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Comforting Recipes: Quinoa, Watermelon & Feta Salad, Roasted Pepper & Ricotta Tart, Peach & Nectarine Granita

Quinoa, Watermelon & Feta Salad


We’re back home. Everything and everyone is getting back to normal. Groceries, laundry, walks with the pups. And yet, everything’s different. Every move taken and every thing said is tinted with a veil of deep sadness and compassion.

As some of you may have learned, one wonderfully kind and talented food blogger, Jennifer Perillo, lost her husband suddenly this past weekend. I did not know Jennifer well. We had met briefly at several conferences in the past. We were Twitter and Facebook friends. We did not live close. We did not email. We did not talk on the phone. Yet, if I could wrap my arms around her today and hope it helped a little, I would.

Roasted Pepper & Ricotta Tart


Over the year, I have come to deal with the fact that I don’t care that much of August. I have a love-hate relationship with August actually. My brother passed away in August. My grandmother too. It’s my mother’s birthday in August. And my grandfather’s too. He’s 101 this year by the way. Talk about witnessing life and mortality.

I am finally ok with August being a crappy month for myself. I hate, hate, hate the fact that now it will be a difficult time for Jenny and her daughters. I, and others who have lost dear ones, know the journey ahead. And we hurt inside for Jenny and her daughters already. How to make it better? How to make it easier?

Peaches


Just like finding a few dishes prepared for you when you come back from travels, or finding the fridge a little fuller than when you left. Just like noticing a full basket of fruits on the counter and a "welcome home" note; we can be there for Jennifer and her family just the same.

Those little gestures mentioned above done by my mother in law right before we walked in the door, were immensely appreciated and resonated deeply within us. Caring for one another does is not about climbing the highest peaks or diving the deepest sea. Little gestures. A meal. A note. A walk. A hug. Expressing respect. And compassion.

Quinoa, Feta and Watermelon Salad


When I went back home to my brother’s funerals, I came back to many cards of condolences, many phone calls and texts. I also had many friends drop by with a bite to eat. They knew food was the last thing I wanted. I wanted to disappear. I was numb. But mechanically, I ate the dishes they brought over. It was sustenance. I let Bill rocked me too sleep many many nights. It was a necessity. I still sleep as little now as I did then.

For weeks, life was on auto-pilot but I do remember the comfort of sharing memories with people who came over with a giant green salad or a pint of sorbet. I remember those moments gently pulled me out of this quiet space I had made for weeks. The comfort of my neighbor Camille’s voice as she scooped her famous peach granita into little cups for us and her kids. The warmth of the oven touching my cheeks as I opened it to retrieve the first tart I had made since…since Thierry had left us.

Roasted Pepper & Ricotta Tart


Normalcy mixed with extraordinary circumstances. Jennifer and her family are going through this as I write it. They need us, our thoughts, prayers and memories of them for those who knew them. They need them now but they will need them months and years form now. Thankfully, and because the food community and humanity in general is pretty damn grand, reaching out to them is already happening.

Erika from Ivory Hut, who went through her own tragedy last year, losing everything in a house fire, is gathering the troops to help out. A care package program is being organized for those who are not in Jennifer’s area so a little piece of love and care can be delivered now and for months to come right to her doorstep. Locals are also organizing a relief effort to show her that not only we care but we are here for her.

White Nectarines


To get more details and to lend a hand and a comforting gesture, please email Erika at erika@ivoryhut.com

My heart is heavy for the Perillos right now. But it is also full of hope. I know there will be many a smiles in their future even only through the solace of your thoughts and words for them.

When someone around Bill and myself is going through tough times and could use a night off, we volunteer to take care of their kids, their pups or we just drop off a collection of dvds and a good meal. It’s small compared to the void we cannot fill but it’s a start. Food I can do. Which is why I am sharing three recipes (click on "continue for recipes" that are good options to bring to someone who might need a little comfort and a lot of hugs.

Peach & Nectarine Granita


This post is dedicated to Mikey, Jennifer and their daughters. We don’t know each other all that well, but I really wish I could change your August. Now and forever.

Please read this.

Quinoa, Watermelon and Feta Salad:

Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish

When it comes to food and comforting friends with a little something to nosh on, I always gravitate towards dishes that can easily last a few days and only get better with a bit of time. Lately, we have been feasting on bowls after bowls of Quinoa, Watermelon and Feta Salad many days in a row. Sometimes with a poached egg on top. In the heat of the summer, this salad is not only healthy and light but also super refreshing.

Ingredients:
1.5 cups quinoa
3 cups water
1 cup watermelon, rind removed and cut into small cubes
2 oz feta, crumbled
2 green onions, white and green parts, chopped thin
1/3 cup loosely packed mint, chopped thin
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
pinch of salt and pepper

Directions:
In a large saucepan, bring the quinoa and water to a rolling boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer, cover the pot halfway and cook until the water is completely absorbed and the quinoa is translucent (about 20 minutes). Let cool completely.
When the quinoa is cooled, add the remaining ingredients and fold carefully. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to eat.

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Roasted Red Pepper & Ricotta Tart:

Serves 4 as a light main dish.

Another dish that I always find easy to fix, transport and leave in someone’s fridge or freezer for them to reheat easily and quickly is a gluten free Roasted Pepper & Ricotta Tart. Accompanied by a green salad and you have something satisfying and nourishing. A little balm for the heart. And the belly.

Ingredients:

For the crust:
5 tablespoons (70gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon piment d’Espelette (or pinch red pepper flakes)
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
3 egg yolks (save one white for the filling)
pinch salt
1/2 cup (80gr) brown rice flour
1/2 cup (60gr) millet flour
1/4 cup (30gr) sorghum flour
1/4 cup (40gr) potato flour
(or 1.5 cups of all purpose flour if not using gf flours)

For the filling:
3 to 4 bell peppers of various colors (red, yellow, orange)
1 cup ricotta
1 egg white
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Prepare the crust:
In a mixer, whip together the butter, piment and mustard on medium speed until light and airy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time and beating well after each addition. Mix until incorporated. Add all the different flours and mix briefly. Dump the whole mixture onto a lightly floured (use more rice flour) board and gather the dough into a smooth ball. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
When the dough is nice and cold, roll it out on a lightly floured board or in between two sheets of plastic to fit your preferred tart pan. If the dough tears while you roll or/and transfer into the pan, just patch it with your fingertips. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
You can freeze the dough for up to 3 months and prepare it up to 4 days in advance.

Prepare the filling:
Method 1:
Preheat the oven to 400F and then roast the peppers until their skin turn black, remove from the oven, place then in bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let them cool completely. Remove the plastic, and peel the skin right off the pepper, seed them too and cut them in halves or at least fairly large pieces.

Method 2:
Blacken the skin of the peppers over an open flame such as a gas stove or grill. Place then in bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let them cool completely. Remove the plastic, and peel the skin right off the pepper, seed them too and cut them in halves or at least fairly large pieces.

Preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle.
In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta, egg white, salt and pepper. Layer at the bottom of the prepared tart shell. Layer the roasted pepper pieces on top.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

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Peach and Nectarine Granita:

Makes enough for 8

Since it’s August, and it’s still mostly to very warm just about anywhere, I got to say that the most comforting thing for me and many others I know, is still to dig my spoon in soft soothing ice cream. Or sorbet. Or granita. In this case, I was pressed to use the four peaches and nectarines we still had from our trip to the market before heading down to Florida. So easy to make and since it’s stored in the freezer, it’ll be there anytime you need a little cooling treat.

Ingredients:
2 peaches, skin and pit removed
2 nectarines, skin and pit removed
1/4 cup honey
juice of one lemon
1 cup Greek yogurt or creme fraiche

Directions:
In a food processor, puree all the ingredients together. Place in a large baking dish and freeze. After two hours, run a fork along the length of the dish, breaking up the fruit mixture into a granita. Repeat the process every hour or so for about 4-5 times until the mixture is completely frozen but you get a shaved ice consistency all the way through. We like ours chunky but the more times you run your fork in the mixture, the thinner the shavings will be.

Watermelon & Honeydew Sorbets With Lemongrass Sauce

Watermelon & Honeydew Sorbets With Lemongrass Sauce


The reality of the other day’s weather hit me like a brick. Chilly and rainy in Paris and hot and humid (doh!) in Charleston which meant only one thing. I’d better post the sorbet combination we had a couple of weeks ago as we are in the tail end of melon season, at least on this hemisphere. I sure hope B. does not run to the freezer after this. The Watermelon and Honeydew Sorbets with Lemongrass Sauce is gone. I may or may not have anything to do with it…

As Fall was creeping up on us in France, I was having to fight my mom on a daily basis as she tried to feed me entire cantaloupes as often as she could. Ok, I am exaggerating. But really, she loves them. Me? I think I overdosed as a child. Don’t get me wrong, I like cantaloupe just fine (especially with port and proscuitto) but I’d rather have a thick slice of juicy and ripe watermelon or honeydew at this moment in my life.

Lemongrass Sauce Ingredients


Now turn watermelon and honeydew into sorbets and add a few spoonfuls of lemongrass sauce and well… I am all over that too. My turn to wish I had been less gourmande and saved some for my return. A scoop or two would be greatly appreciated today as I keep on editing the pictures I took last week. I promise you Provence – I am just behind on post processing (read, picking my favorites!).

I started this post on Wednesday evening as I was packing to head back home to the US. My suitcase and my heart were heavier than anticipated and I just set this writing bit aside. I am now back home in Charleston and guess what, if it weren’t for the heat and humidity here, I would not feel too much out of place. It’s indeed rainy and gray. I guess Mother Nature is kindly easing me back into real life.

Watermelon & Honeydew Sorbets


Yes, these past two weeks were like a dream. As Shauna mentioned to me yesterday, it was quite a profound trip. Absolutely. The reality of my inbox and to-do list this morning is a necessary evil. I am so grateful for the trip I have just had and all the people who took the time to make it this special. I am also very happy to come back to mounds of work. I know I got that from my grandfather. As we were chatting the other day, he exclaimed "I got to go now. I am starting my second century. I am quite busy you see." And now my restlessness makes sense…

We like cold treats in my family. Ice creams, sorbets, gelato. Two scoops, three scoops, sugar cone, wafer cone…you name it, we like it. When visiting my brother in Toulouse, we stopped at Octave one afternoon and it all made sense. Our table was an array of licorice, coffee, violet, pomelo, rhubarb, apricot ice creams and sorbets. Not all at once and all together! I was quite impressed with the decisive palate of my young nieces. Yep. I liked their parents even more, ahah!

Window


It’s not that we go for weird and colorful all the time in this family but we like to be tickled. In life, in love and in food. We have curious minds by nature but I admit it took me a while to warm up to the idea of the combination of cool clean melon sorbets in a milky lemony lemongrass sauce. I was even more worried when I served it B., Caitlin and Jeff. They got tickled. They loved it.

I did not come up with it. Richard Leach did. Yes, him again. And I should have known not to question it. It is splendid! The guy is simply amazing. I can’t even fathom the finesse and sensitivity of his culinary brain to nail it time and time again.

I know I was skeptical at first, but I am glad my curious mind steered me to try the combo. A pleasant hit of melons, citrus and lemongrass with every bite. The smooth interaction of ice and cream. It all worked. Perfectly.

Watermelon & Honeydew sorbet



Watermelon & Honeydew Sorbets With Lemongrass Sauce, adapted from Richard Leach.

For the watermelon sorbet:
4 cups watermelon, seeded and diced
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice

For the honeydew sorbet:
4 cups honeydew, seeded and diced
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice

For the lemongrass sauce:
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar, divided
2 1/2 stalks lemongrass
3/4 cup lemon juice

Prepare the watermelon sorbet:
Combine all the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve or chinois. Process in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Keep frozen until ready to use.

Prepare the honeydew sorbet:
Repeat the exact same steps as with the watermelon sorbet.

Prepare the sauce:
In a medium saucepan set over medium high heat, stir together the milk, 1/4 sup sugar and 2 stalks of lemongrass, finely chopped. Bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and let sit for 20 minutes. Refrigerate until cold.
In a small saucepan, set over medium high heat, stir together the lemon juice, the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and the last 1/2 stalk of lemongrass, also finely chopped. Bring to a simmer, remove from the heat and let sit for 20 minutes also. Refrigerate until cold.
Once both mixtures are cold, whisk them together and strain to remove the lemongrass.
Serve with the sorbets.

Plum Watermelon Soup With Lemon Balm Ice Cream and Toasted Blueberry Pound Cake

Plum Watermelon Soup With Lemon Balm Ice Cream and Toasted Blueberry Pound Cake


I must start this post with shout out to my dad that has nothing to do with the recipe and story below. A couple of weeks ago, my awesome Papa took pity of my completely DIY portfolio page created a few months back and asked if I could please shop around for a professional hosting site and he’d help. After pouring over countless forums, domains, templates, I decided to go with Photobiz (and no they are not paying me to say how great they are). They’re affordable and super pro. Once I had uploaded my pictures, the revamped portfolio was up and running almost overnight! Thanks dad!

It never fails. Every summer here, I want to be there. I know I have been in South Carolina long enough to handle the scorching summers but I really think that unless you are born and bred here like Bill, there is a "heat acceptance gene" missing in most of us. Actually, the humidity is the bigger problem. It wilts you the minute you step out the door and it looks like I do not have the "A/C acceptance" gene either.

What to do to keep fresh and refreshed? Eat a serving or two of this Plum and Watermelon Soup with a scoop of Lemon Balm Ice Cream and a couple slices of Toasted Blueberry Pound Cake. I am a soup kind of gal. Hot, cold, room temperature…I just love soups but I admit I would have never tried to make this if it had not been for Asheville, and our dinner at Zambra.

Watermelon


We were full to the brim and when dessert arrived we all thought "I can’t anymore". Then came chef Adam’s rhubarb – watermelon soup and basil ice cream. The only thing heard at the table was the rattling of our spoon against the bowls. What I could not get enough of was the side of toasted black sesame pound cake he served the soup with. What a brilliant addition! I put it all in the dessert memory bank hoping to make it for us one hot summer day.

This day came with Bill’s birthday and I figured it would be a perfect ending to his "birthday dessert feast" of lemon donuts, goat cheese tarts, chocolate covered marshmallows and cupcakes. I took full advantage of all the wonderful summer produce around here and used watermelon and tart plums (to mimic the tartness of the rhubarb), lemon balm from our garden to infuse a simple vanilla bean ice cream. Bill’s mom often goes blueberry picking in the wee hours of the morning and loves to give us a few buckets full. They were put to good use in a pound cake that Bill loves all year round.

When it gets passed 95F, I have no desire to turn the oven on and if I must, you can bet it better be quick and for something as good as blueberry pound cake or apricot financiers! But I could not resist the idea of thin slices of pound cake slowly toasted in the oven to be served with the soup. You don’t even need to make soup to fall in love with the idea or the taste. It’s just plain fun! We had leftover soup after the party and we had the remainder as cold shots one hot afternoon. Perfect!

Toasted Blueberry Pound Cake - Plums



One year ago: The Transatlantic – Chocolate and Salted Butter Caramel
Plum – Watermelon Soup With Lemon Balm Ice Cream And Toasted Blueberry Pound Cake:

For the soup:
1 cup (150gr) watermelon, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup ripe plums (160gr) (about 3-4 depending on size), cut into 1-inch pieces
zest and juice of a lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons (25gr) sugar

For the ice cream:
4 egg yolks
1 cup (100gr) + 2 tablespoons (25gr) sugar
1 cup (250ml) whole milk
1 cup (250ml) heavy cream
1/2 vanilla bean, split open and seeded
1/3 cup chopped fresh lemon balm (can use lemon verbena, basil, mint, etc..)

For the cake:
1 stick (113gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (120gr) powdered sugar, unsifted
3 eggs
1 1/4 cup (155gr) flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/4 cup (60ml) buttermilk (or whole milk)
1 cup (145gr) blueberries

Prepare the soup:
Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and puree until very smooth. Refrigerate until very cold. (how hard was that?!)

Prepare the ice cream:
In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and one cup of sugar until pale and thick. In a saucepan set over medium heat, bring the milk, heavy cream, vanilla bean and lemon balm to a simmer, without letting it come to a full boil. Slowly pour the hot cream over the egg yolks mixture while whisking to temper the egg yolks. Pour the whole mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the cream coats the back of spoon. At this point you have made a custard sauce, also known as "creme anglaise". Let cool completely and refrigerate until cold.
Once the custard is cold, strain the vanilla bean and lemon balm and process the base according to your ice cream maker manufacturer’s instructions.

Prepare the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the center. Slightly coat a loaf pan with cooking spray, place it on a baking sheet and set aside.
In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter and powdered sugar on low speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. On medium speed, add the eggs, one at a time and beating well after each addition. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the buttermilk and mix well until combined. Turn the mixer off and fold in the blueberries by hand. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 45 minutes (tend with foil midway if the top seems to brown faster than the cakes bake). Let cool completely and cut very thin slices of cake. Place them on a parchment paper line baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden brown.