Friday Favorites! A Bit of Spring from My Gardens

With such pretty weather I've been spending more time in the garden than in the kitchen ~

Let's take a look at what is blooming right now.

I'll be back in the kitchen soon!


Chicken and Rice ~ Mexican Style

This is not a "recipe", but rather a method of using leftovers.

There was some homemade Mexican rice in the refrigerator which I wanted to use up.

To make it into a meal I simply seasoned and grilled some boneless, skinless chicken breasts, then sliced them while the rice was heatingon the stovetop (I added some frozen white corn, salsa, and some chicken broth to make a saucy dish.) Then plated the rice, arranged the sliced chicken on top and garnished with fresh cilantro.

Of course you could add any number of garnishes: grated cheese, sliced scallions, lime wedges, additional salsa, avocado slices, sour cream, etc.

Quick, easy and satisfying. And an undeniable bonus is the feeling of satisfaction which comes with using up the last bit, so no waste.

Delightfully EASY on the budget.


Gnafron with Garlic Cream ~ Appetizer, Light Lunch or Dinner

I was really pleased when my talented friend Andrea from Cooking Books asked if I would like to guest author on her blog, and share one of my favorite cookbooks on her blog this month.

Do go check out Andrea's blog ~ she always has something wonderful cooking!

I was delighted to accept her invitation.

The book I chose is ~

Simple Soirees: Seasonal Menus for Sensational Dinner Parties

by Peggy Knickerbocker.

Peggy divides her time between Paris and San Francisco, a woman who enjoys giving dinner parties in both places; she is a food journalist and former caterer and restaurateur.

Don’t let the title referring to “Dinner Party” recipes throw you because the recipes are not just for dinner parties. Although the book is filled with lots of helpful hints and secrets to assure your dinner party will be a memorable success, it includes dozens and dozens of recipes perfectly suitable for everyday.

In "Simple Soirees" Peggy provides 100 of her favorite recipes, organized by season. Some of the recipes are classic favorites, others are more unusual such as the one I chose to make for you.
The recipe I chose to highlight is Gnafron, an unusual and delicious dish from
Lyon, France.

Peggy explains she almost became obsessed with Gnafron after first tasting it at the restaurant Chabert et Fis, on the Rue des Marronniers in Lyon several years ago.

She and her dining companion arrived at the restaurant just before closing. When the Gnafron was described to her, she immediately ordered it; a savory flan baked in pale green leaves.

It was love at first bite; she tried to ask the chef for the recipe, but she had already departed for the evening.

After looking for over a year to discover the recipe, all she could discover was that Gnafron shared its name with a hard-drinking yet philosophical children’s puppet show character named Guignol. The puppet show was written by Laurent Mouruet in the 1880’s.

Some time later, at a party, Peggy met up with an old friend whose fiancé just happened to live blocks from the restaurant where she tasted her first Gnafron. He sent her the recipe jotted in French on a cocktail napkin.

The recipe is Peggy’s interpretation of the dish which is one of her favorites for luncheons, as well as dinners by the fire.
The method is simple, small ramekins are buttered and lined with blanched Napa cabbage leaves like so:
In the meantime a flavorful sausage mix is browned with seasonings, then drained, cooled and added to a egg and cream mixture and ladled into the prepared ramekins.
The dish can be prepared in advance up to this point ~ then baked in a bain marie (water bath) until the flan is firm to the touch.
The Gnafron can be served directly from the ramekins, with the (FABULOUS!) Garlic Cream. Even if you don't make the Gnafron ~ you must try this light cream sauce with vegetables, or simply prepared chicken or fish.

The Gnafron recipe is perfect for company as it can be either assembled ahead, then baked when the guests arrive. Alternately, it can be baked ahead and simply reheated at suppertime. But no need to wait for company.

In the book Peggy suggests as hors d’oeuvres another specialty of Lyon, a variety of sausages, served on a wooden board, along with chilled radishes, or a bowl of olives.

Then the Gnafron, followed by a crisp red and Green Salad (romaine, radicchio with a red wine vinegar vinaigrette and garnished with toasted and salted pistachios.

For dessert Rhubarb and Strawberry Compote, followed by espresso, and a dish of dark chocolate squares or other candy.

We enjoyed this Gnafron very, very much and I intend on making it again.
A local meat shop makes a delicious fresh and flavorful Chorizo sausage,
so that is the sausage I chose to use this time.

I'm thinking mushrooms could be substituted for the meat in this recipe, seasoning the mushrooms well with garlic and a favorite herb ~ making the recipe vegetarian friendly.

It is a beautiful, coffee table quality cookbook (but one that can actually be used for its recipes).

Plenty of gorgeous photographs by Christopher Hirsheimer, too.

I highly recommend this book, it's one of my favorites.

Click HERE for a printable copy of the recipe.


Tiny Brie, Prosciutto and Chutney Tart Bites

Crispy, Creamy, Salty, Sweet.

I devised this little warm appetizer mirroring a favorite pizza topping ~ Substituting creamy Ile De France Brie for the Roquefort.

You can use premade phyllo mini shells, or make you own ~(I use premade from the freezer section, and crisp them in a 350*(F) oven.)

Place a 1/2-inch cube of Brie or Camembert cheese in each cup. Return to the oven for a few moments, allowing the cheese to melt.

Remove from oven, add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of something sweet! Your favorite fruit chutney, fig jam/spread, apricot jam, (a wee drizzle of flavorful honey or pure maple syrup, maybe?) on top of the melted cheese.

Form small, thin slices of prosciutto into rose shapes, placing one rose atop the cheese & chutney/fruit spread. (I make these while the cheese is melting in the tart shells in the oven and set them aside until the tarts are ready for assembly.)

Garnish with a small sprig of fresh thyme. Serve warm & enjoy!


Shrimp and Rice Salad ~ Greek Style

Warmer days seem to call for lighter meals ~

I had some leftover brown rice from the day before ...
so I warmed it gently, added a few ingredients ...
Some lightly sauteed diced onion, green bell pepper, poached shrimp . . .
Kalamata olives, marinated artichoke hearts, cubed feta cheese, grilled red sweet peppers,toasted pine nuts and plenty of fresh oregano.
The dressing was simply the juice of a whole lemon (or two), a little fresh lemon zest extra virgin olive oil and a generous amount of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
All ingredients (except shrimp) tossed well,
then plated up, with shrimp arranged on top.
A light sprinkle of Piment D'Espelette* as a finishing touch.
A very quick and satisfying dinner ~ and no real recipe needed!
One of my favorite spices:

* Piment D'Espelette

The fiery dried, ground red pepper from the Basque country ~
It is a must-have ingredient in my pantry.
Marvelous added to marinades, in dry rubs and sprinkled on anything to be roasted. Mayonnaise mingles very nicely with Espelette pepper -
excellent sprinkled on deviled eggs or into potato or pasta salads.
A dusting on your favorite savory sandwich or bruschetta adds a bright flavor spike.
Try an egg fried in extra virgin olive oil seasoned with Espelette pepper ~ perfection!


Friday Favorites! A Childhood Memory

This week instead of highlighting a favorite past post,
I thought I'd share another favorite for Friday.

When I was a small girl, one of my uncles would treat me to my favorite French lollipops/suckers from an upscale gourmet food and spirit shop in San Francisco.
Not only were the lollipops much more intensely flavored than those I had ever tasted before, in my short life ...
They were dispensed in a most unusual way.
From the most endearing porcelain sculpture which was an ever present fixture on the check out counter...
Always a delightful array of full fruit flavors, or creamy caramel!
Decisions. Ambrosial Decisions.
So ...
Can you imagine my glee when I was given a reproduction of the very Pierrot Gourmand with lollipops as a gift a while ago?!
Even the refill lollipops come in a charming tin...
And YES!
They taste just as good as I remember them so many years ago.
When I look at him, it brings back wonderful memories of a happy childhood.
I hope certain things remind you of fond childhood memories, too.
Have a lovely Friday everyone.

A Sampling of my food . . .


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