Beet salad for the sweet tooth

5 Apr

Candied Almond Beet Salad

Image

  • Arugula
  • 3 Prepared whole beets
  • Mandarins (optional)
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 Fresh lemon
  • 2 cups almonds
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar

If you are looking for a vibrant and scrumptious salad than here you are. The Candied Almond Beet Salad is very easy to prepare and can be altered to your own taste.  It also serves as a very visual compliment to any meal, with ruby red beets providing a stark contrast to the leafy green arugula.  And if mandarins are in season, a few slices would also pair very well.  To tie it all together I made simple lemon vinaigrette and drizzled it over top (keep some on the side if you choose to add more).

The only real cooking involved was making the candied almonds, which proved to be really easy to make but quite difficult to not eat.  Click for the recipe.  I chose not to add the cinnamon to the dry ingredients mixture.  I also chopped the almonds if you are buying them whole.  If you choose to buy whole almonds, a tip is to cover them with one hand while you chop so they don’t fly across the kitchen.  Make these first to allow cooling time.

With this done, you are now ready to prepare the rest of the salad.  I used ready to eat whole beets from the store.  Cut them to your desired size. If you are using mandarins as well, I recommend making them the same size pieces.  Than prepare plates with a handful of arugula in a mound shape and scatter the beets, almonds and mandarins around in a circular motion to spread evenly.

Lastly is the dressing.  Start with good olive oil, 2 Tbs, and squeeze a quarter of a lemon.  Wisk them together and taste.  If you like the taste than you are ready to drizzle, if not add more lemon or olive oil, salt, pepper, etc.  Raspberry vinaigrette I imagine would also go well.

Have fun!

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The Art of French bread

22 Mar

The Art of French Bread!

french-bread

Making bread can seem a daunting task as it involves baking and exact proportions.   At least for me, I like to work in akitchen adding, screwing up, fixing, tasting… cooking as I please.  I enjoy having instant gratification as I watch and taste during the process.   With baking you put in the time and effort, just to find out 3 hours later the cake you had in mind didn’t turn out right and instead  it looks like something out of one of Dali’s dreams.

A cake of Dali's, "The Persistence of Memory."

A cake of Dali’s, “The Persistence of Memory.”

But we are in luck!  Here is a simple recipe for French bread that is hard to mess up and turns out great!  It only involves, ready…, 4 ingredients!!!   Water, flour, salt and yeast. And from start to finish about 3 hours (you’re only actually working for about 30 minutes).  You can follow the recipe by clicking on the link above.

The kneading is a bit more intense than you may think, especially towards the end when the dough finishes thickening.  Now I see why bakers have those Popeye forearms.popeye-arms

Dough before rising

Dough before rising

Dough after rising, about 2.5 hours later.

Dough after rising, about 2.5 hours later.

Before Baked

Before being baked

Baked with thyme and rosemary

Baked with thyme and rosemary

It yields 2 loaves.  If you want to dazzle it up, I sauteed some rosemary and thyme in olive oil and brushed the top of the loaves for the last 3 minutes of baking.  Actually there are many ways to customize your bread; dried tomatoes with cheddar cheese on top, toasted garlic bits, sea salt,  use your imagination!

Good morning it’s Saturday brunch!

4 Aug

Today is an amazing day already for two reasons: 1 it’s Saturday so it means lazy weekend with Tummy boy, great brunch and going out; 2 I just made Peach cobbler for the first time and (thanks Paula Dean) it turned great!

There is nothing such as cobbler in French cuisine (and I don’t know the translation). It could be described as a mix between Tarte tatin, Crumble, Gâteau aux fruits. Anyway it is made with fruits and you can usually serve it warm with a scoop of ice-cream or whipped cream.

Since I had no idea before on how to make peach cobbler, I took Paula Dean‘s recipe, a safe bet. It turned out to be extremely easy to make and delicious! We served it with some butterfinger ice-cream Tummy boy made last night. Yummy!!

Below is the recipe:

Peach Cobbler

Recipe courtesy Paula Deen

Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 45 min
Serves: 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 cups peeled, sliced peaches
  • 2 cups sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • Ground cinnamon, optional

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the peaches, 1 cup sugar, and water in a saucepan and mix well. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Put the butter in a 3-quart baking dish and place in oven to melt.



Mix remaining 1 cup sugar, flour, and milk slowly to prevent clumping. Pour mixture over melted butter. Do not stir. Spoon fruit on top, gently pouring in syrup. Sprinkle top with ground cinnamon, if using. Batter will rise to top during baking. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes.

To serve, scoop onto a plate and serve with your choice of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Wrong about ribs

5 Apr

I still remember my first dinner in an American restaurant. That was 2 years ago in Washington D.C. The place was called The Diner. My friend and I, both international students, had landed in D.C. for the weekend just one week after we arrived in the U.S. We knew nothing about the city nor about places to go out. I had a city guide from France saying that Adams Morgan area was great. So we headed to Adams Morgan!

The place was crowded and noisy. People were drinking large beers at the bar and biting into huge burgers, while the waiters were zigzagging through the wood tables bringing orders and water. Some will think nothing exceptional. But for me everything was new. In France, I did not need to show my I.D. to enter a restaurant, waiters would not welcome you with a large smile nor spontaneously bring tap water and above all that I was used to small and gourmet menu restaurants and not to some woody, smoky and smelly American bars and pubs.

I ordered ribs. The Chipotle Baby Back Ribs, drenched with a chipotle barbeque sauce and served with French fries and cole slaw. These were the best I had ever had, at that time. The sauce amazed me and the combination of cole slaw and French fries completely filled my huge appetite. Another time that year I had ribs in NYC. They were the same: a large rack of ribs covered with BBQ sauce and served with cole slaw, corn cake and French fries. I was hooked. Back to France I could never be satisfied with ribs. They were ever too short, too grilled, too dry. Or it was the sauce, too artificial, too red, or too orange. Back to the U.S. this year, I had great expectations about ribs. Going out for ribs was like the ultimate dining experience I was looking for.

The ribs at Hill Country, NYC.

The truth is that it happened randomly and I realized I had been wrong about ribs since that time in D.C.

I was born on St Patrick’s Day. The night of my birthday, we headed to Williamsburg and crawled along some bars. We ended up in the Two Door Tavern serving Irish food. Since the menu did not inspire me, I ordered ribs. I was expecting the same ribs and barbecue sauce, Fries and maybe cole slaw. Sweet memories. But the waiter brought boneless spare ribs, of a grey color, in a red wine demi glace, served with horseradish mashed potatoes. Where was my mouth watering BBQ sauce? The rich brown copper meat? I looked desperately glanced at Tummy Boy, biting my lips. If these ribs were not good, my birthday night would be ruined.

What I discovered enchanted me. The meat was tender, so tender I could slice it without any effort. It was soft and melting in my mouth. The mashed potatoes were light and the sauce reminded me of Boeuf Bourguignon. In fact, it was perfect.

The Mac&Cheese side at Hill Country, NYC.

The ribs experience repeated last week. My parents visiting from France, I wanted to take them out for the best ribs of their life. If they would love the ribs, they would also love NYC, the U.S. and their whole trip. After some research online, I had the list of the best ribs in town. My criteria were not easy: live music, typical American but no cliché setting, good price. And of course, the best ribs. We went to Hill Country smokehouse. It is a market, cafeteria style with live music. First I had a hard time figuring out how much I wanted. I was hungry for sure. I opted for 3 big pork ribs with macaroni and cheese. Simply served on a tray, with no sauce, they were delicious. The meat was juicy, flavorful and tasted like smoke. Only the price kept me from ordering more. The corn pudding was also delightful.

For sure I still have a lot of ribs cooking styles to taste. But now, I’m not wrong anymore.

Boeuf Bourguignon, Julia Child and I

12 Mar

Can you be French and have never cooked Boeuf Bourguignon?

Recently I watched again Julie&Julia, that movie that draws a parallel between the lives of a New Yorker cook and Julia Child, the famous American chef and author of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Julie, the young New Yorker, assigns herself the challenge of cooking the 524 recipes featured in the book within one year. One of the decisive recipe that appears in the movie is Boeuf Bourguignon. It is depicted both as complex to make and succulent to eat. It is also often presented as being the essence of French cooking. It is true, Boeuf Bourguignon seems to be in most of the French restaurants here and my cook friends quote it systematically when talking about French cuisine. Thus, I have been thinking about Boeuf Bourguignon for a while and last weekend I gave myself the challenge to cook Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon. My first Boeuf Bourguignon… by an American chef.

Getting ready for the Boeuf Bourguignon cooking night

I read that Boeuf Bourguignon is even better if cook in advanced and re heated. Sunday night was the perfect spot: nobody home, plenty of time, relaxed cook. I got everything I needed and followed the advice of the wine salesman: I took a French wine mixing Pinot Noir and Shiraz, good to cook and good to drink (in fact he was quoting Julia Child who said, “I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food I’m cooking. “).

I started at 9pm. By 12am, it was almost finished. I was surprised I did not encounter any major issue. In fact, I did not meet any issue at all. I carefully followed the recipe: cook the bacon, cut it into lardons, sauté the meat until brown, repeat with sliced onion and carrot, simmer wine, beef bouillon with the meat, add flour, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and cover for 2 hours. At the end, when the meat is tender, I added sautéed mushrooms and small onions cooked into the bouillon. I did not have the right pan to simmer it slowly in the oven so I did it on the stove on a big saucepan. I kept the heat very low and it was perfect.

So far, it tastes amazingly good. The meat is tender and the sauce is thick and sweet. I don’t know if it’s because it’s a Julia Child’s recipe, if I am influenced by the movie or just because it is Boeuf Bourguignon but so far, I think it is one of the best meal I have ever cooked.

Tasting and verdict of Tummy Boy tomorrow night though…

The ingredients:

• 9- to 10-inch, fireproof casserole dish , 3 inches deep

• Slotted spoon

• 6 ounces bacon

• 1 Tbsp. olive oil or cooking oil

• 3 pounds lean stewing beef , cut into 2-inch cubes

• 1 sliced carrot

• 1 sliced onion

• 1 tsp. salt

• 1/4 tsp. pepper

• 2 Tbsp. flour

• 3 cups full-bodied, young red wine , such as a Chianti

• 2 to 3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon

• 1 Tbsp. tomato paste

• 2 cloves mashed garlic

• 1/2 tsp. thyme

• Crumbled bay leaf

• Blanched bacon rind

• 18 to 24 small white onions , brown-braised in stock

• 1 pound quartered fresh mushrooms , sautéed in butter

• Parsley sprigs

In the kitchen with Julia child, here

The Green Fairy

16 Feb

Absinthe has always had its allure to Americans, the forbidden alcohol!  Banned in the U.S. and France for its hallucinogenic and demonizing reputation, the Green Fairy only gained a greater longing desire as a result.  This green potent liquor has been made more popular through “pop” movies and those traveling abroad to countries where it’s legal and comeback to tell their tale.  I think most young people including myself until recently would associate this alcohol with Eastern Europe giving it a greater feeling of mysterious and forbiddances as we make a connection in our minds with “The Iron Curtain.”  Well after a little curiosity, research and some absinthe experiences it has been revealed to me that this green absinthe is not real absinthe in fact but grain alcohol with green coloring.  It is a marketing technique by eastern European countries to draw in tourists.  True absinthe is a lot like Pasties and is made with wormwood; it has a murky color, anise taste and clouds when mixed with water (which is the proper way to drink it).

Absinthe has a very rich history.   I will say I am the first to compare Absinthe with SPAM.  What a comparison!   Well if you enjoy history maybe you have already made the link.  Absinthe first became popular in France’s North African wars, being mixed with water for a cheap and easy way to purify the water.  After the war, the returning soldiers had a palate for this new drink.  Thus, just as whenever there is a demand there is someone to quickly supply it.   And it quickly became the drink of drinks in 1920’s France, Hemmingway, Wilde, Picasso, Lautrec, Stein, and every other artist or common folk par took in this beverage.  It was said that it expanded imagination causing the imbiber to reach a higher level of revelation/thought process.  Today we also say goldschlagers tiny gold filaments cuts your throat so your body takes in the alcohol more quickly.  Marketing?  But how did this drink all of the sudden become so evil that it was made illegal for more than half a century?   The answer, lobbying, by wine producers and social activists.  Two major reasons, wine consumption was down and the country needed an escape goat for rising alcoholism rates.  Apparently more people drink when out of work, think the great depression, the U.S. had Prohibition.  It would only take a second World War to boost up the economies again.  Well I’m off topic.

Man with the Absinthe

Getting off work late one night I headed to an absinthe bar.  What an interesting place this was, not New York City at all, like I could have been in some small bar in the Scotland county side, antique furnishings, dust, a little bare, somewhat old fashioned cliental…very appropriate for what I had read about absinthe.   With the streets quiet and me absorbed in the environment I questioned if my subway train had a flex capacitor and traveled at 88 mph.   Two old UK expats owned the place.   Slow moving and talking but very smooth with their movements, they had all the knowledge of Absinthe I needed.  $15.00 a glass and a story like tale as they prepared and sipped the green fairy with us, the night turned out very well.

Mushrooms in the closet

6 Feb

I love meat. Duck, pork ribs, carpaccio, hot and burning wings, I am a meat eater.  I can not resist to thin slices of saucisson for the apéritif or a fried bacon pizza. Roasting chicken at the market makes my mouth watering and even if I love pet rabbits, I also like them with apple cider, prunes and raisins. And yet, I had a homemade veggie burger this week. A veggie burger that tasted like meat. Except that it was not beef but the cap of a Portabello mushroom grown in the closet of my apartment.

In NYC, it is trendy to grow your own vegetables, brew your own beer or make your own cheese and yogurts. It is part of the new « homemade». So when A. said that he wanted to grow mushrooms, I was not so much surprised. After all, he had been growing mint and basil on my tiny balcony in Toulouse, why not mushrooms in NYC?

Growing mushrooms in an apartment is a funny thing. First he had to set up the closet, a sort of walk in closet where we put our coats or shirts. Call it dorm room life. He also had to control the humidity. Once the nest was ready, he prepared the growing materiel. It led to some funny morning discoveries : the mushroom kit in the bathroom (again, temperature control), hay boiling and cooling in a big pot on the stove, newspapers all over the kitchen to make papier mâché, pounds of wet coffee grounds in the kitchen sink… But the most interesting is to answer the questions of family and friends : no, we are not growing THAT kind of mushrooms, and yes, they grow in the closet.

Finally, last week he got his first three babies : more than one pound of meaty tasting Portabello. Very good in a morning omelet, delicious in a veggie burger with balsamic vinegar, cheddar, onion and spinach.