Cooking for your Health: Asparagus Mimosa with Quinoa

Asparagus mimosa tastefood

~ Asparagus, Quinoa, Egg, Lemon, Mint, Olive Oil ~

As you can see, this is not a crazy savory cocktail to be confused with the brunch-friendly champagne and orange juice beverage. Mimosa in French culinary terms refers to finely grated or seived hard-cooked eggs frequently used to dust salads and vegetables or as a component of deviled eggs. You might understand why the eloquent-minded Français would prefer the term “mimosa” for such a preparation. Not only is it poetic and mellifluous, it’s also apt: the crumbled canary yellow yolk of the egg resembles the brilliant mimosa flower which blooms in early Spring. Spring is also the time for asparagus, and asparagus dusted with mimosa is a popular and elegant preparation. I took this recipe one step further and turned it into a healthy yet light main dish, serving the asparagus on a bed of nutrient- rich quinoa tossed with olive oil, lemon and mint. I dare say it would make a wonderful addition to any brunch menu – accompanied by champagne and orange juice (naturally).

Asparagus Mimosa with Quinoa
Serves 3 to 4

1 cup red quinoa
Salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound thin asparagus, woody ends trimmed
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
2 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
1 large egg, hardboiled
Sea salt flakes

Place quinoa, 2 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until the quinoa grains are tender and release their white “tail”. Drain and transfer to a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and toss to coat. Set aside to cool slightly.

Heat oven broiler. Arrange asparagus in one layer on a rimmed baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and lightly season with salt. Turn to coat. Broil on the top shelf until crisp tender, 2 to 3 minutes, shaking the pan once.

Add 1 tablespoon mint and 1 teaspoon lemon zest to the quinoa. Stir to combine. Spoon the quinoa onto a serving plate. Place the asparagus on top of the quinoa. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 lemon over the asparagus and quinoa. Press the egg through a sieve with medium-sized holes over the asparagus. Sprinkle with sea salt flakes, additional mint and lemon zest. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Pork Rillettes with Calvados and a recipe for Apple Prune Chutney

Pork Rillettes with Calvados and a recipe for Apple Prune Chutney

 Charcutepalooza Challenge #10: Stretching
Pork Rillettes with Calvados 

These little pots of meaty goodness promise to make right in the world. Rillettes are potted jars and terrines of meat confit, slow cooked in fat, shredded and packed in more fat. Rustic, unctuous and oh-so-rich, a little dab goes a long way. Which is why the process of making rillettes is called “stretching,” which is this month’s Charcutepalooza challenge.

Stretching is an economical and sparing way of making meat last – using all of the last bits and preserving them for later use. It’s a method steeped in conservation and frugality, yet its results are rich and luxurious. It’s the paradox of French country cooking, and it’s why I love it.

Duck, goose and pork are traditional proteins for rillettes. I chose pork and adapted a recipe from WrightFood where the pork is spiced and marinated overnight in Calvados, then slowly cooked in duck fat. Need I say more?

~
I like to accompany rillettes with fruit chutney. The sweet piquancy of chutney adds a fresh balance to the rich meat. Chutneys are flexible and forgiving. Use a mix of fresh and dried fruit, combined with an acid, such as vinegar or citrus. Sweet and savory with a kick, chutneys are perfect accompaniments to meat and poultry.

Apple Prune Chutney
Makes about 2 cups

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut in 1/4 inch dice
1 large shallot, chopped, about 1/4 cup
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pitted prunes
1/3 cup currants or raisins
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup Armagnac
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon finely ground juniper berries
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add apples and shallot. Sauté until beginning to soften without browning, 2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered until liquid has nearly evaporated, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until use. May be made up to 2 days in advance. (Flavors will develop with time.)

What is Charcutepalooza?
An inspirational idea hatched by Cathy Barrow and Kim Foster and partnering with Food52 and Punk Domestics. It celebrates a Year in Meat, where participating foodies and bloggers will cure, smoke and salt their way through Michael Ruhlman’s bestselling cookbook Charcuterie.

Porcini Cheese Fondue

It perplexes me when the subject of cheese fondue comes up, and it’s often accompanied by a snide reference to the seventies. I find it sad that this quintessential alpine dish is relegated to a by-gone era evoking images of shag rugs, unfortunate hair and textured bell-bottoms. Certainly this was not intended when the rural inhabitants of Swiss and French mountainous villages devised a warming winter dish incorporating their local cheese and winter staples.

I may be biased. I was never a fan of the seventies, even when I lived in them. Conversely, I am a huge fan of Switzerland. After all, I lived there for 10 years following my stint at cooking school in Paris. My husband and I were married in Switzerland, and our children were born there. As a result, Switzerland holds a special place in our hearts and will always be considered home to our family.

The best way to a country’s soul is to experience its cuisine. As an expat in Geneva it was a delicious pleasure to embrace Swiss specialties, namely chocolate and cheese. We’ll leave the chocolate for another post. As for the cheese, we enjoyed it in all of its forms, and the Swiss tradition of melting it in deep pots with wine and spirits quickly became a favorite. When we eventually moved from Geneva to London, and then on to Copenhagen, I became more reliant on making my own version of fondue for wintry family dinners to satisfy our wistful cravings.

This recipe has been tweaked and fine-tuned over the years, influenced by taste and available ingredients. In addition to serving it with the usual bread, I like to pass around bowls of parboiled baby potatoes, cauliflower and broccoli florets for dipping.

Porcini Cheese Fondue

The extra ingredient in this cheese fondue is porcini mushrooms, which I highly recommend adding. They will simmer in the cheese imparting a rich umami flavor to the fondue. If you prefer a simple cheese fondue, omit the porcini. Serves 4.

3 tablespoons Calvados or Poire William brandy
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for serving
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 pound high quality alpine cheese such as Gruyère, Emmental, Comté. (I use 2/3 Gruyere and 1/3 Emmental), grated
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in hot water until reconstituted, drained, squeezed dry and coarsely chopped
1 loaf peasant bread, cut in 3/4 inch cubes

Note: Have all of your ingredients ready before you begin. Once you start, the fondue will come together quickly, and during this time it must be constantly stirred. The fondue must not come to a boil during this time.

Combine Calvados, cornstarch, salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and nutmeg in a small bowl, stirring to dissolve the cornstarch. Set aside.
Add wine and garlic to a large heavy saucepan or fondue pot. Heat over medium heat until tiny bubbles form, giving the wine a fizzy appearance without bringing to a boil. Add cheese one handful at a time, stirring constantly until each handful is melted before adding the next – do not let the fondue boil.
Once cheese is added, continue stirring one minute – do not let the fondue boil.
Stir in cornstarch. Continue stirring until mixture thickens to fondue consistency. (I find that some cornstarch brands thicken more easily than others. If your fondue remains thin, add 1 more tablespoon cornstarch diluted with 2 tablespoons white wine.) If using porcini, stir the mushrooms into the cheese at this point. Remove from heat. Pour cheese into a warm fondue pot if necessary. Serve immediately.

Serve with extra ground pepper, bread and parboiled vegetables such as small potatoes, cauliflower and broccoli florets.

Homemade Duck Prosciutto and a Tartine

Homemade Duck Prosciutto and a Tartine

For those of you not in the know, there is a fabulous food blog event taking place as we speak. I refer to Charcutepalooza: A Year in Meat, hosted by Cathy Barrow and Kim Foster. These two bloggers have come up with the inspirational idea to cure, smoke and salt their way through Michael Ruhlman’s bestselling cookbook Charcuterie along with the participating food blogging community. I am a huge fan of charcuterie as well as the precepts of using sustainable and humanely raised meat, so it was without hesitation that I joined in the Charcutepalooza party.

The first challenge of the year was to make homemade duck prosciutto. I have long wished to make my own prosciutto, and what better way to get my feet wet (or hands salty) than with duck breasts. The only difficult aspect of the preparation was waiting 7 days for them to cure. During this time I learned two valuable things: Duck prosciutto is extremely easy to make, and that patience is a virtue – at least when it comes to curing meat.

There are many ways to enjoy duck prosciutto, the simplest quite often the best. In this case I prepared a tartine, or a French open-face sandwich. The prosciutto is paired with melting reblochon cheese and layered over mixed greens. At once rustic and fresh, this recipe is a great way to kick off Charcutepalooza’s Year of Meat.

Duck Prosciutto and Reblochon Tartine

Reblochon is a soft cow milk cheese from the Savoie region of the French alps. It may be substituted with Saint Nectaire or Camembert. Try using a variety of greens and herbs. I used what I had on hand: flat leaf parsley, mizuna and radicchio.

Makes 4

2 slices of french country bread, sliced 1/2 inch thick, halved
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups mixed greens, such as lambs lettuce, frisée, green herbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 wedges Reblochon or Saint Nectaire cheese
4 sprigs rosemary
4 slices duck prosciutto

Preheat oven broiler. Lightly brush bread with olive oil. Arrange on baking tray and broil, turning once, until lightly golden. Remove from oven, but don’t turn off the heat.
Place greens in a bowl. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper; toss.
Place wedges of cheese in a small baking pan. Top each wedge with a rosemary sprig. Broil until cheese begins to soften and bubble, 1-2 minutes. Remove from oven.
Arrange bread slices on a plate or platter. Top with greens. Place a cheese wedge on the greens. Lay a slice of prosciutto over the greens and cheese. Sprinkle with pepper and drizzle with a few drops of olive oil. Serve immediately.

Aprés-Ski Menu: Beef Bourguignon

Aprés-Ski Menu: Beef Bourguignon

 

During the winter season I like to prepare rustic recipes from the French countryside. These hearty dishes are made with staples from the land, such as potatoes and root vegetables, bitter winter greens, cured meats and cheese.  My favorite is beef bourguignon, a stew consisting of a tough cut of beef slow-cooked in Burgundy wine until falling-apart tender, mingling with carrots, onions and mushrooms in a rich, savory stock.  It’s a delicious one-pot meal perfect for a cold night or an apres-ski meal. It can easily be made in advance, and like most stews, tastes even better the next day for easy planning. Enjoy with a glass of red wine, a roaring fire, friends and family.

Beef Bourguignon

Serves 6 to 8

Olive oil
3 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup cognac
4 large carrots, divided
4 large garlic cloves, smashed
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 (750-ml.) bottle full-bodied red wine
1 cup beef stock
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried thyme
10 ounces pearl onions, peeled
1/2 pound white mushrooms, halved
1 tablespoon brown sugar

1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat in a large oven-proof pan with lid or Dutch-oven. Season the beef with salt and pepper. Working in batches, add the beef to the pan, without over-crowding, and brown on all sides. Transfer to a bowl and repeat with the remaining beef.
2. Add the cognac to the same pan and deglaze over medium-high heat, scraping up any brown bits, and reduce by half. Pour the cognac over the beef and set aside.
3. Preheat the oven to 325 F. (170 C.)  Coarsely chop 2 carrots. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in the same pan. Add the chopped carrots, the garlic, and onion. Sauté over medium heat until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Return the beef and any collected juices to the pot. Add the wine, stock, tomato paste, and thyme. (The beef should be covered by the wine and stock. If not, add more wine or stock to cover.) Bring to boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook until the meat is very tender, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
4. About 30 minutes before the beef is finished cooking, cut the remaining carrots into 1/2-inch slices. Saute the carrots in a skillet with 1 tablespoon oil until bright in color and crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add the onions and mushrooms to the same skillet and sauté until lightly golden and crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
5. Remove beef from oven. Pour the stew into a large strainer set over a bowl. Remove the meat from the mixture and return to the Dutch oven, then press down on the cooked vegetables in the strainer to extract as much juice as possible. Discard the solids.
6. Pour the strained liquid into a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by half and has a sauce consistency, skimming the fat from surface. Add the sugar and season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce back over beef and add the carrots, onions, and mushrooms. Bring to a simmer to heat through, then serve.

Note: Beef bourguignon can be prepared up to 2 days in advance. Cover and refrigerate. Remove solidified fat from surface before reheating. Reheat over medium-low heat on stovetop, or in a 325 F oven.

In Season: Apple Tarte Tatin

In Season: Apple Tarte Tatin

Tartetatin

Fall season means baking with apples, and one of my favorite ways to bake with apples is to make a Tarte Tatin. I have posted this recipe before on TasteFood, but, dang, it’s so good, I have to post it again. The method of making a Tarte Tatin is classic to which this recipe stays true, except in its use of a sour cream based pastry which I discovered years ago in Bon Appetit. The pastry is delightfully easy and quick to make with crisp and flaky results. So far, this season I have made at least 4 Tarte Tatins. With each rendition, they have gotten even better, and I would like to share a few small tips with you to ensure delicious results.

Tarte Tatin is an upside down fruit tart. Traditionally, apples are used, however pears, apricots, nectarines and peaches work well, too. The beauty of using apples is that they are firm and do not release too much liquid while cooking and remain relatively intact. To start, the apples cook in boiling butter and sugar until the liquid caramelizes. Cook the caramel until it turns a deep amber color. It shouldn’t be too pale, nor should it overcook since it will quickly burn. Be sure to keep an eye on the caramel as it cooks, rotating the skillet to ensure even cooking. Once the right stage of coloring is achieved, remove the skillet from the heat and quickly top the fruit with the pastry. The pastry will begin to melt from the heat of the skillet, so be efficient, using a knife to push the pastry down between the sides of the skillet and the apples. Pop the skillet in the oven and bake until the pastry is a deep golden brown. It should be firm when tapped.

These simple tips, with a little practice and finesse, will transform apples, butter and sugar into a squidgy and caramelized fruit dessert. I can’t think of a more rewarding practice – can you?

Tarte tatin

Apple Tarte Tatin
Serves 10-12

For the Sour Cream Pastry:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut in pieces
1/3 cup full fat sour cream

Apple Filling:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, cut in 4 pieces
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
6 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and halved
1 egg, beaten to blend, for glaze

Prepare Pastry:
Combine flour, sugar and salt in bowl of food processor. Pulse to blend. Add butter and pulse until butter is size of peas. Add sour cream and pulse until moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball, flatten and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. (Can be made one day ahead; refrigerate until use. Pastry dough may also be frozen up to one month in freezer before rolling. Allow to defrost in refrigerator overnight.) Remove pastry from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before rolling out.

Prepare Tart:
Arrange butter in bottom of large oven-proof skillet with sloping sides (preferably cast iron.) Sprinkle 1 cup sugar evenly over butter and pan. Cook over medium heat until butter melts, the sugar is partially dissolved and the mixture is bubbling, about 2 minutes.  Arrange apples closely together, core-side up, in a circular pattern in the skillet. If necessary, cut remaining apples in quarters to fill in the spaces. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar. Set skillet over medium-high heat. Boil until a thick amber coloured syrup forms, turning skillet to ensure even cooking, about 30-40 minutes.
While the apple mixture is cooking on stove, preheat oven to 425 F. Roll out pastry on floured surface or parchment paper to a round shape to fit size of skillet. Remove skillet from heat. Lay pastry over apple mixture. Cut 3-4 slits in pastry. Brush pastry with some of the egg glaze.

Bake tart until pastry is deep golden brown and firm when tapped, about 30 minutes. Remove tart from oven and cool on rack one minute. Cut around edge of skillet to loosen pastry. Invert the tart onto a platter, using oven mitts. If any of the apples or caramel are stuck in the pan, remove with a knife and arrange on top of tart. Cool tart slightly before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature with dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Apricot Tarte Tatin

Apricot Tarte Tatin

Apricot Tarte

I love the rustic presentation of Tarte Tatins. When I think of rustic desserts I think of cobblers and crisps, trifles and crostatas. I think of families and recipes passed down through the generations, and I think of the countryside, whether it’s in Europe or the U.S.  Comforting and inviting, rustic desserts are like the favorite pullover you reach for on a cold afternoon: warm, cozy, tried and true.

Rustic baking is beautiful to behold in its own imperfect way. It isn’t fussy and and is forgiving in its portions. The food begs to be shared – plunked in the middle of a farmhouse table and served to a crowd of family and friends. And it also tastes good – really good. Caramelized and squidgy, buttery and crunchy are all adjectives that leap to mind. It’s the stuff that childhood memories are made of – comfort food at its best.

This apricot tarte tatin is a twist on the rustic French dessert that features apples. Apples are not required, however, for a delicious Tarte Tatin. Any fruit that can be slow cooked in butter and sugar without dissolving will work: pears, plums, peaches and apricots.

Apricot Tatin tf

Apricot Tarte Tatin
Serves 10-12

This pastry is very easy to prepare. The finished result is crumbly and buttery, a perfect complement to the caramelized apricots. Sour cream may be substituted for the cream cheese.

For the cream cheese pastry:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in pieces
1/3 cup cream cheese

For the apricot filling:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
12 apricots, about 3 pounds, halved and pitted

1 egg, lightly beaten

Prepare pastry:
Blend flour, sugar and salt in bowl of electric mixer. Add butter and beat at medium-low speed until butter is pea-sized, about 2 minutes. Add cream cheese and beat until moist clumps form, 1 minute. Gather dough in ball, flatten and wrap in plastic. Chill at least 1 hour. (Dough may be made one day ahead. Keep refrigerated.) Let soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.

Prepare tart:
Spread butter over bottom of large oven-proof skillet (preferably cast iron) with sloping sides. Sprinkle 3/4 cup sugar over butter. Heat over medium heat until butter melts, sugar begins to dissolve and mixture begins to bubble, about 2 minutes. Remove skillet from heat. Arrange apricots, skin-side down, in a circular pattern in the skillet. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar.

Return skillet to stovetop. Cook over medium heat until a thick amber colored syrup forms, repositioning skillet to ensure even cooking, 25-30 minutes.
While the apricots are cooking, preheat oven to 425 F. Roll out pastry on floured surface or parchment paper to a round shape to fit size of skillet. When the apricots are sufficiently caramelized remove skillet from heat and lay pastry over apricots. Cut 4 slits in top of pastry. Press pastry down around edge of skillet and apricots. Brush with egg.
Bake in oven until pastry is deep golden brown, 25 minutes. Remove and let rest one minute. Run knife around edge of tart. Place a large platter over skillet. Using oven mitts, hold skillet and platter together and invert tart onto platter. Cool 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.