Saturday, May 29, 2010

Tidbits from the past featuring tasty seafood and French memories to celebrate Pink Saturday’s 2nd anniversary

Jacques Pepin’s pink salmon pizza
I was flipping through Jacques Pepin’s newest cookbook, More Fast Food My Way, when I came across a recipe for Smoked Salmon Pizza served on Naan flatbread. For the recipe and more….

Spicy fruit salsa with broiled pink salmon inspired by the Food Shack, Jupiter, Florida
Fruit salsas are very popular to serve with fish. I’ve seen numerous recipes in food magazines recently. We ate at Little Moir's Food Shack, a fish joint in Jupiter, Florida that served a spicy, sweet, and colorful fruit salsa with a tuna basil roll, which quickly became my favorite. I had never tasted anything like the fruit salsa before. It was sweet, spicy and hot all at the same time and it burst in my mouth with flavor. For the recipe and more..…

Low country pink shrimp and grits
We were houseguests at a friend’s home on the outer banks of North Carolina several months ago and they served Shrimp and Grits for breakfast, elevating the morning meal to a higher level. So when we had houseguests recently, we prepared the same. The cheese grits topped with pink shrimp, browned bacon and mushrooms, garnished with shreds of green scallions make an elegant presentation. For the recipe and more….

Pastry shop in Provence
Two of our favorite shops in France were the Patisserie, the pastry shop, and the Boulangerie, the bakery. In some Patisseries, but not all, you can purchase the one essential thing you must buy every single day – the French baguette. In the Patisserie shown above they only sell pastries. When we asked for a baguette one day, the beautiful mademoiselle (dressed in pink) pointed her finger to herself and said, “Patisserie.” Then she took her delightfully long finger and pointed out the door and said, “Boulangerie.” Meaning, for those who she thought didn't speak French, we don’t sell baguettes here. Although we continued to purchase beautiful desserts in this shop, you can be sure we never asked for a baguette there again. Read more…..

How beautifully a pastry is wrapped in France for you to take home

Le Petite France
Le Petit France is a bistro located between the small villages of Paradou and Maussane, just south of Saint-Remy-de-Provence. We dined al fresco style under white market umbrella shaded tables with the beautifully set pink linens Read more…

Pink Saturday is celebrating its 2nd anniversary plus it was also featured in the current issue of Artful Blogging. All of my congratulations go to Beverly, our hostess, from How Sweet the Sound, and to the dedicated Pink Saturday bloggers, who, each week, make Pink Saturday happen. Beverly is having a give-away so be sure you stop by and say hello.

My husband and I were out on a leisurely Sunday afternoon ride one day and couldn’t help but snap this photo. It aroused my curiosity. Do you suppose they painted their house pink first or painted their car pink first? Whatever the case, it has to be a one of a kind. This may carry the concept of matching shoes and handbags to a whole new level. I hope this free spirit owner of the pink house and a car to match brings a smile to your face and sunshine into your Saturday. Happy Pink Saturday,

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Salmon with Citrus Vinaigrette from Food & Wine’s 2006 Best New Chef of the Year

Have you ever been curious about what restaurant chefs serve their family for dinner? I certainly have. Alec Le Sueur traveled with Food & Wine’s 2006 Best New Chef of the Year, Virginia's Cathal Armstrong, to Canthal’s native Ireland to find the answer to that question. For the family reunion Chef Cathal chose a fennel and Atlantic lobster salad with a creamy tarragon-lemon dressing, pan-fried salmon fillets in a citrus sauce, and skillet-seared lamb with slow roasted tomatoes. His parents are extremely proud of their son and rightfully so. “Gorgeous” was the word heard over and over around the table to describe his beautifully prepared homecoming feast. The entire article can be found on Food & Wine’s website, along with all of the recipes, including the Irish brown bread and puff pastry apple pie that completed his meal.

We eat a lot of fish, particularly salmon and tilapia. I’m always searching for new ways to fix these old favorites. For the salmon Chef Canthal prepared a bright, citrus vinaigrette and served asparagus alongside. I changed a couple of things to suit my style. Broiled salmon is our preferred method for cooking salmon, so that’s what we did instead of pan frying. The chef cooked his asparagus in salted water. Every time I do it this way I think its flavor is flat, perhaps because chefs use more salt in the water than I do. I like to cook asparagus in a mixture of half beef broth and half water and never leave its side, checking frequently for doneness. There’s nothing worse than limp, overcooked asparagus that turns a murky brown. When I buy asparagus, I prefer fat asparagus to the thin stalks because they have much more flavor. This is one time "small" isn’t what you're looking for when you choose vegetables.

Salmon with Citrus Vinaigrette
Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine - Recipe from Cathal Armstrong 
Serves 8

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
1 medium shallot, minced
2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds fat asparagus, stalks snapped & peeled
Beef Broth
8 six-ounce salmon fillets
3 tablespoons canola oil

In a small saucepan, combine the three citrus juices and simmer over moderate heat until reduced by half, about ten minutes. Pour into a heatproof bowl and let cool to room temperature. Whisk in the shallot, chives and the 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Add a mixture of half beef bouillon and half salted water to a large skillet, just enough to amply cover the asparagus. Add asparagus, cover, and bring to a boil. As soon as the liquid boils, turn the heat down to low and cook for three or four minutes, checking the asparagus for doneness. With large, fat asparagus, it may take five minutes. When done, remove asparagus with slotted spatula and dry well on a kitchen towel. Transfer to a platter and drizzle with good extra-virgin olive oil.

Preheat the oven to broil. Arrange the pieces of fish in one layer, skin side down, on an unheated broiler tray or large sheet pan lined with heavy duty foil for easier clean-up. Smear with the canola and season with salt and pepper. Place the fish under the broiler about six to seven inches from the source of heat. Broil about six minutes or just until the pieces are cooked through. It’s not necessary to turn the fish. If the fish begins to brown too much, turn the oven to 400 degrees F and bake for a few minutes until they achieve your desired doneness.
Transfer the salmon to plates and spoon with some of the citrus vinaigrette.  Serve the asparagus alongside and pass the extra vinaigrette.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Orange & Avocado Salad flavored with one of the authentic flavors of Provence - Pastis

We keep a bottle of Pernod on hand so we can use a splash of its citrusy anise flavor in seafood from time to time to give it a Mediterranean twist and a taste of Provence. Pernod’s licorice flavor also pairs well with tomatoes and shellfish, such as mussels and shrimp. In the south of France Pernod is sipped as an aperitif called pastis. Typically waiters bring small glasses of Pernod on a tray to your table with a pitcher of cold water for diluting the strong green liqueur, making it turn cloudy and yellow.

Pastis is very popular aperitif in France, especially in Provence in the summer when it’s hot. Among the people of Provence there are strong feelings as to what brand they prefer. Some insist that the Ricard label is the authentic one from Marseilles; others favor Pernod. Pastis emerged following the ban on absinthe and its popularity may be due to the appetite of the Mediterranean countries for anise liqueurs, such as Greek ouzo and Italian sambuca (better known by the trade name Gillanno). As an aperitif, I personally think its licorice flavor is an acquired taste, but I really like to cook with it in some seafood dishes.

So you can certainly understand why I was excited to see a recipe for an orange and avocado salad in which the oranges were steeped in pastis in Sarah Leah Chase’s delightful little cookbook Pedaling through Provence. I had never thought of using Pernod as a marinade for oranges. Of course you could substitute ouzo or sambuca if you like. If you don’t want liqueur in your salad, you could certainly leave it out altogether. The salad would still be terrific. This salad is also very versatile throughout the year. In the winter blood oranges or clementines could be substituted for the naval oranges which I’ve used below. Although the recipe didn’t call for it, I’ve also crumbled feta cheese on top, which I thought would add even more flavor.

Orange and Avocado salad flavored with authentic flavors of Provence - Pastis
Adapted from Pedaling through Provence by Sarah Lee Chase – Serves 4

4 Naval oranges, peel, pith, and any seeds removed, thinly sliced
1/3 cup anise flavored liqueur, such as Pernod or Ricard
1/3 cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup fresh lime juice
2 to 3 drops hot sauce, such as Tabasco
Coarse salt to taste (I like French fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt)
2 ripe avocados, preferably Hass
1/3 cup imported black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
Crumbled feta cheese to taste

Toss the sliced oranges and Pernod together in a glass bowl and let marinate, covered, in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, but not longer than three hours. Whisk together the olive oil, lime juice and hot sauce. Season with salt.

To assemble individual salads: Place one fourth of the sliced macerated oranges at the top of each of the four salad plate. Cut the avocados in half lengthwise and remove the pits and skin. Slice each avocado half lengthwise into thin slices and fan the slices from each half onto one of four salad plates just below the oranges. Drizzle the olive oil-lime vinaigrette over the slices. Top each salad with a sprinkling of the olives and a few crumbles of feta cheese. Serve at once. Makes 4 servings.

I’ve entered my delicious Orange, Avocado, Feta Cheese salad with the flavors of Provence in Lazaro Cook’s Morning, Noon and Night Quickies Challenge. Click Lazaro Cook’s to see the details and the deadline of the challenge so you can participate too. I’ll see you there.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Pecan-Crusted Tilapia - an easy 30 minute meal

Pecan-Crusted Tipalia with Caper Butter Sauce

When my husband Meakin offered to cook dinner the other night, I asked, “What can I do to help?” “Nothing,” he said. That was much too good of an offer to pass up, don’t you think?

But you should also know that Meakin is a great cook. If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time, you know that when we first married I could barely boil water.  Meakin showed me the basics of cooking and encouraged me to buy cookbooks and give it a try. He even offered another deal I couldn’t refuse: if you cook something and it’s awful, we’ll go out to eat. Who could pass up an offer like that, so here I am umpteen years later with food as my favorite hobby. I also might add we haven’t had to go out but a couple of times in all these years because of a cooking disaster.

He had been anxious to try coating fish with nuts since we’ve seen nut-crusted this and that on restaurant menus for a long time. I had cut a recipe for pecan-crusted trout from a Cooking Light magazine and he used that as a basis. Here’s a link to the original version. The recipe used ground nuts and Panko bread crumbs for the crust. Meakin substituted tilapia for the trout, added two additional steps by dusting the fish with flour first and dipping it in a beaten egg before he coated it with the nuts and bread crumbs. To finish the dish, he made a simple caper butter sauce, which is optional. If you are counting calories, feel free to omit it. He used pecans, but you could certainly use walnuts or almonds. This meal can easily be made in 30 minutes if you include simple side dishes such as orzo with Parmesan and parsley and steamed asparagus.

Pecan-Crusted Tilapia

Pecan-Crusted Tilapia
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

All-purpose flour for dusting fish
1 egg, beaten to blend
¼ cup finely ground pecans
¼ cup Panko bread crumbs, unflavored
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 (6-ounce) tilapia fillets
1 – 2 tablespoons canola oil

Salt and pepper the fish, coat lightly with flour and dip in a beaten egg. Combine the pecans and bread crumbs and dredge fish in nut mixture. Heat the canola oil over medium heat in a non-stick skillet large enough to accommodate the fish. Do not crowd the fish and, if necessary, cook in batches. Place the fish in the pan and cook, turning once, until fish flakes easily with a fork. Remove the fish, cover and keep warm. Serves four.

Optional Butter Caper Sauce

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Splash of dry white wine
1 tablespoon drained small capers
Squeeze of fresh lime juice

Discard the oil in the skillet and wipe clean. Add the unsalted butter to the skillet and heat over medium heat until it just starts to brown. Add a splash of dry white wine and a tablespoon of drained capers and continue to cook until the butter is brown. Pour over fish fillets, then squeeze a bit of fresh lemon juice on them, and serve immediately.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The great little guide book that saved the day while searching for gifts for friends in Provence

When we travel we like to bring back little souvenirs of our trip for friends and family. My husband Meakin, always the practical one, suggested we find things that were small, easily to pack, light weight, and, most importantly, something he didn’t have to personally carry all the way through the Marseilles and Charles de Gaul airports back to Atlanta. That statement, sadly for me, excluded the lovely ceramic French hens called La Pintade that we saw everywhere.

On our frequent visits to the outdoor markets, it wasn’t hard to find dried flowers of Provence, fleur de sel, the grainy French finishing salt, lavender sachets in colorful Provencal print fabrics, refrigerator magnets of the symbol of Provence – the cigale (cicada), and fragrant olive oil savons.

While all of these are perfectly acceptable gifts for friends and family and we did buy all of them, I wanted to find something unique and very French for some of our oldest dear friends, not just touristy things that anyone could find in Provence.

One of those friends, David, was easy to shop for – he has a Harley Davidson motor cycle shop. All we had to do was find a Harley dealer somewhere in the south of France. We inquired of our caretaker and he told us the nearest one was in Avignon, about forty-five minutes from our home base in Saint-Remy-de-Provence. So off we went to Avignon and the Harley Davidson dealer for literature and pictures for David.

Other friends presented more of a challenge for a souvenir, so we decided we would just keep our eyes out and we would know it when we saw it. On a drive on a country road we saw a metal sign on a gate at the entrance to a mas (French farmhouse). The sign said Chien de Garde, guard dog in French. All of these challenging friends had one thing in common; they all had dogs. Not guard dogs mind you, but family pets that they all adored.

“Let’s try to find the Chien de Garde signs for our friends with dogs,” I said. “Wouldn’t that be a unique and very French gift? The trouble is I don’t know where to look. I haven’t seen anything like that in the shops we’ve visited so far.”

“That’s easy,” Meakin said. “All we have to do is find a hardware store. Wonder what the French word for hardware store is?”

I whipped out my trusty little paperback guide book Rendez-vous with France a la Jill Butler that I had brought for such occasions and easily found the French word for hardware store – bricolage. We visited numerous bricolages in the neighboring towns from Saint-Remy and finally found a paneau for Chien de Garde, which greatly pleased our dog loving friends.

Jill Butler’s book is a must-have for traveling to France. In a nutshell it’s a colorful illustrated pronouncing dictionary. Jill says, “This charmingly illustrated guide the non-French speaking visitor permission to point – and the confidence to pronounce. Hundreds of colorful images help you show and say your way through the places and things you’ll encounter in daily French life. With this guide you easily tackle each part of your day, from transportation to shopping to dining.”

In my opinion this book is so much easier to carry in your bag since it weights half as much and is half as thick as my pocket Oxford dictionary. The book also has many helpful hints such as renting a car with a standard shift is les expensive than an automatic, tips are included in taxi fares (a few coins is nice though) and taxi fares are doubled all day Sunday and evenings after seven p.m.

I highly recommend Rendez-vous with France a la Jill Butler for the traveler as well as anyone who wants to increase their French vocabulary the easy way. Jill also has a similar book for Paris. Her illustrations are so popular she has a housewares line including beautifully illustrated French plates. So if you’re a non-French speaking traveler headed to France, don’t leave home without Jill Butler.