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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Don’t Forget the Side Dishes for the Turkey!

Of all the holidays we celebrate, Thanksgiving is the one most defined by food. And, for most of us that food is based on tradition. My own family looks forward to a big bird with crisp golden skin served with rich pan gravy. They know there will be homemade cranberry chutney, and since our family DNA harbors deep Southern roots, cornbread dressing is a must at our table. However, when it comes to the sides—those special recipes that play supporting roles in this holiday menu—my clan is open to new creations. 

I often include new accompaniments like the delectable one featured here. A glorious mélange of the season’s robust vegetables, including butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, brown mushrooms, and leeks, this dish pairs fabulously with the traditional bird and dressing. The vegetables are sautéed, scented with rosemary, then sprinkled with toasted pecans, and Parmesan.

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Favorite Cookie—Finally the Right Recipe!

For more than half a dozen years I’ve bought decadent chocolate and almond-studded shortbread cookies from one of the bakers at my local farmers’ market. Although I’ve used all sorts of ploys to get the recipe, the merchants have shared only small tidbits about the bars. “Yes, they do have extra dark chunks of chocolate in them,” they confirmed, and “Yes, there is a hint of sea salt,” they have told me. Beyond that, they have politely avoided revealing any other tips.

I’ve made these bars countless times, always with good results, but never quite like the original. I even printed a recipe for them in my syndicated column, and have included them in several cooking classes. Finally, after several recent tries, victory was mine. I simply switched from bittersweet to 70% dark chocolate and lowered the amount of sugar!

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Comforting Soup to Share with Others

This past weekend as ominous warnings about Hurricane Sandy were reaching the air waves, I found myself at a book-signing at the farmers’ market in our small New England town. An engaging local bookstore owner had set up a table for me where copies of my recent cookbooks were displayed. Although the storm was still two days away, dark clouds and intermittent rain were discouraging signs that sales would not be brisk. But the bookseller and I were both wrong!

The town was teeming with visitors (many from the East Coast and the Midwest) since it was Amherst College family weekend, and the local folks too were out in full force. Everyone wanted to stock up on food supplies for the days ahead. As people stopped by, concerned about what to cook to have on hand in an emergency, they eyed my book, Sunday Soup, and asked if I could suggest an easy recipe they might prepare from it. Quickly I suggested Fabulous Fall Roots Soup—a humble creation made with carrots, leeks, and rutabagas.This scene was repeated so frequently that I began to refer to this dish as the “storm” soup.

At home I prepared a batch myself as Sandy approached, knowing that this potage could be heated up

Friday, October 26, 2012

Warm Fall Squash Dip—Different and Delicious

Back in the 1990s while working on First Impressions, a book of appetizers, I created a recipe for a warm fall squash dip served with sliced apples and sautéed sausages. The main ingredients in that simple recipe were pureed acorn squash, curry powder, and sour cream. For years, I served this colorful starter when autumn arrived, but then somehow the dish fell off my radar screen—until this year when I decided to give the recipe a facelift. 

For my 21st century version I roasted and pureed cubed butternut squash, and seasoned it not only with curry powder, but with rosemary and thyme as well. And, in place of sour cream, I substituted crème fraiche, which has a more complex flavor.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Stuffed Pasta Spirals—Great Main Course for Make-Ahead Entertaining!

Baked Pasta Spirals
When you’re entertaining is there anything better than an all-in-one main course that can be assembled a day ahead, then cooked at serving time? The following recipe for pasta spirals (which are really individual rolled lasagnas) stuffed with ricotta and prosciutto fall into  this special category.

The dish was inspired by a display of individual lasagnes that I spotted several years ago in the food section of the celebrated Bon Marché department store in Paris. During a long stay in France, I went often to La Grande Epicerie, and every time I passed the counter of take out dishes, was intrigued with the interesting fillings encased by single rolled sheets of pasta.

Pasta Spirals Ready To Go in the Oven
Back home on this side of the Atlantic, I created my own version, spreading a simple mix of ricotta, Parmigiano Reggiano, bits of prosciutto, and Italian parsley on individual cooked pasta noodles, then rolling the sheets into spirals and napping them with a zesty tomato sauce. This casserole can be popped into the fridge, and be ready and waiting the next day. Count on about a half hour to bake the dish, and serve it with easy sides—a mixed green salad and some warm crusty peasant bread. Voilà—a delicious meal with no last-minute fuss!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Brussels Sprouts Star in a Great Fall Side Dish

For years I overlooked Brussels sprouts when teaching or writing about food, mainly because I was worried that most people just didn’t like these small green spheres that resemble mini-cabbages. That is certainly not the case today. Countless chefs and home cooks have discovered how creatively this vegetable can be used.
For instance, a recipe for Sautéed Brussels Sprouts, Bacon, and Apples has become a favorite for many readers of my book, Sunday Roasts. For this dish, which takes only about a half hour to assemble and cook, sprouts are halved, blanched, and then sautéed along with sliced Golden Delicious apples and bits of salty bacon. The assertive taste of the Brussels sprouts, the sweet note of the fruit, and the salty hint of bacon form a winning combination.
This dish would be a colorful and delicious accompaniment to roasted chicken, pork, or lamb. Or, you might try it with grilled sausages or sautéed turkey cutlets. The days are getting cooler and crisper, and the choice of vegetables fewer at the produce counter, but verdant little Brussels sprouts are plentiful this time of year. Don’t’ let them go unappreciated!

Brussels Sprouts, Bacon, and Apples

1 pound Brussels sprouts
Kosher salt
4 ounces thick bacon slices (4 to 5 slices), cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large Golden Delicious apples, peeled, halved, cored, and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 tablespoons minced flat leaf parsley

1. Cut off and discard the bases from the Brussels sprouts, then halve the sprouts. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the sprouts and 2 teaspoons salt. Cook until the sprouts are tender but not mushy when pierced with a small, sharp knife, for 8 to 10 minutes or longer. (Cooking time can vary depending on the size of the Brussels sprouts.)

2. Strain the sprouts in a colander, then place them (still in the colander) under cold running water until completely cool. Pat them dry and set aside. (Brussels sprouts can be prepared 6 hours ahead; cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before using.)

3. Sauté the bacon in a large, heavy frying pan over medium heat until browned and crisp. Remove it with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towels. Pour off and discard all but 2 teaspoons of the drippings in the pan. Return the pan to medium heat and add the butter. When hot, add the apples and cook, turning often, until softened and just lightly browned, for about 5 minutes. Add the Brussels sprouts and bacon to the frying pan. Stir and cook until all ingredients are heated through, for 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt to taste.

4. Mound the vegetables in a serving bowl and sprinkle with parsley. Serve hot.
Serves 4

Cost: Inexpensive
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Start to finish time: 35 minutes

From Sunday Roasts by Betty Rosbottom (Chronicle Books 2012)
Photo by Susie Cushner     

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Warm Spiced Pear Tart--Just In Time For Fall!

Years ago, when I was beginning my career as a food writer and teacher, I loved to prepare Julia Child’s baked pear gratin with a macaroon crust from Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume I. The recipe was simplicity itself. Pears were sliced, placed in a baking dish, tossed with apricot jam and white wine, and then baked with a topping of crushed cookies and bits of butter.           

Last week, as I was contemplating different fillings for an autumn tart, I remembered that dish and knew that those pears would be delectable baked in a pastry crust. I added seasonings of  cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and cloves to the fruit, and to keep things really easy, used purchased puff pastry for the tart shell. When done, this dessert boasts a golden, flakey crust and a filling of tender, juicy pears infused with aromatic spices.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hearty Soup and Fall Weather--Definitely A Winning Combination

After one of the hottest summers I can remember, autumn has at last arrived in New England.  Temperatures have started to drop, there’s a crispness in the air, and days are getting shorter.  I’ve even noticed that my fellow New Englanders--typically reserved and quiet--have broad smiles on their faces and are uncharacteristically chatty, initiating conversations with “Fall is here!”

So, along with taking out my sweaters and jackets, and setting the thermostat to warm instead of cool, I’ve pulled out my recipes for robust dishes. Among them is a Tuscan-style white bean soup topped with crusty croutons. A breeze to make, this hearty Italian “zuppa,” assembled with cannellini beans, carrots, onions, celery, and kale plus a hint of bacon, is perfect for the new season. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Comté Cheese Makes a Fall Salad Even Better

A few weeks ago while admiring the bountiful display at the cheese counter of my local Whole Foods, I spotted one of my favorite French fromages!  There, in full view, was a wheel of Comté, a hard, ivory-hued cow’s milk cheese with a slightly sweet, nutty flavor from the  east of France. I was even more surprised later that month when I discovered that two local supermarket chains were selling Comté as well.

It didn’t take long for me to figure out how to use my purchase. Since fall weather was arriving, I decided to include it in an autumn salad.  I combined beautiful deep wine- and green-hued leaf lettuce with Belgian endive for the base, then added thinly sliced pears, toasted nuts,

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Doughnut Muffins—Different, Easy, and Delicious

Photo by Yvonne Duivenvoorden

Leafing through the pages of Diane Worthington’s beautiful new book, Seriously Simple Parties, I found plenty of recipes that made me want to rush into the kitchen and start cooking. In this collection, just as in the author’s successful prequels, Seriously Simple, and Seriously Simple Holidays, the philosophy is the same. “Keep it fresh and keep it simple!”

From tempting drinks and appetizers, to seasonal soups and salads, to a cornucopia of mains and sides, plus plenty of desserts, Diane has streamlined her recipes without sacrificing flavor.

Doughnut Muffins is a good example. The name alone was intriguing. Who would have imagined that the delicious goodness of doughnut batter could be baked as muffins instead of fried in fat as rings? The muffins, prepared either in mini-or standard-sized pans, come out golden and tender. Then they are finished with a coating of melted butter and a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Great for Labor Day--Grilled Salmon on a Cedar Plank

My local Whole Foods has a display of wooden boards for grilling fish set up in front of their seafood counter. You can choose a cedar, maple, or cherry board and then pair it with a compatible fish. The friendly merchant confessed that she was crazy about the cherry plank, but I chose cedar since it matches up admirably with salmon, the fish I am planning to use.

Whatever your selection, when fish is set atop a wooden plank, then placed on a grill (whether charcoal or gas), the wood imparts a lovely smokiness to the seafood. What, I thought, could be better to grill on this long holiday weekend than marinated salmon fillets on a cedar plank. For my recipe (a favorite I created several years ago) I use a simple, yet distinctive marinade of maple syrup, lime juice, soy sauce, and fresh ginger. The ingredients provide, respectively, sweet, tart, salty, and spicy notes that complement the scent of smoked wood.

While the fish is marinating, I’ll soak the cedar plank in water. Then after preparing the grill, I’ll heat the plank for a few minutes, place the salmon on it, and put down the lid. In about 15 minutes, the cedar will have imparted a smoky scent to the fish, which turns a light mahogany color. I plan to serve the fillets right on the plank, with a garnish of chopped cilantro and green onions sprinkled over each. Corn on the cob and a bracing slaw would make fine sides.
Happy Labor Day weekend to all of you!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Farmers’ Market Peach Smoothie

Saturday mornings from May to October, I can’t wait to drive to the center of our New England town to the Farmers’ Market. There on a short block that dissects the town common, local growers present their weekly harvest under canopied stands. Ours is not a large, sprawling market, but what it lacks in quantity, it certainly makes up for in quality.

Proud farmers display bins of gorgeous vegetables and fruits (mostly organic), and are eager to discuss what varieties they’ve grown. Want a Green Zebra or a Cherokee Purple  tomato. No problem—our vendors offer those and countless other heirlooms. 

There’s a stand that sells superb grass-fed lamb, butchered and packaged in frozen bundles. Bakers set out baguettes and French peasant loaves as well as flax, sourdough, and olive breads. Others sell exquisite seasonal flowers picked that morning, and a few tempt shoppers with local maple syrup and homemade soaps.

Recently, as I ambled by the different stalls, I stopped at the local yogurt stand where a merchant was selling smoothies made with her maple/vanilla yogurt and fresh chopped peaches. Unable to resist, I purchased one of the icy cold drinks and downed it in seconds. The tart yogurt was balanced by a hint of maple syrup and a dash of vanilla, while the peaches provided a subtle, fruited accent. I’ve included the recipe, and hope you’ll enjoy this “market” smoothie as much as I did.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

BLTs Make Great Summer Appetizers!

In late July I traveled to York, Maine, to give weekend cooking classes at the beautiful Stonewall Kitchen Cooking School. My courses, held in the morning, ended at 1 PM, so afterwards I was anxious to try the Café in the large retail complex. A true foodie, I asked the staff at the school what I should order. “Get the BLT with avocados,” they all replied!

At the counter of the bustling café, my husband and I asked for iced tea and sandwiches. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much because today’s BLTs never seem to be exceptional, but after one bite of the Stonewall Kitchen version, I changed my mind. The secret lay in the perfect summer ingredients used to craft the sandwiches. The tomatoes were crimson, ripe, and sweet, while the bacon was wood smoked and perfectly crisp. The avocado slices were silken smooth, and the white bread was high quality and toasted lightly. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Celebrating Julia! She’d be 100 this week!

Courtesy of the Smith College Archives
 Yes, that headline is correct. If Julia Child were alive today, she’d be a hundred years old on August 15th! America’s first lady of cooking was well into her thirties when she moved to France, became passionate about French food, and took cooking classes at Le Cordon Bleu.

Julia mastered the techniques of her adopted cuisine, but it wasn’t her French knife skills that made her famous once she returned to America. It was her personality and her joie de vivre that we all loved.

Over 6 feet tall, she towered above her cook top in her first television series, and with that high, proper voice, gave amusing commentary while turning out omelets and whipping up soufflés with boundless enthusiasm. Viewers adored her because she was so down to earth, and had a willingness to make fun of herself when something didn’t come out right.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Summer Peaches Are Not Just for Desserts—Try Them in Salsas!

This past week, while teaching two cooking classes, one in Massachusetts and the other in Maine, I featured cumin-scented pork tenderloins topped with fresh peach salsa from Sunday Roasts as the centerpiece for each menu. My students loved the refreshing taste of peaches used in a savory instead of a sweet role.

For the salsa, diced peaches are combined with chopped red onions, minced jalapeno peppers, and both lime juice and zest. Some chopped cilantro adds more color and rounds out the flavors. The pork tenderloins are rubbed with a mixture of ground cumin, coarse salt, and pepper, and then roasted for a mere 20 minutes.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Perfect Side Dish—Summer Tomatoes with a Provencal Stuffing

Grocery shopping at my neighborhood market this summer in Paris, I noticed a bin of tomatoes labeled “tomates pour rôtir,” which means “tomatoes for roasting.” I put several of the deep red orbs in my cart, imagining that they would be delicious stuffed.

Back in my small apartment kitchen, I scooped out the seeds and flesh, and filled the cavities with a mixture of homemade breadcrumbs, sautéed shallots, bits of creamy goat cheese, and herbs. Then I popped the tomatoes into the oven for less than half an hour until they were hot and the cheese had melted. The tomatoes held up beautifully in the oven and were indeed perfect for roasting.  For serving each tomato was garnished simply with a fresh basil sprig.

Back home in New England, I was surprised to find similar tomatoes at a nearby Whole Foods.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Japanese Chefs and Glorious French Food in Paris

The small kitchen at Table d'Aki
Several years ago I went to a fabulous new restaurant in Paris called Hiromatsu, a small, intimate place lauded for the inventive French cooking of its Japanese chef. The day of our visit I savored course after course of artfully presented dishes, and was wowed by the talent of Hirotoshi Hiromatsu. In fact, I was so enamored of French fare prepared with subtle Japanese accents that my husband and I returned to the restaurant when it moved across town to larger quarters in the 16th arrondissement.

Last winter when two different friends, both enthusiastic food lovers, mentioned that I should try Sola, a new Left Bank place headed by another Japanese chef, Hiroki Yoshitake, I didn’t waste any time reserving for lunch. The meal was so special that I featured the restaurant in the Out and About section on my website in February. 

This summer while in the French capital, a young American couple who live and work in Paris and who adore the Japanese chefs there, suggested that we book at La Table d’Aki, a recently opened spot

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The 10- Minute Summer Fruit and Cheese Dessert

The French take their fruits and vegetables seriously so in each neighborhood you’ll find  several  “primeurs,” specialized stores that sell these products exclusively. I am crazy about these outposts and often go in and talk to the helpful sales people—“les vendeurs et les vendeuses.”  If I want to serve fresh melon with mint, they’ll smell and touch a dozen before handing me the perfectly ripe one for my dinner that night. If I can’t decide between white and yellow peaches, they’ll give me the heads up, and when I say I need some basil for a food photo, they’ll offer me the prettiest bunch.

 The other day at one of my local “primeurs,” the staff was abuzz about the figs. The first of the season had arrived and were “français,” not from some exotic land. I bought a  small bagful and prepared them simply.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Great Opener for July 4th Celebrations!

Although parades, band concerts, and fireworks all define July 4th, it’s the food that many of us anticipate most. Whether special burgers, smoked ribs, barbecued chicken, corn on the cob slathered with seasoned butter, spicy baked beans, or fresh strawberry shortcakes, a big spread is the way everyone loves to celebrate America’s birthday. Typically, cooks focus on the entrees, sides, and sweets, but starters are important too. You don’t have to resort to a bowl of chips served with a purchased dip when you can make Grilled Shrimp with Cumin Mayo in only a matter of minutes.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Dining In A Unique Restaurant in Amsterdam

De Kas Restaurant from the outside

Since we were already in Paris, I suggested to my husband that for his upcoming birthday we take a 2-day trip anywhere 3 or so hours away by rail from France’s capital. Almost immediately, he settled on Amsterdam, one of our favorite cities.

Interior of De Kas
We love the charm of Amsterdam’s gorgeous canals bordered by17th-century narrow brick houses, the astounding number of museums, and the friendliness of the Dutch. And we like trying the food there as well. For our first night we booked at De Kas, a stylish restaurant situated within what used to be a greenhouse built in the 1920s. Set amidst the green fields of a park, the tall, glass-framed structure was surrounded by an exquisite herb garden, while the interior, with its soaring glass ceiling and walls, took advantage of the structure’s brilliant light on a late summer evening. You could see the open kitchen from the large dining area and also a nursery where the restaurant grows its own produce. Talk about local!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Pair of Terrific Paris Restaurants—The New and The Old

Brill with Rhubarb Sauce and Haricots Verts at Auguste
Although I’ve been in France’s capital only a few days, I’ve already managed to dine in two exceptionally good restaurants. Both were in Paris’ fashionable 7th arrondissement, but the ambience and the menus of these two places were worlds apart.

At Auguste, a restaurant that opened a few years ago, the décor was modern with a gorgeous red velvet banquette taking center stage in the main room. The talented chef’s creations were truly original and inventive. My first course, a green asparagus bouillon studded with slices of white asparagus and garnished with a celestial foam, was a definite winner, while my tender fillet of brill topped with rhubarb puree and julienned haricots verts, was just as tempting. For dessert a warm pistachio soufflé was superb distinguished by the exquisite flavor of toasted nuts. A small ramekin of blood orange sorbet made a refreshing garnish.

Salad of Haricots Verts, Artichokes, and Foie Gras at Le Voltaire
A short distance away at Le Voltaire, on the Quai Voltaire, overlooking the Seine, I had another memorable meal, this one composed of French classics. The dining room with its beautiful wood paneling, plush banquettes, and soft lighting was timeless as well. My stellar first course was a salad of extra thin haricots verts and fresh artichoke hearts tossed in a vinaigrette and served with a generous slice of foie gras. My “onglet de veau” was a masterful dish of tender cooked veal morsels paired with fresh apricots accompanied by two creamy purees, one made with potatoes and another with golden-hued squash. A tarte Tatin, France’s popular upside down apple pie, was served with dollops of rich crème fraîche, and practically melted in my mouth.

The tab at each restaurant was on the high side, hovering around 100 euros per person including moderately priced, but good wine. I’d go back to both in a heartbeat, heading to Auguste for innovative fare and to Voltiare for familiar French comforts.

54 rue de Bourgogne
Paris VII
01 45 51 61 09

Le Voltaire
27, quai Voltaire
Paris VII
01 42 61 17 49

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Asparagus Season Arrives in the Asparagus Capital

Hadley, Massachusetts, next door to Amherst, where I live, proudly claims to be the Asparagus Capital of the U.S. In late May (a tad earlier this year) this little town has its moment of fame when the farmers bring their crops to the groceries and outdoor markets, and the locals grab bunches and head for their kitchens.

This annual asparagus harvest has been the inspiration for me to create many a new asparagus recipe such as this one for a creamy asparagus soup topped with quickly sautéed bay scallops and sprinkled with chives and golden breadcrumbs. This dish boasts lovely color contrasts with the snowy white shellfish nestled atop the verdant green puree. The textures too are counterpoints, for the smoothness of the pureed potage and the velvety scallops play off the crunch of the toasted breadcrumbs.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Sunday Brunch Arrives this Week!

I can’t believe it! Sunday Brunch, my newest cookbook, is due to arrive in bookstores this coming week on June 6th. It can also be ordered on Amazon.  Several people--students and friends (who ordered online)-- have written that they have already received their copies.

I’ll be writing more about this book and featuring a special recipe from it in a few days on my June website, but for now let me just say that this is a special collection with beautiful photos that features 50 mouthwatering dishes perfect for weekend brunches. You’ll find recipes for every way to cook eggs—poached, fried, scrambled, and souffléed—as well as tempting griddle fare, including irresistible pancakes and waffles. There’s a chapter devoted to sweet breakfast breads, and others that feature light fruit desserts and brunch libations.

I hope you’ll get a chance to stop by your local bookstore and browse through the pages!

Sunday Brunch
Chronicle Books 2012

Friday, May 25, 2012

Quick, Easy, and Succulent Grilled Steaks for the Holiday Weekend!

What could be better than juicy well-cooked steaks to kick off this special holiday! Although this weekend doesn’t mark the official beginning of summer (on June 21st), it is a time when many cooks pull out grills and barbecue tools, moving their kitchens from indoors to the open air.

Lightly charred, juicy beef sirloins topped with creamy slices of Gorgonzola and a red onion rosemary relish is a recipe from my files that would be perfect to inaugurate the season.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cupcakes—Perfect for Celebrations!

“All cupcakes are ready to party,” says my friend Elinor Klivans in her popular book, Cupcakes!, but some, she continues, seem just made for celebrations. That’s what I had in mind while working on the recipe for Orange Cupcakes with Creamy White Chocolate Icing.

Tender, moist, and scented with orange and cardamom, these golden little cakes are topped with swirls of snowy white icing made with cream cheese, white chocolate, and butter. There’s a generous accent of orange in the frosting as well to carry out the fresh citrus theme.  

Although I never met a cupcake I didn’t like, these definitely fall into the special occasion category.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Simple Asian Meals – Perfect for Weeknights!

When my friend, Nina Simonds, mentioned a few months ago that she was working on a new book titled Simple Asian Meals, I knew I would rush to get a copy. I’m a big fan of this award-winning journalist and author of ten books, and leading authority on Asian cooking and culture. Nina is also the creator of one of the most interesting blogs I follow. For each post on her Spices of Life video blog, launched in 2007, she includes a short film featuring recipes, interviews with food personalities, and much more.

Simple Asian Meals, her newest book, is filled with enticing recipes that are delicious, healthy, and convenient---perfect for weeknights.
 She has streamlined both contemporary and authentic dishes so that they are easy to prepare, and emphasizes, in useful postscripts to the recipes, the health benefits of many ingredients. Did you know that edamame are believed to lower the risk of heart disease, and that mangoes aid digestion and are also a source of beta-carotene?

For the past few weeks I’ve been cooking from this collection.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Grilled Pork Tenderloin Steaks with Rhubarb Balsamic Sauce

Sometimes a dish is so unusual and so tantalizing, that I find myself thinking about it long after the last bite. That was my experience at Jean Georges’ Nougatine in New York recently. The minute I tasted the hake fillet (a mild white fish similar to cod) served sashimi style, drizzled with a rhubarb/balsamic dressing, I knew it was special.

Made with finely diced uncooked rhubarb, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and a generous seasoning of freshly ground black pepper, the sauce was simple, but assertive and definitely the secret to the dish. At home, I tried my own version, adding a hint of soy sauce for a salty note. Instead of pairing this rhubarb sauce with raw fish, I opted for grilled pork tenderloin steaks rubbed with crushed rosemary, kosher salt, and pepper.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Asparagus from the Asparagus Capital!

Although the Pioneer Valley where I live in Western Massachusetts is well known for its colleges (Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, Smith, and UMass are all in the area), and for its exquisite fall foliage, we also have another distinction. The small town of Hadley is known as the “Asparagus Capital” of the U.S.

Right about now, as we head into May, local farmers start to bring their asparagus crops to our markets. The minute I see the signs “Locally Grown” sitting atop mounds of the native spears, I fill my cart with bunches. There are so many ways to use this spring produce. I serve them as an appetizer with a bowl of aioli for dipping, or I grill or blanche them, then season them with a sprinkle of lemon zest and a hint of fleur de sel. Sometimes they even become part of the main course as in the recipe for Penne with Asparagus, Mushrooms, and Prosciutto featured here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Food, Fashion, and Paris

Parisian Chic

Food and fashion seem to be the first two things to come to mind when we dream of Paris. I was reminded of this truism yet again this past week. A friend, off to Paris next month for the first time in many years, emailed to ask if I’d share some of my favorite restaurants.

I immediately sent her a note suggesting that she check out my website and click on the Paris tab at the top to see the current food venues I love in the City of Light, including both Sola and Le Casse Noix, two recent discoveries.

 To my  amusement, a second email arrived several days later from this lovely woman, requesting fashion advice. It began, “May I ask you, not a food question, but a clothes question?” and ended with the endearing line, “I'm not a high-style dresser at age 78, but don't want to look frumpy.”

I recommended Ines de la Fressange’s Parisian Chic, an inexpensive style guide written by a former top French model. This little paperback reveals the secrets of what smart Parisian women wear and where they shop. (Full disclosure--I’m as passionate about clothes as food when in France’s capital.)

Le Casse Noix

Yes, everyone goes to Paris to eat divinely. And, for some, looking their best while taking a sip of soupe à l’oignon gratinée or biting into a glorious millefeuille is de rigueur. My septuagenarian pal definitely belongs to the latter contingent. She has already ordered a copy of Parisian Chic!