Lime Yogurt Sauce
Makes 11 ounces/300 grams
- 11 ounces/300 grams of Greek or plain yogurt
- a big handful of fresh cilantro
- 1 clove of garlic
- juice of 1 lime (about a teaspoon)
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- a pinch of sea salt
Put all of the ingredients in your food processor and whizz till it’s combined. Taste and adjust for seasonings. Best when refrigerated for a half-hour to 1 hour before serving.
I made a version of this a couple of weeks ago when I came home from Brussels about 9 at night, and was starving. X suggested pizza, and in fact, left to go down the street to fetch one for himself. I was in the mood for something lighter, but figured I’d just be scrambling up an egg, my go-to default dinner when it’s late and I’m starving.
Mais non, y’all — I opened up the veggie drawer and discovered a half-eaten bag of baby spinach, and remembered how much I love the yolk-plus-vinaigrette combo, so dinner suddenly became something much more interesting and elegant – and just as quick to make as a scrambled egg. I put some water onto boil, poached an egg, quickly made a vinaigrette, and threw it all together about ten minutes.
So when I was at the Casino the other day, I decided that I needed to buy spinach and roquette (because for some reason I usually only buy one and not the other) in case I had another night like that one.
Which, turns out, I did recently. This time, I poached two eggs for the salad, and threw in some toasted pecans and curls of a young Comté that X brought home the day before. You could use Manchego, Brebis, or Parmesan. Or skip the cheese altogether. It really doesn’t matter. But it does add a little something, and it does look pretty, doesn’t it?
I tossed the salad with a molasses vinaigrette, and that was that. Dinner, again, in less time than it takes to scroll through Pinterest. Which I just may do now.
The point of this rambling story is this: if you’ve got eggs, then you’ve got dinner. And if you’ve got spinach and eggs, then you’re on your way to a great Frenchy bistro-style salad, and that’s always a fun thing to eat, wherever you are.
Nothing in the Fridge Salad
Makes 2 dinner-size salads
- 4 eggs
- 1 6-ounce/170 gram bag of spinach
- a handful of pecans, toasted
- a few curls of Comté, Gruyère or Swiss cheese
- Molasses Vinaigrette, recipe follows
1. Put a pot of about 4 inches of salty water onto boil, and when it bubbles vigorously, turn it down to a simmer. Now you’re ready to poach your eggs. Crack your eggs one by one into a small bowl and oh so gently lower into this the simmering water, letting the egg slide out completely. Do this with the other eggs, if they’ll all fit, and set the timer for 2 minutes. When the buzzer sounds, remove each of the eggs and place them gently on a paper towel to drain.
2. Toss your spinach in a large bowl with a good drizzle of the Molasses Vinaigrette and divide between two plates. Top with two eggs each, sprinkle with pecans, add your Comté curls, and dinner is served. Yummy!
Makes about 1/3 cup
- 2 tablespoons of finely chopped shallots
- 2 tablespoons of sherry vinegar
- 1 teaspoon of grainy mustard
- 1 tablespoon of molasses
- 2 large basil leaves, chopped
- sea salt and pepper
- 4 tablespoons of grapeseed oil
Put your shallots, sherry vinegar, grainy mustard, molasses, chopped basil, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a jam jar and give it a good shake. Let it rest for about 10 minutes, add the oil, and shake again. Taste for seasonings.
I’ve always loved tomatoes, and feel like when they’re in season, not only can you simply not eat too many of them, you can’t eat enough.
My mother, thankfully, feels the same way, which is how we ended up with tomatoes from a friend of hers (the small ones) and from the Denton Farmer’s Market (the large slices underneath) in the first place. Fear of running out of tomatoes. We were both worried, so we stocked up last weekend and put the locally-grown and sold-out-of-the-back-of-a-pickup-truck tomatoes on the windowsill to ripen.
I naturally suggested a Frenchy tomato tart – and the most typical, with crème fraîche and mustard –because I am currently in the midst of reverse homesickness. Yes, I am home home, in Texas, but now I’m missing Paris…and the sweet French cherries…my friend Sandy’s chèvre…the baguettes across the street…trips to G. Detou for giant sacks of noisettes, super-concentrated vanilla, and Michel Cluizel chocolate for baking…and the herb seller at the Belleville market who always gives me extra mint. I’ve read and reread the two French food magazines I bought at the airport in May so many times that I’ve practically memorized the pages.
Of course before I left Paris for Texas, the opposite was true. I must’ve made tacos every night. I’ve always expressed myself through food, and I was so excited to come home that I wanted to taste home before I even got on the plane.
This one’s for you, Paris.
Tomato Tart (Tarte aux Tomates)
Makes one 11-inch/28 cm tart; updated from a previously published post
- 1 prebaked Whole Wheat-Oatmeal Tart crust, recipe follows
- about 4 medium tomatoes (enough to cover the bottom of the tart pan)
- a handful of cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup/237 ml of crème fraîche or sour cream
- 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
- about 2 heaping tablespoons of fresh goat cheese, crumbled
- olive oil
- sea salt and pepper
- a few leaves of fresh basil, roughly torn
1. Preheat your oven to 375°F/180°C.
2. Cut your 4 tomatoes into 1/4-inch thick slices and set these aside.
3. Whisk together the crème fraîche or sour cream and Dijon mustard and spread this evenly on the bottom of your prebaked tart crust. Arrange the large tomato slices so they’re neatly packed together (there will be shrinkage) and scatter the cherry tomatoes on top, along with the goat cheese crumbles. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil on top of it all and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Slice into the oven and bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until the tomatoes have cooked through and gotten a bit wrinkly. Add the fresh basil and serve while it’s still warm or at room temperature.
Whole Wheat-Oatmeal Tart Crust
Makes one 11-inch/28 cm tart crust
- 2 cups/250 grams of whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup/50 grams of oatmeal (quick)
- 1 teaspoon of sea salt
- ¼ cup/60 ml of olive oil
- 1 tablespoon of honey
- ½ cup/120 ml of ice water
1. Line the bottom of an 11-inch/28 cm tart pan with parchment paper (très important — this will keep your crust from sticking to the pan and tearing apart), and preheat the oven to 375°F/180°C.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, oatmeal, and sea salt. Add the oil and honey and mix by hand. Now add your water, little by little (you may not need all of it), and mix just until the dough comes together in a ball.
3. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface, lay it into the tart pan, and either let about an inch of dough hang over or if you want to be neat, trim the edges by simply rolling your pin over the top. Prick the bottom with a fork and refrigerate for an hour or pop in the freezer for 30 minutes (my favorite method, because it’s faster), until the dough’s nice and firm.
4. Blind bake your crust. Line the frozen crust with parchment and fill it up with pie weights or dry beans, making sure to push them tightly into the edges, where shrinkage can occur. Put the tart pan on a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the weights and parchment, and bake for 10 more minutes, so the bottom cooks through. Let it cool off a bit before you fill it.
Cowgirl Tip: Make savory crackers with your leftover bits of dough. Just spread the pieces out on a cookie sheet – making sure to tear them into pieces approximately the same size so they’ll cook evenly — sprinkle with sea salt, pepper and whatever fresh herbs you’ve got on hand (I like thyme), lightly press or roll into the dough, and bake for 10 minutes, or until the pieces begin to look crispy. This dough is nutty and slightly sweet and these little crackers remind me of Wheat Thins – and just as addictive. You’ve been warned.
Before you say to yourself, “Is that a spoonful of Fritos with salsa on top?”
The answer is yes.
Desperate times, people. Desperate times. I ran out of jalapeños last week and two weeks before that, I ate my last chipotle. In my freezer, I have: one and a fourth of a corn tortilla, one whole wheat flour tortilla, and one red chile tortilla. The Fritos were a gift from someone who came back from the States about a month ago. I am down to one-fourth of a bag. And I’m so close to getting back to Texas, I refuse to buy another sack of those awful Leader Price (another nonsensical French word inversion, by the way, like le site web) faux-Doritos.
My salsa deserves better.
I always tend to do this right before I leave for Texas. On the one hand, I’m eating baguettes as if I’m squirreling them away for the time that I’ll be gone; on the other, I’m already craving what I’ll be eating while I’m there. I can’t explain it. But this is always how it goes.
So don’t ask me why I had the sudden urge to make a jar of salsa right before I’m leaving for Texas. I really can’t answer that, because I just don’t know. Maybe it’s that I’m revving my taste buds up for the fire that awaits…or that I’m really excited to be going home.
It’s probably both. That and I hate to see Fritos go to waste. So I’ve been eating them by the spoonful, with salsa on top. Just like that.
Smoky Tomato Salsa
Makes almost 2 cups
- 3 dried ancho chiles
- 2 cloves of garlic, skins left on
- ¼ of a yellow onion, left whole
- a tablespoon of corn oil
- 1 (14.5-ounce)/411 gram can of fire-roasted tomatoes (I like Muir Glen)
- sea salt
1. Put a kettle of water onto boil and toast your ancho chiles: With your kitchen scissors, snip off the very top of each chile with the stem, and cut down one side of the chile so you can open it up like a book. Brush out all of the seeds. Put a comal, cast iron pan or crêpe pan (this is what I use in France) over medium-low heat and when it’s warm, lay the chiles out as flat as you can, keeping them pushed down with a wooden spoon so they can toast. When you can smell them, they’re ready to flip over. Err on the side of less rather than more, because chiles can burn easily…and we don’t want to burn our chiles. When you’ve toasted all of your chiles, put them in a bowl and pour some hot water of them so they can steep (and soften) for 10 to 15 minutes.
2. Now quickly toast your garlic and the one-fourth of an onion on the comal, too. Just let them go until they brown a little. Peel the garlic and the onion.
3. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, drizzle a tiny bit of corn oil and toss in the garlic and onion. Add your tomatoes, softened chiles and a good pinch of salt. Taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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I routinely stuff chicken carcasses in plastic bags and stuff them in my freezer for stock-making; I do the same with shrimp shells, so I can make fish stock. Why I’ve never thought of saving the scraps from vegetables and doing the same thing is beyond me.
Last week, I was reading a La Cucina di Terresa blog post about making ravioli with carrot tops by Theresa Murphy, who also lives in Paris and gives cooking classes on vegetarian and organic cuisine, and at the bottom, there it was – the note about saving veggie bits and pieces and making stock.
I’m going through LOTS of veggies these days, testing this and that, and it took me about four days to completely fill up a gallon-size plastic bag with carrot peels, tops of green onions, potato peelings, stalks from broccoli and cauliflower, ends of zucchini and I can’t even remember what else.
When I couldn’t stuff one more thing into the bag, I figured it was time to make stock.
All I did was put all of the scraps in a large stockpot, add 3 bay leaves, about 12 peppercorns, some fresh thyme and basil from my little herb garden, and fill it up with water. I let this come to a boil and then turned the heat down, took the cover off, and let the stock reduce for a couple of hours.
Then, I just lined a mesh strainer with cheesecloth, and poured the stock through. That’s what’s in the jar (above).
After that, feeling super-smart and thrifty, I puréed the veggies and pressed the mixture through the mesh strainer (this would be much easier with a food mill, but my food mill, alas, apparently ran off with my ravioli maker awhile back and the two of them have not been heard from since), and ended up with two bowls of beautiful veggie soup as a bonus.
Now I’ve got veggie stock in the freezer for the next time I make soup. Love it.
Save your scraps, people!
When I first moved to France, the land of 400-plus cheeses, I tried to make queso with “La vache qui rit,” the laughing cow cheese. It’s the closest thing that the French have to our beloved Velveeta, but it’s not nearly close enough. It melts, but when it’s cooked, it becomes thin and watery. Plus, it’s white.
Queso is orange.
The other day when Mom and I were pushing our enormous red plastic cart through Target, sipping our afternoon lattes as we stuffed the cart with Ziplocs of all sizes, she said something about being in the mood for queso.
The easiest thing in the world — if you happen to be in the part of the world that has Velveeta.
You cut up some Velveeta. Put it in a bowl. Stick it in the microwave and nuke it for 20 seconds. Give a stir and nuke at 20 second intervals until it’s melty and hot. Now, pour in the Rotel tomatoes and stir again.
This is the unfancy version. If you want to go all the way, buy some spicy hot Jimmy Dean or Owens Country sausage, cook it up in the skillet, let the grease drain on some paper towels (to keep it healthy, you know), and then fold into the melted cheesey mixture (graf above).
Goes best with pitchers of margaritas. You probably already knew that.