French Sorrel

French sorrel (Rumex Scutatus), a mildly acidic cultivated green herb, has always been praised throughout Europe, especially in France where it enjoys its greatest popularity. It is a very ancient herb; its name is derived from the Teutonic word for “sour”. Ancient species of sorrel were extensively used in pharaonic Egypt and its allied type, garden sorrel, is still employed in modern Egyptian cooking. The ancient Greeks and Romans respected the herb for its role in promoting digestion and considered it a good complement to rich, fatty meals.To store, put French sorrel into a sealed plastic bag and keep in the refrigerator. Sorrel does not dry well, but it can be frozen successfully. Its leaves, rich in potassium and vitamins C and A, will keep its beneficial qualities and great taste for a long time, but they are especially good when fresh.

In cooking, sorrel is generally pureed and can be a perfect base for sauces that accompany poached eggs and fish. This herb is also used in mixed green salads, sandwiches, omelettes, and with soft goat cheeses, veal, pork, and fish. Be careful to cut it only with stainless steel knives and refrain from cooking it in metal pots, because the high acidity of sorrel causes them to discolour. In modern French cuisine, this herb is most notably used to prepare the three popular dishes: sorrel soup, salmon with sorrel sauce, or “saumon a l’oseille”, and

veal stew with sorrel:

Heat 4 tsp of olive oil and butter in a heavy skillet, add about 1 kg of cubed boneless veal (in small batches), sauté over low heat until golden, and transfer to a casserole pot. In the same skillet, sauté 2 finely chopped onions and about 250 gm mushrooms until they are tender. Transfer to the casserole pot with 1 cup each of home-made chicken stock and dry white wine and add bouquet garni (a French term for a bundle of herbs, usually, parsley, thyme, and a bay leaf) and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer for about 2 hours, until the veal is tender. Transfer the veal cubes to a serving dish. Remove the bouquet garni. Reduce the cooking liquid by rapid boiling, stir in chopped French sorrel (about 250 gm), and cook until soft, for about 10 min. Pour over the veal and serve with white rice and a glass of red Burgundy wine. Enjoy!

Gascon Diet and Health

Do you know that, in the Gascony region of France, in the land of Three Musketeers, the people snack on fried duck skin and eat twice as much foie gras as other Frenchmen, and fifty times as much as Americans? They are also slathering goose or duck fat on bread instead of butter and eat lots of raw milk cheeses, high in saturated fat and cholesterol…When Dr. Serge Renauld conducted a 10-year long epidemiological survey of dietary habits, he concluded that the Gascons eat a diet very high in saturated fat – actually, higher than any other group of people in the industrialized world. In addition, that region produces a considerable amount of foie gras, fattened livers of ducks or geese, the world-known French delicacy. If to compare the typical Gascon diet with the “healthy” one recommended by the American Association of Registered Dieticians, then we might suspect that every Gascon should be suffering from obesity, cardio-vascular disease, cancer, and have a pathetically short life…

Surprise! In accordance with the results of his research, Dr. Serge Renauld had to admit that “The foie gras eaters of the Gers and Lot Departments in South-West France have the lowest rate of death from cardio-vascular disease in the country”.

However, the typical, strong, healthy and skinny Gascon in his blue beret wouldn’t be surprised about such findings. One of the local farmers commented on the “unusual” results of the study in the following way: “There if nothing strange about it. The people in my family live to be ninety years old. We cook everything in duck fat. We have foie gras on Sunday. Everybody knows this is the long-life diet”.

Maybe, the average Americans would be much slimmer and healthier, too, if they listened more to the traditional dietary wisdom of their European ancestors?

The Most Romantic French Restaurant in Canada

La Maquette, a great French cuisine restaurant in Toronto, has been voted this year as the most romantic French restaurant in Canada. Besides, every year, renowned for its poetic atmosphere and sumptuous culinary delights, it is nominated in numerous other categories, including “Best Food” and “Best Ambience”.

La Marquette is located in a historical district of Toronto overlooking the Sculpture Garden & St. James Cathedral. It offers truly a perfect setting to enjoy the treats of delicious French cuisine at any occasion: from a private dinner for two to a big corporate meeting. La Marquette guarantees “a culinary experience with exquisite taste and imagination at the forefront of gastronomic trends”.

The restaurant is very fussy about the quality of the ingredients for its wonderful dishes. The owner Ange Kanavas goes to the market every morning himself to select the freshest produce, with a preference of healthy and flavourful organic ingredients. Some of the dishes featured in the menu will make your mouth water… My favourite lunch treats are YELLOW FIN TUNA TARTARE, flavoured with scotch bonnets and served with pickled ginger, avocado and Yukon chips, and DUET OF ORGANIC CHICKEN AND FOIE GRAS TERRINE, made from delicately pulled confit of chicken and Quebec Foie Gras, Island Pumpkin, Bosch Pear and wild berries compote. For dinner, I would recommend a very French starter of WILD MUSHROOM STRUDEL with leek and spinach cream sauce and balsamic drizzle, thinly sliced roasted FILLET OF VENISON, cooked medium rare and served with wild berries, apple and aged port reduction, and, of course, one of the famous La Maquette’s desserts! My most beloved is POACHED PEAR AND ALMOND TART served with caramel ice cream and chocolate sauce.

The Wine and Champagne list of La Maquette is long and exquisite, featuring everything your soul might desire, from a humble Kechribari from Greece at $15.00 for a bottle to a $400.00 Crystal Louis Roederer Champaign from France.

Whenever you are in Toronto, don’t miss the experience! More information about La Maquette.

Steak Tartare from France

Almost every world cuisine offers recipes that include raw animal protein (fish, meat and unpasteurized dairy products), which seems to be a universal practise. In Italy the most famous raw appetizer is carpaccio, in the Middle East – kibbeh, in Norway – raw marinated fish, and in France it is steak tartare and, of course, a wide selection of world famous raw milk cheeses. Today, I am going to share the recipe of my very favourite gourmet appetizer from France,Steak Tartare:

In order to make authentic steak tartare, you should start with the freshest ingredients of the highest quality you can find. Shop for organic, free-range, grass-fed sirloin or filet of beef and freeze it for at least 14 days. The practise of freezing ensures that the raw meat will be clean from parasites and other contaminants. Thaw the meat and grind it coarsely. Also, you will need the following ingredients (quality matters!):

– 1 finely minced medium onion
– 3 tbsp mustard (Dijon is the best)
– 2 fresh egg yolks from free-range chickens
– 1/4 cup of fresh parsley or coriander leaves, finely chopped
– unrefined sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Mix ground beef with onion, mustard, egg yolks and herbs. Season to taste and form into a mound on a big platter. Serve as an appetizer with sourdough bread or round croutons, chopped hard-boiled eggs and onions, capers and softened butter. Caution: raw meat appetizers should be eaten the same day they are made! If you have any leftover steak tartare – the next day you can fry the mounds in a mixture of butter and extra-virgin olive oil until well done and serve them with fresh vegetable salad for lunch.

Bon Appetit!:)

Roquefort the king of French Cheeses

Roquefort is a delectable ewe’s-milk blue cheese from the South of France, and is one of the most famous of all French cheeses. In accordance with the European law, only those cheeses aged in the natural Cambalou caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon have a right to be named “Roquefort”, this is why when you buy this cheese you can be absolutely sure in its authenticity and the highest quality.

Legend states that Roquefort was first discovered by a young shepherd, who left a piece of fresh ewes’ milk cheese in a cave. When he returned a few months later, the cave mold had transformed his plain cheese into wonderful Roquefort. True or not, but in France, Roquefort was honoured with a royal patent already in the thirteenth century. In the medieval times, this pungent blue cheese was believed to have aphrodisiac qualities, the fact which even was noted by the world’s famous lover – Casanova.

Roquefort is always made from fresh, unpasteurized milk of the Lacaune breed of sheep and has a white, crumbly and slightly moist texture with veins of blue mold (Penicillium roqueforti). Roquefort has no rind. An average head of this cheese is about 5 pounds, which requires 4-5 times the amount of fresh milk (about 13 litres!) in order to produce one head. After 4 to 9 months of aging, all vitamins and enzymes of the milk remain intact in Roquefort – it is very high in fat, protein, fat-soluble vitamins, and minerals, especially calcium. Its odour is strong and has a notable hint of butyric acid, the taste is rich and smooth with a sharp, astringent tang. The overall flavour sensation begins slightly mild, then turns into sweet and smoky, and fades to a prominent salty finish. The cheese fully exhibits its rich flavour if combined with red wine from Burgundy.

More information about Roquefort in English can be found at:

Roquefort Societe
French Cheese Guide
Recipes with Roquefort

Baguette Delicious White French Bread

 

Baguette, with its crunchy, crisp crust and a soft, delectable center, is a traditional white bread served in France, and a staple of French cuisine. French “une baguette” is translated into English as a “stick”, which truly describes the unique form of this most popular French bread – it is shaped as a wand of about 60 cm long, and weighs 500 grammes (about 1 pound).In some areas of France, this bread is still delivered to the customers’ door every morning, together with traditional milk and cream. In big cities, people go to the local “Boulangerie” (hot bread shop) at least once a day themselves, to get a fresh loaf which is eaten at all three meals.

What to do if the nearest to you Boulangerie is as far as France? Do not despair, but try to bake baguette at home! It certainly takes a little time, effort and patience to master baking good baguette by yourself – but only until you become forever addicted to its terrific taste. We recommend the following recipes of this authentic, home-made French bread:

French Bread – Allrecipes
Bakers Yeast Bread
Country sourdough-yeast bread
French Bread
French Bread – baking911.com
Authentic French Bread
French Bread – About.com

Lobster Cobb Salad

This Lobster Cobb Salad is a good dish for people trying to stay fit. Lobster is rich in protein and essential vitamins while it’s quite low in fat. And aside from the healthy dose of protein from this excellent seafood, you also get vitamin C and fiber from the assorted greens. Moreover, avocado is not only rich in vitamins but also antioxidants. Now, what do you get from the yummy pancetta and  Ricotta cheese? Well, since pancetta is basically just bacon, you get more protein from that, of course. And Ricotta cheese is the same as other cheeses out there, it is rich in calcium and protein. Seriously, this dish is not only a feast for the eyes, but also an excellent dose of healthy living. But don’t just take my word for it. Go ahead and try this recipe out for yourself.

Serves: 4

VANILLA VINAIGRETTE

1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 oz rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
6 oz grapeseed oil
To taste, kosher salt
To taste, freshly ground black pepper

 

SALAD

Two 1¼ -lb lobsters
As needed, Court Bouillon
12 oz mixed greens (baby romaine, Bibb lettuce, frisée)
1 zucchini, small, thinly sliced lengthwise to form ribbons
4 slices pancetta
4 Tbsp fresh ricotta
1 tsp Spice de Cosette
2 eggs, hard-boiled, cut in half
1 avocado, quartered and sliced
4 flatbread pieces
2 vanilla beans, split
2 Tbsp lemon zest

 

VANILLA VINAIGRETTE

1. Combine the vanilla bean and seeds, sugar, and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, and allow to steep for 20 minutes. Cool and reserve.

2. In a bowl, combine the vanilla syrup, vanilla extract, vinegar,and mustard. Whisk until incorporated.

3. Slowly stream in the oil while whisking continuously to form an emulsion.

4. Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper; reserve.

 

SALAD

1. Poach the lobster in the Court Bouillon for 10 minutes. Drain.

2. Remove the lobster meat from the shell and divide it into 4 portions.

3. Divide the lettuce into 4 bunches and wrap with zucchini ribbon.

4. Place the pancetta on a Silpat and cover with another Silpat; place a sheet pan on top, and bake at 350°F until crisp, about 15 minutes.

5. Mix the ricotta with the Spice de Cosette. Form quenelles and place on flatbreads.

6. Place the lettuce bundles in the center of 4 large plates. Arrange the lobster around the bundles and top with egg, avocado, and flatbread. Drizzle 1½ oz Vanilla Vinaigrette over each salad. Garnish each with 1/2 vanilla bean and 1/2 Tbsp lemon zest.

 

This dish would require at least an hour to prepare so you better get all the ingredients bought and laid out to avoid turning that into two hours or more. And make sure you follow the recipe. This may just be a salad, but you still have to follow a process. Now, this scrumptious Lobster Cobb Salad would be great with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay. If you ask me, I’d go with the Chardonnay. But then, some people prefer the dry, light-flavored body of Sauvignon Blanc for shellfish. To each his own, I guess. However, if you plan to serve this at a dinner party(and you want to impress guests), I think it would be better if you do a “taste test” first. Buy both bottles of wine to better judge which of the two really goes well with this salad. And invite a friend to do the taste test with you. As the saying goes, two heads are better than one, after all. Bon appétit!