Herb and nasturtium biscuits à la Julia Child

Herb and nasturtium biscuits à la Julia Child

Cooking with flowers – this is one of my 2013 New Year’s resolutions, so I couldn’t resist sneaking nasturtium petals into Julia Child’s herb biscuits this morning. Her classic recipe produces light, flaky biscuits, and the addition lemon pepper and spicy nasturtium petals add extra zing. Lovely at brunch with scrambled egg or at dinner with curried celery root soup. Click through for the recipe.

Meatless Monday: Potato leek soup with a twist

Meatless Monday: Potato leek soup with a twist

Fennel and artichoke hearts add an earthy twist to Julia Child’s excellent potato leek soup – a quick entree I learned to make forever ago from her Mastering the Art of French Cooking. In addition to 2 large chopped leeks – white part only –  and 2 pounds peeled and chopped russet potatoes, just add 1 large chopped fennel bulb and 1 can water-packed artichoke hearts to your pot. I discard the feathery fennel tops and thinly slice the bulbs. Use these often in your soups – they hold up nicely in a stew, puree well, and add a hind of licorice along with a boost of fiber and potassium to your meals. The rest of a proverbial piece of cake. Just barely cover with water, add a pinch of paprika and lots and lots of freshly ground lemon pepper. Simmer until it’s all tender, about 30 – 40 minutes. It will look like this: Use a hand blender to puree, and you end up with a nice thick warming entree. Add butter and salt at your pleasure and discretion. Serve in warm bowls with a fresh baguette and warm radishes. Go crazy and top with a bit of sour cream and crispy prosciutto if you like....

From French Chef to Fat Chef in fifty years

Fifty years ago Julia Child celebrated butter and cream, teaching us how to craft soufflés and beef Wellington on The French Chef. When her show was originally on the air, the average weight of an adult woman then was 140 pounds. In 1997 the International Federation of Competitive Eating was founded, and a few years later Man v. Food showed us how you can make a living by traveling and allowing yourself to be filmed stuffing as much food into your body in one sitting literally as humanly possible. Now the Food Network takes Fat Chefs and teaches them how to not eat quite so much and how to work off the calories. Today the average weight of an adult woman today is 164 pounds. There is, I think, connection here. Frank Bruni has been writing some thoughtful essays recently about how we are most likely genetically programmed toward weight gain, pointing out that the way in which we’ve become experts at processing food crops has led to the creation of a tremendous array of irresistibly salty, sweet, tasty, calorie-dense, and cheap things to grab and munch on at will. (Read the piece – he’s got some excellent points – then read the comments, which are also quite insightful.) This is Michael Pollan’s big point in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, showing how we take the million of acres of corn we grow and not just feeding it to the animals we eat, but reformulating it into almost a dozen more components of processed foods: For modified or unmodified starch, for crystalling fructose and ascorbic acid, for lecithin and dextrose, lactic acid and lysine, for maltose and...
Umami artichoke soup recipe

Umami artichoke soup recipe

Somewhere along the line I picked up an excellent cookbook called Soups of Italy: Cooking over 130 Soups the Italian Way by Norma Wasserman-Miller. Her short history of Italian soup in the first chapter is really interesting; she writes that zuppa, the Italian word for soup, derives from the Gothic word suppa, defined as “a slice of bread, soaking.” I did have to look this up: it was by the end of the third century that the Goths and Romans crossed paths via Gothic incursion. I imagine Gothic warriors gathered around a fire, soaking up the juices from some spit-roasted wild game with big hunks of rye bread – did they share with the Romans after battle? Did the Romans eye their meal hungrily? Did the Goths share? Either way, it’s an interesting example of cultural exchange during warfare. Soups of Italy is also more than just a collection of recipes; she teaches the language and techniques of soup-making, breaking the process down into its basic components. Battuto is the aromatic starter, such as garlic or onion. Sapori are the main ingredients, the vegetables or meat. Brodo is the liquid component, and condimenti – pasta and grated cheese – finish a soup. It’s possible to improvise an entire symphony of soups once you know the basic construction. Not just with Italian flavors; I’ve been able to create nice Chinese and Mexican inspired soups by transposing the basic components to a different geographic key. But I promised you artichokes. Wasserman-Miller’s recipe for Artichoke and Pasta soup, Minestra de Carciofi e Pasta, was the first one I tried. The tomato-artichoke flavor combination is irresistible ....