404 Saffron and Honey - Cooking and living colorfully

Summer fig trifle

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You don’t need too many things to make this perfect summer dessert appear on your shady outdoor table this weekend.

Some sun-ripened fruit, a little crunch, a lot of punched up whipped cream, and a spoon – you’ll definitely want a big spoon for this summer fig trifle.

I cannot believe that it is almost September and summer, my beloved time of year, is almost over. Still, the whole “It’s Friday, let’s eat cake!” philosophy will help get me through the doldrums, I’m sure..

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I used some cookies from France called navettes here – they are nice and tart, adding extra freshness to this dessert – but you can substitute in lemon tea cookies or simple biscuits. You can read more about the navettes de Marseilles, subtly flavored with lemon oil or orange blossom water, by clicking this link here.

Summer fig trifle

(serves 2)

  • 6 – 10 lemon cookies (depending on size)
  • 1/2 cup fresh black mission figs, halved or quartered
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (cold!)
  • 2 T grenadine syrup
  • 3 T pistachios, shelled and lightly crushed

{and a spoon or two!}

1. First, grab some pretty glasses or jars for the trifles. You can, of course, also assemble this into one larger trifle in a bowl, but I find the individual servings to be simpler for serving.

2. Prepare the fruit by trimming and cutting the figs into halves or quarters, depending on size. Also depending on what cookies you are using, crumble them lightly with your hands or just break them in half.

3. Use a whisk to whip the cold (!) heavy cream until it is rich and thick. Gently fold in the grenadine.

4. Layer the cookies, figs, and big dollops of cream in whatever cup or jar you are using. Top with more fruit and crushed pistachios.

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Enjoy immediately – these are so good at capturing that subtly sweet taste of summer. It couldn’t be easier.

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Peak season tomato recipes

imageTomatoes are, and always have been, one of my favorite things to eat.  Growing up, picking tomatoes in my grandmother’s vegetable garden was my best “chore” that did not feel like one at all.

Peak season, in the summer, I love tomatoes served fresh and simple with coarse sea salt.

But here are some other creative and delicious ways to enjoy tomatoes this month:

{ps.} the heirloom tomato cobbler is one of my absolute August favorites!

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Pink peppercorn and heirloom tomato and basil quiche

Roasted tomato and yellow plum gazpacho

Tomato carpaccio with blueberry vinaigrette 

Heirloom tomato cobbler 

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Green tomato and peach salad

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And to enjoy that sweet tomato taste later in the year, you can make this addictively savory tomato jam.

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Tricolore salad

IMG_2415Audrey Hepburn has long been one of my icons. I grew up with her films, of course, joining the escapades in Roman Holiday every Christmas, dancing along to Funny Face, or crying over Cat in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. 

Yet I always found her life story even more fascinating and worth admiring, a patchwork of stories of perseverance, love, tragedy, romance, and, yes, even food.

I was recently reading the newly published Audrey At Home collection and was struck by her obvious love for her time in Italy and for cooking Italian food for her family.

The book is full of touching and wistful anecdotes and lovely recipes. It also reminded me that although Southern French food is my forte, Italian cooking shares the same emphasis on seasonality, color, and gathering that I love.

Audrey’s favorite version of tricolore included avocado – which also sounds fantastic – mine includes eggplant.

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Tricolore salad

You’ll need:

  • 1 ear of corn
  • 1 medium sized eggplant
  • 1 large tomato, sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh mozzarella balls
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper + pink peppercorns

1. Grill the corn and the eggplant first. This is easier in summer, of course, so you can always roast or char them on the stovetop in colder months or if you don’t have access to an outdoor grill.

2. Take the corn off the husk carefully. Gently toss together the garlic, olive oil, corn and tomatoes.

3. Top with mozzarella – you can halve the balls, depending on size – and eggplant. I like to quarter the eggplant.

4. Season with salt, pepper, and a few crushed pink peppercorns.

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Simple suppers: omelette au brocciu frais

IMG_2408Perhaps unsurprisingly, I subscribe to the Julia Child school of thought that a great omelet makes for a great dinner in a pinch.

So for this installment of simple suppers, here is the perfect summer omelet, made with sheep’s milk cheese and fresh mint.

Use very fresh eggs – they will make the omelet extra silky smooth.

Brocciu is a Corsican sheep’s milk cheese I love to pick up at the market in South of France. You can always substitute one of its French cousins – a fresh brebis or a creamy brousse.

Double the recipe if you want to make a larger omelet for two or three.

{ps. for more uses of mint in cooking, read my herb primer here}

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Omelette au brocciu frais

(serves one)

You’ll need:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 oz fresh brocciu cheese
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T water
  • 2 T chopped fresh mint leaves + some for garnish
  • salt, pepper

1. Use a fork to break up the cheese into small pieces. In a bowl, combine the eggs and the cheese and beat lightly with a fork until creamy. You don’t need a frothy mixture here. Season with a bit of salt and pepper (the cheese is fairly mild itself).

2. Heat up a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add all of the omelet mixture to the hot pan at once and don’t touch it for the first few minutes of cooking.

3. Once the omelet “catches,” you can pull back the edges gently, letting the runny egg run to the sides to cook evenly.

4. Chiffonade the fresh mint leaves. Scatter them in the middle of the omelet when it is almost ready and the center is set, then fold in half and take off of heat.

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Serve immediately, garnished with a few more mint leaves.

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Yellow plum tart

IMG_7282.JPGThe epitome of summer living is stretching out in the sun with a cup of coffee and a piece of this crisp, colorful tart.

Easy breezy cooking and baking lets you make the most of these long hot days.

Make the buttery dough in advance, freeze it, and after picking up some sweet yellow plums at the market over the weekend (I used the fleeting reine claude variety), pop this tart in the oven and invite over some of your favorite people.

This is a tart tart, as in, it does not use a lot of sugar, letting the stone fruit really shine through in all its glory.

{sidenote: my web host has been dealing with some bugs, sorry for the silence while we sorted it out!}

Tips: Cut the tart into wedges or squares, like a pizza.

Yellow plum tart

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup (125 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 t (2 grams) sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 T (3/4 stick or 85 grams) unsalted butter, just softened, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 1/2 T (50 ml) cold water
  • 1 1/2 cups yellow plums
  • 3 T raw sugar
  • 1 egg for egg wash

1. Prepare the dough first so that you can have enough time to chill it (it is particularly important to bake with very cold pastry in summer months!).

Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl and add 2 T of the butter. Pulse in a food processor until dough resembles coarse cornmeal. Add remaining butter and mix until the largest pieces are the size of peas.

2. Slowly add in the cold water, mix, then add a little more until the dough just comes together (the amount of water required will vary depending on your climate and altitude). Toss the dough lightly using your hands until you can form a ball, adding more water if necessary. Flatten into a disk, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. More time is better.

3. Prepare the plums so that you’re ready to go when the dough is ready. Pit them and cut some of the larger  fruit in half, while leaving some whole. I think that makes for a pretty presentation.

4. Preheat oven to 400F. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to a square or a free form and smooth out the cracks on the edges.

Transfer dough to a pizza stone or a regular baking sheet (buttered or sprayed with non-stick spray).

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5. Leaving a half inch border, place plums face down – or whole – on the pastry. Sprinkle with sugar. Crimp the edges to form a low border and brush exposed pastry with egg wash using a pastry brush.

6. Bake for about 30 minutes, rotating halfway through. Let cool for a bit before slicing into this – like a pizza – to form little individual tart pieces.

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My three essential cooking herbs

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It’s time to regather my brain – which is still halfway to the beach – and share this herb primer featuring my three favorite green herbs to grow and use in cooking: rosemary, mint, and sage.

Rosemary

Rosemary is so fragrant and makes me think of hot, dry summers in the South of France where it grows abundantly in our little roof garden. It’s easy enough to grow in a pot on your sunny window sill too.

I love a quick chop of fresh rosemary in an herb rub for meat or whole branches tucked into a parchment envelope when roasting whole or filleted fish.

And, yes, baked apples with rosemary is one of my signature dishes.

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Here are some ideas to get you started:

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Mint

Mint can be a little harder to incorporate – it is such a strong, standalone flavor, but used sparingly, it can provide a cooling freshness to desserts, summer salads, and even heavier meat dishes.

Keep a bunch of mint standing in a glass of water (like a little herb bouquet) in a cool spot in your kitchen and you will be surprised at how often you reach for it.

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Here are some fun mint recipes to try:

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There are so many varieties of mint – spearmint is probably the strongest in flavor, and I would avoid using it in anything besides drinks, unless you want that particular strong, minty green cool.

Sage

The flavor of sage is heady and complex. Often, it may be that “secret ingredient” that you can’t immediately recognize in a dish, but that adds a little magic touch.

Frying or roasting sage really brings out its earthy flavor. Sage pairs particularly well with mushrooms, squashes and pumpkins, and (oh yes) anything having to do with butter.

If you fry sage leaves – or mint leaves too, actually – they get crispy and brighter green in color.

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Some of the many ways to cook with sage:

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ps. Coming up soon! A primer on edible flowers. You know that I am a big fan of using edible flowers in dishes – such an easy way to introduce simple color and joy to plating.

{postcard from..} Cote d’Azur, France

cap ferratDrawing out of our summer reverie here to say hello..!

The heatwave is a little less brutal now that we’re on the coast, traveling to the Cote d’Azur, but it has still shifted schedules somewhat – everyone is up by 7am to enjoy some of the slight morning coolness with breakfast, followed by a walk, a run, and a swim before retreating back indoors by high noon.

By day, the sun shines bright and often mercilessly. By night, a milky haze rolls in.

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Cooking in this weather has inspired some cooling creativity. There have been raspberry smoothies and peach ices, chilled melons, and shrimp salads and plenty of iced tea (using some wonderful herb tea from Cyprus!).

The days, as ever, roll by quickly, so it’s good to look back on these photos and remember the beautiful fleeting summer moments.

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Be it brunch at the Negresco..

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Or a shady corner in La Colle sur Loup.

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ps. Lots more on Instagram, of course. And coming up next week, a little primer on herbs and flowers from our garden.

Simple suppers: pasta with braised garlic and tomatoes

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There is plenty of young, green garlic at the greenmarket at the moment, but what to do with it? Make a simple pasta supper!

I like to treat as if it were leeks, braising the whites and a bit of the greens gently in melted butter to mellow out the sharpness of that strong garlic flavor.

Add some fresh pasta, blistery tomatoes, and peppery arugula microgreens and you’ve got yourself the perfect summer supper that comes together rather seamlessly.

Next time I post, it will be from Provence! I am looking forward to taking a break, cooking simple dishes such as this one for my family, and lingering in the sunshine.

Pasta with braised garlic and tomatoes

You’ll need:

  • fresh pasta (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup red cherry or campari tomatoes
  • 1 bunch young green garlic
  • 1/4 cup arugula microgreens
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil + 2 more for dressing
  • salt, white pepper

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1. Put on a pot of water to boil for the pasta.

Chop the whites and the thin green tops of the young garlic roughly. In a large saute pan, melt together butter and olive oil (tip: I had some herb butter left over so that is also good to use!).

2. Braise the garlic gently on low simmering heat, coating it with butter. Add tomatoes and continue to cook until both are soft and bursting with flavor.

3. In the meantime, cook the fresh pasta (recipe linked here) – it will only take 4-5 minutes, at most.

4. Add salt, a pinch of white pepper to the tomatoes and leeks. Taste for seasoning. Mix with cooked pasta, a few tablespoons of olive oil and a tablespoon or two of pasta water.

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Garnish each plate with a handful of peppery micro arugula and serve immediately.

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Easy summer entertaining: seasonal & green appetizers

IMG_2385My wares from the Irvington farmer’s market the other weekend served as inspiration for this green, easy  summer entertaining feature.

To paraphrase the song, it’s summer and the living – as well as the appetizing –  should be easy.

These three snacks, starters or appetizers are some of my new favorites:

  • Savory yogurt with Sohha everything bagel topping
  • Grilled garlic scapes and sweet peas, topped with colorful kumquats
  • Strawberry and ciliegine (little mozzarella balls) salad with matcha and grenadine

Treat your guests, and yourself, to these delicious seasonal appetizers that take just a quick moment to prepare, yet manage to create colorful memories of these lingering warm summer days.

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Sohha savory yogurt is one of my local favorites. They make an “everything bagel” topping that you can spoon over yogurt or all kinds of things, made with toasted pine nuts,poppy seed, sesame seed, onion, garlic and extra virgin oil. I also added some fresh mint.

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Dip the ends of the grilled garlic scapes – so full of flavor – into the yogurt. Or enjoy them on their own, in a salad with fleeting lightly sautéed sweet peas. They are the greenest tasting peas around and are so cheerful when paired with the tartness of kumquats.

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Strawberry season is going strong and the sweetness of the berries makes for a natural pairing with creamy ciliegine cheese balls. Don’t be too precious about arranging these on a plate – quarter the berries and scatter them artfully, topping with a few teaspoons of grenadine syrup (I love the one from Morris Kitchen) and a restrained sprinkle of good matcha powder.

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Eat, drink, and be merry!

A weekend upstate {Irvington, NY}

weekend upstate

The other weekend was spent touring the river town of Irvington with the lovely folk of And North.

{I like reminiscing about a weekend upstate in the middle of a busy work week!}

It encompassed all of my favorite ways to spend a leisurely Sunday –  reading the paper on the train, exploring a farmer’s market and striking up conversations with makers and doers, exploring hidden trails, tasting everything at the cutest Red Barn bakery, and sipping on organic cider and chatting with old friends and making new ones while hiding from sudden torrential rain on the terrace of the scenic old Cosmopolitan headquarters building.

Irvington

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Now doesn’t that all sound good? Check out some of the places we visited here and let’s do it again soon.

{p.s.} My to-do list:

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