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!

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Kale with Black Olive and Pine Nuts

Since living in Chicago, I have discovered and enjoyed a wide variety of cabbages. My influence from the south of France infuses ingredients commonly used in provençal cuisine, so here I have paired kale with black olives and pine nuts. This recipe is quick, simple and only requires a few ingredients one typically has in the kitchen, and….delicious! I hope you savor the results.

20130908-063304.jpgKale is an excellent vegetable with great health benefits. It is rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Choose kale that is deep in color and firm. I prefer to use it either raw or briefly sautéed, as in this recipe, to preserve the maximum benefits.

20130908-063352.jpgIngredients:
1/2 lb organic kale
1/2 organic white onion
1/4 cup pine nuts
8-10 olive oil cured black olives from Provence
1 Tbsp grape seed oil
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper

20130908-063456.jpgPeel, slice and chop the onion finely.

20130908-063629.jpgHeat the oil in a large pot and add the onion. Cook until translucent.

20130908-063708.jpgMeanwhile, mince the kale finely.

20130908-065845.jpgAdd the to the pot and simmer a few minutes. Add salt and pepper.

20130908-065935.jpgChop the black olives. Peel, crush and chop the garlic.

20130908-070137.jpgAdd olives and garlic to the kale. Stir and simmer a few minutes longer.

20130908-071124.jpgDry roast the pine nuts in a pan.

20130908-071156.jpgAdd them to the kale, mix well, serve as an accompaniment, and 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!

Lemon Basil Broccoli Soup | Vegan

A fragrant and light soup, very simple and quick to make.

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This soup is a favorite for the simplicity of its ingredients and of making it. It is best eaten immediately, to preserve the freshness of its taste.

20130427-213330.jpg Ingredients:
2 heads broccoli
1/2 yellow onion
4 cups water
3 cloves garlic
1 1/2 once fresh basil leaves
3 Tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste

20130428-154941.jpg Cut the broccoli in small pieces and roughly chop the half onion.

20130428-155216.jpgPlace the olive oil in the bottom of the pot on medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and gently cook over medium-low heat for a few minutes.

20130428-155253.jpgAdd the broccoli, water, salt and cover.

20130428-155630.jpgBring to a boil and simmer for about 8-10 minutes, with the cover on.

20130428-155943.jpgMeanwhile, prepare the garlic. Peel the cloves, cut in half and remove the inner stems.

20130428-160101.jpgPlace the basil leaves and garlic in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Reserve a few of the smaller leaves for decoration.

20130428-161021.jpgProcess until the garlic and basil form a rough paste.

Add the cooked soup and continue to process in batches.

20130428-161405.jpgAdd the lemon juice at this time.

20130428-161514.jpgThe soup should have a slightly rough consistency. Adjust seasoning by adding salt if needed.

20130428-170602.jpgServe in bowls, decorating with lemon zests and a few basil leaves. Enjoy!