Cafe Style Grated Carrot Salad

Think about your best friends and the first time you met them.   Was it at work?  At school?  On a bus? I have a dear friend, Kim.   For those who have heard me speak of her, you may think her name is Myfriendkim.   She lives in Michigan which is way too far away.   We met the very first day of pastry school, in Paris.  Everyone was nervous and waiting for orientation to begin.  There were about seven Japanese young women, a Turkish woman, another from Brazil plus a few Americans.  As we waited,  we made our hesitant introductions to one another.  When it came to her turn, she told the group.  "I'm a mom and I want to learn how to bake.  I've stayed at home, planned vacations, and I love to eat bon-bons".    She was honest, sweet and had a killer sense of humor.  I had to get to know her.

At the end of the morning after we had been assigned our uniforms and lockers, as we chatted, she asked if was in Paris alone.   I told her, yes, and that was staying in a hotel about a 15 minute walk away.  She told me that she had been to Paris several times and knew it well.  We went back to class and as we were packing up for the day, Kim invited me to join her for dinner.  She hates to eat alone.   Little did she know that I had been glued to my hotel room for the past four days.  I had terrible jet lag, a constant stomach ache and was still shaking off the fake taxi that had scammed me out of most of my cash.   I eagerly accepted and we walked back from school to my hotel a few blocks away to change clothes & make a quick call home, then to hers and then to dinner.  She had a knowledge of Paris that was amazing.  We were going out to eat... at night... I had made a friend!

Where does the Carrot Salad fit in to this story you ask?   Kim picked out the perfect restaurtant.   Chartier.  It's grand, yet casual.  The waiters were bustling about dressed in black vests, white shirts and floor length aprons.  I was awe struck.   We talked and laughed about our husbands, dogs, families and our love of food.  As we ate, she told me the history of Chartier.  It was a workingmen's lunch room.   The walls are lined with small drawers where they kept their napkins and forks.   We ordered Carrot Salad as a side for our Steak au Poivre while we laughed and talked even more. After some much needed nourishment, the jet lag and stomach ache were gone  and I was thrilled to be in Paris.

I've never forget that meal, or how I meant Kim.


This week's French Friday's with Dorie recipe is simple.  Grate the carrots, add a quick dijon dressing/vinaigrette then toss with a few raisins.   Our CSA box had a big bag of carrots last week.  Orange, purple and yellow.  They were a little tough to grate, and yes, I did knick a knuckle - shoot! The carrots were more like chips than grates.  The salad is fresh, bright and a great treat for any lunch or supper.


Warm Grilled Scallop, Nectarine and Corn Salad

It's been such a great month so far.   We've traveled to fun places and just hosted a wedding reception.  It was a belated reception!  The sweet couple got married last summer in the Rockies, then celebrated with friends here in Wisconsin this summer.    While I was supposed to be writing and posting the French Friday's With Dorie post, I was elbow deep in decorating, baking, fluffing pillows, and turning our yard into a summer party wonderland.  Before I tell you about the salad, I have to get you a peek at the party. With the help of my friends and florists extraordinaire, Jennifer and Scott, we clustered BIG grapevine balls and hung them from the tent ceiling.  Our friend, Paul, made a door frame which held an old door we found in our garage when we moved in.  It was the perfect entryway for our guests.


So what does a pastry chef make for her step-daughter's weddding reception?  PIE!  Another friend, Diane and I made pie, pie, and more pie!  It didn't take very long to make 17 pies.  Cherry, Peach and Blueberry.  I'll save crust and pie filling for another post...

Back to the salad... Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan is the source of this recipe.   The scallop salad was a big hit as we were racing around running last minute errands.  The scallops got to ride home on ice, and waited patiently for lunch time.

Instead of using fresh corn, I had some corn, still on the cob on the freezer.  I let it defrost lightly and removed it from the cob.  It was slightly soft, but nice and cold for the salad.


Instead of the grill, I heated my grill pan, and seared the nectarines, then wiped the pan, added some oil and seared the scallops.   It went together SO quickly!  A quick dressing for the corn salad and lunch was ready!   I would have to say that the basil coulis preparation was one of the best parts.   The fragrance and texture of the delicate garnish was amazing!


Here's to summer, good friends, sweet babies, families, and happy Marriages!


And P.S.... Happy 100th Birthday, Julia Chld!

Lime, Honey, Beet Salad - Can't Beat It!

Summer's in full swing.  The corn is growing, vegetables are more plentiful at farmers' markets, and life is very busy!  Summer salads are great.   After a busy day, it's so nice to wash off the garden dirt and have a late supper.  Vegetables, and perhaps something on the grill or quickly sauteed.   You don't heat up the house, or feel too full.    Got herbs?  Here's just the recipe for a hot summer night. This week's French Friday's With Dorie recipe is Lime Honey Beet Salad.  Another one of those love it, or hate it recipes.  It's a salad worth creating the meal around.   We love beets.  And,  the ones we found at the grocery were perfect.  Earthy, deep red and ready for roasting.   It took about an hour to roast three large beets.  I quartered them, covered them with foil, and roasted at 400.



While they were roasting, I prepared the rest of the ingredients.  The green, murky dressing smells amazing!  Lime, Dill, Chive, vinegar and a little oil.   Here's the before mixing photo.



We were really hungry and the salad smelled great.   After I peeled the beets and tossed them in the dressing, they rested while I quickly sauteed the shrimp and we ate the salad just a bit warmer than room temperature.   It was delicious!  Every time we make a simple Dorie recipe that seems like "why is this going to be good?"  the recipe  always exceed our expectations.  The lime, honey and herbs are perfect with the beets.  I added garlic, cayenne and lime juice to the shrimp.  It was a great, simple combination.    This one is a recipe you'll make again and again.   I would serve this to guests anytime.   Warm in the fall with some goat cheese, and cool in the summer.





Tuna Lentil Lemon Salad - French Fridays with Dorie




It's been a wonderful spring.  I know that I keep remarking on how pretty spring is, but it really, really is.  Take peonies for example.  They arrive every year, stay for about a week, and give us absolute beauty.  The smell is mesmerizing, to me.  We have a spot on our property where the original homestead log cabin once stood.  The cabin has been relocated, but the plants, trees, and shrubs that were planted by the generations who lived there remain.  There are ear trees, apple trees, lilace, lilies, and peonies.   We have to hike in to cut them.  By the time we're home, the ants have crawled out and are running up our arms.  Once in a vase, there are days of that the great smell.  Those are mine in the photo.  I love the creamy white, with the tips of pink.   Did you take peonies or lilacs to school for your teacher?  Maybe Lily of the Valley?   They were so pretty when we left home with the wet paper towel around the stems, but by the time recess rolled around, they were droopy and looking sort of pitiful.  It always meant the school year was almost over, and summer was on its way.

This week's Around My French Table/French Fridays with Dorie recipe is Lentil Tuna Salad with Preserved Lemon.  Very simple, light, and delicious.  I knew I may have a sales pitch ahead of me.  Gary is no fan of lentils.   He doesn't know why, just has no particular love for them.  Plus, he's a non-olive guy.   I knew if it was tapenade, we'd be ok.  Just no whole olives rolling around.

The recipe calls for preserved lemons which are very popular in Moroccan foods.   Lemon are packed in the jar with lemon juice and salt for about 4 weeks.  The skin softens and they can be sliced, diced and put in recipes.  I didn't have 4 weeks for preserve lemons, though this would be a good time to start.  I found a great "quick" preserved lemon recipe my Mark Bittman.  It took three hours intead of weeks.  I don't think they were quite as tender as the long version, but they worked well.


First, the lemons are chopped then combined with salt and sugar, then placed in the jar.  Shake the jar every 10-15 minutes, and in the three hours, the lemons break down and have a preserved lemon quality.


The dressing is a basic red wine vinegar vinaigrette with grainy mustard and black olive tapenade.  What a great combination!  I think this would be great to drizzle over Salade Nicoise!



I added the dressing to the lentils while they were warm, and they absorbed much of the liquid.  The lemons, scallion and tuna really worked well together.  I added a little just a squeeze of lemon juice to the top with the salt and pepper.   It was a nice dinner, and no complaints about the lentils.



This recipe would be perfect for a picnic lunch on a warm summer day.  Enjoy!  Hope you can find some pretty peonies!









Baking with Julia Week 1: White Bread

It's finally February 7th!  I've been waiting patiently (well, not so patiently) for today.   Today is the very first week of Baking with Julia, a baking group coordinated by Dorie Greenspan.  The original group baked its way though Dorie's Baking book.  They completely the recipes and were ready for the next challenge.  Dorie Greenspan authored Baking with Julia, so its fitting her book is next. Twice each month, we'll bake two recipes from the book and post to     As some of you may know, I also participate in French Fridays with Dorie, which bakes & cooks recipes from Around My French Table.

I never had the opportunity to meet Julia Child, but I love her.  I love her fearless spirit, her laugh, her stature, and most of all her love of cooking.   When I pull out her books and read a recipe, its her voice I hear reading to me.   If something spills or doesn't turn out quite right, she's there in spirit with her happy, let's move on, coaching.  I know things will turn out fine.   My hope is that I can inspire people the way she does some day.

I hope you'll pick up a copy of the book and bake along with me.   Feel free to add your link or notes in my comments area.  Or, sign up with the group.   The February 21st recipe is Chocolate Truffle Tartlets!  Can't wait!

Let's start baking!

Of all the categories in the patisserie world, I think I like bread making the best.   It takes times, patience, and the coordination of efforts with dough.    Yeast is in charge of most of the process.  You can try to rush it, but its really going to do what it pleases.   It's more like a duet.

The recipe makes two loaves of bread.  I doubled the recipe (exactly) for make four loaves.   I also used my French bread kneading machine just to pull the dough together.   I finished the dough my hand.  The machine is to cool.  It turns against the doughs friction against the side as the hook pulls and turns the dough.  Just the action that you do with your hands.  It allows me to make bigger batches, and have my hands free for other baking.   It's very gentle, and still requires fairly close supervision so the dough doesn't wander up the hook or out of the bowl.  We used a machine like this at school, and I was able to find one when I got home.  I can make up to about 10 loaves of bread in it at a time.  Not huge production, but bigger quantities than can easily be done by hand.

Once the dough was mixed, it rested for about 5 minutes.  This process is called autolyse.  The yeast gets started, the flour and water setttle in, and the gluten begins to develop.

When I'm teaching a bread class, the number one question is always. "How long will I knead the dough?"  The best way to know that you're finished kneading it to check a gluten window.   Gently cut off a small piece of dough, gently tease/strectch the dough with your fingers and look for a sheer pane of dough that wont' tear as it's being stretched.   It you can make it sheer without tearing, you're finished!   Here' a photo of the White Breads' gluten window.

Notice the light coming through the sheer dough.  I was doing the photography and stretching myself, so the dough isn't stretched as thin or far as I would have like.    Every single time I make bread, I check for the window.  Every batch is different, and I always want to make sure I've worked the dough enough.

After the dough has had a good rise, and at least doubled in volume, it's time to shape the loaves.  I weighed the whole batch, then divided by four to make sure each loaf was about the same size.  You certainly don't have to be this picky, but baking is much more even when the loaves are the same.   I like to cover the bread pans with a favorite towel.  Call me superstitous.   By the way, did I tell you that I always spin the dough three times, then flip it in the bowl before it starts to rise?   Habits are good!

Here are the sweet loaves shaped and ready for the 2nd rise.

The 2nd rise is about an hour.  The key to to let the bread rise until the loaf is about 1 inch about the top of the pan.  That way, with the added spring in the oven, you'll have a nice tall loaf  with perfectconsistency to the crumb.  This recipe has a little bit more yeast than some recipes, so the bread rose faster than I was expecting.  It's just a bit taller than usual, but doesn't it look great!??

Now into the oven!  The yeast will work like crazy as the temperature of the dough increases.  Once the dough reached about 120 F, the yeast will die, and bread will be it's finished size.    I bake the dough until the internal temperature is about 180-200F.   Just push an instant read thermometer right into the end.  You can also pop the dough of the pan and look at the color.   It should be golden.  Once you've got the temp and color, try to tap the loaf and listen to the "hollow" thump.   It's hard to know that sound unless you know the bread is done.    I turn the bread out of the pans immediately and let them cool on their sides.  OK, another weird habit, but it works.   I pulled this bread out of the oven at about 195F and liked the pretty light golden color.  This was JUST enough.   It could have easily gone another 5 minutes.  It's great for toast.  Don't underbake your bread.  The golden color is caramelization of the sugars which equals flavor!

The bread is cool, and upon inspection, no swirly holes.   It has a nice soft but sturdy, consistent crumb.   And... look at the cute shape of the loaves.  They look like the cookie cutter shape of bread!  and...not too high to fit into the toaster!

I hope you'll join me in two weeks for the Chocolate Truffle Tartlets.  In the words of our dear Julia,  "Bon Appetit"!