A Cool Summer Gazpacho

Summer arrived right on time this year in Paris and Provence and temperatures have recently been soaring into the high 90s. When temperatures are this high, I always reach for a recipe where I don't have to turn on an oven, and this one is a favorite as it's so cooling and so very simple to prepare. This is a slight variation on the emulsified soups master recipe, Red Tomato Gazpacho from My Master Recipes. An essential element of the book is to encourage you to first understand the fundamental techniques behind each recipe so that you are then free to switch out ingredients to create endless variations on the original. Recently, I couldn't resist using one of the gorgeous yellow ananas tomatoes from the market, and with all this hot weather the coriander in the garden has shot into flower, so I grabbed a handful to make use of my abundant stock. The result was a soup the color of a cantaloupe (not unlike the cover color of My Master Recipes!), flecked with green. What else do you need on a warm, summer's evening?!

Red Tomato Gazpacho

8 servings   |   Equipment: A blender, food processor or immersion blender 8 chilled, shallow soup bowls or glasses.

2 pounds (1 kg) ripe red tomatoes, rinsed, cored, cut into chunks  
1 small cucumber (about 6 ounces; 180 g) peeled, cut into chunks
1 small mildly hot pepper such as Anaheim, stemmed, cut into chunks
1 small red onion, peeled, cut into chunks
2 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled, halved, green germ removed if present
2 teaspoons best-quality red wine or sherry wine vinegar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup (125 ml) mild extra-virgin olive oil

1.    In the blender, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, onion, and garlic. Blend at highest speed until well emulsified and very smooth, a full 2 minutes. With the motor running, add the vinegar and salt. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, until the mixture is smooth, thick and emulsified.

2.    Cover and refrigerate until well chilled. Pour into chilled bowls or glasses to serve.
 
MAKE AHEAD NOTE: The soup can be prepared up to 3 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Re-blend at serving time.

 


This recipe was first published in My Master Recipes. All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without permission.

 

 

 

 

Taste of the week: Heirloom tomato platter

This has been a rough year for our vegetable garden, and while my heirloom tomatoes usually supply enough for an army, right now they are struggling to produce their usual bounty. Meagre as the offerings may be,  the tomatoes that are growing have tons of flavor. Some favorite varieties — such as kaki coing, black prince, noire de crimée, and striped germain — offer intense pleasure. At every meal, I slice up a rainbow selection,  shower them with a touch of fleur de sel, homemade lemon vinaigrette, and tiny leaves of basil from my amazing basil “trees” in the courtyard.

This simple platter is a favorite way to enjoy a tomato's fresh juicy sweetness. Here I have topped the tomato slices with ruffles of the firm Swiss cheese Tête de Moine, shaved with a special machine called a girolle, but any cheese of choice can be used here.

Heirloom Tomato Platter

6 servings   |   Equipment: A cheese girolle, a mandolin or a very sharp knife; a large serving platter.

Tomato Platter

6 ripe heirloom tomatoes (about 1 1/4 pounds; 625 g), preferably of varied colors

6 thin ruffles of Tête de Moine cheese, created with a cheese girolle if available (see Note)
A handful of fresh herbs, such as green basil, purple basil, shiso and Delfino cilantro, rinsed and patted dry
About 2 tablespoons Lemon-Olive Oil Dressing (below)
Fleur de sel

 

Lemon-Olive Oil Dressing

About 1 1/4 cups (310 ml) Equipment: A small jar with a lid.

1/4 cup (60 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
Fine sea salt    
1 cup (250 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

Arrange the tomatoes in overlapping layers on the serving platter. Garnish with the cheese and herbs. Drizzle the dressing over all and season lightly with fleur de sel.

Note: A cheese girolle can be found in my amazon store, . If you do not have a girolle, cut the cheese into paper-thin slices with a mandoline or a very sharp knife.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Place the lemon juice and salt in the jar. Cover and shake to dissolve the salt. Add the oil and shake to blend. Taste for seasoning. (Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.) Shake again at serving time to create a thick emulsion.

Taste of the week: Fig and almond tart

Picking figs is one of the greatest joys of my Provençal garden. I love the pure luxury of grabbing a plump ripe fig straight from a branch, tearing it open to reveal its ruby red seeded heart, and then devouring it right there beneath the tree's leafy canopy.

We have several varieties of fig trees on our property and they are such industrious little producers that I often have more figs than I know what to do with. Which is how I came to develop this recipe. My favorite is the ronde de Bordeaux, small figs with a deep purple, almost black exterior and a vibrant red interior, that are ideal for tarts and jams. I love to serve this tart with roasted fig sorbet.

Fig and Almond Tart

8 servings   |   Equipment:  A 10-inch (25 cm) tart pan with a removable bottom; a rolling pin; a baking sheet lined with baking parchment; a food processor.

A 14-ounce (400 g)all-butter puff pastry, thawed if frozen (see Note)
1 cup (80 g) almond meal (see Note)
5 tablespoons (2 1/2 ounces; 75 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup (65 g) unrefined cane sugar, preferably organic, and vanilla scented
2 tablespoons (20 g) unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 egg yolk, preferably organic and free-range
1 tablespoon fig jam
35 to 40 (1 3/4 pounds; 875 g) small purple figs, stems trimmed
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

NOTES: •    In our tests, we have preferred Dufour brand frozen puff pastry, available at most specialty supermarkets. See www.dufourpastrykitchens.com. Be sure to leave ample time for thawing frozen dough, at least 6 hours in the refrigerator.

Almond meal (sometimes called almond flour) is made from whole, unblanched (skin-on) almonds. For this recipe, whole, unblanched almonds can be finely ground in a food processor. Do not over-process or you may end up with almond butter.

1.    Fold the pastry in half, transfer it to the tart pan and unfold it. Without stretching the dough, lift it up at the edges so that it naturally falls against the rim of the pan. With your fingertips, very delicately coax the dough onto the rim. There should be a generous overhang. With the rolling pin, roll over the top of the tin, trimming off the overhanging pastry to create a smooth, well-trimmed shell.

2.    Center a rack in the oven. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Place the tart shell on the baking sheet.

3.    In the food processor, combine the almond meal, butter, sugar, flour, egg yolk, and fig jam and process to blend. Transfer the almond mixture to the pastry shell. Smooth out the top with a spatula. Place in the oven and bake just until the pastry firms up and begins to brown, and the almond mixture browns, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven.

4.    Cut an X in the top of each fig and gently squeeze from the bottom to open the fruit like a flower. Arrange the figs, cut side up, side by side on top of the almond mixture.

5.    Return the tart pan to the oven and bake until the figs and the filling are dark and bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool. While the tart is still warm, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. After about 10 minutes, carefully remove the tart from the sides of the pan, leaving it on the pan base. Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into wedges. This tart is best served the day it is baked.

The secret: Use ripe, but not overly ripe figs, which tend to give up too much liquid and turn the pastry soggy.

Tip: Figs freeze beautifully. Treat them as you would berries: Arrange the whole fruit stem side up, side by side on a baking sheet, and place in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer to a zippered plastic bag and freeze for up to 3 months. For use, thaw at room temperature.

 

 

This recipe was first published in The French Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes and Lessons from Paris and Provence.

All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without permission.

Taste of the week: Tomato Tatins

Tomato Tatins © Jeff Kauck

Now that summer is in full bloom, it's a race against time to use all the tomatoes I have growing in my garden. This recipe, which I developed in my farmhouse kitchen with good friend Jeffrey Bergman, is a favorite way to get tomatoes on my table. It's a deceptive recipe, quite simple to execute but with the marvellous outcome of 'did I really create this beauty?!'. The key here is the balance of sweet and acid. The shallots and vinegar, as well as the touch of caramel, are essential to creating a dish full of contrasting flavors.

 

Tomato Tatins

Serves 8   |     Equipment: Three baking sheets; eight 1/2 cup (125 ml) ramekins; a 3 1/2-inch (8.75 cm) pastry cutter.

Tomatoes

3 pounds (1.5 kg) small, firm, garden-fresh red heirloom tomatoes (about 15)
Fine sea salt
Extra-virgin olive oil spray

Pastry

A 14-ounce (400 g) homemade or purchased all-butter puff pastry, (thawed if frozen) (see Note)

Shallots

4 large shallots peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into thin half-moons
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground Espelette pepper or other mild ground chile pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Caramel

1/2 cup (100 g) white, refined sugar (do not use dark, unrefined cane sugar)
4 teaspoons water
1/8 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice


16 fresh basil leaves, plus more leaves for garnish
1/4 cup (25 g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

 

 

1.    Roast the tomatoes: Center a rack in the oven. Preheat the oven to 275°F (135°C).  

2.    Core the tomatoes and halve them crosswise (at the equator.) Arrange the tomatoes, cut side up, side by side, on the baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Spray lightly with oil. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake until the tomatoes have shrunk by about one-third, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. This is an important step to condense tomato flavor and reduce moisture. (The tomatoes can be baked up to 1 day in advance, stored in an airtight container, and refrigerated.)

3.    Prepare the pastry: With the pastry cutter, cut out 8 rounds of pastry. Arrange the rounds side by side on a baking sheet. With a fork, prick the pastry. (The pastry rounds can be prepared up to 8 hours in advance. Cover and refrigerate.)

4.    Prepare the shallot mixture: In a small saucepan, combine the shallots, oil, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir to coat the shallots with the oil. Sweat – cook, covered, over low heat, stirring frequently, until the shallots are soft and translucent – about 5 minutes. Add the Espelette pepper and the vinegar. Increase the heat to medium high and cook until the vinegar has evaporated, but the mixture remains moist. Taste for seasoning. (The shallots can be prepared up to 1 day in advance, stored in an airtight container and refrigerated.)

5.    Prepare the caramel: In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, water, and lemon juice and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook undisturbed until sugar begins to caramelize, about 1 minute.  Pay close attention as the caramel will deepen in color quickly at this stage.  Swirl the pan gently and cook until the caramel is a deep amber, about 1 minute more.  Spoon a generous tablespoon of the caramel into the ramekins and tilt the ramekins so that the caramel evenly coats the bottom. (This can be done up to 8 hours in advance. Store at room temperature.)


6.    Bake the tatins: About 30 minutes before baking the tatins, center a rack in the oven. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

7.    Arrange the caramel-coated ramekins side by side on a baking sheet. Place 2 or 3 tomato halves, cut side up, into each ramekin. Press down on the tomatoes so that they fit snugly into the ramekins. Spoon the shallot mixture on top of the tomatoes. Place 2 basil leaves on top of the shallots.  Sprinkle with the cheese.

8.    Place a round of chilled pastry on top of each ramekin and tuck the dough around the tomatoes. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake until the pastry is puffed and golden and the tomatoes are bubbling around the edges, 25 to 35 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the ramekins to a rack to cool for at least 2 minutes.

9.    Carefully invert each tatin onto an individual salad plate. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature, garnished with basil leaves. (The tatins can be prepared up to 8 hours in advance, stored at room temperature.)

 

Note: In our tests, we have preferred Dufour brand frozen puff pastry, available at most specialty supermarkets. See www.dufourpastrykitchens.com (I have no affiliation with this brand, this is purely a personal preference).

Be sure to leave ample time for thawing frozen dough, at least 6 hours in he refrigerator.

 

This recipe was first published in The French Kitchen Cookbook. Buy the book here.

All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without permission.

Taste of the week: Cobb Salad

My Cobb Salad  © Jeff Kauck

In mid summer, it is a fresh, crunchy salad that will get me through the day. This American classic is a favorite with the crunch of the iceberg and scallions, the soft richness of the avocado, the saltiness of the bacon, the sweetness of the tomato, the bite of the blue cheese – this salad has it all!  And it is beautiful to boot.

 

My Cobb Salad: Iceberg, Tomato, Avocado, Bacon, Blue Cheese. and Scallions 

4 servings

2 1/2 ounces smoked bacon, rind removed, cut into matchsticks (3/4 cup)
1 head iceberg lettuce, chopped
2 ripe heirloom tomatoes, cored, , peeled, seeded and chopped
1 large, ripe avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and cubed
4 ounces chilled blue cheese (preferably Roquefort), crumbled (1 cup)

4 small spring onions or scallions, white part only, trimmed, peeled and cut into thin rounds
Lemon-Yogurt Dressing (below)
Coarse, freshly ground black pepper

 

1.    In a large, dry skillet, brown the bacon over moderate heat until crisp and golden, about 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to several layers of paper towel to absorb the fat. Blot the top of the bacon with several layers of paper towel to absorb any additional fat. Set aside.


2.    In a large shallow bowl, combine the bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, blue cheese, and spring onions. Toss with just enough Lemon-Yogurt Dressing to lightly and evenly coat the ingredients. Season with plenty of coarse, freshly ground black pepper and serve.

Yogurt-Lemon Dressing

Makes about 3/4 cup   |   Equipment: A small jar, with a lid.   

1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon Lemon Zest Salt or fine sea salt

In the jar, combine the yogurt, lemon juice and salt. Cover with the lid and shake to blend. Taste for seasoning.  The dressing can be used immediately. (Store the dressing in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Shake to blend again before using.)  

This recipe was first published in Salad as a meal. Buy the book here.

All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without permission.

Taste of the week: Yveline's chilled cucumber and avocado soup with avocado sorbet

                                              Chilled Cucumber and Avocado Soup  ©Jeff Kauck

On hot weather days, is there anything better than a cold, no-cook soup? This zesty and refreshing recipe is a favourite that my friend and neighbor Yveline came up with. It's now a perenial favorite at our summertime lunch table.

 

Yveline’s Chilled Cucumber and Avocado Soup

Serves 8   |    Equipment: A blender or a food processor.  

1 large European cucumber (about 1 pound; 500 g), chopped (do not peel)
2 large ripe avocados, halved, pitted, peeled, and cubed
2 cups (500 ml) chicken or vegetable stock (best quality you can find, or homemade if you can)
1 cup (45 g) chopped cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon fine sea salt   
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime, preferably organic
Avocado Sorbet (recipe below; optional)

1.    In the blender or food processor combine the cucumber, half of the cubed avocado, the stock, 3/4 cup (34 g) of the cilantro and the salt, and process to blend. Taste for seasoning. Chill for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.

2.    At serving time, garnish with the remaining 1/4 cup cilantro, the rest of the avocado, the lime juice and zest.  If using, ass a spoonful of the sorbet to each bowl.

Note: Using a blender rather than a food processor will give you a much smoother, more velvety consistency.

 

Avocado Sorbet

8 servings   |   Equipment: A blender or a food processor; an ice cream maker.

2 large, ripe avocados, halved, pitted, and peeled
2 cups (500 ml) Greek-style plain whole-milk yogurt
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground Espelette pepper or other mild chile pepper
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons invert sugar syrup or light corn syrup

1.    Combine all the ingredients in the blender or food processor. Blend until completely smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Chill completely.

2.    At serving time, transfer the chilled mixture to the ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. For best results, serve the sorbet as soon as it is frozen.

 

These recipes were first published in The French Kitchen Cookbook. Buy the book here.

All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without permission.

Taste of the week: Chicken fricassée with fennel, capers, artichokes, and tomatoes

This recipe is a one-pot wonder, ideal for week night family dinners, or casual get togethers with friends. It's a rustic and hearty dish, yet the artichokes and fennel give it a lift of sophistication. It requires minimal effort to throw together, and can easily be made in advance and reheated at serving time. Serve with rice, pasta or polenta

 

Chicken Fricassée with fennel, capers, artichokes and olives

6 servings   |    Equipment: A large, deep skillet or Dutch oven, with a lid.

1 farm-fresh chicken (3-4 pounds; 1.5-2 kg), preferably organic and free range,  cut into 8 serving pieces, at room temperature
Fine sea salt
Coarse, freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and thinly sliced   
1 cup (250 ml) white wine
1 28-ounce (794 g) can diced Italian tomatoes in juice
1 cup (115 g) green Picholine olives, pitted
1 cup (115 g) brine-cured black olives, pitted
1/4 cup (60 ml) capers in vinegar, drained
12 artichoke hearts marinated in olive oil, drained
Cooked rice, fresh pasta, or polenta for serving

 

1.    Liberally season the chicken on all sides with salt and pepper.

2.    In the large, deep skillet, heat the oil over moderate heat until hot but not smoking. Add the chicken pieces (in batches if necessary) and brown until they turn an even golden color, about 5 minutes. Turn the pieces and brown them on the other side, 5 minutes more. Carefully regulate the heat to avoid scorching the skin. When the pieces are browned, use tongs (to avoid piercing the poultry) to transfer them to a platter.

3.    Reduce the heat to low, add the onions and fennel to the skillet and sweat  – cook, covered, over low heat – until soft but not browned, about 10 minutes. Return the chicken to the skillet. Add the wine, tomatoes (with juices), olives, capers and artichokes. Cover and simmer over low heat until the chicken is cooked through. About 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Serve with rice, fresh pasta or polenta.

 

 

This recipe was first published in The French Kitchen Cookbook. Buy the book here.

All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without permission.

Taste of the Week: Mini croque monsieur

            Ham and cheese squares   ©Jeff Kauck

I love to serve these small grilled ham and cheese squares, brightened by the tart crunch of a cornichon, as a fun palate opener when we have guests over. Assemble these baby croque monsieur sandwiches (not the classic version in the strictest sense as I have removed the bechamel sauce for a lighter summer touch) earlier in the day and then grill them at the last minute, when family and friends are gathering.

 

Ham and Cheese Squares (mini croque monsieur)

Makes 18 squares, to serve 6 to 8   |    Equipment: A toaster; a nonstick skillet; toothpicks.

4 slices Honey and Saffron Brioche or white bread (pain de mie) crusts removed
2 teaspoons French mustard
2 thin slices best-quality cooked ham, cut to fit 2 slices of the bread
About 1/4 cup (30 g) freshly grated Swiss Gruyère cheese or other hard cheese
1 tablespoon (15 g) clarified butter or unsalted butter
9 cornichons, halved lengthwise

1.    Toast the brioche or bread. Coat one side of each slice with the mustard. Place a slice of ham over the mustard on two sides of the slices. Sprinkle the cheese over the ham. Place the other slices of bread, mustard-coated side down, on top of the cheese.  

2.    In the skillet, melt the butter over low heat.  Brown the bread evenly on both sides, about 1 minute per side. Cut each sandwich into 9 even squares. Pierce each cornichon half with a toothpick and secure the toothpick to the grilled bread. Arrange on a serving platter and serve warm, offering guests cocktail napkins.

Wine suggestion: Grilled cheese and champagne? Why not? I love Pierre Moncuit’s blanc de blancs, a medium-bodied, clean, and always reliable offering that has a purity that matches just about any opening taste.

 

This recipe was first published in The French Kitchen Cookbook. Buy the book here.

All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without permission.

Taste of the week: Ruby rhubarb bars

In France, rhubarb appears fleetingly in the markets in May and June, just in time to be paired with gariguette or charlotte strawberries, before disappearing for another year. In this dish however, rhubarb is the sole star, the shining tart crown atop a warm pastry crust.

Both green and red rhubarb can of course be used for this dish, but it's the red varieties that really leaves an impression visually if cooked properly. So often it can lose its gorgeous ruby hue as it cooks but the trick is not to precook the stems and instead bake them in extra-thin slices, so they cook quickly and retain their shape and bright red color.

Ruby Rhubarb Bars

Equipment: A 9 1/2  x 9 1/2-inch (24 x 24 cm) baking pan   |   baking parchment   |   a food processor.

Pastry
4 tablespoons (60 g) salted butter, chilled
1 cup (140 g) unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (65 g) confectioners’ sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon, preferably organic
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt   
2 tablespoons plain nonfat yogurt

Topping:
3/4 cup (150 g) unrefined cane sugar, preferably organic, vanilla scented (see Note)
1/4 cup (40 g) unbleached, all-purpose flour
4 large egg whites, preferably organic and free range
3 cups (300 g) thinly sliced red rhubarb stalks, (about seven 10-inch; 26 cm)

 

 

1.    Center a rack in the oven. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
 
2.    Line the baking pan with two pieces of baking parchment, letting the parchment hang over the sides. (This will make it easier to remove the dessert once baked.)

3.    Prepare the pastry: In the food processor, combine all the pastry ingredients and process to blend. The mixture should be soft and pliable.

4.    Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the baking pan. Place the pan in the oven and bake until firm, about 12 minutes.

5.    While the pastry is baking, prepare the topping: In a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, and egg whites and whisk to blend. Add the rhubarb and stir to coat it evenly with the egg-white mixture.

6.    Remove the pan from the oven and spoon the rhubarb mixture over the warm pastry. Return the baking pan to the oven and bake until the topping is firm and golden, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Remove from the pan and cut into 16 squares. Serve at room temperature. (Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.)

Note: to make vanilla-scented sugar: Flatten 1 or several moist vanilla beans. Cut them in half lengthwise. With a small spoon, scrape out the seeds and place them in a small jar; reserve the seeds for another use. Fully dry the vanilla bean halves at room temperature. Place the dry halves in a large jar with a lid, and cover them with sugar. Tighten the lid and store for several weeks to scent and flavor the sugar. Use in place of regular sugar when preparing desserts.

Taste of the Week: honey and saffron brioche

                                   © Jeff Kauck

I have rarely seen students so enthused and bursting with pride as their airy brioche puffs to grandeur in the oven, arriving shiny and golden to the table just moments later. There is great triumph in baking perfection, and after a class, e-mails, photos, tweets and Facebook notations attest to the students prowess in the kitchen. In my kitchens, I use honey rather than sugar as a sweetener. The reasons are simple: honey just makes food taste better and for us it’s a homegrown product, produced from our bees that call Chanteduc and Provence home. When preparing this brioche, don’t omit the saffron: Infusing it in the warm milk dramatizes the intensity of these golden threads and adds an exotic flavor and aroma to the final product, not to mention the touch of color.

Note that you’ll need to start the brioche several hours before you plan to bake it.

 

Honey and Saffron Brioche

Makes 2 loaves, about 16 slices each   |   Equipment: A heavy-duty mixer fitted with a flat paddle; a dough scraper;  two nonstick 1-quart (1 l) rectangular bread pans.

 

Sponge:

1/3 cup (80 ml) whole milk, lukewarm
A generous pinch of best-quality saffron threads (about 1 heaping teaspoon, 30-40 filaments, or 0.3 gram)
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons; 9 g) active dry yeast
1 tablespoon honey
1 large egg, free-range and organic, lightly beaten
2 cups (280 g) unbleached, all-purpose flour

Dough:

1/3 cup (80 ml) lavender honey, or other mild, fragrant honey
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 large, ultra-fresh eggs, free-range and organic, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups (210 g) unbleached, all purpose-flour
12 tablespoons (6 ounces; 180 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Egg wash:

1 large, ultra-fresh egg,  organic and free-range, lightly beaten

 

1.    Prepare the sponge: In the bowl of the heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle, combine the milk, saffron, yeast, and honey and stir to blend. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the egg and 1 cup (140 g) of the flour and and stir to blend. The sponge will be soft and sticky. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup (140 g) flour, covering the sponge. Set aside to rest, uncovered, for 30 minutes. The sponge should erupt slightly, cracking the layer of flour.

2.    Prepare the dough: Add the honey, salt, eggs and the 1 1/2 cups (210 g) of the flour to the sponge. With the paddle attached, mix on low speed just until the ingredients come together, about 1 minute. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for 5 minutes.

3.    To incorporate the butter into the dough, it should be the same consistency as the dough. To prepare the butter, place it on a flat work surface, and with the dough scraper, smear it bit by bit across the surface. When it is ready, the butter should be smooth, soft, and still cool – not warm, oily, or greasy.

4.    With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter a few tablespoons at a time. When all of the butter has been added, increase the mixer speed to medium-high for 1 minute. Then reduce the speed to medium and beat the dough for 5 minutes. The dough will be soft and sticky.

5. First rise: Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.

6. Chilling and second rise: Punch down the dough. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough overnight, or for at least 4 hours, during which time it will continue to rise and may double in size again.. After the second rise, the dough is ready to use.

7. To bake the brioche: Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces, each weighing about 2 1/2 ounces (75 g).  Roll each piece of dough tightly into a ball and place 6 pieces side by side in each bread pan. Cover the pans with a clean cloth and let the dough rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

8.  Center a rack in the oven. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

9.  Lightly brush the dough with the beaten egg. Working quickly, use the tip of a pair of sharp scissors to snip several crosses along the top of each pan of dough. (This will help the brioche rise evenly as it bakes). Place the pans in the oven and bake until the brioche loaves are puffed and deeply golden, 30 to 35 minutes.  Remove the pans from the oven and place on a rack to cool. Turn the loaves out once they have cooled.

The secret: Top-quality honey makes all the difference here. Honey not only enriches the flavor of this brioche, but also helps keep it moist.   

Note: The brioche is best eaten the day it is baked. It can be stored for a day or two, tightly wrapped. To freeze, wrap it tightly and store for up to 1 month. Thaw, still wrapped, at room temperature.  

Note: A reliable saffron source is The Spice House www.thespicehouse.com

 

This recipe was first published in The French Kitchen Cookbook. Buy the book here.

All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without permission.

Taste of the week: Jerusalem artichoke soup

How can just three ingredients -- one of them salt -- taste so creamy, rich and delicious? 

Years ago when I was writing about vegetable recipes created by three-star chefs, Pierre Gagnaire demonstrated  this simple,  sublime, wintry Jerusalmen artichoke (also known as sunchoke) soup. Over time, I have turned the thick soup into a sauce for pasta; reduced it a bit for a fine vegetable puree; or thinned out the nutty liquid with stock, using it as a base for poaching oysters or scallops. If truffles are not available when making this soup, try a last-minute drizzle of fragrant hazelnut oil as garnish.   It’s your choice as to peel the artichokes or not. Peeling the gnarled, knobby vegetable is a tedious task, and I rather like the dots of peel that give character to the puree. Just be sure to scrub the vegetable well.   

Jerusalem artichoke soup

8 servings   |   Equipment: A blender or a food processor; 8 warmed, shallow soup bowls. 

2 quarts (2 l) whole milk
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
2 pounds (1 kg) Jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes), scrubbed and trimmed
2 tablespoons minced black fresh black truffles or minced truffle pelings, or 1 tablespoon best-quality hazelnut oil (such as Leblanc brand)  

 

 

 

 

1.    Rinse a large saucepan with water, leaving a bit of water in the pan. This will prevent the milk from scorching and sticking to the pan.  Pour the milk into the pan and add the sea salt.

2.    Peel the Jerusalem artichokes, chop coarsely and drop immediately into the milk. (This will stop the vegetable from turning brown as it is exposed to the air.) When all the Jerusalem artichokes are in the pan, place over moderate heat and simmer gently until soft, about 35 to 40  minutes. Watch carefully so the milk does not overflow the pan.

3.    Transfer the mixture in small batches to the blender or the food processor. Do not place the plunger in the feed tube of the  food processor or the blender or the heat will create a vacuum and the liquid will splatter. Purée until the mixture is  perfectly smooth and silky, 1 to 2 minutes (note that using a blender rather than a food processor will result in a much smoother texture). 

4.    Return the soup to the saucepan and reheat it gently. Taste for seasoning. Pour it into the warmed soup bowls and shower with the minced truffle, or drizzle with the hazelnut oil. 

A SOUP, A SAUCE, A VEGETABLE SIDE DISH: 
This soup can easily be transformed into a sauce for pasta or to serve as a vegetable side dish. Simple reduce the soup over low heat to desired thickness ,  5 to 10 minutes.

 

This recipe was first published in Simply Truffles. Buy the book here.

All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without permission.

Taste of the week: Grilled polenta with tomato and onion sauce

I love this soothing, comforting dish for a quick weeknight meal, especially in winter. And of course the sauce can be dressed up any way you fancy, with whatever you have on hand. Add marinated artichokes, fennel seeds, capers  and olives, scatter fresh buffalo mozzarella over the piping hot sauce just before serving, or add sausage meat and rosemary for a meatlovers version. The possibilities are as endless as your imagination.

 

Grilled Polenta with Tomato and Onion Sauce

4 Servings   |   Equipment: A 1-quart (1 l) gratin dish, 4 warmed dinner plates.

3 cups (750 ml) 1 % milk
1/2 cup (125 ml) light cream or half-and-half
1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup (135 g) instant polenta
1/2 cup (90 g) freshly grated Swiss Gruyère cheese, plus extra for garnish
1 large onion, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into thin half-rounds
1/4 cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
One  28-ounce (794g) can peeled Italian plum tomatoes in juice
Fresh, flat-leafed parsley leaves, for garnish

 

1.    In a large saucepan, bring the milk, cream, 1 teaspoon of the sea salt, and the nutmeg to a boil over medium heat. (Watch carefully, for milk will boil over quickly.) Add the polenta in a steady stream and, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, cook until the mixture begins to thicken, about 3 minutes.

2.    Remove from the heat. Add half of the cheese, stirring to blend thoroughly.  The polenta should be very creamy and pourable. Pour it into the gratin dish. Even out the top with a spatula. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes to firm up. (Or store, covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 days.)

3.    Prepare the tomato garnish: In a large skillet, combine the onion, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt and sweat – cook, covered over low heat until soft and translucent – about 5 minutes. With a large pair of scissors, cut the tomatoes in the can into small piece. Add the bay leaves and tomatoes and their juices and cook, covered, over low heat for about 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning.

4.    At serving time, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet until hot but not smoking. Cut the polenta into 8 even squares. Sear each square on both sides until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the squares to the warmed plates, stacking the second slice at an angle over the first. Spoon the sauce all over. Garnish with parsley and cheese.

WINE SUGGESTION: An inexpensive everyday dish suggests an equally fine but gently priced wine. A favorite is Michel and Stephane Ogier’s La Rosine Syrah, a deep purple vin de pays from the hillsides north of the old Roman town of Vienne.

MAKE AHEAD NOTE: Both the tomato sauce and the polenta can be prepared up to 3 days in advance, then covered and refrigerated seperately. Reheat at serving time.

THE SECRET: When using whole, canned tomatoes, use a scissors to cut the tomatoes into small pieces, making for a still chunky yet finer sauce.

 

This recipe was first published in The French Kitchen Cookbook. Buy the book here.

All rights reserved. Please do not  reproduce without permission.

Taste of the week: Manchego, chorizo and paprika bread

                                               © Jeff Kauck

This anytime of year bread recipe is a quick and easy way to transport yourself to Spain. You can serve this warm out of the oven or at room temperature – I love it sliced and toasted, with more cheese and chorizo on top as an afternoon snack. Or, in the warmer months, it's the perfect picnic bread.

 

Manchego Chorizo and Paprika Bread

Makes 1 loaf (about 24 thin slices)  |   Equipment: A nonstick 1-quart (1 l) rectangular bread pan.

Oil, for oiling the pan

1 1/4 cups (180 g) unbleached, all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

3 large eggs,  preferably organic and free-range, lightly beaten

1/3 cup (80 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

1/3 cup (80 ml) plain whole-milk yogurt

5 ounces (150 g) Spanish Manchego cheese, cut into 1/4-inch (1/2 cm) cubes

2 ounces (60 g) Spanish chorizo, cut into 1/4-inch (1/2 cm) cubes

1 teaspoon hot Spanish paprika

20 pimento-stuffed green olives

1.     Center a rack in the oven. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Lightly oil the bread pan.

2.     In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix to blend. In another bowl whisk together the eggs, oil, and yogurt.  In a third bowl, toss together the cheese, chorizo, paprika, and olives. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir to blend. Add the cheese mixture and stir to blend.  

3.     Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth out the top with a spatula. Place the pan in the oven and bake until the bread is firm and golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and place the pan on a rack to cool. Once it has cooled, unmold and serve it at room temperature, in thin slices.

 

Variations: Omit the cheese and chorizo and replace them with 1 tablespoon toasted ground cumin and 1 tablespoon toasted whole cumin seeds; or, for Curry Bread, omit the cheese and chorizo and replace with 1 tablespoon curry powder.

 

 

 

 This recipe was first published in The French Kitchen Cookbook. All rights reserved. Please do not reproduce without permission.

Taste of the week: Red Boat Fish Sauce

I consider Red Boat Fish Sauce a favorite ingredient and one of my kitchen pantry essentials. Nuoc mam nhi (meaning salted fish water) is a staple of south-east Asian cooking, but I find endless ways of using this umami-rich sauce to deepen the flavors of many of my recipes, both Asian and non-Asian.

This brand in particular is my favorite because, unlike many other store-bought varieties that use additives and sugar, Red Boat fish sauce uses just two ingredients: wild caught black achovies and sea salt. The anchovies are the freshest possible, fished from the clear waters off Phu Quoc island in Vietnam. Using artisanal techniques, the fish is slowly fermented with sea salt for a year in tropical wooden barrels. They bottle only the first pressing, so what you get is a deeply rich, amber liquid, with no additives or preservatives.

Of course fish sauce is a requisite ingredient in Vietnamese dipping sauce, that perfectly balanced accompaniment to so many classic Vietnamese dishes. While the composite components are almost always the same, it is the balance of quantities and quality of ingredients that makes for the perfect dipping sauce recipe. Make sure you use fresh, moist garlic, with the green germ removed, to avoid any bitterness, and a good quality dipping sauce like Red Boat.

I've tested many different variations, and this recipe I think has the best balance of flavors:

 

Vietnamese Dipping Sauce

Equipment: A mini food processor or a standard food processor fitted with a small bowl; a small jar with a lid.

2 plump, moist garlic cloves, peeled, halved, green germ removed
1 fresh or dried red bird’s eye chile
3 tablespoons Vietnamese fish sauce, preferably Red Boat brand
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup (125 ml) water

In the food processor mince the garlic and chile. Add the fish sauce, citrus juice, sugar, and the water. Pulse to blend. Taste for seasoning. Transfer to the jar and tighten the lid. (Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.)

Makes 3/4 cup (185 ml)

Buy Red Boat Fish Sauce here from My Amazon Store.

 

This recipe was first published in The French Kitchen Cookbook. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

Taste of the Week: Warm Oysters wih Truffle Cream and Truffles

©Jeff Kauck

It's my annual Black Truffle Cooking Class this week, and we are knee-deep in fresh truffles here in Provence, the homeland of the 'black diamond'.  So I couldn't help but share this simple but wonderful truffle recipe of mine that combines two of my most favorite French ingredients: oysters, and of course black truffles. The sauce here is amazing and versatile. How could the combination of oyster liquor, cream, butter, and truffle juice be bad? The silken texture of the warmed oyster creates a fine contrast to the crunch of the truffle matchsticks. An all round winner!

 

Warm Oysters wih Truffle Cream and Truffles

4 servings   |   Equipment: A fine-mesh sieve; a flat ovenproof serving dish; a small jar with a lid; a mandoline or a very sharp knife.

12 large fresh oysters
1 cup (280 g) coarse sea salt
1 fresh black truffle (about 1 ounce; 30 g), cleaned
1/4 cup (60 ml) Truffle Cream (see recipe below)
About 1 tablespoon truffle juice
2 teaspoons (10 g) butter (truffled, if you have it on hand)
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, or to taste

How to make truffle cream:

It was chef Joël Robuchon who drilled into my head the phrase “fat fixes flavor.” When I began working with truffles, I searched for every way possible to capture their elusive flavor and aroma. A rich, heavy cream does the trick. I use it liberally during truffle season.

Makes 2 cups (500 ml)

Equipment: A jar, with a lid.

5 tablespoons (1 ounce; 30 g) minced fresh black truffle peelings
2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream

1.    In a jar, combine the truffles and cream. Cover securely and shake to blend. Refrigerate at least 2 days before using. (The mixture will stay fresh, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for 1 week.)

 

Note: My favorite truffle supplier in Provence, Plantin in the village of Puymeras, supplies the top chefs in the world with fresh truffles from November to March, and with preserved truffle products year-round. Products can be purchased from their web site.

1.    Open the oysters, cut the muscle to extract it from the shell, and filter the oyster liquor through the sieve set over a small saucepan.

2.    Cover the bottom of the ovenproof serving dish (it should be large enough to hold the oysters in a single layer) with a thin layer of the coarse salt. Place the opened oysters in their shells on the bed of salt to keep them stable. Refrigerate. Within about 15 minutes, the oysters will give off a second, even more flavorful oyster liquor.

3.    Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the oven about 5 inches (12.5 cm) from the heat source. Preheat the broiler.

4.    With a vegetable peeler, peel the truffle. Mince the truffle peelings, place in the small jar, and tighten the lid. Reserve the peelings for another use (to make truffle salt or truffle butter for example). With the mandoline or very sharp knife, cut the truffle into thick slices. Cut the slices into matchsticks.

5.    In the saucepan containing the reserved oyster liquor, add the cream and truffle juice and bring to a simmer over low heat. Whisk the butter and the lemon juice into the sauce, whisking vigorously to give it volume. If the sauce appears too thick, thin it with additional truffle juice. Add half the truffle matchsticks and just warm them gently. Do not cook them.

6.    Spoon the sauce over the oysters. Place the baking dish under the broiler and cook just until the oysters are warmed through, no more than 20 to 25 seconds. The sea-fresh aroma of oysters should begin filling the air as they warm up.

7.    Cover 4 plates with the coarse sea salt to keep the oysters stable. Arrange 3 of the oysters on each plate. Garnish with the remaining truffle matchsticks. Serve.

 

Wine suggestion: With oysters, I always reach for a Picpoul de Pinet, a white that grows near the Mediterranean oyster beds. It is made with 100 percent Picpoul grape, and has a distinct acidity and a pleasing, spicy finish. Another great choice is always a Sauvignon Blanc, either a Sancerre or Quincy.

 

These recipes were originally published in Simply Truffles. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

Taste of the week: Kumquat conserve

©Jeff Kauck

My faithful little kumquat tree in Provence produces a year-round supply of these beautiful golden nuggets, giving me ample opportunity to make this tangy jam-like conserve that pairs wonderfully with fresh goat's milk cheese. It's always nice to have a supply in the pantry to take as a host gift when going to a dinner party, or to give to friends who come to stay.

 

Kumquat Conserve

Makes 1 quart (1 l)   |     Equipment: Eight 1/2-cup (125 ml) canning jars with lids.

1 1/2 pounds (750 g) unblemished fresh kumquats
2 cups (500 ml) fresh blood orange, mandarin orange, or regular orange juice
1 cup (200 g) unrefined cane sugar, preferably organic, vanilla scented (see Note)

  1. Stem the kumquats, halve them lengthwise, and remove and discard the seeds.
  2. In a large saucepan, combine the kumquats, orange juice, and sugar. Bring to a simmer and simmer, skimming the surface as needed, until the juice is thick and the kumquats are soft and translucent, about 1 hour. Skim off and discard any recalcitrant seeds that float to the surface. Let cool.
  3. Transfer to the canning jars and secure the lids. (Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.)

 

Note: To make vanilla-scented sugar: Flatten 1 or several moist vanilla beans. Cut them in half lengthwise. With a small spoon, scrape out the seeds and place them in a small jar; reserve the seeds for another use. Fully dry the vanilla bean halves at room temperature. Place the dry halves in a large jar with a lid, and cover them with sugar. Tighten the lid and store for several weeks to scent and flavor the sugar. Use in place of regular sugar when preparing desserts.

This recipe was first published in The French Kitchen Cookbook.

All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

Taste of the week: Walnut bites – Italian panpepato

© Jeff Kauck

While everyone else is making spiced nuts for holiday party snacks and edible gifts, why not try these totally irresistible walnut bites – a darker version of the Italian panforte, with a pungent, forward flavor, and laced with freshly ground black pepper, cinnamon, cocoa powder, candied lemon peel, raisins, and walnut halves.

Serve them up with a cheese course (a nicely aged Parmiggiano-Reggiano and a sip of vin santo works for me), or team them with a slice of the cheese, stack the two on a toothpick, and eccoci - the perfect holiday appetizer.

 

Walnut bites: Italian panpepato

Makes 32 bites    |    Equipment: a 9 1/2 x 9 1/2-inch (24 x 24 cm) baking pan; baking parchment

 ©Jeff Kauck

©Jeff Kauck

1/2 cup (65 g) dried black currants or raisins
1/2 cup (125 ml) sweet wine, such as marsala, vin santo, or port
2 tablespoons (1 ounce; 30 g) unsalted butter
3/4 cup (150 g) vanilla sugar
1/4 cup (60 ml) intensely-flavored honey, such as chestnut
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups (250 g) walnut halves
3 dried figs,  chopped
1 cup (90 g) candied lemon peel, preferably organic, cut into fine cubes
1/4 cup (40 g) unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon coarse, freshly ground black pepper, such as Tellicherry
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, preferably Vietnamese cassia

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.    In a small bowl, soak the currants or raisins in 1/4 cup (60 ml) of the wine for 1 hour.

2.    Line the baking pan with baking parchment, letting the parchment hang over the ends. (This will make it easier to remove the panpepato once it’s baked.)

3.    Center a rack in the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

4.    In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the sugar, honey, and salt, stirring to blend.

5.    In a large bowl, combine the currants and their soaking liquid, walnuts, figs, and candied peel, and stir to coat the walnuts. In another bowl, combine the flour, pepper, cocoa powder, and cinnamon, and stir to blend. Toss to blend. Add the flour mixture to the currant mixture, along and the remaining 1/4 cup (60 ml) wine. Stir to evenly coat the walnuts. Add the butter mixture and stir again to blend. The mixture will be very dense and sticky. Spoon the mixture into the parchment-lined pan and smooth it out with a spatula. (Note that the mixture will be a walnut brown as it is placed in the oven, and turns dark, almost black as it bakes.)

6.    Place the pan in the oven and bake until bubbly, dark, and fragrant, about 35 minutes. The mixture will be sticky, but will firm up as it cools in the pan.

7.    Once it has cooled, cut the panpepato into very tiny bites. (Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks.)

NOTE: Weighing and preparing your ingredients in advance (known as mis-en-place) will make putting the recipe together faster and considerably less messy. And as a bonus, you're much less likely to forget an ingredient. A good tip to use for every recipe.

WINE SUGGESTION: As an appetizer, I love these with a glass of Champagne. With the cheese course, try an Italian vin santo,  a Sicilian Marsala, a Porto,  or a French vin doux naturel, such as the Grenache-based Rasteau from the southern Rhône.

Taste of the week: Intense chocolate custards with nibs

These wonderful chocolatey desserts are perfect for Christmas cocktail parties: they couldn't be easier to make, and are best served in small shot glasses so you can really savor the intense hit of chocolate. Even for a seated dinner party this is the perfect serving size, paired alongside a chocolate sorbet.

 

Intense Chocolate custards with nibs

Makes 8 servings

Equipment: A double boiler; a baster; eight 1/4-cup (65 ml) vodka or shot glasses.

5 ounces (150 g)  bittersweet chocolate, such as Valrhona Guanaja 70%
3/4 cup (185 ml) light cream  
2 tablespoons (1 ounce; 30 g) unsalted butter
Fleur de sel  
About 1 tablespoon chocolate nibs

 

1.    Break the chocolate into small pieces.

2.    In the top of the double boiler set over, but not touching, boiling water, heat the cream and 1/4 cup (60 ml) of water just until warm. Add the chocolate pieces, stirring until the chocolate is melted. Add the butter and stir to melt and combine. Spoon the mixture into the glasses. (I have found that if you use a baster to “pipe” the chocolate into the glasses, it is less messy.) Refrigerate until firm, about 20 minutes.  

3.    At serving time sprinkle, with fleur de sel and chocolate nibs.

 

MAKE-AHEAD NOTE: The custards can be prepared up to 3 days in advance, covered and refrigerated.

NOTE: What are nibs? Cacao nibs are pieces of cacao beans that have been roasted and hulled. Nibs taste faintly similar to roasted coffee beans. They have a great crunch, a slightly nutty flavor, and a pleasant touch of bitterness.

WINE SUGGESTION: I love to serve this treat with the chocolate-friendly, sweet Banyuls reserve wine from Domaine La Tour Vieille in the Languedoc. With its touch of spice, hint of chocolate and overtones of raspberry, what could be a finer partner for a chocolate dessert?

Taste of the week: Alsatian bacon and onion tart

It’s no secret that I love making pizza, and Flammekuechen, the Alsatian version of a thin-crust pizza made with cream, onions and bacon, is a favorite, to bake in my wood-fired oven now that winter is really here.

In this version I have lightened the recipe by replacing the traditional cream with non-fat yogurt or fromage blanc and steaming the onions instead of sweating them in fat. However, on a chilly night you might just feel like adding back the cream and sweated onions! Serve with a green salad and a class of chilled Riesling and transport yourself to Alsace!


Equipment: A baking stone; a steamer; a wooden pizza peel; a metal pizza peel or large metal spatula (If you don’t have a baking stone and a wooden peel, simply sprinkle the polenta on a baking sheet, place the round of dough on top, assemble the tart, and bake on the baking sheet).

8 ounces (250 g) large white onions, peeled and cut crosswise into very thin rounds
4 ounces (125 g) thinly sliced pancetta or bacon, cut into cubes
1/2 cup (150 g) nonfat Greek-style yogurt or fromage blanc
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Flour and polenta for dusting
1 recipe Quick Whole Wheat Bread Tart Dough (below), shaped into a ball
Coarse, freshly ground black pepper

  1.  Place the baking stone on the bottom rack of the oven. Preheat the oven to 500°F (260°C).
  2.  Separate the onions into rings. You should have about 4 cups (1 liter) loosely packed onions.
  3. Bring 1 quart (1 liter) of water to a simmer in the bottom of a steamer. Place the onions on the steaming rack.  Place the rack over simmering water, cover, and steam until the onions are al dente 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the basket from the steamer to drain the onions.  (This can be done 2 to 3 hours before serving.
  4. In a large dry skillet, brown the pancetta over moderate heat until crisp and golden, 3 to 4 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to several layers of paper towels to absorb the fat. Blot the top of the pancetta with several layers of paper towel to absorb any additional fat.
  5. In a medium bowl combine the yogurt, nutmeg, onions, and half of the pancetta. Stir to blend.
  6. On a generously floured work surface, roll the dough into a 12- inch (30 cm) round.
  7. Sprinkle the wooden pizza peel with polenta and place the round of dough on the peel.  Working quickly to keep the dough from sticking, assemble the tart: Spread the yogurt mixture evenly over the dough. Sprinkle with the remaining pancetta.  
  8. Slide the dough off the peel and onto the baking stone. Bake until the dough is crisp and golden, and the top is bubbly, about 10 minutes.
  9.  With the metal pizza peel or large spatula, remove the tart from the baking stone. Sprinkle generously with pepper.  Transfer to a cutting board and cut into 8 wedges. Serve immediately.

Makes one 12-inch tart

Wine suggestion: A young, fresh dry Alsatian Riesling is in order here: Try one from the reputable firms of Ostertag or Zind-Humbrecht – crisp, dry, smoky wines with a saline touch of chalky minerality, an even match for the creamy onion and pancetta mixture offset with a hit of black pepper.    

Quick Whole Wheat Bread Tart Dough

Equipment: A food processor.

3/4 cup (120 g) whole wheat flour
3/4 cup (120 g) bread flour, plus extra if needed for dusting
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) quick-rising yeast
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

In the bowl of a food processor combine the whole wheat flour, bread flour, yeast, salt, and sugar and pulse to mix. Combine 1/2 cup (125 ml) of hot water and the olive oil in a measuring cup. With the motor running, gradually add enough of the hot liquid for the mixture to form a sticky ball. The dough should be soft. If it is too dry, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water. If it is too sticky, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of flour. Process until the dough forms a ball. Transfer to a clean, floured surface and knead by hand for 1 minute. Cover with a cloth and let rest for at least 10 minutes before rolling. (The dough will keep, covered and refrigerated,  for up to 4 days. Punch down the dough as necessary).

Makes one 12-inch (30 cm) pizza or flatbread

 

These recipes were originally published in Salad as a Meal. If you love this recipe, you can buy the book here!

This recipe is the copyright of Patricia Wells. All rights reserved.

Black truffle spaghetti

 © Jeff Kauck

If you have the chance to cook with a prized French black truffle, this recipe is one of the simplest and best-value ways to enjoy its sublime earthy flavor. The truffle butter and truffle salt (that keeps wonderfully in the freezer to be used throughout the year) really boosts the truffle flavor. 

Equipment: A 10-quart (10 l) pasta pot fitted with a colander; 4 warmed shallow soup bowls.  

3 tablespoons coarse sea salt

1 pound (500 g) Italian spaghetti

2 tablespoons (1 ounce, 30 g) Truffle Butter (recipe follows)

1  cup (100 g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus additional for serving

Truffle Salt (recipe follows)

1 tablespoon (6 g) minced fresh black truffle or minced truffle peelings (optional)


1.   Fill the pasta pot with 8 quarts (8 l) of water and bring it to a rolling boil over high heat.  Add the coarse salt and the pasta. Cook until tender but firm to the bite. Drain thoroughly.

2.   Transfer the pasta to a large bowl, add the butter and cheese and toss to coat the pasta evenly and thoroughly. Season lightly with the truffle salt.  Transfer to the warmed bowls, shower with minced truffle, if using, serve. Garnish with the additional cheese.  

4 servings

Wine suggestions: This calls for an everyday red and of course our favorite is our own Clos Chanteduc, a simple Côtes-du-Rhône, but one that forces you to make you sit up and take notice, focusing on its note of black coarsely ground black pepper,  the fine balance of fruit and acidity, as well as its easy-quaffing qualities. The blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre comes from vines planted mostly in the 1950’s so the flavors are rich and dense.


Truffle butter

Equipment: A small jar with a lid.

1 tablespoon (6 g) minced fresh black truffle peelings

4 tablespoons (2 ounces; 60 g) salted butter, softened

1.  Place the butter on a large plate. Sprinkle with the truffle peelings and mash with a fork to blend. Transfer to the jar. Tighten the lid.

2.  Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze up to 6 months. Serve at room temperature, or melted, as necessary. 

Makes 4 tablespoons (2 ounces; 60 g)


Truffle salt

Equipment: A small jar with a lid.

1 tablespoon (6 g) minced fresh black truffle peelings

1 tablespoon fleur de sel or fine sea salt

1. In the small jar, combine the minced truffles and salt.  Tighten the lid and shake to blend. Refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 1 year.

2. For each use, remove the truffle salt from the freezer or refrigerator, remove the desired amount, and return the jar to the freezer or refrigerator. 

Makes 2 tablespoons

Note: My favorite truffle supplier in Provence, Plantin in the village of Puymeras, supplies the top chefs in the world with fresh truffles from November to March, and with preserved truffle products year-round. Products can be purchased from their web site, Plantin.Com 


These recipes were originally published in Simply Truffles. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.