Acorn Squash and Kale Salad with Lavender, Walnut Caramelized Onions

Enjoyed cold or warm, this salad combines autumn colors and fragrant flavors. It is easy to prepare the ingredients individually ahead of time and assemble them at the last minute for a Thanksgiving dinner or other get together. You can also add a few dried cranberries if you wish to make it a bit more festive.

20131122-053413.jpgIf you do not have lavender leaves, you can substitute for sage. A different flavor but one that also harmonizes well with the acorn squash.

20131122-053548.jpgIngredients:
1 1/2-1 3/4 lbs acorn squash
1/2 lb kale
1.5 lbs white onions
2 oz walnuts
6 Tbsp olive oil for vinaigrette + 2 Tbsp for caramelized onions and acorn squash
3 tsps balsamic vinegar for vinaigrette
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar for caramelized onions
1/8 oz lavender
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven 400F.

20131122-053804.jpgWash and cut the acorn squash in half. Remove the seeds with a large spoon.

20131122-053950.jpgBrush a little olive oil on the cut sides.

20131122-054133.jpgPlace the acorn squash cut side down in a baking pan and bake for about 35-40 minutes. The squash is cooked when it is slightly soft to the touch, but still somewhat firm.  You do not want to fully cook the squash as if you were making soup as the flesh will not hold well for the purpose of the salad and rather it would become pureed.

20131122-054323.jpgPeel the onions, cut in half and slice thinly.

20131122-054424.jpgHeat olive oil on medium high heat in a heavy cast iron pan and pour in the onions.  Reduce the heat to low. Mix well to coat them with the olive oil thoroughly. Simmer for about an hour, tossing periodically.

20131122-054531.jpgSeparate the stems from the lavender leaves.

20131122-070232.jpgChop the lavender leaves finely. Set aside.

20131122-131132.jpgChop the walnuts medium-coarse. Set aside.

20131122-131802.jpgRinse the kale carefully.  Gather the leaves together, with the stems on one end.  Cut off and discard the hard part of the stems and chop the leaves very finely.  Set aside.

20131122-132537.jpgMake a balsamic vinaigrette in a bowl large enough to contain the chopped kale. Whisk together the vinegar, salt and pepper.

20131122-150822.jpgAdd the olive oil in a stream slowly and continue whisking vigorously to transform the mixture into a well homogenized sauce. Set aside.

20131122-203927.jpgWhen the acorn squash is cooked, turn each half upside down to release the steam and let cool for handling.

20131122-204023.jpgPlacing each half of the acorn squash cut side down onto a cutting board, cut through the skin using a serrated knife into thick slices.

20131122-204158.jpgPeel each slice carefully.  Set aside.

20131122-204314.jpgBy now, the onions should have mostly caramelized. Add the walnuts to the pan and keep on low heat for a few minutes longer.

20131122-204413.jpgAdd the balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan and turn off the heat.

20131122-204512.jpgPlace a few slices of acorn squash on each plate and brush a little bit of the vinaigrette on the top of each slice.

20131122-204601.jpgToss the sliced kale in the large bowl with the vinaigrette and display the kale around each acorn squash slice for presentation.

20131122-204943.jpgSprinkle with the caramelized onions and walnut mixture. Add the fresh lavender.  Enjoy!

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Leeks Vinaigrette with Walnuts

This simple and traditional dish is as delicious as a more sophisticated hors d’oeuvre.  This dish is a common find in Bistro cuisine, as by definition Bistro cooking must be easy, simple, fast and be able to be prepared in advance so it can be served quickly.  My cooking instructor from the Ritz once said that the French inherited the term Bistro in the time of Russian occupation of Paris, where ‘bistro’ means ‘quickly’, when Russians wanted to have a meal under two hours. At home, “Poireaux Vinaigrette” was a classic in my mom’s cooking repertoire.  Served as a common started for a lunch or a perfect opener for entertaining, it is also a great time saver as it can be prepared ahead of time.

20131020-091839.jpgCombining the leeks with walnuts and shallots adds texture and complimentary tastes. Look for young tender leeks as they’ll have a more delicate flavor. If you don’t find young leeks and the dark green parts are too tough, you can simply cut them off and use only the white/light green parts of the leeks for this recipe.  Then you can always use the dark trimmings sautéed or added to vegetable stock.

20131020-091926.jpgIngredients for 4 servings:
2 leeks
1/2 shallot
1/2 cup whole walnuts
2 tsp grainy mustard from Dijon ‘moutarde à l’ancienne’
2 tsp white wine vinegar
5 Tbsp olive oil (or more as needed)
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
A few parsley springs

20131020-092532.jpgCut the leeks in half lengthwise and rinse thoroughly to remove any dirt or sand that might be stuck between the leaves or on the bottom roots, where the leaves are attached. Trim the bottom roots slightly making sure the leaves remain attached.  You can further trim the roots after the leeks are cooked.

20131020-092608.jpgTrim the dark green tips as much as needed to keep only the more tender parts.

20131020-092653.jpgBring a large pot of salted water to a boil and plunge the leeks, bottom of the leeks in first.

20131020-092759.jpgAs soon as the leeks become soft enough to be more malleable (within the first minute), submerge the entire leaves and cook until tender, about 8-10 minutes.

20131020-092846.jpgRemove the leeks from the pot with tongs and set in a colander to drain.  Save the broth for soups or cooking lentils, quinoa, etc.

20131020-092948.jpgOnce the leeks have drained completely, set them on paper towels and pat them dry to absorb any excess water.

20131020-093056.jpgPeel and chop the shallot finely.

20131020-093247.jpgPlace the mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small bowl and mix thoroughly to blend all ingredients.

20131020-093328.jpgWhisk in the olive oil and add in the chopped shallots.

20131020-093503.jpgFinish trimming the root ends of the leeks.

20131020-093551.jpgArrange a leek onto each plate.

20131020-093708.jpgChop the parsley and walnuts.

20131020-093753.jpgPout the vinaigrette generously onto each leek.  Liberally sprinkle with walnuts and parsley. 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 🙂

Cabbage and Mango Salad

Light and easy. Raw cabbage paired with fresh mango and dates in a citrus vinaigrette. Crisp, refreshing and sweet.

20130913-162719.jpg Perfect as an appetizer or side salad. The simplicity of the ingredients makes it simple to create and healthy to enjoy.

20130913-162839.jpgIngredients:
1/2 cabbage
1 mango
8 pitted dates
1 lemon
A few springs of basil
4-5 tbsp olive oil
Freshly ground salt and cracked pepper

20130913-163138.jpgSlice the cabbage thinly.

20130913-163214.jpgThen chop it roughly.

20130913-163300.jpgCut the mango horizontally by laying it flat on a board lengthwise. Slide the knife on either side of the middle pit.

20130913-163337.jpgThen slice each half.

20130913-163432.jpgAnd remove the skin on each piece.

20130913-163609.jpgCube the slices.

20130913-194901.jpgMeanwhile in a large bowl, squeeze the lemon juice, and add salt and pepper.

20130913-194938.jpgAdd the olive oil.

20130913-195033.jpgWhisk all ingredients together until completely homogenized.

20130913-195114.jpgSlice the dates into small pieces.

20130913-195156.jpgChop the basil by laying one leave on top of another and thinly slicing.

20130913-195245.jpgAdd the cabbage to the bowl containing the citrus vinaigrette.

20130913-195327.jpgAdd all other ingredients.

20130913-195405.jpgCarefully mix well. Enjoy!

Green Peppers and Summer Tomatoes Salad

In our bright and sunny Ardèche summer days, my grandfather would come back from ‘le potager’ (vegetable garden) with the deliciously ripe tomatoes and green peppers he had just picked.
When I received the beautiful long and light colored green peppers and varieties of tomatoes from the farm this week, they reminded me of those Ardèche days and my memory was instantly bringing their flavors back to my taste buds. This is one of the simplest and easiest salads to prepare and most delicious so long as you have fresh farm ingredients.

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Some days we would add a few filets of anchovies to complete the plate. With or without the anchovies, the salad is full of flavors, with the crunchy freshness from the green pepper and the juicy sunshine bursting out of the ripe tomatoes.

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Ingredients:
4 slicer tomatoes
12 Juliet tomatoes
2 cups Sun Gold tomatoes
4 green peppers
A few springs fresh rosemary
12 anchovy filets (optional)
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 Tbsp olive oil
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper

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Slice the tomatoes thickly and evenly to form a bed on each plate.

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Core the green peppers, rinse them under running water to remove seeds.

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With a long and thin slicing knife, cut the inner white membranes being sure the leave the outer skin intact.

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Thinly slice the green pepper to create rings showing their outer shapes.

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Start to display sliced tomatoes and green peppers on plates.

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Quarter the Juliet tomatoes. Remove the stems of the Sun Gold tomatoes.

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Artfully arrange all the tomatoes on the plates.

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Remove the fresh and tender rosemary leaves from the stems.

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Chop them finely. Also chop the garlic.

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Place mustard, chopped rosemary, garlic, salt and black pepper in a small bowl. Mix well together.

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Add vinegar and olive oil. Mix vigorously to fully incorporate all ingredients.

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Drizzle rosemary vinaigrette over the plates. Sprinkle with extra chopped rosemary.

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Add anchovies if using and enjoy!

Anchoïade

This traditional summery sauce is served with crudités, which are basically raw vegetables. Usually some radishes, fennel, Belgium endive, or any other crisp vegetable you enjoy eating raw. It can be served as an appetizer, on a large platter shared between guests, or as a light lunch on individual plates.

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Infused with garlic and anchovies as the main ingredients, anchoïade is a rather strong flavored sauce. Only a small amount suffices to fully savor its distinct taste.

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Ingredients:
A bunch red radishes
1 fennel bulb
2 carrots
1 cauliflower
2 Belgium endives
4 oz anchovies preserved in oil
1/2 cup first cold press extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic (can use only 2 cloves if too strong)

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Clean radishes by trimming the greens and bathing them in a bowl of water, changing it a few times until the water is clear.

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Trim the ends and cut the radishes in halves or quarters. Set aside.

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Wash and cut the ends of the endives to unfold the leaves. Keep trimming the ends that hold the leaves together to easily separate them as you get closer to the center. Set aside.

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Peel and cut carrots in long sticks. Set aside.

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Cut the bottom leaves of the cauliflower and core the center.

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Cut off each floret starting from the bottom, and separate from the main stem going around.

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Cut each floret into smaller pieces. Set aside.

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Wash and cut the fennel bulb in half. Then slice thinly. Set aside.

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Start arranging vegetables on plate.

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Gather the anchoïade ingredients. Again, you may use less garlic and more olive oil depending on your personal preference.

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Peel and cut garlic in half. Place the cloves in the food processor fitted with a steel blade and process till finely chopped.

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Add the anchovies to the bowl containing the chopped garlic and process till smooth.

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Scrape down the garlic/anchovy mixture and place the cover back on top.

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Feed the olive oil through the neck of the cover while processing to fully incorporate. Taste to decide if you would like more olive oil.

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Pour the anchoïade in individual serving dishes.

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Finish arranging vegetables on plates. Place the anchoïade in the center.

20130805-095349.jpg if you are serving as a lunch, you might add a couple hard boiled eggs.
Enjoy!

Seared Tuna Niçoise

Salade Niçoise was our summer staple growing up in Provence. We picked fresh tomatoes and green beans from the garden every day, seasoned them with a garlic vinaigrette, and added the niçoise olives, tuna, anchovies and other classic ingredients to complete our lunch.

20130725-205406.jpgPersonally I like to sear fresh tuna steaks as much as possible, although a good quality canned tuna in olive oil makes a great alternative. Traditionally, we included hard boiled eggs for convenience of preparation ahead and have them on hand any time. If you have the luxury of cooking soft boiled eggs at the last minute, they add a delightful note of strong color, fine texture and delicate taste.

20130725-205510.jpgIngredients:
1 1/4 lb fresh tuna steak
3/4 lb French green beans
4 fresh farm eggs at room temperature
4 medium size red potatoes
4 vine ripe tomatoes
2 oz flat filets of anchovies
A bunch of fresh flat parsley
2 cloves garlic (or one large one)
2 dozen oil and herb cured black olives or niçoise olives
6 tsp Dijon mustard
6 tsp Balsamic vinegar
10-12 Tbsp Olive oil
2 Tbsp Grape seed oil
Freshly ground sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

20130726-054404.jpgSnap the ends of the green beans to pull the threads out if any.

20130726-054452.jpgPlunge them in salted boiling water.

20130726-054528.jpgBoil them till firm tender.

20130726-054608.jpgDrain them in a colander.

20130726-054649.jpgImmediately cool them in a bowl filled with ice water to stop the cooking process and preserve their bright green color.

20130726-054738.jpgWash the potatoes. Cut in half and in thick slices.

20130726-054819.jpgThen, cube all the potatoes.

20130726-054900.jpgBoil the cubed potatoes in lightly salted water till firm tender, and leave in water off the stove to keep them warm.

20130726-055009.jpgChop the parsley, garlic and cut the anchovy fillets into small pieces.
Separately, cook the eggs the same way as for the Asparagus with Salmon Caviar and Black Olive Vinaigrette (see recipe for photos), by bringing a pot of salted water to a boil, adding the eggs, bringing back to a boil and cooking for 3 minutes on timer. Drain hot water from pot and rinse the eggs under cold running water till cool. Set aside.

20130726-055208.jpgPrepare garlic vinaigrette into three separate bowls. Place 2 tsp of Dijon mustard in each, add 1/3 of the chopped garlic in each, a little salt and pepper, 2 tsp of balsamic vinegar, mix well. Add 3-4 Tbsp of olive oil and whisk.

20130726-055253.jpgWash and quarter the tomatoes. Remove the hard core. Slice thinly and place in one of the bowls with the garlic vinaigrette. Toss, add parsley and set aside.

20130726-055332.jpgPlace the green beans in another bowl containing garlic vinaigrette, add chopped parsley, toss and set aside.
For the third salad bowl, drain the potatoes and place them in the last bowl, add anchovy pieces, chopped parsley, toss and set aside.

20130726-055412.jpgWhile I was finishing preparing the salads, my boyfriend offered timely collaboration to sear the tuna. He oiled the fresh tuna steak with grape seed oil and cracked some black pepper. The grape seed oil has a higher smoke point and is well suited for high temperature cooking and can be safely used for searing.

20130726-055455.jpgPlace a tablespoon of grape seed oil in a cast iron pan on high heat to get the pan very hot.

20130726-055546.jpgOnce the pan is hot, place the tuna steak on the bottom and do not move it.

20130726-055629.jpgCover with a splatter guard to prevent the oil from spreading around the cooking surface.

20130726-055714.jpgOnce the bottom of the tuna steak is brown, turn it over with a metal spatula.

20130726-055759.jpgContinue cooking the other side, without moving it, until it browns the same way. Again, cover with the splatter guard.

20130726-055841.jpgWhen both sides are seared, place on a cutting board and slice the tuna thinly.

20130726-055916.jpgStart to plate the salads, peel the soft boiled egg.

20130726-060025.jpgAdd a few slices of seared tuna, some olives, cut the egg in half… Enjoy!