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!

Blackened Salmon with Feta-Yogurt Sauce and Golden Couscous

This recipe was particularly fun to make, and especially fun to photograph.  For some reason I ended up putting it on my floor, taking a photo of it there, and then sitting in the same spot and eating the whole dish.  There is a small window of time, usually around 2pm, when sun manages to find a small crevice between all of the tall New York City buildings and floods into my second floor apartment, and therefore onto me.  I love sitting and eating under the sunshine during this brief moment, which is what I was able to do today.

The truth is that I just got back from a relaxing and much-appreciated vacation with my mom and sister in Barbados, and I’ve got fish on my mind in a major way.  Almost every meal we ate there featured grilled fish – usually mahi mahi, snapper, or dorado – lightly seasoned and served with plenty of Scotch bonnet hot sauce (my new favorite hot and slightly sweet sauce, in case you’re wondering).  For this reason the only recipe ideas that were swimming in my mind were fish, spicy, and sweet.  Thus was born this recipe which I am delighted to share with you!

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Fall Quinoa with Sweet Potato, Walnuts, and Raisins

This is a straightforward quinoa recipe that’s great for fall.  Everything about this dish exudes warmth and earthiness: rich walnuts and sweet potato are complemented by deep spices like cumin and cinnamon.  I originally wrote this recipe for The Daily Meal so the serving size is for 2.  However, you can easily reduce the portion to make it for one, or just make extra and save it for several days in the fridge.

I think this would go very well with a crisp, dry riesling from such as Dashe’s 2007 McFadden Farms Dry Riesling  from California ($20) or Hazlitt Vineyard’s 2006 Riesling from New York ($18).

Bon appétit!

Fall Quinoa with Sweet Potato, Walnuts, and Raisins – Makes 2 Servings
1 large sweet potato
1/2-teaspon ground cumin
1/4-teaspoon cayenne
1/2-teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2-cup quinoa
1 cup vegetable broth
1/4-cup roughly chopped walnuts (about 1 large handful)
1/4-cup raisins that have been soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes1.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
2. Peel the sweet potato and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Place on a lined baking tray and toss with cumin, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, olive oil, and a pinch of salt.
3.  Roast sweet potatoes until cubes are softened, about 12-14 minutes, tossing once halfway through cooking time.
4. Place quinoa and broth in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.  Fluffen with a fork.
5.  Meanwhile heat a small skillet over medium heat.  Add walnuts and toast, tossing occasionally, until golden, about 2-3 minutes.
6.  In a bowl combine quinoa, sweet potatoes, walnuts, and raisins.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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.

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.

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.

Cuke Salad with Feta and Walnuts

I don’t know exactly how or when it started, but I believe any of the food lovers in Paris can attest to the fact that there is an onslaught of Mexican restaurant openings currently taking place in France’s capital, from the Mexican diner/trendy cocktail bar combo to the upcoming opening of Chipotle in the 9th arrondissement.  Please don’t interpret this statement as a complaint:  spicy food and pulled pork are two things I miss the most in Paris and which I am more than happy to reintroduce to my diet on a regular basis.  I have to admit that I get a guilty pleasure every time I step into one of these establishments (the majority of which are run or co-run by Americans) only to find fellow expats reveling in the glory of freshly made soft-shell tacos, endless guacamole and the ultimate food accompaniments utterly lacking in French food: hot sauce, spicy sauce, and hot peppers.  One look at each other and no words need to be spoken to establish what we’re thinking - living this far away from good Mexican food has been hard on us all, and we’re only too happy to find it again.

Maybe this recent craze over Mexican food is why I was keen on making this salsa-cum-salad, which I was introduced to thanks to a Mexican -themed dinner at my friend Erin’s apartment last month.  After one bite I was shocked by how much flavor such a simple dish could have, considering its short list of ingredients (she made it as a salsa, without the walnuts and feta, using only 5 ingredients). The secret definitely seems to be the importance of letting the flavors marinate for as long as possible, preferably for 24 hours, in order to give the dish more depth and to let the flavors marry. The touch of sugar helps to add a slight hint of sweetness without overpowering the freshness of the vegetables.  Since I loved this salsa so much I decided i wanted to transform it into a salad by adding a little fat and protein.  It is still extremely healthy, as there is no oil used and the only fat comes from the feta cheese and walnuts.  As usual, please feel free to play around with the nuts, maybe substituting chopped peanuts or toasted pine nuts.  In fact, now that I’m writing this, I believe peanuts would be a wonderful contrast to the acidity of cucumbers and bell peppers. Feel free as well to add other fresh herbs such as parsley, basil, or mint.

I also want to mention that I just added a rating system, made possible in just 3 mouse clicks thanks to the highly customized and user-friendly WordPress blog system, so now you can rate any of the recipes you have tried on this website. Rating systems are great and they are the reason why Epicurious.com remains my favorite cooking website - I can categorize recipes by their ratings and easily check which ones are most popular.  To rate a recipe, simply click on the recipe title, and click on the number of stars you would like to assign to it. I won’t be offended if you give something few or no stars, the whole point of this blog is to help you make food that you think tastes good and that is easy to make!

So please feel free to rate this or any other recipe – happy cooking!

Cuke Salad with Feta and Walnuts – serves 1
1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
1 yellow or red bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, diced
4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons sugar
3-4 tablespoons rice wine, cider, or red wine vinegar
4 ounces crumbled feta
1/4-cup chopped, toasted walnuts
optional: a pinch of cayenne pepper
1.  Combine the cucumber, bell pepper, and cilantro in a medium bowl; toss to combine.  Add the sugar and vinegar and toss again to combine all ingredients.  Let sit in the fridge for at least one hour, preferably for 1 day.
2.  When ready to eat, combine with crumbled feta, toasted walnuts, and a the cayenne pepper if using.

Spring Pasta with Zucchini Ribbons

 

“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” ~Oscar Wilde

 

I won’t go into the details of why cooking for yourself is a great way to dive into this so-called romance as Mr. Wilde puts it, but I thought this quote might inspire you as it did me.  I also would like to apologize for not having written any recipes for exactly two months.  When it comes to this blog, consistency is clearly is not my strong suit.

I am going to keep it fairly short today, and just give you the run-down with this pasta, a healthy dish that comes together nicely and showcases the prime vegetables of the season.  While I like cooking year round, cooking in springtime is a special treat because I am finally able to cook with fresh produce that is full of fragrance, flavor and texture.  The silky zucchini complements perfectly the crunch of the asparagus and peas, and fresh basil adds the final touch to remind you that better weather really is on its way!

Of course this springtime bliss is only relevant to those living in seasonal areas in the northern hemisphere, but hopefully you will all enjoy making this pasta no matter where you call home.  As with pretty much any recipe on this blog, feel free to change it up as you see fit: replace the peas with fava beans, use fresh mint or cilantro instead of basil, and you may even want to omit the bacon, in which case you would need to use olive oil to cook the zucchini and asparagus. 

One last note: if you have leftover zucchini and asparagus, why don’t you dice or slice everything and cook it in the next few days in a frittata?

Happy spring to every one, may your next meal be absolutely delicious, wherever and whatever you find yourself eating.  And please give feedback/comments/new recipe ideas!  The more the merrier!

Spring Pasta- Serves 1
 
1 zucchini, ends cut off, peeled
1/4-cup lardons, or two slices bacon, cut into small dice
2 ounces papardelle pasta, or any other pasta you want to use (you’re making this for yourself, so go nuts!)
1/2-cup fresh or frozen peas (if using frozen, make sure to thaw them)
3 stalks asparagus, trimmed, sliced thinly on the diagonal
1 garlic clove, minced
1 lemon
4 basil leaves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon freshly grated parmesan, or more as desired
good-quality olive oil (optional)
 
1. Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil.
2.  Using your vegetable peeler, cut the zucchini vertically into pasta-like ribbons.

3.  In a small or medium saute pan, cook the lardons or bacon bits over medium heat, until well browned, about 4-5 minutes.  Once cooked through, remove from heat, leaving the fat in the pan.
4.  Once water is boiling, add pasta and peas and cook pasta to package instructions. 
5.  Return the saute pan to heat and cook garlic in the remaining bacon fat until browned, about 30 seconds.  Add the zucchini ribbons and saute until slightly softened, 2 minutes.  Add the asparagus and cook until asparagus pieces are just slightly tender, 2-3 minutes.
6.  Once pasta is ready, drain in a colander along with the peas.  Add pasta, peas, and bacon bits to the skillet containing the asparagus and zucchini, and toss to combine.  Add lemon juice as desired, probably 1-2 tablespoons. Season generously with freshly ground pepper.
7.  Remove from heat and toss in the basil.  Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan and drizzle with good-quality olive oil if desired.
 
Booooon appetito!

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.

Oil- and Honey-Filled Avocado with Mint

If you like avocados you will surely like this recipe; it is simple and straightforward, and the beauty of each ingredient (keep in mind there are only five!) really comes out.  Because of the simplicity of the dish, it is a good idea to round-up the best quality of everything you can find – ripe avocados, local honey, and good quality olive oil.  In my case, I used a fruity olive oil from Provence, that I gave to my sister Yasmin as a gift.  I haven’t asked if she agrees with me, but I think the complexity of the oil, combined with the sea salt, honey, and mint, helps to turn this appetizer from something good to something noteworthy.  However, I invite you to try this recipe with whatever you have on hand, a ripe and creamy avocado will never taste bad, especially when filled with honey, oil, and fresh mint!

I think this dish proves what a lot of people, including myself, are constantly discovering: that the best food is always the most simple, optimally made with local and seasonal ingredients.  If you’re like me, and you live nowhere near mint bushes or avocado trees right now, hopefully you are somewhere near a town or country that does grow them!  This is great as an appetizer, served before pasta or fish. 

Boooon appétit!

Oil-and Honey-Filled Avocado with Mint – Serves 1
1 ripe avocado
1 tablespoon of your favorite honey
1 heaping tablespoon fresh chopped mint
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
Optional: 1 lemon (for to squeeze the juice out of)
1.  Cut the avocado in half lengthwise.  Remove the pit, and place each half, cut side up, on a plate.
2.  In a small bowl, combine the honey, mint, and salt.  Whisk in the olive oil one tablespoon at a time.  Adjust seasoning to taste, add more olive oil or honey if desired, and some lemon juice if using.
3.  Pour into each avocado cavity; serve immediately.