Charred Broccoli and Avocado Salad

Charred broccoli is fast becoming one of my go-to vegetable options, especially at lunchtime when I need something quick and low-effort. […]

  • 11
  • September 17, 2014
The heirloom tomatoes I've been feasting on all month.

Some of my favorite finds and reads for this month: ~ What’s new on the Paris restaurant scene this fall, […]

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  • August 29, 2014
Crème Caramel

Caramel custard was a mainstay of my mother’s dessert repertoire when I was growing up. We referred to it by […]

  • 25
  • September 3, 2014
Slow-Roasted Shoulder of Lamb, rubbed with Rosemary, Anchovy, and Lemon Zest

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Rose Marshmallows

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Red Onion

Of all the kitchen inconveniences the cook has to live with, the one that generates the highest number of defensive […]

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Charred Broccoli and Avocado Salad

Charred broccoli is fast becoming one of my go-to vegetable options, especially at lunchtime when I need something quick and low-effort.

My enthusiasm for it started as an offshoot from my beloved Roasted Cauliflower à la Mary Celeste, in which broccoli can be used with good results. But in truth, roasted broccoli isn’t an exact substitute for cauliflower: the tops of the florets become a bit drier and quite a bit crunchier when submitted to high heat, so roasted broccoli seems to call for a creamier treatment.

The trick to this salad is to not be shy about roasting the broccoli.

And what creamier companions than an herbed tahini dressing and a cubed avocado tossed in? Also: what tastier, more satisfying trio?

I usually eat half of this salad warm the day I make it, and try to contain my excitement until lunch the next day, when I can finally have the other half; it’s best to take it out of the fridge 30 minutes before eating.

The trick to this salad is to not be shy about roasting the broccoli: you’ll get the most vibrant flavor and most interesting texture contrast from broccoli that is frankly black at the tips.

The only damper on my charred broccoli enthusiasm these days is that is it harder than one would think to find glowingly fresh broccoli at the organic stores around me. You can tell broccoli is fresh when the heads are firm, with tight florets that take some effort to separate. Yet more often than not, a quick pat on the heads stocked in the produce bin reveals soft heads with distracted florets. I did learn recently that you can revive those heads by cutting a slice off the tip of the stem and putting it in a glass of water as in a vase, and I plan to try this next time, should my craving become too strong.

Join the conversation!

Do you share my love of roasted broccoli? What’s you favorite way to serve it?

Charred Broccoli and Avocado Salad

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Green Romesco Sauce

I recently tweeted about my recipe for muhammara, this sumptuous Middle-Eastern dip of roasted bell peppers and walnuts that I wish more cooks knew about. This prompted Pami Hoggatt, of A Crust Eaten, to remark that it looked similar to Spanish romesco sauce.

Salsa Romesco is most commonly a sauce of roasted peppers, mixed together with nuts, olive oil, and vinegar.

I was very pleased that she did, for romesco sauce had somehow flown below my radar all this time and I was delighted to make its acquaintance: a Spanish specialty from Catalonia, salsa romesco can take on various guises, textures and flavorings, but it is most commonly a sauce of roasted peppers mixed together with nuts, olive oil, and vinegar. Different recipes will add different ingredients to that basic formula, but that’s the gist of it.

Pami pointed me to the recipe that she herself uses, and coincidentally, right around the same time The Kitchn ran a cute tiny video for what they appropriately call their “happy sauce”, which is in fact a romesco sauce.

I happened to have a collection of tiny bell peppers in various shades of yellow, green, and black-eye green sitting in my fridge, and it didn’t take long for me to enroll them into this wonderful green romesco sauce.

Small bell peppers

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Crème Caramel

Caramel custard was a mainstay of my mother’s dessert repertoire when I was growing up. We referred to it by its common French name crème renversée — flipped custard — because of the way you serve it, upside down: this way the layer of caramel that was spread across the bottom of the pan finds itself on top, and the delicious sauce can run down the sides and pool onto the serving plate.

The layer of caramel that was spread across the bottom of the pan finds itself on top, and the delicious sauce can run down the sides and pool onto the serving plate.

I am so partial to my mother’s recipe that I never ever order crème caramel when dining out, because I know it will fall short. Her version isn’t overly sweet, and it has the simple flavors of childhood — milk, eggs, vanilla. The silken, slippery consistency feels fresh and clean, though my favorite part is actually the lightly nubby “skin” that develops at the surface of the custard, where it was exposed to the oven’s heat.

Since the ingredients list is so straightforward, use the best ones you can: now would be a fine time to use your neighbor’s backyard eggs, that farm-fresh milk you get from the greenmarket, and the fat, waxy vanilla bean you’ve been saving for a special occasion.

My mother makes crème caramel in a single pan — a repurposed charlotte mold if you must know — for the whole family to share, but I usually cook it in ramekins instead: individual containers look fancier when we have guests, and if it’s just us, they make it easier to handle servings and leftovers.

Crème Caramel

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September 2014 Desktop Calendar

At the beginning of every month in 2014, I am offering a new wallpaper to apply on the desktop of your computer, with a food-related picture and a calendar of the current month.

As a new feature this year, the desktop calendar is available in two versions: a US-friendly version that features Sunday as the first day of the week, and a French version (shown above) that complies with international standards, featuring Monday as the first day of the week.

Our calendar for September is a picture of zucchini, and I probably don’t need to tell you how I feel about those. You can check out some of my favorite zucchini recipes, but this summer I’ve also been roasting them a lot when it wasn’t too hot out: cut the zucchini into big cubes, spread out on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle generously with good olive oil and sprinkle with salt, and roast at 200°C (400°F) for half an hour. With some chopped chipotle almonds and fresh herbs on top, it is simple yet very tasty.

Instructions to get your calendar are below.

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August Favorites

The heirloom tomatoes I've been feasting on all month.

The heirloom tomatoes I've been feasting on all month.

Some of my favorite finds and reads for this month:

~ What’s new on the Paris restaurant scene this fall, as told by Le Figaroscope, Le Fooding via Les Echos, and A Tabula (in French).

~ Ever wondered what a poaching egg might look like from underwater?

~ I discussed food blogging with Food & Wine editor Kristin Donnelly.

~ I am very tempted to make this peanut sauce for my late-summer noodle needs.

~ My friend Adam says you should never serve these ten foods at a dinner party. Which ones to you agree or disagree with?

~ Yes, it matters what kind of onion you use!

~ Party-leaving etiquette: do you say goodbye or leave quietly? (In French, leaving quietly is called filer à l’anglaise, making an English exit.)

~ Inspired by this great-sounding pairing: cucumbers with verbena and matcha green tea. Another one to add to my 58 Ways to Use Cucumbers.

~ Are these nut-hugging bear cookies too adorable to eat?

~ Fifteen chefs share what they’ve learned by cooking at the French Laundry.

~ The most common cooking mistakes (and how to avoid them).

~ A clever metro map to locate the best bars in Paris, and another for tea lovers.

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