Monthly Archives: February 2014

Almond Crusted Cod with Arugula Basil Coulis

almond crusted cod 2

In Avignon, France, in heart of Provence, there’s an incredible 14th century cardinal’s mansion-turned-hotel, La Mirande, where on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, when the Michelin-starred formal dining room is closed ,hosts a ‘table d’hôte’ in their 19th century kitchen.  Here, Chef Jean-Claude Altmayer hosts up to 14 guests around the huge wooden table, where at one end of which he prepares the meal, making use of the old, wood-fired stove. The fixed menu, made using local produce, is chosen according to the daily market and the chef’s own inspiration.

I had the pleasure of this unique and incredible dining experience in the spring of 2012.  The table was garnished with baskets of fresh vegetables and French bread. As each of the 4 courses was served, the chef talked about the ingredients and the techniques used for the dish.  It’s a wonderful experience for anyone who loves to cook or just eat.  One of the courses that evening was a roasted monkfish with a spinach basil coulis. It was fresh, delicious and quite simple… and the inspiration for my dish.

almond cod before cooked

I substitute cod for the monkfish and I believe halibut would work just as well.  I use arugula instead of spinach and add a hint of garlic to add an extra bite to the sauce, which makes for a more tasty complement to the cod.  The grapefruit juice provides the right amount of acid to balance the sweet basil and the fish.  To add more depth to the fish, I coat the fish with toasted crushed almonds.  This is an easy dish to make and provides a pop full of flavor and texture with each bite.

To crush the almonds, I use a meat pounder and a plastic bag. Then toast them for a couple minutes, making sure the almond pieces do not burn.  Then mound them onto the fish that has been salted, peppered and drizzled with olive oil.  The key here is to push down on the almonds so they press into the fish.

Roast the fish for about 12 minutes and serve with coulis dressed on the plate and maybe some extra on the side.

Almond Crusted Cod with Arugula Basil Coulis 

2, 6 oz pieces cod

1/4 cup almonds, chopped into small pieces

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper

Arugula Basil Coulis

Toast almonds few minutes but make sure they do not burn.  Salt and pepper the fish, top with olive oil, then put toasted crushed almond onto fish, pushing down into the fish.  Pre heat oven 400° and bake for 13 minutes.   Serve with a few drops or more of Arugula Basil Coulis.

Serves 2. 




Arugula Basil Coulis

basil arugula grap2This is a version of a spinach basil coulis that I had in Provence at the La Mirande hotel during a ‘table d’hôte’ in their 19th century kitchen where up to 14 guests are invited to for an exquisite chef’s table dining experience. Before serving each course, chef Jean-Claude Altmayer, talked about the ingredients but not the measurements.  So in making my version, I came up with measurements and changed a few ingredients.  I substituted arugula for the spinach and added garlic for an extra bite. You can serve it in a bowl with a spoon or as a plate garnish using squeeze bottles, which is how I prefer to serve it.

arugula basil coulis

It goes really well with fish, especially the almond crusted cod recipe, and as an added flavoring agent to white asparagus soup, or other puréed vegetable soups.  To make the coulis, add all ingredients to a food processor and process until smooth.  It should be fine enough to dispense out if a squeeze bottle.  You can keep it in the refrigerator for about a week. A few drops of this coulis goes a very long way; this recipe makes about a half which is good for about 4-6 servings of fish.

Arugula Basil Coulis

½ cup Arugula leaves’

½ cup Basil leaves

¼ cup of grapefruit juice

1 clove of garlic

2 tablespoons of olive oil (I use extra virgin)

Put all ingredients into a food processor and process until smooth.

Makes a half a cup. 


White Asparagus Soup

white asparagus soup

Asparagus is probably one of the most liked vegetables.  The stalks are sweet and nutty and great steamed or roasted.  Folklore has it that this vegetable is an aphrodisiac, as it was included in the 15th century Arabic sexual manual, The Perfumed Garden. So in honor of Valentines Day and for all the romantics out there, here’s a recipe for you.

Typically, asparagus are a spring vegetable.  But these days you can get fresh asparagus all year long.  I use white asparagus for this recipe, as they are a bit sweeter and the contrast with the accompanying arugula basil coulis makes for a nice presentation, but you can easily substitute green asparagus.  This recipe is good hot as well as chilled.

white asparagus 1The creaminess of this soup comes not from cream, but from a small white new potato (about 1/3 lb in size).  Pureeing the soup in a blender or food processor then putting it through a food mill makes for a really creamy, silky texture that lets the delicate asparagus flavor really come through.  It makes for an elegant and even romantic first course.

white asparagus soup food mill


White Asparagus Soup

1 lb white asparagus

3 ½ cups low sodium chicken broth

½ cup sliced leeks (about half of a stalk of 1 leek)

1 large clove of garlic thinly sliced

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ tablespoon butter

½ tablespoons olive oil

1 new potato about 1/3 lb or 5oz in weight, peeled and diced

Pinch or two of nutmeg

A few drops of Arugula Basil Coulis

Cut off tips and hard ends of asparagus and cut remaining asparagus pieces into half or thirds.  Add hard ends to stock and simmer covered for 20 minutes. Discard ends. Add tips and cook in simmered covered stock for 5 minutes.  Reserve tips.  Pour stock into a bowl and reserve.  Add butter and oil to pot and sauté leeks and garlic until soft.  Add stock, asparagus, potato, salt and nutmeg to pot. Cover and simmer 30 minutes.  Pour ingredients into a blender or food processor and process until smooth.  Pour puree through a food mill for a more silky consistency.  Add to pot to heat up if needed.

Serve with reserved asparagus tips and a few drops of Arugula Basil Coulis.

Serves 2.


Wine Braised Short Ribs: For 15% Naughty Living!

short ribs 3

It’s winter, its cold, and you have perhaps you‘ve been focused on your New Year’s resolutions and have been dieting and exercising non-stop. If that’s the case, it may just be time for a to make something naughty!  And what better way than with wine braised short ribs.  There is something very decadent about short ribs and when paired with a great big red wine, this meal could set the perfect romantic stage for celebrating Valentine’s Day.  To help lighten this meal up, serve it with cauliflower mash with chives… the cauliflower adds a nice lightness to the bite.

When I asked the butcher for the right amount of meat for a dinner for 2, he went heavy handed, saying that if you are going to the trouble of cooking the ribs, you should definitely have leftovers.  So he armed with a little less than 3 pounds of short ribs (with bone).  It’s more than enough for two.  In fact, this recipe works well for 4 pounds or 4 people, as long as the wine covers the meat in the pot.

ribs in pot

This recipe is pretty easy to make but you do need some time to cook the ribs so they are falling of the bone ­– and that they will do.  Try to trim as much fat off the rib as possible, without taking the meat off the bone before cooking.

To make this dish, I use a heavy Dutch oven. First salt and pepper the ribs the dip them in the Einkorn flour for a thin coating, then brown them in the pot on top of the stove, for a few minutes on both sides.  This helps add a nice consistency to the sauce. Once the ribs are browned then sauté the mirepoix (onion, carrots and celery) until they are soft. Then add the ribs back to the pot, with all the other ingredients.  Cover and place in a pre-heated oven at 350° about 2.5 hours.

When the ribs are done, remove the ribs and place them in another pot or a serving dish, if you are not plating the ribs, and strain the sauce over the ribs, and discard the solids.

ribs in strained pot

Wine Braised Short Ribs

About 2.5 lbs of short ribs

1/8 cup Einkorn flour

4 stalks celery diced

1 large onion diced

4 carrots diced

3 smashed garlic cloves

A bunch of thyme sprigs about an inch in thickness in depth

3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon Kosher salt plus salt and pepper to season the ribs

1 bottle red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon

To make this dish, you first salt and pepper the ribs and dip them in the Einkorn flour for a thin coating, then brown them in the pot for a few minutes on both sides.  Remove the ribs from the pot and add the mirepoix (onion, carrots and celery) and the garlic and sauté until the onions sweat and are a bit translucent.  Add the ribs back to the pot, then add the wine, thyme, bay leaves, salt and tomato paste.  Cover and place in 350° oven for 2.5 hours. When the ribs are done, they will be falling off the bone.  Move the ribs to a new pot or serving dish and strain the sauce on top.  Discard the solids.  Serve with cauliflower mash with chives.

Serves 2 with some leftover.

ribs finished

Cauliflower Mash with Chives

cauliflower puree with chives

This is a much lighter version of mashed potatoes, that combines a potato with the cauliflower for a more nutritious, lower carbohydrate side dish that is heart enough to absorb the juices for the wine braised short ribs.

Chicken (or vegetable) stock is used instead of lobs of cream and butter. The trick here is to not add too much stock as the consistency can get too runny.  I do recommend using 1 tablespoon of cream in addition to the stock to add to the consistency and a bit to the flavor.  This recipe does work very well without the cream but the little bit of cream adds a nice smooth touch. Chives and garlic are used as flavoring agents to balance out the cauliflower and potato.

cauliflower in cuisinart

Cauliflower Mash with Chives

1 medium russet potato, peeled and cut into small pieces

1 head cauliflower, cut into pieces

3 cloves garlic smashed

½ cup chicken or vegetable stock

10 chive sprigs

1 tablespoon heavy cream – optional

salt and pepper to taste

Add the potato to a pot with 1 quart of water and bring to a boil.  Cook 10 minutes, then add the cauliflower and cook for another 5-7 minutes, until both cauliflower and potato are cooked through.  Drain the pot of the water and add the potato and cauliflower to a food processor. Add the other ingredients and process until smooth.

Serves 4 as a side dish.