Wednesday, December 14, 2011

leckerli for the holidays or every day

As you must know by now, I grew up in Paris, France, but spent my idyllic childhood summers in Switzerland,where my grand parents had a chalet tucked between forests , cherry orchards, and meadows which turned into cows pastures during the summer weeks, their bells lulling us to sleep.
Some dishes from this poor agrarian country ( when the banking system kicked in, everything changed) formed my taste buds, and left an indelible memory of favorite foods that I go back to over and over again: a particular type of molasses that was slathered onto thick slices of buttered country bread for breakfast, toasts with a creamy morel sauce, chard gratin, black cherry jam, raspberry syrup in tall glasses of chilled spring water, Berlin style donuts with a berry filling, Gruyere and vacherin cheese fondue, fried polenta and the now somewhat famous Basel Leckerli: with local spice merchants, the proximity of Italy with its own similar Panforte, and the taste of the times ( we are talking 14th century) for many of these holidays type spices, all conjured to the creation of the leckerli cookie in the town of Basel.Something up to now exclusively found in Switzerland.But now Pierre herme in Paris has his own recipe and I found the one I used on a local foodie site that I subscribed to. The secret is out !!
If you want to try it here is the recipe:
1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup granulated sugar
finely grated zest of 1/2 medium lemon
1/8 teaspoon of each:ground black pepper,nutmeg,Cinnamon and clove
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch ground black pepper
pinch of ground white pepper
1 cup of diced candied zest ( I used lemon and orange)
1 cup of sliced almonds
1/2 cup of kirsch
2 cups of flour sifted
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup confectioners sugar
2 teaspoons of kirsch
In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine honey, sugar, lemon zest, all the spices, cook, stirring constantly until honey and sugar are dissolved. about 2 minutes.
remove pan from heat and gently stir candied peels and almonds. add kirsch ,flour, baking soda until a dough just form.
put a plastic wrap sheet on a baking sheet, put the dough on it cover with another plastic wrap and roll or press with fingers to get a 3/8 inch tick by 12x16 inch rectangle.
poke with a fork and refrigerate overnight.
preheat oven to 400.
remove dough from plastic wrap and butter your baking the dough back.bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.
while the cookies are baking, make the icing: combine powdered sugar,kirsch and 2 tablespoons of sugar and whisk until smooth. remove the Leckerli from oven and immediately use a pastry brush to ice the cookies.Trim sides and cut the leckerli in whatever shapes you want .
makes 25 to 30 cookies
cook time: 20 minutes plus overnight refrigeration

recipe adapted from Romauld Feger, Vitrine at the St Regis, San Francisco.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Fenouilloise and favas

It is has been a cold and unusually wet spring here, with some short sunny interruptions, while Paris is sweltering with hot tropical winds.odd.odd....
So the other day, when we decided to put the heat back in the house , I felt like a hot soup, hopefully for one last time. I had 3 heads of fennel on hand, and it seems like the right ingredient for it. Fennel is a popular vegetable in France, called fenouil, and you are most likely to find it under two incarnations: roasted with fish, or in salads. But rarely in soups. Which is a shame since it is : divine, absolutely divine.
When fennel cooks, it releases it sweetness and delicate flavor like you have never experienced it.When blended, it has a the color of Vichyssoise, and even though it has no dairy or potato in it, it tastes so rich and delicate., you cannot believe it. Just a few ingredients, and the flavor shines through.On a warm day, you can also serve it cold, like a Vichyssoise....

Fenouilloise for 2

3 small heads of organic fennel ( discard the fronds, but keep a couple for garnish), diced
1 big shallot, cut finely
1 Tbsp of butter
1 cube of Rapunzel organic vegetable bouillon

melt butter in soup pot, add shallot and brown slightly to release the aroma, add your fennel and let it sweat for a couple of minutes , tossing it and coating it with the butter and shallots, add 2 cups of water and the bouillon cube.cook on medium heat, partially covered for 20 minutes or until fennel is soft. cool slightly and blend.No salt is necessary if you used the salted bouillon. grind a dash of freshly ground pepper to finish it off. add your frond for garnish.

One evening, the sun finally pierced through, warming up the kitchen.A spring salad was in order. I had cooked a big bag of fava beans which turned out to fill just one bowl. just enough for a salad.I have to admit that I loved my app" how to cook everything" by Mark Bittman. It is so easy to find ideas for recipes and they are always spot I typed fava and up came a recipe that I altered a bit ,given my ingredients at hand, but basically followed the core of the recipe: mint, lemon zest,garlic.... how can you go wrong ?

Spring salad

1 lb of fava beand ( blanch the beans, when cool, remove the thick skin)
mix of heart of romaine and arugula
1 lemon( zest half the lemon first, then squeeze to get the juice)
1 head of green garlic cut finely
half a bunch of mint, cut finely as well
salt and pepper
olive oil
pecorino cheese

make your vinaigrette by mixing your salt and pepper with 1 Tbsp of lemon juice,olive oil, lemon zest, green garlic, minced mint.add your salad greens,your favas and grate as much as pecorino as you like. I like a lot of it.

Monday, February 28, 2011

not so UGLI

a big pile of ugli fruit stood before me.Funny , I thought, that someone with a sense of humor must have name it like that.But with a slight twist, ending it in a i instead of a y.The sticker on it, had the name printed and under it the provenance: Jamaica.
I had never tasted an ugli fruit, decided to give it a try.At the cashier, the woman behind me asked me what it was and what to do with it.yes, she said ugly can be interesting too.
The dark green skin is reptilian,with splotches of yellow.The inside flesh is golden and juicy.The taste is that of a mild and sweet pink grapefruit.very delicious.I released the half segments with a grapefruit knife.It went very well in a light salad.

Ugli salad

make a vinaigrette with chopped shallots, apple cider vinegar and olive oil, salt and pepper.
toss your lettuce ( I had a frisee on hand) with segments of ugli fruit,slivers of pears, and thinly sliced red onion

Thursday, February 17, 2011

celery root gratin

There are a few basic vegetables, probably staples for our ancestors that we have lost touch with.take the humble and gnarly celery root for instance. Its lack of enticing color and unappealing aspect makes it a produce that a lot of people pass by and ignore. Also most would probably not know how to prepare it, beside a simple salad with a mustard remoulade.Which is what I always did with celery root.Until now.After glancing at a recipe in a magazine, I decided to give a try with cooking the rooty beast. and who doesn't like gratin ? It has all the component of comfort for a rainy night dinner like the ones we have had lately.This is a quick prep for a lot of pay back.the taste is subtle, sweet and experiment: puree of celery root...

celery root gratin
for 2

preheat oven at 350

1 big celery root
2tbsp butter
1/4 cup rice flour ( or regular)
1/2 cup of milk
1/2 cup of grated gruyere

First, peel and slice your root.
cut it in strips and steam them for 5 minutes or until soft.
while the celery root is steaming, prepare your bechamel.
melt the butter in a small pan, remove from the heat source and add your flour all at ounce.turn it into a paste with a wood spoon,put it back on low heat and add the milk progressively and whisk it to a creamy consistency. add salt and a lot of pepper.
spread your celery sticks on the bottom of a gratin dish, cover with the bechamel, scatter your grated gruyere on top.
cook in the oven for 10 minutes, then broil it for 5 minutes to get a crusty cheese top.

Friday, July 9, 2010

happy hours

The" happy hour "signs are mushrooming in Paris.Except that this one time, I saw written in bold letters on a cafe window: happy hours......indeed ! first of all logical, and in other ways you might say more enticing.....
this little summer cocktail will provide, I assure you more than one happy hour.
It is pretty, seasonal, fruity but not too much and it has quite a kick. if you need it ! If you find it too strong, just pour a little more rose wine into the mix, since a little more rose has never hurt anyone ....

for 3
1 1/4 cup dry rose wine
1 white nectarine diced
1 tbsp meyer lemon and mint syrup ( from June Taylor)
1/4 cup cointreau
1/4 cup vodka
Put it all in a pitcher. refrigerate for one hour at least if you can wait !

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

sandwich culture

I did not grow up eating sandwiches, therefore, it took time and effort ( on my part mostly) to get to like sandwiches. But I still get my mouth watering when I remember the hot dog stand at the Bon Marche ( before renovation, it already had a food court) which was my afternoon gouter of choice after a shopping spree with Mom.But then again, it was a crispy baguette cut in half with a delicious smoky francfort sausage, a dab of dijon and that was it.simple, good but few ingredients.always a winning combo.Then, as a student, I discovered the pleasure of the Pan Bagnat, a convenient to go alternative to a nicoise salad ,on a bun.Of course it had some of my favorite elements: egg, tuna,olives,cayenne. I was warming to the idea by then. But what sold me were the Italian bruschettas and the Spanish bocadillos or tapas. They were so simple it was amazing ( pan con tomate.... a grilled slice of bread, good bread of course with a nice crust) with a summer ripe tomato scrubbed over it. voila ! as they say.

Current favorite sandwich

2 slices of grilled bread
1 tbsp of green tapenade ( store bought from LuLU)
1 leave of butter lettuce
1tbsp of mayonnaise
1 slice of red onion
1 hard boiled egg,mushed with salt, cayenne and 1 tbsp of mayonnaise
1 good anchovy in oil ( I like Ortiz brand)

fold, put it on a pretty plate, take it to a quiet place and slowly devour.

Friday, February 12, 2010

my French onion soup

Through its history and up until its demise in the 70"s, les HALLES, in the middle of Paris served as the main wholesale market of produce, dairy, meat and fish for Paris and its surrounding area. The word "halles" origin may be from the English:" hall"( or may be it is the other way around...),since it was a huge architectural complex of many halls for the products shipped from all over France.The neighborhood was its own village , with cafes and restaurants opened during" les Halles" odd hours, which were mostly at night until the early morning, catering to all the workers. As a child, I never experienced that world, but it I remember hearing of the tradition for parisians to treck at least once in their life, to one of the open bistrots, and have the hearty ,cheesy onion soup around midnight , on a cold winter night.. in the area what was called then " the belly of Paris".As for me, much later, I dragged significant , on an early date, to one of the few remaining restaurants in the quartier, whose specialty was: breaded pigs feet, which he very daringly tried but that is another story....
So, today, on another winter night ( it is almost spring here, but the nights are always cold), I want to make a rich,fragrant,home transporting, brazenly good soup with just a few ingredients:butter ( it is the french part of the recipe),onions,thyme, broth,gruyere, and bread, that will take me back to a noisy bistrot with paper tablecloth and a red wine carafe and with the natives cheering,loudly as the steaming cheese crusted bowl of soups emerge from the kitchen.

recipe:( for 2-3)

you will need:
4 onions
2tbsp butter
2tbsp thyme
1tbsp brown sugar
1 can organic broth ( vegetable, chicken or beef, the traditional one is with beef)
1 cup water( or more to taste)
1/4 cup of madeira wine
2 slices of bread
1/4 cup grated cheese ( gruyere is preferred)
1 garlic clove
salt and pepper to taste

saute your onions rings in the melted butter in a wide pan so that the onions are not too crowded and can brown nicely. sprinkle with the sugar and thyme.keep the heat on low.
occasionally turn them until they get a nice caramel color.( up to 45 minutes)
transfer them to a soup pot and add the broth, water ,wine and let the flavors meld on medium heat for 30 minutes.
toast your bread, rub the slices with the raw garlic clove, and spread the cheese on top. broil to melt.serve the soup, drop the bread on top, scatter some fresh thyme and extra pepper.The bread will get soggy with the hearty juice and you can break it up as you
slurp the soup,