Thursday, April 27, 2017

N7's Seared Scallops with Chive Oil



A trip to New Orleans is always difficult for a food lover. Difficult in a good way, because there are so many talented chefs in the Big Easy, offering wonderful options ranging from Creole dishes to traditional Southern favorites to nouvelle fusion. 
N7, labeled the country's tenth best restaurant in 2016 by Bon Appétit magazine, fits the last description.
The food speaks with a definite French accent, and the restaurant's name, N7, is a reference to the mythic road that ran from Paris to the border of Italy (now upgraded or replaced by the A77 autoroute).
Finding your way along a French road that was the equivalent of America's Route 66 might be slightly easier than finding the restaurant N7, tucked away on Montegut Street, off of St. Claude Avenue in the city's funky, hip Bywater neighborhood.
You might easily pass the entrance if you're not looking for the red stenciled sign on a wooden doorway leading to N7's courtyard.

Once inside, you can't miss the red Citroen taking a prime spot along the gravel driveway.
 Much of the seating is outdoors, in a courtyard outfitted with casual style tables and chairs, surrounded by potted plants and vines.

But there is some seating indoors in a structure that at one time housed a tire shop, and long before that, a stable. Sitting at the bar now though, you might be convinced that you were in a bistro in Paris' Marais neighborhood.
 The food whispers with other culinary accents too, like the oysters from Washington State, served with a sauce redolent of soy sauce -- not unusual since the restaurant is owned by Japanese born Yuki Yamaguchi, and her husband, filmmaker Aaron Walker.
 Nearly half the menu is "can to table" seafood - which could be off putting to many. But in some European countries, particularly Spain, canned fish is a delicacy sought after as eagerly as fresh seafood. 
We dug in with gusto to the sardines, swishing our bread through the can to glob on to every last bit of the sundried tomato sauce.
And after a squirt of lemon, the octopus in olive oil was gone in a flash too, accompanied by herb butter and a piquant red pepper paste. 

The menu, although limited, does contain a few cooked items, such as the seared scallops with chive oil, pictured in the first photo. It was our favorite dish of the night (recipe below).
Another winner was the pork katsu with beet purée. The pork is dredged in flour, egg and finally panko (Japanese bread crumbs), then fried in hot oil and sliced. It rests on a luscious purée made with beets, apples, chicken broth and a little cream and yogurt.
 We also tried the duck breast a l'orange, again prepared with a hint of soy sauce in addition to the more traditional ingredients such as orange zest and orange juice.
 Desserts are very limited but seemed just right. Choose either French macaron cookies (not pictured) or the cheese plate, which contained three cheeses - a sweet gorgonzola, a sheep's milk cheese and a creamy cow's milk cheese. A few dried figs, cherries and nuts rounded out the platter.
 As night descended and the tables filled, lights twinkled around the perimeter of the courtyard. 
Is it really the most romantic French restaurant in the world, as Bon Appétit claims? 
I'm not so sure I buy that moniker, but it sure won over our hearts and I know we'll be visiting N7 again the next time we're in New Orleans.
 And if you'd like to take a real trip to Europe and a dreamy part of Italy, join me for a memoir writing retreat at Villa Monastero, in Varenna overlooking Lake Como. Only a couple of spots remain. You don't have to be a professional writer to participate. Life is short, so don't delay your dream. For more information, go to www.italyinotherwords.com or email me.

Want more Ciao Chow Linda? Check out my Instagram page here to see more of what I'm cooking up each day. 
You can also connect with Ciao Chow Linda here on Facebook, here for Pinterest or  here for Twitter.


Seared Scallops with Chive Oil
From N7 Restaurant, New Orleans via Bon Appetit magazine

Ingredients

4 Servings

Chive Oil

  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives, plus more for serving
  • 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt or kosher salt
  • ½ cup olive oil

Potatoes

  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more
  • ½ cup heavy cream, warmed
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Scallops and Assembly

  • 16 large sea scallops, side muscle removed
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Finely grated Gruyère (for serving)
Preparation:

Chive Oil

Purée garlic, chives, salt, and oil in a blender until smooth.
Do Ahead: Chive oil can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Potatoes

Place potatoes in a medium pot and pour in cold water to cover by 1". Add 2 tsp. salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are very tender but still hold their shape, 15–20 minutes (boiling will cause potatoes to become waterlogged). Drain and pass hot potatoes through a ricer (or use a masher) into a large bowl (do this right away; cold potatoes will become gummy when mashed). Add cream and butter to potatoes and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until combined and mixture is smooth; season with salt and pepper.

Scallops and assembly

Pat scallops dry with paper towels; season both sides with kosher salt. Heat 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over high. Cook half of scallops, undisturbed, until deep golden and caramelized, about 3 minutes. Turn and cook until barely golden on second side and just cooked through, about 2 minutes. Repeat process with remaining 1 Tbsp. oil and remaining scallops.
Top mashed potatoes with Gruyère and drizzle scallops with chive oil.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Spinach Ricotta Pie


I wish I had thought to post this before Easter, because it would have made the perfect meal to serve on Fridays during Lent. But it still is a good one to keep in your back pocket for those nights when you want a meatless meal.
I made this using a store bought pie crust, making it easy to get on the table in a snap, but use your favorite homemade crust recipe if you have time.
The recipe comes from "Blue Plate Special," a memoir by Kate Christensen, read by my book group nearly a year ago. It's a passionately written account of her unorthodox childhood and relationships as she navigates her way through adulthood. Through the sometimes painful, sometimes joyous, and frequently tumultuous events, food is the sustaining thread throughout. It's well worth a read.
And if you have a food, travel or family story you've been wanting to write down for posterity, now is the time to start. We've got only a couple of spots left for our memoir writing retreat on Lake Como, Italy. Join us for an unforgettable week in this enchanting location in late September. Get more information by going to www.italyinotherwords.com
 

Want more Ciao Chow Linda? Check out my Instagram page here to see more of what I'm cooking up each day. 
You can also connect with Ciao Chow Linda here on Facebook, here for Pinterest or  here for Twitter.


Spinach Ricotta Pie
from Kate Christensen's "Blue Plate Special"

1 onion minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 10-ounce frozen box of spinach, thawed
a dash of cayenne pepper, basil,
salt and pepper
1 pound ricotta cheese
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
4 eggs

Sauté the onion in the olive oil.  Add the spinach, the herbs and spices. Beat the eggs, then blend in the ricotta cheese and the cheddar cheese, plus the sauteed onion and spices. Stir. Turn everything into a store bought or homemade pie shell. Bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes until golden brown on top.

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Monday, April 10, 2017

Chocolate "Lamb" Cake


Italian families have lots of food traditions at Easter, and I've made many of them through the years, such as pastiera, a sweet pie made with ricotta and wheat kernels,

 or the colomba, a rich, eggy brioche cake made in the shape of a dove that's on every Italian's dessert table at Easter.

Once every few years, although it's not an Italian tradition, I also indulge in making chocolate covered coconut cream Easter eggs. My mother-in-law used to make these (and peanut butter eggs) each Easter as a fund raiser for a local charity and they're  a real weakness of mine, but so much better than store-bought, especially when you use really good dark chocolate.
But the dessert that holds the most memories for me is the lamb cake that my mother always made when I was growing up. 
It wasn't the chocolate version, as seen in the first photo. It was the white cake version, pictured below, that I often make each Easter. 
I've already written about the white cake version here, covered with buttercream and coconut, but since I attempted a chocolate version last year, I thought I'd show you the little brown lamb cake, and give you the choice of making either -- or both. 
I thought for a while about what to use to simulate the dark fleece of a brown lamb, and I came up with this combination: ground up chocolate wafer cookies mixed with ground up amaretti cookies.
It tasted good and I think worked well as wooly fleece, pressed into the chocolate frosting.
I used some cut up jelly beans for the eyes, nose, mouth and ear details, but if you have other ideas, I'd love to hear about them, or see a photo, so send it on. Don't forget to tie a ribbon around its neck to dress it up in Easter finery.
I inherited the lamb pans from my mother, but you can find them for sale in many places, including on Amazon.com. You fill only one side, then cover with the other very well greased half.
I used a chocolate pound cake recipe I found online, and I knew there was more than enough for the lamb cake, so I baked the extra batter in some small, individual "cakelet" pans I had.
Clearly, I loaded the pan with too much batter, since it started to leak out near the end of the cooking.
No worries though. I just trimmed it up and proceeded with the frosting.
This is how the chocolate cake looks before frosting. Don't worry about the small holes you see here and there.
I had to keep him company, so I made the vanilla version too. That recipe is here. Again, there seemed to be more batter than I needed, so I baked a couple of cupcakes too. Make sure you grease the pan thoroughly, then dust with flour. After greasing with butter, and before flouring, I sprayed with some nonstick spray just for extra "insurance" against sticking.  Following those instructions, I've never had a problem - not even with the small ear parts.
When you release it from the pan, it sits upright like this - in desperate need of frosting and decoration.
Side by side, they make quite a cute pair. It's almost a shame to cut into them.
But we do -- starting from the back end. By the end of the day, we were left with these decapitated heads. I can assure you they didn't go to waste.
Wishing all of you a happy Easter, or a Happy Passover, and if you don't celebrate either of those holidays, Happy Spring to all of you.
Let me also take this opportunity to let you know we have a few spaces left in our memoir writing workshop on beautiful Lake Como, Italy. 
Your home away from home for a week will be Villa Monastero, in Varenna -- open to tourists during the day who come to see the beautiful gardens here, but closed at night to everyone but our workshop attendees. Life is short - don't postpone your dream. For more information, go to www.italyinotherwords.com.

Want more Ciao Chow Linda? Check out my Instagram page here to see more of what I'm cooking up each day. 
You can also connect with Ciao Chow Linda here on Facebook, here for Pinterest or  here for Twitter. 

Super Rich Chocolate Pound Cake

From JamesDean'sGirl via Food.com
printable recipe here


Ingredients 

    • 2 1/2 cups flour
    • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder ( I use Dutch processed)
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 cup butter, softened
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
    • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    • 1 cup sour cream, at room temperature

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325*F.
  2. Grease and flour a 10" fluted tube pan.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
  4. In another large bowl, using an electric mixer on high speed, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  6. Blend in the vanilla.
  7. In 3 additions each, beat in the flour mixture and sour cream just until combined.
  8. Do not overmix.
  9. Pour batter into the prepared pan.
  10. Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until the center tests done.
  11. Cool 10 minutes in pan; invert onto a wire rack and cool completely.===========================================For the frosting:
    6 Tablespoons softened unsalted butter1/3 cup milk2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar2 t. vanilla extract3/4 c. cocoa powder
    Beat the butter in a mixer until smooth, then slowly add the rest of the ingredients until everything is blended to the proper consistency. If it's too thick, add a little more milk. Spread over the lamb. You'll have more than you need to coat the lamb, so freeze the extra.
    For the "wooly" coat:Buy some chocolate wafers and some amaretti cookies. Place some of them in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin (or pulse in a food processor until the proper texture). Using your hand, spread the cookie crumbs over the chocolate frosting, pressing in to secure.Decorate the eyes, ears, nose and mouth with bits of jelly beans or other candies.Bookmark and Share

Monday, April 3, 2017

Lentils with White Wine, Herbs and Tomatoes


This dish is perfect for those of you who are vegetarian, or observe meatless Fridays during Lent. It's delicious even if you don't fit into either of those categories too. I came across it in the amusing book "Lunch in Paris" that I read with my foodie friends book group.
The book is a charming tale of an American woman who, on a short visit to Paris, sits down to lunch with a handsome Frenchman, after which her life takes a whole different path. 
Scattered throughout the book are recipes, including this one for lentils that I made for the bookclub dinner, where it was served alongside a pork roast recipe from the book.
It makes a huge amount, so I brought the rest home and had plenty for a couple more meals. 
If you still have leftover lentils (as I did), they freeze beautifully and you can refashion them into soup by (vegetarians, look away) adding some chicken broth and sliced sausage. 
But if you use them as a side dish, by all means, don't skip the sour cream or the lime -- especially not the lime. It gives a wonderful freshness to the dish.
Want more Ciao Chow Linda? Check out my Instagram page here to see more of what I'm cooking up each day. 
You can also connect with Ciao Chow Linda here on Facebook, here for Pinterest or  here for Twitter. 

Lentils with White Wine, Herbs and Tomatoes
From "Lunch in Paris" by Elizabeth Bard
(my additions in red)

2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 carrot, roughly chopped
4-5 small shallots or 1 medium onion, roughly chopped (I used 1/2 onion and about 1/4 cup chopped leeks)
2 1/2 cups dried Puy lentils
6 cups chicken broth
one 16 ounce can while tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 cup dry white wine
a handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, including some of the stems, chopped
1 bay leaf (fresh if possible)
1/4 cup red pepper, diced
1/4 leeks, diced
about six frozen artichoke hearts, sliced
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

sour cream or creme fraiche
chopped fresh cilantro
limes, halved

In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and carrot (and red peppers, leeks and artichoke hearts if using) and sauté for 5 to 10 minutes, until the onion is translucent.
Add the lentils and stir to coat with the oil. Add the broth, tomatoes, wine, parsley, bay leaf and a good grinding of pepper. Leave to simmer over a low heat with the cover ajar until the lentils are tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 1 hour.
Serve in shallow bowls with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkling of chopped fresh cilantro and (essential!) half a lime for squeezing.
Leftovers freeze well. Add more broth to turn it into a soup.

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Monday, March 27, 2017

Brussels Sprouts with Dates and Walnuts


Except for the ubiquitous date nut bread, I've never cooked with dates, and usually eat them only whenever I receive a gift of dried fruits at Christmastime. But all that changed after I hit the date mother lode on vacation last week in Southern California.
I had told my husband I was on the lookout for a date farm, so as we left Palm Springs, we took the local road - route 111 - rather than heading straight for the highway to start our drive through the desert to Scottsdale, Arizona. In less than 20 minutes, we were driving through Indio, in the Coachella Valley, where dates are an important crop. 
 I wasn't disappointed when we came across this sight and my husband pulled to a quick stop:
 Shields Date Garden, a date farm with a gift shop selling all kinds of dates and other dried fruits. There's a cafe too with a 50s vibe, a garden out back, and a video you can watch entitled "Romance and Sex Life of the Date." Yes, you heard that right.
By Visitor7 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26340574
The store sells many different varieties of dates, and we tasted samples of at least half a dozen types. My favorite was the large, sweet and creamy medjool, considered by some to be the "Cadillac" of dates. 
Medjool dates were first grown in the California in the 1930s, from 11 offshoots of trees imported by the USDA from Morocco. The original trees in Morocco were destroyed by disease and all the Medjool dates grown in the world today are descended from the offshoots brought to the California desert.
You can have a meal at the Shields cafe, or just try a date shake, which we did. I must admit it was a bit too sweet and too rich for my taste, and we were able to drink only a small amount.
I was glad to stock up on some medjool and deglet noor dates though, to bring home. Deglet Noor, which means "date of light," are semi-dry dates originally from Algeria. Today they're the leading commercial variety grown in the U.S. They ship well because they're semi dry and are chewier, but they're not as rich as medjools.
Before I eat them all out of hand, I do plan to make some sort of dessert with some of these dates. 
But since I'm not eating any cakes, cookies or pastries until Easter, I made a recipe for a savory dish from the Lebanese cookbook author, Maureen Aboud. 
Her recipe uses brussels sprouts, walnuts and dates, and it's a winning combination of sweet and bitter flavors.
I started by toasting some walnuts lightly in a dry saucepan, then I removed them and wiped the pan clean.
Then I added a little butter and olive oil, placed the sprouts cut side down, seasoned them, and put a lid on top.
Check them in four or five minutes. If you let them cook too long, or at too high a heat, they might brown too quickly, or even burn. So keep an eye on them.
Add the rest of the ingredients according to the recipe and you'll have a quick, easy to prepare and delicious side dish.
Just a few more "nerd notes" about dates: 
They're the oldest known cultivated tree crop and one of the most expensive to produce. 
From the time a date palm is planted, it can be 8 to 10 years before the first commercial crop is harvested. Though the date palm is a desert plant, it requires as much water as a willow.
Each female tree produces 150 to 300 pounds of dates per year, depending on the variety.
The trees at Shields Date Garden are 15 to 90 years old. To harvest the dates, workers climb permanent ladders that are attached to each tree and moved higher every few years as the trees grow. 

Want more Ciao Chow Linda? Check out my Instagram page here to see more of what I'm cooking up each day. 
You can also connect with Ciao Chow Linda here on Facebook, here for Pinterest or  here for Twitter. 


Brussels Sprouts with Dates and Walnuts
from Maureenaboud.com
printable recipe here

INGREDIENTS
  • 16 oz. brussels sprouts
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup dry white wine (or substitute lemon juice)
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • 6 medjool dates
  • ⅓ cup walnuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Trim and halve the brussels sprouts.
  2. In a large saute pan over medium heat, melt the butter with the olive oil. Add the brussels sprouts cut-side down, and season lightly with salt and pepper. I covered with a lid at this point, but keep an eye on them because they'll burn quickly if on high heat. Mine cooked in only four or five minutes. Cook until the brussels sprouts are golden brown, adding more olive oil if the pan gets too dry. Stir the brussels sprouts and add the wine or lemon juice to deglaze the pan for about 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and cook at medium high heat, stirring occasionally until the brussels sprouts are tender. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. In a serving bowl, combine the brussels sprouts with the dates and walnuts. Serve immediately.
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