Tag Archives: french

clean eating, in more ways than one: simply roasted ratatouille

Though my tolerance level for certain mundane chores and undesirable housework has nothing short of sky rocketed as I hurtle away from the carefree days of my twenties towards that decade that shall not be named, I can say with one-hundred-percent assuredness that just because I do something unprompted (and without excessive pouting), it does not mean I like it.

When it comes to said duties, I have a definite mental hierarchy of those dreaded bits of labor that seem to irk me more than most.

The least bothersome?  Making my bed (a soothing daily ritual).  Vacuuming (evil dust bunnies, you will be mine!).  Cleaning the bathroom and wiping down countertops (I really like my Mrs. Meyers, and if expensive cleaning spray that smells like geraniums is what it takes – then so be it).

The worst offenders?  Laundry – both the folding of ,and the putting away of (does anyone else’s pile multiply like rabbits?!).  Puglet pooper scooping (self explanatory).  And then – there is doing the dishes.

That one pesky chore that rears it’s ugly head at the worst time of the day: that hour when you are supposed to be winding down on the couch with a glass of wine dissecting the intricacies of Don Draper  – not rolling up your sleeves and chipping away at crusted-on polenta.

Alas, the dishes must be dealt with.  After a long day and a big meal, I think we all have made the rookie mistake of being just oh-so-tired (and perhaps a wee bit lazy?) and gave the dish pile the ole ‘hell with it wave, before marching off to bed and leaving the mess for the morning.  Without fail, that decision is never, ever,  the right one.  I’ll meander into the kitchen after a nice relaxing sleep, ready to make a pot of coffee and start the new day from scratch, and instead find myself face-to-face with a stinky pile of mucked-up dishes made all that more unbearable from having had eight hours to let everything crust up and harden on for dear life.

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a tad bit jealous: sour cherry clafoutis with whipped mascarpone

Is it something I said?

First, the mercury blasted through records to all-time highs back in July. Then there was an EARTHQUAKE (!). Now, my former coast-mates have just battened down the proverbial hatches and weathered hurricane Irene. It’s as if the East coast waited just till the plane carrying me West jerked off the tarmac to launch itself into the headlines with all manner of interest garnering natural disasters. What gives?!

Despite all three of these weather related anomalies being generally undesirable,  thankfully everyone made it out relatively unscathed – but I have to admit, I’m feeling just a bit…..left out.  I’m grateful I wasn’t there to experience New York City’s best impression of Hades and didn’t have to fend off half of the village for the last package of Twinkies at Duane Reade — but this Earthquake thing really has my knickers in a twist. I’ve never experienced an earthquake before!  I wanted to feel that ground shake and I wanted to post pictures of the ‘devastation’ (amounting presumably to a toppled picture frame and one confused looking puppy). I’ve got a mild case of the sour grapes, with my former stomping ground stealing all this spotlight. Harumph.

I’ve been sitting on the last dish that I made before I left New York for over a month now, and not because I was waiting or some special occasion to pull it out; I’ve just been busy coordinating couch deliveries, going cross-eyed reading wedding RSVPs, and chasing around a pooch who happens to think that unrolling every spool of toilet paper in the house is the most hilarious thing on planet Earth. (I think so too.)  I had forgotten all about it, until I was on my way home from a baby shower in Denver last weekend and drove past Mile High Stadium, where I looked over to see the inconceivable: thousands of people packed into the stands, watching football.

Yes.  Football.  Preseason or not, football is a sad, sad harbinger that the.best.season.ever is undeniably coming to a close.  Upon seeing that speckled montage of jerseys, I immediately thought about this last New York city born Summer treat and oh how I so meant to share it with you when “September” was still a dirty little word that no one dared utter aloud.  Alas, here we are: staring down the barrel at an impending Labor Day weekend – and thus the official end of Summer, in my book anyway.  Where I started telling you about my sour grapes for missing all the East Coast action and digressed to complain that our sweet, sweet, Summer is narrowing down to a bare thread, I finally have for you a sour cherry clafoutis – a sweet, slightly sour, cast iron baked cake studded with gorgeously red sour cherries.

A clafoutis is akin to a giant, puffed up pancake, and this one is no different: a thin and quick to make batter is draped atop pitted sour cherries that have been scattered over the bottom of a cast iron skillet. The cake bakes up eggy and springy, and since it isn’t overly sweet is one of those great desserts that easily moonlights as breakfast, with a cup of fresh coffee.  To serve the cake, I whipped a bit of mascarpone cheese with a drop of vanilla and sprinkle of sugar until it was fluffy and slightly aerated. The sturdiness of the sweetened mascarpone is the perfect contrast with the dense yet light cake, and I polished off almost the entire skillet in just around 3 days time (what wedding?).

Since I was lazy busy and am just sharing this with you now, sour cherries may well be a thing of the past; I found mine at the farmer’s market, and their season is generally from early June through late July.  Whatever you do, do not let that deter you – this cake is equally amazing with any variety of cherry (or any sliced stone fruit for that matter), and if you can’t get your mitts on the sour kind just choose your favorite type.  Traditionally, clafoutis (say it: clow-foo-tee) made with cherries are baked with the pits still inside, as it is said to lend a nuttier flavor to the finished product.  I however prefer to reduce the chances of ironically choking to death on a cake I baked for myself to nil, and prefer instead to add a dash of almond extract (hey…whatever works).

Sour Cherry Clafoutis with Whipped Mascarpone Cheese
Makes 1 nine inch cake
Adapted slightly from Dorie Greenspan’s ‘Around My French Table’

Once again I love Dorie’s recipes for both their simplicity and versatility. As I mentioned above, feel free to substitute any stone fruits in for the cherries (both sour and sweet) here: plums, pluots, peaches, nectarines, and apricots would all stand in deliciously.

1 pound sweet cherries, stemmed and pitted* (I used sour cherries)
3 large eggs
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
½ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup half & half
½ cup whole milk
1 tsp almond extract (optional, if you’d like a slightly nutty flavor)

whipped mascarpone
1 cup mascarpone
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp confectioners’ sugar (plus additional for dusting)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter a 9″ deep dish pie pan – I find a 9″ cast iron skillet works perfectly here. Add the cherries into the buttered pie pan; they should fit in a single layer.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until they are foamy, about 2 minutes, then add in the sugar and whisk for another minute. Whisk in the salt and vanilla, and then add in the flour and whisk vigorously** until the batter is smooth. After it is smooth, while still whisking (but less energetically) add in the milk and cream and whisk until blended. You should have a thin, pale yellow batter – similar to pancake batter.

Rap the bowl on the counter to cause any trapped air bubbles to be released, and then gently pour the batter over the cherries. Bake the clafoutis for 35 – 45 minutes (I found that mine took just over 40) until it’s puffed and lightly browned, and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean (with no raw batter on it at all).

Transfer the clafoutis to a cooling rack and allow to cool until it’s just barely warm, or room temperature.

Whisk in the flour until well-combined. Add the half and half and whole milk and whisk until just combined.

Pour the mixture over the cherries.

Bake the clafoutis 35-45 minutes, or until it has puffed and browned. Test the doneness by inserting a knife into the center. It should come out clean.

Cool the clafoutis on a cooking rack until it’s almost cool or room temperature.

To make the whipped mascarpone, whisk the cheese, vanilla extract, and confectioners’ sugar together until the cheese is slightly fluffy. Serve wedges of the cooled clafoutis with a dollop of the sweetened cheese and a dusting of confectioners’ sugar, and be sure to eat plenty of the leftovers for breakfast (if there are any, that is).

*Dorie advises you leave the pits in – you can decide how you’d like to do it, but I think eating around pits sounds cumbersome.

**Dorie also acknowledges that normally you would not want to beat a batter too vigorously as the final product would then become tough; here, this is an exception, and the batter actually benefits by being beaten more.

ugly cover, lovely book: glazed turnips

If a vegetable could embody the word ‘humble,’ I think the lowly turnip would surely be a fierce contender for first prize. It’s quite the ordinary looking little taproot, and without the flashy colors of the rainbow chard or the general likeability of the potato, the small pallid bulbs are easily overlooked. The turnip sits quietly in it’s wooden bin, shying away from garnering attention until someone walks along who knows not to underestimate it’s stealthy powers.

I ended up with some turnips purely by accident. You see, as far as freshly grown local produce is concerned, the season we are toughing out right now now can only be likened to the landscape from “The Road” – barren, limited, hard, and extremely depressing. By now the last of the season’s brussel sprouts have been plucked from their stalks (tear!), the final heads of cauliflower have been harvested, and all that we are left to work with are the hardy set: the root vegetables.

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even julia child cheats: lemon steamed white asparagus with hollandaise sauce

When I am eating out often times there are dishes I order only because they’re not things I’d normally make at home.  Maybe it’s a crispy seafood fritto misto with a spicy garlic aioli, or perhaps a luscious and warm molten chocolate cake, or possibly even a light and wonderfully fresh tuna tartar.  Of course all of these things I probably can make at home, but there’s just something about ordering them in a restaurant that makes them feel special.

For me, one of those such dishes is eggs benedict.  It’s really very easy – and not all that extraordinary – but still I only eat when I am out at a cafe for brunch.  It definitely isn’t the ordinary English muffin, the plain Canadian bacon, or the poached egg that makes the benedict so appealing – it’s the hollandaise sauce.  That amazing eggy, silky, savory, rich sauce that clothes those little open face egg sandwiches and smothers them with its delightfulness.

Without that hollandaise, your benedict waltzes into dangerous territory and becomes something much more pedestrian – something that rhymes with ‘leg-rick-puffan,’ and it becomes, at least to me, completely undesirable.

{But Wait! There’s More…}