Cherry Clafoutis with Chestnut Flour

I attended the Omnivore festival in Paris last week, a fabulous three-day event during which inspiring chefs climb up on stage to demo dishes and talk about their cuisine, and the sentiment that was expressed by several of them mirrors my own: we are currently going through the toughest time of year for the produce-oriented cook.

It no longer feels like winter, and certainly we’ve had our share of cold-weather vegetables, but spring is not quite there, and the bounty it promises has yet to be delivered. We are stuck in this limbo of non-season, having to make do with what’s left of the winter months — which isn’t actually very much — as we dream of pea shoots and strawberries.

Recently, this limbo of non-season has made me pine for — of all things — cherry clafoutis.

Fruit is especially hard. The apples and pears are all from storage, and the citrus is a wan version of itself — all pith and little flavor — so we’re mostly left with exotic or frozen fruit.

Recently, this state of affair has made me pine for cherry clafoutis, and more specifically this clafoutis, which I’ve had bookmarked for seven years, ever since it was first published. I planned to make it with frozen sour cherries, which can be easily procured from the all-frozen-foods grocery store the French love so.

It is a slightly unorthodox clafoutis, in that the egg whites are whipped to create a mouthfeel that is moist and fluffy, rather than the more classic, flan-like texture. It is delicious.

Instead of using regular wheat flour, I chose to make my clafoutis with the chestnut flour I brought back from Corsica. I intuited that it would go well with the flavor of the cherries, much like hazelnut flour flattered them in this loaf cake; I am happy to report my intuition was spot-on.

As for the cherry pits, it is up to you to keep them in or out: tradition leaves the cherries unpitted — supposedly this adds a hint of almond flavor — but having to maneuver the pits around your mouth can be a severe hindrance to your enjoyment, and certainly if you’re serving this to young children, the pits need to go. (The frozen sour cherries I used are already pitted, so that was that.)

Join the conversation!

Are you experiencing the same lull in seasons where you live? How do you deal with it? And do you ever make clafoutis ?

Cherry Clafoutis with Chestnut Flour

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Cauliflower Salad à la Café Pinson

Café Pinson is one of Paris’ most delicious lunch spots for vegetable lovers. Co-founded by Agathe Audouze and driven by her interest in naturopathy and personal history with food intolerances, it focuses on fresh, seasonal, and healthful foods, with no dairy ingredients and (mostly) no gluten, whole grains and unrefined sweeteners, and low-temperature cooking to preserve nutrients.

It doesn’t hurt that the interior design was created by Dorothée Meilichzon, who excels at putting together inviting and cozy spaces, with mismatched vintage-style furniture and whimsical details that seem right out of a Pinterest board.

So hungry are Parisians for that kind of food that it took about a week for the crowds to descend upon Café Pinson.

So hungry are Parisians for that kind of food in a non-granola environment that it took about a week for the crowds to descend upon the original location in the upper Marais. This success led to the opening of a second Café Pinson, this one in the super hot Faubourg Poissonnière neighborhood, where a new exciting spot sprout up every minute and a half.

I was recently invited to have lunch there with Agathe Audouze herself to sample some of the menu offerings, and among them I was particularly taken with the romanesco salad. I’m sure you’ve seen that fractal cabbage, light-green to yellow in hue, and handled in cooking much like cauliflower. Here, it was served cold, dressed in a vegan mayonnaise that was tahini-based, as Agathe explained, and topped with a happy sprinkle of brown flax seeds.

It was tangy and rich, a most appealing way of eating Brassicaceae. I noted the idea in my head and promptly reproduced it, not with romanesco but with cauliflower, which I had on hand. It was just as lovely in a home context as at the café, and I am adding it to my cauliflower repertoire, along with my other love-it-to-death favorite, the Cauliflower à la Mary Celeste.

Join the conversation!

Do you make cauliflower salads? What’s your favorite way of dressing them? And have you ever tried romanesco?

Café Pinson
6 rue du forez, Paris 3ème // +33 (0)9 83 82 53 53 // map
58 rue du faubourg poissonnière, Paris 10ème // +33 (0)1 45 23 59 42 // map

The original romanesco salad at Café Pinson.

The original romanesco salad at Café Pinson.

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Parents Who Cook: Aria Beth Sloss

Aria Beth Sloss is a writer, and the author of the novel Autobiography of Us, which has just come out in paperback.

She also happens to married to Dan Barber, a hero of mine and the iconic chef of Blue Hill in NYC, where they both live. I’ve been in touch with Aria ever since I published this fridge Q&A with Dan: I had mentioned her novel was about to be published, and she thanked me and offered to send me an advance copy, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Dan and Aria had a little girl last year, and of course, as part of my Parents Who Cook series, I had to ask how the household’s cooking life has changed since then. Aria shared her approach and tips with great generosity, and I hope you enjoy delving into it — and trying the two recipes she provided — as much as I did.

clotilde

Can you tell us a few words about your daughter? Age, name, temperament?

Aria Beth Sloss

Edith turned one last month. As divine retribution for all the times I scoffed at parents who ascribed real, complex temperaments to their infants, Edith has been the person she is now since the day she was born — cheerful, opinionated, determined, and hilarious. I never dreamed someone so small could make me laugh so hard.

clotilde

Did having a child change the way you cook?

Aria Beth Sloss

I’m embarrassed to answer this, because the change has less to do with the way I cook than the fact that I find myself cooking at all. I’ve always been a baker; my husband is a chef, so for many years, we had the perfect arrangement. Then we found ourselves with this new member of the household, who couldn’t, turns out, survive on cake and cookies.

When Edith started eating solids, around six months, we took what felt like a huge leap in faith by deciding to forgo purees (my heart was in my mouth for most of the first month’s meals) and give her modified versions (less salt, no windpipe-sized beans, etc) of what we ate instead. [Note from Clotilde: this is an approach often referred to as baby-led weaning.] Anxieties aside, it seems to have suited us all very well.

We found ourselves with this new member of the household, who couldn’t, turns out, survive on cake and cookies.

When my husband is home for dinner, he makes dishes very similar to those he made before our daughter was born — beautiful omelets, grain and roasted vegetable salads, tartines with a soft cheese, a lacing of vinegar, and a sprinkling of herbs — and we all eat them together.

On the nights he’s at the restaurant, I’ve developed a few fail-safe recipes: lentil soup (who knew babies like soup?), less aesthetically-pleasing but acceptable omelets, avocado mash on toast, baked sweet potato with miso butter [recipe below!], and a few simple pasta dishes like soba with toasted sesame oil and broccoli. Plus, I’ve started experimenting with sprouted wheat flour, which makes baked goods a lot more nutritious.

Aria and Edith in the kitchen at Blue Hill.

Aria and Edith in the kitchen at Blue Hill.

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Butternut Squash and Lentil Soup

Last week my dear friend Florence tweeted a link to Nadya Andreeva’s ayurvedic blog Spinach and Yoga*, and her recipe for yellow lentil and squash soup caught my eye straight away.

I love a good soup of lentils, but I don’t think I’d ever thought to pair their meaty earthiness with the sweet, soft flesh of winter squash. This version was especially appealing for its use of fresh ginger and spices — cumin, coriander, turmeric — and I had just about everything I needed to make it.

I thought I’d be clever and use lentils of three different colors; in the end they all turned the same shade of brown.

What little I know about ayurvedic cuisine is that it’s strictly vegetarian, but I took the liberty of using the super fragrant fish stock I’d made the day before, using the bones and head of a roasted sea bream purchased at Terroirs d’Avenir’s sustainably-sourced fish stall on the increasingly foodie-friendly rue du Nil.

Another change I made to the original recipe was in fact inspired by the stock photo that illustrated it: the tell-tale milky sheen indicated the use of coconut milk, which the recipe itself didn’t include, yet I knew it would make the soup even tastier.

I also thought I’d be clever and use lentils of three different colors, green, pink, and yellow. In the end they all turned the same shade of green-brown, but I’m certain the variety of textures had a hand in making this the most wowing soup I’ve made in a while.

Join the conversation!

Have you ever dabbled at ayurvedic cooking? And what’s been your winner soup recipe this winter?

* Coincidentally, I see that Nadya Andreeva is just releasing a book this week, called Happy Belly.

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How To Make the Most of Your Cookbook Collection

Notice how English titles are printed in reverse direction from French titles. It's good for stretching your neck when browsing.

Notice how English titles are printed in reverse direction from French titles. It's good for stretching your neck when browsing.

I’m sure your cookbook shelves are just as heavily laden as mine, and if I were to ask you how often you cook from them you might look away, embarrassed, and try to change the subject. Especially if your spouse, who regularly comments on the extent of your collection, is within earshot.

It’s not that you don’t want to cook from all these books; you do. It’s just that it’s impossible to remember what’s in them, and however well built their indexes (or indices), it would be pretty cumbersome to look up “Brussels sprouts” in every single one of them when you come home from the greenmarket on a chilly but sunny Saturday morning in March.

It does seem a shame to let so much knowledge and inspiration go untapped, and here are a few ways to avoid that:

  • Sticky-tab appealing recipes, and regularly leaf through your collection to refresh your memory.
  • In each of your cookbooks, list all the recipes you want to try, with page number, on a piece of paper. Place that custom-made index in the front of the book for quick reference. (This also serves as a good decision tool to see whether you should really keep that book.)
  • Take photos of (or scan, but that’s more time-consuming) recipes you want to try, and keep the image files, renamed with the recipe title, in a dedicated folder on your computer.
  • Keep a running list of dishes you most want to try on your computer or in a notebook, referencing the cookbooks they come from.
  • Pick a different cookbook every month or so, and challenge yourself to cook X number of recipes from it (make X realistic) before moving on to the next.
  • Use the Eat Your Books service.

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Eat Your Books Recipe Index

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