Sunday, June 29, 2008

Clafouti aux Cerises - Cheery Clafouti

School is over and as we do every summer, we flew to France for a month. The whole family gathers at my parent's house, coming from all regions of the country, for a huge dinner.

Planning the meal requires patience! The choice of the main dish will dictate what the appetizer, side dish and dessert will be. We will then build the wine list according to each part of the menu. A staple of the summer table is the Rosé wine. It is served chilled and is light and refreshing. French rosé are not sweet nor heavy and the choices are endless.

Meals in France are a big deal. Unlike a typical dinner in an American family, which usually lasts no more than half an hour, dinner in France can last for hours. We start with the aperitive: wines, whisky, gin or Campari, olives, peanuts and canapes.

Dinner follows with appetizer (traditionally not a salad), the entree (or main dish), one or two side dishes, a salad, a selection of cheeses, and dessert.

This is the time to savour every flavor, enjoy good company and animated discussions... for a couple of hours!!!

For dessert, since there were so many of us, we had to make a few. A raspberry trifle and the traditional Clafouti aux Cerise were among the sweets.

Clafouti aux Cerises

2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp butter

3 lbs cherries, pitted

1/2 cup sugar
1 cup flour
a pinch of salt
6 eggs
1 cup of light cream
2 cups of milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Butter the baking dish and sprinkle with the 2 tbsp of sugar. Transfer the cherries to the dish.

In a small bowl, combine the sugar, flour and salt.

In a larger bowl, mix the eggs, the light cream and the milk. Add the vanilla and almond extracts.
When well blended, add the dry ingredients to the egg bowl and mix well. Pour over the cherries.
Put some small pieces of butter on the top of the dish and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for about one hour, until golden. serve at room temperature or cold.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Tuna Tartare

This weekend, Bob and I helped John and Peggy move. Not only was it a really hot day, it was also Cicada time!

Cicada??? These are really big bugs, about 2 inches long, that look like flies with red eyes. The particularity for these bugs is that they only come up every 17 years. As soon as it gets warm, the Cicadas come out of the ground were they have leaved for 17 years, climb on branches, get out of their shell and start flying around. Then they start the mating sounds...loud like a store alarm ringing all day long.

Why am I writing about Cicadas in a foood blog??? Well it seems that a group of people think they are a culinary treat. So of course, when the usual suspects came for dinner I was tempted to tell them Cicadas were on the menu!

Instead I decided to prepare Mike's feshly caught tuna as an appetizer. The quality of the fish was such that it would have been a shame to cook it. Raw tuna it is.

Tuna Tartare

1 lb sushi grade Tuna
10 Sundried Tomatoes
1 bunch of fresh Mint
3 tbsp Sesame seeds, toasted
1 1/2 tsp Wasabi powder
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Clean and dry the mint leaves and place in a food processor with the sundried tomatoes, the wasabi powder and about 1/3 cup oil, salt and pepper. Pulse to chop, but do not puree.

Chop the tuna with a really sharp knife. Pieces should be no more than 4mm. Again you do not want to puree the fish.

Tranfer the tuna in a medium bowl with the sundried tomatoes mixture and combine carefully. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

When ready, mold the Tuna Tartare in a ramequin, or very small bowl, and turn onto a plate. Decorate with a couple of mint leaves and the toasted sesame seeds.

Serve cold.
Serves 4.

I did not have any sundried tomatoes in my pantry but had some tomato Tapenade, which is pureed sundried tomatoes. It worked really well as I did not have to use the food processor. I chopped the mint with a knife and mixed everything together.
You may also adjust the quantities of wasabi according to taste. Remember, thought, that too much heat can be overpowering and kill the taste of the fish.

Bon appetit!!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Skewered Shrimp with Fennel and Orange

Another occasion t cook a special meal! Bob decided on Shrimps Kebabs with Fennel and Orange. This is a meal that we used to prepare often when we lived in Naples, Florida. It is acutally quite easy to make, but a bit labor intensive! I would suggest that you make the marinade the night before to let all the flavors develop.

For dessert... Our daughter Julie took charge. She made a Lemon Pie out of a recipe book (from Parisian pie expert Eric Kayser) French. She of course speaks it fluently and reads and writes it, but some culinary terms were quite foreign to her and since both Bob and I were spending yet another morning on the soccer field (our son's Dylan team was in a playoff), she had no one to turn to and improvised! The term was "Bain-marie" which is a cooking method most of us know: double boiler. To make a long story short, when we got back from the game, she had the pie in the freezer, and the custard was quite liquidy. We fixed it by baking the pie. She then put on the candied slices of lemon she had prepared, refrigerated it, and the result was excellent!

Skewered Shrimp with Fennel and Orange

1/2 cup Olive oil
2 Tbsp ground fennel
Zest of 3 oranges
Zest of 2 lemons
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
35 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 fennel bulbs cut into 1 inch pieces
2 red onions, pelled and cut into 1 inch pieces
3 oranges, quartered

In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, both zests, the ground fennel seeds and crushed red pepper.

Pour the marinade over the shrimp and refrigerate for about 4 hours.

Thread the orange pieces, fennel, red onion and shrimp onto skewers.

Grill a few minutes on each side, until shrimps are cooked.

Serve with rice or grilled polenta.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Raspberry Trifle

Summer has finally arrived and we are celebrating with another dinner with friends! Weather on the Cape has been absolutely dreadful and I was ready Friday night to start a fire in the fireplace. And Saturday morning...80 degrees!!! Cape Cod as always unpredictable.

Dinner was at our friend's house, here in Mashpee. Like me, Nicole is french, her husband, Mike, is american, and our children are a little of both! Our other friends, Peggy and John, were there of course!

As the self proclaimed "Dessert Lady", I brought dessert! Something fresh and light, with seasonal fruits...Raspberry trifle sounded perfect! The best part? It is better made the day before!

Raspberry Trifle

2/3 cups dry white wine
2 Tbsp sherry
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup superfine sugar

Sponge Cake:
4 eggs, separated
3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp superfine sugar
3/4 cup flour
4 Tbsp butter, melted

Vanilla Custard:
4 large egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 1/3 cup milk
1 vanilla bean, split lenghtwise
1 1/3 cup chilled whipping cream

9 cups raspberries

First prepare the syrup:

Put all the ingredients in a bowl, mix, cover and reserve in the fridge, overnight or at least 4 hours.

Now prepare the sponge cake:

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer whisk the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy.
In another bowl beat the egg whites until stiff pick form. Add remaining 2 Tbsp of sugar and wisk again until stiff. Add one third of the egg whites, one third of the flour and one third of the butter to the egg yolk mixture. Gently fold together. Repeat two more times.
Spoon batter onto the baking sheets, two circles on each.
Bake until golden and springs back to touch, about 14 minutes. Transfer to rack and let cool.

Prepare the Custard:

In the bowl on an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks to blend. Add the sugar and beat on high speed until thick and pale yellow, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add the cornstach.

Heat the milk in heavy medium saucepan. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean and put it all in the milk. Bring to boil.

Gradually add milk to eggyolk mixture. Return mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat until very thick and center of mixture is bubling, whisking constantly, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk for another minute. Let cool. Place plastic sheet over surface and chill for at least 3 hours. Can be made the day before! Keep refrigerated.

Whik the cream until stiff peaks form. Whisk the custard to loosen and fold in 1 cup of whipped cream into it. When well blended, add the remaining whipped cream. Cover and refrigerate.


Gently fold all but 2 cups of the raspberries in the custard.

Place two of the spongecake circles in a 10-cup triffle dish. Pour about half of the strained syrup on it, a little at a time, pressing the cakes to make sure they absorb the liquid.

Pour half the custard-raspberry mixture on top of the cakes. Cover with the two remaining circles, pour the rest of the syrup, pressing lightly, and pour the rest of the custard.

Cover with the remaining fresh raspberries. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

I made it one whole day ahead and the flavors really blended well together.

Friday, June 6, 2008


I have always enjoyed cooking for my family and friends and my last experience was just experience!

For some years now, I had in mind to make a Paella, a typical Spanish dish. Typical yes, but there seems to be as many ways to make it as there are cooks...I went online, checked the usual culinary websites, some blogs and finally decided to get my aunt's recipe. She makes it for me every so often when I go back home for a month in the summer...home in France that is!!

Her recipe was good but there was no food amounts...I resorted to my father's recipe which had lots of amounts!!!! And then decided to make my own... and it was a success!

I made it for Memorial weekend... not very orthodox I agree, but paired with the smoked ribs my husband prepared, our sixty and some guests were happy!

To prepare this Paella, I used my parents 27-inch Paella pan, which I had brought back from one of my trips home, a tripod and a special burner I got online. I set it all up outside (did I mention that it is best prepared outdoors?!), and spent the next hour or so finding a spot protected from the wind and leveling the apparatus!

I was finally ready to start cooking.


20 pieces of chicken, thighs and drumsticks
5 lb calamari
5 lb mussels
3 lb clams (Little Necks)
3 lb large shrimps, peeled and deveined
3 lb monkfish (if available)
2 lb Chorizo

5 big tomatoes, chopped into large chunks
4 onions, chopped
1 head of garlic, chopped
5 red bell peppers, cut into 3/4-inch pieces

1.5 bag of frozen peas

2 gallons chicken stock, or broth
Saffron (I get 2 small jars at Trader Joe's)
Piment d'Espelette

Olive oil

4 lb round rice (Spanish is best, but I used Arborio and it worked fine)

Ahead preparation:

Start by cooking the mussels in a separate pan, on the stove, with white wine and garlic. When open, set the mussels aside and repeat with the clams.

Also cook the calamari and shrimps ahead. You want to cook them either really fast or really long. Anywhere inbetween they become chewy. Saute the calamari in pan (outside) in olive oil and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside. Repeat with the shrimps.

Prepare the stock: heat with the saffron, Paprika and piment d'Espelette. You want the stock to be hot when you add it to the rice later.

Now let's get to the dish:

In the Paella pan, saute the chicken with olive oil ad garlic. When browned on all sides, push to the outside of the pan. Turn the meat regularly to avoid burning it.

In center of the pan, add oil if needed. Add red peppers, onions and more garlic. Saute until tender. Add tomatoes. Let cook a few more minutes and push to the side, in front of the chicken.

In center, add the chorizo. Saute for a few minutes and set to the side of the pan, with the red peppers.
Now to the rice: Add some oil and the rice, all at once. Saute the rice until it becomes transluscent. Add the hot stock, 2 cups at a time, and mix. Keep the rice in the center of the pan, and mix well. Stir often, making sure the rice does not stick too much to the bottom of the pan. When all the liquid has been absorbed, add more stock.

The whole process of cooking the rice takes between 30 and 45 minutes.

After the 2nd addition of stock, add the calamari, shrimps, mussels and clams on top of the chicken and vegetables. Don't mix them to the rice as it still needs work. The seafood needs heating, not cooking anymore.

You can also add the peas to the rice about 10 minutes before end of cooking time. This is for color! Finish with the stock. When the rice is cooked, serve!

This serves about 20 people.