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Recipes

Ratatouillle

July 26, 2017
Ratatouille. Loving summer veg!

The farmer’s market is a beautiful place during high summer.  You can find all the ingredients to make one of my favorite summer dishes: ratatouille.  This is literally French home cooking at its best.  Fresh veg, fresh herbs, olive oil, a little heat, and most important of all… lot’s of patience!

If you don’t have all the ingredients, that’s okay.  The only essential ingredients are the eggplant, onions, garlic, and olive oil.

Ratatouille

1/4 pint of olive oil (and possibly more, be generous)

2 eggplants, diced

1 red pepper, sliced

1 green pepper, sliced

2 medium-sized zucchinis, sliced

1 large onion, finely sliced

4 cloves of garlic

3 tomatoes, peeled and diced

2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, minced

4 springs of lemon thyme, or more to your tasting, minced

Pinch of red chili flakes (not technically French but I like the taste)

Salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat half the olive oil in a large cast iron pan.  Add the eggplant and sprinkle with salt.  Gently fry until tender and lightly caramelized.  The secret to an amazing ratatouille is time and generous amounts of olive oil.  Transfer the eggplant to a large bowl carefully leaving the drippings and left over olive oil in the pan.
  2. Add a little more olive oil and add both the red and green peppers.  Also add a pinch of red chili flakes.  Fry gently until the peppers are soft and lightly caramelized.  Transfer to the bowl containing the eggplant.
  3. Add a little more olive oil to the cast iron pan.  See the pattern?  This time gently fry the zucchini until soft and lightly gilded.  Transfer to the eggplant.
  4. Now gently fry the onions and garlic until lightly caramelized.  Transfer to the eggplant.
  5. Finally, fry the tomatoes until soft and collapsed.  This time transfer the eggplant, peppers, zucchini, onion, and garlic to the cast iron pan with the tomatoes.
  6. Add the minced thyme and rosemary, and season with salt and pepper.
  7. Gently cook, bubble, for about 5 minutes.
  8. Serve at room temperature.

Ratatouille is excellent served warm, room temperature, and even cold.  You can eat it straight or you can even use it to stuff a tart, as a topping for pasta, or to dress a pizza.  One of my favorite ways to eat it is at room temperature topped with a fried egg and served with a slice of sour dough bread.  It’s versatile and highly nutritious.

Enjoy!  Please leave your comments below.  How do you like your ratatouille?

Recipes

Buckwheat pancake: galettes de sarrasin

June 28, 2017
A picture of the moulin Legare the oldest functional water powered mill in North America. The mill produces 4 tons of wheat and buckwheat flour annually.

Last weekend I took some much needed time off and spent it celebrating la Fête de la Saint-Jean-Baptiste with my family up in my hometown of Saint-Eustache, Quebec.  This is akin to the 4th of July for French Canadians.  Saint-Eustache was founded in 1770 and boasts two famous historical sites: the church and the buckwheat water mill.

Historical Sites

The church gained notoriety for its significance during the battle of the Lower Canada Rebellion on December 14th, 1837.  After rebelling against the English following multiple failures at political reform, seventy rebels were shot or burnt alive inside the church while the English bombarded its facade.  The English then pillaged the city and burnt the majority of the city to the ground.  Many see the rebellion of the Patriotes Canadiens as an example of what could have happened in the United States had the American Revolutionary War failed.

Canon ball from the battle of Lower Canada 1837

By Vincent Poirier (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Every June 24th the entire province gathers to celebrate our independence and express our gratitude for those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Now the second famous historical site in Saint-Eustache is the moulin Légaré.  It was built in 1762 and has been in constant operation since then.  In fact, it’s the oldest functional water-powered mill in North America.  The mill, to this day, produces about 40 tons of wheat and buckwheat flour annually!

A picture of the moulin Legare the oldest functional water powered mill in North America

What’s buckwheat and how do I use it?

Contrary to popular belief, buckwheat is NOT a grain.  It just has grain-like seeds which are milled into a flour.  That being said, buckwheat flour is gluten-free and has many trace minerals as well as vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, niacin, folate, thiamine, and choline. Moreover, you will find 4 grams of soluble fiber, 8 grams of protein, and 15% of your daily iron requirements in 1/3 of a cup of buckwheat flour.  Needless to say buckwheat is very healthy and should be part of your diet.

In Quebec, we use buckwheat in our traditional cooking. This is probably because we have a shorter growing season.  Buckwheat likes cold weather, acidic and low fertility soil.

One of the most popular ways to use buckwheat flour is to make pancakes.  We call them galettes de sarrasin.  Essentially it’s a thin pancake, more like a Parisian crêpe. It’s cooked on a sizzling hot cast iron pan and then drizzled with molasses or maple syrup.  But really you can dress it with almost anything: swiss cheese, a fried egg, bechamel, etc.  Sweet or savory, whatever you fancy.

 

Buckwheat Pancake – Galette de sarrasin

Adapted from Recettes de la famille Légaré

2 cups of buckwheat flour

1 tsp of baking powder

1/2 tsp of salt

2 cups of water

Butter

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the water, buckwheat flour, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Heat a cast iron pan on medium heat.  When hot, add about 1/2 tsp of butter.  If you want to be ultra traditional, use lard.
  3. Ladle a spoonful of batter onto the sizzling hot pan.  Flip the pancake once you see holes forming but only for a few seconds. Serve immediately.
Recipes

Chive Blossom Butter

June 14, 2017
Chive blossom butter

My mom is what you would call a busy body.  Always out and about: gardening, cooking, cleaning… running a business.  She also happens to be an amazing cook.  This Saturday morning as I was doing my errands, she texted me images of her latest creation.

Beautiful chive blossom's from my mom's garden

Very pretty.  Why aren’t mine like that?

Chive blossoms and lemons

Interesting, show me more.

Unformed chive blossom butter

This does not look appetizing.

Chive blossom butter

Yum!

I can see this tasting great with mashed potatoes, toasted bread, or on a steak.  Although this is not the healthiest recipe, something like this should definitely be shared.

Chive Blossom Butter

Adapted from Popayan www.recettes.qc.ca

50 – 60      Chive flowers with ½ inch of the stem attached, finely minced

1 lb              Unsalted butter, room temperature

1 ½             Lemons, juiced

¼ cup        Extra-virgin olive oil

Salt as desired

  1. In a large bowl, mix the butter, lemon juice, and the olive oil together with a wooden spoon. Then, add the minced chive blossoms.
  2. At this point you can either fill ramequins with the butter-chive blossom mixture or you can mold them into individual sized portions as seen above.

Individual sized portions

  1. Mold the butter-chive blossom mixture into a roll and wrap in wax paper and then in plastic wrapping.
  2. Place in the freezer.
  3. When the mixture has hardened, unwrap, and cut into individual sized portions

 

Makes one pound of butter.

 

Bon appetit!

Recipes

Potage Saint Germain (Fresh Pea Soup)

March 29, 2017

Nothing says Spring like fresh peas!  This soup is as old-school as it gets.  History attributes its invention to the court of Louis the XIV’s.  Before moving his court to Versailles, the king held court at the château of St. Germain.  When court was finally moved to Versailles, the king’s gardener planted among other edibles, the sweet pea.  The original recipe consisted of fresh peas, lettuce, white leeks, and a mirepoix.  The perfect spring fare.  Simple, fresh, classic.

A classic is a classic not because it conforms to certain structural rules, or fits certain definitions.  It is a classic because of a certain eternal irrepressible freshness. – Edith Wharton

 

Potage Saint Germain (Fresh Pea Soup)

1                    Leek, green removed, finely minced

1 tbsp           Butter

1                    Potato, cubed

4 cups          Chicken broth

1/2                Boston lettuce, minced

1/4 cup        Fresh mint, minced

4 cups           Fresh sweet peas

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 cup         Cream 15% optional

  1. In a heavy saucepan, soften the leeks in the butter.  Add the broth and potato and bring to a boil.  Simmer for about 20 minutes or until the potato is tender.
  2. Add the peas, lettuce, and mint and bring to  boil.  Simmer for about 2 minutes.  In a blender, purée the soup until smooth. You can also use a hand mixer.  Personally, I prefer my soup with A LOT of crunch.  If you like your soup silky smooth, use the blender and strain.
  3. For a richer fare, add cream.  For a lighter fare, skip this step.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. When servicing, garnish with croutons if desired.

Enjoy!

Serves 4

Recipes

Pistou Soup

February 15, 2017

Last Thursday, I came back from work with 8 inches of snow on my driveway.  Waiting for me, taunting me.  Fortunately this year was the year I decided to ditch the shovel and invest in a snow blower.  About an hour later, I finally finished clearing the driveway.  As I was sitting in the living room, trying to nurse my hands from a Raynaud’s flare, I thought about what to make for dinner.  I wanted something warm, I didn’t want to work too much, and I wanted to be reminded of summer.  Basil!  Fresh sweet basil.  Pistou soup was the answer.

Pistou soup or “soupe Pistou”, is a traditional French soup from the region of Provence.  It’s loaded with vegetables, it’s very versatile, and it’s delicious.  It’s bit like minestrone but French and much less heavy on the tomatoes.  Just before serving, the soup is infused with a sort of pesto called a “pommade”.  This infuses the soup with a burst of fresh basil.

Enjoy!

2 tomatoes, cubed

2 zucchini, cubed

2 carrots, cubed

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed, a finely sliced

2 handfuls of fresh white beans

2 handfuls green beans

2 handfuls of dried macaroni

Pommade

1 cup packed fresh basil

1 egg yolk

olive oil

Parmesan

Salt and pepper

  1. Cut all the vegetables into cubes.
  2. In a large enameled cast iron dutch oven, heat the olive oil, onion, tomatoes, and garlic over medium heat until soft.
  3. Add the carrots, zucchini, and the beans.
  4. Cover with water.  The water should be about 2 cm above the vegetables.  Salt as desired.  Remember, more salt is on the way so don’t add to much.
  5. Bring to a boil and cover.  Bring to a simmer.  Cook for about 45 minutes.  Add the pasta about 15 minutes before the end.
  6. In the meantime, prepare the pesto.  Also called “la pommade”.  It isn’t really a pesto in the strict sense.  In a food processor, grind the basil with the egg yolk.  If you really want to do it old-school, use a mortar.
  7. Add some grated Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper.  No need to be precise.
  8. Then add the olive oil and emulsify.  Continue adding olive oil until you get a thick-ish paste.  It should not be too runny.
  9. Go back to your soup and remove it from the heat.  Season with salt and pepper.
  10. Ladle into a bowl, then add 2 tablespoons of “pommade”.  If you want more, knock yourself out!
  11. Serve with Parmesan cheese and sourdough bread.

Serves 6 – 8

Note:

If you want a little bit more protein in your soup, add a lamb shank or any other type of meat.  I personally like to add a pork neck bone.  Simply add the meat at step #3 and remove the bone before serving.  You can also return the meat in bite-sized pieces.

Gluten-free?  Skip the pasta.

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