I recently read the book French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters by Karen LeBillon. I quite enjoyed the book, and—when it comes to preparing food for Alma—it gave me lots of “food” for thought. (Sorry!)
There are a number of interesting observations LeBillon makes in the book, but I’ll save them for another post. Today, I wanted to focus on the idea of starting dinner with a simple pureed vegetable soup. LeBillon says that the French start their meal with a soup several times a week. This soup is almost always a vegetable soup, and often a simple pureed vegetable soup. These soups supposedly make great starters for babies and toddlers, as they’re an easy way to introduce them to a lot of different vegetables. Also, it gives them a vegetable at the start of the meal, when they are most hungry. Finally, they’re really fast to make. Just saute some aromatics, throw in your veggies and broth, simmer briefly, and puree. All in all, that’s pretty easy, which is definitely a plus when it comes to cooking with a busy toddler underfoot. Finally, they freeze really well. You can freeze the soups in small jars and then defrost them quickly when needed—no need to scramble to put something healthy on the table at the last minute.
I thought I’d give it a try. I started with LeBillon’s simple French carrot soup with dill recipe. Although most toddlers seem to like carrots, Alma usually does not, I’m not sure why—maybe a texture issue? I thought pureeing them was worth a try. The first time I served it, Alma ate one very tiny bowl of it (a mise en place bowl), without too much complaint. She didn’t love it, but it helped that she’s just learned how to use a spoon, and so anything that requires a spoon is therefore very exciting. I had made quite a bit of soup, so I decided to take half of the leftovers and add in some roasted red bell pepper and jarred tomatoes, and pureed the soup again. I refrigerated a little bit of each soup, and froze the rest in small glass jars. The version with red bell pepper and tomato was definitely a bigger hit (with both Derek and Alma) than the straight carrot soup, but over the last several weeks Alma has eaten the plain carrot dill version several times, sometimes enthusiastically, sometimes less so.
This recipe is based on one from the Cook’s Illustrated “The Best Light Recipe” cookbook. The original recipe is for a lentil salad with scallions, walnuts, and roasted red peppers. But when Derek makes this dish he usually just makes the lentils, and doesn’t bother to add the other ingredients. He’s perfectly happy with just the lentils and the über simple mustard-olive oil-sherry vinegar dressing. Read the rest of this entry »
I wanted to use up some buckwheat flour, and so I went straight to the buckwheat section of The Splendid Grain by Rebecca Wood. The first recipe we picked was a very simple recipe for Sarrasin Crepes, the buckwheat crepes that are typical in Brittany. The recipe looked pretty typical, except that it calls for ground coriander. Read the rest of this entry »
I was planning on making white bean, fennel, and rosemary soup this weekend, but I overcooked my white beans and so I ended up making a white bean and rosemary puree with the beans. But what to do with the fennel? I remember making (and loving) a braised fennel recipe from Jack Bishop’s Italian Vegetarian cookbook many years ago, but for some reason I never made it again. I considered making the same recipe tonight, but I didn’t have any white wine open. Instead, I roughly followed this epicurious recipe, except rather than braising my fennel in chicken broth I used vegetable broth. Read the rest of this entry »
Derek rented a car this weekend (to see Chick Corea in Luxembourg), and so we decided to check out the Cora across the border in Forbach, France. It was enormous and packed, and (strangely) I heard tons of people speaking American English. Why were there so many Americans in Forbach? Could they be coming all the way from the military base in Kaiserslautern just to shop in France? We explored the store a bit, but didn’t find much of interest. Derek got some cheap Leffe Belgian beer, and picked out a few cheeses. It turned out, however, that most of the cheeses were not very good. He wanted to toss them but I hated to throw them away. I found Alton Brown’s recipe for “fromage fort” online, and made it with half of the (quite sour) Little Billy goat cheese and half of a (quite stinky and sharp) Camembert. I added quite a bit more garlic and parsley than the recipe calls for. After pureeing everything together the cheese was more like a cheese sauce than something you could spread on crackers. It tasted a little odd, but not bad. Kind of like a very strong, stinky Boursin. I decided to use it in a lasagne. Read the rest of this entry »
The summertime soup recipe is from Georgeanne Brennan’s “France: The Vegetarian Table.” Brennan says that tarragon gives this soup a surprise finish that is heightened by the crunch of toasted fennel seeds. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s cherry season here in Germany, and wow are they good. I don’t know if this year is unusual, but almost all the cherries I’ve bought have been big, juicy, and extremely flavorful. Martha Rose Shulman recently did a whole set of recipes featuring the cherry, including a recipe for a cherry soup (which I’d like to try), one for a cherry smoothie (which I blogged about on my smoothies post), and one for a cherry clafouti made with yogurt and no butter or cream. Many years ago in Pittsburgh Derek and I used to make a cherry clafoutis recipe, which was also from the New York Times (posted below). For reasons best left unexplained, he had dubbed it “floor cake”. But we decided to try neither of these recipes. Instead we ended up making Julia Child’s recipe for cherry clafoutis. Read the rest of this entry »
Derek chose the chard, celery, and leek tortino recipe from Union Square Cafe, and I bought all the ingredients, but when it came down to it I just couldn’t do it. The recipe had so much cheese, cream, butter, and eggs in it, and last time I made a chard and celery recipe from that cookbook we weren’t so thrilled with it. So I chickened out and used the ricotta to make the savory zucchini cheesecake that I just posted about. I used the chard, leeks, and cream to make a crustless version of this leek and swiss chard tart from Smitten Kitchen, originally from Bon Appetit. Read the rest of this entry »
I had some chard and potatoes that needed to get eaten, and found this recipe in Georgeanne Brennan’s cookbook France: The Vegetarian Table. It looked pretty decadent (lots of butter plus cheese and a bit of heavy cream), but Derek liked how the picture looked and encouraged me to try it. Read the rest of this entry »
This recipe is in the winter section of Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast, and I’ve been wanting to try it for a while now. Berley says that the salad is “all about the nuance of crunch. The green apple, celery, and walnut each have a different yet complementary toothsome quality in the mouth.” It seemed like a great winter salad, but I was nervous about making this recipe because Derek normally isn’t too excited about celery. I thought I might have to eat all four servings myself. I shouldn’t have worried though — Derek loved it. Read the rest of this entry »
I was looking for a recipe that called for turnips, and came across this winter ragout in France: the Vegetarian Table by Georgeanne Brennan. It’s basically an oven-roasted stew full of big chunks of parnsips, turnips, rutabagas, and carrots. (I couldn’t find any rutabagas so I subbed in potatoes.) The stew also calls for ribbons of chard and caramelized shallots. At first glance I thought this recipe was for a French-style stew, but it’s seasoned with turmeric and raisins, and you’re supposed to serve it with yogurt and a mixture of dill, tarragon, mint, and chives. So there’s definitely a North African influence. Read the rest of this entry »
This recipe makes up the second half of winter menu number five from Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast. Last January in Segovia, Spain I had a bowl of garlic soup that was quite satisfying. It was a rich garlic broth with olive oil and little tiny tendrils of egg. I was hoping that this provençal garlic and herb broth would be similar. Berley’s head notes say this pungent broth (made from plenty of garlic and herbs) is a traditional hangover cure in southern France and Spain. He seems to imply that it doesn’t normally have egg in it, because he says “to make it more substantial I enrich it with egg and serve it over croutons with grated parmesan cheese.” I think it’s funny that he added more cheese to a menu that was already swimming in smoked mozzarella (from the bean salad). But, nonetheless, I followed his instructions to a T. Read the rest of this entry »
I don’t have time to post full recipes right now but I wanted to say a few words about what I cooked this weekend, before I forget the details. I’ll come back and post the recipes when I get a chance. For dinner last night I started with white bean, rosemary, and fennel soup, which I’ve blogged about before. I also made two new recipes out of my French vegetarian cookbook. The first was a brussels sprouts dish with apples, onions, and cider, and the second recipe was for a beet and potato gratin. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve never made pea soup before. I’m not even sure I’ve ever cooked with fresh peas before. But I saw the peas in the Turkish market and remembered that my new French cookbook (France: The Vegetarian Table) has a recipe for fresh pea soup. Then when I got them home I had a sudden crisis of confidence. Was what I bought actually English peas? Or could they be sugar snaps? I did some research online and determined that I bought the right thing. At the right is the photo from 4.bp.blogspot.com that reassured me. The pea on the left is an English (or sweet) pea. The middle pea is a (very flat) snow pea. The last pea–which is small, fat, and a little pointy–is the sugar snap. Duly reassured, I proceeded to pop the peas out of their pods. Wow, shelling 2 pounds of peas is a lot of work. It took me almost an entire episode of Top Chef Master’s to finish, and my hands were aching by the end. I was praying that that the soup would be worth all the trouble. Read the rest of this entry »
I bought a big celery root to make Locro last week, but I only used a small fraction of it. I decided to use the rest of it to make another recipe out of The Vegetarian Table: France by Georgeann Brennan. The recipe is titled “celery root and potato puree”, and for some reason I thought it was going to be a soup. But it turned out with a consistency more like mashed potatoes. Read the rest of this entry »
Last fall Derek and I went to Metz for the day. (It’s an hour away by train, so it makes a nice day trip.) Saturday is their farmer’s market, and I searched every stand trying to find things that I can’t buy find in my local market. I bought a beautiful braid of garlic, a bag of harissa paste, lots of French cheeses, some fresh beans (whose name I couldn’t understand), and a bag of dried flageolet beans. I’ve never eaten flageolet beans before, or even seen them. Mine were small, pale-green, kidney-shaped beans. Georgeanne Brennan says they have an intense bean flavor that brings their particular character to a dish, they hold their shape when cooked, and they do not lose their integrity even when combined with other ingredients.
Inspired by our trip last week to Paris, I decided to make a French dinner on Friday night, using recipes from my new French cookbook (“The Vegetarian Table: France”). Read the rest of this entry »
Derek and I are going to spend a few days in Paris next week–just in time for his 30th birthday! In anticipation of the trip, I recently bought the cookbook France: The Vegetarian Table, by Georgeann Brennan. The Vegetarian Table is a series of cookbooks written by different authors, one per country. In addition to the France cookbook, there is a cookbook for American, Japan, Indian, Italy, Mexico, Thailand, and North Africa. (When I lived in the co-op in college we had the Japan cookbook and I made excellent pickled ginger using their recipe._ One thing that I really like about the French cookbook is that it offers recipes using produce appropriate to every season. Mediterranean cookbooks so often rely almost entirely on vegetables that are local here only in the summer–peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, etc. But Brennan includes recipes that uses Spring vegetables, and ones that use vegetables that are available in the winter. Here in Saarbruecken we’re just starting to see the first of the Spring vegetables, but I’ve been stuffed up lately, and so I was craving hot soup rather than fresh Spring vegetables. I decided to try one of the winter recipes instead.
I’m not a fan of traditional tomato-y, ultra-sweet baked beans. Instead, I put together a number of different “vegan cassoulet” recipes, and baked my beans with traditional French seasonings: a base of carrot, celery, and onion, plus garlic, rosemary, thyme, and oregano. I started out by “quick brining” my beans, as Cook’s Illustrated recommends.
Derek picked this recipe out of the Cook’s Illustrated light recipe. It’s a light potato salad recipe, with a vinaigrette instead of mayo. Unlike a typical American potato salad, the French version uses sliced potatoes, and is served warmed or at room temperature (never cold). It’s much more refined and elegant than the typical American mayo-laden, pickle-studded potato salad.
Tips from CI: It’s important to slice the potatoes before boiling them so that the slices don’t break apart. Plus the potatoes cook more evenly and you don’t have to burn your fingers trying to cut hot potatoes. To keep the potato slices from getting damaged over overcooked, CI has you lay the potatoes on a baking sheet and pour the vinagrette over them, and let them cool before moving them to a bowl. To cut back on oil, CI recommends adding some of the potatoe cooking water which is starchy and so acts as a binding element to hold the salad together and keep the potatoes from drying out. CI says that white wine can also be used. They also blanch the garlic to tone down the aggressive raw garlic flavor.
- 2 pounds medium red potatoes (about 6, 2.5 ounces each)
- 6 cups of water (1/3 reserved for the salad)
- 2 tablespoons salt (or reduce a bit if you’re salt sensitive)
- 1 medium garlic clove, peeled
- 1.5 tablespoons white wine or champagne vinegar
- 2 tsp. Dijon mustanrd
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1 small shallot, minced (about 2 Tbs.)
- 4 Tablespoons mixed french herbs (CI recommends equal parts chervil, parsley, chives, tarragon)
- Bring the potatoes, water, and salt to a boil in a large saucepan, then reduce to a simmer. Skewer the garlic on a fork tine and lower it into the simmering water for about 45 seconds, then cool it under cold running water. Simmer the potatoes uncovered until they are tender, about 5 minutes. (A thin bladed paring knife should slip into and out of the potato slice with no resistance.) Drain the potatoes, reserving 1/3 cup cooking water. Arrange the potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet, ideally in a single layer.
- Mince the garlic, and combine in small bowl with the oil, reserved cooking water, vinegar, mustard, and pepper. Drizzle the dressing evening over the warm potato slices. Let stand for 10 minutes.
- Chop the shallots and herbs and toss them together in the vinaigrette bowl. Move the potatoes to a serving bowl, and add the shallot-herb mixture. Mix carefully.
My notes: My potatoes were a bit larger than called for and so my potato slices looked a bit large and awkward. I misread the recipe and accidentally added 1/2 cup of cooking water, so my salad was slightly wet, but still very tasty. I had white potatoes not red, and as a result the potato salad was not quite as pretty as it should have been. I couldn’t find fresh chervil or tarragon, so I used a little frozen box of minced “French herbs” that I bought in the grocery store. I added the herbs to the dressing before drizzling it over the potatoes, which seemed to work fine. I used a white balsamic vinegar, which tasted fine. Overall I thought the potato salad was very tasty, although perhaps just a tad too salty. My friend Alex really liked it–she said it was the best potato salad she’d ever had, and kept “encouraging” me to post the recipe. Derek and my mother were less enthusiastic. First of all, they argued that the recipe could not be called potato salad, perhaps because the potatoes were sliced instead of cubed. Also, they just thought the recipe was a bit boring. I thought it was delicious, however, and I’ll definitely make it again.
When I was growing up my mom would often make a vegan version of vichyssoise. It was a simple soup made with unpeeled potatoes from her garden, leeks and onions, olive oil, salt and pepper. I always enjoyed it, even without the typical additions of butter, cream, and chicken broth. I ate vichyssoise both cold and warm, and only found out last weekend that the name vichyssoise actually refers only to the cold soup. Warm potato leek soup apparently is given a different name.
After seeing nice-looking leeks in the Saarbruecken market last week, I thought it would be nice to make a spring vichyssoise as one course in our Saturday night dinner party. Although the leeks looked good, all the potatoes in the market appeared to be from last fall; they were all shriveled and starting to sprout. My friends Spoons and Kathy suggested I use celeriac instead, since the celeriac looked very fresh. I was hesistant, as I thought that celery root would be a very strong flavor to replace the normally quite mild, earthy potatoes. But they insisted that celeriac can be used anywhere you use potatoes. (I have no idea where the celeriac or the leeks were from, but assumed they weren’t local to Germany in early May.) Read the rest of this entry »
Rick at the Oakland Farmer’s Market had one lovely celeriac this week, with the beautiful dark greens still attached. When I put it in my bag the green tops sprung forth out of the bag—I got strange looks on the bus, and when I got back to the office Jacob asked if I had just come back from a farm.
I made a celery root salad from the French Vegetarian cookbook this summer that was interesting. I would have tried it again, but this one from Cook’s Illustrated has apples and parsley, both of which I got in my CSA basket this week.
For the Dressing
1. In medium bowl, whisk together lemon juice, mustard, honey, and salt. Whisk in oil in slow, steady stream. Add sour cream; whisk to combine. Set aside.
For the Salad
2. Remove the top and bottom of the celery root and then use a paring knife to remove the outer layer of flesh from top to bottom. If using food processor, cut celery root and apple into 1 1/2-inch pieces and grate with shredding disc. (Alternatively, grate on coarse side of box grater.) You should have about 3 cups total. Add immediately to prepared dressing; toss to coat. Stir in scallions and parsley (and tarragon, if using; see note above). Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes. Serve.
Although not always available, fresh tarragon complements the flavor of celery root. If you can find it, stir in 2 teaspoons minced fresh tarragon along with the parsley. Add a teaspoon or so more oil to the dressed salad if it seems a bit dry.
Cook’s Illustrated makes a big deal about how to peel the celery root. I don’t know what they’re fussing about; I just used my vegetable peeler (which I love, and deserves its own post) and it worked fine. They also say they tried different ways of cutting the celery root to maintain it’s crisp crunch, and liked grating it the best. I’m don’t agree. I liked the julienne of the other celery root salad much better than the grating. The hand-grated pieces seemed softer and less crisp. When you eat this salad you have the disconcerting sensation of grinding your teeth. It’s weird. I used a not too tart apple from my CSA, which I couldn’t really taste it the final salad, although maybe it made it a bit sweeter. I’m not sure I could taste the scallions either. I couldn’t cough up the $2.50 for the tarragon.
For the dressing, I used only 1 Tbs. olive oil and used nonfat yogurt instead of sour cream. It came out pretty well. I don’t think I like it as much as the lemon and mustard dressing I use for Berley’s green bean salad, but it wasn’t bad. It actually tastes pretty similiar to the dip I always improvise when I make baked tofu, except I add garlic, and leave out the olive oil. Altogether this salad was tasty, but not exciting. I think the dressing overwhelmed the celery root a bit?
Update from the next day. I could not eat the leftovers. One bite was all I could stand. Strange.
Update January 2008: I made this recipe for Derek, following the original recipe except for adding an extra apple since mine were small. I even added the tarragon, and grating the celery root in my food processor. Grating in the food processor helps since the pieces are larger and thicker, almost like julienne rather than hand grating. Despite the large amounts of fat in the recipe, I didn’t think it tasted super-rich, and I didn’t think it tasted like the traditional French dressing, I’m not sure why. Certainly the mustard seemed to dominate too much. Perhaps I didn’t use a very good dijon, or Derek added a bit too much when he measured it. The tarragon wasn’t very noticeable. I didn’t really care for this salad, but ate the leftovers at lunch the next day simply because I was hungry and it was what I had. Derek, on the other hand, liked the salad, saying “it’s refreshing.”
Cook’s Illustrated has a number of other variants I want to try. One that is very similiar to this one has you add to the salad:
|1/2||teaspoon caraway seeds|
|1 1/2||teaspoons prepared horseradish|
Other variants include pear and hazelnuts, and a version with mint, orange and fennel.
Update Dec 29: I had one small celery root (about the size of a large apple). I julienned it and tossed it with 1.5 Tbs. lemon juice, about 1 tsp. horseradish, 1 tsp. dijon mustard, and 1 Tbs. lowfat sour cream. It was pleasant, and well-dressed.
This recipe is from the cookbook France: The Vegetarian Table, by Georgeanne Brennan. She also suggests using leeks, celery hearts, belgian endive, asparagus, or beets instead of fennel, and garnishing with an herb like tarragon, chervil, chives, or parsley.
4 medium-sized fennel bulbs
3/4 cup mustard vinaigrette or shallot vinaigreete
1 ounce asiago or other hard, aged cheese, shaved into paper thin slices with a knife or vegetable peeler
1 tsp. minced fresh chervil
Trim the fennel bulbs, discarding any tough or discolored outer leaves and cutting away and stalks and feathery tops. Cut the bulbs, from the top through the stem end, into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrance the slices on a steamer rack over boiling water, cover, and steam untnil tender when pierced with the tines of a fork, about 10 minutes. Remove the fennel slices to a bowl.
Mustard Vinaigrette (makes 1 cup):
3/4 cup cold-pressed olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
Pour 3/4 cup of the dressing over the warm fennel, gently turning all the slices to make sure they are all evenly coated. Cover and let stand for 15 to 30 minutes before serving.
Top with the cheese and serve warm or at room temperature.
My notes: well, I made a very pared down version of this recipe. I didn’t use the cheese or fresh herbs. I did, however, throw in some carrots with my fennel. Wow. I always forget how tasty steamed vegetables are. I could have just eaten them plain. But I made the vinaigrette. It tasted like oil to me. I doubled the vinegar and mustard and it was better, but still very oily. Could there be something wrong with my vinegar that I needed so much more, or is it just a preferences thing? I enjoyed the vegetables with the vinaigrette, but I didn’t need the full amount called for. If I make it again I will add even more mustard and vinegar to the vinaigrette, and using only about 1/2 to 3/4 as much dressing as called for. But I definitely like the idea of steamed fennel with vinaigrette. The fennel had such a decadent mouthfeel to it, and a mild but very distinctive flavor.
This is a nice recipe for late spring, when some of the early vegetables like fennel, beets, and asparagus are just starting to be available.
I’ve started trying recipes with celery root (also called celeriac) recently, but this is the first time I’ve eaten it raw. This recipe is from the cookbook France: the Vegetarian Table, by Georgeanne Brennan.
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. ground turmeric
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs. minced fresh parsley
1 large celery root (about 1 pound), peeled
In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the lemon juice, cumin, turmeric, salt, pepper, and parsley. Set aside.
Finely julienne the celery root. The slices should be no more than 1/16 of an inch thick, if possible.
Add the celery root to the lemon juice mixture and toss to coat well. Serve at once.
Although this dressing has no oil and little salt, I thought it was pretty tasty. There was perhaps a bit too much lemon juice, though. This makes 6 small side servings, of a 1/2 cup each.
Serving Size: 1/2 cup, 1/6 of recipe
|Amount Per Serving|
At Kaya last weekend we had a “mixed mushroom saute” appetizer that was actually more potato than mushrooms, but extremely satisfying. It had fingerling potatoes, a few different types of mushrooms, little bits of chard, some garlic I think, and lots of white wine, olive oil, and salt. I tried to copy it at home last night, and it came out quite well. Even Derek liked it quite a bit, but he thought it was a little one dimensional, overly wine-y maybe. He thought Kaya’s dish had some other “rounding” flavor that I was missing. Perhaps it was butter?
I didn’t measure but here are the ingredients I used, as I remember them:
White Wine and Garlic French-Style Vegetable Medley
about 4-6 small Yukon gold potatoes, halved then sliced thinly [Kaya used fingerlings]
1 large shiitake mushroom [Kaya used different wild mushrooms]
about 10 large button mushrooms, sliced
1/3 of a large burdock root, cut very thinly along the bias [my own addition]
1/2 bunch of red chard (stems removed) [I used more than Kaya did]
5 medium-large cloves of garlic
aleppo pepper [my addition, I don’t think the Kaya dish was spicy]
I thought the burdock root added a great flavor, but I should have added it before the potatoes as it wasn’t quite cooked enough. Derek picked out his burdock, but I wasn’t sure if it was because of the texture only, or the flavor too. Burdock and white wine… a wonderful combination. The earthy burdock is complemented by the sweet acidic wine so well.
The fresh shiitake was very nice. I should have used more except I was worried that Derek wouldn’t like them, since he’s picky about the texture of shiitake mushrooms. The shiitake wasn’t chewy, however, but quite tender. The button mushrooms were okay, but probably should have been quartered instead of sliced.
With new potatoes, spring mushrooms like morels or porcinis, and early delicate chard or beet greens, this makes a lovely recipe for late spring.