Friday, March 25, 2011

Crème Vanille

This is originally a French recipe so I am keeping the French name, but essentially it is vanilla pudding. It is smooth, thick, rich and creamy... and one of the few ways to get my son to eat dairy!

It is crucial to use good quality pure vanilla extract. I recommend Rodelle's. If you wish, you can substitute one whole vanilla bean: cut it in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and pulp, add to the milk, along with the pod (which should be removed before whisking the yolk mixture into the saucepan). This will add gorgeous visual appeal as the crème will be flecked with tiny dark vanilla bean seeds.

If you are serving these to company (and you should!), add fresh sliced strawberries on top, or chocolate sprinkles!

Makes 8 servings

  • 4 cups milk, divided = 1 l de lait, divisé
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract = 2 cuillères à café d'extrait de vanille
  • ⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon sugar = 75 g de sucre
  • ⅓ cup cornstarch = 50 g de maizena
  • 2 egg yolks = 2 jaunes d'oeuf

Place 3 cups of milk, vanilla and sugar in medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat, until it starts bubbling. In a bowl, combine remaining 1 cup milk, cornstarch and egg yolks. Gradually whisk into hot milk/sugar mixture. Lower the heat and continue cooking and stirring until mixture thickens. Do not allow to boil. Remove from heat and pour into 8 small serving dishes. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a “skin” from forming. Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Potato and Leek Soup

I am addicted to soups. I have nicknamed this one, the French soup. The real name for it is potage parmentier, a classic in France. Some recipes call for onions, some omit milk, some add herbs, bacon bits or croutons on top. Some people like it chunky, some like it smooth. There is no right or wrong way to make this simple, hearty soup. This is my way, as I remember my grand-mother making it. Enjoy!

Make 4-6 servings

  • 2 tablespoons butter = 30 g de beurre
  • 3 leeks (white and light green only, split lengthwise, washed and thinly sliced) = 3 poireaux (seulement la partie blanche et vert clair, coupés en 2 dans le sens de la longueur, nettoyés et émincés)
  • 1 lb russet potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks = 450 g de pommes de terre, épluchées et coupées en dés
  • 3 to 4 cups water = 750 ml à 1 l d'eau
  • salt and white pepper = sel et poivre blanc
  • 1/2 to 1 cup hot milk = 120 à 230 ml de lait chaud
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional) = 2 cuillères à soupe de crème fleurette (facultatif)

In large pot, melt butter, add leeks and cook over low to medium heat for about 20 minutes. Add potatoes and 3 to 4 cups of water, depending on how thick you want the soup to be. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer covered for 20 minutes. Mash potatoes in the pot. Add milk and if you wish, mix with immersion blender until smooth. Add heavy cream if using, stir and serve immediately.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

English Muffins

After my successful result at making bagels, I decided to try my hand at English muffins. Even tough they are traditionally served with butter and jam, my family likes them best as breakfast sandwiches filled with ham, cheese and egg.

I browsed numerous blogs and books in search of an easy recipe that did not require a starter. For a solid recipe, my French friends can go to to Ligne & Papilles. However my best find was a recipe by Peter Reinhart in his glorious book: The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread. I really like how he combines skillet and oven baking so that the muffins don't end up completely burned on the outside (which is what happened on my first, sad, attempt at making English muffins). I tweaked the ingredient list a bit, substituting some whole-wheat flour, omitting sugar and replacing butter with olive oil. I also decided to roll and cut out the dough, instead of shaping boules as he does. In order to get the famous nooks and crannies, you will need to bake the muffins at just the right time, catching them as they are still rising so it is important that you don't over-proof them.

Makes 12-15 muffins

  • 1 ½ cup milk = 350 ml de lait
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons instant dry yeast = 2 ¼ cuillères à café (1 sachet) de levure de boulanger déshydratée
  • 2 ½ cups unbleached bread flour = 300 g de farine à pain
  • 2 cups whole-wheat flour = 200 g de farine complète
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt = 1 ½ cuillère à café de sel
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil = 2 cuillères à soupe d'huile d'olive
  • cornmeal, finely ground (optional) = semoule de maïs, très fine (facultatif)

Warm milk to about 100-110°F, add yeast. Stir and let stand for 5 minutes.

Place flours and salt in stand mixer bowl, pour milk/yeast mixture and olive oil. Mix with hook until dough forms. Add a tablespoon or two of milk if dough seems too dry. Knead for about 8 to 10 minutes. Cover bowl with cloth towel or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and knead briefly to degaze. Roll it out to about ⅓ to ½ inch thick. Cut out circles with a 3.5” to 4” round cookie cutter (or a large glass), spray each side with olive oil and place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper and dusted with cornmeal. Sprinkle a little more cornmeal on the sides facing up. Cover with towel or plastic wrap and proof at room temperature for 30 minutes to one hour, until they are nicely puffed.

Preheat oven to 350F/180C.

Heat up a large skillet on medium heat on the stovetop. Transfer 3 or 4 muffins to the hot skillet, cook for about 3 or 4 minutes until the bottoms are golden brown, flip and cook the other sides for another 3 minutes. Both sides should be pretty flat now. Quickly transfer to a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes. Repeat with remaining muffins.

Transfer the baked muffins to a rack and let cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing with a muffin splitter or a fork. Enjoy!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Banana Bread

It's funny how we, Americans, call this, banana bread, while the French call it cake à la banane. I think they have a point.

My family, on both sides of the Atlantic, loves this banana bread's moist texture and simple flavor. No need for extra nuts or chocolate chips! The loaf should form a crack down the center as it bakes – a sign the baking soda is doing its job.

Makes 1 large loaf

  • 1 cup sugar = 190 g de sucre
  • ¼  cup butter, softened = 60 g de beurre, ramolli
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed = 3 bananes bien mûres, écrasées
  • ¼ cup milk = 60 ml de lait
  • ¼ cup low-fat sour cream or greek yogurt = 30 g de crème fraîche ou de yaourt grec
  • 2 large egg whites = 2 blancs d'oeuf
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour = 240 g de farine
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda = 1 cuillère à café de bicarbonate de soude (en pharmacie)
  • ½ teaspoon salt = ½ cuillère à café de sel

Preheat oven to 350F/180C.

Combine sugar and butter in a bowl; beat at medium speed until well-blended. Add banana, milk, sour cream, and egg whites; beat well, and set aside.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt; stir well.
Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture, beating until blended.
Spoon batter into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray and bake for 50 to 55 minutes. Let cool in pan 10 minutes, remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Chicken Orzo Soup

Once we get to the month of March, I am mentally done with winter. But it is still mostly cold outside so I am not quite ready to part from my (almost) daily bowl of soup! This one comes together quickly and is perfect for lunch or dinner on a busy day.

Orzo, a delicate rice-shaped pasta, works really well with the thyme-scented broth and chicken chunks, but any noodle, pasta or rice can be substituted, simply adjust the cooking time accordingly. I also love how lemon juice gives a clean, light, fresh flavor to the soup.

Makes 4 servings

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil = 1 cuillère à soupe d'huile d'olive
  • 1 chicken breast (6 to 8 oz.), cut into small chunks = 1 blanc de poulet (200 g), coupé en petits dés
  • 1 medium onion, diced = 1 oignon, émincé
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced = 2 gousses d'ail, émincées
  • 2 stalks celery, diced = 2 branches de céleri, émincées
  • 3 medium carrots, diced = 3 carottes, émincées
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon dried thyme = ½ à 1 cuillère à café de thym
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade = 1 l de bouillon de poulet ou légumes
  • 2 cups water = 450 ml d'eau
  • 1 cup orzo = 160 g d'orzo
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice = 2 cuillères à soupe de jus de citron
  • salt & pepper to taste = sel & poivre

Heat half the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Season chicken chunks with salt and pepper, add to the pot and cook , stirring a few times, for about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and keep warm.
Heat remaining olive oil in the same pot and add onion, garlic, celery, carrots and thyme. Cook, stirring a few times, for 5 minutes. Add vegetable broth and water, bring to a boil. Add orzo, reduce to a simmer and cook for 8 minutes. Remove pot from stove. Add chicken and lemon juice, stir gently. Enjoy!

Note: I often make a vegetarian version of this soup by replacing the chicken with one 15 oz. can of chickpeas (drained and rinsed). It is equally yummy!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Grilled Tilapia in Ginger-Soy Marinade

I must confess: at my house, most weekday nights, dinner consists of a grilled lean protein, a starch and a veggie (preferably green). I know what you're thinking, bo-ring! But actually... NOT! I rely heavily on marinades to add healthy flavor. The options are limitless: wine (red or white), herbs, mustard, spices, citrus juice, etc... This Asian-inspired marinade is my absolute favorite for tilapia or mahi-mahi, or really any mild white fish.

To cook the fish, use a grilling pan on the stove or a George Foreman-type grill (mine sits on my countertop and is always ready to go!). In the summer, an outdoor grill is a great alternative, of course.

This goes especially well with basmati brown rice and steamed broccoli. So there you have it: an easy, wholesome, tasty dinner!

Makes 4 servings

  • 4 tilapia fillets = 4 filets de tilapia (ou autre poisson à chair blanche et ferme)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil = 2 cuillères à soupe d'huile d'olive
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced = 2 cuillères à soupe de gingembre frais, émincé
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced = 2 gousses d'ail, émincées
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice = 1 cuillère à soupe de jus de citron vert
  • ¼ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce = 4 cuillères à soupe de sauce soja (allégée en sodium)
  • 1 tablespoon honey = 1 cuillère à soupe de miel
  • 1 tablespoon water = 1 cuillère à soupe d'eau
  • pinch cayenne pepper = une pincée de piment de cayenne

Place all ingredients, except fish, in a ziplock bag. Squish to combine.
Add fish, seal and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
Remove from fridge and let sit on the countertop for 15 minutes. Reserve marinade.
Preheat grill or heat a grilling pan on the stove, cook fish for a couple minutes on each side. Just before serving, brush a little more marinade on top of each fillet. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Spicy Shrimp with Spaghetti

My husband loves this dish. The spicier, the better! If you can't handle the heat, just cut back on the white and cayenne peppers.

I guess you could substitute homemade shrimp stock with store-bought fish or vegetable stock but you would really miss out. Homemade stock is so flavorful without being high in sodium. Whenever I do a batch, I freeze leftovers in ice-cube trays. One cube equals about one tablespoon, and four tablespoons equal ¼ cup.

Round this dish out with some mixed greens, a loaf of bread and a bottle of Pinot Grigio and you have yourself a perfect dinner!

Makes 4-6 servings

  • 2 lbs shrimp = 900 g de crevettes
  • 1 onion, unpeeled and quartered = 1 oignon, non pelé et coupé en quatre
  • 1 clove garlic, unpeeled and crushed = 1 gousse d'ail, non pelée et écrasée
  • 1 rib celery, cut in half = 1 branche de céléri, coupée en deux
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons butter = 30 à 40 g de beurre
  • 2 green onions, chopped = 2 oignons verts, émincés
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced = 4 gousses d'ail, émincées
  • ½ teaspoon salt = ½ cuillère à café de sel
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper = ½ cuillère à café de poivre blanc
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper = ½ cuillère à café de piment de cayenne
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder = ½ cuillère à café de poudre d'oignon
  • ½ teaspoon paprika = ½ cuillère à café de paprika
  • ½ teaspoon dry thyme leaves = ½ cuillère à café de thym séché
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper = ¼ cuillère à café de poivre noir
  • ⅓ cup heavy cream = 80 ml de crème fleurette
  • 1 lb spaghetti = 450 g de spaghetti
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional) = parmesan râpé (facultatif)

To make the stock, peel the shrimp and put the shells in a pan. Cover with water, add onion, garlic and celery. Put on stove and simmer for about 1 hour. Drain and reserve.

Cook the spaghetti, drain and keep warm.

Mix salt and spices together in a small bowl. Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat, add green onions, garlic and spice mix. Add shrimp, stir to coat and cook a few minutes, until they turn pink. Add ¼ to ½ cup of shrimp stock + heavy cream, stir gently. Add cooked spaghetti to the skillet and add more stock if needed. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan and serve right away. Enjoy!