Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Poached Cod

Incidentally, the word for cod fillet in French is actually a lovely phrase: "dos de cabillaud." Thick, meaty portions of this fish are available at most of the fish mongers in France, and it is a popular choice at restaurants. Yesterday I decided to try my hand at making a piece at home, and it was easy, with delicious results:

Lovely green herbs at the market
in Nancy
Ingredients (Serves 2):
1 large filet of cod
2 small shallots, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
2 small garlic cloves, smushed and diced
1/4 cup parsley, coarsely chopped
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups cool water
Fresh vegetables at the Nancy market
1 tsp of lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
a few fennel seeds, if you happen to have some laying around

1. Salt and pepper both sides of your filet. You may want to cut it into two smaller pieces before poaching.
2. In deep frying pan, saute garlic in olive oil for a few minutes, and then add shallots.
3. Once shallots are beginning to soften, add just a splash from your cup of white wine.
4. Once the wine has evaporated, add the parsley and let cook for a minute.
5. Add the rest of the wine, lemon juice, and water to the mixture and bring to a simmer. Salt and pepper to taste, and add a few fennel seeds if you have some.
6. Once simmering, add the fish pieces. If the liquid covers the fish, you're all set to poach for about 7 minutes. If not, gently turn the fish after about 3 minutes to be sure that it cooks through.
7. After the fish is finished, you have a few choices. You might eat it on its own with veggies and discard the liquid, or you could use the delicious broth as a little soup to have with it. Or, you might add a cup of water with 1 tablespoon of corn starch in it to thicken the sauce into a little fish gravy. I also had some leftover shrimp laying around, which I added to my little sauce. Delicious!

Serve with vegetables, or, as a friend in Nancy did, make a cauliflower au gratin (recipe to come sometime soon) to serve with the fish. All the white on the plate is gorgeous!

Fish market at Nancy

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Pink and Green Salad

Though it's not quite spring, I'm ready to pull out the salads. This salad is delicious, healthy, and a lot of fun to put together, with very attractive results! Enjoy!

Pink and Green Salad
(Spinach and Avocado Salad with Shrimp and Pink Grapefruit)

For each salad you will need:
6-7 cooked medium shrimp, peeled
1/2 avocado, cut in half and the flesh removed in small slices
1 small pink grapefruit (or 1/2 large)
handful fresh spinach, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar

Using peeled shrimp and slices of avocado, construct a layered tower (an idea taken from a little appetizer that my French host father made the summer before last) in the middle of the plate; a layer of shrimp, topped with a layer of avocado, then more shrimp, then more avocado, and finally a few shrimp to top. Sometimes the French will use a little mayonnaise for additional flavor and to help the tower stick together, but I prefer to do without it. Then at the base of the tower, place chopped spinach and individual pieces of grapefruit (without the pith is better for the aesthetic, but apparently the pith is very healthy for you, so your call. My grandmother was an expert pith-remover, but I find this tedious, though worth it!). Sprinkle with a little olive oil and vinegar and enjoy!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Spanish Tapas

In about 2005, I hosted a big tapas party for my friends in my Capitol Hill apartment in Washington, D.C. At the time, my understanding of tapas was largely as small, sauce-based dishes which presented meats, fish, and vegetables with unique flavor combinations. Over the course of the dinner-party, I proudly whipped up about 12 different individual dishes, from garlic shrimp to meat brochettes. At the end of it, however, I was exhausted, and had too much sangria over a hot stove when I was only taking small tastes of my creations!!

On a recent trip to Spain, however, I discovered a new variant of tapas - those that are more simple and easily put together. My friend Karen and I visited a few tapas places, our favorites being the well-known Quimet & Quimet and the largely unknown Bar Ramon, which we stumbled upon when the restaurant we wanted to visit for dinner was closed until later. All of these tapas were whipped together right in front of us, and were not about the sauce, but about the substance. Delicious!

Here's my friend's blog with description and pictures of Quimet & Quimet:

Here's a few favorites of mine:

Goat Cheese Platter
Goat Cheese Platter at Set de Gothic
This platter at Set de Gothic in the Barre Gothic in Barcelona was served warm and included a circular arrangement of different delicacies which blended together perfectly. The platter was put together like rings around a planet with each item pre-prepared, and baked with the large piece of goat cheese in the center topped with an olive, then surrounded by a ring of caramelized onions. The next ring is soft roasted eggplant, followed by a ring of roasted red peppers. Serve with bread!
acorn-fed Iberico ham at Set de Gothic

Bar Ramon tapas counter
Bar Ramon tapas counter

Bar Ramon mushroom with prosciutto and cheese
  On the left is one of my favorite tapas - simple, and delicious - it is a large mushroom, stuffed with fresh soft cheese, like a chevre, and then topped with bits of prosciutto. When we asked for one, he simply microwaved it to melt the cheese a bit, and topped with olive oil, salt and pepper. Delicious! At the far right, eggplant stuffed with ground beef and cheese.

Meat Stall from Barcelona Market off La Rambla
Meat Stall from Barcelona Market off La Rambla

 Quimet & Quimet was really the mother of tapas. Recommended by my friend Karen's friend (and by guidebooks as well apparently), this was absolutely worth it! We had an awkward entry to the packed room, but eventually we got a spot right along the window where they make everything and we could just point and order whatever we saw that looked good! Karen and I agreed that the best one had a bit of round toast, a dollop of creme fraiche, a large mussel marinated in the most amazing oil I have ever tasted, drizzled with a bit of balsamic vinegar and parsley flakes. I wish I had bought the tin to bring some home, and ever since I keep scouring gourmet market shelves hoping to stumble upon them.

Shrimp Tapas from
Quimet & Quimet 
Shrimp Tapas from
Quimet & Quimet
This shrimp tapas was almost as good as the mussel one - again on the little toast, but this one topped with roasted red pepper, a large shrimp, a dollop of creme fraiche, a spoonful of black caviar, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Incredible. And, even though there is a fork in the picture, this is a hands-only dish.

Clam and Cheese Tapas from Quimet & Quimet

Cheese Platter at Quimet and Quimet, with one of the servers making more tapas in the background!

Cheese and Meat Platters from Quimet & Quimet.
Delicious, but next time I'd skip these to get more of the little tapas

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Post Office Mussels

So named because I came up with the recipe while waiting on line at the post office near my apartment in Paris. To amuse waiting customers, there is a television that shows cooking (why I cannot find said station on the tv in my apartment continues to confuse me) - another time someone made kebabs with scallops and pieces of apples - yum! After watching (no sound at all) the construction of this delicious-looking recipe, I gleaned the basics, and came up with the delicious specifics myself:

Mussels with Blue Cheese Cream Sauce

Ingredients (serves 2)

1/2 lb mussels
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup creme fraiche (yogurt will not work as a replacement on this one - I tried once and it curdled. Low fat sour cream might do)
1/2 cup blue cheese crumbled or diced
1 tbl herbs de Provence
1/2 cup dry white wine
salt and pepper

I like to use little crocks to bake individual servings, but you could also make it all in one batch in a baking dish and then serve. For a variation, add some tiny mushrooms, caramelized onions and/or some fresh spinach into the mix - also delicious!


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In 2 little crocks, add a few drops of olive oil to the base and then add mussels. Add 1/4 cup white wine to each crock, herbs de Provence, and a little salt and pepper. Stir. Place creme fraiche and blue cheese on top and place crocks in the oven. The cheese and creme will melt down into the mussels, so no need to stir until the middle of cooking. Bake for 20-30 minutes until bubbling, stirring once all of the cheese has melted. Serve with baguette. Enjoy!

One of my favorite cheese plates at left - Morbier at left, chevre dipped in ash at front right, and a creamy type of brie whose name always escapes me (it looks like a Bourgogne, and is similar to but has a different name) from an excellent cheese shop on the Rue Montorgueil, seen in my friend Karen's photo below.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

My favorite French breakfast... well, one of...

Don't get me wrong. I love pain au chocolat. And I would be tempted to eat it every day. Luckily, my bakery line sometimes looks like this:

And so I often have breakfast at home. My favorite thing to do is use my amazing blender-food processor (with which I am a little obsessed) to make breakfast shakes.

Here's one of my favorites:

Banana Fruit Rouge Shake

1 banana, sliced
1/2 cup of fresh berries (I use a mix of raspberry, blueberrys, cranberries, and something that looks like it came off a christmas decoration)
1 cup yogurt
splash of milk

Add to blender. Blend. Enjoy!