Thursday, October 2, 2014

Orecchiette w/ Squash, Mint & Hazelnuts

I guess it's definitely fall because I am seeing a ton of squash at the markets......butternut is my favorite.

This is a nice combination of flavors.

The toasted hazelnuts go nicely with the brightness of lemon and mint, and the butternut squash makes a creamy and rich sauce.

The perfect, easy fall dinner.

Not much else to say, except enjoy.

Orecchiette with Squash, Mint, and Hazelnuts: (adapted from Bon Appetit)

8 oz. fresh orecchiette (little ears), half the box
kosher salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cups of butternut squash, cut into 1/2" dice
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, divided
3 tbsp butter
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup grated Parmesan plus more for serving
1/4 cup blanched hazelnuts, toasted
handful torn fresh mint leaves, divided
freshly ground black pepper

Toast the hazelnuts in toaster oven, being careful they don't burn (about 2 minutes). Remove the skins by rubbing a dish towel over the nuts. The skins will come off easily. Chop and set aside.

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente (about 5 minutes for fresh pasta). Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add squash and cook, tossing occasionally, until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.

Add garlic and 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, just until garlic begins to brown, about 2 minutes.

Immediately add 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid to keep garlic from burning and the squash from sticking to the pan; reduce heat to low and gradually add butter, swirling skillet and adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until a thick, glossy sauce forms (about 8 minutes total).

Add cooked pasta to skillet with squash and sauce and toss to coat. Add lemon juice, 1/4 cup Parmesan, 2 Tbsp. mint, some chopped nuts and remaining red pepper flakes and toss to combine; season with salt and pepper.

Serve pasta topped with reserved chopped hazelnuts, more Parmesan, and remaining 2 Tbsp. fresh mint.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Soup Season: Kale, White Bean & Sausage

I came home from vacation to a bumper crop of kale!
What to do with all the kale in my garden?

I am sick of kale salads, truth be told. I never really loved kale to begin with. I only got on that train because everybody else loves it.

Give me an arugula or spinach salad any day.

It's not quite soup season yet, but it's almost here, I can feel it.

I love greens in my soup, so why not throw in some of that hearty kale in a big pot of steamy soup?
Good idea.

This is a DELICIOUS soup, and the kale stands up better in the hot liquid, than most greens.

Sometimes I use andouille, which is smoked sausage, but usually I just chop up some of my butcher's delicious homemade links.

I can make this in my sleep (and I probably do).

Kale, White Bean & Sausage Soup:

2 good quality Italian sausage or andouille (smoked) sausage links, cut up
2 oz. of pancetta or bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 celery sticks, sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
6 cups of good homemade chicken stock
1 can of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
handful of fresh lacinato kale leaves, stems removed if they are thick
olive oil
salt & pepper if needed

In a large heavy soup pot, heat some olive oil and cook the pancetta with the sausage meat until all the pink is out and the pancetta is crisping up (about 6 minutes).

Throw in the onion, garlic, carrots and celery and cook a few minutes until the vegetables are soft.

Add in the stock and bring to a boil.

Throw in the beans and kale and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Ladle into bowls and enjoy!

This freezes well, so make a big batch for when that chill hits, and it will be here soon.......

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Quinoa w/ Beets, Apples & Walnuts

It's apple season! The weather is getting cooler, and it's almost time to pick apples here in New Jersey.

I love using apples in salads (and apple desserts are my favorite).
But I am still very much in the beet business (you would think my side job is a beet farmer!).

Beets are always in season, you can find them all winter long, and they grow beautifully in my garden from June to October. I had a bumper crop this year and I have enough still growing in the garden to last me thru November.

This salad is pretty and very easy to put together, especially if you roast the beets the day before.

Here's how:

1 cup of cooked quinoa, cooled
1 Granny Smith apple, diced (leave peel on for nice green color)
2 red beets + 1 yellow beet (roast 400F for an hour, then peel when cool)
handful of toasted walnuts
handful of snipped chives (or scallions)

1 tbsp of honey
3 tbsp of white balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp of walnut oil
sea salt & pepper

Whisk up the dressing with a fork, and set aside.

Dice 1 red roasted beet and add to the quinoa, walnuts, diced apple and some scallions/chives (don't bother adding in the yellow beets, they will turn red. Save the yellow one for the plate).

Add the dressing to the quinoa mixture and toss. Taste for seasonings.

Slice a roasted red & yellow beet into thin slices and overlap them in a nice pattern on your platter.

Mound the quinoa salad into the center for the plate and garnish with fresh mint, parsley or chives.

Serve and enjoy!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Chicken Rapide w/ Champagne Grapes

I'm home. Back in the kitchen in New Jersey.

Another September in Paris came and went.

Keeping it in the Frenchie mode, here is a great recipe for fall I found on a French website.

I am using champagne grapes, those tiny little cute grapes perfect to bake a cake with, or decorate a cheese platter with, or just plain eat.

They make a beautiful presentation, especially paired with all the beautiful varieties of sage still growing strong in my garden until October.

Go ahead and substitute red or black grapes if you can't find the champagne variety.

Chicken Rapide w/ Grapes: (adapted from Bonjour Paris)

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup of flour
salt & pepper

2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp honey
1 cup seedless red, black or champagne grapes (not green), halved if they are large

Dredge the chicken breasts in flour mixture seasoned w/ salt & pepper. Shake off excess flour.

Heat a large skillet with butter and olive oil and saute the chicken breasts until golden on each side, but not cooked thru.
Remove to a platter.

Add in the minced garlic and cook 30 seconds, until fragrant.

To the skillet, add the balsamic vinegar, the wine and broth and scrape up the brown bits. Cook 2 minutes.

Add the chicken back into the skillet and simmer for a few minutes until the mixture is reducing and chicken is cooked thru.
Add in the grapes and honey the last minute of cooking to thicken the sauce.

Garnish w/ fresh sage leaves and enjoy!

This is so simple, beautiful and delicious.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Au revoir Paris 2014

Will we come back to Paris next September?

God willing, as my grandmother would say.

We always say we will go somewhere else, but then we book our trip and look forward to the next time.

We love it so much, here in this beautiful city.

We think about it when we are working, or just lying still.

How much we enjoyed the food, the sites, the new friends we made along the way.

Don't believe all the negative hype you may hear.

That "Parisians are snobs" (there is some truth to that!), and that "they hate Americans" (no they don't!).
That all the food is "so rich with a ton of heavy sauces" (what do you live in the 1980's??)

You get what you put into an experience.

If you are nice and polite and try and speak the language, then how can someone not respond with at least some kindness?

If you are an obnoxious, arrogant, loud person ordering your "decaf cappuccino" or "California Cab" while in Paris, then you get what you deserve.

That goes without saying wherever you are.

See the sites, sit at a cafe and sip some good French wine.

Eat the best bread and butter of your life.

Walk streets off the beaten path.

Drool over the best pastries.
Admire the gorgeous architecture and museums.
and look at the most beautiful and stylish women (if that's your thing).

It's been a great trip, even better than last year.

Thank you for coming along and for all your nice comments throughout.

And to the lovely anonymous commenter who hates me and my "boring hairstyle" (but obsessed with reading my blog):

please, get a hobby.

See you back in Jersey.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I am Getting Fat: More Eating in Paris SEPTIME

Every sidewalk table we walk by invites us to sit down and enjoy.

I am not a youngster anymore, and these 6 mile a day walks are not doing anything to keep the muffin top off my waistline.

Wine and bread, plus pastries daily (and nightly!), does not help.

I am in love with this beautiful city, and by now we know where to go and where NOT go to for food!

We usually try a few new places, like the hot and trendy Septime in the 11eme.

We were lucky enough to score a reservation at this oh so popular restaurant!
Septime just was awarded 1 Michelin star, and the young chef deserves it.

We chose the degustation menu, a 6 course tasting.
They ask what you DON'T like, and I said oysters and bananas.

Henry said: no mushrooms; eggplant; goat cheese (could be a problem in France); tete a veau; pigs feet; oysters; steak tartare; and no offal for him.

Ok, pain in the ass Americans, let's see what the chef can come up with!

We started w/ sea bass crudo and French radish........grilled calamari w/ red peppers & fish with grilled haricot verts........pork belly with turnips, carrots and beets (w/ some chevre on the side).......all served with unusual and delicious seasonal vegetable sauces.

Dessert was a sweet corn ice cream w/ squash mousse........and a poached fig w/ berry sorbet, shortbread and fromage frais.


We loved the casual laid back atmosphere and friendly waiters here compared to other Michelin star restaurants.
If you can score a hard to get reservation for lunch or dinner here, it will be worth the trouble to get in.

On our way home we picked up some of the best strudel on the planet at Murciano, a Jewish bakery in the Marais.

Thank goodness it's a 3.5 mile walk back to the apartment.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

More Bites from the City of Light

Are you still with me?

We are back in Paris for the week, still eating and drinking in this beautiful city.

Reporting in.

We had cocktails on the rooftop of the magnificent new Peninsula Hotel.

This building has so much history in Paris, back during the Nazi occupation, being called The Hotel Majestic, and then the closing of it for so many years.

Recently reopened, this grande piece of architecture is worth a visit.

The beautiful bar inside is so nice to have a glass of champagne, as is the rooftop bar overlooking Sacre Coeur to the left, and the Eiffel Tower to the right. I could sit here all night.

We met some great staff who recommended a late Sunday night dinner at a local brasserie in the 16th arrondissement for us.

So many neighborhood restaurants are closed on Sundays (only tourist spots are open on Sundays) and it was 10 pm and we were starving.

The hotel driver took us over to Le Stella on Avenue Victor Hugo.

We were the only Americans in the packed restaurant at 10 pm. Only French spoken here.

A bit intimated, since we do not enjoy tete a veau (veal head....ugh); steak tartare (a staple here); pied du porc (pig's feet)......we were getting nervous. Was this the right place for us?

The maitre d could not have been nicer.

We decided on a simple frisee salad w/ croutons et lardons and a poached egg; a Provencal stew with squid and tomatoes; and a smoked herring and potato terrine.

A bottle of wine and a piece of fig tart w/ gooseberries and frangipane.


This was probably one of our FAVORITE meals in all the years coming to Paris.
Nothing fancy, simple brasserie food beautifully presented, and we moaned with pleasure at every bite.

This is what real French food is all about. Forget the fancy sauces and the Michelin stars. I could care less. I am hear to EAT.

A mile and a half walk home at midnight and we were rewarded with the quiet (usually so crowded), lit up Arc de Triomphe, which we had all to ourselves.

This is what makes Paris so magical. There are surprises at every turn, and you never know what you will find.

Some things here are just cliche. Like the Parisian booksellers on the Quai. I always enjoy walking by.

How about this for fashion?


See you tomorrow.

Monday, September 22, 2014

London Calling

We usually leave Paris for a long weekend and go to Burgundy, Provence, Normandy or somewhere else in France, because French train travel makes it so easy to get anywhere........

This trip we decided to take the Eurostar to London! Only 2+ hours from Gare du Nord on the high speed train.
Easy peasy.

London is such an easy city (as is Paris) to walk around.
On the map, everything seems so far away, but a 20 minute walk and you are at your destination.

New gentrified neighborhoods such as Shoreditch (think Brooklyn), are the hip places, with all the new fabulous food destinations.

We stayed in Covent Garden, which is the theatre district, however, it is all new and renovated, hip, chic, great shopping, quaint and fun!

We had a tour of Neal's Yard Dairy, my favorite cheese in the US (Whole Foods sells it, however, it is made with vegetable rennet for the states, and animal rennet in the UK).

Their Montgomery's Cheddar is sooooo good, and their Stilton claims to be the BEST in the UK, and it is.
We had a tasting and brought home 3 different cheeses (isn't that funny? bringing back CHEESE to France!).

They sell fresh eggs, butter and cream from the dairy as well.

London is a GREAT foodie destination.

Long gone are the days of stews, mushy peas and fish 'n chips (they are still there if you want them).
This city is a culinary destination for sure. Food was excellent everywhere we went, as was service, everyone is SO nice.

We tried a place called PIX for lunch, serving pinxtos (Basque tapas).

You take a plate and load it up with small bites and bring the sticks up to the bar at the end to pay.
However many sticks you have, is how much you will pay.

Everything was off the charts good (sweet potato tortilla being my favorite).


Next food stop was Russell Norman's Ape & Bird (remember I told you about his book POLPO with the cicchetti/snacks from Venice?).
This restaurant is like Polpo, but they incorporate the British pub was amazing.

We tried pickled mackerel w/ fennel and breadcrumbs; fried cauliflower on chickpea mash (YUM!); a pizza with salami & arugula; and fresh figs with goat curd and honey (of course). Loved the people and the pubby atmosphere.

There is a pub on every corner with gorgeous hanging flowers. Pints and smoking on the sidewalk, try and get thru after work, good luck.

We visited the V&A Museum and all the other touristy sites.

We went to a Bach concert in St. Martin in the Fields Church........

and there you have it, a long weekend in London.

Thanks for coming along.

Back to Paris posting tomorrow!