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Tuesday dinner with My Kugelhopf

By Ann | March 25, 2014

salmon and roasted veg 2

Can we talk about fish? Fish intimidates me. My cooking history is riddled with fish mishaps. There was the time I cooked some salmon filets in a hot pan, resulting in a stove spattered with indelible drops of oil and a kitchen that reeked for days. There was the time I stashed a whole dorade at the bottom of the fridge, only to discover it a week later — from the smell. I could go on and on.

And so, when Kerrin Rousset of the blog My Kugelhopf sent me her favorite fast recipe for roasted salmon and winter vegetables, my palms started to sweat. Considering my fish phobia, could I do her dish justice? As it turned out, all I needed was a hot oven and a little confidence.

Kerrin lives in Switzerland, where she makes a living out of all things sweet: she offers tours of chocolate shops (and more) through her  company, Sweet Zürich.  She launched the Salon du Chocolat in Zürich, now in its third year. She writes about sweets on her popular blog, My Kugelhopf. And she lives with her very sweet family: her French husband and their young daughter. Today, I’m delighted to share Kerrin’s quick cooking tips, and a wholesome recipe that will help leave room for dessert.

Kerrin_Rousset 1

zurich 2

market2  market4-2

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Her favorite fast meal? Salad
My husband and I could literally have salad every night and it would be different each time. Mâche is our favorite lettuce and we’ll build from there: avocado, cherry tomatoes, white beans, corn, radishes… tuna, sardines, smoked turkey or leftover roasted veggies. We love adding fruit — depending on the season, that could be pears, persimmon, peaches, figs (fresh or dried), or just raisins to add sweetness. Sweet mustard, oil and fleur de sel are all i need to dress a salad, but I do love playing with different oils, too — especially walnut and argan.

On dressing up eggs:
I always have eggs in the fridge for a quick omelet (or matzoh brei). Any leftover vegetables in the fridge go right in for a filling frittata. I love adding chick peas and currants too.

On the beauty of a cooking in advance:
Making a big tray of roasted vegetables and/or a large portion of cooked grains early in the week makes lunches and dinners for the next few days so much easier and faster to prepare. Salad, soup, omelet — you’re already halfway done.

On her favorite pantry staples:
Chick peas. White beans. Sardines. Pasta. Mason jars filled with various seeds, grains and dried fruit. Countless jars of jam and honey, too. Not to mention my most important staples of all: dark chocolate and medjool dates.

roasted vegetables

salmon filet

salmon and roasted veg

Roasted salmon with root vegetables and chick peas
By Kerrin Rousset

“Tuesday is market day,” says Kerrin, “Usually by that afternoon I’ll have roasted a big tray of vegetables. Throwing a piece of fish on top, and serving with fresh bread makes for a fast, easy and healthy dinner. Something we do quite often during the week.”

*Note from Ann: Kerrin’s recipe is very flexible and you can use the vegetables in season at your market — I roasted a huge quantity of kabocha squash, parsnips, potatoes, broccoli and garlic. Her method for cooking salmon is foolproof, and I removed my filet from the oven a little early and let it finish cooking while resting. Also, I roasted the salmon over only a small portion of the veg, so the remainder wouldn’t get fishy. Finally, instead of sweet mustard, I smeared my filet with a little Sriracha — it’s the same idea, right?

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius). Roughly chop (peeled) butternut squash, sweet potato, carrots, parsnips and onion. Toss with a spoon or two of olive oil (depending how much veg you have) and lay out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with sea salt.  Roast for 20 minutes. Toss and continue roasting for 20 minutes. The vegetables should be soft and caramelized — if not, continue roasting. Mix in a can of drained chick peas. Spread a spoonful of sweet mustard on top of each salmon filet and sprinkle with a few pinches of sumac. Place filets on top of vegetables and put back in oven for 10 minutes. Turn off oven and watch salmon. Take out as soon as it starts to flake. When serving, top fish with a few drops of olive oil and fleur de sel. Bon appétit !

salmon 3

(All non-salmon photos from Kerrin Rousset.)

Topics: Free of gluten, Tuesday dinner | 13 Comments »

What are cheese mites?

By Ann | March 18, 2014

mimolette

I’ve been curious about cheese mites ever since I learned about them while visiting friends in St-Etienne. Before we dug into one of the many (many, many) local cheeses, my host tapped some powder off its surface into a small glass bowl, and handed me a magnifying glass. I saw a bunch of crumbs moving constantly, tiny specks that sometimes jumped. “Ce sont des cirons,” — cheese mites — he told me. “Small spiders that live in the cheese.” It was completely absorbing and also a little repulsive.

In the years since that trip, my fascination with cheese mites has only grown (especially after I discovered this 1903 British film of cheese mites tucking into Stilton, reportedly the first movie ever banned in the U.K., for fear it would hurt cheese sales). And so, on my last visit to Paris, I visited one of my favorite fromagers – Michel Fouchereau at La Fromagerie d’Auteuil — to find out more about these microscopic creatures — also called cirons, or artisons in French — what they do, and why they’re (sometimes) dangerous.

beurre aux truffes

Fouchereau is a Meilleur Ouvrier de France (best craftsman of France), and I met him a couple of years ago when I was working on this article. Even though my Paris home is nowhere near his fromagerie in the 16e, I make special trips there because everything he sells is exquisite, from the slabs of butter studded with black truffles to the cheeses that are sold at a precise moment of ripeness. “For a fromager, each cheese is like an animal,” he told me. “We raise it, age it, and sell it so it’s consumed at its peak.”

cheese mites dust

Cheese mites, Fouchereau explained, are microorganisms that exist everywhere — “even in a draft of air” — but they especially love the damp, cool atmosphere found in the cave d’affinage, or cheese-aging chamber. They flock to cooked, pressed cheeses like Comté, or Cantal, boring into the crust, moving steadily towards the softer center, leaving behind a floral, sweet flavor. If left to their own devices, the artisons will take over a cheese until it becomes inedible. Many hard cheeses are, in fact, treated to deter cirons – the rind of Parmesan, for example, is oiled; cheddar is traditionally wrapped in cloth.

old and new mimolette

There is one French cheese, however, that welcomes these microscopic creatures – uses them, even — as part of its aging process: Mimolette. Produced in Lille, near the Dutch Belgian border, it’s a hard, orange cheese (similar to Edam) with a thick crust riddled with holes. Mimolette starts out like any old pressed cheese, but at one or two months old, it’s taken to a special chamber and inoculated with artisons. They nibble relentlessly, burrowing into the crust, aerating the cheese, and dramatically reducing the mimolette’s bulk. The result is a dense, salty cheese, with earthy, sweet, almost caramel, undertones. Alas, for American cheese lovers, aged mimolette was recently banned by the FDA, who declared the excess of mites an allergen and health hazard.

cheese mites

One of the creepiest things about cirons is that they’re “like chameleons,” Foucheareau told me. “They take the color of whatever they’re eating.”  Mimolette cheese mites have an orange hue, for example, while those on Comté are dark brown.

cantal

Because fromagers keep a large assortment of cheeses in their cave – soft cheeses (like Roquefort, Camembert, or goat), as well as hard cheeses (Comté, Cantal, Beaufort) — they never allow the mites to linger and proliferate. In fact, they wage a constant battle against the artisons, cleaning the floors and shelves of the cave of their dust-like presence, continuously wiping, turning, and brushing the cheeses. “They never stop nibbling,” Fouchereau said. “We tolerate them, allow them to gather and do their work. And then, we eliminate them.”

*

Michel Fouchereau / La Fromagerie d’Auteuil
58 rue d’Auteuil
75016 Paris
tel: 01 45 25 07 10

Topics: Cheese, Paris, Uncategorized | 19 Comments »

Where I’m at

By Ann | March 3, 2014

meta moment

I’m blogging at BonAppétit.com this week (I was there last week, too) — I hope you’ll stop by to read some of my posts! (Here’s one on ordering a kings cake for Mardi Gras, which is tomorrow (already), eek!)

Last night I visited the restaurant, Daniel, to snap behind-the-scenes shots of their Oscar party (a couple of them made it to Bon Appétit’s Instagram feed, @BonAppetitMag). What a treat to watch the line at work — so many pairs of fine needle-nose tweezers, brushes loaded with beet “paint,” and polishing cloths. Here are some of the cocktail hors d’oeuvres served last night:

salmon millefeuille

(Above: Salmon millefeuille with tequila)

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(Above: Shrimp tempura with biryani spices)

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(Above: Nantucket bay scallop with blood orange jus.)

I’ll be back next week with a new post! Until then, I hope you’ll stop by Bon Appétit – where it’s Sriracha week! — to say hello. I’ll be interviewing victims spice-lovers in Times Square as they eat an entire chili, and more!

*UPDATED* Here are some of my favorite posts from the past two weeks:

Feeding Thai chiles to people in Times Square

Cookbook stores around the world

The five least frequently asked questions about chiles

Are chiles good or bad for you? What does science say?

Topics: Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

Tuesday dinner with French Basketeer

By Ann | February 18, 2014

tuesdaysoup

Roast chicken equals love. So, if you’re Andrea Drexulius, aka the French Basketeer, you cook a plump bird on Sunday and share it with your family and friends. And then you feast on the leftovers all week!

Andrea is a life-long Francophile and owner of French Basketeer, an online store that sells baskets imported from Morocco and Madagascar, beautiful paniers that could have been lifted straight from the marché in Aix-en-Provence. She’s also a blogger and creative home cook (her Instagram feed makes me drool on a regular basis).

sundaybasket

louhans2

cfr32

Andrea divides her time between Laguna Beach, California and Beaune, France, at the heart of the Burgundy wine region. Her Southern California kitchen is “blessed to have so much wonderful produce year-round,” she says, while her kitchen in Beaune is “all about the classics. I cook a lot of Julia Child and Joel Robuchon-inspired cuisine.” Today, I’m delighted to share her weekly cooking routine (it’s inspiring)!

On Sunday she enjoys her “best meal of the week”:
In winter it’s usually a roast chicken. I’ve used a pomegranate-honey glaze and root vegetables that was awesome, but I am constantly changing it depending on what is seasonal.

Monday:
It’s the last chicken leg and meat pieces and root vegetables, and I’ll make a cheater’s stock from the carcass. I keep veggie trimmings in the freezer to use for a quick stock.  Good chicken stock is something I must always have on hand, year-round, either a “proper” stock from a whole chicken, or an improv.

Tuesday:
I toss a two-cup block of frozen stock into a pan to defrost ahead of time and add whatever fresh vegetables and mushrooms I find at the market. This might mean carrots, beans, potatoes, as well as a little dried pasta. The soup in my photo (top) has turkey meatballs, mushrooms, and basil chiffonade. It can be as high or low as you want; I usually brown the veggies a little and toss in the herbs and tomatoes raw.  Sometimes I’ll add caramelized pearl onions or root vegetables.  It’s never the same thing twice.

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday:
In winter, we could have black truffle risotto (again with the chicken stock). Or we might have a frisée salad with lardons and a poached egg.  Pizza is great during the week, and my favorite is with prosciutto and a few quail eggs, topped with fresh arugula and olive oil. I will make a meal of a green salad with a few chives and tomato, or baguette with a good cheese. I often substitute a 16-ounce green juice over a huge glass of ice for a meal; in fact most days I just have juice for breakfast. For a time-saving cooking tip: Go raw. A salad with raw carrots, celery, nuts, shaved Jerusalem artichokes with a little lemon vinaigrette makes a great meal.

Saturday, her “favorite slow-food meal of the week”:
After the farmers market I usually make some kind of fresh pasta — angel hair or ravioli — topped with wild mushrooms, Swiss chard and fresh ricotta as well as home-made arugula pesto. I cook while I chat with my mom and we all share the meal afterwards.

*Note from Ann: There’s no recipe today because I’m afraid roasting a chicken and then making stock was too much for this frazzled young parent. But perhaps you are one of those lovely, efficient people who keeps homemade chicken broth in the freezer? If you try Andrea’s soup, I hope you’ll let me know how it turns out!

(Photos from Andrea Drexulius.)

Topics: Tuesday dinner | 4 Comments »

An Evening at the American Library in Paris

By Ann | February 10, 2014

ALP event

ALP 2

Patricia ALP 5

I had so much fun last week at my book event at the American Library in Paris with Patricia Wells that I couldn’t resist sharing a few photos. As you can see, we shared a lot of laughs with a lovely crowd of Francophiles. I saw so many familiar faces in the audience that I immediately felt right at home.

Patricia and I divided the evening in half and interviewed each other. She asked me about my experiences writing fiction versus nonfiction (and a few other excellent questions). I quizzed her all about how she got started as a food writer and loved learning about the inspiration behind her newest book, The French Kitchen Cookbook. At the end of the program, we trotted out a James Lipton-esque series of rapid fire questions-and-answers that I’m delighted to share here*:

Who are your cooking heros?
PW: Julia Child, Joël Robouchon.
AM: Julia Child, Brillat-Savarin, Marcel Pagnol.

Fine dining or home cooking?
PW: There’s a place for both, depending the situation.
AM: Home cooking — especially if someone else is cooking.

Favorite comfort food?
PW: Pizza. We have the homemade version down to an art in our house.
AM: Toast.

Favorite city to eat in outside of France?
PW: San Sebastian.
AM: Barcelona. Or Hong Kong.

Favorite season for produce?
PW: Spring. Asparagus!
AM: Spring. Strawberries!

Favorite music for cooking?
PW: Jazz.
AM: Jazz, especially TSF Jazz.

*Answers are reproduced from my rattled memory.

Heartfelt thanks to all who came (in body or spirit) — I loved meeting you! And my deepest gratitude to those who bought (or brought) books and asked me to sign them.  I’m delighted to report that we sold out, which is pretty much the best thing I’ve typed this year.

ALP 3

Hungry for more? These bloggers have the dish:
–Marjorie Williams (author of Markets of Paris) wrote this charming post.
–Kristin Espinasse from French Word-a-Day spins this funny tale about the evening. (And here’s her account of the following night, a Champagne cocktail literary evening she shared with me at the home of Robin Katsaros.)
–Anne and Kirk of Music and Markets wrote this lovely post.
–Finally, the fifth edition of Patricia’s fantastic Food Lover’s Guide to Paris is coming out on March 11! This is a must-have book for any visitor to Paris.

Topics: Appearances, Mastering the Art of French Eating, Paris | 18 Comments »

Paris book signings

By Ann | January 27, 2014

Salut, friends! I’m heading to Paris tonight! And I’m giving a book talk with Patricia Wells next week at the American Library in Paris, on Wednesday, February 5th at 7.30pm.

MasteringArtFrenchEating1  French Kitchen Cookbook

Patricia and I will interview each other (I’m preparing my hard-hitting questions now). Copies of both books will be for sale courtesy of WH Smith. There will also be free wine and snacks. If you’re in Paris, I hope you’ll join us!

la seine

A few other notes:

–Francophile and book lover extraordinaire, Robin Katsaros, is hosting a Champagne cocktail party & book signing with me and my beautiful French Word-a-Day friend, Kristin Espinasse, on February 6th at her home in Paris. She’s generously invited you guys — more information is here — including information on how to RSVP. Please come!

–I spent last week blogging at BonAppétit.com! Check out my post on Fondues and Don’ts (ha ha) and more.

–Have I mentioned that I’m flying to Paris tonight?! Stay tuned for updates on everything single thing that I consume.

Topics: Appearances, Paris | 25 Comments »

Mulligatawny soup

By Ann | January 15, 2014

lentils

Lately, I’ve been wondering if people can read my mind. Because every time I decide to cook something, I go to the grocery store and find that the recipe’s key ingredient is sold out. Split peas when I wanted to make split pea soup. Barley the day I’d settled on beef barley. And, last Sunday, after I’d spent the morning selecting the perfect mulligatawny soup recipe, I discovered a shortage of masoor dal at the grocery store. The spot where the bags of pretty, coral pink lentils usually reside — between the, ahem, fully stocked sacks of split peas and barley — was empty.

(Side note: if it seems like I’ve been making a lot of soup, well, what can I say? It doesn’t require any fiddly cooking techniques, it wards off the winter chill, it’s a healthy one pot meal full of vegetables, and, best of all, it’s easy to double in quantity, ensuring you have leftovers for the week (more on this particular quality below). Soup, I love you.)

After striking out at another grocery store, I headed to Whole Foods for my second visit of the day (!) where I found a bulk bin of red lentils. By this time, I was in a hurry, and when I fitted a plastic bag to the spout and yanked the handle to release the beans, the bag broke free and tiny lentils cascaded. Everywhere. And when I say everywhere, I mean flooding onto the floor, the shelves, settling on the tops of boxes, down my coat — down my bra — in my handbag. (In fact, I just checked and found a few lentils still at the bottom of my bag.) The clerk stocking shelves right next to me witnessed the whole escapade. His heart must have sunk at the mess, but he couldn’t have been nicer about it.

Anyway, once you have the red lentils in hand, this recipe from Epicurious is a snap. It involves a lot of chopped onions — more than you might think necessary — a lot of garlic, a lot of spices and the lovely red lentils that you’ve worked so hard to find. Simmer everything until the lentils softly disintegrate, lose their lovely pink color and turn a less appealing shade of brown, and blend into a silky purée with your handy immersion blender. At the very end, stir in some finely diced cooked chicken — you could use the leftovers of your Sunday roast, though I admit I used a surprisingly moist rôtisserie chicken bought at my lentil-free neighborhood D’Agostino. The recipe also calls for a cup of coconut milk, and I was poised to add it! But when I tasted the soup, I found it rich enough, already satisfyingly thick, so in deference to my waistline (it’s January, after all) I left it out. I bet it would add a decadent creaminess, though, so if you make this recipe feel free to use it and then come back and tell me what I’m missing.

Finish the soup with a generous squeeze of lemon juice, which tempers the heady spices, and serve over basmati rice. The rice, I must note, stretches this nutritious one-pot meal even further, which means that if you’ve doubled the recipe — as some of us with a mania for stocking the freezer are wont to do — you’ll have enough for a lot of meals (so far I’ve had three, but it’s only Wednesday). They say the definition of eternity is a ham and two people, but I think it just might be a double batch of this soup. Not that I’m complaining.

soup 1

Mulligatawny soup
Adapted from Epicurious.com

With its bouquet of warm spices, mulligatawny soup may fool you into thinking it’s Indian, but the name (and dish) are actually a British invention — much like the word “curry” — a mangling of Tamil that translates to “pepper water.” There are many variations — some include cream, chopped granny smith apples, celery, cooked lamb, turkey, and/or almonds — but this one achieves that rare balance of healthy and satisfying (not to mention frugal!).

Serves a lot of people (eight?). Double at your own risk.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 lb onions, chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1  1/2 tablespoons garam masala
1  1/2 teaspoons round coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
2 cups dried red lentils, rinsed
8 cups chicken broth
2 cups diced cooked chicken
1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk (optional)
1 lemon

Cooked basmati rice
Lemon wedges

In a heavy large pot, heat the oil over medium flame and sauté the onions until they start to turn color, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to release its fragrance. Add the ground spices and bay leaves and stir for a minute. Add the lentils, stirring them into the spices. Add the chicken broth, bring to boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until the lentils fall apart, about 20 minutes.

Discard the bay leaves. With an immersion blender, purée the soup until smooth. Stir in the chicken and coconut milk (if using). Taste and adjust seasonings. Squeeze over the juice of half a lemon, taste and add a few more drops if necessary. Serve over the basmati rice, passing more lemon wedges at the table.

P.S. This is the 500th post on my blog!

Topics: New York City, Recettes | 15 Comments »

Desperate to be a Housewife

By Ann | January 8, 2014

Desperate  2

Happy New Year! I’m back from my annual Christmas sojourn in sunny Southern California… which seems very, very far away today, as the polar vortex sweeps through New York. Two weeks ago, I was watching surfers from the Huntington Beach pier and lunching al fresco; my mother turned on the air conditioning on Christmas day and we cheered. Today, I forgot my gloves and my frozen fingers almost snapped off.

Along with baking a chocolate cake, basking in the sunshine (I now can’t believe there were days when I told my husband it was too bright), tucking into my dad’s Hatch green chile pork stew, and meeting so many new Francophile friends at my fantastic event at Laguna Beach Books, I spent some time re-reading my friend Meg Bortin’s rollicking new memoir, Desperate to be a Housewife. Set against the backdrop of the 1960s and 70s, this is the story of Mona Venture (Meg’s alter ego), a young woman struggling to reconcile her life as an independent journalist with her desire for a happy family life.

We first meet Mona as a student at the University of Wisconsin, and accompany her as she suffers the throes of suddenly requited love, joins student protests, and hides it all from her parents. We follow her to 1970s Paris and watch as she falls in love with an eccentric Frenchman and his funny, quirky band of lefty friends — and with France itself, with the beauty, joie de vivre, and exhilaration of being amidst the Left Bank intelligentsia. Meg’s journalism career takes off and she moves to Moscow, London, and beyond, a witness to some of the era’s most important news stories while continuing to look for love. Her tale, which juxtaposes unlucky romance against her feminist ideals, kept me turning the pages, hoping that Meg would find her happy ending.

veg

Among young Mona’s suitors is a Frenchman named Jacques, a dynamic, quirky intellectual who seems ripped from a Truffaut film (amusing for the reader, less so for poor Mona). Jacques woos Mona with sumptuous food — a pear tart, a plate of icy, briny oysters. But when they eventually move in together, Mona discovers Jacques has a rigid cooking routine: une semaine de soupe, une semaine de riz. One week of soup, one week of rice. Just like today’s harried working parents, Jacques does all his shopping and cooking on Sundays. On soup weeks, he prepares a potage of carrots, leeks and bacon (Meg offers a recipe on her wonderful food blog, here), which “he ate for the next five nights, accompanied by wine, bread and cheese.” Rice weeks feature similar ingredients, but in a less liquid form.

rice

Some might call Jacques’s weekly routine monotonous, but as a harried working parent myself (or — ironic side note — the housewife, Mona is so desperate to become?!), I found it appealing. Meg sent me the recipe for Rice Week and I made it on a rare, quiet afternoon home alone. I intended to save the food, as Jacques did, and eat it for dinner during the week. But the rice was so delicious, hearty with bacon and winter vegetables, I ended up sampling an overly large portion. (We polished off the rest for a quick lunch the next day, standing up scoffing it in the kitchen, before the baby woke up from her nap.) It reminded me of something familiar, and I realized later what it was: fried rice. Perfumed with herbes de Provence (I used thyme), this was fried rice French style. Next time, I’ll add more vegetables — shredded kale or Brussels sprouts? — and maybe scramble an egg at the finish. Et voilà, a one-pot meal enjoyed by housewives, singletons, French intellos, American feminists, and/or Chinese-American families everywhere. No spoilers here, but you might agree with Mona that the happy ending is the one you create for yourself.

Une semaine de riz

1 cup brown rice
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 leek
3 large carrots
1/4 pound thick-cut bacon
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. herbes de Provence or dried basil

Rinse the rice and transfer it to a saucepan. Cover with the water and add the salt. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low, cover the saucepan, and simmer until most of the water has been absorbed, about 20 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, pare the leek and chop it crosswise into rounds about 1/2 inch thick. Peel the carrots and chop them crosswise into slices about 1/4 inch thick. Chop the bacon into lardons about 1/2 inch wide.

Heat the olive oil to sizzling in a large frying pan. Add the leek and carrots, and stir fry for 5 minutes. Add the bacon and stir fry for 5 minutes more.

When the rice is ready, add it with its liquid to the frying pan. Add the herbs. Cover and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes.

Serves two generously, and it’s delicious as is, or with a dash of soy sauce.

Topics: Cooking the Books | 15 Comments »

Tuesday dinner with Jill Colonna

By Ann | December 10, 2013

tart 2

I think of puff pastry as a festive food. But puff pastry with caramelized onions and goat cheese, flipped upside à la tarte tatin? Hello, Christmas! I’m excited the holidays are here again so I can revel in this luxurious savory tart, a recipe from Jill Colonna, author of the cookbook, Mad About Macarons: Make Macarons like the French.

Jill Colonna

Jill is an expert at creating simple luxury — her genius cookbook offers practical step-by-step instructions for producing the notoriously finicky macaron in the home kitchen, recipes perfected over her twenty years as a macaron aficionado. Born in Scotland, Jill now lives in the Paris suburb of St-Germain-en-Laye (“next to the river Seine; the land of the Impressionists,” she calls it), where she juggles life with her husband, two teenage daughters, and a job leading chocolate and macaron tours for Context Travel. (Yes, clever Jill has found a way to actually get paid to eat sweets.) Today I’m delighted to share her quick weeknight cooking tips and a recipe for onion and chèvre tarte tatin!

On what she cooks when she doesn’t feel like cooking:
–A ‘pizza tarte’ using ready-made puff pastry circles and top with tomato paste, ham, grated cheese and whatever kind of leftovers I can throw on top.

–We’re huge pasta fans, so a tub of crème fraîche, lemon, yolks and roasted chicken leftovers (or conveniently from Picard, our French frozen store) or a mushroomy sauce, for example, gets tossed about and all served with a roquette salad.

And when she really, REALLY doesn’t feel like cooking:
On days when I feel like mumbling, ‘Mum is on strike!’, I serve fresh store-bought ravioli, toss it in butter, sprinkle with fresh herbs from the garden, liberally snow on the parmesan and serve hubby and I a glass of chilled Chardonnay and before I know it, I’m discussing tomorrow’s dinner again.

On buying vegetables that last:
I normally pack the fridge once a week with fresh fruit and veg. If I buy them from my favourite help-yourself farmers’ market nearby in Mesnil-le-Roi, they last easily a week — which is no comparison to a quick shop at the supermarket: their offerings always wilt miserably after a couple of days so I rely on frozen spinach for quiches or frozen peas for a quick pea and basil soup.

How she adds a quick crunch:
In our pantry you’ll find walnuts, hazelnuts and pinenuts — I love to toast them in advance and store them in jam jars, so that I can sprinkle them on salads and gratins at the last minute for some extra flavor.

Why you want to live at Jill’s house:
It goes without saying I always have ground almonds, icing/confectioner’s and caster sugar and a handy stock of homemade macarons in the freezer…

Onion and chèvre tarte tatin
by Jill Colonna

“I’ve chosen my favorite quick dish,” says Jill. “It takes ten minutes to prepare, twenty minutes to leave on the stove, then I can set the timer on the oven for twenty minutes and dinner is ready when we get back. This is perfect served with a Sauvignon Blanc. Cheers and bon appétit.”

*Note from Ann: Jill’s tart tastes complex and luxurious, but is one of the simplest things I’ve ever made. I found four onions overcrowded the pan (maybe American onions are bigger than French onions?), so use your best judgement. I used two disks of fresh goat cheese and broke them across the top of the onions. Jill cooks her tart at 360°F/ 180°C, but I found the temperature far too cool — instead, I recommend using the baking instructions on your box of puff pastry. Finally, I wasn’t sure when to add the walnuts, so I toasted them and scattered a handful across the top of the flipped tart.

Serves 4 as a light dinner

Special equipment: a frying pan that can transfer to the oven

2 large onions
2 red onions
large knob of butter (30g)
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp herbes de Provence
3 crottins de chavignol (fresh goat’s cheese)
1 ready-rolled puff pastry round (all butter is best)
Handful of walnuts

Peel and cut the onions into thin slices. Meanwhile, over a medium-low flame, melt the butter with a dash of olive oil in a sauté pan that can be transferred to the oven. Add the onions to the pan and leave to soften and cook for 20 minutes, turning only once or twice to coat the onions in the butter and oil.

Preheat the oven to temperature suggested on box of puff pastry.

Stir the balsamic vinegar, herbes de Provence and salt and pepper into the onions. Slice the crottins of goat cheese in half horizontally and distribute them on top of the onions. Top with the large disk of puff pastry, tucking it in around the sides of the pan. Prick the pastry with the fork then transfer to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden (consult back of puff pastry box for suggested cooking time).

Remove from the oven. Place a plate larger than the pan over the top. Turn the tatin upside down quickly on to the plate. Serve with a salad tossed in olive oil, balsamic vinegar and extra toasted walnuts (which you have in stock in your pantry!). Jill normally also adds bits of charcuterie or fried bacon bits to the salad, so that it resembles a salade de chèvre chaud.

tart 1

(All non-tart photos from Jill Colonna.)

Topics: Tuesday dinner | 17 Comments »

Downton Abbey tea truck

By Ann | December 9, 2013

truck

maids

The new season of everyone’s favorite upper crust English soap opera starts airing in the States on January 5. But this week, the Downton Abbey tea truck is cruising the streets of New York,  helping Americans swallow their impatience with free cups of tea and biscuits. This morning, I visited the truck at Union Square, and chatted with waylaid PBS representative, Amy Tam:

On the tea being served:
“It’s an English Rose tea, rose-flavored with raspberry notes – the official tea of Downton Abbey. Made by the Republic of Tea, and available for sale at PBS.org. I would picture Lady Grantham having a sip with her pinky out. Or all the ladies. They have so much tea all the time.”

On the fifty-minute wait for tea:
“There’s been a group of [about 15] people standing here to get free tea since we pulled up at 11am. The tea is brewing — the water is boiling right now. It’s taking longer than we anticipated.”

On the credentials needed to serve tea at the tea truck:
“The maid’s outfits are Downton-inspired, but you don’t have to be a Brit. You just have to be a Downton Abbey lover.”

On the missing photo-op backdrop of Highclere Castle:
“We’re encouraging people to just take photos with the maids and tea truck. Or pose with these signs.”

signs

cup 2  cup 1

Read more about the “Downton Abbey on Masterpiece on PBS tea truck” (as Tam asked me to refer to it) at Variety.

Would you like to sip your own cup of pink, fruity (Lady Violet would be horrified) tea? Find the tea truck this week in New York:

12/10, Tuesday, 11am-7pm, Sixth Ave between 40th & 41st Streets

12/11, Wednesday, 11am-7pm, 50th Street between Sixth & Seventh Avenues

12/12, Thursday, 12pm-8pm, The New York Times TimesCenter, 41st Street between Seventh & Eighth Avenues

12/13, Friday,  11am-7pm, Broadway between 66th & 67th Streets

Topics: New York City | 9 Comments »

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