French in a Flash: Niçoise Tuna Cakes

RECIPE: Niçoise Tuna Cakes
Niçoise Tuna Cakes

Niçoise Tuna Cakes

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I love crab cakes. If they’re on the menu, I order them. I devised this departure from crab cakes not out of boredom, but in the attempt to create yet another thing to sate my adoration. Crispy on the outside, doughy on the inside; light, briny, and hearty. They’re perfect.

In this version, I start with fresh tuna steak, cooked medium, and flaked to the texture of crab meat. Then, I pepper the meat with the flavors of a Niçoise salad: capers, lemon, olive oil, anchovies, garlic, olives, and thyme. Bind with crumbs made from the stale butts of leftover baguettes and mayonnaise, and you have a cake that is altogether unconventional. I serve it with easy tapenade crème fraîche and lemon aïoli that are lessons in how to renovate store-bought ingredients into something that tastes homemade.

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Eat, Fish, French in a Flash, Individual, Main Courses, Recipes, Series
 

French in a Flash: Printemps Penne with Green Vegetables and Goat Cheese

RECIPE: Printemps Penne
Printemps Penne

Printemps Penne

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Most of the time in this column, I am inspired by the classic dishes and preparations of France. But this week, I’m not spinning a coq au vin or a cassoulet, but rather attempting to eat as the French eat: by season.

I admit that it is not my forté, and I wonder if others have the same difficulty. I believe that the omnipresence of certain vegetables and fruits and meats in our supermarkets have led us to crave, and settle for, basil in wintertime or Brussels sprouts in summer. Food prices are generally affordable enough that we do not always notice an out-of-season premium, and local farmer’s markets of local, seasonal produce can often be heartbreakingly more expensive than the supermarket.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Easy, Eat, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, Sides, Starches, Vegetarian, Vegetarian
 

The Secret Ingredient (Key Lime) Part I: Key Lime Scallop Ceviche

RECIPE: Key Lime Scallop Ceviche with Plantain Chips
Key Lime Scallop Ceviche

Key Lime Scallop Ceviche

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Key limes occupy a treasured corner of my heart. In fact, when I return to Florida, where I spent seven years of my life with a key lime tree out in my citrus-stocked yard, I can feel my pulse quicken just at the thought of key lime—my heart turns into a little round yellow lime, pumping that pucker-tart milky-jade juice through my veins.

Key limes are around all the time in South Florida; but up North, I find that sacks of these baby round limes show up in gourmet stores, and sit there, and eventually someone disposes of them. I don’t know if the general population understands how special the key lime is—how different it is from our standard limes. They’re rounder, and smaller, and paler than the limes we are used to. More chartreuse than emerald. But for their diminutive size, they pack a punch. They are tarter, more acidic, and altogether more flavorful and vital than regular limes.

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Categories: Recipes, Series, The Secret Ingredient
 

French in a Flash: Salmon with Sorrel and Asparagus en Papillote

RECIPE: Salmon with Sorrel and Asparagus en Papillote
Sorrel Salmon

Sorrel Salmon

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Salmon and sorrel go as hand-in-hand in French cuisine, as much as Napoleon and his white horse, or Marie Antoinette and La Guillotine do in French history. A somewhat obscure herb to many, sorrel is leafy, grassy, fresh, and slightly astringent. It is that insistent acerbic tang that makes it such match for salmon—countering the butteriness of the fish, holding its pungency at bay.

Traditionally, salmon with sorrel sauce, saumon à l’oseille, is a seared fillet of salmon served with a creamy sauce made from cream and sorrel, among other things, heated and pulverized into purée. I have always found that French culture has a wonderful capacity for supporting two opposing but equal truths at once in the same vessel: girls, for example, may be jolie-laide, or pretty-ugly. Similarly, so many recipes in French cuisine, like saumon à l’oseille, are rustic-refined—a dichotomous combination of simple heartiness, elegant but unfussy presentation, and uncomplicated but pert flavors.

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Easy, Eat, Fish, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Recipes, Series
 

French in a Flash: Niçoise Fried Olives

RECIPE: Niçoise Fried Olives
Niçoise Fried Olives

Niçoise Fried Olives

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There are two things I tend to relate with the South of France: olives, and summer. I don’t know about where you are, but where I am, this week has been positively August-like. No matter when the season officially starts, summer has arrived, and I begin to travel via daydream back to my favorite place in the world: Provence.

Though my mother was born there, I never traveled there until I was fifteen years old, when Maman took me on a trip that summer to Aix-en-Provence and Cannes. In France there is an expression: coup de foudre. Literally, a bolt of lightning, but figuratively, a love that hits you hard and suddenly. It was love at first sight, and at first taste.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Eat, For a Crowd, French in a Flash, Recipes, Series, Vegetarian
 

The Secret Ingredient (Sesame) Part III: Sweet Sesame Brittle

RECIPE: Sweet Sesame Brittle
Sweet Sesame Brittle

Sweet Sesame Brittle

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The last two weeks of sesame have focused on the savory side of the seed. But I promised it was a versatile ingredient, and I aim to deliver this week with a simple, do-it-yourself version of sweet sesame brittle.

Growing up, we always had sweet sesame around the house. My mother is an addict. She always has a bag of what is labeled ”sesame crunch,” sesame seeds solidified with almonds in hard honey caramel, frozen as if in amber. The candy is hard, and one bite sends splintered seeds and burnt sugar all over you; it sticks to your teeth, and it is exotic and satisfying and feels somehow healthier than, say, a Jolly Rancher.

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Categories: Desserts, Eat, Recipes, Series, The Secret Ingredient, Vegetarian
 

French in a Flash: Brie and Brown Sugar Tartine

RECIPE: Brie and Brown Sugar Tartines
Brie and Brown Sugar Tartine

Brie and Brown Sugar Tartine

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Necessity is the mother of invention. And my necessity is most often a 4 o’clock bout of starvation. First, there’s the rumble, a deep growling thunder inevitably rolling up from deep inside my stomach. Then I rummage—through my bag, in the back of the freezer, through the pantry, all in hope of the perfect weapon. It was on such one late afternoon quest to silence the hunger within that I discovered this recipe.

Tartines are French open-faced sandwiches. What recommends them most is their bread-to-topping ratio. Often, a slice of good Poilâne bread is spread lightly with soft, country butter, and topped with a simple single layer of smoked salmon, saumon fumé, or a salami, like Rosette de Lyon. Good bread, highlighted with an excellent accent. C’est tout. Et ça suffit.

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