Category Archives: recipe

Thanksgiving catch-up

Last week was a busy week. Little man, my mom and I went to gather chestnuts, I got the house ready to host Thanksgiving dinner, cooked (and enjoyed) said Thanksgiving dinner, and then enjoyed the long weekend as a family. I promise to post pictures of the chestnut excursion soon, but for now, here is a synopsis of our Thanksgiving (Little man’s first as a solid-food-eating child!).
I made roasted brussel sprouts, based on this recipe by Ina Garten. Since I only have one oven and I didn’t want the turkey to rest for 45 minutes and get cold while the brussel sprouts were roasting, I par boiled them for about 3 minutes and then plunged them in ice water before roasting them. Here they are on the jelly roll pan, tossed with olive oil and salt. Ready to be roasted.
My mom made the chestnuts, freshly gathered, then boiled and peeled. She also made the cranberry sauce because it’s her specialty. I made the mashed potatoes, below.
I didn’t get a picture of the yams on their own, but they turned out really good! I peeled and sliced them. Then in a small saucepan I combined 2/3 c. chicken stock, 2/3 c. apple cider, 2 Tbsp brown sugar, 4 cloves of garlic (minced), and some salt and pepper. Then I brought all these to a boil until the sugar had dissolved and poured it over the yams, arranged in a baking dish. I baked them at 375 for about 30 minutes, covered in foil. Then I set them aside until after the turkey was cooked and put them back in the oven for 20 minutes of so with the brussel sprouts.
Everything turned out as I’d hoped. Yay!

 

Of course, dessert was involved. I made an apple pie and a pumpkin pie. Unfortunately, no picture of the apple pie was taken before cutting into it and now it’s long gone. It was tasty though, thanks to my North Carolina uncle who shared his recipe with me.

I used a new recipe for the pumpkin pie and was kind of disappointed. I usually use the Classic Pumpkin Pie recipe from Martha Stewart and it’s always turned out great. I’m not sure why I decided to change it up, but I’ll be going back to my tried and true one next year.

Plum pie with leaf lard crust

The other day, my friend brought over a big bag of plums from her tree. I didn’t have time to make jam, and figured that we wouldn’t be able to eat them all fresh before they went bad (even though they were delicious!), so I decided to make a plum pie. It’s actually pretty rare that I make a classic American-style pie, with the top dough and everything. Something about my French mom drilling into my head how much heavier 2 pie crusts are than one. But, I had some pork leaf lard in my fridge that I purchased at the farmer’s market with the intention of making pie dough and wanted to give it a try.
To some, lard in dessert may sound gross. But seriously, give it a try. There’s a reason for the foodie movement behind leaf lard pie dough. 

At the recommendation from a chef friend of mine, I used this recipe from Food and Wine. She suggested I decrease the fat a smidge and add a bit of sugar. So I altered the recipe a teensy bit and used 1/4 cup less butter, and added about a tablespoon of sugar. The result was a flaky and delicious pie crust. I’ll definitely use this recipe again when I make American-style pies. I will say, I don’t think that using lard lends itself well to French tarts. Those are better when made with 100% butter. The lard makes the crust significantly flakier, which is great for American pie, and not so great with tarts. One of these days, I want to try making Chinese egg custard tartlets using an even higher percentage of leaf lard in the crust. Since making this pie, I’ve decided the lard must be the secret to the deliciously flaky and fatty crust in those.

As far as what went into the pie filling itself- some combination of plums, sugar, tapioca and cinnamon. These plums were very juicy, so I had to use quite a bit of tapioca to absorb the juices and make sure the pie didn’t turn into a runny mess. I thought I had used enough sugar, but it ended up being pretty tart and I wished I’d used more. I never really follow a recipe when making American-style pies. I just go with what the particular fruit I’m using needs. Apparently, I should probably add more sugar than I think I need, especially when using fruit with tart skin like plums. I’m always learning!

The epitome of locavore- 1 mile dinner

It’s no secret that I fell in love with the concept of eating locally grown food after reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. In it she details her family’s journey eating like locavores for a year by shopping at farmer’s markets, growing their own produce, preserving summer produce, raising chickens for eggs and meat, raising turkeys, finding local grainery mills, local wine…etc. The book was eye opening, and I’ve enjoyed re-reading it nearly every year for renewed inspiration. I try to cook seasonally and locally as much as possible and get excited when a meal I prepare is nearly 100% local.
I didn’t expect to do much cooking on Orcas island, much less enjoy a very local meal there. When we arrived at the guest house we were renting, though, I realized that this was really truly a guest house complete with kitchen, dining table and even a table and chairs on the patio (incredible view included). Trevor and I decided we needed to take advantage. The woman we rented the guest house from was incredibly sweet. She pointed out some places nearby that we might like to check out- like the seafood farm less than 500 meters up the road (basically through her backyard). She told us that they had clams, crab, oysters, salmon…oh my! She also said we were free to pick fruit from her plum trees and told us about blackberry bushes just down the road from her house. I was thrilled! Our dinner ingredients would come from less than a 1 mile radius from where we were staying.
After getting settled in, we decided to take the quick walk to the farm to check things out. Note the beautiful views along the walk.
See those bushes to the left of the barn? Those are blackberry bushes.
Getting close!
Nose of the boat, pointing us in the right direction.


When we arrived at Buck Bay Shellfish Farm, we asked some questions, found out that they farmed the shellfish and had fresh caught salmon. They also had some zucchini, berries and fresh eggs for sale, because this isn’t just a shellfish farm. There’s actually quite a large area for growing produce plus a big coop with about 30 chickens. They were so friendly and we asked if we could go visit their chickens. We’re a little obsessed right now with less than 2 months until we acquire feathered friends of our own. Little man enjoyed looking at the chickens, and then we left, telling them that we’d surely be back before the weekend was over. 
 
We confirmed with our friends, who were also attending the wedding, that they were available to come for dinner on Sunday night. So Sunday morning, we went blackberry picking to get enough fruit for a crumble. Little man absolutely loved it and probably ate half the berries we picked. We could barely keep up with all of his requests for “more” (signing, not asking with words quite yet), as soon as he had shoved a blackberry in his mouth. 
 
Later that afternoon, we headed back to Buck Bay Shellfish Farm to buy some salmon and zucchini.  When we got there, though, I realized that I was going to be short about $6 in the cash I needed to pay for the food. Here is the ridiculous interaction that ensued:
 
Me: Oh I only have X amount of money. Can I get 2 lbs of salmon instead of 3?
BBSF employee: Oh it’s okay, I’ll just write you an IOU. 
Me: (kind of in shock) Wow, umm, that’s really nice but we’re leaving really early tomorrow morning and wont have time to get to an ATM and bring you the cash before we go. 
BBSF employee: You can just send us a check when you get home. 
Me: (more shock) Are you sure? I mean, that’s so kind, but really?
BBSF employee: Yea, we do it all the time. We’ve never had a problem. 
Me: Okay then. Thank you! Here is the money I do have.
BBSF employee: You can just keep the cash and I’ll write you an IOU for the full amount.
Me: (flabbergasted) You’re really sure about this? 
BBSF employee: Yup, everyone has always sent the money they owe us. It’s really no problem. 
 
Wow…can you believe such a thing? We had heard rumors that Orcas Island was a very friendly place, but now it was confirmed. It was later confirmed a third time, when our host offered up anything in her kitchen we might need to make dinner (while she was not going to be home). I’m telling you- friendly friendly people on Orcas!
 
Now onto the food:
Exhibit 1: Zucchini from Buck Bay Shellfish farm. Less than a mile away.
Exhibit 2: Blackberries picked on the way to BBSF (i.e. even closer).
I went with a simple preparation. Cubed up the zucchini, cooked it in butter with salt and pepper. Fresh ingredients don’t need much to be delicious. 
The beginnings of a crumble. I added some plums, also picked on the way to BBSF. A little sugar to counter the tartness of the fruit. I probably could have added a bit more, but oh well.
A very local meal with a not so local beer. But at least it’s local to us, so we’re supporting our local economy. The salmon, I put on a sheet of foil brushed with butter, removed bones, brushed the salmon with butter, added salt, pepper, chives (from host’s garden) and the juice of a lemon. Then a broiled it for about 12 minutes. Again, fresh ingredients speak for themselves. It was delicious if I do say so myself.
Blackberry and plum crumble. Even the flour was local. We found it (along with the sugar) in the bulk bin of a natural food store on the island, which was perfect since we didn’t need much. The butter, I’m not sure about, but it did say “homemade” and the sugar is almost surely not local. So 6 ingredients out of 9 were local – 5 of which came from less than a mile away. In case you’re curious how I make my crumble topping, it’s approximately equal parts butter, sugar and flour. Mix with your hands until you get a crumble texture. Top fruit with crumble and bake at 375 for about 40 minutes. 

So that’s my epic tale of locavoring it up on Orcas Island. Thank you to all the friendly people on the island who made it such a memorable trip. We will definitely be back! And if you go, be sure to visit Buck Bay Shellfish Farm. The salmon was AMAZING and next time we’ll surely be trying some crab, clams and oysters.

Leek tart


Let’s get back to some food blogging, shall we? This spring and summer, we’ve received a lot of leeks from our CSA. I absolutely love it when we get leeks because they’re so versatile (and usually expensive at the grocery store). I use them in smooth soups often, but lately I’ve been into leek tarts. They are very quick and easy to make, but look fancy. You can make the components ahead of time and assemble and bake at the last minute, making this a perfect party food. I’ve even gotten the stamp of approval from an 8 year old boy- the ultimate taste tester. 

Leek tart recipe:

Ingredients for 1 Leek Tart:
– White and light green part from 3 leeks
– 4 tablespoons of butter
– Salt & pepper to taste
– 1 sheet of puff pastry dough 
Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Thinly slice the leeks and wash them well. Make sure to separate the layers of leek as much as you can with your hands so that all the dirt washes out. Strain water out with a sieve.
2. Heat a heavy-bottomed pan (I use cast iron) to medium-low heat. Melt the butter and add the leeks. The most important thing about making this tart is to allow the leeks to cook very slowly. Leeks, like onions and garlic, are notorious for burning easily and you need to make sure to prevent this from happening. They should slowly “melt” so keep the heat fairly low and be patient. Stir often. 
3. While the leeks are cooking, remove your sheet up puff pastry dough from the freezer. Butter a tart pan and when the dough is defrosted enough (but not too soft), roll it out so that it’s just slightly thinner than how it comes in the package. I use a tart pan like this one, so once I get the dough in and molded to the sides, I just use the metal edge to cut the dough off. 
4. Season the leeks with salt and pepper to your taste. You can also add some dried rosemary (chopped) or dried thyme if you’d like. Once they are soft, put them in your prepared tart pan and spread them evenly. 

5. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 30 minutes. I start checking after 25. The tart is ready when the puff pastry dough is golden. Allow the tart to cool a little bit before removing it from the tart pan. This is nice served with a salad for lunch, or as part of a buffet at a party. Enjoy!

Making Fromage Blanc

I’m never really sure how to describe fromage blanc to my American friends. Literally, it’s “white cheese,” but that’s not quite the full picture. The consistency is similar to yogurt, although fromage blanc is creamier. It’s slightly less tart than most yogurt and thicker. There’s a subtle taste of cheese, but I don’t really consider it a soft cheese, like I would goat cheese. You usually serve fromage blanc with fruit for dessert (kind of like yogurt…only not quite. Again, tough to describe it). 
Anyway, it’s delicious. That’s the take home message. 
Since you can’t find it here in the US, I’ve taken to making my own (something else to DIY…yipee!). Unlike making your own yogurt, you can’t use fromage blanc from your previous batch to inoculate your next batch. You have to use a new packet of fromage blanc starter cultures each time you make it. But, one packet of fromage blanc cultures inoculates 1 gallon of milk. You lose some from straining, but you still get a lot of fromage blanc out of it. 
I get my cultures for all my cheesy creations from New England Cheesemaking Supply Company. Someday maybe I’ll be lucky enough to take a workshop from “Ricki the Cheese Queen,” but New England is just a bit too far from California to jaunt over to learn how to make cheese. Bummer. 
So, to make fromage blanc, you need a packet of fromage blanc starter culture and a gallon of milk (whole milk or 2% is good. You can use non-fat, but it wont be as good). You’ll also need a big pot with a cover, a cheese thermometer, a ladle, a colander, a large bowl and butter muslin
Once you’ve assembled your equipment and ingredients, make sure everything is very clean. This is important anytime you’re making cultured or fermented foods. 
Next, pour the entire gallon of milk into the pot. 

Heat it over low-medium heat to 86 degrees (in the picture, the thermometer had already cooled back down…don’t refer to the picture. 86 degrees is what you want). 

Mix in your fromage blanc starter culture.

Cover the pot, set it aside, and wait 12 hours. I always get this started at night before heading to bed.

The next morning, the fromage blanc will look like this. The milk has thickened up and separated from the sides of the pot.

This kind of colander is perfect for straining fromage blanc because it fits right inside my large bowl, which supports the bottom of the butter muslin over a large surface area and facilitates drainage.

Put the colander in your bowl.

Cover the bowl with butter muslin.

Ladle the cultured milk into the butter muslin.

This is halfway through ladling. A lot of the whey has mixed back into the curds, but that’s okay. It will drain out soon enough.

Now put the bowl in the refrigerator. Periodically remove it to drain out the whey at the bottom of the bowl. Early on, you need to do this every few minutes. After 15 or so minutes, you’ll be able to only check on it every 30 minutes or so. It will need to drain for 3-6 hours (depending on the kind of milk you used. I find that less fat= faster drainage, because there are less curds).

You’re almost done! I used 2% milk for this batch and it ended up draining a bit too much, which resulted in a not-smooth-enough-for-my-french-blood fromage blanc. I just threw it into my mixer with the whisk attachment. I whipped it on medium speed and added a bit of milk to help smooth it out.

Here is the finished fromage blanc! Serve with whatever fruit suits your fancy.

Note: This post brought to you by Bastille Day. Because what Bastille Day would be complete without a tasty French dessert like fromage blanc?

Happy Bastille Day!!

Brussel Sprout Chanterelle Pasta with Brown Butter


Okay okay, I realize how ridiculously long it has been since I wrote a new post. I apologize. I’m actually touched by all the nudges I’ve gotten from friends to update the blog. Makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Before we get to the good stuff (the food, obviously) I should fill you in on recent exciting developments in my grad school/career as an SLP. First, I’ve officially graduated with my Masters Degree in Speech-Language Pathology. It has actually felt a little anticlimactic since I walked in the graduation ceremony in June, finished my student teaching in December, and had my degree post to the university website about a week ago. It seems like such a momentous accomplishment should be accompanied by more than a link on a website, but at this point, I’m just happy to be done.

The other good news is that I have a job! I’ll be working as an SLP for a preschool for children with special needs- the same place where I did my student teaching. I’m thrilled about this, because I already know that the people and children at the school are wonderful. I know it will be a great experience! I get to start the job as soon as a little piece of paper (actually, an email) comes through- my credential. So until then, I’ve been trying to get things organized, start getting back in shape and simply enjoy the rest of my time off.

Alright, now on to the food porn. This dish was introduced to me by my supervisor at the aforementioned preschool. I believe she found the recipe in San Francisco magazine. It is simple and delicious…simply delicious! A huge part of what makes this dish so tasty is how fresh it is, so make sure your ingredients are at their peak of freshness. Especially the brussel sprouts- try to get them on the stalk; I promise you they will be better this way.

Ingredients:

  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp. shallots, minced
  • 6 fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 lb chanterelle mushrooms, sliced (or substitute shitake)
  • 1 lb. brussel sprouts, thinly sliced
  • 10 oz. fresh tagliatelle or fettuccine pasta (I opted for fettuccine, but I bet tagliatelle would be delicious!)
  • Grated parmesan
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Cook 2 Tbsp of butter over low-medium heat until it becomes light brown. Add the shallots and sage and cook until the shallots begin to soften (about 2 minutes). Turn the head up to medium. Add the mushrooms and brussel sprouts. Continue cooking until mushrooms and brussel sprouts start to soften (3-4 minutes). Turn heat off, and cover to keep warm.
  2. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Drain but do not rinse. The pasta should be very wet.
  3. Add the pasta to the pan with the brussel sprouts and mushrooms. Add the butter, parmesan and salt and pepper to taste. If the pasta seems dry, add the reserved 1/2 cup of cooking water. Serve immediately and enjoy!

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!