Brie and Avocado Quesadillas
Food, to me, is punctuation. Think of how dull life would be if you didn’t have three meals a day by which to mark its progress. Just one run-on sentence without any meaning whatsoever. I always think to myself, I can go to the dry cleaners after lunch (comma) and run by the bookstore before dinner (colon). But, if every day is a sentence, week a paragraph, year a chapter, and lifetime a novel, then there is only one period at the end of my day, one way to mark it is truly over, and done. The late night snack.
When I am virtuous, I can replace the late night bite with a cup of tea. But I am notorious for finishing off an especially late or eventful evening with none other than: the quesadilla. Whether it’s a true affair, like the one in this recipe, or some shredded cheddar and salsa thrown into a tortilla and microwaved until oozing, it is actually more of an exclamation point, than a period, at the end of my day. I honestly believe, dieters advice to the contrary, that having the kind of day, or night, that finds you home, famished, at 1 AM means you deserve something to send you off to sleep satisfied.
Creamy Saffron Pasta with Mussels and Spinach
This pasta is based on a creamy saffron mussel soup I learned to prepare at cooking school in Paris. It was salty from the briny liqueur the mussels leach out into the pot, luscious and sweet from the cream, and heady and intoxicating from the scent of the saffron, which always reminds me of a genie jumping from a perfume bottle. It tasted like a million dollars.
What I love about doing this as a pasta dish is how rich it feels while actually being a bit on the cheap. The pasta cost me $2, the mussels $6, organic spinach about $2, and, pro-rated, the saffron about $3. Everything else I had in my fridge, so it comes to around $3.25 a person for a seafood pasta with saffron—a small fortune at most restaurants, if they are enterprising enough to sell it in the first place. And if you have to buy the wine, so be it: something to wash this down with!
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Posted by Kerry |
Categories: 30 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, Fish, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, Sides, Starches
Marmalade and Chocolate Ice Cream
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Marmalade is a preserve made of citrus fruits, usually studded with the bitter rind of the fruit itself. While it can be made of lemons or limes, grapefruits or clementines, the traditional marmalade uses the Seville orange (although the best one I’ve ever had was made from oranges and tangerines, making it just slightly sweeter).
Marmalade is one of those polarizing ingredients: either you love it and smother your toast with it, or its bitter-sweetness makes your tongue shrivel in protest. The Secret Ingredient‘s marmalade recipes are a compromise. I can’t promote just bitter-sweet jam on toast, but to overlook the complexity of marmalade in different applications is just as foolhardy. The texture makes it perfect for thick sauces like in last week’s Orange Peel Shrimp. And its warring bitterness and sweetness adds such depth to the otherwise very sweet chocolate chip ice cream in this recipe.
Cheated Cherry Clafoutis
Cherry clafoutis is a dessert from the Limousin region of France, where, traditionally, it is served with unpitted cherries baked inside. Certainly a good trick to prevent your eating your cake too quickly.
I love it for the holidays because it is a family dessert—wholesome, rustic, and simple, but punctuated with those Christmas red, Rudolph nose cherries. Serve with vanilla ice cream and crushed green pistachio nuts and you have the perfect thing to eat while waiting for Santa to shimmy down the chimney.
Red Pepper Caviar in a Chilled Artichoke
I know food should be about flavor and not about color, but since you eat with your eyes first, I tend to a get more colorful with my themed food around the holidays. This appetizer is red and green, but it’s also elegant and refined—perfect for the holidays.
Vegetable caviar is not what it sounds like: no fish eggs here. It’s a kind of deeply flavored spread or dip made from the softened flesh of vegetables, usually nightshades. I most commonly pick up a tub of caviar d’aubergines (eggplant caviar) at the Monoprix in Paris and eat it with a baguette in the park. But two summers ago when passing through Antibes, I had a sweet red pepper version stuffed into mushroom caps, served with champagne. It’s colorful, garlicky, sweet, and a touch spicy.
Broccoli and Brie Soup
The best part about the holidays has to be the surprises. Glancing at that bulging stocking as it gets stuffed throughout the month. Wishing for Superman’s X-ray vision as you secretly and silently investigate those wrapped and bowed boxes from across the room. The news that so-and-so is coming home when you least expected it. Headlines that Santa really does exist seem somehow completely believable in a season where surprise is the rule of engagement.
Right now, I am back in Florida, where I spent some time growing up, celebrating the holidays amidst bedazzled palm trees, on the verge of a melt down–or rather, a freeze up. I suppose ’tis the season for a white Christmas, but anticipated wind chills below 20 degrees in Palm Beach? Now, that’s a surprise.
Orange Peel Shrimp
For all that I write about on this site, you might think that my grandmother and I sit around plucking escargots every time we meet for lunch. But our true tradition is a hedonistic Chinese lunch, with fortune cookie reading-aloud time for dessert. And while some of our other dishes may change depending on the week, the one thing we always order is orange peel shrimp: sweet, spicy, savory, and tart all at once, it’s meaty and perfect and the kind of thing I always thought I could never in a million years recreate at home.
How wrong I was.