10 Ways Tuesday: Tarragon

Tarragon (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

I’ve got creative recipes for cooking with the anise-flavored herb, tarragon:

1.  Asparagus and Tarragon Tart

Reading Nigel Slater’s tome on vegetables, Tender, I came across his simple but striking recipe for A Tart of Asparagus and Tarragon. Once the tart shell is made and pre-baked, pieces of asparagus are sprinkled in and a creamy custard flavored with a generous amount of tarragon leaves is poured over. As the tart bakes in the oven, Parmesan cheese forms a golden brown crust. This recipe perfectly illustrates the idea that less is more when you’re cooking with the freshest ingredients from the garden.

2.  Make Your Own Tarragon Vinegar

Infusing white wine vinegar with tarragon is so easy and it’s no-cook! Wash the tarragon and dry it completely, then stuff a couple sprigs into a bottle of good-quality white wine vinegar and allow it to infuse for at least a week before using. In Forgotten Skills of Cooking, Darina Allen writes that the tarragon should be completely submerged, as any leaves exposed to air will decay. Use tarragon vinegar in salad dressings, sauces, or as a condiment for oysters.

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Ingredient of the Week: Tarragon

Tarragon (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

This week at la Domestique is dedicated to the herb, tarragon. Something about the highly aromatic scent of tarragon embodies the essence of spring: fresh, like that of a pine forrest after a good soaking rain, but more delicate and feminine. Tarragon is softer than basil, lacking that tendency towards astringency. The long, thin stems and spindly green leaves taste of licorice with a lingering sweetness. It’s a balance of strength and softness. Sprinkle tarragon leaves over a salad or stir them into a sauce and the anise notes permeate while at the same time amplifying other flavors. Tarragon is a good team player, enhancing the fresh, lively character of other herbs such as chervil, parsley, thyme, and chives. Use tarragon to brighten up rich creamy sauces and and as a compliment to mustard. Fresh tarragon leaves add a sparkle -a little something special- to gently cooked vegetables such as carrots, peas, asparagus, or radishes and make a fitting companion to boiled potatoes. An essential ingredient in classic French cuisine, tarragon paired with butter is delicious over beef, chicken, and seafood (especially lobster).

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Spring Onion, Pea, and Chive Frittata with Goat Cheese

Spring Onion, Pea, and Chive Frittata with Goat Cheese (c)2012

Frittata, the rustic Italian omelet, is a dish I make again and again during springtime. It’s a simple, forgiving technique- much like a crustless quiche- open to endless variations. The method is to lightly sauté  filling ingredients in a high-sided skillet, then pour over beaten eggs (with cream or milk) and cook for a moment on the stovetop until almost set, transferring the skillet to the oven broiler for a minute or two until puffed and golden on top. A frittata is easygoing, just like a sunny spring day, and can be served warm or at room temperature. It’s even good reheated the next morning for breakfast, after the flavors have had a chance to mingle overnight in the fridge. This laid back dish travels well and loves to go on picnics or garden parties. Frittata is a celebration of the spring garden, and it’s fun to modify the basic recipe based on what is ready for harvest. This week I’m enjoying a recipe for Spring Onion, Pea, and Chive Frittata with Goat Cheese that’s an ode to the flavors of spring: fresh herbs, sweet succulent peas, and tangy goat cheese.

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10 Ways Tuesday: Peas

Peas (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

I’ve got creative recipes for cooking with spring peas:

1.  Spring Pea & Herb Salad

Each year I look forward to cooking this Spring Pea & Herb Salad, excitedly pulling the card from my trusty recipe box. It’s the whole package: vibrant color, fresh flavor, and interesting texture. Peas, edamame, watercress, sorrel, and spring onions are tossed in the best extra-virgin olive oil and a couple pinches of flakey Maldon sea salt, then garnished with fresh mint and edible flowers. The flavors are more pronounced at room temperature, and so this salad is well-suited to carrying along on a spring picnic. It’s also great packed for a cheerful, healthy lunch.

2.  Smashed Peas on Crostini

I was smitten with Jamie Oliver’s recipe for Incredible Smashed Peas and Fava Beans on Toast the moment I saw him preparing it in his garden on the show, Jamie at Home. Peas, fava beans, mint, pecorino cheese, and olive oil are pounded into a purée with a mortar and pestle, then spread over grilled bread. Fresh mozzarella and pea shoots finish off the dish. It’s a beautiful celebration of the sweet, succulent pea in all its glory.

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Ingredient of the Week: Peas

This week at la Domestique we celebrate spring peas. In Chez Panisse Vegetables, Alice Waters writes, “The arrival of freshly picked green peas is one of the events that define high spring at Chez Panisse.” I remember sowing peas in my community garden plot last year and building the trellis, forcing wooden stakes into the hard, dry Colorado soil. Watching the peas grow was such a miracle, their dainty tendrils reaching out to grasp the trellis, winding around and around, encircling the netting. Each day they seemed to double in size, climbing further towards the sky, green leaves displayed proudly, soaking up the sun’s rays. Then there were delicate white flowers, shivering in the Colorado breeze. The next morning I had to do a double take when- could it have been overnight?- I found a bounty of two-inch-long pea pods dangling under the flowers. The trick in harvesting peas is allowing them to ripen and fill their pods comfortably, but making sure you get them before the birds do. It always seems that the opportunists know the perfect moment of ripeness and manage to beat the gardener to it by a few painful minutes.

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Cook in the Moment: Recipe for Mussels Cooked in Rosé

Recipe for Mussels Cooked in Rosé (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

On September 30, 2008 I met Michelle Obama. Just before the November election, Mrs. Obama came to CU-Boulder with the purpose of rallying students to register to vote. It was an exciting time, before the recession had taken its toll on the American spirit. I could feel the importance of the moment, that Michelle Obama was going to be our next first lady, and this was a golden opportunity to get close to her- one that would probably not happen for me again. Being several years out of college, it was intimidating to walk onto campus at CU-Boulder, so I was relieved when one of my best girl friends wanted to go with me. The Colorado sun shone brightly on that warm September day, and we felt the audacity of hope warm us through as we stood in line at the football field, waiting for the gates to open.

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10 Ways Tuesday: Rosé Wine

Red Grapes in a Vineyard, Niederweiler Germany (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

I’ve got creative ideas for enjoying Rosé wine during the warm days of late spring:

1.  Rosé Steamed Mussels

Dry rosé, with its mineral character and hint of fruit, is the base of a spicy broth infused with the briny flavor of mussels in this recipe from Food & Wine. It’s a simple dish and quick from stove to table, as the mussels need only sauté in garlic, shallots, red pepper flakes, and rosé for about 5 minutes before they spring open and are ready to eat. A pat of butter enriches the broth and parsley leaves sprinkled over at the last minute add fresh, herbal flavor.

2.  An Aperitif with a Salty Snack

Rosé was made for aperitif, the endearing French habit of enjoying a drink and a little snack to stimulate the appetite for supper. In the charming book, Aperitif, Georgeanne Brennan writes, “A rosé made in the French style, dry and let, yet full of body and substance, is a most alluring aperitif.” She suggests pairing chilled rosé with “the indigenous flavors of Provençe terroir” -an assortment of olives, roasted garlic, anchovies, charcuterie, or tiny sautéed clams. Just remember, aperitif is supposed to stimulate the appetite, not satiate it.

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Ingredient of the Week: Rosé Wine

This week I suffered my first (and only) sunburn of the season. It’s now warm enough to steal a Friday afternoon at the pool before the kids get out of school and ruin all the lovely peace and quiet. Each year, I cautiously don my bikini and creep out to a lounge chair in the sun, soaking up the rays until I’m warmed through. Sweating in the sun feels good, and makes me thirsty- not for water or lemonade, but for rosé. This dry “pink wine” is something I look forward to every spring when the latest vintage is released. Meant to be drunk young, for the most part, rosé should be enjoyed within the first year or two of the vintage. To really appreciate rosé, you’ve got to understand what it represents. Mark Oldman describes Provençe as the original home of rosé in his book, Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine, writing, “that paradisiacal region of sun-kissed slopes and lavender meadows remains a locus of rose’s spiritual soul.” A Mediterranean coastline of fun and sun in the southeast of France, the mother of the best rosé in the world, Provençe produces blushing pink wines with minerality, floral essences, a hint of berry or melon fruit, and a truly refreshing acidity guaranteed to quench your thirst on a hot day. The beauty of any rosé is its ability to be crisp and refreshing like a white wine, with the depth of flavor and body of a red wine.

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Cook in the Moment: Rhubarb Clafoutis

Rhubarb Clafoutis (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

This Mother’s Day I’m thinking about my little sister. We were only born two years apart, but in my mind she will always be somewhere between 5 and 15 years old. When I look at her, it’s a different story. I’m in awe of the woman my sister has grown up to be. At first glance, a true beauty, with those innocent blue eyes and pearly white skin. Beyond the surface I can see a surprising strength and determination. She is the newest mother in our family. Last June, my one and only sister gave birth to a beautiful boy, and I still can’t believe she’s a mother. I can’t believe I’m an aunt. I can’t believe our mother is a grandmother and our grandmother is a great grandmother. Though I live 800 miles from my sister, I have felt the repercussions of her becoming a mother like aftershocks from an earthquake.

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10 Ways Tuesday: Rhubarb

Rhubarb (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

I’ve got creative recipes for cooking with rhubarb during spring:

1.  Rhubarb Clafoutis

The first line written in River Cottage Every Day is, “Good food prepared from fresh ingredients- ideally seasonal and locally sourced- can and should be at the heart of every happy, healthy family kitchen.” In the cookbook, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall pledges to show us that, “truly delicious meals can be thrown together from scratch in very little time at all.” Baking is a fearsome subject for many home cooks, and broaches the topic with no-fail recipes like brownies, simple loaf cakes, and even a twist on the traditional cherry clafoutis, made with rhubarb instead. Clafoutis is a French dessert, like a baked pancake, and anyone can do it. Rhubarb is chopped into pieces and stewed in the oven to soften its fibrous interior. A batter made by whisking together sugar, flour, eggs, and milk comes together quickly and is then poured over the rhubarb pieces. Half an hour in the oven reveals a golden, puffy pancake studded with deliciously tart rhubarb. Look for the recipe here on la Domestique this week.

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