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.
Delicious 

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!!

 

Friday, August 1, 2014

FFWD ~ Gâteau Basque


FFWD ~ Gâteau Basque
This week our pick for French Fridays is a dessert! It’s been a while since we made anything ooey and gooey! Something decadent…yum! Well, we’ll have to wait just a bit longer for ooey and gooey. This Gâteau Basque is not one of those decadent, sinful desserts, that oozes chocolate and cream. It is however, one of those desserts that is just as comfortable being served for breakfast, brunch or with your afternoon tea, as it is for an after dinner treat! But don’t get me wrong…it’s one delicious cake! Or is it a tart? Maybe it’s a cookie! In the words of my hubby…"It’s one of the best cakes you've ever made!” Whoa!! Really? I’ve made a lot of wonderfully delicious desserts over the years! So many in-fact, I couldn’t pick…although it sounds like he did!

This was a utterly delicious cake…or is it a tart?
Dorie writes that the Gâteau Basque, in another region of France, might be called a galette, or torte. However, for the Basque people, it’s a cake and it’s an everyday treat.  It's easy to prepare. Mix the dough in your stand mixer, then roll it into two 8 inch round disks. Refrigerate for several hours, or for up to three days.
I chose to leave the dough in the fridge overnight. The next day I took out the disks of dough, and finished the Gâteau, placing one disk into a greased 8-inch cake pan. I then spread it with freshly made raspberry jam, although the recipe called for cherry jam or pastry cream. Then place the second disk on top.  Brush with an egg wash, and use the tines of a fork to score the top of the dough in a crosshatch pattern.  
This truly was a delicious Gâteau! The raspberry jam was an excellent choice! It was a perfect dessert to enjoy after dinner, on the deck, watching the sun go down. Of course with a cup of tea or coffee!  Happy Friday everyone! 

You can find the recipe for the Gâteau Basque in Dorie Greenspans cookbook, “Around My French Table”, or here on NPR.  To see how the other Doristas did with the Gâteau Basque check it out here.

I loved this….but Bill...
Really, Really loved it!! Best cake ever!
Look at the raspberry jam just oozing out of this lovely Gâteau Basque 
A keeper for sure….

Monday, July 28, 2014

Cold Brewed Iced Coffee ~ Best Iced Coffee Ever!

Cold Brewed Iced Coffee….amazing!!
Recently, while on FB, my cousin posted about enjoying the best iced coffee ever. Wow! That must be pretty darn good coffee! I was intrigued!  I don’t even drink coffee. I’m a tea aficionado…but my husband, he loves his coffee! So, I decided to check out the recipe and surprise him with a big, tall glass of this very special iced coffee.

Since we are in the middle of summer, and the weather has been quite hot, it sounded like a perfect time to make iced coffee! Besides, now my curiosity was piqued!

I love the way the half and half swirls into the coffee
Iced coffee enthusiasts seem to agree, that the perfect way to make a great iced coffee, is by using the cold brewed method.  Changing the method from hot brew to cold gives you a more delicate flavor, that is less bitter in taste. Also, it will not get as diluted when you add ice and milk. The grounds are placed in a big container, then cold water is poured over them, and they are allowed to steep for at least 8 hours or overnight. The coffee is then poured through a strainer, lined with a coffee filter or cheesecloth.  Now refrigerate the coffee concentrate for several hours before serving. You will wind up with an extra-strong concentrate, that is ready to be diluted with ice, half & half, cream or milk.  Are you ready for coffee bliss?

My husband loved this coffee! He has been enjoying a glass or two daily. He said it was as good as the stuff you get from the fancy coffee shops. So, if you love your coffee, and while we’re still in the midst of summer, give this one a try! You won’t be sorry!

Choose a rich strong coffee
Add the grounds to the container, then add the water, and stir….cover and leave for at least 8 hours to steep 
Strain the coffee concentrate into another clean container
Coffee delight…would you like me to pour you a glass?


Best Iced Coffee Ever….Cold Brewed Method


This makes a wonderful coffee “concentrate” to keep in your fridge: iced coffee anyone?

Ingredients:
8 oz. Ground Coffee (a good, Rich Roast)
4 quarts Cold Water
Half-and-half…I used fat free Half and Half, or any Milk that you choose. Skim, 2%, Whole…the choice is yours.
Sweeten to your taste

Preparation:

(Adapted from Imbibe Magazine and the Pioneer Women)

Place the coffee grounds in a large container, pour four quarts of cold water over the grounds, and stir to moisten everything. Cover and allow to sit at room temperature eight hours or overnight.

Line a fine mesh strainer with cheesecloth and set over a pitcher or other container. Pour coffee/water mixture through the strainer, allowing all liquid to run through. Discard grounds.

Place coffee liquid in the fridge and allow to cool for several hours. Now it’s time to enjoy!

To make iced coffee, pack a glass full of ice cubes. Fill glass ⅔ full with coffee liquid. Add a generous splash of half-and-half, or whatever milk you choose to use, sweeten, then enjoy!!

Thank you Christine!



 

Friday, July 25, 2014

FFWD ~ Provençal Vegetable Soup and a Meet-up with Dorista Friends

FFWD ~ Provençal Vegetable Soup
Here it is Friday again! This week our recipe is for Provençal Vegetable Soup. Recently, we had a few days that were cooler than normal, with low humidity. Not today! The temps have gone back up, and so has the humidity. I started my soup early in the day, and planned on just heating it up for dinner. While I was chopping and preparing my veggies, my husband walked in and asked, “Why are you making soup…it’s 85 degrees out? Don’t you have something to grill?”  Silly husband, it’s for French Fridays!

I really enjoyed this wonderfully tasty soup…loved the addition of pesto
This soup is full of fresh veggies and garden fresh flavor. A taste of summer in a bowl!  I picked up all the veggies at my local farm stand. Unfortunately, none of the veggies I’m growing are ready yet. We're having such a late season.  I did get two yellow grape tomatoes this week. Soon, I should be bombarded with more than I know what to do with. However, for now I will be happy picking fresh herbs off my deck.
A taste of summer!
This soup uses canned broth or water, which makes it simple and fast to prepare. Even in the heat of summer! Once everything is chopped, start sautéing the onion and garlic in heated oil, until soft.  Add the broth and herbs, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer.  Add the carrots and potato, and cook about 10 minutes. Add the beans and zucchini, and cook for an additional 10 minutes. This soup comes together fast and was ready to serve with a drizzle of pesto, in less than an hour.  
I really enjoyed this dish….a perfectly delicious summer vegetable soup! The pesto was a wonderful addition. Now for the bad news…Bill did not like it! But that should not be a surprise…he doesn’t do veggies he can see! I say more for me!
Enjoy, but wait for a cool day!

On a different note, I spent last weekend in NYC with three of my Dorista friends. For me it seems incredible how quickly we felt comfortable with each other. Like old friends! 
We all took trains in from our respective areas. Me from NJ, Cher from NY State, Betsy came down from Boston and met Diane in NY, and they took the train together into the city.  We enjoyed some lovely meals, but none as fabulous as the one we ate Friday night at La Grenouille.
According to a NY Times article…La Grenouille is well into its fifth decade, and is still giving lessons in how an elegant French restaurant should be run. The scale is intimate, the floral arrangements spectacular, the cooking classic. 
This was a perfect choice for a Dorista meet-up! Thank you, Diane for a great choice! After four years of cooking through Dories cookbook, "Around My French Table", we have cooked or baked many of the selections that were offered. It was fun to have a four-course meal, served so elegantly over several hours time.
 Floating Islands at La Grenouille…remember those?
The next day was spent at Chelsea Market, picking up some hard to find items and some special treats to bring home. We took a wrong turn and happened to walk right by Sullivan St. Bakery. Of course, we went in and bought ourselves some bread. When we left Chelsea Market, we walked through the meat-packing district and had a lovely garden lunch. After we re-energized, we walked the HighLine.
The High Line is a 1½ mile New York City linear park built on a 1.45-mile section of the elevated former New York Central Railroad spur called the West Side Line, which runs along the lower west side of Manhattan. 


 Cher took this photo in front of Sullivan St. Bakery...

The girls at Chelsea Market…a fun day!
                                  This is the High Line…Places to relax, beautiful foliage, and a great view                   stock photo
                                         A water feature on the High Line…take off your shoes and cool off a bit                          stock photo


When we finally got back to the hotel we were all quite tired. However, after a little rest we were dressed and out for dinner again. This time Italian! A very nice restaurant with outdoor dining, called Bistro Milano
The next morning we all had breakfast together and headed home. As the train pulled out of Penn Station I was thinking about the great time we had, and how wonderful it is when virtual friends become the real thing! Happy Friday everyone!

You can find this recipe in Dorie Greenspans cookbook, “Around My French Table” or here where it has been posted.

Friday, July 18, 2014

FFWD ~ Coddled Eggs with Foie Gras

FFWD ~ Coddled Eggs with Foie Gras

This week, our recipe for French Fridays, is Coddled Eggs with Foie Gras. Our fellow Dorista Cher, of The Not So Exciting Adventures of a Dabbler, picked this one!  I am not a stranger to Coddled Eggs, or Eggs en Cocotte, as they are called in France. They are actually one of my new found favorites! I posted about them here, last fall. I’ve made them quite often, since that first time. One difference, between making Dorie’s version and the one I usually make, is the method of cooking.  I always bake mine but, Dorie calls for steaming them.  Dorie also calls for Foie Gras sliced, and placed into the bottom of the ramekin. Very French, don’t you think? This is a wonderful dish to serve for brunch, or a special occasion breakfast! 


These are quite a special breakfast treat…and they take minutes to prepare 
Last Thanksgiving for a family breakfast, I made Eggs en Cocotte. I thought the kids would really enjoy them, since you get to personalize each ramekin to the likes of the eater. Ham, cheese, eggs…for the adults, I added spinach, and tomatoes! Well, my nine-year-old grandson took one taste and gagged. Sometimes I forget I’m cooking for kids and not a bunch of foodies!  Most kids like simple foods with no exotic flavors or textures, and they don’t like their foods mixed.  Luckily, he did enjoy his Cheerios!

We loved these…elegant and mouthwatering

These are quite simple to prepare.  Butter each ramekin or soufflé mold. They should be between 4 and 6 ounces. Slice the Foie Gras pate, and cut each slice into quarters.  Place the quarters into each baking dish, and add your eggs.  One egg is not breakfast for my hubby, so I added two eggs to each dish.  I also added some sliced tomato to the bottom of his dish.  Salt and pepper the eggs, and pour a tablespoon of cream over each egg. Sprinkle with some fresh chopped parsley and tarragon, and place them into a steamer. I used a large pasta pot with a basket insert. It worked well except I could only cook one at a time. They cook for about 5 to 7 minutes depending on how well you like your eggs done. I like my whites well done, but my yolk somewhat runny. The Foie Gras took these to another level!    


We ate these on Wednesday morning. The sun was shining, and it was a beautiful summer day! I set the table on my deck!  We felt like we were having breakfast in some fancy resort.  Bill loved them, as did I.  A perfect way to celebrate an ordinary day! Happy Friday everyone!

This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook, "Around My French Table”, or for a very similar recipe, at Epicurious. To see how the other Doristas are handling this one, check it out here

One final note to all my Dorista friends, I will be spending the weekend with Cher, Betsy and Diane in NYC. We are having a mini east coast get together. Wish you could all be there…we will be toasting you tonight at dinner! 



Butter the ramekins, add the Foie Gras, then the eggs
A couple tablespoons of cream, salt, pepper and herbs…then steam for 5-7 minutes
Then enjoy….lovely for a special breakfast or brunch

Bon Appétit

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Rhubarb Curd…and Rhubarb-Shortbread Bars

Rhubarb-Shortbread Bars
Recently, I found a recipe shared by my friend Teresa at One Wet Foot.  It was for Rhubarb curd.  I know, it really sounds yummy, doesn’t it?  This year, while my zucchini plants are hovering on death, my rhubarb is producing a bumper crop.  I have already made Rhubarb Strawberry Jam, a Strawberry Rhubarb pie, and will be freezing some to use later in the year. However, after reading Teresa’s post, I knew I had to make some Rhubarb curd.

Oh so good!
Pretty in pink and creamy Rhubarb Curd
Making the curd was pretty straightforward.  Stewing the rhubarb with some sugar and water, then pureeing it to make the curd.  I found several recipes for rhubarb curd. Some tell you to extract the juice, others to puree it. I used the puree method with wonderful results. One modification I made was to add some beet juice (for color) mixed with the water to cook the rhubarb. I wanted to ensure a nice pink color.

These bars are amazing…the shortbread crust melts in your mouth
So now that I have some utterly yummy Rhubarb Curd…how will I use it?  Rhubarb bars of course!
I read that the secret to great curd bars isn’t just the ingredients, but the technique.  Many recipes call for pouring the liquid filling over the unbaked crust.  This recipe I’m sharing, has you pre-bake the crust, pour the warm curd over it, then finish the baking process. The results are melt-in-your-mouth sensational! Pre-baking the crust prevents it from getting soggy or paste like, creating a lovely texture combo.
This was the second time I made these bars. I made a batch to take to my new neighbor for a housewarming party! They were a big hit!

And the rhubarb curd is so creamy and flavorful…you should give them a try!
Freshly picked rhubarb from my garden



Rhubarb Curd 
(makes about 2 cups)

2 cups chopped fresh rhubarb (about 10 stalks)

2 Tablespoons of beet juice (from canned beets, optional) 

¾ cup sugar
6 egg yolks 
 

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
  
good pinch of salt 

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
   
Wash and chop rhubarb into 1/2 inch chunks. There is no need to peel, but if your stalks are particularly large, you might trim off any tough parts. Stir the rhubarb and 1/4 cup of sugar together and let sit for about 10 minutes. Place in a medium sized pot with about 1/4 cup of water and the beet juice, then  bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally until the rhubarb has mostly disintegrated, about 15 minutes.  Remove pan from heat and let cool to room temperature. Blend to a smooth puree if you desire (this will remove any remaining little stringy bits, but it isn't necessary).

If you are making the bars, pause at this point to make and bake the crust.

In a double boiler (or a bowl over boiling water) whisk the egg yolks and remaining ½ cup of sugar and salt. Whisk until well combined and warm. Add about 1¼ cups of the stewed rhubarb and the lemon zest. Keep stirring until the mixture is warm again. Cook, beating constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon, until the mixture has thickened enough to loosely coat the back of a wooden spoon (8 to 10 minutes).
Remove from heat and stir in the butter chunks one tablespoon at a time.
If you are not using the curd immediately, let it cool to room temperature and then store refrigerated for up to a week.


Shortbread Crust for Rhubarb Bars
adapted from Joe Pastry

8 ounces soft butter 

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

a pinch of salt
Rhubarb curd  

Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat your oven to 350  
Combine the crust ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer and mix until a soft dough comes together. Start mixing at low speed and then gradually increase the speed to medium, so that you don’t have flour flying all over. When the dough comes together, press into a 9″ x 13″ baking dish. Let the crust rest for 10-20 minutes, and then bake it for 20 minutes until it is lightly golden. Then remove from oven and pour enough curd over the crust to make a layer a little less than 1/4 inch thick, and bake for another 10 minutes, until the curd has set.
Remove the pan from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 45 minutes, refrigerate at least two hours or overnight. Dust with powdered sugar. Slice and serve.

Friday, July 11, 2014

FFWD ~ Shrimp-Filled Zucchini Blossoms

FFWD ~ Shrimp-Filled Zucchini Blossoms

Our recipe this week, for French Fridays, is Shrimp Filled Zucchini Blossoms. I thought for sure, I would be passing on these Squash Blossoms. I have been growing zucchini for at least 8 years. Usually my plants thrive during the spring and early summer, filled with glorious blooms. Not this year! This year, my plants picked up some sort of blight. I checked with several local farm stands, and was told they experienced the same problem. I was losing any hope of finding the blossoms I needed for this recipe. 

One of the very beautiful farms we have here in the Garden State
Zucchini
Then as I was driving home from town, I passed another farm with a sign out front that read...Zucchini! Hmmm..logic tells me, if they have zucchini, they have blossoms!  I drove up to the barn, where I saw a farmer working. His name was Greg, and even though he was quite busy, he was quite friendly and accommodating.  He told me he had never picked blossoms before, although he would be happy to pick some for me in the morning. Since he had never picked them, I wanted him to know to pick the blossoms that would not bear fruit. An Italian girlfriend of mine tutored me on picking squash blossoms correctly years ago. 
Yesterday, I went to pick up my freshly picked squash blossoms. How lucky can you be? He had picked me a dozen! Thank you Greg…I truly appreciate your taking time out of your busy day to pick these blossoms for me! 
  
This sweet little farm stand is serve yourself, honor system…
My fresh picked blossoms
The blossoms were easy to prepare, first making a tempura batter of flour, baking powder, salt and pepper, and finally whisking in a cup of club soda. 
Take each blossom and wipe with a damp paper towel, opening the blossom carefully, pulling out the pistils and stamens. This was tricky. I used a small paring knife and still tore a few. No problem! When they are filled and dipped in the batter, they will be fine.  Place a whole cleaned and deveined shrimp into each flower, then lightly twist the top of the blossom. Dip into the tempura and fry in about ½ inch of peanut oil (I used olive), till golden on both sides. I also chose to fill some of mine with a ricotta filling. A cup of ricotta cheese, one egg yolk and a few tablespoons of chopped herbs, salt and pepper all whisked together.  Yummy!
For years, as I picked the blossoms with my girlfriend, I’ve wanted to give them a try. However, I never thought anyone (Bill) would eat them. I was wrong! I made these in the late afternoon and served them as a lovely afternoon snack! They were quite delicious! Bill loved the shrimp filled blossoms, and even tried and enjoyed the ones filled with ricotta. Wonders never cease!! Happy Friday everyone!  

This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook, “Around My French Table”,  here at google books or at my friend Diane’s blog Simple Living. To see what the other Doristas did with this one, check it out here.

Fresh shrimp
Ricotta filling
Frying up the blossoms
Ready to eat…In the middle some leftover shrimp I fried up

A delightful afternoon treat!
The taste of summer…these delicate petals hold so much flavor
Crisp, Earthy, and delectable!!