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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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Ingredient of the Week: Rhubarb

Rhubarb (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

Rhubarb is a sight for sore eyes! Like an oasis in the dessert, she appears to bridge the hungry gap between citrus season and the fresh berries and stone fruits of summer. I might not notice her then, surrounded by fuzzy peaches and plump cherries. But now, the stage is all hers, and just as an understudy in the theater, she’s prepared. She’s learned the lines for every role, seamlessly transitioning from pies and tarts to jelly preserves to crisps and crumbles. Rhubarb is versatile, adding life to savory dishes such as Middle Eastern stews or chutney paired with cheese, pork, or luxurious foie gras. Left to stew in sugar and orange juice, the mouth-puckering syrup rendered infuses cocktails with her blushing pink hue and electricity, as if the energy of spring could be bottled and sold.

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Cook in the Moment: Grilled Spring Onions with Romesco Sauce

Grilled Spring Onions with Romesco Sauce (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

I’m not into celebrity chefs, per se. My favorite cookbooks are penned by self-taught home cooks with an interesting story to tell and a reverence for the craft of writing. Paula Wolfert, Nigel Slater, David Tanis, even Nigella Lawson. I want more than recipes. Give me history, culture, tradition. Let me be lost in your story and see the world through new eyes. I’m drawn to people who have a contagious enthusiasm for life. José Andrés is one of those cooks. He’s joyful and driven in his mission to share Spanish food with the world. Sure he is a celebrity, but to me, he’s not a celebrity chef. It’s substance and meaning and a new spin on traditional recipes that give his food depth. When I traveled to Washington D.C. for the first time (in April), eating at one of José Andrés’ restaurants was at the top of my list.

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10 Ways Tuesday: Spring Onions

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

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

1.  Frittata

Basically a quiche without the pastry crust, the frittata is a rustic Italian baked egg dish that’s best suited to spring cooking. It’s a forgiving technique: sauté thinly sliced vegetables in a skillet, pour over beaten eggs, and sprinkle cheese on top. Start cooking the eggs on the stovetop and finish under the broiler for a browned and puffy frittata. Look for my favorite spring version: Spring Onion, Pea & Chive Frittata with Goat Cheese, on the blog this week. In the meantime, Martha Stewart’s Mushroom and Scallion Frittata would be delicious made with spring onions.

2.  Grilled

In Spain, grilled Calçots are a spring tradition. I first learned of this reading José Andrés Tapas cookbook. The Calçots, a spring onion, are cooked whole (minus the roots) over hot coals until tender and infused with smoky flavor. It’s a meal for a crowd, and a messy one at that, as the onions are meant to be eaten with your fingers, dragged through a spicy red romesco sauce and chased with plenty of wine. I’ll be preparing grilled spring onions inspired by this tradition tomorrow on the blog.

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Ingredient of the Week: Spring Onions

Spring Onion, Egyptian Walking Onion (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

Spring onions are the pantry ingredient of the week at la Domestique. These sweet and succulent Alliums are merely immature red, yellow, or white onions. Harvested early, spring onions have generous green leaves and long thin stalks. Their flesh is moist and delicate, and their mild onion flavor is delicious eaten raw or cooked. At the farmers market, the pungent aroma of spring onions can be detected in the air long before reaching the farm stand stacked high with dangling roots and bound stems. Here in Colorado, the growing season gets off to a slow start, as night frosts are a regular occurrence through May. Spring onions are a welcome sight after so many weeks of only spinach.

When selecting spring onions, look for bright green, perky tops and firm stems- nothing dry or shriveled. Keep spring onions in the fridge loosely wrapped in a plastic bag. Use them within a day or two, as the tender stems will turn limp and rapidly loose their flavor. To prepare spring onions for cooking, slice off the roots and green tops and peel off the outer layer. Spring onions can be grilled whole or thinly sliced and eaten raw in salads, tacos, or to garnish soups. Tomorrow is 10 Ways Tuesday and I’ve got creative recipes for cooking with spring onions.

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Cook in the Moment: Spring Pea & Herb Salad with Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Spring Pea & Herb Salad with Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

Olive Oil, More Than Just a Commodity

Olive oil- to us, it’s just food. Many of us here in the U.S. have never seen a gnarled olive tree. Olive oil comes from isle 9 in the grocery store, with no history, no context, only pictures on bottle labels depicting romantic Italian villas. Olive oil is a commodity. Merriam Webster defines commodity as “a mass-produced unspecialized product.” Reading Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, by Tom Mueller, took me on a journey through the olive growing regions of the world, beginning in Italy, passing through Spain, Greece, Australia, and California. Amongst discussion of olive oil pressing methods, olive oil tasting notes, and corruption in the olive oil industry, the pit stop that stuck with me most was Palestine. In an interview with Ehud Netzer, an archaeologist at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Mueller explores the olive branch as a symbol of peace since ancient times, now warped into an emblem of conflict:

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10 Ways Tuesday: Olive Oil

Olive Oil (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

 

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

 

1.  Salad Dressing

Watching Jamie Oliver dress a salad with olive oil gets me excited. He’s easygoing about it, adding a splash of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon- no measuring. He’s passionate, tasting and tossing the leaves, exclaiming over the beauty of a perfect radish or the peppery bite of a well-made olive oil. The man makes beautiful, vibrant salads that are a celebration of the season, and he’s the inspiration behind my Spring Pea and Herb Salad, to be featured on the blog this week. The idea that I take from Jamie Oliver is that a salad doesn’t need a fancy vinaigrette with twenty ingredients. Sometimes, the only thing a salad needs is the lubrication and flavor of a high-quality extra-virgin olive oil. Whether you’re tossing together a simple spring greens salad or a medley of peas, beans, and herbs, the vibrant fresh flavors should stand out and not be overwhelmed by an acidic dressing. Next time you toss together a spring salad, try just using your favorite olive oil, and maybe a squeeze of lemon with a dash of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

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Ingredient of the Week: Olive Oil

Ingredient Of The Week - Olive Oil

During spring I begin to crave the freshly pressed, peppery, herbal flavor of olive oil. In the winter months I tend to use butter more in my cooking, but spring is a time for sitting on the patio with a glass of rosé, dragging ragged pieces of crusty bread through a pool of olive oil on my plate. I savor the fruity aroma and bitter finish in the back of my throat. The many varieties of olives mean each olive oil has a unique flavor, from rich and fruity to green and spicy. Explore the world of olive oil the same way you would wine- by tasting. Spring is the season for freshly pressed olive oils from the Northern Hemisphere regions, such as the Mediterranean (including Spain, Italy, and Greece), the Middle East, and California. When buying olive oil, seek out a shop where the owners are passionate about their produce and offer you a taste in the store. Read labels carefully and research producers. According to the book, Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, it’s good to remember that olive oil is simply the juice of a tree fruit, olives. Virgin oil is made by grinding and extracting the juice from the olive- no chemicals or heat are involved. Extra-virgin refers to the quality of the olive oil, determined to be without any documented faults (rancid flavors, etc.) by professional tasters.

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Cook in the Moment: Braised Halibut and Artichokes

Braised Halibut and Artichokes (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

The sky is grey and a cool breeze whips through the tree branches. I watch from my apartment window as they wave back and forth, as if in slow motion, tender spring blossoms quivering. The rain pelts the window, “tap, tap, tap.” “Come in, “ I invite her. On Sunday I enjoy her company like that of an old friend who has been away for too long. Rain is rare in Boulder, Colorado. Snow, however, is a frequent visitor, often overstaying his welcome, as winter becomes spring. This year is off to a dry start, and summer in Colorado will be very dry- dessert like. The unexpected rain shower is a welcome guest I embrace, inhaling her perfume of wet grass, savoring the sound of each drop like laughter between friends. She takes me back to my childhood in Arkansas, where humidity was a constant companion and rain poured readily from the sky. These are good memories of green country fields cloaked in fog, sopping wet clothes from a surprise downpour, and playing in puddles.

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About Jess

Jess O'Toole is La Domestique

Hi, I’m Jess, aka La Domestique. No matter how busy or cooking-challenged you are I can help you live the good life and enjoy fresh, healthy meals at home every day. Find out more

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