Over or Under? Coulis

June 23, 2012

Coulis is thick sauce made from puréed and strained vegetables (savory) or fruits (sweet).

From the Old French coleïs, from coleïz “flowing,” from the vulgar Latin cōlāticus, from Latin cōlātus, “filter, sieve or strain” which is derived from derived from the Latin word colum, “large intestine, colon.” Sounds appetizing, eh?

TOMATO COULIS

2 T extra virgin olive oil
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 T shallots, peeled and chopped

2 lbs red and yellow heirloom tomatoes, cored, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 T thyme leaves
1 bay leaf

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the olive oil in a heavy saucepan over moderate heat, add the garlic and shallots, and cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, thyme, and bay leaf, and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.

Remove the pan from heat, and discard the bay leaf. Allow sauce to cool to room temperature. Then, purée the sauce thoroughly in a food processor by pulsing. Place coulis in a fine sieve and let excess liquid drip through to a bowl. If too thick, whisk in enough of the drained liquid to reach the desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

A savory coulis is traditionally served under the meat, fish, or vegetable dish — but this is not required reading.

BLUEBERRY COULIS

1 qt fresh blueberries
3 T sugar
1 T fresh lemon juice

Put 1 pint (one half) of the blueberries in a food processor with sugar and lemon juice. Purée, then strain with a colander, pressing on solids to drain excess juice. Add additional sugar and lemon juice to adjust to taste and then refrigerate.

Serve at room temperature. Stir in remaining whole fresh blueberries just before topping or…

Advertisements

Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.
~Edgar Degas

Several months after the fall of France in 1940, four teenagers and a dog, Robot, stumbled upon the now renowned Upper Paleolithic wall paintings in the Lascaux valley. With that chance find brought a wondrous era of knowing prehistoric art, touching our origins and realizing the awe of humanity and nature. The timing seemed ironic.

This complex of decorated limestone caves, La Grotte de Lascaux, is located in the Vézère river drainage basin in the département of the Dordogne. Magical messages from the depths of prehistory are encoded on these walls. Stunningly, there are nearly 2,000 painted figures, which can be grouped into three basic images: animals (bulls, bison, equines, stags, felines, et al.), human figures and abstract signs. Rooms include The Hall of the Bulls, the Passageway, the Shaft of the Dead Man, the Nave, the Apse, and the Chamber of Felines.

Many of the painted animals are depicted with multiple heads, legs or tails, which according to Marc Azéma of the University of Toulouse–Le Mirail and Florent Rivère, an artist based in Foix, intended to give life to and show beasts in action. Flickering torches and flames which passed over painted scenes would have heightened onlookers’ sense of seeing animated stories. The Lascaux cave has the greatest number of cases of split-action movement by the superimposition of successive images. These Stone Age images were likely the precursors to comic strips, motion picture cartoons, and modern animation — even cinema — according to their research which was published in the most recent issue of the journal, Antiquity. News of these findings has taken the art history world by storm. “Prehistoric man foreshadowed one of the fundamental characteristics of visual perception, retinal persistence,” noted Azéma and Rivère.

This is a canonical French potato dish originating in the gastronomically flush southwest (Le Sud-Ouest). Duck fat, a pantry staple in the Dordogne, imparts silkiness inside and golden crisp edges to the spuds.

POMMES DE TERRE SARLADAISES (POTATOES IN DUCK FAT)

1 lb fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise or Yukon Golds, sliced about 1/4″ thick

1/2 C rendered duck fat
4 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary

Fresh parsley leaves, chopped (optional)

Rinse potatoes whole under cold water, then dry thoroughly and slice. Heat a large, heavy skillet or Dutch oven (une cocotte) over medium high heat add the duck fat until just melted. Then add potatoes, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, and rosemary. Toss together to coat well over medium high heat. Reduce heat to medium and gently sauté, stirring occasionally, until fork tender, about 20-25 minutes. Remove and discard thyme and rosemary sprigs. Finish with optional chopped parsley.

Lentils & Walnuts

June 14, 2012

God gives the nuts, but he does not crack them.
~Franz Kafka

Not to be confused with other nuts or wingnuts…those outspoken, irrational people with deeply ingrained, deranged, flagrantly ignorant political beliefs, e.g., Rush Limbaugh, Michele Bachmann, Fred Phelps and their ilk. The lunatic fringe.

Rather, walnuts are edible seeds harvested from deciduous trees of the genus Juglans, especially the Persian walnut a/k/a English walnut, Juglans regia. Walnuts are rounded, single-seeded stone fruits enclosed in a leathery green, fleshy, inedible husk. Inside the husk is the wrinkly, hard walnut shell, which encloses that kind kernel, which presents as two halves separated by a partition. Walnuts, like all seeds, are living organs which respirate. After harvest, the seeds continually consume oxygen and release carbon dioxide, so storage is crucial.

The common walnut is native to the mountain ranges of Central Asia, extending from western China, into the ranges of Nepal, through present day Afghanistan and Iran, and finally Turkey. Alexander the Great introduced the tree to Greece and Macedonia, so it became known as the Persian nut. Later, ancient Romans imported the walnut tree into nearby conquered lands, such as Gaul and Brittania, where it has thrived since. Some espouse that North American walnuts assumed the moniker English walnuts, since they arrived in the colonies aboard English merchant ships.

The potential health benefits of walnuts cannot be understated — abounding with nutrients, particularly proteins, vitamin E, and essential fatty and phenolic acids, tannins, and flavonoids. They are also rich sources of antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. A so-called superfood.

LENTILS & WALNUTS

2 C green lentils (preferably du Puy)
1 1/2 C cold water
2 C vegetable or chicken stock
1 bay leaf
3 fresh thyme sprigs

2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced
Splash of sherry or red wine vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Walnut oil, to taste
3/4 C walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
3/4 C artisanal chèvre (goat cheese), crumbled

Put the lentils in a medium, heavy saucepan with the bay leaf and thyme. Pour over water and stock, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer until tender, about 20-30 minutes. If the liquid is not totally absorbed, simply drain off any excess through a fine colander. Discard bay leaf and thyme sprigs.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat and sauté the onion until soft. Add the garlic for another 1 minute, then deglaze the pan with just a splash of sherry vinegar. Remove from heat. Toss the cooked lentils with the onion mixture, and then season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with walnut oil, add the walnuts, toss with crumbled goat cheese and serve warm.