Supernova French Salads

The next few recipes from At Home with the French Classics are variations of Endive salads. So I’ve decided to just group them all together, but I will not be preparing them all at once. I’m in no mood for an endive buffet, sorry guys.

Pink Grapefruit and Endive Salad

The first variation listed is an Endive and Pink Grapefruit Salad aka Salade d’Endives et de Pamplemousse Rose.

Pamplemousse is a word I find extremely enjoyable right now. I feel like going around all day saying pamplemousse to people. Maybe in the process I’ll make a French friend. Un ami français, if you will. 

These salads are easy to make by the way. The best part about them is that they can become your own personal art project. I’m a Picasso type artist myself, but basically you arrange endive salads in a circle creating  a flower like effect.

For the grapefruit one, you put chunks of grapefruit in the middle.

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It’s abstract, deal with it.

I’m clearly an artisanal food genius here folks. This is some pure food Cubism that Picasso would be impressed by.

Enough about me, though, let us move on to the logistics.

What you’ll need for this recipe is 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar, 2 pinches of salt, 2 pinches of pepper, 1/2 cup of light vegetable oil, 3 Belgian endives, and one large pink grapefruit.

The first step in making this salad is to mix the vinaigrette. This consists of the vinegar, salt, pepper, and oil. Add the oil to the mix last to guarantee a balanced mix.

The next step is to peel off the leaves of your endives until you almost get to the core of the vegetable. In other words, you want fairly large leaves to place the grapefruit inside.

Speaking of the grapefruit, this cookbook has useful instructions on how to peel and cut it. That tip is to first cut off the ends and then do the apple trick only with a twist. What I mean by the apple trick is the old fashioned technique of peeling an apple where you take a knife and slowly peel in a diagonal formation. You will do the same with the grapefruit, but add a sawing motion as well. This is important, because grapefruit skin is stockier than apple skin. You’ve got to saw that baby off like Buffalo Bill would.

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Grapefruit doesn’t require lotion Bill!

I actually don’t know if Buffalo Bill sawed skin off, I shouldn’t make such claims. I just thought it would be funny. Sorry Bill!

Once you have the grapefruit peeled, you cut in half and then section it off based on it’s natural divisions. Meaning, tear apart at the seams already naturally placed by the fruit.

You will now be ready to serve. To do so, reference the picture above, (the grapefruit, not Bill) and then sprinkle it with your vinaigrette. That’s all there is to it.

My cookbook says that somehow these two bitter fruits are able to cancel out their bitterness by hanging out together. Almost like if you multiply two negative numbers, you get a positive.

Despite these mathematics, I still thought it was a little bitter. I’m kind of a bitter person at times, though, so maybe my bitterness cancelled out the mathematical taste rule. I’d consult a mathematician to be sure.

Watercress and Endive Salad

The second Endive salad variation includes watercress. The French call it Salade d’Endives et de Cresson.

The watercress version of this endive salad is best enjoyed in the winter. Not because it warms your heart or anything, but because that’s when most vegetables are in mercury retrograde. Watercress and endives are immune to the toils of mercury.

What you’ll need

  • 3 Belgian Endives, separated into leaves
  • 1 bunch of watercress, stems removed
  • 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • 2 pinches of pepper
  • 1/2 cup of light vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard

The process of making this variation is almost the same as the grapefruit. You will prepare the vinaigrette the same way, except for the addition of Dijon.

This time around I used grapeseed oil instead of vegetable. Grapeseed oil is a healthy alternative and it seemed to enhance the taste. If the healthy alternative is good, you might as well use it.

The placement of the salad is also similar to the grapefruit variation. You peel the first few endive leaves to use to create a star shape. In this variation, instead of the watercress being place on top of the leaves, you just place it in the middle with the leaves jetting out.

You can also slice and dice your endive and mix it with the watercress. I did both. Taste wise, I prefer slicing and dicing. It’s easier to eat and you can use the whole endive. Aesthetically, the star method is cute and it is fun. You can’t discredit that.

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Watercress Star

I liked this variation better than the grapefruit. I thought it was tasty, light, and fresh. I felt like a tall gazelle while eating it. Thankfully I’m not a gazelle, because then I’d probably get eaten by a lion or something.

Endive and Walnut

Our third installment is more of the chopped salad variety and includes walnuts.

It includes the same ingredients as far as the dressing goes, but if you’re feeling extra nutty the cookbook does recommend substituting the vegetable oil with walnut oil. For those of you on a budget, this is a little expensive in comparison to vegetable oil. If you’re going to shell out the cash for it, I recommend finding other recipes that call for it.

What you’ll need

  • 3 Belgian Endives, leaves separated and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 30 walnut halves
  • 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • 2 pinches of pepper
  • 1/2 cup of light vegetable oil (optional to substitute two tablespoons of this with walnut oil)

Making this salad is pretty straight forward. There aren’t many steps in making this. You cut the endive, slice the walnuts into halves, add the dressing and then toss all together. Making the dressing consists of the remaining ingredients whisked together.

Extremely simple.

So far, this is my favorite endive salad. It was crisp, light, and crunchy. The cookbook says it’s usually served in winter as a side dish with some hearty meat, but I think it’d be great as a soup/salad combo myself.

I like that this one is chopped too. As pretty as the supernova endive leaves are, they just aren’t as satisfying in terms of texture and taste.

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Salad d’Endives aux Noix

So that concludes number three of the Supernova French Salads. We only have one more to go! Stay tuned!

Crème de Maïs, French for Cream of Corn Soup

I was skeptical about this recipe. Despite the fact that I was born and raised in Indiana, I’m not really a corn lover. I know, it’s blasphemous of me. On second thought, maybe I just don’t like raw corn, because I do love popcorn and cornbread. These are deep-rooted issues I must explore. Am I denying my heritage by refusing corn? Do I only care for corn that mixes with other ingredients or learns to puff themselves up out of a kernel? Who knew I could make food into a metaphor about my life?

Anyway, this recipe comes from At Home with the French Classics, but it’s not authentic for those who care about that sort of thing. The author fully admits it’s more of a French-American classic, because he uses milk instead of Béchamel sauce. He seems to feel it doesn’t take away from the taste though. The major differences are more aesthetic.

What you’ll need to make this is, 5 tablespoons of butter, 1 diced onion, 2 diced carrots, 1 diced celery stalk, 1/3 cup of all-purpose flour, 4 cups of water, 4 cups of milk, and about 4 cups of fresh corn.

The first step is to heat your butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, add the vegetables and gently saute for 2-3 minutes. Then add the flour and stir once in awhile for about 4 minutes.

Once everything is cooked, but not browned, you will add the water, milk, and corn. Bring this to a boil and then simmer for about 10 minutes. Again, be sure to stir it once in awhile. Occasional stirring is extremely important in all kinds of cooking, but especially soups it seems.

After your 10 minutes are up, feel free to season with salt and pepper and simmer under medium-low heat for 40 minutes. Check it for foam periodically and skim the foam when you see it until your 40 minutes are up.

The final result should be a light and creamy texture. If it’s not though, there are solutions. If it’s too thick, add water and if it’s too thin, just boil it some more.

I was pleased with my final result, but I didn’t have high expectations as I mentioned earlier. It’s not something I would love to have again, but it wasn’t bad either. If you or someone you love, loves corn though, by all means try this recipe out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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The crème de la crème of corn soup

A is for Aphrodisiac Asparagus Soup

Did you know that asparagus is an aphrodisiac? I find this surprising. I mean it is most certainly healthy. It cleanses your urinary tract and kidneys and provides you with energy. Energy is always helpful for vigorous sexy times. What I can’t get over (this falls under the category of  TMI, but I know I’m not the only one) is it makes my urine smell real funky. I don’t know how others feel, but for me that’s not conducive to feeling sexy. When I eat asparagus, I feel just about as sexy as Old Gregg from The Mighty Boosh.

This is how I feel when I eat asparagus.

Apparently the French are big believers in the sexual prowess that is bestowed upon them when eating asparagus. It is tradition to eat asparagus for every meal the day before your wedding night. So naturally, the cookbook At Home with the French Classics has a Cream of Asparagus Soup. Notice, how those Frenchies take it even further with the cream reference? Those dirty little cheese lovers.

To make this soup you will need, 2 tablespoons of butter, 3 pounds of asparagus, salt, pepper, 6 cups of chicken stock, 2 1/2 tablespoons of either arrowroot, potato starch, or cornstarch dissolved in 2 1/2 tablespoons of cold water, and 1/4 cup of heavy cream.

The fist step is to heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted you will add your asparagus, which should be cut into inch lengths without the stems. Saute the asparagus for about five minutes or until they are a bright green. Feel free to season them with salt and pepper as well.

Once the asparagus is cooked, you add the stock and bring it to a boil. While its boiling some foam will rise up. The cookbook calls this impurities that you will need to skim off and remove I’m not sure if that’s a sexual reference or if it’s symbolic of virginal wedding nights. Someone probably knows, but I do not.

You will boil the asparagus in the stock for about 5 minutes. The cookbook also mentions you can keep the asparagus tips for garnish. I do recommend this if you are planning on seduction because the tips of asparagus are pretty phallic. In fact, I say you should just make a giant phallic sculpture of them as a table centerpiece.

Whether you decide to do that or not, the next step is blend the asparagus and stock. I used my excruciating method of transferring the soup back and forth between the blender and two pots. If you’ve got the money, I recommend buying an immersion blender. Whenever I make soups like this I fantasize about those things.

Once everything is blended, you’ll want to simmer your soup and whisk in the starch. I just used cornstarch because I had some from a previous recipe. Once that’s nice and whisked, you add your cream.

The final result is an extremely sexy soup that will make your pee smell funky, but will also get you all ready to funk. If you know what I mean.

Creamy, sexy, goodness

Creamy, sexy, goodness

A Soup Made of Peas with Split Personalities

So here is another food item with a name I’m curious about. Split peas. I was hoping split peas had split personalities and that the different colors are codes of what triggered their episodes. Like green is triggered by jealousy, yellow by anxiety or stress, and red by anger. Unfortunately, the name for split peas is very logical and almost self-explanatory. Split peas are peas that have been cut in half and dried. So boring, right?

This “Split Pea Soup” or “Potage de Pois Cassés” recipe comes from At Home with the French Classics. The author of this book describes the traditional version of this recipe as being arduous. The modern way is also arduous and a little kooky. It’s arduous because of the final steps and it’s kooky because it requires Bouquet Garni as well as a studded onion. I’m a novice cook, so I had never heard or dealt with Bouquet Garni or studded onions. Bouquet Garni is a method of cooking that I can best describe as being similar to making loose leaf tea. In fact I used my tea strainer for my Bouquet Garni. This particular bouquet consists of parsley, thyme, and a bay leaf. Why it reminds me of making loose leaf tea is because you have to either tie it up in a cucumber or wrap it a cheesecloth. This is so you sift it out later, but still get the flavoring.

Studded onions are also meant for this purpose and they are what they sound like. You take a whole onion, stick cloves in it, and drop it in your soup. I really wanted to stick cloves all over the onion and make an onion pinhead from Hellraiser, but the recipe called for only one studded clove, sadly.

Besides those two things, you also put in a large soup pot, green split peas, a leek, a carrot cut in half, a stalk of celery, 1/4 of ham, salt, pepper, and water. It looks a little crazy when you do this too. I couldn’t help but feel a bit overwhelmed and fascinated at the same time.

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Seriously, what is this?

Once you cram all of those things in your pot, you bring it to a boil and then simmer for about an hour or until the peas are tender.

Once the peas are cooked, you take out practically everything and throw most of it away. You set aside the ham, but you say goodbye to your pinhead onion, your cucumber, and your bouquet garni.

Once you’ve accomplished that, you puree your soup until everything is blended. Then you dice your ham, put it in the soup, and add a splash of sherry.

My soup turned out too thick, but this can be remedied by adding water or milk. I forgot about this though and ended up eating it thick. It was good, but because of this, it felt like I was eating green mashed potatoes.

All in all, I didn’t like this enough to make again. Mainly because it is arduous to make.

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Green with envy pea soup that thinks it’s mashed potatoes.

At Home with Leeks

My next recipe is a soup from the cookbook At Home with the French Classics. Most cookbooks begin with appetizers or soups. This cookbook is a soup starter. This makes for a nice break since my last few recipes have been appetizers. I’ve already made two variations of French Onion Soup from this cookbook. Both of which were amazing, so I’m already enjoying this cookbook immensely.

The soup I made this time around is called Potage Au Cresson or Watercress Soup for those who don’t know French. It’s been so long that I took French that I forgot that potage meant soup. I thought for a second it meant potato for hopefully obvious reasons. In my defense a lot of the romance languages have words that are only slightly different from their English counterparts. In Italian, soup is Zuppa, which I think is a cooler word for soup. It makes every soup sound zesty and fun. Potage sounds like you just threw random stuff in a pot. No offense to French people and if any French people feel bitter about it, there are a lot of French words English speakers just found way too awesome to alter. No one can be perfect at every little thing, so just chill out about it.

Funny enough, this soup is traditionally made with potatoes but the author of this book has made a healthier substitute by replacing the potato with zucchini. I admittedly would have probably liked it better with the potatoes. I’m a lover of starch and cheese after all. The other major ingredient of this soup is leeks. In fact I feel like it has more leeks than watercress to the point where I’m not sure why it isn’t called Leek Soup instead.

Moving on, the first step to this recipe is sauteing the leeks in butter. Once they have softened a bit you add and saute zucchini until brown. Then you pour in some vegetable stock and let that boil. Once it’s boiled you add watercress. Cook that for a bit and then pour it in a food processor. Once everything is chopped up nicely you warm it back up, pour a serving in a bowl and add a bit of cream, salt, and pepper.

The final result is a tasty, healthy soup that is fairly easy to make.

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A healthy soup that can also be an artistic endeavor if you pour the cream in right.