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!

Spicy Chickpea Herb Salad

The simplest and fastest to way to make a last minute picnic to go, quick meal for impromptu lunch guests, or side dish/salad to accompany a main dish.

20130705-212427.jpg This recipe includes a variety of herbs as we would use in the south of France for a flavorful meal and also some jalapeño in addition to the garlic for an additional kick the American way.

20130705-212511.jpgingredients:
2lbs cooked chickpeas (if dried, soak them the day before and cook them in salted boiling water)
1 orange pepper (I typically like using red but the red peppers at the market were not organic so I picked an organic one over the color)
1/4 jalapeño pepper
2 garlic cloves
A handful of each herbs: parsley, basil, chives, thyme
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
4 Tbsp grape seed oil
Freshly ground salt and pepper, about 1/4 tsp each
4-5 oz arugula

20130705-213407.jpgStart by mixing the salt, pepper and mustard.

20130705-215259.jpgAdd vinegar and mix well to dissolve mustard.

20130705-215341.jpgPrepare two garlic cloves and 1/4 jjalapeño pepper.

20130705-215428.jpgRemove the white lining and seeds from the jalapeño.

20130706-065736.jpgPeel garlic, slice in half and remove the inner part.

20130707-151744.jpgCrush the garlic and cut the jalapeño in thin stripes.

20130707-151835.jpgChop both finely.

20130707-151937.jpgAdd to the mustard and vinegar.

20130707-152034.jpgMix well and seaside.

20130707-152111.jpgGently remove the thyme leaves from the stems. set aside.

20130707-152153.jpgPrepare parsley leaves and basil leaves by removing the stems and clustering them together, stacking the basil leaves on top of one another.

20130707-152239.jpgChop all the herbs finely, including the chives, parsley and julienne the basil leaves. Set aside

20130707-152320.jpgPrepare the orange pepper by cutting it in half, remove the stem, further cut into quarters and remove the inner white skin and seeds.

20130707-152541.jpgSlice each quarter into strips and dice.

20130707-152647.jpgAdd the grape seed oil to the vinaigrette.

20130707-152741.jpgMix in the orange pepper and let marinate a few minutes.

20130707-152823.jpgAdd the chickpeas and herbs.

20130707-152907.jpgMix thoroughly. The salad can be prepared ahead at this time and refrigerated.

20130707-153007.jpgBefore serving, add arugula. If taking on a picnic pack arugula separately and add at last minute.

20130707-153156.jpgMix the arugula with the other ingredients to ensure it is well coated with the vinaigrette.

20130707-153245.jpgTo serve as a lunch meal, you might add some avocado

20130707-153345.jpgor heirloom tomatoes. Enjoy!

Pain d’Epice – Honey bread with cinnamon, orange and star anise

A traditional and naturally healthy dense spongy bread. This childhood recipe contains no fat and no dairy, and brings high energy.
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Served at tea time, home from school with a bowl of hot chocolate, as a dessert to accompany poached pears or strawberry soup, or to take along an adventure as an energy snack. This bread keeps well for a few days wrapped at room temperature. Do not refrigerate.
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Ingredients:
It is best to weight the ingredients directly into the mixing bowls (with a zeroing scale) for more accurate quantities, especially when using honey which tends to stick to the sides of measuring cups.
9 oz rye flour
9 oz honey
1/2 cup hot water
Zest of 1 orange
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp crushed star anis seed
1/2 tsp cinnamon
a Tbsp of grape seed oil to coat the baking pan
Preheat the oven to 325 F.
20130526-095017.jpg Star anis is very hard when dried and it is best to use a mortar and pestle to crush it.
20130526-095102.jpg Crush and ground the star anis until it is reduced to a powder.
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Mix the dry ingredients, adding the baking soda, cinnamon and ground star anis to the rye flour. Zest the orange and add at this time as well.
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In a separate bowl, whisk together the honey and hot water until you obtain a homogenous liquid mixture.
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Add the honey-water to the dry ingredients and mix well to fully incorporate into a smooth batter. The consistency should be thick.
20130526-095246.jpg Oil a baking pan with some grape seed oil and pour batter in the pan. Place in the preheated oven to bake.
20130526-095437.jpg Check after about 30 minutes with a toothpick or the tip of a knife by inserting it into the center of the bread. The stick should come out clean. This bread remains dense and does not rise much. Once cooked, let sit for a few minutes out of the oven until cool enough to handle. Turn the baking pan upside down and the bread should come out easily.
20130526-095534.jpg You might decorate with orange slices and cinnamon sticks. Cut in about 1/2 inch-thick slices. Enjoy!