Dejeuner sur l’Herbe

RECIPE: Provencal “Soupe au Pistou” Pasta

Picnicking in Oxfordshire

scroll down for these picnic recipes…

Provencal “Soupe au Pistou” Pasta

Pan Bagnat

Watermelon with Rose and Raspberries

Oh, the great outdoors. The wide open country, the rolling hills, the heady blossoms of the early summer flowers…

I’m a city girl. Wide open country…agoraphobia! Rolling hills…I get seasick thinking of amber waves of grain. And flowers? Bunkers for kamikaze bees.

Now that my work is done for the summer, I have been participating altogether unseemingly frequently in, what I have learned to be, an English pastime as sacred as cricket and drinking Pimm’s: the picnic. Interestingly, I’ve found that one also watches cricket and drinks Pimm’s while on a picnic, so really the whole affair avalanches into a sacred ritual.

You may not know this, but my boyfriend is a zoologist here in Oxford. Thus, we see the concept of “picnic” from rather disparate angles. When I, the literature student and writer, think of an English picnic, I think of Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, walking through the emerald English countryside, stopping for an apple just one mile shy of Pemberley. The green hills are plush as a penthouse carpet, and the cool indoors, replete with bathroom and rose-scented water, are just a stone’s throw off in the distance. When a zoologist thinks of an English picnic, however, he considers the offhand possibility of discovering a verminous new species somewhere in the thorny undergrowth.

Chris planned the picnic with scientific accuracy. I, naturally, would take on the food, and he got a car, scouted out the field, and arrived romantically with a kiss. We drove to the site and I stifled the New Yorker in me: the grass was thigh high. As I scaled the splintering old wooden fence, I could barely hear the warnings: “Watch those thorns!” I smacked a rogue ant that shimmied up my leg. Fresh! “Careful, Kerry, those are stinging nettles!” Stinging nettles? I thought the kamikaze bees would be the only Axis powers in the warzone. There I was—an American abroad, hacking through a jungle, ducking enemy fire. Typical.

When I finally arrived at the spot, I looked around. Grass, grass everywhere, and not a place to sit. I threw my blanket like a fisherman’s net over some spindly green leaves, and with a proud chin up, plopped down…as a thorn sank fatally into my derriere. I yelped, but then smiled lovingly and offered Chris some Provencal “Soupe au Pistou” Pasta and water spiked with elderflower and mint. I gobbled down my lunch as quickly as I could, and looked up at him expectantly. “Come on, I’ll take you home.”

Back at home, I reconsidered and compromised: I would only picnic on cricket pitches, where the grass is sure to be mown and a bathroom lurks just behind that ominous bunch of trees. I have since been on two other quite successful outings. I always did love to picnic in Central Park with sandwiches from Yura, or to barbeque salmon on the beach, and I just had to find the right way to do it across the pond.

This week’s recipes are perfect for packing to take along with you, be it to Central Park’s civilization or the uncultivated warzones of the wild. As ever, they are cheekily Francophile. Provencal “Soupe au Pistou” Pasta is a twist on the Provencal classic soupe au pistou, a vegetarian broth laden with petite green vegetables and spiked with basil pistou. Pan Bagnat is a southern tradition—salade Nicoise on bread and the best tuna fish sandwich you’ll ever have. And the all-American picnic staple, watermelon, is reset, jeweled with ruby raspberries and washed in rose water.

So pack up that Citron Pressé and get going. Just be careful where you sit…

Pan Bagnat Oxford

Pan Bagnat

Pan Bagnat

1 loaf of ciabatta, halved horizontally

1 head of green little gem lettuce, washed and cored, leaves separated

1 half of an English cucumber, thinly sliced

200 grams of albacore or yellowfin tuna packed in olive oil

200 grams of albacore or yellowfin tuna packed in water

¼ cup of mayonnaise

½ cup of pitted olives, preferably nicoise, divided and roughly chopped

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

Zest of ½ lemon

1 tablespoon of capers

½ teaspoon of anchovy paste

10 chives, snipped

Black pepper

  1. Toast the two ciabatta halves in a very hot oven for 3 minutes, or until the bread hardens a bit, but does not turn golden.
  2. Prepare the olive mayonnaise by blending together the lemon zest, ¼ cup of olives, and the mayonnaise in a mini food processor.
  3. Drain the tuna, and combine with the olive mayonnaise.
  4. For the dressing, combine the anchovy paste, olive oil, lemon juice, black pepper, chives, capers, and the remaining ¼ cup of olives.
  5. To assemble the sandwich, press the tuna onto the bottom half of the ciabatta. Then line up the lettuce leaves and then the cucumbers on top. Pour the dressing over, and top with the bread lid.

Watermelon Rose Salad

Watermelon Rose Salad

Watermelon with Rose and Raspberries

¼ seedless watermelon taken off the rind, cut into ¼-inch slices

1 ½ tablespoons of rosewater

A handful of raspberries

  1. Arrange the watermelon in a kind of zig-zag pattern with the points facing up. You could also use a melon baller and mix the watermelon balls with the raspberries.
  2. Spoon the rosewater evenly over the watermelon, and scatter the raspberries over the top.
  3. Garnish with pink or red edible rose petals, or a small edible rose amidst the watermelon balls.

BON APP!

Picnicking at the Cricket Fields

Provencal “Soupe au Pistou” Pasta
serves 4

Soupe au Pistou PastaIngredients

  • The florets of 125 grams of baby broccoli (about 10 stems, or 1 ¼ cup of florets)
  • ½ cup of petite diced asparagus tips (8 stems)
  • Full ½ cup packed of petite diced zucchini (½ of a large zucchini)
  • ½ cup of petite diced haricots verts
  • ¼ cup of fresh, shelled peas
  • 500 grams of orechiette pasta
  • 1 cup of fresh green pesto

Procedure

  1. Set two pots of water to boil, and salt them when they begin to bubble.
  2. Cook the pasta according to package directions to al dente in one pot.
  3. In the other pot, blanch the vegetables, all at once for 1-2 minutes, and then cool them immediately in an ice bath or under very cold running water.
  4. Toss the vegetables, pasta, and pesto sauce together. Serve hot, warm, or cold.
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Blog Update!

Good news, French Révolutionnaries! French Revolution has been updated and now has new features:

  • Links: Most of the restaurants that I love enough to mention are now linked in grey. Click on the link, and you will be transferred to the restaurant’s home page so you can check out the menu or make a reservation. Ingredients that may be hard to find are linked to online sources so you can find whatever you need to make these recipes.
  • Email Subscription and RSS Feed: You can now subscribe to French Revolution in one of two ways. Subscribe to receive emails of new content to the right of the page in the Subscribe section. Or scroll down to the bottom of the page and sign up for an RSS Feed through Google Reader. If you have a Gmail account, you are already registered with Google Reader. Go to www.google.com/reader to sign in and subscribe, and, like with the email feed, you will receive any new French Revolution content. Please do visit the site to count as a reader once you receive your weekly email!
  • French Revolution Recipe Archive: At the bottom of the page you will find a list of all the recipes featured in French Revolution. Click on the recipe, and you will be automatically redirected to the entry in which it was included. I hope this will allow you to use French Revolution as a cookbook, so you can just click and make dinner.
  • Monthly Poll: In the right sidebar, there is now a monthly poll, so French Revolution readers can compare their preferences on French food. This month? Wine! Make sure to vote! I will include a recipe on the winner.
  • English-Metric Culinary Converter: Because I use both English and Metric units, I’ve included a link to an automatic converter, to make your life easier.
  • Blogroll: Here you will find other related blogs that I find relevant and interesting…Just consider it your personal guide to the francophile Internet.
  • Email: Email me at FrenchRevolutionFood@gmail.com
  • Sources: Here I list online sources for buying ingredients that I feature in French Revolution, or that will be useful and delicious to any modern French cook.
  • Cookbooks: I’m foremost a writer and a reader, and here I list the cookbooks that I have on my shelf and that inspire me–ones I hope you will love as well.
  • Ads: At the very bottom of the page, Google provides linking advertisements related to French cooking. Feel free to explore!

I hope you will sign up for the emails, and find French Revolution more accessible and more enjoyable, and stay tuned for this Sunday’s post! Future improvements are on their way…

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A Moveable Feast

RECIPE: Nutella Pot de Crème

At Blenheim Palace

scroll down for these Father’s Day recipes…

Lavender Steak

French Fried Leeks

Nutella Pot de Crème

My relationship with my father has been something of a moveable feast. I have written about our trip to the Ivy in London, and our fall-back meal plan after our dinner in my Oxford hall. And as I think back on it, nothing could be more appropriate than to chart the last twenty-five years with my dad one meal at a time. Every repast is a remembered photograph, because, ever since my parents separated twenty-two years ago, my father and I have been doing the unthinkable: talking with our mouths full.

My father knows many things, but he does not know how to boil water; like many New Yorkers, he uses his oven for storage. Also like most New Yorkers, he has a profound respect and relationship with food. I remember his colleague saying at a boisterous dinner party once over a decade ago that nobody was as small or had as large a stomach as my father. Ever since I was three years old, my father has been taking me out to dinner—as often as four or five times a week. It was our time together. It was not the traditional American six o’clock family dinner, but it was just as important and personal and special.

My father and I may have different culinary aptitudes, but we are exactly the same person in every other regard, most saliently in our self-definitions as “creatures of habit.” We rarely have more than 5 restaurants in heavy rotation at any one time, with the occasional and exhilarating jaunt to somewhere new—an awning glimpsed on a long walk, an overheard tip of gastronomical gossip, will send us on an expedition that will be talked about for hours, or weeks, or years afterward. When we remember the restaurant, we remember the hours we spent together, 1 year ago, five years ago, fifteen years ago, back to the beginning.

When I was about nine years old, my father would pick me up when I was still in my school uniform and take me to Steve’s pizzeria on Second Avenue, where we would share a whole pie, garlic bread, and salad. The place was a ’50s throwback, and we were regulars. They didn’t even take our orders, and we would be deep into conversations of Greek mythology or Egyptian mummification rituals over the Elvis soundtrack by the time the cheesy feast arrived. I taught my father about Athena and the Olive Tree, and he taught me how to fold a slice of pizza over my finger like a real New Yorker and to dip my crust in the olive oil that had dripped onto my wax-paper-lined paper plate. By the time I was fifteen, Steve’s had shut down, and so closed a chapter of my life. As I commenced the universal exploration of self known as adolescence, my father and I began to explore the world, sampling piquant Mexican at Maz Mezcal and colorful sashimi at Haru. While he taught me about the benefits of an Ivy League education or torts law, I taught him that green salsa is actually made from tomatillos, not green tomatoes, and that Japanese white tuna is actually a fish called escolar.

Now that I am, I suppose, something of an adult, my father doesn’t pick me up at home anymore. We meet all over the city, sometimes at places we’ve never tried before, like Big Daddy’s Diner on Second Avenue, and sometimes at places we’ve been going to since I was just born, like Malaga on Memory Lane, where I order the same Daily Double lobsters that I began eating as a culinarily precocious six year old. And now we order wine. But whatever the table, I realize now that my father who cannot boil water instilled in me a love of food that stems not from its creation, but its appreciation. Because a meal is not just about the flavor, about the art, about the science; it is about the people who look at you across the table, when you are talking with your mouth full, because there is just too much to say, because the table is where two autonomous people sit down together and admit through their fondness and through the frequency of their meetings just how emotionally unautonomous they truly are as loving human beings. Food becomes the ritual and the occasion that brings us all to the same place in space and time, and allows us to share it.

So these recipes this week are to my greatest partner in culinary crime: my dad, who cut up my pizza into bitesize pieces when I was small, and who lets me order the sashimi and the wine now that I am big. My Father’s Day menu takes the ultimate man meal, the steak, and gives it a characteristically French and unexpected twist. Lavender Steak is a spinoff of steak au poivre, but my filets are crusted instead with cracked black peppercorns and heady, peppery lavender blossoms for something sophisticated. The onion ring is given a facelift with my French Fried Leeks. And for dessert, something sweet: Nutella Pot de Crème that can be made in a flash.

I hope today, on Father’s Day, you can talk to your dad with your mouth full too. A moveable feast is a party that lasts a lifetime, that is spontaneous though it never ends, that is inspired though it never changes. Dad, to all the breakfast, lunches, dinners, and teas in between. To many fêtes…

Lavender Beef

Lavender Beef

Lavender Steak

2 .2 kg filets of beef

2 tablespoons of black peppercorns

1 pinch-½ tablespoon of dried edible lavender blossoms

Salt

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 teaspoon of butter

*Lavender is strong, and its potency is a matter of personal preference. Use as much or little lavender as you feel comfortable—it will be flavorful in any amount.

  1. Put the peppercorns into a plastic baggie and hit them repeatedly with the back of a pan to crush them roughly.
  2. In a bowl, mix the lavender and crushed peppercorns.
  3. Season the filets with salt, and press them into the lavender-peppercorn mixture so that the blossoms and pepper crust both sides of the meat.
  4. Heat the olive oil and butter together in a small sauté pan over medium high heat. When the oil is very hot, gently place the meat into the pan. Cook for 5-6 minutes per side for medium. Let the meat rest before cutting into it!

French Fried Leeks

French Fried Leeks

French Fried Leeks

The whites of 2 leeks, cut into long, thin strips

2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour

Salt

Vegetable oil for frying

  1. Fill a deep pan halfway with vegetable oil, and heat on medium high to 325 degrees, or until a pilot leek bubbles and fries in the oil without burning.
  2. Toss the ribbons of leek with the flour and dust off any excess.
  3. Fry the leeks until crisp and just golden—about 4 minutes.
  4. Remove to paper towels to drain, and crown immediately with a touch of salt.

BON APP!

Nutella Pot de Crème

Nutella Pot de CremeIngredients

  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 160 grams of dark chocolate
  • ¼ cup of Nutella
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 scant teaspoon of granulated sugar

Procedure

  1. Heat the cream until it is just scalded.
  2. Put the sugar, chocolate, and Nutella in the blender, then add the hot cream.
  3. Careful of the steam, blend the ingredients together on low.
  4. Once the ingredients are combined, add in the egg yolk with the blender still running, and let blend for about 20 more seconds.
  5. Pour the mixture into little ramekins or egg cups, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 4 hours, or overnight.
  6. Serve with a large tuft of fresh whipped cream over the top.
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Categories: Chocolate, Desserts, Eat, Recipes
 

Chinatown

RECIPE: Crispy Cassis Duck

scroll down for these “Chinese” French recipes…

Brie and Avocado Spring Rolls

French Onion Soup Dumplings

Crispy Duck Cassis

It seems that over the course of culinary history, nations east to west, north to south, have all come to apply French techniques of haute cuisine to their native flavors. Think back on the salmon mousse in Japanese restaurants, the asparagus and egg tarts in England that bear an astonishing resemblance to quiche, or the pistachio beurre blanc for that southern catfish near our house in Florida. French culinary techniques are sophisticated and insightful, that they are necessarily applied to all cuisines represented in the United Nations. But today, I’m reversing the usual, and conducting one of my favorite experiments: applying exotic preparations to French ingredients and flavors.

Chinatown is always an adventure. When I was a little girl, although our apartment and Mulberry Street occupied the same small island of Manhattan, going to Chinatown nearly required a passport and a three-hour boarding window. My mother and father and I would get out our old navy blue diesel Mercedes, and I would shimmy onto the perforated tan leather of the backseat, strap myself in, and stick my nose to the window. All the way down the FDR drive, I would stare from left to right, from the dark, coursing waters of the East River and the neon stare of the advertisements on Long Island, back to the gleaming, polished landmarks of the city, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, Sutton Place. After a few turns around the narrow, haphazard streets of the Lower East Side, the yank of a parking break, the unclick of a seatbelt, and the definitive bang of an old Mercedes door, we had arrived.

One of the most blessed things about New York is that a twenty minute jaunt down along a riverside highway can take you from the staid life of 90-degree corners on the Upper East Side to the tangled, heady and perfumed, sparking maze of Chinatown. It radiated red. From the curling, flaming dragons that seemed to come alive from the flags that marked the restaurants to the pop of the firecrackers at the Chinese New Year, to my young eyes, I had taken some version of the Orient Express. And the food was just as exotic. Every restaurant had its own flock of ducks, plucked and glazed, roasted and crisped, hanging from the neck from the poultry galleys before the windows. We walked in one cold winter night to the sight of two old Chinese women, seated on both sides of a plate of snails, and with one suck, followed by one spit, they chewed their way through the mountain faster than Far Eastern gun powder. My standard order at the time was baby corn with brown sauce—not very adventurous or very Chinese—and though I found the culinary habits of the place positively barbaric, I prided my young ego on the knowledge that I was adventurous and brave and located somewhere entirely too exotic for words.

I miss having Szechuan Hunan Cottage on York Avenue on speed dial. I miss being able to get the Cold Sesame Noodles and Scallion Pancake for lunch for less than five dollars, and have enough food to tide me over for dinner the next night. I miss Ollie’s green dumpling wrappers and the finger-painted mess of spare ribs. Chinese food is so much a part of a New Yorker’s culinary upbringing, that being away from the takeout mainstays of my childhood has relegated me to ceaseless, gnawing hunger—in my heart and in my stomach.

So, this week, I have created three Chinese-inspired French recipes. The first, Brie and Avocado Spring Rolls, keeps the best part of the spring roll intact: the crispy, crunchy shell. Inside, however, is filled with the creamy, mild combination of brie and avocado, and once fried, the little cigars are dipped in a French take on Chinese mustard: a Dijon and sundried tomato crème fraiche. The second recipes comes from a great restaurant on the Lower East Side called the Stanton Social that serves little “tapas” plates from every walk of cuisine. The French Onion Soup Dumplings show how East, in the form of wonton skins, and West, in the form of Gruyere cheese, can coexist in perfect harmony. And the last, Duck Cassis, is a take on the crispy ducks for which Chinatown is famous, but bathed in a rosemary and black currant glaze, and eaten, to allow for a certain amount of indulgent ignorance, without the neck.

Buckle your seat belt, and stick your nose to the window. We’re going down to Chinatown.

Brie and Avocado Eggrolls

Brie and Avocado Eggrolls

Brie and Avocado Spring Rolls

20 spring roll wrappers

135 grams of brie, cut into matchsticks

1 avocado, cut into matchsticks

Salt

Vegetable oil for frying

2 tablespoons of crème fraiche

2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard

½ tablespoon of grain mustard

½ tablespoon of sundried tomato paste

  1. Fill a deep pot halfway with vegetable oil, and heat it on medium until it reaches 325 degrees.
  2. Meanwhile, assemble the spring rolls. Use to spring roll wrappers per finished spring roll, lining one simply on top of the other. Fill with avocado and brie, equal parts each, and a sprinkle of salt. Be sure not to overstuff!
  3. To complete the roll, dip your finger in a bowl of water, and wet the edges of the pastry, as though you were licking an envelope to seal it. Then roll it like a burrito, tucking up first the corner nearest you, then the left and right corners in, and finally roll into the familiar cigar shape.
  4. Once you have assembled your rolls, be sure all corners are sealed, and fry them gently in batches until they are crispy and golden, about 4-5 minutes.
  5. Serve with the sauce, made simply by mixing the crème fraiche, mustards, and sundried tomato paste together.

French Onion Soup Dumplings

French Onion Soup Dumplings

French Onion Soup Dumplings

2/3 cup of onions from the bottom of a French onion soup pot (homemade, Whole Foods, a deli, or, if at a loss, try sauteing onions for a long time with instant French Onion Soup mix)

10 store-bought wanton wrappers

4 fresh chopped mint leaves

¾ cup of shredded gruyere cheese

2 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese

1 pat of butter, divided into smaller dots

Snipped chives for garnish

  1. Preheat the broiler.
  2. To assemble the dumplings, take a wanton wrapper in your hand and stuff the middle with about a tablespoon of the onions. Dipping your finger in some water or cool soup, moisten all the wanton’s edges, and then twist them together to form a little dumpling package.
  3. Arrange all ten dumplings, knot-side down, in a small gratin dish that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.
  4. Sprinkle the mint on top, followed by a blanket of the gruyere, and finally the parmesan. Next drop the little dots of butter over the top to help the cheese to bubble and brown.
  5. Broil the dumplings for 5 minutes, or until the cheese is entirely melted, golden, and irresistible.
  6. Snip chives over the top, stick a sophisticated toothpick in each, and serve.

BON APP! SIHK FAAHN!

Crispy Cassis Duck
serves 4

Duck CassisIngredients

  • 1 5 ½-pound duck
  • 1 cup of black current jam
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon of rosemary

Procedure

  1. Cut little holes in the skin of the duck, not going quite down to the meat.
  2. Place the duck in a deep pot and cover with water and a lid. Boil the duck for 45 minutes, allowing some of the fat to escape from beneath its skin.
  3. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  4. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, heat the jam, butter, garlic, and rosemary together until they become a loose and smooth glaze.
  5. Transfer the duck from the boiling pot to a rack on an oiled roasting pan.
  6. Pat the duck dry with paper towels, season with salt and pepper, and brush with olive oil to get the skin really crispy.
  7. You will roast the duck at 500 degrees for 30 minutes total, but you should baste it with the currant glaze after 20 and 25 minutes. Serve the rest of the glaze as an accompanying sauce.
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You Can Lead a Horse to Water…

RECIPE: La Vie en Rose

At Tortilla Flats, NYC

scroll down for these cocktail recipes…

Panache

La Vie en Rose

Kir Royale Glacé

Last Wednesday I attended the opening night of Sex and the City—the movie—appropriately enough, with my girlfriends. As Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte sat around the table, sipping those Jem-pink Cosmopolitans they made famous, one of them asked, “Why did we ever stop drinking these?” Another retorted, “Because everyone else started!” But alas, Cosmos are “an oldie, but a goody.”

It got me thinking about cocktails, probably because while the girls on the screen were drinking like fish in the sea, the girls in the seats were drying up like camels in the dessert. As finals approach, and my dissertation deadline is one week away, I have seated myself comfortably on the wagon, which is hopefully following the road to success.

My first week at Princeton, I was walking across the campus late one night with my best friend, and we ran into a fellow freshman. He was a boy who had clearly spent his entire pre-adult life on the same wagon, following that same long and winding road, and once it had reached success, had tumbled out into a river of vodka…and beer, and whiskey, and possibly champagne. The boy had become so drunk that he walked into a moving police car. It seemed that what he needed to learn at Princeton wouldn’t be taught in lecture—maturity.

I could never sympathize with excessive drinking, because alcohol had never been forbidden to me. French parents wean their children onto wine from the beginning, and when I was five years old, I went up to my mother, intrigued by the ruby liquor before her, and asked if I might taste it. “One finger,” she told me, and so I gingerly dipped one curious, childish finger into her wine and licked it. I promptly fell asleep for twelve hours. And while I would like to say that I never overdid it again, in vino veritas, and I so I can’t tell a lie. But an apple martini has never been forbidden fruit to me, and so what I love about alcohol, which I think may be a bit rare, is not its privileged properties, but its taste—mainly in the forms of Champagne, gin, and whiskey.

As the girls from Sex and the City would tell you, cocktails in New York are a matter of fashion. First there was the tall and fruity and psychedelic trend, like the Cosmopolitan and the Sour Apple Martini, then the cool and classic and understated trend, like Prohibition Punch and the Sidecar. When I left it seemed that Champagne was making a comeback, and now that I’m in England, I’ve discovered the Collins: Elderflower and Mint, Blackberry and Violet.

So this week I offer you three ways to toast. The first is a drink I discovered in Brest when I was fifteen, and hoping to pass as eighteen, at a pub in Bretagne. It is called a Panache, and is an example of how the French, so comfortable with the idea of alcohol consumption, have no problem diluting it—because for the French, like for me, it is about taste, not intoxication. Beer is mixed with ginger ale for a slightly sweet, easier drink for watching the World Cup with your Mr. Big. If you add a slug of grenadine, the Panache becomes a Monaco—perfect for poker night with just the girls. The next recipe is inspired by one of my favorite New York restaurants, often featured in Sex and the City as well—Pastis. La Vie en Rose starts with a sugar cube in the bottom of a Champagne flute, that is then doused in heady rose water, and set to sparkle with a top off of rosé Champagne. And last, I have a reinvention of another “oldie, but goody,” the Kir Royale, with my Kir Royale Glacé. In a champagne flute, I drop a tiny ball of cassis sorbet, tempered with a shot of Absolut Kurant, and finished with a shower of Champagne.

Even if you have a dissertation to write, life is always full of things to toast: great friends, a great city, or even just a great movie. As they say, you can lead a horse to water…

And this is how you make him drink.

Panaché & Monaco

Panaché & Monaco

Panache & Monaco

6 cans of Kronenbourg 1664, or any beer, ice cold

3 cans of ginger ale, ice cold

A good slug of grenadine

Orange slices

  1. Pour the beer and soda into a pitcher for a Panache, and add the grenadine for a Monaco.
  2. For a touch of Parisian glamour, throw in some orange slices.

Kir Royale Glacé

Kir Royale Glacé

Kir Royale Glacé

Cassis, or black currant, sorbet

Absolut Kurant, from the freezer

Champagne, chilled

  1. Pour ½ shot of vodka into the bottom of each champagne flute.
  2. Use a melon baller or a teaspoon to drop one or two balls of sorbet into the flutes as well.
  3. Top each glass with cold champagne.

CHIN CHIN!

La Vie en Rose

La Vie en RoseIngredients

  • Pink champagne, chilled
  • Sugar cubes
  • Rosewater

Procedure

  1. Pour 1 tablespoon, or ½ shot, of rosewater into a champagne flute.
  2. Top with cold pink champagne.
  3. Drop a sugar cube into each and watch them fizz.

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Categories: Cocktails, Drinks, Eat, Recipes
 

Roman Holiday

RECIPE: Pasta au Chèvre

Eating Pizza in Rome

scroll down for these recipes…

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese, Basil, and Mint

Calamari with Harissa Aioli

Pasta au Chevre

There are two things that I do when I need a bit of comfort: watch Audrey Hepburn movies and eat Italian food. Alas, for the sake of efficiency, more than one rainy day a season will find me seated in front of Roman Holiday with a pile of pasta parked neatly in the bowl in my hand as I unceremoniously twirl and chew away.

When my ex-boyfriend got engaged to be married, I was the first of my group to have lost a man so definitively to another woman. To celebrate his, well, celebrated and final departure from our lives, we went, in the spirit of comfort, to Little Italy, for a “Ding, Dong the Warlock is Dead” party. Nothing makes you feel better than tumbling jumbles of fried calamari drenched in happy-yellow lemons or the mellow mouthful of penne vodka when you’re hoping that not all the alcohol escaped from the pan before it made it onto your plate.

But I think the reason Italian food is so comforting is because it is the food of celebration. In an ironic twist, my current boyfriend surprised me for Christmas with a trip to Rome, a city I had visited miserably once before while haplessly and hopelessly attached to “the warlock.” I was thrilled to be able to try Italy again, to be in love in Rome like Audrey, and of course, because it’s me, to taste the food.

Tasting is was certainly not the word of the weekend, because I think the Oxford English Dictionary would list words like “small,” “picayune,” and “dainty” somewhere near it, and I think it was somewhere between the Spanish Steps and the Coliseum that my boyfriend realized that I’m quite the eater. The first night was filet mignon grilled Tuscan style, then risotto with truffles on a sidewalk café. Stracciatelle gelato and lemon granita. All washed down with wine. But the best was walking down the Piazza Navona (he had, at this point, confiscated my guidebook), being hailed by a true Roman, and treated to, who needs a menu, whatever he recommended. We had antipasti and I had spaghetti with shellfish and there was tiramisu and more wine and I don’t remember getting home that night. But I do remember feeling like Lady, sharing a plate of pasta with the roguishly handsome Tramp to the light of candles dripping the hours lingeringly down the side of a wine bottle in wax.

These three recipes are French influences on Italian restaurant classics. The Insalate Caprese is made over with heirloom tomatoes, French goat cheese, opal basil, and mint. The classic calamari fritti is served with a harissa aioli. And for pasta, fresh maccheroni is tossed in a regal but comfortable red sauce tinged pink with goat cheese, parmesan, and crème fraiche.

In just a few months, I found myself a very lucky girl indeed, as I went from Little Italy to a Roman holiday. And while I didn’t cut my hair, or dance on a barge, or cause a fist fight, I can say that my favorite city on this European tour is emphatically, “Rome!”

Goat Cheese Caprese Salad

Goat Cheese Caprese Salad

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese, Basil, and Mint

4 large tomatoes, or the equivalent, in a variety of tomatoes: yellow taxi, zebra, beefsteak

¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

¼ cup of chopped fresh basil leaves, opal (purple) basil if you can find it

¼ cup of chopped fresh mint leaves

5-6 ounces of chevre, crumbled

Salt and pepper

  1. Slice the tomatoes, or halve them if using cherries.
  2. Lay them out on a platter, varying their colors and sizes. Salt them now—this is crucial.
  3. Next scatter the herbs and the cheese, and then lightly season again. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

Calamari with Harissa Aioli

2 pounds of frozen calamari rings, defrosted

Flour for dredging (about 2 cups)

1/4 cup of dried parsley (optional)

Salt and pepper

1 cup of mayonnaise

1 clove of garlic

1 tablespoon of harissa

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

  1. Start by filling a large, deep pan half way up with vegetable oil, over medium heat.
  2. Next, add the mayonnaise, garlic, lemon juice and zest, and harissa to the food processor, and blend it into a smooth rouge aioli.
  3. Plunge the calamari rings into the flour, seasoned with the parsley, salt, and pepper, and shake off the excess.
  4. Working in batches, fry the calamari the hot oil. Test one to see if the oil is hot enough. It should sink, and then rise lightly in a cloud of bubbles.
  5. When the calamari are crisp and golden, about three minutes later, drain them on a stack of paper towels, and dust them with salt.
  6. Serve with the harissa aioli.

BON APP!

Pasta au Chèvre
serves 4

Pasta au ChèvreIngredients

  • 500 grams fresh macaroni
  • 350 grams marinara sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of crème fraîche
  • 75 grams chevre (goat’s cheese)
  • Dusting of fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper

Procedure

  1. Cook the fresh pasta according to package directions. Be sure to salt the water, and because fresh pasta cooks so quickly, be sure to taste test it one minute before what the packet recommends. Drain.
  2. Heat the marinara sauce in the pan over medium low heat. Stir in the crème fraîche.
  3. Add the pasta back into the pot and season with salt and pepper. Break up the chevre (make sure it is cold) into the pot, and allow it to melt in chunks into the pasta, but do not incorporate it fully. Stir in a speckling of fresh parsley.
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Categories: 15 Minutes, Eat, Main Courses, Recipes, Sides, Starches, Vegetarian, Vegetarian
 

Old School

RECIPE: Pain au Chocolat Bread Pudding

Dinner at Pembroke Hall

scroll down for these recipes…

Pumpkin Bisque

Porc de Provence

Pain au Chocolat Bread Pudding

Last weekend, my father came to England from New York on a business trip. He took me to dinner at the Ivy in London, and took him to formal hall at my college in Oxford. Separated only by one day, the striking dissimilarity between the two meals was tantamount in my mind, and my mouth, as I sat dissecting my “stewed” steak and plain steamed vegetables on the hard wood bench. If only this were the mustardy endive salad, lamb and spring vegetable stew (the same word really does not apply!), and lavender crème brulée I had experienced only one night before. I sighed.

But as I looked up at my father sitting amongst my college friends, I realized that I had never seen him so animated and he kept exclaiming, “why, this is much better than I thought!” I must admit the hall meal wasn’t as drab or mismatched that night as usual, plus we had reservations at his hotel restaurant later as a parachute plan. But I smiled as I confessed to myself: I love hall! Sitting in a room whose panels have witnessed parliamentary debates, centuries full of generations of eager young scholars who talked only of future hopes, having not yet been infected by the disillusionment that all adults eventually catch like a common cold, being caressed by the warmth of tradition and camaraderie and candlelight. If these walls could talk, what secrets they could tell! As we became as warm and rosy as our wine, and we spilled some on the table along with a handful of stories and grins and gasps, I realized that, fortunately, food is not what hall is all about.

But some Oxford colleges retain Michelin star chefs! And, I have been invited to sit at the high table with the master and the dons and their guests, and the food was exquisite: monkfish brochettes, filet mignon on a pancake of potato with wild mushrooms and spring vegetables, a gingersnap sugar cage catching fresh fruits and sorbet. Now that’s food for thought, commensurate to the conversation that is bantered back and forth across the table like an intellectual food fight.

They shoot the hall scenes of the Harry Potter movies in the hall of a college across the street. We, too, wear gowns, but where is the pumpkin juice, the roasts, the plenty!? I suppose it was all magic, after all.

So this week, in honor of my soon-to-be alma mater, I am reinventing some English Oxford hall classics, which just proves my point that French ingenuity can enliven even the drabbest English cafeteria dish! The secret, that magic, behind cooking for a lot of people, is cooking things that you don’t have to chop extra for, or clean more pots for. Just get a bigger soup pot out, a bigger roasting dish, and a bigger baking pan. These are recipes you can double or triple, and all you have to do is keep pulling things out of the oven with as little trouble as Mary Poppins has pulling a few extra floor lamps out of her carpet tote.

But frankly, some of the warmth of hall is not only from the deep wooden walls or the crowded pews, but from the comfort food that inevitably ends up on the plate. Whether or not the dish is a culinary success varies, but invariably, the dish is hot, slow-cooked, and satisfying, whether the perennial rain or exams be your ailment. Even if I’m cooking for two, with these recipes, at least, I can return epicureanly to this very special school ever after my dissertation is bound and in, a deadline then looms with finality only three short weeks away.

My reinvention of the Oxford hall classic Carrot and Coriander Soup is my Pumpkin Bisque (a bit of an homage to Harry Potter, I suppose), a spiced soup that when, made in greater quantities, does not require much more chopping or baby-sitting on your part.

Instead of the traditional Roast Loin of Pork with Apple Sauce, we will be having my Porc de Provence: a roasted loin of port seared in a crust of herbs de Provence, and roasted with wine and topped with a sweet marmalade of onions. You can make one or nine in the same time, so long as your roasting pan is big enough! Plus, you can make the onions ahead of time. I would serve it with some pencil asparagus and harictos verts, tossed in some olive oil and salt and pepper, and roasted for about 20 minutes in the same oven with the pork.

For dessert, instead of the omnipresent Bread and Butter Pudding, we will be swapping the butter for chocolate and the bread for croissants in my Pain au Chocolate Bread Pudding for a puffed-up, ooey-gooey change. Just don’t forget, when filling your oven, you may need to raise your temperature or increase your cooking time. Just check to be sure the pudding is cooked all the way through, and the pork reaches a temperature of 145 degrees before you take it out of the oven.

Oxford is still beautiful in its old age, and the ancient, crumbling buildings are rejuvenated each year by a remarkable tide of fresh youth. It’s about time my ancient and crumbling hall is rejuvenated by some fresh, young versions of the great Oxonian hall classics. Hear hear!

Pumpkin Bisque

Pumpkin Bisque

Pumpkin Bisque

1 15-ounce can pumpkin

½ onion, diced

1 celery stalk, diced

1 carrot, diced

1 bay leaf

1 cinnamon stick

2 sprigs thyme

1 tablespoon of butter

1 tablespoon of olive oil

½ cup white win

1 quart chicken stock

¼ cup cream

  1. Add the butter and oil to a stock pot over medium-low heat and add the onion, celery, carrot, bay, cinnamon, and thyme.
  2. Allow to soften, and add the wine, and allow to reduce.
  3. Add the pumpkin and stock.
  4. Allow to simmer on low uncovered for 30 minutes.
  5. Carefully using a blender, puree the soup.
  6. Return to pot and stir in the cream. Serve!

Porc de Provence

Porc de Provence

Porc de Provence

1 2-pound pork loin, bound with twine

2 tablespoons of herbes de Provence

10 fresh sage leaves

3 sprigs of fresh rosemary

5 sprigs of fresh thyme

¼ cup of olive oil

¾ cup of dry white wine

¾ cup of chicken stock

1 shallot, halved

1 carrot, halved

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon of butter

2 onions, sliced

½ teaspoon of orange marmalade

1 sprig of fresh thyme

2 tablespoons of olive oil

  1. Start by sautéing the onions. In a large pan, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add the onions and thyme, salt and pepper.
  2. Reduce the heat to very low and simmer for about 1 hour and 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the marmalade about 1 hour into the cooking.
  4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  5. Season the pork loin with salt and pepper.
  6. Mix the dried herbs with the olive oil, and massage the rub all over the meat.
  7. Place a pan large enough to sear and roast the meat, and that has a lid, on the stove on medium-high heat, and sear the pork loin on all sides, about 1-2 minutes per side, until a golden crust is formed.
  8. Place the wine and stock and whole fresh herbs in the pan, along with the shallot and carrot, and cover with a lid.
  9. Remove the meat from the pan, and return the pan to medium heat on the stove. Strain the jus of the herbs and vegetables, and place it back on the stove, whisking in the very cold butter to finish the sauce.
  10. After allowing the pork to rest for 10 minutes after coming out of the oven, slice it and pour a bit of the jus over the slices to keep them moist. Top the meat with the sweet onions, and serve the rest of the jus alongside.

BON APP!

Pain au Chocolat Bread Pudding

Pain au Chocolat PuddingIngredients

  • 6 croissants, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2/3 cup of milk
  • 1 1/3 cups of cream
  • ½ teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • ½ cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 4 eggs

Procedure

  1. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a hand mixer. Beat in the sugar until it is incorporated.
  2. Add the milk and cream, the vanilla and the cinnamon. Beat to combine.
  3. Drop the croissant cubes and chocolate chips into the custard, and allow it to sit for a bit to ensure that the croissants drink up the liquid.
  4. Spray your baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, and tumble the custard-soaked cubes and chocolate into it.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  6. When it comes to temperature, bake the pudding for 45 minutes, until the top is puffed and crisp.
  7. Scoop out a warm mound onto a plate and top with powdered sugar.
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Categories: Chocolate, Desserts, Eat, Recipes