Sunday, December 11, 2005

a life full of tiny olives

One of my favorite places to eat in New York is Le Pain Quotidien, and yes, I know they're all over the place. The beauty of this Belgium (?) restaurant is that the food is never overly complicated, but simply fresh and put together with great appeal. And, of course, great bread.

I mention LPQ because they have the most exquisite nicoise olives. I'm not certain why these tiny olives are so appealing, but they are a delightful addition to just about everything you could imagine them on.

During Thanksgiving I visited a friend who made a fabulous recipe from this cookbook:

He made the fried oysters with andouille sausage and salad and frizzled leeks, which was so delicious, and so entirely out of my repetoire.

For some reason this French bistro style reminds me of Japanese cooking. Japanese cooking often relies on a few clean strong flavors that balance each other. This often makes cooking Japanese food quick, and to my surprise, this lunch of Warm Potato Salad and Nicoise Salad was quick and easy to prepare.

Warm Potato Salad

1 1/2 lb of small red potatoes steamed
2 T olive oil
3 T white vinegar (I used rice vinegar)
2 T dry vermouth (or any dry white wine)
1 t salt
2 green onions minced or bunch of chives chopped
4 stalks of parsley (flat leaf) chopped
2 scallions finely minced or equivalent amount of red onion finely minced

Steam the potatoes for about 20 minutes, pierce to see if they're finished. Potatoes should not be mushy. While potatoes are cookin' mix olive oil, vinegar, vermouth, and salt in a bowl. Mince chives, parsley and scallions and set aside. When the potatoes are finished, in a small bowl toss the potatoes with the vermouth dressing and let sit for about 10 minutes. After that toss with the garnish.

Nicoise Salad

1/2 c nicoise olives
juice of 1/2 of a lemon
3 T capers
1 can of tuna
4 boiled eggs
1 clove of garlic finely minced
1/2 bunch of parsley finely minced
1/2 red onion finely minced
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Boil the eggs for ten minutes. Throw everything in a bowl and mix, pretty much.

I can't keep my hands off the leftovers ...

Friday, December 09, 2005

clementines & marzipan chocolate bars

It's officially winter (as if the minus degree weather hadn't clued me in yet).

This pair is what officially keeps me happy and are pretty much the tastes of the season:


There's nothing better than waking up on a chilly winter morning and eating a few sweet clementines.

A little bit 'o history about these plump sweet orange beauties:

"The origin of clementines is shrouded in mystery. Some attribute their discovery to father Clement, a monk in Algeria, who tending his mandarin garden in the orphanage of Misserghim, found a natural mutation. He nurtured the fruit tree and subsequently called it "clementino". Others, like Japanese botanist Tanaka, believe that clementines must have originated in Asia and found their way through human migration to the Mediterranean. Whatever their origin, the fact is that clementines found their natural climate and soil in Spain, where they developed their particular aroma, sweetness and taste. Commercial production of clementines began in Spain in 1925. Today there are 161,000 acres dedicated to the cultivation of clementines." from Produce Pete

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

pingu a'boil

Before anyone protests, Pingu is just doing his job -- what he's supposed to do. I have gotten these adorable ceramics from Tokyo which my good friend arranged to buy for me to my delight.

I use my ceramic Pingu also for chocolate pots de creme, which is a recipe for another day.

Today I learned how to coddle an egg!

I don't think anyone hardly coddles eggs anymore, leastwise on this side of the Atlantic. If you look up coddlers you'll see things that look like modified tiny mugs with handles and lids.

While I have extensively explored baked eggs (which are also done in ramekins) coddled is an entirely new way for eggs. And of course my heart swoons.

Eggs are particularly prominent in Asian cuisine. I tend to look a little taken aback when someone doesn't love eggs. Who can forget the description of the golden flakey meat pies that had boiled eggs inside it like hidden treasures?

Sorry for the long rambly introduction, but coddling eggs is really easy ...

Joy's First Coddled Eggs

2 fresh eggs
2 T grated cheddar
1 t harissa
1 t milk
tiny lump of butter

freshly ground pepper and salt to taste

Coddled recipes recommend you butter the dish, but I just throw in butter on the bottom, and add everything. Set the coddler in the pot and bring to boil and boil for around 12 minutes. The water should reach halfway up the cup/ramekin/coddler.

At the end of the time, usually most of it was cooked, but not the middle, but I mixed it up a little and the residual heat cooked up the uncooked parts. The yolks should be softly cooked ...

Having harissa around makes my life happy. Something about that pungent paprika garlic spicy mixture really makes everything delicious.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

an imprecise science

It's not called cheating if it tastes good ...

So, as with many pleasures of the kitchen, new favorite recipes are hit upon by accident.

I found that when I stuck my leftover acai smoothies in small cups the freezer, that if I took them out to take a bite out of after dinner, often times they had become a pleasing granita or sorbetto.

So with much pleasure I present Mango Peach sorbetto:

Mango Peachie Sorbetto

2 cups of frozen mango chunks (you can buy them at Trader Joe's or freeze your own)
4 cups of white peach white grape juice

Blend. It helps to have a good ice crusher function on the blender. Pour into small freezer friendly cups and wait about the length of one rental movie.

With a spoon break up the sides and smush around nicely.

This also has the taste and feeling of a tropical compote which could probably be warmed and served over yogurt or ice cream.

A little summer in your winter ...