Friday, April 29, 2011

Steamed Artichokes with Lemon-Garlic Vinaigrette and Creamy Aioli Dip

Artichokes are loaded with antioxidants, in other words, they are super good for you! Artichoke hearts are often added to cooked dishes or salads but the leaves are also edible. Here, I steam medium-sized whole artichokes and serve them drizzled with lemon-garlic vinaigrette and a side of creamy aioli dip. Simple and delicious!

For 4 to 6 medium Globe artichokes

If you have never prepared and enjoyed whole artichokes and feel intimidated, you can find a great tutorial on Simply Recipes.

Cut off stem and top. Trim tip of the “petals” with scissors to remove thorns. Rinse under running water. Steam (stem up) for 20-30 minutes, until base of stem is tender. I use an instant steamer but you can simply use a pan fitted with a steamer insert. Remove artichokes and let cool for about 10 minutes.

Lemon-Garlic Vinaigrette
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice = 60 ml de jus de citron
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil leaves = 2 cuillères à café de basilic ciselé
  • 3 cloves garlic = 3 gousses d'ail
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest = 1 cuillère à café de zeste de citron (prélevé à la râpe)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt = ¼ cuillère à café de sel
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper = ¼ cuillère à café de poivre
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard = 1 cuillère à café de moutarde forte
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil = 60 ml d'huile d'olive
Blend the lemon juice, basil, garlic, lemon zest, salt, and pepper in a blender. Add mustard and pulse a couple of times. With the machine running, gradually pour in the oil. If you wish, season the vinaigrette with more salt and pepper. Reserve.

Creamy Aioli Dip
  • ½ cup light sour cream = 100 g de crème fraiche allégée
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise = 50 g de mayonnaise
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced = 3 gousses d'ail, émincées
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice = 2 cuillères à café de jus de citron
  • salt & pepper to taste = sel & poivre
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Let stand for one hour to allow flavors to develop and blend together.

When ready to serve, drizzle some vinaigrette on top of each artichoke and serve with dip on the side. Enjoy one petal at a time, pulling the base of the petal through slightly clenched teeth to strip off the “fleshy” base. Discard fibrous upper part of the leaves. The thinner inner leaves are so tender, they can be eaten completely. When you get to the round area of the base (known as the “heart”), scrape out the fuzzy top layer first. Enjoy!

Note: you will most likely have leftover vinaigrette, refrigerate and use later on sliced tomatoes and fresh mozarella, or mixed greens.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Rhubarb Buttermilk Cake

We had a fantastic Easter: beautiful weather, fun egg hunt in the back yard, and a fabulous late lunch – or was that an early dinner? Anyway, the best part might just have been this incredible rhubarb cake I made for dessert. A little tart from the rhubarb, a little sweet from the cake batter, just perfect!

I baked the cake in a round 9” silicone pan. Because silicone is naturally non-stick, you do not need to use cooking spray or extra butter and your baked goods will release right off. It is also easy to clean and ensures even baking. Just remember to place the pan on a baking sheet for stability. While there are many cheap options, I do recommend buying a high quality silicone pan, such as Demarle, the creator of the famous Silpat® baking mat,  or Lékué.

Makes one 9” round cake (based on a Cooking Light recipe)

  • 1 lb fresh rhubarb, sliced (about 3 ½ cups) = 450 g de rhubarbe fraiche, coupées en tranches de 1 cm
  • 1 cup sugar, divided = 60 g + 120 g de sucre
  • ⅓ cup butter, softened = 75 g de beurre, ramolli
  • 1 large egg = 1 oeuf
  • Grated rind from 1 orange (about 1 ½ teaspoon) = le zeste d'une orange, prélevé à la râpe (à peu près 1 ½ cuillère à café)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract = 1 cuillère à café d'extrait de vanille
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose unbleached flour = 150 g de farine
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder = 1 cuillère à café de levure chimique
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda = ½ cuillère à café de bicarbonate de soude
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt = une pincée de sel
  • ¾ cup buttermilk = 175 ml de lait fermenté (ribot, babeurre ou kéfir) (à défaut, ajouter 2 cuillères à café de jus de citron ou de vinaigre blanc à 165 ml de lait, remuer puis laisser reposer 5 minutes avant d'utiliser)

Preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C.

Combine sliced rhubarb and ⅓ cup (=60 g) sugar in a bowl. Let stand for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat ⅔ cup (=120 g) sugar and butter in stand mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add egg, and continue beating until well blended. Add orange rind and vanilla extract and beat until all combined.

Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Add flour mixture and buttermilk to sugar mixture, alternating, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Spoon rhubarb/sugar mixture into an 9” round baking dish (buttered and floured if not using a silicone pan). Spread cake batter over rhubarb. Bake at 350° for about 50 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Invert onto a serving plate. Serve still warm or cool completely. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Slow-cooked Beef Brisket with Carrots and Potatoes

I can't believe I haven't posted a slow-cooker recipe yet! I use my slow-cooker quite a bit in the winter to make comforting stews and soups, but I never completely put it away. Any time of year, it is a valuable friend on a day when I know I'll be out all afternoon. I prep everything in the morning, set it up on low and come home to a yummy homemade meal. I guess you can achieve the same results with a Dutch oven on the stove but the slow cooker gives you the convenience (and peace of mind!) of being able to step out for a few hours without worrying about burning your house down! A slow-cooker is also great for entertaining, keeping food warm during potlucks and parties.

Brisket can be tough and is therefore a rather inexpensive cut. After it's been cooked slowly for hours though, it becomes tender and succulent. Browning it first is the extra step that makes all the difference: it locks in flavor!

However tempting it might be: do not peek! Removing the lid (especially in the first hours) will release steam, lowering the temperature and messing up the cooking process.

Makes 6 servings 
  • 2.5 to 3 lb. organic beef brisket, trimmed = 1.250 kg de gros bout (ou pointe) de poitrine de boeuf
  • Olive oil = huile d'olive
  • Salt and pepper = sel et poivre
  • 1 large onion, diced = 1 gros oignon, coupé en morceaux
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced = 4 gousses d'ail, émincées
  • 1 14.5 oz can chopped tomatoes = 1 boite (400 g) de tomates concassées
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste = 2 cuillères à soupe de concentré de tomates
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar = 1 cuillère à soupe de cassonade
  • ½ cup red wine = 120 ml de vin rouge
  • 6 carrots, peeled and cut into thick slices = 6 carottes, épluchées et coupées en tranches épaisses
  • 12 small red potatoes, cleaned and halved = 12 petites pommes de terre à peau rouge (Roseval ou Chéries par exemple), lavées et coupées en deux
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme = 1 cuillère à café de thym séché
  • 2 bay leaves = 2 feuilles de laurier séchées
  • ½ to 1 tablespoon cornstarch = ½ à 1 cuillère à soupe de maïzena

Place the diced onion in the bottom of your slow cooker.

Coat or spray olive oil in a heavy pan. Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper and brown both sides in pan. Remove browned meat from pan and place on top of the onions. Add the carrots and potatoes to the slow cooker.

Fry garlic in the same pan you browned the meat in for 30 seconds and add red wine. Cook for a few minutes. Combine wine mixture with tomatoes (and their juice), tomato paste, brown sugar and herbs together in a medium bowl then add to the slow cooker. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours – it will depend on your slow cooker, newer models tend to cook faster than older ones, even on low.

Remove the meat and veggies from the slow cooker, put on a serving platter and cover tightly with foil. Let rest for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile mix cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of water until smooth. Pour slow-cooker sauce into a saucepan, whisk in the cornstarch/water paste and simmer over medium heat until sauce has thickened (about 2 minutes). Pour over the beef and veggies and serve. Enjoy! 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Roasted Green Asparagus with Brown Sauce

Green asparagus is another spring vegetable that is popular at my house. I like buying the thicker spears for roasting, while the thin ones are great raw in a salad.

Growing up in France, I was familiar with the white kind that you steam and serve with a vinaigrette as an appetizer. I didn't discover green asparagus until I came to the United States. At first, I found them a little bitter for my taste, until someone recommended I spray them with olive oil and salt and roast them in the oven. I was hooked!

Don't skip the brown sauce: it will take the asparagus from simple to incredible! The complex combination of flavors (nutty from the browned butter, sweet from the sugar, sour from the balsamic vinegar and salty from the soy sauce) may sound weird but trust me, this sauce tastes fantastic. A little goes a long way: I usually drizzle half on the asparagus and half on whatever I am serving along (wild rice, polenta, grilled fish or poultry).

These asparagus truly have that “wow” factor you want for a special occasion. Think perfect side dish for Easter!

Makes 6-10 servings
  • About 2 pounds green asparagus spears, trimmed = 900 g d'asperges vertes, talons coupés
  • Olive oil (in a mister) = huile d'olive (dans une bouteille-spray)
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher or sea salt = ¼ cuillère à café de gros sel
  • 2 tablespoons butter, diced = 30 g de beurre, coupé en dés
  • 2 teaspoons reduced-sodium soy sauce = 2 cuillères à café de sauce soja
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar = 1 cuillère à café de vinaigre balsamique
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar = 1 cuillère à café de cassonade

Preheat oven to 400°F/200°C. Arrange asparagus in a single layer on a baking sheet. Lightly spray some olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; cook 4 minutes, until lightly browned, shaking pan occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in soy sauce, balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. Return to low heat and let it thicken a bit, whisking a few times .

Drizzle sauce over asparagus and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ricotta Waffles with Strawberry Compote

You know how most weekdays, you have to rush to get ready in the morning and therefore breakfast has to be quick and easy (i.e. coffee in a travel mug & granola bar). Well, that's why I love week-ends! If you are lucky (or don't have kids!), you get to sleep in. Then, you can enjoy a lazy morning: read the newspapers, linger in the shower... and take time to make (and eat!) a scrumptious breakfast! Sweet or savory, it all depends on the mood in my household. This morning, my son wanted “dessert” for breakfast. So something sweet it was! I had some leftover ricotta cheese and a little basket of strawberries... and my waffle maker had not been used in a while.

The ricotta keeps the waffles light and fluffy, while they get perfectly crispy on the outside. The strawberry compote is sweet, but not too sweet, and certainly a lot healthier than any store-bought syrup. I should mention that it works great on top of vanilla ice cream too!

Makes 6 7” circle waffles

Waffles = Gaufres
  • 1 ⅔ cups unbleached flour = 175 g de farine
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder = 2 ½ cuillères à café de levure chimique
  • 1 teaspoon salt = 1 cuillère à café de sel
  • 2 tablespoons sugar = 2 cuillères à soupe de sucre
  • 2 eggs = 2 oeufs
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted = 30 g de beurre, fondu
  • ½ cup fresh ricotta = 125 g de ricotta fraiche
  • 1 cup milk = 240 ml de lait
Compote = Compotée
  • 16 oz. fresh strawberries (or frozen, thawed) = 450 g de fraises
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup = 1 cuillère à soupe de sirop d'érable
  • 2 tablespoons water = 2 cuillères à soupe d'eau

Sift flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into a bowl.

In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, ricotta and melted butter. Pour into the dry ingredients and continue whisking until the mixture is combined. Don't worry about it being slightly lumpy. Let it sit for half an hour.

Meanwhile, make the strawberry compote: combine all three ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes. As the berries soften, break them up or mash them if you want a smoother consistency.

Heat up the waffle maker, brush a little melted butter or oil on the plates and pour ½ cup of batter in the center. Spread gently with the back of a spoon, close and cook until golden. Repeat with the remaining batter.

Spoon warm strawberry compote on top of each waffle. Add a dollop of whipped cream or a sprinkle of powdered sugar if you wish. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Southwestern Rice Casserole

This casserole makes a nice side dish, or turn it into a vegetarian meal by serving a more substantial portion and topping it with fresh crumbled queso fresco or goat cheese. For a milder version, leave out the green chile pepper. If, on the contrary, you want to heat things up, replace it with a jalapeño pepper. Remember to wear disposable gloves or wash your hands thoroughly in hot, soapy water after handling any hot pepper.

I must add a note about chile powder vs. chili powder: yes, they are different and no, they can not really be substituted.
          Chile powder is made from dried, ground chiles only. Depending on what pepper it is made from, it can be mild or very hot. For instance, chipotle powder (made from smoke-dried jalapeños) definitely has a nice kick. Ancho powder (made from poblano peppers) is another kind of chile powder. Its mild, yet smokey flavor makes it my go-to chile powder. For my European readers who may have a hard time finding ancho powder, you can substitute “poivre de cayenne” but since it's much hotter, use only ¼ teaspoon (c.à.c).
          Chili powder is basically chile powder with additional spices and herbs such as cayenne, garlic, cumin, oregano and salt. It is commonly used to make chili con carne.
In this recipe, you could substitute the '1-2 tsp. chile powder + 1 tsp. cumin' for 2-3 tsp. chili powder. It will alter the taste a bit but it will still work.

Makes 6 to 10 servings
  • 2 cups uncooked brown rice = 350 g de riz complet
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil = 1 cuillère à soupe d'huile d'olive
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped = 4 gousses d'ail, hachées
  • 1 sweet onion, diced = 1 oignon, émincé
  • 2 sweet bell pepper (any color), chopped = 2 poivrons, coupés en petits morceaux
  • ¾ cup corn kernels = 75 g de maïs frais
  • 1 fresh green chile pepper, seeded and chopped (optional) = 1 petit piment vert, graines retirées et coupé en petits morceaux
  • Juice from 1 lime = jus d'un citron vert
  • Sea salt, to taste = sel
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons (ancho) chile powder = 1 à 2 cuillères à café de piment (ancho) en poudre
  • 1 teaspoon cumin = 1 cuillère à café de cumin
  • a dash of cinnamon = une pincée de cannelle en poudre
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro = 2 cuillères à soupe de coriandre fraiche, ciselée
  • 3 or 4 tomatoes, diced = 3 ou 4 tomates, coupées en dés

Cook 2 cups of brown rice in 4 ½ to 5 cups water.

Heat a skillet over medium heat and add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Add the garlic, onion, sweet bell peppers, corn kernels and green chile pepper if using. Stir-fry for five minutes. Remove from heat, add salt to taste and top with lime juice. Stir and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C.

Add seasonings (salt, chile powder, cumin and cinnamon) and chopped fresh cilantro to the cooked rice. Stir in the tomatoes with their juice and the stir-fried vegetables. Toss to combine (add a little olive oil if you find the rice mixture too dry) and spoon into a casserole dish.

Cover and bake for about 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ricotta-Spinach Stuffed Pasta Shells

Just in time for Meatless MondayWho doesn't like pasta shells bursting with cheesy spinach and smothered in tomato sauce? You can easily double or triple the recipe to feed a crowd.

Makes 12 shells: 3 to 4 servings
  • 12 dried jumbo pasta shells = 12 conchiglioni (pâtes en forme de grosses coquilles)
  • 1 6 oz. bag of baby spinach or 4 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained = 1 sachet de 450 g de jeunes pousses d'épinards ou 120 g d'épinards hachés et égouttés
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese = 250 g de ricotta fraiche
  • 4 oz. shredded mozzarella or other Italian cheese = 120 g de mozzarella râpée ou autre fromage (parmesan, fontina, gruyère)
  • 1 large egg white = 1 blanc d'oeuf
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder = ¼ cuillère à café d'ail en poudre
  • salt & pepper = sel et poivre
  • 2 cups tomato or marinara sauce = 475 ml de sauce tomate ou marinara
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Romano cheese = 2 cuillère à soupe de parmesan (ou romano) en poudre

Preheat oven to 350F / 180C.

Cook pasta shells until al dente (about 9 minutes) and drain. Set aside to cool.

Microwave spinach in the bag for 3 minutes. Shred in food processor and drain excess water. You will obtain ½ cup of shredded spinach. In a bowl, mix ricotta, mozzarella, egg white and spinach. Add garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste.

Spread about ½ cup tomato sauce in a baking dish. Stuff each shell with ricotta-spinach mixture and place in the dish. Pour remaining tomato sauce over the stuffed shells and sprinkle with grated parmesan.

Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Enjoy!

Note: Those shells freeze really well. No thawing required, just place the frozen dish, covered with foil, in the 350°F oven and bake for 1 hour, remove foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Spring Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

Spring! Yes! It's here! Finally! While all my son can think about is the Easter Bunny, I just get excited at all the new fresh produce this season brings.

One of them is fennel. I absolutely love its anise-like flavor. Fennel can be eaten raw or cooked. I usually saute thin slices of fennel in a pan coated with olive oil, then pour some balsamic vinegar on top and let it all caramelize for about 30 minutes. It's a perfect side to any white fish.

Another one is radish. Closely related to mustard, it is a pungent root vegetable. Make sure you give it a thorough wash.

I simply can't get enough of this salad (good thing it's super healthy!). I love how the sweet fennel and fresh oranges balance the peppery notes of the arugula and radishes. I love the crunch from the fennel and radishes, versus the soft greens and the juicy oranges. I love the contrast of colors: green, pink, white and orange. Remember: eat the rainbow!

Makes 4 servings

  • 4 cups arugula (or watercress), cleaned = 4 portions de feuilles de roquette (ou cresson)
  • 1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced = 1 petit fenouil, coupé en fines lamelles
  • 2 oranges, peeled and sliced = 2 oranges, épluchées et coupées en rondelles ou sections
  • a few radishes, thoroughly cleaned and thinly sliced = quelques radis, bien nettoyés et coupés en fines lamelles
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice = 2 cuillères à soupe de jus de citron
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil = 2 cuillères à soupe d'huile d'olive
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard = ½ cuillère à café de moutarde forte
  • ½ teaspoon maple syrup = ½ cuillère à café de sirop d'érable
  • dash of sea salt = une pincée de sel
  • dash of freshly ground black pepper = une pincée de poivre

Place the first 4 ingredients in a bowl (or four separate smaller serving dishes).
For the dressing, combine lemon juice and remaining ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle dressing over salad. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Beef & Veggie Stir-Fry

My son and I just got back from my hometown of Lyon, a city known as the gastronomy capital of France. Need I say more? Well. Yes. We fully enjoyed all the amazing bread, cheese, charcuterie and pastries there! I'm not sure I want to step on the scale right now... Anyway, after this incredible French feast, I was craving Asian flavors this week. But let's face it, I was jet-lagged and not highly motivated to spend hours in my kitchen. I love how stir-fries come together quickly and are loaded with healthy veggies. You can use whichever you have on hand but I always go for a mix of at least 3 colors: green (green beans, broccoli, snow peas, zucchini), yellow (baby corn, bell pepper, squash), red or orange (bell peppers, carrots), purple (eggplant, “red” cabbage). We seldom eat red meat (and when we do, it is organic, grass-fed beef only) and I have made this stir-fry with shrimp and chicken but it is just not the same. While flank steak is a great (and cheap) option for stir-frying, I prefer the more tender New York strip cut. Serve over jasmine or brown rice, or even rice noodles. Yum!

Makes 4 servings

  • ¼ reduced-sodium soy sauce = 60 ml de sauce soja
  • 4 teaspoons Mirin (or Japanese rice vinegar) = 4 cuillères à café de Mirin
  • 2 tablespoons water = 2 cuillères à soupe d'eau
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil = 2 cuillères à café d'huile de sésame
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil = 1 cuillère à café d'huile de colza
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar = 1 cuillère à café de sucre roux
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper = ½ cuillère à café de poivre
  • 1 lb organic New York strip steak, cut into thin slices = 450 g de boeuf, filet ou faux-filet, coupé en fines tranches
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced = 3 gousses d'ail, émincées
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced or grated fresh ginger = 1 cuillère à soupe de gingembre frais émincé
  • 1 small onion, chopped = 1 petit oignon, coupé en morceaux
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced = 1 poivron jaune, coupé en lamelles
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced = 1 poivron rouge, coupé en lamelles
  • 1 orange bell pepper, sliced = 1 poivron orange, coupé en lamelles
  • 8 oz. green beans, trimmed and briefly boiled= 225 g de haricots verts,
     équeutés et brièvement cuits à l'eau
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch = 2 cuillères à café de maïzena

Combine all the marinade ingredients in a ziplock bag. Add steak slices, stir to coat and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, or up to 2 hours.

Coat a large skillet with a little canola oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add steak, reserving the marinade in a separate bowl. Stir-fry meat for about 3 minutes. Transfer to a clean plate.

Return skillet to heat, add onion and bell peppers. Sauté for 4 minutes. Add green beans and continue stir-frying for another 2 minutes or so.

Stir cornstarch into reserved marinate. Add to the skillet and stir to coat the vegetables. Return steak to skillet and stir to combine. Serve immediately. Enjoy!