Archive for January, 2008

Beef Tenderloin Encrusted with Mushrooms

This is a traditional French dish, filet de boeuf en croûte de champignons. It looks elegant and has a commanding table presence. People will think you spent all day in the kitchen making this special dish for them, but in fact, it’s quite easy. It takes about an hour from start to finish. It would make a great dinner party or holiday dish. I served it with baked sweet potato fries on the side to make it more of a casual affair. Who says you can’t make weeknight meals look special?

Beef Tenderloin Encrusted with Mushrooms
Adapted from Ripailles, Stéphan Reynaud

1.5 pound beef tenderloin, trimmed
1 small container of mushrooms (any variety or combination)
2 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
1 cup terragon leaves
1 cup curly parsley
2 shallots, peeled, minced
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
1 egg yolk
olive oil
salt and pepper

To Make:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Heat 1 Tbs. olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the beef on all sides for 10 minutes, remove beef from pan and set aside on a grill so the juices can run out. Let rest 30 minutes.
Finely chop together mushrooms, terragon and parsley. Lightly oil same skillet as before and heat over medium-high heat. Sautée shallots and garlic until soft. Add mushroom mixture and cook until the mixture is slightly dry (about 5 minutes). Season generously with salt and pepper.
Roll out the sheet of puff pastry, short side facing you. Measure the amount to wrap the tenderloin in full, and trim edges. Set aside extra dough. Spread the mushroom mixture on the sheet of pastry in a layer about 1/2 in. thick. Place the tenderloin in the center and wrap, sealing the edges with egg white. Cut a small hole in the top of the pastry, so steam can escape. Place on baking sheet. Cut extra dough into strips and decorate beef with lattice stripes. Brush lightly with egg yolk. Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes or until pastry is golden-brown.

4 Servings


January 30, 2008 at 1:29 am Leave a comment

Greek Chicken with White Beans, Tomatoes, Avocado and Feta

Every time we go to a Greek restaurant, I order Gigantes Beans (butter beans served with a savory tomato sauce) as a mezze. Some of our favorite Greek restaurants have it already waiting on the table. It is a homey and hearty appetizer that you can eat alone or spread on bread. I had Greek food on the brain today, but since Matt’s out of town, I didn’t want to fuss with dinner. I wanted to make something quick, easy and healthy with virtually no clean-up. Inspired by Gigantes Beans, this one-dish meal fit the bill.

Greek Chicken with White Beans, Tomatoes, Avocado & Feta
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 small onion, rough chopped
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can butter beans, drained (can substitute any white beans)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/4 tsp. salt
1 T. olive oil
1 avocado, peeled, thinly sliced
2 T. feta cheese, crumbled

To Make:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Heat olive oil in large, oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Sautée onion until soft and translucent (approx. 3-5 mins.) Add tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add beans, garlic, oregano, red pepper, basil and salt. Let cook 1 minute. Add chicken breasts to skillet and cover with some of the bean mixture. Place avocado slices over the chicken. Place skillet in oven and bake for 15 – 20 mins. or until chicken is cooked through. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, add crumbled feta.

2 Servings

January 27, 2008 at 2:49 am Leave a comment

Good-Morning Crêpes with Berry Sauce

In France and Belgium, crêpes are popular at 3:00 in the afternoon with a cup of coffee or tea. For us, they will always be a breakfast food. We have them on lazy weekends or when guests visit.
Matt likes to top his with Nutella or just butter and cassonade (a brown sugar made from sugarbeets). I like mine with fruit. Before moving to Europe, I was hesitant to make them. There are hundreds of recipes and gadgets relating to this simple food. I have finally learned the secret to a perfect crêpe. It isn’t about the pan or the paddles, you can use any skillet or flat griddle (non-stick works best) and a knife or spatula to turn them. It’s all about the consistency of the batter (it should be thin and even) and the temperature of the pan (don’t let it get too hot between crêpes.) The rest is up to you – plain, savory, sweet, breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert!

Good-Morning Crêpes
1 cup flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp. salt
2 T. butter (melted)

To Make:
Preheat skillet or crêpe pan over medium heat. Let it heat for about 5 mins.
In large bowl, whisk together all ingredients until batter is smooth and even (no lumps). When pan is hot, pour a small amount (about 1/4 cup) into center of pan and swirl to make a very thin layer on the pan. When tiny bubbles appear on the top side of the batter (after 1-2 mins.), gently slide a spatula or knife under one side and fold back onto itself to turn to the other side. Cook another 1 – 2 mins. and serve.

4 Servings

Berry Sauce
1 cup fresh or frozen fruit (I used mixed Summer berries)
1 T. sugar (or more to taste)

To Make:
Heat berries and sugar together in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir frequently to dissolve sugar. Bring to a slow boil and reduce to a syrup consistency. Serve over crêpes, ice cream, cakes, anything!

4 Servings

January 26, 2008 at 3:55 am Leave a comment

Ponzu-Glazed Salmon with Soba Noodle Salad

Matt wanted Japanese food. He dreamed up a concoction of panko crusted salmon with a ponzu sauce and soba noodles. His description was enough to get me craving Japanese food as well, so I set off to the market to get the goods. This being Belgium, I couldn’t find any panko. Thus, I had to improvise. The dinner we had instead, shown above, was even better than we both had in mind. It’s refreshing, slightly sweet, slightly spicy, and terribly good. I can’t wait to eat the leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

Ponzu-Glazed Salmon
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup sake (I used a sweeter white wine as sake was not available)
1/8 cup sugar
1/8 cup tamari (you could substitute regular soy sauce)
1 T. fresh lime juice
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. water
3/4 tsp. cornstarch
1 T. olive oil
4 eight oz. salmon fillets
black sesame seeds

To Make:
Preheat Broiler in Oven.
Combine first 6 ingredients in heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Continue boiling and let sauce reduce to 1.25 cups. (About 5 minutes.) Whisk cornstarch and water together in a bowl until cornstarch is dissolved. Add to sauce mixture and boil until sauce thickens and becomes clear. (About 1 minute.) Remove from heat and set aside. (Sauce can be made one day ahead. Store covered in refrigerator.)
Heat 1 T. olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Brush each salmon fillet with 1 T. ponzu sauce. Place skin-side down in hot skillet and let cook for 3 minutes. Lightly baste each fillet with additional ponzu sauce and place in oven under broiler until fish is light pink and flakes easily with a fork. (About 5 minutes.) Sprinkle with black sesame seeds. Serve with soba noodle salad (recipe below) and extra ponzu sauce for dipping.

4 Servings

Soba Noodle Salad with Cucumber and Mango
(recipe adapted from

2/3 cup rice vinegar
1/8 cup sugar
2/3 tsp. salt
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 red jalapeño or serrano chile, seeded and chopped
1.5 T. fresh lime juice
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. grated lime peel
12 oz. soba noodles (Japanese-style)
1 small English cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
1 small mango, peeled, halved, pitted and thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup chopped salted peanuts
lime wedges

To Make:
Warm vinegar, sugar, and salt in small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves, about 1 minute. Stir in garlic and jalapeño. Cool. Mix in lime juice, sesame oil, and lime peel.
Cook noodles in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain well. Rinse under cold water; drain again. Transfer noodles to dish-towel-lined platter to drain. Transfer noodles to large bowl. Add dressing and toss to coat. (Can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
Add cucumber, mango, basil, and mint to noodles and toss gently. Arrange salad on platter. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts. Garnish with lime wedges. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature.)

4 Servings

January 25, 2008 at 2:06 am Leave a comment

Sun-Dried Tomato Fougasse

I first saw bread like this in a market in France and I thought it was absolutely beautiful! It looked like it would be very difficult to make, but in fact, it is simple cuts in the dough that make the pretty leaf-like pattern appear as it bakes. The bread is most associated with the region of Provence, but it is fairly common in other regions with variations of additional ingredients. You can make it plain, with sea salt, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, fruit, cheese, nuts or any combination of these items. To eat, you just pull it apart with your fingers and enjoy. It can be served hot or cold. I make the dough in a bread machine for easy clean-up.

Sun-Dried Tomato Fougasse
8 oz. luke-warm water
3 cups flour
1 tsp. crushed sea salt
1 tsp. instant yeast
2 Tbs. olive oil
3 Tbs. sun-dried tomatoes (re-hydrated)

To Make:
Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a bread machine according to your manufacturer’s directions. Set to dough cycle. After 30 minutes of rising in the machine, remove dough. Fold dough in half, turn a quarter turn, and fold again. Repeat this process three times to ensure a well-kneaded dough.
Spread the dough into an oval on a non-stick baking sheet. To form the pattern, notch the dough with a knife in a diagonal slices and stretch the dough to enlarge the cuts. Leave the dough in the pan to rise slightly for an additional 20 minutes. Sprinkle with salt. Here’s a little trick I learned for making bread. In French, it’s called a “coup de buée.” Add about a cup of boiling water to the broiler pan in the oven and quickly close the door. Let it rest for just a minute before adding the dough. This allows steam to gather in the oven and makes the golden crispy crust on the outside. Be careful not to burn yourself! Lower heat to 400 degrees and place bread in oven. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until golden brown.

2 loaves

January 23, 2008 at 4:37 am Leave a comment

Pasta Niçoise

It’s a lovely thing to find fresh tuna, and I love to come up with ways to eat it and keep it’s perfect flavor.  This pasta dish is the perfect thing for a light meal or even a picnic.  It’s inspired by the famous Salade Niçoise of France.  It comes together quickly and will disappear just as fast!

Pasta Niçoise
2 six oz. tuna steaks
1 C. green beans
2 carrots (peeled and cut into matchsticks)
1 eight oz. can of white beans
1 C. mixed baby salad greens
1 C. cherry tomatoes (halved)
1 C. whole-wheat tagliatelle pasta (cooked and drained)
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. cracked black pepper
3 Tbs. lemon juice
6 Anchovy filets (finely minced)
Sea salt to taste

To Make:
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Place green beans and carrots in boiling water for 3 minutes. Remove, drain, and flush with cold water until cool. In a large bowl, toss together white beans, green beans, cherry tomatoes and carrots. Salt and Pepper tuna steaks. Heat 1 T. olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add tuna steaks and sear about 1 minute on each side. (Should be browned on outside and pink in center). Remove tuna from pan and set aside. For the dressing, add remaining 1 T. olive oil, lemon juice, and anchovy filets to the skillet and cook for 2 mins. Stir in pasta to heat through. To serve, place mixed salad greens on each plate. Top with vegetables, pasta and add tuna to top. Season with sea salt to taste.

2 servings

January 16, 2008 at 1:15 pm Leave a comment

Pan-Seared Chicken with Fennel and Tomato Confit

I’ve never been much for fennel. Recently, however, I have been changed my tune. The French and the Belgians use fennel much to their advantage in many dishes. The sweet licorice taste mellows with cooking and adds a delicate flavor to food. In a recent cooking class at L’Ateliers des Chefs, I learned how to make this very simple dish. It’s perfect for weeknight cooking as it takes very little preparation and can be made in less than 30 minutes. This is my variation on the recipe we learned in class.

Pan-Seared Chicken with Fennel and Tomato Confit
6 chicken breasts with skin
½ c. water
½ c. dry white wine
2-4 Tbs. olive oil
3 fennel bulbs
3 scallions
3 shallots
½ c. tomato confit (preserved tomatoes)
1 T. honey
Sprigs of thyme
Caramelized balsamic vinegar (can be purchased or reduced with sugar in a pan)
Fresh ground pepper
Maldon salt (it’s the best sea salt I’ve tried. You can use regular sea salt if you wish)

To Make:
Wash all of the vegetables. Slice the fennel in half lengthwise. Mince the fennel to obtain fine slices. Cut the scallions in half and thinly slice. Mince the shallots finely.
In a pan, put 1-2 Tbs. of olive oil and place the chicken breasts skin side down in the pan. Season with salt and let them cook at high heat for 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and add ½ c. water and ½ c. dry white wine to de-glaze the pan. Place the chicken back into the pan and cover with aluminum foil to keep in the steam. Let cook on low heat for 8 – 10 minutes.
In a separate pan or wok, add 1-2 Tbs. of olive oil and the fennel. Lightly season with fine salt. Stir fry until fennel is transparent (about 4-5 minutes) and add the scallions. Stir fry 2- 3 minutes longer. Add 1 T. honey and stir. Add the onions and tomatoes when the fennel is thoroughly cooked and heated through.
Dress the plate with caramelized balsamic vinegar, add the vegetables and top with the chicken breasts. Finish with a sprig of thyme, fresh ground pepper and Maldon salt.

6 servings

January 9, 2008 at 4:36 am Leave a comment

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