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!

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Pampadelle from Ardèche

It has been a little while since my last post. I started a few other endeavors which have been absorbing a great part of my time. Luckily all in the culinary world. More on my developing ‘cuisine’ ventures soon.
This morning, while making breakfast, I decided to take the time to snap a few photos so I could share an old tradition my grandmother used to make for me: pampadelle.

20140320-220211.jpgI don’t believe anyone in France would know what Pampadelle is unless they are actually from Ardèche. It is simply a type of crêpe or flat pancake made with an egg, a little flour and some water or milk. Here’s the new version I prepared to rediscover my origins.

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Ingredients:
1 fresh farm egg
1 Tbsp amaranth flour (or all purpose)
1 Tbsp buckwheat flour (or all purpose)
2 Tbsp sliced almonds
3 Tbsp coconut milk
A few drops vanilla
A little maple syrup
A little grape seed oil

20140321-234521.jpgWhisk the egg with a few drops of vanilla until completely mixed.

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Add 3 tablespoons of coconut milk and thoroughly mix.

20140321-234659.jpgAdd the Amaranth and Buckwheat flours. Continue to mix.

20140321-234806.jpgAdd a generous tablespoon of sliced almonds and mix together.

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Heat a little grapeseed oil in a heavy bottom pan and pour the mixture, swirling the pan to make sure the batter coats the entire bottom of the pan.

20140321-235018.jpgCook on medium heat until the sides lift, or detach from the pan.

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Flip it to cook the other side briefly.

20140321-235300.jpgServe and top with a few additional sliced almonds and a little maple syrup.

Enjoy!

Hazelnut Praline Chocolates

Hazelnut praline chocolates are heavenly. A great gift for Valentine’s Day! I had recently made some hazelnut praline flans and had extra caramelized hazelnut praline. So, I decided to simply add some chocolate to make hazelnut praline chocolates. This recipe only made about a dozen, and they were gone in the blink of an eye.  So you may double or even triple the recipe.  Besides, the larger quantity you make, the easier it is to dip/coat the chocolates. And every one will be thankful you made more rather than less.

20140127-172055.jpgTempering chocolate is a very precise technique and it is imperative to follow the instructions.  If the chocolate rises above or cools below the indicated temperatures, you will have to start the whole tempering procedure over from the beginning. The technique described below is for dark chocolate.  The temperatures vary for milk or white chocolate.20140127-172322.jpgIngredients:

2 1/3 oz Caramelized hazelnut praline (see 9/2/13 post: hazelnut praline flan for Leslie)
2/3 oz Dark chocolate (70% minimum)
1 3/4 oz Dark chocolate for coating
Toasted chopped almonds

Equipment: a chocolate thermometer for tempering the chocolate and a chocolate dipping fork.
20140127-172413.jpgMelt the 2/3 oz of dark chocolate gently in a double-boiler.

20140127-172505.jpgWhen the chocolate is completely smooth, remove from the heat and add the caramelized hazelnut praline.

20140127-173559.jpgMix well until fully incorporated.

20140127-173637.jpgShape into small balls with the palm of your hands.  Place on a plate and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to harden.

20140127-173720.jpgChop the 1 3/4 oz chocolate for tempering in preparation of coating/dipping.

20140127-173837.jpgPlace in a double boiler and slowly melt the chocolate for tempering. Tempering is an important step to ensure that the finished chocolates hold their shape, do not smudge, and have a shiny finish.

20140127-173925.jpgMeanwhile, toast the almond in a hot oven for a few minutes. They should be only slightly toasted, not burnt.

20140127-173959.jpgChop the toasted almonds finely and reserve.

20140127-174056.jpgMeanwhile the chocolate temperature should reach 128-130F.  Remove the chocolate from the heat source a degree or two below the desired temperature as the chocolate temperature will keep rising from the heat stored in the saucepan.

Once the chocolate has reach 128-130F, let it cool at ambient temperature (do not refrigerate) till it cools down to 81-82F by stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  To hasten the process, you may use a large piece of unmelted chocolate to stir instead of a wooden spoon, or slowly add grated chocolate.

Once the temperature reaches 81-82F, place the chocolate back on the double boiler and slowly raise the temperature to 88-89F.

Now your chocolate is tempered and ready for coating/dipping.

20140127-174158.jpgTake the pralines out of the refrigerator. Use the blade of a knife or small icing spatula to coat one layer of chocolate on the bottom (flat side) of the pralines.

20140127-174259.jpgAdd about a tablespoon-full of chopped toasted almonds to the tempered chocolate. Mix well. Keep the temperature at 88-89F by periodically placing the chocolate back on the double boiler.

20140127-174338.jpgUsing a chocolate dipping fork, place the chocolate-layer flat face of the praline on the fork.

20140128-121502.jpgDip in the tempered chocolate and remove excess from the bottom by sliding the blade of a knife underneath.

20140128-121607.jpgPlace on a plate to set, sprinkling a few extra toasted chopped almonds.

20140128-121931.jpgEnjoy!

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!

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!

Roasted Root Vegetables with Caramelized Onions

The fall season brings so many root vegetables from the farm to our table, that I relish in selecting which ones to combine and simply roasting them.  Their flesh becomes tender and they exude a very sweet, subtle, roasted scent.  Oh! The house smells so good while they cook!  A delicious welcome when guests arrive. Here, I prepared them with caramelized onions and my inherited Provençal tradition of enhancing dishes with garlic and oil cured black olives.

20131108-214726.jpgVery simple to prepare and easy to present with a bit of chopped fresh parsley.  In this preparation, the most essential ingredient is: TIME! You just can’t skip a step or hasten the process. You need time to slowly let the onions cook down and caramelize, and time to soften the root vegetables without burning them.

20131108-214824.jpgIngredients for 4 servings:
For the root vegetables
3 large carrots (or 6-8 smaller ones)
2-3 large parsnips
1 large rutabaga
1 large yam
4 dozens oil cured black olives
6 garlic cloves
2-3 Tbsps. olive oil
A few springs of parsley, chopped
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper

For the caramelized onions
2-3 red onions
2 Tbps. olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground salt

Preheat oven to 375F.

20131108-214906.jpgStart with the caramelized onions. Cut the onions in half. Trim the tips (not the roots) and peel them. Slice them thinly from the tip to the root. Discard the root.

20131108-214953.jpgHeat the olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions and stir to coat them with the olive oil. Reduce the heat to low-simmer and cook for about one hour until the onions caramelized, checking periodically (see below check points).

20131108-215141.jpg20 minute check. The onions have softened.

20131108-215301.jpg40 minute check. The onions started to shrink and scarcely caramelize.

20131108-215356.jpg60 minute check. The onions have shrunken further and caramelized more.

20131108-215450.jpgWhen the onions are caramelized, pour the balsamic vinegar at once to deglaze the pan. Season with a bit of sea salt. Set aside.

20131108-215557.jpgMeanwhile, peel and cut the carrots and parsnips evenly.

20131108-215646.jpgToss in a bowl with1 Tbsp. of olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread in a baking dish and place in the oven for about 20 minutes.

20131108-215740.jpgPeel and cut the rutabaga and yam evenly. Place in a bowl. Peel and cut the garlic in half. Remove the center of the garlic. Add to the bowl with the yam and rutabaga.  Add the black olives and toss with 1 Tbsp. of olive oil, sea salt and pepper.

20131108-215905.jpgAdd to the other root vegetables in the oven and continue baking for about 30-35 minutes. Check and toss the vegetables, then keep baking for another 15 minutes.

20131108-221220.jpgWhen the root vegetables are finished cooking, transfer the caramelized onions into the baking dish and toss to mix.

20131108-220120.jpgServe immediately, topped with some chopped parsley. 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!