Piperade

One summer, our parents took us to Les Landes for a month, in the southwestern part of France, by the Atlantic Ocean. It was a summer of smelling the tall and dense pine forests, admiring the grounds covered with ferns, climbing the huge dunes of fine white sand and playing with the forceful rolling waves, most famous for surfing. All unfamiliar topography and vegetation compared to our Provençal surroundings. Our eyes were wide-open with curiosity and our taste buds were delighting in exciting new dishes.  In the evening we would wander by the colorful and fragrant freshly picked peppers and tomatoes at the outdoor markets and prepare the local specialty of Piperade. It was such a delicious combination of flavors as the vegetables were in their prime, we wanted to savor it every night!

 Yesterday morning, as I discovered what our weekly CSA delivery held from Tomato Mountain, these memories instantly permeated at the sight of onions, peppers, garlic and tomatoes. I couldn’t wait to recreate those scents and tastes reminiscent of a joyful childhood discovery. 

  The variety of vegetables grown in the Midwest is different from my original introduction to Piperade in Les Landes, nevertheless just as delectable. So feel free to adjust ingredients based on what’s available from your local market.

Ingredients:

  • 3 yellow Aura peppers 
  • 2 Carmen sweet peppers 
  • 5 Capperino mildly hot peppers 
  • 5 medium size tomatoes
  • 1 extra large white onion (about 500 g/ 1 lb)
  • 1 extra large garlic clove
  • 5 Tbps extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh thyme and bay leaves
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  Wash the yellow Aura peppers, cut in half, remove the core, seeds and white flesh, and thinly slice each half. Reserve. 
  Wash the Carmen sweet peppers, cut in half, remove the core, seeds and white flesh, and thinly slice each half. Reserve.   Wash the Capperino peppers, cut in half, remove the core, seeds and white flesh, and thinly slice each half. Reserve. 
  Wash the herbs and garlic clove without peeling it.   Peel the large white onion and cut in half. Thinly slice each half by hold down the root end. Discard the roots. 
  Heat the olive oil in a cast iron French oven. Add the onions and reduce the heat.   Place the herbs and garlic on top. 
  Arrange the sliced peppers as the top layer and cover with a lid. Cook on low heat for about 10-15 minutes.   Meanwhile wash and cut the tomatoes in quarters. Remove the hard green part attached to the stem and discard. Slice each quarter into smaller pieces. 
  After the onion and peppers have cooked for about 15 minutes, add the tomatoes as the last layer. Seasson with salt and pepper and cover with a lid. Cook over low heat for another 20-25 minutes.   Then remove the lid, and the vegetables will have shrunk. 
  Take the herbs and garlic out with a fork. Discard the herbs. You may keep the garlic for spreading on bread or crackers with a little butter as it will have become creamy inside.   Mix the vegetables with a wooden spoon to combine the flavors. 
  Serve hot or cold, either immediately or let sit to further infuse the flavors. Delicious on its own or with some eggs scrambled with red pepper flakes. 

Enjoy!

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Watermelon and Chia Seeds Soup

Watermelon soup is a delicious, refreshing, and easy summer dish requiring very little time to prepare. It can appear on the table in no time. Equally satisfying either as an appetizer or as a dessert.  Here, paired with chia seeds to add texture, lime and ginger for a zing, and some fresh mint or lemon verbena for a variation of flavors. 

  Ingredients:

  • 4 lb / 1 kg 800 g watermelon flesh
  • 6 Tbsp/ 60 g chia seeds
  • 1 1/2 oz / 40 g fresh ginger
  • 2 limes
  • 1/2 oz / 15 g fresh mint or lemon verbena

  Peel and slice the ginger root.   Cut both ends of the limes and stand it upright on a wood board for slicing off the peel. 
Slice the peel off all the way around, being sure to remove the rind.     Quarter each lime. 
  Remove mint (or lemon verbena) leaves from the stems and reserve the nicer looking ones for serving.   Place lime, ginger and mint (or lemon verbena) at the bottom of a standing blender bowl. 
  Cut the watermelon into large pieces and discard the rind.    Add the watermelon to the other ingredients in the blender and process until smooth, in batches if necessary. 
  Pour the watermelon soup into a bowl and add the chia seeds.  Mix well, cover and refrigerate.  Serve chilled with mint or lemon verbena. You might also extra chia seeds on top for the presentation.

Enjoy!

English Pea and Carrot Soup with Mint and Coriander

This silky smooth soup announces springtime and can be served hot or cold. Finished in an olive oil emulsion instead of cream, it gains a creamy texture while maintaining a lightness of taste and texture. The subtlety of its seasoning, carrot-coriander and English pea-mint, adds a complex yet delicate flavor.Preparing the two soups in separate batches and pouring them together just at serving time not only adds a colorful touch, it also preserves the integrity of the distinct flavors.Ingredients for 4 servings:

  • 500g/1.2lbs organic carrots
  • 1 kg/2.4lbs fresh English peas in their pods (or about 500g/1.2lbs shelled)
  • 1 tsp coriander grains
  • 20g/0.7oz fresh mint (a few sprigs)
  • 12 Tbsp olive oil
  • Coarse sea salt for cooking
  • Fleur de sel

Start by grinding the coriander with a mortar and pestle. Set aside.  Wash the mint and remove the stems. Set the leaves aside.Shell the fresh English peas by pressing each pod between your fingers to release the peas.You should have about half the weight in peas and can discard the shells.Peel and slice the carrots thinly so they cook quickly and evenly preserving most nutrients.Bring two pots of lightly salted water to a rolling boil. One for  the carrots and one for the peas.Plunge the carrots in one of the pots. Return to a boil. Lower the heat and cook on medium for about 10-12 minutes.Meanwhile plunge the peas in the other pot of boiling water.When all the peas float up to the surface, about 5 minutes, they are cooked.Remove the peas from the pot with  a skimmer into a bowl, preserving the cooking liquids for adding to the soup. When the carrots are tender remove them from the pot with a skimmer in the same way as for the peas, reserving the cooking liquid. Place the peas in a tall beaker with 6 tbsp of olive oil and some of the pea cooking liquid. Process with an immersion blender, adding more liquid as needed, up to 2-2 1/4 cups of cooking liquid total.  Place back into the pot, after discarding the excess liquid, add the mint leaves and process until fully blended. You will obtain a somewhat grainy texture.Pour the pea soup in a chinois or fine mesh strainer.Over a bowl to recuperate a smooth textured soup. Press as much of the liquid as possible. You can reserve the pulp for another use (let me know if you’d like some suggestions).  Scrape the outer pulp into the soup.   Whisk until homogenous.  Adjust seasoning with some Fleur de sel. Set aside.Place the carrots in a tall beaker.   Process with an immersion blender adding 6 Tbps of olive oil and some of the cooking liquid from the carrots.   Continue processing until smooth.  Transfer to a bowl. Add the freshly ground coriander and adjust the consistency with more cooking liquid until it reaches the same texture as the pea soup. Again, about 2-2 1/4 cup of added liquid total.  Pour both soups into each serving bowl simultaneously.   This way both soups retain their separateness. Using a spoon, gently mix the two on the surface.  To make a design.  And finish with a touch of herbs, chives or mint. Enjoy!

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!

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.

IMG_2591.JPG
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!