Friday, November 21, 2008

All's Well That Ends Well

It was a day like we've all had. Murphy's Law was the rule of our day in Paris. I won't bore you with all of the details, but my friend, Michelle and I were having the same kind of luck on the same it was times two. Trying to turn it around we went for coffee on rue Dagurre to shake loose of the goblins. It was an exorcise we thought had worked as we paid for the coffee and went on our merry way to buy chocolate. Loaded down with beautifully wrapped bags of chocolate dressed in turquoise tissue paper, it started to drizzle.....but, of course!! Well, now we had to take the metro to the Marais, so down the stairs we went feeling lucky to escape the gray Paris rain. Wow, a train pulled right up, (maybe our luck was changing) and it was empty (never had that happen). Jumping in and sitting down I noticed my throat felt raw and my nose started to burn, and oh yeah, the eyes teared. We looked around and the other "lucky" people that got on had their faces covered and were coughing. Jumping off at the next stop, we learned from the gendarme that pepper spray had been sprayed on some mauvais garcons, the local bad boys. But, of course........again!

As the evening wore on, the curse wore off and we had the most delicious dinner with friends. For a starter I had a goat cheese and pistachio terrine, surrounded by a light walnut, raisin vinaigrette. It was topped by, you guessed it, ground hot pepper. Trust me, it is much better to eat it than to breathe it. Two other fulfilling courses followed. After dinner we all concluded, as we wiped the last crumbs from our mouths, all's well that ends well.

Here's my version of the terrine.

Goat Cheese Pistachio Terrine

12 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
4 ounces butter, room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
pink peppercorns

Line a 4 cup mini loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving an overhang of about 2 inches all around. Put room temperature goat cheese, butter and cream cheese in food processor, fitted with steel blade. Process until smooth and creamy and then put into a medium
sized bowl. Fold in the shelled pistachios evenly and pour into the lined mini loaf pan. Fold the overhanging plastic wrap towards the center to fully cover the terrine. Chill for an hour or until firm. To take out of the mold, grab the overhanging plastic wrap and pull up. Put it on a serving dish and sprinkle with pink peppercorns. The terrine may also be served in slices with mesclun salad greens topped with a walnut cranberry vinaigrette and a crusty baguette as a starter or light lunch.

As an alternative, the recipe may be reduced and put into any size and shape mold. Serve with bread or crackers as an appetizer.

Walnut Cranberry Vinaigrette

1/3 cup walnut oil (not super refined, it should be a light amber)
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon dried cranberries (may substitute with any dried fruit)
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped walnuts

Whisk oil and vinegar in a small bowl and then add cranberries and nuts. Let sit for at least an hour before serving so the dried fruit becomes plump.
Serves 2

Written and photographed by Diane

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Friday, November 7, 2008

Melting Pot Slow Cooked Chili

We landed at London's Heathrow Airport the evening of the U.S. presidential election. I had cast my vote the day before by absentee ballot, in my town clerk's small, wood paneled office. Beside me were others who were leaving town or just trying to avoid the predicted long lines. After doing my civic duty I went home and packed for London. Getting the election news in another country brought a new spin on the historic decision. The whole world was watching. The BBC reported that the country of fast food and short attention spans, patiently waited in lines to make their vote count. The election brought to surface the large melting pot of cultures and tastes in our diverse country. Before I sat down to read the international newspapers take on the election, I made a big pot of slow cooked chili. For culinary and political punch, I added a Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat beer to the pot. This chili has its own cultural tastes that is truly American.

Melting Pot Slow Cooked Chili

1 lb chuck roast
1 tablespoon oil

2 cups chopped onions
1 cup yellow and red peppers
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon "Diane's Fire Breathing" chili pow
pinch of cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

32 oz beef broth

28 oz can of ground crushed tomatoes
16 oz kidney beans

16 oz black beans

1 bay leaf

12 oz Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat beer

In a large heavy s
tockpot, brown the chuck roast, over medium heat, in 1 tablespoon of oil. Take out and put aside while sauteing the onions, peppers and garlic. Return the roast to the pot and add the salt, chili powder, pinch of cinnamon, ground cumin and smoked paprika. Stir and then add the beef broth, ground crushed tomatoes, beans and bay leaf. Turn the heat down to low and slow cook for 2 hours or until the beef is tender and comes apart easily. Take the beef out of the pot and pull apart into small pieces. Adjust the seasonings for heat and saltiness. Return the beef to the pot and continue cooking over low heat for 1/2 hour to 45 more minutes.
Makes 8 servings.
*Homemade chili powder is easy to make and really makes a huge difference.

Diane's Fire Breathing Chili Powder

Increase the "fire" by slowly adding more of the ground peppers

1 tablespoon ground ancho chilies
1 tablespoon ground cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon ground chipolte pepper

3 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon ground dried oregano
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon salt

Mix all ingredients together, being careful not to breathe in the pepper. Store in an airtight container. Makes approximately 3/4 cup.

Top chili with chopped cilantro, scallions and freshly grated cheddar cheese. Serve with southern cornbread or corn tortillas and guacomole. Yum!

Written and photographed by Diane

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Saturday, November 1, 2008

The French Butter Keeper

Walking around Paris as the season changes can catch you off guard. Even with dappled sun, as the leaves fall, the temperature drops. My friends, Michelle and ML (ML is the world's best shopper!) and I tried to keep the cool weather at bay by window shopping. As we walked by a boulangerie, Michelle made a quick stop and brought out two steamy, crusty baguettes. Brilliant! Warm bread in chilly hands is the perfect hand warmer. The added bonus is that it tastes oh so good, but the disadvantage is that it disappears too quickly. We tore off handfuls as we meandered toward a second hand clothing store, lamenting that we should have gotten more. Oh well....dinner would be soon. If we were sitting down respectfully at a table, a good smearing of butter would have been ideal. The problem with buttering yummy, crusty bread is that the butter is too often cold and hard. Last week that issue was solved when I bought a French butter keeper. It is the answer to the dilemma of keeping butter at room temperature while preserving it.

The premise behind French butter keepers is simple. Butter at room temperature quickly turns rancid when exposed to oxygen, so chilling preserves it. Mainly what's needed is to keep air away from the butter. The butter keeper does the same thing, but in a slightly different way. It uses water to form a seal between the butter and the air, a similar process was used by the Ancient Romans while making wine. The keeper comes in two parts. The first is a small basin to hold the water and the second piece holds the butter suspended in the water. You fill the top up with butter, put water in the larger bottom container, and invert the top into the water. Butter is an oil and it won't mix with the water, and as long as it's not too hot, it will stay in

the top, surrounded by water. Voila! Now you can safely keep butter preserved at room temperature and ready to cover that warm, crusty baguette.

Written and photographed by Diane

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