Monday, November 30, 2015

Bien Dans Sa Peau

Bien dans sa peau, or, feeling comfortable in his or her skin is a concept I've embraced from one of my favorite books, French Women Don't Get Fat, by Mireille Guiliano. This delightful book discusses how to eat for life and not get fat, by balancing eating, staying active, and happiness! No dieting? (except for this soup...) I'm sold! The idea is you feeling comfortable in your own skin, e.g., waist band a little tight (not comfortable), zipper not zipping (not comfortable), etc. In addition, it's not about what the scale says, it's about how you feel in your clothes. For those "non-zipping" times, like after the holidays, I suggest Mireille's recipe for "Magical Leek Soup." It just takes a weekend and you will feel renewed and ready to get back on track!

(I love leeks, and they are a natural diuretic!)

Magical Leek Soup (Broth)

Serves 1 for the weekend

Ingredients:

2 pounds leeks

Directions:

Clean the leeks and rinse well to get rid of sand and soil. Cut off the ends of the dark green parts, leaving all the white parts plus a suggestion of pale green. (Reserve the extra greens for soup stock.)

Put the leeks in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes. Pour off the liquid and reserve. Place the leeks in a bowl.

Eating Instructions:

The juice is to be drunk (reheated or at room temperature to taste) every 2 to 3 hours, 1 cup at a time.

For meals, or whenever hungry, have some of the leeks themselves, 1/2 cup at a time. Drizzle with a few drops of extra-virgin olive oil and lemon juice. Season sparingly with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with chopped parsley, if you wish.

This will be your nourishment for both days, until Sunday dinner, when you can have a small piece of meat or fish (4 to 6 ounces), (need information regarding a kitchen scale? Click here!), with 2 vegetables, steamed with a bit of butter or olive oil, and a piece of fruit.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Simple Jacques

Jacques Pepin was born in France in 1935. Pepin's love of cooking began at his parents' restaurant, Le Pelican, where he worked in the kitchen after school. At age 17, he moved to Paris and began working in some of the best restaurants at the time. In 1956, he worked as a chef for the French Navy, and then became personal chef to three heads of state, including Charles de Gaulle. In 1959, Pepin came to the United States, where he began working at Le Pavillon in New York City. After a few years, he was hired as director of research and new development for the Howard Johnson's restaurant chain, while simultaneously earning his Bachelor and Master of Arts degree in French literature at Columbia University. In 1970, after leaving Howard Johnson's, he opened a soup restaurant called La Potagerie, and later was in charge of food operations at the World Trade Center. Jacques has since published over 20 books, numerous articles for The New York Times and Food&Wine magazine, and hosted 9 acclaimed public television cooking programs. Busy man!

I read an article a few years ago, where Jacques was discussing how his food philosophy is simplification, inspiring his Fast Food My Way series of books. To his surprise, they have become his most popular cookbook series out of all his books! His belief that good food does not have to always be complicated has really resonated with people around the globe. A great example of this is his recipe for "Butternut Squash Velvet." This elegant soup takes less than 30 minutes to prepare, can be made ahead, and even freezes well! Although this chic velvety soup is effortless, it truly elevates any occasion, and would be a thoughtful beginning to any Thanksgiving feast!


Butternut Squash Velvet

Makes 5-6 cups.

Ingredients:
For the Soup
1 butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeded, cut into 2-inch pieces
3/4 cup dices (1-inch) onion
1 cup sliced, leek, including some of the lighter green inner leaves
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups chicken stock, low-sodium if store-bought
1 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
For the Garnish
1/4 cup crushed pistachio nuts
A few sprigs of fresh chervil, dill, chopped fresh tarragon, or chives

Directions:
For the Soup
Put the squash, onion, leek, olive oil, salt, pepper, stock, and water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover partially, reduce the heat to low, and boil (I think he means simmer) gently for 20 minutes.


Emulsify with an immersion blender (See Gadgets) until smooth. You can use a regular blender or a food processor, but an immersion blender is more convenient. (The soup can be prepared to this point a day ahead, covered, and refrigerated or frozen.)

At Serving Time
Add the cream and bring the soup to a boil. Serve garnished with a sprinkling of crushed pistachios and a sprig of fresh chervil or dill or a sprinkling of tarragon or chives.

Recipe from More Fast Food My Way, by Jacques Pepin.

Friday, November 13, 2015

There's No Place Like Rome! There's No Place Like Rome!

This recipe is not named after Dorothy's dog, but rather a trattoria in the center of Rome. This is a great pasta recipe to have up your sleeve, especially around the holidays. I find that when preparing for a full blown holiday meal (e.g., Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.), I often overlook the fact that I need to feed my company the night before. What to do? Nothing is easier than pasta, right? Only one problem: the men in my family find pasta dishes unsubstantial. The solution: add Italian sausage! Don't let the ingredients fool you. They may seem simple, but the result is divine! This recipe is easily doubled, to suit your needs, and served with a big green salad, wine, and crusty bread, and the result is a surprisingly quick, satisfying and elegant meal.


*Because it is a cream sauce, you need to serve it right away! Also, don't skip the addition of the fennel seeds!

Rigatoni alla Toto

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed (if necessary)
1 cup dry white wine
6-8 whole fresh basil leaves
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
1/8 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds, or ground fennel (but freshly crushed is better)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Kosher salt
1 pound rigatoni
1/2 cup freshly grated or shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving (this dish really needs real Parmigiano-Reggiano)

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the sausage and red pepper (if using) and brown on all sides, breaking up the sausage as you stir. Add the wine and cook for 1 minute. Add the basil, crushed fennel, and cream and simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes, or until the sausage is cooked through.

While the sauce simmers, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the rigatoni in the boiling water until al dente. Drain well and add to the sauce and toss. Add the 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano and toss well. Serve immediately with additional Parmigiano-Reggiano sprinkled on top. 

Adapted from Rome, at Home, by Suzanne Dunaway.