Monthly Archives: July 2014

Fresh from the Farm Stand

Enjoy some summer recipes in my July/August issue of The Judicial Palate.

Fresh from the Farm Stand

Farm Stand

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2014 issue of The Journal of the Delaware State Bar Association, a publication of the Delaware State Bar Association. Copyright © Delaware State Bar Association 2014.  All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

 

A Summer Flan

Flan is one of my favorite desserts.  It is rich yet light, and it is so simple to prepare.  This custardy dessert is also a great way to incorporate fresh berries – simply serve a spoonful of blueberries and raspberries alongside a slice.

Below is my recipe for flan, which I have modified slightly since I last wrote about it.  After making many flans, I’ve decided that the best way to achieve the caramel topping is to leave out the water – let the sugar stand alone!

Ingredients:

5 eggs

14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk

1 cup whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Beat the eggs.  Mix the eggs, condensed milk, whole milk and vanilla (this is the flan mixture).

Eggs

Batter

Heat a saucepan over medium-low heat and add the sugar.  Using a wooden spoon, stir the sugar until it melts and turns a light brown color (this is the caramel).

Sugar

Sugar 1

Sugar 2

Remove the saucepan from the heat and pour the caramel into a buttered 9 inch round pie dish.  Then pour the flan mixture into the dish and cover tightly with aluminum foil.  Place the pie dish into 1 inch of hot water in a larger pan to create a water bath.  Bake for about 50 minutes.  To test, insert the tip of a knife in the flan.  If the knife comes out clean, then the flan is finished.  Chill the flan before serving.  To serve, place fresh berries on the side of the flan.

Flan

It’s difficult to find a lighter, tastier and simpler dessert…enjoy!

Save Those Squash Blossoms!

If you are fortunate enough to have squash blossoms in your own back yard, don’t let them go to waste! They are only available to enjoy for a few short weeks.  When I walk through the neighborhood and spot these beautiful flowers in a garden, I hope that the owner will use them at their peak and make fritters for dinner.  If you are not growing your own, see if a local farm or market will supply you with these summer delicacies.

The mild squash taste of the flowers makes for excellent fritters; however, if you are in the mood for a non-fried option, try the vibrant flowers in a salad.  A very simple one to showcase both taste and color is to slice a juicy, ripe tomato into wedges and add strips of squash blossoms.  Combine with fresh basil for some green, and top with a light dressing of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.  Of course, season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper.  This salad should prove to be one of your favorites this summer.

Squash Blossoms

Crêpes — Savory, Then Sweet

When one of my students gave me a gift of a crêpe pan several years ago, I decided to put it to good use.  It would not become one of those kitchen items that sits in a cabinet just to be seen once a year.  So, I decided to make crêpes for Sunday morning breakfasts…savory crêpes filled with scrambled eggs followed by sweet crêpes topped with maple syrup and berries.

Below is a simple crêpe recipe intended to make two savory crêpes and two to four sweet ones.

Ingredients for Crêpes:

1/3 cup milk

3/4 cup cold water

1 egg

Pinch of salt

Pinch of sugar

1/2 cup flour

Butter for the crêpe pan or non-stick pan

Place all of the ingredients except for the flour in a mixing bowl and whisk together.  Then, add the flour and continue to whisk, eliminating any lumps.  Set aside while preparing the eggs.

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Ingredients for Scrambled Eggs:

4 eggs

Splash of milk

Splash of water

Fresh herbs

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Fresh ground pepper

This is how I typically make scrabbled eggs.  (No precise measurements are involved…sometimes I add cheese or peppers, whatever strikes my fancy.  You probably have your own technique and should use what you would enjoy tasting.)  Place the eggs, milk and water in a mixing bowl and whisk together.  Set aside until you are ready to scramble.

This breakfast requires two pans to be working simultaneously, side by side, on the stove.  The first is the crêpe pan.  Place a slice of butter in the crêpe pan over medium heat.  When the butter melts and sizzles, tilt the pan so that the butter moves around its bottom.  Pour a large ladle of crêpe batter (just under 1/4 cup) into the center of the pan and tilt the pan around so that the batter covers the bottom of the pan.

As the batter begins to bubble, move the pan forward and backward to loosen the crêpe.  Lift the edges of the crêpe with a spatula to see when the bottom of the crêpe is lightly browned.  Then, carefully turn the crêpe using a spatula and your fingers (or, you can toss the crêpe with a quick movement of the pan away from you then toward you).  Brown the crêpe on the other side for another minute at most.  Transfer the crêpe to a dish and grease the pan for the second crêpe.

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While working with the crêpes, prepare the scrambled eggs.  Add some olive oil, sea salt and fresh ground pepper to a non-stick pan.  Turn the heat to medium low and tilt the pan so that the olive oil covers the bottom.  Pour the eggs into the center of the pan and add your fresh herbs.  The olive oil should prevent the eggs from sticking, and as the eggs begin to solidify around the edges, use a non-stick spatula to scramble.

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When the eggs are finishing cooking, spoon them down the center of each crêpe.  Fold the sides of the crêpe over the eggs and turn the entire crêpe over so that the “seam” is not visible.  Garnish with more herbs and a drizzle of chili oil (or a flavored oil of your choice).

DSCN4115After this savory course, repeat the crêpe making process for the sweet course – crêpes topped with maple syrup (or honey) and fresh berries.

DSCN4119 Note: This also makes a fun breakfast for dinner!

 

An Annual Treat — Bistrot La Minette’s Bastille Day Velouté

It seemed only fitting to dine at one of my favorite Philadelphia restaurants – Bistrot La Minette – on Bastille Day.  Last night, my party of three dined at Philly’s top bistro to celebrate La Fête de la Bastille.  Atop the special four course prix fixe menu (of a very reasonable fixed price of $40), Chef Peter Woolsey shared that this is his favorite meal of the year, and I understand why…

A myriad flavors were possible for a Kir Royale, but we chose the traditional cassis for our bubbly apéritif.

It was unanimous that the most intriguing taste of the evening was the Velouté Glacé de Petits Pois.  This chilled pea soup served with a drizzling of lemon crème frâiche and truffle oil was  refreshing with an earthy undertone on a humid summer night.  The fact that the soup was chilled was a special treat as the Bistrot’s dinner menu typically offers a hot pea and parsley soup.

The second course consisted of an elegant buffet including a variety of French appetizers.  This was the ideal way to sample the culinary talent at the Bistrot.  Some of our favorites were…

  • Rillettes de Canard (duck confit)
  • Terrine de Campagne (country style paté atop toasted brioche)
  • Salade de Lentilles (Puy lentils with mustard vinaigrette)
  • Poivrons Rôtis (oven roasted peppers with olive oil and garlic confit)
  • Salade de Tomates (sliced Roma tomatoes with basil, sherry vinegar and olive oil)

Then, we selected three of the four main course options…

  • Poulet Rôti (half roasted chicken with tarragon jus)
  • Pavé de Saumon (pan seared filet of salmon with beurre blanc)
  • Côte de Porc Sauce Vinegrée (pan seared pork chop with sherry vinegar jus)
  • Each was served with a gratin dauphinois (scalloped potatoes), tomato Provençal (slow roasted tomato) and haricots verts (French green beans).  The chicken skin was crisped to perfection while the salmon and pork were seared to the same degree of excellence.  The fourth option, an exotic mushroom tart, was also appealing…but will be atop the list of choices for next year.

Our trio allowed for a tasting of each of the three decadent desserts…

  • Tarte aux Pêches (peach tart with almond cream and cassis sorbet)
  • Mille Feuille aux Framboises (puff pastry with vanilla cream and raspberries)
  • Gâteau Mousse au Chocolat (chocolate mousse layer cake with pistachio)

Until next Bastille Day…although we are sure to visit our friends at the Bistrot before then!

Slow Down…Take the Time to Celebrate Bastille Day — Escargots au Beurre

Add a French flair to your dining experience today — Le quatorze juillet.  One of the simplest ways to do so is to prepare this appetizer of snails with butter.  It will take quatorze minutes, at most…

Ingredients:

1 baguette

1 dozen escargots

3 tablespoons French butter

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Additional extra virgin olive oil to drizzle on the baguette slices

5 cloves garlic, chopped

3 scallions, sliced or 1 shallot, chopped

1 handful parsley, chopped

Finishing salt

Fresh ground pepper

I use Roland escargots, which can be found in the grocery store.  Each can is 8.75 ounces and contains one dozen escargots.  This is ideal for serving three to four guests, but you can modify the above quantities for a larger celebration of La fête nationale.  The advantage to using these escargots is that they are already cleaned and cooked – you only have to heat them!

Preheat the broiler.  Slice the baguette into pieces lengthwise and then each piece in half as if making a sandwich.  Drizzle olive oil on each slice.  Place the slices under the broiler until they are golden brown on one side.  Then turn the slices over to lightly toast the other side.  Remove the slices from the broiler and place one slice on each small plate.

Heat a large nonstick pan over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 3 tablespoons of French butter.  Allow the pan to heat up and the butter to foam.  Tilt the pan around so that the olive oil and butter coat the bottom of the pan.  Add the garlic and scallions/shallot to the pan and stir with a wooden spoon.  Allow these ingredients to cook for about 2 minutes.  Drain the liquid from the can of escargots and add them to the pan along with the parsley.  Turn the heat down to low and stir.  The escargots should be heated through in just a few minutes.  Place three or four escargots on each slice of baguette and drizzle some of the butter mixture so that no richness goes to waste.  Season with finishing salt and pepper to taste.

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 Bonne fête!

Make the Most of Your Favorite Summer Herb with a Basil Pesto

During my Italian Lunch cooking class today, we made ricotta gnocchi with three sauces – marinara, pesto and butter sage.  While the marinara and butter sage sauces were quite delicious, the pesto made me appreciate the abundance of basil this time of year.  So, I share my recipe for basil pesto.

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Ingredients:

½ cup pignoli (pine nuts)

10 stalks of fresh basil

3 cloves of garlic

½ cup parmesan cheese

6 tablespoons of softened butter (yes, this recipe is a rich one!)

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Fresh ground pepper

Remove the basil leaves from the stalks and place them in a food processor.  Add the pine nuts, garlic, cheese and butter and blend until it forms a paste.  Add the olive oil little by little as well as the salt and pepper to taste while blending the other ingredients.  Be sure to use a spatula to push down any ingredients stuck to the sides of the food processor in between your processing.  Toss the pesto with gnocchi or your favorite pasta – a little goes a long way!

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Cherry Salsa

Now is the time to enjoy sweet cherries.  Already this summer, you may have prepared cherry desserts ranging from pies to clafoutis.

Another way to incorporate this fruit into your summer repertoire is a cherry salsa to enhance your main course.  I used the quantities below for an accompaniment to a grilled pork loin dinner for two (with some left over).

Ingredients:

1 1/2 dozen sweet cherries, pitted and roughly cut into smaller chunks

1 small shallot, roughly chopped

1/3 cup cilantro, roughly chopped

1 dried red chili pepper, sliced into rings

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Dash of curry

Mix the cherries, shallot, cilantro, chili and olive oil in a bowl.  Taste before adding and mixing in your desired amount of sea salt and a dash of curry.  Permit the flavors to combine by placing the bowl of salsa in the refrigerator for about one hour before serving.

Final Cherries

This sweet yet spicy salsa makes for a refreshing addition to grilled pork and would also pair well with a grilled fish.

Make the most of cherries during their peak this season!