Archive for category French

Not Your Average Ratatouille

ratatouille-image_1There are about a million recipes (might be a slight exaggeration, frankly) for this dish online and, in my younger years, I’m sure that I used one of them. Since then, I’ve played with it and have changed it.

I added pancetta, the Italian version of bacon, but if you prefer meatless, then it’s fine to leave it out. It will not ruin the dish. This is normally a side dish, but I’ve actually served it as a main course over rice.

It can be served sprinkled with Reggiano Parmesan. It can also be served with a couple of dollops of Mascarpone cheese. The sweetness of the cheese goes nicely with the spicy complex of the dish. Give it a try.

Ingredients

5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

8 oz chopped pancetta

1/4 cup minced garlic

1 medium Vidalia onion, rough chopped

1 medium zucchini, rough chopped

1 medium yellow (summer) squash, rough chopped

1 red bell pepper, seeded, cored and rough chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded, cored and rough chopped

1 medium eggplant, trimmed and cut into cubes*

1 tbsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried oregano

1 can diced tomatoes with juice (14.5 oz can)

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock

Salt & pepper to taste

Reggiano parmesan or Mascarpone Cheese for serving

Directions

Heat up the evoo in a deep skillet and add the pancetta. Cook over medium heat until the pancetta crisps, moving it around the pan so that it cooks evenly. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Add the minced garlic to the oil, and cook until slightly brown and the oil is infused. Be careful not to burn the garlic.

Next, add the onions, peppers, zucchini and summer squash. Cook for about 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the thyme and oregano and mix well. Cook for about another 2 minutes.

Add the chicken stock, wine, tomatoes and eggplant. Simmer uncovered for abut 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is a bit reduced. Add the pancetta, stir, and simmer for about another minute or two. Do a spice check here. Give it a taste. The pancetta is salty, so you may not need salt. The choice is yours. Add pepper, however, for sure.

Remove from the heat and serve with either the parmesan or Mascarpone.

*I “trim” my eggplant, which means cutting off the edges. I never peel my eggplant. But the choice is yours. It works either way.

 

 

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Garden Quiche

Garden QuicheQuiche is one of the big “dinner underdogs.” People often think of making it if they’re throwing a brunch, or having people over for breakfast. Yet, quiche is one of the most versatile dishes on the planet, and it’s also fairly easy to make.

Purists will want to make their own crust. However, I am not ashamed to admit that making pastry crust is not my favorite foodie activity. I make no bones about using the frozen crust. It works just fine. As for the milk, feel free to use whole or 2%. It truly doesn’t make a difference. I keep a jar of prepared minced garlic in my fridge. That is what I use for this dish as opposed to mincing my own.

Cheese is the most important part of any quiche. I like a sharp cheese, but you should use whatever cheese works for your palate. There are no rules!

As for serving quiche, it’s a dish that goes great with a crisp green salad, regardless of what you put in it.

 

Ingredients

5 eggs

3/4 cup milk

1 frozen pie crust

1 cup shredded cheese (Asiago, Cheddar, Monterey Jack; depending upon your taste buds)

1/2 cup chopped Vidalia onions

1/2 cup chopped red, yellow and orange peppers

1/2 cup chopped Baby Bella mushrooms

1.5 cups baby spinach

2 tbsp canola oil

1 tbsp minced garlic

1 tbsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried parsley

1 tsp Kosher or sea salt

1 tsp ground black pepper

Directions

Heat the canola oil in a large skillet. While you’re waiting for  it to warm up, put the eggs and milk in a bowl and mix well with a whisk. Set aside.

Once your skillet is ready, add the minced garlic and cook, stirring occasionally until the oil becomes fragrant. Then, add the onions and peppers, as well as the rest of the spices (including the salt and pepper) and cook on medium heat until the onions become translucent. This will take about 7-10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes more, again stirring the mixture occasionally.

The final item you add is the spinach. Cook until wilted, stirring regularly. Be sure to taste the filling at this point and adjust spices to suit your taste. Remove the skillet from the heat and allow the filling to cool a bit. While cooling, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Prior to adding the filling and cheese to the egg mixture, give it several more whisks. Then, add the vegetable filling and shredded cheese.

Mix thoroughly and pour it into a frozen pie crust. Place the quiche on a cookie sheet and place it in the oven.

Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the top is golden brown and a knife (or toothpick) inserted in the center comes out clean.

 

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Ratatouille

ratatouille-image_1Before we begin, let’s establish that we’re not talking about the Disney movie here. There are a million variations on this particular theme. Make mine a million and one. This French concoction can be a side dish, or it can be a main dish (with rice pilaf), or it can be an appetizer. Pick your poison. Everything that is used in this recipe is roughly chopped…not too big, and not too small. Leave the skin on everything except the red (or Bermuda) onion. I use cilantro here, but you can also use parsley if you’d like. My problem is that I’m not a great lover of parsley, with the exception of specific recipes. I think cilantro (often referred to as Mexican parsley) is a much more interesting taste.

Another basic staple in my house is Balsamic Drizzle or, as some call it, Balsamic Cream. I like to drizzle some on mine but this is entirely optional.

This is a project for sure. Everything cooks in stages initially, and it comes out best if cooked slowly. Cooking it for less time will leave you bigger and more distinct pieces of vegetables. Cooking it for up to 1.5 hours will result in a more blended silky stew. The beauty of this is that it can be served warm or room temperature. And leftovers? Nothing like it. Roll it up in a piece of lavash bread or throw it in a pita pocket, melt some Italian Fontina on it, and have yourself a great lunch. It can also be frozen.

Ingredients

2-3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

8 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped

2 large red (or Bermuda) onion, roughly chopped

1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, roughly chopped

2 cups sliced portobello mushrooms

6 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped

2 medium-large eggplant, cut into 1″ cubes

3 zucchini, sliced and cut in half

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 cup fresh basil, cut in strips

10 springs thyme, leaves removed and stems discarded

2 bay leaves

Kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper

2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Balsamic Drizzle (for serving)

1/4 cup dry white wine (for deglazing the pan)

Directions

Prior to beginning this process, a word about deglazing the Dutch oven. During the cooking process a brown glaze will form on the bottom of the pan. Keep a 1/4 cup of dry white wine on hand for deglazing purposes. You do not want this brown glaze to burn and ruin the flavor of the dish. Add wine a little at a time as necessary and scrape off the bottom of the pan. Add the deglazing liquid to the bowl with the cooked vegetables.

The first thing you have to do is cut the vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Eggplant traditionally retains a lot of water. Cut the eggplant first and place the pieces in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Let it sit while you prepare the rest of the vegetables. Prior to this becoming a blended dish, the vegetables will be cooked in stages. Therefore, you want to keep the raw vegetables in separate bowls.

Place 2 tsp of olive oil in a large Dutch oven (at least 5-1/2 quart) and warm over medium-high heat. Add the onions and a generous pinch of salt, and sauté until they are just beginning to turn brown. This will take about 10 minutes. Then, add the peppers and mushrooms and cook for about another 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and put this into a large, clean bowl.

Add another 2 tsp of oil to the Dutch oven and toss in the zucchini. Add another pinch of salt. Cook the zucchini until it begins to brown. This should again be about 5-7 minutes. Remove the zucchini and add it to the other vegetables.

Rinse the eggplant under cold water, and squeeze the pieces to remove as much moisture as possible. Add 2 more teaspoons of olive oil to the pan along with the eggplant. Cook until the eggplant becomes translucent, about 10 minutes. Remove the eggplant and add it to the other vegetables.

Finally, add some more olive oil to the pan and sauté the garlic until it becomes slightly brown and fragrant. Then, add the tomatoes, thyme, cilantro, red pepper flakes and bay leaves. Allow the tomato juice to bubble, and deglaze the pan as it does.

Add all of the cooked vegetables back into the Dutch oven. Stir to mix, and reduce the heat to low. Taste and adjust salt level, and add black pepper to taste. You can cook this for another 30 minutes or up to an hour and a half. Shorter cooking time will result in larger more distinct pieces of vegetables. Longer cooking times will result in a very nice melded stew. The choice is up to you.

Before taking the Ratatouille off the stove, remove the bay leaves and stir in the basil. Serve in bowls, adding a dash of olive oil to the top. You can also offer a drizzle of Balsamic cream as well as some finely grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

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Chicken Marengo

boneless-skinless-chicken-thighs1You know, there are always “stories” surrounding food. With this dish, rumor has it that Napoleon Bonaparte’s chef made this dish for him after the battle of Marengo. I don’t necessarily know if this story is true, because I’ve always thought of this as a Spanish dish. What I do know that this is utterly delicious. What makes it utterly delicious are the many layers of flavor.

Most of the Chicken Marengo recipes out there call for boneless breast of chicken. Again, I prefer boneless, skinless chicken thighs simply because the meat is so moist. However, you will see that I have given you the option when you get to the recipe portion of this post.

I have served this over white rice, and over noodles. However, I recommend you try it over Israeli Couscous. Aside from salting the couscous, there isn’t any flavor you really need to add to it. There is plenty of flavor in the Chicken Marengo itself.

Ingredients

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs or 3 large boneless chicken breasts, cut into cubes

2 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes, drained (I love to use the Del Monte with mild chilis in this dish)

1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup dry white wine

3 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp butter

1 medium Vidalia onion, peeled and sliced

1/2 large red pepper, seeds removed and cut in strips

1 cup Portobello mushrooms, stems removed and cut in strips

1 cup frozen petite peas

3 cloves garlic, crushed

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tsp Kosher or sea salt

1 tsp fresh-ground black pepper

1/4 cup fresh thyme, removed from stems

2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

2 tbsp capers

Directions

Put the olive oil in a deep skillet and add the onion and red pepper strips, cooking until the onions are just translucent. Then add the chicken. If you’re using thighs, put them in whole. These will be easy to break up in to pieces a bit later in the cooking process. If using chicken breast, make sure you have cut them into bite-sized pieces. Cook the chicken on until slightly browned.

Once the chicken has browned, add the diced tomatoes, chicken stock, wine, salt and pepper, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf. Cover the skillet and cook over medium heat for about 45 minutes.

While this is cooking, put the butter, lemon and mushrooms in a smaller skillet, and sauté the mushrooms until just tender. Remove from the heat and set aside. You can also measure out the frozen petite peas and set them aside.

After about 45 minutes, break up the chicken thighs. Add the mushrooms, peas, cilantro and capers. Give it a stir. Cook for about another 12-15 minutes, or until the peas are just tender.

Remove the bay leaf, and serve over Israeli couscous (my preference), rice or wide noodles.

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Good Karma Slow Cooker Mega-French Onion Soup

french-onion-soupFrench Onion Soup is one of my all-time favorite dishes. When it comes to soup, there’s just about no equal. Of course, the one absolute requirement is plenty of good cheese on top. None of this little dollop stuff. This is a slow cooker recipe, but I can’t emphasize enough the importance of caramelizing the onions first. You can simply throw all of the ingredients into a slow cooker without this step, but it’s a much richer soup when you caramelize.

For the stock, I’m calling for a ready-made beef stock. However, if you make your own beef broth, there’s no comparison. At some point, I will put my recipe for beef broth on this blog, but I haven’t used it for a while and want to tweak it a bit first. So, without further comment, here’s the recipe.

Ingredients

6 tbsp butter

3 large Vidalia onions

1 large Bermuda (red) onion

2 medium shallots

1/4 cup chopped chives

1 leek stalk

2 tbsp minced garlic

1 tbsp Demerara sugar (white sugar is okay here if you don’t have this)

1/2 cup dry sherry

7 cups beef broth

1 tsp sea salt (I used Red Himalayan last time around)

1 tbsp dried thyme

2 tbsp Herbes de Provence (there are varieties of this; use the one that includes Lavender)

1 tsp black pepper

1/2 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

1/2 cup shredded Fontina cheese

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup Baby Swiss or Emmental cheese

French Bread slices

Directions

The first step is to cut the onions into rings and to rough chop the shallots. When cutting the leek, toss the very white part at the bottom, but cut the base into rings and then cut the green stalk into rough 1″ pieces. Make sure you wash the leek well because they tend to harbor dirt.

Melt the butter in a large pan, add the onions/shallots/leeks and cook until they are translucent (about 10 minutes). Then, add the Demerara sugar and cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 minutes. Within the last two minutes, add the garlic and cook for about a minute, then add the sherry and scrape the bottom of the pan.

Transfer the mega-onion mixture to a slow cooker, add the broth, thyme, Herbes de Provence, pepper and salt (add more salt to taste if need be; this is a conservative amount). Cover the slow cooker, set it on high and cook for about 4-6 hours. If cooking on low, it’s about 6-8 hours. The timing is a personal call, but I prefer the “high” setting.

Slice the French bread into 1″ pieces and toast in a toaster oven. Spoon the soup into onion soup bowls, float the toasted French bread in the middle and completely cover with cheese. You can either put your oven on broil and broil the cheese until it bubbles or put it in the microwave. Top with chopped chives (optional for you, but not for me).

This recipe will serve about eight people. If you’re not feeding eight, you can keep it in the fridge for a few days and eat it again. I did that, and then I froze one container for later. Is it better fresh? Probably. But who’s quibbling over such a delicious dish? Not I.

 

 

 

 

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