Working Girl Dinners: Tortellini Soup

RECIPE: Tortellini Soup

Tortellini Soup

Tortellini Soup

Waiting to start this series has been like watching the ball drop on New Year’s Eve.  So much anticipation.  I’m so excited about it.

For the longest time, I’ve been writing recipes for four.  I never want them to be too easy or too simple, because I’m afraid that readers won’t think the recipes are worth it.  These are my insecurities.  But in reality, as much as I love writing recipes, I have a lot of leftovers, and a lot of weekends spent in the kitchen instead of, well, anywhere else.  Because, at my age, for better or worse, I’m not cooking for four, and I don’t have a lot of time to futz around between fridge and stove.

All my friends have been asking me for recipes for years that they can make after their (I’m so proud of them!) high-powered careers for themselves and the usually only one other person in their lives: a similarly aged, equally high-powered partner.  Let’s face it: we’re either all working long hours or studying long hours.  Living alone or with a boyfriend or husband or otherwise beloved.  No kids yet, but that also means no maternity leave.  Equally harried, but in a different way.  We’re not cooking for a “family,” but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to cook for our families: newborn households of two, housed in first apartments amid Ikea furniture and maybe a puppy, bright-eyed, and excited to finally be “grown-ups.”

I had one group of friends who would get together in Atlanta to recreate recipes from my columns.  I was so excited, but when my best friend from high school admitted, “We love doing it, but I have to give my up afternoon to find the ingredients,” I was embarrassed.  Not everyone devotes themselves to memorizing which supermarkets stock endive and which stock fennel–I admit, that I myself do.  Make of that what you will!

Another, newly married, told me that she wanted to make dinner for her husband.  In a world where we girls were raised to put nothing ahead of work, work, work, there is something so poignant about a new bride scuttling home from the subway at 8 o’clock just wanting to make a simple meal for her husband, who probably picked up Chinese takeout on the way home.

When I asked them what they wanted, they all said healthy, fast, simple, at times impressive, and made from ingredients easily found between subway and apartment.  Voila.  Working Girl Dinners was born.

Writing these recipes, I remember advice I learned about writing growing up: write what you know.  Similarly, I would advise: cook what you want.  I was free of all constraints, making food that actually works in my life, and that I couldn’t wait to eat.  Dinner was usually ready in less than 20 minutes, with no leftovers to worry about, very little cleanup.  What hadn’t I done this sooner?

In Working Girl Dinners, I hope, no pledge, to give you recipes for two that are healthy, satisfying, easy, and quick.  No esoteric ingredients.  No crazy techniques.  Just good, solid food for the way we live.  And maybe a quick video to show you how.  I promise that anyone can cook, and just because we’ve gotten so far at the office, doesn’t mean we can’t come home to the kitchen.  There is power in doing things yourself, no matter where you do them.  And as we said growing up in my big family, and now in my little one: bon app!

We start with the easiest, most satisfying soup in the world: Tortellini Soup.  Cheesy tortellini, floating on a tomato broth.  Hearty, and good.  I used to order it guiltily at a place called Sal’s in Florida.  Guiltily because I was vegetarian, but I couldn’t resist it even though I knew it had chicken stock in it.  I was really living dangerously.  This is a vegetarian version, and it has three ingredients, all of which you can keep in your cabinet or freezer, so you don’t even need to stop off on the way home to buy anything. And the broth is literally made from just vegetable broth and marinara sauce.  Seriously.  Who knew?  My only advice is to buy good organic broth, and excellent, tasty marinara sauce: few ingredients merit the good stuff.  And have fun with the tortellini and the toppings.  You could do meat or chicken or spinach tortellini, and top the soup with lots of Parm or chilis or herbs.  Whatever floats your boat or your tortellini.

Tortellini Soup
serves 2 to 3

Tortellini SoupINGREDIENTS

  • 1 32-ounce box of vegetable broth (preferably organic)
  • 1 24-ounce jar of marinara sauce (recommended: Mario Batali, or other San Marzano tomato sauce)
  • 1 20-ounce package (or 2 10-ounces packages) of cheese or cheese-and-spinach tortellini from the refrigerator or freezer section
  • Salt and pepper

TOPPINGS

  • Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Chopped fresh basil (optional)
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

PROCEDURE

Put the vegetable stock and marinara sauce in a large pot with a lid.  Turn the heat to medium-high, and bring the mixture to a boil.  Add the tortellini, and cover the pot again.  Cook just until the tortellini float to the top of the broth, about 3 minutes.  Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste, and garnish with spicy pepper flakes, fresh basil, and/or Parmesan cheese.  Seriously, that's it.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, Soup, Soup & Salad, Vegetarian, Vegetarian, Watch, Working Girl Dinners
 

The Secret Ingredient (Saffron) Part I: Roasted Eggplant Salad with Saffron Yogurt

RECIPE: Roasted Eggplant Salad with Saffron Yogurt
Roasted Eggplant Salad with Saffron Yogurt

Roasted Eggplant Salad with Saffron Yogurt

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

It is a widely touted fact that saffron is the world’s most expensive spice, and that it is collected by hand, the stamens of a crocus flower, plucked by hands, and dried.  Thankfully, it only takes a pinch of saffron to make a dish.

This salad is my knock-off of an appetizer I had at The Red Bicycle in Santorini, Greece, last summer.  The eggplant is soft and tender, and just crispy-burnt around the edges.  It  is draped in a rich sauce of nothing but Greek yogurt and saffron, and the salad is topped with torn fresh basil and crunchy toasted pine nuts.  It’s not exact–the rendition the owner taught me has brown sugar and pomegranate seeds thrown in the mix, but this is Red Bicycle redux, and it’s pretty fabulous.  It has what saffron always imparts–the color, the flavor, the smell of the exotic.  There’s nothing uncommon about the ingredients in this dish–even saffron stocks the shelves of every grocery store in the country–but saffron still has that magic spell, like a free ticket halfway around the world.

Roasted Eggplant Salad with Saffron Yogurt
serves 4

Roasted Eggplant Salad with Saffron YogurtINGREDIENTS

  • 2 1 1/4-pound eggplants, cut in 1-inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus extra
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron
  • 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 10 basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts

PROCEDURE

In a large colander, toss the eggplant with the salt.  Allow to drain over the sink for 30 minutes.  Do not rinse.  Preheat the broiler.

Toss the eggplant with the olive oil on a Silpat- or parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet.  Arrange the eggplant in a single layer, close together, on the baking sheet.  Broil in the top third of the oven, but not directly under the broiler, stirring 3 times, until the eggplant is soft and just beginning to char, 25 to 30 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

While the eggplant roasts, combine the saffron and hot water in a small bowl, and allow to steep.  Once the eggplant is cool, blend together the saffron, its water, and the yogurt in a small food processor.  Season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the eggplant in a single layer on a wide platter.  Top with the saffron yogurt sauce, then basil leaves, and finally pine nuts.  Serve at room temperature.

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Categories: Easy, Eat, Recipes, Salad, Series, Sides, Soup & Salad, The Secret Ingredient, Vegetables, Vegetarian
 

Two-Ingredient Pain au Chocolat

RECIPE: Two-Ingredient Pain au Chocolat
Two Ingredient Chocolate Croissant

Two Ingredient Chocolate Croissant

When Mr. English and I are in Paris, he always orders the same breakfast: omelette nature, café noir, and pain au chocolat (that’s a plain omelet, black coffee, and chocolate croissant).  Apparently, it’s a really funny order because my step-father gets no end of joy for making fun of him for eating it.  Whatever.  It’s our thing, and it’s one of the few things Mr. English has completely mastered in French.  It’s a rainy day in Paris today, but that won’t get in the way with our routine.  For when we get home, I have a little two-ingredient substitute.  I just roll really good chocolate into puff pastry, and bake it.  It’s not quite a Paris pain au chocolat, but fresh from the oven, it’s a pretty good way to start the day.

Two-Ingredient Pain au Chocolat
makes 4

Two Ingredient Chocolate CroissantIngredients

  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed but cold
  • 2 ounces dark chocolate (recommended: Green & Black's 70% cocoa)

Procedure

The night before, move the puff pastry from the freezer to the fridge.

A half hour before you want to serve breakfast, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Unfold the sheet of puff pastry, and cut two diagonal lines from corner to corner to make 4 squares.  Line a quarter of the chocolate on the long side of each triangle, and roll up, bending int the corners like a crescent shape.  Park the croissants on a Silpat- or parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake 25 to 30 minutes, until puffed and golden.  Serve now!

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Bakery, Bread & Butter, Breakfast & Brunch, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Pastries, Recipes, Vegetarian
 

French in a Flash: Boursin and Tomato Mini Tartines

RECIPE: Boursin and Tomato Mini Tartines
Boursin and Tomato Mini Tartines

Boursin and Tomato Mini Tartines

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

Easy does it.  Tartines, one-sided sandwiches topped with, usually, one thing, are easy.  And they do the trick.  In Paris, I have my little places where I know I can get a tartine I like: usually smoked salmon, or saucisson sec.  Everything on them, and by everything I mean, the bread and the salami or salmon, has to be perfect for the tartine to be quality.  I like that honesty, and simplicity.  It’s not cooking, so much as hospitality.

These tartines are assembled on long slices of crisply toasted baguette, topped with a mash of store-bought Boursin, which is so full of the flavor of garlic and herbs that no matter how you dilute it, it is still the most flavorful thing in your kitchen, cut with ricotta, to make it spreadable.  On top, chopped grape tomatoes, sweet and crunchy, with a drizzle of olive and fleur de sel.  I love these for lunch, or even breakfast.  Satisfying, but uncomplicated.

Boursin and Tomato Mini Tartines
serves 2

Boursin and Tomato Mini TartinesINGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 cup Garlic and Fine Herbs Boursin
  • 1/4 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 6 3/4-inch slices baguette, cut on a steep bias
  • 2/3 cup grape tomatoes (about 18), quartered
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of fleur de sel

PROCEDURE

In a small bowl, mash together the Boursin and ricotta.  Set aside.

Toast the baguette slices in a toaster until just golden and slightly crisp.  Set on a rack to keep crisp, and cool.

When the bread is cool, spread with the Boursin mixture.  Toss the tomato, olive oil, and fleur de sel together, and spoon on the cheese-topped baguette slices.  Serve immediately.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Bread & Butter, Breakfast & Brunch, Easy, Eat, For a Crowd, French in a Flash, Recipes, Sandwiches, Series, Vegetarian
 

Welcome back to French Revolution!

BIENVENUE

Today is a big, big, big, big day (to quote from the great book I just finished: The Hunger Games).  I started this blog, French Revolution, on April 13, 2008.  I can’t take all the credit—it wasn’t my idea.  I wanted to be a food writer.  But that’s not exactly a job title with a clear path.  Everyone needs a break, and it turns out in this day in age, you can give that break to yourself.  My boyfriend, belovedly coined Mr. English on this site, commanded me to start a blog.  I was hesitant: as the team behind this website knows, I am not technically gifted.  So I bought Blogging for Dummies, and French Revolution was born.

Today, at nearly three years old, French Revolution is born again.  It as all thanks to Rose Daniels, of Rose Daniels Design, the brilliant, patient, and visionary web designer whose work you see all over this site.  With her worked the tolerant programmer Alex Bajoris, who explained the workings of websites to me with the generosity afforded to a toddler, and Rae Danneman, whose beautiful drawings, full of personality, illuminate every page of this site.  They managed to take the little seed sprouting in my head, and grow it into the new French Revolution.

When French Revolution began, it gave me an accountable way to test a very specific kind of recipe—easy, renovated French-inspired food.  And while that will always be at the heart of what I do, this new site is going to drop pretense and gimmicks, and just have fun with food.  Let loose a little–something I should do more often.  Here, you’ll find great restaurants, interviews with some pretty fantastic foodies, and recipes, of course.   At the request of those nearest and dearest, I will be doing fast, simple after-work recipes that are healthy and easy.  I will be posting videos of the basics.  I will be cooking from French food magazines.  I will be posting my pieces from The Huffington Post and Serious Eats.  I will be having some fun, and I hope you will too!

Thanks for stopping in.  Take a look around, and sign up for the weekly newsletter so you don’t miss a single recipe or restaurant recommendation.  Thank you, past present and future, for being a part of French Revolution.  It just means the world to me.

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Franglais: Fried Calamari Persillade

RECIPE: Fried Calamari Persillade
Fried Calamari Persillade

Fried Calamari Persillade

Get the whole story at The Huffington Post.

Somewhere in the bowels of the Natural History Museum in New York City there is a giant squid.  I’m not sure if the room still exists today as it did back in the Eighties, but as it was then, or at least as I remember it to have been then, there was a huge blue whale hanging from the ceiling, and a Mad Men-esque cocktail bar from which I always ordered a ginger ale with a maraschino cherry.  The whole thing had a sunken-Nautilus aspect: a dim blue lighting, and curiosity tanks filled with things like an old twist-on metal deep-sea diving suit.  And a giant squid.  Not as they are, I imagine, in reality, but as they are in Captain Nemo’s nightmares.

Enter calamari.  I wrote last week that this week’s recipe is inspired by my childhood summers in Woodstock.  It was there that I first encountered not the giant squid of Natural History, but the crispy, golden, miniature squid of an upstate Italian restaurant.  My father, my constant Natural History blue room companion, ordered me a basket, remembering, no doubt, how I stood entranced, marveling at Nemo’s nemesis.  The waiter whisked it from the kitchen, over to me.  My eyes flared open.  In my little hand I clutched the now-crispy tentacles that had haunted so many oversized childhood nightmares.  The long body cut into perfect rings, to be dunked in a boiling sea of marinara sauce.  I knew I never wanted to meet a squid after Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.  But from that moment on, above the sea, with the tables turned, I have met them quite happily, and quite often.

Persillade, in French cooking, refers to a topping or combination of parsley and garlic, often packed onto shellfish or lamb or any meat really.  It has such a strong and overwhelmingly delicious and simple flavor.  Here, I very simply fry calamari and toss it with grated fresh, strong garlic, and a confetti of parsley.  I serve it, optionally, with a roasted garlic mayonnaise, but really, the combination of the hot, crispy calamari slowly, gently cooking the garlic and parsley onto each individual piece is so good, it needs nothing but an eager eater.  Of course, I am always happy to oblige.  Bon app.

Fried Calamari Persillade Zoom

Fried Calamari Persillade
serves 2 to 4

Fried Calamari Persillade ZoomINGREDIENTS

  • 1 head of garlic, whole, plus 2 large cloves garlic, finely grated
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • Canola oil for frying
  • 1 pound calamari tubes, sliced in ½- to ¾-inch rings
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • ¼ lemon, zested

PROCEDURE

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Cut the top quarter horizontally off the head of garlic, and wrap the remainder in foil.  Roast for 1 hour, and allow to cool.  Remove foil, and squeeze out roasted garlic cloves.  Mash together with mayonnaise, and set aside.

In a cast iron skillet with high sides, heat 1 to 2 inches oil to 375 to 380°F.  Meanwhile, in a large Ziploc bag, shake the calamari rings with the flour, cornstarch, and salt to coat.  Shake off extra flour, and then fry in 3 batches until crisp and just turning golden, about 3 minutes.  Drain very quickly on paper towel, then toss hot calamari with grated garlic, parsley, and lemon zest in a large bowl.  Cut the zest lemon, and serve along with the calamari and roasted garlic mayonnaise.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Cheap, Eat, Fish, For a Crowd, Franglais, Main Courses, Recipes, Series
 

London’s Calling: Kasteel Cru

Kasteel Cru

Kasteel Cru

Rarely does a beer make such an impact on me.  Not that I don’t like beer.  I know what I like, and I know what I don’t.  But that doesn’t mean I’ve ever found true love.

I had this Kasteel Cru a couple of days ago with a fish and chips lunch at Fish! near Borough Market.  I love the label.  I don’t know if it’s real beer-ology or just marketing, but the idea of “sparkling bière brut” made it sound so much like fine champagne.  And the light moonlight color, and the fine bubbles.  Also like champagne.  And then the waiter told me the beer is made with champagne yeast.  I’m not sure what that means, but I loved the delicacy of the beer, its dry finish, and its, yes, elegance.  Ale drinkers may shrink back in horror, but I just loved it, and if you like something light, but still with character, I think you will too.

Kasteel Cru

Available from Asda, Ocado, and Sainsbury’s

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Categories: Finds, London, Voyages