Butternut Squash, Hazelnut and Sage Mousse

A savory dessert or appetizer.

After a series of acorn squashes, we started receiving butternut squashes from our CSA. Having a great deal of fresh sage on hand and some hazelnuts, I decided to make a butternut squash mousse combining these ingredients.  The result turned out to be delicious and complimentary flavors and just as perfect for a savory dessert or an appetizer.

For those of you who are not keen on sweet desserts, try making this in small molds, even muffin molds, and serve warm at the end of a meal.

20131201-093852.jpgAs a mousse, and not a soufflé, this dish does not rise much.  So it is easy to unmold and serve on a platter or individual plates for smaller versions.

1 butternut squash (about 2.2 oz)
1 large shallot (about 3 oz)
3 oz hazelnuts
1/4 oz fresh sage
3 organic brown eggs
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter to brush the baking mold(s)
Freshly ground sea salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F.
Bake butternut squash in the same way as for the acorn squash in the Acorn Squash and Kale salad recipe, for about 45 minutes. Once soft to the touch, take out the squash of the oven, and set aside until cool enough to handle. Then, turn the oven temperature down to 350 F.

Set the butter out at room temperature so that it softens.

20131201-094429.jpgChop the shallot finely by slicing it horizontally, then vertically in perpendicular directions, while holding on to the roots.

20131201-094519.jpgHeat the olive oil in a skillet on medium high, add the shallots once the oil is hot and immediately turn down the heat to low. Let cook slowly till translucent.

20131201-094903.jpgMeanwhile, prepare the sage.  Remove the leafs from the stems.

20131201-095011.jpgChop the leaves finely and reserve a few whole leaves for decoration.

20131201-095217.jpgPlace the hazelnuts in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process by pulsing.

20131201-095312.jpgKeep pulsing until roughly ground.

20131201-095621.jpgOnce the butter is softened, brush it on the bottom and sides of the baking dish.  It is important to use softened butter and not hasten the process by melting it because it will not adhere as well to the sides of the dish.

20131201-095724.jpgPlace about 2 Tbsps. of ground hazelnuts on the bottom of the dish and swirl it around so that the hazelnuts coat up to one third of the dish.

20131201-095822.jpgReserve another tablespoon of ground hazelnuts for decoration.

20131201-100045.jpgPour the remaining hazelnuts from the food processor bowl into the skillet where the shallots have become translucent. Mix well.

20131201-100136.jpgKeep cooking on low heat, turning occasionally, until the hazelnuts brown slightly to develop their nutty flavor. Season with salt and pepper.

20131201-100322.jpgMeanwhile, the butternut squash should be cool enough to handle.

20131201-100445.jpgPress it through a ricer into a bowl, or you might also purée it in a food processor if you prefer.

20131201-100555.jpgYou should obtain a smooth purée, with no lump.

20131201-100708.jpgAdd the sage and hazelnut/shallot mixture. Mix well.

20131201-101013.jpgSeparate the egg whites from the yolks.  Place the egg whites in a large bowl to whisk them.

20131201-101109.jpgIncorporate the egg yolks, one at a time, by mixing rapidly into the squash mixture (make sure it is cool so as to not cook the eggs).  Season with salt and pepper.

20131201-101331.jpgWhisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until firm.

20131201-101426.jpgAdd one third of the egg whites to the squash mixture and mix thoroughly.  Then add the remaining egg whites and fold them in.

20131201-101532.jpgKeep folding the egg whites until you obtain a uniform airy mixture.

20131201-101652.jpgPour into the baking dish (or separate smaller dishes) and bake in the 350 F. oven for about 30-40 minutes depending on the size of the dishes you are using.

20131201-101741.jpgWhen the sides of the mousse come away from the dish, the mousse is ready.

20131201-101845.jpgUnmold it, decorate with ground hazelnuts and sage and enjoy immediately!


One last Chef of Provence

Wrapping up our visit, in the Papal city of Avignon, adjacent to the Palace, the restaurant of Master Chef Christian Etienne is a must if you are in the area. Please enjoy below a tomato menu…

20131005-121131.jpg Tomato juice as a palate opener.

20131005-121321.jpgTomato on a bed of tomato goat cheese.

20131005-125055.jpgGaspacho of green and yellow tomatoes.

20131005-121418.jpgTomato mousse in a rail of tomato cracker with tempura snail on tomato coulis.

20131005-125406.jpgMediterranean fish with tomato confit and eggplant caviar.

20131005-125528.jpgMediterranean fish with tomato risotto.

20131005-125630.jpgConversations with wine pairing from the sommelier.

20131005-125749.jpgChocolate cake, mousse, fondant.
20131005-132413.jpgRaspberry cake with fig.

20131005-130139.jpgTomato sherbet.

20131005-130240.jpg After dessert “Mignardises”: Macaroons, Caneles, Pates de Fruits.

Hoping you enjoyed this Provence Chefs series.  Next week we start autumn vegetables back in Chicago 🙂

Another Chef of Provence

Continuing our culinary sojourn brought us to Saint Rémy de Provence in Les Alpilles. At the heart of the village is an exquisitely classy and discrete restaurant: La Maison Jaune. Please enjoy the following creations from François Perraud.

20130928-214124.jpg Delicious ‘mise en bouche’ with herb and garlic olives, olive oil AOC from La Vallée des Baux, and…

20130928-214459.jpg Zucchini soup, quail egg with tomato confit.

20130928-214647.jpgPurple artichokes with goat cheese and herb vinaigrette.

20130928-215050.jpg Cantaloupe from Cavaillon with carrots and radishes accompanied by a vinaigrette with mustard from Meaux.

20130928-215526.jpg Marinated Red Label Scottish salmon with roe, capers, tomato and herbs.

20130928-215708.jpg Steamed fish with seasonal vegetables.

20130928-220608.jpgGoat cheese with fig bread and strawberry jam.

20130928-221538.jpgPineapple carpaccio with vanilla and herb served with ‘pain d’épice’.

20130928-221842.jpg Walnut and hazelnut tart served with fresh citrus and strawberry syrup.

20130928-222324.jpgKumquat, nougat and pate de fruit.
Trusting you enjoy the sharing of these images.

Hazelnut Praline Flan for Leslie

Flan was a regular staple at the end of a meal in my family. It is easy to make in advance and keeps well refrigerated and much lighter than a crème brûlée. My mother used cubes of sugar to make caramel, and knowing exactly how many sugar cubes to use to make caramel made it fast and easy. Here I’m using almond milk as a way to make this recipe lactose free, but feel free to use other milk if you do not have lactose intolerance in your family.

20130902-003153.jpgFor this recipe I decided to add hazelnut praline because a dear friend of my boyfriend loves hazelnut desserts and I made this one in Leslie’s honor. It takes a few extra steps to make the praline, and it is well worth it.

For the flan:
3 farm fresh eggs
2 cups organic almond milk
4 Tbsp organic sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the hazelnut praline:
1 Tbsp grape seed oil
1/2 cup hazelnuts (shelled and preferably skin removed)
3/4 cup organic sugar
3 Tbsp water

For the caramel:
1/2 cup organic sugar
2 Tbsp water

Sugar thermometer
4-6 individual ramequins or terrines with lids (depending on size)
Large baking dish for the water bath
Preheat oven to 375F

20130902-003639.jpgIf the hazelnut still have skins, place them in the oven on a baking sheet in a single layer for a few minutes.

20130902-004109.jpgTake them out of the oven before they brown and set aside until cool enough to handle.
Once cooled, rub them between your hands to remove the skins.

20130902-065923.jpg Making the hazelnut praline:
Brush a thin layer of oil on a marble surface or a baking sheet.
Place sugar and water in small sauce pan.

20130902-070309.jpgMelt sugar into caramel until temperature reaches 130 C (266 F).

20130902-070536.jpgAdd the whole hazelnuts. Continue cooking.

20130902-070626.jpgThe sugar will initially react to the hazelnuts by crystallizing. Keep cooking, mixing vigorously using a wooden spoon.

20130902-070711.jpgOnce the caramel is dark brown, remove the pan from the heat. Be sure not to over cook the caramel, otherwise it will burn and you’ll have to start over.

20130902-070754.jpgPour it immediately onto the oiled marble or baking sheet, spreading the hazelnuts so they do not overlap.

20130902-070939.jpgOnce cooled and hardened, break it up by hitting it with a rolling pin.
Place the broken pieces into a food processor fitted with a steel blade.

20130902-071044.jpgProcess until you obtain a granular powder. Set the praline aside.

20130902-071125.jpgFor the caramel, place the sugar and water in a small pan and cook until dark brown.

20130902-071207.jpgRemove from the heat and pour into the ramequins.

20130902-071244.jpgImmediately sprinkle a layer of praline powder so it sticks to the caramel.

20130902-071343.jpgPour the almond milk into a pan and heat until boiling.

20130902-071541.jpgMeanwhile, place three eggs into a mixing bowl.

20130902-071621.jpgAdd the vanilla and whisk the eggs until completely blended.

20130902-071735.jpgAdd the sugar while whisking vigorously until the mixture is pale yellow and foamy, and has doubled in volume. Note: please keep whisking while adding sugar to the eggs otherwise the sugar will “cook” the eggs.

20130902-071902.jpgAdd the hot milk into the egg mixture continuing to whisk until fully incorporated.
Note: it is important that you pour the hot milk into the bowl with the eggs and not the other way around. If you added the egg mixture into the hot milk, it would cook the eggs.

20130902-071941.jpgUsing a ladle, pour the mixture equally into each ramequin. Feel free to fill them up as much as you wish. These will not rise during baking, and rather sink once cooled.

20130902-072031.jpgPlace the ramequins into a baking dish with a water bath.
Place in the oven for about 40 minutes until the top is brown and feels settled.

20130902-072342.jpgOnce cooked, take out of the oven and let cool. Then place the lids on top of each ramequin and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

20130902-072426.jpgWhen ready to serve, run the blade of a knife around the flan.

20130902-072942.jpgPlace a plate on top and reverse it upside down, shaking a bit to ensure the flan detaches from the ramequin onto the serving plate.

20130902-073017.jpgSprinkle additional praline powder and decorate with a few extra hazelnuts. Enjoy!

Cardamon Honey Chocolate Mousse

An old fashion dessert that remains a favorite of all ages across cultures. It is fluffy, tasty and a perfect ending to a dinner in any season. Best served in individual ramequins or cocottes, chocolate mousse can be prepare a day ahead and, as such, perfectly suited for entertaining.
20130718-153311.jpg The flavor of the mousse depends on the type of chocolate. Personally, I enjoy particularly dark chocolate and used 99% in this recipe. I understand that not a lot of taste buds are accustomed to this flavor, and using 70-85% is probably more along the lines of what most of you will truly enjoy. Either way, be sure to use a high quality chocolate Callebaut, Valrhona, Guittard, Sharffen Berger.

140g or 5 oz dark chocolate
60g or 2oz butter (I rarely use butter, and I like to use a high quality French butter when I do. It has a lower water content than butter typically found in the U.S. and a smoother, tastier finish)
3 eggs plus two egg whites
1/4 cup honey (up to 3/8 cup if you like it sweeter)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cardamon (can be omitted, or more added if you like a stronger cardamon flavor)
Pinch of salt

20130716-213738.jpgChop chocolate to ensure even melting.

20130716-213813.jpgMelt chocolate and butter ‘au bain marie’, which is basically over a water bath in a double boiler, by placing the pot containing the chocolate and butter over a pot of water on the stove, set at medium low heat. I like using a chopstick to mix melting chocolate.

20130716-213852.jpgOnce the chocolate and butter are completely melted, remove the heat source and add honey and cardamon. Mix well and let cool.

20130716-213935.jpgSeparate egg yolks of the 3 eggs. Add the additional two egg whites in a mixing bowl for a total of 5. Adding the extra egg whites makes the mousse extra light and fluffy.

20130716-214011.jpgOnce the chocolate mixture is cool enough so it won’t cook the egg yolks, add each egg yolk one at a time, immediately whisking vigorously to ensure they mix well without cooking from the heat of the melted chocolate.

20130716-214058.jpgWhisk egg whites with a pinch of salt and a little. vanilla till firm peaks form. For those who enjoy a sweeter tasting mousse, you might add a couple tablespoons of sugar to the egg whites while whisking.

20130716-214146.jpgAdd 1/4 of the egg whites to the chocolate mixture.

20130716-214230.jpgWhisk together to fully homogenize.

20130716-214339.jpgPour this mixture over the remaining fluffy egg whites and carefully fold them together with a curved rubber spatula.

20130716-214519.jpgContinue folding until fully incorporated but do not over mix, otherwise you’ll loose the lightness of the air in the egg whites.
20130718-153348.jpgPour in individual serving dishes, preferably with a cover to refrigerate.
20130718-153437.jpg Refrigerate for a minimum of four hours to allow the mousse to set. You’ll obtain best results and consistency if you prepare them a day ahead so they sit overnight.


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!