Pear and Celery Soup with Roquefort, walnuts and pomegranate

A light, colorful and delicately fragrant winter holiday soup with a well balanced combination of tart, sweet and savory flavors.

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The immersion blender makes this soup very smooth. By contrast, the walnuts and pomegranate seeds give it texture.

IMG_2561.JPGIngredients for the soup:
6 pears d’Anjou, ripe
1 celery bunch
1/2 sweet yellow onion
1 tbsp olive oil
1/8 tsp sea salt
2 cups water

Garnish: pomegranate, Roquefort, walnuts
Serves 4

IMG_2562.JPGPeel and chop the onion finely.

IMG_2563.JPGHeat the oil on medium high heat in a large pot. Add the chopped onion and reduce to low. Cover and simmer about 8 minutes, until the onion is translucent.

IMG_2565.JPG Wash each branch of the celery carefully and absorb excess water with a kitchen towel.

IMG_2566.JPGCut the branches of the celery lengthwise, then chop them into small pieces. Reserve the leaves for garnish.

IMG_2569.JPGAdd the celery to the pot with the onions. Raise the heat to medium low and cover, cooking another 12-15 minutes.

IMG_2572.JPGCut the pears in half, then quarters. Reserve two quarters for garnish. Peel the other quarters (5 1/2 pears total) and cut them into large slices.

IMG_2574.JPGAdd the pears to the pot with the celery and onion.

IMG_2576.JPGAdd two cups of water, season with a pinch of salt, bring to a simmer and lower the heat. Keep cooking covered about 8 minutes.

IMG_2578.JPGTurn off the heat. Using an immersion blender, purée the soup.

IMG_2582.JPGThe soup should be completely smooth.

IMG_2587.JPGThinly slice the reserved pears.

IMG_2584.JPGRemove seeds from the pomegranate. Crumble some of the Roquefort.

IMG_2585.JPGServe the soup in bowls. Arrange some celery leaves, walnuts….

IMG_2588.JPG…Roquefort, pear slices and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.
Serve at once and enjoy!

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English Pea Soup

Quick. Simple. Fresh.
One of my favorite soups to make in no time and enjoy healthy nourishment.
The compliment of herbs, parsley and mint, brings fresh flavors, which can also be achieved with basil, chives, or dill depending on your preference and what grows in your garden.
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Here presented with a lemon rind and some peas sprouts for an elegant serving.
20140725-151840-55120962.jpgIngredients:
2 lbs fresh English peas
1/2 lb white onion
1 oz mint leaves
1 oz parsley leaves
1 Tbsp grape seed oil
5 cups water
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
20140725-151841-55121292.jpgFirst peel and cut the onion in half, leaving the roots at the end. Finely chop the onion by slicing it horizontally and vertically almost to the roots. This technique allows the onion to still hold together.  Then slice from the tip to the root to have a perfectly sized chopped onion.
20140725-151841-55121637.jpgHeat a little grape seed oil in the bottom of a large pot. Once the oil is hot, add the chopped onion at once and reduce the heat to low. Cook for a few minutes until the onion becomes translucent and softens.
20140725-151841-55121986.jpgAdd the water, season with salt and bring to a simmer.  Cook a few minutes (5 to 8) until the peas are tender.
20140725-151842-55122354.jpgUsing an immersion blender, process the soup until smooth.
20140725-151843-55123223.jpgWash and remove the stems from the herbs.
20140725-151843-55123659.jpgAdd the herbs to the soup. Continue processing with the immersion blender until you obtain a velvety texture.
20140725-151842-55122770.jpgAdjust seasoning with freshly ground pepper and a little salt if needed. Refrigerate to cool.

Serve and enjoy!

Best croissant in Chicago

My favorite croissant in Chicago!

20140503-104702.jpgBoth taste and texture reminded me of the best croissants from Provence bakeries. Of course, I ate it peeling the layers which to me it the most delicious way to savor every bite. Delectable!

20140503-111511.jpgFlaky, tender and crunchy. They import the butter from Europe for making these. I hope you make the trip to Cellar Door Provisions (CDP) on West Diversey. And while you are there, pick up a loaf of bread, and if you have a chance enjoy they soft boiled egg salad too!

20140503-112025.jpgAll delicious. Hope you enjoy too.

Four Cheese Soufflé

Secret tips to achieve high success making your cheese soufflé.

20140413-053537.jpgSuch a classic French recipe. In my family, this is the type of dish we prepared anytime we needed a simple, quick dinner. The basic ingredients, cheese, milk, eggs were always on hand. Here I’m using four cheeses but you can you just one or two. Be sure to respect the quantities.

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Ingredients:
For the Béchamel sauce
1 cup/250 ml milk
1 1/2 Tbsp/25 g butter
1 Tbsp flour
1/2 Tbsp potato starch
Pinch nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
For the Soufflé
4 egg yolks
6 egg whites
20-25 g each of Conté, Emmenthaler, Parmesan and Pyrenees Sheep (or gruyère)
Pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 400F.

20140413-055724.jpgseparate egg whites from egg yolks. Ideally, if you can separate them several days in advance and keep them in an air tight container, the egg whites will develop higher volume when whisking them.
Grate the cheeses and keep the Parmesan separate so you can use some for coating the soufflé dish and some to sprinkle on too of the soufflé before baking.

20140413-071145.jpgbutter the soufflé with a pastry brush and soft butter (not melted, just softened at air temperature) thoroughly. Add 2 Tbsp of flour and 1 Tbsp of grated Parmesan and shake them around the dish until completely coated.

20140413-071442.jpgonce all the sides are coated, shake off the excess.

20140413-071559.jpgprepare the ingredients for the Béchamel sauce.

20140413-071655.jpgMelt the butter.

20140413-071801.jpgonce the butter is completely melted, add the flour and potato starch. Using potato starch will help the soufflé stand up a little longer after taking it out of the oven.

20140413-072059.jpgCook the mixture until it bubbles look like a ‘bees nest’.

20140413-072247.jpgMeanwhile, scald the milk.

20140413-072332.jpgRemove the pot from the stove. Add the hot milk to the butter-flour mixture at once, mixing constantly. The sauce should immediately thicken. You may use a whisk instead of a wooden spoon at this point to ensure no lumps appear.

20140413-072541.jpgPlace back on the stove, medium heat, and continue cooking another few minutes to thicken the sauce further. Mix constantly either with a wooden spoon or whisk.

20140413-072843.jpgSeason with salt and pepper and grate some nutmeg.

20140413-072945.jpgAdd the egg yolks one by one, mixing vigorously after each one. This will render the sauce a bit more liquid.

20140413-073115.jpgContinue to cook a few minutes longer, whisking constantly, to thicken the sauce again and the color changes to a paler yellow.

20140413-073253.jpgtransfer to a large bowl.

20140413-073345.jpgPlace the egg white in a metal mixing bowl, add a pinch of salt, and start whiling on low speed.

20140413-073510.jpgWhisk until medium firm. The egg whites should not be too firm so they keep rising in the oven.

20140413-073642.jpgPlace about 1/3 if the egg whites into the bowl with the soufflé mixture.

20140413-073932.jpgMix thoroughly with a spatula. No need to be careful at this point as we just want to lighten the consistency of the soufflé mixture so it can easily be incorporated into the rest of the egg whites.

20140413-074056.jpgAdd the remainder of the egg whites, either at once or in two parts.

20140413-074227.jpgnow fold the egg whites delicately into the mixture. If you are adding them in two parts, repeat.

20140413-074635.jpg Add the cheeses by folding them in. Reserve a little Parmesan to top the soufflé.

20140413-074828.jpgCarefully pour the mixture into the prepared soufflé dish, making sure non gets on the rim/sides.

20140413-075020.jpgSprinkle with the reserved grated Parmesan and place in the preheated oven.

20140413-075128.jpgBake for about 25-30 minutes until golden brown. If you are using individual soufflé fidhes, decrease baking time to 17-20 minutes.

20140413-075307.jpgEnjoy! Can be served with a green salad as an accompaniment for a meal.

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.

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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.

Enjoy!

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.