How to Combat Veggie Boredom for Great British Chefs

Strawberry and Fennel Carpaccio (c)2013 La Domestique

Hello there! I’m sad to have been so quiet for the last couple of weeks here at La Domestique, but I was very sick in the hospital with a stomach bug. The husband took great care of me and our new Irish friends and neighbors were so kind and supportive. I’m feeling much better and excited to share some of my latest work with you today. It’s National Vegetarian Week in Britain, and the fantastic website, Great British Chefs, invited me to contribute a blog post celebrating vegetables. You’ll find my piece, “How to Combat Veggie Boredom,” on their website. I had a great time thinking up bold and punchy flavor pairings for unique vegetable dishes. It’s all about playing with color, highlighting seasonal flavors, and adding a variety of textures to the dish. Click the Great British Chefs icon below to find inspiration on cooking with vegetables in season right now as well as two of my original recipes: Strawberry and Fennel Carpaccio and Grilled Broccoli with Black Olive Tapenade.


Strawberry, Spinach, and Quinoa Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Spinach and Quinoa Salad with Strawberries and Balsamic (c)2013 La Domestique

Happy May Day to you! Here in Ireland, spring has been slow to reveal herself. Though the weather has been unseasonably cool, I do see a bit more sunshine and the breeze feels a tad warmer with each passing day. I’ve been waiting for the morning frosts to depart so I can plant my herb garden. We’re renting a house after years living in the concrete jungle of an apartment complex, so I’m looking forward to having room for growing plants and a shed to store bags of compost and gardening tools. Here in Cavan we’ve got a lovely local bookshop,the Crannóg, where I picked up a copy of Grow Your Own Crops in Pots, by Kay Maguire and the Royal Horticultural Society. Are you into container gardening? Please do share any tips or plants you love to grow in the comments section.


Cook in the Moment: Strawberry Tart

Strawberry Tart (c)2012

You may remember my resolution to celebrate each seasonal fruit this year with a tart? It all started in April with a recipe for Meyer Lemon Curd Tart. The purpose of the tart project is to slow my pace of life a bit, to savor each brief season and the tender fruits that mark the passage of time. This week I celebrate the early days of summer with a fresh strawberry tart. With practice, making pastry dough has become a comforting ritual, rather than a daunting task. However, my first attempt at pastry cream was a failure. Of course I can’t follow one single recipe, so the plan was to make Elisabeth Prueitt’s Pastry Cream from the Tartine cookbook and Martha Stewart’s Cream Cheese Tart Dough from her Baking Handbook.

I chalk the failure up to fear. Elisabeth Prueitt’s instructions for making pastry cream were easy enough to follow, but full of warnings and consequences (get the pastry cream too hot and the eggs will curdle, over whisk and the thick cream will break down into a watery mess, burn the milk at the bottom of the pan and you must start over). The fear made me timid, and baking at altitude is not for the timorous. The method for making pastry cream involves heating milk and sugar on the stovetop, then carefully stirring it into egg yolks with cornstarch. The mixture goes back on the stovetop for just a couple of minutes of constant whisking, until thickened. Lastly, cubes of butter are carefully beaten in (to avoid breaking the mixture) and the pastry cream goes into the fridge to chill. After whisking the eggs and milk on the stovetop for much longer than the recipe instructed, my pastry cream refused to thicken. I threw out the watery mess, took a deep breath, and resolved to begin again. In the big picture all that I lost was a few eggs, some milk, and my time.


10 Ways Tuesday: Strawberries

Strawberries from the farmer's market (c)2012

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

1.  Strawberries and Cream

It was Jonathan Lovekin’s photograph in Ripe that caught my attention- smashed red berries stirred into a bowl of thick, devonshire cream. Juicy, luscious strawberries bled pink through the cream, staining the white tablecloth. I wanted to grab a spoonful and shove it into my mouth, not caring if I took too much and cream dribbled down my chin. This powerful photograph paired with Nigel Slater’s simple suggestion of a recipe was all I needed: “Pick the smallest, ripest berries you can lay your hands on, crimson through to their little hearts. Put them in a bowl and crush them with a fork. Mellow the flavor with a drip of balsamic vinegar. Stir in the merest dribble of golden cream. Fiddle no further.”

2.  Strawberry Tart

If a bowl of strawberries and cream is the purest, most perfect way to enjoy the first berry of the season, a strawberry tart is the most celebratory. A tender, crumbly crust filled with rich, vanilla-flecked pastry cream and studded with fresh, ruby-red strawberries commands the room’s attention when perched atop a cake stand at the table. Over at Food & Wine Elisabeth Pruett of Tartine Bakery shares a Strawberry Tart recipe made with a whipped cream as a filling or you can try Betsy Benardaud’s classic Strawberry Tart with pastry cream filling.


Ingredient of the Week: Strawberries

Strawberries from the Farmer's Market (c)2012

On a warm and sunny Saturday morning I walked through the crowded Boulder Farmer’s Market, past the artisan bread stand with the cute Italian guys, past the goat cheese maker’s tent, past mounds of vegetables piled high. As it should be, I caught whiff of the alluring fragrance before I saw them: strawberries! Members of the rose family, ripe strawberries have a sweet, floral aroma that cannot be ignored. These tiny, ruby red gems look puny next to mass-produced strawberries from the grocery store, but their flavor and juiciness is unbeatable. In The River Cottage Cookbook, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall writes:

The best strawberries you will taste are the ones you pick and eat straight from the plant on a warm day, when they are fully ripe and the flavor-giving molecules are still buzzing with the heat of the sun.