Le Pique-Nique 2 – Gravlax with a Beet Cure

 

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Finding gravlax in the south of France is a bit disconcerting, like strolling through an open air market and seeing a vendor in full Viking regalia hawking cured fish among his competitors’ stands of sausage, nougat, and sour cherries.  But there it was, gravlax, an appetizer goody that arrived at our table one night to prime the pump before the serious business of the main course–eating duck–began.  Thin slices of cured salmon with a beautiful fringe tinted the color of roses.  Rich, buttery salmon, a hint of beet, of dill and gorgeous color.  None of us could remember the last time we had gravlax, but it had been awhile.  Wouldn’t it be great for picnic?  Gravlax with a Beet Cure packed among the dark bread, cheese and fruit tarts?  Especially with a few cucumbers and some fermented European butter spread on the dark bread before layering on the samon? Of course it would.

Salad Daze – Summer Squash Salad with Purple Basil

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A phrase you will never see: Big bold summer squash flavor!  Nope.  Which is why I’ll take my warm weather squash raw, as in this Summer Squash Salad with Purple Basil Vinaigrette.  Very thinly sliced, please, so I can appreciate the mild flavor and crunchy texture, ideally accented by a summery dressing, like the basil vinaigrette that tops this preparation.  Throw in a few slices of good parmiggiano and I’m in heaven.  And nobody even turned on the oven.

Pique-Nique I – Chicken Rillettes with Preserved Lemon and Summer Savory

 

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Fat.  Let’s not beat around the bush, shall we?  Fat’s probably the best place to begin a discussion of Chicken Rillettes with Preserved Lemon and Summer Savory.  Au debut, as the French say, in the beginning, rillettes meant one thing – pork.  Or rather, pork and fat.  Rillettes was pork that had been salted, cooked slowly in pork fat, shredded, then preserved in the same fat, and served at room temperature, usually spread on toast.  Rillettes* are now found all over France, and while pork is still popular, in the Southwest, the Midi-Pyrenees, extending down to the Spanish border, the technique is more often seen with duck or rabbit.  Today rillettes of salmon, tuna or other fatty fish, or even mushrooms are not uncommon on pricey menus.  It’s hard to argue with that–what doesn’t taste good when cooked slowly in fat and salt?

Les Vacances

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Move along, move along.  Nothing to see here, except vacation pics.  (Oh noooooooooo, vacation pictures?!)  This is a self-serve post–you can jump ship now, or you can take a gander at our trip.  I’ve put together three different galleries, to help with a bit of context.  St. Cirq Lapopie and the Sud-Ouest.  Meursalt and the Rando -Gourmande.  And last of all, Paris. Next week we return with something to eat.

Grilled Skirt Steak with Spicy Green Romesco

 

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As you read this, we’re feverishly running around dropping off the animals, picking up last-minute compact flash cards, camera batteries and a new swimsuit.  This afternoon we fly off on vacation, to spend a couple of weeks connecting with old friends, exploring prehistoric cave painting, cycling, drinking, eating and playing Bananagrams on the terrace.  I’m still uncertain about whether we’re going to go dark–EVERYBODY needs some time off the grid–or if I’ll try figuring out some sort of wifi connection for the occasional splash of photos.  In the meantime we’re going out with something that anyone can use to make themselves look like a back yard fire god, Grilled Skit Steak with Spicy Green Romesco.  You need a food processor and a bit of patience.  Look at the photos: No complicated technique.  Believe me, you’ll be killer.

Seared Salmon with Strawberries, Rose Water and Balsamic Vinegar

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I had my first experience with balsamic vinegar, the bona fide aged article from Modena in Emilia Romagna, while working in a gourmet grocery store in rural Rhode Island in 1981.  I remember the occasion because it involved tasting a small drizzle atop strawberries and I thought it was a prank.  The taste was transformative.  Imagine sweet-tart strained through a bottle of Chateau Margaux.  The combination has remained with me ever since.  You can catch an echo of that experience in this week’s Seared Salmon with Strawberries, Rose Water and Balsamic Vinegar.

Po’s Easy Pots de Crème

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For your consideration: Po’s Easy Pots de Crème.  Po is my mother-in-law and she is a master of complicated dinner party timing.  None of the slatternly boozing it up with the help in the kitchen that characterizes entertaining chez nous.  She’s all guests-in-one-place, cooks-in-another, and the brevity of a host’s absence from her guests only redounds to her reputation for efficient culinary management.  Ninety-percent of this recipe is “Place all of the ingredients… in a blender.”  Not that you’d know it from the taste and texture.  Remember how the genie in Disney’s ALADDIN describes his life?  “ALL THE POWER OF THE UNIVERSE… in a teeny little space.”  That’s this dessert.

Tenzin’s Sha Momos with Sepen (Beef Momos with Chili Dipping Sauce)

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As the work-at-home dad, I used to pick up our son Oliver from preschool.  We discovered a Tibetan restaurant a short walk away, and you know what they say, If you give a mouse a Tibetan restaurant… he’s gonna want a momo to go with it.  Momos are exquisite little dumplings, the go-to item on a Tibetan menu.  You may order other things, but you will always order momos.  For Oliver and I, and later our daughter Roxanne, momos became a regular Friday treat.

Fast forward, ten years.  We continue eating momos, when we find them, but have never tried making them.  Then I met Tenzin Conechok Samdo, a new bartender at my wife’s restaurant, TRADE.  I thought I’d get an insider’s view on on who made the best momos locally.  After I photographed a series of his remarkable cocktails he began asking, “Hey, when are you going to invite me over to make momos?”  He knew about The Garum Factory.  Make momos?  At our house?  Um, how about this Friday?  Herewith, Tenzin’s Sha Momos with Sepen.  Beef Momos with Chili Dipping Sauce.

Sea Scallops, Peas and Chervil

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If I ever leave New England, it will be the taste of a freshly seared Atlantic sea scallop that brings me back.  Big, meaty, packed with marine flavor.  When people talk about regional American cuisine and they trot out Texas or North Carolina barbecue or Virginia hams or Alaskan salmon, I always ask if they’ve ever tasted a genuine New England sea scallop.  Most haven’t.  This week: Sea Scallops, Peas and Chervil.  The sea scallops are large, they take a thin edge of delicious sear while remaining moist and rare in the center, and they hold a delicious court with butter, peas and chervil.