SylvesterSuppe

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Otherwise known as The Soup of New Year’s Eve. Naturally, the lead photo shows potatoes roasting in duck fat, what else?! To offer an excuse, I have yet to edit so many photos and do so much background research for posts at both this blog and my travel blog that I felt completely overwhelmed yesterday. Therefore, to end the year with a warm and cozy feeling, I decided to postpone my writing to 2020 and cook a rich fish soup for our Saint Sylvestre dinner instead.

Ingredients and proceedings developed pretty much as usual. Celery, fennel, carrot, onion, leek, and potato, the usual suspects, cooked in court bouillon comme d’habitude, as we say around here. This time around, though, I simmered all the ends and trimmings in the bouillon for about an hour, also adding a bundle of dried thyme with laurel leaves and a half an onion with three cloves to the vegetable broth to give it a stronger herbal aroma. For seasoning, I added a teaspoon of umami and some salt to the usual teaspoon of ground coriander seeds.

While the stock was simmering, there was time to watch the last few minutes of the “Great British Bake Off” Christmas special and an installment of “Escape to the Country” on SKY TV while roasting les pommes de terre grenailles aka baby potatoes for 10 min @240ºC and marinating the fish with freshly ground pepper, cucurma powder, and lemon zest.

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I had bought a Lieu noir filet for the soup, a Pollock or Saithe in English, a Köhler in German. The Pollachius virens, Gadidae, is great for soup because it’s heated through in just a couple of minutes and it is very inexpensive. I read that for marketing reasons, the fish is often sold as Seelachs in Germany. Lachs is the German term for salmon, species that belong to the family of Salmonidae which are much more costly than Gadidae or, in German, Dorsch. That renders the designation of “salmon” for a Köhler a big fat lie.

Back in our kitchen, I first strained the stock, then slow-simmered the finely julienned yellow onion in olive oil for about 15 minutes. I wanted them to be really soft, almost as if they were destined for an onion soup, but not browned. Next in line were the carrots,  plus a little liquid from the stockpot to be soaked up by the carrots.

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Before long, the remaining sliced and diced veggies followed,

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eventually to be drowned in more stock.

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Then the potatoes were added to the simmering soup to finish cooking, while I assembled the salad, opened the wine, sliced the bread, and set the table. Since our dining room is currently in use as an office, we eat even festive diners right next to the stove.

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This is a bit of a sentimental picture. The teakwood salt cellar with its miniature shovel and the matching peppermill used to grace my parental dining table when I was a little girl sixty-odd years ago. And those Marimekko design placemats? Well, we’ve been using those for just about 40 seasons now.

Lastly, I added the fish and six big shrimp to the soup and heated a nice dollop of butter in a frying pan for the crowning glory of our New Year’s Eve Fish Soup, six Atlantic Great Scallops, Pecten maximus, not to be confused with the Mediterranean scallops Pecten jacobeus. After two minutes, when the scallops were browned on the bottom, I turned them over and flambéed them in a shot of Ricard. Since I can’t play with fire and take pictures at the same time, sadly, I can’t offer you any pictorial proof of these actions! I can only show you the quite tasty results.

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The dirt specs are actually sumac or sumach, Rhus coriaria, Anacardiaceae. The dried Rhus fruit are crushed into a crimson spice with a tart, citrusy flavor. It is apparently a much-loved spice in the Middle Eastern kitchen of which I am woefully ignorant. We were introduced to the spice recently in Bilbao during our extraordinary anniversary dinner at Extanobe Atelier. They very kindly gave us a quantity of sumac to take home with us.

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Guten Appetit and my heartfelt Good Wishes for a tasty New Year 2020!

Happy Fish with a little Frost

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You have to admit, these codpieces -allow me to rephrase- these pieces of cod do look happy! They are about to be steamed in a deep pot filled with vegetables cooked in broth.

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The night before, I soaked some Tarbais beans and cooked them while the rest of the vegetables received a good wash and dice-and-slice.

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In addition to the beans, there were three more newcomers enhancing my latest version of fish soup, yellow pepper for crunch, algae for ocean saltiness, and freshly grated ginger for punch.

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Soon, the ingredients were sorted, ready to go in the pot.

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As always, my soup began with the dry toasting of crushed coriander seeds, before heating olive oil to receive the first batch of veggies, followed by ginger and lemon zest. Once that was heated through nicely, it was time to add all the remaining, softer vegetables like fennel, yellow pepper, and parsley, all submerged in Court-Bouillon.

The beans joined the party just ahead of the algae which formed a soft bed for the cod. With the lid firmly closed to steam the happy fish, it will be ready to jump onto your plate in about 15 min.

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A glass of peppery Côtes de Gascogne Colombard-Ugni Blanc is a perfect match for this aromatic soup, possibly to be followed by some home-grown sweet and juicy grapes with your cheese course?

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After dinner, your partner, like mine, might read a Robert Frost poem to you as you relax in the salon. Such a lovely closing of summertime in Cognac, France – although it did put Monty the Fox to sleep.

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A Canicule and a Can of Fish

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16. Juni 2019, 21:25:29

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17. Juni 2019, 21:59:24

Over in my other blog, you know which one I mean, I’ve recently finished posting about our Loire Valley trip. Castles galore, of course, and some wine and food, scenery, and all those precious memories of adventurous times on the road. But you know, one’s home turf can be beautiful, too! Summer has arrived and with it a changing landscape in our small but lush courtyard garden.

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We’re still in the throes of our bathroom renovation which generates daily mayhem in the form of high pitched sounds from power tools setting nerve endings on edge and powdered sticky stuff seeping through cracks and crevices. From the front door through the entry and up the stairs, bubble-wrap-like plastic protects delicate ancient tiles and old oak steps, while thin plastic sheets billow over doorways, but the dust settles everywhere, protection or not. Our house has currently the air of a chantier, a work site requiring hard hats, it seems. To top off all that fun, the main sewer pipe got plugged up by ingrown roots and we had to call the Roto-Rooter pros with their heavy-duty equipment, cash or check, please. Naturally, all this is happening as we go through the hottest week of the year. A quiet cup of early morning coffee in a shady spot under the pergola is much appreciated indeed!

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The jasmine shading the pergola is in full bloom, releasing a lovely scent.

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I love to prepare pies with ready-made dough from the grocery store in the summer. Last week I had a solitary sweet potato lying around, so I made a pie layered with very thinly sliced sweet potato, pre-sliced Emmental that needed to disappear, spinach – first wilted in a large pan with softened diced onion and a dusting of fresh nutmeg – and tomatoes. Light, easy, and tasty with a green salad, just right for warmer temperatures.

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Yesterday’s Tarte au Thon à Canicule, my Heatwave-Tuna-Pie was even easier.

The ingredients were:

  • 280g net or ~10 oz of tuna packed in water, drained
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 3 Tbl olive oil
  • 1 Tbl white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 Tsp each garlic paste, anchovy paste, harissa paste
  • 1/2 Tsp crushed, dried marjoram
  • salt, freshly ground pepper

mix the above vigorously, cover with saran wrap and refrigerate while you pre-bake the dough, if you wish, and slice the tomatoes in thick slices. Once the dough is ready, toss the cooled tuna mix with 2 Tbl of fresh lemon juice and spread sour cream and sweet mustard generously over the pie bottom. Spread the tuna mix evenly across the pie round and cover it with densely packed tomato slices. I sprinkled some parmigiano bits on it simply because I had them, but cheese is really not necessary for this pie – lots of tomatoes are! Drizzle the pie with olive oil before baking.

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Bake the Tarte au Thon à Canicule for 45 min. at 200º/180ºC convection [400º/360ºF convection] for ~45 min. Before slicing, let it rest for 10 minutes or so. As a matter of fact, if you’re not too hungry, slide the pie on a rack to cool down without getting soggy, while you clean and slice a crunchy garden cucumber and maybe some radishes. Especially on a hot day, this pie tastes even better at room temperature.

And don’t forget to close the shutters against the heat!

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Tomato Pie

This past weekend gave us a great taste of summer with bright sunshine, cheerful birdsong and a mini-harvest of strawberries from our rather pathetic strawberry bush that lives in a flowerpot on the patio.

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Tomatoes are currently a bestseller both in the local produces markets and in the supermarket chains, and they are very well priced. When I went shopping early Saturday morning, two other items caught my eye. Firstly, and especially interesting to me because I like sheep’s milk yogurt, I noticed crème fraîche au lait de brebis, the American equivalent of which would be sour cream made from sheep’s milk. I had never noticed crème fraîche based on anything other than cow’s milk, so naturally, I had to try it. Secondly, there was an excellent special on Italian Mozzarella di Latte di Bufalo. That clinched the deal, we would have a tomato pie for our light and summery dinner!

Being lazy by nature, I used a ready-made, store-bought shortcrust pastry dough for my pie. The only slight effort I invested was a blind-bake with ceramic beads to make the pie a little crisper.

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While that was going on, I sat comfortably at the kitchen table slicing a small mountain of ripe tomatoes and letting myself be distracted by a British TV program on home renovations. The tomato slices also had a brief pre-bake in a 110ºC/225ºF oven, seasoned with a few grinds of a pepper mill, some coarse sea salt, plus ground coriander seeds, dried marjoram, a little brown sugar, and a few drops of olive oil.

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The purpose of that extra little bit of heat was simply to bring out the tomato aroma more strongly. Meanwhile, the pie assembly commenced on the kitchen counter by spreading the sheeply sour cream all over the bottom of the pre-baked pie case and sprinkling it with lemon zest, salt & pepper, ground coriander, powdered parmesan cheese, and some left-over shredded Emmental cheese. I also distributed teaspoon size dots of tomato pesto here and there. That’s a flavorful base for our Tomato Pie! After the tomato slices were placed in concentric circles, I just added the Mozarallo bits, shredded fresh basil, some yellow cherry tomato-halves, and another dusting of parmesan – we were ready to go in the oven.

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This pie would be as easy as, well, pie if you omit the pre-backing altogether. With juicy tomatoes, it will come out soggier than ours, though. Lay the dough in a pie tin, smudge sour cream and some mustard in the bottom, followed by shredded cheese(s), and salt & pepper. Slice a bunch of ripe tomatoes and put them on top of the cheese in overlapping circles. Finish with more seasoning and cheese and the pie is ready to be baked as per package instructions. That’s all there is to it and it’s very tasty on a warm evening, maybe with a glass of chilled white wine. Our dish wasn’t any more difficult, just a little more time-consuming. For once😎, I used mostly store-bought and processed ingredients, for example, the tomato & basil pesto was a commercial item and the grated parmesan cheese came in an envelop. I love freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, of course, who doesn’t? But it’s prohibitively expensive which makes it a rare treat for special occasions. For cooking, I think, the powdered stuff is quite sufficient. I look for the best freshness date and buy the most expensive-by-weight small pouch.

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Our dinner included the Tomato Pie with a slice of cold-smoked wild Alaskan salmon from the fish counter in the supermarket, some frisée with fake crab salad from the deli counter, and a cup of yellow pepper and mango gazpacho from the cooled dairy section, where I also found the mozzarella and the sour cream. See, I told you I’m lazy! The wine, by the way, is a chilled Bordeaux Clairet. A dry yet fruity, light red wine mostly based on Merlot grapes. It is a very popular summer wine in the Bordelais region. Have a great week!

P.S. Here’s an update: In response to my Tomato Pie post tonight, my dear friend T. Michael Jackson of Traverse City, Michigan allowed me the use of his recent and completely incidental “Tomatoes in Colander” painting for my little story. Thank you so much, Mike, I love it! So much more apropos than roses!!

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“Tomatoes in Colander” by T. Michael Jackson, 2019

 

 

Fischsuppe, once again

For a variety of reasons, I haven’t cooked much lately, but when I recently received the medical advice to eat less raw vegetables in favor of the cooked variety, I went straight to the market and stocked up on root veggies, greens, and two lovely pieces of dos de cabillaud otherwise known as cod.

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After scrubbing everything, I started by separating the “good” parts of the veggies for the soup from the odds and ends to be discarded. Those I collected in a large pot of water with two cubes of Court-Bouillon heating up on the stove.

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Adding a handful of cardamom seeds and curly parsley, I let these “aromatics” simmer to extract all of their flavors while I sliced and diced the vegetables for the soup. We had, in order of cooking, potatoes, carrots, shallots, leeks, celery, and fennel.

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The dirt bits are coriander seeds

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As always, I dry-toasted crushed coriander seeds first, before adding oil in which to roast the potatoes for a good five minutes. It took about another five minutes to gently toss and turn all the other gradually added vegetables to release their flavors. Meanwhile, the bouillon was ready to be drained, so I could add it to the veggies roasting in the sauteuse.

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Put a lid on it and simmer for about ten more minutes.

When the vegetables were still al dente, I laid the fish on top of the soup, replaced the lid and simmered the concoction for another ten minutes, before checking for doneness. the fish should have just turned opaque and flake easily. I used quite thick pieces of cod that had come to room temperature to cook through more evenly. I flavored the cod with a dusting of white pepper, curcuma [turmeric], and lemon zest, plus a little sea salt. To add a twist to the simple fish soup, I made a shrimp persillade topping for the fish. In a small frying pan, I heated some butter to which I added breadcrumbs, letting them brown carefully. Next came salt, garlic paste, and finely diced curly parsley, all the while mixing the ingredients vigorously before adding tiny, pre-cooked, shelled shrimp to heat up in the persillade.

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Fresh parsley & capers add a finishing touch. Guten Appetit!

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