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

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

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
 

All the Pretty Little Paris Meals

Chocolate Ice Cream and Raspberry-Rose Sorbet from Berthillon

Chocolate Ice Cream and Raspberry-Rose Sorbet from Berthillon

I just got back from a weekend in Paris–breathless! It seems a touch self-indulgent, and I certainly hope I don’t make any readers smug and miserable, but I had to share with you what I ate:

Friday

  • Warm white asparagus with vinaigrette and baguette, with French onion soup on rue de Buci
  • A fresh galette sarrasin made before my eyes and stuffed with only shredded Gruyère from L’Avant Comptoir
  • Lobster salad with chiffonade preserved lemon peel, purple potato chips, sucrine lettuce, avocado, and haricots verts remoulade was followed by a seasonal assiette de legumes, a little pot of creamy brebis with honey, and a vanilla pot de creme, my favorite, at Le Comptoir. And a requisite carafe de vin blanc.

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Categories: Paris, Voyages
 

French in a Flash: The Best Lentil Soup with Thyme and Bacon

RECIPE: Lentil Soup with Bacon and Thyme

Lentil Soup

Lentil Soup with Thyme and Bacon

I love lentil soup. No other soup could ever take its place in my heart–not even the alluring scent and oozing hat on classic and decadent French Onion. And the position of the lentil in French cuisine, omnipresent and peasant-hearty, yet refined and delicate, has send me on a several year quest for my perfect lentil soup recipe.

Lentils are served differently in France than they are in the States. Rarely in America do we see lentils in any incarnation other than lentil soup, where in France they are served much as we serve potatoes: a hearty helping next to a seared side of salmon, instead of our standard mashed, or whole in salads, as we might make a potato salad, or add potatoes to bulk up a hearty salad of greens. Lentils are ubiquitous and cheap, but also extremely traditional. So traditional, that France even has its unique lentil variety: du Puy, which are smaller, darker, and resolutely firmer than our standard brown any-old lentil.

In this soup, I have finally found my perfect match, my soul-in-a-bowl mate. I begin with a touch of sweet butter, and a bit of bacon, because rare is the French vegetable soup, ironically, that begins without either. Next, I add both our standard American lentil and the du Puy lentil, a duet that I find enhances and complicates the texture of the soup. The brown lentil softens, and thickens, while the du Puy lentil holds its shape with tenacity after the steady simmer. Shallots, carrots, and celery sweeten and infuse the broth, and above all, earthy, woodsy, resiny thyme give the salt-of-the-earth depth to the whole thing. I can’t eat just one bowl. I absolutely lose control. And while most women wouldn’t share their loved one, I’m willing to go, as we wink en famille, “à la française.”

Click here for my lentil soup recipe.

And here is a catalog of all French in a Flash stories for James Beard Award-winning Serious Eats.

Lentil Soup with Bacon and Thyme
serves 4

Lentil SoupIngredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 slices thick cut bacon, cut into lardoons (matchsticks)
  • 1 medium carrot, finely diced
  • 1 large shallot, finely diced
  • 1 small celery stalk, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed and whole
  • 5 stems thyme
  • 3/4 cup du Puy lentils
  • 3/4 cup regular lentils
  • 8 cups liquid (water or vegetable stock or a mixture of the two)

Note

Be sure to rinse your lentils, and check for any stones.

Procedure

  1. Melt the butter in a stock pot, and add the bacon. Sauté on medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes.
  2. Add the carrot, shallot, celery, and garlic, and sauté on medium heat for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the lentils, thyme, and stock or water, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the soup, and simmer for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.
  4. I like to blend part of the soup to slightly thicken it, but that is up to taste. If so, remove the thyme stems and the whole garlic cloves and discard, and use an immersion blender until desired consistency is reached.
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Categories: 60 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, French in a Flash, Recipes, Series, Soup, Soup & Salad