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.
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
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.
Hoping you also are enjoying this last breath of summer with friends, fellowship and good food.
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.
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.