Friday, September 12, 2014

FFWD ~ Basic French Lentils and a Classic Lentil Salad

FFWD ~ Classic Lentil Salad

Hello everyone! It’s time for French Fridays again. This week we have a very basic dish to serve up...French Lentils! Lentils have always been part of my life. I grew up on them. My grandmother would serve them weekly, as part of our meatless Friday menu. How many of you remember those meatless Fridays? Once, while in high school, I went with some girlfriends to the Newbury’s lunch counter, to grab an after school snack. I was really hungry and ordered a hot dog. Then I remembered it was Friday! Being the good Catholic girl I was, I reluctantly walked away from that hot dog. Even though I was starving, and had no money to buy anything else! In my thirteen-year-old mind, I was comforted in knowing I had not committed a sin, that could send me straight know where.

I loved the goat cheese added to this salad…creamy and rich tasting

I was really looking forward to trying Dorie’s Basic French Lentil recipe, and it did not disappoint.
French Lentils, otherwise known as lentilles du Puy, are a smaller, green-gray variety that grow in France. The name comes from the region of France where they are grown. When they are cooked, they hold their shape, which makes them perfect for salads. 

du Puy lentils compared to the normal brown lentil

Dorie’s recipe for the French Lentils is simple and delicious. The lentilles du Puy, are cooked in chicken broth, along with celery, carrots, an onion, cloves, garlic, and a bay leaf till tender.  Once the lentils are cooked, remove from the heat, and add a tablespoon of Cognac and a chopped shallot. These lentils have a rich, deep warm flavor, that I truly enjoyed.

The book gives several options for serving the lentils. Honestly, I loved them right out of the pot…a perfect side dish! However, one option Dorie suggests for serving them, is with a Dijon vinaigrette, as a salad. It’s made with Dijon mustard, walnut oil, sherry vinegar, salt, and freshly ground pepper. I chose to make the salad with the vinaigrette, and added some goat cheese to mine!  A la Dorie! A lovely lunch to say the least! Happy Friday everyone!

This recipe can be found in Dorie’s cookbook, “Around My French Table”, or here at Serious Eats. To see how the other Dorista’s chose to make their lentils, check it out here on the FrenchFriday webpage

Delicious Classic Lentil Salad…Happy Friday everyone!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Individual Puff Pancakes ~ Breakfast on the Back Porch

Magical individual puff pancakes
I’m trying to soak up every bit of summer, before we transition into fall. The temperatures have been in the 80’s and 90’s, but I know fall is just around the corner. Before long it will be chilly and too cold to use our back porch. This morning however, the weather was perfect for an al fresco breakfast! I had some beautiful fresh raspberries, that I had just picked from my garden.  Also, some locally purchased peaches, that were on my counter begging to be eaten.  I thought of my options...French toast, waffles?Ah, but I didn’t want the mess. Then I remembered something I haven’t made for awhile. Puff Pancakes! Sometimes known as Dutch Babies, or German Pancakes. They even fit my summer mood!

These are just a perfectly elegant quick breakfast

I’ve been making puff pancakes for a very long time. You can see a full sized one here, where I posted it a few years back. They are perfect for a lazy weekend breakfast or as part of a brunch menu. The thing about puff pancakes is, they’re like magic! You first mix your main ingredients…eggs, flour, milk, a bit of vanilla, and some orange or lemon zest in a blender.  Place your muffin pan in a hot oven to heat, with a bit of butter in each cup.  When the pan is hot, and before the butter browns, pour the batter in.  Bake for between 15 and 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. Magically you will have lovely puffed pancakes, ready to be filled. I always use whatever fruit is in season to fill my pancakes. Fresh fruit throughout the summer, and sauteed apples, or pears in the fall and winter.  I normally make my puff pancake in a 9 inch cast iron skillet or pie plate, but today I thought it would be nice to have individual servings. I decided to use a large (3½ inch cups) muffin tin to make them in. This recipe will make about 5 or 6 puffed pancakes when using the muffin pan.  Magic maybe…but they look great and taste even better!
Hope you’ll give these a try… and add some magic to your breakfast table!

Muffin tin with about a teaspoon of butter in each cup
Baking in the oven…love the magic
Perfect for filling
 This was a perfect way to enjoy our porch for an “End of Summer" breakfast
Wish you could join us!

Puff Pancakes
adapted from the Silver Palate Cookbook


2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
dash of salt
1 teaspoon orange or lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoon butter


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Put about a teaspoon of butter into each cup of a large muffin pan (my pan is no-stick and each cup of is about 3½ inches), then place in the pre-heated oven, watching to make sure the butter does not burn.
In the jar of your blender, mix together the eggs, milk, flour, salt, vanilla and zest.
Pour the batter only about ⅓ full, into the hot buttered muffin cups. If you do not fill all the cups with batter…put about a ¼ cup of water into each empty cup.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes (or until the pancake is firm, lightly browned and has puffed up around the edges). Squeeze on a little lemon juice and sprinkle with powdered sugar. 
You could also make this pancake in a 9 inch cast iron pan or pie plate. 
I always fill mine with fruit, but the choice is yours!

Other options: Sprinkle with brown sugar, or use some maple syrup
                       Spread with jam  
                       Fill with fresh berries or fruit
                       Lightly sprinkle with Grand Marnier
                       Fill with chestnut cream or sweetened ricotta
                       Instead of vanilla you can add cinnamon or other extract
                       The topping options are endless!

Friday, September 5, 2014

FFWD ~ Curried Chicken, Peppers, and Peas en Paillote

FFWD ~ Curried Chicken, Peppers and Peas en Papillote
This weeks French Fridays recipe is for Curried Chicken, Peppers and Peas en Papillote. It was straightforward, and easy to put together. 
The cooking method en Papillote means “in parchment”.  It allows the meat or fish to stew in its own juices, along with the seasonings and other ingredients you choose to include. Traditionally, the packets are made with parchment paper however, Dorie suggests, you use aluminum foil to make them. This recipe took about five minutes to put together, and twenty minutes to bake. The results were a moist, wonderful meal with no pots to wash.
When I read the recipe, I remembered Bill is not very fond of curry…should I change the seasoning? I actually thought of substituting the curry with Italian seasonings.  Then I thought "if I just cut the curry it might be fine”...WRONG!! 

Dinner on the table in 30 minutes
This recipe called for a teaspoon of curry.  I knew that would be way over the top for Bill. I decided to cut the amount to about a ¼ teaspoon. First slicing the raw chicken breasts into pieces, mixing them in a bowl with chopped red bell pepper, peas and red onion slices, along with the seasonings. This mixture is then wrapped in foil packets, and placed in a 400º oven for about 20 minutes. 
I loved the ease of this recipe. I immediately thought “why don’t I use this method more often for making dinner”? The packets can be made in advance, and popped in the oven at dinner time. 
I really enjoyed this dish. It looked so appealing with all the specks of green and red, and I thought the curry flavor was very slight.  However, Bill picked up the flavor of curry right away and asked, “what is that odd taste on the chicken”?  He reluctantly ate it, but said it would be much better without the curry!  Hmmm…The recipe is for Curried Chicken etc.  Anyway, Happy Friday everyone!

The recipe can be found in Dorie’s cookbook, “Around My French Table” or here where it has been published.

Chicken, seasonings, peas, red pepper, and onion mixed in bowl
Foil packets ready for the oven
I really love the ease of cooking my dinner in this way
I see this dish being a regular on my menu sans the curry

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Benvenuto Italia Part 1, and Fresh Fig Tart with Rosemary Cornmeal Crust

The Coliseum
I recently returned from a fabulous trip to Italy. It was a bucket list trip for me. I’ve always wanted to visit the Mediterranean. We started our trip in Roma! Beautiful Roma!  La Citta Eterna…(The Eternal City). Our hotel was first class, and very close to the Vatican.  We were in Italy for eight days, joining our son and his family there. That of course, only added to the specialness of our trip!  

The first night we were welcomed with a wonderful Italian feast at our hotel. Five courses! The pasta course was exceptional…the sauce so fresh tasting. Food was plentiful, the wine flowed freely, and everyone was full of excitement as Marco and Kathleen (our Adventures by Disney tour Managers) briefed us on our itinerary for the next several days.  Of course, what would dinner be without dessert.  Gelato was a given for my grandsons, but the adults enjoyed a few other options. I had a wonderful Tiramisu. 

Our first full day was spent touring the Coliseum, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps and the gorgeous fountains of Rome. We also visited Trevi Fountain, one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions. Although it was being renovated, it still drew a large crowd to view the spectacular carvings. As I stood in the Coliseum, all I could think about was all the history that had happened in this special and ancient place. It is a jaw dropping, awe inspiring structure, once the center of the Western Civilization!  

The Pantheon
Inside the Pantheon
And now, a great center for fabulous food!  We experienced a most wonderful pizza lunch at Obika Mozzarella Bar (coincidently one opened recently in the Flatiron building in NYC). Our first course was  a delicious antipasto and mozzarella Di Bufula followed by our first Italian pizza…actually four variations of fabulously delicious pizzas!
The next day was spent touring the Vatican. St Peter’s Basilica was our first stop. From our hotel, which was right across the street from the Vatican, our guides walked us over to the Basilica quite early, to avoid lines. We pretty much walked right in. The staggering size and ornate detail of St Peters was phenomenal.  There were markers along the center isle denoting its size compared to all the largest Cathedrals throughout the world. The Basilica has been standing inside the Vatican, since 1626, and is a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture. The Pietà by Michelangelo is housed in the Basilica. It is simply breathtaking! 
It has long been a favorite of mine, and seeing it in person was thrilling.

The Vatican…St. Peter’s Basilica 
The Swiss Guard
The Pietà  
One last thing to see before our lunch break was a visit to Castel Sant’Angelo, once the tallest building in Rome. It sits on the edge of the Vatican and was once used as a papal fortress and prison. It is a true gem among Rome’s historic sights. It’s connected to the Vatican by an elevated passage called the Passetto di Borgo. If you've read Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown…the castel is even more interesting! 
                                                                Castel Sant’Angelo                                                     stock photo   
We then had a free afternoon. My son recommended we lunch in Trastevere, a short cab ride away (Hmmm…cab rides in Rome short or long are unforgettable experiences themselves).  Old Rome, with beautiful narrow cobbled streets, little shops, venders and many cafes to sit and have a cappuccino or glass of wine.  Our guide Marco, had given my son a recommendation for a restaurant called Sabatini’s.  Located in Piazza Santa Maria, with a large fountain in the center, unbelievably scenic. Our lunch was incredible!  One thing I will never forget, was watching one of the very skilled Sabatini brothers slicing very thin Prosciutto from a ham hock. He performed this task with pride and ceremony. Our walk back, from Trastevere along the Tiber River, was filled with neighborhood sights and sounds of this beautiful area. Walking through long narrow streets, with flowers and vines hanging from windows, finally climbing a seemingly vertical stairway to our hotel.

So much more to tell, but it will have to wait! I think I am running out of space! 

We had a wonderful lunch in Trastevere at Sabitinis 
One of the Sabitini brothers…both in their 80’s…carving the thinest prosciutto I’ve ever seen
Great food, and wonderful atmosphere 
The view from our table…Ryan and Bill checking out the fountain in Piazza Santa Maria 
Lovely winding streets of Trastevere

Seemingly vertical stairway back to our hotel

When I got home, I was so missing the wonderful Italian tarts and cakes that we were served everyday, that I had to bake something! Here is a tart that brings back Italy to me.  Hope you give it a try! Fresh figs and Mascarpone…yum!

Beautiful fresh Fig Tart with Rosemary Cornmeal crust

Gourmet | July 2003

Makes 6 servings
active time:1 1/4 hour
total time:1 3/4 hour

For crust
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal (not stone-ground)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
4 to 5 tablespoons ice water
For filling
1/3 cup sour cream
1 cup (8oz.) mascarpone cheese (you could substitute cream cheese)
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons red-currant jelly
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 lb fresh figs

Special equipment: an 11 1/4- by 8- by 1-inch rectangular or 10-inch round fluted tart pan (1 inch deep) with a removable bottom
Make crust:
Pulse together flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Add butter and rosemary and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Drizzle evenly with 4 tablespoons ice water and pulse until just incorporated.

Gently squeeze a small handful: If it doesn't hold together, add more water, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, pulsing after each addition and continuing to test.

Press dough evenly onto bottom and up sides of tart pan with floured fingers. Smooth dough with a small offset metal spatula or back of a spoon (floured if necessary), then roll a rolling pin over top of pan to trim dough flush with rim. Chill crust until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Bake crust in middle of oven until center and edges are golden, 25 to 30 minutes (don't worry if bottom of crust cracks), then cool in pan on a rack.
Prepare filling and assemble tart:

Whisk together sour cream, mascarpone, sugar, zest, and salt in a bowl.

Heat jelly and honey in a small saucepan over moderately low heat, whisking, until jelly is melted, about 4 minutes, then cool glaze slightly.

Remove side of tart pan and spread mascarpone cream in shell. Cut figs lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices and arrange decoratively over cream. Brush figs with honey glaze.

Friday, August 29, 2014

FFWD ~ Shiitake with Napa and Nuts

FFWD ~ Chanterelles  ~ I mean Shiitake with Napa and Nuts

I’m sure, if I were living in France, I would have had no problem finding the Chanterelle mushrooms needed for this week’s French Friday recipe. I spent several days in pursuit of those elusive mushrooms. Finally, after running from store to store, I settled on Shiitake. I was convinced there were no Chanterelles to be had in the Garden State.

In one store, I asked the produce guy if he had Chanterelles? He just looked at me and laughed!  I then said to him “I see you have Shiitakes”.  He looked at me puzzled, and asked, “What is a Shiitake”? I knew I was screwed!  Obviously he must have been new to produce, or this was his summer job! So after looking on-line, and seeing that Shiitakes can sub for Chanterelles, I bought a bunch. 
I was a bit nervous, after reading Gracie Hunt’s comment on FB.  She said, we shouldn’t substitute with Shiitakes because they have a stronger taste.  What choice did I have?

I loved this dish…can’t wait to try it the way Dorie intended it…once I find the elusive Chanterelles
This week’s recipe was not one I was looking forward to. Mushroom dishes are not a favorite with me. Don’t get me wrong. I love mushrooms! I just prefer them as part of something else…not the star!   Frankly, after last weeks pick, I was not looking forward to another failure! In full disclosure, last weeks salad turned out to be a winner after all. I loved it the second day, after all the flavors had melded. 

I read all the comments on our French Fridays P&Q’s page, concerning the Chanterelles, and saw that Cher used Shiitakes. She also added grapes. Dorie’s Bonne Idee! Dorie  suggested white grapes, but I only had red in the house.  I decided to go for it!  I also added more Napa, as Mary suggested! I made mine with the beef bouillon and soy sauce. The grapes added such a nice layer of flavor, and the mushrooms were wonderfully tasty. 

I absolutely loved this dish! I made it early in the day, because of photos!  Oh, the life of a food blogger! I ate some for lunch, and it was delicious! I will continue the hunt for the elusive Chanterelles.  I would still like to make this dish the way Dorie intended. Although for now, I’m quite happy with the Shiitake version! Happy Friday everyone!!

This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspans cookbook, “Around My French Table or here. To see how the other Doristas did with this Elusive mushroom, check it out here.

No Chanterelles…but lovely Shiitakes
Cooking the mushrooms
The grapes added such a nice layer of flavor…Enjoy!


Friday, August 22, 2014

FFWD ~ Couscous Salad

FFWD ~ Couscous Salad

This week, for French Fridays, it’s a salad. A Couscous salad to be exact!  Perfect for a warm summers night in the northeast. A nice accompaniment for just about anything you plan to grill for dinner.  However, for some reason I thought this was the week of the Chanterelles (a story for next week).  I spent several hours in town, going from store to store, in search of this elusive mushroom. Only to come home and re-read my FF schedule, and find out I was a week ahead.  Really??

I loved everything that went into this salad….

So it’s a Couscous Salad with a Moroccan slant!  Whole grains are a mainstay in my pantry. I cook with them all the time. I make many whole grain salads including one of my favorites…a  wheat berry salad from the Whole Foods cookbook, which I intend to post eventually. Any given day you will find several different varieties of rice, Farro, quinoa, bulgur, wheat germ, and barley. I’ve got them all. Going to my pantry to find couscous was not going to be a problem. I knew I had everything needed for this salad! Following a two-hour hunt for mushrooms, this was a cinch!

This was an easy salad to put together. Bringing broth, flavored with a lot of warm spices, and some olive oil to a boil. Then add the couscous, and toss in all the veggies. Because Dorie shared this recipe in Bon Appetit magazine in 2008, I decided to share it here with you.

So did I like it? Honestly, I was not fond of all the warm spices in this cold salad. I prefer fresh tasting herbs such as basil, mint, thyme and rosemary. Don’t get me wrong; I love a little cinnamon thrown into certain dishes. I always add some to my Tabouli, the way my grandmother always did. However, I find the Moroccan flavors to be quite strong. I do enjoy them in a good Tagine.  Still, I found the spices in this salad to be overwhelming and quite intense. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’d rate it a 2! You win some, and then you know how it goes…you lose some! Sorry Dorie, this one just didn’t do it for me.  Happy Friday everyone!

This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook, Around My French Table…it is also all over the Internet.  To see what the other FF crew has done with this salad check it out here.

except the spices…I just found them too overwhelming
But don’t let me be the barometer…if you like Moroccan food you might love this! 

Moroccan Couscous Salad
by Dorie Greenspan

Bon Appétit | August 2008

2 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 garlic cloves, pressed
2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 10-ounce box plain couscous
1/2 cup raisins
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
1 large carrot, peeled, quartered lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise
1 cup thinly sliced green beans or trimmed sugar snap peas
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Bring chicken broth, 1 tablespoon oil, ginger, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, turmeric, cinnamon, and cumin to boil in heavy large saucepan. Stir in couscous and remove from heat. Scatter raisins over, cover, and let stand until couscous softens, about 10 minutes. Fluff couscous with fork, breaking up any lumps with fingertips. Transfer couscous to large bowl. Add cucumber, red bell pepper, carrot, green beans, and lemon peel. Whisk remaining 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and lemon juice in small bowl. Add to couscous; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Friday, August 15, 2014

FFWD ~ Roasted Peppers

FFWD ~ Roasted Peppers
Buongiorno, my French Friday friends!! I know, I should be saying Bonjour, but I just arrived home after nine days in Italy! I am so in love with Italy, its culture and its people! I am still suffering a bit of jet lag, so it was quite nice to come home to an extremely easy recipe…or a non-recipe really, for French Fridays! I actually have a lot to say about Italy, and will be blogging about it in another post. But for today, it’s all about French Fridays!
Roasted peppers are something that I often make. Usually, I do them on the grill. They are very popular with Mediterranean cultures, where they are often served as a first course. You’ll find them in Italy, Greece, and of course France.

They are extremely simple and delicious! I placed 4 red, yellow, and orange peppers on a lined baking sheet, and slid them into a 425º oven. They are then turned every 15 minutes till all sides are blistered and browned. The peppers are then placed into a bowl, and covered with foil until cool. This will help loosen the skins, to aid with peeling. After you remove the skins, stems and seeds, they are sliced and placed on a serving dish. Drizzle with some olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper and fresh herbs. Dorie suggests rosemary, parsley, basil or thyme. The aroma, as these bake in the oven, is enticing! I love them as a side dish, but they are also wonderful placed on a sandwich or pizza. You can serve them warm or cold, right from the fridge.

As I mentioned, I would usually use my outdoor grill for roasting peppers, but I wanted to follow Dorie’s recipe and technique. The results were delicious! Thank you FF for picking a recipe that was easy to accomplish while suffering jet lag.  A hit with both Bill and I! Happy Friday everyone! 

Dorie has posted about these peppers on her blog with the recipe. You can find it here

My new olive oil cruet from Tuscany
Great hot or cold
These are just wonderful as an easy side dish or on a sandwich
Ciao Italia!!