Category Archives: easy cooking

Pesto and Heirloom Tomato Tarte

Finally a food post! It will be a quick one since I am about to head to bed, but that’s ok because this recipe is super easy and delicious. I made it while Q was napping, when my mom was coming over for lunch. Of course, by the time we were ready to eat, he had woken up and I ate the tarte one-armed with a fussy baby in the other arm. This did not, however, make the lunch any less tasty.

All you need is a frozen puff pastry dough, some pesto, 2 heirloom tomatoes and some parmesan cheese. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out the dough and press it into your buttered pan. Spread pesto on the bottom (I always keep ice cubes of pesto in my freezer for last minute pesto fixes…I think I used 3 cubes for this). Cut the tomatoes into thick slices and lay them in the tarte. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and bake for 15 minutes. Then lower the oven temp to 350 and bake for another 10-15 minutes…until the puff pastry and parmesan are golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes or so. Serve and enjoy!

p.s. I apologize to all readers who do not live in California…I realize that a post about heirloom tomatoes right now is a little late for you. Really, I’m not trying to rub it in that we are still enjoying tomatoes here.

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Delicata Squash Macaroni & Cheese

Once again I’ve let several weeks go by between posts. This must be a sign that it’s no longer summer, and I’m back to work. I’m loving my internship at the preschool, and I’m still cooking fairly often….just not taking the time to photograph and write about the food. I’m going to try to be better though!

This recipe was one I just had to post because Trevor loved it so much. A supposedly “healthy” version of mac and cheese, by Martha Stewart. I actually found the recipe on Kitchen Gadget Girl’s blog, as she planned on cooking this up for her family after receiving a squash in her CSA box a few weeks ago. Seeing as we belong to the same CSA (Two Small Farms…a great option if you’re looking for a local food source!), we also received squash in our box a few weeks ago. In fact, we’ve gotten some delicata squash, some butternut and a sugar pie pumpkin…and this is just the beginning of the fall/winter squash season (and I love it!). Winter squash are wonderful because they’re so versatile, and you can save them for a long time before using them if you’re overwhelmed with other more perishable veggies. Plus, they’re so wonderfully comforting and bring about a strong feeling that fall has finally arrived!

The “Healthy Macaroni and Cheese” recipe from Martha Stewart calls for 1 small butternut squash, but you can substitute any winter squash. Kabocha would be great if you have one, but I had delicata squash, so I decided that would do the trick. As I mentioned earlier, my husband Trevor loved this recipe and would never have guessed that there was squash in the mix so I guess this is a good thing if you’re cooking for a picky eater.

Ingredients for 6 servings:
1 small butternut squash (about 1 lb)
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups milk
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper
3/4 tsp coarse salt, plus more for water
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 pound macaroni or shell pasta
4 oz shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
4 Tbsp grated Parmesan
2 Tbsp breadcrumbs
1 tsp olive oil

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel, seed and cut the squash into 1-inch pieces. Combine the squash, stock and milk in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork (about 20 minutes). Spoon the squash into a food mill (or alternatively, smash with a fork), and puree the squash, milk and stock together. Add the nutmeg, cayenne, 3/4 tsp salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
2. Bring a large pot of water to boil and add salt. Stir in macaroni pasta and cook according to package directions for al dente. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Add squash mixture, cheddar, ricotta and 2 Tbsp of Parmesan. Stir until well integrated.
3. Lightly coat a 9-inch square baking dish with cooking spray. Transfer pasta mixture to dish. Mix breadcrumbs, remaining Parmesan and oil in a small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over pasta.
4. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Then remove foil and continue baking until lightly browned and crisp on top- about 30 more minutes. Serve immediately.

Tarragon Chicken

After picking my parents up from the airport the other day, I left their house with a big bunch of tarragon from their garden. While it may seem strange to base a meal off of an herb, that’s exactly what I was going to do. Should I make fish? Chicken? An omelet? Hmm…I settled on Tarragon Chicken, a popular French dish (called “Poulet a l’Estragon”). I had never made it before, and didn’t have a recipe, but it’s a simple dish and I had a pretty good idea of how to go about making it. Start with some shallots, butter, chicken, salt, pepper, white wine, tarragon (duh!), and finish the sauce with some creme fraiche. I called my mom just to find out if I was completely off base, and she named these exact ingredients! After doing a little celebratory jig and patting myself on the back, I got to work. If you’re not sure what to make for dinner, give Tarragon Chicken a try- it’s simple and tasty (my favorite combination)!

Ingredients:
4 chicken breasts
4 shallots, peeled & sliced
1 tbsp butter
1/2-1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
4 tbsp creme fraiche
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  • In a nonstick pan, over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the shallots and sautee for a few minutes, until they begin to soften.
  • Add chicken breasts. Brown the chicken on all sides.

  • Add the white wine. Sprinkle some salt and freshly cracked pepper into the mix.

  • Sprinkle 1/4 cup of tarragon over chicken and white wine. Cover, and simmer for 5-8 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

  • Once chicken has finished cooking, remove chicken from pan and place on serving plate. Remove the pan from heat. Mix creme fraiche into white wine and tarragon. Heat for another minute or two, just to warm the sauce. Do not allow the sauce to boil, as this may cause the creme fraiche to curdle.

  • Pour finished sauce on top of chicken. Sprinkle with remaining tarragon. Serve with rice or steamed vegetables.

Rhubarb-rose compote with strawberries and creme fraiche


This recipe came about on a whim, as most of my recipes do. On my weekly trip to the Campbell Farmer’s Market last Sunday, my eye caught some rhubarb, which I decided would go well with the strawberries that I invariably come home with every week in the summertime. I didn’t want to go with the typical strawberry rhubarb pie- with the hot weather we’ve been having, such a heavy dessert just didn’t sound good. So I decided I’d go with a simple rhubarb compote, and dress it up in “post-production.” The results were fresh and flavorful, with a nice balance of sweet, rich and tart flavors.

Ingredients:
3 stalks rhubarb, washed and diced
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp rose syrup
zest from 1 lemon
6 large strawberries (sliced)
3 tbsp creme fraiche


Directions:

  • Put rhubarb and a splash of water in a medium pot over medium-low heat. Add honey, and cook until rhubarb is soft (about 20 minutes).
  • Remove rhubarb from stove and allow to cool completely. This can be done a day ahead, with the rhubarb stored in the refrigerator over night.
  • Mix the rose syrup and lemon zest into the rhubarb compote.
  • Serve the rhubarb in 6 bowls. Top with sliced strawberries, a dollop of creme fraiche and lemon zest.


Now I want to know- What is your favorite thing to do with rhubarb?

Chilled Coconut Carrot Soup


This summer soup was inspired by a recipe from Bea at La Tartine Gourmande, one of my favorite food bloggers. She originally made a “Coriander-flavored Carrot Mash with Coconut Milk”, which I adapted into this soup.

Ingredients:

6-7 large carrots, peeled and largely chopped
2 tsp green curry paste
1/2 cup light coconut milk
4 tsp creme fraiche
Salt to taste
Chives for garnish

Directions:

  • Fill a medium-sized soup pot halfway with water. Add the green curry paste and carrots. Cook the carrots over medium heat, until they are very soft.
  • Pour out most of the water from the pot, but keep about 1 cup of the cooking water with the carrots.
  • Use an immersion blender to puree the carrots until they reach a smooth consistency.
  • In order to reach an even smoother consistency, now pass the carrot puree through a food mill, at the finest setting.
  • Mix the coconut milk into the carrot puree. Add salt to taste and chill the soup in the refrigerator until cold.
  • Just before serving, garnish each bowl with a dollop of creme fraiche and a few sprigs of chives.

Steak au Poivre & Happy Bastille Day!


In honor of Bastille Day, I wanted to share a typical French dish with you- Steak au Poivre. If you’ve never tasted Steak au Poivre before, all I can say is that you’re missing out my friend. It’s delicious, simple, comfort food. It’s on the menu at any French brasserie right next to the “Steak Frites” (steak and fries) and you generally can’t go wrong by ordering it. I’d never really considered making it myself because I figured it included some hard-to-get ingredients, but my culinary preconceptions have been proven wrong again! When I was in Paris, I got a small can of green peppercorns, stored in water. These are perfect for the “sauce au poivre ” (pepper sauce) that melds so well with a nice steak. If you don’t have a can of peppercorns though, you can rehydrate dried green peppercorns in warm water for 5-10 minutes to obtain a similar effect. I hope you don’t wait as long as I did to try such a tasty staple of French “brasserie” cooking.

Ingredients for 2 servings:

For the steaks
:

  • 2 steaks (I used New York steak)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • Salt & pepper to taste

For the carmelized shallots:

  • 8-10 shallots
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • Salt to taste

For the pepper sauce:

  • 1 can green peppercorns (or 2 Tbsp dried green peppercorns, rehydrated)
  • 3-4 tbsp creme fraiche
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

  • Peel and thinly slice the shallots. Melt 2 tbsp of butter on a non-stick pan over low- medium heat. Add the shallots and a pinch of salt. Slowly cook the shallots for about 10 minutes- until carmelized.
  • While the shallots are cooking, heat the creme fraiche, milk, peppercorns and a pinch of salt in a small pan over low heat. Stir occasionally.
  • Sprinkle salt and freshly ground pepper over the steaks.
  • Once the shallots are ready, remove them from the pan and set them aside. Melt 2 tbsp of butter on the non-stick pan over medium heat. Cook the steaks about 5-6 minutes on each side (depending on the thickness of the steak and your cooking preference).
  • When the steaks are cooked, remove them from the pan and allow them to rest for 3 minutes.
  • Serve the steaks with pepper sauce on top and carmelized shallots on the side.

Quiche of all kinds

It seems only appropriate that a quasi-French food blog would discuss the makings of a quiche at some point or another. And this is as good a time as any, especially given that quiche seems to be the food theme of my week. My husband and I are in our final countdown before our trip to Paris right now. We leave on Friday! In the midst of making preparations for this long-awaited trip, I’ve also been trying to catch up with friends whom I’ve been neglecting due to grad school craziness. Whether I was hosting a meal, or bringing part of a meal over to someone else’s house, quiche was the perfect companion to a fresh spring salad, or assortment of seasonal fruit.

The best thing about quiche is that it will adapt to what you have in your fridge. When I made my first quiche of the week, I had some leeks, onions and tomatoes. I didn’t have the traditional gruyère cheese, but had some goat cheese and shredded parmesan. So I used those instead. Before making the second quiche of the week, I had no veggies in my fridge, so I went to the farmer’s market to pick something up. The button mushrooms appealed to me the most, so I made a mushroom quiche with parmesan cheese. Classic (with a little parmesan twist…since I still had no gruyère at home).

Another key to a good quiche is the crust. You want the right balance of flakiness without falling apart. I used to always make my pâte brisée in my food processor, because it’s quick and easy. Recently though, I’ve started making it by hand, and have really noticed a difference in the resulting pâte. Plus, the food processor is a pain to clean, especially when used to make anything sticky or doughy. Washing a bowl is much simpler.


Pâte brisée:

Ingredients:
1 ½ cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 egg yolk
½ cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
5 Tbsp water

Directions:
Place the flour in a medium bowl and create a “well” in the middle of the flour. In the well, add the salt, egg yolk and butter. Mix with your fingers until the butter is incorporated, but make sure not to over mix it. Then add the water and quickly work it into your dough. Again, be sure not to overmix, because this will make the dough elastic and take away from the flakiness of the crust. Cover the pâte in plastic wrap and chill it in the refrigerator for an hour. When you’re ready to make your quiche, roll out the dough and mold it into your tart dish. Then return it to the refrigerator while you prepare the quiche ingredients.

Quiche of all kinds:

Directions for Quiche:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Prep your quiche ingredients by sauteeing them until they’re soft. If you use a vegetable that releases liquid after sauteeing, make sure to strain the vegetable well before adding it to the quiche. Too much liquid will affect the consistency of the egg in your quiche. Use a paper towel to soak up liquid for vegetables that release a lot of liquid when cooked (like spinach and mushrooms).

Scatter prepared vegetables (and/or meats…ham or bacon is commonly used in quiche) in the bottom of the prepared crust. Next, in a medium bowl, mix 5 eggs, ½ cup of creme fraiche, and ½ cup of whole milk. Add salt & pepper to taste. Then pour the egg mixture over the vegetables.
Next scatter a handful or so of cheese over the quiche. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top of the quiche is lightly browned. Allow the quiche to sit out of the oven for 5-10 minutes before serving it so that the egg can settle. Slice and enjoy. Quiche can easily be reheated the next day, and often is even better when reheated!