Winter Salad with Sesame Tahini Dressing

 Just finished Picnic in Provence, another lovely food filled memoir by Elizabeth Bard, author of Lunch in Paris. Though I think I enjoyed her first book a bit more.  Still, lots of good recipes are included, as well as village characters, stories, and her insights on life in France.

Bard now has a young son, and together with her husband, Gwendal, they pick up stakes and move from Paris apartment living to a country house in the South of France.....Sigh.  I would do it in a heart beat.  Even through adjusting to new neighbors, new cultural traditions, a new business enterprise and attempting to get along with in-laws, she maintains a positive, can do attitude.  I don't think my own adjustment in a similar situation would be as good.  For one thing, Bard is a much more outgoing, social individual, which helps in making new friends.  I did wonder how much her mother-in-law would appreciate some of the honesty however.

My choice of recipe was based mostly on needing food to bring to a Christmas party.  I liked that she said of this dish, it's "the only thing I can think of that I'd want to eat before Thanksgiving dinner.  That said, it would also make a lovely salad served with dinner itself."  A winter salad, in reds and greens - perfect for a Christmas party.  She only dressed it with a bit of olive oil and some salt.  I did that, but for extra flavor, I decided to bring along a sesame tahini dressing, also from her book, with a few changes.  Though I didn't toss the salad with it, to keep from muddying  the colors.

Wonderful tastes as well as a bright and crunchy contrast to lots of heavy food.  Have you ever attended a Hawaiian style potluck party?  If so, you'll get the idea.

Winter Salad
   from Picnic in Provence by Elizabeth Bard

1 lb. green cabbage or Chinese cabbage (half of 1 small cabbage)
10 oz. (about 4) organic carrots
10 oz. (about 2) medium organic red beets (raw!)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 good pinches coarse sea salt, to taste
2 sprigs parsley for garnish

In a food processor or by hand, grate all the vegetables.  Store in an airtight container.  If making in advance, keep the beets separate from the carrots and cabbage until the last minute.  Just before serving, toss the vegetables together with olive oil and salt.  Note: I did this and just served the tahini dressing separately.

Tahini Dressing
  Adapted from Elizabeth Bard's recipe in Picnic in Provence

1/4 cup / 60 ml sesame tahini
1 1/4 cups whole milk yogurt or kefir
1/4 cup/ 60 ml fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, ground black pepper to taste
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed

Combine tahini and lemon juice with garlic until smooth in blender or food processor.  Add yogurt, salt and  pepper, blend to combine.  Add water if needed for desired consistency.

I'll share all the goodness with Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays hosted by Deb at Kahakai Kitchen, and at  Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking event.  If you have a food related post, feel free to jump in with it over the weekend, or just come and visit.  Lots of delicious dishes.


Happy Thanksgiving, Liliko'i Butter Mochi!!

Some of you might wonder, why is she posting about Mochi on Thanksgiving?  Well, no special reason, it's just what I decided to make for dessert on this special day.  Luckily my daughter brought cheesecake, so there was  a choice. If you've (likely) never tried it before, mochi is more confection than cake.  Similar consistency to Applets and Cotlets, or nougat, and popular here in Hawaii.  I was going through my box of clipped recipes, which hardly ever gets looked at nowadays, since the computer recipe file I keep, and found this one.from the Executive chef at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani, Ralf Bauer, clipped from a local airline magazine.


Tomorrow There will be Apricots - in Lamb Tagine

Our current selection for  Cook the Books Club is, of course, Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots, by Jessica Soffer. Plenty of angst here.  Daughter, Lorca, longing for the love and affection of her cold mother (so remote we never even know her name) for her father, left behind, and not caring enough to fight for his daughter.  Lorca mutilates herself to escape the pain? I guess immediate pain knocks out the more existential sort.  Temporarily at least.  She longs to make her mother happy, and thinks preparing food for her, maybe finding the perfect dish will save her from boarding school. Then we have a grandmother who mourns her husband, gave her child away and now regrets it, a lifetime later.  The grandfather who mourns the loss of his child all those years ago.  The former mistress, Dottie, who mourns him as well.  The only character I really liked or identified with was Lorca's sweet boyfriend, Blot.  Yes, Blot.

I was dissatisfied with the end, as it didn't seem consistent with earlier sections.  If Joseph really believed that their child had been still-born, that certainly didn't come through in his POV sections.  If he told Dottie that later, it was most likely to protect his wife (and himself) from the shame of giving their child away.  That should have been revealed.  Also, at one point (P. 21)  Lorca's mother tells her sister that she had not tried to find her biological parents.  She hadn't wanted to.  Almost at the end, she tells her ex, and Lorca, "I found my parents... In the obituaries."  Doesn't really hold up, and seems more in tune with her character that she is lying.  Finally, Lorca is headed off to boarding school at the end, after nearly dying from her latest slashing episode.  Do we believe that the thought of her boyfriend and maybe father and grandmother visiting occasionally will stop more of this self-mutilation business?  Not really, but we can hope.  Bukra fil mish mish, the Arabic saying goes. Tomorrow, apricots may bloom.


Fish Wrapped with Leaves

 For some reason (Foodies will probably concur) I think this kind of thing is fun.  Breaks up the old cooking ruts.  Get a bunch of leaves, wrap up some fish with seasoning, and steam.  Those Asian bamboo steamers are great and come with several levels, so you can do lots or just other stuff at the same time.

I finely minced some kefir lime leaves, added ground "Grains of Paradise" (pepper will do) and salt.

Cut the banana leaf into two sections, about 10x12" or so each, set the fish on top (I used Ono, also known as Wahoo) then brushed the fillets with macadamia oil (olive would be fine), and patted on the seasoning.  Both sides.

Laid a pandan leaf, folded in half on top, then rolled it up and tied with another pandan leaf.  Or you could use cooking twine.  Hopefully, by this time your rice has almost finished cooking.

I had some tabbouleh left from the day before and got that out.

Now you get water boiling in the bottom of your wok, set the steamer on top with the lid on and let it steam about 5 minutes.


Maigret and the Chicken Paillard

Books and food, two of my favorite things, perhaps why I enjoy combining those subjects in a post.  The Inspector Maigret mystery series by Georges Simenon is one I've been working my way through.  Still more to go as he was a very prolific author, with close to 500 novels to his credit.  Simenon started very young, working as a newspaper reporter, which saw him visiting the seamier side of life in the city, but later provided plenty of material for his books.  The one I've just finished, Maigret and the Wine Merchant is typical.  They're all fairly lightweight, and not exactly cozy mysteries, but creative stories and interesting from a Parisian post-war perspective.  And I like his good relationship with Mrs. Maigret, who is always cooking up some delicious meal.

To go along with the French theme, we have a chicken breast, sort of a butterflied technique called paillard.  New to me, but maybe you all do up paillards on a regular basis.  I even had the grill, which had only ever been used, until lately for pancakes on the opposite side.  What a revelation, a use for something I already have.  Got to love that.  In case you're not familiar with the method, I'm going to lay it out for you from Serious Eats.  If you go to the link there will be photos of each step.


Asparagus Gratin and Rules of Civility

 Don't you just love coming across a new author, one who is witty, erudite, and just plain fun to read?  Rules of Civility, the very well-written debut novel of Amor Towles, hits all the high notes and then some, transporting us to the last years of the 1930's, .New York City prewar Cafe society,   Another time, and peopled with a cast of carefully drawn, singular characters, and an engaging narrative.  Highly recommended.

The book's heroine at one point determines that, being in a singular state at the time, is not going to stop her from enjoying a meal out on her birthday.  Dining alone was not usually something done by women.  Even today, it's not always an easy thing.  Assumptions are made.  She takes a taxi to a good French restaurant.

"After taking my name the maitre d' asked if I would like a glass of champagne while I waited.  It was only seven o'clock and less than half the tables were taken.  'Waiting for what?' I asked.  'Are you not meeting someone?'  'Not that I know of'.

This scenario is repeated with the waiter.  She perseveres however and orders an asparagus gratin and a glass of white wine, and for the entree, the specialty of the house: poussin stuffed with black truffle.

Now you have it. Where the urge came to make an asparagus gratin.  I've done various things with that lovely vegetable, but this was my first gratin.  Enough of a description was given to guide my selection of a recipe, and to make the appropriate adaptations.  Most had the stalks laid out whole, but I prefer eating them cut to a more reasonable size.


Skordalia and Horta - Not Just for Cretans

 I've just finished reading The Tomb of Zeus, by Barbara Cleverly, author of the terrific Joe Sandilands series.  This novel introduces her new series with protagonist, Laetitia Talbot, archeologist and occasional sleuth. The story takes place on a dig in Crete, where they will be searching for the legendary tomb of Zeus.  Of course a murder takes place and needs to be solved.

Her first night after arriving, Letty is served some local dishes, as her host, an eminent archeologist, is also a proponent of all things Cretan.  Their fare includes horta, and fried fish with Skordalia. His starter, which turns out to be a test of Letty's nerves, is a "chalky white mound of animal tissue folded in tightly curling waves and sitting in the middle of her plate...This culinary delicacy was surrounded by a moat of reddish-brown fluid..."  lamb's brains, just to see how she'd react.

I was not tempted to reproduce that particular dish, but the horta and skordalia piqued my interest.  Skordalia is a sauce (or dip) often served with fried, battered fish.  I wanted to try that.

When I visited Crete several years ago, it was during the off-season, and many restaurants were closed.  Nevertheless,  I do remember enjoying all of my meals. Complementary raki everywhere may have helped.  No one served me lamb's brains.


Meat Pies with Guacamole, Hooroo Curtis!

It's Hooroo Curtis week, we're saying goodbye, Aussie style to our currently reigning IHCC chef, Curtis Stone.  I don't always get a chance to participate, but have enjoyed the times I do.  For my farewell meal we had Meat Pies and Guacamole Curtis.

I lapped my pies over, empanada style however, and they paired nicely with his tasty guacamole, served on beds of crisp lettuce.  Here's the recipe from his web site, where you can find the meat pies as well.  Mine differs a bit, as I used left-over lamb stew from the freezer, which needed clearing out mate.  And, the extras make super lunches for the next day(s).  More on meat pies here and here.


Chilaquiles Verdes or Tortilla Casserole with Green Sauce

It's a real bonus when what you have, especially items that need to be used up, coincide with an easy, quick and delicious Mexican meal.  The IHCC theme this week was a Potluck with any of the past chefs, and Rick Bayless was my choice with his excellent book, Authentic Mexican.

I had just enough chicken, chicken broth, left-over tomatillo green sauce, the tortillas, and etc. etc.  Perfect.