Salmon and Leek Quiche

Picard is a French chain store, the concept of which finds no equivalent in the US: it only sells frozen foods.

This may not sound very appealing to the foodiest foodies among you, but their products are surprisingly high-quality, much like I remember the frozen section at Trader Joe’s, in which I loved to wander till my fingers grew numb.

Their selection is wide: from simply cut-up vegetables or fruit, and uncooked meat or fish, to more sophisticated appetizers, main dishes, sides, and “ethnic” meals, plus ice cream, desserts, and breads. You could live off of their products alone — and many do — but I like to simply stock up on convenient staples that reduce the prep time for weeknight dinners.

Salmon and leek quiche is one of my favorite quiche recipes, one I find myself suddenly craving every now and then. And so, on Friday night, I was delighted to have everything on hand to make one, in which both the salmon and the leek were courtesy of Picard.

Salmon and leek are, in my humble opinion, a marriage made in heaven. They both offer wonderfully subtle and sweet tastes, best brought out by a salad dressed with a sharp and tangy vinaigrette.

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Layers in a Glass

Layered Dessert

This is one of my favorite recipes when I want to make a light individual dessert that’s quick to make, yet looks nice and sophisticated. I served it the other night to end our duck confit meal, after which “light and refreshing” was definitely the way to go. This recipe lends itself to an endless number of variations, but I’ll tell you what I used this time as an example.

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The Paradoxical Duck Confit

The Paradoxical Duck Confit

Thursday night, on a whim, we asked our neighbors Stéphan et Patricia over for dinner, and I prepared the kind of dish that epitomizes the French paradox * : duck confit.

Back in July, Maxence and I spent a lovely extended week-end in the South-West of France, visiting his grandparents in Gourdon and driving around the incredibly beautiful countryside. On our last day, as is becoming the tradition, we indulged in a shopping spree at the Canard du Midi store. We joyously filled our shopping basket with foie gras, magret de canard (roasted duck breast), canned cassoulet (a typical regional dish that involves white kidney beans and various meats in goose fat), a black truffle in its jewellery-like box, canned gésiers de canard (duck gizzards), ostrich (!) and boar terrines, canned confit de canard (duck confit), confiture d’oignon (onion jam), and noisillons (chocolate-covered walnuts). This was stashed away in our luggage, keeping company to the other marvels purchased at the marché : dried cèpes (porcinis), an assortment of duck, boar, hazelnut and pork saucissons (dry sausages), a scrumptious walnut cake, and a rather unreasonable number of Rocamadours, these succulent individual little goat cheeses – which we redistributed to gleeful family and friends upon our return.

* What is referred to as “the French paradox” is the seeming contradiction between the rich foods we typically consume in France and the comparatively low incidence of heart disease. Jeffrey Steingarten (brilliant author of “The man who ate everything”) was among the first to identify it. The expression, in its implication that this is the only paradox the French have, amuses me to no end…

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Luscious Persimmons

Persimmon

Persimmons are still a newly discovered continent to me. I experienced my first persimmon about two years ago, in California. Sofya, a coworker of mine from Russia (St-Petersburg to be precise), had a tree laden with them in her garden, so she brought some to work for sharing. I loved that about my workplace, there was always something in the kitchen that someone had brought in – especially at Halloween and Christmas time, when everybody was trying desperately to get the darn chocolate out of the house, only to find there was even more in the office. Once, I even brought home a beautiful butternut squash that somebody had abandonned on the table with an “adopt me” note stuck to it. What can I say, I’m tender-hearted.

Anyway, back to our persimmons. I had never seen anything of the kind, and I was intrigued to say the least. She gave me two, richly orange, plump and heavy, adorned with perfectly shaped four-leaved stems. They were still pretty firm, and Sofya warned me fiercely against trying one right away, unless I wanted to discover the true meaning of astringent and puckery. Those two lovely words, but not so lovely feelings, are the persimmon’s natural weapons to discourage anyone from eating it before its seeds are mature, and ready for digestion and [hum] dispersal. It works. Sofya instructed me to leave them out to ripen for a while, stem down. So for a few weeks, my two increasingly pumpkin colored little buddies would greet me from their cubicle shelf. From time to time, when Sofya came around to chat, she would feel the fruits, wrinkle her nose, shake her head and say with her lovely accent : “Better wait a little longer“.

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Triple Sesame Snow Pea Salad

Pois Gourmands

[Triple Sesame Snow Pea Salad]

In French, snow peas (or sugar snap peas, apparently the difference is that snow peas are a lighter green) are called Pois Gourmands (Gourmand Peas) or Haricots Mangetout (Eat-Everything Beans). The reason for that, I just found out, is that unlike regular peas, you eat the pod as well, so you “eat everything”. And eating everything makes you a qualified gourmand, hence the alternate name. Cute, huh?

I love the sweet taste and the mix of softness and crunch these peas provide, and I think they lend themselves particularly well to Asian-style salads. Maxence and I have experimented over time with different sets of ingredients for the dressing, but I came up with the following on Monday night, which I liked very much. I will call it Triple Sesame Snow Pea Salad, as it involves sesame in three forms : sesame seeds, sesame oil and sesame butter.

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