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Chilled Cucumber Avocado Soup & Cauliflower Prosciutto Flatbread

Chilled Cucumber & Avocado Soup


Barely home from Washington, D.C that we are repacking and heading out tomorrow (insanely early) morning for Seattle. Yep. It’s the Summer of packed crazy but absolutely delicious adventures. And yes also to the fact that I will probably end up using (or abusing) every superlative adjectives I know along the way.

Going to Seattle for work is about as stressful as a week by a blue lagoon. Whether it is for a shoot or in this instance a workshop I am teaching with Clare Barboza and Becky Selengut, I can tell you that the conversations, good meals and bottomless glasses of wine make up for the brain power exhaustion and relative d├ępaysement. I am ok with being tired, being away and making a little home away from home, mentally and physically. The people, the jobs, the things I learn, the things I pass on. It keeps me energized.

Cauliflower & Prosciutto Flatbread


If asked, I doubt that my fridge and pantry would agree to my definition of a life well balanced. We have kept the minimum of supplies around to avoid any spoilage and waste. Nothing irks me more than wasting food because of ill planning or "voir plus grand que son estomac" (seeing larger than one’s appetite). I do leave a few things for the house sitters to nibble on but not enough to warrant big trips to the grocery store.

A miscalculation of the meals we would eat at home this weekend created a surplus of vegetables and a quick scramble to use them in interesting ways while keeping up with the semi plan we have going on. I have no idea how my two cucumbers turned into four from grocery list to grocery cart but I was very glad they did after taking the first couple of sips from the Chilled Cucumber and Avocado Soup they contributed to.

Chilled Cucumber & Avocado Soup


Refreshing, creamy and light, this soup is going to be on heavy rotation as soon as we come back from Seattle. I have a real fondness for chilled cucumber soup. Or rather a fond nostalgia for the dish. When I first moved Charleston, my roomate at the time took me to a (now closed) French inspired bistro on Market street that served one of the best Cucumber Dill Yogurt soup I had ever had. Wait, the only had I had ever had so far!

I tried many times to recreate the soup but there was always something missing. Probably the moment more than the recipe and ingredients. I decided that rather than driving my senses crazy, I’d make a completely different version. One we could equally love and come back to. After a few tries, this is the one we settled on. The base rarely varies but the toppings change depending on what’s around. Crumbled feta, sliced beets, radishes, herbs, a drizzle of truffle or avocado oil, lemon zest,… the possibilities are indeed endless.

Chilled Cucumber & Avocado Soup With Cauliflower & Prosciutto Flatbread


I admit, I would have never thought about putting cauliflower on flatbread had it not been for the Winter issue of Donna Hay magazine a couple of months ago. I read over the recipe, bookmarked it in a far corner of my brain, bought cauliflower and prosciutto and went about my business. And completely forgot about it all. Until yesterday that I was making dinner and the common "oops…not enough days, too many recipes to try" moment took place.

I took the elements of the original recipe, minus the cheese, and turned them in a crispy thin flatbread that was the perfect match to grilled shrimp and a big fennel, arugula salad with crunchy leftover cauliflower. Simple, light and one more way to sneak in vegetables into the meal. Made me want to try the cheesy version when we get back in town next week.

Off to (re) pack!

Chilled Cucumber & Avocado Soup



Chilled Cucumber and Avocado Soup:

Makes enough for 4 as a main course

Ingredients:
2 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped (about 1 to 1/2 pounds)
1/2 medium avocado, peeled and roughly chopped
1 small sweet onion, roughly chopped
1 cups sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon each lemon verbena and lemon thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Toppings options: (as many or as little as you desire)
fresh herbs
sliced beets or radishes
feta or goat cheese
shaved parmesan

Directions:
Place all the ingredients for the soup in a blender or food processor and puree until super smooth. I use my Blendtec which makes it extremely smooth in no time. Depending on how silky you want your soup to be, you might have to pass it through a sieve a couple of times.
Refrigerate for about a couple of hours and serve cold.

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Cauliflower & Prosciutto Flatbread:

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:
Pizza dough for one 16-inch pizza stone (I use half the recipe of my favorite pizza crust here)
For a gluten free crust, see here
1 to 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced cauliflower
4 oz finely chopped prosciutto
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan
olive oil
1 tablespoon cornmeal
salt and pepper to taste
fresh thyme to garnish

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400F.
With your hands, stretch your dough to a large circle, about one inch wider than the surface of your stone.
Sprinkle the cornmeal over the surface of the stone (do not worry about heating it up as if making pizza). Place your dough over it and form a border with the extra inch of your dough.
Scatter evenly the cauliflower, prosciutto and parmesan over it. Drizzle a little olive oil, salt and pepper.
Cook for about 20-25 minutes or until the cauliflower is golden brown.
Let cool slightly and eat!

Quinoa, Mixed Peppers and Avocado Cream Verrines

Quinoa, Mixed Peppers and Avocado Cream Verrines


Living with food allergies sucks. Living with food intolerances also sucks. Don’t ask me which one is less sucky. It all depends on the person and how they see the sun shine when they get up. I can only talk about personal experiences and of those around me.

Lauren at Celiac Teen for example is allergic to gluten. I am gluten intolerant. While she will get really strong physical reactions within hours, mine will build over days. Hers will manifest after one speck of gluten ingested by taking her digestive track for a spin, making her brain as cottony as the pillow she’ll use to sleep it off. It will take several days of glutenized meals for me to get vertigo, tinnitus, aura fullness where I’ll have to lie down and hope it stops soon so I can get back to work again.

Roasted Mixed Baby Peppers


Instant. Over days. Stomach. Ears. Brain fogged up. Lying down. It just sucks. And as far as I can tell, we’re not wearing a line on our foreheads that reads "gluten can’t pass these lips." We just deal with it. So when my friends, family or anyone coming to eat at my table says "I am allergic to this or that." I don’t question. I accommodate.

I get terribly aggravated when I have to explain I am gluten intolerant and can’t have "regular" flour and I can tell the first thought in some people’s mind is "here’s another low card fad freak." Ugh no. I can have carbs. I can have truckloads of carbs. I can swim in carbs if I wanted to. They just should not contain gluten. That kind of thoughtless reaction bugs the heck out of me. If I were to say "I am allergic to dairy" I’d probably get a sympathetic "Oh you poor thing!". How can they tell that I am not using that as an excuse to avoid calorie ladden ice creams sundaes (just an example. I love sundaes. There)

Quinoa, Mixed Peppers and Avocado Cream Verrines


Somehow, some people make these kinds of decisions in their mind about what is an ok allergy and what just looks like a fad. That’s sad. And wrong. It can create a whole lot of discomfort for someone you don’t know and who places a part of humanity upon you. Trust. I was raised by a father who used to say "if someone says they don’t like this, don’t ask them why. Don’t put them on the spot and don’t make them feel uncomfortable. Trust that they know what they need."

When Flo Makanai sent me a copy of her book "Les Intolerances Alimentaires", it took on a whole level of compassion with me. Flo’s daughters have a lot of different food allergies they must deal with on a daily basis. And in France no less where allergy awareness is still in baby steps. Flo’s book is the best thing that could happen to keep on educating people on food allergies and intolerances. I love my peeps but when I hear things "oh yes, the grilled veggies with camembert sandwich is dairy free." I just get very, very worried.

Making Guacamole


I truly feel for her young daughters going through trial and error of finding what they can and cannot eat. No to mention the reactions from others at times must be hard to bear for such young souls. I love how fierce a fighter Flo is for her daughters. I am not a mom but I know that’s what mothers do. I know I would not let go until I’d see my daughter smile again.

Flo did it. She then wrote it all down in such a detailed and simple, precise and researched way that I can’t recommend her book strongly enough to anyone who reads/speak French. I know, here I am recommending a book in another language that only some of you will be able to read. For those who can’t read or understand French as well (or at all), I only hope I was able to transmit the notion that food allergies are real, and we should keep on getting educated about them. In whatever language you speak.

Homemade Goat's Milk Yogurt


When friends came over for dinner, one of them gave me a call the day before saying that he was bringing a guest who was allergic to cow’s milk. Dairy was ok. Just not from a cow. No problem I was wasn’t planning on serving any dairy….oh wait! Duh! I was. One of the dishes I wanted to do, (inspired by Flo’s quinoa and green lentil dish, was a verrine of layered quinoa, roasted peppers and avocado cream and it did contain yogurt. Zut alors! (yikes!) That was by far the easiest allergen orientated change one could have to make. I used goat’s milk yogurt instead.

I know some people who because they don’t think these things are "real" would have said, "oh well, the recipe calls for just 1/4 cup. That’s nothing! That can’t possibly hurt her." Yes it can. It will. Changing a recipe to help someone enjoy the evening and the hours afterwards can be a learning curve but it can also lead to very tasty discoveries in the kitchen. It sure did for me in this recipe. The goat’s milk yogurt gave more of a cheesy creamy bite than cow’s milk yogurt did in previous occasions. I don’t think I’ll change the recipe again after this, actually!

Hope you enjoy this as a refreshing appetizer or light side dish. Everyone at our table was able to partake. That’s what matters.

Quinoa, Mixed Peppers and Avocado Cream Verrines



Quinoa, Mixed Peppers and Avocado Cream Verrines:

Makes 6 to 8

For the quinoa:
1 cup raw quinoa
1.5 cups water
pinch of salt

For the mixed peppers:
1/2 red pepper
1/2 yellow pepper
or one 10 oz box of mixed baby peppers
olive oil
salt and pepper

For the avocado cream:
1/2 avocado
juice of half a lime
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
1 green onion, finely chopped (or 1 tablespoon red onion, chopped)
1/4 cup yogurt (your choice)

Prepare the quinos:
In a medium saucepan, combine the quinoa, water and salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook 15 to 20 minutes until the quinoa feels tender. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

For the mixed peppers:
preheat the oven to 400F. Place the peppers on a baking sheet and drizzle with a splash of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast until the peppers start to blister (20 minutes). Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature. Cut the peppers in half, remove the seeds and set the peppers aside.

For the avocado cream:
In a large non reactive bowl, mash the avocado with the rest of the ingredients until smooth with the back of a fork or a potato masher.

Start layering the verrine with some a layer of peppers, a layer of avocado cream, a layer of quinoa, repeat once or twice depending on the size of your glasses and finish with some of the cream on top. Add a couple of blanched asparagus tips if desired for garnish.

Lunch Break: Radish and Watercress Salad

Mixed Up


The cray-zee schedule has officially started! Well, I kicked it off a week ealier than previously planned and I am quite glad I did. We all know that it’s not because you have one important thing on the agenda that everything else takes a backseat. Every bits and pieces of life that you are trying to juggle all want a spot on the passenger seat while you are trying to drive without knocking other people over. One thing that helps me keep focused is good nutrition. Sweet or savory. Salads especially.

I always try to take time out to fix myself a proper lunch and eat by the window without any incoming noise. It helps recharge my internal batteries and ensures that I don’t forget all the other things and people around me. When my friend Tara mentioned this salad from The Breakaway Cook I instantly started craving daikon radishes. I never think about adding them to my shopping list but I have done so three times in the past week. This salad? I made a version of it just about as many times. The one pictured here is probably my favorite.

Fueling Up


It’s loaded with good stuff, it’s refreshing, it’s tasty and it’ll bring you good juju for the day. Ok, I am making this last bit up but I felt energized and ready for another 12 hour shift right after eating it. The beauty of salads is their endless possibilities for adaptations. Eric makes his with daikon radishes, pomegranate seeds, avocado, edamame, orange pepper. Mine included daikon and red radishes, avocado, watercress, carrot and pomegranate seeds. It’s the end of the season here for those but I needed them for work and had leftovers.

I decided to start working on the photography for Carrie’s book a bit earlier than planned, mostly to find a rythm and properly organize my time. The experience has been nothing short of amazing so far. It’s a lot of work to cook, style, shoot, edit that many savory and sweet recipes but loving my job makes it easy to invest every bit of myself in it. Everything I have made so far has been refreshing, succulent, different, easy to prepare. You could say I am biased since I have a stake in it but trust me, even if I had zip involved, I’d still couldn’t wait to get her book pronto.

Mixed Up


And then there are all the other things in between like more gigs, friends, house, dogs, invoices bills and taxes (grrr….). You know what I am talking about. Some of you even have children to juggle into the mix. We only have a couple of very active and very snuggly creatures! I can’t promise lenghty blog posts and towering piles of groovy macarons in the next couple of weeks but I can promise there will always be something good to eat, savory or sweet.

I think I’m getting a hunkering for a tart. It’s been a while. Can’t live off salad alone, although this one is on repeat on my plate this week.

Refreshing Daikon Radish and Watercress Salad:

Serves 2 to 4 depending on your appetite.

1/2 daikon radish (8-inch piece)
1 bunch red radishes (about 8)
2 carrots
1 small bunch watercress
1 small ripe avocado
1/2 pomegranate
vinaigrette of your choice

Wash and slice thin both kinds of radish and the carrots. You can use a mandolin if you want. I don’t have one so I just used a very sharp knife. No matter what you use, watch out for your fingers!
Wash and pat dry the watercress.
Cut avocado into small dices and seed the pomegranate.
Arrange everything in a large or individual bowls and drizzle with the vinaigrette.

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Le P’tit Coin Francais.

Salade Composee De Radis et Cresson:

1 morceau de radis chinois (20cm environ)
1 botte de radis traditionels (environ 8)
2 carottes
1 petite botte de cresson
1 avocat
1/2 grenade
vinaigrette de votre choix

Coupez les radis et carottes en tranches fines a l’aide d’une mandoline ou d’un couteau. Lavez et essorez le cresson. Coupez l’avocat on petit des et recuperez les graines de la grenade.
Disposez le tout dans un grand ou plusieurs saladier et assaisonez avec la vinaigrette.