Monday, December 19, 2005

Apple Tart in Los Angeles

Yet another classic: la tarte aux pommes!

We're just back from Los Angeles where we've spent 3 days with our friends Mike and Failop, as a warm and cosy "pre-vacation" (we're leaving tonight for France where we surely will experience another climate!). On Friday night we all cooked dinner together. Mike prepared a sweet and velvety butternut squash soup (with pears and cream). Failop cooked a juicy pork tenderloin with herbs and potatoes, served with roasted aspargus. Pierre and I baked an apple tart. There are so many French bakeries around Mike and Failop's apartment in Westwood that we had been salivating all day thinking of a nice pastry for our sweet tooth. It was simple enough to satisfy our craving. Here is how the recipe goes:

  • 1 pâte brisée pie crust (see my recipe)
  • 3 to 5 juicy apples depending on their size (we used 5 small organic Cameo apples this time)
  • For the custard:
    • 1 whole egg
    • about 3 tablespoons sugar
    • about 1 cup milk
  • Some sugar (1 or 2 tablespoons) to sprinkle on the top
  1. Roll out the pie crust on a tart dish (buttered or lined with parchment paper).
  2. Peel the apples and remove the core. Slice them in thin wedges. Place them on the pie crust in a spiral on in concentrical circles, starting from the edge of the crust and going inward, the thicker side of the wedges facing up.
  3. Prepare the custard: beat the whole egg with the sugar. Add the milk and beat well.
  4. Pour this mix on the apples. Sprinkle with sugar.
  5. Bake 30 to 45 minutes at 360F.

There was some pie crust left... We had foreseen this and bought some raclette cheese, a Swiss cheese perfect for melting. We cut the pie crust left overs in small rectangles (maybe 1"x3"), placed a smaller rectangle of cheese on top and rolled them together. After 10-15 minutes in the oven at 360F and 2 minutes under the broiler, we had delicious crispy snacks!

Now it's time to get on the plane and enjoy 2 1/2 weeks of chocolaty delicacies, home made marvels, restaurant creations, regional specialties.... I wish you all Happy Holidays and see you next year!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Black Lentil Salad with Roasted Tomatoes and Onions

Holiday season often rimes with potluck parties. We were invited to a very cool one yesterday night to celebrate winter and its many delights with our friends before everyone goes on vacation. Each of us was in charge of bringing a specialty from ones native region. The buffet was therefore composed of mexican guacamole, tunisian roasted vegetables, Provence wine and many more succulent dishes. Pierre and I opted for a lentil salad, in honor of our native city of Lyon, proud capital of gastronomy, although our salad ended up not being truely à la lyonnaise.
The proportions below are for a big, big potluck party salad that can serve 15+ people as an appetizer. It can be prepared one day in advance.

Lentil Salad:
  1. Rinse 1 pound black lentils in warm water.
  2. Coarsely chop 1 yellow onion.
  3. Peel 2 or 3 garlic cloves, cut in half and remove the stem.
  4. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large pan.
  5. Add the onion, garlic, 1 bay leaf and 1 branch fresh thyme. Cook for 2 minutes on medium heat to soften without coloring.
  6. Add the lentils. Stir a little then add 1 bottle white wine (a light and dry one. Pino Griggio is perfect). There must be enough liquid to cover the lentils. Add water if necessary.
  7. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and let simmer for about 45 minutes or until the lentils are soft and they have absorbed most of the liquid.
  8. In the meantime prepare a vinaigrette dressing with Dijon mustard (2 tbs), Jerez vinegar (spanish sherry vinegar, 2 tbs), olive oil (6 tbs), salt and pepper.
  9. Pour the vinaigrette on the lentils while warm to allow them to absorb the dressing's flavors.
  10. Add the roasted tomatoes and roasted onions (see recipes below) cut in large wedges (remove the rosemary, thyme and garlic from the tomatoes).
  11. Serve cool but not cold.

Roasted Tomatoes:
  1. Rinse 4 ripe tomatoes. Cut in half and remove the seeds with a teaspoon.
  2. Sprinkle with salt and let drain, face down on a paper towel, for about 10 minutes.
  3. Place the tomatoes face up on an oven-safe dish. Sprinkle with salt and thinly chopped garlic (2 cloves).
  4. Add fresh rosemary and thyme and a few drops olive oil.
  5. Bake at 330F for 45 minutes.
Roasted Onions:
  1. Rinse 2 yellow onions, whole with their skin.
  2. Place them on a metal dish (a cookie sheet for example).
  3. Bake them for 1 hour or until soft at 350F.
  4. Peel them once they have cooled down and cut into 6 or 8 wedges.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Baked Cod with Tomatoes and Preserved Limes

A few months ago I was left with several limes after a party where we didn't drink quite as many cocktails as we anticipated. Not knowing what to do with so many limes (they're a rare fruit in my kitchen) I browsed as usual on Marmiton.org (they also have an English version) and found an amazing Carribean chicken recipe using preserved limes (citrons verts confits à l'huile d'olive). The first step was then to make the preserve... This is how I made my first jar of olive oil preserved limes.

The chicken was awesome. Several months past before I thought about my limes again, quietly waiting for my attention in the fridge's door. I wanted to assort the limes with other ingredients. I had in mind that preserved limes would be the perfect condiment for fish. So here's what I "concocted".

Baked Cod with Tomatoes and Preserved Limes:
Serves 2.
  • 1 big North Atlantic Cod filet
  • 1 big ripe tomato
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • a dozen slices of preserved limes (see the recipe at the end of this post)
  1. Rinse and slice the tomato. Chop the onion. Drain the lime slices.
  2. In an oven-safe dish, spread 1 tablespoon olive oil. Place half the tomato slices at the bottom of the dish, one next to the other. Place half the slices of preserved lime on the tomato slices. Sprinkle with half the minced onion. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Cut the cod filet in two pieces and place them in the dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover with the other half of tomato slices. Place lime slices on the tomatoes. Finish with a dash of olive oil, salt and pepper.
  4. Bake about 30 minutes at 365F.
We served the fish with rice Pilaf. The tomato juice and olive oil combined perfectly with the bitterness of the limes. Very nice!

Preserved Limes:
  • 1 lb. organic limes
  • salt (about 2 tablespoons)
  • olive oil (2-3 cups or mode depending on the jar's size)
  • 2 or 3 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  1. Rinse the limes (whole, with their skin) and dry them with a paper towel.
  2. Slice the limes (about 1/2 cm or 1/4" thick). Place them in a colander. Sprinkle with salt and let them drain for 12 hours.
  3. Remove the excess salt by gently damping the lime slices with a paper towel.
  4. Place the slices in an air tight jar. Add the cloves and bay leaf. Pour olive oil until all the slices are fully sinked.
  5. Wait at least 1 week before using. This preserve can be kept up to one year in the fridge, if the limes are organic.