everyday green lentils

I can’t remember the last time I missed the sight of brown dirt in the winter. It’s been over a month since a few major storms covered my part of the Northeast with snow, immediately becoming frozen in place. We literally have boulder-sized piles on the street made of solid ice and a thick layer of white on the ground you can walk on without making a dent.

All this icy whiteness is making me think about what spring will look like – one season I haven’t seen here in New Jersey yet – and what plants I’ll plant as soon as it thaws.

I always try to grow my favorite perennial herb plants like thyme, lavender and rosemary. Depending on what kind of winter blast Mother Nature sends, they can survive a few seasons, the lavender plants spreading out with fragrant flowers all summer.

Why did I start out writing about dirt?  It must be a sign of deprivation. Lentils taste nothing like earth or dirt to me, but their humbleness never fails to make a comforting, simple meal especially suited for eating while things go Arctic outside.  [Read more...]

chocolate madeleines

chocolate-madeleines

So, you’re in the mood for chocolate (just in case you haven’t noticed: I am) but not sure whether you want to indulge in cake or cookies? Chocolate madeleines are a happy cross between the two; with a thin, crisp crust on the outside and a moist, melting chocolate crumb on the inside.

The method is pretty basic, but in order to achieve the characteristic domed, scalloped shape of these little French cakes you need to chill the batter for an hour in the baking pan – and yes, to make this recipe you will need a madeleine pan.

Madeleines are delicious at room temperature, but especially good slightly warm from the oven.

chocolate-madeleines-recipe

chocolate madeleines

Yield: 2 dozen madeleines

Ingredients

1 tablespoon melted butter

10 tablespoons butter

6 ounces dark or bittersweet chocolate; chopped

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

½ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup cocoa powder

¼ teaspoon salt

6 egg whites

Instructions

  1. Brush a madeleine baking pan with the melted butter.
  2. Put remaining butter and the chocolate in the top of a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (be sure the water doesn't touch the bowl). Heat until chocolate and butter are almost melted; remove from heat and stir together until smooth.
  3. Sift sugar, flour, cocoa and salt into a bowl.
  4. Beat egg whites in a large bowl with an electric mixer or by hand until frothy. Stir in flour mixture until combined; add chocolate mixture and mix until blended.
  5. Portion batter into pan; chill in the refrigerator one hour. If your pan makes only 12 at a time, chill remaining batter in bowl and bake in batches.
  6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  7. Bake about 12 minutes, or until madeleines are springy to touch. Cool in pan 1 minute; unmold madeleines onto a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/02/chocolate-madeleines/

Julia Child’s Bouillabaisse Recipe

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I’m caught up in Julia Child fever {so much so that I’ve started a new blog – visit Dinner with Julia and follow me as I dive into Julia’s recipes}; the movie Julie & Julia is opening this weekend and I’m not ashamed to say that I will be standing in line for a ticket. I’ve read that Meryl Streep has captured the best of what we love about Julia, from her warbly, exuberant voice to her healthy physical lust for her husband.

Thinking about my Julia Child moment had me plucking my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking off the shelf for a little sit-down time. I wanted to make a recipe from the book, but I had trouble conjuring that spark of hunger that usually makes me rush to the kitchen to cook.

Is it because some of the recipes in Mastering are stuck in a bit of a time warp?

Browsing through the book, I see recipes that speak to another time, a time before crème fraîche became a staple in the grocery store and we knew not to cook a piece of pork to within an inch of its life: cold chicken aspic decorated with slivers of canned pimiento, veal Prince Orloff and crepes filled with boiled, canned pineapple.  In my mind I draw a caricature of the 1960′s American housewife that Julia was writing for – a perfectly coiffed woman about to throw a dinner party in her sprawling suburban ranch house, wearing a bullet bra, Jackie O skirt suit and smoking a long cigarette, like a character from the television show Mad Men.

But in between the thick, cream-colored pages of Julia’s tome are a multitude of other classic recipes and techniques that will never go out of style or fail to please – her precise directions for making homemade mayonnaise, perfect rolled omelets and puffy souffles are what make Mastering the Art of French Cooking stand alone on the cookbook shelf.

I chose to make the bouillabaisse (page 52) the other day, along with a rouille sauce to smear on crusty toasted bread.

Bouillabaisse is a Provençal fish soup, and Julia stresses the importance of keeping it simple; the broth is fortified with lots of seafood shells and trimmings (available for less than a dollar a pound at your fish counter) and flavored with the typical flavors of the region: garlic, saffron, olive oil and tomatoes.

The soup was outstanding and I like how it had something for everyone at my table (picky children among them)  – delicious broth, different kinds of fish and seafood, and a big hunk of bread to soak up every drop in the bowl.

The simplicity and authentic taste of this recipe is what Julia Child is all about to me. It also defines how I love to cook.

Julia says it best:

This is the kind of food I had fallen in love with: not trendy, souped-up fantasies, just something very good to eat….the ingredients have been carefully selected and beautifully and knowingly prepared. Or, in the words of the famous gastronome Curnonsky, “Food that tastes of what it is”. (from My Life in France)

Here’s to you, Julia!

Julia Child’s Bouillabaisse Recipe

Serving Size: Serves a table of 6

Serve the bouillabaisse with toasted bread and rouille on the side.

Ingredients

1/2 cup olive oil

1 cup each chopped onion and leek

4 cloves mashed garlic

2 or 3 large, ripe tomatoes

2 1/2 quarts water

Fresh herb sprigs: thyme, parsley, fennel fronds and basil (in any combination)

1/2 teaspoon saffron

1 tablespoon sea salt

3 - 4 pounds fish heads, bones, trimmings, shrimp shells

1 1/2 pounds each peeled shrimp (use the shells for the stock); wild cod, halibut and/or sole cut into chunks, and debearded, scrubbed mussels or clams

Toasted rustic bread

For the Rouille:

1 roasted and peeled red bell pepper

1 roasted hot red chile pepper or ground cayenne pepper to taste

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 small peeled garlic clove

1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs or finely chopped almonds

1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves

Fine sea salt, about 1/2 teaspoon or to taste

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

    For the soup:
  1. Heat the oil in a tall pot (I used an 8 quart stockpot) over medium heat; add the onion and leek and cook gently until softened. Stir in the garlic and cook for a minute until fragrant, then add the tomatoes, water, herbs, saffron, salt and fish bones. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat so that the broth bubbles slowly without boiling.
  2. Cook 30 minutes, then strain the broth into a large bowl or another pot and discard the solids.
  3. Pour the broth back into the stockpot and bring to a boil. Add the shrimp and cook until they turn pink, a minute or two. Add the rest of the fish and shellfish, cover and simmer until the mussels or clams open. Taste the soup and add more salt and freshly ground pepper if needed.
  4. For the Rouille:
  5. Puree everything except for the olive oil in a food processor until smooth. Slowly add the olive oil while processing to form a paste.
http://familystylefood.com/2009/08/julia-childs-bouillabaisse-recipe/