Posts tagged ‘French Cooking’

July 8, 2014

4plates Niçoise Salad


I’m resurrecting this recipe. I posted it a couple of years ago (with much less enthusiasm) and made it again last week for dinner, sparking my memory and love for the Niçoise salad. It’s the best salad ever! Of course if you don’t love tuna, olives and anchovies you might want to give it a pass, or you can just pick around and eat the potatoes and green beans. Creating perfect forkfuls that include a tidbit of each element of the salad, stacked artfully and dipped in Dijon tarragon vinaigrette is a scrumptious bite of heaven. Sigh.

As proof the Nicoise is my true love, I can easily rattle off a list of restaurants where I’ve ordered it. One of my favorites is from Rue 57 in New York City, followed closely by the Hotel de Russie in Rome. Given the opportunity to eat awesome Italian food in Italy, I picked this salad (no regrets). In fact, I ordered a Niçoise salad twice during our Italy trip. There’s something about the fresh tarragon, salty anchovies and olives with potatoes and crispy green beans, it’s irresistible to me. One of the things I love about Rue 57, is they let you choose between canned tuna or fresh tuna. I prefer canned tuna for this salad. Save that fancy fresh tuna for sushi. Pommes frites and a Bloody Mary with a Nicoise Salad? I’d be satisfied if this was my last meal. We’ve been watching a lot of Orange is the New Black and I have prison on the brain. So for the moment, consider “last meal” to be my death row reference. For the record, I’d never survive prison, even if they let me work in the kitchen. Oy Vey!

Rue 57, NYC

Rue 57, NYC


Les Halles, NYC

Brasserie Les Halles, NYC


Florence, Italy

Florence, Italy (can’t remember the restaurant)


Hotel du Russie, Rome

Hotel de Russie, Rome

This is my adaptation of the Niçoise salad. Change it as you wish, just make one! I have to say that as good as this salad is, the salad dressing is fantastic! It will last for a few days in the refrigerator, and it’s really good on sandwiches or even to dip veggies in for a snack. Don’t let a drop go to waste!




FOR THE SALAD (Serves about 4)

  • 1 small head red leaf lettuce, torn or cut into ribbons
  • 12 or more cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, halved
  • Half a small red onion, thinly sliced in half moons
  • 1/2lb green beans
  • 12 or so baby red or gold potatoes
  • Generous handful of nicoise olives (you can use kalamata if you can’t find nicoise olives)
  • 2 cans solid white tuna packed in water, drained
  • 1 can anchovies in oil, drained
  • 2 tbsp capers, drained
  • Fresh tarragon chopped, 2 tbsp or more if you’d like


  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, halved
  • 2 shallots, quartered
  • 3 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt & pepper to taste
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 3 tsp chopped fresh tarragon

Throw all the dressing ingredients in a food processor except the tarragon. Process until emulsified and smooth. Pour into a bowl and add the chopped tarragon, stir together. Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.


For the salad:

  1. To blanch the green beans, bring a large pot of water to a boil and fill a large bowl with ice and water, set it next to the stove (see above). Drop the green beans in the boiling water and allow to cook for just 2 minutes. Using a strainer, remove the green beans from the pot and place them into the ice water bath to seize the cooking and keep their bright green color. I lay the green beans on a paper towel to dry.
  2. Throw the potatoes in the same pot you used for the green beans and boil until tender, 10-15 minutes depending on their size. The potatoes are perfectly cooked when they feel tender when pierced with a fork (not a knife). Drain the potatoes and toss with a little kosher salt & pepper and some chopped tarragon, set aside and allow to cool.
  3. Assemble all the ingredients for the salad on a large platter. Sprinkle some chopped tarragon and capers over everything. I always serve the tuna and anchovies on the side, along with the dressing.



August 15, 2012

French Onion Soup a la Julia

Happy 100th Birthday Julia!

Last summer we visited The National Museum of American History in Washington, DC.  I was thrilled to find they have a permanent exhibit of Julia Child’s kitchen. Donated by Julia herself in 2001, the exhibit features her actual kitchen including her six-burner Garland range, a wall of her copper cookware, even her kitchen table.  It brought back so many memories of watching her show with my parents. Julia was the quintessential culinary goddess. Never will we have a chef with such unparalleled enthusiasm in the kitchen. To quote, “The best way to execute French cooking is to get good and loaded and whack the hell out of a chicken. Bon appétit.” I wonder if food TV would be the same today if there wasn’t a Julia…

Julia’s Kitchen at The National Museum of American History

If there was one recipe that compelled me to buy my own copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, it would be her French Onion Soup. I could have borrowed my mother’s worn copy with all of my childhood crayon scribbles, drip marks and stains but I needed my own copy. I remember sitting with my mother while she cooked when I was very little. She’d ask me if I wanted to help her in the kitchen – I’d say yes and then proceed to color in her cookbooks. Mastering was the book she was always using, so alas, it got the most abuse from me. I’ve adapted this recipe from the Master herself.

French Onion Soup à la Julia

If you have ever carmelized onions, you know that to do it right takes at least 30-45 minutes. I hate to see a recipe that says carmelizing onions takes only 15 minutes. It’s not possible! To make this soup, you’ll need patience and at least two hours to reach full deliciousness.

INGREDIENTS (Makes a lot of soup, I guess 6-8 servings)

  • 7 medium/large yellow onions, halved and sliced (not too thin) into 1/2 moons (about 12 cups)
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 10 cups beef stock
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 4 tbsp cognac
  • 2 cups shredded swiss cheese (who knew you were suppose to use Swiss?)
  • Parmesan for sprinkling
  • Garlic croutes

Heat a large dutch oven over medium heat and add the butter and oil. Once the butter is melted, add the onions and cook, covered over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring periodically. I know it seems like a lot of onions, but they shrink down to nothing.

Uncover and sprinkle with the sugar and salt. Raise heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently for about 30-40 minutes until evenly golden. You don’t want the onions to burn, so watch your heat.

Sprinkle with the flour and stir continuously for a couple of minutes. Pour in the stock and wine. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, partially covered for 30 minutes longer. You can skim off any foam that forms on the top of the soup as you go. Add the cognac, stir and taste for reseasoning – viola! It’s done!

Garlic Croutes


  • 1 baguette, hearty slices
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and halved
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lay slices of baguette in a single layer on a sheet pan. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until crisp. Remove from the oven and rub each slice lightly with the halved garlic clove, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt.


Ladle the soup into oven safe bowls. Float a croute in each bowl, top with shredded swiss cheese and sprinkle with parmesan. Place bowls under the broiler (watching carefully) for a quick minute or two until the cheese becomes bubbly. Enjoy!


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