Tag Archives: Tapas

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

and

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

anchovies

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.

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Frenchie and a Taste for Seafood

23 Apr

Living by the ocean has changed my life forever.

And since I am not a sunny summer nor beach person, this can only mean one thing… oui ! Fruits de mer !

“Fruits of the sea”. Seafood. “Sea fruits”.

Call it however you prefer, but living on the East Coast has allowed me – and all my visitors throughout the years – to fruitfully enjoy a cheap and wide variety of deliciously tasty shellfish.

I’m no stranger to seafood or fish.

Yearly summer vacations on the coasts of Brittany and Corsica as a kid developed my strong liking for anything and everything coming directly from the ocean.

Rolled up pants. Scratched feet climbing on rocks. Sharp-eyed kids searching for small crabs, winkles and other sea creatures and treasures.

Full red beach bucket on the way home, proud of the daily catch.

A heaping plate of langoustines with crusty bread and a home-made mayo for dinner.

Or crispy lemon cod fritters (fritelle di baccàla) and grilled trouts with garlic and vinegar (trùita a l’àgliu e a l’acètu).

I can still smell the parsley slowly grilling with the trouts and garlic.

As I am preparing a trip to Spain for next month, reading more about the many wonderful things I am about to see and visit, looking at food pictures of the flavors of the Costa Blanca and Catalonia, I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to post my recipe that combines both my love for tapas and seafood.

Blanca from FriendsEat already got out of me  in the interview she conducted back in November that one of my favorite restaurant is the tapas bar downstairs from my house.

C’est vrai, j’adore les tapas.

And there is no better way to plan a trip to Spain than with grilled calamari and a glass of Cava rosé.

Have you ever tried stuffing squid bodies with fresh bay leaves?

It makes a world of difference as they will soak up the strong flavors of the leaves.

Combined with lemon and mustard, it’s one dish that looks and tastes like a sunny-day-spent-on-the-coast all at once.

So here’s to Spain, abounding tapas and upcoming vacations!

Lemon Mustard Grilled Calamari Stuffed with Bay Leaves

for 10 squid bodies

even if you don’t have an outside grill, a tiny electric Foreman grill like I have will do the trick

10 squid bodies

2 lemons – juiced

2 teaspoons of mustard powder

1 teaspoon of Herbes de Provence

1/2 teaspoon of sea salt + more to taste

a shake of ground pepper

1 teaspoon of cane sugar

1 teaspoon of mustard – the hotter the mustard, the hotter the squids. Use a mild mustard or reduce to 1/2 teaspoon if you are sensitive

1 teaspoon of olive oil

13 fresh bay leaves

Start by boiling water in a big pot with 3 fresh bay leaves.

Stuff each squid body with a fresh bay leaf. Depending on the size of the bodies, you might want to stuff 2 leaves if they are big.

Remove the boiling water from the heat and plunge the squids in the water for 45 seconds. This will allow them not to shrink during the grilling process and it will make them tender in the end.

Pour the water and squids in a colander after 45 seconds and let them cool. Some bay leaves may have gotten loose in the water. Stuff them back in the squids if needed.

While the squids cool down, whisk the following ingredients in a medium bowl: lemon juice, mustard powder, Herbes de Provence, sea salt, pepper, sugar, mustard and olive oil.

When ready, fold the squids in the marinade, make sure they are well coated, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Heat up the grill and grill the marinated squids 15 to 30 seconds per side until they get a golden charred color.

Sprinkle with sea salt before serving. And do not forget to remove the leaves before eating the squid!

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