Monday, December 20, 2010

Seared Scallops on Parmesan risotto with a Balsamic Vinegar Reduction


Though I hated them as a kid, now I adore scallops. This recipe is inspired by something I saw on TV recently which reminded me of a delicious risotto and scallop dish that my friend Kate prepared once in St. Louis. Great for a dinner party because they are quick to prepare, so long as you make the risotto in advance. I made this as an appetizer with 2 scallops per person, but I'd recommend more if you intend it as a main dish.





Ingredients:
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 small white onion, chopped finely
1 cup arborio rice
5-6 cups stock, chicken or vegetable
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2-3 large scallops per person
1 tbl butter
salt and pepper
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
 Instructions

1. Place stock in a large sauce pan and heat until simmering.
2. Put 1 tsp olive oil in a large sauce pan and once heated, add onions. Once the onions are soft, add the cup of rice and stir.
3. Once the rice has small a small white dot in the center, add the white wine and cook until reduced. Then add 1/2 cup of stock at a time and let the rice absorb it before adding more. Stir frequently, and continue until all of the liquid has been used.
4. Heat a frying pan and melt butter on surface. Lightly salt and pepper the scallops and place on the pan. Sear on both sides, for a minute or two on each side, or until slightly browned.
5. At the same time, put the 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan over heat, whisking frequently until reduced by about half.
6. Turn the heat off the risotto and mix in the cheese.
7. Assemble on a plate - the risotto first, then place the scallops on top, and drizzle balsamic vinegar reduction on the top. Enjoy!
one of my favorite fish market stalls here in Paris

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Egyptian Discoveries: the best chicken fingers ever!











The pyramids were awesome. But one of my other favorite discoveries in my recent trip to Egypt has completely revamped an old classic for me: the chicken finger. I've made these hundreds of times, always with the same straightforward technique - dip chicken finger in beaten egg mix, dip into bread crumbs, pan fry. I've eaten them even more times (Howlers in college, anyone?!), but they can be difficult - often the frying makes them dry out inside. How I've been missing out!

I was lucky enough to have a few delicious traditional Egyptian meals at my friend's home (a few of which I am hoping to try out in the near future), one of which included fried chicken fingers. This was easily the best chicken I've ever tasted. I was seriously tempted to devour the entire platter. Luckily, my manners restrained me, and instead I asked my friend Jacinthe what made them so delicious, moist, and succulent. She let me in on a little secret - yogurt! Marinading them in yogurt makes them hold in the moisture, and also takes away that raw chicken smell. When I got back yesterday, even though I was exhausted, I decided to try my hand at this chicken. Here's what I did, modeled on her example:

Chicken Fingers

What you need:
1 lb chicken fingers
2 cups plain or Greek yogurt
1 tsp herbs de Provence, or dried oregano, or any other green herb you like
2 eggs, beaten (I used just the yolks this time because I was saving the whites for a macaron batch, but either is fine)
salt and pepper
3 tbl olive oil

1. If you like your chicken thin, tenderize with a meat hammer or rolling pin.
2. Combine yogurt, herbs, eggs, and salt and pepper in a bowl.
3. Add chicken and stir into marinade. Leave in the fridge for 30 minutes at least.
4. Coat the chicken with bread crumbs.
5. Pan fry in olive oil.
6. Enjoy. Divine. Thank you, Jacinthe, for saving the chicken finger!

It was great to bring a bit of Egypt into my Paris apartment as the snow swirled around outside!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Spicy-Ginger Encrusted Tuna with a White Wine Demi-Glaze

This was so delicious that I had to share it right away! Really, it came from using up what I had in my fridge/freezer/kitchen, but the result was simply amazing!

Spicy-Ginger Encrusted Tuna with a White Wine Demi-Glaze
served with mashed potatoes and fresh leeks

What you need for this amazing on a platter:
1 lb tuna filets
1/2 cup dry white wine
olive oil
1 large piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced finely (be sure to go with the grain to prevent shredding)
3 large garlic cloves, 1 smushed and diced, the other 2 just smushed
1 tsp dried thyme (or 2 tsp fresh thyme)
1 tsp cayenne pepper (or 2 tsp red pepper flakes)
1 tbl white flour
1 lb leeks, fresh cleaned and chopped
a dash of nutmeg
4 tbl butter
3 large russet potatoes (or several smaller red/white potatoes, if you prefer), peeled and cut into chunks
2 tbl creme fraiche our 1 cup milk
salt and pepper

Directions

1. Cover potatoes with water, a few drops of olive oil, and salt, and turn on to boil. These will need to boil for 20-30 minutes, and to know they are ready for mashing, test one for softness.
2. While the potatoes are cooking, chop your ginger and garlic, and mix the pieces with the thyme, cayenne pepper, 1 tbl white flour, and salt and pepper on a small plate.
3. When the potatoes have been boiling for about 15 minutes, place the leeks in a saucepan with 1 tbl butter, a dash of nutmeg, and salt and pepper and cook until heated through.
4. Heat a frying pan with 1 tsp olive oil.
5. Next, bring out the tuna pieces. This is a nice meaty fish, so place it piece by piece onto the plate with the crust mixture, and apply pleasure so that the ginger morsels and crust will stick to the fish.
5. Once the pan is hot, place the tuna pieces with the crust-side down on the pan.
6. While the fish and leeks are cooking, dump the potatoes into a colander and use an electric mixer or a masher to mash 3 tbl butter, either creme fraiche or warmed milk, salt and pepper, with the potatoes. Set aside.
7. Once the leeks have cooked through, set aside.
8. As the fish starts to visible cook through on the sides of the fish, pour the white wine into the pan. It will pick up the flavorings from the crust on the fish, and will also add to its flavor. After a few minutes, gently flip the fish to cook on the other side.
9. Once the fish has cooked to your liking, remove from the pan and serve with mashed potatoes, leeks, and drizzle the reduced white wine glaze from the pan onto the group.

Enjoy!

Shrimp and Veggies in a White Wine Sauce with Angel Hair Pasta

After an amazing dinner out with a friend at Les Deux Canards (which far surpassed their cheesy website: http://www.lesdeuxcanards.com/ with its garlic and parsley mushrooms, whole "sepia" - squid, flavorful duck in rich sauces, and... orange wine!), I decided to cook the next evening. I went to the local market (Marche Saint Quentin) to pick up some fresh vegetables (from my favorite stall, which seems to be the only one who doesn't hand me the least fresh vegetables from the bottom of the barrel!) and some crevettes. My vegetable purchase of mushrooms and zucchini totaled at just about 1 Euro 50 centimes, but the meal quickly became expensive when I sought fresh shrimp. Apparently cooked shrimp is pretty reasonably priced, but a large handful of raw shrimp ended up being over 16 Euros! I bought them anyway, and was hoping for an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime shrimp experience, but it seems that in the end, what I was paying for was less freshness or flavor than the weight of their heads since they come whole! I wish I could say that they were the best, most delicious shrimp I've ever tasted, but, in the end, they were just fine. Next time I'm having a shrimp craving, I will hit up the Picard (for frozen raw shrimp). 

Here's what I made:

Shrimp and Veggies in a White Wine Sauce with Angel Hair Pasta:

Ingredients

a few handfuls of cappellini pasta
1 large onion, chopped finely
1 large zucchini, chopped into rounds or bite-sized pieces
1 lb fresh mushrooms (this time I used champignons de Paris)
1 lb fresh shrimp
1 package lardons (if you like or having them sitting around in your fridge)
1 tbl olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smushed and chopped
1 1/2 cup white wine
1 tsp herbs de Provence
1/2 cup freshly grated parmeasan cheese
salt and pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbl white flour or cornstarch

1. Boil water for pasta.
2. Heat olive oil in frying pan and saute garlic and onion until soft.
3. Add zucchini and mushrooms with herbs de Provence and cook through. Add a few tablespoons of white wine several times during the cooking process. When almost finished, add lardons if using.
4. At the same time, in a separate frying pan, reserve a small bit of olive oil and garlic, and then cook the shrimp with the cayenne pepper. After about halfway cooked, add a few tablespoons of white wine. Make sure not to overcook the shrimp - they should be pink/red, but not start to curl up too much; once they start to curl, take them out or they will end up too tough.
5. As both the vegetable mixture and shrimp near completion, add cappellini pasta to boiling water, and let boil for three minutes before draining. 
6. Add the cooked shrimp with its sauce to the vegetable mixture, and add the rest of the wine to the pan.
7. In a small glass, dissolve flour or cornstarch into a cup of water (I prefer cornstarch but don't have any at the moment, so just used flour). Add mixture to the pan with vegetables and shrimp and increase the burner heat to boil and thicken the sauce.
8. Serve over pasta, with freshly grated parmaesan cheese. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cauliflower and Leek Soup

This is a great soup for this time of year in snowy Paris, but I suspect it would also be tasty cool or at room temperature during the summer.

Ingredients

1 small onion
3 cloves of garlic, smushed and chopped
1 tbl olive oil
1/2 lb fresh spinach (or a few handfuls of frozen spinach)
1 head of califlower, cleaned and cut into individual little trees
3 leeks (sliced and cleaned in a bowl of fresh water)
1 cup lentils, cooked (but only if you happen to have some around)
1 tsp herbs de provence
1 tsp nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbl creme fraiche (or Greek yogurt is healthier I'm told :-) )
1 bullion cube (vegetable or chicken)
1 tbl fresh chives, chopped
 Directions:

1. Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until soft.
2. Add spinach and cook down
3. Add cauliflower and leeks, and saute until they begin to soften
4. Add herbs de provence, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and a bullion cube, and then cover the mixture with boiling water (thank goodness for British electric kettles!). If you have cooked lentils, add them now.
5. Let boil until cauliflower and leeks are completely soft. Then, either serve as is, or if you don't mind an extra step and some more dishes, make the soup into a puree in the food processor, add a few dollops of creme fraiche/Greek yogurt, and garnish with chopped fresh chives (and somehow my camera broke just after the picture below, you'll just have to imagine the finished product, or try it yourself!). Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Food and Memory (with a friend's recipe for Adas Polo - Lentil Rice)

I love how the first bite of a meal can bring you right back to a memory of place and people. This past summer, I was lucky to be one of ten artists/art historians living together in Giverny. I had an amazing experience in many ways, and one of my favorites was the opportunity to learn some new recipes and try some new foods.


 My friend, Dominika, who also made the best chicken soup I have ever tasted (sorry, mom!), taught me to make this Iranian dish made with lentils and rice and beef (but it also tastes great without the meat!). I've finally gotten around to making it, and as I ate some with a book in hand, I was instantly transported back to the many intellectual conversations and the lovely peaceful retreat at Giverny.

Here's her recipe (I added in proportions based on what I did):

1-2 small onions, chopped
3/4 lb ground beef
Adiveh (an Iranian spice - or without this, which I didn't have, try 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp tumeric, and 2 tsp freshly grated cinammon)
1 tsp salt
1 small bullion cube (beef, chicken, or vegetable works)
1 cup cooked lentils
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup white basmati rice
1 tsp dried cilantro


1. Cook lentils - 2:1 ratio, water: lentils. Boil for 2-3 minutes, then simmer until soft (c. 30 min for this batch, but it depends on the lentils you use)

 2. In another saucepan, cook rice - 1:1 ratio, rice:water. Add salt and olive oil and cook until it boils, then turn down and let simmer on low for 20-25 minutes.

3. In a frying pan, saute onion until soft.

4. Add ground beef, salt and spices, and cook until well done.

5. Add lentils (if you end up with more than this, save them for something else! they do freeze well) and raisins. I don't usually like raisins in things, but the sweetness of them paired with the salt of the dish is a really nice combination. If you do like raisins, feel free to add in more than 1/2 cup!

6. Serve over rice.

Easy and delicious - this is definitely one for the clean plate club!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Macaron Heaven

Paris... capital of the macaron. Ever since my first macaron, two summers ago immediately upon the arrival of my friend Kate, who was horrified (rightly) that I was living in Paris and had never heard of macarons, let alone tasted one. Ever since that first bite, I've been perhaps a bit maracon-obsessed. I've tasted them all over Paris - at little out of the way bakeries, at Café Angelina, at Ladurée, stale from a bakery in New York City (where under-appreciated, they were languishing on the shelves) and most recently back in Paris at Pierre Hermé. An even more recent discovery has been Del Montel on the rue de Martyrs for perhaps the best caramel au beurre sallé macarons ever!


I've also scoured the web for sites which explain how to make these delicious and fragile delicacies. I've since had some triumphant successes, and some tragic failures. Here I combine everything I know about macarons together into one place. 


Some from my most recent batch:


What you need:
egg whites from 2-3 eggs (depending on the size - you should end up with about 1/3 cup)
a pinch of salt
1/3 cup white granulated sugar (once I used brown granulated sugar - like sugar in the raw - and the recipe failed, so be sure to use white)
1 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup almond flour/ground almonds (this is sadly super expensive in American supermarkets, so make your own at home by putting whole almonds in your food processor until fine - if you do this, however, you might want to use a sieve to get out any remaining large pieces)
food coloring if you like
Non-food tools needed - parchment paper, baking sheet, electric mixer, spatula


Instructions


1. Leave the egg whites out over night at room temperature, or at least for a few hours before you start.
2. Add a pinch of salt to the egg whites and beat with an electric mixer at medium speed until foamy. 
3. Slowly add the granulated sugar to the mixture, and increase the speed to high. Keep beating to stiff peaks, which will take at least a few minutes.
4. In another bowl, sift together the powdered sugar and the almond flour.
5. Gently fold the dry mixture into the egg whites with a spatula. 
6. Add food coloring to match your flavor of choice.
7. Using teaspoons (or if you want to aim for perfection and exact consistency in size, use a pastry bag), spoon out small circles of batter onto parchment paper on a baking sheet. One website has suggested using a stencil to make penciled circles on the parchment paper as a guide. I find that the batter tends to spread itself into a nice little circle on its own.
8. Slightly weird, I know, but once you've got the macaron batter placed on a baking sheet, take a minute or so to bang the sheet up and down and smack it on the counter repeatedly. This releases the air bubbles inside which will result in flatter macarons (important because you will want to put them together in sandwiches). It also helps the batter to settle onto the parchment paper.
9. Leave the baking sheets out to try for about 1-2 hours. You will see a little film form over the surface of the batter. 
10. Preheat the oven to 325, and put a wooden spoon to keep the door of the oven slightly ajar. Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating the baking sheet after five minutes.
11. After baking, gently remove the parchment paper with the macarons off the baking sheet and set aside to cool. Do not try to remove the macarons from the paper until they are completely cool.
12. When cool, use a small pearing knife to loosen the macarons from the parchment paper. Take your time with this - this is the moment when they are most likely to break.
13. Once all the macarons have been removed from the parchment, match like-sized cookies together and put in the filling to make sandwiches. Take care not to squeeze the halves together, as they can break.
14. Store in an airtight container.


Some ideas for fillings:
jam of any flavor (just a thin layer between the macaron halves) - my favorites are apricot and raspberry
white chocolate
white chocolate + banana puree (my friend Jacinthe also recommends vanilla, which sounds great! btw, if you do make this filling, make sure to consume shortly thereafter, or keep in the fridge for no more than 24 hours)
I also just made white chocolate strawberry macarons (photographed here) - just mix 1/2 cup strawberry jam with about half of a large bar of white chocolate over a low flame until combined. Let cool to thicken and then put inside the macarons. Delicious!


Other sources for fillings:




For caramel beurre sale, my favorite, try this recipe (this sauce is also delicious on crepes): http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Fleur-de-Sel-Caramels-230778.

For chocolate ganache, also amazing, but intense, add some cocoa powder to the almond-icing sugar mixture, and then here's a recipe for the filling: http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/chocolate-ganache/Detail.aspx

Or you could use buttercream icing, http://www.wilton.com/recipe/Buttercream-Icing

Also, check out this blog which talks about a recipe found from 1776:
http://www.sucrissime.com/2008/01/macarons-une-recette-de-1776.html

Let me know if you give it a try and how it comes out for you! Bon Appetit!

More photos of me and macarons :-)

Cafe Angelina Macarons

Macarons with raspberries added at edges and top!



Friday, December 3, 2010

Snowy Paris Pasta

Since it's freezing cold and been snowing off and on here in Paris, I decided to make a warming wintertime dish. I also had leftover fresh vegetables from a recent market run - since my eyes are bigger than the pots in my kitchen, I always tend to buy more than I need at the market. The previous dish was a mushroom risotto (inspired by reading Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, though I did not forage the mushrooms myself!), which was delicious, and I worried I wouldn't be able to use the rest of the mushrooms to such an advantage. But in the end, I was very happy with the results! Between the nutmeg and the mushrooms, it has a a very earthy flavor.

 

Ingredients
1 small handfull of cappellini pasta (which it took me trips to four different grocery stores to find here!)
2 tbl olive oil
2 small shallots, finely chopped
1 lb fresh spinach, washed and stems removed
1 tsp nutmeg
1 lb fresh mushrooms (I used chantarelles and mushrooms de Paris - which look like the standard US grocery store ones but darker. I suspect any type of mushroom would be fine!)
1 package lardons/a few pieces of proscuitto, sliced (but this recipe could easily do without the meat)
2 tbl fresh chives (or 1 tsp if using dry)
2 tbl freshly grated parmasean cheese
1 cup crême fraîche (toughie on translating to US - I would use a bit of sour cream mixed with regular creme)


Heat water for pasta until boiling.
Chop mushrooms.


 
In a pan, sauté shallots until tender. Add fresh spinach. Once cooked down, add nutmeg, mushrooms, and meat (if desired). If you have less time and don't mind the extra pans, you can sauté the mushrooms in a separate pan. The pasta will only need about three minutes in the boiling water, so add towards the end of the vegetables' cooking. At the same time, add the chives to the vegetables and heat through. Turn off heat, and spoon crême fraîche into the spinach-mushroom mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve with freshly grated Parmasan cheese. Serves 3-4. Enjoy!