Saturday, December 26, 2009

Merry Christmas! Gravlax for Christmas Eve!

I had wanted to try and make my own Gravlax for years...and I finally did! Gravelax is a Scandinavian specialty: a fillet of salmon cured for three days in salt and sugar, dill and a few spices! I serve it with home made blinis.
You do not need Christmas to eat this either...any time of the year for me!

**** Prepare 3 days ahead ****

Salmon Gravlax with Dill

One 3-lb fillet of salmon, skin on
8 Tbsp coarse salt
8 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp whole peppercorns (I use a mix of peppers)
1 Tbsp whole coriander seeds
1 bunch of fresh dill

Place the salmon on a sheet of plastic wrap (in a sheet pan, to prevent the juices to leak into the fridge later), skin side down, and with the help of tweezers, remove all the bones that are left in the fish.

Heat the peppercorns and the coriander seeds in a small skillet to release all the fragrances.
Remove from the heat and place in a dry and clean dish towel. Crush the spices with a mallet, or, if you own one, with a mortar and pestle.
Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix the sugar and salt. Add the spices and mix well.

Spread the salt mixture evenly on top of the salmon, covering all the flesh of the fish. On top of this, spread the dill evenly all over.

Wrap the fish very tightly with the plastic film and refrigerate for three days. Do not hesitate to wrap it several times around. While it is in the fridge, you do not need to do anything!

After the thee days, remove the fish from he fridge; remove the plastic film and quickly rinse under cold water. Place on a cutting board and dry with paper towels.

Slice the fish very thinly (knife needs to be really sharp), almost horizontally, starting at the tail.

Serve on top of blinis, with Creme fraiche, chopped red onion, capers and lemon.

Update (February 2015)

There is another version of the Gravelax that I have been making more often now.

3 lbs Filet of Salmon
150 grams sugar
300 grams coarse salt
3 Tbsp peppercorns, crushed
7 cl vodka
1 bunch of fresh dill, chopped

Prepare the salmon as previously.
Mix all the other ingredients, with half the dill, in a bowl.
Spread on top of the salmon. Cover tightly with plastic film.
Refrigerate for 24 hours.

When ready, rinse under cold water to get rid of the extra salt.
Pat dry and cover with the remaining dill. Cover again with plastic film and refrigerate for at least another 6 hours.

Serve sliced thin with blinis.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hot Dip

I have made this dip many times and never get tired of it! You can serve this dip for any occasion and best of all... you can prepare it days ahead and freeze it! Just take it out of the freezer and reheat in the oven before serving.

Hot Crab and Artichoke Dip

Prep. time: 45 mn
Servings:  8

24 oz frozen artichoke hearts
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 Tbsp Butter
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup half and half, or milk
4 scallions, thinly sliced
2+ oz Parmesan cheese, grated
Juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 Tbsp pickled Jalapeno chile, drained and chopped finely
1/4 tsp celery salt
1 lb lump crab meat, picked over
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the frozen artichokes in a heavy skillet, over medium heat, until soft - about 5 minutes. If there is water remaining in the pan, drain well. Set aside to cool.When cooled, chop small.

In the same skillet, saute the red bell pepper with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Cook until softened, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
Stirr in the chopped artichokes and transfer to a bowl. Set aside.

Melt the remaining butter in the skillet, over medium heat. Add the flour and stir to make a roux, about 3 minutes. Add half and half , or milk, in a stream. Whisk the mixture and bring to a boil. Keep whisking fr about 3 minutes, until thickened.
Remove from the heat and stir in the artichoke/red pepper mixture. Add the scallions, 1/3 cup of Parmesan, the lemon juice, the jalapeno, celery salt and salt and pepper if needed.
Gently stirr in the crab meat.

Preheat the oven to 375F.
Transfer the dip to a baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.
Bake until bubbling, about 25 minutes.

Serve hot with Pita bread wedges.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I love dishes from North Africa. Couscous and tagines are among the best known, from Algeria, Tunisia and Morrocco.
Their rich flavors and spices fill the kitchen of exotic smells.

Tagines are slow cooked stews. The meat is braised at low temperature and then cooks covered, still at low temperature, for a couple of hours, depending on the meat used.
The tagine dish is a clay pot in two parts: a round bottom, a couple of inches high, and a top shaped as a cone to allow the condensation from cooking to fall back to the bottom. The result is a tender meat and rich sauce.

Traditionally, the tagine is served on its own, but I like to serve it with couscous.

The dish I made this  weekend is inspired by "Chocolate and Zucchini" (Clothilde Dusoulier), one of my favorite cookbook.
The deeps flavors of the north-African spices mixed with the rich taste of lamb and the sweetness of the pears make this dish truly unique.

This dish is best made a day or two in advance!!

Lamb Tagine with Pears

2 3.5 lbs legs of lamb, deboned

4 medium onions, sliced
5 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 tsp of ground ginger
1/2 tsp of ground nutmeg (from whole nuts, it is so much more flavorful!)
1 tsp of whole cumin seeds (if you cannot find cumin seeds, use caraway seeds)
1 tsp of ground chili powder
1 tsp of ground cinnamon

8 pears, ripe
1 1/2 cup blanched almonds

Trim the fat off the meat and cut it in 11/2-inch pieces. Pat dry with paper towel.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet, or dutch oven. Working in batches, brown the meat on medium low heat. When all sides are brown, remove the meat from the skillet and set aside. De-glaze the juices by adding a little water in the still hot pan, scrape the bottom and sides and transfer to a bowl for later use.
Repeat until all the meat is done.

Using the same pan, heat some olive oil and add the onions, still on medium low heat. Stir and cover. Cook until  soft, stirring regularly. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.
Transfer to a bow.

Mix all the spices in a small bowl. Heat them in the skillet, without any oil, to release the fragrances. Add the meat and then the onions-garlic mix. Add the juices from the meat that you set aside earlier; mix well. Add water to cover the meat about half way.
Bring to a simmer and cover. Cook on really low for at least 2 hours.

While the tagine is cooking, peal, core and quarter the pears.
Heat about one tablespoon of butter in a skillet. Add half the pears and cook, turning them on all sides, until soft and somewhat translucent. When done, set aside on a baking sheet; repeat with remaining pears.

Toast the almonds in a small pan, and set aside until ready to serve.

If you are planning to serve couscous with the tagine, now is a good time to prepare: bring same volume of water as you have of couscous to boil in a shallow sauce pan, with salt. When the water is boiling, turn the heat off and add olive oil. Add the couscous and stir. Let stand five minutes and then separate the grains with a wooden spoon. This can stay like this for a while until you are ready to eat! Just reheat quickly on the stove.

When the tagine is almost ready, reheat the pears in the oven, at 350 for about 5 to 8 minutes.

Transfer the meat in a serving dish. Place the pears on the perimeter of the dish and sprinkle with the toasted almonds.

NOTES: You can if you own a Tagine dish, transfer the meat in the dish, cover it and cook in the oven for a couple of hours, on low heat (275).

Monday, November 30, 2009

Spinach and Goat Cheese Quiche

I usually make my own crust, but I did not have the time to make it...I used Trader Joe's frozen Puff pastry for this recipe! And it was really good!
Next time I will give you my Whole Wheat pie crust recipe...promise!

Quiche aux Epinards et Fromage de Chevre
(2 pies)

12 eggs
1/2 lb sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 long log Goat cheese, crumbled into larger chuncks
1 10-oz pack frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 1/2 cup milk to 2 cups
1/2 cup light cream
Nutmeg to taste
Pepper to taste (no salt as cheese can be salty)
2 tomatoes, sliced
2 sheets puff pastry

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and light cream.
Add the cheddar, spinach, nutmeg and pepper. Mix well.
Add the goat cheese.

Line the buttered and flowered pie dishes with the crusts.

Pour half the batter in each dish. Top with the slices of tomatoes.

Bake for about 1 hour, or until top is golden and puffy.
Let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve with a green salad.

You may also add sauteed bits of bacon or pancetta.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Week night dinner.

We are all busy during the week and fish is often the last thing we think about for a quick healthy meal. What a misconception! This Sole recipe takes very little time and pleases everyone at the table! And it is pretty cheap too! I made is this week for the 5 of us.

Broiled Soles

5 nice size Soles
1/2 cup White Wine
 2 cloves of Garlic, chopped very fine or pressed
2 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
1/4 cup Olive oil
1 cup Whole Wheat Panko Breadcrumb

Place the fish on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, in one single layer.

Prepare the marinade:
In a small bowl, combine the white wine, olive oil, mustard and garlic. Whisk to thicken.

Sprinkle the Panko on the fish and drizzle the marinade on top.

Broil in the oven for about 5 to 7 minutes. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.

I served the fish with wild rice and broccolini. I also made a separate lemon sauce, but the lemon wedges are perfect if you do not have the extra time for the sauce.

If you do have the time, here is the recipe!

Lemon butter sauce:

Juice of 2 lemons
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium/low heat. Add the lemon juice and the cream. Reduce the heat and cook until thickened, whisking regularly, about 15 minutes. Make sure the sauce does not boil.
Serve hot with the fish, over the rice and broccolini too!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Chicken Soup

Well, it was not THE flu but Dylan and Emilie got pretty sick last week.
It was time for me to learn to make soup! I usually don't make soups because when I try they end up pretty bland. But I have changed my technique and used - yes i admit to it! - store bought chicken broth. And it was delicious!
Organic chicken broth is recommended for this recipe.

Easy Chicken Soup

1 medium onion, sliced
1 bunch of organic carrots, sliced
1 bunch of organic celery stacks, sliced
6 organic chicken thighs, deboned and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 32-oz store bought organic chicken broth
A few sprigs of parsley (from the garden!), roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 box of small pasta (kids love alphabet pasta), pre-cooked

In a heavy pot, over medium heat, saute the onion in olive oil, until soft and golden. Add the carrots, celery and saute until they get soft. Add the chicken and saute for another 5 minutes.
Add the broth and simmer on low heat for about 1hour.  At the end, add the parsley and serve.

When serving, add the pasta directly in the bowl of hot soup. If the pasta stays in the soup too long, they will get overcooked.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Birthday Cake

How is it that every Fall I wonder where time went? Last year I had the excuse of home improvements. This year?? I have been away from C&S since June!!??

Well…After school ended I took a quick break and spent a week in France. When I got back, the catering season was in full swing. The West Dennis Yacht Club was open everyday. I even hired my two nieces from Maine for the summer (thanks Aly and Jamie!).

It got so hectic that I did not even cook! Instead I was preparing food and making Club Club Sandwiches in the kitchen of the Club, assisting Franck!

Summer is now over, school has resumed and even though I am still busy at Ecoroo with Friday night dinners for the club members and weddings on Saturday (yesterday was our last wedding of the season!) I find more time for my family and my kitchen!

October has so much to offer. Seasonal products are flooding the farm stands. Apples, pears, squash and cranberries…The pumpkins that I refused to even acknowledge last month are definitely on everybody’s front steps, ours included!

Days are getting shorter and we are definitely using the grill a lot less, preferring the kitchen stove. And the Dutch oven are brought up from their summer residence (aka. The basement).

It was also Dylan’s birthday this month and I baked a vanilla cake that I topped with chocolate butter cream frosting! Here is the recipe!

Birthday Cake

3 cups cake flour
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 ¾ cup sugar
2 sticks butter at room temperature
7 eggs
2 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream

2 ½ sticks butter at room temperature
12 oz bittersweet chocolate
¼ cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt
½ cup confectioner sugar

Prepare the cake:
Preheat the oven to 325F. Butter and flour 2 9-inch cake pans, 2-inch deep.
In a bowl sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
With an electric mixer, beat the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Add the vanilla, the sour cream. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, mixing well between each.
Pour batter into prepared pans.
Bake for 50 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes and unmold cakes on cooling racks.

Prepare the frosting:
Melt the chocolate in a double broiler. Let cool.
Whisk the chocolate and butter together. Add the salt and mix well. Add the cream and vanilla. Add the sugar. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Refrigerate for about ½ hour before filling the cake.

Assemble the cake:
Place one cake on a cutting board and cut the top to have a flat top. Transfer to serving dish. Spread the frosting on top.
Cut the top of the second cake and place on top on the first one> Spread the frosting on top and around the cakes. Decorate with M&M!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Raspberry Charlotte

This is one of my very favorite dessert! All Charlottes are! When asked what I wanted to eat for Mother's Day, my answer for dessert was a Raspberry Charlotte! And since the children had no idea how to go about it, I helped Emilie make it!

It is light and fresh and a wonderful summer treat!

Raspberry Charlotte

40 Lady Finger, dry (not the soft kind)
2 10-oz bags of frozen raspberries, thawed
12 oz fresh raspberries
2 tsp gelatin
16 fl oz whipping cream, very cold
4 tsp sugar
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp Vodka or Raspberry liquor

In a food processor, puree the thawed raspberries. Pass through to a sieve to remove the seeds. Keep the seeds part to make a syrup.
Bring the pureed berries and 2 tsp of sugar to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Transfer about 2 tablespoons in a small bowl, add the gelatin and mix well. Transfer back to the pureed berries and and let cool.

Syrup: transfer the seed mixture that remained in the sieve into a small saucepan, add 2 tsp of sugar, the water and bring to a boil for a few minutes. Pass through the sieve again discarding the seeds. Return liquid to the saucepan and boil a few minutes longer,to reduce slightly. Add the liquor and let stand.

Mousse:In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Add 2 tsp of sugar and keep beating until firm peaks form (not too stiff though!).
Add the berry mixture to the cream and fold together. Add half the fresh raspberries in and mix delicately. Set aside.

Line the Charlotte dish with parchment paper, bottom and sides (about 1 inch above the side).
Dip the Lady Fingers, one at a time, into the syrup and lay them at the bottom and sides of the Charlotte bowl.
Pour some of the raspberry mousse in the dish, half way up. Add another layer of dipped Lady Finger and finish with the mousse. Gently tap the bottom of the dish on the counter to set the mousse and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

Unmold and serve with the other half of the raspberries on top, and a fruit coulis (optional).

Friday, May 8, 2009


That it...I don't care if it still feels like winter, the strawberries are in the stores and they feel like Spring! I know...they are not from here and have traveled a long way to the Cape. They still smell great and taste like strawberries! Not quite the French Garigette, but still worth it!

There are a few things you can do with strawberries.
A busy week night and a few strawberries, some Creme Fraiche and a little sugar make a great dessert.
Pair it with rhubarb, a bit of brown sugar and some vanilla extract (cook for about 20 minutes) and you have a preserve to use on plain yogurt or toast!

And for a special occasion, or simply an irresistible urge (i had one last week!!), the strawberry dresses a pie! Sugar crust, vanilla cream ans fresh strawberries are the perfect ending to any meal.

Strawberry Pie

8 Tbsp butter (150 gr), soft
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 cup flour

5 egg yolks
25 cl milk
50 gr sugar
30 gr cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour and beat until just coming together, but still crumbly.

Transfer to buttered pie dish and press down the bottom and sides of the dish. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden.

Bring the milk to a boil.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch until light and fluffy.
Pour the hot milk on the egg mixture and return the whole preparation into the milk saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring continuously. At the first boil, remove from the heat and let cool. The mixture should have thicken.

Clean the strawberries under running cold water and let dry. Slice the strawberries in half, and reserve for the pie.

Put about 1/2 cup of strawberries in a small saucepan with 1/4 cup water an a little sugar. Bring to a boil and cook until reduced. Pass through a sieve to remove the seeds and liquid should have the consistency of a syrup. If it is too thin, return to the heat and cook a while longer. Add a little liquor (optional) and reserve.

Pour the cream on the pie crust and arrange the strawberries on top. With a brush, coat the strawberries with the syrup and the pie is ready to serve!!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Chocolate and Pear Mousse Pie

April must be chocolate month!! Or may be I am just craving it!

For Easter, we got together with our gang plus a guest from France, Marine! She is here to learn English, but if that fails, she will at least have learned that American can cook!

Back to our Easter dinner at Peggy and John's. There was no shortage of food! Appetizers, Ham, Leg of Lamb, three vegetables and lots of chocolate desserts!

Julie made delicious cupcakes (inspired by a Martha Stewart recipe), Peggy made a Tiramisu and I brought a Chocolate and Pear Mousse Pie.

Chocolate and Pear Mousse Pie

200 grams Graham Crackers, crumbled
80 grams butter (7 Tbsp), melted

Chocolate "Fondant":
200 grams bittersweet chocolate (8oz)
50 grams butter (6 1/2 Tbsp)
2 egg yolks
35 grams confectioner's sugar
25 cl whipping cream, very cold

Pear Mousse:
35 cl whipping cream, very cold
300 grams pear purée
100 grams confectioner's sugar
8 grams gelatin (4 sheets of 2g) - I used powdered gelatin all through the recipe.

Pear "Gelée":
250 grams pear purée
60 grams confectioner's sugar
3 grams gelatin


Make the crust:
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Mix the butter and the Graham Cracker's crumbs together in a bowl. Mix well and transfer to the bottom of a spring form pan. Press the crumb tightly to form a crust.
Bake for about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Turn the oven off.

Make the Fondant:
Melt the chocolate with the butter in a medium saucepan.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the whisk, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until light and fluffy. Combine both mixtures with a hand whisk.
Whisk the cream until peaks form, not too stiff (you are making a "Chantilly").
Incorporate the whipped cream to the chocolate delicately. Pour the mixture into the spring form pan, on top of the crust.
Refrigerate for one hour.

Make the Pear Purée:
Peal and core the pears. Pulse in food processor until pureed.
With an electric mixer, whisk the cream with the sugar, until peaks form. (again a Chantilly)
Heat 100 grams of the pear puree and add the gelatin . Mix well to dissolve the gelatin. Add to the rest of the purée.
Add the Chantilly to the pears, delicately.
Pour into the pan, on top of the chocolate.

Prepare the Gelée:
Dissolve the gelatin in 100 grams of heated pear purée.
Add the remaining pears and the sugar, Mix well.
Let cool without refrigerating.
Pour into the pan, on top of the pear mousse.
*** Better less gelatin than too much for the gelee. ***

Refrigerate the dessert overnight.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Chocolate Strawberry Mousse

Last weekend the usual suspects came to our home for dinner!! It is always nice to be able to just hang out around good food and good company!
Nicole had made an incredible Lobster Salad, which was followed by an Osso Bucco (should be made at least a day ahead so that the meat has time to tenderize) and Grilled Polenta Triangles, one of Peggy's famous salads, and a Choco-Stawberry mousse dessert!

Here is the dessert:

Choco-Strawberry Mousse

2 cups whipping cream, very cold
10 oz bittersweet chocolate

20 oz frozen strawberries, thawed - or fresh when available
2 cups whipping cream, very cold
1 tsp gelatin

Prepare the chocolate mousse:
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk, whip the cream until firm, but still soft (do not over beat it).
In a bowl, melt the chocolate on top of a double boiler.
When melted, add to the whipped cream and mix well.
Set aside.

Prepare the strawberry mousse:
In a mixer, pulse the strawberries into a puree. Strain to get rid of the seeds. Transfer to a saucepan and bring to a quick boil. Take about 2 Tbsp of the hot strawberry puree and add the gelatin. Add it to the rest of the puree and mix well.
Add the strawberries to the whipped cream and mix well.

In Martini glasses, or any other large glasses, pipe the chocolate mousse up to about a third of the glass. Then spoon the strawberry mousse on top, and finish with another layer of chocolate.
You can decorate with a chocolate dipped strawberry.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Julie's Chocolate Birthday Cake

Last week was my birthday...On April Fools Day to be exact!

And it really doesn't matter what country I travel to... every one of them celebrates April 1st with jokes!!

The origins of April Fools day are quite obscure. But the consensus seems to be that the change from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar in 1582 started all the jokes. In France particularly, since King Charles IX changed the first day of the year from April 1st to January 1st. People who refused or could not remember the new first day of the year were called April Fools.

But enough about history. Let's talk cake!! Birthday Cake!!!
Last year my daughter Julie made a cake so delicious that I asked for it again this year! There is no flour but plenty of chocolate!!!

Julie's Chocolate Birthday Cake

3 Tbsp Butter
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, at least 64%
6 large eggs at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp coarse salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Butter bottom and sides of a spring form pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and butter it.

Melt the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over simmering water.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk, beat the egg yolks, half the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the salt and beat for another minute. Add the vanilla extract and the chocolate butter mixture and beat for another minute.

In another bowl, with the whisk of the electric mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy. Slowly add the remaining sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
Fold the whites into the chocolate mixture, taking care not to deflate the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 40minutes, until set.
Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan. The cake will deflate...this is normal!!!!!

Transfer to a serving plate: remove the sides of the pan and slide the cake off the bottom, carefully. Try to remove the parchment paper with the help of a spatula.

You can try and make a sauce to go with it, either chocolate, raspberry or a vanilla custard. It is also delicious as is!

Chocolate sauce:

3 oz bittersweet chocolate
2 Tbsp butter, salted
1/3 heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar

Place the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl.

Bring the cream and sugar to a boil. Pour over the chocolate and butter and let melt without mixing. After a few minutes, whet the chocolate has melted, whisk well and serve with t he cake, either warm ot at room temperature.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pièce Montée

I love April!
It means the temperatures are getting warmer (although not so much here on the Cape!), crocuses are popping out everywhere, soccer season is beginning, with car travels all over the South Coast of Massachusetts...
But more important it is my birthday!!! Well... OK, I am getting less and less excited about it as the years are piling up!

Happy April Fools Day everyone!!

Speaking of birthdays, we just celebrated my friend Nicole's! This one was calling for an extreme dessert: a "Pièce Montée".

It took me a while as I was not aware of certain "tricks". But now that I know how to, I'll share with you!

Pièce Montée

1 recipe Pate a Choux

Crème Pâtissière:
1.5 l milk
2 vanilla beans
3 eggs
6 yolks
225 g sugar
250 g flour
100 g butter

500 g sugar cubes
1 l water
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Prepare the puffs:
In a heavy saucepan, heat the water with the butter, salt and sugar. Bring to a boil. When the butter is all melted, add the flour in the sauce pan, all at once. Mix well with a wooden spoon and "dry" the batter. Turn the heat off and let cool a bit. (if batter is too hot when you add the eggs, the eggs will cook). When batter has cooled, add the eggs one at a time, mixing with the wooden spoon. See notes.
As you add the eggs, the batter will separate. It will come back together when the egg is fully incorporated.

Heat the oven at 200ºc (390ºF).
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

With 2 teaspoons, make the puffs by dropping the batter onto the cookie sheet.
Bake for about 30 mn, decreasing the oven temperature toward the end. They have to be nice and dry.
Take out of the oven and let cool. Repeat until all the batter is gone.

Keep in air tight containers.

Prepare the cream:
Boil the milk with the vanilla bean (cut lengthwise and scraped).
In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the eggs and the sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the flour and then the milk, a little at a time.
Transfer back to saucepan and cook until first bubble. turn the heat off.
Add the butter. When it has melted, set aside and refrigerate.

Fill in the puffs:
Cut a small hole at the bottom of each puff.
Fit a pastry bag with a small attachment and fill with cream.
Fill the puffs through the small hole and set aside.

Prepare the caramel:
Add half the sugar and half the water, and a bit of lemon juice in a heavy saucepan and cook on medium heat until caramel turns color and becomes a light brown. Do not mix during cooking.

Dip one side of each puff in the caramel and set aside. This is the glaze.

Using the remaining sugar, water and lemon juice, prepare another caramel. This one will be used as the "glue" that keeps the Pièce Montée together.

Dip each puff one at a time in the second caramel and place on serving dish , dipped side down, forming a circle (about 7 inches in diameter). This will be the base of the pyramid. Repeat, "gluing" puffs on top of each other, making the circle slightly smaller with each row, until pyramid is finished. You will probably have puffs left over.

Sprinkle leftover caramel around the pyramid, making strings.

The Pièce Montée is ready!!!

Make sure you let the flour mixture cool completely before adding the eggs. If the bottom of the pan is even just slightly warm to the touch, it needs to cool more. Otherwise the "pate a choux" might be too runny.

If you made the puffs a day ahead, reheat slightly and cool before filling. Chances are that the puffs will have softened during the night and will need to be dried before use.

For the caramel. the trick to avoid it to harden too fast is to take it off the heat as soon as it changes color. When too hard, reheat on top of a double broiler and it should melt and be usable again.

Note: Should you have too many puffs, you can freeze then and use them later!!!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Beef Chili

All right! We have finally made it to March and got a tease of Spring! On Friday we managed to get outside without a jacket. We celebrated Nicole's birthday and my contribution to the evening was dessert, a Piece Montee made of cream-filled puffs and caramel.

Meanwhile, in Paris, my friends are having a nice Saturday lunch out on the deck! Just wait!

Wait for...? Winter to be back! More snow and ice, one snow day, and temperatures below freezing. And so, to avoid complete depression, I reverted once more to comfort food: a Chili!

Beef Chili

3 lbs ground beef
2 large red bell peppers, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 celery sticks, diced
1/4 cup chili powder
4 Tbsp Paprika
2 tsp Cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp dried oregano
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 small cans of beans, your choice
2 large cans of peeled tomatoes

Shredded cheese (cheddar, Monterey Jack...)
Creme fraiche
Fresh Cilantro

In a large skillet, saute the onions, the peppers, carrots and celery until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.

In the same skillet, saute the ground beef until cooked, crumbling the meat with a wooden spatula, about 8 minutes.

Add the spices and mix well. Add salt and pepper. Add cocoa powder. Mix well.

Return the vegetables to the skillet, add the beans and the caned tomatoes.

Cook on low heat for about 40 minutes so that the flavors have time to blend.
Serve in a soup bowl with a dollop of Creme Fraiche, some shredded cheese and a sprinkle for cilantro.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Crepes - Mardi Gras!

Mardi gras, or Fat Tuesday, is the period leading to Lent in the Catholic calendar. It has since become a tradition of parades, costumes and food in many different parts of the world.

you celebrate for several days, or just one day (Tuesday before Ash Wednesday), Mardi Gras is still an occasion for dressing up and partying! And no need to travel to far off places, to New Orleans, Rio or Venice, Mardi Gras can be celebrated anywhere.

As a child in France, Mardi Gras was occasion for us to dress up in costumes to go to school. A bit like Halloween here, but in February!
And at home, it was time for Crepes!! Crepes are a traditional food from the French region of Brittany, but we have all adopted it! And you will find "creperies" all over the country. Every family has its own crepe recipe. And for the more daring of us, it is a flipping contest too!

As for the special equipment needed, a simple non-stick pan will do. Of course, if you happen to have a crepe pan in your kitchen....!


2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1tsp sugar
3 eggs
1 pint milk (500 ml)
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp butter, melted + more for cooking

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the eggs. Start mixing with a wooden spatual. As it gets thick, add the mik, a little at a time, mixing well to avoid lumps.
Add the melted butter and the vanilla extract to the batter. At this point, if the batter is a bit lumpy, you may use the wisk to finish the batter.

The batter should have a liquid consitency, but should not be too thin.
Let rest for an hour before using.

Preheat the pan over medium heat. When hot, spread butter (I use a paper towel to spread the butter on the bottom of the pan).

With a ladle, pour just enough batter to thinly cover the bottom of the pan. Let cook a minute or two, or until the crepe no longer sticks to the pan, and flip. Cook for another minute or so, until brown dots appear and it looks cooked.

Serve: Sprinkle with sugar, sugar and lemon; you may also spread Nutella on it, or flambe with Grand Marnier or other liqueur.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Pan seared Tilapia with a Lemon Butter Sauce

Back to our normal routine after a busy holiday season. Back to school, back to work, and in my case a new job! I still work at the school, but I have also taken on a new adventure! A food adventure of course!
Ecoroo is a "green" gourmet catering company. We use natural products, local when in season, we recycle or use recyclable products. Our French chef has worked in numerous high end restaurants in Paris and New York City, and brings catering to a new level, one of its kind on the Cape.

Now to our busy nights! After all the excesses of December, a light fish dinner was just what I needed! And the kids loved it too!

Pan seared Tilapia with a Lemon Butter Sauce
(serves 4)
5 cloves of garlic
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup), cut in pieces
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 lbs Tilapia fillets (depending on their size, about 2 per person)
1 cup of flour
First prepare the sauce:
Saute the garlic in a medium sauce pan with the olive oil, until soft. Add the wine and simmer until reduced, about 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock, simmer to reduce again, about 10 more minutes. Add the lemon zest. Add the butter, a few pieces at a time, and whisk until melted. Add the lemon juice and set aside. You can keep it warm on the stove with the heat on minimum.
Flour the fish fillets. Heat 1 Tbsp of Olive oil in a non stick pan and saute the fish, about 2-3 minutes per side.
Serve hot with the sauce and some wild rice.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bell Peppers Stuffed with a Cauliflower Puree

What goes through your head when you hear Cauliflower? Eww!!!
I know, it is nobody's favorite vegetable! That was before though!
Bob just made some for us last weekend and even the kids loved it!! Bob served it as a side dish for a Roasted Leg of Lamb.

Bell Peppers Stuffed with a Cauliflower Puree

2 heads of Cauliflower
1 16-oz cartons of good quality Chicken Stock
1 whole Boursin Cheese
1/4 cup of milk
4 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp freshly grated Nutmeg

3 yellow bell peppers
3 red bell peppers

2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup Whole Wheat Panko Breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
2 Tbsp Fresh Parsley, chopped
1/2 Cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Steam the cauliflower in the chicken broth until soft but not mushy. Transfer half of the cauliflower to food processor with half the butter, half the Boursin, half the milk and half the nutmeg. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside. Repeat with the rest of the cauliflower.

Cut the peppers in half, clean and pat dry. Set aside.

In saute pan, melt 2 Tbsp butter. Add the Dijon mustard, then the Panko Bread crumbs. Let cook for about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the Parmesan and the parsley.

Fill the peppers with the cauliflower mixture and top with the breadcrumb mix.

Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes and serve hot.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Spicy Crab Cakes

2008 left with a bang here on Cape Cod!
8 inches of snow and a New Year Day with record low temperatures! But who's complaining? Certainly not me! I love snow and the cold temperatures do not scare me. Too cold to go outside, maybe, but nice if you plan to do nothing but read or watch a couple of old movies and have a soaring fire in the fireplace.

New year's Eve was a lot of fun! We spent it with our friends the Wunders and played Guitar Hero with the kids!

And of course we cooked and ate, and drank Champagne!

Bob made some Crab Cakes that were the best I have had so far! And it is my first recipe for you in 2009!
Happy New Year!!!!

Spicy Crab Cakes

2 Tbsp butter
1 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 stick celery, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
1 pinch of salt
Cayenne Pepper, to taste
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 Lb lump crab meat, picked over for shells
1/4 cup scallions, green parts only, chopped
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
3 Tbsp mustard
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (1 lemon)

1/2 cup mayonnaise (try to make your own, it is so much better!!!)
Worcestershire sauce, to taste
Hot sauce, to taste

Old bay seasonings, to taste
1/4 cup of flour

2 eggs for egg wash
1 Tbsp water
1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 1/2 whole wheat Panko breadcrumbs

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and bell peppers; season with salt and Cayenne pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft and golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the crab meat, green onion, Parmesan, parsley, mustard and lemon juice.

In another bowl, combine the mayonnaise, Worcestershire and hot pepper sauce.

Add the vegetables to the crab bowl and mix to blend. Add the mayonnaise mix and 3/4 cup of the Panko breadcrumbs.

Divide the crab mixture into 10 equal portions and form into 1-inch thick patties.

In a shallow bowl, combine the flour and Old Bay. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and the water. In a third bowl, combine the remaining 3/4 cup of breadcrumbs with some Old Bay.

Dredge the crab patties in the seasoned flour, tapping off excess, then in the egg wash and finally in the seasoned breadcrumbs, coating evenly.

In a large saute pan, heat the oil. Gently lay the cakes, 3 or 4 at a time, and fry until lightly golden, about 4 minutes on each side.

Drain on paper towels and serve with a mixed salad. Drizzle with Chipole Ranch Dressing and a bit of lemon juice!

Cakes can be made ahead and reheated in the oven at 350F for about 15 minutes.