When good friends Patti and Jim came for dinner and to watch the movie “Chocolat” a couple of weeks ago, it was easy to choose a quintessential French do-ahead cold weather meal like Bœuf Bourguignon (aka Beef Burgundy or BB).The movie, a forever fave starring Juliette Binoche, Alfred Molina, Judy Dench, and Johnny Depp, is set in France and why not follow a great location theme for our menu? I had been wanting to make the fun Salmon Rillettes out of Dorie Greenspan’s AROUND MY FRENCH TABLE and so that was tidily in the bag (with Kir to drink), as was dessert. Patti, a much-in-demand local caterer and baker extraordinaire, decided to make Julia Child’s Queen of Sheba Cake ( Reine de Saba–a famous chocolate and almond confection) and who wouldn’t take her up on that… My stumbling block was a first course salad. I wanted green, green, green because “BB” is a hefty-heavy meal and there was chocolate cake, too, wasn’t there? I liked the idea of totally simple and fairly quick but stunning– a show stopper sitting on the table when they arrived sort of deal. (I don’t like to be too busy when friends come and I want them to see what’s ahead food wise.) Of course I didn’t want just a green salad. Tooling through the produce aisle trying to figure it out, what looked the very best to me were some skinny green beans also known as haricots verts, which while lovely on their own tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper, lemon zest, and crushed red pepper needed a boost or larger venue for this special meal. I brought them home, cooked them until just past “crisp” and settled on lightly slathering them all in a two-vinegar, very very Dijony vinaigrette. Which was great. Fine. Totally.
Except, we couldn’t just eat green beans. Well, we could… but. So I dolled the whole shebang up with crisp mixed greens, bright white crunchy fennel, juicy cherry tomatoes, tender roasted red peppers, and creamy goat’s cheese. In other words, not so much that you couldn’t see what was there but just enough to show it all off. Thinking hard about balance — comes right after color– there was nothing to do but finish it off with yellow-yellow lemon zest for acid and capers for salinity. Right after I chose the best big round platter in the cupboard, you see. (24″ in diameter and made in Provence) And that’s how I got “Lemony Green Bean and Goat Cheese Salad.”
If you’re like lots of other folks come January, you might be cutting back on this or that–maybe carbs, red meat, fat, sugar, or alcohol. Or did you make a commitment to increase your veggies? Sigh. Same here; I’m watching what’s going in with the hope of making up for the few extra pieces of bread and glasses of wine I enjoyed during the Mexican cruise. But there’s no need to suffer and every reason to adore the meals meant to increase health and decrease the waistline. This Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Broccoli Bean Bowl (how do I name these things?) is a new favorite at our house and because it’s made up of mostly pantry and colorful vegetable bin ingredients, it goes together pretty quickly and fills you up. While the Brussels sprouts and broccoli roast, there’s time to chop the rest of the vegetables and grab the last few ingredients that serve as a dressing. Garnishes of juicy cherry tomatoes and perky olives top the whole thing off and, while I didn’t think hard about it at first, this vegetable-heavy meal scores at the checkout, too at about $4 or less per serving (depending on how you make it or which sales you hit.) And if that’s not enough, you’re getting about 15 grams of protein in each 2-cup serving! Between the tender-crisp roasted sprouts and broccoli, the crunchy fresh vegetables, the creamy beans, the bright lemon, and the briny high notes, my bowl sings of balance, textural difference, and colorful vibrance. Since the ingredient list isn’t terribly short (chop, chop, chop), I offer a quicker option without a few of the fresh vegetables. (Perhaps as a side for a game day spread? Add feta for fun.) Many home cooks look at long ingredient lists and quickly move on, so I offer this option if that’s you. I keep any number of vegetables at one time because I like God’s own garden in my salads and a mixed variety of choices for dinner without making another grocery run. And, as a mostly retired person, I don’t mind lots of chopping. I know not everyone is like that. Ti piace, as my choral conducting professor at University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, Minnesota) used to say. You like it! Do as you please. Make it just the way you want it. (Or, as we Americans might say, “do it your way.”) Ti piace always sounded better!
If you’re lucky enough to spend a little summertime in Europe, and particularly in France, you might see quite a stunning visual array of savory tarts, quiche, pizza, pissaladiére, Flammkuchen, Zwiebelkuchen, and many other pastries in bakeries, cafes, and restaurants. The pastry or crust fillings may include a little bacon or anchovy here and there, but often as not vegetables and/or cheese are the superstars. Baked before the day gets hot or in a blissful outdoor oven, these tasty light meals are the perfect hot weather treats served warm or at room temperature on their own or with a crisp green salad on the side. A little white wine? But of course.
Here in the states, we’re typically more into pizza across the board (a few quiches, too, I’ll admit) but lately I’ve been spying — and maybe you have, too –quite a few Tomato Pies showing up here, there, and everywhere while the ruby red tomatoes are coming in hot and heavy. (I will have to make one as they feature tomatoes and mayo–one of my warm weather favorite combos.) My tomatoes here in Colorado are still just barely ripening — and they’re all of the cherry or grape variety given our short growing season. But a slew of sweet Camparis on my counter found me searching for a French-style tomato tart I remembered seeing somewhere. But where? A little google mining brought me to Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa website and a reminder about Anna’s Tomato Tart, which is in Ina’s COOKING FOR JEFFREY book — right on my own shelf! Now I didn’t particularly want a tomato-ONLY tart, but rather had in mind something with a sort Provençal feel that included olives, fennel, mushrooms, peppers, and more. Anna’s tart would definitely serve as my springboard. Scroll down to read up on the late cook-caterer-writer, Anna Pump and her great store on Long Island– Loaves and Fishes.Links to other savory tart recipes included there, too.
So many memorable old phrases I enjoy using, fine writer that I am. One is, “No good deed goes unpunished.” Another might be, “Birds of a feather flock together.” Which must, of course, be followed by, “Opposites attract.” Following those for no reason at all is, “Great minds think alike.” Which is what I say when I make a dish off the top of my head and begin to write the recipe before realizing I cooked the same (or nearly the same) thing 10 (5 or 15) years ago. Thank goodness “Love is Lovelier the Second Time Around,” (a favorite wedding song of mine) and I absolutely don’t mind “reinventing the wheel.” Roll your eyes now or forever hold your peace. Ok, I’m done. But I really did make almost this very same salad in 2014, though its current appearance is quite distinct from the first and today’s recipe title is “Asparagus-Potato Salad” rather than, “Roasted Potato-Asparagus Salad with Mushrooms and Sweet Onions.” Same difference. Just about.
This week is the start of my once-a-year FRIDAY FISH series. Since 2015, I’ve each spring been posting six fish or seafood recipes, one for each Friday in Lent, the season of thoughtful observance leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus on Easter. Whether or not you follow any sort of faithful journey, you can still get some new ideas for cooking fish–who doesn’t need those? For grins and giggles — I think some of these meals qualify as fun— and to see what’s happened in other years, click on FRIDAY FISH in the topics cloud or type “Friday Fish” into the search box. To give you a few ideas, I’ve included in this post photos and links for some favorite FRIDAY FISH posts from the last couple of years.
I’m not a football fan. At this point in my life, I don’t think it’s going to change. I’m occasionally somewhat nasty or worse about it, but skip that here because in the U.S., if there’s a get together on any Sunday afternoon in January or early February, it’s likely to involve football. Hmm. The Super Bowl (February 13, 2022–6:30 pm ET) is coming like a freight train barreling down the track to your family room as well as to your kitchen and mine. So just to get my two cents in, I usually make a concerted effort to at least add something tasty and even healthy to the game day food lineup. This year, it’s an addictive, pantry-centric southwestern black bean dip that’s perfect with a cold beer at kickoff or even for dinner some other time. (Why can’t we have dip for dinner? I think we can. I’ll write you a note.)
It’s not unusual for a friend, student, family member, or neighbor to ask me to cook something — happens on a fairly regular basis. I’m known to oblige whether it’s food for a funeral lunch or a favorite pie they’d like for dessert. Occasionally there’s a request to figure out howto cook a certain dish or food. It might take me a while, but I’m typically up for the challenge. Not long ago, old friend Helen Brockman (at left) asked if I could come up with a new way to cook patty pan squash. She’d even bring some over. “Sure,” I said; “why not?”
Not far from our house in Colorado Springs are three yummy “French” restaurants whose names each contain the words, “La Baguette.” It may be that when we first moved to the city they were owned by the same person, though I think they no longer are. We have plain old La Baguette, in Old Colorado City, which is not only the cafe but also a top-notch bakery — still for all 3 locations, I think — and is closest to me. Then there’s La Baguette and Espresso Bar downtown on Pike’s Peak, but only a stone’s throw away. Last, but certainly not least, is La Baguette French Bistro a few miles to the north and east on Chestnut, which is all decked out with Parisian memorabilia and is a favorite “girls” lunch spot, though husband Dave and I have been known to hit them up for dinner occasionally. While the très tasty menus are these days varied from place to place, in my memory at least, they all still serve up a fresh-fresh side salad — just greens — that comes with a lovely tarragon vinaigrette. Tarragon vinaigrette is nothing more than a basic vinaigrette with fresh tarragon added.
I always forget about Cornish hens and then when I make them, I can’t believe I let so much time go by without putting these festive little birds on the menu. They’re quick, inexpensive, and versatile — especially when you’re cooking for one or two for Thanksgiving. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of a bunch of side dishes, you can even cook your potatoes and vegetables such as carrots, onions, halved Brussels sprouts, chunks of zucchini, or diced butternut squash right in the pan with them. I include directions for the easy carrots and spinach from the photo in the printable recipe. And even cooler is the simple pan sauce stirred up in the roasting pan while the hens rest and you pour the wine. No Good Gravy! worries. While a one-pan Thanksgiving always sounds nigh unto impossible, you can actually do it if that’s your druthers. That’s an easy clean up, too. On your own this year? I’d still advise cooking two Cornish hens … you want leftovers, right? I mean, the best part of Thanksgiving is the I-don’t-have-to-cook next day sandwich with mayo on white bread. Right after the pumpkin pie for breakfast, that is. Don’t skip the whipped cream.
Readers’ Note:This is the 3rd and last segment (STYLE!) of a three-part blog cooking class about making your salad a better place to eat! Click on the red links below to read the other two segments and come chopping with me to make your newest stellar salad! While this class is pretty much do-it-yourself, I welcome comments, emails, photos, etc., to keep us in closer touch — even when we’re all in our own kitchens! Salad on, my friends.
“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.”