Primavera!

RECIPE: Pomegranate Mushrooms

scroll down for these recipes…

Asparagus Bouquets

Pomegranate Mushrooms

Haricots Verts du Sud

I have been home to New York City this week, and though it may be belated, the balmy sunshine and those magnificent cherry blossoms in the park have affirmed, SPRING is here! After a long, grey, and dismal English winter, I feel like Persephone returning to Central Park after a six-month stint in Hades. I can now toss out those vases of English roses and darling daffodils with which I had attempted to turn my room into a spring hot house…because now it is finally safe to go outside.

When I’m in New York, I eat—but, truth be told, I rarely ever cook. Being back for only a week, I frequented some of my favorite restaurants, like Otto and Vespa, and tried a new one: BLT Market. In every restaurant, spring was in the menu. BLT Market, chef Laurent Tourondel’s homage to the local farm market, lists the current prime crop on the side of its monthly-changing menu. This month: scallops and artichokes—two of my favorites! At Mario Batali’s Otto, my mother and I tucked into the week’s special pasta, penne primavera, sparkling with slivered garlic, spinach, asparagus, and fresh fava beans. At Vespa, my neighborhood favorite, we dined, as we do at the beginning of every spring, al fresco in the back garden peppered with hanging lanterns and cascading flower petals. There we sampled the orecchiette with pesto and zucchini, carrots, broccolini, and peas. The vegetables were seasonal, fresh, tender and crisp, and never boring. They were the emerald, the malachite, the jade and peridot of the meal, the main event against the background of pasta, the enhancer, the priority. Even when I sat in Central Park ready to enjoy my hotdog (I heart NY), a blossom fluttered down and landed in my mustard! Spring is everywhere, from the Union Square farmers’ market to the hotdog stand on 64th and Fifth Avenue.

I think the first bud of spring in French Revolution was last week’s recipe for minty, buttery petits pois, a nod to my adopted English hometown. And now that I come to think of it, it being so early on and all, I don’t suppose we’ve been properly introduced. My name is Kerry, and I was a vegetarian (“hi, Kerry”) for twelve years when I was growing up. Though I’ve since returned to eating meat, I can never eat much of it, and I still absolutely adore vegetables. Artfully executed vegetables garner far more praise from me than any “main dish,” and they’re the only thing I ever return to for seconds.

And yet, vegetables are so often the unfortunate sidekick, the best friend, but never the star. I blame water. Every house I went to for dinner as a kid had roasted chicken, pilaf-ed rice, and then plain boiled vegetables, forlorn and limp on a platter full of tasteless condensation. Poor little things. Positively neglected! And that would be my dinner…but really, I can’t get mad at ignorance. I just have to educate, and here is the first rule: boiling vegetables is barely ever acceptable, unless a superb vinaigrette is involved. Think about when you sit in the bath for too long: you emerge pruny, dizzy, and lazy. You may tolerate such a condition in yourself, but you certainly should not when it comes to your dinner!

Variety is the spice of life, and the trick to vegetables is to find a medley of ways to keep them as intact as possible. That is to say, compact the flavor; don’t dilute it. Roast, grill, sauté, marinate. It’s amazing how it’s even easier to roast a vegetable than to boil it, and the economy in time invests millions in taste. You bring out the best in the vegetable, allowing the natural sugars to caramelize and develop, and you create simple pairings that display the vegetable to advantage. For example, sometimes, ironically, bringing out the best in a vegetable means to add a touch of meat, like in my asparagus bouquets, roasted in a hot oven with woodsy rosemary and fragrant olive oil, served wrapped in a ribbon of smoked bacon. The crisp freshness of spring paired with the warm comfort of a log cabin. Mushrooms are little sponges, and in my pomegranate mushrooms, the baby portobellos soak in a bath of pomegranate juice, red wine, and fresh thyme, so that they burst with flavor as they pop in your mouth. Haricots verts du sud, my most requested vegetable dish by far (my dear friend Anna can eat a whole pound of it herself!), stews delicate French green beans with the Côte d’Azur flavors of tomatoes, wine, and garlic. The recipes take only a few minutes, and even fewer ingredients, but vegetables come to your table, like to Central Park, alive and lively after a long, cold, boring winter.

As we walked through Central Park, my mother reminded me, despite the hectic city coursing and pulsing around us, to stop and smell the roses—and tulips and daffodils and cherry blossoms cropping out of the concrete all around us. That’s good advice, and so is her other lifelong axiom: eat your vegetables!

Asparagus Bouquets

Asparagus Bouquets

Asparagus Bouquets

1 pound of asparagus, with the ends snapped off

1 twig of fresh rosemary, leaved and chopped

1 tablespoon of olive oil

3 slices of bacon, cut in half longwise

Salt and pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Toss the asparagus with the olive oil, chopped rosemary, and salt and pepper. Divide into 4-6 bundles, depending on how many servings you wish to present. Wrap each bundle in 1 ribbon of bacon, and set onto a foil-lined baking sheet.
  3. Roast for 15-18 minutes, until the asparagus are tender but not overdone, and the bacon is crisp. You may want to drain them on a paper towel.
Haricots Verts du Sud

Haricots Verts du Sud

Haricots Verts du Sud

1 pound of haricots verts, trimmed

1 14.5-ounce can of petite diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon of tomato paste

¼ cup of dry white wine

1 clove of garlic, minced

½ shallot, minced

1-2 tablespoons of olive oil

  1. Heat the olive oil and drop the shallot and garlic into it, allowing them to soften on medium heat for about 45 seconds. Follow with the tomato paste and haricots verts.
  2. Allow to soften for about 5 minutes, and add the wine and tomatoes, along with salt and pepper.
  3. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the beans are tender.

BON APP!

Pomegranate Mushrooms

Pomegranate MushroomsIngredients

  • 1 pound of cremini mushrooms, halved
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 3 leaves of fresh sage, sliced (optional)
  • ¼ cup of dry red wine
  • ¼ cup of pomegranate juice

Procedure

  1. Heat the butter and oil in the pan, and add the shallots, mushrooms, thyme (right on the branch), and the sage. Do not season the mushrooms until they get good color on them.
  2. When they are nicely caramelized on medium to medium-high heat, add the salt, pepper, wine, and juice, and lower the heat to medium-low. Allow the liquid to thicken, and serve.


print this recipe
print this post Posted by Kerry | 3 Comments
Share

Categories: Eat, Recipes, Sides, Vegetables, Vegetarian
 

Fish, No Chips

RECIPE: Crispy Salmon with Lemon Dijon Crème Fraîche

Scroll down for these recipes…

Crispy Salmon with Lemon-Dijon Creme Fraiche

Crispy Couscous Sole with Cornichon-Dill Tartar Sauce

Minty, Buttery Petits Pois

Six months have passed since I moved to England to begin my masters at Oxford. And oh boy, have I learned a lot! Oh, sure, I’ve made plenty of headway into literature, but I think, not surprisingly, my greatest strides have been made in that little known Faculty of Food.

Before I left New York, as I was packing my bags full of Hunter wellies and F. Scott Fitzgerald novels, I decided to disregard all those combative rumors that while England’s economy ranks somewhere near the world’s pinnacle, its food lurks nearer to the nadir. But I had been here before, and I loved cheddar cheese, and I figured every lunch would be fish and chips and mushy peas with a pint of some country ale or other.

But what happens when you assume? You make an a**–of you and me…or rather, I began to lose mine, quite unexpectedly. I will not affirm the rumors and say that England has bad food, because it simply isn’t true. What I will say is that moving to another country, even one from which one’s own culture is descended, provides unforeseen obstacles, like opening a bank account in foreign currency, or realizing that a cheddar cheese sandwich in Oxford generally means cheese mashed together with butter and mayonnaise and green onion and slathered onto white bloomer loaf. It’s not bad; it’s just not what one expected.

So my meals the first week continued as such: it was like gulping a glass of seltzer only to realize too late that it was Sprite—again, not bad, but unexpected. Finally, I gave up spending those expensive pounds on meals that went unenjoyed, and retreated to that collegiate Oxford haven, the kebab van. My new Iranian friends greeted me in New York fashion, with neighborly grins and chat, and they furnished one of my two meals a day. The first was a plain toasted English muffin (when in Rome…or, London), and the second was—it shames me to admit it—a Styrofoam box of well-salted chips. Or, as I called them at the time, “French fries.” No mushy peas. No beer-battered fish. No ale. I was a fish out of water; and all I ate was chips. Which is strangely how I began to lose my “assumptions.”

But what an Oxford education I’ve received—after all, necessity is the mother of invention, and I soon realized that a diet, however slimming, made up exclusively of my favorite food in the entire world, frites…comme c’est si bon!, lacked both vitamins and variety. As when one immerses oneself in a foreign language and comes out fluent, I, armed with my new British best friends and boyfriend, started with the pubs and worked my way up and down the English food scene, and I have to sing, God Save Sainsbury’s! The supermarkets in England have flowers that last two weeks, and produce cheaper and more gem-like in taste and color than any flaccid zucchini I’ve come across in Gristedes. I have friends in low places, like my favorite smoked cheese and mushroom pie that comes with mash and mushy peas and currant gravy for “a fiver,” and in high places, like Gee’s, that serves the most succulent sea scallops in truffled zabaglione in a Victorian greenhouse.

It just goes to show that you should always expect, and embrace, the unexpected. I still visit my friends at the kebab van, but my boyfriend lately remarked that it had been long enough, and I should get back to my recipes and French Revolution, now that I had a handle on the English gastronomy. And besides, he protested, “I haven’t actually TASTED any of this stuff!” So, for my first foray back at the front, I decided that since we are on an island, and it’s traditional and all, I was going to start with fish, no chips this time.

Below are deux recettes for poisson—salmon and lemon sole. And for the sole, I include two alternate preparations. The first recipe, for the salmon, is a twist on the restaurant classic, Dijon baked salmon. This recipe, however, is less obstructed by the severity of the mustard, and is made decadent with the addition of crème fraîche. It came out marvelously!

For the sole, I did a French-Moroccan twist on Fish and Chips. I crust the filet in dry couscous and pan fry it, and serve it with a cornichon-dill tartar sauce and minty, buttery spring peas. Alternatively, you could serve it as a crisp Sole Meuniere.

As always, these recipes are simple, fresh, witty, and, like frites, si bon. Enjoy, and bon app!

Crispy Couscous Fish

Crispy Couscous Fish

Crispy Couscous Sole with Cornichon-Dill Tartar Sauce

2 filets of lemon sole, with no bones or skin

Flour for dredging

1 egg, beaten

Couscous for dredging

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

  1. Bread the sole with the couscous: first season the fish with salt and pepper. Next dredge each filet in flour and dust of the excess. Then dip them into the beaten egg. Next dredge them in the couscous.
  2. Heat enough oil in a large skillet to coat the bottom—over medium high heat. Lay the fish in the hot oil and fry for 3 minutes per side.

2 tablespoons of mayonnaise

2 tablespoons of crème fraîche

4 cornichons, finely chopped

1 tablespoon of chopped fresh dill

1 teaspoon of capers, chopped

1 teaspoon of grain mustard

1 teaspoon of lemon juice

Salt and pepper

Combine all the ingredients and serve à côté du poisson!

For crispy Sole Meuniere, after removing the cooked sole from the pan, turn down the heat and add the juice of 1 lemon and 3-4 tablespoons of cold butter. Swirl around until the butter is just melted and combined with lemon, then toss in a sprinkling of chopped fresh parsley and pour over the fish.

Minty, Buttery Petits Pois

190 grams of fresh shelled peas

1 ½ tablespoons of butter

1 tablespoon of chopped fresh mint

Salt

  1. Bring half a pot of water to a boil, and season with salt.
  2. Drop in the peas and boil for 5 minutes. Drain.
  3. Return the peas to the warm pot and stir in some salt, the butter, and the mint.

bon app!

Crispy Salmon with Lemon Dijon Crème Fraîche

Salmon with MustardSalmon Ingredients

  • 2 filets of salmon, skin on
  • 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • Salt and pepper

Salmon Procedure

  1. Season the salmon with salt and pepper. Rub the butter on the skin of the salmon filet, 1 tablespoon per filet
  2. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat until the oil is quite hot
  3. Lay the salmon in the pan, skin side down, and leave to cook for 6 minutes, until the skin is crisp
  4. Flip the salmon over, lower the heat slightly, and allow the flesh side to crisp for 3 minutes.

Sauce Ingredients

  • ¼ cup of crème fraîche
  • Zest of ¾ lemon
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of whole grain mustard
  • 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper

Sauce Procedure

  1. Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Spoon a dollop onto each piece of hot salmon.
print this recipe
print this post Posted by Kerry | 2 Comments
Share

Categories: Eat, Fish, Main Courses, Recipes
 

Bienvenue…

Thank you for visiting French Revolution! Here, you will find, certainly, articles about my personal tête à têtes with food, but more importantly, you will find the recipes that result. The philosophy of French Revolution, founded in my French mother’s New York City kitchen, is that French food is not about rows of mysterious cutlery or gossamer sugar cages that one looks at and does not eat. The French food I grew up on is the Madeleine before school and the roasted duck and frites in bed watching Family Ties. To that end, I have developed recipes that flirt with French food, admiringly yet irreverently mess it around a little. French food, to me, is like its cousin, the Chanel suit. It is classic and perfect, but still perfectly amenable to being updated. And in that vein, as Coco Chanel said, “Before leaving the house, take one thing off.” I have simplified and modernized these tongue-in-cheek, whimsical French recipes that leave the plate, once empty, reverberating with something fresh and current and above all, si bon. Bon app!

print this post Posted by Kerry | Leave a comment
Share

Categories: Uncategorized