Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Happy Birthday Julia!

Last week would have been the 100th birthday of Julia Child.  Her book on French cooking  is a cooking class between covers.  Julia played a major part in the interest of French cuisine in the U.S..  Along with Julia came Jacques Pepin.  They did a number of television programs showing their very different points of view on French cooking; much like a comedy routine. Several other chefs have entered into the world of French cooking.  Dorie Greenspan, Laura Calder and even Ina Garten has a French cookbook..  Marilyn's Table this week is my voyage into French cuisine:

Swordfish en Papillote
Salade Chevre Figue
Lemon Berry Crepes

I have only done fish in parchment paper in cooking classes so this was my first attempt at home.  It came out very well if I do say so.  The fish is placed in the center of a heart shaped piece of parchment paper.  I chose seasonal vegetables to go in with it.  I used heirloom baby tomatoes, shallots, sliced zucchini, fresh corn kernels and fava beans.  I lightly salted the mixture and added a spoonful of home made pesto before sealing the packet. It roasts in the oven for about half an hour.  Serve the packet on a plate; cuta cross in the paper so the packet can be folded back to show the fish and vegetables. The aroma was lovely.

Along with the fish, I made a salad of fresh figs, cut in quarters.  A spoon of herbed goat cheese is put in the center of the fig and it is served on chopped kale with walnuts pieces.  A dressing of EVOO, vinegar (I used a fig vinegar from Olive Tap in Long Grove) and seasonings to drizzle over all.  It complimented the fish very well.

Crepes are a French tradition and served in many ways.  My last attempt, years ago, was not a good one; this one went better.  As always the first couple went in the garbage and then they started coming out correctly.  Eggs, milk, melted butter, flour, sugar and salt are whipped into a thin batter.  In a small non-stick pan, spray a bit of canola oil and add about 3 tablespoons of the batter.  Swirl the batter around until the crepe is very thin.  Turn over once until both sides are lightly browned.  Stack them under paper towels until all are done.  They were folded into thirds and arranged on a plate.  A squeeze of lemon juice over the top with lemon slices, raspberries and a dusting of powder sugar.  At least it was supposed to be a dusting.  The bag slipped and most of the bag went on the floor.  But they were a lightly sweet ending to a successful meal.

I plan to venture into the French cuisine more often, but next week is Labor Day and BBQ will be on the table.  Stop by.....when you smell the ribs cooking, dinner won't be far behind. Have a good week and if you are on the road, drive safely.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Celebration of Plums

One of the many things I love about summer is the availability of stone fruits and berries.  This week I celebrate plums.  This is what is on Marilyn's Table:

Almond Crusted Chicken with Plum Chutney
Avocado Vegetables Lettuce Wraps
Plum Shortcakes on Basil Parmesan Biscuits

All of these are very simple. Onion, jalapeno, chopped plums, brown sugar, cider vinegar, curry powder and ground ginger are sauteed until the plums are soft.  Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.  The chicken pieces (skin on or off, your choice) are seasoned with salt and pepper and brought to room temperature.  The outside is then brushed with Dijon mustard and rolled in finely chopped almonds.  The pieces are baked on a rack in a foil lined pan until juices run clear.  The pieces are served with a spoonful or two of the chutney.  I really liked the tartness of the chutney, the crunch of the almond crust and the juiciness of the chicken.

The vegetable wraps were sort of semi-successful.  Avocado is mashed and seeded chopped tomatoes, diced jalapeno, diced onion, garlic and fresh corn cut from the cob are stirred in.  Juice from a lime is added along with salt and pepper. A couple of tablespoons are spooned onto a lettuce leaf and wrapped into a packet.  I would not use romaine again as it falls apart, probably iceberg would work better.  I would also use some different vegetables for more texture.

The biscuits were a simple baking powder mix: flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and chilled butter are mixed together.  Chopped basil and grated Parmesan are stirred in.  Egg and milk are mixed and then added to the flour mixture.  I patted the dough into a round about an inch thick.  Two inch circles are cut out and baked on a parchment covered baking sheet until the tops are browned. These have a very nice flavor and can be used in many ways other than shortcakes.  I had leftovers with jam for breakfast and again with my tea in the evening.

The sauce for the shortcake is simple; thinly sliced plums with a pint of blackberries are put in a bowl.  Add a pinch of salt and sugar to taste.  Squeeze an inch piece of fresh ginger over the fruit and let sit at room temperature for an hour or so.  The biscuit is split, the fruit spooned over and a sauce of Greek vanilla yogurt is spooned over the fruit.  I added a spoon full of brandy to the yogurt and with a sprig of mint the dessert looked great (tasted great as well)

This was a very nice summer meal.  The plums were perfect, but I can see using any number of other stone fruits and berries.  I am not sure about this weeks meal. We shall see what the farmers market has to offer.  Have a good rest of the week.  It's supposed to warm up again.  I am ready for fall.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hen and Tarts

The table this week features two tarts with fresh produce from the farmers market. I expect until the market closed is October, most menus will feature my purchases from the market.  Here is what is on Marilyn's Table this week.

Cornish Hen with Tapenade
Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart
Peach Tarte Tatin

It has been a long while since I had a Cornish hen.  When I saw them in the supermarket, I decided it was time.  I had a recipe that split the hen and roasted it flat in a pan.  I cut out the back bone and then pressed on the breast so it would break and lay flat in the pan.  The hen is sprayed with a bit of EVOO and tapenade is pressed under the skin before roasting.  A bit of salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon and the hen was ready to roast.

While it was in the oven I prepared the tomato tart.  A sheet of puff pastry is defrosted and rolled out on a lightly flowered surface.  A salad plate is laid on top and with a sharp knife a circle is cut out, the bottom pricked and refrigerated on a parchment covered cookie sheet.  Onions and garlic are sauteed in a pan with salt and pepper and a bit of white wine and fresh thyme leaves. When they are lightly browned they are removed from the heat.  The cookie sheet is removed from the oven, grated Parmesan is sprinkled over the bottom of the tart leaving about half an inch boarder. The onion mixture is put on top of the cheese.  Crumbled goat cheese is put on top of the onions.  Next comes a half inch slice of an heirloom tomato.  Shaved Parmesan is placed on top of the tomato.  the edges of the pastry are brought up over the sides of the mixture and the pastry is baked until the pastry is golden brown.  This was excellent and quite simple to put together.

There is enough of the puff pastry left to make the top for the peach tatin.  Peaches are sliced, tossed with sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice. Sugar and butter are placed in a cast iron skillet and cooked until the syrup bubbles.  Drain the peaches and arrange in a circle covering the bottom of the syrup is covered.  The pastry is rolled out and laid over the top of the peaches.  Make a few cut in the top to release the steam.  Bake until the pastry is browned and puffed.  At this point the tarte is inverted on a serving plate.  It looks very pretty, but the pastry gets a bit soggy so I would leave it in the pan and serve wedges of the pastry and spoon the peaches over the top.  Perhaps some ice cream?  I made a honey, lemon and chopped mint sauce to drizzle over the peaches. This too was an easy dessert and would work with most any seasonal fruit.

This was a mouth watering table and there was enough leftover for another evening meal.  Next week is a mystery.  I need to check out my cookbooks for something seasonal.  Stop back and see what appears.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Feasting on Fresh

Since this is the height of the fresh fruit and vegetable season, I decided to prepare some of my favorites for Marilyn's Table.  This week the table is vegetarian from beginning to end.  Here is what's on the table:

Chopped Mexican Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
Pesto Filled Oven Roasted Tomatoes
Fresh Peach and Brie Quesadillas with Lime- Honey Drizzle

Building the salad was a bit tedious because of all the chopping, but well worth it.  Not only is it pretty to look at, it's very tasty.  First one red and one orange pepper are cut in half lengthwise.  The stem, seeds and membranes are removed.  Two ears of corn are husked and the silk removed.  The peppers (cut side down) and corn are placed on a foil covered baking sheet, rubbed with EVOO and the corn salt and peppered.  They are roasted for about 20 minutes or until the peppers begin to blister. (rotate the corn once during roasting).  Cool until the skins of the peppers can be removed easily. Dice the peppers into bite sized pieces (keep separate piles) Do the same dice with tomatoes which have been seeded and cored, jicama, and avocado, and drained and rinsed canned black beans.  Cut the corn from the cob.  Arrange the vegetables in rows on a plate and drizzle with the dressing. Outstanding!

The dressing is made with mashed garlic and salt, lime and orange juice, minced shallot, honey and cumin.  Whisk together adding EVOO until correct consistency. I added minced mint leaves, a bit of black pepper and a bit more salt.

Early in the season I bought several large bunches of basil and made a large batch of pesto.  I poured it into ice cube trays and froze it.  I now have a large plastic bag of pesto cubes in the freezer to use as needed.  These tomatoes were straight from the farmers market.  The top cut off and the center core scooped out.  I filled the center with thawed pesto cubes and topped with Panko crumbs.  They were roasted on the same cookie sheet as the peppers and corn for the salad though they did take a bit longer.  One is served with a serving of the salad.  No question this is one of the most colorful plates ever.  I was very pleased with the flavor of the pesto in the tomato and the crunch of the Panko.

Dessert  featured the fresh peaches so readily available.  They are thinly sliced and tossed with a bit of sugar to wake up the juices.  Fresh chives are snipped and added to the peaches.  One tortilla is covered with thinly sliced Brie and covered with the peaches.  A second tortilla is laid on top and put in a heated skillet.  Flip after a few minutes when the cheese begins to melt.  When both sides of the tortilla have been browned transfer to a serving plate and cut into wedges.  Drizzle with a mixture of honey, lime juice and more snipped chives.  I served extra slices of peach on the top.  Yum!

This table was one of my favorites.  Next week more fresh produce will be featured. Stop by and check it out.