Monthly Archives: October 2009

Budgeted Entertaining, or how to cook for 10 people for under 50 euros.

The benefit of an abroad program with only 9 students, is that we all become sort of an extended family here in France. This means that birthdays are celebrated together in our professor’s beautiful apartment. I decided to take command of the kitchen for Darcy’s birthday, our group’s second in France. Darcy is a vegetarian, but I wanted to create a meatless menu that would satisfy even the most carnivorous amongst us. Along with the resulting salad and pasta, Laura made some totally delicious guacamole for a starter and our professor purchased two tarts for dessert. The whole meal cost under 50 euros, but an attention to little details and good ingredients made it feel much more expensive. Below are the recipes modified for 4 people, but they are great for entertaining a crowd.

Salad with Pears, Fennel, and Emmental Tartines

1 head of soft, mild lettuce (I used a French type de salade that I haven’t ever seen in the states, but think butter/bibb lettuce)

2 small bulbs or 1 large bulb of fennel (Roast with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper at 350 F until tender and sweet… or leave it raw)

3 pears sliced thin

Vinaigrette (I used a mixture of Red Wine Vinegar, Olive Oil, Dijon Mustard, Honey, and Herbes de Provence)

2 cups of shredded Emmental cheese

8 or 12 rounds of baguette (I served two tartines with each salad, but 3 might be nice if you know your guests are hungry)

Directions:

Sprinkle cheese on each round and crack of pepper on top. Toast/melt in 350 over for around 2 minutes, until bubbly and browned.

Assemble and dress salad. Serve with Tartines and leave some extra vinaigrette for those who like their salad swimming.

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Farfalle with Eggplant “meat” Sauce, Fresh Goat Cheese, and Basil

2 Large eggplants cut in large dice

4 roma tomatoes diced

1 shallot finely chopped

1 clove of garlic

2 tablespoons Herbes de Provence

Olive Oil

1 8 oz. can of plain Tomato Sauce

4 servings of Farfalle Pasta 

1 round of Fresh goat cheese, crumbled

2 tablespoons of fresh basil, ripped 

Directions:

Liberally Coat the bottom of a heavy pot with olive oil. Add eggplants, tomatoes, shallot, garlic, and Herbes de Provence. Roast in 375 degree oven until veggies meld together and eggplant is tender (about 10-15 minutes). Remove from oven and add can of tomato sauce, salting and peppering to taste. Cover pot and heat on stovetop to keep warm.

Cook pasta, drain and toss in olive oil. Spoon over “meat” sauce. Sprinkle on some goat cheese crumbles and some basil. Serve with slices of baguette to soak up the sauce.

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Ricotta Tart

I won’t even try to make an excuse for how poor of a job I am doing at updating ff&f this semester abroad. Luckily, I have been cooking a bit and return to bring you new recipes, so I feel I am earning my keep in the world of non-paid electronic journalism. As a point of reference, France is still wonderful.  I continue to slowly crawl towards that distant horizon of linguistic proficiency, all the while eating everything in sight.

This post is about a tart that was never meant to be. I knew I wanted to cook for my host family, but hadn’t the slightest clue what to make. My host brother took the lead when he declared he’s always wanted to try cheesecake. Without any hesitation I agreed. After learning that cream cheese and graham crackers are unavailable in France, I changed from a traditional New York cheesecake to an Italian, ricotta-based varietal. Ingredients purchased and aprons strings metaphorically tied, I was shocked to find out that a 9 inch round cake pan is fairly uncommon in French kitchens. With the clock ticking and meal time approaching, I decided to improvise with a tart pan, measuring just slightly over 10 inches. The result was a different, but altogether successful dish. So successful that I remade it for my professor’s birthday dinner, to 10 more pleased diners.

The tart is rich like a cheesecake, but in a different, denser sort of way. Sweetened only with honey, it seemed like a perfect platform for the phenomenally delicious figs of Les Halles, a beautiful gourmet market in Grenoble. For those of you keeping track, this is my second dessert comprised of honey and figs. I know it’s time to move on, but the flavor combination is just so perfect. 

Ingredients

~90 cg of fresh ricotta (I purchased 1 kg both times and eyeballed the amount. The first time I used about 85 and the second time about 93. This could be due to different ricottas or different honeys, but as long as it is smooth and tastes good, you are fine)

6 large eggs

2/3 cup of honey

1 teaspoon of vanilla

1 lemon zested

1 package of Amaretti cookies (you will only need about 1 1/2 cups for the crust, but when you drop 1 crust on the floor and burn another when you try bland baking, having the whole package on hand is a life-saver.) 

1 small knob of butter melted , and one tab of butter for buttering the tart pan.

Several fresh figs. 

Directions:

Mix all ingredients except butter and cookies until combined. Butter pan. Crush cookies and mix with melted butter. Pour onto pan until evenly coated with a thin layer. Pour over ricotta mixture. Bake at 325 for between 25 and 35 minutes. Cover with sliced figs and paint on some warmed honey, or marinate fig segments in honey and a squeeze of lemon juice or put 2 or 3 on each slice.

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The Dilettante’s Eye: Photos from my Weekend in Provence

Even though my first roll of film perished in the unfortunate film ripping incident of week three, my second attempt at photography with my dad’s old A-1 proved much more fruitful. Despite some ugly photos and random splotches of blue and a holographic dog (see below), I am generally pleased with the results. Our trip to Provence brought us to a vineyard, a monastery, 2 mountainy towns, and a castle. We stayed in small cottages run by a charming couple who cooked wonderful meals for us. They taught me their recipe for jams (60-40 ratio of fruit to sugar, plus a little something else I will share when i finally try the recipe), the difference between pates and terrines, and how to make radishes the perfect vessel for dips and tapenades (make an X shaped slit at the end of each radish). Despite all these amazing experiences, Provence was mostly a trip about lavender. I purchased 60 g’s of cooking lavender grown by monks, tried lavender biscuits, and watched the sunrise in a lavender field.

Here are some of my favorite pictures from the roll (I splurged and got them put on a CD). The titles are in French to make them appear more authentically like art. Hope you freak out about these colors as much as I did. 

Photo05_1A “Chateau de la Croix Chabrieres”

Photo09_5A “Champ de Lavende”

Photo13_9A “Aurore Lavande”

Photo19_15A “Notre Dame de Senanque”

Photo20_16A “Saint Nicholas” (can anyone confirm this?)

Photo23_19A “Gordes”

Photo28_24A “Chateau de Grignon”

 

Now for the oops…

Photo27_23A “Le Chien Holographique”