I Know How To Cook

We have all been there, you read a recipe, you decide to prepare the dish, only to find that some essential information is missing, that the ingredients are impossible to find or that the result is something completely different. For instance, we once decided to prepare a fairly complex dish. It consisted of four components, one being a popcorn-like version of saffron rice. The steps were not too challenging: cook sushi rice with saffron, dry for 2 days and then fry in oil on 180 °C or 355 °F for 10 minutes until the rice looks like popcorn. Sounds do-able, doesn’t it? Apart from the ‘like popcorn’. All rice turned out fat and golden-brown. Finally, we figured it out: we had to use a neutral oil with a very high smoking point, for instance refined sesame seed or avocado oil. But that information wasn’t provided in the recipe. Why not, we wonder, isn’t the goal of a recipe to help the reader prepare it? So why not provide all the necessary information?

(In case you wonder what the smoking point of oil is, it’s the temperature on which the oil breaks down. That’s when it may release unhealthy, damaging chemicals and nasty flavours. Olive oil has a relative low smoking point which is why you should pay careful attention to your pan when using it for frying.)

Je Sais Cuisinier

Ginnete Mathiot approach to recipes is clearly based on an ambition to educate, to transfer and share knowledge. She was born in 1907 in Paris and pursued a career as a teacher and inspector in home economics and as an author of many cookbooks. She didn’t own a restaurant, she never worked as a chef, she wasn’t a tv-celebrity. She was focused on sharing recipes and useful household and kitchen information. Millions of copies of her cookbooks were sold and many more benefitted from her knowledge and experience.

When she was 25 years old she published her classic Je Sais Cuisinier. Today the book is known as La Cuisine pour Tous. The English version is titled I Know How to Cook. It is a very useful cookbook with recipes that truly help you to prepare a dish. She also wrote excellent books on patisserie and preserves.

When you leave through I Know How to Cook you will notice helpful sections on spices, aromatic vegetables and flavourings, you’ll see a well written glossary of essential cooking terms, seasonal suggestions and many more aspects of food.

Given the time of year we looked for the artichoke-section of the book. Such a delicious vegetable! She includes a recipe for Artichoke Hearts Printanière (artichoke hearts with a filling of mushrooms, shallot, boiled egg, ham and artichoke, grilled in the oven) and for Artichokes à la Barigoule. This is a classic dish from the Provence region. The artichoke hearts are stuffed, wrapped in bacon, fried and then cooked in a sauce with carrots and onion. The artichoke is then served with the (strained) sauce. Next week we will publish our  vegetarian version of this classic.

Her books (in French, Italian and English) are available via your local bookstore and the usual channels.

I Know How To Cook
I Know How To Cook

Beet Greens Pie

Such a cheap and delicious vegetable: beets! Grilled, cooked, braised, combined with other vegetables or on its own, as a salad or straight from the oven. And so many varieties! Deep red, orange (chiogga), purple, golden and even white. All these beets have one thing in common: they come with leafs, with greens. Most retailers (and their customers) are not interested in the greens and therefore the leaves are discarded before the beets reach the shop. Which is a pity because they are as tasty as the beets. Use the greens in a salad, prepare them like you would prepare spinach or, even tastier, use the leaves as main ingredient of a pie.

Tourte de Blette

Some time ago we published the recipe for Tourte de Blette. When preparing it we were inspired by a dear friend who bases her Tourte on the Italian Torta Verde del Ponente Ligure. This is a very similar dish with zucchini, chard, basil, sage, rise, onion, Grana Padano or Parmesan and eggs. The dough of the Torta Verde is easy to work with and the result is both tasty and crunchy. It works really well for our Tourte de Blette so we decided to use it for this pie as well.

Wine Pairing

A not too complex white wine will be a great idea. You could also drink a glass of rosé with it, for instance a Côtes de Provence. Drinking a beer with your pie is also an excellent idea.

What You Need

  • For the Dough
    • 100 gram of Flour
    • 50 gram of Water
    • 10 gram of Olive Oil
    • 1 gram of Salt
  • For the Mixture
    • Greens of 3 or 4 Beets
    • One Shallot
    • Olive Oil
    • 50 grams of Cooked Rice
    • 1 or 2 Eggs
    • 50 gram Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
    • Black Pepper

What You Do

Cook the rice and leave to rest.  Combine flour, salt, water and olive oil. Make the dough, kneed for a minute or so and store in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Remove the leaves from the stem and chop the stems. Slice the leaves coarsely. Best is to have the stem slices the size of the cooked rice. Same for the shallot. Warm a large heavy skillet, gently fry the shallot. After 10 minutes add the chopped stems. Leave for 10 minutes and then add the leaves. Cook for a few minutes until done. Transfer to a plate and let cool.
Slice the mixture using a kitchen knife. Whisk the two eggs. Combine the vegetables, the egg, the rice and the freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Add black pepper.
Cut the dough in two, one part slightly bigger than the other. The bigger part will be the bottom, the smaller part the top. Roll out the bigger one with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface. Coat a 15 cm or 6 inch round baking form with oil (or use a sheet of baking paper). Place the first disk in the baking form, add filling and close with the second disk of dough. Fold the edge of the top piece of dough over and under the edge of the bottom piece of dough, pressing together. Make holes in the top, allowing for the steam to escape. Transfer to the oven for 40 – 50 minutes on 180˚ – 200˚ Celsius or 355˚ – 390˚ Fahrenheit. Immediately after having removed the pie from the oven, brush the top with olive oil. This will intensify the colour of the crust. Let cool and enjoy luke warm.

La Cuisinière Provençale

When we’re not completely sure about a sauce or a dish, we search for a recipe and inspiration in La Cuisinière Provençale. This comprehensive cookbook was first published in 1897 and was written by Jean-Baptiste Reboul. It includes 1119 recipes for an enormous variety of dishes and it provides background information on fish, meat and vegetables. It also gives traditional, seasonal, French suggestions for lunch and dinner for every day of the year. For instance for today, the third Monday of May, the two course lunch consists of moules farcies aux épinards et tendrons de veau bourgeoise. Or in English, mussels stuffed with spinach and veal tenderloins with carrots and onions.
You will find chapters about soups, hors d’œuvres, typical Provençal dishes, fish, sauces, mutton, veal, vegetables, eggs, jams and everything else you can think of.

This is one of the few cookbooks that uses the concept of formulas. For example: the recipe for Truite à la Meunière is very short: it simple states a few specific steps and then refers to formula 135, the one for Loup à la Meunière. We like this concept because it supports the idea that you can and should be flexible with ingredients. If for instance you can bake a pie with chard, then it’s probably a similar formula to bake a pie with wild spinach or beet leaves.

The recipes do not come with a separate list of ingredients, so you must make your own shopping list while reading the recipe. Not great, but we got used to it. The advantage is of course that the publisher could squeeze in even more recipes in the book.

Our Favourites

Daube Provençale is one of our favourites from this book. It is not too much work and you can also be fairly flexible with the recipe, as long as you use excellent, marbled beef. Well known chef Hélène Barale (La Cuisine Niçoise, Mes 106 Recettes) uses beef, veal and pork with tomatoes and dried mushrooms, Hilaire Walden (French Provincial Cooking) suggests marinating the beef in red wine and adds orange peel and olives whereas La Cuisinière Provençale suggests adding vinegar to the marinade but doesn’t use tomatoes, mushrooms or olives. We use carrots, shallot, garlic, mushrooms, black olives and red wine to make an intense, heart-warming stew.

La Cuisinière Provençale (in French only) is for sale via your local bookstore or the well known channels for 25 Euro or US dollar.

La Cuisinière Provençale
La Cuisinière Provençale

Halibut with Morels

Seasonal eating is such a great idee. Simply buy (locally produced) seasonal fruit, vegetables and mushrooms, enjoy fresher and better tasting ingredients, reduce your carbon footprint and support your local community. And it creates lots of tasty opportunities: celebrate the beginning of the truffle season, the start of the asparagus season, the first red wine from the Beaujolais region – all good fun.

Part of the concept (at least, we think so) is commemorating the end of a season. In the Netherlands the morel-season ends early May. This year was a particularly good year for morels, we had some beautiful, tasty ones, for a reasonable price. But now it’s time to prepare the last morel dish of the season. And the last one with Ramson! A very tasty dish, one that requires a bit of work, but the result is absolutely yummy!

Wine Pairing

The richness of the dish requires a full-bodied white wine, for instance a glass of Chardonnay; one that has a touch of oak and vanilla plus a lightly buttery finish. Our choice would be the Chardonnay of La Cour des Dames

What You Need

  • Halibut
    • Halibut (slice with skin and bone preferred)
    • Olive Oil
  • Morels
    • 50 grams of Morels
    • Olive Oil
  • Sauce
    • Shallot
    • Olive Oil
    • Fish Stock
    • Noilly Prat
    • Crème Fraîche
    • Butter
    • White Pepper
  • Ramson (Wild Garlic)

What You Do

Clean and half the morels. Fry these gently in a heavy iron skillet for at least 10 minutes.
In parallel heat a small heavy iron skillet, gently fry the chopped shallot. When soft, add the garlic and one or two ice cubes of fish stock. Add a splash of Noilly Prat. When warm, blender the mixture, pass through a sieve and return to the pan. Add some crème fraiche. Warm through and through.
In parallel fry the halibut in a separate (non-stick) pan. First on the skin side, then turn the fish, remove the skin and turn again. The result should be golden. Whilst still in the pan, remove the bone. This gives you two portions of fish per person.
Slice a few leaves of ramson lengthwise, removing the vein.
When the fish is opaque, it’s time to add a bit of butter to the sauce and a touch of white pepper.
Serve the fish on top of the sauce, add the morels and the leaves.

PS

We served the halibut with morels on plates designed by Walter Gropius and produced by Rosenthal; a classic plate in Bauhaus Style.

Halibut with Morels ©cadwu
Halibut with Morels ©cadwu

The Silver Palate

Think about the US, think about food and you’ll end up thinking about fast food, pale fries, endless portions of meat and bagels and waffles, sweetened orange juice and blueberry muffins with too much sugar. Which is such a pity, because the US cuisine is so much more and diverse. Just think about, eh, well, yes, eh…

The Shop

Which is exactly the reason why we bought The Silver Palate Cookbook, written by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, with Michael McLaughlin. It’s the story of two young, motivated people, Julee and Sheila, one from marketing with a passion for cooking and the other a graduate from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Both were trying and struggling to balance work, family, hobbies and interest. One day they came up with the idea of setting up a shop where people could buy great food, to take home and ‘graciously serve as their own’, solving one of the problems in their own life. And so, mid-July 1977, they opened their gourmet food shop in New York, selling Tarragon Chicken Salad, Nutted Wild Rice, Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies, Cheese Straws and on and on.

The Book

The shop was more than successful and in 1981 they were asked to write a cookbook. It was published in 1982 and not much later it was published in various languages. The Silver Palate Cookbook was a huge success, and still is.

The book includes a wealth of recipes, ranging from finger food, dazzlers, soups, pasta to game, stew pots, vegetables, sweets and brunch drinks. The book is very well designed, with beautiful drawings and pictures. Next to the recipes you’ll find interesting background information and tips. It’s a pleasure to read recipes for dishes such as Glazed Blueberry Chicken (with homemade blueberry vinegar and thyme, so not overly sweet at all!), Clam Chowder or Sorrel Soup.

The 25th Anniversary Edition of The Silver Palate cookbook is available via your local bookstore and the well-known channels for approximately US$ 17,00 or € 22,00.

Mushroom Caponata

There must be hundreds of recipes for Caponata. The dish originates from Sicily and should contain (at least, we think so) eggplant (aubergine), celery and vinegar. Sugar is often added to enhance the sweetness and intensity. Nowadays it’s often a combination with tomatoes, shallot, capers, olives and perhaps raisins, pine nuts, oregano and basil.
The flavour of caponata should be slightly bitter (the eggplant) with a touch of sweetness (sugar, onion), acidity and saltiness (celery). The texture should be moist, but not sauce-like.
We love to enhance the flavours by adding mushrooms. And since we’re not keen on using sugar, we make sure the onions bring sufficient sweetness.

Enjoy your caponata as an appetizer, for instance with some crusted bread or bruschetta. A nice glass of white wine or rosé will be perfect with it. It’s also great as a side dish, with fish or even merguez.

Whatever the combination, caponata must be made one day ahead.

What You Need

  • 1 Aubergine
  • 200 grams of Mushrooms (preferably a mix with Shiitake)
  • 1 Red Onion
  • 1 Garlic Clove
  • 1 cm Red Chilli Pepper
  • Parsley
  • Celery
  • 2 tablespoons of White Wine Vinegar
  • Olive Oil
  • Fine Salt

What You Do

Wash the eggplant and slice. We slice the eggplant lengthwise in 8 and then we slice these strips. Salt them generously, transfer to a sieve and allow to drain for one or two hours. The more liquid they lose, the better! Rinse the eggplant with cold water and dry them with a kitchen cloth. Fry the aubergine in a heavy iron skillet until nicely golden brown. Set aside. Slice the red onion, clean and chop the mushrooms. Chop the garlic and the chilli pepper finely. Add some olive oil to the pan and fry the onion. Remove and set aside. Now fry the mushrooms. After 5 minutes or so add the garlic and the chilli pepper. After a few minutes add the mushrooms and the eggplant to the pan. Add chopped parsley and celery. Mix well. Add two spoons of white wine vinegar and leave on low heat for 10 minutes. Add black pepper to taste. Transfer to a plate and let cool. Keep in the refrigerator for the next day.

La Cuisine Minceur 

Michel Guérard is probably one of the most influential French chefs. He is one of the founders of the Nouvelle Cuisine (basically the style of cooking with a minimum of butter, eggs and cream) and the inventor of the Cuisine Minceur: the slimming kitchen. Enjoy a three-course lunch or dinner without consuming too many calories.

In his restaurant Les Prés d’Eugénie in the southwest of France you can enjoy his slimming food. It’s a bit too expensive for our budget (the menus cost between € 275 and € 310 per person), so we were very happy to buy one of his books.

Sauce Vierge

Once upon a time, there was a simple sauce called Sauce Vierge. It wasn’t difficult to prepare, just beat butter until soft, then add lemon juice, salt and pepper and continue beating until fluffy. Serve with asparagus, leeks or other boiled vegetables. It was not the most exciting sauce ever and Sauce Vierge could easily have been forgotten.

The Nouvelle Cuisine changed the recipe by replacing the butter by olive oil. The new Sauce Vierge became a star. It was turned into a warm sauce and ingredients like garlic, tarragon, basil, parsley and chervil were added. Sauce Vierge became the ideal sauce to accompany fish.

In 1977 Michel Guérard published his recipe of Sauce Vierge, including crushed coriander seeds and diced tomatoes. His suggestion is to serve it with sea bass and a puree of watercress. We serve the sauce with fried skate.

Sauce Vierge was a star, but the name wasn’t ideal. The term Antiboise became popular, especially outside of France. Antiboise is named after the city of Antibes in the south of France.

Books

La Cuisine Minceur was published in 1976, followed by Cuisine Gourmande in 1979 and many other books, including a Best Of (2015). His books are available via your local bookstore, the well-known channels (also second hand) and his webshop.

Wine Pairing

Given the powerful flavours (capers, olives, herbs, skate) we suggest a fresh white wine with lots of fruit and easy to drink. Our choice was a Verdejo produced by Mocen (Spain).
In general you’re looking for an easy to drink, white wine with intense aromas (tropical fruit). The flavours should be fresh, dry, fruity, round and balanced.

What You Need

  • Skate (or Sea Bass)
  • Olive Oil
  • Garlic
  • Lemon
  • Excellent Tomatoes
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Chives
  • Black Olives
  • Capers
  • Black Pepper
  • Butter

What You Do

Heat some olive oil and add the crushed garlic glove. Let it rest on low temperature until the oil is infused. Peel and seed the tomatoes. Chop in small cubes. Cut the olives lengthwise in 8. Cut the capers. Roughly cut all the herbs. Fry the skate in oil and/or butter until brown. Remove the garlic, add lemon juice and tomatoes; mix. Serve the skate on a plate, add the herbs, the olives, the capers and black pepper to the sauce, mix and serve the sauce on top of the fish. 

Pasta with Mushrooms and Bell Pepper

Udon is such a wonderful noodle. What better comfort food than a warm soup made with dashi, vegetables, tofu, udon and thinly sliced spring onions? Perhaps some tempura on top of the soup? Or would you prefer a very simple dish, called Mori Udon? The cold udon is served with a sauce of mirin, dashi and soy sauce on the side.
Udon is also a great alternative to Italian pasta, for instance with Caesar’s Mushrooms.

In this recipe we combine udon with roasted bell pepper and Trompettes de la Mort. We’re not sure why, but this combination works really well. Is it because of the smokey aroma of the roasted bell pepper mixed with the aromas of the mushroom? The crispy pancetta in combination with the soft textures of the other ingredients, including the udon? The overall richness and umami thanks to the Trompettes de la Mort?

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our pasta with a glass of Bianco di Custoza, made by Monte del Frà from Italy. It is a well-balanced, dry white wine, with a fruity nose. Its colour is straw yellow, with pale green highlights. A glass of Soave, made from the Garganega grape, will also be an excellent choice. In general you’re looking for a fresh, aromatic dry white wine. 

What You Need

  • 1 Red Bell Pepper
  • 1 Bunch of Udon
  • 100 grams of Trompettes de la Mort
  • 1 Glove of cooked Garlic
  • 4 slices of Pancetta
  • Black pepper
  • Olive Oil

What You Do

Clean the bell pepper and cut in 4. Transfer to the oven and grill or roast for 10 minutes or until well charred. When still hot, put the bell pepper in a plastic container and close it. After one hour it’s easy to remove the skin of the bell pepper. Slice lengthwise to make nice strips. Set aside.
Slice the mushrooms in two and clean them with a soft brush. Check carefully for grit and other things you don’t like to eat.
Fill a large pan with water (no salt!) and bring to a boil. Add the udon and cook it according to the instruction. When nearly done, add some cooking liquid to a cup and set aside. Drain the udon.
In parallel heat a large heavy iron skillet, add olive oil and fry the mushrooms. Once they become a bit dryer, add the sliced bell pepper. Add the cooked garlic, crush it with a fork and mix. Now add the udon and continue mixing. Add cooking liquid until the pasta is sufficiently moist.
Also in parallel: grill the strips of pancetta (perhaps 5 minutes).
Add some black pepper to the pasta and serve with the grilled pancetta.

Pasta with Mushrooms and Bell Pepper ©cadwu
Pasta with Mushrooms and Bell Pepper ©cadwu

Classic White Asparagus

One of the classic ways of serving white asparagus is with melted butter, boiled eggs, ham and parsley. Preparing the asparagus this way, will allow you to taste the slight bitterness and sweetness of the asparagus. The butter and egg bring a velvety feeling to your palate, and the parsley and white pepper give a touch of sharpness to the dish. A great way to celebrate spring!

We use our Russel and Hobbs food steamer to prepare this classic dish. An essential kitchen aid for only 50 euro or US dollar. In this case the steamer cooks the asparagus, boils the eggs and heats the butter. Amazing!

A few years ago we enjoyed white asparagus with béarnaise and a small veal schnitzel accompanied by a glass of Silvaner at Café Heider in Potsdam, Germany. When we ordered we were asked how we would like our asparagus. Al dente, of course! If you like them more cooked, then steam them for an extra 5 minutes. 

Wine Pairing

Preferably serve the white asparagus with a dry Muscat from the Elzas. The delicate, slightly sweet but dry taste, the hint of bitterness and the rich aromas work very well with the asparagus. Muscat to us means the smell of fresh fruit. When drinking it is if you’re tasting the original grape. Wonderful wine and wonderful combination.
Or a glass of Silvaner of course. Just make sure the white wine has a touch of sweetness and is aromatic.

What You Need

  • 3 or 5 white asparagus per person
  • 2 Eggs
  • 100 grams Organic Cooked Ham
  • Parsley
  • Butter
  • White Pepper

What You Do

Clean and peel the asparagus. Steam them for 10+5+5 minutes. After 10 minutes add the eggs to the steamer basket. After 5 minutes, turn the eggs upside down and add a cup with cold butter. Another 5 minutes later everything is ready. The eggs will be medium: the yolk is not set but also not running. Peel the egg and cut in four. Chop the parsley. Serve the asparagus and eggs on a plate. Pour the warm butter over the asparagus. Dress the plate with ham (please make sure it has a bit of fat), perhaps some extra butter and sprinkle the parsley over the plate. Add some white pepper. 

Classic white Asparagus ©cadwu
Classic white Asparagus ©cadwu

More mushrooms!

Mushroom is one of the first books by Johnny Acton, Nick Sadler and Jonathan Lovekin (photographs), published in 2001. The book offers some 70 recipes plus very interesting background information on the history of mushrooms and their hallucinating, psychedelic and culinary aspects. The book comes with many beautiful drawings and photographs. It has specific sections on cèpes, morels, chanterelles and truffles. It is very well written, fun to read and the recipes are accurate.

They have also written books on Soup, Preserves and one called The Complete Guide to Making, Cooking & Eating Sausages.

Recipes

One of the benefits of the book is that the recipes range from relatively easy to make (pasta with cèpes or clear soup with enoki for instance) to exotic and mouth-watering dishes (lobster and cauliflower fungus ravioli with saffron butter). The book is a great addition to more classic books on mushrooms such as The Mushroom Book by Michael McLaughlin, The Mushroom Feast by Jane Grigson or Antonio Carluccio’s Complete Mushroom Book.

In most cases it’s not too difficult to buy the required mushroom. Shopping at your local Asian toko will also help, for instance if you need shiitake, enoki or wood ear (they offer a recipe for a very nice Chinese chicken soup with ginger, pak choi and dried wood ear).

Our favourite? Perhaps their salad with shiitake, watercress and tofu. A modern, light dish with lots of flavours (cilantro, ginger, sesame oil, lemon).

Mushroom is available (in most cases second hand) via channels such as Amazon and e-Bay for between 10 and 25 euro.

Mushroom