I first met Karen Kribs, above, fifteen years ago when we joined our mutual friend, Nancy Alciatore, for a month of immersion study at the Institut de Français located on the Côte d’Azur in Villefranche-sur-Mer. Nancy, fluent in French, tested into the Advancé 1 class. Karen and I, both neophytes, were placed in Intermediate 2, a notch above Débutant 1.
Since that time I’ve learned there’s much to admire about Karen. She’s a successful developer and Realtor. Formidable at the bridge table, she competes nationally. An adventurous explorer, Karen’s traveled the world with her late husband, Jim, who was a pilot for SAUDIA. When we lived in Nevada and our Aspen condo, for rental purposes, needed a total face-lift, it was Karen who stepped in to volunteer and turned it into the beautiful space I enjoy today.
While all this is laudable, IMO, nothing compares with her awesome ability to mix the perfect Cosmopolitan cocktail en français. During our last week at the Institut, everyone was required to present a 10-15 minute exposé followed by a 10-minute Q&A in French. As a novice, it is difficult to string French words together for 15 excruciating minutes and make sense. What’s even worse is hearing classmates ask questions in their garbled French that you must answer in yours.
Since Karen knew I was planning an exposé about Aspen and not wanting to rain on my parade, she struggled to hone in on a topic. On the day of her presentation, however, she waltzed into class with enough paraphernalia to stock a home bar! As she set up shop, our instructor, Jean-Pierre, was too shocked to remember the school’s no-liquor rule.
Having some fun with our resident bona fide francophile, Cathy O’Connell, (L) and Liz Adams, who will be biking with her husband in France this fall.
She preceded to teach en francais, with style and joie de vivre, how to make a Cosmo. Whether she was squeezing a lime or unscrewing the vodka bottle’s cap, she’d utter two or three sentences, then raise and wave her arm while exclaiming, “Voila!” (Move aside Dale Carnegie.) Midway through the presentation, about the 7-minute mark, she pulled out a pre-made pitcher of drinks and poured us a round. By the time she’d finished and yelled her 14th “Voila”, we were on our second pour and filled with our own brand of joie de vivre.
“What was best about my exposé,” she later remembered, “was that no one was in any condition to ask questions!”
Earlier this summer I spotted Stonewall Kitchen’s Pomegranate Cosmopolitan Mix at our local market. Re-visiting a nice memory, I dropped some off for Karen. Last week she suggested we get together with two of our francophile-leaning friends to mix up the brew. We “paired” the pomegranate cosmos with ribs from the Hickory House, finished off with my very light Yogurt-Peach Semifreddo, an Italian classic of eggs, sugar and cream (yogurt).
COOK-THE-BOOK FRIDAYS – Caviar D’Aubergines
Chef Glenn Smith shared with birthday gal Linda Stein and me a few of his cooking tricks during a wonderful celebration at The Cooking School of Aspen. More about the CSA in my next post.
If your farmers markets are like mine, each purveyor has glossy, dark purple eggplants, piled high and calling your name. This week’s recipe choice from David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen is Eggplant Caviar, a kissin’ cousin to baba ganoush or moutaba. But, as David says, ‘eggplant caviar is easier to make, less rich, a smoky tasting eggplant purée with a squirt of fresh lemon, some garlic, and a bit of heat from a sprinkling of bright-red chili powder.’
For the French, Caviar D’Aubergines is a popular appetizer served on toasts. Use it also as a dip with veggies or chips. By adding sliced cherry tomatoes, it also becomes a salad, side dish or main course topping. I made a sandwich with sliced cucumbers, homegrown lettuce, sliced swiss cheese and a healthy spread of eggplant caviar with tomatoes. Can’t express how delicious. I shared this with Wendy Weaver, my vegetarian friend who is following a strict diet while training to climb Kilimanjaro next month. Passed muster.
Still flavorful but another option – add sliced cherry tomatoes.
Hoping you also are enjoying this last breath of summer with friends, fellowship and good food.
Thanks to Eskie’s daughter, Wendy, I spent a glorious evening with these two wonderful women, formerly of Des Moines, who I inherited when I married Michael thirty-one years ago. L to R: Me with Eskie Engman Shepard and Kay Bucksbaum
YOGURT-PEACH SEMIFREDDO, Anna Stockwell, Epicurious, June 2015
2 ripe peaches, unpeeled, pitted, sliced
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
3 large egg whites
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup (packed) fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
Special Equipment: 8 1/2×4 1/2″ loaf pan
1. Line 8 1/2×4 1/2″ loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving a generous overhang on all sides.
2. Cook peaches and 1/4 cup sugar in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until peaches are softened and sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender and purée until smooth. Let cool.
3. Whisk egg whites, salt, and remaining 1 cup sugar in a medium heatproof bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) set over a saucepan of simmering water (do not let bowl touch water). Cook, whisking constantly, until sugar is dissolved and mixture is warm to the touch, 2–4 minutes. Remove bowl from saucepan. Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat egg mixture until tripled in volume, glossy, and completely cool, about 10 minutes.
4. Whisk yogurt and lemon juice in a large bowl, then stir in mint. Gently fold in egg white mixture until combined.
5. Transfer half of the yogurt mixture to prepared pan; smooth surface. Swirl half of the peach mixture into yogurt layer with a spoon, then repeat with remaining yogurt and peach mixtures. Fold plastic wrap overhang over top to seal and freeze until firm, at least 8 hours or overnight.
the first layer of semifreddo – 1/2 full
6. Unwrap semifreddo, carefully run a sharp knife around all sides and, using plastic overhang, gently lift from pan. Invert semifreddo onto a cutting board, remove plastic wrap, and let sit at least 3-5 minutes to soften. Slice into 6 even slices, about 1 1/2″ thick. Transfer to plates and serve.
Semifreddo can be frozen for up to 3 days.
2 globe eggplants, 21/2 lbs.
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus additional for preparing the pan
2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice, plus more if necessary
2 clove garlic, peeled and minced
11/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt, plus more if needed
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika or smoked chili powder
freshly-ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, flat-leaf parsley, cilantro, or basil
1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, brush with olive oil and sprinkle it with a bit of salt.
2. Poke each eggplant a few times with a sharp knife and rest them over a gas flame on the stovetop, or a grill, turning them infrequently with tongs until they’re charred on the outside and feel soft and wilted. Depending on how smoky you want them, roast them for five to ten minutes.
3. When cool enough to handle, cut the stems off the eggplants and split in half lengthwise. Place them cut side down on the oiled baking sheet.
4. Bake the eggplants until the flesh is thoroughly cooked, which should take about twenty minutes, but may vary.
(TIP: If you don’t have a gas or outdoor grill, you can make this by just oven-roasting the eggplant for 30-40 minutes, turning occasionally until they’re completely soft and wilted.)
5. Remove the eggplants from oven and once cool enough to handle, remove the seeds and scrape the pulp from the skins into the bowl of a food processor. (You can also scrape them into a bowl, and mash them by hand with a fork.)
6. Add the tablespoon of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper and chili pepper or paprika powder.
7. Pulse the food processor a few times, until the mixture is almost smooth. Add the herbs and pulse a few more times.
8. Taste, and add additional salt, lemon, or other seasonings, as desired.
9. To serve, spoon into a bowl and make a well in the center. Pour a bit of olive oil in the middle and sprinkle with chili or paprika powder or some chopped fresh herbs. Crisp toasts, crackers, or pita triangles are good accompaniments.
Storage: Eggplant caviar can be kept refrigerated for up to four days.
Cook-the-Book-Fridays is an international group cooking it’s way virtually through David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen Cookbook. Visit our link here.
Not for one moment do I begrudge water-deprived California a drop of moisture. After suffering through five years of drought, losing 102 million trees in its stricken forests, this state needed a miracle. Obviously Mother Nature heard the plea, tweeted Mt.Olympus and Zeus, the Greek god of clouds, rain, thunder and lightning answered the call. That’s my story. Sticking to it. As we know, however, sometimes Zeus, who rules the skies, goes overboard.
Salted Olive Crisps
Okay, okay, enough with the silliness. For me, 2017 will be remembered as the Winter of Rain. With apologies to the late Debbie Reynolds, may she rest in peace, I’ve gotten very weary of singing and dancing in it. To be clear, however, everyone living here is thrilled to see rain gauges rising. As am I.
The payoff is those winter showers brought April flowers, They’re spectacular. Unprecedented is the word used by wildflower experts. After 5 years of drought, the trees, however, cannot bounce back.
“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” (Thanks, Dolly.)
Our feathered friends are happy – so much to eat and sing about. House Finch
Despite the inclement weather I chalked up another glorious winter. Wary of wasting a moment, that clock’s always ticking, and despite too much indoorness, I buddied up with Solitude. Christopher Knight, the now-outed hermit who lived for 27 years in the Maine wilderness, opined to his biographer, Michael Finkel, “There isn’t nearly enough nothing in the world anymore.”
The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel Penguin Random House photo
Whatever he meant by that, I decided to treat nothing as a luxury, building each day on that idea. It definitely worked for me. To my mind, I thrived. Honestly, that I could pull off four months of my definition ofnothing so happily was eye-opening to me. But, twenty-seven years of it, kill me now! I am very ready to return home.
Last Saturday my food blogging colleague, Katie, and her husband, Marcel, and daughter Alaia, came for lunch, a 3-year tradition. I made a Herbed Parmesan Dutch Baby from Melissa Clark’s newest cookbook, Dinner, Changing the Game. More about Clark’s cookbook next time.
Before my signing off from Cali, last Saturday Katie Baillargeon, her husband, Marcel and almost-five Alaia, joined me for lunch. I first met Katie, a professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara, in 2012 when I joined French Fridays with Dorie. She also organized and is now our Cook the Book Friday’s administrator. This is the third winter we’ve broken bread together, a record-breaking 5 hour lunch despite my setting off the smoke alarm while making it. I was mortified. Surprisingly, the meal was salvaged and the haze lessened (in about 30 minutes), There is much to admire about this young family.
Alaia played on the beach, climbed trees and ate a grilled cheese sandwich.
This is my last post from Cambria. I’m in Death Valley for Easter and then will fly from Las Vegas to Atlanta to visit the Carter Presidential Library. It’s the 12th of the 13 presidential libraries I have seen. I regard these under recognized libraries as the uncrowned jewels of our historic heritage. Then, Colorado-bound.
According to the Locals, the most delicious strawberries are grown in Santa Margarita and are now available at our Cambria Farmer’s Market.
This week’s CooktheBookFridays recipe is Salted Olive Crisps, usually served with apéritifs before dinner. I’ve shared the recipe and my personal tips below. One of my most delicious meals this winter was Iron Skillet Roasted Mussels. So simple. So easy. If you own a cast iron skillet, be open to the possibilities.
Carizzo Plain National Monument is a region of 250,000 acres and is the largest native grassland remaining in California. The San Andreas fault cuts straight through it. The unique Soda Lake, pictured here, is shallow, white, and alkaline, with no external drainage.
IRON SKILLET ROASTED MUSSELS by Sharon Kramis & Julie Kramis Hearne, The Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 leek (white part only), rinsed well and chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded (discard any that won’t close)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Combine the wine, butter, leek, and red pepper in a 10- to 12-inch cast iron skillet or 5-quart Dutch oven. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
2. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the mussels, and cover either with a lid or heavy tinfoil. Cook until the shells open and the mussels are plump, about 8 minutes. Discard any that won’t open.
3. Sprinkle the parsley over the top and season with a dash of salt and pepper. Serve right from the skillet or Dutch oven with a leafy green salad and sliced baguette or rustic country bread.
Meal is Over.
SALTED OLIVE CRISPS by David Lebovitz, My Paris Kitchen
1. Rather than the 30 minutes David suggested for baking the loaf mixture, I baked it for 45 minutes.
2. Because I wanted a bit more crisp, I put the finished slices under the broiler for 1 to 11/2 minutes.
3. These Salted Olive Crisps are better eaten immediately. Although they can be stored up to one week in an airtight container at room temperature, I needed to ‘crisp them again” at 325 degree heat for 3-5 minutes.
4. Like baking mandelbrot or biscotti, this is a labor intensive recipe that requires an olive that is not too damp and a very sharp bread knife. While I enjoyed making this once, it’s probably a recipe I won’t bake again.
CooktheBookFridays is an international group virtually cooking through David Lebovitz’s, My Paris Kitchen. To see what my colleagues baked this week, go here.
Beautiful coastal Tinytips, an annual wildflower, and our dead California coastal oaks. A heartbreaking site prevalent throughout the state.
This post is dedicated, with fondness, to Dr. David Yokum, who was a prominent thoracic surgeon and catfish guy.
Another french classic, Brandade de Morue translates to Salt Cod and Potato Puree and is delicious.
Being Iowa born and bred in the Fifties/Sixties meant odds are heavily weighted to a meat-and-potatoes palate. In the Corn State then there were approximately 200,000, 150-170 acre family farms. Each August at the Delaware County Fair, the 4-H kids would show off their prized livestock, compete for ribbons and eventually auction those animals off.
My neighbor raptor, a red-shouldered hawk, gets scrutinized by a visiting hummingbird.
My parents would purchase a porker and reserve a side of beef from prize-winning 4-H livestock. At our house we didn’t eat fish. Mom was a good cook and those were different times. I had no hankering for fish nor, when it became more available, was curious enough to try. Plus, Michael was a meat man.
Salted Codfish is difficult to find in some areas. I found mine at Whole Foods. It’s better to buy it boned, if possible.
Thanks to David Yokum, I fully embraced the piscine world. David and his lovely wife, Martha, lived in Arkansas but, being music aficionados, summered in Aspen. He and I bonded shortly after our moving to Colorado in the late Eighties. Seated together at a charity dinner at the historic Hotel Jerome we chit-chatted with ease.
This Great Blue Heron likes to loiter nearby where there is a good possibility of scoring food.
A waitress, carrying two heavy coffee pots, stopped at our table to offer refills. As she leaned in to pour coffee into David’s cup, the pot in her other hand leaned with her. She successfully executed a full-on “pour” down David’s neck. When I noticed and started to scream, David remained oblivious…..until that piping hot coffee began streaming down his back.
After 36 hours of cold water rinses and draining, this is what reconstituted cod looks like.
Yeah, it hurt. Yeah, it scalded his skin. And, yeah, that frightened waitress was horrified. Ever the southern gentleman, he quietly left the table, making no fuss, and tended to his surface wounds. Throughout the 2-3 minute ordeal, the only words he grumbled to me were, “And, this is a new suit!”
Pacific Harbor Seal
Friends forever! That summer we newbies received an invitation to the Yokum’s annual catfish party. Apparently a coveted invitation to receive, we were none too interested in accepting. Growing up near the muddy Mississippi River, what I knew about catfish was not appetizing. Whiskers (barbels). Bottom dwellers. Considered the garbage eaters of the fish world.
The Brandade de Morue consisting of potatoes and cod is simmered in boiling water for 25 minutes before being drained and whipped together. Seasonings and heavy cream are added before it’s all mixed and ready for 20 minutes in the oven.
What we didn’t know was our doctor friend owned a 7,500-acre farm with about 60 ponds covering 1,200 water acres, producing soybeans, rice and catfish. His catfish were farm-raised. Not farming I recognized. But, Michael and I decided to chance it. Our new friend, David, was amused.
These brown pelicans are doing a bit of grooming.
Hushpuppies, cole slaw and Arkansas farm-fried catfish. Tasty fare, not-to-be-missed. Although David and Michael are gone now, the memories built off that first encounter and the Yokum’s friendship are forever.
In France, Les Accras, salt cod fritters served with tartar sauce, are a popular happy hour snack.
After moving to Aspen and realizing its local availability, I eventually joined the fish brigade. Today I eat very little pork or beef. It’s an easy walk to the Butcher Block/City Market to buy fish. This week’s Cook the Book Friday’s recipes, Brandade de Morue and Accras (fritters) de Morue are a far swim from the Yokum’s catfish.
This solitary Long-billed Curlew is at work, searching for food.
I first sampled Brandade de Morue in Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s demo at Aspen’s Food & Wine Festival. During my immersion french studies at the Institute de Français in Villefranche-sur-Mer, it was served at Côte d’Azur bistros/brasseries. Brandade is a purée of reconstituted salted cod, potato and seasonings. It’s served very hot, browned on top, with a leafy salad and beer (my taste). Or, it’s an elegant appetizer. Or, as a snack, Accras de Morue, chilled balls of brandade, coated with fritter batter and fried.
Using my cookie scoop, I made 1-2″ balls from the brandade and then refrigerated them for 30 minutes. I made the fritter batter and dipped the chilled balls in the batter before frying them in canola oil. Like potato chips, you cannot eat just one!
Since making these recipes is a two-day process involving reconstituting the salty cod, I am not adding recipes. I relished making this, channeling the phenomenal Samuelsson, but in the future will leave it to others. If you DO want these recipes, I will gladly send them.
Cook the Book Fridays is an international group virtually making its way through David Lebovitz‘s My Paris Kitchen. To visit out site or join the group, please link here.
As I walked to The Gant’s front office recently, I was followed by a young man and his son headed in the same direction. During that 3-4 minute walk, the little guy, probably 6, never stopped asking questions, one after another. Honestly, not one breath. How is that possible? At some point I glanced back, smiling. The Daddy caught my eye and said wearily, “All the time.”
Last month CNN named The Gant among twenty of America’s most beautiful hotels. That honor, I decided, transformed me into the legitimate adult version of Eloise who lived at The Plaza Hotel. Of all lifestyle possibilities, my residing in a 144-condo resort hotel in Aspen was never a consideration nor was flying to the moon or summiting Everest. Be careful what you don’t wish for.
ROASTED TOMATO & FRESH MOZZARELLA PASTA by Chris Scheuer
I never considered this a long-term solution. But after three years I’m parked, having quickly surmised to either embrace the nature of this hustle-bustle complex or move on. “Your brain doesn’t know how old it is,” observed Paul Nussbaum, president of Pittsburgh’s Brain Health Center. “What it wants to do is learn.”
Nearby The Gant, the Aspen Mountain gondola runs all summer.
Maybe wrapping my head around such a wacky lifestyle idea was asking too much learning from my brain. Every week I have new neighbors. There are weddings and conferences and events. The Gant is a big house full of happy people on vacation. Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, it is not. For someone who values privacy and likes to be anchored, this is a stretch.
While I haven’t set aside longtime personal perceptions, I have rearranged their possibilities. For example, last week a family of five, 3 boys with bikes, moved in next door. They were good kids but one night the racket was over-the-top. Not good, I thought, until I listened. “USA, USA, USA,” they hollered. More whoops. Michael Phelps & Co. were gold-digging in Rio. Their excitement knew no bounds. I flashed back to earlier noisy Olympic moments with my girls and poured a glass of wine.
David’s tomatoes, ready and raring to be roasted
I came home in mid-July to find a humongous bear trap in my building’s parking lot. Since a bear had gotten too familiar with a paying guest, it needed to be captured and moved. (I still cheered for the bear.) I already knew it was collared, meaning it had been caught in the trap before. Fool me once. Shame on you. Fool me twice. Shame on me.The bear, not a fool, was a no-show.
Thinking that our lovable bear lives in nearby Aspen Grove Cemetery, founded in 1889 and the resting place for Aspen’s pioneers and war veterans.
Everyday I look for a Happy: The Grandpa who was paying his two pre-teen granddaughters each $100 to climb Aspen Mountain with him! ( Memo to Emma & Clara: No.); Entrepreneurs Peter (4) and Lily (3), pitching their lemonade stand at a prime Gant pathway yesterday, Mom shadowing the operation. Business was brisk. The money, Peter told me, is going to St. Jude’s ‘so kids can have operations.’ Love that Mom; And, Vice-President Biden and his family spent a week-end here this summer, a thrill for the staff and paying guests.
THIS IS A QUICK-and-EASY SUPPER. FEW INGREDIENTS AND QUICKLY MADE.
Eloise ends her story with,“Ooooooooooooooooooo I absolutely love The Plaza.”
Silly it may be, but “Ooooooooooooooooooo I absolutely love The Gant.”
Carved of Colorado Yule Marble by Sculptor Gregory Tonozzi, this statute sits in Aspen Grove Cemetery. This marble was also used for Lincoln’s Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknowns in Washington DC. One of the finest white marbles in the world, it is still being shipped from nearby Marble to Europe and Asia.
Life is about expectations and our CooktheBookFridays choice, CHERRY TOMATO CROSTINI with HERBED GOAT CHEESE, is a keeper. David’s roasted tomatoes are the prize this week. I made one batch for the crostini and another for Chris Scheuer’s ROASTED TOMATO AND FRESH MOZZARELLA PASTA. While fresh cherry or grape tomatoes are plentiful, Chris suggests always keeping some in the fridge for pizzas, salads, sandwiches, the possibilities are endless.
CHERRY TOMATO CROSTINI with HERBED GOAT CHEESE
MY PARIS KITCHEN by David Lebovitz
Serving Size: 4
(Note: I purchased herbed goat cheese.)
Roasted Cherry Tomatoes:
AFTER BEING ROASTED
1 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes, stemmed and halved
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
handful of whole, unchopped fresh herbs (any combination of rosemary or thyme sprigs, bay leaf and basil or sage leaves)
sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 thick slices bread, such as ciabatta, a country bread or a sourdough that is not too dense
1 clove garlic, peeled
a few leaves of fresh basil, sage or flat leaf parsley to garnish
1.Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
2.Combine the cherry tomatoes, olive oil, sliced garlic and herbs in a baking dish or pan that will hold them all in a snug single layer.
3. Season with salt and pepper, mix well and spread them out in a single layer.
4. Roast the tomatoes in the oven for about 45 minutes, stirring once or perhaps twice during baking, until they’re wilted and their juices are starting to concentrate — and perhaps brown a bit — in the bottom of the baking dish or pan. (The baking time will depend on the material of the baking dish and type of cherry tomatoes used.) Ideally, you want the tomatoes to juice, and for the juices to thicken and concentrate.
5. Scrape the tomatoes and any juices into a bowl and let cool to room temperature.
6. They can sit up to 8 hours, and improve the longer they sit. When ready to serve, make the toasts.
1. Evenly brush the bread with olive oil.
2. Place them on a baking sheet in a preheated 350ºF oven and toast for about 5 minutes, until light golden brown.
3. Remove from the oven and when just cool enough to handle, rub the slices generously with the garlic clove.
4. Let cool to room temperature.
1. Thickly smear each piece of bread with the fresh herbed cheese.
Set each one on a plate.
2. Pluck out the herbs and spoon the tomatoes and their juices onto the slices of bread.
3. Coarsely chop the herbs for the garnish, and scatter them over the top of each portion.
1 pound tofette or ditalini pasta or your choice
4 ears fresh corn (in a pinch, use 15.25 oz. canned corn, drained)
12 ounces fresh mozzarella, cubed
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (divided)
1 recipe Garlic and Herb Roasted Tomatoes (Link to Chris’ version here)
¼ cup finely chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Bring a medium large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta. Allow water to return to a boil, then cook pasta al dente according to package directions.
2. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain well. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and stir to coat pasta with oil. (This will keep it from drying out until you’re ready to combine it with the other ingredients.) Set aside.
3. While pasta is cooking, cook the corn ears. When cool enough, cut kernels from cobs. Cover and set aside.
4. If you prefer the cheese not to melt quickly, allow pasta to cool for 10 minutes. Otherwise, immediately combine the hot pasta with about ⅔ of the tomatoes (reserve the rest) in a medium-large bowl (be sure to scrape out all the good oil and herbs from the roasting pan). Add corn, fresh mozzarella cubes, remaining olive oil, salt, pepper. Stir gently to combine. If the pasta is too thick, add 1/4-1/2 cup of pasta water to loosen it bit, if needed. (I added no pasta water.) Add ½ of the basil and stir gently one more time. Top with the remaining tomatoes and basil.
5. Serve hot or at room temperature.
TIP: Using 1 1/2- 2 pounds of cherry tomatoes in Lebovitz’s recipe is sufficient for this pasta dish. Chris’ recipe yields approximately 4 cups of the mixture depending on size.
COOKtheBOOKFRIDAYS is an international virtual cooking group making their way through David Lebovitz’s outstanding newest cookbook, My Paris Kitchen. To see what my colleagues baked this week, go here.
Where to begin. This is my last LIGHTSonBRIGHT postmarked from California. In mid-November I left Aspen, barely escaping the first snow flurries, knowing it would be springtime before my return. The left side of my brain, where my logic is warehoused, kept telling me this was a good thing. My heart, where most of my decisions are made, was shouting, “What have you done?”
David Lebovitz’s CROQUE MONSIEUR from My Paris Kitchen cookbook
In the past 5 1/2 months of this solitary journey I have motored through five states, joyously celebrated three major holidays, one VIP 50th birthday and settled into 3 different homes. Good fortune smiled broadly in December for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Galapagos.
The Valley Vixens, my nature study group, flew to California for a long week-end of whales, wildflowers and birds. – with our guides at Chimney Rock, Point Reyes National Seashore
This solitude and being alone thing cuts both ways. My adventures and explorations throughout California from Point Reyes in the north to Los Angeles have been magical. I have fallen in love with this state and the people in it. (Caveat: Aspen and the Rockies are still #1.) I’ve relished my aloneness, Yin time to my Yang’s constant busyness of Aspen. Admittedly, it’s time for Yang.
My BETTER THAN THIS drop cookie
There will be many hours during my 1,000 mile trip back to Colorado, to revisit this journey, realize Life lessons learned, and re-think traveling more simply. Unfortunately, the drive also coincides with what would have been our 30th wedding anniversary. That day I plan to cut short my driving time, stop at a familiar hotel, enjoy a nice dinner with a glass or three of wine and remember the good times. Reservations already booked.
Load. Lock. Puree. This tapenade can be thrown together in 10 minutes.
MY PARIS KITCHEN: TAPENADE & the non-sexist CROQUE
I’m betting you’ll like this farewell post from Cambria. It’s Cook the Book Fridays when we feature recipes from David Lebovitz’s spectacular My Paris Kitchen. That man knows how to write a cookbook. Here’s my take on his Artichoke Tapenade with Rosemary Oil, a tasty quickie and multitasker. Try it also on pizza, stuffed in mushrooms or in a myriad of other ways suggested here. And, that Rosemary Oil? Do it.
The Rosemay Oil infusion is oh-so-simple to create and it is a classy touch to the tapenade.
Let’s be clear. The Croque-Monsieur, which America has bastardized into a fried ham and cheese sandwich, is sexist. Whenever this recipe is featured anywhere, we women end up in parentheses:(to make Croque-Madame, top it with a fried egg). I just can’t work with that. Instead, this week we’re making David’s absolutely delicious Croque-Madame. (If you’d rather make a Croque-Monsieur, hold the egg.)
No, artist Andy Goldsworthy isn’t hanging out on Moonstone Beach but visitors and locals alike create their own disposable twig art every week-end. Using debris that’s washed up on the beach, they spend their time creating habitats. And, then, we all sit together in them and enjoy the sunset. And, then, Boom, it’s washed away at high tide.
For David’s, first mix together his Béchamel which elegantly separates his version from the pack. Don’t be intimidated, Readers. It’s a white sauce, plain and simple. Now, start building the sandwich, layering the prosciutto or ham with Comté or Gruyère cheese. Then, butter. Not a good calorie-counting day. Serve this richness with a green salad/mustardy vinaigrette. I cannot express adequately how deliciously amazing this sandwich tastes.
Mmmmm. dark chocolate, dried cherries, toasted walnuts and oatmeal – what’s Better Than This?
We only post David’s recipes if they are already out there in cyberspace. Luckily these two are flying high so I’m reprinting them. I do encourage you, however, to buy this terrific book.
My friends travelled from Colorado to San Francisco for sunshine, warmth and to visit me. Is one out of three considered a Win?
The BETTER THAN THIS Cookie
The beloved Dorie Greenspan, our talented French Fridays with Dorie mentor, bakes World Peace cookies. Her test-tasting neighbor, Richard Gold, became convinced that ‘a daily dose of these cookies was all that is needed to ensure planetary peace and happiness.’ They are sublime. Blogger Chris Scheuer, who resides at Cafe Sucre & Farine, makes I Want to Marry You cookies, a chocolate chip delight reputed to inspire marriage proposals. These are two of the best cookies I’ve baked.
Pop into the ‘fridge for ten minutes before putting into a 375 degree oven.
However, I’m throwing down the gauntlet and suggesting to these ladies that my gem of a cookie can compete. I’m naming it the Better Than This cookie because no cookie you taste or bake now can be, you got it, Better Than This. Here’s the deal. Since returning to Aspen three years ago and setting up shop at The Gant, its young, professional staff has made me feel comfortable and safe. They’ve helped launch me into a happy albeit different Lifestyle. My gratefulness knows no bounds. Those kids have become willing LIGHTSonBRIGHT test-testers. Because I’ve been MIA the past many months, I’m afraid my tiara may have tarnished somewhat. Here’s betting this tasty jewel of dried cherries, dark chocolate, rolled oats and walnuts, will re-burnish my status and have them asking, “What can be better than this?”
I will miss these crazy noisy clowns called Acorn Woodpeckers who live nearby. If you ever spot a tall pole or tree riddled with hundreds of holes, each containing an acorn—it’s an amazing Woodpecker granary tree. Stop and take a look.
A Granary Tree – One tree can have up to 50,000 holes drilled by Acorn Woodpeckers, each filled with an acorn for winter forage. Imagine the effort involved.
When I see you next time, I’ll be happily shedding my road warrior skin and blogging from Colorado’s High Country. Big smiles all around.
CROQUE-MONSIEUR by David Lebovitz, My Paris Kitchen cookbook
Makes 2 Sandwiches
Béchamel Sauce ingredients
1 Tablespoon salted or unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon all purpose flour
3/4 Cup whole milk
Pinch of sea salt or kosher salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
4 thin slices sourdough or country style bread, 1/4 to 3/8” thick
4 slices prosciutto or thinly sliced dry cured ham or 2 thick slices boiled ham
2 thin slices Comté or Gruyère cheese
4 Tablespoon salted or unsalted butter
1/4 Cup grated Comté or Gruyère cheese
1. Spread the Béchamel Sauce on the bread.
1. Béchamel Sauce: Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and stir in the flour. When the mixture starts to bubble, stir and cook for 1 minute more. Whisk in 1/4 cup of the milk, stirring to discourage lumps. Whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup of milk. Cook for about 1 minute more, until the sauce is thick and creamy, like runny mayonnaise. Remove from the heat, stir in a pinch of salt and cayenne and set aside to cool a bit and thicken.
2. Place meat of choice on one slice.
2. Spread the Béchamel evenly over the four slices of bread. Lay a slice of meat over two of the bread slices, top them with slices of cheese and then top with the remaining ham slices. Close the sandwich with the two remaining slices of bread, Béchamel side down (on the inside). Brush the outsides of the sandwiches without restraint with the melted butter. (TIP: My choice, Prosciutto and Gruyère).
3. Top with cheese of choice and then add more meat.
3. Turn on the broiler and heat a large ovenproof frying pan or grill pan over medium heat on the stove top. (Make sure to use a pan with a heatproof handle for broiling later.) Place the sandwiches in the frying pan, drape with a sheet of aluminum foil and then rest a cast iron skillet or other heavy pan or flat object on top. Cook until the bottoms of the sandwiches are well browned. Remove the skillet and foil, flip the sandwiches over, replace the foil and skillet and continue cooking until the other side is browned. (TIP: I used a grill pan and browned for 2 minutes on EACH side.)
4. Close sandwich. Slather each side with melted butter. Now is not the time to begin worrying about calories.
4. When browning the sandwiches, place a piece of tinfoil and heavy object on top to weigh them down.
4. Remove the cast-iron skillet and foil and scatter the grated cheese on top of the sandwiches. Put the pan under the broiler and broil the sandwiches until the cheese melts. Serve immediately.
7. Scatter grated cheese on top and pop in the over to broil.
ARTICHOKE TAPENADE with ROSEMARY OIL by David Leibovitz, My Paris Kitchen cookbook
Because I was using up my opened items before leaving Cambria, I used green olives with pimentos. It was pretty and tasty but David recommends the real deal, fresh green olives.
Serves 6 to 8.
One 14-ounce) can artichoke hearts (2 Cups), drained and quartered
1/2 Cup pitted green olives
1/3 Cup olive oil
1 Tablespoon capers, rinsed, squeezed dry, and chopped
1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/8 Teaspoon cayenne pepper
Rosemary Oil Ingredients (Makes 1/2 Cup)
1/2 Cup olive oil
Generous pinch of sea salt or kosher salt
1/2 Cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/3 Cup rosemary leaves
Toasted sliced baguette or crackers, to serve
1. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Have a bowl of ice water ready. Heat the oil and salt in another small saucepan until warm but not boiling. Remove from the heat and set aside. Add the herbs to the boiling water and cook for 10 seconds before draining and putting the herbs in the ice water.
2. When the herbs are cool, lift them out with your hand and press them in a paper towel until very, very dry. Add them to the oil. Let the herbs infuse for 15 minutes.
3. Blend the herbs and oil in a mini-chopper or food processor for 30 seconds. Strain the oil through a fine-mesh strainer. There will be a few bits of greenery in the oil. The rosemary oil can be kept for a few days at room temperature in a closed container, or for up to 1 month in the refrigerator. Bring it to room temperature before using.
1. In the bowl of a food processor, purée the artichokes, olives, olive oil, capers, lemon juice, garlic, and cayenne pepper until smooth. Taste, and season with a bit of salt if necessary.
2. Serve drizzled with a liberal amount of rosemary oil, along with toasted slices of baguette or crackers for dipping. The tapenade will keep for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.
The BETTER THAN THIS cookie adapted from THE KITCHN COOKBOOK by Sara Kate Gillingham and Faith Durand
Note to High Altitude Bakers: When I return to Colorado, I will adjust these cookies to altitude and post the resulting recipe.
Makes 4 dozen cookies
1 3/4 Cups unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
3/4 Cup dark brown sugar, packed
3/4 Cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 extra-large eggs, room temperature
1 Teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
1 Teaspoon baking soda
1 Teaspoon salt
1/2 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 Cup old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 Cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 Cup dried cherries
8 Ounces (two bars) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
Flaked sea salt (optional, I use the Maldon brand)
1. Preheat oven to 375°F
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick baking liner. Pour the walnuts onto the baking sheet and toast until browned about 10 minutes, turning once. Cool slightly and then chop coarsely. Cool completely before using them.
3. Cover the cherries with 1 cup boiling water and let stand for 10 minutes to plump up. Drain and thoroughly pat dry. Chop the chocolate into small pieces.
4. In a large mixing bowl with the paddle beater, mix together the sugars with the softened butter until completely blended. Add the eggs, one at a time to form a smooth batter. Mix in the vanilla, salt, baking soda and cinnamon.
5. Add the flour all at once and stir the batter gently by hand until the ingredients are well-combined. Fold in by hand the rolled oats, cherries, and chocolate until all the ingredients are combined.
6. Using a medium cookie scoop or mounded 1 1/2 inch tablespoon of mixture, space the dough on the cookie sheet 1 to 2 inches apart. Put each tray in the refrigerator for ten minutes before baking the cookies. Then bake, rotating the tray once, until the craggy tips and edges just start to darken, 10 – 12 minutes. DO NOT OVERBAKE
7. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. After completely cool, these cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 week. These cookies freeze well.
TIP: When baking, use exact measurements. No eyeballing anything. With all drop cookies, I use an Oxo cookie scoop.
Cook The Book Fridays is an international group cooking its way virtually through David Lebovitz’s newest cookbook. To visit our link or join us, go here.
After a hale and hearty Vive La France we put on our biggest, soooo American smiles to honor the people of Paris and friends in France.
Last Saturday evening I planned to have dinner with friends before leaving Aspen for the winter. Then, Friday the 13th happened. Paris was bloodied. France, bruised. The six of us, who had all experienced and enjoyed the City of Lights as well as the country itself, were shaken.
Donna Grauer set a beautiful table for the evening. Note the tiny towers at each place setting.
After watching the events play out throughout the next day we decided to do what our friends abroad would wish and still gather together for food, wine and friendship. Only, we decided, this evening would be more about France. So it was.
Irish Whiskey Soda Bread and not Baguettes?
Our menu, already set, was appropriate: Bruschetta with Burrata and Sautéed Capers and Shallots; Leafy greens covered with a tangy tarragon dressing; Farro With Mushrooms and Roasted Pine Nuts, a recipe adapted from Martha Rose Shulman; followed by French cheeses and fruit. The only oddball was my proposed contribution, Irish Whiskey Soda Bread.
Not only was this not French, it wasn’t even St. Patrick’s Day, the appropriate time for such fare. Remembering French cooks, who aren’t into waste, are ingenious with leftovers, I mounted my defense. Although I did damage to my bottle of Jameson’s Irish Whiskey for last week’s Irish Coffee recipe, my leftover supply is still ample and needs to be used. The verdict? Soda bread instead of baguettes.
We brought out the champagne flutes for this well-considered rosé produced at the Jolie-Pitt chateau in France.
For our special toast our hosts, the Grauers, brought forth a wine they’d been gifted of 2014 Provençal rosé produced on the 150 acres of vineyards at Chateau Miraval owned by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Wine Spectator had ranked their first vintage at number 84 on its list of the top 100 wines of 2013. A perfect touch.
Add the eggs/buttermilk/irish whiskey mixture to the flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, salt and butter crumbly mixture and you’ve got it!
There’s little we six Americans can do to heal wounds and lessen grief. It’s a helpless feeling. All of us DO send thoughtful solace with appreciation for the wonderful times we’ve all experienced in France ….. and, will again. That’s what our evening was about. Vive la France.
Not much kneading is “kneeded” to form the dough into a round. Don’t forget the X slit before sliding it into the oven.
This evening proved there is no need to save this Irish soda bread for just one holiday. The slight flavor of Irish Whiskey lends its zesty flair to the raisins, currants and caraway seeds. It’s soft-textured and, unlike the breads we usually enjoy, more cake than bread. With no yeast, soda bread rises because of the reaction by the acid in the buttermilk to baking soda. It is perishable, however, only lasting two days. Think toast on Day Two.
After the meal, the leftovers and crumbs
Although the lights on my blog will go dark for the next three weeks, my personal light will continue to shine brightly. I leave Aspen this week-end and will be spending Thanksgiving for the ninth year with my family at Death Valley National Park. Shortly after the holidays I’ll fly to Quito, Ecuador and, eventually, the Galapagos. I anticipate this to be the trip of my lifetime and am grateful for the opportunity.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO YOU ALL.
Note the men, waving, with yellow gloves, who are hanging the winter lights at The Gant
IRISH WHISKEY SODA BREAD adapted from HOMEMADE WINTER by Yvette Van Hoven
Day Two – Soda Bread makes perfect toast.
1 cup mixed raisins and currants
2 teaspoon caraway seed
4 tablespoon Irish whiskey
8 cups all-purpose flour (In the altitude? Use High Altitude Hungarian Flour)
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, cold
2 cups buttermilk, or more or less as needed for a month dough
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a large baking sheet or line with parchment.
2. Mix the raisins/currants with the caraway seeds and whiskey and let soak for 15 minutes.
3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Slice and cube the cold butter. With your fingers, work in butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
4. Pour the raisin-whiskey mixture through the flour mixture.
5. Beat two eggs and blend them into the buttermilk.
6. Pour that over the flour mixture and knead until it comes together in a ball – no longer.
7. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and form a smooth ball of dough. Form the dough into a round.
8. Place it on a prepared baking sheet.
9. In a small bowl, beat an egg and brush it over the top of the loaf. (You won’t need to use the entire beaten egg.) Use a sharp knife to cut an ‘X’ into the top of the loaf as shown in the picture..
10. Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted through the center of the loaf comes out clean and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, 45 to 50 minutes. Check for doneness every 5 minutes after 35 minutes.