Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tarte au figues fraiches/Fresh Fig Tart

Call me fickle but I just can’t seem to stick with one cookbook. It’s not that I haven’t been cooking, I just keep being lured by other recipes, other sources which, hence, I don’t write about on “Lydie’s blog”. So... long time, no write.

True, there is the issue of the grandson, who, happily, consumes much of my time and attention. Here he is with one of his favorite toys – a saucepan! Perhaps I’ll write a blog about cooking with kids when he gets a little older.

Today, though, the moon and stars were properly aligned so that the presence of fresh figs in our market and my need to make a dessert occurred simultaneously. I have been wanting to make the fig tart featured in Lydie’s cookbook for some time. As many of her recipes, this is a simple but elegant dessert. The recipe uses her basic tart crust. Then, a blend of almonds, sugar, egg, butter, and rum is spread on the partially-baked crust. Finally, fresh figs are arranged on top. Bake. Voilà! Really quite lovely, don’t you think? My book group gave it two thumbs up for taste as well.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Bouillabaisse d'asperges/Asparagus Bouillabaisse, Aioli

MONDAY, MAY 10, 2010

The farmer’s market has begun! How nice to be among the familiar sights and smells, even though it was raining. Also familiar was the enticement of fresh lettuces, spinach, cheeses, etc. It takes will power to not buy every alluring item, which inevitably leaves me with not enough time to do something with everything. This time I limited myself to lovely asparagus so that I could try Lydie’s asparagus soup.

I was once again impressed with how simple, yet delicious Lydie’s recipes can be. Asparagus, oil and flour for a kind of roux, and chicken stock (guiltily, I opted for store-bought), pureed at the end. That’s it! Delicious!

Lydie suggests serving the soup with aioli. This was my first attempt at making aioli. Ladies and gentlemen: don’t try making aioli when you’re in a hurry. It requires incorporating olive oil into a mixture of egg yolks, garlic, salt and cayenne one drop at a time! This cannot be hurried or short-cut without a curdled mess on your hands! (Believe me, I know!) Next time I will use the standing mixer, not the hand held one, which will allow for a more leisurely emulsification of the oil with egg yolks. The end result was delicious, despite the aioli’s consistency being less than perfect. How can you go wrong with a garlicky mayonnaise. What a nice addition to the soup!

I am curious to know why this is called a bouillabaisse, not a soupe. Apparently, bouillabaisse has a meaning beyond fish soup, but I’m not familiar with what distinguishes a bouillabaisse from a soupe. Anyone out there know?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Tapenade, Toasts

SUNDAY, MAY 9, 2010

Another long hiatus. I can understand if you are giving up on me. It’s been a busy spring. A new addition to our family has been the biggest sapper of time and energy that might otherwise have gone to trying new recipes. Not that I’m complaining. At all!

Anyway, this weekend I was tasked to bring an hors d’oeuvre to a gathering. I decided to try Lydie’s tapenade. Tapenades were ubiquitous at all the farmer’s markets that we visited in Provence - luscious varieties next to bins of whole olives. I remember Lydie saying, and I read it again in her cookbook, that making a good tapenade is time-consuming. You have to strain the mixture through a sieve, teaspoon by teaspoon, in order to be rid of the olive skins. The first part is easy: just dump niçoise olives, anchovies, capers, and a little brandy in a food processor and push the button. It’s true: straining out the skins does take a little time. But that’s nothing compared to the time it takes to de-pit about 100 little olives! Note to self: do not try this unless you get pitted olives next time.

The resulting tapenade was very good. It compares favorably to the concoctions I had in France. I have another recipe for tapenade that includes garlic, which could be a nice addition, but also includes olive oil. While it’s tasty, I’ve always found it too oily, so this is a good variation and it's plenty creamy without the additional oil. Speaking of oil, Lydie suggests serving the tapenade on little toasts. She has a recipe for toasts, which basically entails slicing a baguette into ½ inch rounds and sautéing them in olive oil. Well again, to lighten things up, I decided to toast the breads in the oven on a cookie sheet which I had lined with tin foil to which I had added a thin coat olive oil. Maybe not quite as succulent as the sautéed variety but quite serviceable.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Artichauts en ragoût/Stew of Baby Artichokes with White Onions and Garlic

MONDAY, MARCH 15, 2010

Before the Lydie Project I would pick recipes to try based on their apparent appeal as I read them over – ingredients I liked or an interesting preparation. The thing about doing this project is that I am forced to make recipes that I would ordinarily overlook. Sometimes that results in a pleasant surprise. This is the case with my latest Lydie experiment. The baby artichoke dish looked kind of uninteresting. Just artichoke hearts braised with some onion and garlic, with herbs added. Boring. Au contraire. It’s quite the little gem of a dish. I saw some baby artichokes at the grocer’s and thought I'd give it a try. It turned out delicious. I also liked that the preparation was short. Braising takes just 30 minutes.

I was initially put off by the prospect of using only the hearts of the artichoke. It kills me to pull off all those succulent leaves and just throw them away. Another thing: the directions call for removing the choke, the hairy part at the base. I’m never sure what I’m doing or how to execute this maneuver. Well, I managed with a little paring knife that I stuck in and rotated at the base. It seems to have done the trick. They turned out just fine. (I only mourned the discarded leaves for a second.) This is a great little side dish that will go with many foods. The artichokes accompanied a pasta dish with almond sauce that I’d been wanting to try. (Not in the Lydie cookbook.) I’m sure I’ll make these little morsels again.

Croquettes de pommes de terre/Potato Puffs


We have a friend with a massive garden. Among the things he grows are something like 16 varieties of potatoes! Little ones, big ones, waxy ones, ones for baking, yellow, white, and some with a deep purple center with a white ring around the outside. Beautiful! I’ve used them for roasting and to make potato leek soup. Lydie has written a whole cookbook devoted soley to potatoes so I guess she knows her way around a potato. The cookbook of this project has only a few potato recipes. It’s the night of the Oscars and I thought it would be a good time to munch on croquettes de pommes de terre or potato puffs. I would be serving them along side a large salad. (My way of compensating for the fat consumed in the potatoes.)

I’m not one to seek out deep frying experiences. For one thing, I hate to use all that oil only once and then discard it. I also try to avoid the calories and health risks of deep frying. Yes, I know that if you get the oil to the right temperature and flash fry the item it doesn’t really absorb that much oil.

So, I have to admit I entered this project with a few misgivings and with some half-hearted preparation. I only poured a couple of inches of vegetable oil into the skillet, not the quart of oil the recipe called for. Secondly, I’ve never invested in a thermometer for deep frying seeing as how I never thought I’d be doing much of it. So, I didn’t really know if I got the oil hot enough.

Well, the result reflected my ambivalence. The potatoes were tasty, but, to my taste, a little greasy. The one thing that amazed me once again is the alchemy of mashed potatoes and flour. Incredibly, these two ingredients resulted in a dough one could quite easily roll out and cut with a cookie cutter into rounds to be deep fried.

In the hands of a deep frying aficionado perhaps this would be a nice recipe. Me, I think I will leave the deep frying to someone else.

Saturday, February 13, 2010



One of the gifts I received at Christmas was a copy of the book Julie & Julia. I had seen the movie (which was the inspiration for this blog) but had never read the book. It is really entertaining. Unlike this blog, it contains many amusing anecdotes from her life. Well, my decision to keep this anonymous means that you’ll never read any dirt about my life – at least not here, from me. Sorry about that. I’m going to stick to food and recipes.

I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from Lydie-cooking. I was visiting my sister and although I took “Lydie” with me, I never cracked the cover. We were too busy with other things to spend a leisurely day delving into a recipe. Instead we ate out, ordered in, or cooked very simple food.

I did want to get back to telling you about that wonderful potato dough from my previous blog. Not only is it good for making pissaladières, but one can make a baguette from it! A baguette from potato dough? I was dubious. I have to tell you that it turned out to be very delicious! I am a bit of a baguette aficionado. The best ones I’ve found are at the Chilmark Store on Martha’s Vineyard – even better than the ones I’ve had in Paris, at least to my taste. The potato dough baguette is not like a Chilmark or Paris baguette. The inside is not quite as light and the exterior is not as crusty. However….it is delicious! It has a more substantial taste to it and is almost a little sweet. I liked it very much. And so easy to make!

After two pissaladières and a baguette I still had some dough left, which I froze. Yesterday I defrosted the remaining dough to use for another baguette. My first clue that something was wrong was that it did not rise during the 30 minutes that you’re supposed to let it rise. I popped it in the oven, never-the-less. Result: something like an unleavened pita in baguette shape. I have to say, though, that it still was mighty tasty, if you got past the expectation of an airy texture. The photo is of the previous, successful baguette.

(p.s. I've finally figured out how to write French characters on my computer: as delighting an accomplishment as any recipe!)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Pissaladiere aux aubergines/Eggplant Pissaladiere


My friends have my number! Many Christmas and birthday presents I have received recently have had a food and/or cooking theme. I think people have gathered my interest in this field. One such gift was a DVD of A Moveable Feast featuring several celebrity chefs each making a delectable dish. The donor of the gift and the donee (me!) are getting together tonight (along with our husbands) to watch the DVD. What to eat while we watch? Maybe this is the time to tackle a category of recipes in Lydie’s book called pissaladieres.

I am reminded of a visit many years ago by a friend and her new husband. I slaved over a new recipe featuring a mélange of different cheeses blended with roasted potatoes and a bouquet of several herbs. This new husband, who has no truck with affectation, looked at the dish and said, “Oh, we’re having potato pizza in a bowl!”

A pissaladiere is essentially a French pizza. (It sounds so much more elegant in French!). Lydie makes it with a potato dough. So basically, I’m back to making potato pizza. This time not in a bowl!

The dough uses baking potatoes that are mashed and incorporated with flour and yeast. Lydie recommends using a heavy duty mixer with a flat paddle for mashing the potatoes and kneading them into the flour. If one doesn’t have such a mixer, she recommends mashing the potatoes with a ricer, then, kneading the dough by hand. I have neither a flat-paddled mixer nor a ricer so I used a simple mashing utensil, then, my hands. I was unable to get the potatoes to be totally smooth so that there were polka dots of potato in the dough. I was worried about this little flaw, but when it was baked, miraculously, the polka dots seemed to have disappeared.

As I was mashing, kneading, waiting for the dough to rise, rolling, I was thinking, “Well, this is interesting seeing how it works to make it from scratch but next time I’d rather just buy a bag of dough from my local grocer.” Sort of like learning the mathematical steps to a statistical program but really being content to hit a couple of keys on a computer program. I’ve changed my mind! The dough turned out to be delightfully light and flavorful. A special bonus was that it was very easy to work with. You know how regular pizza dough always seems to shrink back to its former size, like an elastic band, when you roll it out? Not so, this dough. I’m sure I’ll use this recipe again.

Lydie’s recipe book includes a variety of toppings. I decided on one with eggplant. Instead of sautéing the eggplant, which, in my experience, results in the eggplant soaking up the oil, I baked it, just brushing the eggplant with a little olive oil. Baking until it was soft took about 30 minutes. An interesting touch to this topping was combining mozzarella cheese with minced garlic and shreds of fresh basil, which was placed on the dough before adding the eggplant. It was really quite good.

And here is the result: