28 February 2008

Art and some...

A statue of Bacchus god of wine seemed appropriate on this food and good life targeted blog

The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) is hosting a great Roman Exhibit on loan from Le Louvre in Paris http://www.seattleartmuseum.org/exhibit/interactives/rome/rome.asp, I went to see it with a friend today, it always amazes me that in 2008 we can see artefacts dating so far back, so very well preserved and amazing by the precision of details, to see the statues so realistic and well proportioned, the delicate blown glass and poteries and jewels. It brings me a sense of awe and humility.

While at the SAM we also had the rare opportunity to see 3 original panels from The Gates of Paradise guilded bronze by Lorenzo Ghiberti in the early 1400's. See attached panel of The Creation/Adam & Eve.

After a couple of hours at the exhibit we took a stroll through the Olympic Sculpture Park http://www.seattleartmuseum.org/visit/OSP/, the sunshine and fresh air were welcome after the imposing art of the Roman exhibit.

View from the Olympic Sculpture Park, and with the Seattle Space needle in the background

27 February 2008

A simple feast

Today my better half came up with the idea of salmon for dinner, funny I had that in mind too, he suggested some of my bitter orange marmalade and brown sugar as a marinade, so I executed and complimented the salmon with a few asparagus and fingerlings.
Very easy and tasty dinner.
Salmon with orange marmalade glaze
Baste the salmon with 3 large table spoon full of marmalade on both sides, add a couple of tsp of brown sugar, salt and pepper, let it rest for 30mn in the fridge.
Pan fry on very high heat for 3 mn max on each side, place in an oven proof dish and place under broiler for a further 5mn on each side.
Don't overcook or it will be dried out.
Serve immediately with steamed asparagus and fingerling potatoes.
Bon appétit

25 February 2008

Low Gluten dinner

Last night we hosted a gluten free dinner since one of our friend is coeliac.
Being French we had to have cheese before dessert, and one can not have cheese without bread, so I started by making low gluten bread of my own inspiration, a citrus cake which I adapted in order to be gluten free and rabbit with mustard.

Low Gluten bread/Pain avec peu de gluten

450 cc luke warm water
3 tsp dry yeast
1 big teaspoon honey
100 gr buckwheat flour

350 gr white spelt flour
100 gr wholemeal spelt flour
50 gr corn flour (not corn startch)
This makes a total of 600 gr of flours
1 teaspoon salt

Mix water, honey and yeast and let it rest for 10 mn.
Prepare your flours in a mixing bowl (I recommend the use of a standup mixer as this dough is very sticky and liquidy) and add the salt.
After 10mn or so the liquid should resemble a chemistry project and start bubbling away and doubling in volume, stir and pour over the flours and knead on speed 1 for 5 mn till all water has been absorbed, then put on speed 2 for another 10 mn.
Cover the bowl and leave to rest at room temperature (around 20-22 C/68-71.6 F) for aprox. 1 hour
After that time punch the dough down and knead for 1mn, cover and let it rest for a further 30mn.
After that time punch the dough down and knead for 1 mn, then pour it into a parchment paper lined baking tin 29 cm (11.5 inches) long, cover and let it rise for 20mn.
Turn on the oven to 205 C/400 F and place a small pan of water.
Bake for 35 to 45 mn (depending on oven) till bread sounds hollow when tapped.
Let it cool for 15 or 20 mn.
It's a very dense and dark bread, since it is also very moist it will not keep more than 4 days (it will start molding after that).
It freezes very well.

Low Gluten steamed Citrus cake/Gâteau au citron cuit à la vapeur
(adapted from Nigela Lawson's Steamed syrup sponge from the book "How to be a domestic goddess")
About this cake I loved the idea of steaming it, I had never tried before and though it could be fun, also if one has no oven it's a great recipe.
I am totally against corn syrup so I had to find an alternative for the syrup and used a mix of home made bitter orange marmalade, lemon juice and honey. If I was to do it again I might use a little less bitter orange marmalade and more honey to get a more lemony taste as the bitter orange marmalade can be overpowering.

for the cake
2.5 tsp baking powder
84 gr / 3/4 cup soft unsalted butter
55 gr spelt flour
55 gr corn flour
25 gr almond powder (grinded blanched almonds)
120 gr sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 lemon juice + zest
3 TBSP milk
1/2 tsp lemon powder (optional)

for the syrup
1/2 cup sevilla (bitter) orange mamalade
2 TBSP honey
1/2 lemon juice

In her recipe Nigela Lawson uses a plastic pudding basin, I used a well buttered springform (24 cm/9") tighly covered with tin foil (it gives a fairly flat and dense -yet light- cake due to the lack of gluten).
Prepare the syrup first by mixing all ingredients together, let it sit till you have the cake mixture ready.
For the cake mixture pour all ingredients in the stand up mixer bowl and mix well using the wisk head.
Pour syrup in bottom of springform and pour the cake mixture over it. Seal with tin foil and place in steam cooker on top of steaming tray, I used a Le Creuset cast iron round oven dish (which prevents evaporation), water should be boiling when you place your springform on top of the tray.
Let the water boil and bake covered for 2 hours.

When it's cooked remove, let rest only for a couple of minutes (otherwise your syrup will start solidifying) , then turn upside down on a serving dish with enough space for the syrup to flow on the sides.
Serve cold with cointreau flavoured whipped cream.

Rabbit with mustard/Lapin à la moutarde
I got this recipe from my Mom
Ingredients For 6 people
1 rabbit 3.7 pounds / 1.6 kg
2 shallots
2 big garlic cloves
Thyme, salt, pepper
White wine

3 hours before cooking time
Cut rabbit in 12 pieces or less if you want bigger pieces
Baste the rabbit pieces with french Dijon mustard (I used Maille)
Let it rest in a cool place but not in the fridge for 3 hours.

2 hours before serving peel and chop the shallots and garlic, soften in frying pan on low heat (do not brown), add thyme, when softened reserve.
Brown each pieces of rabbit in frying pan then place in Le Creuset round oven dish, cover with the shallots, garlic and thyme, deglaze frying pan with white wine (don't be shy) and pour over the rabbit, if not enough wine pour some water till it comes almost to level with the top of the rabbit.
Season with salt and pepper to taste and let it simmer for 1h30mn.
At the moment of serving if your sauce is too liquidy you can reduce it by boiling it or mix a couple of teaspoons of corn startch in little cold water and let it boil for 5mn.
Serve with fingerlings and green beans, or rice or fresh pasta.

Bon appétit!

20 February 2008

Total eclipse of the moon

Tonight we had the great luck of witnessing a total eclipse of the moon and the weather was totaly perfect, no clouds, here is what it looked like:
Next time this happens will only be in December 2010.

19 February 2008

Bread making

One of my great passion is to make my own bread, I have been doing so for many years, at least once a week, I have to say my father has something to do with it, I have always known him making bread, french rustic bread. I love the feel of the dough while you work it when it becomes a very smooth mass, I love the smell of freshly baked bread, it fills up the house with this great lived feeling, and what tastes better than a freshly baked slice of bread coated with fresh butter and some honey as in the picture!

Last night I had this craving for english muffins and so I prepared my dough before going to bed and as I write the smell of my cooking muffins is filling the kitchen.

I am using a recipe found here and linked to the original recipe here, I tried it and adopted it, it's so easy and tasty!

Give it a try, you won't regret it, and one added bonus is that you do not need an oven, a frying pan will suffice.

Happy baking!

15 February 2008

Spring is in the air

For the past 3 days I have been fighting a bad cold and it seems I am not winning!
Despite this I still cooked a nice veal stew last night and it was enjoyed bay all.
This recipe is of my creation.

Veal stew with carrots
1 pound of veal stew meat diced
2 shallots
4 carrots
1 glass or so of dry white wine
1 tomato
salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary, parsley

Slightly brown the veal dices in a non stick frying pan over high heat, then place the veal pieces in a pot (ie. cast iron pot) over medium heat (until it boils then reduce to a simmer).
Deglaze your frying pan with the white wine and pour it over the veal pieces
Peal and thinly slice the shallots and place in pot
Peal and slice the carrots and place in pot
Clean and cut tomato and place in pot
Season with salt, pepper and herbs to taste, add a glass of water
Close pot and let simmer for an hour or so (veal being a tender meat by nature the cooking time can be reduced compared with beef).
Before serving if sauce is too liquidy dissolve a couple of spoons of corn starch in 2 table spoon of cold water and pour the mix in the sauce and boil for 3 or 4 mn.

Serve with steamed fingerling potatoes or broiled fennel bulb (this recipe will be for another day).

Bon appétit

13 February 2008

D Day

Here I am D day (or should I say B day - Blog day), for the past 6 months or so I have been toying with the idea of writing a Weblog to talk about food, my cooking & baking experiments using family, friends and my own recipes and to share some of my photos, and also as a way to keep track of what I cook and do, I did open the blog but then nothing, as if I was holding back (for some reason or another, all good at the time of course!).
And yesterday I went to a book signing by Kristin Espinasse
http://www.french-word-a-day.typepad.com/ and she challenged me to start today with a recipe of "Tarte Tatin" and I said "Tarte Tatin à la Tomate" (tomato Tatin), so here I am taking up the challenge and thanking Kristin for her good words of encouragement and inspiration.

This first recipe of "Tarte Tatin à la Tomate" is a more summery dish when tomatoes are nicely ripe and juicy; I tasted this dish a few years ago for the first time in Paris at one of the Marais area restaurant and loved it so much that I decided to recreate it.

My "Tarte Tatin à la Tomate" recipe:


Pastry (or should I say "Pâte à tarte")
Tomatoes (preferably organic, of course) the number will depend on the size of the final tarte; I would say a dozen of medium size tomatoes for the pastry quantity (they will loose a lot of juice and shrink a lot).

1 medium size shallot (or more if you really like them like I do)
A couple of cloves of garlic, thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper, a teaspoon of sugar (brown).

Pastry (this is my Mom's recipe, who has it from her own mother, a basic easy to make pastry, yet very tasty, go figure with the butter that goes into it!)

250 gr all purpose flour (it should be flour with less gluten as you don't want it to be too elastic, or it will shrink when cooking)

125 gr butter at room temperature
90 gr cold water
1 pinch of salt

Mix all ingredients (by hand or mixer, do not knead), roll out pastry and fold it in 3, give it a half turn to the left and repeat once ( you can repeat this process a couple more times after cooling, it will make the pastry a little bit puffy).
Then wrap with cling film and place in the fridge to cool down while you prepare your tomatoes.

Tomatoes step 1

Peal and finely chop the shallots and garlic, place in a non stick frying pan with a little olive oil on medium to low heat, you want to soften them without browning them, 5/10 mn.
While this is cooking,
Clean and half the tomatoes, removing the top green hard part, then place them face down in the frying pan on top of the shallots and garlic, let them cook half way through on low to medium heat (you can put the lid on it will keep the juices) then turn them upside down, add salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme and sugar for caramelising and continue cooking them, toward the end increase the temperature a little to obtain caramel texture on bottom of pan.
Make sure you don't break them when you turn them or check them.

Tomatoes step 2

When cooked through, if the skin is too hard by now it should come apart and you can just remove it from the tomatoes, then place each tomato side by side tightly in an oven proof dish (Pyrex or porcelain or plain tôle à tarte).
Keep the juices aside in the pan covered.
While the tomatoes are cooking you can roll out the pastry into the shape of the dish you have selected plus enough for the sides.

Final step
Place the rolled out pastry on top of your tomatoes and on the sides in the dish and bake in preheated oven for 25 mn at 180/190 C (356/374 F) time will depend on your oven so check it out after 20mn, pastry should be golden and cooked through.
When cooked, here is the hard part, take a serving dish, place it on top of your inverted pie and rotate in a quick movement to have the pastry underneath and the tomatoes on top, this can be tricky as it's hot and some liquid will be in the baking dish, then pour the juices from your frying pan on top of the tomatoes and serve immediately with a green salad, it makes a perfect summer evening light meal (or winter starter to bring on the summer feel!).

Bon appétit