Tag Archives: Chestnut flour

Frenchie and l’Apéro Dînatoire

16 Aug

David, I’m scared! I was invited by this French family to an apéro dînatoire.

What is it and what am I getting myself into? It sounds appealing yet frightening.

Are they going to grill me on my subjonctif plus-que-parfait? Do I need to eat beforehand?

Should I brush up on La Marseillaise and boldly lie to them with positive comments as to why hand-held shower heads are better after all?

… such are the frantic questions I received via texts from my friend “J.”

Frankly, I am still surprised that American cooking and food magazines haven’t yet bought into the French fad of l’apéro dînatoire – especially since it involves food and drinks!

A great opportunity to write about what it actually is and give you 3 new recipes to go along with it.

Tapas, antipasti, finger food, cocktail party, hors d’œuvres, drinks and nibbles – translate it however you want, the apéro dînatoire is meant to have fun and eat.

In France, the apéritif takes place before the meal as a way to open up and boost the appetite.

Leave it to the French to awaken and exalt your stomach with finger food and the arousing idea of an exciting meal to be served next.

An alcoholic beverage as well as some amuse-bouches are offered to snack on while lunch or dinner is being prepared.

Commonly shortened to apéro in casual conversations, l’apéritif is a real tradition française.

French magazines picked up on the trendy apéro dînatoire very early on.

Apéro dînatoire ideas for 4, 8 or 10!

Apéro dînatoire on a budget!

Easy apéro dînatoire!

My definition of an apéro dînatoire is quite simple.

It is a social gathering mixing cold and hot finger foods – which should involve the least amount of prep time – usually made in advance, paired with wines or cocktails, and showcasing the host’s ability to effortlessly cook and assemble the most complicated delicious treats all the while telling impressed guests that it was soooo easy to prepare and that it took no time at all.

Mais non, c’est très simple ! I swear.

It should leave you fulfilled and content. Not hungry, yet not stuffed either.

An apéro dînatoire – more than just a small quick apéritif, yet not a full-on dinner either.

The French are very keen on the cake salé – or savory cake – for these events.

Another fad I am surprised American food magazines haven’t pick up yet.

Zucchini breads always end up too sweet in my opinion so I wouldn’t consider them as a cake salé.

Blue cheese with pears. Gorgonzola with honey. Blue cheese with bacon.

They are effortlessly “easy” to prepare, different, and make for great finger food sliced up with a glass of wine.

And since August comes to its end and I used to spend my August vacations as a kid in Corsica, my latest savory cake is reminiscent of those Corsican flavors I know so well.

A bit of southern France on your plate.

Made with chestnut flour, it awakens the taste buds with hints of prosciutto and sun-dried tomatoes, and brings great texture thanks to a combination of millet and amaranth flours and a crunchy finish with toasted pine nuts.

It took 4 hungry mouths and 25 minutes for the cake to almost disappear from the pan at my last apéro dînatoire.

So is the apéro dînatoire the French answer to the Spanish tapas and pinchos?

I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss Spain.

At times, my mind and my thoughts are still vacationing in Spain even though I got back in early June.

The power of traveling abroad! Lingering memories of a wonderful trip.

And with a post about apéro dînatoire, what better way than to include Spanish pinchos I keep dreaming about.

I know I will make as many pinchos and savory cakes as I can until the end of summer.

Enjoying the last warm evenings gathered with friends around a festive apéro dînatoire.

Chestnut-Flavored Savory Cake with Prosciutto and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

use an 8.5″ x 4.5″ (22 x 12 cm) loaf pan

3 eggs

0.5 cup (100 ml) of olive oil

1/4 cup (50 ml) of whole milk

1/4 cup (50 ml) of white wine

0.5  cup (50 g) of shredded Parmesan

0.5 cup (50 g) of grated Pecorino

0.5 cup (60 g) of chestnut flour

1/3 cup (60 g) of white rice flour

5 Tbsp of amaranth flour

3 Tbsp of millet flour

2 teaspoon of baking powder

1.5 Tbsp of xanthan gum

1 garlic clove – minced

1.5-2 oz (40-55 g) of prosciutto – roughly cut and chopped

12 green olives – sliced

6 Tbsp of pine nuts – toasted

7 sun dried-tomatoes – roughly chopped

2 Tbsp of sage – chopped

2 Tbsp of basil – chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 °F (180 °C). Butter the cake pan and set aside.

In a small pan, toast the pine nuts over high heat until they become fragrant (about 2 minutes). Let them cool.

I use sun-dried tomatoes already marinated in olive oil. Blot them with paper towels before chopping them.

In a big bowl, combine the eggs and the olive oil using a hand mixer until light and smooth. It should have doubled its volume (2 minutes).

Add the milk and wine. Continue mixing for 1 minute.

Add both cheeses to the bowl and mix delicately with a spatula.

In a smaller bowl, sift the flours together with the baking powder and xanthan gum.  Mix them together.

Add the flours to the wet ingredients and stir until well combined.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the batter: garlic, prosciutto, olives, toasted pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, sage and basil.

Mix gently.

Pour and spread the dough in the cake pan and bake in the oven for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of it comes out dry.

Note: I did not include any sea salt in this recipe. The olives, Parmesan, Pecorino and prosciutto add enough salt to the cake on their own.

Goat cheese with Spiced Peach Compote Pincho


Anchovy and Roasted Red Pepper Pincho with Quail Egg

exact numbers and measurements not given here so you can make as many as you want.

1 baguette

1 garlic clove – peeled and halved

olive oil

frisée lettuce

1 goat cheese with rind

1 batch of spiced peach compote ( you will need 11-13 ripe peaches, 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, 3 Tbsp of lime juice, 1.5 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 6 whole star anise, 10 whole cloves, 0.5 cup (100 g) of blonde cane sugar, 1/3 cup (65 g) of light Muscovado sugar, 1 Tbsp of vanilla extract)

pistachios – toasted and roughly chopped

cherry tomatoes

basil leaves

small skewers

Make the spiced peach compote. Combine all ingredients needed for the compote in a big pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 30 minutes. Check regularly. Uncover after 30 minutes and continue cooking for an additional 15-18 minutes until the peaches are really soft. Set aside and let cool. Discard the star anise and clove pieces when cold.

Toast the bread by setting the oven on broiler – high.

Rub the garlic clove on the bread slices – both sides – and brush them with olive oil.

Set them on a baking sheet and place under the broiler for 1-2 minutes until golden and toasted. Set aside.

Toast the pistachios in a small pan over high heat until fragrant (2-4 minutes).

Assemble the pincho by cutting a slice of goat cheese with a hot knife. Set the cheese on top of a frisée leaf. Drop a small spoonful of peach compote on top and sprinkle with the chopped toasted pistachios. Finish by placing a cherry tomato wrapped in a basil leaf on top and use a skewer to hold the pincho together.

For the other pincho, you will need:

1 baguette

1 garlic clove – peeled and halved

olive oil


fire roasted red peppers – thinly sliced lengthwise

pitted black olives

quail eggs

To boil the quail eggs, fill a small pan with water, drop the eggs in the water, cover and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water starts to boil, turn off the heat and let the eggs cook for 5 minutes.

Place them under cold water when done to stop the cooking process. Set aside and let cool.

Toast the bread slices as explained above.

Assemble the pincho by placing 2 thin slices of roasted red pepper as well as 2 small anchovies on the toasted bread.

Prepare a skewer with one black olive, one hard-boiled quail egg and another black olive.

Spike the pincho with the skewer to make it hold.


Frenchie and a Rustic Zucchini Galette

2 Mar

When one receives a bag of chestnut flour – XL-sized mind you! – directly from Corsica, one cannot not open it immediately to let the woody roasted smell escape from the home-made bag and fill the air.

Chestnuts are the base of traditional Corsican cooking: fresh, roasted, boiled or ground. They’re everywhere.

The XL excitement was too much to contain! A gigantic bag of chestnut flour!

I imagine it would be like receiving the iPad 3 before its release!

Picture this: a rustic low-lit kitchen in a stone house in a small mountainous Corsican village.

A flaky chestnut puff pastry is being rolled for the Swiss chard onion turnovers – called bastelle.

Whipped eggs are poured over garlicky zucchinis and tangy brocciu cheese for an omelette sprinkled with a peppery mint.

It’s what I wanted to make and recreate with this bag of flour.

The savory woody taste of chestnut flour mixed in a dough with herbs.

Memories of chestnuts roasting in the communal fire pit sur la place du village surrounded by craggy mountains.

Once upon a time, polenta was made with lupin flour. Now, the chestnut pulenta – as they call it – is on the table at every meal.

Zucchini are most of the time paired with mint and cheese.

Stuffed zucchini. Zucchini omelette. Zucchini bread.

Always a lingering and stimulating cool mint after-thought when finishing the first bite.

And if you’re lucky to put your hand on a batch of peppery Corsican mint, it will not compare to any other mints you might have encountered before.

The galette is even good the day after, reheated for a couple of seconds.

I eat it for lunch or dinner or even as a snack when I cut myself a tiny sliver.

It’s a must-make in my house.

And it brings Corsica in all of its complex flavors on my plate in one dish.

Now if someone would finally import brocciu cheese… let me know if you do!

Rustic Chestnut Crust Zucchini Mint Galette:

for the crust:

1/2 cup (60 g) of whole hazelnuts – to end up with 3/4 cup (70 g) of ground hazelnuts

1/2 cup (60 g) of chestnut flour

3/4 cup (95 g) of white flour

1/2 cup (60 g) of whole wheat flour

3 oregano sprigs

1 rosemary sprig

1/4 cup (60 ml) of olive oil

1/2 cup (118 ml) of water

1/2 teaspoon of sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 °F (180 °C). Lay the whole hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 15 min.

With a towel or paper towel, rub the hazelnuts several times to remove the skins. Let cool.

In a food processor, grind the toasted hazelnuts in tiny chunks with the oregano and rosemary leaves.

Do not grind finely – you should still have tiny chunks.

If you are in a hurry and do not have time to toast the hazelnuts, by-pass this whole process and use ground hazelnut directly.

In a big bowl, sieve together the chestnut, white, whole wheat flours and salt. Add the ground hazelnuts and mix. Dig a well in the center and pour the olive oil and water.

Mix delicately with your hands until the dough forms a ball. Flatten the ball, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight or for at least 1 hour. If chilled overnight, remember to remove it from the fridge and wait 30 minutes before rolling it.

Note: if you don’t have access to chestnut flour, use another flavorful flour instead like millet or add more whole wheat flour. Chestnut flour has a very strong, earthy and woody smell and taste. You can increase or decrease the chestnut flour measurement and substitute with whole wheat flour depending on the rustic taste you’d like to achieve.

for the caramelized onion:

1 big onion

2 Tbsp of walnut oil

seal salt

1 teaspoon of sugar (optional)

Peel and cut the onion in half. Slice thinly.

In a big pan, heat the oil and cook the onion for 35-40 minutes.

10 minutes into the cooking process, sprinkle with sea salt and sugar (optional).

Cook until caramelized. Do not mix too often. You want your onion to brown and stick to the pan a little. But don’t burn it.

Place in a bowl when done and leave to cool.

for the zucchini:

2 zucchini – sliced thinly 3/16″ (4.5 mm)

2 garlic cloves – minced

1 Tbsp of chopped oregano

1 Tbsp of chopped rosemary

In the same pan, heat the oil and add the garlic. Cook for 5 minutes.

Add the zucchini and herbs. Cook for 5 minutes until tender but still crisp.

Set aside in a colander to drain to juices.

putting the galette together:

You will need the dough, caramelized onion, cooked zucchini as well as

2 oz (56 g) of fresh crumbled goat cheese


Preheat the oven to 400 °F (200 °C).

Roll the dough on parchment paper to a 11-12 in. (28-30 cm) round disc.

It is ok if the edges of the disc are rough. The galette is meant to be rustic.

Place the caramelized onion in the center and spread on the disc leaving a 1.5-2 in. (4-5 cm) border all around.

Sprinkle half of the goat cheese on the onion.

Arrange the zucchini slices around the onion and work circularly to cover the cheese and the onion.

Fold the edges of the dough over the zucchini – create creases if you want to.

Holding the parchment paper on each side, lift and place the galette on a baking sheet and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.

When done, cook in the oven for 30 minutes.

Let the galette cool for 10 minutes. Sprinkle it with the rest of the goat cheese, chopped mint leaves and a sprinkle of sea salt and pepper before serving warm.

Frenchie and the Blending of Lights and Flavors

1 Nov

This past week alone, I woke up to an array of drastically different fall lights passing through my windows and brightening up my world one room at a time.

This is what’s fascinating about this season. The light.

Warm, colorful and soft. Remnants of summer.

A bitter goodbye and farewell to the sun taking some well-deserved rest until next year.

Blue, metallic and crisp.

Summer clothes and vacations safely packed away.

A cold steel-like wake up call that the bleak colorless winter is approaching.

Pale, airy and bright.

When the white sky acts as a light diffuser prompting squinting on a brisk walk through the market.

Sadly, the last days of the open air market.

Dark, shaded and brooding.

A rainy sullen atmosphere perfect for staying in and cherishing those unforeseen moments when stuck at home.

Fall plays with the natural light, turning daylight into highlights of darkness while blending colors and moods.

And this is all I need to inspire me a combination of ingredients and flavors to create perfect fall dishes with a day-trip to Nantasket and Hull, MA as a backdrop.

The Nantasket Peninsula and Hull Bay are only 40 minutes away from where I live. It’s a small area surrounded by the ocean and tucked away from the big city.

The beach, the ocean smells, the small seaside towns, the wind and empty tourist spots reminded me of Brittany during the fall after the summer crowds are long gone.

Some children are still playing on the beach. Warmly dressed of course even though the bright sun is still beating down and shinning.

Some cars stopped to take pictures of the Nantasket Beach completely empty today. It’s the quietness that strike people the most. Or maybe the illusion that the beach is endless.

The merry-go-round is still working but these are the last rides of the season.

The seasonal restaurants where friends and neighbors used to meet throughout the summer to share a meal and some laughs are now brightly empty without anyone around the tables to order lobster rolls or fried calamaris.

Yet, the calming aura of this season allows for a relaxing rediscovery of the area – recapturing the mood and exhilaration of spending a day at the beach with no one in sight.

Still unsure how it happened, 5 types of squash ended up in the car back to Boston and on my kitchen counter. Butternut squash, spaghetti squash, acorn squash, buttercup squash and red kuri squash.

Pour les Français: la courge doubeurre, la courge spaghetti, le courgeron, le potiron et le potimarron.

And when the afternoon calls for being creative and mixing spices and scents with flavors and tastes just like the weather plays with lights, fresh herbs from the garden naturally blended with the idea of a roasted red kuri squash soup with apples.

Red kuri squash, apples, sage and mint. A thick velouté soup with nutty and soft squash flavors yet undoubtedly refreshing and spicy with mint and cayenne pepper but still reminiscing of the fall with apples and sage.

And speaking of apples.

My recent admittance for suffering from AAD – a strong case of Anticipation for Apple Desserts – made me realize that I forgot how creative one can be when thinking about making a compote.

Here, apples are mixed with dried cranberries gorged with spiced apple cider and ground ginger while the pecans provide some last minute crunch.

A treat to eat irresponsibly and comfortably in a reading nook with a hot tea and some honey.

But fall wouldn’t be fall if it wasn’t for the smell of earthy roasted chestnuts in the kitchen.

And with the chestnut flour bag I just received from Corsica, what better way than to celebrate with a chestnut flour cake.

Unlike the chestnut flour recipe I posted before, my mind was lingering on the concept of a Sachertorte where the cake is divided in half horizontally so as to spread an apricot filling in the middle before a chocolate glaze smoothly wraps the entire cake.

And I love making Sachertorte!

The thin chestnut cake is divided in half and the mandarin/brandy filling makes a perfect not-too-bitter middle layer with a chocolate silky and crunchy finish on top.

A delight!

Sadly, the soup, the compote and the cake did not last as long as I thought they would in my fridge.

There’s always next weekend to make it all again and combine new flavors.

Roasted Red Kuri Squash and Apple Velouté Soup with Mint and Sage:

This recipe makes a thick velouté. Thin it with water at the end if you like it lighter and more soup-like.

1 medium red kuri squash

2 medium onions

4 garlic cloves

3 medium apples

2 celery stalks

1 carrot

2 Tbsp (30 g) of butter

4 cups (950 ml) of water

2 vegetable bouillon cubes

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon of grated nutmeg

20 sage leaves

10 mint sprigs

salt and pepper

olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 °F (200 °C).

Peel and chop the red kuri squash and remove the seeds. Peel and slice the onions. Cut and quarter the apples without peeling them. Slice the garlic in medium chunks.

In a large bowl, toss the squash, onions, apples and garlic chunks with drizzled  olive oil, salt and pepper.  Spread them evenly on a roasting pan and cook in the oven for 40 minutes.

Peel the carrot and chop it in small cubes. Chop the celery as well.

In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the carrot and celery and sauté for 5-8 min.

Add 4 cups of water and the bouillon cubes to the pot. Let the cubes dissolve in the water.

Add all of the spices to the pot (cinnamon, cayenne, nutmeg, salt and pepper). Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and let simmer for 20-25 min.

When the roasted vegetables and apples are done, remove from the oven and spoon them into the pot.

Using a hand blender, purée the vegetables directly in the pot. If you do not have a hand blender, a regular blender will work as well.

Taste for salt and pepper. Add the sage and mint leaves to the soup. Purée some more until all leaves and vegetables chunks are gone.

Thin the velouté with water if needed. Serve hot or warm with chopped sage leaves as garnish.

Apple Cranberry Compote with Pecans and Ginger:

2.5 lb (1 kg) of apples – I like to mix my apples

8 pecan halves

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

2.5 Tbsp (30 g) of lemon sugar

2 cinnamon sticks

1/2 Tbsp of ground ginger

1 Tbsp of lemon juice

1/2 cup of apple cider

1/4 cup to 1/2 cup (25-50 g) of dried cranberries

1 Tbsp (15 g) of butter (optional)

Pour the apple cider in a medium saucepan with the lemon sugar, lemon juice, vanilla extract, ground ginger and cinnamon sticks. Whisk.

Add the cranberries and let them soak for at least 20-30 min.

Peel all apples and cut them in uneven chunks and slices. I like for my compote to be chunky. If you prefer to have a more even compote, chop all apples in small pieces.

Add the apples to the saucepan and cook over medium to low heat for 10 minutes.

Pour the compote in a medium bowl and let it cool. Optional: stir in a Tbsp of butter when still hot because it’s sinfully delicious.

Chop the pecan halves in small pieces. Add them to the compote and mix.

Leave the cinnamon sticks until ready to serve warm or cold.

Chocolate Glazed Chestnut Flour Cake with Mandarin Filling:

I need to warn that this cake tastes strongly of chestnuts. If you do not enjoy roasted, smoked and nutty flavors, this might not be for you.

I used mandarin preserve for the filling. Any jelly or jam could do here. If you enjoy the taste of chestnuts and can find it in your area, the traditional cake is filled with chestnut jam.

I prefer to use mandarin because it’s not as bitter as orange and complements very well the strong smoked chestnut flavors.

This recipe makes for a very thin cake. If you prefer thicker cakes, I would make a double batch.

2 cups (200 g) of chestnut flour

0.5 cup (50 g) of white flour

a pinch of salt

3/4 cup (20 cl) of milk

3 eggs

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract

2 Tbsp of vegetable oil

4 Tbsp (50 g) of white sugar

1 Tbsp of vanilla sugar

1/2 cup to 1 cup (150 g to 300 g) of mandarin preserve

1 shot of brandy (pear, prune or chestnut eau-de-vie for example)

100 g of semisweet baking chocolate

3.5 Tbsp (50 g) of butter

4 teaspoons (20 g) of water

Preheat the oven to 400 °F (200 °C).

In a big bowl, mix the eggs, white sugar, vanilla sugar, salt and vanilla extract. Slowly add the milk and then the vegetable oil. Whisk well.

Sift both flours over the bowl and slowly incorporate the flours to the mix.

Butter a round 9.5 inches (24 cm) baking pan. Add parchment paper at the bottom. Pour the batter in the pan and bake for 30 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out clean.

Let the cake cool. Thin down the preserve with the brandy in a small bowl. Leave aside.

In a small saucepan, melt the chocolate with the water and butter. Whisk until smooth and leave aside to rest for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, slice and open the cake in half horizontally. It is tricky because the cake is thin. Use a long, thin, sharp knife.

Open the cake in half. Spread and brush the preserve all around the bottom half. Place the other cake layer back on top. Slide the cake on a rack placed over a roasting pan.

Pour the chocolate glaze on top of the cake and brush the top and sides to make the chocolate is spread all over.

Use some of the glaze dripping on the roasting pan to patch some spots without chocolate.

Slide the cake on a plate and place in the fridge until ready to serve.

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