The most wonderful part of walking out to the garden and picking tomatoes is the fragrance of their leaves. You rub them between your fingers then inhale. It’s an intoxicating aroma. It begs you to pluck a ripened tomato from the vine. You know which tomato is perfect for picking. You gently touch it and it falls into your waiting hand.
You fill your basket with the little darlings. Then if you are like me you can’t resist choosing the most perfect tomato and bite into it. You savor the sweet flesh and juices still warm from the sun. This is bliss.
And then when you get just a little weary of another BLT sandwich or one more tomato enhanced salad you make this glorious, very French, so addictive, extraordinary simple dish of tomatoes simmered in a little butter, sprinkled with fresh thyme, sea salt and freshly ground pepper and cloaked in rich cream. Unlike most French recipes containing tomatoes you do not peel or seed the tomatoes.
This is the perfect side dish for grilled meats or roasts. Served with savory suppertime crêpes it is positively a star. Head out to the garden or your favorite Farmer’s Market and choose the most perfect tomatoes.
I have a favorite cooking pan. It is the one I reach for when I am sauteing or braising meat. It is a very large pan – 13 inches across. You can brown a lot of meat at a time.
It is a very deep pan – 6 inches deep. The contents can sizzle and spit and everything stays IN the pan.
It is a very heavy pan – 10 pounds. But two handles make it easy to handle. The bottom of the pan is very flat. It cooks so evenly there are no hot spots to burn its contents.
It cleans beautifully – shiny as a new silver coin. Amazing when you realize this same pan had been used several thousand times in our little French restaurant, Roxy’s Bistro. I have great affection for this pan.
I use this perfect pan to make Southern Italy dish PORK RAGÙ with polenta. Pieces of boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt) browned in olive oil are slowly simmered in a robust rich wine tomato sauce fragrant with fresh thyme and rosemary. Then it’s served over the creamiest, most luxurious polenta you have ever tasted.
I also use my perfect pan to make polenta. Think of polenta rich with whole milk, unsalted butter, seasoned with a little brown sugar and fine sea salt. Grate a little Parmigiano-Reggiano over it. Sprinkle the polenta with chopped fresh parsley and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and you have polenta that is the stuff dreams are made of. Polenta that compliments superbly your lovingly prepared Pork Ragù.
There is a secret to this type of cooking. The Pork Ragù tastes even BETTER after it dreams away in the refrigerator for a couple of days. This makes it the perfect dish for entertaining. You simply carefully reheat the Pork Ragù and whip up the polenta. Even the polenta benefits from a tiny rest before being plated. If you have any left over Pork Ragù it makes a gorgeous sauce over pasta. It also freezes beautifully.
Rillettes of Pork. The name sound like something you would like to take on a picnic? You know – one of those picnics where you spread heavy blankets and soft cushions over fragrant grass. Throw a checked tablecloth down. Unload crystal wine glasses, linen napkins and heavy silver from an ancient picnic basket. You open a terrine of rillettes of pork. Smear it generously on crusty bread. Add some sharp, sweet gherkins. Open a bottle of good red wine. Utter Bliss.
Rillettes of pork is a type of French pate famous around the Loire. It’s sold everywhere in charcuteries and I even spotted it in a supermarket. The ingredients are very basic – Boston butt and pork fat. These are the two main ingredients of divine pate the English call “potted meat”. If you can find a good butcher shop selling organic pork and organic pork fat that is the best way to go. If that is not possible buy a very fatty Boston butt and use fat cut from the meat. You also can use fresh pork belly. Since we raise our own pork I used the”fat back” in this recipe.
Chunks of pork and fat are braised slowly until the moisture evaporates the meat is fork tender. The meat and fat is mashed and packed into a terrine or small ramekins. The layer of fat on the top of the terrine has been simmered with the meat and is utterly delicious. To me the best part of rillettes. There is a little back and forth into the refrigerator but the recipe is easy. Most of the time spent is the slow simmering of the meat so do plan to make this when you can pop back into the kitchen and keep an eye on things. The rillettes will keep, well wrapped, in the refrigerator for 2 weeks. You can also freeze rillettes.
Roasted rhubarb! Doesn’t it simply roll off your tongue. Roasted rhubarb! How intriguing. How absolutely delicious. Stalks of rhubarb roasted to sugary tartness. This simple method allows you to roast pieces of rhubarb to a delicate tenderness that stays almost intact.
Rhubarb definitely has attitude. It can be difficult to prepare. It demands all your skill and attention. A few minutes to long on the heat and you have mush. Roasting your rhubarb is the secret to perfectly tender, perfectly whole pieces of rhubarb. It couldn’t be simpler. Simply sprinkle with a little sugar. A scatter of grated zest or orange or rhubarb, pop it in a very hot oven and VOILA you have superb rhubarb sauce.
Spoon it into a crystal goblet. Lavish it with cream. You have the perfect ending to a meal. Mix it into a dish of yoghourt. Sprinkle it with a little crunchy granola and breakfast is ready. It’s delicious with rice pudding. Serve it over slices of toasted pound cake with an extravagant splash of whipped cream and you have company fare. You can serve roasted rhubarb warm, at room temperature, or chilled. All this from a few stalks of rhubarb. ROASTED RHUBARB … it’s the perfect summer dessert.
Centre rack in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.
Toss the rhubarb with the sugar and zest in a baking pan that will hold them comfortably. A Pyrex pie plate is perfect.
Let the mix rest for 5 minutes or just long enough for a little syrup to start to develop.
Cover the pan with foil and roast the rhubarb for about 15 minutes. Check and if the sugar isn't almost completely melted, stir, re-cover the pan with the foil and roast for a few minutes more.
Once the sugar is melted, remove the foil and roast for another 5 minutes, or until the syrup is bubbling.Remove the pan from the oven and let the rhubarb cool just enough for you to taste it. If you don't think the mix is sweet enough, add a little honey.
It is the attention to detail. The little extra that pushes something over the top that take it from very good to extraordinary. And when that extraordinary itself is truly magnificent you have pure gold.
During our restaurant years every evening I made a gorgeous caramel sauce. We would liberally pour it over the house-made ice cream. The recipe was time consuming and demanding. So I started the hunt for a caramel sauce that one could whip up quickly and without too much stress.
Making caramel sauce is rather like the fairy tale Brothers Grim Rumpelstiltskin. You turn water and sugar into a deep burnished rich golden colour. And you do not have to give up your first-born child to do it.
This caramel recipe has just the right balance of caramelized sugar to butter and cream. The recipe is easy. You put water and sugar into a pan. Watch it turn a deep golden brown. Whisk in butter. The aroma smells like McIntosh Toffee. Add a little cream. Cool. Taste. Sprinkle in flakes of fleur de sel and faster than you can say Rumpelstiltskin you have the most decadent salted caramel sauce.
Pour it over ice cream or a slice of cake. Add a generous dollop of whipped cream and you have a dessert worthy of a four star restaurant. The very best part of this recipe for caramel sauce. It refrigerates beautifully. I must admit I occasionally remove the chilled sauce, dip a spoon into its silky goodness and swoon over this stealthy treat. The sauce will keep two weeks refrigerated.
This unprepossessing plant. So humble in origin. A grow anywhere especially in back lanes plant. This long awaited harbinger of spring type of plant. This new darling of avant-garde young chefs. This wonderful rhubarb is the upside-down topping on the most delicious of brown sugar cakes.
I discovered this scrumptious recipe in a new cook-book by one of my favorite cook-book authors – Doris Greenspan – “Baking Chez Moi”. It is perfection on its own as a snacking cake or one could lavish it with whipped cream or crème fraíche. Add a few very ripe strawberries and it would be a spectacular finish to a meal.
This is an easy recipe to put together. You don’t use a stand mixer – just your favorite balloon whisk. The cake stays moist and delectable for up to three days. Simply keep it covered at room temperature.
The original recipe calls for fresh rhubarb but you can also use frozen rhubarb. Just be sure to allow time for your frozen rhubarb to defrost and drain (gently pressing on the stalks to help remove the moisture.
I feel very strongly about soup. Soup satisfies the body and the soul. There is simply nothing more wonderful then enjoying a beautiful bowl of home-made soup. For me the benchmark of good cooks and good restaurants is the quality of their soup. Soup should be treated with great respect. It should be lovingly and carefully prepared. The ingredients carefully chosen then prepared and cooked to absolute perfection.
The basis of most soups is the stock. It should be home-made. There are some exceptions. House-made stock from a fresh food supplier is a good substitute. This soup recipe calls for home-made chicken stock. When you buy chicken stock in cans or vacuum packages you are buying flavoured water. You should be able to reduce a good chicken stock down so that it becomes thick and syrupy. Try reducing the canned or packaged chicken down and you will be left with nothing but flavoured powder.
Roasting cauliflower changes this plain Jan white vegetable into something so deeply flavoured, so rich and wonderful you’ll find yourself stealing a few florets to nibble as you prepare the soup. Don’t be afraid to let the cauliflower turn a very deep golden colour.
For a vegetarian version of this soup substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock.
This soup has a hands-on time of just 30 minutes to prepare. Add a tossed salad and your dinner is on the table before you can finish a glass of wine. Bon Appetit by friends.
ROASTED CAULIFLOWER AND LEEK SOUP WITH CHEDDAR CROSTINI
Roasting the cauliflower gives this soup a deep golden colour and a rich flavour.
1 head cauliflower cut into 2-inch florets (about 8 cups)
2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbs butter
2 large leeks (white and light green parts only), halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise
l large onion chopped
3 cloves(about 2 tbsp) minced garlic
4 cups rich home made chicken stock
1½ cups water
¾ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp fine sea salt
1¼ cups shredded old Cheddar cheese
¾ cup shredded Cheddar cheese
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
4 tsp Dijon mustard
16 sliced sliced baguettes
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
pinch of Hungarian paprika
Preheat oven to 425F. (220C)
Spread cauliflower on rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with the oil. Toss the cauliflower to cover it with oil.
Roast turning occasionally until deep golden, about 45 minutes. The darker the cauliflower the richer the taste of the soup.
Meanwhile melt butter(add a little olive oil if necessary) in a skillet over medium heat and add the onions, leeks and garlic and sprinkle with a little salt. Sprinkling onions when you are sauteing them releases moisture and flavour.
Saute until the leeks and onions are softened, about 6 minutes.
Transfer the leeks, onions, garlic and cauliflower into a large sauce pan and add the chicken stock, water, salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes until the vegetables are very tender.
Off the heat use a hand held blender and puree the mixture.
Return to the heat and on medium-low add the Cheddar cheese and mustard. Simmer until cheese is melted, about 2 minutes.
Taste and adjust seasonings.
Mix Cheddar cheese with parsley.
Spread mustard over baguette slices and top with cheese mixture.
Bake on parchment paper-lined baking sheet in 425F (220C) oven until cheese is melted and bread is golden, about 8 minutes.
There is nothing more wonderful than the heavenly aroma of a one-dish meal simmering away in the oven while you curl up in a chair with a good book. This dish has a deliciously exotic flavour created by the … Continue reading →
I made my first banana bread just after the second world war. Bananas disappeared from the produce shelves during the war. Rationing, torpedoed cargo ships and ships used for troop transport meant that many food items were simply not available.
My first banana loaf contained no walnuts. They were still rationed. The recipe was rather frugal with a limited amount of sugar and butter. However to me the flavour was wonderfully exotic and I pretended those brown specks were nuts.
Through the years I baked many variations of banana bread; coconut banana, banana prune, banana chocolate chip and so on. They were all good but not great. Hundreds of banana breads later I declare this is the Blue Ribbon Winner. It is rich with butter and eggs. Deeply flavoured with brown sugar and a smidge of cinnamon. It is extravagantly studded with walnuts, and has a delicate crumb.
Blackberries grow wild and unruly steps from my kitchen door. Protecting my arms from attacking thorns and armed with a bucket I can cheerfully spend a glorious afternoon plundering the blackberry vines. In summer I pick them warm from the … Continue reading →