This recipe is a slight variation of Christopher Kimball’s insanely delicious orange – anise bundt cake recipe that appeared recently in his magazine ‘Milk Street’. I was so blown away by the flavor, texture, and lightness I began experimenting to suit my tastes. My seven-year-old Beau suggested adding chocolate chips so I did. This cake has now become a family favorite….
Every Fall I start to crave a steaming bowl of mussels. Mainly because most of my favorite mussel recipes are a comforting cross between a soup and a hearty hot meal. I started out desperately wanting to make Mouclade, a curried mussel dish that originated in the French port city of La Rochelle but ended up with a more Asian feeling bowl of turmeric ginger mussels. In some ways, curry and mussels sound weird together, but the flavor combination is off the hook, especially when backed by coconut milk and hot chili peppers.
Have you ever looked at a favorite cookbook for years, perhaps even decades, and never noticed a recipe in it? Yesterday I was leafing through a Gui Gedda cookbook (Cooking School Provence) and came across his recipe for ‘Tatin de Poires’, or as I renamed it ‘Pear Tarte Tatin Coffee Cake’. I can’t believe I never noticed it, it’s a beautiful cake that is extremely simple to prepare.
The Pear Tree of my Youth
Every Fall I make at least one pear and almond galette from the giant pear tree growing in my front yard. The galettes appearance always marks the transition in my head between the ratatouille, pastis and rosés excesses of summertime and the true beginnings of Fall, at least my Fall, and it’s well rooted in my past.
I can still remember with great fondness visiting a gregarious French relative who owned a farm in rural Southwestern France. It was early Fall and he had just foraged for cepes. I remember with surprising clarity his worn leather boots and even the musty smells of an old barn filled with fresh cut hay as he cooked a wonderful Omelette aux cèpes, à la persillade for lunch. 45 years later and I still salivate as I reminisce about tucking into it; the combination of creamy eggs contrasted by crispy bits of garlic, herbs, and mushrooms cooked in golden goose fat.
For dessert, his wife prepared a scrumptious pear and almond galette made from perfectly ripe pears picked that morning from a fruit tree in their yard. There is something timeless and perfect about the combination of almonds and pears that works on so many levels, like textural contrasts of crunchy and soft or the classic salty and sweet marriage. The memory of this day has lingered in my soul since it happened so long ago. The comfort of the warm galette with sweet pears and crunchy almonds is the true sign that Fall is here.
It’s sad to say, but Summer 2018 is coming to a quick close. Just before I stash my leftover rose bottles and put the pastis up till next summer, I wanted to make one last summery dish to enjoy – lemon verbena ice cream with fresh raspberries. Lemon verbena is an herb I grow every single year and use quite a bit of, or at least have the fantasy of using quite a bit of. The smell is intoxicating and is probably the main reason I grow it. I usually end up making desserts with it, but as friend Jo Ellis Holland reminded me just a few moments ago on Facebook, it is quite good in savory dishes as well.
Trouchia or Omelet?
My garden is now producing more zucchini than I can possibly consume. Each day I walk out to tend to my plants and notice that five more zucchini grew overnight. I have tried disguising them on the dinner table to avoid the inevitable incredulous look of horror from my seven-year-old son Beau who long passed zucchini saturation a few weeks back. Thankfully I remembered Trouchia, this old Nice favorite usually made with Swiss chard.
Zucchini Blossom Beignet: the perfect answer to a garden overrun with zucchini
There always seems to that one definable moment in the summer when your springtime fantasies of planting too much zucchini meets the harsh reality that you now have more zucchini than you could possibly ever eat. In terror, you start rummaging through hundreds of cookbooks and online sources, looking for any word that slightly resembles zucchini to cook recipes from. Friends stop answering your calls for fear that you may try to unload another shopping bag on them and neighbors cautiously keep an eye on you as you near their front porches.
Well fear no more, I have the perfect solution: Zucchini Blossom Beignet, an easy to make celebration of your harvest, that culls your crop in the tastiest of ways….
Do you remember that wonderful feeling of being a small child on a family camping trip when your dad built a giant bonfire and you got to toast your own s’mores? The ritual began with tramping through the woods, gathering small branches and downed tree limbs to build your fire. The anticipation building fiddling with your s’more stick waiting for darkness to come. The climax reached as the first campfire sparks raced towards an incredibly starry sky. That magic moment when your marshmallow burst into flames and your first s’more was ready to eat. It was as much a rite of summer as eating wild blackberries milkshakes and swimming in Lake Michigan. …
Here’s a great project to tackle this weekend with your child; make yummy chocolate profiteroles stuffed with ice cream, then drizzle with caramel and hot chocolate sauce. It’s a fun activity with many little steps for a child to participate in, no matter their age.
Sometimes you rediscover a childhood favorite completely by accident. I was sitting in my dining room, surrounded by hundreds of cookbooks, thinking about what I was going to cook on an upcoming trip to France when one book beckoned me over. It had been a while since I read Anne Willan’s comprehensive cookbook ‘The Country Cooking of France’. As I flipped through the pages, it felt like I was looking through a cherished family album of childhood dishes, I stopped on one, her version of the French family classic, endive and ham gratin. It evoked vivid memories of my own mother making this dish for me as a small child. I was transported to our old kitchen painted a beautiful hue of orange with hand painted blue tiles covering the floor. I savored the wonderful smells of my mother cooking, especially when the gratin was in the oven.
Endive and ham gratin is the macaroni and cheese of kids with French parents. I found myself licking my lips and decided to make this creamy gratin for my son just like my mom did , with just a bit too much sauce and crispy cheese melted on on the sides.
My top ten list of favorite French dishes to eat at home
I usually steer clear from these sorts of posts, but after a recent long walk in the Columbia Gorge rendered me insatiably starving and seriously contemplating eating my family, I decided to post what I do love, and dreadfully miss most about French food, in a vain attempt to save their lives. Earlier in the week, we had cut every single thing I love dearly about life as part of some satanic ritual known as the ‘new year’s resolution’. Foolishly, we thought adding exercise might reduce our surface circumferences quicker; instead visions of the doomed Donner party haunted my mind….
As a small child, I believed in two things; Santa Claus and the virtues of a simple grilled Loup de mer, or branzino as it is more commonly called in the US. Loup de mer is a Mediterranean sea bass with a delicate flesh and addictively delicious crunchy skin when grilled. Get your coals white hot, put dried fennel branches on top then the fish and let the licorice smoky flavors pleasantly permeate your fish, lending a feeling of being in Provence. There is no greater act of love than sharing a wonderful meal you cook with the people dear to you. Remember, good food can happen anywhere, this one is especially good cooked over an outdoor fire, preferably deep in woods, with loved ones and a few bottles of great wine….
Every New Year’s Eve, I host a gastronomic party to celebrate the passing of one year and the birth of the next. It usually progresses (regresses) into a Bacchanalian celebration. The table laid with the finest china and silver, our stomachs tempted with turbot, black truffles, caviar and foie gras, and too many bottles of Champagne to count.
The better the ingredient, the simpler the preparation should be. Simple and pure pairings, like roast chicken and white Burgundy or older Barolos drank with white truffles, are timeless combinations that should never be improved upon. Likewise, a simple caviar preparation is always best and preferred.
Prepare yourselves for the roaring voice of the God of Joy! – Eurides, The Bacchae
I was craving for the comfort that only a good glass of wine and a soothing bowl of brothy braised meat could provide me to combat the chilling effects of a late Fall Pacific Northwest drizzle. I couldn’t decide which to eat, so I made both: a batch of oxtail pho and a classic ‘pot au feu’, France’s version of a boiled beef dinner. I arranged all the ingredients on my counter and began cooking. I came to the quick realization that both were very similar; each dish featured meats being braised for long periods of time with similar spicing, the main difference seemed to be how each culture finished their dish. The Vietnamese serve with basil. mint, bean sprouts and rice noodles while the French with potatoes, cabbage and root vegetables. …
Do you want a fun, edible project to tackle this weekend? Then try making these delicious chocolate eclairs for your family. They are only slightly harder than making basic brownies, only because there are three components to prep instead of one. You will need a few tools like sil pats, pastry bags and star tips to make this. There are plenty of stores like Michaels or Sur La Table where these easy to find items can be located if you do not have them already. The results will be worth any frustrations you may experience….
If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe. — Carl Sagan
I love apples a lot, I really do. Most are kind of one dimensional; yes, they are sweet and crisp, and seriously who needs more than that from an apple? But then you bite deep down into a mountain rose apple and quickly figure out that every other apple is just a pretender to the throne. It would be easy to proclaim that simply on the merits of its deep red hue, it is a gorgeous apple to look at and behold. Then the bright acid and complex flavors, reminiscent of a strawberry jolly rancher, wash over your mouth and you realize how perfect an apple can be.
The modern mountain rose apple originated from a single tree found on an 80 acre farm in Airlie, Oregon, just north of Corvallis. Lucky Newell bought the property in 1959, and one day he was riding his horse near a well and spotted an apple tree growing. He reached up, took a bite and was amazed by the red fleshed fruit. That discovery was during a time when diversity was not as celebrated as it is today and so the apples remained hidden and unknown.
This morning, we travel far from sunny Provence out to the cool, foggy Oregon Coast for a look at a revolutionary seaweed that is destined to take over the world or at least the kale share of the market. As a disclaimer, I should mention I work for a specialty food and foraging company named Foods In Season that scours the Pacific Northwest looking for unique offerings. The amazing thing about this seaweed is it tastes just like bacon when fried, which literally makes it a superfood if ever there was one; though I only made delicious seaweed chips instead.
I wanted to be a skinny little ballerina but I was a voluptuous little Italian girl whose dad had meatballs on the table every night. Lady Gaga
Chicken and Ricotta Polpettine, Pomodoro Sauce
- 1 pound ground chicken dark meat
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 4 ounces whole milk ricotta
- 1 egg beaten
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan
- 1 clove garlic mashed
- 2 grates fresh nutmeg
- sea salt and black pepper
- chopped basil and/or parsley
- 1 quart tomato sauce
Mix everything together in a large bowl by hand, except the sauce,
Form at least 16 meatballs and drop them in a hot saute pan with olive oil and butter. I generally use a nonstick pan to avoid the melting cheese sticking.
Saute till golden brown then finish in a 400 degree oven for five minutes.
Heat sauce up, add meatballs and enjoy!