Herbed Asparagus Frittata with Seared Salmon and Feta

 

Another recipe to celebrate the warm weather season, highlighting the deep and plentiful flavor of green asparagus which has popped up on almost every bistrot menu around Paris.  This year more than ever I’m learning to embrace the seasons, which bring along with them the adventure of learning to cook with what nature gives you.  Asparagus is a great ingredient to experiment with because it can be eaten in so many forms, whether puréed in a soup, tossed in a spring salad, or incorporated with eggs as is done here.  If you are left with extra asparagus spears while making this recipe, I suggest tossing the rest of the asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasting in a 220°C/400°F oven.  Once cooked you can top with slivers of parmesan and lemon juice, or balsamic vinegar.

The pairing of green asparagus and eggs is effortless and harmonious, and by tossing pan-seared salmon into the frittata you include enough protein and energy to make this meal for a healthy lunch or dinner.  Fresh herbs such as chives, cilantro, or parsley add brightness and a strong summer flavor.  If you decide to add a cheese such as feta, be prepared for a very particular tang with a slightly salty aftertaste.  Other cheeses that would work equally as well would be goat cheese, ricotta, or perhaps blue cheese for the strong-hearted.

I would definitely pair this frittata with a white wine with hints of spices, such as the Californian J Russian River Valley Pinot Gris.  For dessert, you could chop up two nectarines and slice a few ripe cherries, and toss them with 1 tablespoon honey, a drizzle of oil, and a handful of sliced fresh mint.  If you prefer to finish this frittata in the oven, instead of flipping it over and cooking the other side, place the (ovenproof) skillet under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, until set.

Herbed Asparagus Frittata with Seared Salmon and Feta – serves 1

1 salmon filet, about 6 ounces/185 grams
1 tablespoon olive oil plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
1 pinch cayenne pepper
2 eggs plus 1 egg white
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 tablespoons crumbled feta
3-4 stalks asparagus, woody stems removed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 lemon

1. Wash and pat dry the salmon fillet. Rub all over with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper.
2. Heat a small 8-inch/20-cm skillet over medium heat. Add salmon filet, and cook for about 2-3 minutes on all four sides until cooked through. Remove salmon from heat, and with a fork gently break the fish apart into small, bite-size pieces.
3. In a small bowl, combine the eggs, herbs, heavy cream, and a pinch each of salt and pepper (and cayenne pepper if you like things spicy). Whisk together with a fork. Add in the salmon bits and feta cheese, and combine gently.
4. Heat the teaspoon olive oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Add asparagus bits to the pan and cook until tender but still crunchy, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Add the egg mixture to the pan; swirl the pan around to coat evenly. Let eggs cook over medium heat, occasionally tilting the pan to one side and pushing the eggs to the center of the pan to let the runny parts reach the bottom of the skillet.
6. Place a large plate over the skillet and invert the frittata onto the plate. Gently slide the frittata back onto the skillet to heat the runny side. Cook until frittata is set, about 2 minutes longer. Serve on same large plate and sprinkle with lemon juice.

White Bean, Asparagus, and Sesame-Crusted Shrimp Salad

Not every one falls in love with Paris, but I find that those who do are hooked for life.  Whether it happens over a café crème on a sunny terrace or during a never-ending picnic rife with cheap red wine and crunchy baguettes, this city is capable of leaving you mesmerized, walking through the charming streets as if in a daydream.   And while living here may be just a fantasy, an image of a life I want to believe I’m leading (I recommend watching Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris to get a better idea of what I’m talking about), there are certain rituals I have come to adopt that remind me that, even if Paris embodies a city that is bordering fantasia, there are still many things, mostly in food form, that capture my heart and remind me that true talent and beauty lies in the heart of the city.  One such ritual is enjoying lunch at le Comptoir, undoubtedly one of my favorite restaurants in Paris and likely the favorite of many other frequenters.  While it’s almost not worth going for dinner as it requires a reservation six months in advance, if you arrive on the early side (12pm sharp) for lunch you can enjoy a lovely table on the sunny terrace.  This is precisely what I do when I want to enjoy a refreshing glass of white wine and the best salad I’ve ever had in my life, the Salad Niçoise.  I assume you’ll immediately tell me that you don’t like Salad Niçoise, because it is boring or bland, or that you don’t like anchovies.  But, my dear reader, I felt the same way before trying this salad, which has changed my life and made me think about the perfect harmony of a salad in a new way.

I am grateful to this salad niçoise, not only for making my stomach and eyes extremely happy, but additionally for reminding me that salads don’t need to be light or boring to be enjoyed.  They can be a scene for extreme experiences: marriages of flavor that develop and change with each bite.  Dig around the plate to find a little bit of egg or some crispy caramelized onions that will forever change your next bite from your last.  Although the salad that I’m posting today has nothing to do with a nicoise salad, it was with this appreciation for the greener side of life that I hoped to present to you a salad that is at once hearty, healthy, and complex.  This is essentially a new version of a shrimp and arugula salad that I have been making for a while.  Because it’s springtime and the fruits and vegetables are at the beginning of their glorious high season, I had to include roast asparagus, which for me is one of the easiest springtime things to make and can be tossed with just about anything: in a frittata, with pasta, or just roasted and eaten in its pure form. 

If you have to buy more asparagus than the recipe calls for, I would recommend either saving the remainder and using them at a later time (they will keep for up to 5 or 6 days in tupperware in your fridge), or roasting all of them and eating the remaining asparagus as a snack over the next few days.  Roast asparagus is something I would liken to roast sweet potatoes, in the sense that both of these ingredients change personality entirely to acquire a salty, almost creamy air about them once exiting the hot oven.  Needless to say I’m a huge fan.  Also, don’t forget to remove the ends of the asparagus which are not tender enough to be eaten: take each asparagus in your hands and snap it in two – the asparagus will naturally break where it is no longer tender.

I of course added shrimp because I am a seafood lover jusqu’au bout, and fresh, large, jumbo shrimp can make a cameo on my dinner plate any day.  The addition of sesame seeds adds a nice extra dimension of saltiness and protein (and it’s really easy to put together, I promise!) which pairs very well with the sautéed basil.

Lastly, if you decide that you would like to try to make the shallot/shrimp medley but you don’t care for the lettuce or roast asparagus, I would recommend removing the tails off the shrimp, cutting them into bite-size pieces, and eating them in a burrito with sliced avocado and sour cream or on toasts.  And now I’m hungry once again.

White Bean, Asparagus, and Sesame-Crusted Shrimp Salad – serves 1
 
For the asparagus:
6 to 8 stalks of green asparagus, ends trimmed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil or sunflower oil
coarse sea salt
 
For the Salad:
1/2-cup sesame seeds
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 jumbo shrimp, peeled, heads removed and tails left on
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 handful fresh basil, thinly sliced
1 lemon
1/2-cup white beans
2 large handfuls arugula
 
To cook the asparagus:
1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/425° F. Line a baking sheet that is large enough to hold all the asparagus flat with tin foil. Add all the ingredients and toss thoroughly with your hands to combine.
2. Roast in the oven until crispy yet tender, about 12-15 minutes.
3. Once cool enough to handle, cut into matchstick-sized pieces and set aside. If there is any oil remaining on the baking sheet, set it aside to add to the sauce
 
To prepare the salad:
1. In a shallow bowl or dish, spread out the sesame seeds.
2. Toss the shrimp with 1 tablespoon olive oil, cayenne pepper, and salt; pass the oiled shrimp through the sesame seeds to coat.
3. In a large skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the sliced shallot, and cook, stirring occassionally, until softened, about 6 minutes.
4. Turn the heat to medium- high, add the shrimp, and cook until shrimp are cooked through, about 2 minutes on each side.
5. Add the juice from half of the lemon (or more if necessary, you want to make a sauce). Remove from heat, add the basil slivers, and toss to combine. Add any remaining oil from the roast asparagus.
6. Place the arugula and white beans on a plate. Top with shrimp and shallot sauce. Add additional lemon juice or olive oil as neccesary, and season with salt and pepper.

Mediterranean-Style, Breaded Turbot Fish

I know I’m getting ahead of myself, since tomato season really isn’t here yet and the tomatoes coming from Morocco and Spain (the only ones available in Paris all winter long) pale in comparison to the locally grown summer tomatoes, bursting with so much flavor that they are good enough to eat plain, maybe with just a touch of coarse sea salt or a drizzle of olive oil.  But I couldn’t help trying out this dish because the big change in Paris has happened and I am officially in Spring/Summer mode.

When I say the “big change,” I am referring not only to the change in weather but more importantly to the change in personality of almost every one in Paris, myself included.  Paris is a different city once the weather turns, and in these warmer months even the typically frigid take on a softer side, and although I am sure this effect takes place in many cities I find that it is very marked here.

If I may, allow me to give you an example. Now you may or may not know that the Sorbonne (where I’m getting my masters in “Food Cultures” – I hope you’re not surprised), has every entrance door blocked by security guards, most of whom are rather serious, terse, and prefer to speak only when spoken to.  So I timidly walked to one of the entrances and dreaded having to tell the security guard that in fact, I lost my student ID card and need to enter in order to get a new one.  Please imagine my surprise when he responded to me in kind with, “Ne vous inquiétez pas mademoiselle, dans ce cas-là il ne me reste que de vous souhaiter une très bonne journée” – don’t worry miss, all that I need to do in that case is wish you a very pleasant day.  His reaction was shocking to me, but after thinking back I realize that every one I interacted with today was friendlier and more cheerful than normal, which is why I have come to the conclusion that Paris undergoes a drastic improvement once the clouds part and the sun graces us with her lovely presence.

Bref, that is why I made this Mediterranean dish.  Unfortunately these tomatoes from Morocco were underwhelming as predicted and I probably should have waited until summer to make this, when grape tomatoes are the perfect amount of sweet, salty, and tangy.  If you don’t have access to ripe tomatoes then perhaps you should wait to make this dish too. 

A few notes: firstly, you can certainly roast other vegetables along with the tomatoes: I think white onions, zucchini, or summer squash would all taste great with these flavors.  Additionally, what you add to the stuffing blend is up to you, feel free to do a pantry raid and add whatever you have in there that wouldn’t taste too funky (or let it taste funky, you’re only making it for yourself so you should do what makes you happy). 

Mediterranean-Style, Breaded Turbot – serves 1
7-8 grape tomatoes
dried oregano
1-2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
75g/2.5 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1/4-cup bread crumbs
3 large kalamata olives (or 4-5 small black olives), pitted and chopped
1 lemon
2 turbot fillets (150g/5.5oz)

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F.
1. Cut all but one of the tomatoes in half, place on a lined baking dish, and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and 1 teaspoon dried oregano. Roast until softened, about 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, roughly chop the remaining grape tomato, and combine in a bowl with the pine nuts, mint, feta, olives, and half of the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle to taste with salt, pepper, oregano, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice.
3. Rub the turbot fillets with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and dredge in the remaining bread crumbs.
4. Remove tomatoes from oven, reduce oven heat to 160°C/360°F. and place one turbot fillet on the same baking sheet. Cover with stuffing and place remaining fillet on top. Drizzle with any remaining lemon juice and bake until fish is cooked through, about 20 minutes.

>Warm Winter Fruit Stew

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I had to make this salad twice today, because the first time I made it I thought my brilliant idea of including thinly sliced shallots would do the trick and make this stew something special.  That was most definitely not the case.  The second time I made it, I stuck with what felt right: a little bit of sugar, olive oil, and pepper sprinkled on the fruits, along with some freshly chopped thyme.  This combination produced the results I was looking for: sweet, refreshing and extremely light, with some added depth and flavor from the olive oil and pepper.
This salad came about mainly for two reasons:  firstly, because I’ve had an over-indulgent weekend, having eaten a delightful Moroccan dinner at Chez Omar Friday night (where I ate some of the best couscous I’ve ever had in my life), and having attended a cremellaire (house-warming party) last night, where I proceeded to drink more champagne than I care to remember. 
Thus, I was happy and hoping to make something light and extremely healthy for lunch today.  I got inspiration to use thyme with fruits from my new boss at Elle.  Although working for a fashion magazine means that I don’t get to spend my days dreaming about, looking at, and discussing food as I would like, I do find occasional moments to talk about the many fascinations of eating with my co-workers.  Cristina (my boss), described a dinner menu she was planning for the weekend, and brought up an easy and wonderful grapefruit appetizer consisting of fresh thyme, olive oil, and sugar, which she picked up from Elle a Table (the cooking magazine produced by Elle in France every other month).  I decided to expand this idea a bit and add other fruits to the mix, and that is how this warm winter stew has come about.
I think it would taste absolutely divine with some brioche bread, muffins, or pound cake to dip in the sweet fruit sauce, or it could be served along with some yogurt, granola, or nuts.  I intended this salad to be an appetizer or light lunch, but I think this could be served as a dessert as well. 
Warm Winter Fruit Stew – Serves 1

Use any or all of the following fruits:
1 apple
1 pear
1 grapefruit
1 blood orange
1 orange
1 lemon

Remaining stew ingredients:
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp sugar
lots of freshly ground black pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
1. If using an apple or pear, peel the fruit, cut off the root and stem, and cut in half length-wise. Cut out the center, and slice each half into 3 or 4 pieces length-wise; place in an oven-proof bowl or dish.
2.  Peel all of the citrus fruits, taking care to remove as much of the pith (the white stuff directly surrounding the fruit) as possible.  Working over the bowl, cut the fruits into segments – you want to keep their juices.
3.  Spread the chopped thyme evenly over the fruits, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with the sugar and freshly ground black pepper  (about a teaspoon, more if you really like the kick of pepper.)
4.  Place in the oven and bake until warm, about 10 minutes.  Voilà!

>Whole Fish with a Cajun-Style Spice Rub

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wholefishfinal
Even though there is nothing more public and open than posting articles and thoughts on the internet, I for some reason believe I am being somewhat anonymous when I write on this blog.  This sense of anonimity is exactly why I don’t feel embarassed telling you that when I ate this cajun-style whole fish I licked my fingers, then picked through the bones, ate everything I could, and then licked my fingers again.  I think there is something intimidating about cooking whole fish and most people shy away from it, which in my opinion is a shame because it’s extremely fast and easy, and also because, just as with cooking a whole chicken or leg of lamb, when you eat the meat right off the bone it tastes infinitely better.
I have had the desire to make a whole fish since my recent trip to Nassau, Bahamas, where I gladly partook in some of the local fare, consisting of seafood items such as snapper, conch, and stone crab claws. While there I thoroughly enjoyed every bite of the stone crab claws and bahamian-style whole red snapper that I ordered one evening at the Poop Deck (if you find yourself on this island, I hope you go there and let me know if you liked it).

Ever since the end of that meal I’ve been dreaming about how to remake this fish at home.  To be honest I can’t say if what I’ve come up with is accurate, but it is nonetheless delicious and finger-licking good. The type of fish you use is pretty flexible, I would suggest trying sea bass, sea bream, red snapper, trout, or grouper.  The type of fish is less important than the size; if making this for yourself, a fish of about 1 lb should suffice.  If making this for you and one other person, you can either buy two 1-lb fish or one larger, 2-lb fish; just see my note about the cooking time in the directions.
You can definitely find whole fish at a fish market, such as The Lobster Place in nyc, Legal Seafoods Fish Markets in various New England locations, or any other local place, and you will likely find them at supermarkets with a fish section, such as Roche Brothers, Whole Foods Market, or Citarella. Simply ask if they have whole fish; if they do, ask them to gut it and scale it for you, which is pretty standard procedure.  At this point the fish is ready to be taken home and stuffed and rubbed with whatever spices and seasonings you’d like.
Bahamian-Style Whole Fish – serves 1
I created my own spice rub for this recipe with what I had available in my kitchen; feel free to add dried thyme or garlic powder to this combination.  Alternatively, you can buy a bottled cajun spice rub if you so desire/if that’s easier for you, I’m sure it will come out great.
1 1-lb fish, such as snapper, sea bass, striped bass/rockfish, sea bream, trout, or grouper, gutted and scaled
Coarse sea salt (regular salt is fine too)
1 tsp. each of chili powder, paprika, onion powder, black pepper, dried oregano, salt
A few fresh thyme or oregano sprigs
3-4 lemon wedges
Whole peppercorns
Olive oil
If grilling, prepare the grill to medium heat and brush grates thoroughly with oil.
1.  Wash and rinse the fish thoroughly of any grime or remaining guts; pat dry with a paper towel.
2.  Rub outside of fish with about 1/2- tablespoon of salt, or more (the salt makes a huge difference, please don’t be shy with it); pour about 1 tsp in the cavity/belly and rub around the insides.
3.  Mix together spices and rub about 1/3 of the mixture into the cavity; stuff the thyme/oregano sprigs, lemon wedges, and whole peppercorns in the cavity as well.
4.  Make 3 slits on each side of the fish to help ensure even cooking.
(These fish were stuffed for a different meal but you get the idea)
5.  If using a skillet: Heat a large skillet over medium heat until hot.  Add about 1 tablespoon olive oil and swish around to coat the pan evenly. Once oil is hot (shouldn’t take long, about 30 seconds), add the fish; immediately push the fish around a bit with a spatula to make sure the oil is spread evenly and the fish doesn’t stick to the skillet.
If using a grill: Add fish across grates directly over heating element.
For both methods: Cook until bottom side is cooked through, about 10 minutes (note: cooking time varies depending on thickness of fish; general rule of thumb is 10 minutes/inch of thickness).
7.  Using one or two large spatulas, flip the fish over and continue to cook until done, about 10 minutes longer (to ensure crispy skin, you may want to add some more oil to the skillet, and push the fish around).
8.  Meanwhile, using a brush or paper towels, rub top side of fish thoroughly with more of the spice rub.  Flip over once more, and rub top side thoroughly again with the spice rub.
9.  Place on a platter or plate; some serving suggestions are wild rice, steamed vegetables, or parboiled/fried potatoes.

>Breaded Hake with Peppery Lemons

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This 5-ingredient recipe highlights the versatility of lemons and their ability to add tangy, sweet, and salty flavors to a dish.  After being coated with lemon juice and olive oil, the fish is dipped into breadcrumbs that have been mixed with lemon zest.  I served the hake alongside lemon slices that had been baked with peppercorns and olive oil, which helps the slices lose their biting acidity and instead provide a rich and almost creamy taste, while also becoming soft enough to be broken apart with a spoon.
I used hake because it was the most appetizing-looking fish at the poissonnerie that day; other types of whitefish that would also work are flounder, whiting, grouper or catfish.  I ate this with a green salad, but I think you could also serve it with mashed or roasted potatoes or just enjoy it by itself for a light lunch or dinner.
Breaded Hake with Peppery Lemons – serves 1
  • 1 hake fillet
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/4-cup freshly grated breadcrumbs, or store-bought breadcrumbs (such as panko)
  • olive oil
  • 1 handful black peppercorns (between 15-20)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C.
1.  Wash and dry the fillet and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2.  Pour the breadcrumbs into a shallow bowl or dish; zest the lemon with a grater or veggie peeler (chop them afterward if using a veggie peeler) and mix the zest into the breadcrumbs.
3.  In another shallow bowl or dish pour 1/4-cup olive oil.  Halve the lemon cross-wise; slice one of the halves into 4 this slices crosswise and set aside.   Juice the other lemon half into the dish with the olive oil; stir to combine.
4.  Dip the filet into the olive oil mixture, making sure it is covered with liquid; next dip it into the breadcrumbs so it is fully coated.
5.  Place the filet on a lined baking dish, and lay the lemon slices next to it.  Wedge the peppercorns into the lemon slices, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with pepper.
6.  Bake until fish is cooked through, about 10-12 minutes.  Place the filet on a plate, and cover with foil to keep warm; return the lemon slices to the oven and continue to bake until extremely soft, about 10 minutes further.  Serve alongside the fish.

>Sole with White Wine, Lemon, and Haricots Verts

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Je suis épuisée! Another long day. However, I brightened up when I arrived at La Grande Epicerie, which I would liken to some sort of food mecca in the 7th arrondissement in Paris. It’s amazing, and they have any kind of food you could think of, from cheeses, breads, fish and poultry to crepes, macarrons, et many other “délices”.

Once I bought my groceries, I came home to prepare the sole, and it was a cinch to make. The dish requires a little bit of preparation, what with cutting the beans, tomato, and parsley, but otherwise it’s pretty straightforward. Also, you can buy pre-cut haricots verts to make the preparation easier.

All you need for this dish is 1 fillet of sole, a large handful of haricots verts, 1 medium tomato, olive oil, dry white wine (such as sauvignon blanc), lemon, butter (optional), and parsley. I actually used parsley because I had some leftover from last night, but scallions would work well too.

Chop up the shallot and dice the tomato. Boil a small pot of water, add a pinch of salt, and add the haricots verts. Cook them until slightly tender, about 3-4 minutes, then set aside in a bowl and cover to keep warm. Heat a large skillet with 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat. Season the fish with salt and pepper, then place the fish skin side down on the skillet, and cook for about 4 minutes on each side, or until it is white everywhere (when you flip the fish over, remove the skin with a fork).

Once the fish is crispy and cooked on both sides, set it on top of the haricots and cover to keep warm. If there’s any olive oil left on the pan, drip it down the sink. Add about 1/4 cup of white wine to the pan with the juice from 1/2 a lemon and cook it over medium high heat until the liquid has reduced slightly. You’ll want to add about 2 tablespoons butter (or 2 tablespoons olive oil), but add it in gradually to intensify the flavor of the sauce. Once all the butter is melted (or the olive oil is heated), season with salt and pepper, then add the tomato and parsley (or scallions if using).

Pour the sauce over the fish and beans, and enjoy with a glass of white wine!