Chilled Asparagus Soup with fresh Basil

Chilled soups are always refreshing in summer. This recipe is a non-dairy creamy soup, basically puréed with almond milk. It is particularly popular with friends who have dairy restrictions in their diet, or people who simply enjoy a lighter version of creamy soups.

20130630-115840.jpg The chilled asparagus tend to have a more delicate flavor when mixed with potatoes which act as the binding agent in the soup. If you wish to enhance the asparagus taste of the soup, add a little cumin (optional).

20130630-115930.jpg Ingredients:
2 lbs asparagus
1 large shallot
2-3 small potatoes
1/2 jalapeño pepper
2 garlic cloves
1.5 oz fresh basil
1/4-1/2 tsp cumin (optional)
2 cups water
2 cups almond milk
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Lemon rind for decoration

20130630-145516.jpg Remove the seeds and white/silver lining of the inside of the jalapeño pepper

20130630-145651.jpg Cut the jalapeño in strips and dice finely.

20130630-150113.jpg Peel, crush and chop the garlic finely. Peel the shallot preserving the roots to hold it while chopping. Slice it horizontally, almost reaching the roots, then vertically like an onion, and finally, chop it vertically again but in a perpendicular direction.

20130630-150230.jpg Heat about 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a large pot and add the chopped jalapeño, garlic and shallot. Lower the heat and simmer for a few minutes. You might add the cumin at this time if using.

20130630-150343.jpgWash, peel, and slice the potatoes. Cut them in sticks and dice them in small even pieces so they cook faster and evenly.

20130630-152557.jpgAdd potatoes to the pot and continue cooking on low heat.

20130630-152644.jpgIf the ends of the asparagus are thick and woody, it is best to snap the ends off between your fingers rather than cutting them with a knife. By snapping them, they naturally break off at the point where the tender part of the asparagus meets the woody part. Discard the woody parts.

20130630-153925.jpgThen, trim the tips by slicing them individually at a diagonal to preserve a naturally elongated design.

20130630-154010.jpg Cut the asparagus stems in about 1-inch pieces, add them to the pot along with 2 cups of water and moderate salt. Bring to a oil, lower the heat and simmer about for 8-10 minutes, until the asparagus stems are cooked.

20130630-155308.jpg Separately, bring a small pot of generously salted water to a boil and plunge the asparagus tips for a few minutes until they begin to be tender yet slightly firm to the touch.

20130630-190438.jpgRemove the asparagus tips from the boiling water and place them immediately in an ice bath. This will stop the cooking and preserve their bright green color.

20130630-190515.jpgDrain them as soon as they are cool and reserve.

20130630-191527.jpgOnce the asparagus stems and potatoes are cooked, place in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.

20130630-191608.jpgProcess until smooth and let cool a few minutes.

20130630-191647.jpgAdd the basil leaves at this time and process further until the leaves are incorporated into small pieces into the soup.

20130630-191728.jpgAdd the almond milk one cup at a time and process to blend perfectly.

20130630-191800.jpgPour into a bowl, cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

20130630-191842.jpg Meanwhile, cut a long piece of lemon rind with a small pairing knife.

20130630-192342.jpgRemove the extra pith (white part) that might be left attached to the rind.

20130630-192422.jpgCut thin strips (‘julienne’) and reserve.

20130630-192459.jpgSet up the lemon rind and asparagus tips to serve.

20130630-192602.jpg When pulling the chilled asparagus soup from the refrigerator, check for seasoning, add salt and cumin if necessary, and some finely ground black pepper. Place a ladle a of chilled asparagus soup in individual bowls or cups, decorate with the asparagus tips and lemon rind strips.

20130630-192643.jpgChilled asparagus soup, here served with a grilled fig. Enjoy!


Asparagus with Salmon Caviar and Black Olive Vinaigrette

An appetizing and colorful plate, amazingly simple to put together for a light lunch or an appetizer for a dinner.

20130621-210006.jpg A beautiful way to serve asparagus. In this version, I paired them with a hen egg, but you can certainly use quail eggs if available. The salmon roe is easy to handle for decoration and brings a burst of brilliant color that compliments the green asparagus, the black olives, and the white and yellow eggs.

20130621-214657.jpg Ingredients:
2 lb asparagus
8 black olives, preferably dry cured in oil and herbs.
1 – 1.5 oz salmon caviar
4 hen eggs (or a dozen quail eggs) at room temperature
1/4 cup grape seed oil
1/2 tsp white balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
A bunch of chives
Salt and pepper

20130621-214739.jpg Wash and trim the asparagus, removing the ‘woody’ ends.

20130621-214817.jpg Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil and throw in the asparagus. The salt content helps develop a beautiful green color. In addition, you might let the asparagus bathe in a bowl of ice water prior to placing them in the boiling pot, as going from the icy cold to the boiling hot temperatures will also help develop a more vibrant green color to the vegetables. Cook until tender.

20130621-214915.jpg When ready, immediately plunge them in an ice water bowl to stop the cooking process and so that they retain their beautiful green color. Drain once cool to the touch.

20130621-215006.jpg Meanwhile, bring a smaller saucepan of water to a boil and carefully place the room temperature eggs into the boiling water using a slotted spoon. Cook in rolling water for precisely 3 minutes.

20130621-215114.jpg Then place the eggs in ice water to stop the cooking process. Once cooled, gently break the shell to remove. This process needs to be tended carefully as the eggs are soft, not hard, and you want to be sure not to inadvertently break them open as the yolk should still be runny.

20130621-215310.jpg In a small bowl, prepare the black olive vinaigrette. Place the mustard, salt, freshly ground pepper in the bowl. Mix well.

20130621-215403.jpg Dilute the mustard by adding the vinegar and mixing thoroughly.

20130621-215452.jpg Add the grape seed oil and whisk together to fully homogenize the ingredients.

20130621-215556.jpg Pit and chop the black olives finely.

20130621-215637.jpg Incorporate into the vinaigrette.

20130621-215734.jpg Chop the chives, reserving the tapering tips for decoration.

20130621-215826.jpg Salmon caviar, or sometimes called salmon roe, is highly perishable and must be refrigerated until the time you are ready to serve the plates.

20130621-215927.jpg Prepare the plates by arranging the asparagus as a bed on the bottom. Drizzle with the black olive vinaigrette and sprinkle with chives. Place a small spoonful of salmon caviar to the side, carefully displaying some of the eggs artfully around. Set the soft boiled hen egg to the side.

20130621-220022.jpg Cut open the soft boiled egg to unveil a perfectly cooked white and runny yolk. Finish with the chives tips and serve at once. Enjoy!

Lemon Mahi Mahi with Rhubarb Ginger Sauce and Fresh Mango

Rhubarb was not common in the south of France when I was growing up, yet I have always been attracted to it, both because of its color and taste. Here, the mango brings a delicate sweetness to compliment the tangy rhubarb ginger combination as an accompaniment to grilled Mahi Mahi.

Grilled Mahi Mahi served with rhubarb ginger lemon sauce and fresh mango. As a dinner, the plate is finished with some lentils and steamed broccolini. A great source of vitamins, perfect eaten hot or cold, and can therefore be enjoyed as a picnic.

20130615-075532.jpg Ingredients:
1 lb rhubarb
2 lemons juiced and zested
2 tsp fresh ginger grated
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup water
Lemon mint
1 mango
4 fresh Mahi Mahi steaks
Himalayan pink salt, freshly ground pepper.
3 Tbsp grape seed oil

20130615-075619.jpg Zest the lemons on a dish wide enough to contain the Mahi Mahi steaks side by side. Add 2 Tbsp of grape seed oil, salt and pepper, mix well.

20130615-075728.jpg Press fish into the lemon zest mixture on both sides, and refrigerate to marinate while preparing the rhubarb sauce.

20130616-164857.jpg Wash the rhubarb. Remove the green leaves. Cut the stems into small piece, about 1/2 inch each.

20130615-080145.jpg Grate the ginger, leaving the skin on the root after washing it.

20130615-080258.jpg Combine the juice of the lemons, ginger, honey, water and salt in a medium size pot and place on medium heat.

20130615-080347.jpg Add rhubarb, mix well, bring to a boil and reduce to simmer.

20130615-081501.jpg As the rhubarb is simmering, it should still be bubbly. Stir the mixture occasionally.

20130615-081536.jpg As it is cooking, the rhubarb will naturally turn into a purée. Continue cooking until it is sweet enough to eat, still maintaining a certain tangy taste which will be soften when paired with the fresh mango.

20130615-081723.jpg To prep the mango, lay it on its side and cut it horizontally above the flat large pit inside. Then turn it with the cut side down and cut the other side the same way. Discard the pit and peel the two separate sections of the mango, keeping only the flesh.

20130615-081814.jpg Then either slice the mango thinly or cut it into medium size pieces.

20130615-081925.jpg Preheat the grill for the Mahi Mahi. When the grill is hot, place the Mahi Mahi steaks onto the grill for a few minutes on one side. Cooking time will depend on the thickness of the pieces.
If you do not wish to grill the fish, you might also sautéed it in a pan with an additional tablespoon of grape seed oil.

20130615-082127.jpg Once the second side is grilled, serve with the rhubarb ginger sauce and fresh mango, add lemon mint and enjoy!

Cherry Almond Orange Clafoutis

A classic delight and wonderful memory of my childhood. My mother would make clafoutis almost daily during cherry season. My brothers and I would pick the cherries after school and they went straight into the clafoutis. They did not get refrigerated and conserved the full flavor of their sweetness. The original recipe included vanilla. Here I am using some almond extract instead to enhance the taste of the ground almond and almond meal. In addition, I also added orange zest which, to my taste buds, perfectly compliments the combination of cherry and almonds.

I made this recipe completely gluten-free, using a combination of amaranth flour and almond meal, and lactose-free, using almond milk instead of dairy milk. This recipe also contains a limited amount of sugar, only using one tablespoon of honey in addition to the natural sugar from the fruits.

2 lbs sweet cherries
3/4 cup raw almonds
1/2 tsp almond extract
Zest of 2 oranges
2 Tbsp almond meal
2 Tbsp amaranth flour
1/2 tsp arrowroot
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups almond milk
1 Tbsp honey
A pinch of salt
About 1 Tbsp grape seed oil

Either 12 individual ramequins or one 8 1/2 x 8 1/2 pan (or similar dimension in the form of a tart dish)
Preheat oven to 350 F

20130609-104846.jpg Wash and pit the cherries. A cherry pitter works wonderfully for this task, leaving the cherries whole, but if you do not have one, simply cut the cherries in half and remove the the pit.

Set the pitted cherries aside.

Place the almonds in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.

20130609-105529.jpg Process until you obtain evenly ground almonds and set aside.

In a bowl, mix together the almond meal, with the amaranth flour, and the arrowroot.

20130609-110019.jpg Add 1/3 of the ground almonds, and whisk together until fully incorporated. Continue adding ground almond slowly until all dry ingredients are thoroughly combined.

20130609-110209.jpg In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, the almond milk, almond extract, orange zest, honey and salt.

20130609-110317.jpg Add the dry ingredients to the mixture at once and whisk together.

20130609-110413.jpg Combine all ingredients into a smooth batter, which should be similar in consistency to a crepe batter.

20130609-110624.jpg At this point, you might either brush the grape seed oil into the individual ramequins.

20130609-110722.jpg Or you might oil an 8 1/2×8 1/2 pan.

20130609-111118.jpg If you are using the individual ramequins, place the cherries on bottom of them.

20130609-111227.jpg If you are using the larger pan, you might simply pour the cherries into it.

20130609-111446.jpg Using a ladle, pour the batter onto the cherries, not completely covering them.

20130609-111617.jpg Bake the ramequins for 20-25 minutes.

20130609-111712.jpg If you are using a larger pan, bake for 45-50 minutes.

20130609-111836.jpg The clafoutis are ready when the top is golden.

20130609-112205.jpg Let cool. Them you might refrigerate or serve at room temperature.

20130609-112323.jpg Decorate with fresh cherries, and orange zest. Serve and enjoy!

Curried Zucchini en Cocotte

Individual ‘en cocotte’ zucchini dishes, offer a feast for the senses with a singular presentation, and a light and flavorful combination of zucchini, pine nuts and almond milk, highlighted with the fragrance of curry, fresh basil and garlic.

I have always liked the combination of zucchini and curry and decided to update it by adding pine nuts and basil. If you are not specifically looking for a lactose free dish, feel free to add some goat cheese. Otherwise, using the almond milk here renders a delightfully light dish, full of flavors. The individual servings of ‘en cocotte’ add a nice personal touch for each guest.

4 small zucchini
3 garlic cloves
2 tsp curry powder
3 eggs
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 oz basil
Olive oil, salt and pepper to taste

4 mini Le Creuset cocotte (or similar) with lids.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Wash and cut the zucchini in 1/4 inch slices. Chop garlic finely.

Place zucchini, garlic and curry in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Toss the bowl to completely coat all the zucchini slices with the combination of garlic and curry mixture.

Place an extra large sauté pan (with very wide diameter at the bottom) on medium-high heat. Add some olive oil to generously coat the bottom of the pan.

When the olive oil is hot, add the zucchini mixture, spreading the slices across the entire bottom of the pan.

Cook, tossing occasionally for about 15-20 minutes, until the zucchini is mostly cooked. Some slices will have become softer, but the majority should still be firm.

Place pine nuts in a separate dry pan over medium-low heat and toss frequently to ensure even roasting.

Slice the basil in a ‘chiffonade’, by placing all the basil leaves together and then slicing thinly.

Place a row of zucchini, topped with roasted pine nuts and basil in the bottom of each ‘mini cocotte’, this layer should fill about one third of the cocotte. Continue alternating zucchini, roasted pine nuts and basil until filled almost to the top. Be sure to reserve about 20 zucchini slices for topping the cocottes decoratively prior to baking. Also reserve some of the basil chiffonade and a few pine nuts for the last touch prior to serving.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs together in a bowl. Add a little salt and pepper to taste.

Add the almond milk and mix thoroughly.

Pour the egg and almond milk mixture over the top of each cocotte filled with the zucchini using a small ladle.

The mini cocottes should be almost filled to top but not quite, leaving enough room for one last row of zucchini slices and moderate rising during baking.

Top with overlapping zucchini slices.

Cover the mini cocottes with their lids.

Place them on a baking sheet and bake for about 50-60 minutes in a 350F oven. If you use the convection option of your oven, then diminish time appropriately by checking after about 25-30 minutes.

Fully cooked mini zucchini cocotte out of the oven. Let sit for at least 10 minutes before serving as they are burning hot when coming out of the oven.

Decorate with extra basil ‘chiffonade’ and a few roasted pine nuts. Serve and enjoy!