Wednesday, November 26, 2008

is it cocktail time yet ?

In France, you hardly drink the "mixed type" cocktails. a champagne flute, an extra glass of wine, may be a sherry or a sweet French version like Pineau des Charentes. but the mixed drink remains the privilege of hotel bars and clubs. At least when I lived there, which as you know was quite some time back, so, maybe things have changed. My friend G.indulges in a Campari, due to her repeated Italian vacations that she feels like prolonging, the time of an evening drink at home. and my mother's neighbor admits to liking a classic whisky and coke ( oops, mixed cocktail after all )...
For significant and I, it was only wine for many years. Partly it was cheaper and I had no idea or taste for hard alcohol, (beside the bottle of kirsch to finish off a cheese fondue: that was the extent of our liquor cabinet). Then, one fateful night, we went for dinner at some good friend's house , and while both our toddlers were banging on the piano, they offered us a gin and tonic. Whaoo ! revelation of the decade !It was refreshing,tasty ( they claim lots of lime juice is what makes the difference.. so I use one lime per drink now) I looved it. It was the beginning of a new phase in our life: parenting and cocktail hour.... since then, I have tried to play a little, adding syrups from my friend Juneor some more obscure bottles like Aperol,which resembles Campari with its citrusy notes and red color. So, from the house mixologist, here is my absolute favorite new mixed cocktail:
2 oz tequila
1 oz Aperol
juice of one lime
1/2 oz of agave nectar

rosemary branch for swizzling

put liquids in shaker with ice, shake and serve in glass with ice, add rosemary if you like for garnish and extra swizzling...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

gratin de cotes de blettes-Swiss chard stems gratin

First let me give you a little bit of personal history before I move to the recipe itself. A lot of you know of my childhood summers spent in Switzerland, a place of deep nostalgia for a time of bliss, freedom, close to nature,with time for never ending pleasures. Close to the "heidi house" where we lived for 3 months every year , was a small dairy farm where the farmer's wife would have a bountiful vegetable garden. Periodically, my grand mother would put an order for, guess what :SWISS chard. The leaves were elephantines, and the stems gargantuans. The interesting bit is that growing up, I never ate green leaf vegetables. The beets were sold already boiled and without their leaves, spinach was seldom seen on the market stalls,and it was not the tender baby kind we know now ,  but actually, now, I remember that my mother would cook some escarole in the winter and drop it in a soup, but that was all. When we would get the famous order of chard, it would be stripped of leaves. I guess that was the way it was expected to be sold, may be they knew we were making a gratin, may be they knew better and cooked the leaves for themselves.....
which brings me to the recipe, one of my total favorites of all times.
Of course, the day before, use the leaves for a nice italian style saute with garlic and pepper flakes and olive oil. But the next day, instead of composting the stems, use them to make this delicious  dish that would go well with a grain, or whole grain pasta.
I only knew the white stem chard, but now, look at this beautiful display of vibrant colors !

-cut the stems in 2 " pieces
-blanch them in salted water. They lose their vibrancy but gain a soft pastel

-make a simple bechamel.I love that word. As you say it, the tongue seems to wrap around the word in a gentle caress.
1oz butter, melted,add 1 tbsp flour all at once, and wisk to get a nice golden ribbon.out of the heat, add all at once 1/3 cup of cold milk, keep wisking  and put back under low heat until desired consistency. be liberal with good pepper and salt.
-put bechamel on top of cooled chard

-sprinkle grated cave aged Gruyere cheeese

-cook at 400 degrees for 15 mn with foil, remove foil, and broil for 5 minutes for a golden crust.
Voila, no waste, only more pleasure !

Monday, November 17, 2008

on my way

I am on my way to the kitchen. This will be a recipe site . Old, new, bold, seasonal,borrowed, or just invented, the recipes will be  another area for creation with a weekly update.