Happy Valentine Day

A sweet Valentine
A heart shaped French toast made with brioche, vanilla, raisins, walnuts and honey served with a French vanilla custard and fresh raspberries.

For the French vanilla custard, scold 2 cups of milk with a vanilla bean sliced in half length-wise. Be sure to scrape the vanilla seeds into the milk. Infuse for about 5 minutes. In a bowl, whisk together 5 egg yolks with 80g of sugar.  Pour the hot milk onto the egg mixture while whisking. Pour back into the saucepan, on low heat, and cook stirring constantly until the custard slightly thickens. Be careful not to cook it too long and curdle the eggs. Cool and refrigerate.

For the French toast: mix two eggs with a little vanilla extract, almond mild and honey.  Add a few raisings.  Chop a handful of walnuts and add to the mixture. Tear dome small pieces of brioche and add to the mixture.  Let soak about 10 minutes.

Heat a little grape seed oil in a heavy bottom skillet.  Place a large heart-shaped cookie cutter in the pan and pour the mixture inside.  A little bit will run out from the bottom but quickly settle.  Cook a few minutes until you can lift is with a metal spatula and flip it to cook the other side.

To serve, remove the cookie cutter, place the French toast in the center of the plate, pour a little French vanilla custard around and top with fresh raspberries. Sprinkle with icing sugar.



Œufs en cocotte with white truffle

Œufs en cocotte is a very simple and quick dish, which I decided to prepare as a special holiday treat with a white truffle. The fresh truffle aromas marry themselves well with eggs or potatoes. In Provence, we are used to black truffles as our winter delicacy. The white truffles are the delicacies from Italy. Of course, there are advocates of each. Personally, I enjoy savoring either. Both are a true pleasure. Thinly sliced, ideally with a truffle shaver.

20131215-200624.jpgHere I did not have the right tool, so I used a vegetable peeler, which made the slices a bit too thick and not as delicate. Yet, we thoroughly enjoyed the treat nevertheless.

20131215-200832.jpgIngredients for two guests:
1 fresh white truffle from Alba Italy
4 eggs, preferably organic
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup cream
1 tarragon spring
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
Preheat oven to 375 F.

20131215-200933.jpgSeparate the egg yolks from the whites by placing the yolks in each individual ramequin. Here I used two eggs per person but you can use only one person. Place the egg whites in a bowl with a round base.

20131215-201115.jpgWhisk the egg whites until they become foamy. You can either use a hand whisk or an electric beater. If you use an electric beater be sure you bring the egg whites to the foamy stage only and not too firm.

20131215-201214.jpgAdd a little salt and pepper to taste. Add the Parmesan cheese reserving a couple tablespoons for the top of the ramequins. Add the cream and mix well.

20131215-201334.jpgPour the mixture over the egg yolks to the top of the ramequins.

20131215-201455.jpgSprinkle the extra Parmesan cheese on top. Bake for about 8 minutes.

20131215-201624.jpgMeanwhile, shave the truffle in thin slices.

20131215-201848.jpgThe œufs en cocotte are ready when the top is golden brown. The inside should still be runny. Top with the truffle shavings and tarragon. Cover with an upside down plate to infuse the flavors for a minute. Remove the plate and serve immediately. Enjoy with a small spoon.

20131216-071242.jpgAfterwards, we also enjoyed grilled scallops atop mousseline potatoes with more white truffle shavings. Here served with purple crispy potatoes and a salad.
Enjoy a delicious holiday season.

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!

Pain d’Epice – Honey bread with cinnamon, orange and star anise

A traditional and naturally healthy dense spongy bread. This childhood recipe contains no fat and no dairy, and brings high energy.
Served at tea time, home from school with a bowl of hot chocolate, as a dessert to accompany poached pears or strawberry soup, or to take along an adventure as an energy snack. This bread keeps well for a few days wrapped at room temperature. Do not refrigerate.
It is best to weight the ingredients directly into the mixing bowls (with a zeroing scale) for more accurate quantities, especially when using honey which tends to stick to the sides of measuring cups.
9 oz rye flour
9 oz honey
1/2 cup hot water
Zest of 1 orange
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp crushed star anis seed
1/2 tsp cinnamon
a Tbsp of grape seed oil to coat the baking pan
Preheat the oven to 325 F.
20130526-095017.jpg Star anis is very hard when dried and it is best to use a mortar and pestle to crush it.
20130526-095102.jpg Crush and ground the star anis until it is reduced to a powder.
Mix the dry ingredients, adding the baking soda, cinnamon and ground star anis to the rye flour. Zest the orange and add at this time as well.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the honey and hot water until you obtain a homogenous liquid mixture.
Add the honey-water to the dry ingredients and mix well to fully incorporate into a smooth batter. The consistency should be thick.
20130526-095246.jpg Oil a baking pan with some grape seed oil and pour batter in the pan. Place in the preheated oven to bake.
20130526-095437.jpg Check after about 30 minutes with a toothpick or the tip of a knife by inserting it into the center of the bread. The stick should come out clean. This bread remains dense and does not rise much. Once cooked, let sit for a few minutes out of the oven until cool enough to handle. Turn the baking pan upside down and the bread should come out easily.
20130526-095534.jpg You might decorate with orange slices and cinnamon sticks. Cut in about 1/2 inch-thick slices. Enjoy!

Breakfast Quinoa

Delicious, nutritious, high-protein breakfast.

20130412-074222.jpg A great gluten-free alternative to oatmeal, this sweet and fruity quinoa is ideal for breakfast. Spring has been so timid here in Chicago, that we are still using winter fruits this time of year. This is a heartwarming and satisfying dish. Although this dish is best served immediately, if you are pressed for time in the morning, you can prepare it the night before and simply heat it on the stove again.

20130412-074438.jpg Ingredients
3/4 cup red quinoa
3/4 cup white quinoa
2 oranges or 4 mandarins
1 banana
1 large apple
A few prunes
A few dried figs
A few dates
A handful walnuts
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp molasses

20130412-205534.jpg Place both red and white quinoa in a large saucepan.

20130412-210006.jpg Cut the dried fruits in thin slices and roughly chop the walnuts.

20130412-210554.jpg Add the dried fruits and walnuts to the quinoa as well as 3 cups of water.

20130412-211456.jpg Bring to a boil and start simmering.

20130412-210857.jpg Meanwhile, prepare the fresh fruits. Peel the banana and oranges . You might leave the skin on the apple, simply cutting it in quarters to easily remove the core.

20130412-211227.jpg Slice all the fresh fruits thinly.

20130412-211824.jpg Add fresh fruits and bring back to a boil.

20130412-212512.jpg Add the vanilla and molasses.

20130412-212806.jpg Cover, turn down the heat and simmer to resume cooking, about another ten minutes or so.

20130412-213444.jpg Check for the consistency. When most of the liquids have been absorbed, turn off the heat and let sit for a couple of minutes before serving.

20130412-213941.jpg Serve in individual bowls with a spring of fresh mint. Bon appetit!