Friday, April 30, 2010

Spring continues with fresh peas and lemon ricotta

These last few weeks we have been spoiled with very good weather, I almost want to say that its "nearly summer" but not quite. Anyway the taste of summer has us all in great moods and well just wanting to be outside. Which translates to needing very easy to go to meals that don't require much preparation.

We are still partaking in the fresh peas that are gracing the markets, we buy at least 1kilo every week and we finish ALL of it. This week I decided to put a spin on cheese pasta dishes, as I wanted something light but with that hint of creaminess. The answer ....Ricotta ! This Italian cheese is made out of sheep milk or cow milk whey cheese. Its a fresh cheese (not ripened or aged), somewhat grainy, creamy white in appearance and has a slightly sweet taste.

For this dish we obviously played on the salty side, but ricotta is marvelous in desserts especially in cheese cakes or as the filling for cannelloni.

Penne Pasta with Fresh Peas and Ricotta

The list of ingredients, I have to admit that I did not really measure but just went with my feel so you may need to adjust the lemon and garlic to your liking.

Ricotta 'Dressing' for 4 servings
  • Ricotta Cheese ( I used about 8 tablespoons (C.S) )
  • 3 cloves of minced garlic
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • 1/2 tsp (cc) of lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons (CS) of chopped parsley
  • S&P
  • 2 tablespoons of high quality extra virgin olive oil
Blend the above ingredients and set aside, taste and rectify seasoning if needed.

I used whole wheat penne pasta however you can substitute with what your family likes. Right before the pasta finished cooking I threw in the peas for about 2 mins (we like it al dente)

Add pasta and peas to the ricotta mixture toss so everything is well incorporated, taste for S&P and add if needed.

Bon Appétit

Saturday, April 24, 2010

What's for dinner ?

I know, I know, a week with no posts. This week has been a long week for me and though we did make just about everything on the menu this past week, life with the kids just got a bit crazy this week.

Here I am a week later with a new menu. The weather in Paris continues to be a precursor to summer and the terraces of bars and cafés are already in full swing. For those that have never been to Paris, the first rays of sunshine dictate that one needs to fine the nearest terrace to sit and worship the sun. However as there are no time limits on tables once you find "yours" its "yours" for as long as you want. The highways find a new life with Parisians fleeing the city to the beaches of Deauville (Normandy) for that weekend escape. Summer is just around the corner ....

The market is starting to come alive with fruits and vegetables and we are still taking advantage of the fresh sweet peas that's currently in season. We tasted strawberries from Spain today, longing for the
'Gariguette', an old and much-valued Provençal variety. Its slightly smaller and a deeper red than the traditional strawberry but packs ever much the taste punch.

Many of you know the song written by Vernon Duke and E.Y Harbug which was made famous by Frank Sinatra - "April in Paris", he was very right when he sang ' I never the knew the charm of Spring, never met it face to face, until April in Paris.

So with that what exactly are we eating this week ?

Saturday: Grilled hamburgers with mushrooms and onions / fries

Sunday: Pasta with fresh peas and ricotta cheese

Monday: Fish ( precise dish to be defined) with rice (again to be defined)

Tuesday: Tuna sandwhiches ( a new favorite of my son)

Wednesday: Grilled lemon chicken with haricot verts and carrots

Thursday: Semoule with lamb chops

Friday: Another favorite - tacos with homemade guacamole and salsa

Bon Appetit !

Saturday, April 17, 2010

What's for dinner ?

Ah another Saturday, another menu :)

The nice thing is that since Spring finally decided to make an appearance here in Paris, waking up on Saturday (albeit earlier than I would like thanks to a certain 1yr old who shall remain nameless) feels like a mini vacation thanks to the cloudless blue skies.

My stomach seems to want to skip spring and move directly onto summer but the cool nights remind me that warm dishes seal of long days.

Here's is what's being served for dinner this week at our house:

Saturday - Date night out with friends, going to a restaurant that's considered one of Paris's best bistros  will  let you know how the restaurant was

Sunday -  Grilled shrimp with lemon parsley orzo

Monday - Fish (not sure how I'll do this as hubby is still at the market) with fresh veggies

Tuesday - Trying out a vegetarian chick pea burger recipe that's actually one from Rachel Ray but I found it via This Week for Dinner

Wednesday- Grilled lemon chicken with Moroccan couscous salad via Epicurious

Thursday - Grilled slices of boneless leg of lamb with creamy polenta

Friday: I'm out for the night but the boys will be having Pizza !

What are you eating this week ?

Bon appetit !

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Shrimp and Asparagus Tarts

Shrimp and Asparagus Tarts 2

This receipe was the last menu that was done this week, I had a really hard time finding a dish for Saturday night, normally our Saturday night dinners are more 'fun' and typically always very easy as we are usually out running errands or at the park on Saturdays.

My son LOVES shrimp, he can't get enough of it and right now I'm LOVING asparagus so tried to make a dish that combined the two, that and I had puff pastry squares sitting in my refrigerator. To be honest I made up the dish as I went along so the result was just as much of a surprise to me as it was for hubby. My son ate the sauteéd shrimp with Parmesan polenta.

Shrimp and Asparagus Tarts
For 2 individual servings
Preparation time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 30mins

  • approx 2lbs shrimp
  • 1 box of green asparagus
  • 2 cloves garlic- minced finely
  • 1 shallot minced finely
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoons plive oil
  • 1/4tsp bird pepper (chopped finely)( I used bird peppers but you can use whatever you have around, it needs to have some spice to it)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Cilantro
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • Puff pastry (mine was already in individual portion sized squares, if not you can make one big tart or by using a cookie cutter to make appetizer sized portions)
  • salt & pepper
  • fleur de sel (if not regular salt will do) 
Preheat oven to 210 (c) or 410 (F)

Prepare shrimp by removing shells and tiny black veins that run on the top and bottom of shrimp (not only are you removing the intestines of the shrimp, by doing this the shrimp will  also curl up once cooked). Set aside 9 shrimp per tart (if doing individual tarts) for the topping.

Prepare asparagus by trimming the ends and the stems to get rid of the fibrous exterior. Steam for about 5 mins (depending on how crisp you like yours, we like ours quite crisp). Set aside.

Mince finely the garlic ,shallots and pepper. Chop remaining shrimp finely this will make the base of the tart.

In a non stick skillet, over high heat pour 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and heat until pan is hot, add shallots,garlic and pepper stir for a minute. Add chopped shrimp and saute until shrimp is cooked through, add the heavy cream  and a pinch of salt. Stir through until heated and simmer for a minute. Remove from heat and cool for a few minutes - rectify seasonings if needed.

On a baking tray line with parchment paper and place puff pastry squares evenly apart. Cover tarts evenly with the shrimp mixture and bake for 20 mins ( until pastry is golden brown and slightly raised).

While tarts are baking, in a non skillet pan add remaining oil and over high heat sauté the remaining shrimp and asparagus, season with salt and pepper once shrimp turn pink add lime juice and cilantro toss together and remove from heat.

 Once tarts are finished, slide carefully onto plates and top with asparagus and shrimp mixture.

Serve immediately !

We served this with a green salad , perfect for a light dinner or lunch.
Portobello mushrooms would be great in place of asparagus or shrimp

What's for dinner ?

I know, I'm late today but yesterday and today, the weather has just been perfect and so we were either outside or running errands. I was also catching up on some of the great blogs written by fellow foodies.

These last few weeks I've been having a hard time coming up with menus, probably due in part to the fact that with this great weather I want to switch directly to summer and also the fact that our 1 year old is now eating pretty much what we eat I've been trying to tailor menus so that I can cut down on the double meals.

Here's our menu for this week.

Saturday - Shrimp and Asparagus tarts / green salad 

Sunday - Grilled prime rib with a sweet potato salad ( an epicurious recipe that we absolutely love)

Monday - Pan fried sole with fresh peas and carrots 

Tuesday - Pasta with home made tomato sauce 

Wednesday - Curried Chicken with rice

Thursday - Grilled cheese sandwich bar ( i.e either using brie, manchego or comte)

Friday - either Tacos or take out pizza

Bon appetit !

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The first 12 months

Birthday Cupcake

Happy 1st Birthday to our Happy Baby ! 

Last Tuesday our youngest turned 1 a big cap for the 4 of us if I do say so myself. Our oldest was quite happy to participate in the festivities and of course like any soon to be 4yr old is now very inquisitive as to when it will be his turn to celebrate.

I of course started planning her birthday a few months ago but like any good procrastinator actually did everything the night before into the yearly morning hours of her birthday. Instead of doing a traditional number 1 cake I decided to highlight her first 12months. The idea each cupcake would represent 1 month of her life and show a picture of her at that stage. I had it all planned out to go to the craft store and get new supplies to make the toppers, but of course this did not happen and had to dig into my scrapbook supplies (good thing I never kept up with it) 

It also did not help that I started the toppers at nearly 11pm at night and well making 12 unique toppers  had me finishing at around 2am. 

I tried a Martha Stewart recipe for the cupcakes and frosting and was remarkably surprised at how moist the cupcakes were (one week later we are still eating them). I should have made chocolate as it seems that the birthday girl preferred this but there's always next year :) 

I will post the recipe for the cupcakes  later on as its from her Cupcakes book and believe it or not she does not have the same ingredients listed on the website. However I'm listing the ingredients for the butter cream below.

Classic Butter Cream

Makes about 4 cups via Martha Stewart
  • 12 ounces (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  1. Beat butter with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes.
  2. Reduce speed to medium. Add sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating after each addition, about 5 minutes. (After every 2 additions, increase speed to high, and beat for 10 seconds, then reduce speed to medium-high). Add vanilla, and beat until butter cream is smooth. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. (Bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth before using.)

I have to admit that I did have fun making this cake and seeing her growth in pictures. Highly recommend doing this for any first birthday's that you may have in your entourage.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Celebration Dinner

Scallops with red potatoes and asparagus

Whose celebration dinner ? My daughter turned 1 on Tuesday and as tradition will have it we had a special meal that night. For now we choose the menu but in a few years she will be choosing it and if she's like my 3yr old it will comprise of pizza or fries so for now we enjoy the fact that we have right of choice.

Another tradition (yes, we have several) is that for all of our special occasions the champagne of choice is Veuve Cliquot. For both kids their birth was celebrated by a bottle of 1996 Veuve Cliquot Grande Dame (a special millésime champagne that is only made from select years). Our meal this year was accompanied by the yellow label (ordinary if you can call it that). We had canapés as an appetizer and then for the main course we had pan seared scallops (noix saint jacques) served with garlic red potatoes and  asparagus. After having made her birthday cake and the decorations that went with it, I sought comfort in an easy dish and of course where possible integrating the fresh spring produce.

I have to say I was quite pleased with it as was the 3yr old and the hubby however I think the drink that was served with it helped improve any flavors that may have been off :)

If you are interested in making it here's the receipe

For 4 servings
Preparation time 15 mins
Active time :10 mins

  • 20 scallops (noix saint jacques)
  • 6 medium sized red potatoes 
  • 1 box of green asparagus
  • 2 cloves garlic- minced finely
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • salt & pepper
  • fleur de sel (if not regular salt will do)

Wash potatoes and pat dry, slice into think rounds and place in a steamer for about 20mins (depending on size). I like to slice it before as the skins are easier to peel off and the potatoes hold their shape better.

Prepare asparagus by cutting off ends and with a vegetable peeler trim the stems so that the tough outer green shell is gone.
Again, I prefer to steam my asparagus as opposed to boiling as the steaming holds in that bright green color. I steam for 5-8mins as we like them al dente.

The asparagus and potatoes can be done earlier in the day and put aside.

The scallops need to be done right before serving. I can't stress enough how important it is to make sure that the scallops are dry and that there is little or no humidity on them, this is what gives you that golden crust any water left on the scallops will end up steaming them instead. I use a non stick pan but a cast iron will work beautifully as well ( just be careful of the hot spots). I don't salt and pepper the scallops before as the salt will draw out water from the scallops.

For this dish you either use very low heat and cook for a longer period of time or you use very high heat and in that case the cooking time is literally 3-5mins. Place 1tablespoon of butter in skillet and once it starts to bubble add the scallops, be careful not to overcrowd the pan. I choose to cook mine over high heat so once that starts to cook I start on the rest of the dish.

In a separate pan, heat the remaining tablespoon of butter and once it bubbles add the garlic and sauté until fragrant ( I think this has to be one of my favorite smells), at that point add the potatoes to the pan and cook until heated through (if you cooked them earlier) if not just cook them enough to absorb the garlic butter, at this point add salt and pepper to taste.

Now should be time to turn the scallops, notice that how there is no liquid in the pan ? This is what you are looking for. Turn the scallops over and you'll see their perfect golden crusts. Now add the asparagus to the potatoes and cook until heated and coated with the garlic butter. Turn the heat off the scallops as you complete the rest of the dish. Add the cream to the potatoes and asparagus and cook 1 minute remove from heat.

How you plate this dish is up to you, however I like to place the potatoes first and then add the asparagus after followed by the scallops (as seen in the photo). Notice how I did not add any salt to the scallops ? Once you plate the dish, sprinkle the scallops with fleur de sel or freshly ground Himalayan salt ( I happened to have on hand).

Serve immediately ! We served the dish with  Champagne, but a dry Riesling or a Bourgogne would work really well.

If you do make it, let me know how it came out.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

What's for dinner ?

A little later than normal, well several hours later I just realised that the weekly menu never went up. Shame, shame :) Maybe it was the after dinner glass of Maury mas amiel that made me remember ?Not an ordinary week, this week is Easter and we are having my in laws over for lunch on Sunday so that means another opportunity to test out new recipes and challenge myself and I love a challenge !

Saturday - Entrecôte (prime rib) this has become our standard Saturday night dish, buts its really the only time of the week that we eat red meat so it makes me feel less guilty, we served it this week with corn on the cob (frozen but still yummy)

Entrée (Appetizer) - Pan seared noix saint jacques (Scallops) with asparagus (green)
Plat (Main Dish)  -  Lamb shoulder stuffed with wild mushroom and spinach served with fresh green peas and carrots in a chili mint glaze
Frommage - no self respecting French house would be without this in a 'jour de fête'
Dessert - Chocolate torte covered in a chocolate ganache

Monday - Swordfish (baked in a tomato sauce) served with haricot verts (string beans)

Tuesday - Pasta

Wednesday - Grilled chicken with broccoli

Thursday - spicy Tuna sandwiches with salad

Friday- not sure as yet, but thinking Pizza

Happy Easter - I'm off to hide easter eggs for my son

Corn chowder with roasted corn guacamole

Corn chowder with roasted corn guacamole
Yummy, you can make this again were the words from my 3year old, I should add a very picky 3year old. The disclaimer is that he did not have the guacamole just the chowder. I have to admit that the presence of all this corn in the recipe did make me skeptical. I love corn but even I have to admit that there is a limit to these good things.

You can tell I have been under the weather because I followed this recipe just to the last step, no modifications or additions. I'm still undecided on the chowder part it was delish and very filling but not sure if it warrants a second go ? Now the guacamole, I can see that on either grilled chicken or fish so that may be an upcoming post.

Roasted Corn Guacamole
Kernels from 3 ears fresh corn, or 2 cups frozen corn, defrosted
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and black pepper

1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 lime, finely grated zest and juice
1 jalapeño, stemmed and seeded, finely chopped
1 avocado, pitted and chopped

Kernels from 5 ears fresh corn, or 3 cups frozen corn, defrosted
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 jalapeño, stemmed and chopped
Salt and black pepper

1 1/2 cups chicken broth
Cilantro sprigs, to garnish

Roast the Corn for the Guacamole
Preheat the oven to 450°F or 240c. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
Put the corn kernels on the baking sheet and toss with the oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and black pepper to taste. Spread the corn out evenly on the baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes, until the corn turns a golden brown. It may seem that you have left the corn in the oven for too long, but you want the corn to caramelize and get a little crunchy. Remove the corn from the oven and set aside.

Prepare the Corn for the Soup
Put the kernels (fresh or frozen and defrosted) in a blender.
Combine the oil and the garlic in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and jalapeño. Season with salt and pepper and sauté until the vegetables are soft and translucent, about 6 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to the blender and puree until smooth. (You may need to pulse or stir the corn mixture in order to achieve a smooth consistency, but do not add any more liquid.)

Simmer the Soup
Pour the corn puree into the soup pot and place over medium heat. Stir constantly for a few minutes, until the soup begins to thicken. Slowly whisk or stir in the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, decrease the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes.

Finish the Roasted Corn Guacamole
In a bowl, combine the roasted corn, red onion, cilantro, lime zest and juice, and jalapeño. Gently stir in the avocado. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve and Garnish
Ladle the soup into soup bowls. Place a generous spoonful of the guacamole in the center of each bowl. Garnish with a small sprig of cilantro placed in the center of each.

Asian Inspired Steam Fish

Asian inspired steamed fish

A very good friend of mine that reads the blog told me the other day that I need to give more details on my menu, and she's right so often I just say fish with something and don't give details. Truth be told when I write the menu hubby most of the time has not even left for the market so I never know what he will come back with and I'm  usually in my Saturday morning fog.

These last few weeks have been hard on me and so the posts have been few and far between so apologies for that. However here is my recipe for Asian inspired "Steamed" fish, you'll see why I put steamed in quotations later on.

First of all, I should mention that this dish is good for any sort of white fish that needs a flavor boost such as, Cod , Tilapia etc.

Makes 4 Servings
Preparation time - 10mins
Cooking time - 10 mins
  • 4 fillets of white fish in this case I used tilapia
  • 1 tablespoon (cs) oil (vegetable in this case you need a neutral oil)
  • 1/2 red onion chopped
  • 1 garlic clove chopped
  • 1/2 tsp (cc) fresh ginger chopped finally
  • 1/2 tsp (cc) green pimento pepper (remove seeds if you don't like it spicy)
  • 1 tomato chopped finely
  • 2 tablespoon (cs) cilantro chopped
In a non stick pan over high heat heat oil until it sizzles, add onion, garlic,ginger & piemento and saute 1 min until fragrant.
Place fillets skin side down (so that the fish does not curl) , sprinkle with S&P cook 3 minutes then turn fish.
Add 1 tablespoon water and cover immeadietly so that the water having contact with the hot pan creates steam and continues to cook the fish.
Cook for 3 mins , sprinkle with chopped tomatoes and cilantro.
Serve immediately !