My Signature Carrot and Triple-Walnut Salad

RECIPE: Rainbow Carrot and Walnut Salad

Carrot Walnut Salad

I grew up eating carrot salads.  My mémé’s Moroccan one: spicy, lemony, overflowing with toasty and smoky cumin seeds, and punctuated with parsley, served on Friday nights.  My mom’s more Mediterranean one – shredded carrot floss, golden nuggets of Parmesan, olive oil, more lemon, more parsley, served on sunny cold winter days by our pool when we were living in Florida.  Whereas my friends ate salads that had carrots in them, we ate carrot salads.  Just carrots.  I like the humbleness of them. The healthfulness of them.  I like that they are cheap and cheerful, crunchy and sweet and savory.  A carrot is an honest vegetable; I have faith in carrots.  Old reliables.

When I’m in France, mostly in the summertime, I love to lose myself in the hypermarchés.  Yes, of course, everyone loves the markets.  But I love the supermarkets too, where prepared carrot salads are ubiquitous and I insist on bringing one to every picnic.  I move methodically, up one aisle, down the next.  No item undiscovered, unconsidered, unremarkable.  Mr. English puffs out his cheeks, stands impatiently tapping his foot as I consider five brands of Camargue gray salt, and want to consider at thesis level the advantages and disadvantages of each.  “It’s just salt,” he mumbles.  But not.  Everything there is a little different, and that little difference, for me, is wonder.

Take, for example, the carrots.  If you get a good hypermarché, the bagged salad section will also be replete with angel-hair shredded carrots, celeriac, and carrots with celeriac.  I make rémoulades without hesitation.  (The mustard selection is another twenty-minute decision!)  It’s amazing how just the little differences – the finer shred to our American shredded carrots – leads to such a feeling of novelty.  The carrots there are less crunchy, more downy, creating nests rather than piles or stacks.  Grass rather than hay.  It’s not better.  Just different, and to me, embarrassingly, a little exciting.

Carrot Walnut SaladI was shopping at my usual supermarket in New York this week when I came across a bag of shredded organic heirloom rainbow carrots.  Beet-ish purple-red.  Golden.  Standard-issue orange.  And ghost white.  All tossed together in a 10-ounce plastic sack.  There it was.  The novelty!  The excitement!  The rush of want.  And I didn’t have to cross the Atlantic.

I have long been working on my own version of a carrot salad.  I probably have editions of it on this blog that I have forgotten.  But I wouldn’t be my meme’s granddaughter and my mom’s daughter if I didn’t have a carrot salad.  Mine is with walnuts.  Carrots, root vegetables, earthy.  Walnuts, so woody, almost like tree bark.  I love them both, and I love them together.

Maille recently gifted me a jar of their walnut mustard, and I was immediately struck by just how walnutty it was.  A touch a honey (Tupelo!), a splash of white wine vinegar, a stack of Maldon salt flakes, crushed between my fingers.  Then, walnut oil, olive oil.  In go the rainbow shards of carrot, followed by parsley (can’t break that family tradition), and smashed toasted walnuts for a walnut triple-threat.  The result is so wonderfully of-the-earth.  Thoughtful, but simple.  I had some Terra Original chips, as I almost always do.  The colors matched my carrots, and I crumbled a few on top of the salad, the way my Le Comptoir places blue potato chip shards on its dishes in Paris, for salt and crunch and surprise.  It was just the perfect touch – very me – to autograph my contribution to the family carrot album.

Carrot Walnut Salad

Merci, Maille, pour la moutarde!

Bon app!

Rainbow Carrot and Walnut Salad
serves 4

Carrot Walnut SaladINGREDIENTS

  • 1 teaspoon walnut mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons walnut oil
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 10-ounce bag of shredded rainbow carrots
  • 1/3 cup chopped toasted walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Optional: Terra chips, crumbled on top

METHOD

In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, honey, and vinegar with salt and pepper.  Whisk in the two oils.

In a medium bowl, combined the carrots, walnuts, and parsley.  Toss with the vinaigrette.  Serve!

If you want, top with the Terra chips just before serving.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Cheap, Easy, Eat, For a Crowd, Recipes, Salad, Sides, Soup & Salad, Vegetables, Vegetarian
 

Brûléed Peaches

RECIPE: Brûléed Peaches

Bruléed Vanilla PeachesA bonus recipe!  I loved my peach and vanilla tarte tatin so much, I had to use my leftover peaches and vanilla sugar for something.  I love this for breakfast with Greek yogurt or for dessert with ice cream (Vanilla!  Ginger!  Lavender!) or crème fraîche.  All you do is sprinkle some vanilla sugar on a half peach and torch it like a crème brûlée.  The sugar forms the stained-glass-window crust, and the peach stays fresh and succulent.  If you don’t have a torch, you could always run it under the broiler, but the peach will then warm and cook ever so slightly.  You might prefer it that way!  Either way, a summer recipe not to be missed.

p.s. You could also do this with lavender sugar instead of vanilla sugar.  Reason enough to make it twice.

Brûléed Peaches
makes 1/2 peach -- make 1 or 2 halves per person

Bruléed Vanilla PeachesINGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 ripe peach, white or yellow, stone removed
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar

METHOD

Pat the cut side of the peach dry with a paper towel and place on a rimmed baking sheet (line with foil for easy clean up).  Sprinkle the cut side of the peach with the sugar.  Using a torch, caramelize the sugar until it forms a golden crust.  Serve immediately.

Alternatively, heat the broiler.  Assemble the peaches as above and broil until the sugar crust forms — about 3 minutes.

NOTE

To make vanilla sugar, place a vanilla bean in a jar of sugar, and let sit at least overnight.  This is a great thing to do once you’ve scraped the seeds from the bean for another recipe (like White Peach Vanilla Tarte Tatin).

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Breakfast & Brunch, Desserts, Easy, Eat, Fruit, Recipes, Sweets, Vegetarian
 

Summertime White Peach and Vanilla Bean Tarte Tatin

RECIPE: White Peach and Vanilla Bean Tarte Tatin

Peach Tarte TatinMr. English and I spent sixteen perfect days in France this summer.  It was my first vacation in a year, and I counted each perfect, sun-soaked, olive oil-drenched day one by one until finally the last, devastatingly, arrived.

The first week, we discovered the Alpilles, up high in Provence.  Rocky like the moon, relaxed — but chic, and brimming with rosé.  We stayed at a stunning hotel called Le Mas de la Rose, and as ever, we regaled ourselves at breakfast.  We like nothing so much as a really good hotel breakfast.

Breakfast at Mas de La RoseThe Breakfast Room - Mas de La RoseMasDeLaRose1MasDeLaRose2I love breakfast in France – cheese, baguette, yogurt, fruit so ripe it weeps.  They did a great seared brioche coated in sugar – better, I think, than French toast.  I’ll try to figure out that recipe.  Verbena tea.  Prunes.  Delightful!

And they had these fabulous jams in cool flavors that they procured at the market in Eygalières.  Strawberry mint.  Blueberry thyme.  And my favorite, peach vanilla.  I had never thought of peach and vanilla before, but I haven’t stopped thinking about it since!

Peach Tarte Tatin 1Someone at work recently turned me on to New Jersey peaches — nearly as good as the Provençal ones.  I found gorgeous white ones, although, of course, you could use the yellow.  I have traditionally found tarte tatin to be quite exacting and hard to get right, but I realize, it is so much easier to make with soft, ripe peaches than with apples, because you don’t need to precook the fruit.  Just swirl around sugar, water, and vanilla bean seeds in a pan until golden, add in some cool unsalted butter, and arrange your peach slices on top.  I add a pinch of Maldon sea salt too, because what’s caramel without salt?  Then I just top with puff pastry out of the fridge, and throw the whole thing in the oven.

Peach Tarte Tatin 2The caramel is bitter-salty-sweet, has that deep vanilla perfume, and it mixes with all the peachy juices.  When you flip it over, the caramel juices form a deluge, rushing to the edge of the platter (use one with a rim!), so that the tarte looks like the ark awash in a peachy sweet sea after forty days and forty nights.  The puff pastry soaks it up but keeps its own sense of self at the same time.  It is so good!  Throw some crème fraîche on the side.  It is a summer showstopper.  I had this grand plan to invite people over to devour it, but Mr. English and I just keep sneaking off to the fridge for “slivers”.  I’m putting this one on repeat until peach season is up!

Peach Tarte Tatin 4Bon app!

White Peach and Vanilla Bean Tarte Tatin
serves 4 to 6

Peach Tarte TatinINGREDIENTS

  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/8 teaspoon Maldon sea salt
  • The seeds from 1 vanilla bean
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 ripe white peaches, pitted and quartered
  • 1 sheet thawed frozen puff pastry

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a 10-inch sautépan, meat the sugar, water, salt, and vanilla over medium heats until golden brown, swirling the pan occasionally to ensure even caramelization – about 9 minutes.

Take the pan off the heat and swirl in the butter.  As soon as the butter is melted, arrange the peach quarters neatly in the caramel (I use tongs so I don’t burn my fingers).  Then, quickly roll out the puff pastry just a little bit, so it covers the pan, and using the tongs, tuck it into the edges of the pan.  Using a paring knife, cut two little steam vent slits in the pastry.  Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes.  Then, let rest on the counter for 10 minutes.  Then carefully turn out onto a plate, and serve with crème fraîche!

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Desserts, Eat, Fruit, Provence, Recipes, Vegetarian, Voyages
 

Summertime French Country Deviled Eggs with Maille Cornichons, Capers, and Herbs

RECIPE: Deviled Eggs à La Campagne

Deviled Eggs Campagne à La CampagneIn the elevator, rocketing up from the sizzling sidewalks, I hope my apartment, so high in the sky, will offer some relief.  It turns out I’m just twenty-odd stories closer to the sun. It is still hotter than hot.  I know what hell is like – I have known for as long as I can remember.  It is New York City in August.

I am just back from two weeks in the South of France, where it was even hotter than hotter than hot.  But the heat was dry, the mistral was blowing – and, we must not forget, there were pools…and fountains, and a sea.  Still, even with the respites available, I was surprised to see the locals eating pappardelle à la crème; courgette lasagna; brandade parmentier.  Of course, I am no fool.  When in France, do as the French do – and I did.  But as a rule, in the summer heat, I prefer lighter things.  These are the only months when I want no cream, little cheese, and definitely no mayo.

Egg salad à la campagne is a tartine I have made for a long time.  While I am a born New Yorker, I have never understood traditional New York egg salad, bursting with mayonnaise, squirting out over the edges of an over-stuffed bagel.  Ick.  But my improvisational French country version, full of hard-boiled eggs smashed together with peppery sea glass-green olive oil; fresh, grassy herbs like chervil, chives, and parsley; capers; cornichons; and sometimes shallots is so much lighter AND at the same time, much more flavorful with so many different bright flavors punching through the richness of the eggs.  Plus, I don’t fear that it will loose its cool in this heat, as mayo has no part in it.

Deviled Eggs à La Campagne Usually, I serve egg salad à la campagne as a tartine on pain au levain, a wheat sourdough.  But I thought, for a picnic, it might work well as a riff on deviled eggs.  I mash the yolks with parsley (chervil is best if you can get it) and chives, lots of olive oil, and tangy capers.  Lots of salt and coarse black pepper.  Then, I add my favorite part: the cornichons.  I adore Maille cornichons (I’ve been known to eat a jar in a day), and they are getting easier and easier to find in the States.  They are super-crisp and not at all sweet – vital to the supreme cornichon.  Plus, each jar is fitted with an ingenious cornichon basket that lifts out, so you don’t need to fish around in the brine with your fingers.  I also chop up a few of pickled pearl onions that come in each jar, and added, of course, a spoonful of Maille mustard.  Then I nested the mixture back in the waiting hard-set egg whites.

Maille Cornichons Pearl Onions

Maille Cornichons and Pearl Onions

To me, while they are decidedly old-world, these deviled eggs are at the same time very modern.  Fresh, bright, light, and full of flavor instead of fat.  Pack them for a picnic this summer, serve them at a shower.  They dress up or down and go anywhere.  Bon app – and stay cool!

Merci à Maille pour les cornichons!

Deviled Eggs à La Campagne
serves 4 to 8

Deviled Eggs Campagne à La CampagneINGREDIENTS

  • 8 eggs, hardboiled and peeled
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons Maille Dijon mustard
  • 6 Maille cornichons, finely chopped
  • 2 Maille pickled pearl onions (from the cornichon jar), finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped capers
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped chervil or parsley
  • Salt and pepper

METHOD

Slice the hardboiled eggs in half vertically and scoop out the yolks into a large bowl.  Arrange the whites on a serving tray.

Add the olive oil, mustard, and salt and pepper to the yolks, and mash until smooth.  Add the remaining ingredients, and stir to combine.  Pipe or spoon the yolk mixture into the hollows of the egg whites.  Drizzle very lightly with olive oil and garnish with extra herbs.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Breakfast & Brunch, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Eggs, For a Crowd, Recipes, Vegetarian
 

How and why you should celebrate Bastille Day!

RECIPE: Sloshed Red Berries in Rosé Wine with Thyme

Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong era because one of my favorite things to do is “entertain at home”.  Does that sound so Mitford?  I’ll be honest: I don’t do it as often as I would like.  The excuses are endless: I work, and I live in Manhattan where dinner out can cost as little as $7.00 and my “dining room” is the size of a postage stamp, and everyone’s schedule is a mile a New York minute.  But in serene moments, I fantasize about having everyone over, having the time and space to put out a feast, and just sitting all night talking and laughing and refilling wine glasses until the early morning.  I like that it’s about the company, which feels precious.  I like that it can last.  Shoes come off.  No one is waiting for your table.  And you make memories.

Consequently, I’m always looking for an occasion for a party.  And one that I am religious about is Bastille Day.  I’m half French, but most of my friends aren’t, so it’s always the perfect excuse to throw an “extra” celebration on the calendar.  Every year it changes.  One year, the famous Bastille Day can-can show at the now defunct but fabulous Florent in the Meatpacking District of New York City; another year, pétanque in Madison Square Park.  Sometimes, it’s just a bottle of rosé and sandwiches on the roof, or if we’re out of the city, a barbecue on the beach or in a backyard.  One lucky year, it was a rainbow of pastel fireworks from a bridge spanning the Seine, followed by a nightcap in a café spilling onto the sidewalk a stone’s throw from Notre Dame (that was while I was at Le Cordon Bleu, and I’ll never forget it).

As the multitude of French lifestyle books over the last few years will attest, you don’t need to be French to, well, be French!  And you know what?  I’m okay with that.  I have always been evangelical about French flavors and joie de vivre.  So this year, join me in throwing a fourteenth of July fête!  You don’t even need to tell people it’s Bastille Day – just use it as an excuse to have people over, to celebrate summer, to rejoice, and to say chin-chin.  Or, do as I do, and go all-out:

The Food

Crustless Quiche

Crustless quiche stuffed with tangy chèvre and fines herbes

It’s summer, so I always think picnic food, things that can be picked and nicked at will throughout a long, hot night.  A reader favorite has always been my Petite Crustless Quiches with Fines Herbes and Chèvre, which you could also bake as one large quiche and serve in wedges or squares.  I love Bon Appetit’s recipe for chicken roasted with garlic and herbes de Provence, which I serve at room temperature.  Another favorite is Elizabeth Bard’s oven-roasted ribs with honey and rosemary, from Lunch in Paris.  But my “franglais” choice for this year is the lowly merguez baguette, street food in France: spicy North African lamb merguez sausage, charred on the grilled, and stuffed unceremoniously in a crusty baguette.  I would add half sour or new pickles and cilantro for a banh mi feel, or, instead, goat cheese and drizzle of honey, or a wonderful American red pepper preserve, or a broccoli pesto.  It’s casual, but it’s not expected.

Merguez Baguette

Merguez baguette charred off the grill

To start, I recommend my riff on guacamole: avocado’s mashed with goat cheese and served with artisanal potato chips (try with sweet potato chips!) and crudités.

Rosé BerriesAnd for dessert, you have to try my new Sloshed Berries in Rosé.  It couldn’t be easier, and it is so good (I have just been eating it very fashionably out of a Ball jar from the fridge).  For four people, pour a cup of rosé wine (I used côtes de Provence) into a small saucepan along with three tablespoons of sugar.  Heat the two together just until the sugar dissolves; then turn off the heat, throw in one or two sprigs of fresh thyme, and let the syrup infuse until it comes to room temperature.  One of the best combinations I picked up in France is strawberry and thyme; the herb cuts through the sweetness and adds a woodsiness that you can’t quite place.  It feels grown up.  Just toss the cooled rosé wine syrup with an assortment of berries, and you have the most light, refreshing, surprising, (and intoxicating) dessert.

Kerry and Berries

French Market Berries

Berry paparazzi shots from French markets last summer

The Drinks

You can’t go wrong with very cold bottles of rosé.  Another option is La Piscine, a drink I discovered in Juan-les-Pins, near Cap d’Antibes.  As fancy as it sounds, it’s just champagne on the rocks, and I like how irreverent it is.  And a panaché is always refreshing: equal parts beer cut with good French limonade.

Boissons

La Piscine in Juan-les-Pins, and artisanal limonade in Forcalquier

Kerry PetanqueThe Activities

If you are outside, it must be pétanque.  Mr. English and I have already determined that in our retirement, we will be a fiercely competitive husband-and-wife pétanque duo.  Look out Provence!

If you’re at a table, play French Consequences.  Write a sentence in English, and pass it to your left.  The person there attempts to translate it to French, and then folds it so that only the French shows.  Then, the next person translates it to English, folds, and passes it along.  And so on.  By the time it gets to the end of the table, it’s pretty funny.  This works best if everyone has taken a little bit of French and forgotten it, and / or you’ve had a few of the drinks I recommend above.

Pétanque

A picturesque pétanque court at Le Couvent des Minimes; playing pétanque in a New York City park

The Music

For something fun, search “French” in Songza; they have a handful of lively playlists, my favorite of which is French hip-hop.  Who can resist?

Or, for something classic, create an Edith Piaf station on Pandora.  Timeless.

Bistro Lights

Bistro lights strung up at our wedding

The Décor

Bistro lights, strung from trees, from balcony railings, or even from bookcases always make me feel like I am eating on the sidewalk to the tune of a wonderfully wheezing accordion.  Blue, white, and pink hydrangeas on the table remind me of those wonderful pastel tricolore Parisian fireworks that July five years ago.  For me, a truly French touch is always plain white china that allows the food to speak without being interrupted.  And I love Duralex Picardie glasses: inexpensive but authentic, stackable, and perfect for water and wine.

Hydrangeas

Pink, blue, and white hydrangeas evoke le bleu, blanc, et rouge (at also the red, white, and blue of the Fourth)

Paris White China and Sparrow

White china reminds me of French bistro; here, a plate we shared with a Parisian sparrow

The Invitations

I have long been a devotée of Paperless Post, which provides virtual iterations of beautiful stationary – the paper weight, the embossing, the foil magically jump of the screen, but retain the ease, timeliness, traceability of email.  I love it so much that the save-the-date to our wedding in France was created using Paperless Post.  If you search for “France” and “Paris”, you’ll get some great themed options!

So, bonne chance, mes amis, with your summer entertaining!  Bastille Day is such a fun occasion; and besides, I happen to think the world should celebrate things like equality, brotherhood, and freedom more often.  Bon app!

SaveLaDate

A version of our real “save the date” on Paperless Post

Sloshed Red Berries in Rosé Wine with Thyme
serves 4

Rosé BerriesINGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup rosé wine (like côtes de Provence)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 to 2 sprigs thyme
  • 12 large strawberries, halved
  • 16 blackberries
  • 24 raspberries

METHOD

In a small saucepan, heat the wine and sugar over medium heat, stirring until dissolved.  Take off the heat and add the thyme.  Leave to infuse and cool completely.

Combine the berries and divide among four cups.  Divide the cooled syrup over them, and serve right away.  It’s that easy, and so very good.

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Desserts, Easy, Eat, Fruit, Recipes, Vegetarian
 

Farmhouse Flavors on Father’s Day

RECIPE: Drunken Goat Spaghetti

Pinot Noir PastaMy dad is pretty special.  I know all daughters say that, but it’s really true.  He has taught me a lot over the years, not least of which was how to enjoy food.  A true gourmand, he simply cannot boil water, so he educated my palate and entertained his by taking me all over Manhattan when I was young, to restaurants high and low.  He is slim, but he enthusiastically and methodically and consistently finishes whatever is put before him.  He taught me that eating, the meal, is the time and the place to connect with your family and to share your life, which is a lesson by which I have always lived.

The second lesson he taught me is a more recent one (see dad, I am still learning!).  My dad, like me, is a creature of habit.  We love adventure, but we also love to return to what is tried and true.  This is a part of myself that I have always been ashamed of, that I have always fought against.  Shouldn’t we leave the neighborhood, I’ll ask Mr. English, just to see what else is out there?  Isn’t it boring to always order vanilla ice cream (vanilla is my favorite)?  Shouldn’t I try something new?

Pinot Noir PastaMy dad does not have these hang-ups.  When he identifies something he likes, he likes it.  There is no shame; there is no restlessness.  For example, he loves pinot noir.  Whenever he orders wine, he orders pinot noir.  For years, I made fun of him.  “Come on, dad,” I cajoled impatiently.  “Why don’t you try something different!?”

“Because I like it.”

And that is courage of conviction; not something to be admonished, but rather to be admired.

Pinot Noir PastaIn honor of Father’s Day and my dad, I created this Drunken Goat Pasta, thick spaghetti drowned and cooked in a bottle of pinot noir.  It is incredibly farmhouse in flavor: the pasta is cooked with shallots, garlic, and thyme sautéed simply in olive oil.  It slurps up both the color and the flavor of the dry, light, fruity pinot noir, which becomes the essential flavor of the dish.  And it is finished with fresh parsley, a touch of butter, and creamy goat cheese, which you can either serve sliced or crumbled on top of the pasta, or melted into it.

I just feel like this dish is so my dad; it is sophisticated, but also simple and honest.  My dad doesn’t eat meat, so it captures his sensibilities.  But I have to say, I think it would go beautifully as the unexpected side to a roast chicken or a braised cut of beef.

Happy Father’s Day to everyone out there; tonight, I will toast my dad with a glass (and a pot!) of pinot noir.

Kerry and Pinot Pasta

Kerry and Pinot Pasta

Drunken Goat Spaghetti
serves 4

Pinot Noir PastaINGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound thick spaghetti, spaghettoni, (recommended: Barilla), or regular spaghetti
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 bottle Pinot Noir
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cold
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • 2 ounces chèvre

METHOD

Bring a large bottle of salted water to a boil.  Cook the pasta for half of the amount of time prescribed on the box.  It should be soft enough to bend, but not yet al dente.

Meanwhile, in a heavy-bottomed braising pot, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat.  Add the shallots and sweat for three minutes until soft.  Add the garlic and thyme, season with salt and pepper, and just heat through for one minute.  Add the pinot noir, salt well, and bring to a bubble.

Use a pair of tongs to transfer the pasta from the boiling water to the bubbling wine (you’ll want to keep the pasta water in case you need to loosen the sauce later).  Cook the pasta, stirring occasionally, until it is al dente, and which point the wine will have been absorbed into the pasta.  Add the butter and parsley, and toss through.  Then, you can either add the goat cheese now, and toss through to melt, or you can serve it sliced or crumbled up on top of the pasta.  Bon app!

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Recipes, Sides, Starches, Vegetarian, Vegetarian
 

Long Island’s North Fork and Springtime Sorrel Salmon

RECIPE: Springtime Sorrel Salmon for Two

Sorrel SalmonWhen I was young I had a friend named Catherine.  Our mothers were friends, and every now and again we’d take the drive out from Manhattan to their cottage in Jamesport, just by the sea.  I have vivid, cinematic memories of the place because it was so extraordinarily sensory.  The smoking steam of hamburgers sizzling on the barbecue.  The clouds of perfume shrouding lilacs collapsing on their vines in the summer air.  The pant and froth of the horses as we trotted through the heat.  The pages of Narnia as they were turned in the little wooden cottage.  The chestnut brown of the prehistoric horseshoe crabs nestled in their sandy beds on the gray beach.

It’s been nearly twenty-five years since those summers.  For Mothers’ Day this year, Maman and I had determined that we would go away together somewhere different, like we did during what we like to call our “adventures” when I was young.  She and me, contra mundo.  But when I looked at flights for the May weekend, everything was over $500.  So much for spontaneity!  Desperately disappointed, I tried to take Mr. English’s advice: “Don’t panic,” he often admonishes me.  “Problem solve.”

North Fork Maman et MoiSo I pluckily resolved to find a destination that was cool enough for our adventure and within driving distance of New York; I had been hearing so much about the vineyards on the North Fork.  Seven-year-old me had no idea that Jamesport was on what is known as the “North Fork” of Long Island, so I was delighted as I was plotting our wine-tasting, farm stand-hopping trip to realize that our modern-day adventure was a frolic through one from our ancient past.

We began the weekend at Noah’s in Greenport.  My father used to take my mother on treks to Long Island in their early marriage just for the duck, so naturally Maman and I ordered Long Island duck confit with bacon-flecked black lentils.  We had a head of roast garlic, to smother onto grilled bread.  We had a kale Caesar splintered with julienne of apples.  And a fritto misto of calamari, sugar snap peas, and lemon slices.

North Fork Calamari Noah'sNorth Fork Duck Confit Lentils Noah'sNorth Fork Rhubarb Crostade Noah'sWhen I announced that I wanted the rhubarb crostade for dessert, Maman looked at me and asked, deadpan, “What is roo-bart?”

With that, it had to be ordered, a wonderful handfolded pie of astringent rhubarb offset with a turban of fresh whipped cream.  Maman declared it the best thing she’d ever eaten and set out on every subsequent meal in search of roo-bart.

The next morning came more firsts for my mom.  At Harbes Family Farm, I introduced her to the joys of apple cider donuts.  “Mmm!” was the exclamation.  Unfortunately, the roo-bart had not come to harvest time yet at Harbes, but I bought two gorgeous bouquets of fresh green asparagus, and all the organic herbs for my windowsill herb garden that I’d been dreaming of through the winter.

North Fork Apple Cider Donut Sampling HarbesNorth Fork AsparagusNorth Fork Herb Garden HarbesLater, we ran into friends at the rosé-only vineyard Croteaux (apparently New York is not only a small city, but also a small state), and sampled six rosé varietals.  I finally settled on one with wild fermented yeast to bring back for Mr. English.  And that night we dined at the famed North Fork Table and Inn, where I experienced the North Fork harvest brought to life in fresh spring pea soup with buttered crab and stinging nettle cavatelli which may have been the most original and well executed American pasta I have ever had.  Maman’s fennel and orange cheesecake was the lightest, most exquisite dessert, but no, she confirmed, it did not rival her new beloved roo-bart.

North Fork RoseNorth Fork Rose AftermathNorth Fork Pea Soup NFTINorth Fork Nettle Cavatelli NFTINorth Fork Coconut Tapioca NFTISunday found us back at the North Fork Table and Inn, sitting at a picnic table under their leafy trees sampling their food truck.  Season salad.  Artisinal hotdogs.  Fries.  It reminded me of those cookouts so many years ago, albeit more refined.  We headed out to Orient to walk the beach and collect sea glass and shells, trying ineffectually to skip rocks.  Finally, heaving sighs, we decided to drive back to the city.  Oh, let’s just stop here, we said at the lavender farm as we sniffed at the different sprigs.  Ooh, and here! we excused ourselves as we stopped by Catapano farms to sample their homemade goat cheese and buy a pot of chervil to complete my herb collection.  We were now running officially late for our city dinner at Little Owl, but when I saw a huge sign on the side of the road shouting “fresh sorrel”, I stunt-drive swerved off the road and into the little road-side stand’s parking lot.

North Fork Food Truck 1North Fork Food Truck 2North Fork Kerry Food Truck 1North Fork Kerry Food Truck 2North Fork Kerry Food Truck 3North Fork Food Truck 4North Fork Food Truck 3North Fork SheepNorth Fork SheepI love sorrel.  I don’t know why it’s not a bigger deal here in the States.  I can often find it at Whole Foods for about $3, but the volume is so infinitesimal compared to the recipes that call for vast quantities of the astringent herb in French cookbooks.  To know me is to know that I love traditional French pairings, to France what peanut butter and jelly are to America: terrine and mustard, fondue and cornichons, sausages and lentils, and my favorite, salmon with sorrel.

North Fork SorrelSorrel, in its astringency, is almost a citrus, even though it looks like a green leafy vegetable.  Traditionally, salmon is seared, and served with a lightly creamy sorrel sauce in fine restaurants, or an almost creamed spinach version in hearty homey restaurants.  Inspired by the French-American fusion I saw at Noah’s, I created my own simple version of salmon with sorrel.  I seared the salmon with just salt and pepper in olive oil until crisp.  For the sorrel sauce, I wilt the sorrel in just seconds with a few chives and a splash of white wine.  Then I whip it together with just a bit of Greek yogurt – it’s healthy, and the tang goes so well with the sorrel.  You could also use crème fraiche for the same effect.  Although not the healthy part.  The sauce melts in tiny rivulets into the ravines of the crispy salmon.  The acerbic tang of the herb cuts through the fatty richness of the salmon.  It is so, so good.  I serve it on top of fresh medley of green vegetables, just sautéed until tender crisp.  You could, of course, use just Long Island asparagus.

At the farm stand, I grabbed a big handful of sorrel, convinced it would cost a fortune.  When the till rang up $1.25, I went back to grab more.  “No,” Maman exclaimed!  “Mr. English is waiting!  We are late!”

They sell sorrel for pennies; I am thinking that kind of savings means I can start looking at real estate.

Springtime Sorrel Salmon for Two
serves 2

Sorrel Salmonsorrel sauce

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ ounce chives, chopped
  • ¾ ounce sorrel leaves, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup dry white wine, like Sauvignon Blanc
  • ¼ cup Greek yogurt

METHOD

In a small ceramic nonstick sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the chives and sorrel, season with salt and pepper, and wilt for 30 seconds.  Add the wine and reduce to 1 tablespoon.  Add everything to a small blender, add the yogurt, and whiz until smooth.  Set aside.

salmon

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 5-ounce filets of salmon
  • Salt and pepper

METHOD

In the same pan as the sorrel (no need to wash it!), heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Season the salmon with salt and pepper.  Place the salmon flesh-side-down in the pan.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium, flip the salmon, and cook for an additional 5 minutes for medium-well.

TO SERVE

To plate, spoon some sautéed vegetables (if you want) in a wide, shallow bowl.  Place the salmon on top, and crown with sorrel sauce.  Eat up!

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Easy, Eat, Fish, Main Courses, Recipes