Smoked Mackerel Tartine

Tartine is a French classic basically designating a slice of bread topped with something spread-maybe more commonly known as an ‘open-face sandwich’. Perfect for a brunch, a picnic or as appetizers cut up in bite-size pieces.

Historically sweet Tartines were a typical breakfast fare in France, topped with French butter and honey or homemade jam. They defined French children breakfasts for ages.

Nowadays savory Tartines have become increasingly popular: they are appetizing, simple, fun and ever changing depending on the ingredients at hand.

Here I am using a combination of flavors including the smokiness of the mackerel, the nutty taste of hazelnuts, sweetness of honey and the tart zing of passion fruit.

Ingredients for 4 servings:

  • 4 slices of dense multigrain bread from your local bakery
  • 12 oz smoked mackerel
  • 7 oz soft goat cheese
  • 4 small golden beets
  • 1/2 passion fruit
  • 1/2 bunch of watercress
  • A handful raw hazelnuts
  • Micro greens 
  • 2 tsp honey
  • Drizzles of hazelnut oil
  • Fleur de sel

Start by mixing the honey and goat cheese until fully combined. Spread a thick layer of honey goat cheese on each slice of bread. Wash the watercress, remove the stems, and place the leaves on top of the goat cheese mixture. Press them down so they stick to the cheese layer. Drizzle a little hazelnut oil and sprinkle some fleur de sel. Peel and thinly slice the golden beets. Arrange a layer on top of the watercress and drizzle a little additional hazelnut oil and fleur de sel. Cut a small filet of smoked mackerel and remove the skin. Place on top of the beets. Arrange some micro greens on the surface. Chop some hazelnuts. Cut the passion fruit in half to reveal its golden flesh and seeds. Finish with a few pieces of hazelnuts and drops of passion fruit pulp/seeds. Enjoy!

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Red Snapper with Fennel, Tomatoes and Tapenade

Baking a whole fish is an easy way to enjoy a healthy, fat-free and delicious main dish.  As much as I am a proponent of olive oil in almost all my recipes (even in baking at times), I do not use any oil to bake this fish.  Rather, the flavors of the vegetables, olives, herbs and garlic mix in the covered fish pan and infuse the flesh.

20131116-141318.jpgHere, I used a red snapper, but feel free to use other similar fish that you might find at your local fish market.  This is a great dish to serve with some roasted sweet potatoes.

The baking time depends on the weight of the fish. For a 2.5 lbs. fish, I baked it for about 45-50 minutes at a high temperature (425F).  You can prepare the recipe all the way to the point where you would normally put it in the oven but refrigerate it instead for a few hours until you are ready to bake it.

20131116-141417.jpgIngredients:

2.5 lb red snapper
1 fennel bulb
1 large red onion
1.5 lb. tomatoes
1 cup black olives, pitted
1 cup water
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
4 large garlic cloves, peeled, halved, center removed
6 rosemary springs
1 lemon, sliced, for presentation.

Preheat oven to 425 F.

20131116-141600.jpgPlace the water and vinegar at the bottom of the fish baking pan.

20131116-141651.jpgWash and trim the fennel.  Slice it lengthwise. Peel and slice the onion.

20131116-141736.jpgLayer the onion slices and fennel slices on the rack sitting above the vinegar water.  Add 3 springs of rosemary.

20131116-141843.jpgCut the tomatoes in half or quarters depending on size. Reserve.

20131116-141925.jpgPlace black olives, the leaves of 3 rosemary springs and garlic in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.

20131116-142007.jpgProcess until the mixture is smooth to obtain a tapenade.

20131116-142059.jpgAfter scaling the fish and cleaning the inside, make three deep incisions on either side, all the way down to the bone.

20131116-142156.jpgFill the inside and each incision with the tapenade.

20131116-142243.jpgPlace the fish on top of the bed of vegetables.  Add a little sea salt and ground pepper.

20131116-142340.jpgAdd the tomatoes and grind a little sea salt on the tomatoes. Bake for about 45 to 50 minutes.

20131116-142441.jpgTo serve, lift the rack out of the fish pan and transfer the fish onto a presentation platter.  Surround it by the vegetables, decorate with a few slices of lemon and some of the fennel leaves. Enjoy!

Brandade de Morue (Salt Cod Purée)

This specialty of Nimes was a common lunch item when we were growing up near Avignon. My mother would prepare it the night before, place it in the oven in the morning prior to leaving for school/work, and program the oven so that it would be ready to be served when we got back home for lunch. Back then every business closed religiously for lunch, and schools were on the same schedule. My parents picked us up from school at noon, we drove home to share lunch, my brothers and I would breathe the fresh air and play in the garden while my parent enjoyed their after lunch expresso, then they would drive us back in time to start at 2pm for the afternoon. Our school days typically ended at 4:30-5pm when we would come back home for ‘le gouter’.
As children, we LOVED coming home to this dish, even though it might contain a bit of garlic for the unaccustomed palate, this was the diet we grew up on: garlic and olive oil.
20131027-142830.jpg This dish can be served either as an appetizer, along with some grilled sliced baguette, or as an entrée, accompanied by other seasonal vegetables. Here I simply cut up some crudités to be used more as a ‘dip’, however, if you want a more authentic version and original flavors, I suggest you served this dish with toasted baguette the first time you make it.
20131027-142916.jpgIngredients for 4 servings:
1 lb salt cod, skinless and boned
1 lb potatoes
1 1/4 cups almond milk
3/4 cup olive oil
8 garlic cloves
a few springs of fresh parsley
juice of 1 lemon
zest of 1 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
2 oz parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400 F
Rinse and soak salt cod a full 24 hours before starting the preparation of this recipe, changing the water at least 4 times.
20131027-142955.jpgAfter soaking the salt cod (see instructions above), drain and rinse.
20131027-143051.jpgPeel, wash and cut the potatoes in large chunks.
20131027-143232.jpgPlunge the potatoes in a large pot of salted boiling water, return to a boil and keep cooking about 10-15 minutes at a rolling boil until the potatoes are tender. Drain, set aside.
20131027-143400.jpgPeel and cut the cloves of garlic in half. Remove the center part. Set aside.
20131027-143437.jpgZest and juice the lemon.  Set aside.

20131027-143519.jpgChop parsley finely.  Set aside.

20131027-143802.jpgPlace the salt cod in a large pot of cold water, bring to a simmer (do not boil), and drain and reserve.

20131027-143844.jpgHeat the almond milk and garlic in a separate pot.

20131027-143926.jpgAdd the salt cod, bring to a simmer, and continue simmering for about 10 minutes.

20131027-144008.jpgPlace the cod, garlic, half the almond milk, potatoes, lemon juice, lemon zest in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process till smooth, periodically adding more liquid from the almond milk.

20131027-144150.jpgHeat the olive oil and pour in the mixture through the feeder.  Keep processing until completely blended.

20131027-144230.jpgWhen all the ingredients are fully blended, (there should be no lumps from the potatoes), transfer to a large bowl.

20131027-144316.jpgAdd the parsley and black pepper and mix well with a wooden spoon.

20131027-144412.jpgBrush oil on the bottom and sides of 4 individual ramequins or cocottes (showing more on this photo because I doubled the recipe).

20131027-144521.jpgFill the cocottes almost to the top.  This preparation does not rise, so be sure to fill them as much as possible.

The recipe can be prepared ahead up to this point.  If this is so, cover the cocottes and refrigerate, up to one day, until ready to bake.

20131027-144710.jpgFreshly grate the parmesan finely.

20131027-144952.jpgSpread evenly over the top of each cocotte.

20131027-145201.jpgPlace in the preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes, till the tops are golden.

If you had refrigerated the cocotte, you’ll need to bake them a bit longer, maybe another 10 minutes until they turn golden.

20131027-145308.jpg Enjoy!

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.

Chef of Provence

Our culinary visit of Provence led us to exceptional chefs. Please enjoy photos of creations from Xavier Matthieu, chef of Le Phebus.

20130921-192048.jpg Tempura snails with licorice and fennel emulsion. A perfect ‘mise en bouche’.

20130922-065335.jpg
Pistou soup. The flavors were out of this world. A masterpiece.

20130922-065428.jpg Crayfish Jambalaya. Spicy and yet so delicate.

20130922-153826.jpgSaint Pierre with autumn squash and mushroom. Exquisite!

20130922-153948.jpg Purée de pommes de terre with black truffles. The best and smoothest texture ever coupled with amazing truffles.

20130922-154248.jpg Vanilla and anchovy ice cream with basil and lemon sherbet. Unexpectedly perfect combination.

20130922-154647.jpg Cherry macaroon, apple mousse and pâte de fruit. Sublime!
If your eyes and tastebuds can already anticipate how extraordinarily delicious these dishes are, just imagine how much fun it would be to learn how to prepare them!

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!