Summer Egg Tortilla with Zucchini, Almonds, and Prosciutto

Here is a recipe I made for lunch the other day, highlighting one of my favorite summer ingredients: zucchini, a type of summer squash.  Its soft, dark green exterior gives way to a meaty and flavorful interior that tastes delicious as is with just a splash of lemon juice and a bit of salt, but which also tastes great in a number of salads, soups, sautes, and roasts.

I decided here to saute it quickly and combine it in an egg tortilla of sorts (think more of an egg wrap) with toasted and sliced almonds, feta, and prosciutto.  I chose not to use the Italian-style prosciutto from where the ingredient’s name finds origin, opting instead for a Spanish style prosciutto, or “jamon Serrano,” whose thin and flavorful slices provide a melt-in-your-mouth texture and a delightfully salty ham taste.

The egg wrap itself has fresh chopped herbs mixed in so every bite packs a punch.  I made this for a lighter lunch but you can instantly make this dish more substantial by wrapping all ingredients up in a soft, pillowy tortilla.

You will have leftover zucchini, which I recommend tossing with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper and serving as a side salad with your egg wrap.  Enjoy!

Summer Egg Tortilla with Zucchini, Almond, Feta, and Prosciutto – serves 1

  • 2 eggs (large organic preferably – from local farmer even better!)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped herbs, such as chives, parsley, cilantro, or mint
  • 1 small handful sliced almonds
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 slices prosciutto, shredded with your hands into bite-size pieces
  • 2-3 tablespoons feta cheese

1. In a shallow bowl, whisk eggs vigorously until well combined. Add herbs, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Whisk to combine.
2. Heat a small skillet on medium heat. Add almond slices and toast until browned and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove almonds from skillet and set aside.
3. Return skillet to medium heat and add half of butter, cooking until it starts to bubble. Add half of zucchini and a pinch of salt. Cook until zucchini is golden, stirring frequently, about 4-5 minutes. Remove zucchini from skillet.
4. Add rest of butter. Once butter is melted and just starting to bubble add eggs, and don’t stir. Tilt pan occasionally and slide eggs toward center of pan to let uncooked egg slide to bottom of skillet. Once bottom side of eggs has set, use an inverted plate to flip it over (place plate over skillet – flip eggs onto plate, slide eggs back into skillet so uncooked side is facing down). Cook about 30 seconds longer, or until eggs have just set.
5. Slide eggs onto plate. Top with prosciutto, feta, zucchini, and almonds. Roll and hold in place with toothpicks. Enjoy!

Apricot and Cherry Millefeuille with Avocado and Melon

Pretty much everything I love about summer is summed up on this plate – delicious ingredients (mostly fruits and vegetables) full of flavor, that require very little preparation to make a meal.

Perhaps I should begin by saying that I have been a fruit fiend for all of my life, ready to pass up a plate of fries for a giant bowl of fruit any day.  What I’ve learned in France, however, is that fruit is only meant to be enjoyed during the right season.  While I grew up in Boston enjoying blueberries in December and green seedless grapes all year round, I quickly learned here, mainly by the stares I received by old French women and market vendors when trying to purchase a bag of grapes in winter, that there is absolutely no point in eating something out of season, because the seasonal stuff tastes so much better.  And I have to hand it to the French, because they’re absolutely right.  I now find myself dreaming about the enormous and tender black figs that are in season here through late summer and early fall – I distinctly remember eating my first one upon arriving in France in 2009, and just staring at it after my first bite.  I was shocked to know that a fruit could contain so much life and taste.  The other day when I saw a few of the same figs at a fruit stand in the Marais, I got so excited and quickly rushed to the vendor in order to have my first bite.  Imagine my disappointment when the fruit vendor confiscated my figs from me: “ne prenez pas ces figues - elles n’ont aucun goût.  Elles seront bonnes en août – don’t buy these figs, they have no taste.  You have to wait until August.” I like to think he was looking out for me.  One can never be too sure though…

Although I still sometimes yearn for a giant bag of seedless green grapes to munch on while surfing the internet at home in the wintertime, I admit that every minute of the wait is worth it, because the fruit season is in full force and everything I eat is bursting with flavor.   Of course, there are always exceptions (France is, after all, the land of paradoxes), which is why no one has qualms eating avocados from Chili throughout the year, in addition to green beans from Africa.  But I’m not judging, I’d rather join.

So I made you a fruit salad that I just love, with a dressing similar to what I made for the Avocado and Mint recipe (mint, olive oil, and honey, with the addition of lime juice).  I wanted to present it in the form of a millefeuille because I was excited about the prospect of taking a photo this way, but in terms of flavor combinations I would recommend just tossing everything together, because the creamy avocado will envelope the other ingredients and give them a wonderful, slightly savory touch.

If you are thinking of making this for a light lunch, I would recommend pairing it with a sweet white wine such as riesling or gewurztraminer from the Alsace region of France.  Unfortunately I don’t know other wine regions from other countries well but hopefully you catch my drift.

Lastly, if you make this recipe you will find yourself left with half of a melon and half of an avocado.  For the melon, I recommend wrapping it in plastic wrap and saving it in your fridge for the next few days.  To prevent the avocado from browning, sprinkle it with lemon or lime juice and place in a sealed plastic container, so it will keep for a day or two in your fridge.  If you’d like, you could dice them both up and combine them both with some crabmeat, lime juice, and olive oil the next day to make another delicious and refreshing salad.  Just an idea – if you have any other suggestions for what to do with leftover avocado and melon, please write them!

Bon appétit!

Apricot and Cherry Millefeuille with Avocado and Melon - serves 1
1 melon, halved, seeds discarded
1 avocado, halved, pit removed
1/2-cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced
1 tablepoon honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
2 apricots, halved, pits removed, thinly sliced
about a dozen dark cherries, pits removed, thinly sliced
1 handful toasted slivered almonds
1. Using a knife, cut around the edge of the melon half, then working from the center outward in a circular motion, cut into thin slices. Scoop out with a spoon, and place melon slices flat around the edge of a large plate.
2. Use one half of the avocado and reserve the other half for another use. Thinly slice the avocado, scoop out gently with a spoon, and place in between the melon slices.
3. In a bowl, combine a few sliced mint leaves with the honey, olive oil, and the juice of 1/2 of the lime. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Place three of the apricot slices in the center of the plate. Top with several cherry slices, then with some sliced mint. Top the mint with three more apricot slices, and repeat in this manner until you have no more apricot, cherry, or mint left.
5. Drizzle everything with the honey and lime mixture, then with the toasted almonds.

Avocado, Smoked Salmon, and Grapefruit Salad

I don’t think I’m the only one in Paris who feels it, and I’ve noticed the change taking place very gradually.  After months of grey sky, moody waiters, and an overall grim outlook on life, the sun has finally graced us with her presence and Parisians from all corners have decided to come out of hibernation for endless cafés and the chance to  flâner (a particular word, hard to translate, generally meaning to stroll with no purpose).  It has been a particularly cold winter here, and after a consistent week of sun, I get the feeling that Paris will soon again be the  friendly and jovial place we know and love, rife with lovers embracing in parks and groups of friends sitting along the Seine around a bottle of wine, a baguette, and some fabulously stinky cheese.

This dish came to be born on a whim, when I myself was flâner-ing down rue de Bretagne in the 3rd arrondissement, trying to figure out what I would make my friend and I for dinner.  Since smoked salmon is extremely popular here (and considered quite the luxury), I decided that it would have to go in the mix.  A craving for an avocado here, and an urge to eat some grapefruit there, and voila! So is born a new recipe. 

This salad is at once light and refreshing, simultaneously satisfying that creamy craving, thanks to the avocado, and the desire to eat something healthy during the generally heavier winter months.  Plus, it’s a great way to make use of winter vegetables and fruits.

Just a note: I know that while endives are a dime a dozen here in Paris, and are used as commonly as celery is in America, it is not as easy to get in other parts of the world.  If you can’t find endives, you can easily substitute iceberg lettuce for the endive (that is actually what I had originally intended to use).  Just chop up the lettuce finely, and ignore the bit about placing it on an endive boat.

I am confident in this dish mainly because I’ve made it three times now, once for myself and two more times for my friends Diana and Annette, and we all agreed that this recipe is a keeper.  Although the list of ingredients is on the longer side (but sill reasonable), this salad is a cinch to pull together and will likely leave you feeling content yet not overly full.

Although I have said it before I believe there is no harm in saying it again: when making salads, please don’t skimp on the quality of the olive oil.  I personally bought a fruity olive oil coming from the Provence region of France, at a store here in Paris called Premiere Pression Provence.  Although it is impossible to say for sure, I am certain that this olive oil helped the salad go from tasty to something truly memorable.  So please, spend the extra few dollars/euros/currency to treat yourself to something grand!

Avocado, Grapefruit, and Smoked Salmon Salad – serves 1
1 endive
2 slices smoked salmon
1 handful toasted walnuts or slivered almonds, or both
1 small grapefruit
1 avocado
1-2 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons olive oil

1.  Peel out the outer two layers of the endive (optional); set aside. Cut off the root and tip of the endive, and roughly chop the rest.  Place in a medium bowl.
2.  Dice the smoked salmon into small pieces, roughly equivalent of the endive pieces, and add to the bowl.
3.  Roughly chop the walnuts (or almonds if using), and toast in the oven at 400°F/200°C for 5 minutes or on the stove in a skillet. Once slightly cooled, add to the bowl with the salmon and endive.
4.  Cut a grapefruit in half.  Peel one of the halves, and remove the segments from the skin.  Chop the grapefruit segments and add to the medium bowl. 
5. Cut the avocado in half lengthwise, and remove the pit.  With a paring knife, divide the avocado halves (while still in the skin) into small cubes, and scoop it out with a spoon.  Place in the medium bowl.
6.  Make the sauce:  squeeze the juice of the remaining grapefruit half into a small bowl.  Add a pinch of salt, pepper, and freshly chopped dill.  Slowly whisk in olive oil until you have a consistency and taste that you like (probably 2 tablespoons).
7.  Toss the sauce and the remaining dill in with the ingredients in the medium bowl.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. If using, place the salad on the endive leaves for a prettier presentation.
Bon appétit!

>Orange-Pepper Roasted Broccoli with Toasted Almonds and Parmesan


I imagine that most of you, like myself, are not extremely fond of broccoli; or maybe that’s not the right way to put it; although broccoli’s bright green hue and unique texture are interesting and adorable, it’s not exactly something I crave throughout the day, nor is it a product which I would immediately reach for in the supermarket or in my fridge  However, as with most food, I find that it’s not the ingredient that I dislike, but more poor and bland preparation that causes me to be turned off by broccoli.  So in an effort to make broccoli more enticing and satisfying, I decided to mix my love to oranges, parmesan and whole peppercorns with this verdant vegetable, to some very positive results.
Maybe I should explain how this potentially unlikely combination came about.  I keep a journal by my bed to write down just about anything that comes through my mind, either before, during, or after sleep;  I don’t know about you, but sometimes ideas appear in my head in the middle of the night and I like to write down whatever it is that seems crucial and fascinating at 4 AM.  Yesterday morning I found that I had recently written a terse note, saying only, “OK, oranges!”  Apparently something in my sleep triggered a delight of oranges which compelled me to write this and ensure that a recipe involving oranges would soon ensue.
Let’s be realistic here; most likely something I saw or read earlier that day led to my nocturnal orange obsession, and I can tell you what it probably was:  The Savory Take on Fruit Salad, a recent entry by Mark Bittman on his food blog Bitten.  Please take a moment to appreciate the beauty and wonder that was captured in Mark Bittman’s photo of these beautiful citrus fruits; I don’t know about you but just looking at them makes my mouth water and my stomach churn. 
So, it is with this immediate interest in citrus in combination with my desire to turn broccoli into something appetizing that this recipe came about.  Roasting broccoli turns its flavor in a nuttier direction, and roasting it at a very high heat almost caramelizes it, so that you are essentially be eating broccoli at its finest and in its most hightened form. I believe roasted broccoli is typically served with garlic, maybe some chili flakes, and cheese – why not stray and try something delightfully new and interesting? You can eat this with some other roasted vegetables (like sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots, or cauliflower) a soup, or a filet of chicken breast or fish.  In any event, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the good taste broccoli can offer.
Orange-Pepper Broccoli with Toasted Almonds and Parmesan – serves 1
1 small head of broccoli, cut into florets
1 small glug of olive oil
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
1 tsp grated orange zest
2 tbsp fresh-squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon (or to taste) freshly grated parmesan
1 small handful toasted almonds
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
1.  On a lined baking tray, toss the broccoli with the olive oil, whole peppercorns, and a pinch of salt.
2.  Roast in the oven until broccoli is slightly browned, about 20-25 minutes.
3.  Take out of the oven, and toss broccoli with orange zest, orange juice, and additional salt and pepper to taste.
4.  Sprinkle with parmesan and toasted almonds. 

>Sweet Saffron Rice Pudding


I have to say, I’m pretty excited to provie this recipe for a sweet saffron pudding, called sholeh zard in farsi (translating loosely to yellow jello), which is absolutely divine and combines an interesting blend of flavors to produce a rich, satisfying, and wholesome dessert.  What I find most interesting about this dish is that there’s not one or two key ingredients which make it a standout, but five.  With an exciting blend of saffron, cardamom, rosewater, almonds, and pistachios, it’s hard to say which taste is most distinct. 
However, it’s clear that the stunning yellow color comes from the addition of saffron threads, which my mom likes grind to a powder, dissolve in hot water, and store in a jar in the fridge. 
If you’ve ever seen and opened a jar full of dissolved saffron, you’ll likely agree that the fiery orange color is fascinating and that its strong aroma is intoxicating.  The tablespoon of saffron used in this dessert is enough to turn the whole dish bright yellow - clearly this stuff is pretty potent.
Combined with the rich, nutty, and sweet flavors provided by the ingredients mentioned above, this rice pudding provides a taste like no other I’ve had before.  It stores in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, so feel free to make a bunch for yourself and snack on it whenever you so desire!
One last note: after having made numerous desserts for both Iranians and Americans, it has become clear to me that Iranians take to rose water much more than most people.  While my parents and their Iranian friends go nuts over this dessert and find the 2 tablespoons called for to be perfect, most Americans will likely find this same amount to be overwhelming.  For that reason, I’ve proposed new proportions, which I believe will be much more amenable to American taste buds; these revised proportions will be placed next to the appropriate ingredient.  Please try this dessert, and feel free to give me any feedback you have!
Sweet Saffron Rice Pudding – makes about 2 cups
3/4-cup uncooked long-grain rice
3 cups water
1 1/2-c sugar
1/8-teaspoon saffron threads, dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water
2 1/2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon slivered almonds (revised: 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons rosewater (revised: 1 teaspoon rosewater)
for garnish:
chopped pistachios
slivered almonds
1. Wash and drain the rice, changing the water several times.
2.  Bring rice and water to a boil in a large saucepan, skimming the foam from the surface as it foams.  Simmer for 35 minutes on medium heat.
3.  Add sugar and cook for 15 minutes more, stirring often.
4.  Add saffron, butter, almonds, rosewater, and cardamom, stirring to combine.  Cover and cook on low for about 40 minutes longer, or until consistency is thick and pudding-like.
5.  Transfer to a large bowl, sprinkle with cinnamon, chopped pistachios, and almonds if desired, and refrigerate until cold.  Serve chilled.

Quick Saute of Zucchini


I wish I could take the credit for this brilliant dish, which, in all its simplicity, still manages to provide strong flavors of salty, nutty, sweet, and tangy.  With only four ingredients, it is a simple and remarkably fast meal which can constitute either a lunch, light dinner, or starter.  I really do wish I came up with it, as it’s pure genius.  However, I owe the creation of this recipe to Jimmy Bradley and Danny Abrams, the chefs/co-owners of Red Cat Restaurant in the chelsea area of New York.  The first time I tried this at the restaurant I knew I would have to go back and try it again soon.  I nearly bowled over when I found out how easy it is to make!

I’d also like to add that I decided to make this recipe to start a new series of recipes, which all can be made in 20 minutes or less.  However, this lucky dish happens to qualify for both the 5-ingredients-or-less category and the one just mentioned above.  And I imagine this overlapping will happen often, as these categories are more mutually inclusive than exclusive.  Nevertheless, please enjoy, eat well, and live happily!

Fresh Zucchini with Sliced Almonds and Parmesan – serves 1

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 fresh zucchini, peeled, ends chopped off, and cut into 1/2-inch long matchsticks
3 tablespoons blanched, slivered almonds
1/4-cup (or about 10 pieces) of parmesan slices (can be made with a vegetable peeler)

1.  Heat olive oil in a large skillet over high heat.  Once hot, add the zucchini, sprinkle with a good dash of salt and a sprinkle of pepper, and sautee until zucchini is just starting to color, about 3 minutes.
2.  Add the slivered almonds; sautee until almonds just begin to color and zucchini is slightly golden, about 2 minutes more.
3.  Transfer to a plate; sprinkle with additional salt and pepper to taste; top with parmesan and serve.

>Roasted Beets and Onions w/ Feta and Almonds


Ok, I’ve been on a mission to find an easy and delicious recipe for roasted beets, and I have finally found it. While I was in Burgundy I was thinking about what cheese I could pair beets with; I initially thought goat cheese, but then I realized that something a little more pungent like feta cheese could add a saltier and deeper dimension which would make the flavors of the dish a little stronger.

This recipe is so easy, healthy, and rich – the salty feta flavor pairs nicely with the pungent and sweet flavor of beets. The toasted almonds provide a nutty and creamy element, while the slowly caramelized onions add a silky texture that makes you want to dip your fork in right away for seconds!

So please try this dish if you’re looking for something to do with beets, but you’re not sure what. This is such an easy dish, it probably requires about ten minutes of work in the kitchen – the oven does the rest!

Roasted Beets and Onions w/ Feta and Almonds – serves 1
1 fresh beet
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, peeled and sliced
1 handful almonds or walnuts
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

1.  Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spread the onions on it.  Sprinkle the onions with salt, pepper, and a tablespoon of olive oil, and mix together to spread everything evenly. 

2.  Next, wrap your beet in tin foil, push the onions to one side of the dish, and place the beet next to the onions. Cook the beet and onions for about 1- 1 1/4 hours, or until the onions are golden and shiny.

3. Once they are ready, take the onions and beets out of the oven and let them cool for about ten minutes.

4.  In the meantime, put the almonds in a small baking dish (the same one works too) and cook them in the oven for about 5 minutes, or until golden.

5.  When your beet has cooled down, peel it, and slice it into 1/2-inch thick rounds.

6. Lay the onions on a plate, then place the beets over them. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, the toasted almonds, and the feta cheese.

Enjoy with some fresh bread. Merci, à très bientôt !