In America, the cheese course is something that happens at the beginning of the meal, as an appetizer of sorts. However, in France, the cheese course is a bridge between the main dishes and the dessert, in fact, it is frequently served in place of dessert. I really wanted to celebrate that idea on my birthday (and it meant I didn’t have to cook quite as much!).
For me, this meal was an opportunity to indulge in some of my favorite things! I am turning 30 after-all…so Escargot was a must for this meal, and so was beef wellington! I couldn’t quite afford to serve foie gras to 16 guests, so I decided to create a terrine paired with a delicious shallot jam. The terrine’s single most important ingredient is the chicken livers, which my friend Anwar (who runs International Grocery and Halal Meats Inc. on 33rd and Greenmount – go there it is amazing!) has been saving for me for a few weeks! The livers mixed with pork, chicken, and duck, create an amazingly complex flavor. The mustard and cornichon juice give it a bit of an extra kick!
For our first course, the aperitif, I made a traditional Parisian cocktail, the 1789, created to celebrate the revolution! I wanted to create some nibbles while we sipped our cocktails, so I made these delicious Olive Crisps and served them with a Green Olive and Almond Tapenade with some Anchovy for extra flavor and some creamy, and delicious Riclettes de Sardines.
Gonzo and I argued about this dish a bit when I first introduced it during the Venetian dinner. Sweet and vinegary, “they won’t go for it”, he said. I was almost convinced to take out the raisins, but I am glad I kept them. Sardines are amazing! I don’t know why everyone here is so afraid of sardines and anchovies. Dusted with flour and fried, they turn decadent, especially when paired with the vinegar flavor of the marinated onions and the sweetness of the raisins. Make this dish several days in advance, it gets better with time. And don’t be afraid if you have too much liquid, the sardines soak up a lot.
This simple chickpea spread is such a crowd pleaser, folks ask me for leftovers every time it is served (there are rarely leftovers, so I keep doubling the recipe)! Don’t be afraid to double the batch and save some for later, it can last for around 2 weeks in a sealed tub. The recipe as it stands makes enough for two dip bowls or a large dish.
All versions of burnt eggplant are delicious, I am obsessed! I like to roast mine directly over the flame of my stove for that perfect smoky flavor. If you don’t have a gas stove burner, try slicing yours in half and roasting them under the broiler.
I originally created this recipe for our Jerusalem Dinner last year (find all of our Jerusalem recipes in Chez Nous: Communal Dinners). We originally served it with a buttery Malawach – a combination of flaky croissant and soft naan and paired it with a Tabboueleh and a homemade Hummus with a Lemon Parsley Sauce. I brought the recipe back for the book launch of my first cookbook Chez Nous: Communal Dinners this past Saturday. To make my life easier, we served it with some Buttered Naan which is incredibly easy to make.
The rains keep coming, and so do the tomatoes! I am really excited about my harvest this year! I was keeping count up to 90 on my 2 tomato plants, but now I have lost count of how many gorgeous tomatoes we have cooked and eaten this summer. I combined of our tomatoes with some super sweet wild cherry tomatoes from the Waverly Farmers Market that I bought and proceeded to forget about until today. The tomatoes already wilted a bit in the fridge, so I figured I would bake them up to use as a topping on pork or salmon or a spread on a slice of Kalamata Olive and Rosemary Baguette!
I have read that homemade tomato paste is much better than the store bought (which I also love and live by), but wow, it is magic! I read in one of my cookbooks that someone referred to a stewed tomato sauce as tomato magic, I want to steal that! This is my Tomato Magic!