We’re having a Pepper Party, and you’re invited! A few of my blogger friends and I have teamed up with Divemex this week to celebrate all things bell pepper (and give away some amazing prizes). Bell peppers are one of my favorite items on a vegetable platter, but I rarely think to plan a meal around them so I was excited to have an excuse to think up some fun new recipes.
Duck has a little bit of a bad reputation. People think it’s fatty, greasy, and finicky to cook. With a little know-how and understanding of the cooking process though, it’s a great protein choice with tons of flavor. And – according to the self nutrition database – it only has about 2 calories more per ounce than chicken!
This recipe is adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks, The French Market: More Recipes from My French Kitchen. I picked the book up randomly one summer in a local bookshop, and it quickly became one of my favorites. The recipes are filled with fresh ingredients inspired by the French countryside.
Garbure is a ridiculous soup with an even more ridiculous name. It’s also one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten. With a half pound of proscuitto (and a smidge of bacon fat for good measure), how could it not be? Don’t worry though, in addition to all that porky goodness there’s enough healthy stuff to land this soup solidly in the “good choices” category of eating. Which is a good thing, considering if you’re anything like me you’ll be licking your bowl clean.
Proscuitto makes a great quick stock with subtle floral notes and reminds me of spring even as we dig ourselves out from under what must be the 50th snowstorm this winter, while a potato and some white beans cook down and let off so much creamy starch that its hard to believe that there’s no milk or cream in the recipe. Topped with blue cheese crumbles that take the flavor of this soup through the roof, this dish is rich, comforting, and filling.
I usually get tired of soup before I can finish all of the leftovers, but I ate every last drop of this and still wanted more. It’s a good thing it’s cheap an easy to make!
I don’t know how I managed to make it through 20-some years of life without trying cassoulet, but I have a feeling I’ll eat enough this fall and winter to make up for it. I made the one pictured here about two weeks ago, and I’ve been dying to have it again ever since. I actually have another one in the oven as I write this post.
Don’t let the fancy French name scare you off. When it comes down to it, cassoulet is nothing more than a white bean and tomato stew. A fragrant sauce flavored with fresh herbs cooks quickly on the stove before being mixed with the rest of the ingredients and baking in the oven. It’s pure stick-to-your-ribs comfort food full of rich and delicious flavors typical of the French countryside.
This dish takes a little longer to make than most of my recipes, requiring about 20 minutes of active time and an hour or so in the oven, but with a little planning it can definitely be made on a weeknight. Go ahead and make a big batch — it tastes even better the next day.
Traditional cassoulet uses duck or goose confit, but since that can be difficult to find (not to mention expensive!) I’ve taken the liberty of using turkey instead. I like the flavor that using some poultry gives the cassoulet, but you can leave it out and use only sausage just as easily.
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Yesterday – August 8 – was “National Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbors Porch Day.” It sounds like a joke, but think about it. If you have a garden (or know someone who has a garden) chances are you’ve been up to your ears in zucchini and summer squash for a few weeks already. You might be sick of them. And looking for an excuse to sneak some on an innocent neighbor under cover of night. But this gratin might just rekindle your love of the ubiquitous summertime vegetable.
As delicious as my tea-smoked salmon with lavender and honey glaze was (Have you seen it yet? Entered to win some tea?), this gratin held its own. Served together, dinner was an event. I half expected fireworks to go off as I finished my plate. The squash bakes in their own juices until they are soft and delicate. The tomatoes begin to dry from the heat of the oven, leaving them sweet and intensely flavored. The sharp Parmesan and crisp breadcrumbs lend classic comfort. And then, there’s the unexpected. Instead of using italian seasonings, you take a little detour through the south of France thanks to fresh thyme and herbs de Provence (a mixture of savory, fennel, basil, thyme, and lavender).
Sure you may be reluctant to turn your oven on in the height of August. Wait for a rainy day if you must. But I wouldn’t wait. Really, it’s already so hot that having the oven on doesn’t seen to make it any worse. And even if it does, it’s totally worth it.