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….
Today’s recipe is a mash-up of three different dishes I made throughout my culinary career. The main part comes from my very first chef job at the Bakery Restaurant way back in 1985 when I worked for the late, great chef Louis Szathmary. One of his signature dishes was a fantastic slow-cooked pork roast stuffed with cserkesz kolbasz, a smoked sausage made from both beef and pork. The second component comes from Pili Pili, a southern French restaurant in Chicago whose menu traveled the Mediterranean like a luxury yacht hellbent on gastronomic discovery. I used to spit roast a pork rack over apple wood that I served in a milk sauce loosely based on a delicious maiale al latte, pork loin in milk sauce. The third part is a simple and homey squash gnocchi quickly tossed in brown butter and sage. The three were all found in one of my old kitchen journals and the resulting combination is an ‘aha dish’ perfect for the holidays!
I adore the scene in Anthony Bourdain’s program ‘Parts Unknown’ where he ends up at Daniel Boulud’s father’s house in Lyon preparing a whole roasted squash stuffed with toasted bread, cheese, lardon, and mushrooms that is baked in an old wood-burning oven. The light tension between Daniel and his father as they cook together made me laugh out loud, mostly because it reminded me of basically every single time I have cooked with my own French mother. The episode offers a glimpse into the real side of French home cooking that often gets hidden behind the glamorous image of French gastronomy.
Are you tired of cooking your pork chop the same exact way every time? Here is a quick and easy recipe popular in the South of France made with ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen. All you need is good mustard, olive oil, sage, ground fennel seeds, and obviously some tasty pork chops. I used Tamworth – Hereford mixed pork that was pastured in the Wallowa Valley by Carman Ranch and luckily now you can buy the same pork online.
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.
One of the most endearing and favorite of all Provencal dishes is Petits Farcis or stuffed vegetables, also known as lu farçum in the Niçard (Nice) dialect. They are the perfect and easy family meal that can be served hot, cold or warm and everyone loves to eat them. Petits Farcis are best made in the summertime when so many great vegetables, like sun-ripened tomatoes, round zucchini, and thin eggplants start to appear in the farmers’ markets but really can be made any time of year….
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….
Every Friday, we celebrate the beginning of the weekend by sitting on our back deck, armed with a strong glass of pastis, nibbling on a small bite of some kind. It’s our perfect way to unwind and quickly settle into relaxation mode. By the end of the pastis, I usually don’t feel like getting up and making anything too complicated or labor intensive for dinner. This week, I sauteed pork chop with garlic and pastis, a simple dish I wanted to share with you. …
‘The salty, quivering oysters and the hot sausages work sensationally, both in flavour and texture.’ – Nigel Slater
I readily admit that I grew up a bit of an oyster snob. I never liked anything served with raw oysters other than possibly lemon, and even that was generally frowned upon. I was taught by my mother to savour the purity and simplicity, and taste the ocean in all its unadorned briny splendor.
Then one day I was reading an old French text that mentioned the Bordeaux habit of eating fatty pork sausages with salty oysters, washed down with a big glass of white Bordeaux and I had to give it a go. Lisa, Beau and I drove up to the nearest oyster beds along the Hood Canal in Washington, bought a few dozen blue pool oysters from Hama Hama and a pack of store bought sausages and went to town. The combination of rich, juicy sausages with briny oysters and crisp, fruity wine was a dining revelation. I wondered why I hadn’t tried this before?
Gui Gedda had become a mythical character in my unrelenting search for pure, unadulterated Provence cooking. I heard his name mentioned in several publications, always spoken with absolute reverence, but could never really find out a lot of details about him. Chefs referred to him as both the Pope and the Marcel Pagnol of Provencal cuisine. Finding Gui Gedda’s book ‘Cooking School Provence’ was a major find; it felt a bit like finding the holy grail.
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….
I was craving for the comfort that only a good glass of wine and a soothing bowl of brothy braised meat could provide for me to combat the chilling effects of a late Fall Pacific Northwest drizzle. I couldn’t decide which to eat, so I settled on both: a batch of oxtail pho and a classic French ‘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. …
Chickpea Fries, also known as panisses, are a staple food from the south of France and parts of Italy. Panisses are made by slowly cooking chickpea flour and water into a thick porridge, pouring it onto an oiled pan and cooling overnight, then cutting into finger sized shapes and deep frying.
Panisses are the perfect snack food, especially when flavored with spicy peppers and cumin, and served with a dipping sauce like rouille or a harissa spiked aioli. They make a great accompaniment for roast chicken, lamb, beef and seafood.
If the van is a mo’ rockin’, don’t come knockin’ – Guy Fieri
Fall weather started in earnest today – the weather forecast which called for sunny and warm temperatures, instead turned out to be gloomy and grey all day long. That might sadden some, but for me it signalled the official start to the “stew” season. To celebrate, I made an old family favorite, Moroccan chicken and chicken pea stew made with just picked baby turnips I found at the PDX farmer’s market. A cherished recipe, stolen long ago from the pages of Paula Wolfert’s 1973 classic cookbook, “Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco”. It took about 15 minutes to prep, 45 minutes to gently stew and all of three minutes to eat. A perfect dish for nights where you don’t feel like cooking.
Fall had started in earnest; a cool, light mist was falling and we decided to take our dog Lucy for a long walk foraging wild cèpes. I built a roaring fire in our wood stove, placed a daube of beef on top to slowly braise, and decanted a heady bottle of red wine, then walked out into the dank Mendocino forest.
Maybe I am like one of Pavlov’s dogs, but I start to crave beef daube (Provencal beef stew) as soon as the first cool Fall weather begins. Long ago Lisa and I lived in a small, off the grid hippie cabin deep within the woods, on the edge of Van Damme State Park in Mendocino, California. Our cabin often reminded me of Daudet’s windmill in Provence, though beaten and forlorn, it provided a quiet refuge from the bustle of modern life.
Fall had started in earnest; a cool, light mist was falling on an otherwise drab day when we decided to take our dog Lucy for a long walk foraging wild cèpes. I built a roaring fire in our wood stove and placed a daube of beef perfumed with cinnamon stick and dried orange peel on top to slowly braise. We decanted a heady bottle of red wine and walked out into the dank Mendocino forest. …
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.