Please, Mara des Bois, get thee here! Even though we still don’t have local strawberries in the Lake Geneva region, it’s almost impossible to resist the Spanish and French ones that are already available.
Strawberries are extremely high in fiber as well as vitamins, so I try to use them in as many dishes as possible. You can also make low-fat or no-fat sauces and salads that are highly complimentary to a weight loss diet. And contrary to traditional wisdom, they can be used in both sweet and savory dishes.
Strawberry and seed salad
For salads, put sliced strawberries into a vinaigrette made with Balsamic vinegar and marinate them for about 30 minutes. When ready to serve, add mixed greens or mesclun and toss. You can also use baby spinach. (Both of these are in season right now.) Right before serving, add some mixed seeds (the kind you find in the supermarket in Switzerland), or you can mix your own favorite seeds: pumpkin, sesame, etc. Toss well and serve immediately.
Michelin star chef Philippe Chevrier’s recipe for mixed-berry crisp with nougat and caramelized pecan ice cream
Philippe Chevrier is head chef and owner of Domaine de Châteauvieux in Satigny, right in the middle of the vineyards just outside Geneva. His restaurant has two Michelin stars and a 19/20 rating in the GaultMillau restaurant guide. Geneva gourmets have had a soft spot for him for a long time now and his restaurant is the institution of fine dining in this city.
Chevrier posts a recipe a month on his site, and this is an adaptation of this month’s. Admittedly, it is a recipe for experienced cooks and people who really like to bake or who have a real sweet tooth. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be motivated enough to get through all the steps.
Prepare well ahead by carefully reading through the recipe and checking that you have all the ingredients. You might also want to make the nougat paste (needed for the ice cream), tuile cookies, ice cream and caramelized pecans the day before. Please note that you need an electric ice cream maker. Always make the coulis right before serving.
If you’re really well organized, set aside a block of a few hours to complete it. In any case, this recipe is for real dessert enthusiasts and semi-professionals, so follow the instructions carefully.
For cooking equipment you might not own, I’ve pointed to links that will help you improvise. Bon appétit!
Marmiton’s Recipe for traditional Swiss Easter cake
The Marmiton site for French cooking covers the cuisine of every administrative department in France. Most recipes are in French, but there is an English section which is a great introduction to the techniques of French cooking.
Marmiton refers to this part of their site as Let’s Cook French. It includes classic French dishes, beginner lessons, and much more. I love their Kids in the Kitchen section, where Monsieur Parmentier, who has a stereotypical French accent, gives easy but intelligent video cooking lessons to children.
The recipe below does not appear in the English section of the site, but they’ve kindly given me permission to translate and adapt it, since I didn’t manage to put my hands on any other recipe for Swiss Easter cake.
Read below for recipe.
Guest blogger Alessandro Guerani is a professional photographer specialized in food photography. He lives in Bologna, Italy. Alessandro may well be my favorite food photographer. His photos are truly art. Every single photo is a work of exquisite visual beauty, and they also make my mouth water.
Alessandro Guerani’s quick and easy recipe for spicy baked pears with thyme crème fraîche
A fruit-based dessert that is tasty, quick to prepare and can be easily stored in the refrigerator for days. Impossible? No it isn’t; read on.
Alessandro got this idea from a menu written by Gordon Ramsey, who used apples, and the crème fraiche was flavored with mint.
Alessandro wanted to give it an Italian hint, so preferred to use pears, because of their sweetness, and let the thyme and lemon zest in the cream counterbalance the sweetness of the pears, without overwhelming them.
Ingredients (serves 4)4 medium-sized pears
375 grams / 1½ cups dark brown cane sugar 4 dl / 1½ cups water 2 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise
2 dl / 1 cup crème fraîche
½ teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Preheat oven to 180°C / 350°F.
Peel the pears. Keep the stem for use as decoration.
Melt the brown sugar in water over low heat.
Add cinnamon and anise. Bring to a boil and boil for for 4-5 minutes to make a syrup.
Place the pears in a baking dish. Pour syrup over pears.
Bake for about 30-45 minutes, basting the pears with the syrup from time to time.
When the pears are tender, but still maintain their shape, remove from the oven.
Leave to cool.
Whip crème fraiche, thyme and lemon zest together in a mixing bowl.
Arrange still-warm pears on serving plates. Pour syrup over pears. Insert stem in pear for decorative purposes. Garnish with crème fraîche.
Michelin-star Vertig’O's pastry chef: Emmanuel Lebled
The Vertig’O restaurant in the Hôtel de la Paix in Geneva has a Michelin star and a 16/20 in the respected GaultMillau restaurant guide.
Vertig’O also has a great pastry chef in Emmanuel Lebled.
Every month or so, the restaurant publishes a leaflet which includes a recipe from the restaurant. This recipe for cinnamon pear crumble is adapted from their October 2009 leaflet, but it is still seasonal as we anxiously await the fruits of spring.
I’m sorry not to have converted the quantities this time around, but it became extremely complicated, so I dropped the whole idea. I think it’s high time we all bought a set of metric scales! If all else fails, refer to my post about metric conversions. For equivalents of the weight of specific foods such as butter, almonds, and different kinds of flour, you can also consult Recipes4Us.
The recipe is in three parts. Start by making the crumble topping. Poach and then caramelize the pears. Finish off by arranging all the ingredients in a baking dish and baking. Timing is important, since the crumble is best served warm.
Recipe: Cinnamon pear crumble
1. Make the crumble
Mix all the above ingredients together. Knead with hands until it forms a crumble.
2. Poach the pears
Ingredients:5 large ripe pears 2 liters of water 300 grams of sugar 1 stick of cinnamon Peel of one orange, grated
1 star anise Peel of one lemon, grated
Mix water and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and boil slowly, stirring with a wooden spoon, until it forms a syrup.
Add star anise, orange peel and lemon peel to syrup.
Peel pears. Remove core and any hard parts. Over low heat, poach them slowly in the syrup.
When soft (but not falling apart), remove them from heat. Leave pears in the syrup until the they cool off.
3. Sautée and caramelize the pears
Ingredients:40 grams of light brown cane sugar Small knob of butter 30 grams of white raisins Rum Shot of pear liqueur
Pour enough pear liqueur over raisins to cover them. Leave to soak.
Remove poached pears from syrup. Dice.
Put sugar in saucepan. Heat over low heat until it forms a caramel, stirring constantly and being careful that it doesn’t burn. Add butter and pears.
Turn heat higher, and caramelize, stirring constantly and making sure pears do not burn.
Add raisins and rum. Flambé.
Remove from heat. Cool at room temperature.
Preheat oven to 150° C.
When pears are cool, put them in a baking dish. Cover with crumble.
Bake for 15 minutes.
Serve warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or yogurt sorbet.
Recipes using seasonal ingredients found in Switzerland in February
Papet vaudois, a Swiss sausage and leek specialty from canton Vaud.
Worry no more mushroom barley soup with crusty garlic toast at Spirit of Pistoulet.
Easy duck confit recipe at The Rambling Epicure.
Fat-free Swiss carrot cake at Swiss Foodies.
Moroccan-style chicken pie at Epicurious.
Cabbage, collard greens, red onion, and blood orange coleslaw at The Rambling Epicure.
Double-chocolate walnut biscotti at The Rambling Epicure.
Curried squash or pumpkin soup at Swiss Foodies and Simply Recipes.
This week’s foodie overview
I spend a lot of time reading, researching and tweeting about food and restaurants these days, so I thought I’d jot down my tweets from the last few days. These are from both The Rambling Epicure and Swiss Foodies and should give you an overview of what’s going on in the foodie world this week, in Switzerland and around the world.
Sometimes I couldn’t resist writing about the snow and skiing conditions, because that determines how a lot of us in Switzerland plan our weekends, and therefore what restaurants we go to or what recipes we cook up. And of course occasionally, watches and wine . . . and this week, the Vancouver Winter Olympics and those cute wooly pigs you see in the photo.
Make your own Valentine’s chocolate, Ticino style
Here is a great double-chocolate walnut biscotti recipe by Patricia Turo, born into an Italian family in the US, but now living in the Klosters ski resort in Switzerland. This recipe is therefore more in the spirit of Ticino, the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland.
Be careful about the quality of chocolate you use: Avoid buying the American chocolate chips in a bag. You’d be better off buying a bar of dark chocolate from your favorite local (Swiss) chocolate maker and crumbling it up into bits. The same goes for the cocoa powder. Make sure it is good quality, preferably from a good chocolate maker.
To convert the measurements, refer to How to convert measurements for American recipes.
You too can be a king or queen, at least if you get the bean or plastic trinket hidden in every king’s cake, referred to as galette des rois in French.
The king’s cake is eaten during the period of Epiphany, or the twelfth day of Christmas, on 6 January. It was on the twelfth night that the wise men visited baby Jesus. Since in French and Spanish (and probably other languages I don’t know), the wise men are referred to as “kings”, the day is referred to as “king’s day”.
The tradition of eating a marzipan cake with a “bean”, as they call it in French, inside it dates back to the fourteenth century, according to Anglophone Direct. During the French Revolution, when kings were terribly out of fashion, they continued the tradition, but called it an “equality cake”.
The cake is divided equally among all the parties gathered, and the person who gets the “bean”, which is really just a charm, is crowned king or queen. Cakes are sold with a cardboard, gold-colored crown. If you’re not of the monarchist persuasion, you can denounce the throne and crown someone else.
These days, most people buy their cakes from a reputable baker, but if you want to give it a go, I would suggest trying Citron & Vanille‘s recipe. Her recipes are always original and reliable.
Vanilla Vintage owner Dorothy Sidlo just likes old things: dresses, furniture, recipes. Her list is long.
And her list includes old-fashioned but easy fruit cake, which she has just posted on her site, based on a recipe by a Mrs. Fontaine. I thought I’d adapt the recipe for you.
Christmas cake is something you can make well ahead of time, so you can get one Christmas dish behind you already this weekend.
Mrs. Fontaine’s old-fashioned Christmas fruit cake recipe
0.6 kg / 1 ½ pounds sifted all-purpose flour
0.8 kg / 1 ¾ pounds white sugar
2.8 dl / ½ pint milk
2 teaspoons soda
2 grated nutmegs (noix de muscade)
450 g / 1 lb raisins
450 g / 1 lb currants (raisins de Corinthe)
½ pound lemon or orange peel
½ gill / 1/4 pint / 1.2 dl brandy
½ gill / 1/4 pint / 1.2 dl rum
1 teaspoon ground cloves (clous de girofles moulus)
Nuts of your choice
Preheat oven to 165° C / 325° F. Cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Dissolve soda in a little hot water, then add to milk. Add milk to butter and sugar mixture.
Add spices to sifted flour. Mix well. Beat egg yolks thoroughly. Beat egg whites, until stiff. Fold yolks into flour, then gently fold in beaten egg whites.
Wash and dry all fruit. Chop lemon or orange peel finely. Mix in a bowl, and lightly flour all fruit. Add to cake mixture.
Grease a large tube pan or several small pans. Pour mixture into pan or pans.
Bake in 165° C / 325° F oven for 1 1/2 hours, or until done. Test with a clean straw or knife. It is done when it comes out clean.
This recipe originally comes from a certain Mrs. Fontaine, who added: “This recipe has been in my family for 60 years. It was in my mother’s collection . . . You can substitute berry juice for the rum or gin, if you are religious. The cake improves with age.”
Suggestions: why not try half white sugar and half brown to give it a little more character? Don’t go too heavy on the nuts; add just enough to give it a bit of crunch.