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.

Asparagus with Kimizu

The combination of white asparagus and Hollandaise is classic. The sweetness and bitterness of the asparagus together with the velvety, rich flavours of the sauce is just perfect.

A few years ago we enjoyed Kimizu-Ae (white asparagus with Kimizu) at Yamazato in Amsterdam. We were immediately intrigued by this combination. The Kimizu is a rich and light sauce; it comes with a velvety feeling, a touch of sweetness, a bright yellow colour and perfect acidity. So yes, the next day we prepared our own Kimizu.

Kimizu is based on two main ingredients: egg yolk and rice vinegar. You could add some mirin and a pinch of salt. Kimizu does not contain butter (the egg yolk being the only source of fat) so Kimizu, although it seems similar to Hollandaise, is lighter, easier to digest and fresher.
Many recipes for Kimizu include starch, probably because the cook has trouble making a warm, emulgated sauce. Our advice: never use starch or beurre manié. The consistency is an essential element of the sauce and must be the result of carefully heating the mixture of egg yolk, vinegar, mirin and water.

Using a microwave oven to make Kimizu is a great idea (see our recipe for Hollandaise), although it does require more whipping and more attention compared to making Hollandaise.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our Asparagus and Kimizu with a glass of Sancerre, Domaine Merlin Cherrier. This classic wine reflects the chalky terroir of Sancerre beautifully. The combination of Sauvignon Blanc (citrus, minerals) and Kimizu (touch of sweetness, present but not overpowering acidity) works really well. A wine of true class and complexity with a long finish.

What You Need

  • Two Egg Yolks
  • 2 tablespoons of Rice Vinegar
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons of Water
  • Teaspoon of Mirin (optional)
  • Pinch of salt (very optional)
  • 6 Asparagus

What You Do

The amount of water you’ll need depends on the acidity of the rice vinegar and the size of the egg yolks. Whisk the two egg yolks, add the rice vinegar, the mirin, the water and whisk some more. Now transfer to the microwave and give it let’s say 10 seconds on 30% power. Remove from oven and whisk well. Repeat. You will now feel the consistency changing. If not, don’t worry, just repeat the step. After 2*10 or 3*10, move to steps of 5 seconds on 30% power. Whisk, whisk again and feel free to find your own way. When the Kimizu is ready, take it out of the oven, continue whisking gently and perhaps cool slightly in a water bath.
In parallel steam the asparagus (depending on the size 20 or 25 minutes; they should be well done for this dish).
Serve the asparagus with a generous helping of Kimizu.

White Asparagus with Kimizu ©cadwu
White Asparagus with Kimizu ©cadwu

Asparagus à la Flamande

One of the classic ways of serving asparagus is à la Flamande (Op Vlaamse wijze) with melted butter, boiled eggs, parsley and nutmeg. The nutmeg is an essential element of the dish. It enhances the flavour of the asparagus, and it’s a bridge between the egg mixture and the asparagus.
There are two main variations: the first one is to serve the asparagus with small potatoes. Not a great idea, unless you’re hungry, because the potatoes soften, weaken the flavour of the asparagus. The dish is about enjoying asparagus, so why would you add potatoes?
The second variation is to add lemon to the butter and egg mixture. This makes the dish a bit lighter and fresher. If you want to do so, be careful with the wine you serve. You need to balance the acidity in the wine and the food.

Wine Pairing

Serve the asparagus à la Flamande with a dry, white wine. We enjoyed a glass of Silvaner produced by the German Winery Thörle. The wine comes with freshness, some acidity, minerality and fruit (pear, green apples). Excellent with our asparagus.

What You Need

  • 4 Asparagus per person
  • 3 Eggs
  • Parsley
  • Butter
  • Nutmeg
  • White Pepper

What You Do

We use our Russel and Hobbs food steamer to prepare this classic dish. An essential kitchen aid for only 50 euro or US dollar. 
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. Another 5 minutes later the asparagus and the eggs are ready. If you like your asparagus softer, then steam for 12-15 minutes. The eggs should be hard. Depending on the size you may need to steam them a bit longer. In parallel heat a very generous amount of butter. Chop the parsley. Peel the egg and mash with a fork, creating a ‘mimosa’ of egg. Combine mimosa and parsley. Add some white pepper and freshly grated nutmeg. Add the mixture to the butter and combine. Spoon the egg mixture on top of the asparagus.

Asparagus a la Flamande ©cadwu
Asparagus a la Flamande ©cadwu

Maitake

Legend has it that maitake got its nickname The Dancing Mushroom because foragers danced with happiness when finding it. It still is a much loved culinary mushroom, with a very specific aroma, interesting texture and intense flavours.
Nowadays maitake can be wild or cultivated. Both are fine; we actually prefer the cultivated one because it’s milder. Make sure you cook maitake through and through, otherwise you may upset your stomach (and other parts of your body). 

Maitake combines very well with beef and thyme. It is also great when combined with shrimps, crab, scallops, coriander, dill and parsley; a salad created by Antonio Carluccio and published in 2003 in the Complete Mushroom Book. Our Maitake soup, made with dashi, ginger and rice, is a gentle soup, with some umami and bitterness. 

In this case we combine fried maitake with various other ingredients to create a well-balanced (vegetarian) meal.

Wine Pairing

A flavourful dish! Sweetness in the tomatoes, umami in the maitake, freshness in the mash et cetera. Wine wise you have lots of options. We preferred a not too complex pinot noir, because it’s supportive and combines very well with the various flavours.

What You Need

  • 200 grams of Maitake and Olive Oil
  • Parsley Root, Jerusalem Artichoke, Crème Fraîche, White Pepper and Nutmeg
  • Small Ripe Tomatoes, Thyme, Rosemary, Garlic and Olive Oil
  • Lentils, Shallot, Parsley, Vegetable Stock and Black Pepper
  • Celeriac, Butter, Caraway Seed, Fennel Seed and Black Pepper

What You Do

For the lentils: slice the shallot and gently fry it in olive oil. After a few minutes, add the washed lentils (check for pebbles!), coat them with oil, add vegetable stock and cook until ready. Perhaps 20 minutes. Drain but keep some of the liquid, add chopped parsley and black pepper.
For the tomato confit, see an earlier post.
For the mash: clean and chop 2 parsley roots and 1 Jerusalem artichoke. Cook for 10 minutes or so in water until nearly done. Drain. Add a generous spoonful of crème fraîche and warm on low heat for 10-20 minutes. The idea is for the vegetables to absorb some of the crème fraîche. Blender the mixture, pass through a sieve and serve with white pepper. A touch of freshly grated nutmeg will be great. If you like more color on your plate, then add some chopped parsley to the mash.
The celeriac is cooked in the oven with a coating of fennel and careway seed. The recipe from Dutch chef Yvette van Boven is available via YouTube. She combines it with a home-made citrus marmalade, but that’s not necessary for this dish. Use the YouTube settings if you want to have subtitles in your own language.
Slice the maitake and fry in olive oil until done and slightly crunchy.
Serve on a colourful plate.

Hilaire Walden

Some chefs love the limelight, some prefer to stay in the background, focusing on cooking and writing. Hilaire Walden is clearly one of them. 

She is author of some 40 books and she has written for prestigious magazines and newspapers about food, cooking and restaurants. She wrote The Great Big Cookie Book, The Book of Tapas and Spanish Cooking, the Book of French Provincial Cooking, The Singapore CookbookQuick After Work Summer Vegetarian CookbookThe Book of Fish and Shellfish and more recently I Love My Barbecue. Indeed, a broad culinary spectrum!

The Loire

One of our favourites is Loire Gastronomique. In this book she follows the course of the French river and describes the various regions, local products, local recipes and of course the wines that go with it. Cheese, cookies, pies, everything. The Loire region is known as the Garden of France. In this garden you’ll find wonderful castles (Azay-le-RideauChambordChinon), great wine (MuscadetSancerrePouilly-Fumé) and beautiful food (asparagus, lots of fruit, artichokes and of course Lentille Verte du Puy). The book is inspiring and it will make you dream of a walk along the Loire, with a view on Amboise and a glass Crémant de Loire in your hand.

Recipes

One of the benefits of Hilaire Walden’s recipes is that they are always correct. Sounds odd, but as we all know, unfortunately, often recipes are simply not complete or correct.
If you prepare a dish for the first time, simply follow her instructions and you’re fine.

She started publishing books around 1980, so perhaps your favourite book will be second hand, but don’t worry, it will not be outdated.

Mirepoix

A combination of three ingredients that is essential when preparing stocks, stews and sauces: onion, carrot and celery (ratio 2:1:1). It’s intriguing that this combination works so well. All three bring sweetness when cooked, the combination is balanced and it brings depth to the result.

The celery could be a bit confusing: should it be celeriac, the root (knob) or celery, the fibrous stalks? Some suggest using the root in winter and the stalks in summer. We suggest using the stalks in all cases. They are very aromatic and they come with a touch of saltiness, very different from the root.

When for instance you want to make a beef stew, then first sear the beef, remove it from the pan, perhaps add some oil or butter and then add the mirepoix. Leave to simmer on low heat for 15 minutes or so or until soft. It’s all about creating flavours and aromas. Make sure you don’t brown the mirepoix. 

Another approach is to add it to (cold) water. This works well when making a white stock. And of course, when you want to make a powerful, tasty vegetable stock.

What You Need

  • 1 Large Onion
  • 3 Celery Stalks
  • 1 Carrot
  • 1 Leek
  • 1 Small Tomato
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 1 Bouquet Garni (Parsley, Bay Leaf, Thyme)

What You Do

In the Netherlands an extended version of Mirepoix is fairly standard: onion, carrot, celery and leek (ratio 1:1:1:1) , also known as WUPS (Wortel, Ui, Prei en Selder). We prefer this version because the leek seems to bring extra flavours. Or perhaps because we’re Dutch?
Clean and dice the celery, the carrot, the leek and the tomato. Peel and chop the onion and the garlic. Add all ingredients and the bouquet garni to a pan with cold water and allow to simmer for one hour or so. Pass through a sieve and decide if you want to reduce the liquid. It freezes very well, so ideal to make ice cubes for use in sauces.

Mirepoix ©cadwu
Mirepoix plus extra ingredients for vegetable stock ©cadwu

In the Kitchen with Alain Passard

It’s not often that we enjoy reading a cookbook from cover to cover. In the Kitchen with Alain Passard: Inside the World (and Mind) of a Master Chef is such an exception.
During a period of three years, illustrator Christophe Blain followed three-star Michelin chef Alain Passard through his kitchens and gardens. The result is a wonderful, funny, graphic cookbook that shows not only beautiful, colourful food and the way it’s prepared, but above all it shows the world and kitchen of a chef.

Vegetables

Around 1998 Alain Passard decided to focus on preparing and serving vegetables in his Parisian restaurant, L’Arpege. He set up two organic gardens, making sure he can cook with excellent, seasonal ingredients. Nowadays L’Arpege offers a inspiring menu with vegetables at the centre, but also room for lobster, chicken and duck. Take some time to browse his website and enjoy the wonderful pictures and combinations. Impressive, isn’t it?

Drawings

Unfortunately dining at L’Arpege is a well above our budget, so once in a while we open this wonderful book (published in 2013) and smile when reading the illustrated dialog between the Chef and the Illustrator. As if you can hear them talk about a dish that is being prepared by the Chef!
The drawings are simple, subtle, lively and colourful. They perfectly visualise the dining room, the reaction of the guests when tasting the dish, the movements of the Chef, his kitchen staff and the waiters.

Recipes

Then we start preparing one of the 15 recipes, for instance his Potato Paillasse with Sage and young Garlic or his combination of carrots, cinnamon and basil. We’re probably not even close to the dish as served at L’Arpege, but we’re enjoying it immensely.

Alain Passard speeches after having received the Johannes van Dam Prize 2019 © cadwu
Alain Passard speeches after having received the Johannes van Dam Prize 2019 © cadwu

Tomato Confit

A few years ago it was the obvious garnish to nearly every dish: oven roasted cherry tomatoes, preferably on the vine. It looks and tastes nice plus it is easy to make. Just heat your oven to 180 °C or 350 °F, add the tomatoes to a baking dish, sprinkle with salt, olive oil and 30 minutes later they’re ready to serve. When cold you can add them to a salad or a sandwich with soft cheese (mozzarella, burrata, ricotta). An alternative is to halve the tomatoes, sprinkle with salt and quickly roast and dry them in the oven. Another tasty result.

We prefer a slow alternative: Tomato Confit. The idea is that the skin doesn’t crack, so the tomatoes remain intact, and at the same time they absorb the flavours of the oil, herbs and garlic. The result is not just a great sweet and juicy tomato, it’s a taste explosion!

We use Tomato Confit to brighten up a simple pasta or salad, or a more complex dish like Lobster Mushroom with Udon.

What You Need

  • Excellent Cherry Tomatoes
  • Olive Oil
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • 2 Garlic Gloves

What You Do

Wash and dry the tomatoes and add these to a baking dish. Chop the garlic. Add herbs, garlic and a generous amount of olive oil to the dish. No salt, honey or sugar required. Put in the oven for something like 2 hours on 90 °C or 200 °F. You could baste the tomatoes once or twice. Don’t forget to use the cooking liquid as well, it’s another pack of flavours!

  • Tomato Confit ©cadwu
  • Fresh Tomatoes ©cadwu

Ratatouille

Think summer vegetables, think Ratatouille! Which is also the title of a film released in 2007 about a rat called Remy with a passion for cooking. If you want to see how he prepares ratatouille then simply go to YouTube (or buy the DVD if you’re old fashioned like us).
Ratatouille brings back memories of summer, of the South of France, of the Mediterranean. It combines very well with a simple sausage, with lamb, with grilled chicken.
However you prepare your ratatouille, be sure to prepare it a day ahead. The taste becomes much more integrated after a day (or two) in the refrigerator. Unfortunately it doesn’t freeze well due to the eggplant.

Our recipe is very much the recipe of a dear friend. She taught us how to make ratatouille in her summer kitchen, overlooking the pool and the garden with herbs and vegetables. Indeed, fond memories.
To our surprise she added cilantro (you would expect thyme or basil) and many years later we are still grateful for this twist. The cilantro enhances the feeling of summer and it supports the various vegetables in a beautiful way.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our ratatouille with a glass of simple, red wine with lots of red and black fruits. Spicy with subtle tannins. A wine that brings summer to your glass.

What You Need (4 people)

  • 1 Eggplant or Aubergine
  • 1 Courgette or Zucchini
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper
  • 1 Chili Pepper
  • 4 Excellent Tomatoes
  • Cilantro
  • Olive oil

What You Do

Start by cutting the aubergine in small but not too small chunks. Drizzle with salt and mix. Let the mixture rest for a few hours, allowing for the aubergine to loose water and become firm. Best way to do this is by putting the aubergine in a sieve and let it rest above a bowl.
The tomatoes require some attention as well. You could peel them, but that’s optional. What is not optional is to separate the tomato meat and juices from the pits. First step is to remove the internal hard bits and the pits and put these aside. You now have the outer part of the tomato, which you can slice. Cut the remainder of the tomatoes roughly, add to a sieve and by using the back of a spoon make sure you capture the juices. Be surprised about the volume of tomato juice and the small amount of tomato bits and pits that remain in your sieve.

Cut the bell pepper into long slices and fry these in the pan with olive oil. Peel the courgette, slice in the way you sliced the aubergine and add to the pan. Continue frying. Add the finely chopped chilli pepper (not the seeds of course). Add the firm aubergine after having removed the remaining salt with water. After a few moments add the tomato chunks, fry a bit more, add the tomato juice and leave on low to medium heat for 60 minutes. Try not to stir too much; otherwise you risk creating mashed vegetables. Cool, set aside and store in the refrigerator.
The next day: if you have excess liquid, remove the vegetables from the liquid, reduce it until thickened and transfer the vegetables back into the pan. Otherwise gently warm the ratatouille, add some chopped cilantro, mix gently and add more cilantro just before serving.

Ratatouille ©cadwu
Ratatouille ©cadwu

Pasta with Sage

We love using wonderful Mediterranean herbs such as basil, thyme, sage, marjoram, rosemary, oregano, saffron and tarragon. So we couldn’t resist buying a large bunch of sage and cooking this very tasteful, simple and uplifting starter. Sage has been around for many, many years and is an essential ingredient in many countries, both for medicinal and culinary purposes. Its taste is somewhat soapy, with a touch of acidity, a little bitterness, subtle eucalyptus and slightly peppery. Did we mention unique?
Preferably use fresh, thin pasta or Japanese udon, lots of butter and your best olive oil when preparing this dish.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our pasta with a glass of Bianco di Custoza 2020, 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. In general you’re looking for a light, aromatic dry white wine.

What You Need

  • Pasta
  • Butter
  • Bunch of Sage
  • Olive Oil
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Melt the butter in a large pan, devein and chop the leaves, add the sage to the butter, stir. The butter should embrace the flavours and aromas of the sage. When the mixture is nearly ready (this will take only a few minutes) cook the pasta. Grate some fresh Parmesan cheese. Keep a glass of the cooking liquid of the pasta, drain the paste, add it to the pan, mix, add some olive oil, mix, add a spoonful or two of the cooking liquid and make sure the pasta is fully coated with sage, butter and oil. Perhaps some black pepper. Garnish with Parmesan Cheese and serve on a warm plate.