Monthly Archives: June 2014
Is it still Friday? I’m sneaking my post in just under the wire… I have an excuse. I just got home last night from a two-week vacation in Southern California and spent the day doing the things you do when you get home from a trip: collecting the mail, laundry, grocery shopping, etc.
I didn’t make this week’s French Fridays dish before I left, and when I woke up this morning, the cupboard was bare. It’s a good thing that this week’s selection, guacamole with tomatoes and bell peppers, was a cinch to put together.
Dorie says that the French are crazy about guacamole, though they seldom make it themselves. I can share their passion. It is so easy to make, though, that I’m not sure I’d be buying it already prepared.
Guacamole is a staple on the snack/appetizer rotation at my house. We make several different variations. The simplest is an avocado mashed up with a few generous spoonfuls of salsa. We are also partial to mango guacamole when Ataulfo mangoes are in season. A couple of years ago, Howard got a molcajete, which makes a gorgeous presentation when making guacamole from scratch (i.e. no jarred salsa).
The guacamole that Dorie makes in her French kitchen uses all the expected ingredients: avocado, lime, red onion, jalapeno, cilantro, and tomatoes. The surprise additions are the lime zest, diced red pepper, and a splash of hot sauce. Dorie also offers two texture options: smooth or chunky. Our usual guac is chunky, so I wanted to try out smooth for a change. The smooth version is made with a mortar and pestle, but I pulled out the molcajete. By the way, I used just one LARGE avocado but didn’t reduce any of the other ingredients.
It’s a winner! We both loved the flavor and the texture. As you can see, we ate the whole thing. (It was lunch, not just an appetizer.) Without a doubt, smooth guacamole with tomatoes and bell peppers will now be taking its turn in our guacamole rotation.
I want to share a little about my vacation because I’m unlikely to get around to an entire post about it. This was my first trip to Southern California as a tourist. Previously, I’d been for a few business trips in the not very recent past, but was never there long enough to see anything other than the airport, the office, and the hotel.
We visited Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and San Diego. I would describe myself as an intense traveler, not allowing for much downtime. We made the most of our time in new places. Highlights include: Lotusland (near Santa Barbara), a unique and delightful garden created by a very eccentric woman; a vintage car show in Beverly Hills, tours of the Gamble House in Pasadena and Disney Hall in Los Angeles, and the San Diego Zoo. We were fortunate to connect with so many people. We visited with cousins, reconnected with college friends and former co-workers, and had lunch with the SoCal Doristas (sans Trevor). It was the perfect balance of visiting friends and family and taking in the sights and sites. And, now I’m happy to be home.
This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie is skate with capers, cornichons, and brown butter sauce.
First off, I’ll be honest. I didn’t make this recipe with skate. They didn’t have it at the fish counter at Whole Foods, and I didn’t have time to go hunting. I anticipated that skate might not be available, so did a little research on alternatives before I went to the store. Suggestions were all over the map, from meaty fish like shark or halibut to delicate fillets like tilapia and flounder. In the end, I selected flounder fillets because they offered a similar cooking time to the instructions for cooking the skate.
I loved this preparation. Just as when we made the almond flounder meuniere, after I made this dish, I was scratching my head and wondering why I don’t remember this quick pan-fry technique more often for weeknight dinners. Simply pan-frying the fish in butter provides a savory palette for any sort of sauce you’d like.
This recipe’s piquant sauce was a definite winner. The nutty flavor of the butter added depth, the capers and cornichons added salt, and the vinegar a pronounced tang. I’d say the tang was strong on the first bite, though not unpleasant. It grew on you before you swallow.
Dorie suggests serving this on a bed of something creamy like mashed potatoes. I made one of my favorite side dishes, Spiced Chickpea Puree, which is like a warm hummus without the tahini. I share the recipe below.
I’ll definitely be making this again. Even though it’s easy enough for a weeknight, it’s also special enough to serve to company. If I spy skate at the fish counter, I’d try that as the base, but who knows when it will make an appearance.
Spiced Chickpea Puree
2-15 oz cans chickpeas, drained
Up to 1/3 cup water
2 tsp ground cumin
¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup garlic oil (or ¼ cup olive oil and 1 clove garlic, minced)
¼ tsp cayenne
Kosher salt and ground pepper to taste
3 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
Drain the chickpeas and rinse well. Place them in the food processor. Puree just until smooth, adding water as needed. Add cumin, lemon juice, garlic oil (or oil and garlic), and cayenne. Pulse to combine. Adjust seasoning.
Heat a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Add the chickpea puree, and gently heat, stirring frequently, until warm. Stir in chopped parsley before serving.
Adapted from recipe for Spiced Hummus from “American Brasserie” by Rick Tramonto and Gale Gund with Julia Moskin