, it is full of flavor and tang (and yes…Mc gazpacho is real…eesh).

Gazpacho Andaluz…

soup base:

6-8 ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced

**I actually used a 28 oz can high quality canned tomatoes (San Marzano), with the juice, and a basket of cherry tomatoes from the farmer’s market. It saved me from cooking and peeling the tomatoes, plus it is what I had in the kitchen and it turned out great, and actually a little less acidic

¾ large, green bell pepper, diced (save the other ¼ for topping)

1 cup European cucumber, diced with skin on and seeds in

1 large handful of stale bread, torn into small pieces (approx 1 cup)

¼ small red onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2-4 tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 tbs white wine vinegar

salt and pepper

toppings:

hard boiled eggs, chopped, one per serving

bell pepper, diced

cucumber, diced

homemade croutons

anything else you like!

**In Spain the toppings plate usually comes served with jamón Serrano and/or chorizo as well.

For soup base, dice, mince, and peel vegetables.  Put all into a food processor or blender. While processing, add olive oil and vinegar.  Add stale bread.  Blend until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper.  You can adjust the thickness by adding more bread if you like it really thick, or adding some tomato juice or water to thin it out.  I found that the can of tomatoes with the juice created a nice consistency and I did not need to add any water or bread.  Place mixture in the refrigerator to chill while you make your toppings.

For toppings, cook eggs until hard boiled.  Dice bell pepper and cucumber. For croutons, preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Drizzle olive oil in a large bowl with salt, pepper, and herbs of your choice (family, herbalicious goes great here). Roughly tear bread into cubes and toss in olive oil, evenly coating.  Bake at 425 degrees until golden brown.


Serve soup chilled in individual bowls, and toppings in the middle of the table so people can pick what they would like. Drizzle one last dash of olive oil over the top.

Cook together, toast to each other, and enjoy! Olé!


Fried egg and herb salad on crispy flatbread…

Crispy flatbread is the new black. I am convinced. It is so versatile, so chic, and just screams delicious.  You can doll it up with seasonal herbs, eat it plain or with a little hummus, make crispy pizzettes, or top it with a lovely, summer salad. It has been incredibly hot and humid here, and nothing sounds better than a crisp, cold, crunchy salad, especially with cucumbers and fresh herbs straight from the garden.  If you feel so inspired, and the grill is going, brush the grill with a little oil and throw the flatbread directly on the grill.  I also grill the tomatoes as well with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.

Fried egg and herb salad on crispy flatbread…

flatbread:

1 ¾ cup flour

1 tbs fresh tarragon, minced

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp baking powder

½ cup water

1/3 cup olive oil

fleur de sel (for a topping, if you are feeling fancy), Kosher salt is lovely too

cracked pepper

Oven at 450. Mix together dry ingredients and herbs.  Then add wet. Mix until dough forms into a ball. Break dough into 3-4 parts. Roll each flat.  Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with fleur de sel, cracked pepper and fresh herbs. Place on a heavy baking sheet and then in the oven, or you can use a preheated pizza stone. Bake for 8-10 minutes until crispy. Or, you can just throw the rolled dough straight onto the grill.

salad:

couple hand fulls of baby greens

some chopped radicchio and endive

1 small cucumber cut on bias (peeled if from the store)

fresh chives

1 egg per salad

4-5 roasted garlic cloves

olive oil, enough to lightly coat the salad

salt and pepper

wedge of summer tomato with each salad (raw or grilled)

To roast garlic, cover cloves in olive oil, and wrap in foil, broil until browned and soft. Mix together olive oil and roasted garlic cloves in the bottom of a large bowl. Making sure to smash the garlic until mostly incorporated into oil. Add salt and pepper.  Toss together baby greens, radicchio, endive, and fresh herbs on top of oil and garlic until leaves are evenly coated. Fry egg, over-easy/medium in olive oil. Top flatbread with salad and egg on top.

Cook together, toast to each other, and enjoy!