My Go-To Salad – Arugula with White Beans and Parm

Happy holidays to you!

Do you like the red bowl I used as seasonal embellishment? Ok ok, it’s actually a popcorn bowl :)

This is the salad I make when I don’t want to think about what to make. I first made a similar version of this about 5 years ago, based on a recipe from Boston chef Michael Schlow’s cookbook It’s About Time. My mom and sister liked it a lot too, so we’ve kept it around, even though we’ve altered a bit over the years.

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Breaded Sage Chicken with Easy Roast Vegetables

I got the idea to make this recipe from my sister Yasmin who isn’t a big fan of using breadcrumbs.  Fortunately for me, she bought a great quality bag from Eataly to use for her chicken parmigiana recipe, and she happily gave me what was leftover (which was most of the bag).  I think breadcrumbs are a fantastic thing to have on hand for anyone looking to pull a quick and easy meal together.

Breadcrumbs add loads of flavor to anything they coat, and they are delightfully simple to work with.  Just toss whatever you’re eating – porckhops, chicken thighs, fish fillets – with a little bit of egg or oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, coat with breadcrumbs and cook in an oiled skillet until done.  Breadcrumbs go particularly well with lemon juice.  For another suggestion on how to use them check out my recipe for breaded hake with peppery lemons.

This recipe was an automatic winner for me also because it includes one of my favorite foods to cook in the winter,  the sweet potato.  Can I just say, my sweet potato only cost .69 cents from the expensive “gourmet” grocery store down the street, which kind of makes me feel like I’m cheating someone when I eat it.  Inexpensive, packed with flavor, AND really good for you?  Impossible!

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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.

Chicken Piccata (Or Floured Chicken with Lemon, Parsley, and Capers)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 After having written this post I realized that this recipe is very similar to one I wrote two weeks ago for whiting fish in a mustard, lemon, and parsley sauce.  I guess this means I am in a lemon-and-parsley kind of mood lately – hopefully you are too.  Truth be told, it is also thanks to a reader from California, who asked me if I knew a good chicken piccata recipe, that I decided to bust out a version I made once or twice for my dad (a lover of this recipe, especially when made with thinly pounded veal), and I am happy to be re-introduced to this easy and delicious staple. 

For this particular recipe I did what I like to do best, which is  invite over some cobailles, or guinea pigs, to test the recipe out before publishing it here. Et voilà, quelle joie de voir leurs bonnes réponses à propos de cette recette! Bref, my willing friends (thanks Erin and Sophie) confirmed what I was hoping to hear: this recipe is extremely fast to put together (less than 20 minutes, honest!) and packs a lot of fantastic flavor in just a few ingredients.  My chicken piccata sauce came out very green, but that is because of my firm belief in doubling the amount of herbs in almost any recipe - they can only add to the depth of flavor, and I follow the reasoning that if I’m already chopping then I may as well go the whole nine yards and chop a lot.  However, if you are not like me and don’t enjoy running your knife (which is hopefully very sharp and large) through a seemingly endless pile of parsley, there is another solution: stem your parsley leaves, place them in a high-rimmed glass cup, and cut them up with scissors!  You will get good results with a lot less work.  Or, you can be like me and enjoy this type of torture. C’est comme vous voulez.

A quick note on butter: butter is a high-fat pleasure that adds fragrance, flavor, and richness to any food it touches.  We all know the satisfaction of walking into a kitchen and smelling the nutty and delicious smell that butter gives off once it begins to brown in a skillet – it’s almost as amazing as waking up to the smell of bacon (I have yet to think of anything that smells better, except maybe freshly brewed coffee in the morning -I’d love to hear your ideas on this matter).  However, I have a sister who  is the star of my life (she works – get ready for a blatant plug – at the Daily Meal, a new and thorough food website, started by the ex-forbes.com CEO), and this wonderful relation of mine has had high cholesterol since about age 14, and has since then been denied the privilege of guiltlessly indulging in butter-drenched delices.   Because of dietary restrictions implemented on her at a very early age, I also grew up understanding the risks involved in consuming food with a high saturated fat content.  Why am I telling you this? To explain what I could have said in about a dozen words: if you want to substitute the butter in this recipe for olive oil, you can. 

If you’re lucky enough to enjoy fatty food without significant consequences, then I implore you to make the recipe as I did and as written, which is still light and healthy.  And if you do try it, please let me know how it comes out – I think I can say with confidence that you will surprise yourself by your cooking skills, and you will see how easy it is to prepare delicious food.   

Chicken Piccata  – serves 1

1 skinless and boneless chicken breast, cut in half or pounded thinly
all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons chicken stock
1 tablespoon capers
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

1. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Place some flour in a shallow bowl, and dredge the chicken to coat with flour.
2. Heat half the butter in a small or medium skillet over medium heat (big enough to hold the chicken). Once hot, add the breast and cook until done, about 4 minutes on each side. Set aside on a plate.
3. Heat olive oil in the same skillet. Add the lemon juice, capers, and chicken stock, and stir to combine. Add chicken back to the skillet, and simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Stir in parsley and remaining half of butter. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.

>Whiting Fish with Capers, Mustard, and Lemon

 

I don’t know if you agree, but I think it’s the glum January weather that makes everything in life seem a little more dull – or maybe it’s the mysterious French cynicism that tells you to not even try to be happy or successful, just give up and have a coffee or a piece of stinky cheese. Whatever the reason, I have been trying to put some spice back into my daily routine, which I have somewhat accomplished by inviting more friends over for good wine, good food, and usually good conversation (sometimes there are bad eggs, no pun intended, but that is only to be expected).  I made this recipe for my friend Diana last week, who so enjoyed the tangy lemon sauce, as did I, that I decided to make it for myself again tonight.

I stumbled upon a similar version of this recipe in a French cookbook I have come to love, Les Secrets de Cuisine des Soeurs Scotto, written by three sisters who grew up in Italy and now live in France. I had the good fortune of working with one of the three chef sisters, Elisabeth Scotto, while I was interning at Elle magazine here in Paris.  Elisabeth’s good energy and passion for simple, fresh, and delicious food are extremely contagious, and I found working with her to be a highlight of my stay so far in Paris. The recipes in the book are a mix of French and Italian fare, like their origins, and I just love the flavor combinations they come up with.

The fish I used is merlan, or whiting in english.  It is a fish that is cultivated in the Atlantic, but you can substitute whiting with any other flaky white fish, such as hake or cod.  If you love lemons like myself you will surely like this recipe.  I adore this tart fruit in all forms, either plain with sea salt or all dressed up in lemon meringue pie (although my favorite dessert will always be moelleux au chocolat, a chocolate apex of simplicity and refinement).

This recipe is really straightforward so I don’t need to give you any advice or tips, just enjoy.  With Diana I served this fish with a celeri-rave puree that I had thinned out with milk, and tonight, because I have been eating far more much foie gras and cheese in this gastronomical mecca than I care to admit even to myself, I made some lighter fare to accompany my fish: braised leeks.  I’ll include the recipe for the leeks in case you’re trying to keep it light like me.

Happy belated new year everyone, I hope one of your resolutions is to cook more good food!  You certainly deserve the best.
One final note: I know some people have tried to post comments but have had a really hard time.  I apologize about that – I think I’ve managed to make it easier, but would you mind me letting me know, maybe just be shooting me an email, if you’re still having problems?  Thanks, bisous!
Whiting Fish with Capers, Mustard, and Lemon – serves 1

1 lemon
1 tablespoon or less of olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 whiting fillets, about 300grams/10 ounces total
1 tbsp butter
1 tablespoon capers, dried
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1. Cut the lemon in half.  Squeeze one half and keep the juice.  Cut one thin slice from the other half, and cut into little triangles, following the lemon’s natural pith. (If making the leeks, cut a second lemon thin lemon slice).
2.  Pour some olive oil onto a paper towel, and rub it all over a medium to large skillet (big enough to hold both fillets)
3.  Heat the skillet over medium heat, and add the fish.  Cover, and cook until cooked through, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat.
4.  Meanwhile, make the yummy sauce: in a small skillet, heat the butter over medium-low heat.  Add the capers, lemon juice and triangles, mustard, and 1 tablespoon parsley.  Stir to combine, season with salt and pepper.  Add more of any ingredient you would like until you are happy with it.
5.  Place the fish on a plate and serve topped with the sauce, and additional chopped parsley.
Buonnnn appetito!!
Easy Braised Leeks – serves 1
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 leek
1 thin lemon slice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
water
1.  Cut off the root and dark green stalks from the leek. Cut in half cross-wise, then cut each half into quarters length-wise (you want thin strips). Wash and pat dry. 
2.  Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add the leeks, parsley, lemon slice, and water.  Stir to combine.  Cover, and cook until leeks are very softened, stirring occasionally, about 12-15 minutes. 
3.  Season with salt and pepper.

>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!