Sunday, June 26, 2011

Soupe au Pistou

This fresh vegetable soup from Provence features Pistou which is a lighter version of pesto, since it does not contain any nuts. Try to have all the vegetables diced and sliced about the same size, which makes for a nice presentation. Of course, you can vary the vegetables according to what’s available. I use canned beans because I find pre soaking and cooking dried beans not worth the effort and often leads to uneven cooking. (you may also replace the pistouwith store bought pesto and it could be just as good...

2 cups (300g) canned white beans (Cannellini or Navy)
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, peeled and diced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 medium carrots peeled and diced
2 medium zucchini diced
½ pound green beans (tips removed and cut up)
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced or thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sea salt/ freshly ground pepper
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup dried pasta (orzo, vermicelli, or tiny shells)

For the Pistou:
1 large clove of garlic, peeled, generous pinch of salt
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small tomato; peeled, seeded, and diced
2 oz Parmesan cheese, grated

In a Dutch oven or large stockpot, heat the olive oil.
Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent. Add the thyme, diced carrots, zucchini, green beans, drained beans garlic, and salt. Season with pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are completely cooked. Add the drained  beans then the peas and pasta, plus 2 quarts water. Bring the soup to a boil, and simmer a few minutes until the pasta is cooked. While the soup is cooking, make the pistou. In a food processor, place the garlic, salt, basil leaves and cheese. Mix. Add the tomato and remix.

To serve 
Ladle hot soup into bowls and add a generous spoonful of pistou to the center and swirl gently. Serve extra pistou on the side for those who wish to add. 


There is nothing more refreshing on a hot summer’s day than a good gazpacho. Essentially, a liquid salad this piquant cold tomato soup is often just drunk from a glass, but I much prefer it served with the chopped vegetables on the side that are added to the soup as I was once served in Spain’s Andalusia.  
Serves 4.

1 cup fresh white breadcrumbs
2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 cucumbers (peeled, seeded and diced)
1 diced Vidalia (or other sweet) onion
2 cloves of garlic (crushed)
1 green or yellow pepper (cored, seeded and diced)
½ cup of olive oil (first cold press)
6 ripe tomatoes (coarsely chopped and worked through a sieve)
black pepper
ice cubes (added to the soup just before serving)
3 slices of toasted bread, crusts removed (for croutons)

Soak the bread crumbs in 2 tablespoons of vinegar.
In a blender, liquefy the bread crumbs, one of the cucumbers, half of the peppers, half the onion and the garlic, together until smooth. Beat in the olive oil a few drops at a time. Stir in the pureed tomatoes and season with salt and pepper and add remaining vinegar. Chill thoroughly.

To serve: Before serving add ice cubes to the soup and prepare separate small dishes with the remaining diced cucumber, peppers, onion and croutons for guests to add to the soup as garnish. 

Salmon Rillettes

Inspired by the recipe in Eric Ripert’s cook book of recipes from Le Bernardin, here is a lovely and impressive spread to serve on toast and enjoy with a glass of white wine before dinner.
1 bottle of inexpensive dry white wine
2 tablespoon chopped shallots or sweet onions
1 teaspoons fine sea salt
2 lbs fresh salmon fillet, cut into 1 inch cubes
6 ounces of smoked salmon diced
2 tablespoons of thinly chopped fresh chives
1 cup lemon juice
1 cup home made mayonnaise: (1 large egg yolk, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, sea salt, pepper, 2/3 cup peanut oil, 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar)
Poach the Salmon:
Place wine, shallots, and 1 teaspoon salt in large saucepan and bring to boil. Add cubed fresh salmon and remove 40 seconds after boiling restarts. Strain in a sieve and run under cold water to stop cooking process. Drain well and refrigerate for at least one hour. Discard liquid.
Make the mayonnaise: 
Whisk together mustard, egg yolk, salt and pepper and while whisking drizzle in peanut oil. 
Mix everything and chill.
Place diced smoked salmon in salad bowl and stir in chives. Add poached salmon and use side of wooden spoon to shred salmon as you mix. Stir in lemon juice, mayonnaise and pepper. Salt to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Serve on toast or toasted baguette slices.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Salmon a L’Unilatéral with Creamy Leek Sauce

I discovered this sumptuous yet simple dish at a famous Danish Restaurant (Flora Danica) on the Champs Elysees of Paris. They grill the salmon on one side only and cook it until it is just about warm inside. ..served very rare –flavorful and moist. I love salmon this way. Of course if you are going to insist on having your salmon well done, dry and flaky, you can turn it over and cook the second side for a few minutes longer – but you will not enjoy it as much as I will! I guess you can also choose to find a happy medium. Prepare the sauce and when ready start grilling the salmon.

4 pieces of salmon with skin still attached (as thick as possible) about 4 ounces each
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

Olive Oil
On the grill or in a non-stick pan
Brush some olive oil on the meat side of the salmon
Place salmon skin side down on the grill.
Salt with coarse salt
Let grill for about 6-12 minutes.
When skin is nice and crispy and the salmon just warm enough to enjoy, but still fairly dark in color – it is ready to serve

Leek Sauce

2 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
½ lb leek whites, cleaned and finely chopped
½ cup dry white wine

1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons peanut oil
salt and pepper
In a saucepan combine butter, shallots, and leeks. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring. Add wine and cook until most of the wine has evaporated. Add the cream and salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Keep sauce warm.

Gerard’s Wine Suggestions

Salmon is a « fatty fish » and needs a dry white wine such as a Riesling, Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. For the Salmon a l’Unilatéral, I recommend a Petit Chablis 2010 de chez Jean-Marc Brocard,  a lively wine with exotic fruit flavors. $15.99 at Arlington Wines, or a Viré-Clessé 2008 from Chanson Père et Fils, one of the best white wines of the Macon area combining suppleness and minerality. $16.99 chez Arlington Wines. 



Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Lobster, Watermelon & Tomato Salad

This past weekend we had a big party for my 65th birthday. Four of our best friends (who happen to be French chefs) came to help us celebrate. There were nearly 100 of us at the BBQ where we watched them prepare the muscles in a creamy wine sauce and cook the red snapper, the whole beef tenderloins, and bananas flambe all right on the grill. Christian Delouvrier (La Mangeoire) brought his famous ratatouille, Jean Louis Dumonet (The Union Club) prepared a fabulous Choron Sauce (A Bernaise sauce made with tomato puree) for the beef and Michel Jean (Stissing House) made delicious rum raisin ice cream to serve with the grilled bananas.  I did actually prepare one dish - my French Potato Salad - the very same recipe I wrote up in this column a few weeks ago.  Jean Luc Colombo served up case upon case of his lovely rosé , white and red wines from the Rhone Valley. While it was all wonderfully delicious and fun for a foodie – what I really need to share with you is the incredible dish that was created the night before the party at my home…

With the chefs and their wives we were about a dozen people. I had, of course, prepared a meal, but one of the chefs (Laurent Manrique) brought 5 cold cooked lobster tails from his restaurant (“Millesime” on Madison & 29th). He asked permission to scavenge my kitchen to see what he could find to put together with the lobster to make an additional appetizer for us.

 “Ah, tu as du pastèque - fantastique!” he said gleefully as he started to cut up my seedless watermelon. He cut it and the lobster into chunks of about the same size and placed them together in a bowl. When he spotted some nice tomatoes he chopped up three or four and added them to the bowl as well. He then emptied the bowl through a strainer reserving the liquid and placing the chunks of lobster, tomatoes and watermelon on a deep dish platter.

He looked me in the eye with a friendly challenge to ask if I had any fresh herbs, and I proudly brought him out onto the deck where I had very recently planted some I had bought at Adams. Joyfully he started picking sprigs of fresh basil, peppermint, and dill and them chopped them up.

“Have you any sherry wine vinegar.. (Thank goodness, I did!) and olive oil?” (I had just gotten a bottle of that great olive oil that Millbrook  Winery sells – thank you Bruce Kimball!!!). Laurent made a vinaigrette and then whisked in the juice that had been strained from the watermelon and tomatoes. He poured this fabulous dressing over the lobster mix, and sprinkled all of the fresh herbs on top. The aromas hit us all as he mixed and then served us. And voila, a beautiful summer salad was created.

I have rarely tasted such a wonderfully refreshing and great tasting dish.  I will make it often. And I understand more than one of the chefs will be adding it to their menus this summer! Why don’t you try it too?

Gerard served an Alsatian Gewurztraminer from Josmeyer which went exquisitely with this bouquet of flavors. And when the dish and the wine combine to each enhance the other, it seems that the planets and stars are perfectly aligned and it is really good to be alive!

Lobster, Tomato & Watermelon Salad
(for 12)
5 cooked lobster tails (cut in chunks)
5 tomatoes (cut in chunks)
¼ of a seedless round watermelon (cut in chunks)
1/3 cup of sherry wine vinegar
2/3 cup of good olive oil (first cold press)
1 bunch fresh basil (chopped)
3 tablespoons of fresh peppermint (chopped)
2 tablespoon fresh dill (chopped)

Mix the lobster, tomato and watermelon chunks in a bowl.
Make a vinaigrette by mixing the vinegar with half of the oil. Whisk. Add the rest of the oil and whisk again. Strain the juices from the lobster, watermelon and tomatoes and whisk into the vinaigrette.
Mix the herbs and sprinkle them over the salad. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and mix. Serve.