How to Chiffonade: The Secret to Unbruised Basil

Chiffonade means ‘made of rags’ in French, referring to the process of cutting fabric into strips.  It is a culinary technique for slicing herbs into little ribbons, and makes for elegant garnish. This technique can be used on any leafy herb, or fine leafy lettuces, and is an especially great trick for tender basil as it helps to prevent the herb from turning black. Basil is extra sensitive, and when you slice through the front, bright green side of the leaf, it bruises. An easy trick to avoid this is to slice basil from the back of the leaf–but why not aim to really impress, and try the chiffonade technique?

Step 1: Take 5-6 fresh basil leaves, and layer them on top of one another from largest to smallest, bright green (front) side up.

Step 2: Roll the basil leaves from the bottom up towards the tip of the leaf.

Step 3: Slice the rolled basil into shreds.Step 4: Tousle lightly with your fingers and you’ve got beautiful basil ribbons.

Red Quiona with Drunk Mushrooms and Roasted Tomatoes (Oh My!)

Quinoa… say it with me… ‘Keen-wah’, is all over the place these days. Traditionally, quinoa has been harvested for thousands of years as a staple crop in South America. It’s technically not a grain at all, but actually a seed from the Goosefoot (Chenopodium) Plant. Bonus: this little seed is jam packed with nutrition– Vitamins E & B, essential amino acids, with punches of fiber and protein! Bonus #2: It’s Gluten Free!

With that little history lesson behind us, let’s talk recipes shall we? Quinoa is quite versatile, and makes for a yummy variation for whatever carb, grain or rice dish you are sick of making. It has a lovely nutty and earthy flavor and is simple & quick to prepare (like rice, but much faster!) and lends itself to any flavor profile you want to throw at it. Here, I’m using a fresh, Italian-fusion style, which could be served as an entree rather than just a side. Experiment away!

Ingredients (serves 6):
2 c. Red Quinoa
4 c. water
2 Tbs. Olive Oil
1 medium onion, diced (separate into 2 equal portions)
1/3  c. of your favorite sharp cheese, shredded
8-10 large Crimini mushrooms, cleaned and large chopped
1 1/2 c. Dry White Wine
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced and roasted (full recipe here!)
6-7 leaves fresh basil, torn or chiffonade Salt & Pepper

First, prepare the Quinoa.

1. Heat 1 tbs olive oil in a 1 1/4 quart sauce pan. Add 1/2 of the diced onion, and sweat until transparent.

2. Add quinoa, and toast lightly until all grains are coated in the olive oil and onion mixture (this will bring out the red in the seeds a bit).

3. Add 4 c. water, and give a good stir. Bring to a rolling boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook quinoa until all water has been absorbed (approx 15-20 min). Season with 1-2 tsp. salt, depending on your taste preference.

4. For an extra flavor boost, grate in 1/3 c. of your favorite sharp cheese. I used a blend of sharp white cheddar and Pecorino cheeses.

Meanwhile:  Roast the tomato slices, sprinkled with coarse salt, on a baking sheet coated with pan spray — 425 degrees for 20 minutes. For more detailed recipe, look here.

While the quinoa is cooking, it’s time to get those mushrooms nice and drunk (and unbelievably flavorful)!

1.  Add 1 Tbs. of olive to a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions, and sweat until translucent.

2.  Add mushrooms and stir to coat thoroughly. Season with a pinch of salt and sauté mushrooms with onions for about 1-2 minutes.

3.  Add the wine and simmer until the liquid is almost fully reduced. Remove from heat.

To serve, scoop desired portions of quinoa onto plates, and top with the roasted tomatoes, drunk mushrooms, fresh basil and finish with a sprinkle of cheese.

White Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

Let’s be honest, one can really never get sick of homemade cookies. Hence, I’m always on a quest for any variation on my favorite family recipe. As I can’t claim ‘pastry chef’ on my resume, I like to stick to some basic, tried and true methods, and add my own variations. Enter: White Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies. A result of an impulse craving, these cookies won rave reviews.

I’ve adapted this recipe from my grandmother’s chocolate chip cookie recipe. I substituted half of the flour with whole wheat flour, changed out the ‘fun’ ingredients, and Voila! gourmet treats were born.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

Gather:

2/3 c. softened butter

1/2 c. granulated sugar

1/2 c. brown sugar

Cream these ingredients together, and then add:

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix together thoroughly.

Sift the following dry ingredients together:

3/4 c. white flour

3/4 c. whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

Blend dry mixture into creamed ingredients. Then add:

1/2 c. oats

1/2 c. dried cranberries

8 oz. white chocolate chips (a package is usually around 12 oz, if your sweet tooth is extra sweet, add the whole pack)

Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Parisian Dreams

Meringue Windows

Paris, the City of Lights, or as I like to think of it, the ‘City where Foodie Dreams Come True’.  My weekend adventure was jam packed with the usual sightseeing spots, but highlighted by the delicious snacks and meals in between. Back stateside (loaded with herbs and chocolate), I am inspired to find my inner Julia and get to work on my soufflé technique.

Sali-vation

Paul Bakery & Patisserie, 84 Ave Champs Elysees, 75008 Paris, France                            Boy, were we repeat customers here! This place has best baguette sandwiches I’ve ever tasted accompanied by flakey pastries and luscious, melt-in-your-mouth jumbo macaroons.

French Cappucino and Croque Madame

En Route to The Louvre, we stopped into Cafes Richard, 10 Rue la Fayette  75009 Paris, France.  This little cafe was a lunch spot packed with locals. Traditional yet simple Croque Madame served with a Mesclun salad and the usual French dijon vinaigrette made for a yummy pick-me-up during a frigid trek to the Louvre. A delightful surprise came in the form of a frothy French cappuccino topped with cocoa powder and served in a tall glass.

Spinach and Goat Cheese Souffle

Le Souffle 36 Rue du Mont Thabor  75001 Paris, France                                                         We stumbled upon this specialty restaurant on an evening walk through the Vendome neighborhood. Here you will find authentic French cuisine, without tourist traps. We even were asked by a table of locals how we happened to find ourselves dining there. I’m happy to share the secret; the souffle experience is that fantastic.

Souflee School

La Cuisine Paris, 80 Quai de l’Hôtel de Ville, 75004, Paris, France                   Continuing my affinity for Souffle, I took a cooking class to learn to perfect the delicate art. La Cuisine is a cooking school located in the Hotel de Ville area that offers foodie walks, market tours, cooking and pastry classes. Bonus: they are one of the only places in town offering all courses in English as well as French.

Shopper’s Delight, Lafyette Gourmet

Lafayette Gourmet, 48 Boulevard Haussmann, 75009 Paris, France                         Located in the famed Galeries Lafayette, this is the go-to for specialty French ingredients and foodie souvenirs. As per usual with my love of international markets, I strolled the aisles and sections for quite some time. From local produce, to flavorful foie gras and endless variety of chocolate, this one stop shop really has it all- even a spice market of mix and match options packed in glass tubes for stylish storage.

Laduree’s Parisian Macarons

Ladurée– This famous tea and macaron shop is a must see during any trip to Paris. The vision of the colorful cookies alone are worth the trip. Laduree lays claim to creating the first Parisian Macaron, and each delicate cookie is carefully constructed by expert pastry chefs, and set aside to achieve flavor perfection for 2 days before being placed in the display case for sale.  If you miss out on stopping into any of their beautiful city locations, you will find a boutique version of the shop in Terminal 2 of Charles De Gaulle Airport.

Onion Soup, Sauvignon, Shaved Duck Breast and Foie Gras Salad