Friday, May 31, 2013

Anne Lablanc’s Pistachio Avocado ~ FFWD

Anne Lablanc’s Pistachio Avocado…delicious!

When I looked at this weeks French Friday recipe, the word easy came to mind!  Four ingredients was all that was called for. We’ve had a string of easy recipes lately.  I’m not complaining, since my life has been quite hectic this spring. Easy works for me! After spending a week down south, and returning home late wednesday night, I was delighted not to have anything too complicated to delve into.  Expensive also came to mind. The recipe called for Pistachio oil, which I found on the internet, and not in my local supermarket. It was quite expensive at about 16 dollars for an 8 oz. bottle. However, I was short on time.  So, I decided to look for a recipe and make my own.  I found one at Food and Wine.  It seemed perfect except, it had to infuse overnight.  There was no way I had time to wait for the oil to infuse.  Then I searched my pantry. Oh, the surprises that I seem to find hiding there.  I found a can of pistachio paste.  I’ve used this product before, and know there is usually an oil sitting on top of the paste. How lucky was I?  It worked perfectly! Now that I have an open can of Pistachio paste sitting on my counter, I see some Pistachio Gelato in my future…yum!

For this recipe, cut each avocado in half and remove the pit. Then take a thin slice off the bottom skin of each half of avocado, so that they will stand. I peeled mine.  Drizzle with fresh lemon juice, so that you have about 1/8 of a teaspoon in the bottom of each piece of avocado.  Fill each cavity to the top with the pistachio oil and, sprinkle with sea salt. Serve extra lemon on the side.  That’s it! I told you it was easy!  I loved these! I will definitely make them again…they were so good! I see serving them as a starter for a dinner party. I ate mine for lunch, and totally enjoyed the rich nutty flavor imparted by the pistachio oil. I think I’ll make a bottle of the pistachio oil, just to have it on hand for the next time I have an avocado in the house!
Happy Friday everyone!

This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook “Around My French Table”. To see what the other Dorestas are up to check it out here.

My pantry find…Pistachio nut paste…note the oil on top

This was luscious…loved the flavor of the pistachio with the avocado

Monday, May 27, 2013

FFWD ~ Asparagus Soup

Quick and delicious!  I only made half the recipe because, you know who wasn’t going to share this with me.

Ok, I know I’m late!  This should have been my French Friday post.  We’ve been in Atlanta this week visiting my son and his family.  May is a big birthday month for both of my grandsons.  We’ve been having a great week, filled with end of year school plays and tournament baseball games. This time of the year, brings back wonderful memories of my own children growing up, and all the chaos that went with the end of the school year.  Wonderful days, filled with so many fun activities.
My mission, before my trip, was to clean out my fridge and, use up all those veggies and fruits that were hiding in the depths of my refrigerator. Am I the only one with this problem?  Lucky for me, this weeks French Friday recipe was for Asparagus soup. Not only was it easy to make but, I had a bag of asparagus just waiting to be used.  Now, I love asparagus but, this was going to be dinner for one.  My husband does not do asparagus. Heck, he doesn’t do most green vegetables.

I truly enjoyed this soup…with a big piece of rustic bread.  I was in heaven!
For this Asparagus soup, I loosely followed  Dorie’s recipe by cooking the asparagus, then sauteing the  other veggies (leek, onion, shallot and garlic) until soft.  I added everything to my new Vita-mix to puree.  That was pretty much it! The shortened version of Dorie’s recipe!  The soup was quite  satisfying.  So, while my husband dined on his egg omelet, I delighted in this wonderful soup.  A perfect dish to savor, the night before our long car trip to Atlanta.
I hope everyone is enjoying their Memorial Day weekend! See you all next week from lovely New Jersey!
This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspans cookbook, “Around My French Table”.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Chocolate Financiers~FFWD and Food Revolution Day

Our luncheon table with financiers and my 1940’s Weil Ware dishes…I love old dinnerware
This week, our French Friday group is participating with Food Revolution Day (#FDR2013). A day to share with friends and family the importance of good food and essential cooking skills. It was started by Jamie Oliver to get people cooking and eating together. The theme for this year’s Food Revolution Day is - Cook it! Share it!  This is something that food bloggers do all the time.  Cooking is a passion, and sharing good food and recipes is part of that passion. 
Our French Friday group shares food every week, and we have also learned many new cooking and baking techniques along the way.  So, this week as the Dorista’s pick  anew or, revisit something they’ve  already made, they are doing it as part of Food Revolution Day.   
For me, it was a Ladies Spring Luncheon. A perfect way to share a meal.  I invited several of my girlfriends over to enjoy an afternoon of chatting and catching up over a lovely lunch! On the menu was a Spinach Quiche, A Tomato Tart and a wonderful Pasta, White Bean and Arugula Salad.  For dessert I decided to make Dorie’s Chocolate Financiers! I have wanted to try the chocolate version from the moment I first saw them.  This time I made both the plain almond and chocolate versions. How could I resist? The Financier is an almond pastry, created by a 19th-century Parisian pastry chef, for his wealthy banker clients. Hence the name Financier. The chocolate version is definitely worth its weight in gold.
 My wonderful gift from Paris…so perfect for a ladies lunch
I had a lovely package of tea, that my son and daughter-in-law brought back for me, from their trip to Paris. The tea came from Ladurée.  I thought it was the perfect time to break it out.  It was delicious and, a  perfect accompaniment to our Ladies Lunch!

So plan a meal, cook it and share it! Happy Food Revolution Day...Happy Friday everyone!

OoooLaLa…a lovely french pastry
Incredibly delicious!
The recipe for Financiers can be found in Dorie Greenspans cookbook, “ Around My French Table” or here. For Dorie’s Chocolate Financiers the recipe can be found on my friend Paula’s wonderful blog Vintage Kitchen. To see what the other Dorestas are up to check it out here.

Lunch anyone?
Tomato Tart ready for the oven
Delicious Pasta, White Bean and Arugula salad

A perfect dessert for a Ladies Tea / Luncheon

Friday, May 10, 2013

FFWD ~ Coupetade-French-Toast Pudding

Coupetade…French Toast Pudding
This weeks recipe took me back many years, to the summer we hosted a French Exchange student.  His name was Stefan, and he was with us for the entire summer.  I had asked for a girl, because my daughter was a sophomore in high school at the time.  There were more boys than girls that summer, and we were asked if we would consider hosting a boy. Why not?
We picked Stefan up at a predetermined facility on the New Jersey Turnpike.  He was an awkwardly handsome young man of 15, whose formal english was quite good, however being bombarded with fast talking Americans, was something that was probably overwhelming and difficult for him.  Initially Stefan was quite stoic, nothing like the loud family he was spending the summer with. Eventually he began to relax and enjoy our family. We were determined to give him a taste of American life, hoping in the end he would look back at his American summer with fond memories.

That summer was filled with many fun things.  Every weekend we would find something very American to do.  Trips to NYC, lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe (where he told me French parents would never want to eat), the Statue of Liberty, a Rodeo, a Fourth of July fireworks show complete with a Doo Wop group singing wonderful 50’s and 60’s music. And what’s more american than a baseball game at Yankee Stadium.  We ate lots of Pizza, and had many barbecues where hamburgers were a huge hit!  During this time, two of my daughters friends from Long Island were also visiting with us for a few weeks.  My house was wonderfully chaotic, filled with plenty of laughter and loud music! They all entertained each other and, by the end of his visit, he had really loosened up and bonded with us.
All too soon, the time  came when he would be going back to France.  Stefan asked if he could make a French treat for us.  He came prepared with a hand written recipe from his mother. The recipe was for Cherry Clafoutis.  It was the first time I had ever had this wonderful custardy dessert.  He told us that in France, they would eat this dish as a light supper.
We were all sad to see the summer come to an end, and say au revoir to Stefan.  We corresponded for awhile and then lost track of each other.  I often wonder about him, and if he ever thinks of his American summer. 

So back to French Fridays!  Although this recipe was for a French Toast pudding, it was the custard that brought back memories of the our summer with Stefan and his Clafoutis. This was an easy, delicious recipe. Bread pudding is a favorite, in our house, for dessert. This just seemed more like a breakfast casserole.  The next time I make it, I would probably choose to serve it for brunch or breakfast as opposed to dessert.
The recipe called for sliced brioche or challah.  You then make an egg batter with eggs, sugar and milk.  Dip each piece of bread into the batter and fry as for french toast.  Cut each slice of bread into triangles and line a 13 x 9 inch pan.  I made only half the recipe, so I used a 9 inch square pan.

You then make a custard using more eggs, milk, vanilla and sugar, pour over the bread. Place the pan in the larger pan of water (called a bain marie) so that the custard cooks slowly, then bake.  Mine was done in an hour.
I love custard!! And I love the French for coming up with so many wonderful ways to eat it!  This was a luscious dish, and if I were serving brunch for Mother’s Day, it would be on my menu. Another keeper for the month of May!! Happy Friday everyone!! And Happy Mother’s Day!

This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspans cookbook “Around My French Table” or here.  Check out what other Dorista’s are up to here.

Dipping the bread in the egg batter

Frying the french toast
Bread layered in the dish
Added fruit…I used apricots and cranberries
Custard to be poured over the french toast
Baking dish placed in the bain marie 
Perfectly luscious just out of the oven
 Bon Appétit 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Cherry-Pistachio Biscotti

Cherry-Pistachio Biscotti
There are some things you just don’t do in my house.  You never take the remote away from my husband while he’s watching golf, and you never let the biscotti jar become empty!  How could I have ignored that lonely jar sitting on my counter for the past month.  I guess I was too busy making madeleines and financiers to notice it was running low.  Yesterday, when I went to grab a biscotti to have with my tea, there was nothing in it!
Biscotti are one of my favorite things to bake.  Simple and straight forward.  I had two recipes sitting on my counter that I wanted to bake.  They’ve been sitting there for a few weeks now.  One was a new one I found at King Arthur Flour, and the other was my very favorite, tried and true, Pepper-nut Biscotti from Amy Scherber of Amy’s Bread. I’m always looking for a new flavor, and since I only had time to bake one batch, I went with the recipe from King Arthur.  I was up for something new, and this one just sounded perfect.
It was a great choice! They were very tasty with a tender crumb, and were loaded with dried tart cherries and pistachios. The thing about biscotti is, they are a perfect cookie to enjoy with coffee, tea or a glass of wine. They’re great for dunking or, just eating by themselves.  I love being able to grab one, whenever I get the craving for something yummy to munch on.
It was good to fill my Biscotti jar again…it’s the simple pleasures that make me happy!

All is well in the world again

Cherry-Pistachio Biscotti
 adapted from King Arthur
6 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose
1 cup coarsely chopped pistachios
1 cup dried tart cherries
*For a lower-cost alternative, substitute sweetened dried cranberries
1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) one large (about 18" x 13") baking sheet.

2) In a medium-sized bowl, beat the butter, sugar, salt, flavor, vanilla, and baking powder until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

3) Beat in the eggs; the batter may look slightly curdled.

4) At low speed of your mixer, add the flour, stirring until smooth; the dough will be sticky.

5) Stir in the pistachios and cherries.

6) Divide the dough in half, and plop both halves onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving space between them.

7) Shape each half into a long log about 10 x 2" wide x 3/4" tall; remember, you need to leave space for expansion between the logs.
Straighten the rectangles, and smooth their tops and sides; a wet spatula or wet bowl scraper works well here.
I use a egg white wash on mine to give them a nice sheen.

8) Bake the logs for 25 minutes. Remove them from the oven. Using a spray bottle filled with room-temperature water, lightly but thoroughly spritz the two pieces of dough, making sure to cover the sides as well as the top. Softening the crust just this little bit will make slicing the biscotti without crumbling easier.

9) Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

10) Wait 5 minutes, then use a sharp chef's or serrated knife to cut the biscotti crosswise into 1/2" to 3/4" slices. Or cut the biscotti on the diagonal, for fewer, longer biscotti. As you're slicing, be sure to cut straight up and down, perpendicular to the pan; if you cut unevenly, biscotti may be thicker at the top than the bottom, and they'll topple over during their second bake.

11) If you've used parchment on your baking sheet, remove it; save it for another day. Place the biscotti on the baking sheet, on edge; they can be very close together.

12) Return the biscotti to the oven, and bake them for 35 to 40 minutes, until they feel very dry and are beginning to turn golden. They may still feel a tiny bit moist in the very center, if you break off a piece; but they'll continue to dry out as they cool. You'll want to start checking the biscotti around the 30-minute mark; the ones on the ends of the pan, or any smaller biscotti, may be ready to come out of the oven earlier than the larger/middle-of-the-pan biscotti.

13) Remove the finished biscotti from the oven, and cool them right on the pan.

Yield: 3 dozen biscotti.

Beating the eggs into the butter mixture…looking a bit curdled 
Adding the cherries and pistachios 
Logs ready for the oven
Just out of the oven…nicely browned…I brush mine with egg white to get a nice sheen
Slicing logs
Twice baked!

Friday, May 3, 2013

FFWD Creamy Mushrooms and Eggs

The Incredible Edible Egg 

This weeks French Friday recipe was for Creamy Mushrooms and Eggs.  When I saw this recipe, I wasn’t quite sure how to serve it.  Should I make it for lunch, brunch, or maybe a light dinner?  Dorie suggests serving it as an appetizer or starter.
I had been busy working all day in my yard.  Did I tell you spring has finally come to New Jersey?  With spring, comes never ending yard work! Cleaning out flower beds, cutting back my berry bushes,  cleaning out my garden beds, and that’s just the beginning.  
When I came into the house, after a long day of work, I really didn’t want to start supper.  We both ate a late lunch and, quite frankly, were not very hungry.  I then remembered the creamy mushrooms and eggs from Dorie.  This dish was not at all complicated and, was actually pretty easy to put together.  However,  did I think Bill would eat this for dinner?  He does enjoy omelets for dinner, every once in a while.  I think, if I let it happen, he would eat cereal. So, why not creamy mushrooms and eggs?
I had some nice potato bread in the house, and that’s what I used instead of brioche.  The mushrooms are sauteed with a finely minced shallot.  Cream is added along with salt, pepper and chopped fresh rosemary. The recipe also called for fresh mint but, I just didn’t think I’d enjoy the taste of mint and rosemary with my eggs.

Creamy Mushrooms and Eggs
Now the challenge,  poached eggs!  I have poached eggs before but, never with very good results.  So, I was a bit reluctant.  I decided to try poaching them using the canning jar rings, as Dorie suggested.  I couldn’t believe I finally had success!  Perfectly poached eggs!  Why was I always so afraid of making these? I found Dories instructions easy to follow, and I know I will be making them again. I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks…thanks Dorie!
This was a surprisingly wonderful dish!  We both enjoyed it. I loved the way the runny yolk mixed with the creamy mushroom sauce….heavenly!  I will definitely be making it again! Maybe next time with the mint.  It was pure comfort food. Those Creamy Mushrooms and Eggs, made a great light supper, served with a salad!  Happy Friday everyone!

You can find the recipe for this satisfyingly delicious dish in Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook “Around My French Table” or here.  To see how other Doristas fared with this dish check it out here.

Mincing the shallots
The mushroom sauce
Delicious and satisfying!!