Galette Bretonne for a light supper

In the United States, the popularity of the creperie—a restaurant serving only crepes in a multitude of ways—has gone out of style and more’s the pity. Luckily, the French are not so fickle. On the streets of Paris the creperie is very much alive and well.

The most famous crepes, made with buckwheat, come from Brittany, where buckwheat has been grown since the Middle Ages. In fact, there is no actual ‘wheat’ in buckwheat; it is not even a grain at all. Rather, the flour, both dark and light, is made from the seeds of an herb in the knotweed family that grows best in poor soil without pesticides or fertilizer. In addition to its clean cultivation formula, buckwheat is a treasure trove of nutrition. Recipe testing favored the lighter colored buckwheat over the dark gray flour for the home kitchen.

As you would expect from French traditionalists, the particulars can be, well, very particular. The preferred method is to use a bilic, a kind of heavy cast-iron griddle that can be heated to very high temperatures. A special t-shaped wooden tool is used to spread the batter evenly. Depending on locale (north versus south) wheat flour and egg may be added to the batter. Either way, the batter is earthy and nutty, and lends itself to numerous savory and sweet fillings. You could just as easily choose a strawberry, rhubarb and ice cream filling as the classic filling of ham, cheese, and egg.

Fear not. You won’t have to turn your kitchen into a creperie to enjoy this galette. All you will need are a large, non-stick skillet, a ladle, a long metal spatula, a rubber spatula, and a teensy bit of courage to make your first galette. If you don’t want to attempt spreading the egg white as described in step three, you can leave well enough alone and the egg will cook given a little more time at a lower temperature. Once you have made your first crepe there is no turning back. Bon appetit is firmly in your future.

Galette Bretonne with egg, ham, cheese, and asparagus
Serves 4

BATTER
1 1/2 cups light buckwheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups water
1 egg
1/3 cup sparkling water or beer
Additional sparkling water as needed

1. In a bowl, vigorously whisk the flour, salt, plain water, and egg together until smooth and a few bubbles appear on the surface. Whisk in the sparkling water or beer until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.

2. Remove the batter and bring to room temperature. Add more sparkling water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the batter is the consistency of heavy cream.

GALETTE
16 thin asparagus spears
4 tablespoons lightly salted butter, melted
4 eggs
2 cups grated Comté cheese
4 slices of ham, each cut into 2 or 3 pieces
Finely chopped chives (for garnish)
Smoked paprika (for garnish)

1. In a large skillet, bring 1 inch of salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook for 3 minutes, or until tender. Drain. Cut into 3-inch pieces.

2. Over high heat, heat a 12-inch non-stick skillet until hot. Add 2 teaspoons of the melted butter, and swirl to coat the pan.  Pour in 2/3 cup of the batter, and quickly tilt the pan to thinly cover the surface. Place on the burner and decrease the heat to medium.

3. Break one egg into the middle of the galette. With the fingertips of one hand, gently hold the yolk in place while you spread the white out over the crepe with a long metal spatula. Cook for 1 minute, or until the egg white starts to set. Sprinkle one-fourth of the cheese around the yolk. Arrange one fourth of the ham pieces on top of the cheese, and distribute one-fourth of the asparagus on top. Let cook for about 3 minutes, or until the cheese melts and the egg whites are cooked. The yolk will still be soft. Sprinkle the yolk with paprika and chives.

4. With a flexible rubber spatula, loosen the edges of the galette all around the pan. Fold four edges of the galette in toward the egg to make a square but do not cover the egg. Brush the edges with melted butter and serve. Repeat with remaining batter, eggs, ham, cheese and asparagus. 

 

Posted on July 7, 2016 .

Curried celery and apple soup

As we yearn for spring, the cold and drizzly days ahead are just a bit more tolerable with a bowl of homemade soup.

In most recipes celery hangs back like a timid wallflower, underpinning sauces and soups with its herbal minerality. But put it center stage, sweeten it with apples, and spike it with a little curry powder, and you will be rewarded with a delicate and soothing soup, made creamy by simmering it with a little rice in place of dairy.

Curried celery and apple soup
Serves 6

1/3 cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 celery stalks, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 large leek, trimmed of green part, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
4 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 can (15 ounces) low-fat coconut milk
3 tablespoons rice
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
3 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup coarsely chopped celery leaves (for garnish)

1. Set the oven at 350°F. On a baking sheet, spread the almonds. Bake for 8 minutes, or until light brown. Cool.

2. In large soup pot over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the celery, leeks, and salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Stir in the apples, curry powder, and turmeric. Cook for 3 minutes. Add the coconut milk, rice, and stock. Bring the soup to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft.

3. In a blender, puree the soup in batches until smooth. Return to the pot, and stir in the lime juice. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if you like.

4. Ladle the soup into bowls, and sprinkle the celery leaves and toasted almonds on top.



Posted on February 24, 2016 .

Apple pumpkin muffins

These little treats (under 200 calories) are packed with good flavor, and you can enjoy them without too much guilt. Pumpkin, grated apples, honey, and almond flour all contribute to making the texture of these spicy muffins very moist and tender. If you can’t find almond flour, you can grind almonds in a food processor until very fine. A little crunch and sparkle from pumpkin seeds and turbinado sugar add a festive touch.
Apple pumpkin muffins
Makes 12

Butter for the muffin pan (or paper liners)
1 1/3 cups natural almond flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves3 eggs
1 1/3 cups canned pumpkin
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cups coarsely grated apple (about 3 apples)
3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

1. Set the oven at 400 degrees. Butter a standard 12-cup muffin pan (or use muffin liners).

2. In a bowl, whisk the almond flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves to blend them.

3. In another large bowl, whisk the eggs, pumpkin, honey, and oil until blended. With a rubber spatula, stir in the flour mixture until well blended. Fold in the apples.

4. With a 2 1/2 inch ice cream scoop or large spoon, divide the batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups (they will be full). Sprinkle each muffin with the pumpkin seeds and sugar.

5. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool. 

Apple pumpkin muffins-029.jpg

 

Posted on February 22, 2016 .

Pot roast for a winter's day

 

For old-fashioned comfort on a cold winter’s night, look no further than Plain Jane pot roast. Like most comfort foods, tradition trumps exotic spices; you’ll find no fancy footwork here. The key to this braising technique is to roast the meat in a relatively small amount of liquid. A heavy-bottomed pot with a tight fitting lid is essential. You have a bit of work up front, but not much coddling. And if you add vegetables to the pot at the end of cooking, you will be rewarded with a one-dish meal.

Paramount to the success of pot roast is the right cut of meat. A chuck roast, which comes from the front part of the animal, is particularly suited to slow braising. The muscle fibers break down slowly during cooking and the marbling of fat between the fibers melts, giving the roast good flavor and a tender texture. Ask the butcher to tie it for you to keep if from falling apart while it cooks. Other leaner cuts of meat such as a bottom round roast or eye round roast may look appealing but they will be stringy enough to disappoint you. The braising pot is important, too. It should be large enough to accommodate the roast, but not so large as to leave the meat swimming in liquid. A six-quart pot or thereabouts is optimal.

Pot roast is even better the next day if you can resist diving in after so many hours of beefy aromas filling your kitchen. When the meat is tender, remove it from the pot and allow it to cool for about half an hour. Wrap it snugly in foil and refrigerate it for up to two days.  Refrigerate the sauce and vegetables separately. About an hour before serving, set the oven at 350 degrees. Skim and discard the fat from the sauce and heat it in a saucepan. Slice the meat and place it in a baking dish. Surround the slices with the vegetables and pour the sauce over them. Cover loosely with foil and heat in the oven until hot all the way through, from 20 to 30 minutes. Then sit down to a meal worthy of a Norman Rockwell painting.

 

Slow-cooked pot roast with potatoes, carrots, and onions
Serves 6

ROAST

3 1/2 to 4 pounds boneless chuck roast, tied with butcher twine
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste3 tablespoons flour

3 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 cups red wine
2 cups chicken stock

1. Set the oven at 300 degrees. Have on hand a large ovenproof casserole with a lid. Sprinkle the roast generously all over with salt and pepper.

2. In the casserole over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Brown the roast for 2 to 3 minutes on a side until browned all over (total browning time is 8 to 10 minutes). Resist the urge to turn too soon or often; the meat will release easily from the pot after a couple of minutes. Transfer to a plate.

3. Add the onion, carrot, and celery to the pot and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the thyme, bay leaves, wine, stock, and salt and pepper to taste. Set the meat on top. Bring the liquid to a simmer. Cover the pot and transfer it to the oven. Cook for 3 1/2 hours, turning every hour. Remove the pot from the oven and add the vegetables.

VEGETABLES

1 pound (about 18) small waxy potatoes such as yellow or red creamers, halved
6 carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 2 1/2-inch pieces
12 small boiling onions, peeled
2 tablespoons chopped parsley (for garnish)

1. Add the potatoes, carrots, and onions to the pot. Cover, and return it to the oven. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the vegetables are tender. (Total cooking time for meat and vegetables is about 4 1/2 hours.)

2. Transfer the roast to a carving board and cover it loosely with foil to keep warm. With a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes, onions, and carrots to a plate. Cover and keep warm.

3. Remove the thyme and bay leaves from the pot and allow the liquid to settle. With a large spoon, skim off and discard the fat that rises to the surface. Taste, and season with more salt and pepper, if you like.

4. Slice the roast, discarding the string as you slice, and transfer the meat to a platter. Surround it with the vegetables and pour some of the sauce over the meat. Sprinkle with parsley and pass extra sauce separately.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on January 30, 2016 .

Recipe for shaved Brussels sprouts with mustard dressing

Winter rolls on. Those of us in the Northeast who were up to our necks in snow all season last year are getting a break. However, that doesn’t mean we’re seeing fresh asparagus in the market. In fact, vegetable weariness is already settling in (shut up, you Californians). It’s all root vegetables and cabbages and potatoes all the time.  On top of that, our excesses of the holidays have not slid off our hips like water flowing down a mountain. Some real effort is involved, but it doesn’t have to be dreary.

I’ve been considering winter salads, and frankly, I resist them. I gravitate to warm and cozy soups and stews this time of year. But when I overcome my mental bias against cold food, I discover that crunchy is quite refreshing and exhilarating. And boy, I need some exhilaration. Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows how I feel about winter, and I regret to report that has not changed since last year. Or the year before that, going back to when I popped out of the womb in June those many years ago. I still want to go into a bear cave and kindly request that you wake me when it’s over. Since that’s not going to happen, I am surrendering to salad, and finding that I like it.

Salads in winter need strong flavors to snap the taste buds to attention, and these thinly sliced Brussels sprouts dressed with plenty of lemon and mustard do the trick. You will need a mandoline type slicer, a food processor with a slicing blade, or a thin, sharp knife and plenty of patience to shave them. Toasted walnuts on top add richness and crunch.

Shaved Brussels sprouts with apples, walnuts, and mustard dressing
Serves 4
1/2 cup walnuts
3 tablespoons lemon juice
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard, or more, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons walnut oil or olive oil (you can cut back if you are on a 'nutritional plan"
1 pound large Brussels sprouts, discolored and loose outer leaves removed
1 Honeycrisp or Pink Lady apple, cored and coarsely grated

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. On a baking sheet, spread the walnuts. Toast for 8 minutes, or until aromatic.

2. In a bowl large enough to hold the salad, whisk together the lemon juice, mustard, salt, and pepper. Gradually whisk in the oil.

3. Using a mandoline or other slicer, thinly slice the Brussels sprouts by gripping the stem ends with your fingers and cutting them until the sprouts are too short to safely slice. (To use the slicing blade of a food processor, trim and discard the stems first.) Transfer to the bowl of dressing.

4. Add the apples to the bowl. Toss to coat the salad with the dressing. Taste, and add more salt and pepper, if you like.

5. Transfer the salad to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the toasted walnuts.

p.s. rumor has it that Trader Joe's sells bags of shaved sprouts, making this an almost no-effort proposition



Posted on January 16, 2016 .