Couscous and Cucumber Salad

This is a very quick, easy, and customizable dish. I found the recipe via the NYT, which includes mint. Even without the mint, it’s very refreshing, with a smooth, neutral, and delicate flavor. A really lovely lunch or a welcome side dish that goes with pretty much anything. couscous

•  1/2 cup Pearl Couscous
• 1 Cucumber
• 1 large tomato, or lots of tiny ones
• 2 T red onion, diced
• 1 cup water
• 1/4 cup lemon juice
• 1 – 2 T olive oil
• About 5 sprigs parsley
• salt & pepper

1. Lightly toast couscous in olive oil [enough to coat] over medium high heat, about 5 minutes.

2. Add 1 cup water and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat, cover, and simmer until 10 minutes, just until tender.

3. Remove from heat, strain if necessary, and pour couscous in large bowl.

4. Chop cucumber, tomatoes, and onion. Add to couscous, along with lemon juice, herbs, and the rest of olive oil. Toss, let breathe, and serve.

Advertisements

French Onion Soup

onion soup

The time to make onion soup is best dictated by one’s pantry. As the only ‘fresh’ ingredients are cheese and onion, the biggest variable is bread. Rather than making a free choice in favor of soup, I let a stale leftover baguette decide- throw it out, make croutons, or make French onion soup.

I don’t actually measure anything in this recipe…The quantity of each ingredient can and should be regulated according to taste, with the amount of onion vs liquid the most important consideration. The onions will also cook down so you should add more than you think is necessary. Listed quantities come from Julia Child’s recipe, with the flour omitted.

•  5 cups sliced yellow onion
•  at least 3T butter (as much as you’d like)
•  1 tsp sugar
•  1/2 c dry white wine
•  2 quarts beef or vegetable stock
•  1 tsp salt and pepper
•  half a baguette
•  1 c Swiss or Gruyère + muenster cheese

1. Coat cast iron skillet with 1T butter. Add onions and mix around to coat onion in butter. Cover, and allow to cook untouched 15 minutes over medium heat. Check every 15-20 minutes for an hour or more, depending on heat settings. Midway through cooking, fully turn all onions, then sprinkle with sugar and add 2 T butter. Allow to continue to brown, without stirring them. Onions do not want to be your friend, and do not need to dance all the time-best to leave them alone as much as possible. Some crust on the pan (and onions!) is good, but not necessary.

2. In separate pot, heat beef (or vegetable) stock with a touch of dry white wine (you can use red wine instead-its just important that its dry else the fruitiness can be a bit obvious) and pepper.

3. With onions still cooking, deglaze pan with white wine straight from the bottle. Add stock, some pepper, then adjust to taste. The biggest caution here is to watch your wine-since I just pour some from the bottle I’ve found its very easy to end up with onions in wine-flavored water… If that happens, just allow to reduce much longer.s

4. Slice bread and toast under broiler. I use 1 or 2 for each ramekin, but more layers makes for a kind of bread pudding that is exceptionally delicious, so toast however much you like.

5. Ladle soup into ramekins. Cover with one or two slices of toast, darker side down. To layer, allow each slice to soak up liquid before placing another. Sprinkle swiss/gruyere on top, and cover with a slice of muenster cheese. Muenster melts quickly and evenly, making for an awesome gooey surface, and doesn’t have a strong flavor that will overpower your chosen cheese. If you just want to use one cheese for your soup, it should be muenster.

6. Serve with extra piece of bread. Extra ramekins can be saved for a few days, and make a fantastic breakfast.

Raspberry Clafouti

This is from Eric Ripert’s Get Toasted podcast, a quick recipe tailored for your toaster oven. I don’t have a toaster oven, but the recipes are perfect for one or two people, and can all be made quicky in a regular oven. His recipes included in this series are all really elegant, and his show Avec Eric was instrumental in inspiring me to learn more about cooking.

Clafouti

• 1T room temperature butter
• 1/4c sugar, with extra for the dish
• 1 egg
•  3T flour
• 6T (almond) milk
• 1tsp vanilla extract
•  Raspberries

1. Whisk egg, then add sugar, milk, and vanilla.
2. Add flour and mix until combined so as to not overwork.
3. Butter small casserole or gratin dishes (I made 3) with a brush. Coat with sugar, shaking bowl around for full coverage.
4. Place raspberries flat-side down in dishes and slowly pour mixture between, allowing them to poke out a bit.
5. Broil until the mixture is solid, which will take 8-10 minutes on high, or 15-20 on low.

Video of Eric making this recipe here

Vegetable Stock

stock

• roughly 1-2 gallons water
• 5 or 6 carrots
• 3 or 4 sliced onions
• 2c sliced or quartered mushrooms
• 2 leeks
• 1c celery leaves
• 1 tomato
• 1-2t thyme, garlic powder, pepper, salt, coriander, sage, and/or your preferred spices

Add all ingredients to stockpot, heat for an hour or two on low/simmer. Strain and use right away for some soup, refrigerating some for use within a week or two. Freeze the rest as ice cubes.

Optional step to concentrate flavor: roast the hearty (carrot, onion, mushroom) veggies or heat/sweat before adding water.

Minimize waste by using the remaining veggies for a soup/dish that day, or make another round of less potent stock.

Ratatouille

ratatouille

1 (or so) each:
• eggplant
• zucchini
• white onion
• red bell pepper
• large tomato (or a few medium)
• Garlic, olive oil, parsley, s&p, fresh Provençal herbs of your choosing

1. Cut eggplant and zucchini into large cubes. In olive oil, cook over medium heat for a few minutes, until eggplant softly browns
2. Remove from heat, set aside. Now heat cubed onion and red pepper in same fashion. Mash and mince 2-3 cloves garlic and add, along with some s&p. Set aside in another bowl.
3. Heat cubed tomato & olive oil
4. In large pot, layer 1/2 of tomato mix, then pepper & onion mixture, then zucchini & eggplant, then rest of tomato. Sprinkle parsley (lots) on top, drizzle olive oil. I put a few sprigs of oregano, lavender, sage, and thyme to infuse. Cover.
5. Leave on medium heat for a while, then remove sprigs and stir. 6. Stir every so often, and eventually remove cover and set to boil. Stir more frequently during this period. Simmer.

It’s done when you feel it’s reached a good consistency. I like mine soupy, so I don’t reduce very long and add a bit more olive oil here and there. If you like less liquid, let it boil longer or squeeze the gel/seeds from the tomato before you begin. If you’d rather make the movie version, look for “confit biyaldi”.

Serve with big chunk of fresh bread, and love your leftovers. :)

Bread

Bread

Basic Bread
• 4c flour
• 1 1/2c water
• 2tsp salt
• 1tsp instant yeast

1. Sprinkle yeast over surface of warm water. Pour over flour and salt. Mix, then knead until dough is smooth & elastic.
2. Continue kneading until it can be stretched without breaking. If you are making a flavored bread, you would add spices (garlic, rosemary, thyme, etc) or ingredients (olives, walnuts, etc) at this point.
3. Place in bowl covered with plastic wrap until it expands to twice its size (4-8h). It is ready when it won’t immediately spring back if you poke it.
4. Knead dough for a moment, then cover with towel and allow to rest 10-15m.
5. Shape dough and cover again with towel. Allow to rise/proof for an hour (or refrigerate overnight then allow to rise at room temperature for an hour and a half– I had to do this and it’s still delicious)
6. Preheat oven 450 degrees, then bake for 10 minutes before reducing temperature to 375 degrees and bake for 40-50m. If baking on a pan instead of within a Dutch oven, include a ramekin with 1c water in the oven for steaming, which produces a hard crust.

The above recipe is from Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio, which includes a lot of variations for different flavors. The core ratio is 5 parts flour : 3 parts water + yeast & salt. It’s basically the same as the no-knead bread posted below, but the kneading makes you feel like you are a professional Boulanger :)

No Knead Bread

No-Knead Bread

• 4c flour
• 2c warm water
• 1 1/2t salt
• 1/4t yeast

1. In large bowl, combine flour and salt. Add yeast and warm water. Mix.
2. Cover with foil and let sit for 18 hours
3. Shape dough (it’s quite sticky/difficult to work with so nothing too exciting)
4. Cover with towel and let sit for 2 hours 5. Bake at 425 for 35-45 minutes.

This multigrain boule above was made in an uncovered ceramic dish (w/a small ramekin of water to steam). It was really difficult to remove, so I prefer the ciabatta recipe from Food Wishes (http://bit.ly/YhsYYT) to the messier NYT recipe (http://nyti.ms/SuMYHv).  It is slightly easier to remove if you use a covered dish rather than an open one, but I usually have to cut it out rather than taking out a pretty loaf.  Ciabatta, where you pour dough onto a pan coated with cornmeal, is much easier, pretty, and has a more satisfying rustic feel.