Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Summer? Maybe?

Has summer arrived? Well, maybe. At least the other evening it was warm enough to eat outside on the veranda. We had friends coming over in any case so I decided to do a "Summer" menu. Here's what I came up with.

Entrée. I did a garlic soup. This is an adaptation of a Jacques Pepin recipe. Its best done with fresh garlic. Chop up one leek, one onion and about 8-10 crushed cloves of garlic. Sautée them in a bit of oil for just a couple of minutes. (DO NOT let them brown at all!) Add 2 cups each of chicken stock (unsalted) and water. Add about 1 pound of potatoes which have been peeled and cut up into cubes. Gently boil for about 1/2 hour. Let cool a bit then puree the mixture. Meanwhile make some croûtons from day old bread. Before serving add one cup of cream or milk. Garnish with chopped chives. Because of the cooking this soup is very mild and silky smooth. I like it best hot, but its good at room temperature as well.

Plat. This is a fish stew, sort of. In the morning of dinner or better yet the previous day make up a nice batch of gnocchi. NOT the traditional potato based ones, but those based upon using a 5 egg choux pastry base. (let me know if you need the recipe.) As you make the pastry add a good tablespoon of Dijon mustard and a generous handfull of grated Gruyeres cheese. Finely chopped chives are another good addition to the gnocchi. Pipe the Gnocchi directly into just barely boiling water, cook, spread on sheets & freeze.
For the fish use salmon, a white fish of your choice (roughly a pound of each) & calamari. Cut the fish into bite sized cubes and fry gently in oil until just browned. Do not fry the calamari. Using a shallow baking dish put in about a tablespoon of capers and two tablespoons of chopped fresh tarragon. Add the fish & calamari. Add roughly 2 cups cream. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes. Take out & add some frozen peas and the gnocchi straight from the freezer. Push down to make sure they're covered & return the dish to the oven for another 10 minutes. Serve straight from the oven onto heated plates.

Cheese. This being France we normally have a cheese course. I leave the selection up to you & your cheese shop.

Desert. I was trying to recreate a desert we'd had at a local restaurant. I succeeded fairly well; certainly our guests liked it. So make a pate Brisée. (let me know if you need a recipe.) Roll this out into a pie tin or, as I do, onto a perforated pizza round. Buy about 6-7 stalks of rhubarb and three cooking apples. (I like Grannies). Cut the Rhubarb into about one inch lengths, place in a sauce pan, add two table spoons sugar,a teaspoon of powdered ginger & one tablespoon water & gently cook for 10-15 minutes. Be very gentle here so the rhubarb softens, but doesn't turn to mush. Peel & core the apples then slice them into thin wafers. Put a mixture of 1/2 powdered almonds plus 1/4 each of flour & sugar onto the rolled out pastry. Place the apple wafers around on this mixture. Put the rhubarb on top of the apples. Sprinkle over this a crumble mixture (let me know if you need a recipe.) If you're using the pizza round you now need to bring up & crimp the edges of the crust.Now bake in a 380 degree oven for about 40 minutes or until the crust starts browning. It may be necessary to turn on the broiler to get the crumble to brown, but be careful. Let the pie cool a bit then serve with good quality vanilla ice cream.

Voila! An early summer menu. Have fun with it & if you do decide to try it let me know what you think.

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